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Message Man

Chapter Text

Tyler never shows his face to the camera.

He doesn't like, when people stare at him. Do others' eyes laid on his face make him feel uncomfortable? He thinks about it a lot, but doesn't know an answer. He avoids looking at people in the eye. He doesn't have an issue with showing his silhouette.

He records his videos on his phone. He takes photos on his phone. He hides behind his phone. His phone contains a lot of various things.

He doesn't like telling people about his life, so he doesn't do it. He wants to be interesting, and prefers, when people have to discover a personality. There's nothing interesting about revealing everything related to you at once. You would have no topics to talk about the next time. If he next time ever happens.

Some of his videos consist of a body sitting behind a piano, with fingers moving softly across the keys. Some of his videos consist of an upper body in front of the camera and hands holding steady a small ukulele. Some of his videos have a human singing voice. Some of his videos have a voice, but not singing this time. Voice in some of these videos recites an unknown poetry. Only interesting people are intrigued by it. It's a small voice.

You could say, that Tyler's fanbase is average amount, but for him, it isn't too big in comparison to an effort he puts into his job. Sometimes he gets mad, when he sees videos of stupid, overrated challenges getting the most attention. He concludes, that people are into dumb things.

If the society doesn't like the kind of stuff he shows, he won't even push them to watch. He thinks, that it's better to have people who all appreciate, what you do, than to encourage the random ones to waste their time on watching boring artsy videos. They could watch another dumb one instead. Dumb people won't understand.

He never responds to comments, he never accepts requests, he doesn't subscribe anybody. He watches many Youtube videos daily, but no one for his own entertainment, just to get an inspiration, to rate, to consider, what he could change in his own channel, to cringe at. Except one person's videos, but it's a mystery. He's all mysterious and he's good with it.

He is really thankful for good comments, don't get him wrong, because it means, that at least people behind the screen understand, what he wants to hand on. However, there are also, obviously, people, who tell him he's a freak, or he must have his face burned, or something equally ridiculous, because why wouldn't he like to show his face to the big audience?

He can find comments telling him to show his face, but in a kind way, as well. He appreciates kindness, thank you, but no, even they won't be able to see more than his upper body.

He does everything on purpose. He created himself as a strange, cold guy. Sometimes he even wonders, if people find him rude, because he isn't like those typical happy and energetic youtubers and doesn't even talk with "fans". Who does that? He literally pushes new watchers away. He doesn't care.

He does that on purpose, because he wants to change his shy and weak behaviour, as he isn't able to do it in real life. Sometimes he would really like to respond to some comments. There are many things he wants to tell and many questions he needs to answer, but that is contradictory with his character. What would people think if a semi-popular guy decided to leave a nice comment below some video? That he needs attention, for sure. He doesn't need any, no thanks. He does everything by himself.

In real life, despite his shyness and introvert life style, he likes to be nice. If he doesn't have anything nice to say, he stays silent.

Ashley, his cousin, is also his best friend. They both know and understand each other too well not to stay and stick around. Ashley, on the other hand, is full of energy, she's loud and complains about everything out loud. She can't keep her mouth shut, but she's a good company. Tyler is glad they are cousins and he has always known her, because if they were strangers, they probably wouldn't want to get to know each other. They are two different worlds.

Ashley knows well about his channel and supports everything he does. He feels like he doesn't deserve her. She must watch his every video and leave some comments below. He doesn't respond to her either. She gets annoyed and tells she hates him, but she's the only person, that could offend him and he wouldn't care. She takes advantage of her popular blog on tumblr and posts links to his videos there, too.

Speaking of tumblr. He has an account there too, but even Ashley doesn't know about it, and it's a whole different story. He doesn't want to share it with her, because he saves his blog for particular events in his life, which would force him to post words even Ashley shouldn't know about. Things like that happen. Sometimes. He doesn't know, what would have to happen, but he hopes it won't happen.

He posts pictures of his instruments, of chaos inside his notebook, of his hands, of his hair. He screams at world through his photos and videos, as he can't do this in the real life.

The only reason, why his family knows about his videos is because of Ashley, obviously. Two months ago they invited her to a dinner. She's very comfortable around his parents and siblings, since they all have known each other for years. She was the loudest one at the table that day and willingly participated in family conversation, while Tyler was lurking with his phone under the table, with head based on his hand.

"Hey, Tyler, chill out, you're not on Youtube," she scoffed, "Stop hiding that pretty face of yours."

And everything would be fine, if he didn't look at her with an expression similar to somebody, who just saw a ghost. It's not, that he could just add some sarcastic comment and everybody would take it as a joke and forget about it, no, he had to be so obvious with his emotions and begin panicking.

"Oh, they didn't know?" she continues, like nothing serious happened.

"About what?" asked his mother.

And now, the family respects, what he does, but his parents don't like, that he takes it too seriously. They don't see recording videos as a good, constant job, which will lead him to success. "I'm already successful," he always mutters, but they only sigh at him and end the conversation.

By saying he is successful, he means it. He would never expect, that people would like that type of a person he is. Not that he has got million of fans, or something like that, but he still calls it a success.

He knows, that he can run out of all his ideas for new videos, that people can forget about him and everything can fall apart. He doesn't like to think much about it, so he tries not to, when he's still pretty good at what he does. However, still not good enough and never good enough, and he dreams about being that good and confident like that one person in particular, who made him start all of this.

Chapter Text

Tyler wakes up to his phone buzzing underneath his pillow. It has to be still late at night, considering, that sun rises really early this time of the year and he sees nothing, but darkness. He doesn't move. It can't be his alarm. It is impossible. He doesn't even remember, what day it is, but there are still holidays, right?

The sound annoys him, so he grabs his phone only to be blinded by very bright screen. There's no use on switching to the night mode, he has to squint his eyes for at least 10 seconds to finally see something clearly, with tears falling.

Who surprised him again is Ashley. Probably one minute has passed already since he heard the sound, and it still hasn't stopped. How stubborn has she to be?

He looks at the top of the screen and doesn't believe, what he's seeing. It's almost 4 a.m. What happened, that Ashley is awake? It's him, who always stays late at night, and she falls asleep immediately and sleeps like she's hibernated.

The call finally stops and he feels a little bit guilty for not answering it, but he really needs sleep right now. It's one of very few nights, when he slept well and somebody decided to ruin it.

Anyways, he remembers, that he's not selfish, and so he takes his phone again and sends her a text;

Tyler: Leave me alone.

Well, apparently he is selfish. For a second he thought, that something might happen to her. She never calls late at night though. No, she's never even awake late at night. Maybe she had a nightmare, or isn't safe.

Just as he decided to abandon this thought, he hears another annoying buzz. He sighs in relief.

Assley: Listen, if you reject my call
ever again i don't want you in
my life anymore.

He's not surprised by what she sent. They sometimes hate each other more than love. He convinces himself, that it is exactly what friendship looks like.

Tyler: You don't need me in your life anymore.

Tyler: You're a big girl.

Assley: Yeah, unlike you. Just answer
the call, Jesus...

Tyler: Why are you involving Jesus in your late night whims?

Assley: It seems like He is the only
one clever here, and, in comparison
to you, will always listen to me.

Tyler: ...

Assley: Come back, I'm sorry.

*Incoming call: Assley*

He grumbles and finally hits an answer this time. He is almost hundred percent sure there's nothing wrong with her.

"What do you want?" His voice is deafened by a pillow he's facing. He isn't going to change his position.

"Can I come over?" she asks simply.

"What? Are you okay?" he questions curiously. "You are just calling me in the middle of the night and asking to come over."

"I'm sorry, if I woke you up."

"No, but I was serious. are you okay? Did something happen? You usually sleep at this time."

"Oh," she notices, "No, Tyler, nothing happened," she laughs. He realised, that she would laugh even though she wasn't okay, "I just mechanically set my phone on sound before I went to sleep and some notification woke me up. I checked it and then some loneliness hit me."

"And you want to come over? It's 4, Ashley, you can leave your loneliness when you go to sleep."

"No, I can't."

He has no strength for this girl. Why does her attitude need to affect not only on his sleeping schedule, but also on some other important things, like school?

He knows he can't just sneak out from the class, because she sometimes wants to buy some concert ticket, but he knows, how difficult it is to purchase a concert ticket at a time these days.

He also knows, that he can't just come back from school one day and show up to his parents out of nowhere with bright blue strand of hair, but these things make her happy, and who would he be to not let her be happy?

But for now, he wants to sleep, "I would love to welcome you here, but, I repeat, it's the middle of the night and everybody's sleeping. We would wake everybody u—"

"No problem, I will enter through the window."

And so he gave up. The story repeats itself. He never wins with Ashley. He always wishes he could be like her. She's so childish, but can also fight, has a big mouth, but everybody likes her. He's rather quiet and prudent. He wonders, how can she still be with him and not get bored.

Meanwhile he is waiting for Ashley, he checks on his Youtube account. He might not answer to any comment, but he reads them all. He scrolls through them below his latest video, from a week ago, when he made a cover of some indie song he heard last month.

"I love him even more, that he sang her song." You can't love me, you don't know me, he thinks.

"What kind of ukulele is he playing? It sounds really pretty." It's a tenor one, he wants to say, and feels a little bad, when he sees nobody has answered to their comment yet.

"Last time I was this early my mom told me not to believe people, who don't want to show their face on the internet." You should have definitely listened to her. I don't believe them either, he almost says.

He closes his video and starts scrolling through the timeline this time. He doesn't subscribe anybody, so many random videos keep appearing there constantly. He hates it, but that's the result of being a shady creep he is, or something like that.

He could watch one of them for distraction and to only keep his eyes wide open, but he wouldn't be himself, if he opened the app without checking on one channel in particular.

He haven't seen any recent video for over a week there, which is kind of weird, because they aren't the type of people, who hesitate ten times before posting something, for example like Tyler. He can record something today and post it a month later, or never.

It has been too many times he was afraid, that they can see his every move and how often he clicks at this one profile picture. He knows, that it's a dumb thought, and if he can't see who visits his own channel, they wouldn't know either, but sometimes he scares even himself.

Checking on this account became his daily (and nightly) routine.

To his surprise, he notices one video he hasn't seen yet, which was uploaded exactly 17 minutes ago. Wow, they uploaded a video at 4 a.m. "Another timezone," he realizes, before getting sadder at this thought, again.

The video is called "MY FAMILY HATES ME & IMPORTANT NEWS". Interesting. Very interesting.

He grabs his headphones and starts the video, which is almost 7 minutes long and remembers, that Ashley can be here in a moment. Fantastic.

He starts watching anyway, reading all the comments by the time. He can't watch anything without scrolling through them. He has to repeat the video afterwards.

He manages to read at most 3 of them, until he hears knocking at the glass. "Of course you have to interrupt everything." He gets out of the bed with a big effort.

"What did you say? Open the window, I'm freezing," Ashley whispers loudly, kneeling in front of his window, with winter coat and sweatpants on.

He quiets her, putting his finger onto his mouth and tries to open the window without any possible noise, "It was your idea, you deserve to freeze."

"When I was climbing the tree, I scratched my chin a little bit." She jumps off the windowsill. "I can't wait to stain your pillow with my blood," she smirks and he rolls his eyes, hurrying her, because she was right, it can be summer, but it's freezing at night.

"Sit, just don't break my bed." He slowly closes the window. They probably woke up the whole neighbourhood already.

"You have these cute lilac sheets again! I made a right decision to break into your house tonight." Tyler loves his lilac sheets too. They have a cloud theme above and some galaxy on the other side.

She takes off her jacket and, a second after, almost jumps into the bed, when he manages to stop her, "Wait! There's my phone somewhere here."

"Oh, sorry." She jerks the sheets. "I think I feel it," and she looks between her knees. "Here."

"Please, tell me you didn't break it."

"Me? Breaking something? Never. But let's check for sure." The screen lights up the whole room, and his opened Youtube app appears. "Seriously... You're watching him again?"

"Yeah, and what's your issue here?" he asks simply.

"Nothing, but it just seems like you don't take any rest from it. You are hypnotised."

"And you're overreacting. I didn't let you in to instruct me again." He climbs into his bed and cuddles his pillow.

They lay in silence for a couple of minutes. They can hear birds singing already. It's weird, how everything sounds different in the early morning. Everything is louder and clearer.

"I don't want to come back to school," she speaks up again."

"Me neither, please, don't remind me about it, because I'll cry." And he isn't lying as his words come out of his mouth in crying-like voice.

"This year will be hell, I know it," she whispers, staring at the ceiling, "But i miss teachers a little bit."

Tyler lets out a giggle. "What? Are you serious?"

"Yes, of course. They all love me, admit it."

"Obviously they love you, especially when you always decide to add your rude comment to their speech."

"See?" She turns to face him. "I'm at least one of these few students, who actually are interested in lesson."

"But it's still one free day left. We can worry about school later, maybe not at night, okay?"

"Sure." She turns around and cover her whole face with bed sheets, so he sees only a few strands of her blue hair. "Thank you for letting me in. Your bed is better than mine."

"What if I wouldn't let you in?"

"You would anyway," she says loudly, "but if you're asking me, I could just break your window or show your pictures on social media."

"Yes, I would let you in anyway."

"Go to sleep. We have a big day the day after tomorrow. Or tomorrow, because it's late after midnight already."

"Goodnight," he smiles and closes his eyes.

"Goodnight."

Ashley falls asleep immediately. Tyler isn't that lucky and he has to listen to birds singing even louder now, until he manages to doze off.

Chapter Text

It's the last day of summer holidays. The last day of staying up late without any remorse and the last day of spending every second with Ashley. The weather this morning looks promising, no matter, how melancholic this day is going to be. Birds have been singing since the sky was still dark and very strong rays of the sun breaking through the window blinds make Tyler squint his eyes and wake up.

Tyler gets mad, that he woke up that early, if Ashley still sleeps soundly. He can hear a sound of the lawn mower, which reminds him of holidays even more. He hates, that he will have to forget about all of this tomorrow.

He spent almost every day of break with Ashley. She was making him to do many weird things he would never think he'd do. She's so spontaneous, that he wonders, when will they finally get into some trouble. She's clever, but very scatterbrained, and he's afraid, that some day she will say, or do something, that might affect on him negatively. She would never do that intentionally, but still.

It's not, that Ashley doesn't have any other friends. She's a popular soul of the company, but she rather hangs out with them in school, like typical classmates. The difference with Tyler is that she knows him the longest amount of time of them all, they live not so far away from each other and she probably trusts him the most.

They hadn't been best friends since childhood. They used to play together as children a little, but they lost a contact with the beginning of school, because boys are gross to girls at this period of life, so boys stayed with boys and girls stayed with girls. They acted like strangers since then.

They returned in high school, when Ashley dyed her hair blue and became rebellious and more confident girl. Tyler, being lost, didn't know anybody from class, so he decided to sit beside her. Bit by bit, little by little, they happened to be friends and best friends.

Ashley treats tyler like a little brother, even though she's only 3 months older than him. She thinks he's the nicest creature on the Earth, or at least way nicer than her. He's sensitive and does everything in an amiable and charming way.

He's tall, but tiny, and that always makes him seem smaller beside people. He loves wearing dark clothes, just because he feels better in black. He loves floral patterns. Ashley thinks, that he has the most delicate face she's ever seen, but the fact is, that she have porcelain features as well.

She is sure, that Tyler every day seduces many people by his look and way of being. Girls are sometimes too obvious with showing their emotions towards him, but he doesn't see it, or he doesn't want to admit it. She rescued him from an awkward situation many times, saying simply, that she was his girlfriend. He has always been thankful to have her. If girls are so interested in him, they should know already, that he's gay.

People from school, who know about his sexuality, don't have any problem with it. He notices weird stares towards his direction sometimes, but they stay silent and he couldn't be thankful more. His family doesn't know.

Tyler finally opens his eyes fully and takes a deep breath. If he can't sleep, Ashley can't do this either. He decides to torture her if she doesn't wake up.

He grabs her arm and pushes her lightly. She groans sleepily. Then he puts all hair from back of her head onto her face. She makes no move. He raises his knee, so it's touching her back and pushes her again, but with a little more force.

"T-Ty piss o...ff," she grumbles and he loses his patience. He removes the whole bed sheet from her body, then moves back and kicks her out of the bed with his foot.

He observes her from from above, until she, suddenly, fully awake, opens her eyes, frightened, "I need to pee."

"You're ridiculous?" he snaps, without realizing it sounds more like a question. Ashley avoids him and rushes bare-foot to the door.

Tyler falls with his back onto a soft cushion and exhales sharply. The room feels airless and he feels dazed. apparently there is going to be the best weather of the year today, and it's not how the last day of holidays should look like. He doesn't want to move.

He realized he has a job to do every time after opening his eyes in the morning, Especially, when he hasn't finished something this night. He wants to move. He reaches his phone from underneath the pillow and puts white headphones into his ears.

He unblocks the screen and an opened app he spends most of his time on, with paused video, shows up. He hopes he can finally watch this in peace. He has no idea, why he's always so nervous. "No one sees you, calm down," he shouts at himself internally.

After nearly one minute of overthinking, he finally taps play on the video he left opened a few hours ago.

He can see only a familiar room with black and grey walls, the whole surface covered in band posters. The room is pretty bright, despite of dark colours surrounding it. In the middle is situated not too big, but also not too small bed with always the same blue blanket covering it, and fluffy yellow pillow hiding in the corner.

Next to the bed stands high, black bookshelf, stuffed with more cd's and books, than he's ever seen in real life. The camera can't fit the whole room, but still the best thing for Tyler is the collection of vinyls hanging above the bed. It's beautiful. It's the coolest room he's ever seen. It's this kind of rooms you see in family movies, the rooms that belong only to the coolest guys in the city. Well...

After maybe 10 seconds, he can finally hear muffled sounds and human voices. Then one voice. Then a laugh. The laugh. Stumbling by the feet, one person enters the room and sits in front of the camera.

His hair is pink at the top and dark brown at the shaved sides. The pink is not faded, boring tone, but also not so bright, that your eyes hurt at the very sight. It's candy pink, probably the most pleasant shade of pink you can imagine.

He has unique features. Dark hazel and big eyes, these ones that drill into your imagination and construct an emotion of bliss and felicity, and eyes that you zone out in unawares.

After seeing his hair and his eyes, the next thing you perceive is silver nose ring, which gleams funny every time he moves his face and white gauges embellishing his ears.

And the next thing you see is pink again, the same shade as his hair. The pink that holds million bubbles of delight and opens the most optimistic smile you could ever have a chance to see.

And the next thing is a plain black hoodie occupying his slim, but well-built body and covering the scenery of purple galaxy, trees and full of colours sunset. Bis tattoo is a work of art. Tyler wonders, how does it feel to have a masterpiece inked on your arm forever.

His name is Josh.

Josh Dun, also known as MISTYEYED, is one of the most popular social media personalities in Nevada state. Despite his very young age, he has been able to gain a proper amount of followers and secure his future himself.

In his videos he talks openly about himself, about world issues, about politics, about music, about cats, about bands, about life in Las Vegas. When he doesn't talk, he plays games and instruments, he makes clothes, he hangs out with friends, he laughs.

He is not problematic, at least not to that point to be popular only from hate being spread about him, like many people do nowadays. He attracts people by his own being, but doesn't want to be known as a celebrity, or doesn't want this ridiculous word being used around him, ever. He still goes to school and is a teenager, just not an ordinary one. His closest family and friends don't treat him like somebody special. He doesn't consider himself so, too.

Josh would never want to do anything else. By doing casually, what he loves, he makes others happy, gives inspiration to young, broken kids, and by the way makes money. He likes other advantages as well. Lately he got invited to two music award shows. Everything Tyler could ever dream of.

Josh doesn't know Tyler exists.

Tyler is not a stalker, really.

He's nobody obsessive, but unfortunately can admit, that he can't survive a day without checking out Josh's channel. It probably because a routine now. He found his account almost a year ago, when Ashley broke her arm and couldn't dye her hair by herself. Being a kind boy he was, he didn't want to mess up her hair, as he had never dyed anybody's then. Maybe he wanted to impress her a little, too.

He decided to search for hair-dyeing videos on Youtube, but ended clicking on the first video in column, probably the one with the most views. It was called "DYEING MY HAIR WITH MY CAT" in all caps, and on the screen appeared Josh. Pink wasn't the first color you could see back then. His hair was dark, ebony and not shaved anywhere.

He decided to dye his hair pretty turquoise blue. A perfect coincidence found, Ashley wanted exactly the same colour, so Tyler didn't have to search for another video. In the end, he didn't learn anything from it, because he was more interested in guy, than in what he was talking about.

Fortunately, he did a pretty good job with Ashley's hair. They added some yellow near her right temple and ear as well. It looked amazing and pissed off every teacher in their dear school, but they both loved and still love it.

Josh had been the most stereotypical cool guy you could find in every school, in every class, and Tyler found himself thinking the whole week, what intrigued him in this guy, that he couldn't stop watching him. As the time went by, he perceived many unique features and began to understand, why.

