Ever since Tyler had gotten back from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, he had found himself feeling very, very strange.
It wasn’t anything he could particularly put his finger on, but could feel that something wasn’t right. Since he couldn’t figure out what was wrong, Tyler decided to put it on the back burner and focus on his music.
The new album was scheduled to be released in early October, so Tyler was hard at work making sure everything was up to his standards. In fact, he had just been in Los Angeles to visit Josh and get some extra drum recordings the week before he and Jenna went to the zoo. If he was being honest, he would have loved some extra time in L.A., but putting that album out was his, and Josh’s, first priority.
In fact, it’s nearly nine in the morning when Jenna descends the basement stairs and flicks the light on. When Tyler hisses, she shuts them back off.
“Ty, come on. It’s time for you to shower.”
“I showered Saturday.” He doesn’t look behind him, too focused on his current mission of mixing Josh’s drum tracks with his bass lines.
“Saturday was a week ago. It’s Monday.”
“What?” He swivels around in his chair. “No, we went to the zoo on Saturday. That’s when I showered.”
“Yeah. Over a week ago.” With a long sigh, Jenna steps closer to gently massage his shoulders. “I’m all for you working hard, but you have to take care of yourself too, babe. Bathing, eating, getting sunlight. You’ve been cooped down here in the dark for days now. Are you sleeping?”
“I’ve been trying to, but it’s been hard. For whatever reason, I can’t sleep, so I’ve been coming back to this.” Jenna’s touch leaves him briefly as he turns back around to face his computer. When his mouse starts clicking, her hands return to massaging the tight knots out of his muscles.
“It’s because you’ve been spending so much time staring at a screen. C’mon, love. I’ll make you some breakfast while you shower and we can eat together.”
He nods his head, feeling a bit guilty about the lack of time he’s spent with his wife. Tyler kisses her hand as he stands up and tosses an arm around her shoulder. “As long as we can leave the lights off. I think I’m starting to develop a weird sensitivity to light. The light has really been hurting my eyes.”
“That’s because you’ve been sitting in the darkness of the basement. And not leaving.” Her dry tone makes Tyler chuckle as he presses another kiss to her cheek. Jenna shivers underneath his touch. “You’re so cold.”
“Really?” Tyler pulls away to tug on the hem of his short-sleeved tee. He didn’t feel cold. It was the middle of summer and the air conditioning was on full blast. “Huh. Must be the basement. Cold air settles, right?”
“I think so.” Jenna is first to ascend the basement stairs, making her way into the kitchen to open up the fridge. “Eggs and bacon okay?”
He smiles. “Sounds lovely. I’ll go wash my hair.”
She throws her head back and laughs, strengthening Tyler’s argument that marrying her was the best decision of his entire life. “Clean everything, please. You stink.”
He gives her a salute. “Yes, ma’am.”
“By the way, Josh called. Said you haven’t replied to any of his texts and was worried something was wrong.”
“Right.” That was a thing Tyler had to do. Stay in contact with the people he loved. Sometimes his music was the only thing he could focus on, resulting in a lack of communication and his own health. That’s why Jenna was his saving grace. Tyler has no clue how he survived without her. “I’ll call him after breakfast.”
“Good. I’ll be ready with food!”
“Love you,” he tosses over his shoulder as he shuffles down the hallway. Jenna laughs in response.
“I love you too, goof.”
He pushes his eggs around with his fork, his head leaning on his other open palm. Jenna looks at him with her lips pursed.
“You’ve barely touched your food.”
“I don’t have much of an appetite. You think that’s because I’ve been down at the computer the past week?”
“It could be. Just try and get some food into you at least, okay? I know it might be hard but you gotta eat. You kinda need that to live.”
He chuckles. “Yeah. That’s true.”
She pecks his cheek as she’s swooping in for his plate. “Maybe we just need to get something you love into you. How about I make chili one of these nights?”
“Oh jeez,” Tyler leans back in his chair and grins ear to ear, “that chili is better than sex.”
“Which we haven’t had much of either,” Jenna smirks as she scraps the old food off Tyler’s plate and plops it in the kitchen sink. Tyler blushes.
“Yeah, uhm... sorry. I promise, once I get this album finished, I’m going to give you the best night of your life.”
“I’m so excited, I can hardly wait.”
He stands up to meet his wife halfway, sweeping her in for a passionate kiss that sends Jenna into giggles. She pushes away after a few seconds and points to the basement.
“Go call Josh. You’re going to give that man an aneurysm one of these days.”
“He worries too much.”
“That’s because he loves you, Tyler.”
With a scoff, Tyler shakes wet hair out of his face. “I know, I know. Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Jenna’s grin grows bigger. “Lose your head is what you’d do. Go call Josh.”
So Tyler disappears back down into the darkness of his basement studio, his eyes already feeling significantly better as he slides into his office chair and retrieves his iPhone from underneath the computer monitor. Sure enough, he has about twenty missed texts and calls from Josh as well as a representative from Fueled by Ramen and some producers and mixers. He decides to call Josh first, because like Jenna said, Tyler might really give Josh an aneurysm.
Josh picks up on the second ring. “Tyler! About damn time, dude! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you for the past two days.”
“Sorry. I’ve really lost track of time. I thought I showered like the other day but apparently, it’s been an entire week. I’ve been dissociating like crazy lately. I haven’t slept in like three days and I really haven’t been able to eat anything. I’ve had this really weird feeling in my belly but haven’t been able to figure out what it is.”
“It’s just the stress of the record. In a few weeks, you won’t have to worry about it.”
Tyler sighs. “Yeah. Once the dead drop passes, I should be okay. It’s just... you know. External and internal pressures.”
“Mostly internal, I’m guessing?”
He chuckles. “I guess I put a lot of pressure on myself.”
“That’s okay, Ty. I know how much of a perfectionist you are. Just know it’s okay to take a break every once and awhile. Eat, sleep, shower. Take care of yourself.”
“I guess it’s pretty bad that I’ve been forgetting about that.”
Tyler can practically hear Josh’s smile. “Nah. You’re just a hard worker. We’re all really proud of you.”
With how much time they spent together, you would think they would grow tired of one another. That was never the case. Tyler could never get enough of Josh’s companionship. He missed Josh even when one would leave to use the bathroom or get food.
“The due date is this Wednesday and then I’ll be able to chill. All my senses have been heightened recently.”
“Speaking of which, how’s your bite doing?” At the mention of his wound, Tyler touches his shoulder. There had been a bat that escaped in the nocturnal exhibit, and it was Tyler’s fantastic luck that it happened to bite him. The zookeepers had promised the bat was up to date on all its shots and he would be fine after a week of healing. In the shower, the skin was still swollen and purple, but it didn’t hurt. Josh had been the first person Tyler had texted right after it had happened. I got bit by a bat today. Needless to say, I think I win the “worst luck” award. Suck it.
“It’s fine. Doesn’t hurt at all. Kinda forgot about it, honestly. With all this album stuff going on, my mind hasn’t been on anything else.”
“That’s good. I’m coming to Columbus at the end of the week to see you and Jen. Jordan has something going on that he wants me to go to with him. He’d probably be okay with you tagging along.”
“Sounds good. I’ve been in the Batcave for far too long.” They both laugh heartily. It’s so good to hear Josh’s voice.
“Maybe that bat turned you into Batman.”
“My parents are still alive.”
“Fair enough.” Josh pauses. “I gotta go, I’m meeting Debby for breakfast soon. Facetime later?”
“I’d like that.”
“Awesome. Bye, love you.”
“Love you too.” Tyler slides his phone back underneath the computer screen, cracks his knuckles, and returns to his tracks. Three more days and he’s free.
At around one in the morning, Tyler decides it would be in his best interest, and the interest of Jenna, for him to try and get some sleep. He pads into the bathroom and turns the light on, regretting it instantly. It burns his retinas and makes him want to slam them off, but he powers through his headache to brush his teeth. That’s when he notices something odd.
Above his canines are the tips of what look like teeth barely poking out from his gums. Tyler frowns. Are those his wisdom teeth?
They’ve gotta be. The dentist said his wisdom teeth wouldn’t grow in for a while, (Tyler was just weird like that) but there had to be a chance they could grow in earlier. Sure. That was the only reasonable explanation. Why else would he have teeth growing in up there?
He grabs his phone to call Josh. Since Ohio is three hours ahead of Los Angeles, it’s only eleven there, so Josh will definitely be around. When he pulls up Facetime, it rings a few times before Josh’s beautiful pale face shows up at the screen. He’s not at home and Tyler can see half of Debby’s head leaning on his shoulder.
“Hey, man. You look like shit.”
“Good to see you too,” Tyler scoffs, still grinning despite Josh’s dry introduction. “I just had a question, actually.”
“Yeah, okay. Give me a sec.” The phone pulls away as he whispers something to Debby and fumbles to get off the sofa. After a few socked footsteps down the hallway of Debby’s apartment, Josh stops in front of the bathroom and closes the door, tilting the camera back at his face. His hair is starting to get long again, dark locks curling around the nape of his neck. Tyler knows he’ll shave it all off soon, but it’s nice to see it in Tyler’s favorite form.
“So, uh, I’m about to go to bed. And I’m brushing my teeth, right? And I think... I think my wisdom teeth are starting to grow in.”
