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Sway

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“I hate him Brendon, I fucking hate him so much! God!” Josh was currently hanging upside down off the side of his bed, phone tucked between his ear and shoulder as he ranted to his best friend about the terrible, no good, rotten Tyler fuckboy Joseph.

Josh Dun hated Tyler Joseph. Tyler Joseph was the definition of a fuckboy; he was a straight, white male who wore Nike everything, basketball shorts in the fucking winter, was constantly discussing how high he got or how many “chicks he banged,” goofed off in class, was a slacker, and, oh yeah, was the captain of the basketball team. Tyler Joseph’s friends were just as bad as he was.

Josh Dun was anything but a fuckboy, or so he liked to think. He was a quiet, reserved nerd who played percussion in the high school marching band. He wore glasses and had his hair dyed pink and only had a couple friends, but they were good, dependent upon friends, and that was all he needed. Josh Dun was good at math, he played the drums like a motherfucker, and oh yeah, did he mention how much he hated Tyler Joseph?

“Okay, okay, from the beginning. Who do you hate?”

Josh could practically hear Brendon’s smirk. Brendon also happened to be down in pit playing percussion as well. They had developed a unique friendship freshman year of high school.

“You know who I hate!”

“Okay, but why do you hate him so much? Please enlighten me with this story for the billionth time.”

“Gah!” Josh groaned, letting his body slump to the floor below. “I hate him so much! He’s the biggest asshole in the entire school. Him and his stupid jock friends are always slacking off in math class, provoking Mr. Johnson like he’s some kind of fucking animal! All I want to do is learn, not listen to how Tyler fuckboy Joseph is totally going to bang whatever his girlfriend’s name is! I certainly don’t want to hear about how he cheated on his last girlfriend or how he got the best BJ of his life last Sunday, Jesus, on the frickin’ Lord’s day, or how he got an F on the last English test, because that test was over The Great Gatsby and that book is a piece of fuckin’ literature and he should have passed that test with a fucking A!” Josh gasped for air, anger fueling through his veins. “I don’t want to hear about how ‘fucking stoned’ he got at Pete Wentz’s party or how he’s so pumped for basketball because it’s the only thing that matters in this school and that everything else is dumb, that’s right, he said the band was a fucking joke and God, when he said that I about stood up and slapped him across his fucking face! So fuck Tyler Joseph. I hate him.”

Brendon began slow clapping from his end of the phone. “Well put Joshua, well put. You have a vocation as a politician in your future.”

“Oh shut up Brendon.” Josh rolled his eyes. “Rant over. Sorry. I just needed to get that off my chest.”

“Oh no no, it’s fine. Trust me, I love hearing about all your Tyler fuckboy Joseph stories. They keep me entertained. I don’t have much else going on, so don’t worry about it.”

“The other day, he pulled out of the parking lot like a fucking idiot and cut someone off. He almost caused a goddamn accident in the student parking lot! And get this, he has a fucking yellow lamborghini.”

“No way.”

“Yes way. Can you ever believe that? Who gets an eighteen year old a lamborghini? I hate him so much. I don’t even understand why all the girls swoon over him being the hottest kid in school. It’s not like he could cut diamonds with his cheekbones or that his eyes crinkle at the corners when he laughs or that his olive skin matches those dumb tattoos he has perfectly or that his hair is the perfect shade of mocha. Tyler Joseph is dumb and I hate him.”

“Of course not, he’s completely and utterly awful looking, right Joshie?”

“Right. He’s the biggest asshole I’ve ever met in my entire life. Whenever I pass him in the hallways he always makes some kind of obscene gesture or whispers to his buddies or knocks my books out of my hand and I want to fucking punch him in the face.” It was then Josh’s doorbell rang, and he couldn’t be bothered to get up. “Mom!” he yelled, “Someone’s at the door!”

But his mother did not answer, and Josh was forced to pull himself off the floor and go answer the door himself. That however, did not mean he couldn’t continue to rant. “I can’t believe this guy. How can someone be so fucking rude all the time? Tyler Joseph is stupid, Tyler Joseph is God awful, Tyler Joseph is-” Josh paused as he peeked out the little hole in his front door to see none other than the devil himself standing on his front porch. “on my doorstep.”

“Tyler Joseph is on your doorstep?” Brendon repeated, a little skepticism in his voice. “Are you for real?”

“Uhm, yes. His car is in my driveway and he’s standing on my front porch in his stupid sunglasses and basketball shorts and Nike Jordans and he’s got a frickin’ iPhone 6 plus in his hand. Why is he on my doorstep? How does he even know where I live?” Josh hurriedly whispered into his phone. “What the hell do I do?”

“Answer it and tell him to fuck off.”

“I’m not doing that, as much as I would like to.”

“You still have to answer the door.”

“Okay fine. I’ll call you back later.”

“I’m expecting to hear every juicy detail. I want to know if my Joshie kicked Tyler fuckboy Joseph’s ass.”

Josh sighed, whispering a mumbled goodbye before he clicked off, shoved his phone in his pocket, straightened his posture, and pulled open the front door. Tyler Joseph flashed a perfect (probably fake) smile.

“Hey, you’re Josh Dun, right?” his voice was so stupid.

“Yep. That’s me.” Josh resisted his urge to sigh. He had known this stupid kid since the fifth grade, Tyler fuckboy Joseph talked to him in class. He should have known that.

“Hey! So uhm, you left this behind in math class and I figured you would probably want it back.” Tyler fuckboy Joseph presented Josh with his student ID, smiling brown haired Josh’s warped expression on the plastic next to “Grade 12” and his full name. Why was giving him his ID so important that it couldn’t wait until school on Monday? Josh didn’t need that for anything. It was a Friday; Josh wasn’t going anywhere that required his student ID.

He didn’t scowl no matter how badly he wanted to. Instead, Josh just took his ID and pocketed it. “Oh uh, thanks.”

“Hey, no problem. Figured you would need it for the basketball game tomorrow night.” Tyler fuckboy Joseph grinned, his eyebrows raising into view from behind his white sunglasses that reminded Josh of Willy Wonka. He was so strange. As if Josh would ever attend a basketball game. Besides, he had a band competition the next day. He didn’t have time for that.

“Wow. Yeah, unfortunately I have a band thing tomorrow, so I won’t be able to go...” he trailed off, trying to look anywhere but stupid Tyler Joseph.

“Oh right, band. That’s cool. Forgot you were in band.” He paused, pulling his sunglasses off. “I actually know who you are, I just wanted to make sure I had the right Josh Dun.”

Right, because there are soooo many Josh Dun’s in the school.

“Yeah. No it’s fine. How did uh, how did you know where I lived?”

“I actually don’t live too far from you. See you drive by sometimes.”

“Oh.” Great, The Tyler Joseph lived by him. Fantastic. Utterly fantastic.

“Actually, the student ID wasn’t the reason I came here. That was just an excuse.” For a second he actually looked like a normal human being before that smug “I’m better than everyone” look was back on his face.

“Ah. What’s the reason?” Josh really wanted to roll his eyes. Not being able to be sarcastic was breaking him. He fiddled with his glasses as he patiently waited for an answer.

“You mind if I come in?” Tyler Joseph asked as he pushed past Josh without an answer. Josh scoffed, jaw dropping a little at the fact that he had just invited himself in. Not only that, but Tyler fuckboy Joseph was sauntering up the stairs like he owned the place.

That was it. Josh was done being nice. “Why yes, I do mind if you come in. You can kindly get the hell out of my house.”

Tyler Joseph ignored him. “Is this your bedroom?” He asked, pushing open Josh’s slightly cracked bedroom door. God, where the hell was Josh’s family?

Josh watched as the person he despised more than any other human being in the world looked around his bedroom at all his band posters and the drumset covered in dirty clothes in one corner of his room. Josh’s bed wasn’t even made; he certainly was not ready for company.

“Blink-182?” he whispered in confusion, to which Josh only sighed.

“It’s a band. You’ve never heard of them?”

“Uh, no. I haven’t. I don’t really listen to uhm, emo music.”

Josh about backhanded him right there. “It’s not emo music. It’s good music. Now get out of my house.”

“Okay Josh, wait. I just wanted to know that you’re really attractive and I think you should go out with me.” His smirk was back, and Josh just stared. Surely he couldn’t have heard correctly. Tyler Joseph had a girlfriend. He was straighter than a line.

“What?”

“You’re hot, and we should go out.”

“But you’re...” Josh wasn’t sure what he was saying. “you’re straight?”

Tyler Joseph shook his head. “Probably not.”

“You have a girlfriend. Are you really that big of an asshole that you want to cheat on your girlfriend?”

“Who, Jenna? Nah, we broke up months ago. Nobody knows that though. Or seems to care.” He shrugged. “I’m gay anyways.”

No way. Tyler fuckboy Joseph was gay. Wait until Josh told Brendon.

“Okay, well what makes you think I’m gay?”

“Your hair is pink, and you paint your nails.”

Josh looked down at his chipping black nail polish with a frown before going back to glaring at Tyler stupid Joseph. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Well, are you gay?”

“No! Yes. Maybe.” To be honest, Josh didn’t really care enough about sexuality to figure it out. All his friends thought he was gay and he wasn’t about to say anything to prove them otherwise. “Probably,” he decided to stick with.

“Okay, then we should go out. It’ll have to be kept a secret though, so you aren’t allowed to tell anyone. I don’t want my friends finding out my little secret.” He let out a stupid laugh.

Josh really wanted to punch him in the face. “You know what? No. Fuck you. I can’t stand you.” Josh was sneering his words at this point. “You are stupid, rude, immoral, and just in general, an asshole. I’m not going out with somebody who takes pride in how many girls he’s fucked or lies to his friend’s about his sexuality like he’s embarrassed by it. Even if I were to go out with you, I wouldn’t be your little trophy for you to tuck away and keep secret. You parade around school like you’re God’s gift to mankind and you and your little buddies are always talking shit on what I like to do. So no Tyler Joseph, I will not go out with you.”

Tyler Joseph’s expression was one Josh had never seen before.

He looked fearful.

“But...” Josh assumed he wasn’t used to rejection, “I told you my secret. Nobody... nobody knows that about me. I like you.”

“Well maybe you shouldn’t have done that,” Josh shrugged nonchalantly, liking the fact that he now had blackmail material over the biggest fuckboy in school. “There are better ways to approach people than assuming they’ll automatically throw themselves at your feet.”

“But Josh...” he shook his head. “You won’t even give me a chance?”

“I don’t need to give you a chance. You’ve already ruined that here.” Josh jabbed a thumb towards his bedroom door. “Get out.”

