To get the phone call while in Los Angeles is the second worst thing to happen to him. Not the first, because that spot was filled about two years ago, and not the third, because the third now used to be the second until this event happened. It's the second worst. And he’s in the middle of recording a collaborative song when he sees Jenna’s name pop up on his phone, along with a beautiful, angelic photo of her smiling from a hike they took together a few months ago. He swipes at a line of sweat on his forehead and answers the phone with a cheery "Hi, baby!" but soon, the actual phone call makes his blood run cold.
Two panic attacks later, Josh is able to rush out of his nearby hotel room and head for the airport. He’s alone in every sense of the word. Jenna is back at home— oh god, Jenna. She’s most likely at home, pacing the whole downstairs, waiting for Josh to return to her, every minute dragging by like a knife in her back. His hands shake as he holds his arms above his head, socked feet set apart. Three seconds, the sign says, but it plays upon an eternity. In a cloud, he exits the body scanner and gathers his things as quickly as his cemented joints will allow, shoving his feet back into his nike’s. They’re red.
His parents pick him up from the airport, Jordan grabbing his suitcase and backpack as Josh collapses into his mom and dad's loving embrace, tears and snot running down his face. Two years. Two years. His mother cries, too, because she's the empathetic type to cry at those ASCPA commercials, and to see her son in absolute tears and sorrows makes his own mother break because of it. Night falls quickly. Whatever color to the sky there was has now disappeared fast into a hazy orange sky with clouds. No stars.
"Josh," says Jordan. The passing street lamps barely give Josh any indication of his brother's features, but the voice is so soft and pitiful. "He's going to be okay."
"Yeah," he spits out.
Josh does see his mother's watery eyes glance back at him.
A noose loops around his throat.
Josh’s mind is spinning and he swears on his life that he can truly feel his brain twisting around in his skull, trying to comprehend what is happening. It’s like a hazy fog has come over him, a nightmare-ish life that has popped out from a story book. Poor Josh just happened to be the protagonist against his will. After Tyler went missing, that was it, almost. He has permanent eyebags from those first few months of constant searching and identifying belongings left behind in the surround Columbus woods. It was mind boggling to him how much shit is in the ground, and how people can find it. But nothing of his was turned up. Never a ransom note or clues. It was as if his fiance vanished in a cloud of dust that led into another dimension. And with him gone, a huge reason to live was gone. Just fucking gone. He had never had such a severe episode of depression; luckily, it never resolved in a fury of suicide attempts or hospital visits, but with Jenna dragging his ass out of the house and taking him to a cabin that had no wifi or phones. Just them, a lake, and a bed. The amount of time that they were there is still a mystery to both of them, but it helped clean his head and he was able to accept the fact Tyler was gone for a long period of time.
Next stop is Tyler's family's house, where the driveway is lined with cars of Tyler's relatives. The lights are on, dimmed behind thick shades,but visible. Three cars are sat in the driveway, presumably two more in the closed garage, along with all the recording equipment they had to store after Tyler-- Josh shakes his head; he doesn’t want to think about that. He stumbles out, tennis shoes clipping his dad's truck's foot step and he runs to the door, runs into the door, and fumbles for the door handle. Knocks frantically.
The noose squeezes.
And the door opens to Jenna, her messy, more like ratty , blonde hair glinting in the lighting’s glow. Her bright blue eyes are red and puffy and tissues are clutched in her left hand. Lots of them. “J--”
His girl, the blonde angel that he fell in love with at the same time as falling in love with Tyler, cries, sobs, and she grabs at neck and shirt. “I’m so sorry, I-I’m so sorry for not being here,” he breathes out. His hand cradles the back of her head.
She pushes out, just so her eyes can meet his. Even with the deep sorrow and pain, she holds such a defined love for Josh; it makes his heart swell. “Don’t, it’s okay. You’re here now and-and that’s all that matters.” She swipes at a rogue tear. “He’s not here, baby, he’s at the hospital.”
“Have you seen him at all?”
“No, but I’ve spoken with his psychiatrist a few times and she says that he’s just in a lot of shock with what’s happening. She thinks having us there will help after they get him settled in.”
Josh wants to go now, but he listens to Jenna’s voice and knows that everything will be okay. “Okay.” He breathes.
She sniffles. “I love you,” she says. Her body is small, weakened against his chest, as if she will fall like a castle of cards.
“I love you too,” he answers, a lump developing in his throat.
His family follows as he walks into his in-law's home with Jenna's hand practically crushed in between his fingers. But she doesn’t seem to mind. The house is a bit of a mess with pillows from the couch strewn about, a blanket left on the floor, the remotes shoved in the couch cushions. The kitchen, Jenna’s palace, is also a mess. He can smell the oven is on, probably cooking up some stress oatmeal cookies. The dishes are piled in the sink already, but scraps of flour and sugar lay across the counter along with the few spice containers. Josh squeezes Jenna’s hand just a little more.
Tyler's mom is on the couch, though, and she looks up from the TV. "Josh, oh thank God you're here."
The words just fall out of her mouth, as if she had stuffed them back in her throat. They embrace and Tyler's mom rubs his back. An overwhelming wave of disgust washes over him, but he shoves it into the back of his mind and give his mother-in-law a quick hug. After, he moves back to Jenna and latches onto her warm, soft hand.