Josh purses his lips. “Okay. So?”
“Well, like, where exactly... are your wisdom teeth? Like, in location to your mouth.”
“Usually at the back, embedded in the jaw. Thus why most people get them removed. Are they bothering you? You might want to go see the dentist and get that fixed before we go tour for the next year and a half.”
“No, they aren’t hurting. I just... mine are kinda growing in an odd location, is all.”
“Ty, I don’t think wisdom teeth do that.”
He runs his tongue over the pointy tips of the teeth protruding from his gums. “Maybe I should go see a dentist, then. Cause my teeth are doing some weird things.”
With a sigh, Tyler uses a finger to hook his upper lip at enough of an angle to show Josh the tooth sticking out of his gums on the right side of his face. Josh frowns.
“That’s why I thought it was my wisdom teeth.”
“Yeah... I’d get that checked out. You could have an extra tooth growing in, or something.” Josh shrugs. “Either way, best to get that situated before the tour.”
“It’s not hurting. Just something I noticed. It’s like,” Tyler pauses to touch the tooth, surprised when he can feel it in its entirety all the way up to where his lip stops, “somehow just... appeared. I dunno.”
Josh smiles. “It’s like what, one there? Are you going to bed?”
“I was gonna try. Tomorrow is like the last day to get everything put together for Trench, so. It’s gonna be an absolute shitshow.”
“You’ve got this, Ty. I’m excited to see you.”
“I’m excited to hug you and go get burritos.”
“It’ll be awesome, won’t it?” From the background, Tyler can hear Debby shouting Josh’s name. With a sigh, he gestures with his thumb. “Guess I should get back to her.”
“Yeah, Jenna is waiting for me, anyway.”
“Okay. See ya.”
“Bye.” Tyler stares at his reflection on the blank screen of his phone for a few seconds after Josh has hung up. His brows furrow when he notices how different he seems to look in the mirror compared to his phone screen. He seems almost... transparent when he glances at his reflection in the mirror. With a frown, Tyler looks back at his reflection in his cell phone.
“Tyler!” Jenna shouts from the master bedroom, snapping Tyler out of his worry, “Bed! Now!”
With one more frown at his translucent reflection, Tyler practically skips to bed and curls up next to his wife, laying his head down between her breasts. She giggles and begins to lightly trail across his cheekbones with a fingertip.
“Thank you for listening to me.”
“I’m sorry I’ve been so distant.”
“You don’t need to apologize. I knew what I was getting myself into when I married you, love.”
“I don’t even know how to describe the headspace I’ve been in recently.”
“It’s really only been since we visited the zoo. I think those animals cast some weird spell over you.”
“Giraffes will do that to a person.”
She kisses his forehead. “After this week, everything will be better.”
“Yeah. You’re right.” He pauses. “Jen, can mirrors just... stop working?”
The question takes her off guard. “Uh? What?”
“Like... I dunno. Mirrors. Your reflection. Do you think they can just stop working?”
“No, I don’t think that’s how that works, babe.”
He huffs. Tyler thinks he must be going crazy, or something along those lines. First the weird teeth and then his weird reflection? It must be because he hasn’t slept in over a week. One time he had seen a documentary on the consequences of not getting enough sleep. “I am delirious.”
“That’s okay. Try and get some sleep, okay? I love you.”
“I love you too.”
When Tyler steps outside in the morning to retrieve the mail, his skin burns. He finds himself rushing inside and practically collapsing onto the floor out of breath. He stares at the ceiling, letting his chest rise and fall with every gasp for air. Okay. Yeah. Not leaving the house for over a week would do that to a person.
Jenna’s head pops in from the kitchen. “Tyler? Everything okay?”
“Yeah.” He pushes himself onto his bottom, scrunching his nose up in pain. His arms are already starting to turn red. “Just got a bad sunburn.”
“From getting the mail?” She cocks up an eyebrow. Tyler chuckles nervously.
“To be fair, I haven’t been outside in a while.”
“I guess that’s true. Breakfast is ready. Try and eat before you go work on the record, okay?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He sets the mail on the sofa cushions and heads for the kitchen.
Josh calls right after Tyler tweets for the first time in a year. He’s finally done.
Tyler is still sitting in his chair, but has pushed out from his desk and keeps fiddling with his wedding ring around his finger. When his phone rings, Tyler launches himself across the desk to grab his phone and position it so Josh can see him over Facetime.
“You’re done!” He exclaims loudly, flashing a toothy grin. Tyler had always been jealous of Josh’s straight teeth. He knew he had the money to get his own fixed, but didn’t have the patience to go through all the dental work. Besides, Josh always told him his crooked teeth gave him character.
“I’m done!” Tyler confirms, smiling back. “I feel like I could sleep for the next hundred years.”
“Did you sleep last night?”
“Not really. I might have gotten a couple hours, but I’m not sure.”
“You should go take a nap. I’ll be getting into town tomorrow morning, so we can go get coffee or something.”
“I’d like that.”
“Did you eat breakfast?” Leave it to Josh to make sure Tyler was taking care of himself. Seriously, he might actually lose his head if it weren’t for Jenna and Josh.
“A little bit. I’m not very hungry.”
“Maybe go outside and get some vitamin D.”
“Yeah, I...” Tyler knows how crazy it’ll sound when he says it out loud, yet it still comes. “I went out to get the mail and now I have a really bad sunburn.”
“Huh?” Josh’s brows furrow. “You got a sunburn from being outside for two seconds?”
“I know it sounds insane, but a lot of weird things have been happening to me over the past week.”
“We can try and figure things out tomorrow when I get there if you’d like.”
“Yeah, I would like that.”
“You look ill, man. Seriously. Try and take a nap for me, alright?”
Tyler sighs. He looks down at the red burns on his pale arms. “I wish you were here to cuddle with me.”
“I wish I was with you too, Ty.” Their relationship always had been a lot different than the average friendship. For one, they had always been very touchy-feely with one another, something that many people would have viewed as ‘strange’ for a male friendship. They were comfortable holding hands, sleeping in the same bed, sharing clothes. They could give each other kisses and hugs without it being weird. The outside world wasn’t important when they were together.
Early on, there had been something more with them, but it was something they never really explored. Tyler had met Jenna, and Josh had Debby. In the end it didn’t matter. When they were together, nothing else mattered.
“I’ll be there tomorrow, though. And we can cuddle as long as you need.”
Tyler sighs happily. “Yeah. I’m looking forward to that. I’m gonna go try and take that nap now. I’ll try to dream about you.”
Josh’s eyes do that classic squinty thing that makes Tyler’s heart leap as he sticks his tongue out. “Make the dream me really tough and cool, okay?”
“Good.” Josh blows him a kiss.
Tyler swears he tries to sleep, but it’s impossible. There’s too much going on in his head and his stomach is grumbling. He had thought his bad feeling had been something to do with the album, but the album was sent off to be mastered now and he was free to do what he wanted. What was wrong with him?
He rolls over to lay on his side and tucks his arms underneath his body. He can’t feel his heart thumping against his chest, nor can he hear his blood circulating throughout his veins. Obviously, he’s gotta be fine, or he’d be dead right now.
Jenna makes chili that night. Tyler feels his stomach grumble as he bounces his leg underneath the table. When Jenna sets the bowl in front of him, he fastens his grabby fingers around the spoon and shoves a large bite into his mouth. The second hot chili touches the back of his throat, he regrets taking such a large bite. Jenna’s eyes widen as Tyler coughs his spoonful of chili back into his bowl and continues to hack himself raw. His wife’s hands are gently on his back, rubbing small circles into his shoulders. It feels like his throat is closing up.
“What,” cough, “is in,” wheeze, “that?”
“What I always put in it! Beans, hamburger, lime, pepper, some garlic--”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Nothing. Nothing. I just...” He rubs at his throat, trying to will the burning sensation away. He’s starting to feel very uncomfortable about all the weird things that have been going on recently. First, not be able to sleep, not being able to eat, the sunburn, the weird teeth growing in, his sensitivity to light, his reflection in the mirror... what the hell was happening to him?
“I think I’m dying.”
“You aren’t dying. You’re just overworked. It happens to everyone, sweetheart. Tomorrow when Josh comes you’ll be back to yourself in no time.”
He sighs. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re okay. I promise.” After a peck to the top of his head, Jenna takes his bowl from him. “I’m guessing you aren’t going to finish this.”
“I think I developed an allergic reaction to something in that. My throat is burning.”
“You look like you’re starting to get hives too.” She touches his neck where a few red bumps have risen to the surface. “We should get you to a doctor.”
“Funny. Josh told me to check out a dentist too.” Tyler slumps in his chair. “I have new teeth growing in.”
“Where?” Asks Jenna, prompting Tyler to lift up his gums again. She presses her lips into a thin line.
“Tyler, that’s... that’s not normal.”
He shrugs. “Josh said that sometimes people have extra teeth. I’ll go to the dentist.”
“Probably a good idea. Jeez, you can’t catch a break.”
“Maybe the hiatus should have lasted a bit longer.” Tyler is feeling defeated. Of course. It was just his luck to have all these weird things happen to him one after the other.
“Hey, babe, you still have time.” Her touches are soft and loving, bringing Tyler the confidence he needs to keep his head above the water. “The tour isn’t until October. We can get everything figured out before we leave, okay?”