Josh, through his videos, inspired Tyler to finally do something with his life. If it wasn't because of Josh, Tyler's channel wouldn't exist and he probably would never find his hobby. Josh's words and advices were for tyler like a cozy blanket, which assured him, that he was not alone in some way.

Tyler realizes, that his new video is a usual story time, so he decides not to scroll through comments this time.

"My parents will be the death of me, even though they want the best for me, I know it," his soft, low voice continues talking, "and this is not a clickbait, I really have important news for some of you." He takes a deep breath, before talking again. "My parents are moving to their family house in a couple of days. It's already certain. I haven't mentioned anything at all to you earlier, because I thought I could still convince them to stay here, but they are stubborn as usual. I don't know, what exactly made them make that decision so quickly, or why they had just been hiding that for me, but they explained it as returning to roots of family business. It's all I know for now."

He holds his cheeks in his hands and speaks again, "They also believe it will be better for me, to isolate from all this chaos and people, who recognise me immediately. Maybe it will, but everything I have is here. I can't probably survive outside Vegas. My home is right here and so are all my friends. I can switch between school and Youtube here, teachers understand, and everything goes by smoothly. I don't know, what the future holds for me in the new place."

He starts spinning around on his chair, humming.

"So... That's the question. I am not sure, if I will be able to keep doing what I'm doing, so I'm explaining it now. Starting a new school is always difficult, so maybe not so much videos a week. I don't know, what unfamiliar city will offer and what ideas for a new content will be. Of course, I can manage to continue my schedule, but, what I said, it's just a warning, not to leave you all uninformed."

It's not a really good news. Tyler doesn't know, how it feels to move from a big city to probably somewhere calmer, or just move somewhere distant in general, but such a drastic change obviously can affect on somebody's mental health. Tyler is probably more terrified than Josh at the moment.

"He's not dead," he thinks, but it doesn't solace him at all. He thought he could maybe meet him somewhere in near future, but now Josh might be even further away from him in a few days. He can start a new life in Europe. He mentioned Europe many times in his life.

Tyler looks at Josh on the screen again, as he zoned out for a few seconds. "But of course, I am not leaving." He smiles. "I would never leave. you can force me, but it won't happen."

"I mean, you better not," Tyler says out loud.

"Who are you talking to?" He hears the door opening and Ashley appears with hands full of cookies and 2 bottles of water, some fruits sticking out of her sweatpants' pockets, moving carefully to his bed.

"Wow, you produced such things in toilet," he mutters sarcastically, taking a water bottle from Ashley.

"I think your parents love me more than you. I obviously love them, I love them a lot, because come on, they give me much food."

She notices Tyler's gloomy expression and immediately forgets her words. "Hey, I was joking." When she still doesn't get any response, she sits closer to him and wraps her arms around his body. "What's wrong? Don't be mad."

"I have no idea, I just found out Josh might quit Youtube, and—"

Ashley looks at him in pure shock. She hasn't acquainted this Josh guy, so the most she knows about him is that he has pink hair, even though she watched some of his videos with Tyler. However, she is aware, how much he means to Tyler, partially. "What do you mean? He can't just—What?"

"I don't know, he moves out with his family and has to, probably, start a new life, which means his videos will be delayed, and who knows for how long he is going to bear it."

"Well, it doesn't really mean he's going to leave." She puts her head on his shoulder. "He won't. Would he abandon everything he's achieved? Think about it."

"That is exactly, what he said. I might be overreacting, sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry about. I fully understand you. It's just like your favourite artist announces a break from career. Pretty terrifying for a fan. But forget about it for a moment. We need to spend the last day of summer holidays like proper friends." She looks at him, before smiling widely at the boy sitting beside her.

Chapter Text

"Tyler, please stop!" He hears yelling behind his back, and decides to run even faster, puerile giggling escaping his mouth, his feet unstoppably hitting the solid ground decorated by bright, fresh grass on a floodbank.

He doesn't even try to look back. It's hard to take his eyes off the beautiful city in front of him. On his left stretches an infinity river, which releases a soft, soothing hum, harmonizing with the sound of leaves on huge, colourful trees. This river is a popular object here in the summer. Many people visit this place every day, and today isn't different. Kids squealing, teenagers swimming, dogs playing, adults enjoying.

The river seems to never end, but if you look closely, you can notice it turns right a little further away. Behind the sight of the river, there is a faded view of hundreds of yellow and orange houses, messy situated on a big hill. It seems so near, but if he wanted to get there, it would take him at least one hour.

The right side is teeming with life, as there is a sports' resort, that contains a football court, on which concerts take place every beginning of the summer, outdoor ice rink in winter, gym, martial arts hall, outdoor and indoor swimming pool.

Tyler is gasping for air, so he has to slow down, but just a little bit. He opens his mouth wide open, sticking his tongue out like an exhausted dog, and laughing like a 7-year-old child.

"Tyler, do you realize, how dumb we look?" He hears shouting again and groans. He had much fun, but not for too long. "People are watching us and I look like a mother who's trying to catch her son up to beat his ass."

She's absolutely right. Standing on a floodbank, they are above the actual ground and river's level. They are the most visible ones in this area. However, they don't do anything illegal or inappropriate, they are just taking advantage of the last day of freedom and act like little kids. Or it's just Tyler. "Fine, come here, I'm not going to run away."

He turns around and finds Ashley quite far away from him. He was fast, he could think, but she probably stopped running halfway through, not being able to deal with his shit anymore.

Tyler sits on the grass, on the edge of the floodbank, so he can sway his legs lightly. He stopped at a spot, that's directly facing the outdoor swimming pool. he can hear loud music and crowd of enthusiastic young people in the water. He regrets a little not taking any swim shorts with him.

"You're dead." He feels a tap on his shoulder, until Ashley decides to sit beside him.

"Please, don't beat me," he says sarcastically, zoning out on a sight in front of him.

"Why do you hate me?" she asks with a little too serious tone.

"What?" He looks at her. Her hair looks green through brown sunglasses, "I would never."

"Sure. You are just saying that." She takes his sunglasses off his eyes and puts on his own. "I'm very disappointed by you and I'm sure my people over there are too," she points in the direction of a crowed river. "Did you ever think about your family?" she mocks him.

"Can you give me my glasses back, please? You have your own."

Ashley ignores him and lays on her back. She is staring at the perfect blue, cloudless sky, smiling widely. She looks pretty cool with her hair blue and yellow tangled in bright green grass.

"We should go back, it's too hot," he finally breaks the silence, hoping she is going to respond him this time.

Ashley suddenly sits and takes his sunglasses off her eyes. "Tyler, you're a genius."

"And why is that?"

She doesn't stop staring at him directly in the eye, her face expression looking like she just came up with the most amazing idea. "What?"

"There's a pool."

"Yes, there's a pool," he nods.

"Tyler, there's a pool."

"I know, I can see!" he gives her the softest smile of his.

"Tyler," she gives him this serious look again. How can he not know, what she's talking about? It's way too obvious. She decides to try him. They sit like that for another two minutes.

"No," he finally realizes, "No Ashley, you're insane. No."

"But Tyler, there's a pool!" she whines and shakes his body back and forth.

"Ashley, no."

"Ashley, yes!"

"What? You want to skinny-dip, or what? Neither of us have swim clothes or money." He finally takes his glasses away from her hands and wears on his head.

"I have colourful underwear on, which eventually looks like a bikini. You have briefs, of course."

Tyler literally frowns, his huge eyes finding her gaze and hoping, that she didn't say, what she said, "Have you ever seen people wearing underwear in a public pool? It's a profanity, young lady. What would your family think?" he uses her sarcasm from earlier. "If you want to, go ahead, but don't involve me in this."

"You're no fun, Tyler!", she shouts. "It's the last day. We have to do something extraordinary."

Tyler looks away, apparently being really mad at her. Yes, he would like to experience something special, as it's the last day, but nothing good comes into his mind. It he doesn't come up with a better idea, than Ashley's absurd one, he's done.

"Okay, I was joking," she speaks again, more calmly. She wasn't really joking and they both know that. "But listen, you are wearing shorts right now anyway."

"Yes, denim shorts. Really comfortable clothing to swim in."

"Well, not that bad, seriously. If you can run that fast in these shorts, you can swim as well," she grins at him, trying to convince her stubborn friend to her rebellious ideas. "Please, Ty-Ty." There's no way she just came up with his nickname from kindergarten.

"Ashley, let it go, please."

"No, I can't." As she says that, he immediately remembers events from last night, when she wanted to come in. She said exactly the same. At this time he knows he can't win with her. She will whine about it all day.

He sighs, standing up, "Come on."

"What? Where are you—" Ashley stands up as well and follows Tyler, who's leading her in pool's direction. She couldn't be more happy right now. She decides not to speak out again not to annoy him more.

They walk in silence, carefully down the floodbank. They reach the fence and stop.

"Are we going to climb this? Break in?"

"Of course, we are." She gives him a warm smile, before putting her foot on a railing. It doesn't look easy, because there are only two rails to prop up, here at the bottom, where Ashley's foot is, and precisely at the top. Anyway, he follows her, because, speaking of climbing, he can do it pretty well.

"Can these stupid kids look away?" Ashley whispers, trying her best not to fall down, or tear her clothes.

"Leave them alone," he says, proudly looking down at her from the top of the fence.

"I'm wondering, if you would be saying the same if they caught us, or something," she says shakily, struggling with keeping the balance. It's one of the very few times Tyler can see her nervous and afraid. It's was her idea after all.

"You just have to turn around," he instructs her, "Careful! Yes, and put your feet on these two metal rods. One, and then another. And you have to slide on your toes, but please, don't cut your knees."

She does as said and falls down on grass with a thud. It seemed painful, but Tyler is not surprised, when she starts running away from there in a second. They keep running, seeking for some bench near to the pool. When they finally manage to find one, Ashley, without thinking, starts taking her shoes and shorts off.

They undress in front of people, not caring about them staring, not at all. Tyler ends up shirtless, only left with his denim shorts and sunglasses on. Ashley waits for him already with nothing, but her shirt and neon underwear and glasses as well.

She smirks at him, with hands on her hips. "Ready?"

"I can't believe you forced me to do this."

"You already like it, come on." She takes his hand and leads in a direction of the pool. The pool is, obviously, stuffed with kids, parents and teenagers and various kinds of inflated water toys.

Tyler can't even remember, when was the last time he'd been to the swimming pool. He used to go often with his parents as a little child. That was, when he learned how to swim. Growing up, he still wanted to use and show his swimming skills, but, over the years, he has become more and more insecure of his body. With Ashley everything is much easier though.

"We are obviously going to the deepest level."

Ashley laughs. "That's where I'm actually leading you."

Tyler forgot about everything he had been scared of. People don't even care about them. He doesn't think about any trouble they might get into, and if their clothes are still where they left them.

Platforms above the deepest level were full of high schoolers, trying to impress everybody around, but Tyler and Ashley particularly stand out of this group, Tyler wearing jeans and Ashley with her bright blue hair. They don't see any lifeguard within the reach, who might banish them for wearing inappropriate clothes underwater.

They stand in line of people, leading to the platforms, and when Tyler stands on one, he waits for the platform beside him to empty. Ashley stands and they both look at each other, nothing, but honest smiles and pure excitement on their young faces.

"Ready?" Tyler finally asks.

"One..." Ashley begins.

"Two..."

"Three!"

Both of them take deep breaths and jump into deep water simultaneously. Oh, how good it feels, cold water clinging to heated bodies. Sound of bubbles, smell of chlorine.

Tyler touches the ground of a pool, but not for long. His body delicately starts to float, but he can't hold his breath any longer.

He raises his right hand, and after he doesn't feel any water on his palm, he emerges, gasping for air, coughing. His first instinct is to look for Ashley, who apparently hasn't show up yet.

He looks around, getting a little nervous after a while at no sight of blue hair. He hasn't dropped his sunglasses from his left hand and, whilst waiting for ashley, he blows to dry them off and puts them on his nose.

He feels a sudden pressure on his back and realises it might be her. "You really thought I drowned!" she laughs.

"Not at all!"

"You did, liar. You won't get rid of me that quickly, it's not my time to die yet."

They have to outshout the loud music, loud people and the loud water. Tyler leads Ashley through the whole pool length, finally reaching the ground and approaching the youngest kids, learning how to swim with cartoon-themed lifebuoys around their small bodies.

This place is especially crowded this day, because everybody wants this time to last forever. Tomorrow will be monotonous and dull, but none of them remembers and none of them cares. They are living in this moment and it's perfect.

Ashley starts swimming away. He's following her, not wanting to lost the blue head again. He reaches her and splashes water all around. Droplets cover her glasses completely, so she doesn't see anything for a while.

They keep splashing and pushing each other, clutching each other's legs underwater and, long story short, having probably much more fun, than most of the kids over there.

Ashley is very happy to see Tyler's wide smile, caused partly by her presence. She wouldn't have more fun with somebody other than him, no matter he's not as crazy as her.

They spend one hour on swimming, until they decide to finally go out and dry off. After a few hours of sunbathing, singing songs and playing with kids, the air gets cooler and the sky gets fader. Both teens are going to leave the pool and the memory wonderful-spent last day of break. But not yet.

Even though they both are already all dry in their clothes, the stupid idea of jumping into the water, full-clothed, is ridiculous, but amazing. The main pool got empty. It would be a nice finale of the day. When nobody's watching, all laughing, they literally run into the pool.

"It's so cold!" Ashley says through her gasps, shivering like a dog in water. She has been laughing all day, and even now, she can't stop, despite her barely breathing.

They reach the end of the pool and climb out, soaking intensively. "We look like wet rats," says Tyler, making Ashley laugh hard, again. Both of them dry their feet off by still heated pavement, until putting shoes on, smiling to the staff, and leaving a pool area, for the first and last time this year.

They don't even think about heading home yet and turn towards city center, all wet and exhausted. Tyler notices a few nasty glances on them, which is hard for him to understand. Their clothes are just soaked, nothing bad, but they seem to people like aliens, the dumbest exhibits.

Half an hour later, while both of them are going down the road in the heart of the city, a sunset can be slowly noticed, disguising faded sky in a storm of pinks and oranges. They are walking straight forward the bright red, percolating bravely through the highest buildings, falling behind the horizon, sun.

There is something ethereal in sunsets. Sometimes the fiery, golden orb rises up, spreading its magnificent rays of light everywhere, letting the sky wear the warmest of colours, making a calmness flew by your body, with the wind making your heart stop for a single second, and the leaves rustling behind, as if they are whispering one another to hush and breathe the view in.

Sometimes sunsets are dark, blue and intriguing, but not less beautiful than any other one. The sky is light blue, but not too bright, huge clouds really dark grey, hanging very low, like they could fall onto you in a moment. You can see pinkish colours sticking out of clouds. Trees stretching along are surrounded by the same pastel pink. Everything around sounds fearsome and grim, but you look at the most breathtaking view above your head.

"I feel like I can't take any step forward anymore," Ashley breaks the comfortable silence, which rose around them. "My feet have never hurt more."

"That was your idea, remember," Tyler smiles, not taking his eyes off the sun.

Chapter Text

Tyler is in neutral mood. He doesn't feel anything. He doesn't even have any strength to feel nervous. He's exhausted.

Ashley and Tyler stayed outside until 11 p.m. yesterday, but they were in move since early morning and Tyler's legs are refusing to obey and he hardly keeps his eyes open. He's going to give an amazing first impression in school today, but he doesn't even care about it. He's just looking forward to coming home later, even though school hasn't started yet, and hopes he hasn't caught cold yesterday.

He woke up very late, so he didn't even worry about his look and picked out some black hoodie out of his pile of black hoodies, black jeans and black shoes. He and Ashley will look together like death and lollipop.

He approaches Ashley's block, so they can walk to school together, as always, for 2 years. He woke up late, but he isn't late, as he literally got up from bed, put on clothes and ran out from house. He decides to text her for some reasons.

First one, he always does that, when he's waiting for her.

Second one, he texts her, because he doesn't want to impose and enter the house, or maybe he's too shy to ring the damn intercom, being afraid, that somebody from Ashley's family could answer. Ashley's family is Tyler's family, but he usually meets them and talks to them with her, so it would probably end up with an awkward small talk through intercom, or inviting to the house, which would lead to a reason number three.

Third one, if Tyler rang, he's a hundred percent sure he would have to come into the house and he and Ashley will never get to school on time.

Tyler: I'm here.

Assley: Ok, I need to pack my books.
Don't leave without me. :D

He realises it will take her some time, packing books, adjusting eyebrows for the tenth time every morning, lacing her shoes, walking down from the fourth floor. Be looks at metal swings for several minutes, before running in their direction.

He sits on one of them, but doesn't swing, just keep doing big circles and spinning around the chains. He remembers those times, when he used to spend his free time at these swings every single day as a kid. He even had his favourite one, the one he "owned". He used to try reaching higher and higher, then jump off onto a soft grass. Be used to sing songs with his friends very loud, but adults didn't complain back then. Most of adults living here were their parents anyway.

Sometimes, when he thinks about that, it makes him feel sad, because all of his childhood best friends are adults now, probably not remembering anything from this playground, even though some of them still live right here, and because none of them kept in touch and they act like strangers, pretending nothing was ever connecting them.

Tyler isn't a keeper. He's used to being avoided after a few months, of people becoming bored of him. It happens all the time he meets somebody, and even though he knows the history keeps repeating itself, he still is thankful for any person, that decides to like him.

Before Ashley, he had been all alone in his room, watching films, convincing himself it was normal for a teenager to feel depressed all the time and have nobody to talk to. He was a good student and his parents were proud of him, so he thought he didn't need anything else.

But a teenager life isn't just school. Sure, school secures your future, but who knows, when that future will happen? Most people think that life is only based around working, and you're born only to get a job soon. He and his parents only cared about the job he might get in probably six or more years, but what about now?

You won't be able to function properly in the future—well, how you don't even know if you'll survive till the future—if you can't function properly in present. School made Tyler forget about the whole world around him and it became unhealthy. His family praised him for his achievements, good grades and nice terms with teachers, but he wasn't even happy, that he did good, he hated himself. And didn't do good.

It feels bad to not have any friend, or just somebody, who could spend some time with you, when everybody around him was suffocating from a crowd of friends they had. He was overthinking, what he had been doing wrong all this time.

That's why Ashley herself is nothing, but a miracle. Even though he's still a bit sad and introverted, he finally has the person he can talk or stay silent with. He regrets, that he didn't speak to her earlier, if they became friends again that quickly. Better late than never.

Ashley is late again, that Tyler wants to start swinging, but he didn't run out of house half asleep to wait for her twenty minutes now.

Tyler: Hurry up, please.

Assley: Did you know Ms. Lennox
wore a skirt today for the first
time?

Tyler: Interesting.

Assley: I'm serious, Brendon just calls
me at 6 in the morning to shout
into my ear, that this woman actually
doesn't hide her amputated leg under
her jeans.

Ms. Lennox is their biology teacher, who is known for wearing every day quite weird jeans, very tight on top and getting really loose on calves. Freshman students came up with a theory, that she has no leg—well, what else can freshman kids do—but still is the only reason boys actually want to go to school. She's not older, than 33 years old, not very tall, thin body and thin blonde hair. The best information for all students is that she's not married, nor in a relationship. This Brendon kid is obsessed with her.

She has to deal with all these nasty, biological comments, that meant to be funny, come out sexual. She was in high school not so long ago, so she probably understands today's youth and doesn't act offended. She laughs with them or warns sometimes, but everybody knows it isn't serious, she knows too.

Assley: Everybody is getting wild,
because she apparently looks
really, really good. I want to see
her and know, what everybody's
talking about and drooling over.

Tyler: I don't.

Tyler, leaning on a swing, can see the blue head appearing behind glass staircase doors, smiling to the phone in her hands.

Assley: You are coming with me anyways.

Tyler stands from his place and walks in her direction, still texting.

Tyler: Unfortunately.

They walk together, without any word and any glance, Ashley still grinning to her phone like a banana.

Assley: Some guy fastened to me and
touches my shoulder with his shoulder.
Send help.

Tyler: You walked away without me and
now allow a random person to touch
you on the street? Inappropriate.>/em>

Theh both seem like they are going to burst laughing and fall on their knees from it, but still pretend to keep straight face and challenge each other. They are even watching now, what they are writing. Ashley doesn't hesitate.

Assley: Speak to me with a human
voice, then we can talk.

Tyler rolls his eyes, but doesn't say anything. They walk in silence, but not completely. Ashley starts to laugh uncontrollably, her bag falling from her shoulder.

"Did somebody die in your family?" she says, barely breathing from her laugh.

"Yes, my happiness," he responds, trying to be serious this time, but it's too hard for him not to smile, when Ashley has such a contagious laugh.

"If you put a hood on, you would look like death personified."

"I just like black, okay?" That doesn't mean he has to wear black and only black every day. He has got light clothes too, but he just feels more comfortable in dark shades, especially today. He looks at Ashley. She doesn't have to wear many colours, because her hair does all the work, but it isn't enough. She wore red shirt, blue jeans and bright orange jacket. They really do look like death and lollipop together.

"But you like pink hair," she smirks and he feels, like even his ears are blushing. It's not time for this type of conversation.