“Don’t tell anyone please,” Tyler Joseph was begging, and boy did Josh like the power he had. “Don’t tell anyone I’m gay. I’ll get shunned, kicked off the team, I’ll-”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Josh replied, knowing he wouldn’t as much as he wanted to. “But you have to stop parading around like you own the fucking school.”

“Okay. Okay, I’m sorry. Just, don’t tell anyone.” And then Tyler fuckboy Joseph was darting out of Josh’s room like a scared puppy with his tail tucked in between his legs. Josh smiled fondly.

Just wait until Brendon heard about this.

Chapter Text

“Okay, what is so important that it had to wait until you saw me in person?” Brendon asked with an elbow nudge. The two currently were on their way to a band competition with the rest of the marching band, decked out in full uniform. Josh pulled at his collar in irritation as he rolled his eyes. Brendon had spammed him with texts the previous night demanding details, but Josh ensured him it was worth the wait.

“So he brought me my student ID.”

“Just... Out of the blue?”

Josh snorted. “Oh yeah. Let's go with that.”

Brendon narrowed his eyes. “Do I even wanna know?”

“Get this Brendon: Tyler Fuckboy Joseph is gay.”

His eyebrows shot up in surprise, mouth forming a perfect little circle. “You're joking. You've got to be joking. This can't be real.”

“He said I was attractive and wanted me to go out with him. Like hell I would go out with that asshole. You should have seen him; he was shaking like a Chihuahua.” Josh laughed mockingly. “He was begging me not to tell anyone. I'm not going to spread it around the school, it's just... Wow. He's gay. He's frickin’ gay! Who would have thought?”

“He’s gay!” Brendon said extremely loudly, causing Josh to punch him in the arm. “I can’t believe he’s gay.” he said a little quieter. “You have such power over him now, do you realize this?”

“Of course I realize that.” Josh rolled his eyes. “You aren’t allowed to tell anyone either.”

“But-”

“No buts. It’s personal information, got it?”

Brendon sighed obnoxiously, but nodded his head. “So he just assumed you’d go out with him?”

“Yep. Should have seen his face when I told him no. He’s probably never experienced rejection before.”

“So he thought you were gay then.” Brendon raised an eyebrow, a smirk rising to his lips. Josh just shook his head.

“Like you don’t think I’m gay either.”

“I wasn’t going to ask. Kinda just… assumed.”

“Boy, thanks!”

“I mean… your hair is pink after all…”

“Pink is a gender neutral colour!”

Brendon only laughed.

***

On Monday morning, Josh was upstairs brushing his teeth when his mother called from downstairs, “Josh! Your friend is here for you!”

Josh wasn’t sure what friend she was speaking of. He only had like, three, and none of them ever came to his house in the mornings before school.

He stopped by his bedroom window on his way downstairs, letting out a mumbled “shit” when he noticed the yellow lamborghini in his driveway right behind his pathetic excuse of a car. Great. Just great.

Josh’s sister Ashley pulled on his arm when he reached the bottom of the staircase, a flustered expression on her face. He looked at her in curiosity.

“What the hell is going on with you?”

“Tyler Joseph is at our house. What is he doing at our house?” Ashley raised one manicured hand to her lips, eyes darting back towards the front door. She was a sophomore, which brought so much joy to Josh knowing other grades knew about Tyler fuckboy Joseph. Although he really shouldn’t have been surprised.

“How do you know who he is?” Josh scowled as he pushed past her, wanting to tell Tyler stupid Joseph to get the fuck off his property. That would put him in a good mood before he suffered through seven hours of hell.

“Everyone knows who he is. Wait. Is he here for you?”

“Unfortunately,” Josh muttered under his breath as he approached the living room where his mother and stupid Tyler Joseph sat on the couch. He couldn’t help but glare at the charming smile that stupid fuckboy was giving his own mother.

“Hey Josh! How come you’ve never introduced me to your friend?” his mother grinned, and Josh felt like he was going to be sick.

“Please Mrs. Dun, don’t make him feel guilty.” Tyler fuckboy Joseph chuckled, running a hand through his hair. Josh felt his left eye twitch as his mother joined him in laughter.

“I haven’t had time,” he spat out through gritted teeth.

“Tyler here asked if he could take you to school. What a gentleman.” she winked, causing a whole new round of laughter. Josh wondered if Tyler stupid Joseph would be forced to leave if he smashed a window or knocked himself out.

“That’s a kind offer, but I have to take-”

“Oh hush Joshua, this is a nice gesture.”

“I can take him home too,” Tyler Joseph spoke up. Dammit, he was too smooth.

Josh’s mother checked the time on her phone, popping up from the couch with a small sigh. “Well boys, you better head out now. I’ll drive your sisters today, okay? Have fun and be safe!”

And that’s how five minutes later Josh ended up sitting passenger side in Tyler fuckboy Joseph’s stupid car. Both were quiet as he pulled out of the driveway.

Then Josh decided to speak up. “Why did you come back to my house? Was I not specific enough on the fact that I don’t like you?”

“Look Josh, I know you don’t like me. A lot of people don’t like me. I just want you to know that not everything you hear about me is true, okay?” he was quiet for a few seconds before he added, “you look nice today.”

Josh snorted. “You make me want to jump out of this car.”

“I’m trying to be nice.”

“You never tried to be nice before.”

“I know. I have to put out a specific image for myself and it’s a long story why. Just, trust me when I tell you that it’s not all true. Like the fact that I’ve banged every girl in the school. That’s a lie. I’ve never slept with a girl in my life.”

“Yeah, right.”

“I’m not lying.”

“Look, even if you were telling the truth, it doesn’t matter. We’re too different of people. I’m in band. I have like four friends. I love math and music and-”

“I love music too.”

“Not the kind I like.”

“I play piano Josh.” He looked away, like he had just exposed one of his deepest, darkest secrets. Josh blinked. Tyler fuckboy Joseph played piano?

“Do...do you really?”

“Yeah. I have for about five or six years now.” Tyler dumb Joseph replied, his voice soft. “I like classical stuff. Or making up my own stuff. Either or.”

“Then why are you so against band?”

“I’m not against band. Like I said, I have to put out a certain image for myself-”

“And it’s a long story why.” Josh repeated mockingly, rolling his eyes. “Why would you want to make yourself look like a douchebag?”

Tyler Joseph did not reply.

They were quiet the rest of the journey there, up until the car cruised into the parking lot and Tyler stupid Joseph parked his car where him and his buddies usually dallied around all morning. Fortunately for Josh, they were the first to arrive.

“I got here early, so my friends wouldn’t be here.” he said quietly, fiddling with the hem of his shirt. Josh scowled.

“What, you so embarrassed by me that you don’t want your friends to see me? I see how it is.” he started climbing out of the car when stupid Tyler Joseph grabbed him by the shoulder.

“That’s not it. I got here early so they wouldn’t terrorize you. My friends aren’t exactly the best of people, now are they?”

Josh stared at him for a moment, eyes narrowed. Then he pulled away. “Don’t bother giving me a ride home. I’ll find someone else.”

“Wait, Josh please just-”

“I don’t want to hear it!” Josh yelled as he swung his backpack over his shoulder and hurriedly walked towards the front door.

That was, until someone put their foot out in front of him and Josh went spiraling to the sidewalk, a hefty amount of skin scraping off his palms. He let out a low whistle between his teeth as eyes glanced up at none other than stupid Tyler Joseph’s stupid friend and teammate, Alex Gaskarth.

“Hey there fag. Looks like it might be time to repaint your nails, huh?”

Josh wished he could punch him in the face and not get in trouble for it. He’d have to stick with sass instead.

“Hey Alex, I don’t know if you heard this, but we’re supposed to get our hair styled like we’re stuck in 2007 and not wear it like normal people.” he grinned. “Oh, you did hear!”

Alex growled. “You motherfucker, I oughta-”

“Leave him alone Alex,” Tyler stupid Joseph spat, giving his friend a little push away from Josh still spread on the asphalt. Others in the student parking lot did nothing but stare. Man, did Josh love people.

“Leave him alone? Tyler, he’s not-”

“I said to fucking leave him alone. He’s not doing anything.” Tyler frickin’ Joseph shook his head. “Fucking idiot.” he muttered before shoving past Alex and offering Josh a hand. A thousand other things Josh would rather do ran through his mind at that moment.

But he took Tyler Joseph’s hand, and a hiss of pain escaped his lips. His hands were pretty scuffed up.

“You should go to the nurse,” he said quietly, but Josh only shrugged and walked away. This had not been the day he had been expecting when he woke up.

Josh walked quickly through the hallways to get to the band room, head down and earphones on the highest volume. He balled his hands into the pocket of his hoodie, trying to forget the previous events that had just taken place. He couldn’t believe that had happened. Brendon was going to flip his shit.

***

“Tyler Joseph did what?” Brendon exclaimed the minute Josh let the words “Tyler fuckboy Joseph showed up at my house this morning” slide past his lips.

“He showed up at my house offering me a ride to school. Charmed my own mother.” he rolled his eyes. “You should have seen my sisters. I wanted to puke.”

“Did you take his offer?”

“Of course I did. My mother thinks we’re best friends or something. I had to pretend. But get this: he plays piano.”

“You’re joking.”

“Nope. He’s played for six years.”

“Wow. I would have never guessed.” he shrugged. “What happened to your hands?”

Josh looked down at his pinkened flesh with a sigh. “Alex Gaskarth happened.”

“Oh joy. My favourite jock of them all.”

“But Tyler Joseph actually defended me. It was weird.”

“That sounds weird.” he paused, one finger brushing his lips. “So what are you going to do about your ride home?”

“I was kind of hoping you would take me home… since we got band practice and stuff after school.”

Brendon frowned. “On literally any other day I would, but I have to go catch a dentist appointment. Apparently Mountain Dew doesn’t do great stuff to your teeth. You’ve got someone else that could take you home, right?”

“Uh…” He could find someone else, right? It couldn’t be that hard. “Probably.”

“Good. Wouldn’t want you to ride in awkward silence with Joseph. By the way, what’s the inside of his car look like?”

“It’s very nice, I’ll admit that.”

Brendon let out a fake moan, grasping his chest through his shirt. “Ahh, sports cars! I’m going to come!”

Josh shoved him, nose scrunching up in disgust. “Shut up dude.”

Brendon continued to laugh.

Josh didn’t have to deal with dumb Tyler Joseph until the second half of the day, so of course the first half went by far too quickly. He was sitting at lunch with Brendon and some of his other band friends when a familiar voice came from behind him and the table went silent.

