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Today was like any other day for Tyler. He woke up at the prime hour of noon, grabbed some toast and headed off to work. The Basement is where Tyler had hoped to jumpstart his music career, but that would be a long shot considering he worked there fulltime. The venue with its three hundred capacity is where the local bands would always start off, of course no one had made it big out of state.

Every night a new band would pull in and bring different genres of music, tastes, crowds and auras to make their mark in the dingy old room. Tyler wanted to make his mark, he just lacked the money and courage to do so.

Walking down the cracked concrete stairs and opening the door, Tyler was hit with the scent of sweat and coffee. The Basement had almost become a second home to the boy knowing some nights he was too tired to push through the crowd to get home or the performers made them work extra hard. The pay was good in fairness and now that his semester at college was on summer break, Tyler could take up full time for the month.

The hall was empty as he went towards the staff room to leave his bag and his jacket in his locker. His locker was like any other school locker, it held an extra change of clothes for the messy concerts, a photo of his family, and a piano key that popped out of someone’s piano while performing. He had found it during clean-up the morning after and decided to keep it regardless of the owner.

Placing his bag in his locker, Tyler shut the door and turned to the common table. It was small in size but it served the beautiful service of holding food. It was common knowledge for co-workers to not steal each other’s food, so when Tyler walked in two weeks after he started and placed a box of cookies on the table, his name plastered on every side, everyone steered clear of it.

The news of a new member joining the small team didn’t make Tyler feel any different. The old bartender was a sweet guy but finally retired two months ago. The cake at his party was pretty good and that’s all he remembers about the dude. The new guy would probably be some older man looking for work after retirement to keep the dream alive or to ‘stay hip with the kids’ as the older used to say. He wouldn’t give two shits about the staff and work on his own like the other one and Tyler was perfectly fine with that.

Tyler walked to the small office with the window wall and sat in his usual chair. Being in charge of the lighting was something he came to very easily and the kaleidoscope of colours always seemed to amaze him when mixed with songs of every genre from screamo to country. It was the lighting that brought the show alive, set the tone, and decided the vibe of the room.

A relatively small local band called Vesperteen would be playing tonight which meant Tyler would have to learn the set order and colour layout, scheme and timing. Everything had to be perfect for the dingy venue in Tyler’s eyes. The front door to the venue opened and in came a young man who looked he was up to no good. His hair dyed obnoxiously yellow, a sleeve of tattoos and ripped jeans gave an unsettling feeling in his stomach. Tyler presumed that the man was a strangler, some kid who wanted to sneak in the venue for the show later on. Tyler exited the booth and made his way towards the boy.

“Excuse me sir,” he started “we aren’t open yet and even then you would need a ticket or a band member pass.”

The boy looked back at Tyler in slight confusion. His eyes the colour of a mocha coffee that made his eyes lose focus.
“Oh, I’m not with the band or here to see the show, I’m the new bartender.”

What?

How could this dude be good at making drinks? He barely even looked of age to drink.

“Hey Josh how are you”? Tyler’s boss, Louie, came walking up to them.

“I see you are here nice and early, always good to have punctual ones like Tyler here.” Tyler looked to Louie in awe of the scene. This kid couldn’t be a bartender.

“Josh, I’d like you to meet my best worker, Tyler. Tyler meet Josh the best bartender I know.” Josh smiled and - oh gosh his teeth were beautiful. Tyler was certainly not a fan of the attractive one now.

Attractive? What, no.

Tyler extended his hand to meet Josh’s and shook it.

Strong and firm.
Stop.

“I hope you two get along!” Louie exclaimed and gave a pat to each on their shoulders. “Josh here plays drums like a legend, and Tyler can play all sorts of instruments. A man of many talents in my words.” Tyler felt exposed. Why Louie, why? He really is a nice guy but can’t seem to keep his mouth shut sometimes.

“Well I better get back to work; Tyler make sure you consult with the band when they get here to confirm cues.” Tyler nodded. Louie left the two boys and the silence between them became awkward.

“So”, he began, “many instruments, eh”? Tyler didn’t want to respond to him, he didn’t want anything to do with him. Tyler preferred to work solo and keep his distance.