"Stop, please."

"Why?"

"We will be late for school." He starts walking faster and leaves her behind, putting his sunglasses from his hair to his eyes.

Ashley groans so loudly it's kinda embarrassing. "You didn't answer!"

"I don't have to, you're not my mom."

"Excuse me, I am!" She reaches him, before taking a strip of his backpack in her two hands and laughs again to cheer him up. They arrive to school singing "I'm so excited" song under their breaths.

Large pavement in front of school is already filled with loud kids, talking excitedly about their holidays, greeting each other, or smoking by the gate. Everything feels so warm. Tyler can't see anybody without a smile on their face. Everybody has somebody to talk to and conversations don't seem to end. How are people so good at being social?

"Tadpole!" Tyler hears somebody shouting and he doesn't need to think, who it might be, because this voice can be recognised everywhere and nobody else is dumb enough to compare Ashley's yellow hair strand to a tadpole.

"What's up, Brendon?" She smiles even wider, hugging him lightly, before he turns to Tyler.

"Hello, my little brother, Tyler."

"Hi, Brendon." Tyler waves at him with a light smile. He knows Brendon quite well, but still can't be confident enough with somebody other than Ashley. He decides to stick with her and listen to their talk.

"Hello!" He can see other people appearing from behind Brendon's back. These are people from his little gang, which does everything together and is one of these most recognised groups in school hallways. They all turn to Ashley, or Tyler, and tap Brendon in a shoulder.

Ashley, even though she doesn't belong to their group completely and officially, hangs out with them quite often. Ashley's friends are also practically Tyler's friends and none of them has a problem with him, as he never says any rude comments, is quiet and pretty friendly.

"I haven't seen you all in two months, this was such a golden time, and now I have to see you again," Ashley says slowly and loudly, shouting down all greeting voices around.

"I bet you were suffering," Pete speaks up, drinking his water by the time. Everybody's glance passes at him. Since when has this guy drunk clear water? "What? They don't sell anything else yet. I still payed too much, I could go to a bathroom and drink the same from a faucet."

Tyler chuckles and starts to feel comfortable again around that big group of people. However, having nothing to say, he stares at his feet, before pulling his phone out of his pocket and playing with his lockscreen.

"So, I called you earlier," Brendon speaks up again in a surprisingly serious tone, lifting up his eyebrows. Everybody agrees with him and confirms, that, yes, indeed, he called her in the morning. In that case they all had to hear their conversation.

"Oh, yeah, I need to see this! Where is she?" Ashley almost jumps from her position. Is she really so interested in some woman's skirt? Well, Tyler isn't judging...

"Olay, calm down," says Patrick, seemingly the most calm from the whole group, "We don't want to scare her off, because the whole school is already wild, but I want to tell you, that Brendon was already inside this building before 6 a.m. to see this lady sorting out accountancy things."

Everybody around starts laughing, because they didn't expect anything else. Typical Brendon. They wouldn't be surprised if he followed her to her house after classes to be able to visit her during break.

"And we are walking down the hallways, school still empty, and we know, that she's going to go to biology classroom from an office. She finally appears and brendon gets a little bit shocked—"

"A little bit? He nearly spasmed here, I witnessed it," Pete says so loudly, that probably people inside hear him clearly. He doesn't care, everybody knows, what is Brendon like, so it's nothing new.

"Okay, very funny, Pete, very fucking funny." Brendon rolls his eyes, pretending to be annoyed, but being proud of himself, that he made a lot of buzz around himself again. "How would you react if she showed up in the empty hallway in front of you in this black tight skirt, once in a lifetime? Oh sorry, you wouldn't at all, because you're always late."

"Okay, shut up, we should go inside if we still want to see her. You might have already seen her, but some of us haven't, and we really want to," says one, orange-haired girl, wearing similar clothes to Ashley. "Come on."

A group of ten or more people walks messy into big school doors, laughing and cheering. Even Tyler can't help his burst of laughter at everything Brendon says. They all missed each other very much during a 2-month break, so they have very much to say.

School inside isn't different, than outside. The main hallway is fully packed. It seems, like there are two times more people, than last year. No matter, how crowded this place is, the group still sticks together.

"How many classes are we having together?" asks somebody from the back of a group, before Ashley turns around and says with a frown;

"I think I saw her! Out of the way!" It sounds more like a serious command, and for Tyler this all is just very funny. They act like some abnormal children with their impetuous need to see some teacher. She became a sensation within one hour, and he's wondering, if this school already reached this level of being problematic.

Almost every person standing in the centre of long hallway moves aside, making a clear space for a show, that's going to happen in a few seconds. Tyler feels like everybody's whispering, and he just stands, silent, leaning against the wall, more confused than ever.

"Y'all don't be so awkward, you can talk..." Brendon speaks up and everybody's gaze immediately turns into his direction. Brendon is the second main star in the show and nobody expected he would open his mouth right now.

Nobody dares to talk anyway. In a few seconds they can hear high heels tapping the ground with an echo. Ms. Lennox along with 4 other teachers leaves the gym and everyone, except for Tyler, is flabbergasted. Tyler is more taken-aback by this whole situation, than one and only love interest, the biology teacher.

She walks alongside the hallway, lighting up the whole room with her honest smile directed to a PE teacher. Her face is the same as usual, but everyone had to make a chaos out of one skirt. Yes, that wasn't a lie, she's wearing black, plain and simple knee-length skirt. Nothing special, but she looks different. She has always been wearing more sporty clothes, and nobody would have imagined her ever looking like that.

Everybody tries their hardest not to burst laughing right there, in front of her face, of course, not because of her look, but from the seriousness of the situation and each other's face expressions.

Teachers finally disappear in a different classroom and the whole hallway breathes out.

"What the fuck was that?" Ashley literally explodes and two seconds later wipes tears off her red face. "That was hilarious, I nearly peed," she cackles out of her breath, holding on to Tyler for dear life.

"She looks weird," Tyler says simply.

"Tyler, you're impossible. How can you stand here like this as if nothing really happened?" Frank asks with a disbelief. "Were you even with us a minute ago?"

"Of course I was, you should see your face," Tyler lets out a giggle, until he stops immediately, when he hears it resounds through the whole room.

"Brendon is probably hyperventilating," says one random kid from an audience in the back. Loud laughing can be heard again.

Brendon turns around into the direction of glass door, "I need to breathe!" and leaves the building alone afterwards. His emotions can't be read. He seems frustrated and cheerful at once. This guy cannot be understood completely. He doesn't even understand himself at all.

The crowd distracts itself and heads out to each classrooms. Everybody comes back to their own business, forgetting about the past events. Better for Tyler. His head hurts.

"We should go to class," he suggests Ashley.

"Yes, yes, let's go."

Tyler's nerves come back to him again, so he takes a hold of his backpack stripes as tight as he can and hangs his head low. Ashley bursts into class and he enters after her, following her like a big baby. The classroom is silent and Tyler regrets it for some time, because he feels like he's going to fall asleep right here, on his chair.

Not even Ashley constant talking helps. When she starts ranting in class about Nero The Emperor, he is literally praying for a strength to keep his eyes open. Everybody's attention in classroom is turned to Ashley and it would be embarrassing if he dozed off right now, when he's sitting next to her. He looks at the sky and sighs every 30 seconds. He isn't sure he'll survive today.

During the last period, Ashley has to argue with some kids to give back hers and Tyler's seats at the back corner of the room.

"Just leave it alone, Ashley," he interrupts the quarrel quietly.

"No, Tyler, we always sit at the back. I can deal with it."

A teacher, an older woman with dark and short red hair, standing at the front of the classroom, gives Ashley a stern look, but doesn't say anything. Teachers really like Ashley and probably would never shout at her.

Ashley glances at the woman back, smiling sweetly towards her, before turning back to two stubborn boys and starting again with a stern tone, almost yelling, "Listen, if you don't leave this place i—"

"Didn't you hear? Go away, hurry, hurry!" somebody shouts and four of them stop everything they were doing before to look at the direction of the rapid voice. The girly voice came out from short and pretty orange-haired girl, wearing a plain blue shirt with holes, black ripped jeans and heavy boots. She smiles softly at two boys occupying Tyler's and Ashley's place and then look at them with angry eyes again. She takes both their hands in hers, and helps them with standing up. They give up easily with a sigh and break free from her grip.

"Don't have to be thankful," she smiles at Tyler and Ashley this time and sits at the desk one row before them. "Hayley," she offers her hand to both of them.

"Hi Hayley," Ashley shakes her hand. "I am Ashley and this is Tyler. Thank you so much."

"Thank you, I'm Tyler," he gives her the most honest smile he can product. She just fought for their seats during the entire school year.

"Hey, I saw you with brendon, didn't I?" Ashley notices, pulling out notebooks from her bag. "Yes, that's you!"

Hayley lets out a tired laugh, looking around the classroom. "Yeah, I had been standing next to you all this morning."

"I figured it out, but this day started really chaotic and everybody's mind was... you know where."

"I don't want to interrupt," Tyler says, "but Ashley, I have to leave class ten minutes earlier to talk with coach."

Every student is already sitting in each seat and classroom falls silent, but that doesn't stop Hayley from sitting with her back facing away the front of the class.

"Oh, what do you play?" she asks kindly.

"Basketball." He starts fiddling with strings sticking out of his hoodie, tying them and making a rope, then untying and tying a bow. "I'm not really good, though."

Ashley glances at him wide-eyed. "Liar," she says a little too loudly, so the whole classroom and a few classrooms away can hear her.

"Frangipane, silence," English teacher warns her, writing an exercise on a blackboard, without turning around.

They spend another minutes in actual silence, doing grammar exercises and Ashley nearly explodes. She can't just stay silent for 5 minutes, because she feels something eating her out from inside. That's why, when Tyler leaves a classroom and goes to his coach, she keeps poking Hayley in the neck from behind with her pencil. It doesn't matter she's known her for 45 minutes.

Classes for today end, and two girls, waiting for Tyler to come back, learn more about each other. They happen to be pretty similar and plan hanging out again the next time they see each other.

Ashley can recognise Tyler leaving the gym at the end of hallway and pushing out people obstructing the way, while she suddenly remembers something.

"Oh, Hayley, I nearly forgot," she says quickly, a bit nervous, "This is really random, so sorry for that, but Tyler has a Youtube channel. I want to be this supportive friend, so if you could look at some of his videos some time, it would be great." She glances again to the right, where she can see Tyler approaching them and quiets her tone, "He's really good."

"Oh," Hayley, a bit surprised and confused, smiles widely, "Yes, yes, sure!"

"Yes? Great. I'll text you later."

"No problem."

"Everything good with basketball?" Ashley turns to Tyler, "Are you in the team again?" He nods. " Nice. We are going to go now, but we'll meet again tomorrow, right?"

"Sure!" Hayley smiles brightly and turns into her own direction.

Tyler and Ashley walk home in comfortable silence, watching world through their dark sunglasses. Weather is really cool today, not too hot and not too cold. Perfect. Tyler loves sweater weather. He can't believe he was dying from heat just yesterday.

"What were you talking about with Hayley when I came?" he finally breaks the silence.

"Nothing important, really." She taps his arm and then takes his sunglasses to remove her own and put his glasses on her ears.

Chapter Text

Josh has never been hiding in the corner. He has always been the most known one, the most popular one, the most visible one. It's not that he loves all the attention he gets, he's just completely fine with it. However, he's a bit afraid now, and doesn't want people from the new school to like him only because he's known from somewhere on the Internet.

That's why he gets afraid, when some random, tall, brunet kid recognises him at the school gates immediately.

"Wait... No way!" the stranger shouts, laughing, and grips his head in his hands. He approaches Josh, not looking away from him for even a second. "Hi man, Josh? It's definitely you!"

"Yeah." He starts laughing with the guy, walking in his direction. "And you are?"

"Brendon," he offers his hand to Josh, and when they finally touch, he shakes their hands with an enthusiasm.

"Josh."

"I know, man!" They both laugh like old friends, but nobody even notices them. It looks like students don't see anything behind the school gates, like it's a closed space. "What a coincidence, I watched your last video out of boredom and I can't believe you moved to this hole from Vegas! You're indeed here! I can't believe it, what the hell?"

"Yes, unfortunately," he responds. After a second he realises that what he just said might be offensive, but Brendon seems to not have a problem with it, so he doesn't apologize. "But I think it will be better for me, you know? I believe I didn't left everything back there in Nevada in vain."

"Don't even think about that. With me here you'll forget about Vegas forever."

"Dude, we met 2 seconds ago. Did you just propose or something to me?"

"Why not?" Brendon opens gate doors and lets Josh in. They both enter school area.

"If you only do this to use me, you can simply fuck off." Josh glances at Brendon, while he leads him to the building.

Brendon seems to be very cool and nice guy, even his eyes are radiating with joy, and Josh appreciates this really much. However, if he already met someone, who knows him from social media, he has to keep the distance, at least at the moment. Almost all his friends in Vegas were his childhood friends, who decided to be friends with silly, emo kid he had been in the past. Don't get him wrong, he loves and appreciates everybody, who pays attention to him and likes what he keeps doing, but can he be a hundred percent sure if none of them will take advantage of him? No, he can't.

If he really wants to make new friends here, he will. But if it's Brendon, he has to get to know him more to give him a chance. They met 5 minutes ago, but it's visible from the first sight, that this kid literally emits energy and you can definitely have fun with him. They also already got really comfortable around each other. Josh doesn't like boring and quiet people, because he knows, that they wouldn't get along well with him.

Brendon, being Brendon, doesn't take Josh seriously and doesn't feel offended even a little bit. "Calm down, Josh. I want to show you around, because you are a cool guy."

After all, Josh is thankful, that somebody bumped into him and cheered him up. Ten minutes ago he wanted to shoot himself and show his parents the price of moving out. He wasn't even sure, if he came to right place. He looks around and notices, that it's much louder here, than in his hometown. People never were so exuberant the second day of school year. Maybe it won't be that bad, if everybody is cheering and smiling. That's a good first impression, he thinks.

"Have you dyed your hair?" Brendon speaks up again, typing something quickly on his phone. "Last time I had seen it, it was pink."

Josh decided spontaneously to dye his hair yesterday evening, so people don't recognise him that quickly. He didn't think somebody from Ohio even knew, who he was, but safety is number one priority. He doesn't care, if he looks better with this or that colour, or if people tell him he should keep it. He dyes his hair, when he feels a sudden need to, and likes to experiment. That's why he put on a yellow colour on his hair this time. It looks ridiculous and even glows in the dark, but looks cool.

"Apparently so. Want to touch?" Josh asks half-jokingly, half-seriously.

"Are you kidding me?" Brendon asks a little too loudly than necessary and they both begin laughing, again, but this time people start turning around, surprised, that Brendon actually is close to somebody beyond his group, and that this person is actually new to them all.

"Not at all."

"Dude, it looks great," Brendon compliments, sliding his hand through yellow curls, and if they hadn't attracted an attention before, they surely did this time.

Not caring about weird glances and whispers directed towards them, Josh looks around the territory. The building is even bigger, than his, unfortunately, old school. He can't get used to the fact, that this should be his second home right now, and his hometown school, the school he lazily went to two months ago, is the past and he will never appear there again.

It hurts. If hurts even more, as he's a teenager. If he was, for example, a little 10-year-old kid, he would be disappointed and irritated, yeah, but the desire of having many more friends, new toys, that weren't available where you lived, a bigger house to invite classmates, and just this child's mind would take over control and he would forget about the whole Vegas in one week.

But he's 18 now and he can already think rationally. He's aware, that he probably left all his happiness, all his accomplishments, all his life behind, because he has to start everything from zero, even though he worked so hard to be successful before. It's like he's newly born again. He doesn't have anything his with himself here. He doesn't even have his drums, because they are going to be delivered to Columbus soon.

When he went to school on the last day of school year a few weeks ago, he couldn't even imagine that it might be the last time he had seen those faces. But it was. He couldn't even say goodbye to everybody he wanted to, because his parents decided to surprise him about a departure a few days before moving. They didn't care, that he had some real friends and he might not find anywhere else, they didn't care if he had a girlfriend, they didn't care, that it might affect on him really negatively. His friends were as shocked as he had been, but he could not do anything with it, as convince them, that he will never forget about them, he will call often, nobody will be able to replace them. He wanted to cry, but he's a person, who doesn't keep any tears inside his body.

He's pissed off and he doesn't know, how he will be able to hide and control it. Long story short, he's in a dark hole. He doesn't show it, though, because he just doesn't want to repulse new people.

"Do you think anybody from here knows about me? You know, like from the Internet," he asks out of nowhere.

"I don't think so." Brendon shrugs blankly. "I might be wrong, but people here don't care about this type of thing."

"Don't try to convince me high school kids aren't addicted to the Internet."

"Well, I am not," Brendon declares loudly.

That's new. "Okay, so what do you do for fun, then?"

"Many thi—"

"You like to party," Josh jokes, but lights up and starts laughing at Brendon's annoyed expression. He wasn't wrong. They suddenly stop walking towards the doors. "Dude, I could read that from your face a long time ago. You're a party animal."

"Who are you to judge me?" Brendon rolls his eyes, before gazing directly at Josh.

"That's fine. You can invite me somewhere some time and show me around, when you're still not drunk to death."

"Shut your face, God," Brendon groans loudly and starts walking away from Josh, approaching the building. "Are you coming or not?"

Brendon opens the door for Josh and they leave crowded area to find themselves in even more stuffed place.

"Are there any fine people here?" Josh asks probably too quietly, compared to wild, loud students around.

Brendon widens his eyes. "You aren't serious. Can't you see how many creatures are here? You will for sure find one and even more than one. But wait," he tugs at Josh's sleeve. "You don't touch a blonde biology teacher, or you have no life in this school."

Josh laughs at him, confused. "Wait, are you trying to hit on a teacher?" He opens his backpack for a sheet with his today's classes.

"I don't know, I just want to protect her."

If Josh would be able to laugh more, he surely would. Brendon is ridiculous and that made him feel a bit better. If other people here are going to be similar to Brendon, maybe choosing this school wasn't a very bad choice. "I have English first," he says, not taking his eyes off a piece of paper, still not sure, if he reads the right thing.

"Too bad we can't be together, I have biology now." He wiggles his eyebrows and Josh rolls his eyes as hard as he can. "English classroom is right behind us. Have fun and see you around."

"Don't come in your pants when your biology wife appears," Josh jokes, before turning around and heading to mentioned classroom. Only if he knew, what happened yesterday. He can hear muffled sounds behind his back, but doesn't say anything else to piss off Brendon more.

The classroom is almost fully filled with people and Josh finds empty places at only 2 desks, so he decides to choose the one at the back corner. He feels like somebody follows him to his destination and isn't wrong. A second after he seats at his desk, some boy with black glasses on his nose seats beside him.

"Oh, sorry if I occupied your place—"

"No, sit, you're fine," the stranger smiles, before moving comfortably on his chair. "You're new? What's your name?"

Josh smiles at him and says his name.

"Dallon," the other responds, fiddling with his pencil. "You're new here, because I haven't noticed a yellow head before."

"Yeah, I moved from Vegas—"

"Vegas, as Las Vegas?" Apparently this guy likes to interrupt people, or he does it unawares. "Big thing, man. What made you move here?"

"My parents, I had no choice." No matter, how many times Josh wants to forget, that his parents took his whole life away from him, he has to bring it back again.

"I'm sorry, but you will feel good here. It's a nice city, nobody's died in this school yet."

They both laugh, even though Josh feels sick. He's happy, that he has made two friends already, but also feels bad because of this whole situation, that has absorbed his mind since last week. They sit in comfortable silence, before a short, older, tough looking woman interrupts everybody's recent actions.

"Good morning," she welcomes and everybody greets her back. "Before we start, we should have a new student with us today." She shuffles trough her papers on a large desk and finally takes one piece and then puts her glasses on. "Is here Joshua Dun?"

Josh raises his hand from the back of the room confidently. The class turns their heads behind. People are nicely surprised.

The woman chuckles, looking up from her desk, "How could I not notice you?" She probably means his bright yellow hair. "I already thought you wouldn't appear today, or get lost, but here you are. How do you feel in our beautiful school?"

One girl in front of Josh snorts, because come on, how can teachers still see this school beautiful, if they have so many hassles with students?

"Really nice so far, to be honest. I hope it keeps going that way."

"Why didn't you come to school yesterday, the first day?" a girl sitting at the very front asks loudly.

"Me and my parents were too busy and exhausted after a flight from our city."

"Is it different than in Las Vegas?" the teacher continues. Despite her stone look, she seems really nice.

The whole classroom can't remain silent right now. Loud whispers and can be clearly heard over and over again. Josh kinda likes, that he's already a main object of conversations and doesn't feel uncomfortable even a little bit.

"Not really, but I've been here for less than one day, so we'll see later."

More and more people turn around to see, where Josh and Dallon sit, and Josh starts to feel bad, that his friend has to deal with all these strange glances from needy girls. One of them stares between both of boys like hypnotised and Josh gently waves in her direction. The girl blushes and looks away abashed.

