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murderer sitting next to you

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Tyler's good at his job. He takes pride in that fact. Sometimes he even enjoys it.

Hey, you gotta make ends meet somehow. And with the amount of money currently sitting in his bank account, Tyler is clearly doing just fine. For now. But this month's rent is soon due, and the landlord just upped the price.

He meets a man named Brendon in a Starbucks. Brendon greets him with an enthusiastic hug and then orders vanilla lattes for both of them.

“Hey man,” Brendon says, pulling up a chair. “Huge fan of your work. Huge.” He leans in conspiratorially. “That douchebag loan shark was you, right? Such a clean shot, oh my god. Amazing.”

Tyler smiles sheepishly, his stomach prickling with discomfort. “Aw, well, you know.” They sit in silence for a couple of seconds. “Had to be done.”

“Respect, man. Respect.” Brendon stares at him in awe. “Look, I've got a job for you. Obviously, that's why you're here.” Suddenly, he's all business. Clearly he's done this before, even if he's starry-eyed for Tyler's assassin abilities. Brendon slides a binder over to him, a vanilla latte sitting on top.

Tyler sips at the latte while he inspects the binder. Josh Dun, it reads, and gives a basic summary of his personality alongside a picture of him. He's a good-looking dude, Tyler notes. Fit enough that he'll probably put up a decent struggle.

“He's my ex,” Brendon explains. “Nice guy who unfortunately knew about a few of my more illegal activities. Can't have him blabbing about that, can we?” He winks at Tyler like they're in on some sort of inside joke and then laughs brightly.

“Of course.” Tyler smiles politely. “And the payment?”

“Done and done! Took the liberty of putting the cash in the binder.” Tyler flips through it, but he doesn't count the money very carefully. His services are cheaper than most; and besides, stiffing an assassin would just be stupid. He says his thanks and leaves.

The next day is Saturday. Tyler spends it trailing Josh Dun, who apparently gets up at 6 AM on the dot to walk his dog. His breakfast is instant oatmeal with a glass of milk, which he eats while reading a newspaper and occasionally glancing at framed photos of Brendon.

He seems nice, but Tyler's killed plenty of nice people before. He averts his eyes from the windowsill he's spying from when Josh stares at one particular photo of his ex and starts crying into his oatmeal.

Tyler couldn't ever imagine caring for somebody that much. Or vice versa. It pulls something inside him to know that Brendon will be so callous about the death of this man who still loves him so much.

For the next three hours Josh goes to the basement. Tyler pretends to be weeding the garden when the neighbor comes around, so he can't see what his target's doing, but it's not like Josh's actions are a mystery. He's drumming so loudly that even from here Tyler feels like his ears are going to pop out of his head. He takes a split-second to think hey he's pretty good and I play piano we could be a band before shut the fuck up, man, you are so loud. Jesus and then three hours? That's just excessive.

The evening comes. Tyler's back is sore from alternately hiding in the bushes and weeding the lawn. The garage opens and Josh pulls out of the driveway. Tyler notes that he's changed into a dress shirt and tight jeans.

He cleans up well.

Tyler's car is parked at the front of the neighborhood. He easily slips into the role of a jogger, slipping on earbuds and draping a towel over his shoulders as he loosely tails Josh. He waits a minute when he reaches his car before getting in and following him.

They arrive at a bar. Tyler has a change of clothes in his trunk and he hastily switches into something more fashionable. There's a switchblade in his loafers but he doubts he'll get the chance to hurt Josh at the bar. A gun in the back alley, quick and anonymous, would be easiest, but it's too risky carrying one with him in such an open place. He figures he'll just poison Josh's drink or something – either at the bar if he's able, or after luring Josh to his apartment. He puts a couple of poison pills in his shirt pocket.

Josh is already chatting with the bartender when Tyler walks in. He subtly tries to mimic Brendon – a cool, confident walk, a half-pout on his lips. He can't help but wish he didn't have to be someone else to get Josh to like him, but he pushes that thought out of his head as quickly as it comes. It's all just an act. He repeats this mantra in his head as he takes a seat next to Josh.

“Buy you a drink?” he offers, smirking.

