Josh had a secret. An enormous, life-changing, incredible secret – one so big he hadn’t even told his best friend. Didn’t know if he could tell Tyler.
How do you tell your best fiend that you’re a vampire?
He hadn’t been a vampire when they’d met, of course. It was a relatively new development. So new, in fact, that Josh had some pretty serious misgivings about being stuck in a tour bus with anyone, much less someone who, crazily, smelled like black licorice and sweet coffee.
Josh had only been a vampire for a few months, but he was already learning that everyone’s blood smelled – and tasted – different. Not that he had thought about what Tyler’s blood would taste like. That would be weird. And wrong. So wrong.
The tour inched closer and Josh still hadn’t found a way to tell Tyler his secret.
“You’d better do something soon,” Debby warned unhelpfully.
Josh glared at the woman who had turned his life upside down. “No,” he said sarcastically, “I thought I’d let it be a big surprise. You know, Tyler wakes up in the middle of the night to find me hovering over him and then I’m out of a job because I ate the band’s bloody singer!”
Debby flicked the page of the glossy magazine she was reading. Her nonchalant expression didn’t falter. “Also a valid option.”
“A VALID-” Josh stopped and took a deep breath. He didn’t need to breathe anymore, of course, but the movement soothed him. Debby had been goading him for weeks – pretty much from the moment she found out Josh was less than happy about what she insisted on calling “her little gift”.
He’d never had much of a temper as a human, but that had changed when Josh woke up one night to find himself with a shiny new pair of fangs and an insatiable thirst for blood. Now, his temper was flash and, embarrassingly, sometimes destructive.
Yet another reason he worried about going on tour with Tyler.
As Debby had explained with rather more glee than he thought necessary, Josh could survive being run over by a tank now. Tyler, on the other hand, was still a remarkably fragile human. Josh was terrified he might accidently break the other man.
He dragged his feet as long as possible but, a few days before the tour was due to begin, Josh decided it couldn’t be put off any longer. Jenna greeted him at the door with a kiss on the cheek. She smelled like lemon bars and sugar frosting.
“He’s in the studio,” Jenna told Josh unnecessarily. Three days before the start of a new tour? Where else would Tyler be?
“Thanks, Jen,” Josh said. He left Jim in her care, fully expecting the dog to be spoiled within an inch of his life by the time he returned, and made his way to Tyler’s small home studio.
“Hey, bro,” he said by way of greeting as he let himself into the room.
Tyler glanced up from the laptop he worked at long enough to give Josh a smile. “Hey,” he replied. “You’ve gotta see these graphics. They’re sick.”
Josh shifted nervously. “Uh, yeah, in a minute,” he said. He didn’t want any excuse to get sidetracked and he knew from experience that if he stopped to look at whatever Tyler was working on, it would be morning before he knew it. Time seemed to fly by when they worked together.
Tyler didn’t look up from the laptop. “Mhm?”
“Got a minute?”
“Always,” Tyler said. He clicked away without looking up.
Josh sighed. That was the problem with Tyler; his brain was always in a million different places at once. “All of you, man,” Josh said impatiently.
Tyler stopped. When he finally lifted his head, he looked bashful. “Sorry, Jishwa. I got carried away. What’s up?” He pushed the laptop away, giving Josh his full attention.
Taking a deep breath, Josh dug deep inside for the courage to tell the truth.
“You know how you said Debby was a ‘bloodsucking bitch’ and I’d ‘be sorry’ if I went back to her?”
Tyler nodded, blushing. “Hey, listen, man. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things. If you’re happy with Deb-”
Josh held up a hand to stop Tyler’s apology.
“You were right.”
The other man’s jaw dropped open then snapped shut again. “Uh, can I get that in writing?” he joked.
Josh usually appreciated his friend’s sense of humor. Usually. His nerves were too frayed at the moment to find anything funny in the situation, though. “Dude,” he said, shoving a frustrated hand through his hair, “can we be serious for just a minute?”
