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Tyler was not sure of many things in his life, but he was sure of 3.

1. Music is important.
2. Peas are gross.
3. He was never going to fall in love.

It’s not because he might be a pessimist, it wasn’t because he was awkward or unattractive, and it wasn’t because society ruined all ideals of anything regarding love for him.

Well, it was because of those things. But the main, most important reason was simple.

Tyler did not want to be in love.

The idea of making yourself vulnerable to another person, of stripping your emotions bare and putting them right at the feet of another body that isn’t your own for them to take and do with them what they damn please was not something he could ever see himself doing, let alone wanting.

So at every family gathering when he was asked that invasive, repetitive question of “are you seeing anyone?”, he always shook his head no. He had tried a couple times to explain that the answer would never be ‘yes’, but it went in one ear of his stubborn relatives and out the other.

Nothing seemed to satisfy the people in Tyler’s life. He frequently wondered why he stuck around a place where everyone was expectant of certain things he would never be able to offer. He had graduated, gotten a job, moved into his own apartment, yet his mother seemed to have an ongrowing list of things Tyler needed to do to live a meaningful life.

Spoiler alert mother, life does not contain meaning.

Sure it was dismal. But Tyler was a dismal person. Which is why, again, he was not fit for love.

And that was just that.

Chapter Text

“You’re coming out tonight with us, right Tyler?”

Tyler looked up from his large paperback, the aroma of perfume and coffee filling his nostrils as Jenna, his co-worker, walked toward him.

“I don’t think so. I have work really early in the morning.” he explained, trying not to be annoyed at the question. Jenna was harmless, he knew, but you would think after being told no every weekend you would come to terms with the fact that this guy was a recluse.  

She sat in the vacant chair next to him in the middle of the breakroom at the old coffee shop at which they worked, smacking her gum. “Tomorrow is Saturday. We aren’t open.”

“I work at the library on weekends.” he stated, looking her sternly in her bright blue eyes. Surely, she was the literal embodiment of someone Tyler should woo over. He should be getting lost in her deep icy eyes, but instead he looked at her and could only think about the corner of her upturned lip that was not covered in red lipstick. It was beginning to bug him.

They sat in tense silence for some seconds, Tyler returning her inquisitive stare. Then her partially coated red lips opened and she spoke.

“I don’t get you,” she swung her legs, standing up again to retreat. Tyler had no plan to give a response.

He was fine with not being gotten.

“In case you change your mind, give me a call. I can give you a ride if need be.” she smiled, Tyler shaking his head at the offer.

He would not be changing his mind. Jenna would not be receiving a call that night.


/////////

 

The rest of his shift went quickly. He was a steady worker, keeping to himself. He tried to minimize interaction with other people as much as possible, but his job required it, so he compromised. He was surprisingly good at forced social interaction.

Tyler was not good at many things, but one thing he was damn good at was making coffee related beverages. He made the best cup of cappuccino out of anyone who tried to do the same.

At least he had that going for him.

He unlocked the door to his shabby apartment, a one-bedroom, semi-functional, fully carpeted place. Many people would probably be thrown off by having a carpeted kitchen, but Tyler never had to wear socks if he didn’t want to, and it made cleanup much easier (in which he didn’t clean up unless it was crucial.)

Courtesy to his mother, it was fully furnished with a long, white sofa, accompanied with plush throw pillows, a T.V. sitting on top of a dark entertainment center, and a glass coffee table in the midst of it.

His bedroom was full of books, with a large bed and a dresser. There was not much detail aside from the few pots of plants he kept around to lift his spirits when needed. He admit the apartment resembled many aesthetic tumblr posts he’d come across in his life. It always had the air of coffee and paper.

It was home to Tyler and he loved it.

He let himself fall onto the couch, groaning with the strain against his overworked body . He let himself fall asleep with the small glimmer of excitement in his stomach at getting to return to his home away from home the following day. The small, poorly lit shack at the end of Liberty Road this town called a library.




Chapter Text

The next morning, Tyler woke up two hours before he was expected at the library. He spent his time sipping coffee and scrolling through instagram, looking at the pictures taken by all of his coworkers last night. He almost let himself like the pictures; Jenna smiling with her arm around his other co-worker, Debby, but chose not to at the last second in case it gave them the impression that he cared.

Tyler’s instagram contained very little pictures, none of them with more than 10 likes. The majority of them were pictures of Tyler’s best cups of coffee, his plants, and a few of nature taken at rare moments when Tyler thought the world was pretty.

He only made an account at Jenna’s persistent request-

“you don’t have to talk to anyone. just look at pictures.”

I don’t see the point, then.”

“the point is to be a mildly regular human being. just make one, please.”

-but he found himself scrolling through pictures of various things quite often. It was a pastime persay. He followed a lot of photography and art accounts, with the exception of his coworkers.

He let the current emptiness of his once full coffee cup be his reason to get up and shower, washing the smell of coffee off of him as best as he could.

Tyler’s wardrobe reflected his personality perfectly- plain and limited. He owned mostly collared shirts, (one in each color), and skinny jeans because he had some basic taste. 

He had to admit that he was probably what many people would call a hipster in the most vague sense possible if his lifestyle and appearance was anything to go by.

Deciding on a blue button up with cuffed sleeves and a pair of dark black skinny jeans, Tyler grabbed his phone and keys and made his way out of the apartment.

Music was Tyler’s area of expertise. He listened to such a wide variety, having a favorite song in each genre. It was hard to know what kind of mood he would be in each day regarding the type of listen he listened to, but as soon as he got into his car and Cliffs Edge came out of his stereo speakers, he cranked it at almost full volume and let his body move slightly to the persistent rhythm.

Soon his car jutted towards the left onto Liberty Road, the library’s brick exterior sticking out at the very end of the street.

Tyler had come across this library on a day when his thoughts were too hard to contain and he needed an escape from reality. He originally planned to drive until he hit a dead end, but instead he’d gotten lucky to find an old building full of books and a very kind old woman whom he had grown extremely fond of during the months he’d started working there.

He reminisced the days he would drive straight from the coffee shop to the library, trying to convince Ruby to let him work there (which consisted of more socializing than Tyler cared for.) He eventually won her over and he’d been helping her keep the place up and running since then.

The only people Tyler would ever see in there were the locals who lived on the street, or people who sought out the company of hard covers and crisp paper and the quite, much like himself. Aside from occasionally helping someone find a book or check one out, he spent most of his time there propped behind the counter with a book in hand.

By now he had already checked himself in, giving Ruby a soft “good morning,” as he took up his usual spot behind the counter. He picked up the book he had left there the weekend prior- The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran- and began reading.

“How are you this week, Tyler?” came Ruby’s frail from some distance away.

“Good, Ruby. Yourself?”

“I’m fine, dear.”

Their conversations rarely extended beyond this, but Tyler had a substantial amount of respect for the older woman. In the few times their conversations consisted of more than asking how the other was, Tyler learned she had been the librarian of the old place since her early 20’s. She worked early mornings to late nights everyday to keep it in decent condition. All of the books were previously owned by her father, who passed away sometime in her early childhood. She never talked much about that.

Regardless, Tyler liked her. She never encouraged him to socialize, or ‘get out more’, or ‘make something of himself’, which was immensely refreshing.

Being at the library was definitely one of his favorite pastimes.




Chapter Text

The book in his hands that he was currently absorbed in prevented him from hearing the chime of the door, indicating people had arrived.

He jumped in his seat when a petite blonde spoke from the opposite side of the counter.

“Hi, do you know- oh gosh, I didn’t mean to scare you!” she giggled. Tyler however was not amused.

“It’s fine.” he said, recovering. “How can I help you?”

The blonde threaded her skinny fingers through her straw thin hair, twirling the tips. “I’m not really looking for a book anymore..” she treaded off, her facial features all upturned.

Tyler was both annoyed and mildly confused now. “So why did you come to a library?”

She brushed off Tyler’s snarky comment with a smile, biting her pink lip.

“I think I found something right here that I’d love to check out.” she winked.

Tyler was not unfamiliar with the concept of flirting, even though he had never attempted it himself. He knew when the line was drawn between casual friendliness and the other. He’d experienced it a couple times as a coffee barista, but never as a librarian.

Why anyone would take time out of their day to try and gain the attention of a complete stranger for purposes other than professional in an environment where it was not appropriate was beyond him. Especially that stranger being someone like himself.

Either way, it was never flattering. Simply inconvenient.

“Okay. Is there anything else I can actually help you with?”

The girl looked momentarily displeased. Tyler almost felt bad. It was never his intention to be rude, but more often than not if he decided to be anything but, he would embarrass himself.

“Am I not attractive or something? You don’t- oh! You’re gay, aren’t you? That makes a lot of-”

“Hey, give the guy a break, would you?”

Before Tyler could even attempt to think of a response, a young man with bright red hair and what looked to be a nose ring approached the two, cutting in with a sharp voice. Tyler swore he was experiencing whiplash with how eventful his morning had become in such short time.

The girl swung her head to look at the young man, rolling her eyes and making no effort to excuse her behavior. She simply walked out of the library without another word.

“Some people.” the man huffed, shaking his head.

Tyler didn’t know why, but for some inexplicable reason, his eyes were fixated on the man who stepped to his defense. Not once in his life had he ever let himself give prolonged eye contact to another human being. In fact, he never had a desire to. But now, with this random person being an exception, he was growing concerned.

“Yeah.” he agreed simply, hoping his tone gave off the impression that he was not interested in further discussion as he forced himself to look back down toward his book.

“I’m not trying to bug you, I promise. I came up here to ask for help finding a book to read,” the man stated.

Tyler beamed a little. He always enjoyed furthering people’s book encounters. “Sure. Are you looking for anything specific?”  

“Not really. I was thinking you could recommend something?” he requested shyly.

“Oh, sure.”

The man swayed awkwardly, as though he had a reason to be nervous during this encounter.

“I trust that you have good taste,” he gestured to the book Tyler had resting on the counter.

This evoked a genuine smile from Tyler. “This? Yeah, it’s one of my favorites. I’m re-reading it for the third time. I think.” he snickered lightly.

“That’s dedication. Pretty heavy stuff in there,”

Tyler fumbled with the pages of the book. “I’m into the heavy stuff.”

“Is that so?” the guy smiled, his tongue visible through a set of bright teeth. Tyler couldn’t help but smile back. For the second time.

“Sure. Anyways. Let me find you a book.”








Chapter Text

Tyler ended up spending close to an hour discussing favorite novels and quotes and theories about certain stories with the man before he sent him on his way with a copy of The Tale of Despereaux perched in his arms. It was pleasant and refreshing to discuss serious topics with someone who shared similar taste with him, but also not too similar to the point where it left no room for rebuttal or consideration. He thought about something the red-haired stranger had said that especially resonated with him-

“Not everyone lives their life to its full extent. sometimes a person lives simply to exist and then die, not ever experiencing the in-betweens and complexity of existence. I personally really want to know those in-betweens.”

Or something along those lines.

Tyler thought that perhaps he was a person who would never know the in-betweens or complexities. He knew that should have been unsettling, but it wasn’t.

The day finally ended,  Tyler saying goodbye to Ruby and promising he’d see her the following morning. He mounted the driver's seat of his car, ignited the engine and pulled out of the parking lot. He admired the stars scattered across the inky black abyss above him as he drove himself home.

Tyler shut the door to his apartment, the familiar smell immediately setting him at ease. He wasted no time in removing his shoes and brewing himself a cup of coffee. He sat in the dim light, feet propped against his coffee table as music cranked throughout the space

Mind over matter,

Does it matter to any of us?

Don’t change the subject

I’m heavy on your love

He sipped the dark drink just before the chorus came in and he let his voice ring out across the apartment

And if the world don’t break,

I’ll be shaking it

Cuz I’m a young man after all

And when the seasons change,

Will you stand by me?

Cuz I’m a young man built to fall!

Tyler exhaled smiling softly to himself as he caught his breath. It was rare when he sang, but when he did he found it to be very therapeutic and somewhat exhilarating.

Playing music in general gave him both of those feelings, but he would shrug you off had you brought it up.

As he let himself relax further into the couch while music played softly around him, Tyler found himself thinking back to the conversation he had with the stranger. It was unusual for him to dwell on things in general, let alone a social interaction with another person. Nonetheless it wasn’t significant enough to arise concern.

After some time, he finished his coffee and fell into a peaceful sleep. 

Chapter Text

Some weeks later...



Nothing in Tyler’s life had changed much. He continued on with his weekly routine of working at the coffee shop, then onto the library, going straight home after each shift, watering his plants, reading,  never breaking the cycle. It was a dull life, most people would say. Tyler sometimes wished he had the energy and ambitiousness of a regular person. Perhaps he wouldn’t be persecuted as frequently.

Every so often when these thoughts arose in his mind, Tyler thought back to the conversation he had with the nameless red-haired man at the library some weeks back, where that man mentioned the ‘in-betweens’ of life and whatnot. He found it ironic that he became indulged in a conversation that was oddly prevalent to him.

He has said it before, and he would say it a million times again- Tyler was content with his dull life, the one that never consisted of change. Nothing would change his mind.

Tyler was wandering around his apartment when he heard the chime of his phone.

Hi, Tyler!” his mother quipped from the opposing line.

“Hi, mom.”

“How are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks. How are you?”

“Good and good. I’ll make this quick. Your father and I are going to dinner for business and we think it would be lovely if you joined us.”

Tyler fought the overwhelming urge to decline her offer, but it would only be more trouble for him in the long run. His parents knew he had no other plans, so he had no legitimate excuse to take a rain check. All things aside, he could suffer through a boring business meeting for the sake of pleasing his parents.

“Sure.”

“Oh, great! That’s great dear. It will be so much fun.”

He knew it.

She gave him details regarding the dinner and their conversation ended. So much for his life not consisting of change.

He was dreading the evening set before him in the highest degree.

 

//////////

 

If Tyler was the type of person who could easily pretend to be content in an unpleasant atmosphere, he would use it to his full advantage.

But most unfortunately, he was not. He could do nothing to stop the prominent scowl on his face as he observed the interaction of older,  business and profit infatuated people, all expensive suits and dresses and wrinkly skin.

That included his parents, who were both holding presumably expensive fine wine glasses filled with bubbly champagne while they mingled with plastic smiles stuck to their faces. They all resembled dolls to him. Not a fraction of real emotion could be found within the dinner that was planned to down to a tee for a group of rich and presumptuous to attend.

Needless to say, he was miserable. But as always, he would stick around and speak when provoked to please his dear mother and father.

As he sat at the glass table they had recently been served dinner on, he watched as a new group of people was ushered into the porcelain environment and one particular person caught his attention-

That person having bright, fire-engine red hair.

He chuckled to himself. What a funny coincidence that he would see the stranger outside of his usual workspace. He sat frozen to the chair, watching intently until the man caught his eye and he was forced to look away.