He tilts his head down, prompting Jenna to reach for his chin and lift it high enough to look into his warm eyes. “Okay?” She repeats.
“Okay.” Tyler catches her in a soft kiss as she pulls away and pats his leg. Jenna begins to busy herself with cleaning up dinner.
“Try and find something else to eat. I’ll get a doctor appointment scheduled for you sometime next week.”
“Do you want some eggs?” She pauses to flash him a smile, dishes balanced in her hands, her hair tossed back loosely over her shoulders. Tyler finds himself staring at her neck.
“No, I’ll be okay with a bowl of cereal, or something. Sorry to ruin dinner.”
Jenna clucks her tongue as the dishes clatter into the sink. “You didn’t ruin anything. I’m more than sure Josh will eat the leftovers. And if he doesn’t, Jordan and Jay definitely will.”
Tyler has never been more fascinated by his wife’s neck throughout their marriage than he is right now. He’s not sure what it is, but he can’t tear his gaze away from the pinkish skin. He feels like he can even see the veins underneath if he tries hard enough.
He blinks a couple of times. “Sorry. Sorry. What were you saying?”
“You’re getting Josh from the airport tomorrow, right?”
“Yes. I am.” Tyler licks his lips as he hurriedly stands up from the kitchen table, accidentally smacking his knee against one of the table legs. He curses under his breath as he begins to back out of the kitchen. “I think I’m gonna go to bed.”
“It’s not even seven yet, honey.”
“I’m not feeling very well. I should... I’ll drink some water.”
“Take some Tylenol too.”
“Okay. I will. Thank you for dinner, really, you’re the best.” And before Jenna can reply, Tyler is scurrying down the hallway.
Tyler is waiting in arrivals when Josh walks out of the Columbus airport with a backpack pulled tight around his shoulders, his suitcase bumping behind him. He grins when he notices Tyler standing next to his SUV and barrels straight towards him for an embrace.
“I missed you so much!” Tyler just about shouts, his arms loose around Josh’s neck. Josh laughs.
“I missed you too, dude. Thanks for picking me up.”
“Of course, I wasn’t going to leave you stranded in the airport. That wouldn’t end well, would it?” Tyler winks as he opens the back door of the car to lift Josh’s suitcase inside. After Josh has shrugged his backpack off his shoulders, they climb inside and head off.
He’s lucky it was overcast today. The rain had been off and on, but it meant Tyler wasn’t going to develop any other wicked sunburns.
“Hey, you down for coffee? I was gonna drop my stuff off at my parents' house but I wanna wait a little bit. It’s still kind of early.” It was eight, but Jordan was probably still passed out and would be for quite some time. Tyler figured he was the real reason Josh was waiting.
“Yeah, that sounds great. We got a lot to catch up on.”
“Roosevelt?” Suggests Josh.
After the initial swarm of fan photos and autographs, the two settle down in the upstairs seating of the Roosevelt, tucked away from anyone who could possibly bother them. Josh settled on a plain, boring Americano while Tyler was sipping at a vanilla iced coffee with so much sugar in it he’d usually be bouncing off the walls. Fortunately, he’s barely been able to get more than two sips in per minute.
“So the album is done,” Josh concludes, clasping his hands together. He has a ball cap on, his eyes hidden in the shadows of the brim. Tyler is staring at his neck too. How has he never noticed how nice the necks in his life are?
“Yes, the album is done.” Tyler wets his lips, causing Josh to frown.
“What are you looking at? Do I have something on my face?”
“Huh?” Tyler blinks, his eyes momentarily flickering up to meet Josh’s before returning to his neck. “No. No, sorry. I’m just... distracted.”
“Are you staring at my neck?” Suddenly self-conscious, Josh rubs at the front of his neck with a calloused palm. “Sorry, I didn’t wear my turtleneck today.”
Tyler scoffs and rolls his eyes. “First off, dry humor is my thing. Second off, I’m not staring at your neck. I’m just... admiring it.”
“You know, as people do.” The corners of his mouth quirk up into a sly smile. “I didn’t realize you had the hots for my neck.”
“I don’t,” Tyler whispers-yells, looking around them, even though they are the only two up here. “We were talking about the album.”
“We were, but I kind of like talking about your neck kink.”
“I don’t have a neck kink!”
“Have you told Jenna how nice her neck is?”
“Josh! Stop!” Tyler growls, standing up so quickly from the table that his chair falls back and his coffee tilts over, spilling everywhere. His eyes twitching, Tyler throws his hands up into the air and scowls. “Awesome.”
“Dude, I was just playing around.”
“I’m getting napkins,” he mutters, shoving his hands into the pockets of his mustard yellow hoodie, already descending the stairs. Josh catches up to him.
“I’ll get them,” he offers, resting a hand on Tyler’s shoulder. The weird craving in Tyler’s stomach jumps a little as he allows Josh to finish the trip down to the first floor of the coffee shop.
He wasn’t sure what was going on, but Tyler knew something was wrong with him. Something that needed to be fixed quickly.
They don’t talk when they climb into the car. Josh offers to drive, but Tyler declines. He needs something to focus on besides the hunger pains in his stomach.
“I’m sorry,” Josh tries to apologize again, even though his first attempt was pretty shitty. “I took things too far. I know you’ve been stressed out lately and... I shouldn’t have pushed it.”
“It’s fine,” Tyler mumbles in response. “I’ve been delirious and out of it. I don’t know what the hell is going on anymore.”
“Have you been able to get any sleep?”
“Not really.” Tyler keeps his eyes on the road, even though he can feel Josh staring at him.
“Are you eating?”
“Jenna made chili last night and I had a major allergic reaction.”
“Yeah, I noticed the hives on your neck.”
Tyler holds himself back from retorting back something that has to do with neck kinks. “So no, I guess I haven’t been eating.”
A pause. Josh seems like he’s debating whether or not to ask this question. “When’s the last time you used the bathroom?”
He scoffs. “Are you tracking my bowel movements, dude?”
“No! I just care about you. And I’m worried. You know if you don’t poop, your colon gets all backed up, which could lead to prostate cancer, or something.”
“Okay, well I barely know what day it is, so I definitely don’t know the last time I took a shit, dude.”
Josh holds up his hands in surrender. “Sorry. You just... you don’t look well. And I’m worried.”
“I know I look like shit. I’ve been in the basement for months on end.”
Their conversation ends there, because Josh doesn’t have anything to add to that. Instead, he turns to look out the window as the rain comes down in heavy sheets.
At the Dun household, Josh rolls his suitcase over the threshold and turns around when he notices Tyler hasn’t entered yet. He presses his lips into a frown.
“You coming in?”
“Are you going to invite me in?”
Josh’s frown deepens. “I didn’t know that was something I had to do, considering this is the first time you’ve brought that up.”
Tyler huffs. “It’s called being polite, dude.”
“Okay then. Tyler, please come in.”
It’s like his hands were bound by invisible chains, and the second Josh said those words, they snapped off. He steps inside, a shiver fumbling down his spine, as Josh closes the door and ventures into the living room to hug his parents. Tyler knows he should give his salutations to Josh’s parents, but he finds himself sulking down the hallway and into the bathroom. Josh’s comments about his recent lack of using the toilet had him concerned. He was pretty sure the last time he peed or even took a shit was before he took Jenna to the zoo.
A hand hovers over the shoulder where that bat bit him. He knows if he searched side effects of being bitten by a bat on google, all he would get would be vampire bullshit. Surely that bite could not be the easy explanation for all the weirdness happening over the past week and a half.
Tyler splashes some water on his face and glances upward into the mirror. Once again, his reflection is translucent, there but barely. He leans in, staring at his eyes. The brown around his pupils looks like it’s starting to turn red, making his eye color seem more like muddy brick than mocha brown.
“Fuck,” he whispers to himself, feeling his stomach stir. What the fuck was going on?
“Tyler?” There’s a knock at the bathroom door, Josh’s voice flooding from the other end. “You in here?”
“Uh, yeah. One second.” Tyler unlocks the door and pulls it wide enough for Josh to come in before slamming it shut. Josh has changed shirts, exchanging a light pink tee for a tank top that shows off his muscled arms nicely. Tyler suddenly finds himself more attracted to Josh than he thinks he’s ever been.
“Sorry if I was interrupting your pooping session.”
“Dude, for once in your life, just shut up, got it?” Josh nods, biting his lip as Tyler steers him over to the right side of his body. “Look at my reflection.”
Josh does. When he seems to understand what he’s looking at, Tyler’s weird, fuzzy reflection disappearing and reappearing like a holographic image, his eyes widen.
“Holy shit,” he about yells, slapping a hand over his mouth, “your reflection is disappearing.”
“Yeah,” Tyler folds his arms across his chest and hugs himself tightly. “Look at my eyes.”
Josh does. He then stifles a scream with his palm. “They’re turning red.”
“Uh-huh.” Tyler plops down on the closed lid of the toilet seat and sighs. “Josh, what’s happening to me?”
Josh shakes his head rapidly and begins to pace. “I don’t... I gotta think about it. Give me a second, okay?”
“Sure,” Tyler agrees with a wave of his hand. Josh nods. Two seconds later, he’s abandoned Tyler in the bathroom, most likely fleeing for his life.
Tyler puts his hands in his head and sighs obnoxiously.