"Are they always like that?" he asks Dallon.

"They just know, that they already have zero chances with any other boy here, so they are beginning to hit on you, or something. Be careful."

"Sure."

Josh tries to pay attention to his new English teacher. It's hard, as Josh has never been interested in literature and the woman has to be so passionate about it, that she constantly talks and talks for the whole hour.

After 10 minutes Dallon finally pulls out another notebook and three pencils and begins to scribble some stars. Josh has nothing better to do, so he watches him draw, till the bell rings. It felt like forever.

Josh hurries out of the classroom, staring at his schedule paper and doesn't even notice, when Dallon disappears in crowd. He can't understand anything from this jumbled building plan and decides to follow people that seem to be his age. That doesn't work either. He just followed some girl like creep to the bathroom.

He walks back down the stairs and notices two colored heads, one girl with bright orange and the another one with blue hair. The blue one talks to some teacher, while the one with orange hair types something on her phone. He decides to approach her.

"Hey, do you know, where the classroom 23e is? And nice hair by the way."

The girl smiles to her phone, because she still hasn't looked at Josh. "Thank you, and wait a second." She finally looks up and doesn't expect, what she's seeing. Her whole face lights up. "Hey... Josh? So it's not rumour, that you're here! Of course it's not."

Josh frowns a little bit, because it's concerning, that many people can recognise him, and he doesn't know anyone here. "Can you tell me what rumour?"

"My parents told me, that Duns are permanently returning to Columbus after 20 years. Don't tell me you don't remember me."

Indeed, this girl seems familiar to him, but he has already so much stuff inside his head, that no matter how hard he tries, he can't remember.

The girl sighs. She isn't going to give up easily. "Josh, William Dun... Is it telling you something?"

Josh feels embarrassed, because his memory is hidden behind one huge fog, especially, when he actually has to think about something. "Will—, Williams... Hey, I know, I know!"

The orange-haired girl raises her eyebrow with already huge grin on her face, "Come on."

"Har—?" Josh tries.

"Hayley, silly!" The girl tries to act annoyed, but rolls her eyes and then bursts laughing.

"Obviously, Hayley!" He almost hits his head with his palm and takes a step forward to hug her. "I'm sorry, I'm so stupid. It's nice to see you again."

"Yeah," she still giggles, "Don't you remember, when you all used to visit us here? You weren't stuck in Vegas the whole life, though."

"Yes, I remember something."

Josh wants to bury himself alive. He doesn't usually feel embarrassed and ashamed, no, he always laughs things off, goes away and acts cool, but in front of him stands Hayley, his childhood friend.

It all had started before Josh and Hayley were even born. His parents had started a company here, in Columbus, and Hayley's family has always been very close to Josh's. That was one of the reason her parents had been hired at Duns' company. However, Duns knew they couldn't handle to keep their high positions, when they found out, that Mrs. Dun had been expecting a son. They were aware, how overworked they could be and didn't want this to affect on their future child.

They'd decided to move away and let Williams take over the company. After Josh had been born they visited Columbus a few times, and that's how Josh and Hayley met, but it was so long ago, that Josh wouldn't remember it now, if she didn't remind him. His parents still haven't told him any details, but apparently the company still exists and works well and they just wanted to do a big return.

"And?" Hayley continues.

"What?" Josh asks stupidly, feeling everybody's gaze directed on him.

"How do you feel?"

Josh rolls his eyes. "Terrible and great at once."

"Have you met somebody? Except for me." she asks, looking around and then at Josh, checking him out. This boy really grew into a handsome man through all these years. Who would've thought? Everybody grows  and she still stays in place. At least she makes up her short height by her confident personality.

"Yeah, Brendon—"

She mutters under her breath, "Of course."

"—and Dallon."

"What a surprise, I know both of them. You won't get bored with them," she replies.

"That's why I'm here, right?" Josh says with a smirk, "But anything I'm going to do, it just can't affect on a schedule of my videos."

"Oh, yeah, I heard you're the real star, Joshua!" she chuckles jokingly, before wincing, when somebody attacks her shoulder.

"I heard a star, so I'm here."

Brendon slides between both of them, pushing away the crowd and holding his backpack tightly to his chest.

"This time we're not talking about you," Hayley complains.

"Then who?" Brendon asks seriously.

"The 'no fucking way, is that you?' Josh," Josh mocks him.

"Oh, right, I forgot I'm not the only one famous now," Brendon says jokingly.

"So you know?" Hayley asks him.

"Yes, to my surprise he knows." Josh smiles at two of them. Hayley is almost one head shorter than Brendon. It looks funny. "So... do you think I will succeed here? I don't want people to laugh at me. Anyway, I wouldn't let them."

"Why would they? You do a sick job and I'm sure nobody here does anything similar," Brendon replies.

"Oh, wait," Hayley interrupts. Both boys give her a confused look and she's confused as well. "There's this one boy, Ashley's friend—"

"Tyler?" Brendon asks with disbelief. The hallway gets even more crowded.

"Yes, Ashley told me yesterday to check him out. I didn't have much time, but I found out he's pretty big too." She smiles.

"So the rumours are real then!" Brendon says loudly with furrowed brows. "Nobody really talks about it often anymore, but look, surprise, it's true."

Well, that's new. Josh has always been two steps ahead from everyone. His bright pink hair and fully tattooed arm despite his young age drew a lot of attention in his previous school. His looks itself intrigued people and made other students interested in him, but, if that was too little, he attracted by his personality as well. He couldn't get rid of kids clinging to him in the hallways every break and taking photos secretly, even though he was fully aware of that. That didn't make him mad.

This will be his last year of school in new city, with new people. He thought people will get interested in him, like in Vegas, that he will stick with his disguise and continue being on top. He thought people will get taken-aback, but at the moment he realises it would be too easy.

Now, if it's true, it seems like he's going to have a competition, and he's been so dumb that he didn't even expect that.

He stares at the wall behind Hayley's back, concerned, and isn't listening to what she's talking about with Brendon. All he hears are muffled sounds and ringing inside his head.

After about 2 minutes he comes back to Earth and manages to take a deep breath. "So, can you tell me, where the classroom 23e is?" he finally asks.

Chapter Text

For the whole night Josh has been thinking, how his newest video should look like, and literally everything suddenly evaporates from his head. Not completely everything. There's a mess in his head, he can't sort family things, school things, and his own things together. He can tell there are new and new things occupying his mind, except for any clever ideas.

He eventually decides to record a vlog from his new school soon and maybe include some people he's just met. It will take some time, though, since he hasn't learnt much about the school in one day.

He met many people today, and that means his little plan about making himself recognisable is doing great so far. However, the only people who he could let sit in front of his camera are Brendon and Hayley at the moment. He's known Hayley for many years, and even though he hadn't known Brendon, Brendon has known him, so he's calmer, when it comes to them both.

He might tell, how he actually ended up in Columbus, and that it wasn't a coincidence, that he met Hayley here. They both could recommend some music, or even talk about their colourful hair, because Josh is a bit obsessed with hair dyeing, no matter if it's his, or somebody else's.

He remembers, that Hayley used to sing much as a child, and that was a pretty, childish singing. That's why her parents made her participate in vocal contests. Josh doesn't think she has lost the good voice through the years, so maybe she could sing something for his channel some time and he would play.

What about Brendon? Josh might have a solid script for a video and Brendon would never stick to it completely. He always has something to say, or, eventually, to shout it out, and it would be a big mess. But it would be fun, wouldn't it? People like that stuff and Brendon is definitely the life and soul of the party.

He won't record it in less than one week and most probably people will get impatient. But what else can he do? It's like he entered a plane and all his imagination vanished, because he used to come with new ideas almost every night before, and now nothing. Everything rushed. Maybe it's just a matter of time.

It's almost 2 a.m. and Josh is listening to music in bed, at least is trying to. He's distracted by one thing and the one stupid thought doesn't let him fall asleep. It's all he's thinking about. He shouldn't even worry about it, just throw it into the bin and never bring it up, but it's impossible, at least for now, when he doesn't know, what he has to deal with.

He chooses Brendon's contact, which he's got from him today during lunch break, because why not, and texts him;

Josh: Dude.

Josh: It's important, I know you aren't sleeping.

He stares blankly at his screen, waiting for Brendon to respond. He said Josh could text him any time, but now is even more important than any time, and he doesn't even dare to look at his phone and open the message.

Josh starts to think, that he went to sleep for real, but suddenly he sees, that his message is being read. He has to wait another 5 minutes, but still gets no response.

Josh: You read this, I see you.

Josh: Come here, or I'll spam you.

Josh: With gross emojis.

Josh: I'm going to school on my skateboard tomorrow too.

Josh: And I'm planning on smashing it on your head. Come on.

Josh: I don't care we have met this morning.

He can see a bubble on the left, which means, that Brendon is typing. Finally. 10 seconds pass. Then 15, then 25. One minute has passed and Brendon is still typing. Josh can't believe this and closes the app to open it again, but the bubble is still there.

Josh: Are you writing a litany?

Josh: Dude I'm serious, don't play with me, just listen, what I have to say.

Brendon: What do you mean?
I was sleeping, it was a really warm
sleep, you know? I was dreaming
about you being nice to me, and
well... It was nice! I was cuddled to
my teddy bear and everything was
perfectly fine, for the first time
since last two weeks! Do you know
how much sleep I've got this summer?
I will enlighten you. I've got at most
5 hours of sleep every night.
Sometimes I didn't sleep at night,
because a person like me is busy. So
this night seemed to be the night of
my most deserved rest, but no, of
course, my life hates me. I woke up
and now I am so damn cold, so if
you did this for no reason, I'll buy
even better skateboard and destroy
it in front of your eyes, so you can
suffer at the sight of this beauty
being damaged.

Josh rolls his eyes to the back of his head and can barely read the whole message. The screen is too bright and his head is too messy.

Josh: You at least made me laugh.

Josh: I don't care, that you were too busy partying to go to sleep??

Josh: I'm texting you for one particular reason.

Brendon: Shoot.

Josh: What's the name of this kid Hayley mentioned today?

Brendon: Tyler?

Josh: Yes. Give me a link to his channel.

Josh: Is he good?

Brendon: I said, I have never
watched him, I just overheard
something in the hallways, so
I don't have a link, but he's Tyler
Joseph, do a research.

Of course Josh is going to do a research. His head hurts as hell, but he isn't sleepy at all, so he's going to do some job. He gives Brendon a thumbs up emoji and opens a browser instead, to find this boy somewhere else, than on Youtube, to see his face on pictures, to find some informations, because why not. He's bored and can't sleep.

First result is a Youtube channel, obviously, but Josh saves this for later. There's some Facebook account below and Josh prays, that it's the right account, because he would prefer scrolling through some kid's photos, than through Google results.

When it finally loads, he's disappointed like never before, because this account has no profile picture, no detailed informations and no albums. It only says, that this guy attends to Worthington High School. Well, it actually says everything. It's Josh's new school, and it's impossible there are more Tylers Josephs there. It's him.

He asks Brendon again;

Josh: He doesn't have any pictures and literally nothing posted by him on fb.

Josh: Is he even active somewhere beyond Youtube?

Brendon: Yeah, he's never posted any
picture of himself, I guess he doesn't
like it. I think he doesn't use social
media at all.

Josh doubts it.

Brendon: I'm going to sleep, I'll
explain everything in school.
GOODNIGHT.

Josh can see some group pictures posted on his feed by other people. All of them are basketball related and group pictures from basketball games. There isn't any picture of one person, so Josh still doesn't know, how Tyler exactly looks like.

However, he saves one of these pictures and decides to text Brendon again;

Josh: Hey, don't sleep yet.

Josh: *inserts 1 picture*

Josh: Is he somewhere in this picture?

Brendon will probably respond 3 hours later, so Josh comes back to his research, but doesn't find anything, what might identify who he's looking for. He only knows this boy probably plays basketball and maybe is in a basketball team, that's all.

Pretty strange. If he runs a Youtube account, he would like to be noticeable. Everybody Josh knows from his job does literally everything to gain attention, so being active on social media is something like number one priority. You have to promote yourself somewhere.

He finally opens Youtube. Brendon hasn't answered yet. He's probably sleeping.

So now he has to face his possible opponent, the one who will probably want to fight with him very soon, because everything for more views, right? That's how it always works, unfortunately.

The first video, that pops up, is titled "[i've got a migraine]" and okay, Josh has no idea what it means, but he's already here to find out. He clicks on the video and immediately pauses, because... 200,000 subscribers? It's nowhere near Josh's amount, but the numbers are very big, especially for somebody, who's only on Youtube and nowhere else. Weird. Everything is weird since he's moved to this city.

The video starts, but nothing's happening for almost 30 seconds. Just a view on a casual, tidied up room, which is blinded by rays of the sun breaking through the window. There is a furniture on the left side of the camera and a keyboard behind it, in front of the window. What's the most interesting, is that the keys are directed to the wall, but the keyboard isn't moved to the wall. Josh can also see a bit of a bed on the right. A furniture, a piano, a window, a light, and a bed.

After 45 seconds, what feels like an eternity, he can hear a voice. A singing voice. a quite high voice, considering, that it's a boy. Josh has never heard this melody before.

What really creeps him out are two hands suddenly appearing from behind the furniture and gently landing on the keyboard. Singing doesn't stop. This person must be hiding in this small space between the furniture and the wall. Smart. But why?

The song started off slowly and delicately, and Josh thinks, that wow, this boy's voice is really high. But then everything stops and starts again, this time he hits piano keys more confidently to extract stronger sound, and it isn't one of these boring piano sounds, that everybody's heard million times already. When you first see the piano, you don't usually think it's gonna be an energetic melody.

He's not singing now, he's talking very fast, still playing background music on his keyboard. Josh doesn't know, if he's reciting? Rapping? One thing he does know: this kid is good at this. And no matter, how much he doesn't want this thought to break through his mind, he can't admit he can't sing or play.

He can't just sing. His voice is really good. More than good. It's amazing. Even when he shouts the lyrics and his voice cracks, it doesn't stop being intriguing. Now it can be powerful, and one second later it's small and almost childish.

Except for that, Josh doesn't understand, why he hid. Many people ask in comments, when he will finally show his face, so it means, that he keeps hiding it all the time. People wouldn't worry about it, if he revealed himself in at least one video. He pushes people away doing this, but also attracts them at the same time. Smart.

Josh watches another two or three videos and is more confused, than before. He has million questions to ask Brendon, but he still hasn't responded yet, so he must be sleeping for good. It seems like Tyler represents himself only through these videos, because they are everything he has, maybe the lyrics he sings have a big value for him. It's too late to ponder of it, but Josh is sure, that he wants to spread some important message and maybe not having any social media makes people focus only on the message, not his personal life. Who knows.

He might be wrong, and probably is, but he starts to wonder, why does he do that? What inspired him? Is he scared? Josh can't sleep, because too much questions occupy his mind, along with a mess in his head because of moving out.

He feels like he's going to have a migraine this time. Even though he's not sleepy, he's tired, and his head still hurts, something keeps pounding inside him, so he needs to put his phone away, as for now. He's overreacting at night, and maybe he will forget all of this in the morning. He really wishes he will.

Chapter Text

josh barely slept last night. and even though he tried to rest and remain relaxed, and his head was pleading for a freedom, his mind was torturing him with a fight to stay awake.

and that made him to think about several things. what had occupied his mind the most since tomorrow's afternoon was tyler joseph and his mystery enigma.

josh can't say, that he's not good at what he does. he was half awake because of his headache, when he was watching him, but that didn't stop him from feeling intrigued. that's probably tyler's main goal. to intrigue people and make them question his presence, to waste their night wondering, what is actually his deal.

josh figured out, that most of the songs he sings are written and composed by him, or at least aren't released publicly, otherwise josh would know them. he's acquainted well with music, within global reach. the song about migraine probably was to scare people and make them shiver, but it only made josh even more interested, and maybe shiver too, but from different reasons.

he sang about pain, suicide, depression, death, and many things josh wasn't even able to pick out, because he was too surprised. everything was very powerful and every sentence was precise and ingenious. it's incredible for a kid his age. he even almost felt dumb about his own videos.

josh wondered, why this kid isn't even more famous, no matter how much he hates admitting that. however, he can't help himself. he needs to see this little genius by his own eyes, like, now, or he won't believe he actually exists.

josh feels brendon poking his arm, before he even sees him.

"yo, josh dun! your second day as a senior, man!" brendon slings his arm around josh's neck, leaning down like a drunk man and looking at josh from below. he brought his group with himself, which josh managed to already meet yesterday, probably all of them. they are cool, he can tell. brendon has nice taste in people.

"dude, get off me." more people appear, cheering at josh, and he would be really grateful to meet them and talk about dumb stuff, because he's the best with that, but, thank you, not today. "every one of you, go away."

"whoa, chill." pete shows from behind and wraps his arm around josh as well, before he could protest. josh sighs. he's been trapped before he could even run away. "what happened you're in such a bad mood?"

"i'm not, i'm just tired."

"your hair is even brighter, have you re-dyed it? teachers will love it," brendon obviously changes the topic, laughing, and nobody knows, if he wants to cheer josh up or just to annoy him more.

"no, i haven't. i said get off me asshole," josh growls.

"oh yeah?" brendon unwraps his arm from josh, seeming a bit offended. "but you let pete hang on your neck?"

"you didn't respond to my texts." josh gives him a stern look.

"oh, sorry, that me, a human, needs sleep sometimes!" brendon declares loudly, and the group around then can do nothing, but laugh. brendon begins to make a scene again. go ahead, josh isn't that easy to break.

"we were talking about this, you don't need sleep, when you party all night. don't make yourself a victim this time."

"right, but i hadn't slept for too long i finally had to," and with that he smiles widely at josh, pleading mentally for forgiveness.

"okay, what are you even talking about?" patrick stops them by the arm and barriers the way, and turns around to face both of them.

"josh really wants to see tyler joseph." josh rolls his eyes and goes to his red locker to pretend he doesn't participate in this conversation anymore.

"why tyler? do you both know each other?"

brendon shuts josh's locker to make everybody look at his face right now, and says, "well, tyler has a youtube account and josh-"

"shut up," josh interrupts him. he's not aware of what brendon has inside his huge head, but he knows there are many more ridiculous things, than he can imagine alone. he's dangerous.

however, brendon isn't going to give up, "... and josh watched his videos all night, can you believe?" he starts laughing at his face. "and now he's just jealous, because this kid is so good he will never reach his level."

"okay, brendon, enough." he can admit, that tyler is good, but that doesn't change the fact, that josh is really successful, and for sure isn't going to try to reach somebody else, especially some kid singing sad poetry. they do two different things and are two different worlds. it doesn't even add up.

"wait, wait, wait. i'm so confused, please enlighten me." patrick looks around, expecting, that somebody will finally speak out and explain everything, but the fact is that the only people who could, are josh and brendon.

"don't tell me you don't know josh is famous as fuck." brendon leans against josh's locker, smirking wickedly at him. josh gives him a fake smile and pushes him away from the locker. he wonders, if it would be mean, if he rejected them right now and go away, pretending he's never known them.

everybody around stops in their tracks to look instantly at yellow head, every one with wide eyes and confused, questioning look. he isn't surprised. everybody reacts the same way, when he tells about himself. he isn't even angry, that brendon didn't dare to shut his big mouth, because they would find out some day anyway.

"yeah," josh groans. "i'm a youtuber, right? if you are here to laugh at me, you can simply fuck off as well," he says almost the same thing he declared to brendon yesterday, and no matter what he said, he hopes they will accept this as lightly as him.

"dude," patrick interrupts; his wide eyes haven't shrink since they approached josh. "dude, that's sick! i can't believe you."

"but i deserve to have a picture with him before everyone else, right josh?" brendon asks jokingly.

"oh, i thought you preferred "better in everything" tyler?" josh questions, slightly annoyed. he's already spent too much time thinking about him, and doesn't want to bring this topic up again, at school, when everybody can hear them by accident.

"no, but i can make him more recognisable, to surprise you even more. once he hangs out with us all, everybody will want to know him, am i right? i like him and i'm sure he likes me too, besides he's always with ashley, so i ask ashley to do anything and she brings tyler with her. it wouldn't be hard." brendon smirks during his whole speech. again, he wouldn't do anything, what don't wouldn't build up his reputation.

"you won't do it." josh rolls his eyes.

"aw, somebody's scared!" brendon pats him on the arm, smiling at him mockery, the hundredth time this morning.

"i am not." he really isn't. he just wants to know, who he's going to face with, and if this kid is actually real, because josh feels like he isn't. besides, he has no reasons to be scared, he laughs at himself every time he thinks that way.

"you really are. i see it in your eyes." brendon grins. what's his deal? to piss him off? well, his goal has been already achieved.

"do you really think i'd be scared of somebody, who's like... nothing compared with me?"

brendon's smile, along with pete's and patrick's, fades away, being replaced by frightened expression. josh can hear loud whispers around him, but except that, there is a stone silence for one minute, even brendon shut his mouth. well, he probably exaggerated, but nothing like that wouldn't come from his mouth, if brendon stopped, when he asked so.