“I guess I am pretty good at piano, Ukulele is pretty cool as well”.

“Dude that’s sick!” Josh exclaimed.

Yeah nope.

“We should definitely play together sometime.” No. “Yeah, if I can ever find the time. Gets pretty busy in the summer.” Whatever Josh was doing to Tyler, he needed to stop and Tyler being Tyler, had no idea how to get himself out of a social situation other than being a total douche about it.

“If you want to drop your stuff in your locker and start to clean glasses that would be a good start.” And he ran back to the booth. With a sigh Tyler sat back in his chair and put his head in his hands. This was going to be a long summer.

The band arrived at around three o’clock with their gear in tow. Tyler and Mark, the sound guy with some great taste in music, along with Josh and the band, helped them set up and get everything ready. Tyler manning the various coloured cords for guitars and the piano, Mark doing checklist and Josh assisting a blue-haired band member carrying in gear.

Tyler did his best to untangle the cables but got distracted by that stupid highlighter of a bartender. His arms in particular and how they carried the keyboard in.

Sinful.

Why did Tyler give a damn? He couldn’t say, but he hated it with everything he had.

And the lack of AC made everything worse because he was already sweaty from cleaning but now the hair was stuck to his forehead. Josh caught Tyler watching him with a smirk and Tyler prayed that his cheeks were already tinged pink from the heat.

With all the equipment set up, Tyler consulted the lead to do a lighting check. The guy seemed pretty chill and not as demanding as other artists had been in the past. He was sued to low-budget shows anyways. With everything lighting in check Mark began the sound check. Tyler, having nothing to do with this, decided it was time for a break.

He trotted back to the staff room to grab a bottle of much needed water and one of his prized cookies. He grabbed his water and took it in large gulps until it was half empty. He noticed something on the common table.

Crumbs.

But not just any crumbs, cookie crumbs.

He lifted the lid of the box to reveal that two of his cookies had vanished. What? Tyler felt the need to be in shock over such a small issue. Who was blind enough to not notice his name literally written all over it? Grumbling at the theft, Tyler grabbed a cookie and left the room.

When he passed by the bar he came to a halt. There was Josh, covered in sweat, leaned against the counter, head tipped back as he chugged his water. Small drops escaped from the corners of his mouth and ran to his chin. Tyler felt the need to look away but he couldn’t.

When Josh downed his bottle in one gulp he turned to his side and grabbed a cookie. Suddenly snapped from his trance Tyler came to a realization.

“Josh,” he called out. The boy turned to him, cookie half in his mouth and he waved. “who gave you permission to eat those cookies? They’re mine.” Josh bite into and chewed like he didn’t care.

“Dude it was sitting in the open on the counter just begging for me to have one.” Tyler felt like fuming. “Besides, these are damn good cookies, why wouldn’t you want to share them. Where did you buy them?” He pops the other one in his mouth and smiles as he chews.

“What do you mean Just sitting there, my name is all over every surface of that box. And no sharing because I choose not to. Don’t take another again.” Josh’s smile faltered but smoothing shined in his eyes.

“I don’t know man; they are pretty good.” Tyler was just about to storm off back to the booth. “Besides,” Josh added, “you look cute when you’re pissed.” Tyler’s cheeks rushed with heat and Josh winked at him and sauntered off to go bother Mark. Who does he think he is?

The show that night went pretty well. The band was amazing and rocked it. Tyler made a mental note to definitely check them out later on. The place was pretty packed as well which meant there was a possibility he could get paid a little more for the gig. The best part had to have been the fact that Tyler didn’t have to interact with the Cookie Stealing Highlighter at the bar all night.

Pack up went by pretty quick a little after midnight when the few drunks had been ushered into cabs. Josh looked tired but his excitement of the night rush was keeping him alert. He still continued to smile until Tyler locked up at the end of the night. Josh walked up to a small car parked across the street and hopped in while Tyler walked in the opposite direction, just the way he wanted things to be with Josh. Just after one Tyler’s body hit the bed with a groan. With that stupid smile and his cookies, Tyler knew this would be a long summer.

“Come on, it’s time for us to close up and I won’t be serving anymore drinks.” A patron at the older rock gig that performed that night had found his way to the bar.