Tyler could feel his gaze, though, and it was tempting to turn his head and meet it once again. But that would require effort, which Tyler was not willing to put in at the moment. The night went on with him occasionally being forced into conversation with friends of his parent’s and such, trying to ignore their judgment when he had told them what he did for a living. He wasn’t there to impress anyone, anywho.

He didn’t catch sight of the stranger again until he stood alone against the back of the room, having retreated there to prevent himself from going mad. He heard a voice, familiar but not distinguishable.

That was until he looked to his side and saw the bright color.

“Not a party person?”

Momentarily stunned out of replying, Tyler stood silently until he could determine an appropriate response. “Could you even call this a party?”

“Good point. What brings you here, though?”

He turned his head to reply, abling his eyes to discern the expensive suit draped over the taller man’s body. “My parents. They work for this company,”

The man nodded. “My brother also happens to work for this company. What a funny coincidence? Or better yet, perhaps it’s fate.”

Tyler scoffed. “A funny coincidence it is.

I’ve been thinking about you,” Tyler added nonchalantly, not considering how that might have sounded on the receiving end. “Oh, not like, that. I was just thinking about the things you said a few weeks ago,” he trailed off, embarrassed even more so now that the stranger was smiling at him.

The red-haired man moved closer toward him. He noticed the faint smell of champagne on the strangers' breath as he spoke.  “I said a lot of things,”

Tyler cursed internally, wondering why he was letting himself interact with this man even further than he already had.

“Specifically the thing about the in-betweens of life and whatnot.”

He nodded carefully. “I see. What about it?”

“Just that, I think I might be someone who lives simply to exist and then die,” he states blatantly.

The stranger looks at him, a keen expression on his face. “No. You just haven’t found your in-between.” He says it with so much confidence and assurance, as though it was the most obvious thing anyone could have realized.

“Agree to disagree.” Tyler settled on.

“How about I give you one. How’s that sound?”

Tyler was both intrigued and confused. “What do you mean? You want to give me an in-between?”

A smirk.

“Just trust me.”

“How could I? I don’t even know your name!” Tyler laughed breathily, observing the amused eyes of the stranger in front of him.

“It’s Josh.”

“Josh…” Tyler let the name slip off his tongue. “Well Josh, I assume your parents taught you not to talk to strangers .”

Josh shrugged. “I never really listened to my parents.”

Tyler chuckled lightly. He had no idea what else to say.

“How can I persuade you… what’s your name?” Josh inquired, his red-hair vibrant against the plain atmosphere, Tyler noticed.

“Tyler. Listen, it’s been a real pleasure, but I think my couch really misses my company. If you’ll excuse me,” he left the man alone, letting his parents know he was leaving, and walked toward the parking lot where the car he used to drive himself home and reunite with his couch sat, but not before he heard Josh call a determined: 

 

"I'm a fan of challenges, Tyler!" 

Chapter Text

“Tyler?”

 Tyler looked toward Jenna, who stood sheepishly in the doorway separating the onslaught of customers from the quiet of the breakroom.

"What’s wrong? Is the machine jammed again?”

She laughed, swiftly taking a seat across from him. “No, no. It’s- I uh. What do you think about the color red?”

The only thing Tyler could associate red with was the color of blood and hair (Josh). It was an intriguing color.

“It’s alright I guess, why do you ask?”

She took her plump bottom lip between her mouth, again, an action Tyler should have found completely arousing but didn’t.

“Well, there’s someone out there with red hair. They’re kinda cute, but I’m not sure if I can get past the whole red hair thing, you know?”

Tyler didn’t catch anything else she had said. Could she be referring to Josh?

Eager to find out but unbeknownst to why Tyler cut her off in the middle of her passionate rant about the color red to find out.

“I’ll be right back,” he excused himself and entered the main part of the building where the customers all sat sipping coffee.

He was surprised to find that Jenna was not referring to his favorite red-haired stranger, but a shorter, definitely more female person standing against one of the walls sporting a darker shade of red than Josh’s.

He walked back into the breakroom, Jenna still in the same position Tyler left her in.

He reclaimed his seat and looked at her in an entirely new light.

“I didn’t know you were into....”

“Chicks?” she finished for him, a small smile on her lips.

He coughed awkwardly. “Yeah,”

“I’m gonna go ask for her number. Wish me luck,” she winked on her way out, to which Tyler nodded politely, a surprised but light feeling in his chest.

A few minutes later, Jenna returned with a huge smile that gave away her victory.

“That went well I assume,” Tyler said, admiring her upturned pink lips.

“Very. In fact, Tyler, Hayley has a friend!” she cheered.

Tyler looked at her, trying to decipher what she could possibly be suggesting. “What do you mean?”

She sat again and took his hand in hers. “Tyler, no offense, but I really think you could use a good time in your life right now. Hayley asked me out on a date-” she stopped to smile to herself, “-and wanted to know if I had any friends for her friend.”

Tyler sucked in a sharp breath. “That’s really thoughtful of you and all, but you know-”

“Tyler! What is so wrong with letting yourself have fun every once in a while?”

Tyler tried to put words together but didn’t get the chance before Jenna was talking again.

“I’ve been trying to get you to come out with me for almost a year, and you say no every time! Can you please just let go of whatever it is you’re so afraid of and come on this date with me?” she pleaded. Her eyes glistened with sincerity and seriousness.

He carefully removed his hand from hers and stood up.

"My break is over,”

With that, Tyler left the room.


//////////////


As soon as Tyler stepped foot into his apartment he could tell it was going to be one of those nights.

He sat himself down and let his body sink into the foam of the couch, trying to ease the tension that ate at him from everywhere in his body. After a few minutes, he realized it was not helping and got up to find an alternative.

He busied himself with watering his plants. The water trickled out of the watering can and into the soft soil while Tyler’s thoughts ran wild in his mind. He decided to turn on music to try and redirect them.

It was not working.

The downward spiral of his emotions was oncoming, and Tyler could feel it. He could feel the sharp bite of sadness latching onto his insides and jerking violently. It wouldn’t let go.

It wasn’t until a few hours later when Tyler had tried everything he knew to help and nothing did the trick when he was laying in his bedroom, something he did rarely, facing the ceiling and clutching his chest did he know that perhaps Jenna was right.

He sighed heavily, picking up his phone from beside him and pulling up Jenna’s contact information.

Is it too late to take a rain check on my rain check?

Chapter Text

Tyler had agreed to a double date.

It was groundbreaking. It went against all of his beliefs and customs. But he could admit that falling back into the bottomless pit of depression was by far worse than any date he could go on.

So yes, as a last resort to ditch his sadness, Tyler agreed to a date.

But he had a plan. He was going to show up and be as dismal as possible (which already came naturally to him), bore the hell out of this date, and never hear from them again. 

At least he would be getting a meal out of it.

He let himself sulk in the comfort of his couch for a while before he realized if he wanted to attend a social event properly, he would need to get ready and make himself presentable. Not that he cared all that much.

He showered and dressed in the nicest things he owned, hoping whoever it was that he was expected to impress tonight didn’t have high standards.

Which reminded him, he didn’t even know a single thing about the girl. Hopefully, she was easy to talk to, like Josh, or at least had half the charisma he did.

That thought alone threw him off a bit. He’d never really thought about Josh like that.

Choosing not to dwell on it, Tyler checked the time and added a few finishing touches before he was locking his door and heading toward his destination.

 

/////////


Jenna: we’re in the back already seated. Super excited! X

 

I’m here.

 

Tyler locked his phone and let it slip into the soft material of his dress pants. He looked around at all of the people seated underneath dim lights that illuminated specific sections of the building and gave it an overall pretty eerie vibe to it.

Nonetheless, Tyler forced himself to walk through and meet his associates where Jenna assured him they were. Upon arrival, Tyler noticed right away the red-hair of Jenna’s date as she was faced away from him and talking to an intently-listening Jenna. He smiled politely at them, shaking her hand and taking a seat in the empty chair across from them.

“I’m Ashley, it’s nice to meet you!”

Tyler nodded, “you as well.”

Jenna smiled at him, big and bright. “You look downright delectable, Tyler. Your date is going to love you,”

Despite the initial embarrassment of being complimented so blatantly, Tyler blushed and mumbled a small ‘thank you’.

“Speaking of which,” Ashley spoke up, “he’s walking in now!”

Tyler’s blood stops flowing. He nearly choked on nothing. “He?”

Before anyone else could keep the conversation going, Tyler’s alleged date approached the table.

Their eyes met.

Everyone was silent.

“Well, I take it they are both pretty satisfied…” Ashley interjected, Jenna smiling in agreement.

Only Tyler was not satisfied, because standing before him was none other but Josh- the same Josh he helped find a book those many weeks ago, the same Josh that offered him an “in-between.” The same Josh that Tyler had not been able to shake from his thoughts for unknown reasons for many weeks no matter how hard he tried.

Needless to say, Tyler realized he had got himself into something he was not sure he could get out of.

“Uh, sorry. This is hilarious,” Josh cackles, still standing in front of everyone.

Jenna and Ashley share looks of amusement and confusion.

“We know each other,” Tyler states from his seat, starting to grow a tad annoyed at the entire situation. “Also, I’m curious as to why you assumed I was into men.” he turned toward Jenna.

She looked at him apologetically. “It was kind of a hit or miss thing, you know?”  

Josh hovered awkwardly. “Well I’m here now, so let’s just all try to have a good time. How’s that sound?”

Everyone agreed silently, Josh taking his seat next to Tyler.

Tyler was stunned out of trying to generate conversation. He could smell the cologne Josh generously doused on himself and the shampoo he used on his hair. The smell was intoxicating; by far more appealing than the food being prepared.

He stuck his nose in the menu for a distraction, trying to read the options but failing as he listened to the deep vibrato of Josh’s voice as he spoke aloud to the girls.

It didn’t make the least bit of sense- Tyler was not usually this flustered, especially not by another person. It was making him more irritated than he would care to admit.

That’s when he decided to stick to his plan and hope it would turn out fine, Only for them to be ripped to shreds when Josh leaned closer and whispered to him,

“Don’t think I gave up on that challenge.”

Chapter Text

The group fell into a comfortable conversation even despite the somewhat awkward atmosphere. Tyler tried to avoid the man next to him as much as he could without coming off as a complete jerk as they waited for their previously ordered food.

Having Jenna with him was somewhat comforting; she was familiar. He kept his focus trailed towards her, watching as she talked softly with Ashley.

“So, how do you and Josh know each other? And is it a coincidence that you both have red hair?” Jenna grinned.

The red-heads both chuckled softly as they exchanged knowing looks. Josh was the first to give a reply to the question, his raspy voice reberatting throughout the space.

“Ashley and I met at my work,” he started, smiling towards her. “She came in to buy a new string for her violin and we ended up chatting for a while.”

Tyler couldn’t help the small spike of what- jealousy? He couldn’t possible be jealous.

But somehow, as Josh went on to explain his and Ashley’s first encounter that lead to their friendship, he felt his stomach erupt with the emotion.

“How funny,” Tyler interrupted him. “Josh and I met in a similar way.”

Josh looked at him, a surprised look on his face. Tyler met his eye and for once, he didn’t feel the need to stray away from the contact. He waited until the group’s shock at Tyler speaking up passed to continue.

“Josh came in the library one day looking for a book. Well, he ended up getting rid of some girl who was trying to flirt with me. We talked for a while, like you mentioned you did with Ashley,” he said, looking intently and specifically at Josh.

“He’s right,” Josh laughed lightly. Their eye contact didn’t falter once throughout the conversation, and Tyler was experiencing a feeling completely unfamiliar to him.

His chest burned and his head was spinning slightly as he observed the details of his favorite stranger’s face- brown freckles littering his pale skin, full pink lips upturned slightly, and red curls falling onto his forehead.

The appeal of Josh’s face baffled him.

Eventually Josh turned away, redirecting his attention back to Jenna and Ashley. “Yeah. So after a while Ashley suggested we dye our hair, hence why we both have this,” he tugged gently at his bright locks.

Jenna and Ashley look at the two boys, sharing knowing looks between each other as they observed the behaviour being displayed from them.

Before any further discussion could take place, the food they ordered made its arrival and they began eating.

Tyler ordered a cup of coffee and a plate of fries. His appiteite was minimal.

“It bewilders me that you chose boring fries out of all the things you could have gotten,” Jenna stated as she took a bite out of her seasoned chicken. Ashley nodded next to her.

“I’m a boring person,” he retorded, not bothered by her comment. He sipped his coffee- still not anywhere near as good as his own was- and shrugged.

“I beg to differ,” Josh chided from beside him.

The girls both giggled in front of him.

“How could you possibly know?” Tyler inquired toward Josh whose plate was full of different appitizers.

He shrugged. “I could know better if you took me up on that offer,”

Tyler was confused for a moment before he remembered the party he had met Josh at by coinedence; how Josh had asked him if he could give him an “in-between.”

He had pondered on the strange offer for weeks on end, wondering what it could have consisted of.

“Okay, listen.” Ashley interjected from her seat. Tyler and Josh both looked toward her.

“Jenna and I have somewhere to be,” she trailed off, looking to Jenna for confirmation.

“Yes, yes we do.” she smiled, placing her napkin on the table and making an attempt to stand up, Ashley joining her. “You guys have fun, text us if you want to meet up somewhere later!” they left, leaving their half-finished food on the table.

Tyler was surprised at both his and Josh’s lack of resistance to being left alone with each other. He kept his head trailed down toward his food. Waiting for something to happen.

“So, as I was saying,” Josh resumed talking, “there’s no time like the present, Tyler.”

“What’s in it for me?” Tyler questioned, biting the inside of his cheek when he noticed Josh smirk.

Merak.” was Josh’s reply.

“Excuse me?”

“Merak, Tyler- a feeling of bliss and oneness with the universe that comes from simple pleasures. Who am I to deny you those pleasures? What kind of person would I be if I enabled a person such as yourself to wander through life without ever knowing the beauty it had to offer?”

Tyler was, for perhaps the very first time in his life, at a loss for words. He was growing increasingly fascinated with the way Josh spoke.

“I don’t think you’re responsible for the upkeep of my oneness with the universe.

Josh smiled that tongue inducing smile. “I disagree.”

And really, Tyler could have continued to pretend he wasn’t already one foot out of the door with this man. But seeing as though the dinner was coming to a rapid close, with the plastic crowd thinning out, he knew he had to comply quickly before the opportunity was gone.

“Fine. Lead the way, Josh.”

Chapter Text

Apprehensive.

That was the feeling that Tyler was currently experiencing.

But that wasn’t the issue.

The issue was that Tyler was only feeling apprehensive at accepting Josh’s odd request. He did not feel his typical annoyance at communication, or the desire to make an excuse as to why he couldn’t participate.

And that confused him.

Tyler looked at Josh in the dim light, baffled.

“You are probably the most interesting person I’ve ever encountered.”

Josh tilted his head toward his shoulder in a childlike manner. “I hope that’s a good thing,”

He hummed. “I haven’t decided.”

