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Don't Forget About Me

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Tyler and Josh were cuddling on the couch in Tyler’s basement, half-sleeping, half-watching reruns of The X-Files, when Tyler stated, “I met this girl today.”

 

Josh looked down at the boy resting his head on his shoulder and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

 

Tyler smiled shyly. “Yeah.”

 

“Dude, tell me!” Josh urged, nudging Tyler’s head with his nose.

 

The younger boy burrowed his face further in Josh’s neck and mumbled something unintelligible.

 

Josh only laughed at him and shrugged him off his shoulder. “I know you want to talk about it or you wouldn’t have brought it up, silly.”

 

Tyler blushed and hid behind his hands. He made a weird noise, still hiding behind his hands.

 

Josh rolled his eyes at his friend. “Is she nice?” he prompted.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Is she…” Josh started. He realised he had no idea what to ask. “Um. What’s her name?”

 

“Jenna.”

 

A bell rang in the back of Josh’s mind. Jenna . He had known a Jenna once. He thought. Maybe. “How did you meet?”

 

Tyler peeked between his fingers at Josh, who was smiling fondly at his friend. “Um,” Tyler started, seemingly not knowing what to say. Then the dam broke. “So, I work at Target, right? And I was just restocking the books, on the lowest shelf, when someone tapped my shoulder, yeah? So I turned around and….BAM! There she was. In all her glory!” Tyler looked at Josh to see he was following. He was. “And she asked me about this book. She said she’d seen it before, but only came back today to buy it. And she couldn’t find it! Totally weird, right?”

 

“...right.”

 

Tyler nodded to himself before continuing. “And I was like, ‘what’s the book called?’ And she told me. And then I helped her search the shelves, and it really wasn’t there! It was very sad,” Tyler told Josh, pouting, “But then, I was just about to continue putting these books back on the shelf, and you know what?” Tyler had both eyebrows raised, looking imploringly at his friend.

 

“No, what?”

 

“I had the book all along!” Tyler exclaimed, a grin spreading over his face. “And I gave it to her, and was all like, ‘oups, I had it all along, hehe’. And she laughed and thanked me, and I laughed and said ‘no problem’, and I thought she was just going to leave, you know? But she didn’t!”

 

“No way!” Josh said, faking surprise. He was very amused with his friend’s enthusiastic story-telling.

 

Tyler was less amused with Josh’s faked reaction. “Shut up, don’t be a dick!” he said, sticking his tongue out. “But yeah, she didn’t leave! And I was like, ‘can I do anything else for you?’ And she said ‘what’s your name?’, and I died. Right there, right then. So I told her my name, she told me hers, and then she gave me her number!? And told me to call her! Can you believe that?! I couldn’t think about anything else for the rest of my shift.” He finished his story with a happy sigh, and sank back against his friend’s chest once again.

 

“Wow. That’s...quite a story,” Josh said, hugging Tyler against his chest. He rearranged them so that he was laying against the armrest, Tyler laying between his legs.

 

Tyler sniffed Josh’s neck and sighed, content. “She was really pretty. Her eyes were like really blue, and her smile lit up her whole face,” Tyler said dreamily. “Kind of like your smile. But your eyes go all squinty, and your tongue pokes out between your teeth. She doesn’t do that. But it’s still really pretty.”

 

Josh smiled against Tyler’s hair, kissing his temple. “Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

After a few seconds of silence Josh spoke up again. “...So, when are you going to call her?”

 

Tyler turned his whole body towards Josh, hugging him back, and grumbled, “Ugh.”

 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Josh asked, huffing a laugh. He squeezed his friend a bit tighter, prompting an answer.

 

Tyler just whined and hid his face in Josh’s neck.

 

“She gave you her number, she expects you to call, you know?” After another grumble from Tyler, Josh rolled his eyes and tried again. “She’s gonna be really disappointed if you don’t. You don’t even have to call, just one teeny, tiny little text will do!”

 

“Tomorrow,” Tyler reluctantly gave in. “‘M tired.”

 

Josh smiled fondly at him. “I’m gonna hold you to that, baby boy.”

 

Tyler sniffed sleepily in response.

 

---

 

Josh did hold Tyler to that. When he woke up the next morning, Tyler’s head resting against his chest, he looked at the time. 11 am. A time as good as any , he thought. So he shifted onto his elbow, letting Tyler’s head slide off of him, and started poking Tyler’s cheek. “Wake up, sleepyhead.”

 

Tyler frowned and started flicking his eyes back and forth.

 

Ty .” Josh changed techniques and started planting light kisses all over his face, smiling all the while doing so.

 

The response he got was a small noise, a tiny smile, and a shift of his head. Josh chuckled and pecked his friend’s lips. Tyler smiled wider and chased his lips when he pulled away, never opening his eyes.

 

Josh kissed him again, before actually pulling away, both satisfied. “‘Morning,” he said.

 

“Good morning,” Tyler mumbled, trying to turn away to get some more sleep. Unfortunately Josh stopped him before he got far.

 

“Dude. Jenna.”

 

Tyler’s eyes flew open in shock. “What?!” he asked, eyes frantically searching his room. “Where?!”

 

Josh couldn’t help but laugh. “What? No!” he laughed. “You’re gonna text her. Now. Before you try to get out of it.”

 

Tyler sank back in the sheets again. “Seriously? Right now?” he groaned, arms crossed over his bare chest and brow furrowed in annoyance.

 

“Yes. Right now,” Josh affirmed. “Because you won’t do it if I don’t make you. And you’ll regret it if you don’t.”

 

Tyler rolled his eyes. “Fine. Give me my phone.”

 

Josh did, smirking all the while.

 

The phone got snatched from Josh’s hand with a huff. “I don’t even know what to say…” Tyler complained. “By the way, I was having a great morning until you brought this up. So thanks for ruining my day.”

 

“Aww, baby,” Josh cooed in mock sympathy. He pressed a soft kiss to Tyler’s cheek and lay his head on his friend’s shoulder. “You know I had to do it to ya.”

 

Tyler’s chest vibrated with the huff of breath he let out. “Oh shut up, you.”

 

Josh grinned.

 

“‘Hi! It’s Tyler. From Target,’” Tyler read. And stopped. Because he had no idea what else to say. He voiced those thoughts with a whine and an exasperated sigh.

 

Josh shrugged. “Do you need to say anything else?”

 

“I don’t know!” Tyler said and threw his hands up. “How am I supposed to know? You know what. I’m just gonna send this. Right now. Watch me.”

 

Josh raised an eyebrow at his friend’s outburst, but watched as he clicked ‘send’, impressed. “I didn’t think you’d actually send that.”

 

Tyler jerked his head to the side to look down at the boy on his shoulder. “What’s that supposed to mean? Shouldn’t I have sent it? Did I make a mist-”

 

Jenna (11:03):

Hi Tyler!

 

“-take.” Tyler exhaled shakily, eyes wide. “She answered. Jish! She answered!”

