The bus door clanged open, surprising Josh. He jumped and hurriedly tried to close the webpage he was on.
“Hey, Josh, you’ve gotta see this! There’s....” Tyler’s excited voice faded to nothing when he saw the embarrassed flush stretching across his bandmate’s cheeks.
Josh gave up trying to make his suddenly clumsy fingers close the site. He settled for slamming the laptop shut instead.
Tyler looked from the laptop to Josh. The corners of his lips twitched.
“Dude,” he said, “what did we say about locking the door if you’re going to watch porn?”
There’d never been any reason to agree to anything of the sort, of course, but it had the desired effect of making Josh blush so hard he looked like a ripe tomato ready to burst. He wanted to hide his face in his hands but that would only make him look even more guilty.
Tyler laughed. “Oh. Em. Gee. Were you really watching porn?”
“What? No!” Josh said quickly. Too quickly.
I should have said ‘yes’, he thought. It would have been less embarrassing.
He laid his hands on the closed laptop as Tyler approached the table.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of, bro,” Tyler said. He wore a serious expression, but his eyes were full of laughter. “Masturbation is a normal and healthy-”
“Oh, my god. Ty, stop!” Josh buried his face in his hands.
Tyler took advantage of Josh’s mortification – which, Josh realized the moment it happened, had been the point all along.
“Hey!” He tried to snatch the laptop back, but Tyler danced out of his reach.
Opening the laptop with one hand while fending Josh off with an empty water bottle held like a saber, Tyler scanned the page.
“Josh!” he gasped, appalled.
Josh stopped trying to get the device back. He fell onto the bench seat with a miserable, “I know!”
Tyler slid into the seat next to him and set the laptop on the table between them.
“I thought we agreed not to read this stuff…”
“I know, I know,” Josh said, running a hand through his hair. “And I usually don’t – I swear! – but I saw a bunch of fans talking about it online. I got intrigued and…” He waved a hand at the page.
“Well?” Tyler said as he scrolled to the top.
Tyler looked up at Josh through his eyelashes. “Is it as good as they say?”
Josh didn’t know exactly what word to use to describe it but “good” hadn’t even made the top 10. He held out a hand as if to say, “read it yourself”, so Tyler did.
“This stuff is dangerous,” Tyler reminded him as he started reading. “It gets in your head and makes you- whoa.”
When Tyler looked up from the screen, Josh just raised one eyebrow.
“This is online?” Tyler asked, eyes traveling from the words on the page to Josh and back again. “Like, where anyone can see it?”
Josh nodded earning a shake of the head from Tyler before the other man bent back over the laptop. He knew the moment Tyler got to the part Josh had left off because a bright spot of color appeared on each of his cheeks.
“Exactly.” Josh said. “It’s… it’s like one of those nature programs. You know you’re just gonna end up crying when the shark eats the seal, but you can’t look away.”
Tyler gave him a sideways look. “Which one of us is supposed to be the seal?”
“Just read,” Josh answered, shoving him playfully. He scooted closer to get a better view of the screen and they continued together.
“Slow down, man,” he grumbled after a moment. “You know I can’t read as fast as you can.”
“Sorry,” Tyler replied. He stopped scrolling. “I guess I got excited.”
Josh gave him a surprised, wide-eyed look.
“Bad choice of words,” Tyler admitted. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat before turning his attention back to the screen.
They read in silence until they reached the end of the page. For a long moment, neither spoke. Eventually, Tyler spoke.
“Well,” he said. “That was… uh…”
Josh blinked slowly. “I’m so not the shark,” he was all he said.
“Oh, I dunno… you could be.”
Shaking his head vehemently, Josh disagreed. “No way, I’m no shark.”
“You’re not exactly a seal.” Tyler waved a hand that encompassed Josh’s well-muscled form. His eyes dropped then quickly raised again as if he’d just noticed that Josh only wore a pair of shorts. It wasn’t unusual for Josh to walk around in nothing but shorts but, after reading that, things would have been awkward with a lot more clothing between them.
They stared at the screen, the table, around the bus – anywhere but at each other.
