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Message Man

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when josh closes the door behind tyler and himself, he asks himself what happened earlier downstairs and thinks how funny all of this is. he was sitting in his room, unpacking, texting, checking out the statistics on his computer and waiting, what felt like... one hour? more, maybe? he stopped counting, when had he realized tyler probably had left the house without saying bye.

suddenly he began to feel it was rude of him; he should have checked on tyler earlier, hell, he had invited a friend to his house and abandoned him, leaving him alone with his own family. what if he was feeling uncomfortable around practically strangers, or just wanted josh to come downstairs so he could bail out from whatever conversation he must have had with his mom? but when he saw him all smiley, looking at josh's younger sister while she was talking about something, anything—josh doesn't know, because why would he care? the most important thing was that tyler wasn't scared at all, as his family can be really stubborn sometimes—he truly couldn't believe his eyes, because it felt like the whole evening had passed, and... he was still there.

so he didn't want to wait any longer and dragged him out of the room, no matter what lovely chat his sister had had with him.

tyler starts looking around the room, recognizing new things he didn't notice before. he has many things to ask about, but he isn't brave enough to ask, not just yet. but if not now, then when? the chances for him to be in anybody's house are minimal, and if he already is standing here, he isn't going to stay quiet thinking about space, right? he has to do something, anything.

"is this, um... the x-files?" he asks out of nowhere, pointing in the direction of one of several posters being sticked to the side of a wardrobe.

"yes, it is!" josh answers, turning around. "didn't expect you to know it."

"actually," tyler turns his gaze somewhere else and locks his gaze with josh, looking away a moment after. "my dad used to watch it, is all."

"well, you should watch it, too, unless you don't like sci-fi." he laughs. "but no, you should watch it, too."

tyler nods and even though he isn't smiling, josh can notice a smile, a small hint of smile somewhere on his face. suddenly besides his smile, josh also notices that tyler is standing here probably not knowing what to do, in josh's room, where josh is usually comfortable and all, and which is pretty foreign for the other.

"you can sit," he nods in the direction of the bed, which is, surprisingly, clean and made. he wouldn't probably let anybody sit on a dirty pile of clothes and bed sheets, sometimes books, food or empty water bottles. and sometimes, just sometimes, even the floor is cleaner.

"oh, thanks." he does as told and sits as told, fortunately without shoes on, so he can cross his legs. he realizes his hands are empty, his lap is empty, and he has no idea how to even sit, lean against the wall or not. very often he puts his backpack on his lap in school and just sits hugged against it, just not to look awkward. he remembers josh had grabbed his backpack earlier and put somewhere near door. he has nothing to cling into. well, there are pillows, but they aren't his.

but after all, it's just tyler's second time in josh's room, in his house at all, and oh how things have changed. the last time he was there he was afraid to look around and touch anything. he looked like he was in empty space. but now it's all different; he seems more comfortable, maybe. at least not so terrified like that day, which was pretty intense, because josh thought anything he would do would scare the boy.

he's glad tyler at least tries to make himself feel like home, no matter if it's josh's impact, or most likely his family's, that made him so look calm.

josh would do anything to make him feel good and comfortable here, it's his house, his room; the space he is comfortable in—it wouldn't be really good for anyone to feel unsafe here. so to make sure everything is alright, he asks, "do you want anything?"

it startles tyler a little, who along with josh apparently got lost in his thoughts. "what do you mean?"

"i don't know, maybe you left something on the table or you want something from the kitchen? go ahead. i can see you've drunk your water." which is good. josh might have poisoned it, but he drank from the bottle. the trust is being built.

tyler suddenly looks away and locks his eyes on his lap, then looks up again and starts fiddling with his hair. "oh, y-yes. sorry."

"what are you sorry for?" josh asks, laughing lightly. "i mean, it's good. i wouldn't give you anything if i didn't want to. whenever i give you something, you take it. that's it."

tyler nods but at the same time he thinks, why is josh so nice? and what did tyler do to deserve it? he can't even keep an eye contact during a conversation, which isn't really mannerly of him. wouldn't it be easier if he hated tyler? until josh speaks again, tyler doesn't realize is that he asked it out loud.