 

“Yes, Tyler. I know. I’m right here.”

 

Tyler nervously shook one hand. “What do I say now?”

 

“I don’t know,” Josh answered honestly. He hadn’t thought this far.

 

Jenna (11:05):

I know you’ve seen my message.

 

Jenna (11:05):

What are you doing??

 

Tyler squeaked. “She knows I’m here!”

 

“Just say something!” Josh urged.

 

Tyler (11:06):

Oups. Sorry

 

Tyler (11:06):

Didn’t know what to say lol

 

Jenna (11:07):

That’s okay haha

 

“She’s so sweet!” Tyler mused, already sending a reply.

 

Tyler (11:07):

Hehe

 

Jenna (11:08):

But I was wondering if you’d maybe

like to meet up today?

 

Jenna (11:08):

Just sometime

 

Jenna (11:08):

If you’re free

 

“Oh my god! Josh!” Tyler looked from his phone to Josh with wide eyes. “She wants to meet me!”

 

Josh grinned. “She’s waiting for a reply.”

 

“I know! What do I say?!”

 

Josh rolled off Tyler’s shoulder, rubbing his eyes. “Say yes, dummy.”

 

“Okay.” He sounded breathless, as if he seriously couldn’t believe this was happening.

 

Tyler (11:10):

Sure

 

Tyler (11:10):

When do u wanna meet?

 

Tyler (11:11):

And where

 

Jenna (11:11):

Idk… At 1?

 

Tyler (11:12):

Sure!

 

“Where do I take her?” Tyler asked, his mind completely blank.

 

“I don’t know,” Josh said with a shrug. “Taco Bell?”

 

Tyler frowned down at his phone. “Really?” He paused for a second. “Bro, you’re right. I don’t know if I can see her if she doesn’t like Taco Bell.”

 

Josh laughed. “True.”

 

Tyler (11:13):

Taco Bell?

 

Both of them waited in tense silence.

 

Jenna (11:14):

Um okay

 

Jenna (11:14):

Taco Bell it is

 

Tyler (11:15):

Sick

 

“Sick,” Tyler said as he sent the text.

 

“So sick,” Josh agreed. “Let’s get breakfast.”

 

Tyler just hummed in response, still in shock from this successful conversation.

 

---

 

After a quick breakfast, a hello to Tyler’s mom in the kitchen, and a shower, Tyler was stood in front of his wardrobe, looking completely lost.

 

“Josh. I have nothing to wear.”

 

Josh, who was looking through his instagram feed, groaned at his friend. “Yes, you do,” he countered with a roll of his eyes. “Just wear some jeans and a shirt. Wear your floral shirt! It’s cute.”

 

Tyler bit his lip in contemplation. “It is cute,” he agreed. “But I don’t want to look…”

 

“You don’t want to look what?” Josh asked, confused. “You love that shirt!”

 

“Well, I do. But people always say I look... gay in that shirt. I don’t want her to think I’m gay.”

 

Josh put his phone down and stared at his friend. “Are you serious right now?” he asked, incredulous. “First of all, only one person has said that. And it was an idiot from the basketball team.”

 

“Hey! Watch your mouth. I’m an idiot from the basketball team!” Tyler turned to pout at Josh.

 

Josh smirked in response. “But you’re my idiot from the basketball team. It’s different,” he said with a blinding smile. “Second of all, that was borderline homophobic of you. There’s no such thing as ‘looking gay’, okay? You know that. Besides, you’re bi. Looking gay shouldn’t be a problem for you.”

 

Tyler snorted. “It is a problem if I’m dating a girl ,” he said. “But you’re right. I look good in that shirt.”

 

Josh just grinned at him.

 

---

 

When Tyler left the house for his date, Josh went home. Completely alone. Because he definitely had other friends. Absolutely.

 

He sighed as he opened the front door. His whole family was home, but he still felt alone.

 

Okay. Of course he was excited for his friend! It wasn’t like he didn’t have other friends, or like his whole life revolved around Tyler, but they were close. They’d known each other their whole lives. Their parents were friends, they lived on the same street, they had played together every day since they were born. They were close . And none of Josh’s other friends could really compete with that.

 

And today… They had plans for today. Kind of. It was implied . And while Josh was the one to urge his friend to reach out to Jenna, he didn’t think they’d meet today . Maybe tomorrow, but not today. And now he had no idea of what to do.

 

Josh was pulled from The Land of Moping when his mother touched his shoulder.

 

“W-what?” he asked, shaking his head to come back to reality.

 

His mother chuckled. “I said; are you okay, darling? You look a bit down,” she asked softly.

 

A fake smile found its place on his face. “I’m good. Was just thinking.”

 

Laura shook her head, smiling sympathetically. “If you say so. You know you can talk to me, when you feel like it.”

 

“Thanks,” Josh said, smile quickly leaving his features. He knew that his mom knew that he wasn’t telling the truth. Oh well.

 

He toed his shoes off and took the stairs up to his room, face-planting his bed. This was going to be a long day…

 

---

 

He ended up playing mario kart with Ashley and texting Brendon. Fun. (It wasn’t actually that bad, and he did have fun. But you know, it’s always fun being dramatic)

 

It was eleven at night when Josh stood up from the couch and announced to the family that he was going to bed.

 

After receiving a chorus of ‘Goodnight’s, he went upstairs again, getting ready in the bathroom.

 

After finishing up in the bathroom he went to his room to fall into his bed, and hopefully not wake up until the month is over.

 

He was just about to fall asleep when he heard some scratching on his window. Not tapping, exactly, but as if someone was expecting the window to be open. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

 

Josh grumbled and sat up in his bed, rubbing his eyes, and looked to the window. The curtains were closed, so he opened them and was met with a very familiar grin.

 

Josh blinked.

 

Tyler rolled his eyes and tapped the window, mouthing; “Open the frickin’ window.”

 

“Right,” Josh mumbled, still drowsy from being on the doorstep of falling asleep. But he did manage to open the window for Tyler to crawl through.

 

“I told you to leave the window open,” Tyler complained as he landed on the floor.

 

“Oh.”

 

Tyler rolled his eyes again, but he was smiling. He fell into Josh’s bed, gesturing for Josh to follow, and kicked his jeans off, before he covered himself with the duvet.

 

Josh let out a yawn as he joined his friend. He was tired, okay? “So,” he started sleepily. “How did it go?”

 

Tyler scooted closer, nose almost touching Josh’s cheek. “It was so great, bro.”

 

Josh smiled. “Yeah? What did you do?”

 

“We ate. And talked,” Tyler told Josh. Very informative. “She’s great.”

 

Josh hummed. “What’s so great about her?”

 

“She’s...kind. And funny,” Tyler tried to explain. “I don’t know, man. She’s just easy to talk to, you know?”

 

“She seems nice,” Josh said, turning his head to the side and booping Tyler’s nose with his own.

 

Tyler giggled, nudging Josh back.

 

“You gonna meet her again?”

