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the feeling never really goes

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It’s 3am when Kyle feels a dip in the bed next to him.

It’s the first night they’ve stayed in a hotel in weeks, and he planned to make the most of it. Naturally, he and Dan room together, each taking a double bed and showering and going to sleep as soon as possible, and it’s like heaven.

But now it’s dark outside, and someone’s on the bed behind Kyle and he thinks maybe someone’s broken in to kill them in their sleep and this is it, before he hears a quiet sniffle and feels the covers being drawn back. He goes still as Dan curls up behind him, keeping a cautious distance, barely letting the tips of his fingers brush Kyle’s back, before he rolls over and peers at Dan’s face through the darkness, half-obscured by the duvet.

Even in the dim moonlight he can see the redness of his eyes, and he sighs sadly.

“What’s up?” He whispers, and Dan stares down at the expanse of mattress between them.

“Bad dream,” he replies, his usually smooth voice hoarse, like he’s been crying for ages. Kyle’s heart sinks.

“You wanna talk about it?”

Like most other nights, Kyle expects Dan to shake his head and apologise for waking Kyle and fall asleep, but to his surprise, he nods slowly, and Kyle is instantly more awake.

He’s seen the straight thin lines that run parallel along Dan’s hipbone, sometimes, when he stretches a little too far and the hem of his jumper rises a little too high, white and raised and—thank god—old. He’s seen him so despondent he just curls up on his side and stares at the wall and won’t talk to anyone. He’s seen him despise himself. But Kyle never asks.

“I keep...I keep imagining, that, one day. One day, you’ll all just leave me.”

Kyle longs to reach out and touch him, even the smallest of brushes, but resists.

“Why would we leave you?”

“Because...because I don’t know why you’ve even stuck around this long anyway. There’s no reason for you all to. And I’m terrified that one day you’re all going to realise that, and I’m going to be left alone again. I think...I think I’d kill myself.”

Kyle becomes upset that Dan is being completely honest. “Please don’t say that.”

“It’s true.”

“We’d never leave you. You’re our mate, Dan? Why would we leave you?”

“Because I’m fucking weird,” Dan hisses, and rolls onto his back. “My head’s a mess, and one day I’m going to go mental and scare you all off. I’m going to snap. I can feel it. It’s just what happens. It’s what always happens.”

They lie there in awkward silence for a while, before Kyle murmurs, quietly, “have you been taking your meds?”

Dan’s head snaps to look at him, surprised at first, and then angry; “fuck off.”

“Well have you?” Kyle says, a little more harshly, and props himself up on his elbow to get a better look at Dan’s face.

Dan doesn’t look at him, but Kyle can see his composure cracking, until stubbornly, he mutters, “they never made me feel better anyway.”

Kyle blinks at him. “Well, we can get you a different prescription, then.”

Dan just lies there, expressionless, and he can feel him fading away before his very eyes.

“Dan, please.” He finally works up the courage then, to reach out and card his fingers through Dan’s soft hair, and Dan makes a tiny noise of defeat.

“I’m sorry,” he chokes, and crumbles, starts crying again. “I just want to feel normal. I just want to enjoy all this, all the touring and the fans and the music, but I can’t. It’s so hard.”

“Hey, babe, it’s alright, I know, it’s not your fault,” he soothes, and closes the gap between them, encircling Dan in his arms, rubbing circles on his back. “We can go back to the doctors, alright? And you can talk to me about whatever you want, yeah? You know that right?”

“Mm,” is the wobbly, tearful response Dan gives, and he balls his hands in Kyle’s t-shirt.

“Shh, I promise it’ll be okay.”

Dan inhales, exhales, shakily against his chest for what feels like hours, and Kyle holds him close.

The harsh breathing suddenly ceases.

“You don’t love me back, do you?”

Kyle goes stiff with shock, and tries to pull back to get a better look at Dan’s face; a tear falls down the singer’s cheek and Kyle knows he’s being serious.

“I-“ he stutters out, at a loss for words, and Dan’s eyes suddenly become cold, and he releases Kyle’s shirt, tiny creases left from the iron grip he’d held it in.

“Then no,” he says, his voice monotonous and empty, and rolls over away from Kyle so his back is turned, “it won’t be okay.”