"why wouldn't i be?" besides, it's my duty to treat my guests well." he winks and approaches the door, but tyler freezes for a second.

did tyler just imagine that? he tries to chuckle not to show that he's having a heart attack inside, because he's having a heart attack. should he say something back? wink back? no, never, he doesn't know if he can—

"tyler?" josh calls, and tyler realizes he wasn't listening, because he got too busy thinking about one dumbest thing, and now he looks like he just woke up in the middle of his 15 hour nap and isn't aware of his surroundings. josh laughs at that and tyler being embarrassed is an understatement. "do you want something from the kitchen?"

"um, no!" tyler answers a little too enthusiastically. "no, but..." he hesitates, looking up at josh, who on the other hand looks at him expectantly as if he has all the time in the world. "i left my backpack there, so if you could..."

"oh, you want it?" tyler nods. "i put it under a cupboard in front of the big mirror, so if you want it you can take it and i'll go deal with mom."

but josh doesn't understand. tyler doesn't want to. he doesn't want to witness whatever is happening downstairs at the moment, at least not all by himself, even though he was so busy in conversation with them not so long ago. hi, i'm not leaving the house, i'm just here to grab my backpack, so yeah, have a nice rest of the day.

tyler really hopes josh can read his mind and somehow can see from his expression what he means, but that doesn't happen. "could you maybe... bring it here?" he asks in the sweetest tone possible.

"oh," josh realizes. "what if i don't?"

tyler sighs. of course, it's josh's house. he can do what he wants, even if it means to humiliate tyler. he will note it for the future. "do you really, uh, invited me over to make fun of me? because that's not—"

"no, it's okay, it's okay," josh says immediately, but that doesn't stop him from laughing.

"look, i know i spent much time with your mom and all... but that doesn't mean i have a courage to face her again, alone."

"aww," josh hums, and tyler pouts at him, questioning if it's the time now to give up, because josh is apparently having fun. and to be honest josh is having much fun, making tyler make all these cute faces.

"what?" he asks, hiding his face in his hands.

"you're ashamed of my mom?" josh leans against the door frame, and tyler might have another heart attack, because the door is open, and anyone downstairs can hear josh, everything he's saying right now. but tyler can't do anything about it. "she's okay, don't worry. and that's cute, you know..."

"what?" tyler's eyes widen. "there's nothing— ugh... being shy and anxious is horrible."

"i know," josh nods and eventually disappears behind the door.

tyler wants to bury his face in this pile of fluffy pillows and never look up again. he still feels weird, of course. he always does while meeting new people, and what's is worse that he is in on completely foreign territory, that he doesn't know where to move, when to move, if he can move.

fortunately josh comes back soon, with tyler's backpack and two water bottles in his left hand. he throws one of them to tyler, who catches it without any trouble despite his surprise, and says, "thank you."

"no problem."

josh sits by his desk, which is on the opposite side of the room and starts cleaning it up, even though it's not that messy, and turns a computer screen on again.

"so," he begins again, turning around to face tyler. "you can come here, or do whatever you want to, i don't mind, really, and i'll tell you when i need your help, okay?"

tyler nods his head, to which josh gives him a smile and pats his hands on his thighs, turning around to his computer again.

tyler, being tyler, doesn't want to intrude and distract josh from work if he sat with him, even though josh would say otherwise, and tries to do something that would distract him.

he hugs his backpack to his chest and opens his notebooks, all of them, checking for any homework, but then he remembers, that he just came back to school today from his long break and doesn't know exactly what they're up to in his classes. well.

he starts thinking and beating himself inside. is josh really busy right now? maybe. tyler wants to speak, but that dull silence makes it worse. josh isn't listening to any music. he doesn't seem like a guy whom silence concentrates. never mind. "um, josh?"

"hmm?" josh hums in response.

"do you... have some homework?" tyler bums quietly.

"yeah, i think so. why?"

tyler hesitates a little before responding, "i can do it for you."

this is the moment when josh finally turns around and faces tyler, slightly surprised, expecting some answer, even though it's his turn to speak. it's really nice of tyler that he wants to help in some way, but josh would never use him to do something for his own advantage.

"ty, you can't just... do my homework. it's my job to do." he turns around to face his computer again, but not for so long, when tyler speaks again.

"please, just give me something to do. homework is okay."

tyler can't see josh's face, but he is sure he's smiling, and that's what makes him smile, too. he hugs his backpack tighter to his chest.

"you miss school so much that you don't think properly without studying?" josh asks and turns around, again, laughing when he sees tyler all curled up into a ball with his backpack between his chest and thighs, with his chin on top of it and pouting.