This earned him a smile from Josh. “I am a fan of challenges.”

“I’ve noticed.”

They chatted for a while, their food forgotten until the waitress came by with the check and a questioning look towards them. Josh insisted he pay, to which Tyler tried to object but ultimately failed.

They left the resturant shortly after. Tyler walked with his head tucked between his shoulders and arms stiffly at his side. He could feel Josh’s body heat beside him as they walked on the sidewalk together.

“Do you want to see a movie?” Josh asked, stopping them.

“I thought you were in charge here,” Tyler looked up. “With the whole in-between thing and whatnot.”

Josh looked at Tyler for a split second before he started to cackle lightly. “I think you’re misunderstanding me.”

Tyler indicated for him to go on.

“An in-between is not a grand gesture or something super significant. It’s simply an enjoyable moment; something that gives you fuel or a desire to keep living. You get it?”

“So wait, we aren’t going to do something crazy, like sky-diving?”

Josh huffed. “Not tonight, darling.”

Tyler’s cheeks reddened at the pet name, something he would never find endearing had it came from anyone else.

He was starting to make a lot of exceptions for Josh, he noticed.

“A movie sounds nice.” he settled on.

 

//////////



Not once had  Tyler been more relaxed in a social setting than he was in the theatre with Josh.

Josh had somehow coaxed him into seeing a horror movie, which he enjoyed more than he would let on. Something about the suspense of a killer popping onto the screen and sending the entire theatre into a frenzy was amusing to him.

Not to mention the way he would catch Josh looking at him throughout the movie to gauge his reaction-

“You’re missing it,” Tyler would whisper, careful to not disturb the rest of the theatre.

“I’m watching,” Josh would reply, although Tyler could clearly see his eyes trailed on himself as opposed to the movie screen.

It would repeat a few minutes later.

Tyler started enjoying himself more and more with each passing minute. It was exciting and worrying all at once.

Some time later found the two of them walking out of the theatre, their leftover popcorn bowl in Tyler’s arms as he picked at the crumbs.

“Did you enjoy it?” Josh asked, lighting a ciggarette. Tyler scowled.

“I did. Why are you smoking?”

Josh took a long drag of the stick, smiling faintly. “I smoke when I’m happy.”

“And… you’re happy right now,” Tyler mused.

“Precisely.”

Tyler hovered akwardly beside him, holding his breath in case the smoke found its way near him. He sucked on the inside of his cheek.

“Why are you happy?” he mumbled, almost unaudbile. Josh took another hit as he looked full of contemplation.

“Because,” he started, turning to look down at a sheepish Tyler, “while this was for you to have a nice experience, you’ve also given me the same. So thank you,”

Tyler was blushing furiously now. “I did hardly anything.”

Josh shook his head. His ciggerate head met the hard surface of the concrete, putting the flame out.

“You have a lot to learn,” he replied as they resumed their pace along the sidewalk. Tyler assumed Josh was not looking for a reply at that instance, so they walked in silence for a few minutes until they reached Josh’s car.

“So, am I taking you back to your car?” Josh inquired. He opened the passanger door for Tyler, who nodded his thanks.

He looked at his cellphone for the time. It read 9:47 p.m.

“It is getting pretty late,”

Josh settled in the driver seat. “Nonsense. The night is still a newborn baby waiting for the sweet milk of its mother’s breast,”

Tyler looked at Josh with wide eyes trying to register what he had just said. Once done, he had to take a minute to laugh, his chest aching. It had been a while since he had laughed that hard with tears brimming his eyes.

“That was really unnecesarry,” Tyler heaved through chuckles.

Josh was smiling as he pulled the car out of its parking space, his arm coming to rest on Tyler’s seat as he turned to back out. “But it got you to laugh, so I deem it pretty necesarry.”

“Fair enough.” Tyler was still smiling to himself as he watched the streelamps flicker past the moving car. He was full of an undescribable feeling; one that he knew was due to Josh’s company.

Josh looked at him as he drove slowly out of the parking lot. “Wanna pick the music?”

Tyler didn’t think he could have said no if he tried.

He settled on his favorite song from Imagine Dragons, tapping his thumb against his knee as it filled the space.

We could be strangers in the night

We could passing in the shadows

We couldn’t be closer if we tried

When we’re caught in the headlights

Tyler sang along, not bothered enough to care what Josh might think.

Dangerous

Your love is always dangerous

And now I’m lost in us

We’re living in a lying trust

“You have such a pretty voice,” Josh cut in, his voice soft. Tyler’s stomach dropped and his cheeks went pink.

“I, uh. Thanks,”

Josh hummed, turning the corner. He tapped his fingertips against the steering wheel, keeping a perfect rhythm regardless of never having heard the song before.

“I’ll make you a deal,”

“Hm?”

Josh stopped the car outside of the resturant they had previously been at, turning his body towards Tyler.

“I’ll let you go home, but only if you give me your number so we’re able to stay in touch.” Josh pleaded, his eyes sincere.

Tyler pretended to ponder on it. He smiled, looking intently at Josh who looked hopeful and weirdly shy.

“I’ll give you my number.”

After the exchange, Josh sent Tyler on his way, who went with perhaps the biggest smile that’s ever taken up his face.

Chapter Text

The minute Tyler stepped into his apartment he was greeted with less than ideal circumstances.

Tyler’s mother shot up from the couch and paced towards him, wrapping him in one of her infamous bear hugs. “Tyler! Do you not know how to answer a phone anymore? Where have you been?”

He reluctantly wrapped his own arms around her, groaning inwardly. “I’m not sure if you were aware, but I’m a grown man,”

She swiftly pulled back, a stony expression on her face as she looked up at her son. “I’m allowed to worry, forget how old you may be!”

“Okay, mom. I’m sorry.” he said wholeheartedly. She looked at him and nodded, dragging them back towards his couch where they sat.

“Now that I know you aren’t dead in a ditch somewhere,” she said passively, “do you want to tell me where you were? You never leave the house after 8.”

Tyler sucked in a sharp breath. His last concern was telling his mother about the date, but surely enough it had to become his first.

“I was out with friends.” he decided on, figuring it wasn’t far from the truth.

She beamed, perking up a bit from where she was hunched over. “That’s awesome! You’ve started making friends?”

He scoffed. “Gee, mom. Way to patronize your son.”

“I didn’t mean it like that dear. You know I don’t care if you want to hole yourself up in here all your life…” she looked around, observing the apartment’s absent decor where plants rested to take its place. “I’m just glad to hear you’re getting out a bit.”

Tyler bit his tongue. He’d mastered the art of refraining what he wanted to say to his mother by now.

“Yeah. It was fun, but I really should head to bed. I have work tomorrow… at the library.”

“Right, of course! I’m sorry again honey. I love you,” she planted a kiss on her son’s face.

“I love you too. And mom?”

“Yes, Tyler?”

 

“I’m re-hiding the spare key.”



/////////////



Josh had not put Tyler’s phone number to use since Friday. He figured Josh was busy. They were adults, after all.

Tyler could busy himself too. He wasn’t dependent upon a single person. He walked into the library building with his shoulders held high.

Ruby sat in her usual seat with her head resting between her frail hands. Tyler smiled sweetly at her.

“How was your weekend?” she asked, setting herself back upright.

Tyler set his bag down and sat himself across from her. “It was good. More eventful than usual.”

Her eyes grew wider. “Care to elaborate?”

“Well,” he took a moment to gather his thoughts and pick what he wanted to say. “I went on a date of sorts.”

Tyler explained the details, telling her about the entire experience. He realized through his rant that he was being more open with Ruby than he had ever been with his own mother, but decided that was justifed with valid reason.

He explained how he had always been reluctant to any idea regarding dating or sharing his time with another person, but somehow Josh had flipped his beliefs upside down and he was able to gain more perspective. Ruby carefully considered every word, probably beyond excited that Tyler had chosen to open up to her.

They talked until he said everything on his mind. Ruby had grabbed his hand somehwere in the midst of it, Tyler finding the touch comforting. She could tell it was a rather difficult subject for him to breach on.

“I love you to bits, Tyler. Like you were my own son.”

Tyler smiled. He loved her too.

“You’re hard-headed, but I see now that’s slowly coming undone,” she winked.

“God, I hope not!” he laughed.

She swatted the air with her hand, her laughs reminder Tyler of molasses. They both settled down eventually, the serious atmosphere making its return.

“You’re a smart kid. I have no doubt in my mind that you are going to figure things out for yourself, and live a long, happy life. Hopefully with that cute red-head!” she pat his hand reassuringly to emphasize her point.

“I appreciate that, Ruby.” he giggled.

“Now get to work, you’re slacking off!” she joked.

Tyler gave her one last appreciative smile before heading behind the main desk and picking up his book.

He read the words on the page, but they didn’t register. He was too preoccupied thinking about other things that definetely consisted of bright red hair.

Nothing seemed to be able to take his mind off of Josh. He wasn’t daydreaming ; he was a grown man. Rather, he was considering the cirsumctances he found himself in. Josh just happened to be included in those circumstances.

He heard the chime of the door opening, choosing to ignore it until he heard Ruby clear her throat.

What he never expected to see when he looked up was Josh walking in with an armful full of assorted flowers and a dorky grin on his face.

Chapter Text

Tyler sat slack-jawed and wide-eyed toward Josh- Josh, who was holding what Tyler swore was the most colorful assortment of roses he had ever seen.

No further movement was made between either of them for a few seconds; Tyler too shocked and Josh too anxious to initiate anything more. Eventually, Ruby coughed again and drew them both out of their stupors.

“You’re going to send me to the hospital if you don’t get yourself together, Tyler!” she scolded lightly.

Tyler reminded himself to laugh, still looking earnestly at Josh.

“Hiya,” the red-head eventually spoke, slowly inching his way closer towards the desk Tyler was sat at. He had a shy demeanor today, Tyler realized. Perhaps for good reason.

“Hello,” he said softly, trying not to stare at the flowers too blatantly.

Josh cleared his throat and shifted awkwardly. “Uh, so these are for you.” he placed the bouquet on the desk.

Tyler had to remind himself not to make a complete fool out of himself at that moment. No one had ever given him flowers before, let alone the biggest and most beautiful batch he probably had ever seen.

It was a lot to take in. Josh took it upon himself to not only spend what Tyler could only assume was a lot of money on him, but he drove to his work and hand delivered them.

While it was probably not the grandest gesture someone could do, it was a lot- more than anyone else had ever done for Tyler before. But that was most likely due to the fact he wasn’t too enthusiastic about social interaction and whatnot prior to Josh coming into his life.

“They’re gorgeous, Josh. I- I don’t really know what to say,” he stuttered. His hands were beginning to grow clammy from where he had them bunched in his lap.

Josh looked down at him with a fond smile on his face. “Don’t say anything. I’m glad you think they’re gorgeous.”

“How am I supposed to repay you for this? Surely they had to cost you a lot…”

“Tyler, stop that. I was more than happy to buy these for you, nevermind the price. I just wanted to put that pretty smile back on your face.”

Tyler honest to God blushed, something he doesn’t think he had ever done before. At least, not this intensely.

“And it seems to be working!” Josh laughed, taking a seat across from Tyler at one of the tables.

“Oh, jeez. Leave me alone.” Tyler shyly covered his face with his hand.

Josh chuckled. “So, I’m guessing you don’t know what colors in flowers represent?”

Tyler shook his head.

“Okay. I’ll explain,” Josh scoot himself closer to the desk, Ruby eyeing them from the back room. She smiled warmly at the sight.

“So you can see there are 5 colors here: blue, yellow, orange, purple, and uh, red.” Josh coughed toward the end of his sentence, for some reason the color red making him a bit flustered. Tyler waited for the explanation.

“Blue means like, serenity. Yellow is supposed to convey happiness,” Josh looked at Tyler to ensure he was following. Tyler nodded to show him that he was, his eyes shifting back from the colorful plants to Josh’s face as he talked.

Tyler realized he was growing really fond of listening to Josh talk.

“Orange means passion or life, hence why I made a lot of them orange.” Josh grinned.

“Purple means admiration or adoration. And red, well, it means romance, really.” he finished with a bashful grin.

Tyler considered everything he had just said, placing the meaning with each color as he observed the flowers. He was mesmerized in total honesty. They would make a great addition to his apartment.

He noticed the two red roses in the middle of all the other flamboyant colors, making his heart beat a little faster in his chest.

Josh was going to kill him.

And he was starting to become more okay with that with each passing encounter they had.

“I really appreciate this. They are almost as lovely as you,” he said without a second thought.

His stomach dropped when he realized that he had just openly flirted with Josh. That was a first.

Whatever dread he had experienced at that moment became irrelevant when he noticed a soft shade of pink paint Josh’s freckled face. His best smile appeared, tongue poking between his bright teeth.

“You’re very welcome, Tyler.”

Tyler took a deep breath. He knew exactly what he wanted to say next, but the nerves to say it was lacking at that moment. He used Josh’s smile and the bright flowers sitting next to him as fuel.

“Do you want to do something tonight?” he asked, playing with his hands nervously.

 

“I thought you’d never ask.”


/////////////

 

Later that same day, on Tyler’s walk to his car with Josh’s flowers in his hands after work at the library was finished, Jenna called him.

Hi, Tyler. I was going to ask if you wanted to come and see a movie with Ashley and me?”

Tyler shifted his keys from one hand to the other and pressed the phone against his ear as he unlocked his car door. He would never admit it was a bit difficult to manage everything at that moment.

“Uh, actually, I already have plans tonight,”

Come on Tyler, really? I thought we were past the whole ‘making excuses so I don’t have to hang out with people thing.’”

“Jenna. I have plans with Josh.”

The line went silent for a moment. Then Jenna shrieked.

That’s so cute! Oh god, okay, we’ll just have to hang out another time. I’m so ready to be an aunt!”

Tyler rolled his eyes and ignited the car engine. “Yeah, okay. I have to drive now.”

“Right, right. Have fun again. See ya!”

He hung up and set his phone in the center console as he drove himself home, where he was going to get ready for a date with Josh.

A second date, really.

One that he initiated himself.

Tyler should have been more unsettled by this fact, but the only thing he could think about was how unusually excited he was. He drove home with a soft smile playing at his lips the entire way.

Chapter Text

“You never texted me after that one time,” Tyler commented off-handedly as him and Josh walked through the crowded Ohio streets. Tyler’s mind was still reeling with everything that had happened and was currently happening, but he tried not to let it show.

“That’s because I wanted some of the anticipation to build, you know? That way the flowers would be a good surprise!”

Tyler snickered. “Oh, so you just assumed I would anticipate your text?”

Josh laughed at this. “I might have. I needed to convince myself it was a good idea somehow,”

“It was a great idea. No one has ever done that for me before.”

“What, surprised you?”

Tyler hesitates. “Bought me flowers.”

Josh stops to look at Tyler, an emotion of some sort on his face. “Are you serious? Tyler, I’d buy every flower growing out of the earth for you if it meant making you happy. You deserve that, at least.”