 

“Most definitely,” Tyler said proudly.

 

Josh huffed a laugh at that. “If you don’t watch out you might get yourself a girlfriend!”

 

Tyler rolled onto his back, sighing contently. “That’s the plan, bro.”

 

“I’m happy for you,” Josh mumbled after a few seconds. “I know this was the first time you saw each other, but still. I have a good feeling about this.”

 

“Thanks,” Tyler whispered back. “Goodnight.”

 

After Josh’s whispered ‘g’night’ Tyler turned on his side, back to Josh, and burrowed further into the sheets.

 

Josh did the same, closing his eyes and waiting for sleep to take him. But after five minutes of shifting around, unable to find the right position he turned around to face Tyler’s back, gently tapping his shoulder. “Ty?” he whispered.

 

“Mm.”

 

“Cuddle me?”

 

“Okay.” He could practically hear the soft smile in Tyler’s voice.

 

When warm arms encircled his waist, and a cold nose burrowed itself in his neck, Josh could finally fall asleep.

 

---

 

About two weeks after Tyler and Jenna’s first date, Josh’s phone buzzed in  his pocket - not an uncommon occurrence. But the message he got was not one he usually received.

 

Tyler (15:23):

It’s time.

 

Josh frowned and read the message again.

 

Josh (15:25):

Time for what exactly???

 

Tyler (15:25):

That’s for u to find out

 

Tyler (15:26):

I’m at ur house btw

 

Tyler (15:26):

Be home soon ur mom is looking

at me weird

 

Josh snorted at his friend’s text.

 

Josh (15:27):

Omw

 

Josh, who was out on a ‘supply run’ for his mom, hurried to get the things into a plastic bag and half-ran to his house.

 

The door was unlocked for him, thankfully, so he slipped inside and walked into the kitchen to leave the groceries for his mom to take care of.

 

What he didn’t expect was his mom, Tyler, and a girl he didn’t know to sit around the kitchen table, making small talk.

 

“Um, what?”

 

Tyler whipped around in his chair, which was facing away from Josh, and grinned. “Josh! You’re here!”

 

Josh gave him a confused grin in response. He had his suspicions of who this mystery girl could be, but he wasn’t one to jump to conclusions.

 

Josh’s mom interrupted Josh’s and Tyler’s intense eye contact by clearing her throat. “Josh, you didn’t tell me we were having guests,” she said, clearly amused.

 

Josh nervously wiped his hands on his jeans, feeling very uncomfortable not knowing what was going on. “Yeah, well… Surprise?” It came out more like a question.

 

Tyler stood up from his chair and threw his arm over Josh’s shoulders. “No need to feel nervous, Jishwa,” he whispered in his ear. Then, louder, he added; “Josh, this is Jenna Black. Jenna, this Joshua Jishwa William Dun.”

 

Suddenly realisation hit Josh in the face. “Jenna Black ?”

 

She smirked at him. “Dun. Long time no see.”

 

Tyler looked between them, confused, while Laura’s eyes were shining with amusement.

 

“I haven’t seen you in literal years,” Josh deadpanned, still shocked.

 

Tyler pouted next to Josh. “I’m confused. You guys know each other?” he asked. Then his eyes whipped to Laura. “That’s why you were giving me those weird looks!”

 

She good-naturedly laughed at Tyler’s accusation. “Yes.”

 

“We knew each other in middle school,” Jenna explained, standing up from her chair as well. “To be honest, I never really thought I’d see you again.”

 

Josh let out an awkward chuckle. “Yeah, no shit.”

 

Well ,” Tyler interrupted loudly, “we better get going. Thank you for the coffee, Laura. I’ll see you later!”

 

“Thank you, Mrs Dun!” Jenna chimed in, smiling brightly.

 

“Anytime,” Laura said with a fond smile, standing up to take care of the groceries Josh had brought home.

 

Tyler steered Josh and Jenna out of the kitchen and to the door.

 

“Where are we going?” Josh asked, feeling like this whole conversation was a dream.

 

“Taco Bell, dear fren.”

 

“Oh, okay,” Josh answered. “So, you guys are like officially together now?”

 

“Yup!” Tyler said proudly, swinging his and Jenna’s joined hands back and forth between them.

 

“Sick.”

 

---

 

After getting their food, they sat down in a booth together. The silence between them was uncomfortable to say the least. Josh really didn’t know where to start a conversation with Jenna. Of course he could ask her where she went to school nowadays, but he wasn’t one for mindless small-talk. Instead he kicked Tyler’s shin subtly under the table, trying to make him say something.

 

Tyler barely raised an eyebrow at his friend, but turned to Jenna anyway. “So… You knew each other in middle school?”

 

After that the conversation flowed pretty well. Jenna and Josh caught up with the years not knowing each other, and Tyler listened intently, sometimes adding a few stories himself.

 

Jenna was just as kind and funny as Josh remembered. She was a good listener, but she also liked talking, and easily filled in the gaps when Josh’s conversation skills failed him. It was nice. Josh liked her. He could very well understand why Tyler liked her the way he did. Josh is pretty sure he would’ve liked her the same if he swung that way. Or at all.

 

It was fun to see Tyler’s eyes light up when Jenna said something to him, how happy he looked. Jenna had the exact same expression, and it made Josh happy that his friend was happy.

 

When the sky darkened and it was time to split up for the night, Josh felt like he had known Jenna forever. He told Tyler so when they had dropped Jenna off at her house.

 

“He’s amazing, isn’t she?” Tyler replied fondly.

 

“She really is,” Josh agreed.

 

He fell asleep happy that night, warm and content.

 

---

 

After meeting Jenna the first time, it wasn’t an uncommon thing for all three of them to hang out at each other’s houses. Whenever Josh invited Tyler, Jenna tagged along. Until Josh gave up on trying to hang out with only his best friend and just started inviting the both of them, to save Tyler the trouble of asking if Jenna could come too.

 

Josh liked Jenna. She was, to be frank, awesome. There was nothing not to like about her, and she was really genuine about it too. Josh really liked hanging out with her and Tyler. They became a trio.

 

But that didn’t stop Josh from missing his best friend. Tyler was always with Jenna. Not obsessively so, just… It was like he didn’t have time for Josh anymore. They never hung out just the two of them, and Josh started to feel lonely, unimportant. Especially when Tyler asked less and less after Josh, and they only hung out when Josh asked them to.

 

Even his mom noticed a shift in his mood.

 

“You okay, honey?” she asked Josh when she saw him sit alone in front of the TV, staring into space.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Are you alright?” she repeated, concerned. “You’ve been very down lately.”

 

Josh sighed and leaned back against the couch. “I’m fine, mom. Really.”

 

She frowned. Her son was obviously not fine, but she didn’t know what the cause of the problem was. She sat down next to him instead, treading her fingers through his hair. “Talk to me.”

 

“There’s nothing wrong,” he insisted, but he was too tired to be angry.