Tyler could smell him from across the room practically dripping in alcohol. He’d seen him swipe some other drinks as well when the other wouldn’t look. Everybody was pretty tired enough as it was. The band had been uptight and demanding even though just under half of their tickets weren’t sold they wanted to keep their dying dream alive. Tyler was yelled at enough today and their lewd comments didn’t make the boys feel any better about the performers.

It was already in early August, Josh had been working there for about a month and Tyler made sure to steer very clear of the boy. Anytime Josh had asked for help or an opinion, he only did the task at hand and left without much word. He was attempting the cold shoulder and it seemed to be working.

“You have every right to serve me!” The drunk spewed. “Shouldn’t a skint up kid like yourself use some extra cash?” Josh was clearly pissed off and rolled his eyes. The drunk persisted that he owes him a drink for the attitude as well.

“Sir this bar is administered by me and I make the rules. I’m going to call you a cab to get home unless someone else is picking you up.” Josh reached for the phone under the counter. The man slammed his hands on the table.

“I aint going home until I’ve had my damn beer you fag.” That was the last straw for Tyler as a bystander.

“You need to leave now and you damn won’t be welcomed back here.” He walked up to the man with the most energy he could pull at the late hour. The greasy old man looked him over and began to smirk at him. Tyler felt like puking.

“Would you look at this twink? Thinks he can stand up to a real man. I’ll have you know that I was in a successful business unlike some trashy gay kids working at this dump.”
The man threw a finger at Tyler, “you would probably enjoy his dick up your ass considering how easy you look.”

Tyler was done with his bullshit. “You have no right to insult me or him at our place of work so get the hell out of this venue or we’ll be calling to cops.” The man laughed, “what are they gonna charge me for? Asking for business?”

Josh spoke again, “it’s bad enough I let you stay the hour after the concert but the venue is officially closed now and we have repeatedly asked you to leave the residence. And with the crud name calling and objectifying I’d call it mild sexual harassment and discrimination.”

The man stood and Tyler backed up the slightest. “scrawny boys like you aint meant for the real world.” He turned and made his way to the door of the venue and left in a huff. Tyler released a breath he realized he had been holding the entire time.

He turned to Josh, “you okay?” Josh looked defeated and tired after the long day. “I feel like I should be asking you that. Don’t take anything he said to heart.” Tyler sighed and walked up the the counter and hopped over it to Josh’s side.

“First it was the old bastards trying to revive their glory days and now this asshole thought he could walk in here and take control like that?” Josh looked back at him, eyes wide.

“Didn’t know you could swear that much Tyler.” He wiped a hand down his face and brushed a hand through his hair, “sorry,” he caught Josh’s eyes. “People tend to piss me off as it is but the homophobia? Jesus that got on my last nerve.”

Josh’s lips seemed to perk up a bit as he turned around to grab a glass on a shelf. “You know what you could really go for right now?” He said grabbing a fancy looking white shadowed bottle. “A drink.”

He poured the blue tinged liquid into a reasonably sized cup and handed it to Tyler. Tyler stared at him in awe and Josh began to retract the drink. “Unless you don’t drink, that’s cool.” But Tyler surged forward and grabbed the glass and hit the floor and leaned back against the counter. Josh looked down and decided to join his worn-out friend on the floor and took a relaxing breath.

“Do I really look obviously gay?” Tyler asked into his cup as he took a large mouthful. It stung on the way down but in a good way. “Um,” Josh began. “I mean you are kind of cute” Josh’s words stumbling, “as a guy I find you quite um, nice looking.” Josh seemed nervous as Tyler looked at him from the side. “I mean it’s totally cool if you are not uh, totally straight, I don’t mind at all.”

The blood was rushing to Josh’s cheeks and the tips of his ears. He was downright flustered and Tyler felt powerful that he could make Josh act like this. “Whatever happened to the cocky guy who ate my damn cookies?” He swallowed another gulp of his drink finishing it. He looked expectantly to Josh and held out his glass.

He chuckled under his breath. “I’m telling you those are some damn nice cookies.” He began to fill the glass again “You would definitely make the world a better place if you shared your cookies more often." He handed the glass back to Tyler.