"ouch, that was rude," patrick speaks up.

brendon nods. "you're lucky tyler's nowhere to be seen, dude," he continues again. "if he heard that, it would shatter his heart into a million pieces."

josh rolls his eyes. he doesn't think tyler is somebody, who would even react negatively to these kinds of comments, when he doesn't even react, when people have been literally shouting at him in the comments to finally show them his face, and not when he heard him shout about most detailed problems of the world at the top of his lungs. "i don't think so."

"you know nothing about him, we at least go to the same class," brendon says softly, looking like he's been offended by what josh had said.

"okay, sorry. i was just pissed off and tired at once."

"you should apologise to tyler, not m-" brendon stops, looking directly behind josh's shoulder and hurrying forward. he follows a blue and yellow haired girl, which is leaving the girls' bathroom. "hey, ashley!"

she turns to brendon and grins, seeing some of his and her friends at the lockers. "what's up?"

brendon looks around her and asks, "you're not with tyler?"

"no, i think he's in a classroom already, why?" she laughs.

"nothing, you both are just inseparable." he looks back at josh leaning against his locker, like he might fall asleep on it in a second, and smirks at him. josh raises his eyebrows.

"oh, right. i should have just carry him to girls' bathroom with me," ashley snaps sarcastically.

"i mean, why not?" brendon shrugs, and the girl looks at him with an expression, which could say "are you kidding me? just say, what you have to say and leave me alone", but doesn't say anything, just stands here and waits to hear, what brendon wants from her, again, or which dumb idea he just came up with. "which class do you have now?"

"history," she responds. brendon sighs dramatically.

"and after history?"

"maths."

"really?" brendon takes a hold of his hair. his plan probably won't succeed, but at least he tried. he wants josh to meet tyler in class. he doesn't even need to catch tyler, when ashley is here. they both always attend to the same classes. "we don't have any classes together today?"

"i guess not, but there's always lunch break, right?" indeed! lunch break seems even better, than meeting in any classroom. tyler and josh could start talking with each other, and brendon can't miss this kind of amusement. he can't wait to see josh's face, when he finally sees the boy, which, let's be honest, has made him weak.

he thanks ashley, promises to see her again on a long break, and comes back to an audience, consisting of josh, patrick and pete. apparently they haven't taken their gazes off them two.

"well, josh," brendon turns to josh, happier than ever. "why would we fight about it all anyway, when you can see him during the lunch break in a few hours?"

josh sighs melancholically. "are you really doing this to help me? that's suspicious."

"of course. i'm not as bad as i seem, believe me. but you have to be nice to me the whole day now." he winks at josh and wraps his arm around patrick's neck. "i'm suffocating here, let's go to class."

they figured out yesterday, that they, brendon, pete, josh and patrick, have some classes together today, so they won't fall asleep alone on the desk, when lessons still aren't interesting at the beginning of school year.

josh still doesn't know, where each classroom is. this school is huge, and the building system is too complicated to understand it the first week. there are a few hallways on the very left, and then the main hallway, which leads to another rooms through stairs in the middle of the floor.

no matter how much josh wants tyler to disappear from his mind, he shows again. it might be impossible, as he has never seen him, just his dainty hands, but it's true, he's picturing him, wondering, how he could look; is he taller, than him? cooler than him? is he nice, or rather rude, with sharp tongue? josh isn't scared at all, just curious. he just hopes brendon isn't so ridiculous to bring tyler with himself and tell him about josh's wild research yesterday, because that would end up extremely awkward. josh would deal with it easily, but doesn't want to look strange in anybody's eyes during the very first meeting.

brendon sits with josh during most of the classes this time, letting patrick sit with pete. as these are the first lessons this year, teachers only explain safety rules and topics they will talk about until may. of course everybody barely listens. they will complain about bad grades later.

pete and patrick are constantly laughing loudly at something josh and brendon tell them every hour. they don't say anything at all, just nod and agree some time, and the two doesn't stop. teachers don't even seem to have any problem with it. maybe it's the yellow hair's charm.

but during art, brendon, leaning lazily on his chair, with hands hovering over the ground, is glancing nervously at dallon in front of him, two rows away, laughing lightly some time, but not listening to boys next to him to be honest.

"what are you thinking about?" josh taps him on the knee, when pete and patrick finally start commenting his story, and follows brendon's gaze, which leads him to the front of the classroom.

"you see this tall guy there?" brendon responds, pointing at the brunet boy sitting quietly in the first row, and, to his surprise, apparently listening to the teacher. brendon is a candid guy. he isn't going to hide anything, and if josh asks him, what's up, he will tell him. pete and patrick already know, although they found out by themselves. it's not any secret. life is too short to keep secrets.

"dallon?" josh questions, as dallon is the tallest guy standing out in the row.

"yeah," brendon nods. "we attended to the same class together last year, and the first day, knowing he's the tallest in this class, or even in the whole school, he sat at the centre second desk only to annoy people behind him, so they won't see the board clearly."

"that's something i would do," josh laughs. "but he sits in the back on english. i sat with him yesterday."

"oh, yeah. well, what can i say? some rude chicks have english with him and they forced him to move to the back, because they see his head instead of teacher's writing on the board. but there are also people, who, yes, are pissed off, but aren't brave enough to speak to him, so he still sits there, for example, now."

"okay, that's funny, but why are you telling me this?"

"i don't look at him, because he's covering the board," brendon glances at josh. "guess, why."

"what, are you in love?" josh laughs.

"kinda."

"wait," josh turns around on his seat. "are you serious? i was joking."

"but you were joking right." brendon smirks, kicking patrick's and pete's legs under the table. they give him a questioning look. "you two, confirm, that i love dallon and he loves me too."

pete scoffs, "dude, he hates you."

"that's the kind of love," he declares loudly, hoping that dallon will hear, or even look at him. he isn't even afraid, that he might know, what they are talking about. "give me two months and we will be the hottest couple in this school."

"what about your biology teacher?" josh asks, amused for the first time this day.

"that's a different story. i have to protect her." brendon answers completely serious, and that makes the boys laugh even more. brendon must have a long list of people he truly loves. each of them in a particular way.

they don't have a time to answer, when they hear a bell ringing for a long break. finally. even though they had fun, this day has been already too long, and they all have waited for lunch since early morning, josh too.

it seems, like pete had stood from the chair even before the bell rang. "about the damn time, i'm starving." he rushes out of the classroom, without bothering about desks and people still packing notebooks. "you coming?"

and they are coming. they are meeting the rest of group at lunch, as they weren't able to catch them before school, being too busy talking about tyler.

josh already knows the way to the cafeteria, but still follows brendon, who wants to be in front anyways. he doesn't care. he can be still the most visible in the very back, because of his bright hair.

it's loud, hot and crowded. fully crowded. people still stare at josh curiously. it seems, like he's an attraction here. he turns his gaze away every time.

somebody steps on his foot, somebody pushes him by the elbow, what he responds to with even harder push. at least it wasn't a girl, he figured.

"tyler is somewhere here, josh. don't think i forgot." brendon smirks at josh, what makes the other one roll his eyes, again. he just want to escape from people's sticky chests and sit somewhere.

"just don't let him sit with us, i don't want to talk to him." josh says loudly. the crowd is too loud. like animals fighting for food, or more like brendon yesterday.

"too bad, they already sat at our table." brendon looks at one spot for a long time and josh follows his gaze to one of bigger tables in the corner, occupied by three people. there is hayley with her orange hair and this blue-haired girl brendon was talking to in the morning. both girls are busy in conversation, but beside the blue girl sits quietly a chocolate-haired boy, with his arms crossed, and looking at the corner of the table. "sorry," brendon laughs.

"it's him?" josh doesn't look away from the table.

"yeah," brendon answers enthusiastically, watching josh's reaction. "and what do you think?"

josh didn't expect tyler to look like that. he expected some confident and talkative kid, who wouldn't sit on his ass calmly for a second, somebody similar to brendon, but he didn't expect really small boy hugging his hoodie and cowering on his seat. he looks like he might fall asleep despite raging chaos.

josh can only perceive his fluffy, brown hair and porcelain features, but he's already perfect, not only in his videos, but also in reality. josh doesn't like it. it's dangerous.

"who's this girl with blue hair?" he asks to break the weird silence between them four.

"ashley, his best friend, or more like, his mom," patrick answers from behind josh's back.

"mom?"

"yeah, told you he's sensitive and all that," brendon says this time. josh feels wrong and guilty about saying all that shit about tyler this morning. even though tyler doesn't know it, josh feels like he does, and that's why he looks like that, blank, without any expression. it makes him feel a bit bad.

"you didn't tell him, what i said today?"

"no, no, i haven't even seen him until now. i'm not that bad as i seem, i repeat. are you coming?" brendon slowly goes away, along with pete and patrick.

josh obviously trusts brendon, but he also wants to see, how tyler is going to react, when he sits together with brendon, patrick and pete in front of him. then he will know. "yeah, coming."

Chapter Text

josh breaks through the crowd, following brendon, who approaches the table already and sits opposite to hayley, ashley and tyler. this damn tyler. is he actually going to talk face to face with this mysterious poet he's been obsessing over since this night?

he still can't believe he's actually sitting there, not caring about anything, with his sleepy head down, like a normal, definitely not popular teenager. it feels weird to see somebody from internet living like a normal, casual person, especially when he's going to be in your school the whole year.

the trio doesn't seem to notice them both. ashley plays with hayley's hair, while hayley is looking at the window, and tyler still sits dazed, being here physically, but not mentally.

"hello, tyler," brendon speaks up, when josh sits beside him at the table.

"hi," the chocolate brunet says barely audibly, without looking up. now josh can say, that this is the guy he was listening to the whole previous night. nobody could have the same small voice. he remembers it perfectly.

"did you even get some sleep tonight, buddy?" brendon chuckles and looks knowingly at josh, who only rolls his eyes.

"um, i'm not sure." tyler answers, finally breaking his gaze away from his lap and looking up at the boy sitting in front of him. or more like two boys.

tyler doesn't even notice brendon, when there's flaming yellow color burning his eyes. the boy looks at josh, without even blinking or moving. it might make josh uncomfortable, but he can finally perceive his features more precisely.

he looks at him with big, brown eyes, which get bigger and bigger with every single second, shaded by long, dark eyelashes and a strand of puffy, fluffy, chocolate brown hair falling down on his forehead. josh could never think, that he would look like that before, but now with his small, pixie nose and full, uncommonly perfect lips he can't imagine tyler joseph from last night looking differently.

he stares at him hypnotised, what feels like a whole minute, even though only a few seconds have passed. josh doesn't know, if his yellow hair attracted the boy's interest, but he definitely isn't looking at his hair. he is looking straight at his eyes, like nothing else around exists, his porcelain face looking like a delicate sculpture. but josh can't catch a sight of his facial expression anymore, because his eyes are unbelievably brown.

josh doesn't even know, what are they doing. he knows, that they are looking at each other, but he has never done something like that before. it's just a casual exchanging glances, but it feels intense, it feels heavy. he never looks in the eye this way, when he talks to somebody. he just focuses on a conversation, nothing else. now it's different. maybe because they are completely motionless.

josh needs to stop, but he doesn't want to stop. he hates to admit it. it's dangerous. this kid started it and he has to end it, right?

but josh has lost his contact with the world too long ago, and he wants to see brendon, to look at ashley and hayley, to see, if they are talking to him, or laughing at him, or at them both. now he doesn't hear anything, besides voices in his head ordering him to keep looking.

however, tyler doesn't seem, like he's going to look away. his gaze is glued to josh's face permanently, and first it was okay, but now josh is starting to be afraid, if everything is alright with him. they have probably been in that state for at least 5 minutes.

josh blinks for the first time, since tyler looked at him, and looks around. nothing has changed. ashley still braids hayley's short hair and brendon watches them. apparently not as much time has passed, as josh had thought, but a short moment has never been so long before.

he looks at tyler's face. his eyes widened even more, he looks as if he saw a ghost a second ago. what else is strange with this boy?

josh finally decides to do something with it, to beat off this frightening thought from tyler's mind, anything what made him look so petrified. he didn't plan this. he didn't even want to speak to him earlier, because this kid pissed him off, even though he'd never met him. he will only say his name, so he knows, who he will fight with later.

"hi, i'm josh." he speaks up, after what feels like ages, smiling.

tyler doesn't turn his gaze away, only starts blinking uncontrollably, like waking up from serious dream. his face expression changes from stony to frightened to terrified. it would be good, if josh knew, what does that mean. but he doesn't, and he feels embarrassed.

ashley laughs at something hayley whispered to her, still playing with her hair and her back still based on tyler's arm, and says, as if nothing ever happened, "did you know, how soft is hayley's ha-"

"tyler!" brendon interrupts, looking at the kid running away from their table and disappearing in the crowd.

"what?" ashley turns around and notices the place beside her is empty. she looks at brendon, at hayley, and then at josh, as if she's waiting for answers, but instead says, "i'm sorry, he's sometimes like that. i'll go find him."

"did i say something wrong?" josh asks, because he feels guilty. why would somebody run away from him? he's sure he only said hi to him and nothing else. people always cling to josh, never the opposite, so what the hell was wrong then?

he realizes tyler might know about josh's conversation with brendon this morning. even though brendon didn't mention it to anybody, tyler could have overhear it. fantastic. by his stupidity he gained not only a youtube opponent, but the guy, who already hates him in real life. there's no other solution, tyler must've hear josh.

ashley already runs through the hallways, asking students, where did tyler go, because it's obvious they saw him running fast here, but they tell her he went upstairs, and, to ashley's misfortune, this school has a few levels. she has to seek for him in every hallway.

"tyler?" she shouts, still running and opening every classroom and bathroom, but finding no sign of tyler. she climbs the stairs again, missing two or three steps every time, just to be quicker to catch tyler. who knows, what idea might come into his mind.

she reaches the last bathroom at fourth floor, and if tyler isn't there, then she will have a big problem. tyler always likes to hide from all this school chaos and the fourth floor is never so crowded, so she really hopes she will find him here.

she enters the bathroom and opens every stall, but all of them are empty.

she begins to panic. she starts to feel, that it's her fault. it's obviously her fault. she didn't stop him, because she was too busy laughing with hayley. she promised to take care of him and now he may be doing anything and she can't do anything.

she takes her phone and dials tyler's number, even though she knows he won't answer the call, but it's better to try, than to regret later. and she has done the right thing. he answered.

"tyler! tyler, where are you?" she asks quickly. "just tell me, where you are."

"gym bathroom," tyler answers quietly, his voice sounding slightly broken. ashley's heart aches.

"wait, but which one?" she asks again, but doesn't get an answer, as tyler hangs up and she hears an empty signal. she hurries through the hallway and down the stairs, missing a few steps at once again.

she has to pass the cafeteria to get into the gym area, but she has no time to look, if her friends still sit there and how they'd react, seeing her pushing the crowd and rushing with horrified expression. all she thinks about now is tyler.

ashley notices tyler in the second gym bathroom, nestling on the floor against the wall, with knees against his chest. she sighs loudly in relief and kneels down beside him.

"tyler, you scared me to death," she says softly, stroking his hair. "what happened to you?"

he looks up at her, but doesn't say anything. it's like he wants to say "guess what". at least he's not crying, but his puffy eyes prove, that he's just stopped.

"you're not going to tell me?" ashley sits beside him and straightens his knees.

"you seriously don't know?" he finally speaks, with hoarse voice. ashley doesn't turn her gaze away from his eyes. "it's him."

"what?" ashley looks at him with questioning look.

"ashley," tyler gives her a pleading look. "it's josh. the josh i have been watching every day since last year. i can't believe it, i just hope it's a dream, because it doesn't feel real," he says quickly without letting ashley speak a word. "when i saw him i felt like i might die, my heart was beating so fast, that i thought everybody had been able to hear it. i can't believe, ash, i can't believe it. why him? why me?"

ashley zones out for a few moments, still twirling tyler's hair in her fingers, before blinking again, as if some realisation just hit her. "oh my god, tyler." she looks at him with wide eyes. "tyler... tyler! oh no. oh my god. he told he moves out... it's him?" she covers her mouth with her hand.

"um... yes? you know, what he looks like! how could you not know that?"

"i mean, i saw him a few times earlier, and yesterday with hayley."

"what?" tyler almost shouts, but then realizes they aren't alone in this school and repeats, whispering this time, "what? why didn't you tell me?" he looks her in the eyes, at the verge of crying again. "i panicked really bad. you'd know, how i would react, i know you would, and even if you wouldn't, why wouldn't you tell me? you know, how important it is to me." he sniffles and closes his eyes. he's losing his words.

"tyler, i didn't know it was him," she tells him. "i thought he had had pink hair?"

tyler sighs loudly. "yes, but he apparently dyed it. he often does it. but he still has the same face. if i dye my hair yellow today, you won't know it's me tomorrow, too?"

"ty, i am so sorry, it wasn't on purpose. i really didn't know. i was distracted by this whole chaos and everything." she says that so softly tyler can't not believe her. besides, he's too nervous to argue with her.

"okay... okay. i just can't believe it's real. is he really there, or am i imagining that?"

"yes, he is." she smiles apologetically.

tyler hides his face in his knees, and no matter, how muffled his voice will be, he begins to speak. he has very much to say. "i was so tired today i nearly collapsed at this table. and then i just looked up and it was enough to give me a heart attack. my whole life passed in front of my eyes. he looked at me for so long, what did that even mean? it felt like time had stopped, because i think i was in shock for very long, i couldn't blink, i couldn't move."

"it's fucked up. i'm sorry, tyler. i understand you," ashley whispers.

"i repeat, i can't believe it's happening. it just isn't possible! why has he moved from vegas," he does a pause. "to columbus, to this school, when there's me? i feel like i'm in some movie and i feel like he knows everything i do, that he planned all of this. i wouldn't even be surprised if he was standing behind these doors and listening to me. well, i don't care anymore," he says in one breath.

ashley, with closed eyes, gently rubs his arm, because he's still visibly shaking. she can't imagine, what does he feel, because she's never been in even similar situation, so she only has to believe tyler and understand his feelings.

"do you want to go out here?" she breaks the silence.

tyler hesitates a little, before answering, "yes. just please, don't make me go... there."

"sure, tyler. do you want me to take you home?"

"you don't have to, i'll go alone."

"are you serious? you're shaking and you're still very tired. i don't want you to collapse in the middle of the street." she stands up and gives him her hand to take it and help him stand up as well.

they leave the bathroom; tyler covering his face with his hands, and ashley literally holding him and making him walk, whilst telling him to stop crying.

tyler doesn't think about people seeing him cry, because nothing worse can happen anyway now. he doesn't look ahead and doesn't look at his feet, while he walks down the stairs.

he can tell they made it to cafeteria, because he can hear much louder voices and ashley saying, "i'm taking him home. tell teachers a nurse let us go."

she doesn't wait for any responds, just hurries faster through the labyrinth hallways and receives weird looks towards her and tyler. she gives them her warning glance in return. they know there's no use messing with her.

"tyler, we are outside now," ashley says, when they finally leave the building. suddenly tyler straightens his body and starts to walk without any need to be pushed.

he opens his eyes. yes, they are outside. tyler doesn't want to look back at the school right now.

his chest is still tight and he has a little problem with breathing, but fresh air gradually reduces the rests of his panic attack.

he doesn't know, what's next. nevertheless they are going to see each other every day. if josh is brendon's friend, it's even worse. why can't he hang out with people, that don't know and don't care about tyler's existence? but no, he chose brendon, who provokes ashley every break and tyler has to watch it every time.

he's more and more suspicious, that josh for some reason knows him and it's all perfectly planned. on the other hand, it's impossible, but it's also scary.

a person, who he's been stalking for almost 2 years, every day, goes to the same school as him. he feels guilty, it feels wrong. tyler thought, that he might have moved even to europe, and that made him feel terrible, but now he actually has him at his fingertips. he should be grateful and jump in his boots, but all he feels is insecurity.

but that's enough. he panicked really bad a few minutes ago, and that was already too much. he needs to focus on his calmness right now, because that's why they left the school; to forget about previous events at least for the rest of the day, not to recollect them.

they make their way to tyler's house quietly. it should be empty, because his parents are at work, and all siblings must be in school.

without any word, they run upstairs to tyler's bedroom and decide to watch some movie. tyler opens his laptop, slightly embarrassed, when youtube page appears right after he opens the browser. ashley smiles awkwardly at him, and then he closes the page and starts searching for some not bad movies.

they end up watching "she's a man", cuddled on tyler's bed. none of them brings up the topic, which brought them to the house this early, and tyler thinks that's good. he doesn't want to annoy ashley more. even though she would never admit that, there's no possibility she isn't fed up with tyler sometimes.

during the movie tyler calms a little and even laughs during some funny parts, but when they end watching, ashley tells him she should leave him alone now and let him sleep. "i'm surprised you haven't actually doze off in my arms yet," she laughs, whilst standing up and making her way to the door.

"i'm surprised a bit, too." he gives her a shy smile.