They had been talking about the band competition and the amazing score they had received, Patrick (a trumpet player) was performing his usual task of throwing carrot sticks at Brendon, who would then try to fling them into Dallon’s (down with Josh and Bren in percussion) food (Brendon would never admit it in a million years, but it was extremely obvious he had a huge crush on Dallon.) Josh found his lunch period to be very entertaining, until it was ruined by fuckboys.

“Uhm, hey Josh, do you mind if I uh, speak with you? In private?” Josh knew perfectly well who was behind him, (with a voice like that, it was a little hard not to tell) but refused to turn around. It was weird hearing the nervousness in Tyler Joseph’s voice.

“Yeah, I do mind. I don’t want to talk to you.”

The table fell into an awkward silence; nobody dared to even breathe. Except of course Brendon, who had his phone pointed at Josh’s face.

“Josh, please-”

“For the love of God, can’t you learn to take a hint?” Josh whipped around. “Read my fucking lips. I. Don’t. Want. To. Talk. To. You.”

And then Tyler stupid Joseph turned on his heel and walked back to his lunch table. Brendon burst into laughter the minute he had left.

“Oh my God Josh, fucking slay!”

“Why did he want to talk to you?” Dallon asked, eyes widening in curiosity. The entire group shifted forward in surprise. Only Brendon knew why, and Josh prayed he wouldn’t say anything.

“I have no clue. All I know is that he’s stupid and I don’t want to talk to him.”

“Good for you dude,” Patrick chimed in, throwing another carrot stick at Brendon. “Although Tyler does have connections. Have you seen Pete Wentz?”

The entire table let out a collective groan.

“Don’t even start,” Gerard (also in percussion) pointed at Patrick with a spoon, “Nobody wants to hear it.”

“But-”

“No.”

Patrick pouted, but shut his mouth as the table went back to its usual behaviour.

***

Josh spent the rest of the day trying to find a ride home. He texted Debby, his next door neighbour.

 

Josh: Can I get a ride home?

Debby: I’d love to, but I gotta stay @ school until 8 - helping out w/ STUCO stuff.

 

He sighed. Debby would have been a long shot. She was the president of STUCO and stayed at school until 8 o’clock most nights. So he tried Mark. Mark was probably Josh’s oldest friend; they had met in fourth grade when Mark knocked him upside the head with a kickball. Mark spent most of his time helping out with theatre, stage managing and directing and stuff.

 

Josh: Friend, pal, amigo… could I get a ride home plz

Mark: Gotta take the bro to his karate class. sorry J

 

Well that was it. Josh had no other close friends. Of course, he could always ask the lunch table crew, but he wouldn’t exactly call those people his friends. They were more of acquaintances.

He looked up from his phone over to Tyler Joseph, who currently had his earphones in and his head down on the desk. All his buddies, Alex included, were not doing the homework Johnson had assigned (they were currently doing logarithms) and instead were laughing and throwing pencils at one another. Oh boy, was eighth period math a blessing to all.

As much as it pained him to do it, he was going to have to ask stupid Tyler Joseph for a ride home. Even his parents would get home late, and he definitely didn’t want to be stuck at school later than he had too.

So the minute the bell rang, Josh was rushing to grab ahold of Tyler Joseph. He looked at Josh in surprise, eyes crinkling at the corners in a way Josh might have actually described as cute.

“Hey uhm…” Josh hated how pathetic he sounded, “I was just wondering if uh, I could still catch a ride.”

“Oh!” His voice was full of shock. “Yeah! Of course! Uhm, you’ve got uh,”

“Band practice,” Josh answered for him.

“Right, band practice. Yes, of course. I’ve got basketball practice until 4:30-”

“Me too. Band practice I mean.”

“Right. So I guess, just meet me at doors by the parking lot?”

“Yeah. Alright.” Josh stared at his vans, eyes focusing on the fraying laces. He was going to have to get some new ones come his next paycheck.

“So I guess, I’ll uh, see you then.”

“Right. Yes. 4:30.” Then Josh turned and practically ran down the hallway. He couldn’t believe he had asked Tyler Joseph of all people for a ride home. This was going to be terrible.

Josh also decided he should probably stop calling Tyler Joseph by his full name.

***

A few minutes after 4:30 Josh, sweaty and gross, met Tyler Jo- Tyler, by the doors. He ran a hand through his hair as he let his eyes wander over Tyler’s form. He was reddened and sweaty, basketball shorts hanging low on his hips and black shirt clinging with wetness as he fiddled with the strap of the duffle bag thrown over his shoulder. Tyler looked like he needed a tall glass of water.

“Hey!” he said cheerfully, a smile spreading across his face. “How was band practice?”

“Fine,” Josh muttered, not really one for small talk, especially with someone he strongly disliked. He still wanted to make sure Tyler wouldn’t die though. He was going to be the one driving him home. “Do you… would you like some water?” Josh pulled his water bottle and shook it gently.

“Oh God, that would be awesome.” Josh tossed it his way and watched Tyler down the entire thing. “Sorry, I forgot to bring water today. Kind of stupid of me.”

“Yeah.”

“So uhm…” Tyler scratched behind his ear, “You wanna go now?”

“Sure.”

So Josh followed Tyler out the doors to his car, watching Tyler pop open the trunk so they could put their stuff inside and open the passenger side door for Josh. Josh only glared as he sat down and pulled the seatbelt across his chest.

The two were quiet as Tyler pulled out of the parking lot and turned out onto the street that connected to the highway. Surprisingly, Tyler was the first to talk.

“I’m not a slacker in all my classes like you think.”

“Huh?” Josh looked over at him.

“A slacker. You think I’m a slacker, don’t you?”

Josh shrugged.

“I have an A in creative writing. It’s my favourite class. I get to write a lot in there.” He took a deep breath. “English is a different topic. It’s not the grammar that bothers me; no, I’m great with grammar. It’s the reading. I don’t really like reading. It’s the way I am with music. I don’t like listening to other people’s stuff because I would rather write my own. I don’t like reading because I’d rather write my own. Besides, I don’t exactly agree with other people’s writing most times. Sometimes it gets too deep for me and I feel like I’m invading.”

Josh didn’t know how to answer that.

The Great Gatsby was a perfect example of that. You know Fitzgerald, the dude who wrote it? He was all kinds of messed up. The poor guy had a terrible life, dropped out of college, became an alcoholic, had his wife admitted to an asylum for schizophrenia. Could you imagine a life like that? It would kill me. That’s why I stay away from alcohol. I’m afraid I’ll get addicted and do terrible, horrific things.” Tyler shuddered, and Josh almost called him out on the alcohol thing. Didn’t he always brag about getting wasted and high at parties?

But the way he had shivered after saying that told Josh that he was being completely honest.

“Anyways, you have Gatsby, right? Great guy, war vet, has a lot of friends. He’s rich, has all these parties, blah, blah, blah. But here’s the thing. Gatsby wanted to be a self made man, but he did it illegally. He had all these parties, but for one girl he met five years ago. He became self made through dishonesty. And that really pissed me off. The idea of the American Dream has been around for centuries, you know? For Gatsby, it was being with Daisy. But I just don’t understand. He was so obsessed with getting this girl that he was willing to go to great lengths to do it and then he didn’t stop and see what he had. No, he kept pushing, kept grabbing with outstretched arms, and that led to tragedy. That’s why the American Dream is utter bullshit. The human race is flawed Josh. We are greedy. We can’t have an American Dream because we’re always going to want more and more and more and our dream is never going to be fulfilled. That’s why I failed the test. I refused to answer her stupid questions about Gatsby achieving the American dream. It was a waste of my time.”

Josh blinked. He liked that book, but hadn’t bothered to read that in depth to it. Here he thought Tyler failed because he hadn’t bothered to read it.

“Wow… that’s…”

Tyler laughed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to freak you out or anything.”

“No. Just… who’s your English teacher?”

“Moody.”

“Oh. I don’t have her.”

“Yeah.”

Josh didn’t say anything else. He felt bad, for judging Tyler all these years when he just gave a very intelligent speech.

Tyler cleared his throat, hands shaking on the steering wheel. “I’m terrible at math. Don’t know what I’m doing half the time. So I usually don’t do it.” he shrugged. “I know I’m an asshole in that class.”

“Math’s my best subject,” Josh said softly. “I guess, if you need help, I could try and see what we can do.”

“That would be really great. Thanks.”

“No problem.” Josh began tapping a steady rhythm on his leg, trying to calm his nerves. “Do you enjoy basketball Tyler?”

“Eh. I don’t really know. My parents wanted me in a sport so I could get into a decent college, so they put me in basketball at age nine. I’ve been playing it ever since. I guess I’m alright at it, it’s just not something I wanna do with my life. I’d like to pursue a writing career I think.”

Josh nodded. “That’d be good.”

“My parents are hardly ever home. They work all the time, and man, they’re always wanting my siblings and I to have the best of everything. That’s part of the reason I have to put out this certain image for myself, you know? My parents are embarrassed otherwise. “ magenta spread across his face. “That’s one reason I could never tell them I’m gay. I could never tell my friends either.” Tyler scoffed loudly, gently banging a fist on the steering wheel. “Friends. They aren’t my friends. I fucking hate them.”

There was a pit forming in Josh’s stomach that made him want to vomit.

“Sorry I was so cocky on Friday. I thought maybe if I put out the image I usually do, that I’ve got my life together, you might be willing like everyone else.” he shook his head, car swerving gently. Josh hoped he wouldn’t crash the car. “Jenna… I came to her like I came to you. At first she was all for it. But then she called me an asshole, said I was a terrible person, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t keep pretending I was someone I’m not. But I have to keep pretending. I have to pretend I fuck a hundred different girls each month and get wasted at parties because that’s what people expect of me. It’s too late to change my image now.”

By this time, Tyler was pulling into Josh’s driveway. He seemed to know Josh’s neighbourhood like the back of his hand. “Anyways. Now you know how big of a loser I am.”

“Nah.” Josh looked at his house in front of him and sighed. “You said you lived close?”

“Yep, the estates at the back.”

Holy shit. Those weren’t houses, those were fucking mansions.

“Oh, wow.” he picked a loose thread off his T-shirt and chipped more nail polish off his nails. Alex had been right; he did need to repaint them. “Thanks for sharing with me.”

“No problem. Someone at least had to know the truth, right?”

Josh chuckled softly. “Right.” then he shifted towards Tyler. “You know, I don’t work this weekend. Maybe we could go grab coffee or something and talk a little more. You were right; I do deserve to give you a chance.”

Tyler grinned wider than Josh had ever seen before. “Yeah, alright! That would be awesome! Uh, does nine work for you?”

“It does.”