"maybe." tyler shrugs. "so?..."

so josh assumes tyler is completely serious about this whole homework thing, and of course, it's difficult for him to agree to it, but if that is what he really wants, which is kind of shocking, he can go for it.

josh points to a few notebooks laying on top of each other on a desk. "these are my notebooks. but again, you don't have to."

"but i want to," tyler adds from behind and approaches the desk slowly. every notebook looks the same and is in color blue. that's okay, tyler stopped caring about school supplies a long time ago, too, but he can admit that it's sometimes difficult to recognize which notebook is which. situations when you don't take the right notebook with yourself to school and end up without homework happen often.

he takes one of them and starts to walk away, when josh's voice stop him. "you'll be uncomfortable on a bed, sit here." he points to an empty space on a desk and an additional chair beside him.

"um, i don't want to bother you here—"

"tyler, sit here," josh interrupts him, making tyler sigh and give up. bed would be okay. people who can't do things that are made to be done on a table, in bed, are weak.

tyler sits on a chair hesitantly, as if it would break from the pressure of his body right here and now, still beating himself up inside for how terrible he's acting like. but it's stronger than him.

josh comes back to whatever he's doing on his computer, and tyler opens one of the notebooks and hums, "math... i suck at it."

"so don't do it, tyler, jeez."

"i will try," tyler protests, and he does try. it's trigonometry, at least something he can bear with, as long as he knows reduction formula by heart. he hopes he won't do any mistake, because that wouldn't be really convincing of him. and everything goes alright until tyler can smell something that makes him scrunch his cold nose more and more, ever since he sat here.

and josh finally notices when tyler sneezes three times in a row, and asks him, "everything okay?"

"yes, yes..." tyler nods hurriedly. "it's just... this smell."

that makes josh to stand up from his place immediately and approach the window. "crap, sorry. i thought it had gone away already before i went for you downstairs. i'm so used to it i can't smell it that much anymore. should i open a window?" he asks, and without waiting for tyler's answer he still opens it a little.

"if it's not a problem, yes," tyler nods and josh comes back to sit beside him. he is okay with that, doesn't judge josh at all, but the question just hangs above his head. "do you... smoke?"

"no," josh shakes his head. "i only do when i'm nervous or something like that, and it helps, at least helps me. today was like first time in weeks and i've been having that one packet for a year or so. besides i can't smoke often because i'm probably asthmatic or some shit."

tyler nods and it's probably enough said of him. he just hopes josh doesn't lie to make himself look better, tyler wouldn't judge him even if he were an addicted smoker. it's unhealthy and all that, but health is one thing, and judging others by their habits is the other thing.

"and you?" josh asks, and tyler looks at him with a question.

"w-what?"

josh raises his eyebrow. "smoke?" tyler frowns at the notebook and shakes his head, and josh only snorts and stares at him. "i was kidding."

fifteen minutes pass when josh asks tyler if he could grab his phone and introduce him to some apps that compress videos, so he can finally post something, and then tyler offers to help him with untangling cables that block the way to the back of the computer. it takes almost an hour, and tyler doesn't know if they didn't mess it up, and, for example, plugged some of them in wrong device, only to put a white, small one from his phone.

tyler stands up from under the desk, a bit exhausted, because come on, even though he likes doing things like that—he's a perfectionist—it took some time.

so when josh notices he rolls the sleeves of his sweater up and then down again, he asks. "aren't you hot in your sweater?"

tyler looks up from the notebook; he just came back to doing exercises but got so into it already. he notices josh is wearing just a thin shirt, and he's in long-sleeved sweater, which even hugs his neck. "no, i mean, the window is opened."

"yeah, but it's still warm here," josh answers.

it's not that tyler can do anything about it. he's not wearing anything underneath and can't unzip his sweater, it's not a hoodie. he could even burn in it and couldn't do anything about that. but he doesn't mention it.

"you have a nice handwriting," he says instead, meaning it. he wanted to say it earlier, but josh seemed too busy and concentrated with whatever he was doing. tyler's handwriting is all messy and clumsy, looking like 7 year-old kid's, just a bit smaller. josh's is much bigger, but clearer instead, and it's quite round-ish, and tyler finds it pretty.

"oh, thanks. i can do better if i try, though." josh smiles.

tyler breathes a sigh. "i can't do better even if i try."