It didn’t make sense to him, but Tyler found the prospect of being on the receiving end of this affection Josh had to offer more appealing than he cared to let on.

But, alas, he would never admit that, so he settled on keeping his distant demeanor.

“You don’t know me well enough to make such a substantial claim.”

This seemed to run through Josh’s head for a bit because he gave no immediate response.

“Well, that’s why I’m here. To get to know you.” he eventually replied.

And how could Tyler argue with that?

They walked in content silence until they reached the desired location: Tyler’s favorite cafe. He had a feeling Josh would enjoy the place if he hadn’t been there already.

He had spent hours before he was set to meet Josh trying to determine the best place he could take the guy. It proved challenging at first, but as soon as the small cafe came to mind, it was final.

“This is it,” he said, swinging around to make sure Josh followed. He held the door open for the taller man, meeting his eye shyly and offering a small smile.

“Ever the gentleman,” Josh beamed.

The dark corridor was a bit off-putting, he could admit, but as soon as the hallway expanded, they were met with fairy lights strung across the high ceiling, tables set across the wooden floor with rustic centerpieces, and the employees wearing welcoming grins.

“Welcome to Beck’s Cafe, we’ll be right with you!” a cheery brunette called from behind the wooden counter.

Tyler thanked her, nervous as to what Josh might have been thinking. He intentionally avoided the other man as they made their way to one of the tables.

He couldn’t be avoided for much longer, however, seeing as though they were on a date and Tyler didn’t want to be rude. As they sat across from each other, Tyler watched him as Josh looked around in awe.

In a meek voice, Tyler asked, “so, uh, what do you think?”

Josh met his eye and gave him the warmest smile Tyler had seen from him yet. “It’s awesome in here. I’m kinda disappointed I didn’t find it myself, but also kinda not.”

“And why is that?” Tyler inquired.

“Because then I wouldn’t have been able to experience it with you.”

Tyler tried not to blush. “You’re just full of flirtations, aren’t you?”

“I have been told that once or twice in my lifetime, yes.”

Tyler watched Josh’s eyes as they sparkled with the fairy lights. It gave him a very giddy feeling in the pit of his stomach, one that couldn’t be pushed away even as they broke eye contact to order. Josh settled on chicken noodle soup and lemonade and Tyler went with pasta.

“I have to admit,” Josh started, looking down at the menu he’d just ordered from, “even despite my tendency to always be hungry, I’m experiencing a bit of manabamate.

 

And before you ask, it means the lack of an appetite you tolerate when falling in love.”



///////////////////



Tyler doesn’t think he had ever been more content with another person’s presence as he was with Josh’s.

They spent an hour or so eating and talking under the lights. Tyler learned a lot about Josh- he was exceptional at drumming, or so the man claimed, he liked to go on spontaneous adventures, and he was almost as passionate about music as Tyler was. Josh was proving to be more and more worthy of Tyler’s attention, he noticed.

The same, Josh listened to Tyler talk about his favorite instruments to play, his favorite books, and even some of his songwriting. Josh was seemingly really impressed with the last subject, which made Tyler’s chest swell with something unfamiliar.

Two hours later found the two boys sitting on the hood of Josh’s car observing the stars. Tyler insisted they sit on his instead, but Josh was adamant on Tyler “blessing his car with his ethereal presence,” which was, admittedly, a bit much, but Tyler was not about to complain.

Josh was surprisingly very knowledgeable when it came to constellations and astronomy in general. He spent some time telling Tyler the stories about each arrangement of stars, even the ones they couldn’t see, and he found himself enraptured with it.

It was different for Tyler to become so invested in someone. The more Josh went on, the more he realized how much he was truly enjoying himself.

He could feel the man’s body heat against his arm and could faintly smell what he assumed was shampoo. It was all a bit overwhelming but in the best way.

“Josh?”

Josh stopped talking and turned his head to face Tyler. “Hm?”

“You’re nothing short of amazing. Do you know that?”

“Jeez Tyler. Well, you’re amazing too. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed myself this much in a very long time.”

The feeling was mutual.

“Thank you. Keep talking space to me.”

Josh giggled and turned his head to refocus on the sky and jump back into explaining the canis major.

Tyler listened to every word.

Chapter Text

10:45AM

Tyler took one look at the alarm clock perched on his nightstand and was fully awake within minutes.

He overslept.

Quickly untangling himself from the mess of blankets, Tyler stood up from his bed and rushed to the bathroom where he hurriedly brushed his teeth and combed his hair.

All the while Tyler hoped Ruby wouldn’t be too upset with him. If he somehow managed to lose this job, it would really screw him over in the long-run.

After dressing himself, he ran into the kitchen to grab a granola bar- something to give him fuel for the day ahead of him. He grabbed his phone that sat on the counter and was out of the door by 11.

He almost tripped on his way down the stairs. He hated living on the third floor with no access to an elevator, especially more so today. He passed the mailman, smiling politely when the man tipped his work hat towards Tyler.

He left the building’s lobby and was greeted with a warm breeze and a shining sun. Although he preferred the rain most days, Tyler was somewhat pleased to see the weather was nice.

Too bad I’ll be spending all day inside,  he admits to himself and was shocked to have thought something so unusual. He typically would find no problem with being inside.

That was an issue for later.

After some time Tyler was finally in his car. He was panting- he really needed to get in shape.

He grabbed his phone from where it was stuffed in the back pocket of his jeans during his panic, figuring he should call Ruby to ensure he still had a job.

She picked up right away to Tyler’s relief.

“Ruby, I am so sorry. I overslept, I- I don’t ever miss my alarm, I-”

There’s no need for that, dear. Don’t worry about coming in today.”

“But, I-”

Nothing! You won’t miss today’s pay, darling. I just hope you had fun with that boy last night,” her tone was hinting but playful.

Tyler groaned.

“I’m really sorry. It won’t happen again, I promise. Will you be okay?”

I run this library alone without you all the time. I think I can manage!”

With that, they ended the call, and Tyler let his head hit the steering wheel with an exasperated sigh.

It took him a few minutes for his frustration to pass at the entire situation, but when it finally subsided, he realized the day was nice enough for him to stay out.

After all, he’d gotten ready, and figured he shouldn’t let it go to waste.

There was one person who Tyler knew for sure would be up for a spontaneous adventure. The idea was more appealing than he wanted to admit- Josh always managed to make cliche moments special.

Perhaps people like him were the reason cliche moments even existed, but that thought was beyond Tyler and not important.

Deciding he had nothing to lose, Tyler pulled up Josh’s contact and pressed the message icon.



Would you like to accompany me on a trip to…. anywhere that’s outside? Its nice out.

 

Luckily, Josh answered quick.



Josh: don’t you have work?



I’ll explain later. So yes?



Josh: i would love to. how’s the park sound? we could have a picnic or somethin



That sounds good. Do I need to bring anything?



Josh: maybe just a blanket and your cute self.



Tyler, currently a bit flustered from his red-haired friend’s latest text, could not find it in himself to be upset at having to travel back up the stairs of his apartment to grab a blanket at Josh’s request and some snacks.

Back at his car, Tyler ignited the engine and drove a ways down the street until he reached the park, admiring its livelihood with yelling children and dogs running about. He rolled down his windows to take in the smell of grass and barbecue as he found a parking spot.

He played music while he waited, knowing he was a bit early. He figured Josh would text him when he had arrived, so Tyler let himself be swept away from reality for a few moments as the music engulfed him.

In the midst of his daydream, Tyler imagined strolling through the park, hand in hand with a red-haired beauty as nature bursted with life around them. Maybe Josh would be a little red in the face from the heat, his cheeks contrasting nicely with the vibrant red of his hair, and maybe-

“Hiya,”

Tyler jumped slightly in the driver’s seat of his car and turned to meet a smiling Josh who had just plopped beside him in the passenger seat.

“Josh! Holy cow. Where did you come from?”

“My apartment,” Josh said, offering Tyler a smile that feigned innocence.

In response, he squinted in disbelief. Josh pouted. “What? I walked around to your side and tried to wave, but you didn’t notice me.”

Tyler looked at the window and him. “You could have knocked.”

“You’re right, but where’s the fun in that?”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “Let’s just go have a picnic,”

Josh agreed, the both of them exiting the car and carrying their items. Tyler admired the warmth on his skin from the sun and how it made Josh glow just a little.

They silently agreed on a shady spot in the middle of a somewhat empty field, surrounded by dogs catching frisbees and the faint aroma of nature.

“You look nice,” Josh praised Tyler as they arranged themselves on top of the blanket. Tyler realized he should have grabbed a bigger one; the tips of his knees were touching Josh’s own.

“You do, too. Although I didn’t try to look any nicer than usual,” Tyler tried his best not to let the compliment fluster him.

Josh frowned a bit. “You don’t need to.”

While Tyler disagreed, he didn’t make it known. He opted for silence and observed his surroundings as Josh began making sandwiches.

They both lost track of time while they ate, exchanging small talk as everything burst with life around them. Not a single thing felt out of place to Tyler, and that was odd.

Usually, he would find no problem in nitpicking every inapt detail he could find in a situation. But here, with Josh in the sun and the grass, he realized it was close to perfect.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Josh grabbed Tyler’s attention again from where he had been dazing off.

He coughed awkwardly, a bit embarrassed at having been caught.“I was just thinking about how, um, nice it is out today.”

Josh looked at him, his hazel eyes glimmering and freckles prominent in the sun, and Tyler felt himself fight for breath.

The man set his trash in the bag he had brought for it and started lying himself down on the small blanket, Tyler watching closely.

Once Josh had settled, his left arm extended and lying beneath his head, he closed his eyes and exhaled visibly.

“C’mere.” he said shortly after.

Tyler looked skeptically at him for a few moments before he decided the prospect of getting to lie next to Josh and observe the sky was far too tempting to pass up.

He scooted himself down until his legs were in the grass and the upper half of himself was on the blanket. He felt Josh’s arm faintly touching his own.

“It’s better at night, but, I appreciate it nonetheless.” Josh spoke, his voice soft.

“Mhm.” Tyler had to agree. The sky was beautiful, but it didn’t compare to the stars and dim light of the moon.

Before he could say more, Tyler felt Josh’s fingers slowly caress his own. He almost flinched, but the touch was gentle and innocent, coaxing him to stay still.

“This okay?” Josh whispered. Tyler’s heart fluttered.

“Yeah,” he responded breathlessly.

Then, Josh’s fingers were enlaced with his own.

 

And the sky was spinning.






Chapter Text

The chair underneath Tyler was growing more uncomfortable by the second. Silence engulfed him, and soon enough he was so on edge he needed to initiate a conversation to release the tension. He looked at Jenna and decided on the first thing that came to his mind. 

“No one has ever held my hand before.” Before Josh, anyway.

Jenna looked up from her phone to Tyler. “Really?”

Tyler didn’t take offense to her surprise. He was 22 and had never had his hand held; it was shocking.

“Other than my mom or dad when I was little. Yeah.”

She looked sorry. “Well, there’s a first time for everything,”

Tyler nodded and hesitated before saying, “yeah, and Josh was that first.”

What? That’s so awesome, Tyler! Look at you, growing up and stuff.”

“I’m twent-”

“Yeah, yeah we know. Big macho man. Either way, I’ve never you so much as look at another human being, let alone hold hands with one! This is exciting!”

Tyler shrugged. “I guess.” he would never admit it, but Jenna’s excitement was rubbing off on him. He could feel the emotion stir inside of him.

He couldn’t tell you how it happened, but soon enough Tyler found himself in the midst of an interrogation from Jenna about protection and safety, and how Josh better not break your heart or you him because I’ll kick yours and his ass if I need to.

While he was appreciative of her concern, Tyler found the advice useless. He was never going to pursue Josh as far as sex went, and, he couldn’t imagine himself in a position that would allow his heart to be broken.

Then again, upon further consideration later that evening when Tyler was in the comfort of his apartment, he realized that some months ago he had been disgusted at the mere idea of affection from another person, but somehow Josh managed to change that.

So, either he had a very large misconception about emotions, or Tyler found himself thinking about Josh’s hand and in his own a lot more than he should have been.

He looked at the slightly decaying roses sitting on his windowsill (he had had to move other plants to make the room for the large bouquet) and was trapped in a never-ending spiral of his thoughts; did he like Josh? Was the crave for affection what he was experiencing? When and why did this happen?

There were never clear answers to these types of questions. Tyler was no stranger to sitting for hours and overthinking the same hypotheticals, although in previous times they had been a little less complex.

Deciding that he wasn’t going to get a clear answer, Tyler made the choice to get to the root of the problem and go from there.


Are you busy?


Josh: no, are you okay?


May I call you?


Josh: of course.


Tyler, with the faintest of tremors in his hands, pressed the call icon and let the monotomous ring soothe him.

Hey there,”

Tyler gulped.

“Hi, Josh.”

“Is everything alright?”

“Uh,” he took a deep breath. “Do I like you?”

The line was silent for a minute. The only noise Tyler could register was the persistent beating of his heart.

“Can I come over?”

He expected a variety of answers to the question, but the one reply he definitely had not been able to foresee was the one Josh just gave him.

“I mean, sure. I’ll uh, text you the address now…” he trailed off, trying to decide if his response was appropriate

“Okay, darling. See you soon.” with that, the call ended, and Tyler was feeling more confused than he had before he even started the call.

But Josh was coming over. He was going to come and accompany Tyler in the place he lived. For some odd reason, that made Tyler’s stomach jitter.


9670 s atlantis road. 3rd floor. #455

are you hungry?


Josh: I could go for some food :p


Cool.

 

It was going to be an interesting day. 

Chapter Text

A restless Tyler jumped at the sound of his doorbell and felt his heart beat incline.

He hated how easily spooked he was by others, but he knew in this instance it was justified. He had been both dreading and impatiently waiting for Josh’s arrival to discuss personal things and cross uncharted territory.

It was all a bit overwhelming as he opened his door and met a smiley Josh, bright red hair looking a bit more lively today and eyes a little more crinkly.

“Come in,” Tyler opened the door for him to move inside.

Josh stepped in and his eyes were immediately stuck to the flowers sitting on the living room windowsill.

“The flowers,” he stated, an elated grin on his face. Tyler realized he could never tire of seeing that expression on Josh’s face.

“Yeah. They make a great addition, don’t they?”

Josh chuckled. “Well, I wouldn’t know because this is my first time being here. But I’m sure they do.”

“Oh. Right.” Tyler nervously shuffled toward the couch where he gestured for Josh to sit.

“I’m gonna start cooking soon, uh, do you want a drink for now?”

Josh nodded along with a soft no, thank you. Tyler was becoming increasingly anxious as time passed. He watched Josh attentively observe the decor of his apartment.

“So,” Josh sighed, but not out of annoyance or irritation; more so contemplation.

“You want to know if you like me.”

Tyler involuntarily stiffened in the cushion of his couch. “Uh, yes.”