Tyler sobered. His brows drew together, creating a line between them that made him look… well, his age. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
Unable to meet Tyler’s eye, Josh picked a spot on the wall and spoke in a rush. “Thing is, Debby is a bloodsucking bitch. Like, an honest-to-goodness bloodsucker. She’s a vampire and, well, a few months ago, she thought it would be funny to turn me into a vampire while I slept.”
Silence filled the small room, rebounding off the acoustic tiles and growing louder with every second that passed. Then, Tyler’s laughter broke the heavy silence.
“Sure, man,” he said. Tyler rose from the chair. He punched Josh lightly on the arm. “If this is your way of saying that I’m working too hard, I get it. We can go play-”
Josh, wound up tighter than a children’s toy, lost his patience. He grabbed Tyler and, pulling his lips back, emitted an animal hiss that surprised even him.
The color drained from Tyler’s face. He sagged against Josh’s hold. Even if he hadn’t recently acquired superhuman strength, Josh would have supported Tyler’s weight easily. Years of drumming had given him wicked upper-body strength.
“Sorry!” He apologized as he helped Tyler back to his seat. “I’m really sorry. I haven’t gotten the hang of the whole brooding rage thing yet.”
Josh stepped away the moment Tyler was sitting down. He was afraid of upsetting his friend anymore than he had to. “Ty?” he said when the other man continued to stare, wide-eyed at him. “Can you, I dunno, say something?”
Tyler stared a moment longer before blinking and shaking his head. “Dude,” he whispered.
“I know.” Josh stared at his feet.
“Can you…” Tyler started. “Can you do that again?”
Josh shook his head. “I don’t think so. It only happens when I get really mad so- Ow!”
He hopped up and down on the spot, grabbing the shin that Tyler had just kicked.
“What was that for?” Josh demanded.
Tyler looked sheepish. “I wanted to see your fangs,” he admitted.
“Then why didn’t you just ask?”
“I did,” Tyler argued. “You said you couldn’t do it unless you were mad.”
“So you thought, ‘I’ll see if kicking the monster will make it angry’?!”
Tyler blushed but said, “You’re not a monster,” There was absolute conviction in his soft voice.
Josh didn’t know what he’d expected when he told Tyler his secret, but it wasn’t casual acceptance.
“Aren’t you,” Josh said, running a hand through his hair, “like, freaked out or anything?”
Tyler pressed his lips together as he thought over the question. “Nope,” he said after a moment.
It was Josh’s turn to stare. “Why not?”
His friend just shrugged. “You’re my Josh,” he said matter-of-factly. “If you’re my Vampire Josh, that’s okay. It’s just… I dunno, like another part of you. Like a new tattoo or piercing, or something.”
A slow blush crept up Josh’s neck. “It’s a little more than that,” he argued lamely.
Tyler ignored him. “So,” he said, “can I see them, or do I have to kick you again?”
That earned a laugh from Josh. “Okay, okay,” he said. Pulling up a chair, he sat in front of Tyler, closed his eyes, and opened his mouth to reveal his fangs.
Josh heard Tyler’s awed whoosh of breath. He was too embarrassed to meet the other man’s eyes which meant he didn’t see when Tyler reached out a hand to press a fingertip to one deadly canine.
A single drop of Tyler’s blood landed on Josh’s tongue before Tyler snatched his hand away again. Josh’s hands gripped the arms of the chair he sat in so hard the metal bent with a creak. He snapped his mouth shut.
“Ty?” he said through clenched teeth, without opening his eyes. “Can you leave?”
The taste of Tyler, rich and heady, filled Josh’s mouth. He didn’t trust himself to be alone with Tyler while his senses were exploding with the taste of him. “Can you leave now?” he pleaded.
But Tyler didn’t leave. Instead, he laid a hand on Josh’s arm, setting his nerves on fire.
“Are you okay?” Tyler asked. “Did I hurt you?”
“DID YOU HURT-”
Dammit. He really wasn’t getting a grip on that rage thing.
Josh’s eyes flew open to find Tyler leaning over him, an expression of concern etched onto his face.