"see you tomorrow, okay? i'll call you later." tyler nods. "don't worry your little head about anything. rest, ty guy." and with that, she smiles and closes the door behind herself.

telling tyler not to worry? that's easy for you to say, ashley. he's been worrying since the second he looked up from the table, just not as much as a few hours ago.

he has to do something with that. otherwise it will destroy him from inside. he didn't have any problem with that earlier, because everything, what had been burdening him, he told ashley. but now, he thinks, that it's enough. ashley is tired too. she doesn't seem to have her own problems, she just deals with tyler every day. he wants her to rest, as well.

that leads him to take his laptop again and open the tumblr page this time. he planned to post some pictures of flowers he had taken this morning, but this time that will wait. he types something for a few minutes, reads that again and again, then removes, types again, and reads again. finally, he decides to write something simple, what wouldn't reveal his true self. he hits send. that's it.

"help me, somebody please."

03 sep, 4:27 p.m.

Chapter Text

tyler thinks, that the universe hates him for some reason.

keeping the promise, ashley called him yesterday evening, to make sure, if everything was alright. of course it wasn't, and tyler didn't even bother to pretend it was, but ashley told him to rest, open the window and listen to calm music. no questions about previous events, no questions, how was he feeling.

sometimes it was too hard for tyler to keep it all to himself, and he almost asked ashley, if she could listen to him for a few minutes, so he could rant, but then he came up with a thought, that she had most probably forgotten about it, and bringing this up would show his desperate side from even more annoying direction.

so tyler decided not to bring this up to her. apparently his idea about confessing his thoughts to some random person on tumblr was a good idea. he could spill everything to somebody who probably wouldn't even care, but would read it anyway out of boredom. on the other hand, tyler wouldn't bother ashley, and feel much better to finally throw it out of his head.

but nobody has messaged him back.

well, what was he thinking anyway? that crowds of people would beat each other to get a chance to talk to kid running a secret tumblr account with average amount of followers, who posted a "help me" text? it literally shouted depression and after all this time of not getting any notification at all, tyler realized, how terrible it looked.

tyler even started laughing to himself, how ridiculous this day had been, that there was literally already nothing, what may have surprised him.

he left this creepy text alone on his account, without deleting it, even though it was standing out through pictures and only pictures. oh, how weird that looked. however, somebody could finally start to worry and message him some time. tyler would answer any time. he needs to talk as soon as possible.

the more he thinks, the more he feels as if he's locked in some small cage and he can only count on himself. nobody else understands him, so nobody can help him.

the whole situation with josh made him question all of his moves since last year. he feels watched, he feels observed, he feels small, he feels lonely, he feels trapped.

he began his story with josh's videos almost a year ago. after watching the video of him dyeing his hair blue, just for ashley's sake, MISTYEYED's content was appearing on his feed every day.

tyler would watch youtube every time he was bored, or too exhausted with school work. after a few times of seeing the color-haired guy in his "recommended" section, he finally said to himself, if he appears on my account so many times, why not watch him? he seemed cool the last time, and his hair is even cooler.

he started with the most popular videos, each one showing josh with different hair colour. tyler remembered probably all of them quickly. after dying it blue from his natural colour, he changed it to very light green, blonde, then purple, pink, red, and now yellow. tyler still likes blue the most.

every video, exactly like his hair colours, was different. the ones, where he talked the whole video, have probably been the most important for tyler, because they proved josh's intelligence. people watching some of his game videos might think, that he is just some rich kid with no ambitions, and who knows literally nothing about real life, but in fact josh dun has more wisdom, than seemingly mature people these days do.

he can speak out about some really important society problem in one video, and the next day publish a recording of him being loud after an accident on his skateboard.

tyler is 18, but if he revealed his huge secret, people would consider him as a silly 13-year-old, who found his idol on the internet and is dazzled by him. luckily, only ashley knows about tyler's "idol", but recently she complains about it as well more and more. she thinks, that tyler devotes less and less time to her for this josh guy. no matter what, she will always be one of the most important people in his life; she's taken care of him, when nobody else did, and tyler will always keep it in mind.

but in fact, josh dun partly changed tyler's life.

in one of his motivational speeches, he talked about his own social media and musical experience. he said, that no matter, how childish and rebellious that sounded, he couldn't imagine himself being a lawyer or a doctor in the future, like all kids his age planned to be. he said, that he had rich parents, who could guarantee him a position in their own company he hadn't even known about. but would he enjoy that? probably not.

if you only work to make money, without feeling good with what you do, and forcing yourself to do your job, you're already lost. most of people these days apply for a work to only have a work, but josh didn't want that. he didn't want to waste his life on doing something, what didn't interest him, again and again, only to keep his ass fed and alive.

"you have no idea, how many people laughed at my face, when i told them, that i don't want to go to college, because it won't ensure me anything i want." he said, looking at the camera with a weak smile. "all of them say, that life is not as easy, as i think it is, and that i have a brain of an 8 year-old and my life is still based on my childhood dreams. well, it actually is," he laughed. "but childhood dreams can be ambitious. when your daughter says she wants to be a vet, is that a stupid dream? i think vet is a really important profession. so i've always dreamt to be a musician and generally a voice of a society. and i am now. and i will be even better."

josh has always wanted to be somebody listened to, not only regarding to music. he's wanted to gather everything, what his mother told him in the past, and what he learned from people, and direct it to other people. it's not, that he's a completely perfect person, with ideal habits and everybody should learn from him. he does stupid shit on daily basis as well. he just wants to share his thoughts and beliefs and opinions with the world. he doesn't have to always be right.

"i repeat it again, it may sound immature to you, but don't force yourself to do something you're not proud and happy of. or, maybe, try your hardest to reach something you will be proud of. it will be worth it in the future, i promise you. look at me," he gave this sarcastic smirk, that actually never leaves his face. he could laugh off even most serious topics. that's who he is. "i was this stupid kid, in whom nobody believed, seriously, nobody. i only believed in myself. and i'm glad i did. even though i have rich parents, i started from zero, without anybody's help. i had started my youtube account without any constant idea, and literally begged people from my city to check it out. it wasn't easy at the beginning. i was losing hope many times. it sucks, when you try so hard and you get nothing in reward. it's always like that at the start, believe me. don't give up, because you can be one step away from your goal, while you decide there's no use trying anymore."

and who is he now? one of the most popular people in nevada state, and definitely the most significant person known from social media. within two years he managed to make the amount of money, that is enough start a life on his own without any financial help. he played a few shows for various young artists, who needed a drummer in vegas, what made him more confident and gave him more experience as a drummer. all at the age of 19.

this video made a mess in tyler's head and tortured him for a few weeks straight.

tyler loved music. it played such a huge role in his life, and actually music was the thing he enjoyed the most. he loved to listen to music, he loved to sing, he even was able to play the piano and had his own keyboard in the corner of his bedroom. why not make something, what gives him pleasure, useful?

he figured out, that yes, indeed, he had always wanted to do something related with music in the future, but had never wanted to admit that. he was an A student, busy from morning to late night with school work, a student loved by teachers and a son loved by his parents. there was no time for something such as music. the most important goal was to get a high degree and a scholarship, then apply for the best college in state.

josh made tyler realise, that it wasn't, what he really craved in his life. school never made him feel good, it was destroying him bit by bit. he stayed up late to know every definition by heart and receive 100% on exams. what would it lead him to? school wouldn't teach him, what he really wanted to do in the future. well, maybe it made his word resource larger, but he learned to play and read music all by himself. music was what he really wanted to do.

he decided to make his future connected with music. eventually, if the plan didn't work out, he would still have his basketball scholarship guaranteed, even though it wouldn't satisfy him as much as music would.

tyler started his youtube account one month after discovering josh. by that time he managed to watch all of his 200 videos at nights. because of abandoning his sleep for school, he slowly became insomniac. he decided cut it off. he gave up on school work at night, and watched josh instead.

after the intense month, he started to write his own music; lyrics and melodies, to play piano more. he's been filming his weak voice with his phone camera, which he still uses to record his videos. he listened to his progress and finally got brave enough to post his work publicly.

he had never planned to tell his parents, at least not until he succeeds. making some silly youtube videos instead of studying history? he would most probably get grounded till the end of school.

unfortunately, his precious friend, ashley, wouldn't be herself, if she didn't put her big mouth in use. she mentioned tyler's youtube account during dinner with his whole family and, a few hours later, tyler barely survived after long conversation with his parents.

he told them that, of course, he would keep being the best student in school, what wasn't completely a lie, and that they had nothing to worry about. it took a few good months for them to finally accept tyler's hobby. they still didn't like it though, but they already stopped trying to argue, because tyler isn't going to give up.

making that account turned out to be a good choice. he's already gained a good amount of followers, which exceeds his expectations. his mysterious persona make him even more interesting and attracts new people. he hasn't made any money yet, but who knows? maybe amongst his audience is some important personality from music industry. hope dies the last.

and this story with josh leads him to think about this strange coincidence again and again, even now, during biology exam.

tyler knows literally everything about josh, knows about his childhood, about his friends, about his hometown, even his favourite colour. josh inspired him to do many things he would never think about earlier. suddenly, it turns out, that exactly same person moves out to exactly same city and exactly same school. tyler has reasons to feel watched and scared.

he is terrified at the thought, that he probably has to see him again today. sure, he's always wanted to meet josh and talk to him, but it was so impossible, that almost funny to tyler. he stopped to believe it would ever happen. and then, out of the blue, the exact yellow haired boy appears literally in front of his eyes. it messed up tyler's head completely.

also, tyler panicked and ran away from behind that table so fast, that nobody noticed it in the first place, for god's sake. no matter, how much he regrets that, and how many times last night he imagined how else that meeting would go, there's no come back. josh must think he's some insane kid with serious issues, and that will be his opinion about tyler forever.

loud bell suddenly distracts his deep thoughts and he realises, that he hasn't checked his answers on a test yet. he's been half conscious since today's morning and doesn't even know, what did he write on this exam. he sighs and stands from his seat, seeing ashley already waiting for him beside opened door.

"hey, what was your answer in the third exercise? i was really confused by that question, it wasn't precise. it said the mother of the kids was healthy, but she could as well have haemophilia gene, yeah? so i made two cross diagrams, but there was only one choice possible," tyler begins, while he approaches ashley at the end of the classroom. his voice is shaky and he sounds nervous, but he isn't even sure, if it's because of the test, or another stuff.

"tyler," ashley closes her eyes and sighs loudly, tapping tyler's shoulder. "do you really think i even studied for this shit? and who do you think i am to remember exercises after writing a test?"

he gives her fake smile and follows her on her way to cafeteria. "you're helping as always."

"tyler, i don't think, when i'm hungry. let me eat finally."

they enter the room and tyler sits and waits for ashley at their usual table, while she goes to buy her food. he starts to tie two strings of his hoodie into a bow. everything not to look up and make himself recognisable.

"do you see him? here?" ashley snaps from behind and startles tyler's calm and sleepy actions. he looks up to follow her finger and immediately regrets, when he sees yellow hair lighting up the whole room. ashley hasn't mentioned josh since yesterday at all, so he's surprised she even brings it up this time.

"ashley..."

"what? won't you go and introduce yourself?" she asks. it's not, that tyler never makes the first move and starts a conversation in the first place. on the other hand, it's josh they talk about.

"excuse me? you're kidding me, right?" he looks at her with disbelief. her attitude is sometimes really over the line, but he got used to it after all this time.

"you can apologise for your... you know... yesterday. what if he started to make fun of you?

"he isn't like that," tyler answers quickly.

ashley laughs. "and how do you know that? how do you know he's not rude?"

"i know him more than you do, ashley. believe me." tyler looks up again to look at josh, sitting next to brendon and laughing at something probably a person in front of him said. the crowd make it impossible for tyler to see this person. tyler don't have to hear his laugh here to be able to hear it in his head. he knows it perfectly.

"you don't know him. you know him only from his videos, but you don't know, what he is like in reality." she still chuckles and tyler starts feeling, like the cage he's in shrinks to a size of his head and leaves painful marks on his body from clinging to him too tightly. "you're so naive, tyler."

ashley always shots, what occupies her mind, and tyler doesn't care, if she's sometimes too rude or inappropriate, but this time it hurt. she's always so damn right and maybe she's right now as well, but seriously, tyler sank into josh's story so deep, that he knows, what he's like. besides, he doesn't seem any different here, in school.

"hey, are you alright?" not at all. "tyler, i'm sorry. i was joking, hey, look at me." she taps his arm and sits in front of him, smiling.

tyler raises his eyebrows. "were you really joking?"

"i'm sorry. maybe he's not that bad." she laughs again. she laughs every time. just like josh. "what about coming there and sitting with them? they seem to have fun."

"ashley," tyler glares at her frightened. "no," he whispers.

"oh, come on. you won't always hide here, will you?" she takes his hand and tries to drag him with her there. she makes him stand up from his seat really quickly; maybe because she's strong enough, or maybe because tyler doesn't want to make a scene.

"yes, i will. please, ashley, let me go," he whines, but with no effect, because they've already made half of the way from their own table to the other.

"you will get to know your josh," she whines back to mock tyler, tugging him with her harder.

"no, please, sto-" tyler tries to argue, but stops immediately, when he sees, that they are already standing right in front of the table, where brendon, josh, and a few more people sit.

he tries to calm his nerves, even though it's too difficult, when a person he's always been longing to meet sits in front of him. the situation is under control until he panics again.

"hey," ashley starts loudly. "josh, you're josh, right?" she taps at the table and makes josh to look up in her direction. tyler tries his best not to faint and decides to sit on an empty place, which turns out to be opposite josh, again. tyler pulls out his phone and pretends to be busy.

"yeah, i think we met earlier-"

"what made you change schools?" ashley doesn't let him finish and sits beside tyler, even though there's not enough free place for her and tyler has to push brendon's friend a little.

josh raises his eyebrow and a second after turns his gaze to tyler, who is as confused as him. tyler has a chance to see his exact features clearly again, but looks away instantly. he's terrified.

"what, you were that kind of a bully, that they made you move out through the whole america from vegas to columbus?" she starts giggling for the hundredth time this day, and the whole table reacts similarly.

"what the fuck, ashley?" brendon bursts, still laughing.

"i'm just curious." ashley snaps, putting her hands loudly on a table.

"oh yeah? so check out my amazing youtube account and be my 2 million-something subscriber, because i'm posting my story about moving out shortly. your curiosity will be answered." josh says, without showing any emotion on his face. tyler's chest is boiling.

"aw, shit!" brendon literally shouts and starts laughing truly this time. josh smirks and snorts. "josh, dude, you ended her."

ashley crosses her arms and asks, "so full of yourself? mom didn't tell you it's rude to be cocky?"

one girl at the left side of a table, whom tyler doesn't recognise, interrupts, "ashley, you're cocky on daily basi-"

"your mom didn't tell you it's inappropriate to force your friends to do something they don't want?" josh speaks up again and tyler is hundred percent sure he's talking about him, when he didn't want to approach the table, and ashley tugged him here despite.

it's not good. he knew coming here wasn't a good idea, but ashley is making it even worse. tyler doesn't want to make enemies. he freaked out enough yesterday to make them think he's crazy.

even though tyler didn't say a word, the whole table is laughing, and he feels guilty. he's the only one, who doesn't laugh. even ashley has this devilish smile on her face. he shouldn't be here. he could sit on his place as usual and only watch the group from behind.

"hello!" suddenly, some voice interrupts again, and tyler thinks, finally, somebody would change this damn subject and make it less awkward. he turns around and see nobody else, but this orange-haired girl he met on the first day of school, hayley. "is any of you participating in this music contest this year? they just announced it and i really want to go, so we can register right now, because there are crowds of people in classroom 9 and i don't know, if there will be vacancies available later."

before tyler can think, he stands up from his place quickly enough so ashley doesn't stop him. "i want to," and disappears in a crowd.

he can hear hayley repeat "anyone else? no?" from a few feet away, and then she approaches tyler and leads him to the classroom 9. "okay, let's go. they will explain everything to us there."

tyler isn't really sure, what he got himself into, and if he really wants to take part in a music contest, but he finally managed to leave that infamous table, and that's what matters the most now.

Chapter Text

"i realised i'm not sure, if i want to take part in this," tyler says as he looks at list of participants in school music contest. there are already 17 names on the list and will obviously be more, considering the amount of people standing in line behind him and hayley.

"why not? you were so sure before." the girl hesitates with writing down tyler's name after writing just 'tyle'.

"i don't know, i'm sure all these people are... super talented and i will have no chance with them." tyler looks around and feels all eyes on him, as if they are telling him to stop talking and hurry up finally.

"tyler, you don't know, what you're saying. you're an amazing singer." she smiles, still with pen in her hand, but not touching the piece of paper. "even if there will be real competition, and if you don't win, which would be silly, because, come on, it's you we are talking about, you will show them, what the talent looks like, or more what it sounds like."

tyler, not caring about people still waiting to fill the list with their name, sits next to hayley. "you've never heard me sing, i think?"

"i did." she smirks, leaning on a chair.

oh.

"you did?"

"i watched your covers on youtube." she chuckles and tyler thinks, obviously she did. how many people from this school know already about his account?

"so you know..." he mutters, giving her an awkward smile.

"yeah! i'm not the only one, though," she says, patting tyler on his arm. he concludes it's definitely the worst week in his life in this school, and it hasn't even ended yet.

he covers his face with his hands and manages to groan muffled, "oh my goodness."

"hey, is it a bad thing? you don't have to be afraid, you are really great. if somebody tries to say something bad about you, they will have to catch these hands." she hits lightly tyler's arm with her fists, still chuckling.

"um, i don't know," he whines, putting his hands back on his lap and quiets his voice to speak again, "i just don't want anybody, who knows me only from youtube, to see my face. you probably noticed i never show it. if many people from here know about this, then i'm not so safe anymore."

hayley nods, "i see, i see. but look, if something happens, our group is always with you. they have that big influence, that they could threaten all kids here and every single one would delete anything they posted about you, or something... and then plead you for forgiveness. just stick with us."

the thing is, tyler doesn't want to have anything in common with "brendon's gang" now, when josh is apparently a part of it.

it's not that tyler hides from him. he has no reason to hide from josh. he just tries really hard to avoid him, because he's showed enough obvious actions during these two meetings with him. josh most probably already thinks he's some insane kid, who is scared of people. he doesn't want to make it even worse.

"thank you, hayley-"

"so are we writing your name here?" hayley interrupts, almost jumping on her seat.

"i'm not sure, if i want to compete with you. i will probably mess up so you win."

"oh, come on, tyler. it will be fun! i promise." and without question, hayley finally finishes writing down tyler's name on the list, making him the 18th participant. "we should probably make room here. people are getting impatient," she says after some girl snatches a list from a table, almost ripping it off.

they leave the classroom, passing busy teenagers, and these shouting from the end of the line their names to write, probably because the amount of participants is limited and they are, well, the last ones.

"can we go..." tyler raises his hands shakily to point somewhere around him. "outside?"

"you want to go outside?" hayley asks, turning to him.

"yes, it's... there are too many people here," he lies, but it isn't completely a lie. the hallway is in fact too crowded, but the main reason he wants to go out of here is to avoid the group he didn't want to meet in the first place.

"we're going outside, then."

they sneak out through the window in women's bathroom to emergency stairs and go up until they reach the last level and roof. tyler can see a beautiful view of many buildings near. even though roofs aren't a satisfying sight, it's extraordinary to stand so high in open area.

"i want to take picture of this," he breaks the silence, still looking intently at city down here.

"nothing stops you." hayley reaches a barrier and leans out to see, what's happening below her. tyler's heart starts beating faster, because she's literally half on the stairway and half out. "you think nobody sees you, huh?" she raises her voice, still looking down.

"what?" tyler asks, confused. hayley just waves her right hand in his direction and tyler decides to approach her. he doesn't come too close, because he feels like she would fall out from the fourth floor if he even touched her.

he leans a little, heart still beating fast, and finally understands, what was hayley talking about. he can see white clouds of smoke evaporating from stairway two floors below.

hayley pulls out her phone from back pocket of her jeans and hurriedly types something, before leaning again, with her phone in one hand. tyler is going to have a panic attack. "hayley, careful."

"smoking!" hayley clears her throat, "can cause lung diseases by damaging your airways and the... small air sacs in your lungs." people under them start to laugh and tyler snorts, too. he realises, that she's really similar to ashley. the only question tormenting his mind is why so cool people like ashley and hayley hang out with such a boring person like tyler.

"how many people are there?" he asks, too scared to look down. he knows he's clumsy and doesn't want to risk his life just to look down.

"dozens. idiots." she mutters, and then turns down again and raises his voice, "i knew this, lung cancer is nothing for you, i forgot you're big fire-breathing dragons, little kids, but probably half of you is doing this to look badass. but if i told the principal you hide on this stairway to smoke and he called your parents, you would be like, no, mommy, it was just once, they forced me! and i'd laugh at all of you and then we would see who's badass one here."

hayley finally stands straight, moves back and sits on one step, patting place next to her for tyler to sit.

"who even are you?" some voice below them shouts after a moment and hayley sighs.

"hayley! does it tell you something?"

"okaaay..." the same voice answers slowly and hesitantly.