Time moves incredibly slow while Josh is gone. Tyler doesn’t move from his spot on the toilet seat, his hands tucked under his chin as he stared at the paint on the bathroom wall.
Finally, Josh comes back, his facial expression even more articulated in worry as he beckons Tyler out of the bathroom with a simple bend of his wrist.
“Where are we going?” Tyler asks. Josh does not respond.
He bids Laura and Bill a hello in passing, following Josh up the stairs to the second floor and down the hall to his old childhood bedroom. Since it’s raining outside, it’s dark, but Josh doesn’t turn on the lights like anyone else might do. Tyler is thankful for that.
The room is mostly used for storage these days, sporting some awards Josh has left behind and piles of old clothes and even some drum parts. Tyler clears a spot on the twin sized bed while Josh starts to pace nervously. Outside, lighting cracks.
“Okay, so, I have an idea of what’s going on.”
“You do?” Tyler quirks up an eyebrow. “Whenever I googled my symptoms, the internet told me I was dying or had cancer, or something.”
“Tyler, think really hard of what’s been happening to you. Say them out loud.”
He stares at his best friend strangely, but does what he’s told. “Okay. I haven’t really been sleeping. In fact, I haven’t even been tired, really.”
“And you haven’t been eating,” Josh points an accusing finger at him, “which, by this point, would have you unable to move around like you have.”
“I couldn’t even eat Jenna’s chili because I had an allergic reaction,” he adds sadly. Josh snorts.
“What’s in Jenna’s chili, Tyler? What on Earth could you have had an allergic reaction to?”
He blinks. “I dunno. Lime?”
Josh snorts. “You’re not this thick-headed, Tyler.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say. There were a lot of things in that chili. For all I know, it could be the hamburger meat I was allergic too.”
“Okay. We’ll come back to that. What about the teeth that grew in?”
“What about them?”
This time he scowls and throws his hands up above his head. “It’s not normal, dude. Nobody has that happen to them. You know what they are?”
Tyler is pouting now, annoyed with Josh’s strange accusations. “I don’t like whatever the hell is going on here. Why am I being accused of--”
“I’m not accusing you of anything. I’m trying to show you that all the weird things happening isn’t just some coincidence. Something happened to you. Something supernatural.”
He scratches behind his ear. “Uhm, no. This is real life. I’m just tired from the album--”
“No one gets a sunburn from spending two seconds outside in the sun. No one, especially not someone who is part Lebanese and has a natural tan pales as fast as you did within the span of two weeks. No one has weird fixations with people’s necks.”
“Don’t kink-shame me.” Tyler narrows his eyes. “I’ll be back to normal in no time.”
“How do you explain your eyes turning red? Or the transparent reflection in the mirror?”
Tyler opens his mouth, but Josh is right. He can’t explain that.
“What about the weird cravings you’ve been telling me about? Or the intuition stuff you were going on about?”
“That wasn’t anything crazy, Josh! I was probably just in the mood for burritos, or chips and guac, or--”
Josh cuts him off again. “Blood?”
The word strikes a gut reaction. Tyler feels his throat swelling up and his stomach stirring. He says weakly, “what?”
“It was the garlic in Jenna’s chili that harmed you. Your new teeth? Fangs. Your craving? Blood. You fucking want blood, Tyler.”
“No, that’s... that’s insane!” He hops off the bed and begins to nervously shuffle from one leg to the other. “Are you insinuating that I’m a...” the word on the tip of his tongue feels so stupid to say out loud. “Vampire?”
“You couldn’t even come inside my home without me inviting you in.”
“I was just... I was being polite!”
“You’ve never had an issue with that before, dude. I googled your symptoms and every single thing pointed to vampire. This all started happening when that bat bit you.”
“It didn’t have rabies! Dude, do you hear yourself right now? This is crazy! Vampires aren’t real!”
“Yeah? Then explain this.” Josh reaches out for Tyler’s chest, cautiously slipping a hand underneath his hoodie and loose tee to feel his boney chest. Tyler doesn’t stop him from whatever crazy rant he’s on, and maybe, just maybe, it’s because he knows Josh is right. All these crazy things happening to him weren’t exactly normal, everyday things.
“You don’t have a heartbeat.”
“Obviously I have to have a heartbeat, or I’d be--” Tyler cuts himself off, allowing Josh to finish.
“Undead,” he corrects, pulling his hand away. “Jesus, you’re freezing.”
“No.” Tyler shakes his head and continues to repeat the word under his breath a few more times. “No, Josh, no. Bats don’t carry vampiric viruses because that shit isn’t real! I’ve seen Twilight. I’ve read Dracula. I’ve heard all the fucking myths because that’s all they are! Myths!”
Josh is quiet, fighting Tyler’s side of the argument with a heavy glare. He leaves the room, momentarily leaving Tyler alone, and returns with a plastic razor from the bathroom. Tyler watches his every move carefully, his back hunched over in a defensive position.
“Guess I should turn these lights on, huh?”
Tyler narrows his eyes. “Go ahead.” When they flicker on, he bites his tongue to avoid hissing out in pain. Immediately his head stirs. “What are you doing?”
“If it isn’t blood you’re craving, then you’ll be okay with me accidentally hurting myself.”
“Are you going to cut yourself?”
Josh positions the razor over his inner arm and presses it to his skin. “Is that going to bother you?”
“Dude, you can’t do that.”
“Then say it. Out loud. Say what you are.”
Tyler rolls his eyes. “Okay. Please knock it off. There has got to be another explanation here.”
Josh presses the razor hard against his skin until a tiny pinprick of blood rises to the surface. Tyler can smell it from across the room and his nostrils flare. Suddenly, everything makes sense. Especially when his new teeth break the surface of his gums and extend like he’s a saber tooth tiger.
Josh was right. They are fangs.
“Stop, dude! This is ridiculous!” They aren’t large enough to jumble his speech, but it feels strange to have sharp teeth over somewhat dull canines. Josh goes to drag the razor down his arm, his hand shaking, his eyes lit up in what Tyler can only describe as insanity.
“I’m a fucking vampire!”
The razor clatters to the floor and Tyler slumps back down on the bed in defeat. Fuck. This whole thing was fucking insane.
Silence hangs over them for the next three minutes as the realization of the situation becomes adamant. Tyler had admitted it, had acknowledged it.
He was a vampire.
He rubs at his shaved head with his bitten nails until his scalp is raw. “What are we going to do?”
“We could make this work. It’s just... subtle differences. You know. Not eating or sleeping, or whatever.”
Tyler scoffs. “My eyes are turning red, dude.”
“Contacts,” Josh suggests. “We could get you blood easily without having to kill anyone.”
“Uhm. The black market.”
He shoves his head into his hands and groans. “Oh my God.”
A knock at the door interrupts the start of their rough conversation, causing Josh to fling himself across the room to stop whoever was there from coming in. He opens it enough just to see who is on the other side.
It’s Jordan. “My thing is at one. You and Tyler still coming?”
“Yep. I’ll be out in a bit, just uh, looking for some things.”
Jordan tries to peer in, catching Tyler’s eye. He swallows nervously, Tyler’s eyes on his rapidly bobbing Adam’s Apple. “What are you guys doing?”
“Talking bout the album.”
“In Mom’s new storage room?”
Josh pulls the door tighter. “Jordan, I’ll be down in a second, okay? Just let me finish up.”
Raising his arms, Jordan takes a step back from the door. “Alright, alright. Don’t get your panties in a twist.” As soon as he’s gone, Josh slams the door, pulls his phone out of his pocket, and begins to type.
“What are you doing?” Tyler finds himself up on the balls of his feet, hovering in worry. His fangs sit uncomfortably in his mouth and his eyes are fixated on Josh’s neck. Ever since the concept of blood came up, his throat seemed to be roaring with thirst.
Josh says nothing, only swats away Tyler’s grabby hands until he’s done. He shoots him a look. “Done. We can meet my contact in half an hour at the mall parking lot.”
Tyler’s eyes widen. “What the fuck, dude?”
“I know how you operate, Tyler. You’re gonna sit in your basement with the lights off, being all moody, feeling bad for yourself because of this whole situation. You don’t need to do that. We can figure this out together. So you’re a vampire? It’s okay. That isn’t going to stop you from touring or playing shows. In fact, now you have twice as much time to work. So you avoid garlic and the sun from now on. That won’t be the worst. You won’t get skin cancer.”
Still gobsmacked, Tyler continues to stare, his jaw slightly unhinged. Why wasn’t Josh freaking out? He should be freaking out. Tyler didn’t believe in the supernatural. Ghosts weren’t real. Werewolves and witches and ghouls and zombies-- not real.
Vampires shouldn’t be real, either.
“Take your shirt off. I wanna see the bite.”
“You-- what? Huh?”
Josh rolls his eyes and steps forward to offer his best friend a hand. Tyler lets Josh mold him, peeling off his layers to reveal his pale torso. The teeth mark on his shoulder glows a deep purple, still prominent despite the week that’s passed. His skin is looking a little sickly and red too, now that he’s seeing it under the light.
“You’re undead, which means you have to keep yourself fed in order to look healthy. The blood you drink will pulse through your veins. I think you should be able to get away with only feeding once or twice a month.”
Exasperated, Tyler shakes his head. “Why do you know so much about this?”