“Have you ever…” Tyler started.
Josh’s stomach clenched. “Ever?”
“You know… thought about…” he looked pointedly at the screen.
“What? No! Never!”
“Never?” Tyler looked a little hurt. “Come on, man. I’m not that bad, am I?”
Josh’s stomach unclenched, releasing a whirlwind of butterflies. “No,” he insisted. “You’re not bad! You’re, you know… for a guy…”
Tyler gave him a grin to show he was joking. He bumped his shoulder against Josh’s. “You’re not bad yourself.”
A question burned on Josh’s tongue. “So...” He cleared his throat. “Have you ever thought about... you know?” What made him ask, he didn’t know.
Tyler pressed his lips together as he thought. After a moment, he shrugged. “Sometimes.”
Josh had to grip the edge of the table for support. “You have?”
“Well, sure,” Tyler said. The way he tugged at the ends of his short hair belied the casual way he spoke.
“But... you’re not...”
“No,” Tyler agreed. “But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it.”
If Josh’s face got any hotter, it was going to burst into flames.
“I’m not, either,” he said. Tyler knew that, of course, but it suddenly seemed important to say.
“I know.” Tyler didn’t laugh it off, though. His expression was thoughtful.
Silence filled the bus. Eventually, Josh worked up the courage to ask the question eating at him.
“Mhm?” Tyler was scrolling back through the page. He shook his head every so often.
“If you were, would you...?” Josh stared at his hands, waiting for an answer that didn’t come. When he finally looked up, it was to find Tyler staring at him with an odd expression on his face. His gaze was heavy.
“Yeah,” Tyler said. “Yeah, I think I would.”
Josh tried to smother the grin that came to his face at Tyler’s words and failed miserably.
Me too, he thought. The words remained unspoken, though, because all the air had gone out of the room.
The space between Josh and Tyler seemed to be shrinking, too. Josh found himself pushed toward Tyler by an unseen force. The same force that acted upon Josh apparently affected Tyler, too, because he leaned in, his eyes heavy-lidded and his lips parted slightly.
Josh’s tongue darted out to lick his lips. Tyler’s hot gaze followed the movement. His hand came to rest on Josh’s knee.
“I definitely would,” he breathed.
Heart pounding wildly against his chest, Josh let his eyes drift closed as he leaned forward. Tyler’s hand slid further up his leg. They were so close that he could feel Tyler’s breath on his lips.
A knock sounded against the bus’s door and a voice called their names.
Josh and Tyler broke apart guiltily. The scrambled to their feet.
“Just a second!”
They caught each other’s gazes across the small space and laughed nervously.
“No more fanfiction?” Tyler said, tugging at his hair.
“No more fanfiction,” Josh agreed.
Tyler stopped at the door. “You coming, bro?” His tone was casual, but his voice was too thick to sound normal.
“Uh,” Josh said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets to hide the telltale bulge in his shorts. “I’ll be there in a minute. I’m just gonna grab a shirt.”
Tyler’s lips quirked. Josh could tell the other man knew the effect he’d had on him – and he was quite proud of it. “Sure,” he said. He beamed as he left the bus.
It took a good few minutes to find the shirt Josh was looking for, buried at the bottom of a bag. He’d gotten it during their trip to Australia, to celebrate conquering one of his biggest fears. Josh pulled it over his head and went in search of Tyler.
Tyler had his eyes shut, doing a soundcheck, when Josh walked in. He knew it was Josh, just from the sound of his footfall. The note he held faltered, but Tyler kept going. He waited until the song was finished (and his blood had cooled) before looking up.
Josh sat crossed-legged on the temporary wooden flooring laid out in front of the stage. He clapped as Tyler finished singing and, even though he did it every time, it made Tyler grin.
He looked down at Josh-
-and laughed out loud.
Josh wore a pair of dark shorts that were considerably looser than the ones he’d been wearing when Tyler had last seen him. He also wore a tee-shirt with a large, comical shark on it. Their eyes met across the distance. Neither looked away.
Oh, yeah, Tyler thought with a grin, I definitely would.