"i bet they got scared already," tyler says and he's probably right. he's sure most people in this school know every person's name from brendon's gang, and even if the group isn't that bad, nobody dares to mess up with them. they are just this popular group every school has. if it wasn't for ashley, tyler wouldn't "mess up" with them either, but now he knows they are really cool and it's nice to talk to them sometimes.

after some intense quiet talk below, the voice finally speaks up again, "we won't smoke anymore, if it pleases you." hayley bursts laughing. tyler joins her.

"i was joking, i was just making fun of you!" she shouts even louder, but tyler's laugh it's still louder than her voice. "you can smoke wherever you want, i smoke too, but only sometimes. cigarettes and stuff are awful. have fun down here!"

"you and ashley are twins," tyler says, trying to slow down his breathing, but still feeling his cheeks burning.

"speaking of ashley," hayley chuckles and looks at her phone again. "she just texted me, asking me where you are. with, like, fifteen question marks."

oh, right. tyler forgot he'd ran away from the table without telling anything, but ashley should know he went to sign up for music contest with hayley. "tell her i'll come back after bell rings."

ashley probably decided to text hayley, because she couldn't contact with him. he unlocks his phone and sees one unread message;

assley: "where are you?????????
?????,??,,???"

"hayley probably told you."

"i'll be there after break ends."

"are you avoiding them, tyler?" hayley asks whilst typing a message on her phone.

"yes, kind of, i guess? i agreed to this contest only to run away from the table, to be honest." he smiles awkwardly again today. he's such an awkward person, he can't shot his response without hesitation like ashley always does. he gets embarrassed and guilty instead.

"really? tyler..." hayley sighs.

tyler notices what he said wasn't appropriate, especially when hayley had been really excited about the contest. he wants to vanish from the surface of the earth for the hundredth time this week. his life hates him. "but you convinced me, i promise! i'm excited about this, even though i'm really nervous."

"okay, but what was happening there, that you ran away?"

"ashley and... josh... were fighting. ashley was rude and i couldn't listen to this."

"what did she say?" hayley asks with a concern. "and you met josh! what happened yesterday that you ran away, too?"

tyler really hoped hayley wouldn't bring this up. he doesn't want to make himself seem like a crazy kid in her eyes this time. unfortunately, she was sitting with them yesterday and saw everything. "i panicked a little. you know... i'm not a people-person and seeing new face was... shocking for me, because i'm always asking myself, what if they don't like me and think i'm weird?" tyler can't lie, and that's why he's stuttering so much, but again, it isn't completely a lie. he's not a social butterfly. "nevermind, i made myself weird by running away."

"oh, that's okay! and i'm sure he understands and you get to know each other soon."

oh, i know josh really well, only if you knew, tyler wants to say, but answers hayley's previous question instead, "yeah... so, ashley was asking him, if he had been kicked out of his old school so he had to move here. she was probably joking, but i found it rude. and she called him egoistic or something."

ashley remains quiet and tyler wonders, if he said too much; if it sounded like he really cared about a person he'd only met once. not enough embarrassment for a day, it is.

she finally opens her mouth and tyler is ready for another question, that would make him cry inside. "it's funny, because even josh didn't know the reason he'd moved out, until i told him."

tyler knits his eyebrows together. "what does that mean?"

"his parents didn't explain it to him, i guess, but we are childhood friends. he returned to his parents' hometown, here. that's all." obviously. josh said, that his parents had made a decision to leave las vegas. at first tyler thought ashley might be right at some point, but now he regrets even thinking that way, even though she's his best friend.

"that's cool." he smiles to her, not being able to say more because of bell ringing inside. "we should go."

tyler stands from his place and already approaches the door, as hayley asks, "you're not going to take your picture?"

tyler turns around to say, "i'm scared, that i'd drop my phone."

hayley bursts laughing and comes inside, when tyler opens the door for her. they split their ways on 2nd floor, where tyler sees ashley waiting for him through opened door of biology classroom.

...

tyler forgave ashley her rudeness earlier, obviously. ashley's attitude is an inherent part of her. she can't help it. tyler can't be mean, and she can't keep her mouth shut sometimes. he knows and understands it. they know each other too well to argue about that.

"it's like you're always stuck in second gear, when it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, but i'll be there for you!"

"when the rain starts to pour." they sing old popular songs on their way back home, or more like tyler's home, as usual. tyler always plays music, because he has better phone and better everything, as ashley says.

"i'll be there for you!" ashley sings louder and louder, jumping a little in her walk.

"like i've been there befo-" tyler suddenly stops, seeing small banner on top of his screen. he freezes.

"i'll be there for you!" ashley continues, but when she doesn't hear tyler singing his part, she asks, "why did you stop?"

"josh posted a new video." he says quickly, speeding up his pace, because they are already in his neighbourhood.

ashley lets out one of her theatrical groans; the one she's used many times this week, every time tyler began josh's topic. "i hate you," she whispers, when they finally reach the gate and run into the house.

it's empty as always this hour. tyler's parents are still at work and his siblings are still at school. they will have to suffer a bit more to have shorter schedule in high school, but will it make them happier? definitely not. tyler would do everything to turn back time to a few years ago, even if that meant spending more time at school.

"so you wanted to know, why josh moved out to columbus. i'm sure this video will clear the mess in your head up." he jumps onto his bed, ashley right after him, falling on her face and groaning again on his pillow.

"i know it already, thanks."

"you don't know. he told you to watch the video." tyler tugs her shirt enough to make her afraid of tearing it off and sit up.

"do you really think i'm going to do, what he tells me to?" she scoffs.

"yes."

"so good luck then. i'm going to sleep."

before she manages to lie down again, tyler yanks her by her shirt the second time. "this is my house and my rules," ashley rolls her eyes. "and you're going to watch with me," he barely says the last words, laughing too much already at ashley's serious expression. she shakes her head and pouts as if she is an old aunt going to say something like; listen here, young lady.

"it will be interesting to listen to josh telling a story about how he got an underage girl pregnant in some of vegas high schools." she smirks and puts her head on tyler's left shoulder afterwards.

"ashley. shut up or i'll kick you out," tyler is serious this time. he just doesn't understand her hatred towards josh and won't tolerate it if she continues being so rude. there are some limits. "he said in last video it was family stuff. besides, hayley confirmed it today earlier."

"okay, but she wasn't living with him in las vegas, nor going to his school. she knows as much as we do. so literally nothing."

"their families have known each other since they were kids, ashley." he gives her pleading look, while she still sits comfortably with her head against his shoulder, relaxed like never before.

"why are you so blind?" she asks lazily.

"why do you act like this? i thought you didn't care about him and now you're making sick theories, that don't even add up."

"i asked first." she snaps.

"i asked second." tyler responds.

they don't usually argue; tyler often agrees to everything ashley wants to do, and if not, she gives up and doesn't bring up the topic again. but since this whole thing with josh she's been acting different. still, it's okay to argue sometimes. people learn also from mistakes, and friendship depends on constant learning.

"you know what?" ashley speaks up again. "alright. i'll watch it. why not?" she raises her hands and pats loudly her thighs.

"be quiet."

tyler, having a page opened since he entered the house, only has to make sure if ashley is ready, and press play.

when the video starts, josh immediately begins to speak. it's unusual for him. he always sets his camera on a desk and all you can see first is only his room. josh enters the room a few seconds later though. now josh is sitting in front of the camera since the beginning. his room is also not his room. it's his new house; still empty and almost without furniture. he also has different hair. maybe it's the new beginning.

it is the new beginning.

"whoa, it's really him," ashley says quietly with melancholy in her voice. tyler still doesn't believe it either. he's more nervous watching his videos right now than ever before.

"okay, so first i have to thank you all, who understand my last video and sticked around. the good thing is, i'm not leaving youtube, obviously," he laughs. of course. there's always the time in his videos to laugh. "it was silly of me to think about leaving. most of you freaked out." tyler definitely freaked out. "i freaked out too, because my parents just... played with me and told me we were leaving with no explanation. and that's what this video is about. partly."

and that's how the story begins. josh introduces his childhood friend, hayley, and tells she plays a big part in the story, and that she had explained everything to him before his parents ever did. "i told them, that this girl, hayley, who i barely even remember, had to tell me, why am i even here, in columbus, because they didn't dare to explain when i had been asking. i forced them to answer, and they finally did."

"sure thing," ashley mutters under her breath. tyler shushes her immediately.

"they told me exactly the same story as hayley," he says, and tells, that his and hayley's parents had been good friends before they both were even born. josh's parents had always lived in columbus. they had started a company and hired hayley's parents there. "but a few years later i happened. i was born and mom and dad decided it would be good to leave that place, for me. otherwise they would still be overworked and it would affect on me negatively. they had enough money to land whenever they wanted. we landed in las vegas."

they visited columbus a few times, and that's how josh and hayley met, becoming really good friends and literally crying before separating again. in fact, josh's parents promised to come back here sometime. the company still exists, and, surprisingly enough, keeps up well with hayley's parents as its owners, so they came back. 18 years later.

"see?" tyler turns his head to ashley, who only rolls her eyes.

"many things have already happened in my new place, that's why this video is delayed. i have some time, so i decided to tell everything right now," josh informs his watchers.

"the most interesting thing he's experienced in his new place is me being a bitch to him," ashley interrupts and starts to laugh. tyler gives her a serious glare. she straightens her body and sits in front of tyler. "oh shit, you missed the best today, ty, he called me a bitch like three times. it seemed like he was waiting for you to leave so he could finally offend me."

"he called you what?" tyler asks, not believing her words.

"wait, i'll quote; 'stop acting so bitchy, don't you get bored of that sometimes? i suppose you only make friends that way, cause you're too scared they wouldn't notice you otherwise' or something like that, about three times in a row. fine. maybe i was being a bitch, but telling me that once would be enough, don't you think?"

"he didn't call you... anything." tyler answers, annoyed. he knows josh wouldn't tell such things to a girl, not when he made a few videos about treating them with special respect. "these are two different things. being someone and acting like someone."

ashley shakes her head and sighs, moving on the bed. tyler knows she lost her arguments. "i'm going to talk with your mom." she stands up lazily and tidies her messy blue hair.

"about what?" tyler asks her curiously.

ashley sighs again and turns around. "i don't know, weather?"

"she hasn't even came back from work yet."

"she did. i heard the car." tyler raises his eyebrows. "you were so busy watching you didn't even hear!" she walks to the window and looks through it. "see? there's a car. i'm leaving you alone ty-guy, goodbye."

"finally. you were disturbing my watching," tyler says with fake irritation. ashley approaches bedroom door and laughs.

"i love you!" she shouts from corridor.

"i hate you!" tyler answers and replays the video again, because he understood too little information with ashley beside him.

Chapter Text

josh's first week in new school was probably more busy and interesting than all these twelve years he'd attended to school in his hometown. it always happens, when you're new, does it?

he's never been socially awkward; people cling to him for some reason. he was popular as a child and successful with girls, even though it was just a kindergarten love, more to impress friends, than to spend time together. nonetheless, he still preferred to kick a ball on football court with boys.

same thing in middle school and high school. he could never be alone, unless he wanted to. he couldn't imagine his life without anyone by his side anymore. he just got used to have a bunch of friends, that it would be hard if he suddenly remained alone.

however, the situation in columbus got a little out of control. in span of one week over ninety percent of students got to know his name, although this school is really big; some people don't see each other often because of a crowd and complicated system of hallways, and josh got to know names of this ninety percent as well, but most of them evaporated from his head immediately, obviously. he couldn't even remember hayley's name, his best friend in the past, so he doesn't require from himself knowing names of the whole school, at least not yet.

he got invited to three 18th birthday parties and saved about 20 new numbers on his phone. he will probably never call them, but who is he to not agree to exchange numbers with people from his school? they should feel special; he wouldn't do it, if they were anybody else.

josh doesn't know, if it's because he has bright yellow hair or gauged ears. a few people dye their hair crazy colours as well and don't draw so much chaos to them. or maybe because he's taller than most of them, or maybe because he sticks around brendon.

at the weekend he finally managed to call some of his old friends and make a group conversation, like good old days. after a few hours passed, they just sat in front of their laptops and were doing their things silently, still having their cameras on and watching each other on a screen. josh had to tell them, how does it feel to be in new city, because they wouldn't leave him alone, if he didn't.

he told them he couldn't have a minute for himself that week. he was too tired to put some details and just asked, if they can continue arguing with each other and he can listen and laugh at them, deciding to tell them more next time.

he hopes this whole fuss will calm down soon though.

life hates him, when he has to respond to every "hello" spoken towards him the minute he opens the door leading into main school hallway. it's nothing new to him, and it would be fine, if it wasn't monday morning, and he weren't exhausted with moving out and done with his parents' yells the whole week.

he decides to put up his phone and shove it almost to his face, pretending he is busy, but in fact asking brendon for help;

"where are you? dude, help me out."

he waits impatiently for a text back, feeling every eye on him and his vivid hair. it's good, that people are interested by him, but today is not the right time. he feels, like he could fall asleep immediately, if he leaned his head against the wall.

instead of brendon's respond, he receives a few light pats on his back. he turns around to see a girl with long, brown hair and tall figure, but still shorter than josh. "do you want something?" he asks.

"hey," she smiles. "i actually thought you would avoid me."

"why? having yellow hair doesn't mean i'm automatically a rude asshole." josh didn't want to interact with anyone, who he doesn't know this morning, but here he is, defending himself to some stranger. he should have ignored her, if he doesn't want to get another headache, but he isn't like that.

"of course not, but you know, how some people can be. they know they are popular and then nothing else matters, they think they have the whole world to themselves and others can only lick their shoes."

josh understands that better, than anybody else. he knows, how does it feel to be popular, and even to be famous. he is aware, that he could have everything he wanted right now. he has money and people, who could guarantee that to him. but he isn't like that. this whole fame hasn't changed him yet. he is where he is only because of hard work, and that he is successful doesn't mean he can abandon working hard already.

of course, josh happens to be egoistic sometimes, and by that he especially means that moment on wednesday morning, when he was rude towards tyler, even though that one couldn't hear him, but that only proved, how selfish he can sometimes be, when it comes to his situation in social media. he can't explain himself away. everybody makes mistakes and nobody is perfect, but josh tries his best to show as much respect to people as he is able to.

"i am not like that," he sighs. "you can ask me whatever you want to, just please, hurry, because i'm tired and i need to find a classroom."

"oh, right! look, i want to find a classroom too, but i'm new here and i don't really know, where this or that is." she makes nervous face and josh for the first time this day wants to laugh. he doesn't believe this girl is new, but why not playing along.

"okay, but why are you asking me out of all people?" he says that, eyeing the crowd around them by the time.

"i saw you many times during breaks last week, because you're always the most visible," josh just imagined, how must it look like, when he walks through hallways and his hair just pops out of crowd. he is tall, it must look like that. he'd never thought about that earlier. "but you also hang out with hayley, and she's a sweetheart, so it was just easier to ask somebody, who i am related to... for some reason." josh raises his eyebrows. "i'm busy. please?"

"you know hayley?" josh drags. "cool."

"she's been my best friend since 8th grade," the girl informs, giving josh an awkward smile and probably regretting speaking out to josh in the first place already.

he wants to say "she'd been my best friend since i was running in a diaper", but asks another question instead, "why don't you ask hayley then?"

"she doesn't answer my texts!"

"okay, chill. brendon doesn't answer mine either. do you know brendon?"

"who doesn't?" she scoffs. true. "he always corrupts hayley, i'm so done with him."

josh starts laughing, when the annoyed girl says "corrupts". it wouldn't be that funny, if it weren't about brendon.

finally, josh asks himself, if that was the girl's goal. she still hasn't asked him that question she came here with, but made josh talk with her and laugh with her. how clever are people these days. and josh is just dumb person, who agrees to everything. "okay, i thought you were busy."

girls sighs again and says, "i'm late anyway, so it doesn't matter." josh wants to punch himself in the face. if she just wanted to flirt with josh, then anytime, girl, just not on monday morning.

"what classroom did you want to find?" he asks, whilst weeping sleepy eyes with his fists. he can see the girl smiling at him the time he blinks and opens his eyes.

"48." she answers.

"look," josh mumbles, "it's funny, because i'm new here too, and i have no idea where 48 is, but i'll ask a friend if that's so important to you."

the girl nods and josh pulls out his phone, noticing one unread message from brendon;

"i'm coming."

"do you know, where classroom 48 is?"

"isn't that that one near
copernicus painting? i think
it's that one."

"wait, are you going there?
i'm almost downstairs."

"no."

"no, come here."

josh looks up at the brown-haired girl, who still patiently waits next to josh. "this classroom should be near copernicus painting on the wall."

she widens her eyes. "where is that?"

"no idea," josh chuckles. "i just think it's on fourth floor, because the number says so. it means you have to go up to the last level, sorry girl."

"okay," the girl whines. "thank you though, for being nice." she smiles and heads to the stairs. it was weird, josh thinks. he didn't even have time to catch her name. not that he needs her name for some reason, but it will be weird, if she knows josh's name the next time they meet sometime, and josh will reference to her as "the tall girl".

josh looks at his phone and realises he is late for class too, and brendon must be waiting for him somewhere here, so he turns around quickly to head out in direction he walked to in the first place. unfortunately, before he manages to look up, he feels a sudden pain below his right rib, as if somebody just hit him with an elbow.

less that one second after he can hear muffled crashing sound, and then in front of his eyes kneels a boy, brunet, wearing brown, the same shade as his hair, sweater, and hurriedly picking up a phone, which slipped out of his grasp. despite the stinging pain in josh's rib, he bends down to help the boy gather his things after unfortunate collision. the boy slowly stands up and turns his face to josh.

"tyler?" josh asks, somewhat surprised. he looks at the boy's phone, relieved, that it didn't crack, considering that it fell down from a long height. "are you okay? i'm sorry, i didn't notice you-"

"no, it's fine," tyler replies quickly, looking at josh with his big, chocolate brown eyes, whilst rubbing his left arm.

josh notices brendon a few steps further away, frowning and smiling questioningly at the same time. josh gives him a "why are you standing here like that?" expression, confused about the situation, and nervous, that there is tyler in front of him. he's not like a normal stranger. they had already shared a few looks, that didn't end up very well. this kid just has a thing for josh. and it is not a good thing.

still, josh tries his best to show himself from the best side and make tyler realise he is not going to do him any harm, "we can go to a nurse if your arm hurts, it's okay."

tyler hesitates a little, and then only shakes his head a few times and excuses himself to go to class.

the story repeats itself, again. josh has no idea, what's wrong with this boy, and if he needs any help. he seems really lost, but there's also conviction in josh's mind, that he knows, what he's doing. he didn't seem scared, just abashed.

josh follows brendon to a classroom without mentioning any of previous events. there's no use talking about it. it's nothing, just usual school happening. if josh memorised every scramble and argument with random students in his life, he would fall into despair. he's thankful he's not that sensitive.

however, although he sits quietly on his chair at the back of a classroom and seemingly listens to a teacher, he is distracted. he can't remember anything the teacher said a few moments ago. he doesn't even know exactly, what today's lesson is about.

josh doesn't usually care about things like that. he constantly meets new people and has learned already, that considering stuff, that has nothing to do with him, will never do him any good. but for some reason josh can't remove tyler from inside his mind, and in some way, it actually involves him.

"why does he hate me?" josh finally breaks the silence a little, whispering to brendon sitting beside him, who doesn't seem interested in lesson anyway.

brendon doesn't even have to think, who is josh talking about. since he met josh, the only person josh talks about with so much concern is tyler.

"i don't know, dude," he whispers back to josh.

"but what did i even do to him? i did nothing, i barely spoke to him that day and today." josh leans on his seat tiredly, almost laying on a chair.

"you bumped into him and hit him." brendon smirks.

"that's enough to hate me? it doesn't even count as a hit, i didn't mean any of this. seriously, brendon?" josh sighs, looking up at brendon with annoyance on his face. "he bumped into me as well. it's not my fault."

"he's clumsy, don't blame him," brendon says, clicking his pen on a table, and how much josh wants to quiet him and tell him it pisses everybody off except of him, he doesn't want to change the topic.

"he ran away the first time, yesterday he ran away too. he literally waited for somebody to take him away from that table. i'm not that stupid."

"i don't know, josh. he's not a person to hate people. i mean, look at him. he wears these big sweaters every day and looks like lost puppy in a rye." brendon laughs.

"small body can carry some hate as well," josh interrupts.

"i haven't finished," brendon says. "he's shy, and he doesn't radiate with... i don't know, hate or anger. unlike you."

josh raises his eyebrows and blinks quickly. "me?" he says a little too loud.

"i mean, you have colored hair, and tattoos, and piercings. you just look badass. you might have scared him off, no matter how ridiculous that sounds. but that's possible, dude. think about it."

josh suddenly remembers that one girl from today, who said she was surprised, that josh was nice to her.

"don't tell me he believes in stereotypes. he's much smarter than that," josh scoffs. "i just don't like him. he's weird and quiet and stares at me during breaks, but every time i look back at him, he runs away. it's creepy. i just want to know, what his deal is."