 

Laura rolled her eyes. “Then why are you here all alone? It’s summer, why don’t you take Tyler somewhere?” she pushed.

 

Josh winced at Tyler’s name. “He’s busy.”

 

“When was the last time you two hung out? Just the two of you?” she asked, frowning.

 

“I don’t know, mom. Can you stop pestering me about him?” He didn’t want to think about Tyler. He didn’t want to think about him, because thinking about him meant thinking about all the reasons he wasn’t with Josh as much anymore, and thinking about that lead to thinking about how worthless and useless he was, not only to himself but even to his best friend. And he really did not want to go there right now.

 

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Laura asked, drying the tears from her son’s cheeks.

 

Josh hadn’t even realized he was crying. Maybe he accidentally did go there. “I’m sorry.”

 

His mom hushed him, and pulled him closer to her chest. “Don’t apologize. It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’ll be okay.”

 

It felt good to cry on his mother’s shoulder. It made him feel safe, even though she didn’t know the reason he was upset. It made him feel a little bit better.

 

He still wasn’t alright, though, because when he woke up the next morning, the feelings were still there.

 

---

 

The day after another movie night with Tyler and Jenna, Tyler once again opted for going home instead of sleeping over with Josh. It hurt. Knowing that his best friend would rather spend the night alone than stay with Josh, when they hadn’t had a proper sleepover in so long.

 

It was self-explanatory that Josh was feeling miserable, so he called his other very good friend. Brendon.

 

“Josh! Yo! What’s up?” Brendon said when he answered.

 

Josh was sure he was grinning, he could hear it in his voice. He would be lying if he said it didn’t make him smile a bit, too. “Hey, Bren,” Josh answered, at least trying to match his friend’s enthusiasm. “I’m sad.”

 

“Do you have Tyler-withdrawals?” Brendon asked, completely serious.

 

Josh just sighed in reply.

 

“Do you want me to come over?”

 

“Can I come to you?” Josh asked timidly.

 

“‘Course you can,” Brendon answered sympathetically. “I’ll be waiting with pizza and ice cream.”

 

Josh smiled into the phone. “Thanks, Bren. You’re the best.”

 

Brendon just laughed. “See you soon.”

 

Josh hung up and rubbed at his face tiredly. He didn’t want to be codependent. He didn’t want to be clingy. He didn’t want to be annoying. But it was a fact that he needed Tyler. He needed Tyler to hug him, he needed his comforting warmth. It was one of the only things to keep him grounded, keep his consciousness from leaving through the back of his head. But now Tyler was busy with someone else.

 

---

 

The ride to Brendon’s house was relatively short, and he was there before he could register that he left his house.

 

Brendon opened the door wide, arms enclosing Josh in a warm hug. It was a good hug, but it wasn’t a Tyler hug.

 

“Come on, sweetheart,” Brendon said, rubbing Josh’s shoulder. “Let’s watch some shitty B-movies.”

 

They sat down on the couch together, food splayed out on the table in front of them. Brendon covered them both with a blanket and turned on a random movie.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked Josh after a few minutes.

 

Josh shrugged, head tilted back against the back of the couch. “I just-,” he started. “I miss him.” He sighed. “I mean, I get it. They’ve been together for more than a month now, and it’s all sunshine and daisies, but… No. Scratch that. I don’t get it, and I never will. And that makes me feel even worse. I can’t even be understanding of his choices, because I’ll never have feelings like that.”

 

Brendon put an arm around his friend’s waist in support.

 

“He feels really happy with Jenna. And I’m really happy for him. But it’s always been us being happy together, and now that he’s got her it’s like he’s forgotten about me,” Josh explains. “I know he hasn’t, but it feels that way. And I’m just… I’m not jealous. But I’m just thinking about how he always will have someone like that, to complete him or whatever. And I’ll just...be there. In the shadows. Because I’ll never find someone like Jenna. Because Tyler is the person to complete me. I don’t need, or even want, a relationship like that - I never have - but now that Tyler’s in one, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out, like I can’t fully experience life without someone like that in my life. And I’m just- It makes me feel even worse for being so codependent on Tyler when he obviously doesn’t feel like that with me.”

 

Josh let his head fall down to Brendon’s shoulder when he felt tears burning in his eyes. “I just don’t want him to forget about me,” he whispered. “I don’t want to be forgotten.”

 

Brendon didn’t know what to say, so he squeezed his friend harder, letting Josh cry on his shoulder.

 

“It’s been over a month, and I-” Josh hiccuped between his sobs. “And I’m starting to feel weird. It’s like my body’s tingling all the time, and I’m jumpy and more anxious than normal, and it’s literal hell, Brendon. It sucks,” Josh told his friend. “And I absolutely despise myself for feeling like this.”

 

Brendon was surprised by the amount of hatred and venom with which he said those last few words.

 

“Josh,” Brendon tried. “You’re not codependent. Maybe a little, but the thing is that you’re a very touch-centered person. You need physical touch and closeness to feel like yourself. You need people around you. And Tyler’s always been the person to give that to you. He’s the one who knows what you need, when you need it. He’s the closest to you, you feel safe around him. There’s nothing wrong with that,” he continues. “Of course you’d be upset when he just stopped being close to you. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

 

Josh sobbed harder. “I don’t want- I don’t want to need him. I don’t want to be like this,” he cried.

 

It broke Brendon’s heart to see his friend this upset, this helpless and small. Josh was a strong person, but he couldn’t fight everything alone. And now his rock had disappeared.

 

“Is there something else bothering you?” Brendon asked, because he knew about all the thoughts that were plaguing his friend’s mind.

 

Josh shook his head, face buried in Brendon’s neck. “Just… I’m insignificant. I’m annoying and clingy, and nobody wants me around. I’m awkward and can’t talk to people, and can’t make friends, I can’t even keep friends.” He let out a humorless laugh, thinking of Tyler. “And my life is so pointless . I have no talents, and I don’t want to sell guitars for the rest of my life. I don’t want to ! But I’m too useless to do anything else. I should-,” he let out a heart-wrenching sob, “I should just die. I should die, because it wouldn’t make a difference. And I don’t want to live when my life means as little to other people as it means to me. I don’t want to be another pointless existence, another person nobody will remember.”

 

Brendon listened carefully to Josh’s insecurities, silent tears rolling down his cheeks. He knew his friend had bad thoughts, but Josh had never explicitly talked about it to Brendon. He didn’t know Josh wanted to die. He didn’t know about all of this, and now he felt like a horrible friend for not knowing.

 

He kissed Josh’s head, holding him tighter.

 

“I’m scared of living,” Josh confessed. “I’m scared that I’m going to look back at my life and regret that I didn’t off myself. I don’t want- I d-don’t want- ” The force of his sobs made him unable to continue.

 

“I know, sweetheart, I know,” Brendon soothed. “But I love you, and I will never leave you. You mean so much to me,” he whispered, knowing that those words meant nothing to Josh right now, knowing that right now, there was nothing he could do to help.