“I’ve had my suspicions since our first call when you showed me your teeth. I did a lot of research.”
He snorts. “You’re way too excited about this, dude.”
“You know how badly I want aliens to be real. This is the second closest thing. My best friend is literally a supernatural being. How cool is that?”
“I don’t think this is cool.”
“So what? You drink blood. Some animals tear apart creatures and eat them raw. Circle of life, man.”
Tyler pauses. Pushes his foot into the carpet. Folds his arms across his bare chest. Says, “You’re really okay with this?”
“Absolutely. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
A smile. “Thanks, Josh.”
Josh pats his shoulder, tosses him his shirt, and flashes a perfect grin of his own. “Let’s go get that blood and go to Jordan’s thing. I don’t even know what it is we’re going to.”
“We should probably pick up some contacts too, huh?”
Josh keeps his grin hidden.
The person they meet in the back parking lot of the Eastland Mall is dressed in a black hood and hands Josh a cardboard box in exchange for a thick stack of cash. Tyler doesn’t question it, too afraid of knowing how the hell Josh was able to attain this so quickly or why he even had connections to the black market.
“Here,” Josh hands Tyler the box on his way back into the driver’s seat. It has quite a bit of weight to it and feels heavy balancing on Tyler’s thighs as he opens it. It’s filled to the brim with blood bags, each labeled with the blood type.
“Okay,” he murmurs, “do you think it matters which one?”
“I’m sure you might have a preference. Maybe they’re like, different types of soda, or something.”
“Right.” This whole thing is so incredibly bizarre, but Tyler knows his subconscious is craving it. It’s the reason his fangs are putting so much pressure on the rest of his teeth and why his throat feels like it’s screaming.
He decides on A positive, lifting the semi-warm bag up to bite off the corner. The second it touches his tongue, he feels the animal inside of him take over.
Tyler forgets Josh is next to him and certainly forgets his surroundings. As soon as he finishes one, he tosses it into the back seat and moves on to the next. By the time he finds himself getting full, he’s tried almost every blood type and Josh is studying him with his head slightly tilted.
“Better?” He questions. Tyler nods.
“Do I have blood on my face?”
Josh chuckles, licking his thumb before reaching over to wipe away the blood at the corners of Tyler’s mouth. Tyler finds himself blushing as Josh tucks his hands back into his lap.
“How are the teeth?”
Tyler doesn’t know any other way to describe it besides a strange, slurping feeling. “Ascending.”
“Good. Maybe put the blood somewhere that won’t get us into too much trouble, yeah?” As Josh starts the car, Tyler shoves the back underneath the passenger seat and sits up straight. Already he’s starting to feel ages better.
“We should probably refrigerate this.”
“Yeah, that won’t be suspicious. I’m sure Jenna would love that.” Josh cracks himself up. “I can see her opening the fridge to find about a hundred bags of blood lining the shelves.”
“Okay, asshat. Then I buy a mini fridge and store it in the studio.”
“I knew your brain was still in there somewhere.”
Tyler shoves him.
Jordan’s thing ends up being an Art Gallery he didn’t want to attend alone for a girl that was, as he put it, “potential girlfriend material.” Apparently the event was semi-casual, so Tyler and Josh stick out like a sore thumb even if they are hiding in the corner. Josh sips on a complimentary glass of wine while Tyler hides his skinny frame in his mustard hoodie. Even though it’s August, he’s still in that damn hoodie. Josh is convinced he never takes it off.
“You don’t need contacts,” Josh initiates casual conversation as guests shuffle past them, “Your eyes are normal now. I guess that changes with blood concentration.”
“Cool,” Tyler replies, unsure of how to exactly answer that statement. He kind of feels like Josh has the reigns on him, steering him around like he’s on a leash. Funny, usually it was the exact opposite. He wasn’t going to complain. Josh obviously knew much more about whatever the hell this was than Tyler did.
“How are your fingernails feeling?”
“Is there a legend about that too?”
“In some cultures, they grow really quickly. I think it’s an undead thing.”
Tyler looks down at his nails. They still looked short and bitten to him. “I think I’m okay.”
“Cool.” He sips his wine. “The human stomach can hold up to five liters of liquid, you know.”
“I’m not even going to ask how you know that.”
“I’m full of useless information, you know that.” Tyler chuckles in response, burrowing his balled up fists further into the kangaroo pouch of his hoodie.
Seconds later, Jordan comes over, dressed in a nice button up and khakis. He looks at his brother and scowls. “Dude, I told you to dress nice.”
“I completely missed that. Where’s this girl you’re trying to bang?”
Jordan’s jaw clenches. “Shut up, Josh.”
“This is fun,” Tyler adds to the conversation, fully enjoying the fact that he’s probably provoking Jordan to start a fight with Josh. Tyler loved starting shit, especially when it came to his best friend. Plus, he was starting to feel a bit more confident now that there was a rush of someone else’s blood in his veins-- maybe even a bit horny. He was glad his joggers could conceal the half chub he was rocking for completely no reason at all.
“I wanted you to meet her, bro. She likes you guys. It was gonna be a surprise, but you are dressed like a fucking skater--”
“I’m in a t-shirt and jeans, Dunk. Chill out.” Josh finishes the rest of his wine and shoves the empty glass into his brother’s hand. “Let’s go meet your girlfriend. What’s her name?”
“Julia,” Jordan mumbles as he starts to walk alongside Josh to take him to the back of the gallery. Tyler walks behind them, assuming this is where Julia was showing off her pieces. “And she’s not my girlfriend. Please, do not embarrass me.”
“Josh, you should tell her about that time you walked into our dressing room naked and--”
“Shut up,” Josh interrupts. Jordan smirks.
“No, I think that’s definitely something she would want to hear.”
“We can talk more about it later,” Tyler promises when Josh makes it blatantly clear that the conversation is ending there. They reach the back of the hall, where a gorgeous girl with long, brown hair pinned in an updo is smiling at the people studying her pieces. Tyler watches her shake hands with an older man right before they approach.
Her eyes widen in surprise as Jordan slides an arm around her waist to give her a half hug.
“Oh my God!” She exclaims, happily hugging Jordan back, “Josh Dun is at my art gallery!”
“Hey,” he laughs, offering a hand. Tyler folds his arm across his chest and grumbles under his breath. Apparently, it wasn’t enough for him to also be at Julia’s art gallery. Thinking about it, Tyler didn’t even want to be here in the first place. He only went to hang out with Josh and provide Jordan comfort in getting this girl to like him.
“I’m Julia,” she continues, flashing a perfect, straight smile, “I totally did not expect this. Jordan!”
“What can I say? I’m kind of the best.” They both giggle nervously when Julia presses a kiss to Jordan’s cheek. Annoyed, Tyler looks at her art pieces. He could appreciate art in any form; obviously, that’s why he was a musician. But her pieces made absolutely no sense. He even tilts his head to study it from a different angle.
“This is Tyler,” Josh jabs a thumb behind him, but Tyler is lost in the wave of red and black squiggles that remind him of his previous album cover. Julia giggles again.
“I know that! God, sorry. I’m so nervous right now!” She offers her hand and holds it out awkwardly, waiting for Tyler to reciprocate. It takes Josh jabbing him in the stomach for Tyler to finally extend his own hand.
“Hi,” he sighs, doing a perfect impression of Ross Geller. Jordan glares at him.
“Jordan has been telling me about what you guys have in store for this upcoming album and I’m very excited.”
“Oh yeah?” Josh is being a great older brother by continuing conversation while Tyler decides he’s going to wander to the restroom. He can feel Jordan’s eyes on him as he shuffles around the corner and enters the men’s restroom. He moves down to the very last sink and stares at his flickering reflection.
Part of him wonders if it will ever completely disappear. That was part of the legend, after all.
Tyler splashes some water on his face and rubs his eyes before using the hem of his hoodie to pat himself dry. He’s staring at his bite mark from the bat, his collar yanked to the side when Josh comes in. His brows are knitted in worry.
“She barely acknowledged me.”
“I don’t think that was on purpose, dude. She was nervous. Not like she expected us to show up. Julia is nice, though. I can tell she really likes my brother.”
“Yeah.” Tyler hooks his finger under his lip to inspect his hidden fangs. “Josh, can I ask you something?” He drops his hands to his sides.
“Have you ever thought about kissing me?”
The question takes Josh by surprise. “Huh?”
“I guess this whole vampire thing has me feeling really aroused. I dunno. Was that ever mentioned in your years of vampire research?”
Josh blinks a couple of times and wets his lips nervously. “I uhm, no. I don’t think so. But there was something about animal instinct and senses being heightened. Do you think your senses are heightened?”
“You mean smell and taste and stuff?” Tyler turns to look at his best friend, who suddenly seems like the best piece of apple pie in the entire damn world. The last time Tyler looked at Josh like this was 2012. They had been curled up in the back of the van together, Mark on their other side, Michael snoring in the backseat. Josh had looked like he was going to kiss him that night but never did. Nothing ever happened between them and all these years, Tyler felt guilty about it.
What would life be like if Josh had kissed him all those years ago?
What if he had kissed Josh?
“Yeah. I guess especially the hearing and smelling bits.”
Tyler pauses. If he’s still enough, he can hear the drumming of Josh’s pulse and smell the blood running through his veins. “I guess. You smell great. Really, really great.”