“Then I’ll see you at nine a.m. sharp.” Tyler wiped at a trickle of sweat beading his forehead, grin still going strong. “I like your nails by the way. You should do blue. It’ll compliment your hair. Like cotton candy.”

Josh could feel himself blushing. Since when did Tyler stupid Joseph make him blush?

“Uh yeah, I’ll uh, think about it.”

“Okay. Then I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“Tomorrow.” Josh firmly nodded his head and climbed out of the car, letting Tyler pop the trunk open before he grabbed his bookbag and headed inside.

There was no way he was telling Brendon about this.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week flew by quickly, and on Saturday morning Josh woke up at 7 am.

Josh knew he didn’t need to be up this early in the morning, but he really couldn’t help it. His heart was in his stomach and his stomach was doing flips like no tomorrow. Why did a guy he hated so much do this to him? Maybe, just maybe, he didn’t hate Tyler Joseph. He wasn’t that much of a fuckboy after all, unless he was faking it. Could you really fake that though?

Josh had barely seen Tyler all week; Tyler himself seemed to be avoiding his classes. He would leave math early, or be several minutes late, and he almost always had his head down or wasn’t paying attention. Josh was a little worried to what was up.

But he also was excited. Excited. He never thought he would use the word excited to describe his feelings towards Tyler Joseph.

At 9 am sharp, the doorbell rang. Josh could hear his family yelling for him downstairs, but he stared at himself in the mirror, smoothed down his hair, straightened out his shirt, pushed his glasses farther up his nose, and took a deep breath.

“I’m going out Mom! Be back soon!” he yelled as he pulled the front door open and slammed it shut behind him. Tyler flashed him a perfect ethereal smile and ran a hand through his hair.

“Hey Josh. How are you?”

“I’m fine,” responded Josh as he followed Tyler to his car and climbed into the passenger seat. He pulled on his seatbelt and began tapping on his leg once more.

“That’s good. Your week okay?”

“Yeah. Yours?”

“It was alright.” He ran fingers through his hair once more. Josh wondered if that was a nervous tick of his. “So coffee.”

“Coffee,” Josh repeated.

“Here goes nothing,” Tyler mumbled under his breath as he pulled out of the driveway.

***

It sounds terrible, but Josh really wasn't expecting much. He was expecting they pile into a crowded Starbucks and get the most basic coffees anyone could ever get.

But Tyler drove straight past Starbucks, and Josh watched with wide eyes as the familiarity of Columbus disappeared. Where the hell were they going?

The radio was down low, classical piano coming from the speakers. Josh watched Tyler as he drove, noting the way his Adam’s Apple moved every time he swallowed or how his long slender fingers tapped the steering wheel or how every so often a part of his body would shift and twitch. Tyler was definitely an interesting character. Josh also noticed he wasn't wearing what he usually wore. No, today he wore black skinny jeans with a couple rips in them and a light grey crewneck. (Josh would never admit it, but Tyler actually looked really attractive.)

The car pulled off down a road layered with antique shops and little boutiques and into a small parking lot of a place called Picasso’s. Josh continued to stare even after Tyler killed the ignition.

“Hope you don't mind if we uh, come here. It's my favourite coffee place, all nice and cozy like those pictures you see. They have some killer coffee.” Tyler blushed, burying his head in his shoulder. Josh's mouth dropped open and he forced himself to close it.

“Oh uhm, no, I don't mind. I would uh, actually prefer a smaller place...” He trailed off, face also now burning with pink. He began chipping at his freshly painted nails.

“Oh good then. I think you might enjoy it.” Tyler smiled softly before hopping out of the car. Josh was about to follow when he noticed Tyler darting around the front to pull open his door.

“Thanks,” Josh whispered, looking at his feet. Tyler’s smile grew bigger.

“No problem. Shall we go in?”

“We shall.” Josh followed Tyler through the wooden door, listening to the bell ding happily as he glimpsed around the coffee shop. There was a stage in the back corner, nothing more than some wooden planks stacked on one another, completely covered in wires and microphones and god knows what else. The shop itself was littered in armchairs and sofas with small mahogany tables next to them.

Josh loved it.

The two approached the counter to order, a giant chalkboard scrawled in a hundred different choices above the blonde at the counter’s head. She grinned.

“Hiya Tyler, it's good to see you again.” The blonde adjusted her apron and Josh looked to Tyler for an answer to how she knew him.

“Good to see you too Jenna. This is Josh Dun. Josh, this is Jenna.” He pointed towards Josh, face burning with a dark crimson as Jenna’s aqua blue eyes lit up.

“This is the Josh Dun?” She repeated, like Josh wasn't even there. He cleared his throat to remind them.

Jenna turned towards Josh and extended her right hand. “I've heard so much about you Josh! So nice to finally meet you.”

Josh stared at her hand in confusion. He thought Jenna and Tyler hated each other. Isn't that what Tyler had said? Because he had used her?

“You're probably super confused right now.” She laughed loudly. “I'll give you the short version. Tyler and I dated for a while, and then I found out he wasn't the guy I thought he was. No, he was sweet and down to earth and deep as the Pacific Ocean.” Tyler buried his head in his shoulder even more. “But he would tell me stuff that I found to be a little odd. Don't get me wrong, the boy’s odd already, but I could connect two and two together. He was super gay for you.”

“Jenna,” Tyler finally whispered, his whole body shaking with embarrassment.

“Anyways, we stayed friends and now I'm really happy to see you here. I see you in the halls and stuff but never talked to you so hello! Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you too.” Josh nodded his head, gently pressing a hand on Tyler's shoulder. He knew things were awkward, but it seemed like the poor dude might explode.

“Anyways, your usual Tyjo?” She began typing some things into the cash register as Tyler scanned the chalkboard scrawl. Josh suddenly whispered into his ear,

“Let's try something neither one of us would ever try in a million years.”

Tyler blinked, a dimpled, crinkly at the corners smile rising to his face. He nodded his head in excitement.

“No, I'm not gonna do my usual. Let's do with... Butterscotch Cheesecake.”

Jenna stared at him like he was crazy. “That sounds terrible.”

He shrugged. “Don't knock it ‘till you try it.”

“Fine. And for you Josh?”

“Hmm... Maple Nut Fudge.” Tyler high fived him behind the counter where Jenna couldn't see.

Jenna signed. “Is that gonna be all for you crazy people?”

“Throw in some banana bread as well. I'm feelin’ crazier than usual.” Tyler winked as he pulled out his wallet, causing Josh to frown.

“Total is $15.67.”

“Let me pay,” Josh said, grabbing Tyler's hand. “It was my idea to get coffee.”

“But it was my idea to go on a date. I'm paying Jish, no buts.” Josh let go, watching Tyler fork over money. Jish. That was a new nickname for him.

But he kind of liked it.

The two of them sat down across from each other in two arms chairs in the back, big loopy grins on both their faces. Tyler crossed one leg over the other, in which most people would consider to be the “feminine” way. Josh noticed Tyler was wearing floral vans. The worst part was that he was totally pulling them off too.

Why did Josh have the urge to lean over the table and kiss Tyler?

“That was a good idea, ordering something we never would. Give or take, it might taste disgusting-”

“If it does then round two is one me,” Josh interrupted with a smile. Tyler rolled his eyes.

“There won't be a round two. We have to suck it up or Jenna will never let me live it down.”

Josh laughed quietly, eyes darting to Jenna at the counter. She was watching them with a large smile on her face. He leaned back over, eyes flickering to Tyler.

“You've got such nice eyebrows,” he suddenly blurted out, causing himself to blush once more. Good thing Tyler had the same idea.

“Oh uh, wow. Uhm, thank you?”

Josh groaned, rubbing both his temples. “I'm sorry. I'm just super confused. I've thought I've hated you all this time and now, now...”

“This was supposed to be my chance. You were giving me a chance and you had every right to hate me because I am the biggest dick in the entire state of Ohio. But I like you a lot Josh, and I don't want you to think that. We are here to talk.”

He sighed. “Right. Talk.”

Tyler blinked, craning his neck to look at Jenna before he turned back around. “My birthday is December first.”

“June eighteenth,” Josh replied.

“My favourite colour... I would say red. Red is a regular ole Benedict Arnold. It can represent love and passion, fate, the end, happiness, but at the same time it can represent anger, pain, destruction, evil. It's such a rich colour that I see in only the best people. The people that have it in them to destroy, but choose to love instead. That's why I liked you so much.”

“I'm... Red?” Josh asked in confusion.

“People think seeing red is a bad thing, but it can mean so much more. You have to go beyond the shade. You have to take it apart and study it bit by bit. Anyways.”

“Uhm... My favourite colour is probably blue I think... Because uhm, it's uh, pretty.” Josh felt a lot stupider now. Tyler liked to analysis and he didn't even know where to begin. Did that make him shallow?

Tyler laughed. “That's a good reason to like a colour.”

It was at that moment Jenna brought them over their order. She sat their stuff down with mock disgust before flashing a smile and turning back around. Tyler picked up his cup, sloshing the liquid around.

“On the count of three, we both drink.”

Josh nodded his head.

“One, two, three!”

Josh let the warm mixture slide down his throat, a rich combination of ingredients overwhelming his taste buds. He coughed in distress, causing Tyler to pull away.

“You okay Josh?”

“Fi-ne, just we-nt do-wn wrong pi-pe,” he coughed, face turning red for the millionth time today. He really needed to stop.

Tyler waited patiently until Josh was no longer dying. “Was it good at least?”

“Uh, yeah. I liked it. You?”

“Surprisingly I did enjoy it! Who knew butterscotch would taste good in a drink?” He chuckled softly. “Okay. Back to the conversation. Lucky number?”

***

They spent a good majority of time learning random facts about one another, like the fact that Tyler was the oldest of four (two brothers and a sister) or that he loved Mexican food (funny, Josh did also) or that he wrote a lot of songs. Like, a lot of songs. Tyler had over a hundred notes on his phone with nothing but song lyrics.

“Do you listen to any music besides classical and yourself?” Josh teased playfully, actually curious to know the answer. He knew Tyler didn't like to listen to personal stuff, but everybody had to know a few bands, right?

Tyler scoffed. “There are a few bands. The Killers are a pretty big influence on me. You know them?”

“Coming out of my cage and I've been doing just fine, gotta gotta be down because I want it all,” Josh sang high and off pitched, causing Tyler to roll his eyes. He began picking at the slice of banana bread placed before him.