Josh nodded, considering, before meeting Tyler’s eyes with a look of sincerity. “Let me ask you a couple things, then.”

“Go for it,”

He set himself a bit more straight and turned toward Tyler to properly hold a discussion. “ Iktsuarpok . That’s the feeling of anticipation you get when you’re waiting for a visit from someone. Did you, and do you, experience that at all with me?”

Tyler considered carefully for a few brief seconds before he decided that yes, he most definitely did experience that.

“Yeah, I think so.”

Josh looked thoughtful, but before a response could be made from him, Tyler interjected.

“Wait, before you ask anything else, why are you always using foreign words to describe things?” that question had been sitting in Tyler’s mind for quite some time.

He didn’t find the fact that Josh did something as strange as that offputting or unattractive. In fact, it held quite the opposite effect, if he were to be completely honest.

“There are just some sensations that the English language is incapable of describing. Most cultures are far more in tune with the concept of love, so I took it upon myself to get educated with all that. It does the job, right?”

Incredibly well. “I suppose it does.”

“Cool. So you experience that anticipation. That could be justified though. We need to dig a little deeper.”

Tyler nodded. His mouth was suddenly much too dry.

“So, tell me to stop if you don’t want this,” Josh scooted himself closer towards Tyler, their knees brushing.

Josh, very slowly, used his hand to stroke the side of Tyler’s arm. He gradually moved upward, maintaining eye contact the entire time.

“How do you feel?” the red-haired boy inquired with a gentle voice.

Tyler could hardly remember how to breathe. The contact was setting his skin on fire. He had a hard time feeling much of anything other than Josh’s touch.

“I feel good,” he whispered. He looked at Josh shyly.

“Mkay.” Josh’s soft fingers went to Tyler’s hair. He carded them through his soft almond brown locks, eliciting another sensation from Tyler- one that a soft hum accompanied.

“Do-does this feel nice?” Josh’s voice was a bit strained Tyler observed. It only served to make him more

Tyler nodded. He opened his eyes from where he had closed them involuntarily, the sight of Josh so close to him sending chills down his spine. Nothing could compare to the things he was feeling at that moment- it was brand new and exciting.

Josh’s fingers were moving expertly now down to Tyler’s face. He cupped his chin delicately, and Tyler leaned into the touch.

There was no denying the tension now. Josh’s eyes were fluttering with the intensity between the two of them as Tyler placed his own hand on Josh’s where it now rested on his cheek.

Tyler hadn’t realized what he’d been missing. Nothing could compare to the sensation of human contact- especially when it was so gentle and filled with such passion.

“I’m so deprived,” Tyler whispered, not ashamed of the fact. He knew Josh accepted him wholly, and from the way he blushed towards him, he knew Josh was glad to satisfy him.

“You’re so beautiful,” Josh breathlessly admit.

Tyler felt his cheek warm under Josh’s hand. He let himself fall closer to Josh.

“Will you do me a favor?” Tyler asked sweetly.

Josh nodded. His breath tickled Tyler’s nose. The proximity was becoming too much, and Tyler knew what he wanted at that moment.

“Kiss me?”

Josh made a noise somewhere between a groan and a sigh as he closed his eyes to meet Tyler’s lips.

It wasn’t all fireworks going off around them or time stopping still, Tyler could admit. But it was sweet and soft; Josh’s mouth was warm against his and he moved his lips slowly, letting Tyler become familiar and get the hang of it.

When it ended, they were both breathing heavier than before it had started. Tyler realized it was probably the most wonderful interaction he’s had, and as they sat together with their foreheads pressed against the other’s, he yearned for more.

Their lips met again, this time Tyler being the one to close the space between them. Previously there had been no tongue, but Tyler was craving the intimacy of it, so he gradually let his slip into Josh’s mouth.

This elicited a noise of surprise and satisfaction from the back of Josh’s throat. That alone was enough to have Tyler crawling in his lap.

“I wanna- mm, let me get on here.” as Tyler worked himself onto him, Josh took it upon himself to let his hands take space on the smaller’s boys hips and place tender kisses over his neck.

“You’re a work of art,” Josh whispered into Tyler’s ear, followed by a kiss on the skin right beneath it.

Tyler could feel himself falling deeper and deeper into every touch and sensation. He no longer had a barrier up, that came down the second Josh’s lips were on his. All he cared about now was being pressed against the boy under him as they exchanged sweet nothings.

Tyler recaptured his mouth and moved with fervor. His hands cupped Josh’s face on either side to keep him grounded. He loved the way Josh’s hands were roughly gripping his hips as they moved together as one.

A spike of heat was sent through Tyler’s groin when his not-so-subtle erection met friction on Josh’s. The atmosphere changed now and they could both feel it.

The next few minutes were a blur. Tyler became more aggressive with each thrust and collision of tongues, panting heavily on top of Josh. Soon enough Tyler was practically attacking him.

“Hey, Ty…” Josh huffed. Tyler couldn’t be bothered to hear at the moment.

“Tyler.” he tried again, this time successful. Tyler stopped his movements and looked at Josh.

“Let’s calm down a bit, okay? This is all new for you,”

Tyler genuinely  whined in protest. He had been so starved of any form of intimacy or touch, and now that he was able to finally get it, he didn’t want it to stop.

He did understand Josh’s point, however. It was all new and uncharted territory, and despite how badly he wanted to experience it all, he knew deep down he was far from ready.

He let himself calm down a bit before climbing off Josh with a sigh. He didn’t move far away, though, still wanting to experience his touch and closeness.

“Thank you for being so considerate,” Tyler said after a few moments of silence. He interlaced his and Josh’s fingers and let his head fall onto the taller boy’s shoulder.

“Of course. As much as I want to, and dear God, I really want to…” he looked down at Tyler to capture his blush, “I want you to get comfortable and stuff first. It only gets better with time,”

Tyler couldn’t argue.

“And I guess you know the answer to that question now,” he added, giving Tyler that pretty smile he’d grown to adore.

 

And he was right. Tyler was absolutely sure he liked Josh. 






















 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I hope you’re in the mood for pasta,” Tyler called from his kitchen floor where he was searching for a pot.

Josh, who was propped against Tyler’s counter, smiled. “I’m always in the mood for pasta.”

Tyler cheekily grinned at him once he had resurfaced with the appropriate pot.

Things between them after the intimate moment they shared were warmer. Josh watched admiringly from the counter as Tyler filled the pot with water and set it on top of the lit stove. They shared looks of fondness when Tyler caught him looking.

Tyler’s stomach hadn’t stopped dropping every now and then from the realization that he was caving in and falling for someone else.

Perhaps he had a lot of reconsidering to do.

“Do you want coffee while we wait?”

Josh considered. “Depends on how well you make it,” he joked.

Tyler sternly set two mugs down and met Josh with a serious look.

“I’ll have you know that I make the best cup of coffee in this entire city. Maybe even the state. You should feel honored.”

“Woah, there. I think you’re a little in over your head, babe.”

Tyler was both slightly annoyed and endeared with Josh’s comment. He rolled his eyes dotingly and switched his over-priced coffee maker on.

“Everyone who’s tried has agreed. I make a pretty good cup of coffee, Josh.”

Josh leaned over to peck a kiss on Tyler’s shoulder. “If your coffee is as half as good as your kissing, I’d mistake it for heaven.”

That shut Tyler straight up and nearly sent him to his knees in a puddle of affection. He let the kiss filter back in his mind and had to refrain from cancelling everything just to go back into the moment.

“I’m a mess,” Tyler stated as he shook his head.

“A darn cute mess if I’ve ever seen one,"

Tyler was about to retort with something witty, but a sharp knock at the door stopped him. He shared a look of confusion with Josh, who straightened himself from where he was hunched over the counter.

“I’m not expecting anyone,” Tyler commented as he made his way toward the door.

He opened it to find his mom on the other side.

“It always smells like coffee in here, I swear!” she chided as she pushed past Tyler.

“Uh, mom…” he panicked for a moment, worried about how she would react to another person being in his apartment when it was typically devoid of any other life aside from him and his plants.

She beat him to Josh and everyone froze, nothing being said for a few seconds until Josh made his way toward her.

“Hi, I’m Josh,” he said simply, extending his hand for her to take.

“Tyler’s mom. Are you a friend of his?” she asked with a smile, shaking Josh’s hand with apprehension.

“Yes, ma’am. Pretty lucky for me, right?” he looked at Tyler, who tried to fight a smile.

She chuckled dryly, her gaze averted, as though looking at Josh for too long took a toll on her. “I’ll say so.”

Tyler hovered awkwardly near them before deciding to busy himself with preparing coffee. He made sure to check on the progress of the water.

“I’ll leave you guys be. I’ll be in the uh, living room.” Josh gestured towards the couch as he backed away.

Tyler tried to swat away the intrusive thoughts of him and Josh- the two of them in a tangle of limbs and kisses on the couch- as his mind forced him to consider what his mother’s reaction would be if she had known the truth between the two of them.

He felt his nerves start to kick in and knew he needed to distract himself before things escalated.   

“I’m making coffee, do you want some?” he inquired toward his mother.

She met him in the kitchen and nodded politely. “I’m practically made of coffee at this point in my life.”

He said nothing further and occupied himself with dumping noodles into the now boiling water, all the while feeling his mother’s intent gaze on him. It dawned on him then that he was unaware of why she had come there in the first place.

“So, why are you here?”

She looked momentarily offended, but the expression was gone as though she had to remind herself of her son’s bluntness. “Do I need a reason to visit my son? At least this time I knocked,”

Tyler eyed her skeptically. “I suppose not. But now is not the best time, I only have enough food for Josh and me-”

“Who is Josh anyway? He seems a bit too, alternative for you, don’t you think?” she nervously wrung her hands, a habit Tyler had unfortunately picked up from her. She said the word ‘alternative’ with more meaning than it gave off.

Tyler felt anger make itself known in his stomach.

“Josh is extremely nice and one of the only people I can stand being around for longer than 5 minutes,” he retorted, being sure to imply he was talking about herself.

She stepped closer, visibly tense. “Tyler, you know I love you, but if I find out you’ve started to stray from-”

And Tyler couldn’t be bothered to hear what else she had to say.

He slammed the lid to the coffee maker shut and caught Josh’s concerned eye from across the room.

For once, Tyler was in charge of his emotions.

For once, Tyler was able to finally feel something other than blankness. He had been renewed and felt like he could finally breathe.

And because of this is how Tyler found himself charging past his mother into the living room, grabbing Josh’s wrist to coax him up, and planting a gentle but vehement kiss to his lips.

He heard his mother’s offended gasp, followed by his front door slamming shut. He couldn’t be bothered enough to care; for once, he was doing something completely unexpected from anyone and he felt absolutely liberated.

Josh pulled away just as abruptly as Tyler had started it, his hazel eyes wide with surprise.

“You- Tyler, what?”

Tyler just smiled innocently. “You brought this out of me. There’s no one else to blame aside from you.”

Josh looked thoughtful alongside shocked for a few seconds before he was pulling Tyler closer to him and they were kissing again.


/////////



They stayed together well through the night, talking and laughing over bowls of spaghetti. Josh had 3 bowls, explaining that this is the best pasta he’s ever had.

Tyler’s emotions had not subsided at all; he found himself enraptured with the concept of liking someone else. He hadn’t even thought about his mother, which he knew he would eventually, but at the moment he was entirely too care-free.

“I should probably get going,” Josh said sadly. Tyler looked at him with pleading eyes, but he knew it was getting late. After all, he had work at the library the next day.

“Always a bittersweet goodbye with you, Joshua,” Tyler whispered wistfully before placing a soft kiss on his cheek.

“So it is.”

Tyler walked him to the door, leaning against the frame as Josh stood sheepishly outside of it.

“You blow me away more and more each time I see you.” Josh started, “I can’t wait to become one with the wind here soon.”

Tyler blushed at his poetic words and offered a small smile.

“Text me,” Josh called over his shoulder, walking further away from the apartment until he was out of Tyler’s sight completely.

 

Tyler was sure Josh had taken his heart with him.

Chapter Text

Tyler jolted awake and groaned when he read the dim glow of numbers sitting on his nightstand.

2:43 AM.

He felt himself shaking, but his thoughts were too clouded for him to try and understand why. All he knew was this: he was cold, alone, and felt abandoned.

It ate at him for hours into the early morning until he finally gained the capability to understand. Visions of his mom standing wide-eyed at him as he kissed another boy right in front of her came flooding behind his eyelids.

At the moment it had felt so good. It felt as though he was finally breaking free of the mold everyone in his life had tried desperately to put him in.

But now, afterward,  shaking and desperate for relief of the looming sensations, it felt as though it was the worst thing he could have done.

He slammed his head back down into his pillow and forced himself to remember the moment. He pictured Josh’s lips moving tenderly on his own, Josh’s hands roaming over his body.

For the first few minutes, it only served to make him feel worse. But as he kept willing himself to remember how good Josh made him feel, it eventually worked. His shaking had subsided and he felt calm.

The only downside to the technique he’d used to calm himself down was now there was another problem. One that took place in his pants.  

It seemed as though he was never going to catch a break.



////////




The following morning Tyler was woken up by the shrill ring of his alarm. He groaned and almost let himself fall back asleep before reminding himself that he had already let Ruby down once.

His bones felt like jello as he dragged himself out of bed. He stretched and tried to ease some of the tension in his weak body, but the attempt was futile.

Today was not going to be Tyler’s best.

He grabbed for the first pair of jeans hanging up in his closet, doing the same with a shirt’ he had no energy for decency. The rest of his morning went by in a blur- he finished his usual routine with lethargy, ending up at work doing just about the same.

“Good morning, Ruby.” Tyler felt his throat fighting to give out as he greeted the friendly face he saw every weekend.

“Good morning, Dear,” she reported curtly.

Today will be a day we don’t talk. Tyler thought to himself after hearing her reply. Works for me.

Tyler could feel himself falling into autopilot as he settled in the familiar cold plastic of his desk chair. The library had even picked up pace and Tyler couldn’t care to become anxious at the number of people.

It was bewildering, the kinds of things you could suppress during a low point.

He scanned books and offered smiles, all while not feeling anything, and it was then that he knew his familiar habits had crept back in that day. He was stupid for thinking they wouldn’t. He was stupid for thinking a person could easily get under his skin and remove the underlying issues that had plagued him for years.

Sighing, Tyler grabbed his phone when he felt it vibrate in his pocket. He saw Josh’s name appear on the screen, along with a link to some random website he presumably wanted Tyler to visit.

Making a mental note to open the link later, Tyler shoved his phone back into his pocket and set on finishing his shift with the same zombie-like manner he began it with.

Minutes blended together until an hour passed and Josh texted again.

Josh: you okay?

Tyler debated on two things. One, whether or not he was going to reply, and two, whether or not he would reply honestly. He weighed each option until he came to a conclusion.

yeah, sorry. just at work.

Tyler had a hard time blatantly admitting he wasn’t okay. It was never something he could bring himself to do, even now when he knew he had someone who could make him okay.