“Appetising?” Josh questions, taking a step forward. Someone else enters the restroom and moves to one of the urinals at the back of the room. He lowers his voice, “do you want to eat me?”
“Not like that,” Tyler shakes his head and bites his tongue to keep from flinging himself at Josh’s face. Unfortunately, Josh seems like he’s closing the gap between them anyway.
Actually, that might be the fortunate thing.
“I didn’t take you for a scent kinda guy.”
“I didn’t think I was until I woke up craving blood.”
The corners of Josh’s stupid lips quirk upward. “I’ll meet you in the car. We have errands to run tonight.”
“It has to be tonight?”
“Yeah, because you’ll be moody and alone with your thoughts if we don’t do it now.”
“No, I won’t.”
“Yes, you will.”
“Will you two kiss already?” The stranger grumbles as he walks up to wash his hands. Embarrassed, both boys sneak out of the room.
In the car, Josh leans his head against the steering wheel and sighs.
“We never said goodbye to Jordan,” Tyler remembers. Josh sighs again, louder this time. “What?”
“I want to kiss you,” he admits in frustration. “But Jenna. And Debby. And the band. And you, being like this.”
Tyler groans. “We should have kissed a long fucking time ago.”
A pause. “Remember when we toured in 2013 together?”
“Yeah.” He remembered every tour they ever went on. “What about it?”
“That’s when I should have kissed you. That’s when we should have made love and--” Josh, suddenly aware of what he just said, bites his bottom lip and tries to backpedal, but Tyler has heard enough to latch a hand around Josh’s thigh. He must have gained some strength from this whole vampire fiasco too, but Josh whimpers underneath his touch.
“Make love? You think we’d make love?”
“I’ve thought about our first time together a lot, Ty. It’d be gentle. Sweet. Full of love and romance and all the works.” Josh sits up, clears his throat, and starts the car. “But you are married.”
“And you’re with Debby.”
“I think I’d rather be with you,” he says softly.
Tyler doesn’t reply.
Back at Tyler’s house, he drags Josh inside before Josh can decide to slip away. Jenna embraces Josh in a large hug and offers him chili for dinner.
“Tyler had an allergic reaction,” she explains, spooning it into a bowl, “so we’ve got plenty.”
“Sweet. I love when you cook. I suck at it myself.” He wiggles his eyebrows as she laughs.
“You flatter me, Joshua. Go wash up before dinner, okay?” Josh listens, moving down the hallway to wash his hands in the hall bathroom. Jenna offers Tyler to make something else, and that only reminds him of all the blood he has sitting in the back of his car.
“I’ll be okay. There’s actually something I wanted to talk to you about before Josh came back.”
“Do you think it’s possible to be in love with two people at once?”
She raises an eyebrow after putting Josh’s bowl of chili in the microwave. “Are you in love with two people at once?”
“I don’t know. There’s just... a lot going on.”
Jenna touches his hand. “Is this about Josh?”
“I can’t stop thinking about kissing him,” Tyler hangs his head, feeling guilty. He’s not being loyal to his own wife by having these thoughts. “I’ve been thinking about this since I met him. And he... I think he feels the same way.”
“Are you asking me for permission?”
“I don’t know what I’m asking for.”
Her thumb slides around the curve of Tyler’s thumb. “Is this why you’ve been so distant, lately? Because you’re feeling guilty?”
“That’s basically adultery, isn’t it?”
“Oh, Tyler, baby.” Jenna pulls him into a hug and he finds himself burrowing his face into the crook of her neck. She, just like Josh, smells incredible. He curses Josh for making that so apparent. “You spend that much time with someone, something like that is going to happen. Being in love with Josh doesn’t make you a bad person.”
A loud thump comes from behind them, breaking their hug apart. Josh stares, shocked.
“You’re in love with me?”
“Josh,” Tyler stepped toward him, “there’s more to it than that.”
“Let’s talk about this, okay? The three of us.” The microwave beeps, the echo hanging awkwardly over them. Jenna gestures to the table with a manicured hand. “Your chili is done.”
Josh’s eyes never leave Tyler’s gaze as they sit down at the table. Jenna sets Josh’s bowl down in front of him before sliding into the chair next to Tyler and giving his knee a supportive squeeze.
At first, Josh says nothing, spooning his chili lamely before giving it a few taps against the inner rim of the bowl. Carefully, he raises the spoon to his lips to take a bite.
“It’s okay,” she says softly, starting the discussion for the inaudible boys. “Really. I knew what I was getting myself into when I started dating Tyler and when he asked me to marry him.”
“Did you know?” Asks Tyler, who is currently staring at the tabletop. Josh’s spoon clatters in his bowl.
“I had my suspicions. I mean, think about all the jokes you guys have made. Those closest to you know they might be a bit more than jokes.”
“I don’t want you to feel jealous or that you aren’t good enough for me,” Tyler argues. Josh nods his head in agreement.
“You guys aren’t doing anything besides trying to understand the feelings you have. Besides,” Jenna stretches across the table to take Josh’s hand, “I will never be jealous of you, Josh.”
A nod. “Absolutely. Tyler needs you. I know that.”
“I need you too.”
She smiles. “I know that too, baby. I don’t want either one of you feeling bad about this, understand? I’m okay with it. I’m okay with you taking the time to figure out what you have together. It’s better to do that now, anyway, before the tour starts.”
“You’re incredible, Jenna,” Josh says. Tyler shows his appreciation by kissing her passionately on the lips.
Through her blushing giggles, Jenna stands up and waves them together. “I’ll be doing laundry if you need me. Please, talk. I’ll be around when you’re ready.”
And just like that, she’s gone. Tyler is bouncing his leg nervously. He can’t believe it took him being bit by a bat with a strain of vampire rabies for him to admit his feelings for his best friend. Even when they had been younger, despite all the hand holding, the subtle touches, the cuddling and snuggling-- both of them were afraid to make it happen.
Josh looks up shyly through his eyelashes, waiting for Tyler to say something. Tyler really doesn’t want to be the first one to say something, but he guesses he’ll have to be.
“So... what should we do?” He asks.
Josh clicks his tongue, still staying quiet. He stands up, smiles, and switches to the chair Jenna had sat in only seconds later. His hand gently touches Tyler’s knee and he leans forward just enough for Tyler to make the next move.
When their lips meet, Tyler feels like he’s able to breathe properly for the first time in years. It feels more than right-- it feels like something that was destined to happen. Josh twists his hands in Tyler’s stupid, stupid yellow hoodie that he’s been wearing for like a year and a half while Tyler tugs at Josh’s curly hair.
His lips are sweet and appetizing yet rough and chapped at the same time. It’s different than kissing Jenna; Josh’s scruff scratches against Tyler’s cheeks and his tongue slides between Tyler’s lips aggressively.
And then, the newborn beast inside Tyler seems to snap as he chomps down on Josh’s bottom lip, causing the drummer to pull away in surprise. He touches his lip, his fingertips stained red.
“You bit me,” he says in disbelief.
“Oops,” Tyler frowns, “I’m sorry, I didn’t--”
“No, it’s okay. It’s okay, really.” Josh licks his lips and smiles. “I think... I think I kind of liked that.”
Tyler blinks. “Me biting you?”
He snorts. “Oh my God.”
“Can I kiss you again?”
The three of them make a list of rules that night to dictate the terms of their relationship. Jenna says she’s okay with sharing Tyler if it meant that sometimes, she got to kiss Josh too. Tyler agreed it was only fair.
They were only allowed to have sex while touring, but Jenna would allow them one initial time to quote, “figure things out.” Josh could get his fix on the road while Jenna was promised hers in the home (and nights where Tyler was in the state). As long as they were open and honest with each other, nothing needed to change between them.
Perhaps that is what made Tyler feel the most guilty. He wanted to keep this whole vampire thing a secret for now, or even better: have her never find out at all. Tyler was still trying to figure out what exactly he was now and deal with the consequences. There was only so much research they could do. Ultimately, it would be Tyler’s job to separate fact from fiction.
Josh goes with him to purchase a mini fridge and stock it full of blood bags. Tyler keeps opening and closing the refrigerator to see the light illuminating the crimson color.
Josh looks up at him from his cell phone and uncrosses his legs. “Are you hungry again?”
“No.” Tyler opens the fridge again. He really isn’t hungry, but there is something inside him that wants more.
Josh eyes him cautiously as Tyler tears the tab off the blood bag. “It sure seems like you are.”
He thinks he’s starting to develop a preference for O negative. There’s something superior about it then everything else. “No, no. Hey, what are you going to tell Debby?”
Josh bites his lip. “We weren’t involved in anything serious. I’ll just tell her we gotta call it off.”
Tyler narrows his eyes at him, the lip of the blood bag still in between his parted lips. “Are you okay with that? I mean, maybe we could talk to Debby, include her in this little love triangle of ours.”
“No,” Josh shakes his head firmly, “I don’t want to do that. I like Debby, but our time has passed. I think the reason we keep going back to each other is because we’re afraid of loneliness.”
“You’ve always had me,” he says. Josh smiles.
“I couldn’t go to you for sex, could I?”
Tyler licks the blood from the lips and crinkles the plastic between his fingers. “You could have.”
“I’ve always thought about it. Even before you were a horny vampire.”