“They have a song called Read My Mind. There's a moment in the video where he’s looking straight into the camera with a stance that says, ‘Hey, I've got my life together,’ but you can see in his eyes that he doesn't. And then his hand twitches slightly, and damn Josh, I cried for hours after I watched that. I felt guilty, like I had read my sister’s diary or something. I didn't even know why I was crying or freaking out so bad, I just was. My anxiety shot through the roof. Damn you Brandon Flowers.” He chuckled awkwardly again, trying to it play off cool. Josh could relate to the crying during songs thing. He could name at least five songs that did that to him.

“I listened to the rest of their stuff despite my anxiety, and to this day I'm glad I did. They’re so underrated man, and they really inspired a lot of the stuff I've written.” He shrugged. “Blue October too. God, I listened to to Hate Me and I couldn't function for days. This is why I tend to stay away from words. They are too much for me.” He shuddered. “I do know plenty of bands, just so you know. I do know Blink-182, and Green Day, and that stuff, but I haven't listened to it. It's too hard for me.”

“I can understand that.”

“But what about you? Don't let me take the spotlight.”

“Well, uh, Blink-182 is a big one. Green Day is pretty high up there. Taking Back Sunday, Brand New... God, don't ever listen to any Brand New songs, they will fuck you up.” Josh looked at his fingernails. He wished he could be as deep as Tyler was, but that just wasn't going to happen.

“Words are often man’s greatest enemy. They are certainly mine. I'd rather be punched in the face.” Tyler picked at the cardboard wrapped around his now empty cup. “You ready to go home?”

“Uhm, yeah, alright.” Josh mumbled. He really didn't want to leave at all.

All these years of being in denial were finally starting to break him.

After saying goodbye to Jenna, the two climbed back into Tyler’s car. They were quiet the whole way back; not even the radio was playing. Josh focused on the sound of his nails on his jeans as he tapped a comforting rhythm.

As soon as Tyler pulled into Josh’s driveway, he turned the car off and let out a sigh.

“Well, that's it I guess. Thank you for giving me a chance.”

Josh picked at a loose thread on his shirt. “I had fun.”

“Me too.”

“You don't... Like... Have to leave yet. If you don't want to.”

Tyler raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“My brother is probably out skateboarding, my sisters are at the mall... And my parents are grocery shopping. So. You could come in, if you wanted to. I could do your nails.” He smiled at the end, causing Tyler to light up a little.

“Yeah. Yeah! We could... Yes. I would love to.”

And that's how fifteen minutes later they ended up in Josh’s room cross legged on the floor, about twenty different colours of nail polish surrounding them. Josh was lucky this time; his room was actually kind of clean.

“So, are all of these yours?” Tyler asked politely as Josh laid down a paper towel and placed Tyler’s left hand on top of it.

“Nah. Some of them are Abby and Ashley’s, but I usually keep them all in here. They ask me to paint their nails far too often.” Josh rolled his eyes playfully. “Guess I should open a nail salon, huh?”

“Hey man, you can't pick your talents.”

Josh grinned. “What colour are you feeling?”

Tyler reached for the deep maroon that Josh had never been able to pull off. With Tyler’s skin complexion however, he could work it.

“I like it.”

“Me too,” Tyler chuckled, eyes crinkling at the corners. Josh loved that more than anything. He could only imagine waking up every morning to a smile like that. A smile only for him.

Shit. No.

“Okay, stay still while I do this.” Josh opened the polish and started with gentle strokes, Tyler quiet the whole time. He admired Josh’s focus.

“I can only imagine what my parents are going to say,” Tyler said jokingly, but his voice cracked in the middle of his sentence, like he was actually beyond terrified. Josh pulled the brush away.

“I can take it off Tyler.”

“No. I want it on. Fuck my parents, fuck my fake ass friends. I want this for me, not for everyone else.” He took a deep breath. “I love them Josh. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Don't touch anything, alright? Wouldn't want to mess it up.” Tyler nodded as Josh began cleaning up. He watched Tyler closely, trying to find any signs of distress. Who knew a guy who acted like he had it all together really didn't?

That terrified Josh, thinking about all the people he knew that may not have had to together.

“So you play the drums.”

“I do, yes.”

“Would you... I mean if it's not a hassle, if it is don't worry about it but I would love to-”

“You want me to play?” Josh clarified, raising an eyebrow. People usually got annoyed by his loud banging.

“Save a drum, bang a drummer,” Tyler replied in nervous laughter, before he seemed to realize what exactly he had just said. His eyes lit up in fear, and he stumbled over words to get everything out at once. “Ohmygodimsosososorry that's not what I meant to say at all! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my-”

“Tyler, it's fine. It's funny.” Josh shrugged nonchalantly, just wanting to make him feel better. It was funny.

And it also kind of turned Josh on just thinking about it.

Fuck.

“That was inappropriate.”

“We’re teenagers. We say a lot of inappropriate things.” Josh dropped down to the ground, knowing it wasn't the best idea considering his dick was straining against the fabric of his jeans. “You're fine dude. You didn't offend me.”

“Are you... Well uhm, how do I ask this question? Uh...”

“Yeah, I'm virgin 101 over here.” He shrugged. “Most people tend to stay away from the pink haired, nail painted, glasses wearing band nerd.”

“But why? You're like, really attractive.”

“Dude...” Josh was blushing again. “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”

“My jeans are too tight,” Tyler replied, not even answering the right question. Josh’s blush deepened.

“Take them off,” Josh whispered. Yep, he was fucked.

Tyler waved his hands around. “My nails are wet, remember?”

“I'll help you out.” Josh helped Tyler stand up, and then as not awkward as possible unbuttoned his pants and pulled down the zipper. Tyler looked at him with a smirk before Josh was pulling them down to his ankles. He tried to ignore the fact that there was an enormous bulge in Tyler’s (red, of all fucking colours) boxers. Oh god, he was fucked.

“It's far too hot in here for me to keep mine on,” Josh added, shimming out of his as well. Tyler continued to stare.

What the fuck am I getting myself into?

“Bad time for me to get my nails painted,” Tyler said in disappointment, sticking out his bottom lip. He kicked his pants off his ankles and tossed them to the other side of the room. Josh backed him into the closet door, placing hands on his hips.

“I've been so in denial Tyler, it's been ridiculous. I've thought about kissing you for so long, about holding your hand, about watching movies snuggled up next to you. But you were such an asshole I could never do that. God though, you aren't an asshole. You aren't the biggest dick in Ohio. I mean, you might have the biggest dick in Ohio, but that's two completely different things. Fuck. I did not mean to say that out loud.”

“Just kiss me already.”

Oh, and Josh did. He pressed his lips to Tyler’s, loving the feel of his chapped lips and the coffee on his breath. He loved feeling Tyler buck under his hands, loved the touch of Tyler's skin on his. Josh couldn't remember the last time he had kissed someone, couldn't remember the last time something like this had ever happened. He felt like jumping for joy.

Then his bedroom door opened.

“Hey Josh, I was just wondering if-”

Josh pulled away in milliseconds as Debby let out a tiny yelp and slammed the door shut.

“God Debby, we’ve talked about this! I could be watching porn or something!” Josh yelled through the closed door, banging a fist on the wall. His face was redder than the colour of Tyler’s boxers.

“Sorry! I just wanted homework help! I yelled I was here!”

“I was a little too busy to hear you!”

“I didn't know you had a boy over! Jesus!”

“His car is in the driveway!”

“I came in through the back door! Fuck man, I'm sorry! I’ll come back later!”

“God.” Josh hit his head repeatedly on the wall as Tyler froze, eyes wide in fear.

“Was that Debby Ryan? Like, STUCO president Debby Ryan?”

“Er, yeah. I'm so sorry, she has no idea what privacy is apparently.”

“You don't think... You don't think she saw me, do you?”

“I mean, I was kind of in the way. So no. If she did she’ll pester me about it and l’ll tell her to keep it secret. She's pretty good about that kind of stuff, I promise.”

Tyler sighed, eyes flickering to his still wet nails. “What are we doing man?”

“Uh...”

“I mean, can we get away with this? Are you... Do you...”

“Tyler, I do wanna try whatever the hell we have going on. It may be weird, and we may have to keep it secret, but I wanna try.”

“You hated me.”

“I didn't hate you, I hated your fake personality. That's not the real you. And I'm fascinated with the real you. So let's say fuck it and go back to making out.”

That got him to crack a smile. “Alright. Just don't mess up my nails.”

Josh kissed him on the cheek. “Wouldn't dream of it.”

Chapter Text

Over the course of three months, their relationship became one of settle hand holding in secrecy, rides to and from school, late afternoons full of homework and short conversations. People were starting to get suspicious, but he didn’t care. Josh lived for those moments with Tyler. He loved being able to touch him gently, to feel his skin on his, to kiss him. Josh of course, did feel guilty. He hadn’t told anyone about Tyler, not even Brendon. He had lied to Debby, and his parents thought Tyler was just a friend. Josh wasn’t even sure if his parents knew he was gay. Josh was pretty obvious about it, but his parents seemed to be pretty oblivious at times.

Josh wasn’t quite sure if he would ever tell anyone. He wanted to pretty badly, but it was going to be up to Tyler in the end.

One Saturday night, there was a knock at Josh’s bedroom door. He looked up from his homework (homework on a Saturday night, yeah, Josh was the definition of cool) before sliding off the bed and gently yanking on the handle.

Tyler stood with his usual cocky smirk, chipped maroon shimmering in the artificial light of the hallway. Josh had repainted them a couple weeks ago the same exact colour because Tyler had said it made him look tough. “We’re going on an adventure.”

“At ten o’clock at night? My parents aren’t going to let me-”

“I already talked to them, it’s fine. They trust me. I can be quite charming at times, not sure if you knew that or not.”

Josh rolled his eyes. “You asked my parents for permission?”

“I’m quite the gentleman. Then again, I did tell them we were going back over to my house to play video games.” he moved his shoulders up and down lazily. “Come on Jish.” Tyler reached out for Josh’s hand, taking ahold of it firmly before he pulled him down the hallway and out of the door. Josh barely had time to grab a hoodie before he was shoved out the house.

“Where are we going?” Josh asked once he was passenger side in Tyler’s car and the radio was a low hum.

“It’s a surprise.”

“I hate surprises.”

“Deal with it.”

Josh groaned, but looked out the window as Tyler pulled out of the driveway and turned down the street. The two were quiet for a few minutes before Josh sighed.

“I wish we could hold hands in public.”

“I wish we could do a lot of things Jish.” Tyler mimicked Josh’s sigh, his neck twitching ever so slightly. “I wish a lot of things were different. I wish I didn’t have to act like the world’s biggest douchebag. I wish I didn’t have to play basketball. I wish I didn’t have to pretend I was straight. I wish I didn’t have to lie. I wish people wouldn’t give me strange looks for having my nails painted. I wish I had better friends. I wish my parents actually cared about me instead of our image. I wish-” his voice cracked, and under the glint of the streetlights Josh could see Tyler was crying. “I wish I wasn’t so fucked up in the head.”