The rest of his work shift went by uneventfully. Tyler drove himself home with heavy eyelids, the street lights passing by in a haze.  He entered his apartment to smells of coffee and soil and was set a little more at ease. Unfortunately not enough so to fulfill the internal emptiness he was experiencing. 

He tried listening to music. 

He tried watering his plants. 

He tried readnig. 

All to no avail. 

Tyler tried to drown out the sorrow looming over him like a full cloud with everything he knew, but nothing was deemed successful. It grew more irritating until he was sat on his living room floor in a puddle of exasperation. 

He glanced at the clock sitting on the pale wall of his home and groaned when he read that it was barely 7:24 PM. He wouldn't be able to sleep off his depressive episode even if he wanted to at this hour. 

There was only one thing he hadn't tried yet, and even though he didn't want to burden anyone with his misery, he figured he could at least try. 

Josh would want him to try. 

 

actually, I'm not really okay. lets do something

 

Josh: I know just the thing. be outside in 15 

 

Josh: dress warm

 

Tyler tried to will excitement to manifest itself at getting to see Josh, but right now it was near impossible to feel anything except numbness. Quite contradictory, he knows. 

He dressed accordingly to Josh's text, slipping a beanie over his head and covering himself in the heaviest jacket he owned. He deemed himself presentable after hardly any effort and waited 10 minutes out of the 15 before he was waiting outside for Josh's arrival.

Josh was punctual, of course. He showed up outside of Tyler's apartment complex with the familiar dorky grin, getting out to open the car door for him. 

"Ever the gentleman," Tyler looked up into the warm eyes belonging to his red-headed savior. 

Josh settled back into the driver's seat and they were off. 

"Where are we going?" Tyler asked, noticing the unfamiliar route Josh had taken right away.

He smirked. Tyler caught it from the corner of his eye. 

"It's a surprise. Enjoy the ride, clear your mind." 

If only it were that easy, Tyler thought to himself. 

But he'd try anyway. 

He would always try for Josh. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Josh, you know how I feel about you, but I wouldn’t rule out of the possibility of you murdering me right now,” Tyler commented as he observed the almost invisible environment around them, making out trees and other shrubberies in the aghast darkness.

Josh chuckled from the driver’s seat and continued down the path seemingly familiar to him. “I could never murder someone as pretty as you. But seriously, just wait. It’s worth it,”

Tyler did as he was asked (and definitely not with a small blush on his cheeks), shrinking back into the seat of Josh’s car and finding an odd sense of clarity in the dark.

He could tell his mood was already being lifted. Not significantly, but enough for him to crack a smile at Josh’s jokes or comments.

It was an improvement, and apparently only available at Josh’s disposal.

Tyler took it upon himself to also admire the side profile of his face quite a bit throughout the drive. He took notice of the sharpness of Josh’s nose, the curls poking over his forehead, and the slackness of his damn near perfect jaw.

It was strange and new to have the desire to observe someone else’s face. It was not unwelcome, however. And that’s exactly what Tyler occupied himself with until the car jolted toward the left and they were stopping.

“This is where we start walking,” Josh casually declared, getting out to once again open Tyler’s door.

“Walking?”

Tyler could see that Josh nodded, the moonlight finally becoming of some use. “Yes, sir. It’s not too bad of a walk, I’ll carry everything. You just walk and let yourself become one with this beautiful forest around us.”

Carry? Josh, what did you bring?”

Josh smiled and ignored his question, picking up a basket of some sort from the back seat of his car.

“Ah, I see now. That’s everything you need to murder me.”

Josh shook his head in laughter. “Got me there.”

They began the walk down, and Tyler would never admit it, but Josh had a point about the forest being beautiful. Without the bright headlights drowning out the scenery, he could fully admire the environment under the soft light from the moon.

Tyler looked at his side every so often as they walked to ensure Josh was still there and their eyes would meet before one of them would blush and turn their gaze forward.

This happened quite a few times before they made it to their final destination.

They walked until Tyler could hear and see the glisten of water. He turned to Josh, a surprised look on his face.

“Didn’t I tell you it would be worth it?” Josh smirked.

Tyler simply looked between him and the river, trying to decide which was more beautiful.

Josh won that competition.

They were some inches away from making it to the bank of the river before Tyler tripped, landing on the hard ground with a dull thud.

“Ouch,” Tyler groaned. He sunk further into the ground and accepted defeat.

Josh quickly ran to Tyler’s hunched figure on the ground. “With the way you’re going, I wouldn’t even have to murder you! You’d do it yourself!”

Tyler gave no response and wished the cold ground would engulf him.

“Ty? Are you okay?” Josh’s tone of voice shifted to one more serious. His strong arms encompassed Tyler’s body and lifted him up, keeping him uprght.

“I’m fine,” he said, despite feeling weak. It wasn’t from the fall, however. “You can let go, it’s okay,”

Josh stepped back a bit and chuckled dryly. “Sorry. Uh, the river’s right up here, you good to go?”

Tyler brushed himself off a bit before determining he was okay to continue and followed Josh onto the bank. He felt the ground underneath him soften and the temperature dropped enough for him to feel it on his exposed skin.

It was kind of amazing.

“This is where I go when I can’t get out of my own head,” Josh stated at his side.

“It’s pretty. How did you find it?” genuine curiosity hit him. Tyler could feel Josh tense beside him at the question.

“It’s okay, you can tell me later. Or not at all, I don’t mind.”

Josh nodded sharply and set the basket down somewhere around them onto the sand, opening it. It definitely was not full of supplies to murder him, but instead blankets and,

“Towels?”

Josh nodded in confirmation. “Hear me out. I know it’s cold or whatever, but the river is actually not all that freezing. It’s honestly really refreshing.”

Tyler looked at him skeptically under the moonlight. He looked at the water and felt goosebumps prick his skin.

“And,” Josh added, beginning to strip from his sweater, “I had you dress warmly for a reason.”

Tyler gulped and tried not to stare too intensely at Josh’s bare skin. “Josh. There could be, like, sharks in that water.”

“I guess that’s just a chance we’re gonna have to take, huh?” with that, Josh stripped himself of everything besides his boxers and jumped into the water.

Tyler squealed- from excitement or surprise, he couldn’t tell- and watched as his head popped up from under the dark water.

“You gonna leave me in here all alone? Who’s gonna help me fight off the sharks?” he yelled.

Tyler fought another internal battle- get in or don’t. Surely there were more reasons for him to stay out of the water than there was for him to get in, but something about getting to be nearly naked with Josh was winning him over.

Just a little bit.

He also reasoned that he didn’t walk all this way, and trip, for him not to do anything. He wanted an escape from his head and Josh was giving him one.

“This is about the most dangerous thing I have ever done,” Tyler admit grumpily, removing his shoes.

“Well, in that case, we have lots to do!”

Tyler rolled his eyes even despite knowing Josh wouldn’t be able to see. He stripped down to his boxers, apprehensively, and looked at the water once again.

“I don’t think I can do it.”

Josh swam as close to the bank as he could, reassuring Tyler. “Sweetheart, it’s really not as bad as your mind is telling you. Just don’t think about it and jump,”

Tyler let Josh’s words coax him. He took a deep breath, clenched his fists, and let his body fall over the edge.

He hit the water with a crash and was immediately put in shock from the cold. A disheveled and shivering Tyler resurfaced.

“Holy, f-fuck. You said it w-wasn’t c-cold!”

Within seconds Josh was in front of him.

“C’mere,” he whispered, putting his arms around Tyler. He moved them both around lazily, roaming his hands over Tyler’s body to warm him up.  This continued for a few minutes, Tyler basking his touch.

“Feel better?” Josh asked him in a husky voice. That alone was enough to warm his entire body.

“Yeah, a bit,” he replied shyly. He had stopped shivering, and when Josh dunked him back under in response, he didn’t feel like he was going to die nearly as much.

“You’re a j-” Tyler started to yell at him, but was cut off by Josh’s lips as they landed on his own.

The kiss was wet and a bit cold, making it just that more intimate. Tyler felt his worries momentarily melt away with the inky water surrouding them as Josh’s hands held him in place.

Josh pulled back and grinned.

“Sorry, but I had to. You’re too darn cute sometimes.”

Tyler had no idea how to go about replying, so instead, he lunged forward and kissed Josh.

But not before dunking him first.

Chapter Text

Midnight was fast approaching the two boys lounging in the inky black water, Tyler sprawled out atop the brink of the river and Josh admiring him nearby.

“Do you feel better?” he interrupted the peaceful silence. His concern for Tyler’s well-being had peaked throughout their time together, and with him now seemingly at ease, he had to know he was assuming correctly.

Tyler craned his neck to look at Josh, smiling fondly. “Much better.”

It wasn’t a lie. Although Tyer could never fully recover that quickly from the intensity of a decline that big, being with Josh in the numbing river had done wonders to his mood.

“Good,” Josh let his wet fingers trace circles on Tyler’s exposed stomach.  “Is it about your mom?”

Tyler contemplated. “In part, probably. But that just happens sometimes,”

“Depression, or kissing boys in front of your homophobic mother?” Josh teased.

Tyler rolled his eyes and outstretched his arms to cross them around Josh’s torso. “Depression.”

Josh hummed his understanding and moved closer to Tyler. “She gonna forgive you?”

He felt his mind reel with the question, but ultimately decided he didn’t have an answer. He liked it that way.

“Don’t know, don’t really care.”

Josh looked down at him, impressed. “That’s brave.”

Tyler shrugged and let himself focus on the sensation of water underneath his numb body and the security of Josh wrapped in his arms.

“You give me strength and all that crap.”

Josh replied by pecking the tip of Tyler’s cold nose below him.

He scoffed light-heartedly. “You’re so cheesy, Josh.”

“I’m not sorry for it, either.”

They both giggled until the silence crept back upon them. Words unspoken but desperate to come out sat between both boys until the quite nearly drove Tyler crazy and he had no choice but to speak his mind.

“Josh?”

“Hm?”

Tyler sunk back into the water, now fully facing the other boy. In the moonlight, he could make out teardrops rolling down the freckled skin on his face, and for a moment Tyler was transfixed with the being across from him.

It rendered him completely speechless for a few moments before he gained enough sense to look away and focus.

“So, I guess you know that I’ve never really done this before,” Tyler started, his voice hushed. “And I didn’t think I would ever want to. But you broke my shell- how, I will never know- and now all I can think about is how badly I needed it.”

Josh’s teeth were exposed with his words. Tyler smiled back.

“My entire life I was encouraged to do this and do that, and it all got to be so exhausting. All my life choices started to blur together because I was so unhappy with everything. But you, Josh, well- I’ve never felt wrong about choosing you. You make me feel so liberated, hence why I kissed you like that in front of my mom. I knew it would drive her insane. It was like me breaking out of that mold, you know?”

“Oh jeez, Tyler. If you were looking for the best way to make me cry you might have found it.” Josh’s words sounded a bit choked with the sentiment, and Tyler felt tears prick his own eyes.

“I’m sorry, I just wanted to say thank you.” Tyler wrapped his arms around Josh’s neck, letting his head fall against the other boy’s chest. The water lapped around their figures.  

“You think you’re the only one getting something out of this?” Josh talked into Tyler’s ear below him. “You make me so happy. You give my life color. Living in a black and white world sucked ,  Tyler.”

“Don’t I know it,” he smiled against himself.

They stood like that for some time before the water grew too cold for it to be comfortable. The temperature had begun to drop dramatically throughout the early morning hours, leaving the both of them shivering against each other.

“You ready to head back? I packed some sandwiches,” Josh rubbed Tyler’s back as he spoke softly.

Tyler nodded against his chest and they both moved together toward the shore in sync, crawling onto the sand. They settled on top of the towels Josh packed and draped the blankets over their exposed bodies.

“I have peanut butter jelly or ham and cheese?” Josh inquired towards Tyler.

“Which one do you want?”

“Whichever one you don’t want.”

Tyler chuckled and took the peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his hands. They both reclined and settled closely together, looking up at the stars.

“Another perk to this place-” Josh swallowed the bite of his sandwich he had previously taken, “-is the lack of light pollution. The stars are so clear and lovely,”

Tyler nodded in agreement. He had to admit this view of the sky was the best he probably had ever seen.

“Still not nearly as lovely as you,” he retorted, to which Josh placed a soft kiss on his cheek.

They both lay on their backs and watched the sky well until their food was gone, tracing shapes into each other’s skin absentmindedly.

Josh was the first one to break the silence again.

“Do you want to know how I found this place?”

Tyler looked at him, wary. “Are you sure? I don’t want-”

Josh cut him off with a chaste kiss. “I’m sure.”

“Okay, then yes.”

Josh sat up. “Okay. So around 2 years ago I was at a really low point- mentally, you know? I won’t get into it. But 2 years ago I was just done. I had no will to go on, just done. So I drove until I thought I was far out enough for no one else to be there, and I just walked.”

Tyler moved closer and snaked an arm around Josh’s waist for support, encouraging him to continue.

“I walked until I wound up right here. I looked out at the water and thought, ‘maybe it’s cold enough to kill me.’ So I jumped in fully clothed, ready to die. Turns out the water was only cold enough to clear my mind and turn me blue.”

The words hit Tyler a little harder than he would have liked, but he pushed it down and forced himself to ignore it. “So you just come out here now on a bad day?”

Josh smiled. “Pretty much. Figured it could help you, too.”

“I- I don’t really know what to say. I didn’t think I could admire you any more than I already did, but I guess I was wrong.”

Josh wrapped his arm around Tyler and softly pecked his shoulder. “I feel the same about you.”

They looked out at the glistening water, both of their thoughts running wild.

“I’m glad you didn’t die, you know.”

Josh nodded.

 

“For once, I am too.”

Chapter Text

Jenna shuffled throughout the shop, keeping her gaze forward. Tyler watched as she prepared orders and talked to customers while stealing glances at the entrance.

“Is a celebrity supposed to stop by here or something?” he asked when his curiosity got the best of him.

“What? Oh, huh. No, Ashley said she was gonna stop by soon,” Jenna said, a small smile playing at her lips.

Tyler nodded. “You guys are doing well? Like, being together is going good?”

Jenna caught a dreamy expression on her face. “Yeah, Tyler, we’re great. Don’t tell anyone, but we’re moving in together soon.”

She giggled, covering her face in a shy school-girl style. Tyler looked at her, happy that she was.

“That’s exciting. I'm glad you two are doing well,” he said, patting her back in a friendly manner.

“Thanks, buddy. How are you and Mr. Dun? I’ve barely heard from either of you! Too busy eating each other's face to come around or what?”

Tyler blushed at the mention of Josh- moreso the mention of kissing him. “It’s going well,”

She rolled her eyes. “What a really thorough and wholesome response.”

Giving up, he hesitantly wracked his brain for things he could tell his friend without her sending every customer in the shop in a frenzy. “Okay, well, he took me to a lake at midnight the other day, and we had a really good time.”