 

Eventually Josh fell asleep, completely exhausted from all the crying. Brendon took it upon himself to carry Josh to bed, tuck him in. After that he just sat looking at him for a few minutes, feeling so helpless.

 

Brendon cried himself to sleep for the first time in years.

 

---

 

When Josh woke up his head was pounding, and he felt too heavy to move. He sluggishly turned his head to the side, but Brendon was nowhere to be seen. Josh sighed heavily. He’d just have to get himself together enough to move.

 

The bedroom door slowly opened to reveal a smiling Brendon. “You’re awake!” he said, grinning. “Let’s get you some breakfast, yeah?”

 

Josh thought his smile seemed a bit less bright than usual, but decided not to comment on it. “My head hurts,” he said instead, groaning.

 

Brendon just nodded at him, helping Josh out of bed. “You need some water, Joshie-boy.”

 

Together they made their way into the kitchen where Brendon’s mom was making pancakes.

 

“Good morning, Josh,” she said with a smile. “Did you sleep okay?”

 

Josh nodded tiredly. “Yeah.”

 

Brendon gave him a huge glass of water and a plate of pancakes, and sat down next to him, waiting for his own plate of deliciousness.

 

“Sorry for...yesterday,” Josh mumbled. “I didn’t mean to break down on you.” He snorted humorlessly.

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Brendon said with a wave of his hand. “What are friends for, eh?”

 

They finished their pancakes in silence, and when they were done Josh decided it was time for him to go home, so he packed together his things and put his shoes on.

 

Brendon was leaning against the wall beside the door. “You should talk to Tyler, though,” he said quietly.

 

Josh huffed a laugh. “Yeah, right.” He rolled his eyes and turned to his friend, giving him a genuine smile. “Thanks for taking care of me, Bren.”

 

Brendon smiled back and decided not to push him right now. Instead he pulled Josh into a tight hug. “Anytime, Josh.”

 

They pulled away from each other and Josh opened the door and stepped outside. He turned around to wave to his friend before actually leaving.

 

“Text me!” Brendon hollered when Josh opened the door of his car. Josh’s response was to blow him a kiss, making Brendon chuckle as he closed the door.

 

---

 

Laura sighed helplessly when her son got home after sleeping at Brendon’s, eyes tired and red from crying. She hugged him as he entered, asking if he had eaten yet. Josh only gave her a tired smile and nodded, before disappearing up the stairs to his room.

 

She could see that her son wasn’t getting any better. He didn’t smile as much, he was jittery, he flinched when someone accidentally touched him, he tensed and looked uncomfortable when someone intentionally touched him, and he avoided the subject of Tyler or Jenna like the plague.

 

She knew something was up. And it hurt to know that he didn’t want to talk to her about it. But she decided to leave it be. It was obviously something to do with Tyler, and while it didn’t seem like they were fighting, since they acted like nothing happened, Josh looked extra sad whenever he’d leave.

 

But because it had something to do with Tyler, she knew that they would sort it out without her interference, so she decided not to push them about it, and instead just be there for her son when he needed her.

 

---

 

No matter what it sounded like, Josh didn’t stay inside his room moping all the time he wasn’t with Tyler. He did have other friends, and he tried his best to hang out with them as well. But even they could see that his heart wasn’t in it, that he was sad.

 

He had been hanging out with some of his friends in the park, probably not paying attention, because Hayley had poked his shoulder and asked, “Josh? Are you okay?”

 

He had jumped at the touch. “Huh?”

 

“Are you okay?” Hayley had asked again, looking concerned. “You haven’t been paying attention all day.”

 

Josh’s eyes had met Brendon’s for a split second before he directed them at his lap. “I’m sorry. I’m just tired.”

 

No one had been convinced by his answer, but they didn’t push him about it. At least he was hanging out with them.

 

But right before they split up for the day, Hayley had come up to Josh again.

 

“I know it’s not because you’re tired, dude,” she had said, eyebrow raised. She wasn’t pushing him, but giving him an opportunity to talk if he wanted to. “You know we’re all here for you, right?”

 

Josh had sighed and met her eyes. “I know. I just…” he started. “It’s stupid.”

 

She had smiled softly. “Hey, now. If it makes you feel down, it’s not stupid. Whatever it is.”

 

“It’s Tyler,” Josh had confessed, making Hayley frown. “He’s just… He’s not really hanging out with me anymore. He’s got Jenna now and… I’m just me. I’m not as important.”

 

“Can I hug you?” Hayley had asked. When Josh nodded, she had enveloped him in a tight hug. “You mean so much to him, Josh. He wouldn’t knowingly do that. You should talk to him about it. I’m sure he hasn’t realized that he’s neglecting you.”

 

“Okay.”

 

---

 

Josh knew that he promised Brendon, and even Hayley, to talk to Tyler, but he still hadn’t gotten around to it. And now Josh, Jenna, and Tyler were all hanging out again, but Josh just couldn’t say anything when Tyler looked so happy.

 

“Thanks for letting me hang out with you guys. Again,” Josh said shyly.

 

Jenna laughed. “Of course! You know we both love you, Josh.”

 

Josh smiled at her, shrugging.

 

“You know it’s true,” Tyler said and smacked a kiss to Josh’s cheek, making him blush.

 

They decided to watch a movie together, and eat pizza - because pizza.

 

It was nice. They were watching Fight Club, per Josh’s request.

 

Tyler wasn’t a very cuddly person. Or, well, he was cuddly, in the sense that it was nice cuddling with him, but he wasn’t the person to initiate physical contact. He just… He didn’t really enjoy physical contact all that much, it made him feel awkward and trapped.

 

So Josh was surprised to see that he had his arm around Jenna’s shoulders, Jenna’s head resting on his collarbone and her arms around his waist. It made him smile. It was cute. They were cute.

 

He was glad that Tyler felt so comfortable around Jenna. It made him proud, and he knew that their relationship was going to last. But he himself felt a bit...left out. Or well, it wasn’t like he didn’t know that he was third wheeling. But now he felt like the third wheel. He used to be he one cuddling Tyler when they watched movies together. He used to hold Tyler’s waist as he rested against Josh’s chest. He used to sniff Tyler’s hair and kiss his forehead or nose or temple or even his lips sometimes. Now Jenna was cuddling his Tyler. It was new to Josh. It made him feel naked, and uncomfortable. Like he was intruding, like he wasn’t supposed to be there, like they didn’t want him to be there.

 

His thoughts were interrupted when Tyler paused the movie. Both Josh and Jenna looked at him questioningly. “Sorry,” he apologized. “Toilet.”

 

Josh snorted and rolled his eyes, smiling, as Tyler disentangled himself from Jenna and left. Not without poking his tongue out at Josh though.

 

When he was gone, Jenna turned to face Josh. “So,” she started.

 

Josh didn’t like that start. It made him feel nervous, anxious, like he had done something wrong without knowing what. “So?” he asked, confused.