“I’ve thought about it too,” Tyler is so happy he’s had Josh to confide in all these years and is even more jubilant that Josh is so okay with the weirdness that’s going on. Most couples were just that: a couple. Josh had just made “Tyler and Jenna” a trio and for some reason... it just felt right.
Josh starts to pick at his nails. “Our first time will be strange. Maybe even a little bit awkward.”
“Yeah,” Tyler agrees, “but we can get through it. And who knows? Maybe it’ll feel right. Lots of friends have become lovers.”
“But most times they aren’t married.”
“Jenna is okay with it. If she wasn’t, we wouldn’t do this. She’s made it very clear.”
He huffs. “I know. I’m just scared it’ll ruin our friendship.”
Tyler pushes off the carpet of his studio to sit down next to Josh. He pushes himself nice and close, letting their thighs touch and their arms brush. “It doesn’t have to.” Tyler leans forward to press his lips softly against the surface of Josh’s jaw. His eyelids flutter shut.
“You aren’t going to bite me, are you?”
“Wouldn’t that turn you into a vampire?”
“Depends on the culture.” He smiles. “Wanna try it?”
“Probably not the smartest idea.” Tyler begins to kiss Josh’s neck. He can feel the thrum of Josh’s pulse underneath his lips and it’s taking every ounce of willpower he has not to just sink his teeth down. “Shouldn’t use you as a test subject. What if biting does actually turn you?”
“There’s only one way to find out, yeah?” Josh tilts his head back, exposing more of his pale skin. Underneath the glow of the computer monitor, Tyler makes his way across Josh’s neck, letting his lips rest against the curve of his Adam’s Apple. It’s getting increasingly harder for Tyler to pull away and that terrifies him. If he couldn’t even admit to himself that he was a quote-unquote “Creature of the night,” how would he be able to tell Josh how badly he wanted to kill him?
“Oh, God.” Tyler stumbles backward, falling directly onto his bottom. He scatters on his hands and knees to push himself as far against the back wall of the studio as possible. Josh frowns.
Tyler shakes his head. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
Josh clicks his tongue, as to dismiss Tyler’s claims, yet pushes himself off the futon to crouch down next his best friend on the other side of the room. Tyler pulls his knees up and parts them slightly so Josh can touch the inside of his thigh.
“You aren’t going to hurt me,” Josh is direct and firm, which makes Tyler feel a lot better. Even though he was a writer and a musician, facts made me feel better. He liked facts. “I trust you not to hurt me, even if you get urges. You know you got urges before you got vampiric rabies. Sure, they weren’t for blood, but they were still urges.”
Tyler thinks about it. He struggled with self-harm in the past, and even an eating disorder for a little bit. Yes, it was all in the past, but Josh was right. Urges were urges, and he had to move past those as well.
“It’s just... this is a lot, y’know? Now that I’m admitting it to myself. Like, sure, it’s been almost two weeks since the incident, but I didn’t think supernatural creatures were included in my list of causes.”
Josh shifts so he’s kneeling, his posture leaning toward Tyler. “You’ve been handling it very well. I know this is a new and scary thing, but we’re used to new and scary things, right?”
Yeah. That was true. “I guess.”
“Remember how scared I was the first time we flew to Europe for tour? It was my first time flying over the ocean and I was having a panic attack every half an hour. You’re the one that held my hand and kept me distracted.”
Tyler remembered. He was pretty sure he hadn’t seen Josh that scared in quite some time.
“You were the one that calmed me down the first time we played a stadium too. I know I’m the drummer, and no one really cares that much about me, but I was fucking terrified. I couldn’t have done it with you.” Josh takes a deep breath and briefly closes his eyes. When he opens them back up again, his expression has changed to one of determination. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that there are always going to be things that scare us, right? But we’ll always be there for each other. I promise I’ll be here for you, no matter what. Sure, you have vampiric rabies, but we can figure this out together.”
A wave of relief washes over Tyler’s shaking body. He’s so thankful to have a friend like Josh and knows how lucky he is. There were very few people like Josh in the world.
In the moment, he's not really thinking too much, and in hindsight, he probably should have, but his lips are back on Josh’s neck, his tongue pressed against Josh’s jugular. When Josh moans softly, it only gives Tyler more incentive to continue his kissing. What he notices is that this exchange between him and Josh, although new, doesn’t feel strange or awkward. It feels exciting, hypnotizing, even electrifying, knowing it could lead to something more.
“You’re so good to me,” whispers Tyler against Josh’s collarbone. He’s starting to tug impatiently on Josh’s t-shirt, wanting it off. He even thinks about ripping it, but it’s that stupid NASA one he wears all the time. It has a hole near the bottom and Tyler knows Josh could just walk down to Target to buy a new one, yet won’t. Josh was sentimental and said it held too many memories. Tyler couldn’t complain all that much, considering how sentimental he was. Half his basement was cluttered with crap he couldn’t give up.
“Jenna gave us one time before tour,” Josh reminds him, flashing teeth that Tyler wants to lick, “is this gonna be it?”
“Are you okay with that?” Tyler leans back on his haunches for Josh’s permission. There’s a slight pause before Josh nods his head rapidly and moves to pull his shirt off. His ball cap gets stuck in the fabric on the way out, letting his beautiful brown curls room to breathe. Tyler is grinning as Josh runs a hand through his hat hair and looks away in embarrassment, his cheeks pink.
“I’m gonna cut it,” he says, “before the tour. It’s too long.”
“We can be twins,” Tyler suggests, smiling, tugging his own hoodie off. His shirt comes off next and the split second after that, he’s straddling Josh, pushing him down onto the carpet, his thighs iron clamps around Josh’s waist to stop him from moving. Regardless, Josh still squirms underneath Tyler’s lips kissing up his torso and down his arms.
“I used to think about kissing you all the time,” Josh speaks huskily as Tyler licks him, still wary of biting, “especially when we were in that stupid, stupid van.”
“Me too.” Tyler doesn’t look up to meet Josh’s eyes, too occupied with the taste of Josh’s skin in his mouth, “we were cowards. Could have been doing this for so damn long--”
“So damn long,” Josh repeats in a soft gasp, jerking his hips up a bit when Tyler’s tongue finds his hardened nipples. No matter where Tyler travels, he finds himself returning to Josh’s neck. Maybe having a fixation with Josh’s neck meant he did have a neck kink. After all, there was a voice in the back of his head that kept telling him to sink his teeth past skin and muscle to let that sweet, sweet nectar flow. Tyler also knew how stupid it was to refer to it as “nectar,” but blood made him feel like a villain.
“I was serious about earlier,” Josh whispers, “you can bite me, even drink from me, if you want. I know I was teasing you about your obsession with my neck, but feeling your lips against it...”
“What if I’m contagious?”
“Vampiric rabies is definitely not the worst thing to catch during sex. Besides, blood isn’t the grossest thing being consumed tonight, is it?”
Tyler wrinkles his nose. “Don’t call it blood. I don’t...”
Josh nods. “Okay.” It’s as easy as that. Tyler continues to kiss him gingerly, rutting up against him every so often. Josh is in jeans while Tyler is in sweats, so his boner is much more apparent, but his erection is the last thing on his mind.
Tyler reaches out to pop the button of Josh’s jeans, letting his hands hover as a silent question of consent. When Josh nods, the button is undone and the zipper is pulled, allowing Tyler room to slip his hands inside the waistband of Josh’s Calvin Klein briefs. For some reason, seeing the logo on the waistband turns him on even more as he slides both briefs and jeans over Josh’s legs, exposing his semi-hard cock. His is slightly bigger than Tyler remembers, but maybe that’s just because he never really had the chance to analyze his best friend’s dick in a setting like this. Sure, they had seen each other naked, that happened when you spent every waking second with someone on the road, but Tyler tried to be respectful.
“Wow,” he exclaims, chuckling to himself, “now I see why Debby keeps coming back.”
Josh groans. “Jesus, dude, you gotta bring that up now?”
Tyler bites his lip to avoid laughing again. “Sorry, sorry. Not the time.” He takes a few moments to get his own pants and boxers off before lowering his groin down comfortably against Josh’s. The sensation that follows from the friction between their rubbing cocks is enough for both of them to take a few seconds to recalibrate.
“Wow,” Josh huffs, repeating Tyler’s sentiment from earlier. Tyler sticks his tongue out before returning to Josh’s neck. As their hips move, Tyler allows himself to finally pierce the skin of Josh’s neck. His fangs have come down at this point, but Tyler is trying to be cautiously and structured for how he’s going about this. His regular canines are still the ones applying most of the pressure and it’s mostly just sucking he’s doing right now anyway. Underneath him, Josh’s hands move to jerk them off.
Tyler grunts his humble reply as he presses his teeth down lower and thumbs at Josh’s nipples. Josh’s sounds add fuel to their fire. He’s not sure if this even counts as sex, but it sure as hell feels good.
Finally, the skin breaks and the taste of metal swells inside Tyler’s mouth. He can feel his pupils dilate and his nostrils flare as Josh’s blood slides down his throat. Josh gasps loudly underneath him, bucking his hips a little bit as Tyler presses on his head to get a better angle. Maybe he’s pressing too hard because Josh’s squirming seems to become a bit more panicked.
And then comes the pleas. “Tyler, stop. Tyler, please, you have to stop now.”