Josh turns, surprised. “Oh – well, sure, I guess.” For some reason Tyler's annoyed at his surprise. He's undeniably attractive – shouldn't people be falling all over themselves to talk to him?

“A pretty thing like yourself shouldn't be here all alone.” Tyler places his hand an inch away from Josh's arm. Tyler isn't good at flirting – too awkward to be seductive – but this new, Brendon-like persona he's adopted? It seems to be working, although Josh does knit his brows together for a moment.

“Something wrong?”

“No, no,” Josh says, waving him away with a sheepish grin. “Sorry – you just reminded me of my ex for a moment. It was weird.”

The bartender comes and Tyler orders them both margaritas.

“Is it a recent breakup?” Tyler sympathizes, and Josh nods. He decides to drop the whole Brendon act, since Josh is already suspicious. “That's rough.”

“Thanks man. I appreciate that.” Josh sips at his drink. “So how about you? Any past relationship struggles you need to get off your chest?” He quirks an eyebrow in a terrible attempt at being seductive, or funny, or both. Tyler snorts into his margarita.

“I haven't been in a serious relationship since high school.” His lip twitches a bit and he can't help but to laugh. “And it was before I realized I was gay. So.”

“Ah.” Josh nods wisely, stroking an imaginary beard. “I see. And to be... to be frank, you don't look much older than that?”

Tyler bursts out into renewed cackles. “Dude, I'm 22.”

Josh throws his hands. “Hey, that's only, what, four years of being out of high school? I was close, man!” When Tyler won't stop laughing, Josh protests, “Wow, okay. You just have a baby-face, alright?”

“No, it's just.. alright, this is terrible, but you said four years of being out? And I came out senior year?”

“Gay puns? We're doing gay puns now?”

“I told you it was terrible. And technically, you're the one who made it.”

“How am I supposed to know when you came out!”

Tyler realizes he's supposed to be concentrating on the whole assassination thing, but he's getting along with Josh so damn well. He hasn't felt this at home with anyone since Jenna, and that wasn't even with any romantic feelings involved.

This is different. Somewhere in the back of his mind, common sense and logic are yelling at him to just do it already, kill Josh now before it gets harder, transfer the money into his bank account and never think about this night again. Unfortunately, other parts convince him to just enjoy the moment while it lasts.

“The moment” turns into two hours at the bar, just talking with Josh about anything and everything. Turns out they're both from the same city – it's just weird how life works huh? Plus, they have the same taste in music, which is to say, Josh has fucking great taste in music. Tyler forgets about the blister that the switchblade in his shoe is surely making.

Josh is still laughing when he says, “Alright man, alright, I gotta use the restroom. Mind watching my stuff, please?” And then he leaves, and the pills in Tyler's pocket feel heavier than ever.

It's literally the perfect opportunity. The bartender is still mixing drinks. There's a conveniently tall man heading Tyler's way – perfect for blocking him from the security camera in the corner. The pills he's brought don't kick in until hours or maybe even days later, so there's little chance that the evidence will point back to him.

Tyler tenses as the tall man walks by. If he's going to do it, now's the chance.

Tyler coughs and leans forward to hide his motions as the pill lands in Josh's margarita. It 's safely hidden among the crushed ice filling the glass and is already dissolving.

The door to the men's bathroom opens and without thinking Tyler switches the drinks.

“Hey man,” Josh says, sliding into his seat. He takes a sip of his (Tyler's) margarita. “You know, it's been... super nice talking to you. We should totally do this again.” He holds his glass out. “We should do a toast or something.”

“Hell yeah,” Tyler agrees. Their glasses clink together. Right before Tyler drinks from his, the cup slips from his hand and spills across the table. One of the lime slices lands on Josh's lap.

“Oh shit man, I'm so sorry!” Tyler jumps up and out of his seat. The bartender comes over with a roll of paper towels and Tyler mops up the mess, carefully wiping up the half-dissolved pill. Josh shakes his head and laughs.

“I thought you said you used to play basketball! What happened?”

“Oh, well, you know,” Tyler grins, tossing the paper towel into the trash. “Things change.”