 

“Why don’t you have yourself a girlfriend? Or boyfriend?” she asked, smiling like she expected Josh to tell her that he did, but in secret. “You look a little lonely over there.”

 

Josh, of course, didn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend, or any partner of the sort. “Um,” he said uncomfortably, thinking that Tyler took an awfully long time in the bathroom. “I- I-” he stuttered.

 

Jenna’s eyes softened. “It’s okay, Josh. I was just teasing.”

 

Josh still felt like she wanted an answer so he took a deep breath and opened his mouth. “I’m aromantic,” he said quietly.

 

Jenna’s eyebrows rose. “Oh? Sorry, I’ve never heard that term before,” she said apologetically.

 

“Do you know what asexual means?” he asked. When Jenna nodded he continued; “Well, it’s basically the same, except that you don’t feel romantically attracted to people. You can still feel sexual attraction,” he explained, wringing his hands together. “So I don’t really want a...partner.”

 

He didn’t like talking about this, especially when he wasn’t the one to bring it up. It felt like a forced ‘coming out’, and it made him uncomfortable. Especially when he had to explain what it meant.

 

Jenna nodded. “Ah,” she said. “I didn’t know-” She paused to think about the phrasing of her next words. “I didn’t know some people split sexual and romantic attraction. I’ve never heard anyone talk about that before.”

 

Josh shrugged. “It’s not very common that people use that. It’s called the ‘split attraction model’. It doesn’t apply to everyone, and mostly only aro and ace people use it. Or at least I’ve only heard aro and ace people talking about it before.”

 

“That’s cool,” she said. She was very understanding, in the way that she wanted to learn more about it, and was genuinely interested. It made Josh a bit less uncomfortable. “I’m sorry if this is too personal, but do you use the...split attraction model?”

 

“It’s okay,” Josh reassured her. “And, um, yeah. I’m pansexual.” He didn’t know why he blushed when he said that, but he did. It was awkward, talking about this with his best friend’s girlfriend . Not that he and Jenna weren’t friends, because he supposed that they were, but still. It felt weird.

 

Jenna smiled warmly at him. She opened her mouth to say something when Tyler sat down between them, two RedBulls in his hands.

 

He gave one to Josh. “So, what were you talking about while I was gone?” he asked teasingly.

 

Jenna gave Josh a look, as if to ask for his permission to tell Tyler. Josh nodded his head. “Josh told me he was aromantic,” she said.

 

Tyler looked up at that, surprised. He turned his face to Josh, raising one eyebrow.

 

Josh shrugged shyly. “She asked why I didn’t have a girlfriend.”

 

Tyler smiled brightly at him, a smile reserved only for him. It made Josh feel safe and loved. He smiled back.

 

---

 

Neither Jenna, Tyler, or Josh brought up Josh’s sexuality again. He was grateful, but it still felt weird that she knew. It wasn’t that he didn’t want her to know, but now it felt like some kind of ‘unspoken thing’. It was weird.

 

He talked to Brendon about it.

 

“Well, it’s probably just you feeling that way,” he said. “She probably doesn’t care. And Tyler already knew, so… It’s just you feeling awkward.”

 

“Yeah. Probably.” He sighed.

 

“By the way,” Brendon added. “Have you talked to Tyler yet? Have you had any time just the two of you?”

 

Josh sighed again, sounding like he had the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. “No.”

 

Brendon clicked his tongue. “Joooosh,” he whined. “You know you should!”

 

“I know. It’s just that I don’t know what to say… Or how to bring it up,” Josh complained. “I can’t just say; ‘hey, bro, we never cuddle anymore. I miss you. Bro’.”

 

Brendon snorted. “Bro?”

 

“Shut up,” Josh groaned.

 

“Promise me you’ll talk to him, though?” Brendon pushed.

 

Josh rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” he said. “But I gotta go now. Bye, Bren!”

 

“Bye!”

 

---

 

When Brendon hung up after talking to Josh, he knew he was a man with a mission. Let’s be real, both he and Josh knew that Josh wouldn’t talk to Tyler at all. So Brendon knew he had to do something, ‘cause Josh couldn’t go on like this. He was more jittery than usual, and didn’t even relax when he and Brendon hung out.

 

It was out of control. And while Brendon and Tyler were friends, too, he was first and foremost Josh’s friend, and now he had to have a real talk with the young Mr Joseph.

 

He decided to just text Tyler ominously.

 

Brendon (13:23):

Be at mine asap

 

Brendon (13:23):

It’s urgent

 

He didn’t have to wait long for Tyler’s reply.

 

Tyler (13:28):

Brendon wtf???

 

Tyler (13:28):

You do know I have other things

to do right??

 

Brendon (13:29):

No I’m serious

 

Brendon (13:29):

This is important

 

Tyler (13:30):

If I come there and you need help

taking something out of the  oven

I will literally kill you

 

Brendon (13:31):

So u’ll be here??

 

Tyler (13:30):

Give me 10

 

Brendon grinned in triumph.

 

---

 

Seven minutes later there was a knock on the door. Brendon got up from the couch and hurried Tyler into the house.

 

“Sit,” he said sternly, gesturing to the couch.

 

Tyler raised an eyebrow questioningly, but obeyed. “What’s this about?”

 

Brendon stood threateningly in front of Tyler, staring him down with a disapproving face. “You’re being a shitty friend.”

 

Tyler frowned. “What?” he asked. “Is this about me not hanging out with you in awhile? In that case I’m sor-”

 

Brendon interrupted him with a sharp hand movement. “This isn’t about me. This is about Josh.”

 

Tyler’s eyes grew wide. “What are you talking about? We’re-”

 

Brendon crossed his arms over his chest, disappointed. “No, you don’t get to speak right now,” he said angrily. “You’ve been neglecting Josh ever since you got a girlfriend. I know what it’s like being in a relationship, and it’s all rainbows and candy canes, but that is not an excuse to ignore your friends!”

 

Tyler opened his mouth, but Brendon shut him up with a look.

 

“When was the last time you hung out with Josh?” he asked. “Alone.”

 

Tyler opened and closed his mouth stupidly, not being able to answer.

 

“Exactly!” Brendon exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air. “You can’t even remember the last time you hung out with your best friend! Two weeks ago Josh came to me , crying on my shoulder, because he felt like his best friend didn’t care about him anymore. You know he is a very touch-centered person, and you are the one who gives him that comfort. You are the one who has completely abandoned that job for the last two months, not even noticing that your best fucking friend is unable to relax around anyone these days!”

 

Tears were stinging Tyler’s eyes, but Brendon wasn’t finished.

 

“He can’t stop fidgeting, he obviously isn’t sleeping well because the bags under his eyes are darker than the night-sky, and his anxiety is through the roof,” Brendon told Tyler heatedly. “Did you know that he wants to fucking die , Tyler? He told me he ‘ should die ’ and that it wouldn’t even matter because his life is pointless!”