Tyler hummed in response, “what’s mine is mine.” He began to chug the glass again to drain himself of his issues. Why is Josh such a caring person who has to be too damn cute and protective? Screw his highlighter magic.

“Whoa there,” Josh said as Tyler downed the drink in one go. “I don’t want you turning out like the last guy and that’s some pretty heavy drink you got going.” Tyler could feel the buzz grow heavier in his skin. He felt good, relived, yet still tired as shit. Josh went to remove the glass from Tyler’s grasp and place it in the dishwasher.

With his head against the counter he spoke, “you look like a fucking highlighter and it pisses me off when you prance around all happy and carefree.” Tyler’s words were slightly slurred.

Josh only laughed at the statement, “thanks man, the whole highlighter joke never gets old.” Tyler gazed up at him – more like scan over his whole body because he was too fit for anyone his age.

“Whatcha looking at up here, Tyler?” flashing a famous smile. The intoxicated boy threw his head back making a thud, “stop being so - hiccup - attractive up there.” Josh’s smile fell as his face tinged pink again. He shuffled around on his feet and didn’t look Tyler back in the eye.

What’s got his panties in a twist , Tyler asked himself.

He decided that he wasn’t going to sit on the floor all night so he began to stand up. Swaying and stumbling, Josh’s arms came out and grabbed the boy from under his arms, “Jesus you are such a lightweight.” He mumbled under his breath.

Tyler just simply hid his face in Josh’s neck. He smelled of bubble gum and vanilla to create a heavenly mix.

“Tyler,” Josh adjusted his arm around his back to support him, “do you have anyone I can call for you because I am definitely not letting you leave alone.” Tyler had no one to call, no one who lived nearby or cared enough for that matter. “I got no one,” he sighed raising his head again.

“Lemme just-” he began to walk away but Josh’s firm grip kept him from falling. “Yeah nope.” Josh said as he began to take Tyler to a booth and seat him. “I’ll be right back.” Josh said as he ran off towards the back rooms.

Stupid old drunk thinking he knows anything about his life.

Tyler couldn’t believe the wit of some people even when they were sober. Maybe him being in denial about his longing for the hot drummer bartender was an factor in his reasons why he got so cheesed about the rude man.

No you’re definitely straight , he thought in his mind.

But the way his muscles flexed when he would carry in boxes of alcohol or the way he would charm the patrons with a little mixing around with drink definitely made him rethink his lifestyle.

Josh came running back into the room with Tyler’s backpack in his hand. “Where,” he paused to hiccup, “did you get that?”

Josh shook his head, “I picked your lock, wasn’t too hard.” He grabbed Tyler from around his back and helped him walk out of the venue, shutting off the lights. He carefully made their way across the empty and quiet street towards his car. Tyler felt lulled to his surroundings. He was usually never one to drink, only when at weddings or other occasions with the same tone. You would never catch Tyler in some club or bar getting drunk off his ass.

“Where we headed?” Tyler questioned when he was pushed into the passenger side and buckled up.

Josh came around and got in the driver’s seat, “I’m taking you back to my place to crash.” Tyler nodded at the idea of his attractive friend taking him to his place. He had no idea how he would get to work tomorrow, but it doesn’t matter.

“Such a handsome man,” he giggled when they hit the first light. “I guess chivalry isn’t so dead after all.” Josh smiled and kept his eyes on the road. Tyler couldn’t understand why he would ever find himself in the highlighters car – while sober of course. They reached the quaint apartment building in ten minutes. With Tyler drunkenly leaning on Josh in the elevator it kept the boy awake enough to realize he was in deep.

Tyler was definitely digging Josh and was infatuated. He hated it with every breath as he was walked towards Josh’s bed and laid under the covers.

“Sleep tight, Ty” Josh said with a smile. Tyler reached out and grabbed Josh’s arm and pulled him back towards him. He gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and giggled, “did I ever tell you how adorable you are? So adorable but so sexy!”

Josh was redder than ever. He laid Tyler back down and patted his head.

“Get some rest and I’ll talk to you about the real cute person when you are sober.” He left the room and shut off the light. Before Tyler fell asleep he took a moment to take a deep inhale of Josh’s sheets and make himself comfortable. He would regret his actions in the morning and he was sure of it.