Tyler is telling himself that too, yet he’s unable to find it in himself to unlatch his teeth from Josh’s neck. The thing is, Josh’s blood was fresh; what he had been drinking inside those blood bags was the equivalent of frozen dinner and Josh was Thanksgiving dinner. How could he give that up?
“TYLER!” Josh finally shouts, pushing Tyler’s head away from him with all his might. Despite Tyler being substantially stronger than him now, it’s enough to trigger the human still inside of him. Tyler assesses the scene: Josh, naked, his eyes wide with panic and his neck soaked in crimson, raises a hand to stop the wound from flowing.
“I’m sorry,” Tyler blinks, hanging his head, “I... I didn’t think it would get that bad.”
Josh takes a deep breath. “It’s okay. The important thing is that you pulled away when I told you to.” He manages a weak smile and beckons Tyler back over. “Come over here and lick this off of me.”
“Are you sure?” Tyler is wary.
“Absolutely. I know you have willpower, Ty. Let’s finish what we started.”
He’s still hesitant; can you blame him? For a split second there, he could have killed his best friend. Josh, however, seems adamant about finishing and doesn’t seem worried. Tyler really appreciates that.
When he gets closer, Josh pulls him in for a kiss, and Tyler is no longer afraid.
The days drew closer to the release of Trench-- until it finally came-- along with the anticipation for the start of a long tour. The boys begin rehearsals, spending long days in a borrowed arena in Pennsylvania. Josh has shaved his head and Jenna is still sheltered from the fact that her husband is a vampire. Josh has made it clear that Jenna should know, that if he knows, she should too, but Tyler is very scared of the consequences. She’s already been very suspicious of him not eating, sleeping, or venturing outside in the summer sun without being fully covered and underneath an umbrella.
“I burn easy,” was his excuse, and Jenna only smiled. He could see it in her eyes, though. She could see past his bullshit.
Tyler wouldn’t say he had gotten used to this new lifestyle, but Josh’s constant eagerness to help made it all the better. He’d pack Tyler blood bags in a small cooler and kept it tucked away in a private place. If something was wrong, Josh was there to point it out and fix it as quickly as possible. He knew without Josh by his side that things would be very different.
The romantic side of their relationship blossomed too. Tyler would spend long hours barking orders and commands at everyone, and afterward, Josh, turned on, would cover him in kisses and occasionally even let Tyler mark up his neck a bit. Despite Josh’s constant teasing about Tyler’s “neck kink,” it might have been him who actually had one.
The crew members most likely suspected something was up between the two of them, but never made comments at the fear of being struck down by Tyler’s hand. It wasn’t so much that he was scary, (okay, Tyler could be very, very scary,) but that he was a very organized person who needed to have everything done a particular way, or, the right way, in his eyes. Interrupting Tyler’s schedule was not a good idea, especially if it had to do with him and Josh. Once the tour started, they could pull out the jokes. For now, Tyler needed to get all his authoritative energy out of his body.
Tonight, the boys were crashing in a rented house near the arena, laying nearly on top of each other on the sofa in one corner. Despite the fact that there was plenty of room for Josh to sit down, he had settled on squeezing into the corner with Tyler, crossing his legs over Tyler’s ankles and resting his head comfortably against Tyler’s shoulder. They’re watching a Netflix original horror movie.
“You’re pretty sexy when you’re bossy,” Josh murmurs, looking up at Tyler through his eyelashes. Tyler snorts.
“Just wait until you’re at the end of my orders.”
“Mhmm. Sure. You’d never yell at me.”
That gets Tyler to chuckle because Josh is probably right. The few times they had fought with one another, neither had raised their voices, not even a little bit. They didn’t fight that often anyways.
“I do think you should tell Jenna about the vampiric rabies you have, though. The tour starts next week and she’s trusting me to take good care of you. I think the vampire thing should be included in this packaged deal with have going on.”
Tyler sighs. He knows Josh is right— it’s just hard admitting it. Tyler knows Jenna won’t be as eccentric as Josh was.
“How do I bring this up? She’ll think I’m crazy.”
“Maybe mention how crazy it is. And then... I guess... show her the blood.” Josh shrugs lamely. “I know all of this is weird, but you’re dealing with it, aren’t you?”
“I suppose,” Tyler mutters, toying with Josh’s fingers resting comfortably on his thigh. He blushes a little when Josh kisses him.
“We’ll be back tomorrow before we have to fly to Nashville. I can be there with you if that’s easier.”
“Yeah,” he nods, “that would be much better. You could be my witness.”
Josh chuckles. “Right. Yeah. I’ll back up your crazy claims.”
The next morning, feeling comfortable and well rested from a long night of cuddling and making out, they make the drive back to Columbus. Jenna is quick to tug Tyler into her arms and plant a wet kiss on his cheek, leaving a gentle smear of lip gloss that smells like strawberries. She smiles at him.
“Are you excited for the tour?”
“Absolutely. It’s been too damn long.”
“True,” Josh adds his two cents, also grinning, although his is a bit sheepish, “we just wanted you to help make sure we have everything before we take off.”
“Of course. Tyler can hardly pack his own suitcase.”
He chuckles lamely to himself as he follows Jenna and Josh into the house. With the introduction of fall meant less sunny days and more wind, which Tyler was more than happy with. Usually he couldn’t stand the cold but this whole vampire thing made him kinda immune to any weather. It must have had something to do with not having a body temperature. That part must make Josh even more annoyed with Tyler never taking that stupid mustard hoodie off. At this point, it’s a part of him, like another layer of skin.
“Er, Jenna, there was actually another thing I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Sure!” She flops Tyler’s suitcase onto their California king and smiles up at him to let Tyler know she’s listening. “What’s up?”
“It’s kinda... well, how do I put this?” He nervously rubs at the back of his neck with his hand, “it explains all the weird things that have been going on. And I guess... why I’ve been so weird too.”
“You have been kinda weird. More weird than usual.” With a wink, Jenna rests her hands on her hips and leans back on her heels.
Tyler feels his cheeks flush. He guesses they aren’t really flushing, since he’s undead, but the feeling is still there. Even after being married for three years, Jenna still gave his stomach butterflies. “Right. Well. Do you remember when I got bit by that bat?”
“Mmhmm.” She quirks up an eyebrow. Tyler continues.
“Well... the thing is... it did have rabies.”
Jenna frowns. “Huh?”
“Vampiric rabies,” he clarifies. Josh nods his head. “Trust me, I am well aware of how crazy this sounds. I didn’t even believe it at first either. But it’s true.” Tyler takes a deep breath. Here goes nothing. “I’m a vampire.”
Immediately, Jenna scoffs, rolls her eyes, even laughs a little. “That’s a good one, Ty.”
“Seriously,” Josh says, resting a hand on Tyler’s shoulder in support. “His heart isn’t beating. And his teeth—“
Tyler interrupts Josh by stepping forward. He hooks his finger under his upper lip to show his wife his fangs. He’s gotten the hang of extending and retracting them at this point.
Jenna’s eyes widen, but she’s still not fully convinced. Tyler steps closer and reaches for her hand, pushing it hard against his chest. “See?” He whispers, “no heartbeat.”
“But...” she shakes her head, “you’d be dead.”
“Undead,” Josh corrects. He pulls the cooler onto the bed that he had brought in from the car. “Open that.”
Jenna gives him a look but does what she’s told. As soon as she flips the lid of the cooler back, she squeaks in fright.
“Holy shit. Is that... is that...”
“Yeah. But don’t worry. I haven’t killed anyone. I’m being cautious about it. And Josh has been around to help me.”
“That would explain why you haven’t been eating... or venturing outside without covering yourself in a hundred layers...” It seems like she might be thinking about the possibility that her husband could be a vampire, but in the end, the rational side of her shakes it off. “No. No... that just can’t be possible. Tyler, I know you. You aren’t some supernatural creature of the night! Vampires aren’t real.”
“I didn’t think so either, Jen.” Tyler tries to stay quiet and calm. “That’s why it took me so long to tell you. But it’s true. Drinking those is what sustains me. And like, the second I tasted it, everything made sense. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s true. I know it’s crazy. I know. But I swear, I’m not playing some joke on you.” He takes a chance reaching out to touch her, but Jenna doesn’t seem afraid. It shouldn’t surprise Tyler, but it does. She was strong, much stronger than him. “I’m still me. I just... don’t need to sleep or eat. And I drink blood. But I won’t hurt you. Please tell me you know that.”
“Of course I know that, Ty.” Jenna clicks her tongue and pulls him in for a hug. Tyler hugs her tightly, his arms wrapped around his waist. He was the goddamn luckiest man in the world, having both Jenna and Josh at his side. He didn’t think he’d be able to get through this life without either one of them.
“We can get through this. I believe you. And I’m not going to abandon you just because of some vampiric rabies, okay?”
That coaxes a chuckle out of Tyler, who nods his head in relief. “Thank you. Really.”
Jenna presses her soft, warm lips to Tyler’s cheek, causing that feeling of blush to rise to the surface again. Her blue eyes provide him with comfort and make him feel that everything is going to be okay in the end.
A little while later, she points at Josh. “You better take care of him on tour.”
Josh beams. “I promise.”
Tyler is the luckiest goddamn bastard in the entire world.