summary: Slowly, with every tick of the clock, with every marked off day on the calendar, time was passing.
And when the clock hit zero, Dan Howell would be dead.
a/n: i’m sorry (tw: death)
“Are you scared?”
It was Phil who asked, it was Dan who didn’t answer, and it was the rain that was the quiet accompaniment to them both. In the distance, there was the faint noise of water bubbling, the TV in the kitchen, the people from upstairs fucking or dancing or summoning the dead or something that required lots of squeaky floors and odd tapping.
Dan was the one who slid down into the couch and waited a long time, biting his tongue, messing with the controller, before breathing out, “Terrified.”
Phil didn’t meet Dan’s eyes, but he heard him breathe a pained sigh, and he played along by pressing a button on the Wii-mote.
“You want Yoshi?”
Seven-hundred and forty-four hours.
Forty-four thousand, six hundred and forty minutes.
Two hundred and sixty eight thousand four hundred seconds.
Two hundred and sixty eight thousand, three hundred and ninety-nine seconds.
Two hundred and sixty eight thousand, three hundred and ninety-eight seconds.
Slowly, with every tick of the clock, with every marked off day on the calendar, time was passing.
And when the clock hit zero, Dan Howell would be dead.
Hands held, arms brushing, the breeze of the single warm-weathered day that England would get that year raising the hair on their arms, brushing their bangs back, and doing nothing to calm the anxious beating in their chests.
In the train, the noises were familiar but the people were not. Nobody came up to them, nobody seemed to recognize them.
They were alone in this terrifying calamity.
Phil squeezed Dan’s hand tighter.
Dan did not squeeze back.
“Who are we gonna tell?”
“It’s your choice.”
“You can’t make me do this alone.”
“Please don’t make me do this alone.”
A sigh of air, a gentle hug, a broken breath, and then-
“I’m not telling my parents.”
A long pause.
“I’m gonna tell others, though. PJ, Chris. Bryony. Carrie, I guess. I don’t know- who is there to tell?”
Phil couldn’t give him an answer.
He was offered medication to slow it down. It would give him more time, but more time meant more headaches, more excruciating pain he couldn’t contain. He denied. Let it go, he said. It’ll happen when it happens.
And Phil asked him about it, and Dan didn’t answer, and the doctor placed a Ziploc bag in his hand with two small pills in it, and a soft explanation of, “It’s not legal, but it’ll end quickly.”
With a soft, thank-you, they left, letting the door click shut behind them.
It seemed as if everybody was staring at them, the two British boys who went from nothing to everything, and were now on their way to the start.
In reality, they were alone. Nobodies. Two dying boys- but one’s oncoming death was physical, the other metaphorical.
While one’s brain was out to die, the other’s heart wanted his own to be the same.
Some took it better than others.
PJ gave a terse nod before pasting on a smile and showing him some new video game he got.
Chris attempted to crack a joke, Carrie cried.
The all had their various reactions, and Phil saw them all. Standing at Dan’s side while he repeated the same words.
“I’m going to die.”
He watched as the recipient of the message tried to decipher if this was a joke, if this was on camera, if this was going in some video or some radio show sketch.
He watched them realize that, no, it was not a joke. That his brain was fucked up and killing him. Cancer or some other fucked up disease. It was a joke how he didn’t even know what it was called.
“A month to live?” They’d say, each and every one of them. Dan would nod, and Phil would watch as the urge to cry appeared on his face and faded away within a few seconds.
And then they’d have their own reactions, and Dan and Phil would try to comfort them.
Really, it was a useless attempt. How could they comfort anyone else when they couldn’t even comfort themselves?
“I can’t see, Phil,” Dan said softly. “My right eye. I can’t see.”
“Dan…” Phil breathed, moving so he was sitting in front him. The eye looked fine, but the panic etched all over his face let him know that this was no joke.
“What about the left? Can you see me?”
“Y-yeah. But, my right eye. I can’t see-”
“Do you want me to call the doctor?”
Dan shook his head. “I just want to be with you.”
So Phil let the younger lay his head in his lap and cry. No judging, no talking. Just silent tears while Phil played with his hair.
“Phil?” Dan asked, a bit later.
“Is this what it feels like to die?”
“I-I don’t know.”
And Dan gave a small sob.
He could see normally again just three days later, and they’d celebrated with a Buffy marathon and a hug.
“Maybe it’ll go away,” Dan said while Phil changed discs, so quietly Phil almost didn’t hear. “Maybe I’ll get better.”
“Maybe,” Phil said, hopefully. If he could see again, who knew what would happen?
Dan grinned, and they settled in for another episode.
It was three a.m., and Dan was screaming.
Slightly muffled from the wall that separated their rooms, but still loud enough to send Phil’s heart racing, to turn his blood to ice.
The raven-haired boy fell out of bed and burst into Dan’s room, 999 dialed, ringing in ear.
Dan was curled up into a ball, tears streaming down his face and body shaking horrifically from the sobs that wracked his body.
“Oh, God, Dan, what’s wrong? What’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong!”