Light streaming in through the window of the apartment on the early Sunday morning was angled just right to hit Tyler’s face. It was warm in the bed and the sun made it even cozier. Tyler was half asleep in the world between his dreams and reality when he realized that the sheets seemed too soft and they had a certain musk to it. Opening his eyes, he was faced with a large window with black curtains doing their best to mask the light. Those weren’t his curtains. Tyler tried to get up as quick as possible but was slowed by his massive headache.

Oh god what happened?

The pounding in his head seemed to set off another alarm in his throat as he was about to be very sick. Tyler ran to the door of the bedroom, yanking it open and running to the first door in the small hall praying it would be a bathroom. To his luck it was a bathroom. Tyler kneeled in front of the toilet and let his stomach empty itself in the toilet in front of him.

It took two minutes of heaving into the strange toilet to realize that the shower was running in the bathroom and that he was definitely not alone. He turned from the toilet and sat against the wall, peering over to where Josh had stuck his head out from behind the curtain to watch the vomit show.

Tyler felt pale, “what?”

Josh chuckled and went back behind the curtain. “I’ll take a wild guess and say you don’t remember anything that happened last night? Or very little of it I assume.”

Tyler smacked his head against the wall, “I remember the stupid drunk.” The stupid drunk who threw insults at Tyler and Josh for being responsible was definitely etched into his head. Everything after was a blur but he does remember giggling quite a lot. Tyler felt he was going to vomit at the thought of going home drunk with Josh. What did he say? Did he try to do anything?

“You didn’t try anything but you did give me a nice smooch on the cheek before you passed out.” Josh said from in the shower. Tyler stiffened and put his face in his hands, “oh my god I am so sorry-” he was cut off, “it’s fine man, no harm done, no masculinity threatened nor my sexuality.” Tyler still felt bad for his actions in the night. It would be better off if Josh was unaware of Tyler’s stupid hate crush that has seemed to dominate his summer. Hell, he didn’t even know if Josh was gay! Not the constant flirting and teasing presumed otherwise, Tyler had no place to label.

“What else did I do last night?” He needs to know if drunk Tyler exposed his little secret or if he needs to pack his bags and move to the other side of the state to avoid embarrassment. “You were really giggly, super touchy, extremely adorable,” Tyler felt the heat rush to his cheeks.

“You told me, and I quote,” Josh cleared his voice, ‘did I ever tell you how adorable you are? So adorable but so sexy!’ Josh’s voice went higher in an attempt to mock him.

Tyler wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Why did he tell Josh he was sexy! Why of all the times he convinced himself that he is no more than a highlighter looking stupid co-worker who had a thing for drumming and did it pretty well – that he was sexy? And cute? Tyler was too busy hiding in his hands and regretting every life choice he had ever made to not notice Josh walking up to him in only in a towel.

There is a towel separating me from a fully nude Josh , he thought as he gulped.
Josh was already a handful when he was fully clothed but now Tyler was definitely screwed. He was toned, extremely – not too buff but not too skinny. His arm covered in his colourful sleeve seemed to be two times brighter in the pale room. He took notice of his other tattoo of the state of Ohio and two more on the side and back of his upper arm.

His entire body was glistening in water - running down his chest, drops falling from his hair. Josh’s body was the exact opposite of Tyler’s parched mouth from the view. He knew he was blushing and he knew he was staring, but god damn Josh Dun was eye candy. The entire time Josh was smiling that stupid grin as Tyler’s eyes boggled out of his skull.

“You seem distracted,” he said in reference to Tyler’s ‘Josh Dun Bible Study’. Tyler tore his eyes away from Josh and looked down. “I’ll put some clothes on and start on breakfast.”

He began to walk out of the room but paused at the doorway, “unless you are already full from eating me up with your eyes. I also might just keep the towel on. You know, for science.” Josh smirked once again as Tyler squeaked at his comment. He was left alone to his thoughts when he heard another door close. Way to be obvious, Joseph.