“Oh Tyler,” Josh whispered, eyes crinkled with worry. He shifted in his seat so he could rest a hand on Tyler’s thigh. “Please don’t be upset. It breaks my heart.”

He sniffed. “I’m so sorry Josh. I know this was supposed to be fun, and I ruined it.”

“You didn’t ruin anything. We can still have fun, alright?”

Tyler nodded as he wiped his nose with the sleeve of his jacket.

They went back to being quiet.

***

 

Tyler pulled up next to a dirt trail that disappeared into darkness. Josh stared in confusion.

“Where the hell are we?”

“Surprise,” Tyler replied nonchalantly, like he was bored with the conversation. He reached into the backseat and pulled up his backpack, in which he pulled two flashlights out. Josh took one, eyes narrowed in suspicion and mouth open like he was getting ready to say something. Tyler interrupted. “Just follow me, okay?”

“Yeah, alright.”

They walked in flashlight illuminated darkness for a while, Josh’s breathing heavy at every little sound that came out of the horror movie forest. Dead leaves and sticks cracked under their feet and the crisp air made Josh shiver.

“You aren't planning on murdering me out here, are you?”

Tyler rolled his eyes. “Don't be dumb Josh. Murdering you out here would be tacky. The rangers would find you.” He put the flashlight to his face, which only amplified his smirk.

Finally, Tyler pulled Josh by the hand off the trail, flashlight pointed to the ground to avoid the several holes it was littered in. Josh's mouth almost dropped when he realized what was spread out in front of them.

There was a small lake set up in the middle of the forest, a sandy beach engulfing the edges. The eery darkness and the crisp air didn't help the atmosphere. Little wisps of fog clouded above the lake, dancing like that was all they knew how to do.

“What do you think?” Tyler whispered, his voice shaky like he was afraid to interrupt the silence of the woods. Josh shook his head in disbelief.

It’s incredible Tyler. How did you find this place?”

I come here to think. It's off the park trail, but since we technically aren't supposed to leave the trail,” he shrugged, “nobody ever bothers me. It's all mine.” Tyler slid his backpack off his shoulder and kneeled down to pull out its contents: a blanket, Bluetooth speaker,  and a lighter. Josh stared as Tyler smiled up at him. “Point your flashlight at the beach, alright?”

“Sure.” Josh did what he was asked and watched Tyler scoop up everything into his arms and follow the light to the sand. He laid out the blanket as Josh approached him.

This is when Josh noticed what the lighter was for; there were four tiki torches surrounding the area where Tyler had laid out the blanket.

Tyler smiled even bigger, a twinkle of mischief in his eye as he reached for the lighter and lit the four torches. Josh took this opportunity to switch off their flashlights as he watched the shadows dance across the lake. The water was an intense aquamarine, still bright among the darkness.

When Tyler sat down next to Josh, he pressed a button on the speaker, which made a small ding as it connected with his iPhone. He then chose a playlist and tucked his phone back into the bookbag.  A song Josh immediately recognized began playing.

“Brand New,” Josh said in confusion. Tyler nodded his head.

“I know what you said about them all those months ago. Somehow, I had to listen. I uh, like them.” Tyler looked out into the darkness, the orange flames flickering nefariously across his face. Josh looked down his hands. The cold air was starting to make them really dry.

“Do you think I'm crazy Josh? You must think I'm crazy. What kind of guy gets upset because of song lyrics?” He chuckled awkwardly, eyes falling to his nails. “I'm sorry.”

“You don't have anything to be sorry for man. I don't think you're crazy.”

“I feel consumed by darkness sometimes. It feels like I'm wading through my thoughts, struggling to carry the heavy ones, and I'm terrified I'm on my way to oblivion. I'm so scared of death Josh, and I think about it every single day. But I also feel like death could be an escape.”

“You’re not thinking of killing yourself, are you Tyler?” Josh’s eyes were wide in fear. Luckily, Tyler shook his head.

“Of course not. But I'm not going to lie to you; I have thought about it. But death is the coward's way out. Living is the hard thing to do, and I know that's what I have to do. No matter how many times I think about it.”

“You could say fuck it anytime you want Tyler. Say fuck it to basketball, to your fake friends, to your family. You could come sit with me at lunch. You could come over to my house. We could stop holding hands under tables and making out in bathroom stalls. One day we could get caught. Wouldn't it just be better to come out and say it?”

Tyler sighed. “I wish I worked like that Jish. I really wish it did.”

They were both quiet after that, the two listening to the soft music as they watched the fog roll over the lake. Tyler reached out and took Josh's hand in his. squeezing it softly.

When the next song started, Tyler was in a panic to change it. Josh reached out and took ahold of his arm to stop him.

 

We haven't talked in quite some time

I know, I haven't been the best of sons

 

“That’s you,” Josh whispered, dumbfounded. Tyler was blushing, digging his face into his shoulder.

“It's a pretty shitty recording. I used my laptop to record and mix it. And I had to do it in secrecy, because well, you know…” he trailed off, leaving Josh to do nothing but listen.

 

My trial was filed as a crazy suicidal head case

But you specialize in dying

You hear me screaming, “Father,”

And I’m lying here just crying

So wash me with your water

 

“That’s enough,” he almost growled, and then Tyler scrambled to pause it once more, his entire body trembling as he fumbled with his phone. His breathing was coming out short and his fingers were shaking so badly he could barely tap the screen to shut his own voice off. With a sympathetic sigh, Josh slid an arm protectively around Tyler’s shoulders, allowing him to sob into his chest.

“It’s okay Ty,” Josh whispered, his heart breaking more and more every second. “It’s okay to cry.”

“I’m s-sorry,” he hiccuped, body moving with every sob, “I’m so sorry.”

“I’m right here,” Josh replied softly. “I’m not going anywhere.”

They sat like that for a while, listening to the wind whistle through the trees and watching the fog roll across the lake. Occasionally a leaf would drift slowly to the ground, blowing away with nothing to latch on to. Josh listened as Tyler’s breathing became more and more steadier, his sobs nothing but sniffs. He stroked Tyler’s hair cautiously, wanting to not upset him or trigger another attack.

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for you know,” Josh said, causing Tyler to sit up and look at him. “We’re all broken people.”

“Some more than others.” Tyler shrugged, rubbing his eyes. “Thank you for being here with me. Sometimes I just lose it.”

“It’s no problem, I love you too much to not…” Josh trailed off, slamming a palm to his forehead as he realized what exactly he had just said. “Shit. That was not how I wanted it to go down.”

Tyler blinked, a smile rising to his lips. “You love me?”

“I...yeah. I think I do love you. I know I love you.” he raked a hand through his hair. “You’re so nice to me. I never thought we could end up having a relationship, but we did, we still do, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world. I was just the band nerd, and you- mmph!”

Tyler cut him off with a kiss, his fingers weaving into Josh’s hair as he pulled himself into Josh’s lap. Josh’s hands went to Tyler’s hips, and then it was just the two of them lost in their own little world. No lake, no fog, no wind, no trees: Just Josh and Tyler.

Tyler pulled off after a minute with a smile, his face flushed. He pulled off Josh’s glasses and tucked them carefully into the a pocket of his bookbag.

“We need music,” Tyler stated firmly as he reached for his phone. “to set the tone just right.”

Josh raised an eyebrow as he shrugged off his hoodie. He was cold now, sure, but with all the friction that was about to come he wouldn’t be for very long. “What were you thinking?”

“I’ve got just the playlist,” responded Tyler as he gently tapped his phone and set it to the side. Josh recognized the first song in an instant.

“Bones?”

“It’s about sex,” Tyler smirked and winked as he also pulled off his jacket. Josh only grinned and reached forward to latch his hands back on Tyler’s hips and melt back into his body like it was the most natural thing to do.

“You’re the best person to lose my virginity to,” he mumbled against Tyler’s lips. Tyler let out a small chuckle.

“I’ll be gentle.”

Josh knew that was true.

 

 

Chapter Text

The first time Josh saw Tyler come into his work had caught him completely off guard.

Josh worked at a small music store in downtown Columbus quietly nestled in between a Starbucks and a Rue 21. He was lucky he was able to get such a nice job; his friend Ashley had got it for him before she moved away to New York, convincing them that Josh was the perfect candidate to take her place. He had tried a number of other jobs including Taco Bell, (as much as he loved Taco Bell, working there had been terrible) Target, (8 hour shifts as a cashier were hell) and Subway (which was even worse than Taco Bell in his opinion.)

But this music store, Schmidt’s, was everything Josh loved. They sold everything from drum sets to vinyl and everything inbetween. Josh got to move around, he got to play with the instruments, flip through the vinyl, straighten the books and polish the pianos. They were even flexible with his marching band schedule. He loved his job.

That’s why he was a little confused with the bell rang and in came a black hooded figure with his hands shoved in his pockets. As much as Tyler tried to hide his identity, it would be almost impossible to hide his frame, and Josh knew his frame.

He wasn’t quite sure if Tyler knew he worked here. Josh had told him he worked at a music store downtown, but he had never been specific. He didn’t think he would ever need too.

As Tyler shuffled down an aisle browsing the cds, Josh hid behind a display of how-to guitar books and peeked over the top of the shelf, waiting. He wasn’t quite sure why he was hiding from his boyfriend.

“Nick!” he whispered harshly as his coworker was about to approach Tyler. Josh yanked him back behind the display with a sigh.

“What’s your deal dude?” Nick asked curiously as he raised an eyebrow. Josh only groaned and ran his fingers through his hair.

“Don’t talk to that guy. Let him do his own thing.”

“He looks shady,” Nick replied as he stood on the tips of his toes to see over the guitar books. Josh pulled him back down.

“He’s not shady, he’s just… er, hiding his identity.”

Nick stared at Josh like he had just announced his candidacy for the presidency. (Translation: Ridiculousness.) “You sort of just contradicted yourself dude.”

“No, it’s…” Josh sighed. “He’s my boyfriend.”

Nick’s eyes widened in surprise as Josh pulled the sleeves of his t-shirt over his hands and balled the extra fabric in his fists. “Oh, I didn’t realize you were, uh, gay.”

“Really?” he responded in surprise, nodding his head slowly. “Huh.”

“Not that I’m against it or anything,” Nick tried to explain himself, his hands moving all around. He even managed to knock the display of books to the floor, causing Tyler to look directly in Josh’s direction. Josh swallowed nervously as he locked eyes with Tyler. His boyfriend smiled softly at him, barely raising his hand to wiggle his fingers. With a sigh, Josh adjusted his nametag and swiveled back around to his coworker.