“Help me, Phil, Jesus Christ-” His own scream cut him off, and Phil couldn’t do anything except for desperately ask what was wrong, why was he screaming, was he okay-
What’s your emergency?
“He’s dying- oh god, he’s screaming and he won’t stop. He’s sick, he’s got- I don’t know, he’s got something wrong with his brain and he’s dying and help-”
Stay calm, sir. What’s your address?
And Phil gave it, then threw the phone. His hands hovered over Dan, not knowing if he should move him, if he could play with his hair or put his head in his own lap.
He did so anyway, adrenaline-rushed mind telling him that if Dan was going to die, he was going to be able to touch him in his final moments.
What felt like hours later, but could only have been minutes, Dan’s screams faded into weak whimpers. His eyes were squeezed shut and he was still shaking.
But he had stopped screaming.
“Shh, it’s okay, the ambulance is coming. Dan, Dan, it’s okay, you’re going to be fine, what’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong, please-”
“Just-” He gasped, crying too hard to speak properly. “Just talk to me. Please.”
“O-okay,” Phil said, and started rambling. About the time they met, about the time they first moved in together, about how they dated and then broke up and then dated again, about what they were now. About their first YouTube videos, about the radio show, about Before and After, about the future, about how Dan couldn’t die because it’d only been a week and he still had three left-
And then there were people in the room, strangers yelling loudly at him to REMAIN CALM and that EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY, before extracting the brunette from Phil’s calming embrace, someone else leading him to a police car. There were bright lights and blaring sirens, and shouts to him saying that YOU DID GOOD, KID, and also that HE’S GOING TO BE FINE.
The only thing Phil could think about was how badly the loud noises and bright lights were going to hurt the dying boy.
“How much do you think a coffin costs?”
“Like, a really awesome one. A black one with, like, diamond skulls.”
“I’m not talking about this.”
“C’mon, it’s not like you don’t know I’m going to die-”
“I really don’t want to talk about it.”
“Why not?” Dan asked, shutting his macbook and crossing his arms. “Why the fuck not?”
“I’m going to fucking die, Phil. You know it. All of our friends know it. And nobody wants to fucking talk about it. And guess what?”
“You’re going to die, too! We’re all going to fucking die, because the universe is a cunt and it fucks everybody. It doesn’t fucking care if we’ve got shit to deal with. It’ll- It’ll fuck us all over and give us a fucking brain disease or some other equally stupid cause, and we’ll be dead in a fucking month.”
“No! I’m dying and I want to-”
“I don’t want to talk about it!” Phil shouted. “Did you ever think of that? The world doesn’t revolve around you, Dan! Even when you’re dying!”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!”
“It means that just because you die, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to be the only one affected! It’s going to hurt me as much as it’s going to hurt you, probably more-”
Dan snorted. “I doubt that.”
“You doubt that?! You doubt that- in three weeks, when you keel over and all your feeling stops, and all your bodily functions stop, all your emotions and memories just stop- that you’re still going to be hurting? Really? You’re an idiot, Dan, you really are. Because everything about you is going to just stop existing in three weeks, and I’m still going to be here. I’m going to be the one who’s forced to watch you burn, or get buried, or whatever the hell ends up happening to you. I’m the one who’s going to have to deal with the internet, and your family, and all of our friends. I’m the one who’s going to be left behind, because the Universe wasn’t kind enough to give me a freaking brain disease, too!”
“Don’t say that, Phil,” Dan snapped. “Don’t you fucking say that you want what I have. Don’t you dare.”
Phil stood up and glared at Dan. “And who’s going to stop me?”
Dan opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Phil stormed out of the living room and into his own, slamming the door behind him.
Hours later, his phone lit up with a tweet.
@danisnotonfire: im sorry. also, cremation, jsyk.
When they declared him fine, they asked Dan how much the headaches had been on a scale of one to ten, ten being as if death was here, one being a common occurrence.
He’d answered with an eight, and it made Phil want to cry at the thought of what a ten would be, and when it would come.
They’d kept him overnight, and with a quiet word to the doctor and a request to let them live his final days outside this horrible, horrible place, he was released the next morning.
They spent the day walking around outside, exploring places in London that they’d never seen before. Eating food in cups, drinking lukewarm coffee, letting the mix of accents from tourists and business people wash over their ears.
They didn’t say much, because there wasn’t much to say.
The answer to what a ten would be like came a week later, when Dan’s vision had been wavering for much of the preceding days. Sometimes he would completely blind, sometimes needing to borrow Phil’s glasses to see, and sometimes he’d have headaches that were caused by any sort of light or noise, and they would be forced to sit in a dark room, holding hands, but not being able to say anything.
It was the middle of the day, and Dan and Phil were sitting on a couch, when Dan went limp. Completely limp, falling over onto Phil, eyes completely rolled back in his head.
Phil thought it was a joke, at first, and he poked him and laughed. When Dan didn’t move, he fought the panic that began to rise in his throat and dialed 999 for the second time in as many weeks.
It was much worse this time. There was rushing, but no shouting. There was no pushing Phil around, no shoving of other people, no panic.
Or, if there was, Phil was too lost in his own mind to remember it.
A week left.