Tyler managed to crawl his way out of Josh’s bathroom and into the living room. It was small and cozy, a black couch up against a wall, television adjacent. There was an old coffee table that had seen better days covered in books and drumsticks. A poster of a blurry UFO with the caption I WANT TO BELIEVE was hung on his wall. Someone has an X-Files addiction he thought.

The beep of the coffee maker turned his attention to Josh thankfully wearing a shirt making coffee. “Drink some water before you have any of the good stuff.” Josh gestured to a glass of water and some Tylenol on the small dining table. Tyler downed the pills and the glass in one go. A black mug was placed on the kitchen counter as Josh took a sip from his own Dad mug next to a pan of pancake mix.

“I hope you are cool with pancakes,” he said turning back to the oven. Tyler had no words. Here was Josh being helpful and supportive after he had been a total douche to him at work and drunkenly admitted his crush.

“Question,” Josh asked as he pulled the plates from the cupboard, “does this hair colour really make me look like a walking highlighter?”

Tyler choked on his coffee, “oh god did I say that last night?” Josh nodded his head. “I’m so sorry for saying that I’m serious oh jeez,” Tyler was flustered and was caught re handed. “I think you really suit the colour and no, you don’t look like a walking highlighter all the time.”

Josh only smiled and set the plate of warm pancakes on the dining table. “It’s fine, honestly” Josh said shovelling pancake into his mouth – bearing his pearly white teeth and momentarily blinding Tyler.

The two ate in silence except for the sound of cars in the road. It was the peaceful, not expecting or painful quietness he had been expecting. Tyler assumed he wold probably get a ride from Josh to work unless he ditched him at a bus stop in God knows what part of Columbus.

When the two boys had finished their meal, Tyler broke the silence. “I’m sorry for acting so rude at work. I shouldn’t get so worked up about food.” He said carrying his dishes to the sink. Josh only shrugged, “it’s okay, I get pretty harsh around protecting my taco bell if that helps.” The two shared a laugh while Tyler washed, Josh dried and stored away the dishes.

Tyler handed Josh the last mug and turned off the tap, wiping his hands on his jeans. His attention turned to Josh who seemed to be staring him down. Should he feel terrified or turned on in his gaze?

“What’s up Josh?” Tyler spoke carefully. Josh only walked up right to Tyler, mixing their breaths. His eyes tapered to Tyler’s lips and stayed there.

“You got some syrup…” he began. Tyler pulled up his arm to wipe it away but was stopped by Josh’s lips on his own. His heart stopped. Holy shit he said as he felt Josh’s tongue flick out to touch his bottom lip. He kissed back but it was only for a moment. Josh broke away smiling and Tyler was flustered. “Come on, we got to head to work.”

The summer was nearing its end which meant less hectic shows created a winding down for service. There was a show tonight from a band called Grouplove that Tyler was aching to see live. It was still too early for the band to arrive yet so all was calm in the stuffy venue. It wasn’t as sweltering hot either which meant less people passing out and less dehydrated shows cooped up in the booth.

With the lack of work to do, Tyler decided that it was time for a cookie break. He bounced back to the staff room and towards the box holding his prized possessions. Lifting the lid, he was met with a white cardboard bottom staring right back at him.

I had two cookies in here waiting for me yesterday, where did they go? I must’ve eaten them and miscounted.

Sighing, Tyler closed the lid and threw the box in its bin. He made his way out of the room and towards the bar. He sat up on one of the stools and leaned across smiling. “Hey bartender, can I order a kiss?” Josh turned around from drying glasses and made his way over.

“You sure can.” Josh leaned across the counter to give Tyler a kiss with Tyler’s cheek in the palm of his hand. After the whole morning wake up fiasco with the kiss, Tyler and Josh became a thing. Like a thing thing. Josh’s lips weren’t dry except in a couple spots. He also tasted quite sweet. The boys broke apart and Tyler saw a smidge of brown on Josh’s chin.

Bingo .

“Josh,” he whined throwing his head back like a child. “Being my boyfriend doesn’t give you the right to steal my cookies!” Josh threw his head back in a laugh. He brought his lips to Tyler’s cheek and placed another kiss as he pouted. Josh reached into his apron pocket and pulled out the other cookie, eating it whole in front of Tyler. He gasped at the sight.
“Oh you are so dead.”