When Tyler came home with not just Jenna, but also Josh, the Joseph’s just about had an aneurism. He had never seen people so bewildered in his entire life. The concept of three people in a relationship was so foreign that they all just... didn’t talk. Only the sound of silverware scraping across plates and gulps of either wine or water filled the room. Obviously, they learned and came to terms with the fact that Tyler wasn’t just “Tyler and Jenna”, it was “Tyler and Jenna and Josh”. It probably didn’t sink in until the gossip news channels started to boast about an affair between Josh and Jenna, thanks to a fan leaking a picture of the two of them kissing (a picture taken by Tyler, of course). The absolute, pure fury Tyler had in himself really knocked some sense into his parents and they finally joined their side. Although Tyler has forgiven them, the months Tyler’s family treated the trio like aliens permanently left a stain on the love Josh has for them. He does love them, but trust? He’s not sure.
"How was the plane ride?"
"It was fine. Empty," he says.
Mrs. Joseph nods her head. She glances at Josh's parents and gives a small smile.
"So, what's happened so far?" he says.
The Joseph siblings sit at the dining room table with their dad. The boys are on one side while Maddy leans back in her chair, arms crossed. Chris Joseph has his elbows on the table, holding his head up while he is sunken in an oversized sweatshirt. The middle sibling's partners are probably at their own homes, with the children. To Josh, they're just background noise.
"Um," Mrs. Joseph says, "the hospital has him under observation right now. They just want to evaluate him without us there, otherwise he could get overwhelmed with his family."
"How was he found?"
"He showed up at a Cincinnati police station. They said he was very coherent of the situation, but wouldn't talk to any of them."
"So wait, he's in Cincinnati right now?" asks Josh, eyebrows high on his forehead. "Why are we here? I could've flown into that airport instead and just--"
“Baby,” Jenna says, “we have to take this a step at a time, okay? I know how much you want to see him, but we have to make sure he's ready for it."
"I think two years is enough wait time to see his family," he snaps.
Jenna sighs, looks down at the floor. She still has shoes on. "I know. We just all needed to group and get to our senses."
“I’m sorry. You’re right.” Josh rubs at his eyes until a kaleidoscope of colors blossoms.
"I think J and I should head home," says Jenna.
Chris wrinkles his nose, elbows sliding off the table. "My son, Jenna's fiancé, is in the hospital and you want to go home with his best friend?"
"Chris--" Mrs. Joseph starts.
"This is not the place to do this, Chris," Mr. Dun says.
"No, I think it is. How do we know that these two didn't do anything with Tyler to be together?"
"My son would never hurt Tyler," Mrs. Dun speaks up. "He loves Tyler."
"We were together before he disappeared," Josh says, voice unsure of itself.
He scoffs. "Whatever that was wasn't a relationship. Maybe you two got sick of Tyler and pushed him away," he continues. "He was never stable and you two possibly pushed him to the edge. What'd you do? Switch his meds for placebos? Brainwash him into thinking he wasn't good enough?"
"Dad--" The other siblings' voices have no avail to their father's tyranny.
"Nothing ever happened to him because of us," Josh barks out.
"Oh,you should speak. You are the one who made my son a fag--"
"Enough!" screams Jenna. "Chris, I do not care if you don't accept the fact this relationship is real and has always been real, but this is not the time to get into it. You're son is back from being kidnapped for two years and you need to stick whatever attitude so far up your ass you feel the beginning of your colon because this is not the time!"
Dead silence runs through the house. Even the TV shuts up. The color washes out from Chris' face. Josh's arm quivers, followed by his back twitching. Jenna moves closer to him, almost as if she wants to be swallowed up whole by his chest. Instinctively, he swings an arm around her, strewn across her chest. Her hands then follow to grasp at his arm. He has always refrained from holding Jenna in any kind of way beyond a hand hold, because it just didn't feel right at all. Even though her and Tyler accepted him into their relationship with open and loving arms, there was something about being around other people that made Josh... shrink back from them. Sat on the other side of the room at parties or didn't hold their hands while out shopping, always sat alone on one side of a booth. It wasn't until Tyler brought it up that Josh spoke about his pain and confusion. Then, it was always Josh in the middle of them, both hands being held, being in the middle of the seats at a movie, being in the middle while sleeping. And it was because Tyler and Jenna loved him so much; they wanted to make him feel loved. And they did, they always fucking did.
Chris slinks back in his chair. It creaks and groans underneath his weight. “It’s a stressful time,” he says, instead of apologizing. He wouldn’t truly mean it if he did say it, so Josh is thankful he isn’t hearing something empty.
“Your concerns shouldn’t be voiced at the time that your son is home from being kidnapped. And I will be informing him that you believe his partners had something to do with the disappearance.”
“Jenna, wait—“ Mrs. Joseph steps forward.
“Don’t,” Jenna says. “Josh and I are leaving to see him in the morning and I’ll call once we are home and Tyler’s settled back in.”
“You can’t bar his family from seeing him,” Chris says, jaw locked.
Her gaze is enough to cut diamonds into perfect pieces for engagement rings. “I don’t see any enthusiasm or arrangements on your part.”
He sinks, backwards, eyes falling.
“Kelly, you’re welcome to come with us,” Jenna furthers. “Just let us know. Goodnight.”
Josh really fucking loves Jenna. She knows it, too, but times like these where she squashes the enemy with such swiftness and ease, he loves her that much more.
“Hey,” Josh says, pulling open the passenger door to Jenna’s car, “I love you so much.”
She grins, a sly grin spread across her angelic skin. “How much?”
He scoffs, but is smiling. “I’ll show you when we get home.”
She giggles, but not for long when they get home. That ends when she screaming for more.