That’s what they said.
A week left, and the brunette that was smiling across from him would never smile again.
He forced the corners of his lips to turn up as Dan cracked a joke. They were stuck in this goddamned hospital for two more days, and they were on the internet to pass the time. Phil was replying to people on twitter, carefully evading any and all questions about Dan, about the shitstorm he’d caused by the cremation tweet.
Not a single one of them suspected that Dan would be dead within a week.
He didn’t know how he would break it to them.
On the train ride back home, Dan was heavily drugged and given specific instructions to take certain types of pills at certain times to ensure that he would not suffer through any of this again.
On the train ride home, Dan spent a long time looking out the window. Phil spent a long time looking at Dan.
On the train ride home, Dan turned to Phil and said, “I’m gonna take the pills.”
“Of course you are,” Phil said. “The doctors told you to.”
“No, not those pills,” Dan said. “The other ones.”
Phil’s eyes widened, his mouth opened up in a silent protest, but he knew it wasn’t his place to say anything.
On the train ride home, Dan Howell made the choice to die.
The suicide happened two days later, on a Saturday.
Dan was sober.
There was no pain, he could see, he could hear. He could feel everything without anything hurting.
The calm before the storm, they said. It would come, and it was something to be dreaded, not celebrated.
It was here.
He’d be dead soon. Quicker than he should be, thanks to the two tiny pills Dan held in his hand. They’d been sitting here in silence for over an hour, mirroring each other, on the floor of their bathroom.
“Can I tell you something?” Dan said quietly, breaking the silence. His eyes did not stray from the pills.
“Now would be the time.”
Dan’s lips twitched into a smile. “I love you. I-I think I have for a while, now.”
“Oh,” Phil said.
Dan smirked, a real smirk this time. “Yeah, didn’t think you’d feel the same. I… I just thought you should know.”
“It’s fine, Phil.”
“Look at me.”
And Dan did, and Phil was taken aback by the pure emotion that filled those whiskey eyes, but not so much so that it prevented him from leaning forward and pressing their lips together.
When they pulled away, Dan was crying. His shoulders were shaking and tears were staining his cheeks. “I don’t want to die.”
Phil broke down right then, tackling Dan into a hug, kissing him again and again. Making up for years and years of lost time in the minutes they had left. Any second, the storm could begin. Any second, he could be a trembling mess of pain.
They were crying, they were kissing, they were trying to get as close to each other as possible. It wasn’t enough. He wanted to get Dan on all the medication he could that would give them more time. This stupid brain tumor wasn’t just taking everything away from them, it was tearing it from their grasp and ripping it to shreds.
The fist that held those two tiny pills burned against Phil’s back. He wanted to knock them away, wanted to spend all the time in the world with Dan, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t- and it killed him.
“I love you, too,” Phil said into Dan’s hair. “I love you so much.”
He could feel the smile pressed into his neck, could feel the wetness of tears.
And then Dan pulled away.
“You’re going to have to tell them I did it on my own,” He whispered. “You can’t let them know you were here.”
“I know,” Phil said.
“Let them know, Phil,” Dan said. “YouTube- let all the kids know. Keep making videos, please. They saved me, once. Don’t stop just because I’m not there.”
“I love you, Phil,” Dan breathed, body trembling with tears he tried to keep in. “I love you so fucking much.”
“I love you, too.”
Dan smiled, but it was a horrible smile. His face red from crying, nose scrunched up and eyes puffy. But he was beautiful to Phil, and it killed the black-haired boy to know that all the potential years they could have had were being torn at the seams at the Universe’s hand, and he hated it.
“S-stay with me,” Dan hiccuped. “Please.”
“Until the very end,” Phil swore, and Dan smiled as he raised his shaking hand. He swallowed the pills, both at once, and sat back.
“R-remember me,” Dan said, panic alighting in his eyes. “Please.”
“I swear I will, always.”
Dan hoisted himself up and fell into Phil, sobbing hysterically into his shoulder. “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die.”
Phil could do nothing but hold him as the brunette broke down in front of him, body shaking from tears and from the tumor that was destroying his brain.
“I love you,” Dan said. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
He kept repeating it, like a mantra, over and over until he couldn’t speak anymore. And when he realized this, he just cried harder.
He forced himself away from Phil, eyes fighting to stay away, fighting to stay alive. Arms shaking, body quaking, he pressed his lips to Phil’s again, pulling away before falling into Phil’s arms. His stomach rose and fell, rose and fell, for a few minutes, the very last bits of life being sucked from his body, being breathed out.
Until that stopped, too.
And then it was Phil’s turn to cry, to hold the lifeless body of Dan Howell, and just cry.
"Please don’t leave me, Dan. Don’t do this-“
It was Phil who said it, and for the last time, it was Dan who didn’t answer.
He placed a final kiss onto his forehead and dialed 999.
a/n: if you’d like to take a moment to tell me your thoughts on this, please take a second to leave me an ask telling me your thoughts <3
also, i’d like to credit ‘alone on the water’ for giving me the idea for this fic. it is similar, but i haven’t read it in two years, so i’m hoping it isn’t too similar. <3