 

Brendon was breathing heavily, tears running down his face, as he stared Tyler down.

 

“I- I knew about those thoughts, but it’s never been that bad,” Tyler said, ashamed of himself.

 

Brendon laughed humorlessly. “Yeah? You knew ? You knew, and you know what doesn’t exactly make him feel better?” He raised his eyebrow. “His best friend fucking abandoning him for someone else .”

 

Tyler had curled himself into a tight ball on the couch, legs hugged tightly to his chest, and face pressed against his knees. He was shaking, crying. “I’m s-s-sorry.”

 

After a few deep breaths, Brendon wiped at his eyes and calmed down. He sat down beside his crying friend, eyes softening. “I’m not the one you should apologize to,” he said softly, rubbing Tyler’s back comfortingly.

 

“I know,” came a weak reply. “I’m a horrible person.”

 

Brendon sighed. “No, Tyler. You’re far from a horrible person,” he told him. “You just get caught up in things, and stop thinking about other things.”

 

“Josh must hate me,” Tyler sobbed. “He must hate me so mu-much, and I deserve all of it. I deserve a-a-all of it.”

 

“He doesn’t hate you,” Brendon said with a smile. “He could never. He loves you so much.”

 

Tyler shook his head. “Well, then he should hate me! I don’t deserve him. He shouldn’t love me if I only hurt him.” His body started to shake with new sobs.

 

While rubbing Tyler’s back, Brendon started to think that maybe he’d come on too strong. He knew that Tyler had problems similar to Josh’s about self-worth, and maybe he was just making it worse. “No, Tyler. You listen to me,” he said seriously, taking Tyler’s face in his hand, forcing their eyes to meet. “You are an amazing friend, with so much love. You are the only one Josh could ever want to be close with. You are the only one to make him feel safe and loved. That’s all you . And that is not something a horrible person could make anyone feel. You are amazing, and both Josh and I love you.”

 

“But-but-”

 

Brendon shook his head. “No. No buts. You made a mistake, you were a bit too caught up in the bliss of new love, it happens,” he explained. “The thing is, that now you know that you did something wrong, and you can fix it. Now you know not to do it again.”

 

Tyler nodded, the odd sob still ripping through him. “Okay.”

 

“Good,” Brendon said with a smile. “And now you talk to Jenna about this. About your relationship with Josh, so that she knows in the future what to expect from you. Okay?”

 

“Okay,” Tyler said quietly.

 

“That way she can also help remind you if this were to happen again, yeah?”

 

Tyler nodded and wiped his eyes.

 

“That’s my boy!” Brendon said, making Tyler smile. “Do you want to call her or do you want her to come here?”

 

“Can she come here, please?” Tyler asked timidly. “I hate talking on the phone…”

 

“Sure thing!” Brendon took Tyler’s phone and called Jenna, telling her his address and that Tyler needed to talk to her.

 

When she, fifteen minutes later, knocked on the door, she looked worried. “What’s going on?”

 

Brendon just showed her into the living room, where Tyler was rocking back and forth, still curled into a ball.

 

“Tyler?” Jenna asked as she sat down next to him. “What’s wrong?”

 

Without looking at his girlfriend, Tyler began to explain his whole dynamic with Josh, their relationship, and everything that had happened.

 

Jenna was a very good and patient listener, and when Tyler finally finished, she made him look her in the eyes. “It’s okay, Tyler. I know that your relationship with Josh is very special, and he will always be your number one. As long as you don’t forget about me, you take all the time the two of you need, okay?”

 

“Really? You’re not mad?”

 

“Of course I’m not mad! He’s your friend.”

 

Tyler laughed wetly, and nodded. “Thanks, Jen. You’re the best.”

 

Brendon smiled widely as they hugged and pecked each other on the lips.

 

It was now around three o’clock, and Brendon’s mom would come home from work soon. “Mom’ll probably be home soon, so if you want to stay for dinner that can be arranged,” he told the couple.

 

Tyler smiled and wiped his eyes free from tears. “Thanks, Bren. That’d be sick.” He turned a questioning look at his girlfriend who shrugged.

 

“Sure, if that’s alright?”

 

“Awesome!”

 

---

 

Jenna left after dinner, but Tyler stayed for awhile at Brendon’s. He didn’t want to go home just yet, and he was still too nervous to go to Josh’s.

 

Eventually, though, Brendon got tired of his stalling.

 

“Dude, seriously,” he groaned. “Would you just go already? He’s literally your best friend, and I do, as a matter of fact, have things planned for tonight. So please leave me alone.”

 

Tyler immediately pouted. “But Brendon,” he whined. “I can’t go now , he’s probably still awake!”

 

Brendon stared at him, incredulous. “How is that a problem?!”

 

Tyler shrugged. Then he turned his face to Brendon, attacking him with the most deadly puppy eyes in the history of puppy eyes. He knew there was no way Brendon could deny him now.

 

“...Fine,” Brendon relented, glaring at his friend for using the only weapon Brendon could never win against. “You have one hour, and one hour only, before I kick you out.”

 

Grinning, Tyler hugged his friend. “Aww, thank you!”

 

“But if you’re not gone by then, I’ll ignore you until you leave,” Brendon warned, reluctantly hugging his friend back. “I have a girlfriend that I promised to call today.”

 

“Oh, right! How is she?” Tyler asked pleasantly.

 

Brendon’s glare intensified. “Well, I wouldn’t know, would I?”

 

Tyler just smiled innocently, turning the TV on.

 

---

 

Exactly an hour later Brendon pushed Tyler out of the house, all the while smiling innocently at his disapproving mom.

 

Before he closed the door, he said to Tyler; “Josh will forgive you, okay? All will be fine. Now go cuddle your boyfriend!”

 

Tyler shakily smiled at Brendon and waved.

 

---

 

Josh was getting ready for bed. Yes, it was like, half nine, but he was tired of socializing with his family. Also, he had nothing better to do, even though it was Saturday, and going to bed before twelve on a Saturday was very much a crime.

 

He stripped his clothes off, turned off the lights, and snuggled deep under the covers. He tried not to think about the fact that Tyler hadn’t answered his ‘goodnight’ text that he sent earlier. It felt like a confirmation that Josh wasn’t important enough for that kind of thing anymore. He tried not to think about everything wrong with his life, because he was determined not to cry tonight.

 

Instead he stared at the wall next to his bed until his eyes itched from lack of blinking. He sighed and rolled onto his back, squeezing his eyes shut. He wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep yet. He was cold even under the covers, and Josh knew it was only his imagination.

 

He crawled on top of the covers instead. It didn’t make any difference, except that he felt less safe without something covering him. He closed his eyes again, torturing himself with the unreasonable fear that someone else would be in his room, touch him.

 

There was a loud thud directly to Josh’s left, and he shot up, eyes wide.

 

“Ow.”

 

Josh scrambled to turn on the lamp on his night stand. His mouth fell open as he saw Tyler dusting himself off, looking mildly annoyed and slightly awkward. “ Tyler ?”