Jenna grinned from ear to ear.“How good of a time are we talking here?” her voice tinged with a suggestion, and Tyler sighed.

“It wasn’t like that. We were just... purely enjoying each other’s company.” he settled on.

“That’s always the best,” she said sweetly, looking as though she wanted to add more before in came her aforementioned girlfriend.

Tyler picked up the demands of customers in the shop to let Jenna get some quality time with her significant other, thankful for the distraction.

And no, the reason for a needed distraction wasn’t one due to his unstable mentality. In fact, he had been on an emotional incline ever since the night at the lake. That wasn’t why he needed it.

No, he needed a distraction because he could not stop thinking about Josh; how the boy had managed to make Tyler feel like a person again.

He made him better. Tyler noticed himself becoming more open with not only Josh but everyone around him, indulging in conversation with his co-workers there at the shop and Ruby at the library.

The world around him was becoming less and less miserable to live in, and it was all thanks to a certain special red-head in his life.

Once finished with the tasks that needed to be done, Tyler looked at the adorable sight of the two girls hunched over the counter basking in each other’s presence.  Ashley caught his eye and waved.

He threw a rag over his shoulder and waved back, smiling. “Hey, Ashley. How are you?”

The red-head grinned and cupped her face between her hands. “Oh, you know. In love and whatnot.”

Tyler was surprised when he almost let me too slip past his careless tongue.

He would definitely have to come back to that later.  

“That’s great. I’m really happy for you guys.”

They smiled at him warmly, returning to a conversation they had previously been indulged in.

“...so, yeah. I don’t know how else to break it to him, you know? He’s been doing so good recently and I don’t want me leaving to ruin that.”

And that’s when Tyler decided this conversation was not meant for an extra pair of ears. He cleared his throat, trying to reel them back in less personal small talk.

The girls both looked at him and smiled-  one of those smiles turning into a mischevious smirk. “Anywho,  Josh tells me you’re a great kisser,” Ashley said in a sing-song manner.

Before he could reply, Jenna was squealing with wide eyes. “Tyler!”

Embarrassed at the sudden shift of conversation and the attention being put directly onto him, Tyler ducked his head and wished for an escape from the confrontation.

“Babe, give him a break, I was teasing-” She turned towards Tyler. “-but Josh really did say that, don’t think I’m lying. Ashley added with a wink before she gave Jenna a departing kiss and left the shop.

Tyler took a deep breath, preparing himself for the wrath of Jenna.

It never came, however. She simply looked at him and gave him a genuine smile.

“Happy for you,” she said, walking past him into the breakroom.

He could admit he was happy, too.



//////




Josh: tyler.



Tyler looked between the text from Josh and the time- 12:46AM, and felt his heart drop.



Yes?



Minutes went by with no response, each second taking a little more of Tyler’s patience with him. He felt himself growing more and more concerned until Josh finally replied-



Josh: can I come over? I’m sorry




Of course. I’ll unlock the door, just come in



Tyler raced to the front door, unlocking it as he told Josh he would, only with a slight tremble in his hands. He had no idea what could have possibly been going on with Josh for him to text Tyler at such early morning hours with the need to come over.

Whatever it was, he was ready to accept it wholly and offer anything he could to make it okay.

He paced his bedroom anxiously, wringing his hands as his thoughts coursed wildly around his head.

He had contemplated a number of reasons as to why Josh would need to come over, one of those reasons being that he didn’t feel the same way about Tyler as he had previously thought.

And once that concept was in his head, he spent the remaining time waiting for Josh running a number of scenarios through his mind in which he broke up with him and shattered his just recently properly functioning heart.

When he finally heard a sharp knock and the opening of his front door, his hair had been tugged anxiously in all directions and his heart was beating erratically.

He met the boy in the living room. Nothing was off about his appearance- he looked just as good as ever, except upon further inspection, Tyler could detect something off in his demeanor.

It did nothing to calm the fright he felt at the prospect of Josh leaving him.

“Hi,” was Josh’s first word.

“Hi. Is everything okay?” Tyler asked, keeping his distance in case his worries were on their way to becoming a reality.

Josh sighed and fell onto Tyler’s couch.

This is it, Tyler thought. He didn’t sit down next to Josh.

“Tyler, I-”

“Are you leaving me?” he whispered, shaking.

Only silence followed, every passing second with no response making Tyler’s throat close up with panic.

He should have seen this coming. It was entirely too good to be true, Josh being his.

Tyler felt strong arms wrap around his frame, grounding him. He let himself relax into the touch as he remembered where he was and who was holding him.

 

If only this perfect little world he had for himself wasn’t about to come crashing down.

Chapter Text

Just when Tyler brought down the emotional barrier he’d kept up for years, the effort it took to break it down was mere seconds away from being completely disregarded.

He’d spent the majority of his life thus far without connecting to another person on the level he had with Josh. It still surprised him that the boy had been able to take down the barrier at all, let alone so completely.

If he couldn’t have him, Tyler couldn’t have anyone else. He didn’t want anyone else.

Which is why when he heard Josh speak again, his stomach did a summersault.

“Leaving you is the very last thing I want to do right now,” he reassured, keeping his grip on Tyler tight as to portray a sense of security.

Which is exactly what it did.

He met Josh’s eyes, noticing small bags underneath them. “You didn’t come here to... break up with me?” he questioned, uncertain if the term ‘break-up’ was applicable to this situation.  

Despite the particularly gloomy atmosphere, the smile Josh cracked at Tyler’s question was enough to lift the heavy weight directly out of the room.

“You’re crazy if you think I want to leave you,” Josh whispered, peering directly in Tyler’s eyes with a level of sincerity that should have made him squirm but didn’t.

He exhaled in relief and let his head fall on Josh’s shoulder. “I got scared.”

His hand came up to rest on top of Tyler’s head as he whispered reassuringly into his ear, “I just couldn’t sleep tonight and you were the only thing on my mind.”

And whether or not Josh had intended to send a wave of arousal through Tyler’s gut, it happened.

“What about me were you... thinking of?” he asked in a small voice.

“Well, it started with me thinking about how cute you are…” Josh trailed off, hand in Tyler’s hair slowly moving lower until it was wrapped around the boy’s neck.

“Then I started thinking about how nice it is to kiss that cute face of yours,” he continued. Tyler’s heart was beginning to pick up pace with each word Josh let drip from his mouth like honey.

“And then it got me thinking... how nice it would be to see that pretty face underneath me while I make you feel good.” he purred.

And that, that, sent Tyler’s heart spiraling into a bottomless pit.

It was bewildering how just minutes ago he was an anxious mess, and now he was practically putty in Josh’s hands.

He took a step back, breaking the burning contact between them. He inhaled sharply and opened his mouth, lacking the confidence in what he was about to do but not caring enough to stop.

“Let’s go to my room,” he suggested, his voice a bit more wrecked then he intended for it to sound.

Josh paid no mind to it, instead simply cupping his chin to plant a heated kiss against his mouth as they both moved backward in furvor toward Tyler’s room.

The entire scene played out exactly how you would expect, much to Tyler’s surprise, seeing as though he would have never seen himself in this kind of situation in the first place.

Josh established his dominance right away. He lead the dance of their bodies and mouths against the other’s, crashing onto Tyler’s mattress. Josh moved his legs so they were sprawled out on either side of the smaller boy’s body underneath him.

Their kissing came to a quick stop when Josh lifted his head to observe Tyler underneath him.

“You’re so pretty,” he whispered huskily, wetting his lips with the sentiment that left Tyler’s head spinning.  

“Not too bad yourself,” he replied to his wrecked voice’s best ability.

Josh’s lips turned up at each side, setting his perfect teeth on display. Tyler gulped.

Not long after, he bent down to reconnect their mouths. This time the kiss left no regard for second-guessing; Tyler whimpering both from the sweetness of Josh’s mouth and the weight from him fixed right onto a particular troublesome spot on his waist.

Tyler could feel himself falling deeper and deeper into the pit Josh was digging for him- his usually idle and unsure hands traveling the expanse of Josh’s body, mouth wet and moving frantically against his, and body sinking further and further into the mattress with each passionate thrust Josh made against him.

To say Tyler had never known a relationship could offer something this good would be an understatement, but to be fair, he hadn’t thought anything good could come out of one.

Which is why when Josh’s mouth moved from his own to place wet kisses over his neck, he thought to himself that yeah, never would have guessed it could be this good.

“Feels…” Tyler trailed off, Josh’s seemingly expert mouth against his overly-sensitive skin stealing any words he had planned to say right from his tongue.

Josh perked his head up once again, an inquisitive look painted on his gorgeous face.

“Good?” he finished for Tyler, eyebrow quirked up in the way only Josh could make look that sexy.

The only thing he could give as a response was a half-assed nod, the contact from Josh so desperately needing to make an appearance again, as it was so rudely taken away from him.

“Is this all okay?” Josh was being gentle again, his hands stilled from where they were roaming over Tyler’s body.

“It’s- so good… more, please?” Tyler squealed. His arousal was blatant and Josh was eating it up.

“Say it again,” Josh demanded, though it wasn’t cruel. It was the sweetly intoxicating mix of dominant nature and arousal inside of him. His eyes were glazed over with nothing but affection and admiration for Tyler, with the exception of his excitement.

Please,” Tyler whined, ready to give Josh anything he wanted so long as he told him to do it the way he had just seconds ago.

He gave no verbal response right away, replying with warm hands that moved up the expanse of Tyler’s chest.

“I want to see all of you,” was the answer that came later.

Adrenaline and desire coursing through his veins, he let Josh bring the shirt off with the tips of his fingers and watched as he discarded it onto the ground.

Then, Josh moved his body down until his mildly flushed but ever so gorgeous face was level with Tyler’s growing erection.

And what a damn sight to see. In all of the miserable years Tyler had been on the planet, he knew for a fact he’d never seen anything more beautiful then Josh; especially Josh mere inches away from his dick and looking downright predatory.

His moves were slow but precise as he let his fingers get the button of Tyler’s pants undone.

The feeling was inexplicable. Tyler just watched with wide eyes as Josh expertly worked the rest of his pants down his legs and off entirely, leaving him in nothing but his constricting underwear.

“Jesus,” Josh mumbled, eyes roaming over his exposed skin. He looked as though he was witnessing Jesus himself.

“Stop it,” Tyler could feel himself blushing. The urge to hide from the attention was at an all-time high, but he kept himself grounded in Josh’s eyes.

“No. You’re incredible.”

Tyler was close to protesting, but Josh took away the chance for him to. He bowed his head down again, his mouth going straight to Tyler’s erection.

And,

Oh,

Dear,

God.

Tyler wasn’t a novice when it came to pleasure, but he was one to getting it from someone other than himself.

And right now, Josh working his plump lips over his clothed erection, he figured this was the peak of all pleasure the world had to offer.

He shamefully whined at the feeling, his back arching ever so slightly. Josh watched the way Tyler moved and reacted from below, his own arousal growing increasingly hard to contain.

He let off, Tyler’s whine of protest piercing the room.

“Wait baby,” he hushed, literring soft kisses along the pudge of Tyler’s thighs and stomach, “I’m gonna do something. Just tell me to stop if you need me to, okay?”

Tyler was dizzy and elated. He was searching for something, and Josh was on the brink of giving it to him.

 

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

With every negative thing Tyler has experienced in his life he was absolutely sure that the events taking place at this moment were completely and utterly worth it.

Josh was determined with his mouth wrapped around Tyler’s cock, tongue swirling expertly in a way that left the smaller boy trembling in his place on the bed.

Yes, yes, yes ” was the only thing Tyler could say, Josh moving slowly but with a passion to contribute to his abundant pleasure. Tyler’s fingers clenched the sheets and his chest heaved tremendously.

Josh made eye contact with him every so often, giving him a look that read “is this good?” despite the endless stream of moans coming from the boy he was looking to pleasure beyond words.

It was too much, seeing Josh that way while he was making Tyler feel the way he did.

 

Too much...

 

Just enough to send him over the edge.

 

Tyler’s back arched with his orgasm as he let out the loudest and most high pitched-whine he was capable of, and not by choice.

Josh watched in awe as Tyler came over his own stomach and part of his thighs. He looked back at him after his climax, shy but still too overcome by bliss to care.

“I wasn’t gonna let you come from just that...” Josh licked his lips and smiled.

Tyler rolled his eyes, head falling slack again as he came down from the highest point in his life. He wanted to reply, but the energy to do so was significantly lacking in that particular moment.

Instead, Tyler beckoned for Josh to get back to face-level with him. He did so with no hesitation, collapsing next to him on the bed.

“How was it?” Josh asked, his eyes sincere with the question as if he hadn’t just witnessed Tyler have the most intense orgasm he’s ever had in his life.

“So good,” Tyler mumbled, snuggling against Josh’s body. He was really warm.

“Good,” he answered, welcoming Tyler into his personal space with no hesitation.

As their 2 bodies practically merged into 1, Tyler could tell the arousal that was the only thing prominent a while ago was now being pushed away by something more disturbing.

“What’s on your mind? I could tell something was bothering you when you got here,” he asked Josh, ready to give him support in any way he needed it.

He didn’t respond right away, leaving Tyler worried.

The quite sat thick between them until Josh took a shaky breath and began talking. “Ashley’s moving out soon.”

Tyler nodded, not quite understanding why this was particularly troublesome for his boyfriend, but not jumping to conclusions. He rubbed Josh’s back encouragingly and waited for him to continue.

“I mean, I should be happy for her, right? But I haven’t been on my own for a few years. I don’t do good on my own, Tyler.” the stress in his voice wasn’t hard to miss.

All he could do was lay there and let Josh know he was there for him. He used silence to coax him into talking more.

“I could move back in with my parents, but I’m sure they don’t want to be taking care of their kid again.” his head sank further into Tyler’s chest as he expressed his dilemma.

And then, an idea was sprung on Tyler.

“Wait, Josh, you could just move in here with me.” he offered, the excitement at getting to live with the person he loved being around the most pushing away the doubt he knew was just around the corner.

Josh chuckled dryly. “I had a feeling you would say that. But I don’t want to intrude, darling. I’ll figure it out,” he placed a soft kiss against Tyler’s chest.

Too tired and bones too jelly-like to argue, Tyler pouted. “You wouldn’t be intruding, but whatever.”

Neither of them said anything further. They replaced words with tender kisses until Josh made a point about being hungry.

Tyler wracked his brain for what he had in the kitchen, coming up with little.

“There’s not much here, but I can try and find something?” he asked Josh, who was curled up in his side and contemplating.

His face turned up and Tyler quirked an eyebrow. “Or, we can just go out?”

And in utter honesty, Tyler would do anything Josh wanted if he wore that charming smile when he asked.

“Taco Bell?”

Josh shot up from his place on the bed. “Fuck yeah.”

They got properly dressed, both faintly blushing at the other as they picked up the clothes that had been carelessly discarded in the midst of their heated moment.