“Tyler Joseph,” Josh said in the calmest voice he could imagine. “You are infuriating. I’m about two seconds away from eating you and you’re worried that you hurt me…” Exasperated, he shook his head.
“Oh,” Tyler said. He dropped his hand but didn’t step away. “Are you… um, hungry?” he asked.
Josh clenched his jaw so tightly he worried it would break.
Don’t think about it. If you think about feeding, he warned himself, you’ll end up embarrassing yourself. Or, worse, killing your best friend. Don’t think about-
“’Cause, you know,” Tyler continued. “If you’re hungry, you can, uh, bite me. You know, if you wanted to.”
He’s going to kill me, Josh decided.
“I can’t do that,” he said when he trusted himself to open his mouth enough to speak. “I mean, it would be a very bad idea.”
“Oh.” Tyler looked insulted.
Josh’s stomach tightened painfully. “You know,” he told Tyler, “some people would consider not being eaten by their best friend a good thing.”
Tyler pouted. “If I taste bad or something you could just say so. You don’t have to threaten me.” He turned his back on Josh.
Taking several deep, steadying breaths, Josh slowly reached out to wrap a hand around Tyler’s wrist. When Tyler turned to meet his gaze, Josh said, “You. Taste. Awesome.”
Dropping his eyes, Tyler tried – and failed – to smother a grin. “Thanks, man.”
“And,” Josh continued, “I’m hungry. I’m always hungry. It’s, like, a curse. But, it would be a really, really bad idea for me to bite you.”
It took Tyler looking down at his wrist for Josh to realize he was absently stroking the vein on the back of Tyler’s wrist with his thumb.
“Sorry,” he said, releasing the other man.
Tyler only shrugged. “’S’okay.” He sat down across from Josh. “Why would it be a bad idea?” he asked.
Josh shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He was starting to realize how wholly unprepared he had been for this conversation.
A knock sounded on the studio door the second before it opened. Jenna poked her head inside.
“Hey, guys,” she said cheerfully. “What’s up?”
Wholly unprepared. He hadn’t even considered having to tell Jenna his secret.
“Josh was just telling me that he’s a vampire,” Tyler told his wife. Josh could only stare.
“Oh, okay. Well, Jim and I are going for a drive. Either of you need anything?”
“No, thank you.”
“Alright, then. We’ll see you boys later.”
Josh turned from the closed door to his best friend’s amused face. “You are,” he said, “without a doubt, the strangest couple I’ve ever known.”
Tyler beamed. “That’s why you love us.”
It was true – but so not the point.
“You were explaining why you don’t want to bite me,” Tyler coaxed.
“I want to bite you,” Josh replied before he could stop himself.
Tyler gave him a lopsided grin. “Yeah?”
Josh shook his head. “It would be… too…” he struggled to find words that wouldn’t make him sound like a creep.
Tyler’s grin disappeared. He cocked his head to the side as he studied Josh. “Sexy?” he asked.
Josh nodded miserably. “It’s a vampire thing,” he explained. “The blood pumps, you know,” he waved a hand awkwardly over his anatomy, “everywhere.”
“Oh!” Tyler’s eyes widened as realization finally dawned.
Oh, please, Josh thought. Let the world open up and swallow me whole. Now would be good…
Tyler considered Josh a moment longer. “Okay,” he said.
“It’s okay,” Tyler said. “If you want to bite me, you can”
Josh blinked. “But…”
Tyler gave him a mischievous smile. “And, if the blood makes you a little… overexcited, I’ll just try not to take advantage of you.” Then, he winked at Josh who groaned and buried his face in his hands.
“You’re gonna be the death of me, Joseph,” he said into his palms, earning a laugh from Tyler in response.
“You wanna do this now?” Tyler asked, “or do you wanna wait until Jenna gets back. Actually,” he grinned, “I wonder which one of us tastes better?”
With supernatural speed, Josh reached out with a growl to grab Tyler’s wrist and haul him into his lap. Tyler’s shocked gasp made Josh’s pulse race and his gums ache.
“No one could possible taste better than you,” he said. Then, he buried his face in Tyler’s neck.