“Jesus Nick, way to be incognito.” he rolled his eyes as he began working on putting all the fallen books back on the shelf.

“Sorry sorry. All I was saying that it’s alright you’re gay. I mean, I’m bi and I’ve got a boyfriend. His name is Kevin and-”

“Rambling,” Josh stated, and Nick shut up.

“I’ll finish this,” he mumbled as Josh stepped over the mess and made his way over to Tyler. He was surprised to find him fumbling with the tag of a ukulele, his fingers lightly drumming on it’s surface.

“Hey,” Josh said quietly as he wrapped an arm around Tyler’s waist. Tyler grinned, pushing his head into Josh’s shoulder.

“I didn’t know you’d be working,” he mumbled into the fabric, causing Josh to chuckle. He pushed down Tyler’s hood and ruffled his hair.

“I didn’t even know you knew I worked here.”

“Of course I knew that. I come here all the time. Sometimes, I would uh, watch you.” his face turned bright red as he rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. Josh blinked.

“That’s not creepy at all.”

“What can I say? I was in love.” Tyler’s crinkly smile was back.

“You’re not afraid of getting caught?”

“I try to conceal myself,” he replied dreamily, stancing himself to show Josh he tried really hard to hide. Josh nodded in approval.

“This is the first time I’ve noticed you.”

“Then it’s working.” Tyler turned back towards the ukuleles, his fingers once again running the length of a particular one’s form. It was a dark wood, a tiny detailed pattern of waves lining the frets. Josh couldn’t help but see the hopefulness in his eyes. “I’ve been researching ukuleles.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I tried guitar in general music and that was far too difficult for me. But ukes only have four strings, and the frets are all close to one another. I think I might be able to do it.”

“Would you like to try it out?” offered Josh as he laid his hand on top of Tyler’s. “It may not be in tune, but we can fix it. I’ll go get Nick or Keegan.”

“Is Nick the one who made a fool of himself?” Tyler teased, earning himself a punch in the shoulder. Josh nodded.

“Sure is. And Keegan is the blonde one. He’s pretty handy with string instruments.”

“Yeah, alright. If it’s not too much trouble.”

“It's no trouble at all,” Josh promised as he picked the instrument up and cradled it in his arms. “That's my job after all.”

“That is true,” he agreed, nodding his head. “I'll be waiting.”

“Okay! I'll be right back.” He weaved in between shelves and squeezed through the door to the backroom where Keegan was currently organizing back stock. He smiled when Josh approached him. “Yo, could you tune this lil’ gal really quick?”

“Yeah, I’d love to! Is it for a guest or have you suddenly taken an interest in string instruments?” he retorted with a smirk, causing Josh to roll his eyes for probably the thousandth time this day.

“It’s for a guest.” Josh watched Keegan strum the ukulele gently before he began twisting pegs.

“Most people don’t even come near the ukes.”

“This guy’s special,” Josh promised as he pushed his glasses up his nose. “C’mon, hurry up.”

“Sure, let me just tune this in .2 seconds. Jesus, hold on.”

Josh tapped his foot impatiently, the image of Tyler having some sort of panic attack out in the main part of the store burning the back of his eyelids. Someone could see him, could call him out, could find out about them, and then-

“Done!” Luckily for him, Keegan managed to interrupt his daydreams turned sour. Josh practically yanked the ukulele out of his hands and rushed out to find Tyler. “You’re welcome asshole!” yelled Keegan as he darted out of the backroom. Josh didn’t bother replying. He’d do that later. As for now, Tyler was Josh’s main focus.

He was leaning against the wall, gently tracing the ridge patterns of his palms when Josh found him, his hood back over his head. Josh smiled softly, sighing happily at how innocent Tyler could look sometimes. He wished he didn’t have to close the store tonight.

“Everything good?” Tyler asked, perking up at the sight of uke in Josh’s hands.

“Yep. She’s all yours.” he handed Ty the instrument and took a step back, wanting to watch Tyler enjoy himself. Tyler was interesting enough, and he didn’t seem to be really happy that often. Most times, he was distracted or lost in his own head. Josh knew that wasn’t his fault.

“I wish I could take her home,” he whispered, his voice shaky. Josh shook his head sadly.

“You always could, just hide it or somewhere.”

“My parents will see it on my card balance.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Joshua!” Nick called from the front counter, and when Josh turned around he could see a long line of people ready to check out. With a disappointed sigh, he turned back towards Tyler.

“Sorry, I gotta uh, go help Nick out.” he jabbed a thumb towards the front, causing Tyler to look up from his engrossment and press his lips into a thin line.

“Oh, right. Sorry. Forgot you were working.”

“Yeah… I’ll come check on you in a few, alright?”

“Yeah, alright.”

And with one last longing look at his boyfriend, Josh pivoted and went to go do his job.

***

The holidays always were a busy time.

Music was always the perfect gift for somebody, whether it’d be a cd or an actual instrument.

But… Josh didn’t expect it to be this busy on a Saturday night. It’d had been almost three hours and Josh was still stuck at the goddamn cash register.

He hated cashiering. It was terrible. Everytime he looked over at Tyler sitting cross legged in his little corner of the store, he grumbled under his breath. He wanted to check on him. Why couldn’t somebody else be doing this crap? Keegan could come and do it. He didn’t have to backstock.

Christmas was coming up and Josh hadn’t done any shopping because he was always stuck at work. In fact, the last time he had hung out with Tyler was Tyler’s frickin birthday (which in all honesty, had been a fantastic night) and everyday in between had found Josh spending long hours stuck in the store. Who even knew the next time Josh would be able to talk to him in person?

“Nick?” he elbowed the half-green half-pink haired man in the side as he reached for a bag to stuff his current guest’s vinyl into. “Could you maybe see if Keegan can come up front?”

“He’s backstocking.” Josh wanted to slap him.

“Yeah, no shit Sherlock. Can he stop and come up to the front? I want sales floor. There’s only three of us here today; somebody needs to make sure the guests can find everything okay.”

“You just wanna talk to your boyfriend,” Nick pointed out as he flashed a smile at person leaving.

“He’s a guest. I wanna make sure he’s doing okay.”

“Just wait until the rush is over, alright?”

“Fine.” Josh grumbled under his breath as he went to help the next guest. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Tyler making his way to the counter, that black hood still over his head. No. Please don’t leave. Not yet.

“Hey, sorry. I know you’re busy. But uh, I gotta head out. I’ve got to go catch basketball practice.” he scrunched up his nose in disgust. “Thanks for letting me play.”

“Hey, no problem,” Josh replied, trying to pretend his heart hadn’t sank. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Yeah.” Tyler smiled, and five seconds later he was gone, disappearing into the darkness like every other guest. Josh forced a smile at the person standing in front of him, a stack of cds pushed his way.

“How are you doing today?”

***

10:59 pm.

That was the time Josh was finally able to lock the doors and help start cleaning the store alongside Nick and Keegan from the aftermath of the “Christmas horde.” He was moping around as he helped clean, dragging his feet as he picked up misplaced cds and placed them back into their original places. He continued grumbling under his breath.

“Jesus, will you knock it off? Nobody wants to listen to you be all melancholy.”

“Well I’m sooo sorry. I’m tired of working holiday hours.”

“Nobody likes the holiday hours you big baby,” Nick shot back with a glare as he leaned forward on his broom, “But we gotta deal with it. They’re almost over anyways.”

Josh groaned audibly as he bent down to straighten a display of guitar straps. “I just want to be able to see my friends.”

“Well jeez Josh, you don’t think we want that either? The only time I see my friends is at school during lunch. I’m either working or doing schoolwork. Finals are coming up you know.”

“Ha you losers,” Keegan piped up, “I’m homeschooled.”

Nick and Josh shot daggers his way.

“Sorry,” Josh mumbled as he went back to cleaning up, “I forget it’s not all about me sometimes.”

“We’re all pissed off and tired as it is. Don’t worry about it bro.” Nick flashed a small smile before he went back to sweeping. They were all quiet as they cleaned the store up, the low hum of the radio in the background.

Until, “Did that one dude like the uke?”

Josh looked over at Keegan who was currently wiping down the glass of the front counter. “What? Oh. Yeah, I think so.”

And an idea popped in his head.

Josh was going to buy that ukulele for Tyler.

Sure it was expensive, but one, he had an employee discount, and two, he had been saving money for christmas gifts for a while. This one would just be a little early. Besides, Josh hadn’t really given Tyler anything of durability for his birthday. It was really the least he could do.

“Did he buy it?”

“I’m going to buy it,” Josh stated as he pushed himself off the ground and navigated to the ukulele Tyler had longed over like a child longs over a puppy. Keegan stared at him like he was crazy.

“Well that’s a little rude.”

“It’s his boyfriend you dum-dum,” Nick chimed in, wiping his perspiring forehead with the back of his hand.

“Oh.”

“I’m gonna give it to him as a Christmas present.”

“You wanna buy it now?”

“Is that cool?” Josh shoved his hands deep in his pockets as Keegan began re-opening the cash register.

“It’s no problem, s’takes like thirty seconds to close it back down. Go get it.”

“Thanks man!” Josh carried it to the front with care, watching closely as Keegan boxed it up and placed it in a bag. Once the transaction was finished, Josh had Tyler’s uke safely in his hands. “Seriously, thank you. It means a lot.”

Keegan shrugged, glancing over at Nick as he leaned on his elbows. “You’d do the same for me.”

“I like working with you dorks the most,” Nick grinned. “Let’s get coffee. On me. I’m so frickin’ tired of being here.”

“We’ll be back tomorrow,” Josh mumbled.

“I won’t!” Keegan beamed, and the two others glared at him once more.

“Fuck you Keegan Calmes.”

“You wish,” he teased, avoiding Nick’s playful swing. Josh rolled his eyes.

“Nick’s buying coffee. Can we please leave before I face plant into the counter?”

“Coffee,” they both agreed.

***

The following night, (luckily Josh didn't have to close) Josh texted Tyler that it was very important he come to his house exactly that moment. When Josh pulled open his bedroom door, Tyler stood outside in the hall rubbing his squinty eyes, his hair a disheveled mess. Josh grinned, wasting no time as he pulled him in and sat him down on his bed. All the lights were off besides one single bedside lamp, casting large shadows across the walls.

“It’s past midnight Josh, what the hell is so important? Your house isn’t burning down and you seem to be fine.” he blinked, stifling a yawn.

“Why the hell did you go to bed so early?”