Tyler could feel an impending sadness loom over him, but for his and Josh’s sake, he pushed it away to deal with at a later date.

That’s what he was best at.

They drove there together, Josh sat in the driver's seat with a snapback covering his mussed up head of hair ("I can't go into public with sex hair!") and a seemingly permanent but gorgeous smile plastered to his face. 

"What are you all smiley about?" Tyler asked him, tracing his fingers over the hand that he had resting on his thigh. 

Josh stole a quick glance of him and smiled even wider. "I have the most handsome boyfriend in the world, that's what." 

Tyler felt himself blush and looked out of the window in an attempt to conceal it. The radio was playing softly in the background as streetlights passed them, their destination an upcoming feat.

He would never admit it, but Tyler knew he was the one with the most handsome boyfriend in the world. 

 

Chapter Text

The taco bell, as it always was; was delicious. It was probably more due to the fact that Tyler got to enjoy it sitting across from Josh.

He had nothing to complain about there.

So why Tyler felt like he was dying in the depths of his inner being he couldn’t understand. It wasn’t unfamiliar to him, but it was completely irrational this time- he had Josh. They were on good terms. The sex was amazing.

But something was putting Tyler off.

As they drove back from the restaurant, Tyler completely spaced out. He was in a state of unemotion, not responding when Josh placed a reassuring hand on his thigh. He didn’t even feel it.

“Anybody home?” he heard Josh ask, to which he blinked violently in an effort to clear his mind.

“Sorry,” not even bothering to turn his head from the window, Tyler knew he was only peaking Josh’s concern. He didn’t know how long he could keep the dam up before the forceful current of water sent it down to nothing but scraps.

It wasn’t long, clearly, because before he knew what was even happening, the car was being pulled over and Tyler’s shaking hands were being placed into Josh’s lap.

Pleading eyes, he looked at Tyler. “What’s on your mind?”

His head was racing now. Something was wrong. Something was wrong.

But he couldn’t pinpoint it, and it was frustrating him beyond words. The mix of sadness and exasperation was sending him further down into the hole he had no idea how to climb out of.

He let Josh’s steady touch keep him grounded enough to try and even his breathing. By now, Josh dismissed the idea of talking- his primary focus was ensuring Tyler didn’t hyperventilate.

“I- I don’t know,” Tyler kept repeating, the three words being said from him sounding foreign; as though they weren’t coming from his own mouth. He felt trapped in his own body. Panic was working against his desperate plea for escape.

“Tyler, hey, what color is the sky?” Josh’s gentle voice broke through, and he had enough sense to look past him and out the window to see the hue of mixed pinks and oranges painting the sky.

“Mainly pink,”

“Good.” Josh squeezed his hands in praise. “Now can you tell me the time?”

Tyler looked at the dashboard and read the time out loud. 7:56 P.M.

“Good, baby. What do you need right now? Do you need more food, a bath?”

He shook his head, silent tears still falling from his eyes. The insistent want for something that was contributing to his overabundant anxiety needed to be placed, but neither of them could figure out how to do it

“Okay, okay, do you want me to drop you off-”

And that was it.

Tyler’s body was wracked with the most violent sob you could imagine. He felt his head being pulled into Josh’s chest, his steady hand on top of his head.

Don’t leave me,” was the next set of words that were said on repeat, and somehow, that was all it took for Josh to understand where his lover’s distress was coming from.

“Tyler, I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”

Tyler’s anxiety wouldn’t let the reassuring words register and he was growing increasingly hysterical with every passing minute.

“Hey, listen, I’m here. Tyler. I’m moving in with you, okay? I’m moving in. It’s okay,”

Tyler felt the pressure in his chest ease, allowing him to catch his much-needed breath. He was still shaking but he could lift his head from Josh’s head and meet his concerned eyes.

“I’m s-sorry. I just can’t get a grasp on how I feel… It’s all hitting a little too much.”

Josh nodded understandingly. “How you feel about…?”

“You. Yeah.” Tyler sniffed. “I think I’m scared of going back to the life I had before you.”

“You don’t have to worry about that. Tyler, I… I really care about you. I want to spend as long as you’ll give me by your side.”

His body betraying him, Tyler couldn’t help but let out a shaky laugh. The pressure that was clinging to his insides was slowly dissipating with every word Josh spoke.

Knowing the panic was tied to losing Josh and coming to terms with it was the easy part. The worst of it was over.

“I’m sorry I’m like this.” Tyler looked down at his hands, wringing them in shame.

Josh’s fingertips under his chin, he lifted Tyler’s face and kissed him sweetly. Tyler melted into the touch and found that his heartbeat was returning back to normal.

Once the kiss was over, Josh leaned back to look him in the eye sternly, and say, “you have absolutely nothing to be sorry for.”

Tyler smiled sheepishly.

The engine was ignited once again, and they drove back to their home, hand in hand.


//////////////


The next morning, Tyler woke up with a pounding sensation in his head and two big arms engulfing his body.

The events of yesterday came flooding into his head at once, doing nothing to lessen the insistent pounding.

  1. The mind-blowing first time Tyler had sex
  2. The anxiety attack he had, probably the main reason his head was throbbing
  3. Josh agreeing to move in with him

He groaned, throwing the blankets off of them both. Josh stirred and pulled Tyler closer to him.

“Josh, I have to get ready for-”

Before he could finish, he was being pushed onto his back. Josh mounted him like a small child trying to wake their parents up on Christmas morning.

“You can’t leave,” he said, his voice husky from sleep. Tyler swooned.

“I have to, how else am I gonna be able to afford our apartment?” he felt his heart swell at the word our. Josh gave him the famous smile he loved.

He wasn’t letting up, however. He stayed grounded to his place on top of Tyler, legs on either side and hands pinning his shoulders.

Two can play at this game, Tyler thought.

“Come here,” he purred, trying his best to sound seductive. Josh cocked an eyebrow, hesitantly leaning down at Tyler’s command. Their lips intertwined and Tyler set his plan in motion.

He made sure to move his lips antagonizingly slow- letting his tongue barely slip past his own lips in an effort to drive Josh crazy.

He also let little whimpers escape his mouth, recognizing Josh’s arousal instantly, and using it to his full advantage. He moved his hips in a circular motion, sure to add friction where it was needed.

He had to remind himself not to get carried away a few times despite how tempted he was. He was on a mission.

Once Tyler deemed Josh relaxed enough, he let his hands snake up the expanse of his chest and land on his shoulders, where he pushed against them to flip Josh over. He grinned triumphantly down at the red-haired boy.

“Tyler Joseph, you little shit .” Josh tried to regain the upper hand, but to no avail- Tyler had him pinned down too good.

“I may be small but I’m mighty.” Tyler placed a chaste kiss to Josh’s forehead.

“You aren’t small where it counts…” he winked, and Tyler blushed so hard his face probably resembled the deep crimson red of Josh’s hair.

“You’re gross,” he got off of Josh, leaving the flustered boy on the bed alone. “I’m getting ready for work.”

Josh sat up. “Let me drive you?”

 

Tyler shot a small smile at him. “Of course.”

Chapter Text

Getting into the routine of living with Josh was easy.

It was as though Tyler finally found the missing piece in his life that he knew needed to be filled, but never knew how to fill it or why it needed to be in the first place. Tyler enjoyed every moment he and Josh got to spend together- from driving each other to work to enjoying Tyler’s famous cups of coffee- they were both blissfully content so long as they were at each other’s side.

The apartment was still the same overall, but now there were a few things that made it feel more like home- Josh’s framed tickets to his favorite concerts hanging up in the hallway, his banana holder perched on the kitchen counter, and his drum kit in the corner of their bedroom.

They spent each night and morning in each other’s arms. Tyler never knew how great not sleeping alone was.

Then again, he always used his couch as a bed prior to Josh, but now they made actual use of the mattress.

Really good use.

Wink wink.

Tyler started to really enjoy seeing Jenna and Ruby when he got to. Being in love affected him in ways he never thought possible- one of those ways being he didn’t shy away from social interaction.

Oh yeah. Did he mention he was in love?

This realization hit him just a few days before the current moment he was in; laying lazily on Josh as they watched something on Netflix. He had yet to inform him. The fact still scared him a little, and he had no problem keeping it to himself for now. When the moment was right he would know- as cliche as it sounded.

So in summary, life for Tyler was good. Aside from the small falling-out with his mother which he never bothered to try and repair, everything he’d experienced up to this point in time was satisfactory.

And how nice it was being able to say that, Tyler would never be able to explain.

 

///////

 

“Did you make sweet love last night?”

Tyler nearly spit out the drink of water he had just taken. He cocked a very inquisitive and confused eye at Ruby, who looked as serious as a statue.

“Excuse me?”

Ruby rolled her eyes. “I’m old, not stupid. I can see it on your face every weekend! Your lover boy really puts in work, doesn’t he?” she chuckled, her blush emphasizing the teasing grin she wore on her face.

Tyler designated that second appropriate to walk away before he turned into a puddle of embarrassment. Ruby had never pinned him for such a foul-mouthed type, seeing as though their conversations used to never extend beyond a few words, but you learn something new every day, he supposed.

He busied himself with stocking the shelves and reading, going back and forth between the two. Ruby didn’t bring up the sex again, but Tyler caught her smiling at him on many occasions. He adored her far too much to be annoyed, however.

At the end of the day, as Tyler was waiting for Josh to pick him up per usual, Ruby approached him, a warm smile on her face.

“I don’t think I’ve told you how much I enjoy you being here,” she placed a frail hand on his cheek, cloudy eyes glazed over with fondness.

Tyler could have cried. He hugged her gently, the familiar scent of old perfume filling his senses and bringing him comfort.

“Not as much as I’ve enjoyed being here, that’s for sure.”

She shook her head. “Seeing you blossom into the man you are today has been wonderful, Tyler. It’s been an honor to watch you fall in love,” she said, so sure and so filled with joy.

Tyler had no reason to tell her she was wrong because that’s exactly what she had watched happen. He was too choked up to reply, and Josh could not have picked a better time to pull up and wave at the both of them, the dorky grin on his face making him relax instantly.

“Thank you, Ruby. I- you’re the best friend I have. Aside from this dork, obviously,” he jabbed a thumb towards Josh where he was sitting in the driver’s seat of his car, waving toward them.

“Goodbye, dear. Go on and have more of that great sex.” with that, she limped back inside of the library. Tyler was blushing even as he climbed into the passenger seat of Josh’s car.

“What was that about?” he asked, pecking Tyler on the cheek sweetly before pulling out onto the road.

“Oh, just Ruby being Ruby.” he interlaced his fingers with Josh’s and admired the sunset.

“I see,” he stayed quiet for a while until they were pulling onto their street.

“Ready for some great sex?

 

Tyler slapped his forehead and groaned.

Chapter Text

A month later…

Tyler whined, loud and long. Josh was underneath him, grabbing his hips roughly and moving the smaller boy with his hands, thrusting into him accordingly.

“Fuck . Fuck fuck fuck fuck.” Tyler’s current vocabulary consisted of only this word and a few others. The euphoric bliss coursing through his entire body was to blame for this fact.

“You look so good, baby. Tell me how good it feels.” Josh panted, throwing his head back against the pillows in pleasure.

“Feels so good, Josh. Don’t stop.” Tyler barely managed to speak, Josh doing nothing to help his situation as he used all of his strength to lunge upwards.

Tyler moaned. Over and over again. Josh never took his eyes off of him.

He finally reached his climax, shivering on top of Josh by the end. Josh followed shortly after, the sight of his boyfriend coming undone with nothing but his dick inside of him sending him over the edge.

They sat unmoving for a few minutes, both catching their breath and recollecting their coherence they’d lost during the affair.

“You’re so perfect. Gosh, Tyler. You make me crazy.”

Tyler smiled down at him, observing the beauty entailed to the boy.

He’s never been happier.

Which is how Tyler finds himself admitting the secret he’d been keeping to himself for quite some time.

“I love you.”

Josh’s eyes shot open from where they’d been closed in bliss. He looked at Tyler with adoration, shock, and above all else, love.

“Oh my god.” his eyes started to glaze over with tears, and Tyler cupped his face gently and kissed the skin underneath them. “I love you so much,” he admit.

Tyler smiled until his cheeks hurt, peppering kisses over Josh’s face as they both chanted a chorus of I love you’s until the words sounded foreign to them.

“Hey, not to ruin the moment or anything, but could you get up? It’s starting to uh, feel a bit uncomfortable…” Josh gestured to his pelvic region.

Tyler blushed and moved off of Josh, curling into his side instead. They stayed like this until they both agreed they were due for a shower.

 

///////



“Tyler?”

“Just a sec, what’s up?” he shouted from in the kitchen, where a pot of coffee was undergoing preparation.

“Someone on the phone for you…” Josh’s tone was wary, piquing Tyler’s interest.

“Bring it here,” he requested, placing a kiss to Josh’s cheek when he complied.

He let the cellphone rest between his chin and shoulder, too preoccupied with making his famous coffee to hold it.

He mouthed a who is it to Josh, who simply shrugged.

“Hi, Tyler speaking,” he greeted the stranger on the other line.

“Hello, Tyler. My name is Christina, I’m with Company Law Club. I’m reaching out on behalf of Ruby Smith. She named you in her will.”

The cup of coffee Tyler had just poured found its way onto the floor with a loud crash, sending hot liquid all over his legs.

He didn’t feel it.

He had to be hearing this incorrectly. Or rather, it was a prank.

“Uh, can you… can you repeat that?” Josh’s concern was evident as Tyler’s broken voice rang out through the apartment.

“I’m very sorry for your loss, sir. But there are many legal complications we have to go through… when is the earliest you could-”

Tyler hung up and set the phone on the counter.

He and Josh shared eye contact for a while, neither one of them knowing what to do in the moment.

“Josh,” he could feel his composure slipping away. “Ruby’s dead.”

“What? That’s… Oh, Tyler, I’m so sorry,”

Tyler fell into his grip, his tears arriving with full force. He sobbed until his chest ached; until his legs were barely able to hold his figure up.

“She was my best friend,” he admit. “She was the mother I always wanted.”

Josh comforted him. He held onto Tyler as he sorted himself, sympathetic and patient all the while.

An hour later, with him and Josh entangled in their bed after all the tears had managed to escape his system, he finally spoke. “She left something for me in her will,”

Josh perked up at the sound of Tyler’s voice. “She did, did she?”

Tyler nodded curtly. He encouraged Josh to hold him tighter, which he was more than happy to do.

“I have to deal with it soon,” he said aloud, more to himself than anything.

Josh placed an encouraging kiss to the top of his head. “I’m sorry, Ty. She was a great woman. And she wouldn’t have left you something if she didn’t think it was a good idea.”

 

“I know.”

 

Tyler did know.

 

Something else he knew is that he was completely and utterly in love with the man who was holding him tightly in his arms.

 

Whatever obstacle they would be put through, Tyler was completely certain he’d be able to overcome it so long as he had Josh by his side.