Chapter 9

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November and December went by in a flash, and all of the sudden it was winter break. Dan and Phil were headed to Phil's house from school that last day before they got out, technically their first day of freedom. Chris and PJ had some excuse about having planned a date, though Phil thought they were trying to act as 'wingmen.' Ever since he had confessed his feelings for Dan to them, they were trying to find ways to leave him alone with Dan. He would complain and say he didn't like it, but Phil knew that was a lie. Any one on one time with Dan was great, even if it wasn't in the way he someday hoped it could be.

"Dan," Phil unexpectedly blurted as they were walking, "What are you doing for Christmas?"   Phil knew he was blushing, he just hoped he could use the cold and snow as an excuse.  "Uhmm, well, besides Chris's New Years party, I'm just gonna be at home probably.  Why do you ask?"

"I was wondering if you were going to that Christmas party thing at Louise's place.  She said we could bring someone if we wanted, so if you weren't already invited, I want you to come... With me... Because you're my best friend." Phil giggled nervously, scratching the back of his neck and waiting for Dan to reply.  "Yeah, yeah definitely I'd like to go with you.  I can't have you just awkwardly standing in a corner by yourself without me by your side."  Dan's chuckle upon finishing his statement was very sarcastic and somehow equally as unsure as Phil's, but they both seemed to rapidly regain their confidence and fall back into comfortable conversation.

Phil kept thinking the whole walk to his house how lucky he was to have Dan. Even if they stayed in this platonic zone forever, he wouldn't care. Well, maybe he would a little bit, but it was worth it just to be near Dan.

-

Phil knew this was a horrid idea, but it was his own fault.  No one had made him wait until four days before Christmas, the day before Louise's party, to go Christmas shopping.  That didn't mean he couldn't complain. And he was definitely complaining to himself, grumbling as he walked down the street.

He quickly got his parents and brother gifts, and then he started his real objective; the search for Dan's present.  He had an idea, but he wanted to make sure it was perfect, as well as add as many little things in as possible to make Dan smile.

Phil wasn't out that long, an hour and a half tops for his search, and was making the trek home when he noticed a familiar head of brown hair. Needless to say, he less than subtly flipped out, trying to conceal everything he'd bought for Dan from his oblivious but fast approaching form. After taking a cursory glance over his belongings and deciding his efforts would have to be good enough, he took a moment to study Dan. He was speed walking, already a hint that something was up, with his eyebrows knit together and a deep frown etched into his features. His gloved hands were shoved so deep in his pockets, Phil was afraid they might tear through. They momentarily left their cloth cage to pull a hood over Dan's head before immediately resuming their previous position.

As much as Dan looked like he didn't want to talk to anyone, Phil felt like he could use a pick me up. "Dan!" he called out, satisfied when his head jerked up from his staring contest with the ground and a smile instantly found his face. "Phil, hey!" Dan answered, stopping when he reached Phil. Dan threw his arms around Phil's shoulders without a second's hesitation, knowing his warm clothes and hood as well as Phil's heavy winter garments would cover any unwarranted skin contact. Phil returned the embrace, wrapping his arms around his best friend's waist and squeezing him close. Dan just giggled and took a step back, smiling up at Phil.

"So, what's got you out of the house, especially in this weather?" Dan asked with a teasing glint in his eyes.  "Some last minute Christmas shopping for my family.  I assume you're in the same boat?" Phil replied, an equal amount of mockery in his tone.  "How'd you guess?"  "Dan, you're my best friend.  I know your habits with procrastination, you tall meme."  Dan laughed at the pet name, calming himself momentarily for his best Doge impersonation before reverting back to a cackling mess.  Phil was quick to join him, feeling giddily proud with himself for pulling Dan out of his funk.  He still seemed a little stressed, though Phil assumed it was probably from the realization of how packed and picked through his shopping experience was going to be.  He should know, he'd just dealt with it himself.

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