“That’s not early! What the hell are you talking about?” Tyler shook his head and rubbed his eyes again. “Doesn’t matter. Just tell me what’s up.”

“Okay okay okay.” Josh was so excited he was bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. He hoped it wasn’t too obvious. “Well, I didn’t exactly get you a real birthday present -”

“I would count that as a real birthday present. I’ve never heard you making so much-”

“Gah! Stop!” Josh shook his head like a wet dog. “Let me finish.”

“Fine. Please proceed.”

“I didn’t get you a real birthday present. That does not count, kay? Kay. And Christmas is coming up and I haven’t seen you in forever because I’ve been working long stupid holiday hours and I want to shoot myself in the head. But that’s besides the point.”

“Right…” Tyler narrowed his eyes in suspicion as he watched Josh sidestep towards the closet.

“Anyways, I have a present for you. That’s the point of this.”

Tyler sighed. “Josh…”

“No, it’s a good one. I promise.” He handed Tyler the box,  chuckling at the fact that it was almost as big as him. Tyler looked at him one more time before tearing into the paper, reaching for the scissors Josh presented him when he reached the box. Josh bounced his knee up and down in nervousness as Tyler opened the flaps and pulled out the ukulele.

He looked up at Josh in pure shock, his lip trembling.

And then he was crying.

With a frown, Josh helped move the uke and all the trash to the side before he scooted over to evelop Ty in a bear hug. He smoothed down Tyler’s hair before burying his face in it, breathing in the scent that was Tyler and felt his body move with each sob.

“Why are you crying Ty?” Josh asked softly, tracing his fingers over the freckles on the back of Tyler’s neck. Tyler tried for a deep breath.

“This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” he spoke in hiccups, pushing himself out of Josh’s lap to collect himself. “I’m s-sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize.” Josh sighed. “I didn’t want to make you cry.”

“No. They’re happy tears.” Tyler laughed quietly as he rubbed his eyes. “I’m such a loser.”

“You aren’t,” Josh argued. “I just wanted to do something nice for you, because I love you so goddamn much Tyler, and I haven’t seen you in forever and-”

“You didn’t have to do that. God Josh, this was so expensive!”

“Employee discount,” Josh retaliated with a grin. “I was gonna get you a Christmas gift anyways. This is just… part one. Yeah, part one.”

Tyler sniffed as he reached over to take the ukulele in his hands. Josh watched him place his fingers strategically, breathing slowly as he strummed.

“It sounds good Ty. And you can keep it here and come over whenever you want. I’ll keep it safe in my closet. Nobody will touch her.”

Tyler shook his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe you did this for me.”

“I would do literally anything for you.”

His eyes were starting to water again as he looked up at Josh with a smile. “I don’t know what I would do without you Jish. Honestly. You’ve… I…” he scoffed, still in disbelief. “You make me think. You’re beautiful, talented, and I, I… God, I love you so much.”

“Sounds like you just described yourself,” Josh teased as he leaned over to kiss Tyler’s cheek. “Stay the night with me please. There’s enough room in my bed.”

“Won’t your parents be suspicious?”

“They won’t care. They love you.” he poked Tyler in the stomach before pulling the uke out of his hands and gently setting it back in the box. “If she replaces me, I’ll kill her.”

“Someone’s jealous.”

“Damn right,” Josh mumbled as he slipped a hand behind Tyler’s neck and kissed him. Tyler sighed happily, twisting his body so he was laying down and giving Josh the perfect opportunity to straddle him.

But he didn’t take it. Sometimes, when you loved someone, it was better just to lay next to them, to feel the heat of their body, to breathe in their scent and see the bright smile plastered across their face. Relationships didn’t have to be based on sex. Sometimes, it was just enough to be there with them.

So Josh laid next to Tyler, hands entangled between their bodies with the covers pulled over the two of them. He listened to Tyler’s breathing, the smile never leaving his face.

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

“I wrote a song for you,” Tyler said one day towards the end of January. Tyler had been quiet most of that month; he told Josh it was the month a “civil war” raged inside his head and Josh wasn’t going to say anything. “Winter depression,” Tyler referred to it as, and Josh knew he got it bad. It was something he had noticed even before he started dating Tyler; during January, Tyler missed a lot of school.

He blinked as he looked up from his pre-calc assignment at his boyfriend’s grinning features across the kitchen table. “You wrote me a song?”

“Yep!” He popped the P, pushing out of his chair to pull Josh out of his as well. Josh laughed as Tyler pulled him upstairs to his own bedroom.

Once they were  inside, Tyler forcefully shoved Josh down onto the bed and pulled his ukulele out of the closet.

“Is this what you’ve been working on these past few weeks?” asked Josh as he crossed his arms across his chest. Tyler nodded.

“You’re the first person I’ve written a song about,” he mumbled, face blossoming into a hundred shades of red. Josh grinned.

“I’m waiting.”

With a shaky breath, Tyler closed his eyes and strummed the first chord. It was soft and gentle, his slender fingers moving across the strings like he had been playing two years instead of two months. Josh didn’t dare breathe as Tyler sang.

 

“I don’t care what’s in your hair, I just wanna know what’s on your mind,”

 

Josh ran his fingers through his hair self consciously, magenta rising to his cheeks.

 

“I used to say I wanna die before I’m old but because of you I might think twice.”

 

When Tyler let the final chord ring out, Josh stared at him with watery eyes. He pulled off his glasses to wipe away the tears he was determined to not let fall. For men, the two of them surely did cry a lot.

“Whatcha think?”

“What do I think?” Josh scoffed. “That was incredible. I can’t believe you wrote that about me.

“I don’t know if I’d be alive right now if you hadn’t come into my life at the time you did.” he looked at the carpet. “I was struggling.”

“We’re all broken people.”

“Some more than others.” Tyler’s smile was back. “You made my winter depression bearable this year.”

“Glad I could be of some service.” Josh returned Tyler’s grin. “You’ve helped me see the world in a different light Ty, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.”

“I introduced you to the fear of oblivion.”

“Mother Nature’s own black veil.” Josh reached for Tyler’s hand. “Oblivion is scary.”

“But I’m not going to fall into it, not when you’re here with me.”

Josh squeezed Tyler’s hand. “I’m never going to let you fall.”

***

February 8th became the most important day in Josh’s life.

Tyler had given Josh a ride to school that day, and when Alex came over to say something snooty, Tyler punched him right in the nose. The crack was deafening and rang across the entire parking lot, causing a flock of birds to shoot out of a nearby tree. Josh stared in shock with the rest of the student body as Alex wiped the blood away from his nose and stared at Tyler in fury.

“What the fuck Tyler?”

“Fuck you,” Tyler replied, pointing a finger at Alex. “I’m tired of you treating people like they’re lower than you. I’m tired of pretending to be friends with you and the rest of the dicks like you. So you can go fuck yourself.” Then he sauntered away, leaving Alex with his mouth open as the crowd filled with low chatter.

Josh ran to catch up with Tyler’s fast pace. “Tyler?”

Tyler only grinned.

At lunch, Josh felt a tap on his shoulder. His fellow tablemates looked up in disgust at the Tyler Joseph, Brendon’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. He knew the two of them had been doing something, but he hadn’t figured out what.

Tyler pulled him out of his chair, and with one playful grin, slammed his lips against Josh’s. Josh swore he heard the entire lunchroom gasp, but he was too lost in the rhythm of their mouths to care. Tyler entangled his fingers in the baby hairs at the nape of Josh’s neck and Josh almost forgot he was in the lunchroom.

Until of course, Brendon yelled out “WHAT THE FUCK!” and Debby shouted “I KNEW IT!” from across the cafeteria. Josh knew people were whispering, but he didn’t care one bit.

After that, Tyler reached for Josh’s hand and pulled him down a isolated hallway.

“I hope you were okay with me doing that.”

“You have no idea how long I’ve waited for you to do that.”

Tyler’s grin got bigger.

***

Things changed after that.

Tyler stopped sitting with his “friends” and started sitting next to Josh instead. His band friends (with the exception of Brendon) had been skeptical at first, but as they realized Tyler was not the person they thought he was began to relax around him.

Tyler began dressing in confidence, working his skinny jeans and his love for floral. One day he showed up wearing a floral kimono, and Josh could only shake his head and smile.

He stood up to his parents too, told them no more basketball, no more image. They were pissed at him and cut him off, but Tyler was fine with that. Josh helped him get a job at the Rue 21 next to Schmidt’s, where he could get all the floral he needed.

Tyler painted his nails. He bought cds and wrote more songs and played because he could. He smiled more, Josh noticed.

Josh introduced Tyler to his parents as his boyfriend, and he felt every single burden weighing heavily on his shoulders disappear.

Josh noticed that he was smiling more too.

On the night before graduation, the two of them sat on a porch swing outside of Tyler’s house. Tyler’s house was unfamiliar territory to Josh, but Tyler’s parents were a lot more accepting now. Tyler had talked to them and they worked out some of the conflicts that had been going on for far too long.

Tyler stared off into the darkness of the street, a sigh escaping his lips.

Josh looked up from his feet. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t want to leave you.”

It was Josh’s turn to sigh. “We won’t be very far away.”

“Two hours away is far too long.”

“That just means I’ll have to come visit you a lot.”

Tyler began playing with the hem of his shirt. “You changed my life you know.”

“You say that a lot, but I don’t think it’s true.”

He swiveled in his seat like Josh had just told him his cat died. “Don’t you ever say that. It’s a hundred percent true.” Tyler sighed again, turning to face the street once more. “I was terrified I was going to die before college. And now look. I’m graduating tomorrow.” his voice cracked, a scoff escaping his lips. “I can’t believe I’m going to college.”

“Either can I really,” Josh agreed. “I’m proud of you Tyler.”

Tyler reached for Josh’s hand.

“I’m proud of me too. So much has changed this year. I couldn’t have done this without you.”

Josh leaned his head against Tyler’s shoulder. “I’m still gonna be here for you. I’m expecting to see you at least once a month so we can kiss and watch a movie or something. You can show me your music and I’ll introduce you to more bands.”

Tyler chuckled softly. “We better see each other more than once a month.”

“I might throw a fit if we don’t.”

When Tyler Joseph had shown up on Josh’s doorstep, he hadn’t thought twice about the situation. When Tyler Joseph told Josh he liked him, when he showed that he wasn’t the jerk Josh believed he was, that was when things changed. Never in a million years did Josh think he would ever end up in a relationship with someone as unique and incredible as Tyler Joseph.

And as the two of them sat side by side, sweaty hands entangled between them as they stared off into the darkness of the neighbourhood, peace fell over Josh.

Everything was gonna be alright.