"it's all genes, tyler," josh tells him.

"at least you understand me."

"so," josh changes a topic which has been bothering him for a few hours now. "what was that with my mom?"

"w-with your mom?" tyler asks as if he doesn't know what he is talking about.

"it was taking so long, dude, i thought you had left so i didn't check on you earlier," josh says, clicking on a mouse nervously at the same time. lags.

tyler smiles at that, because indeed, his mom kept him a bit too long, and he noticed that, but at least he's made a friend with someone older, which is not that easy in real life. adults don't take teenagers too seriously, even his own mom.

"well, your mom is quite talkative," he tells josh.

"told you. sorry for that," josh apologizes.

"no, it's okay. she is nice." tyler shrugs, not taking his eyes away from his work. he seems so concentrated in josh's damn homework, that he should be doing by himself, and he doesn't know if he should feel bad or not.

that's when he takes a better look at the boy beside him. he looks rather dressed for some special occasion than just to school, with his quiffed hair and black turtleneck sweater, that makes his chest even tinier than it actually is, which would seem impossible. him being so interested in the smallest things and staring at them with passion—even at school notebooks, which seems even more impossible—and looking exactly like that is something josh most probably adores.

"i think your sister likes me," tyler interrupts whatever is happening in josh's head, and josh has no idea how to react to that, so he laughs.

"which sister?"

"the older one?" tyler answers.

josh laughs even louder, which makes tyler confused and he tries to laugh as well not to show the confusion in his face. josh made fun of him way too many times so far. tyler doesn't know, when he's serious and when he is not, because he just laughs way too often. "sorry, i'll tell her to fuck off."

"no!" tyler protests. "she was nice."

josh gives him a look. "probably too nice."

tyler frowns. "i don't deserve kindness? i met too many rude people in my life, thank you v-very much." he almost drops his pen when he gets too enthusiastic while twirling it with his fingers.

"tyler, you don't understand."

"what is here to understand?" tyler asks, not aware of the yawn that leaves his lips and the fact that the sun is fully set and he barely sees anything.

josh shakes his head and notices that tyler is clearly tired, so he stands up and pats tyler on a shoulder. "you should finish. you've done enough and i have no idea what i should do to thank you, but now you're tired, come on."

"i'm almost done," tyler announces.

"what?" josh asks, shocked. his math teacher totally over-exaggerates with the homework she gives her students. she wants them to improve and cares about them a lot, but sometimes it's just too much. "you did the whole thing?"

"yes... almost," tyler repeats with his nose in the notebook. he is impossible.

"you are impossible." he remembers tyler's phrase from earlier today. "i never even do homework, cut it out, tyler."

"i am be the reason you will have your homework done for the first time? what an honour..." tyler hums. this kid is impossible.

"at least move to the bed," josh says, already sitting on a bed and turning another computer which was laying comfortably under his bed sheets, on. "or you'll break your neck there."

tyler tries to protest, but josh is probably right. his neck starts to hurt a little and will probably take over with bigger force tomorrow morning. and all of this just for josh's homework. this is some true dedication.

he situates himself in the same spot like the last time, by the wall in a corner, being surrounded by, well, the wall and josh from his both sides. josh probably wants to have tyler out of his hair at this point, so tyler should probably leave soon, as he doesn't like to be someone's bother. josh doesn't seem to mind at all, but still.

"so, it took more time than usual. i hate working on my phone and computer at once, but i had to this time." josh means the video brendon had recorded a long time ago and josh showed it to tyler a long time ago and is finally posting it at the moment.

it's really dark outside and inside, too. the only light in the room comes from the computer screen, which blinds tyler's tired eyes a little. however, he is still staring at what josh is doing there.

"can i see?" he asks sheepishly, rubbing his face. he should really come back home and go to sleep. the break from school made him even lazier than he had been before.

"sure, it will fully upload in like, 30 minutes," josh tells him, moving pillows somewhere aside so tyler can sit more comfortably.

but what he doesn't notice is that after a few minutes they both are practically laying in the bed at this point, and that his quiet humming and firm taps on a keyboard make tyler move closer and get sleepier. so when half an hour pass, a little noise made by tyler's stuffy nose startles josh, so that he turns to look to the side. but what he didn't notice earlier is that some weight on his shoulder doesn't let him fully move and the sleepy sounds increase on their frequency. but he doesn't mind at all.