 

“Hey, Josh,” Tyler said, taking his shoes off.

 

Josh sighed and laid back down. “What are you doing here?”

 

Tyler tried to ignore the quiet and unsure tone his friend used. “Can I-” He cut himself off and started over. “I wanted to  apologize.”

 

Tyler saw Josh frown in the low orange glow of the lamp. “What for?”

 

“For being a horrible, awful, terrible friend,” he said, head bowed low, feet shuffling. “I’m really really sorry, Josh. I- I was so excited to have Jenna I-”

 

“-forgot about me,” Josh finished, hurt clearly audible in his voice.

 

“I-” Tyler couldn’t deny what Josh was saying, but he hadn’t completely forgotten about him. They still hung out. Just...not alone.

 

“It’s okay,” Josh said. “You don’t need me. That’s okay.”

 

“No!” Tyler protested. “I do need you! I do, I do, I do ! I was just selfish, and forgot that you need me .”

 

Josh huffed a humorless laugh. “Because I’m unreasonably clingy and annoying.”

 

“Don’t say that,” Tyler said sternly and took a step forward. “It’s not true. Don’t ever say that. You’re not clingy, and you’re definitely not annoying.”

 

“Don’t lie, Tyler.”

 

Tyler looked sadly at his friend for a moment. “Can I touch you?”

 

Josh nodded, trying not to choke on the bubble in his throat. Of course Tyler could touch him. Tyler could do anything he wanted.

 

After stripping his clothes off, Tyler laid down next to Josh, burrowing his face in the crook of Josh’s neck and draping his whole upper body over him, arms hugging him tight. “I love you, Josh. Don’t ever think anything different. You mean the world to me. You mean more to me than anyone else - Jenna, Brendon, Zack, Madison, Jay, and even my parents.”

 

Josh couldn’t hold back his tears anymore. He curled up on his side, letting Tyler hold him. “I’m sorry,” he sobbed. “I’m sorry for being like this.”

 

Tyler slung his leg over Josh’s hip and pulled him closer, resting Josh’s head on Tyler’s chest this time. He rubbed his hands all over Josh’s back and sides, cradling his head and massaging his scalp. He kissed his shoulders, his neck and his hair, doing anything in his mind to try and comfort his friend. “You’re so important to me, no matter what you do or what you become. I’ll always need you,” he whispered.

 

Josh clung to him tighter, sniffling. “Sing to me?”

 

Tyler smiled and kissed Josh’s temple. “Of course, sweetheart.”

 

Tyler sang softly. It was one of the songs he had written himself, and he knew it was one of Josh’s favourites.

 

Now the night is coming to an end,

The sun will rise and we will try again,

 

Stay alive, stay alive for me.

You will die, but now your life is free.

Take pride in what is sure to die.

 

I will fear the night again,

I hope I’m not my only friend

 

Stay alive, stay alive for me.

You will die, but now your life is free.

Take pride in what is sure to die.

 

When Tyler finished, Josh was breathing normally again. “Thank you,” he said quietly.

 

Tyler smiled against his hair before starting to pull away.

 

Josh made a distressed sound. “No, don’t leave me,” he whimpered, clutching onto anything Tyler that he could find.

 

“No, no, baby,” Tyler soothed. “I’m not leaving. I’m just gonna tuck us both in under the covers, yeah? Is that okay?”

 

Josh slowly let go of his friend and nodded.

 

Tyler smiled at him and kissed his forehead. He got off the bed and with Josh’s help he wriggled the duvet out from underneath him and covered them both with it. When they were both snuggled close together, arms around each other’s bodies and legs tangled, Josh could finally relax. Tyler’s hands were rubbing his sides and back soothingly, and his nose was buried in his hair. He felt so warm, so safe, in Tyler’s presence. He really had missed that. He didn’t realize how much his friend’s warm touch, and soothing voice meant to him. How important these moments were. No one could make him feel as loved and important as Tyler.

 

Tyler realized when holding Josh close, that while Jenna was warm and soft and everything you could ever want, she wasn’t Josh . And he knew now, that he had missed his friend as well. He felt calm and... home for the first time in two months. He couldn’t understand how he could’ve underestimated his relationship with Josh before. But now he knew. And he would never let him go.

 

Josh rubbed his nose against Tyler’s neck, breathing in his scent. “I love you,” he mumbled sleepily.

 

“I love you, too.”

 

---

 

Josh woke up feeling warm and safe. He was sprawled out on his back, arms around Tyler who was literally on top of him. He also had fluffy hair tickling his nose, which made him sneeze. And that, in turn, woke Tyler up.

 

“Wha’.”

 

Josh petted his hair apologetically. “Sorry. Your hair tickled my nose.”

 

“Oups,” Tyler said groggily, not sounding very sorry at all. “Did you sleep well?”

 

“Yeah. Did you?”

 

Tyler nodded against Josh’s collarbone. “I’ve said it before, but you’re a very good cuddler, Jish. So warm. And soft.”

 

Josh giggled and tried to hide his face in Tyler’s hair. It didn’t work. But it felt good, and Tyler smelled nice, so it was okay.

 

“What do you want to do today?” Tyler asked, turning his head so that he was looking up at Josh’s face. Yes, it was an incredibly uncomfortable position for the both of them, but they didn’t care, okay?

 

“You’re staying?” Josh asked, hopeful.

 

Tyler rolled his eyes and kissed Josh’s chin. “Duh.”

 

The smile that spread across Josh’s face was blinding. He looked so happy, Tyler couldn’t help but grin back just as widely.

 

“Can we just...stay home?” Josh asked shyly.

 

Tyler smirked teasingly. “You want to cuddle?”

 

Josh pouted. “Can you blame me?”

 

“No,” Tyler answered, seriousness lacing into his voice. He was still incredibly guilty and ashamed of his actions.

 

Josh noticed the change of tones and kissed his friend’s nose. “It’s okay, Tyler. I forgive you.”

 

“I don’t know if you should,” Tyler replied honestly. “But thank you.”

 

Josh sat up in the bed, pulling Tyler into his lap, and looked into Tyler’s eyes. “Nothing you can do will ever make me not forgive you.”

 

“Okay,” Tyler said.

 

Josh kissed Tyler on the lips softly before pulling him into a tight hug.

 

Tyler pulled back to peck Josh’s lips again and sighed contentedly, relaxed in Josh’s arms. “Love you, Jishwa.”

 

Josh chuckled. “Love you, too, Ty.”

 

After a few minutes of intense hugging, Tyler broke the comfortable, sleepy silence. “We should probably get up.” He didn’t make any moves to disentangle them.

 

“Probably,” Josh agreed, before jokingly adding; “So that my mom doesn’t walk in on us.”

 

Tyler scoffed playfully. “As if she hasn’t seen us in bed together before.” He rested his chin on Josh’s shoulder, sighing. “But yeah. I want cereal.”