"maybe that's the reason to find out?" brendon asks simply and after that josh doesn't say anything else.

this conversation made him think a little too much, especially the ending of it. brendon was right. if this situation isn't going to leave him alone, he will be forced to do something to solve the problem. and if anybody isn't able to help him, he as well can do it by himself.

Chapter Text

sometimes bad things happen to you. often. very often. one unfortunate action leads to another one and another one. you don't know, if you're constantly doing something wrong, or if it's just a bad luck. you are trying to take control over your life, but things keep slipping out of your grasp. you become the child of misfortune. nothing can stop that.

sometimes good things happen to you. often. very often. you are confused, because you can't remember doing anything particular, what would cause that coincidence. you have no idea, what did you do to deserve it, but you don't mention that, because you don't want it to change. you can't complain.

sometimes life makes fun of you.

life makes fun of tyler. ever since the school year started, tyler is being guided by thin strings like a puppet by some person above, just to meet that one person and make a fool of himself. a portion of amusement for everyone. except for himself.

he lays outstretched on his bed, staring at a ceiling darkened by closed blue blinds and curtains, and thinking. he's thinking a lot about how big victim of his own life he is.

he still finds this week impossible. it's still scary to him. let's turn to the beginning. his role model talked to him, when a week ago tyler complained, that he might never see him again. then here he is. in his city. in his school. in front of him. offering a help. but tyler runs away. again.

he runs away to find the nearest women's bathroom to find his best friend, who's fixing her make up. if he went there with her earlier, none of what happened a few seconds ago would happen.

there's no use pointing out any what if's. everything that happened, had to happen. we keep thinking, how would it be, if we decided to do something different way, but actually we waste our time on it. we couldn't decide different way. there was actually only one choice. no coming back.

but tyler still finds this week impossible. he finds impossible, that he and josh dun were meant to be situated in such position. you can compare it to meeting your most favourite band on your balcony in the middle of the night out of sudden. yes, impossible.

yet he did meet one of his favourite people out of sudden, never expecting that would happen, ever. well, life sets us a challenge, when we least expect it, right?

he wonders, what would any other person react in his place. probably really similar. most of people don't actually run away whilst meeting their idol, tyler wouldn't do it too, not if he weren't so obsessed. not if he weren't stalking josh on the internet. tyler thinks, that josh might in some magical way find out, read it from his eyes, and for some magical reason know about tyler even more, than tyler knows about josh. there's no better choice to avoid such a shame, than running away and never showing your eyes again.

on the other hand, tyler blames himself, and thinks, that everything, what's happening right now, is only because he's such a creep and coward at the same time. he can count out every member of josh's family he dared do mention, but isn't able to look at him truly in the eyes and reply to a simple hi.

the only thing he's sure about, is that both of these reasons are true.

he wants to fix it. he doesn't want to be known as a victim in front of others. he doesn't want to feel like a walking shame whilst looking at anybody's eyes. but isn't it too late for that already?

in our lives happen some events, that affect on our relation with the other person forever. most often for stupid reasons. something like a silly fight on a playground near your family houses. you fight over your favourite swing for fifteen minutes, and eventually win. but your friend doesn't sit on a different swing. they go to their house and never talk to you again.

you avoid each other in elementary school, and still send evil looks even in high school. your hatred for each other grows for unknown reasons. you never meant to fight. you regret that every time you see them. but you both got used to it. that's how it should go. you don't feel like you both could exchange simple words anymore.

tyler doesn't feel like josh hates him. hopefully. tyler doesn't hate josh. obviously. it's just a simple example, how a single act might make tyler look like a fool for the rest of other person's life, even though he isn't, and he tries his best not to be.

tyler has always dreamt to be friends with somebody like josh, especially when he got to know him more and more, and began to realise that it's too good to be true. sure, he has ashley, who is always beside him, who will always offer a helping hand and is able to defend him. everything you look for in a friend.

but ashley is like a bigger sister. it doesn't matter, that they are cousins, because they forgot about that a long time ago. it's just that they really act like siblings. laughing, fighting and sitting in silence is their daily routine.

additionally, people make fun of their relationship as friends by calling ashley tyler's mother. it's not that one of them complains, because they both find it funny, and it's true in some way. ashley sometimes acts like a mother more, than tyler's actual mother does. tyler can do most of things alone, he got used to that in the past, but ashley is ashley. she doesn't do it to make any harm. they both have to protect each other.

tyler often thinks about how it would look like, if he and josh were friends. probably not like with ashley, but quite similar. well, what would it look like introducing each other? yes, josh, that's an interesting information, but i know about that. you said that in one of your videos in january, if you give me a minute i can examine in my head, which day it was. tyler wouldn't let himself do that, but he's such a bad liar.

they could be a trio of friends. ashley wouldn't care about being the only girl there. but that's ridiculous. that's insanely ridiculous. josh probably hates ashley, and thinks tyler is a creep. maybe hates tyler, too.

tyler just envies other people, that they make such a good team with josh. he's brand new here and has already better life than tyler for all these years he's spent there. having so many friends within one week in school is beyond the reach of his expectations. he could be one of them too, but he already lost his chance.

"i can feel you overreacting, tyler," he hears ashley interrupting his intense thinking. he even forgot she is there, still leaning against opposite headboard of his bed. she spends too much time in his house since her parents aren't home. she hates being alone.

"because i am." tyler sighs loudly.

there's a moment of silence after that. ashley probably debates about ways of smacking tyler in the head.

"josh?" she finally asks quietly, and she doesn't even have to say more, because, yes.

"yeah," tyler answers. ashley groans loudly, and before she manages to say a word, tyler adds, "i know, i know, you're going to shout at me, but i met him today. again."

"when?" she asks curiously.

"when you were in a bathroom."

"what a coincidence." ashley snorts. "is he going to be meeting you, when i'm not near you from now on? i'm too tired to argue anyway. he can calm down."

"no, he didn't mean to meet me. he just... kind of bumped into me, hitting me on the shoulder, and my phone slipped out of my hand by the way," he chuckles and ashley frowns. "but nothing bad happened!" he pulls out his phone, showing to her clear screen with no scratch visible. luckily. this phone is the most valuable thing he owns. he couldn't record and edit videos if he shattered it in some way.

ashley rolls her eyes. "is your shoulder okay?"

"kind of. i looked at it after school and it's a little bruised. i had no idea it was that bad. but it's fine. it doesn't hurt anymore."

ashley makes her way to tyler hurriedly and rolls up a little a sleeve of tyler's shirt, noticing a few, small yellow-brown bruises. "that asshole!" tyler only starts laughing. "what's so funny? i swear, if i only were there..."

"it's okay, he didn't do it on purpose." tyler still chuckles.

"sure. who knows," ashley grumbles with a huff.

nobody knows. only josh knows. but he wouldn't go this far to harass tyler. he finds tyler weird and he finds tyler strange, and he wants to have nothing in common with him. that's the truth.

"do you want to know, what happened after that?" he asks quietly with his eyes closed. ashley hums. "i ran away."

ashley eventually starts laughing. "wow, that was predictable."

tyler shakes his head. "i hate myself for that." he buries his head in the nearest pillow and begins shouting to it, "i hate myself, i hate myself, i hate myself, oh my gosh, i hate myself so much! shit!"

it only causes ashley bubbling laughter grow in volume. "should i call mom?" she asks between her laughs.

tyler looks up from his pillow, all red. "no. i just hate myself. it's nothing new." ashley laughs even more. "why don't you hate me? everybody else does."

"everyone else doesn't know you like i do. how could you hate this pouty face?" she leans and takes tyler face in both of her hands, beginning to squeeze his cheeks.

"shut up," he whines and turns around to the other side of bed.

ashley sighs loudly and sits up on the bed. "okay, tyler. i don't know... maybe you should... take your life in your hands and... casually talk to him. it's not that hard. you will get more comfortable if you try harder."

"i'm scared."

"why are you scared? you don't have any problem with talking to me, and even the most popular guys in the school, tyler."

"yeah? i'm a nervous mess. everybody can see that."

even though tyler seems to not have problem with talking to people, he's having an intense battle inside just to not move and run away too. he got used to talking with ashley and it comes out naturally, but with other people, even these, who are friendly with him, it's casually difficult. with josh it's even worse.

"besides, it's josh," he adds.

"yeah? and what does it change?" ashley raises her eyebrows. "is he some person, who needs special language, or what?"

"no, but he's seen me at my worst already. he saw me panicking... and crying, while you were leading me outside that day. i ran away from him just after he told me his name! what a wonderful first impression. it's been just a week and i'm probably already the main topic of his nightmares."

"well, right," ashley agrees. tyler wants to cry and shout onto his pillow again. ashley doesn't know, what to do. he doesn't know, what to do. he shouldn't care so much. he hates himself for that. he's empty.

tyler tries to close his eyes, but his chaotic thoughts don't allow him to do it. he hates making what if stories inside his head, he hates, but he does it anyway.

if ashley weren't a member of his family, or just someone, who had known him before, they would never become friends. tyler wouldn't take a sit beside ashley that first day of school; he would sit alone, as always, and still deal with his life with no one by his side.

suddenly, tyler can hear a buzz of a phone. a buzz of his phone, emanating from his back pocket. he doesn't move. nothing makes sense.

"your phone," he hears. i know, ashley. "it can be your mom calling you for dinner."

it can be. his mother got tired of shouting from kitchen downstairs to be heard in tyler's bedroom when dinner's ready. she sometimes decides to text him.

"fine," he sighs and turns around. "it's not mom."

"then, who's this?" ashley asks, uninterested, still looking at her own phone.

"hmm, i don't know. someone messaged me."

"someone?" ashley chuckles.

"yes, someone." tyler says. "i have no idea, who's this. someone from my channel? don't know."

"oh no, you have notifications on from youtube? dude, your phone must be buzzing all the time."

then the realisation comes to tyler. tyler doesn't get notifications from youtube, obviously. he doesn't subscribe anyone. he doesn't care about comment notifications. he often reads all comments in one go., when he has time.

someone messaged him. not on youtube.

he opens his tumblr and sees one (1) unread message. his heart stops. he thinks, finally, but on the other hand, what did take so long?

then he realises again. it doesn't have to be anybody with an answer to his last post and a will to help him. it can be anybody wanting to, for example, promote themselves. however, he opens the message, and it says;

"hello."

it wasn't what tyler's has been expecting after all. he doesn't even know, what brought that person to tyler's messages. was it his last post? or just a casual want to talk? tyler doesn't know, how to react, so he just responds simply;

"hello."

not even a minute passes, and tyler can see another message on his screen;

"i saw your most recent post."

oh. sure, tyler posted that to bring out some reaction, but he wasn't truly expecting to get an actual response. he's surprised.

ashley notices tyler's conflicted expression and breaks the silence, "is it some rude comment?"

"no, just," tyler begins. "somebody wants to start a talk with me."

"well, maybe it's finally the time to agree on that?"

"maybe," tyler mutters.

"okay, but when you make a new friend, don't forget about the best one, named ashley," she says, with a serious expression this time. tyler doesn't have any response to that, but, fortunately, he can hear footsteps somewhere near his bedroom.

there are a few knocks on the door, and a voice of tyler's mom, "is ashley here?"

"obviously!" ashley calls back and stands from the bed.

"dinner is almost ready, i better see you both downstairs in a minute." his mom disappears from behind the door and ashley hurries just to reach her.

"i'm sorry, you maybe think i use you all for food, but i'm so hungry, dude," she says without turning around and reaches her hand to tyler to join her.

as usual, they spend their time waiting for dinner at a table, talking. or not. it's just ashley talking for her and tyler at once with the rest of the family. she always has too much to say.

nobody seems to complain. tyler knows his parents wanted to have more than only one daughter, but they happened to be gifted with one loud child, who looks more mature, than he actually is, and somebody might be disappointed, if they realised, how dumb he is; one popular kid, who invites at least three friends every day; and one disappointment of a child. guess, which one is tyler.

but also, they have one, perfect, daughter. it's no surprise they prefer ashley and madison instead of their sons.

tyler sits at a table, looking at his phone under the table, and not caring about his family's conversation. he stares at this one message, and thinks, and thinks, and thinks, how to respond. he doesn't want to make a fool of himself again.

"that's... great. i thought nobody would see it. it was dumb."

"well, it got me worried. do
you want me to leave?"

the response is so quick it's impressing. the person in front of the opposite screen must be really firm, in comparison to tyler, who thinks ten minutes, what to write.

and no, he doesn't want this person to leave. the last thing tyler wants is somebody to leave again.

"no, you don't need to leave."

"do you want to talk then?"

"sure."

tyler found it a little creepy at first, but then he remembered he asked for that by making not less creepy post. talking through the messages isn't dangerous. it's going to be fine. just talking to a complete stranger. seems fun.

"okay, tell me something about
yourself, if you want. then i'll
tell you something about myself."

what should he say? he knows he can't reveal too much. however, telling a little information won't be anything bad. he thinks. he looks up at the table. almost every kid looks at a phone screen, ashley too, but the family conversation still continues. he's safe.

"what do you want to know?"

"what you're interested in,
place where you live, i don't
know, whatever."

"i love music the most. i compose and write my own songs, but they're shitty, though. i try."

"do you play?"

"the instruments?"

"yeah."

"piano and uke."

"that's great... do you show it
to other people?"

"you should."

"kind of."

"kind of?"

yeah, kind of. just to people on the web. but i'm too scared to show them my stupid face, he thinks.

"not completely."

"okay, at least you do."

tyler doesn't know, how to respond to this. he sucks at being a people-person. that's why he is always alone. he doesn't respond. the person on the other side doesn't either. at least not as fast as they did before. they found tyler boring and rude, that's sure. or not yet, because another message pops up.

"what about your name?"

tyler forgot about that. he forgot, that the main way of starting a proper conversation is introducing yourself. telling your name. he can't reveal his name though. yes, youtube knows his name is tyler, but he isn't on youtube right now.

"would you get mad if i didn't tell you?"

"at least not yet."

"how would i call you then?"

"whatever you think is fine."

"will you tell me your name then?"

"well, i shouldn't tell you my
name if you aren't going to
tell me yours, should i?"

"how do i call you then?"

"whatever you think is fine."

the irony.

tyler's mom tells kids to put their phones aside, because the dinner is ready. all of them are obedient, and so is tyler. maybe it's time to listen to family conversation for the first time. he just decides to check his phone for the last time.

"okay, fine. i'll make it easier."

"you can call me message man."

Chapter Text

"someone convinced me to sing this song," tyler can be heard in the newest of his videos, showing himself in the camera, sitting cross-legged beside his bed, hugged by thin, brown sweater. "i don't usually listen to other people's requests, especially requests to songs like that one, but that person almost begged me, so... you ask, i deliver."

he grabs his ukulele from his bed and sets it in between his legs, then fixes some stuff in his phone in front of him. everybody knows he records videos with a phone.

"i don't know full lyrics yet, so if i fail, it will be..." he hesitates, "you'll see. don't be scared."

he hums quietly for almost a long minute, as if he could fall asleep right there; he doesn't care he's in front of others, he takes his time, never starting, when he's not ready.

he coughs a few times, then fiddles a little with colourful ribbons tied together around the head of his ukulele, the instrument a little bigger than he had in his older videos, making the boy's figure even smaller whilst hugging the ukulele tightly to his chest.

it seems like hours has passed, like he's not really sure about his appearance, like he forgot he's being recorded, until quick sigh and one loud strum break the silence.

once, twice, ten times.

he plays some happy and fast melody, the simplest one you can extract from the little instrument, not even singing a word for a long time, again. dainty fingers never forgetting the tempo.

after the long-ish introduction, the rhythm can be heard slowing down to new, individual, but firm sounds. "it's the remix to ignition," he begins singing slowly, but still keeping the firm pace of strumming, "hot and fresh out the kitchen, mama rolling that body, got every man in here wishing."

there's no hesitation in his voice anymore, he sings like he's on tape, on and on, the sound swallowing his body.

"sipping on coke and rum, i'm like so what i'm drunk. it's the freaking weekend, baby, i'm about to have me some fun." he sighs quietly again and does a little pause, just to begin again, with much more energy and passion and more dedication to the song. he almost shouts out of nowhere, "crystal poppin' in the stretch navigator, we got food everywhere, as if the party was catered."

the melody is lovely. the voice is happy.

"we got fellas to my left," pause, "hunnies on my right. we bring them both together, we got drinking all night..." he prolongs the note and adds quiet sentence of his own; "i don't know, what that means," before stopping playing and singing completely, setting the room in complete silence again, and making his breathing the only sound being audible. the end.

"holy shit," brendon shouts, dropping his phone on a table at the same time, before leaning on his chair and looking with wide eyes and smile at josh sitting to his right, already laughing breathless and not less wide-eyed than brendon.

they sit outside a friendly coffee shop, by one of the round tables beside the window. brendon, josh, and hayley.

since ashley recommended hayley tyler's channel that first day of school, hayley willingly watches his cover videos, being interested in music as much, and as intrigued by the boy as the rest of her mates.

but she turned out to be the only one, who offered the two boys to look at tyler's latest video, which had been uploaded previous night. "we have to support our friend," she said, quieting brendon and josh at once during their walk home. the most suitable place to watch in silence was her favourite coffee shop she goes to every week.

the whole trio bought coffees for themselves and almost approached one of the tables, when hayley said, "it's too hot to burn out our butts on these warm couches." and even if it wasn't too hot, the day was cloudy and grey, and they were all wearing light jackets, they found themselves sitting here, in the open area beside the window, waiting for brendon to start tyler's video on his phone, and sipping hot coffee from their paper cups.

"one eternity later," brendon laughs at tyler's frequent pauses and hesitations before even starting singing. hayley hits him in the arm.

at that point, when tyler straightens himself, giving a signal, that it is now, he is going to begin, both hayley and josh are almost leaning their heads against brendon's opposite shoulders, as he doesn't have so long arms so both of his friends see the screen whilst sitting to his left and right.

when the first sounds can be heard, josh almost spits out his hot coffee and burns his tongue by the way, drawing attention by his unexpected coughs. wide-eyed, he shakes his head and let his friends continue watching.

not so much later all of them are smiling, brendon even laughing, josh still wide-eyed with raised eyebrows and crooked grin. they are staring with amusement at mysterious boy's happy shouting the lyrics which make his voice sound like he might let out a chuckle, too.

they don't care, that they are outside, and passersby can clearly hear, what they are watching, or listening to. the second the video ends, all of them let out loud sighs, as if they watched torturous and incredibly long film.

"holy shit," brendon shouts, dropping his phone on a table at the same time, before leaning on his chair and looking with wide eyes and a smile at josh sitting to his right, already laughing breathless and not less wide-eyed than brendon.

"did he- did he just sing ignition or do i have hallucinations?" josh says with difficulty between his laughs and leans on the table, hiding his head in his arms.

"your vision is clear, josh." brendon answers. "but listen, i used to love this song when i was young and i would sing it out loud with my father in his car, being like 10 years old. we used to sing it on my way to school!"

"same," josh interrupts.

"but why did nobody tell me how inappropriate for 10 year old was this song?" brendon asks loudly and takes a sip of his already almost empty cup of coffee. "the lyrics are bad."

"seriously bad is the best word, that came into your mind?" josh grins.

brendon scoffs, "singing that removed my child innocence at the age of 10! why wouldn't my parents tell me that i shouldn't listen to that?"

"well, because you didn't know the meaning, which means you still were an innocent child. they didn't want to destroy that." hayley smiles cheekily.

"i feel worse now, knowing that i actually wasn't innocent. i should feel guilty, but i never did. my dad experienced me singing that at least once a week as a 10 year old."

"10 year old or 18 year old... better sooner than later," josh says.

hayley laughs again and brendon looks up and rolls his eyes in front of josh, but before he can speak up, josh adds;

"okay, stop overreacting. you make this song seem worse, than it actually is, but it's great. and everybody in this world used to sing songs they didn't know the meaning of. many people still are. it's nothing new."

"okay, okay, but this kid has talent," hayley grins at both of her friends and takes brendon's phone from the table to scroll through some comments below the video. "i'm more and more positive after watching these every time he posts."

"i'm not going to deny, dude," brendon confirms. "he's going to kill it at that music competition."

"oh, right!" hayley points out. "when we were signing up, i told him i already had no chances at competing with him. i wasn't wrong."

"you're really great too!" brendon taps hayley on the shoulder. "but if he's going to choose this song to sing again, the victory will be his."

when nobody responds, brendon looks at hayley, then at josh, who stares at brendon with raised eyebrows.

"josh. what got you so quiet?" he asks. brendon hates silence.

josh breathes out slowly, then takes his breath in again, "i just... i wasn't expecting him sing that, that's all." he doesn't stop smiling.

"why not?"

josh almost stands from his seat. is brendon deaf? "why not? have you seen that?" he points at the phone hayley still holds in her hands. "or more like, have you heard that? tyler singing those lyrics... dude..."

no matter what circumstances, josh would never even think tyler joseph would be able to sing a song like that one. he just doesn't see that boy as somebody, who listens to music like that, and, he has no idea, if it does matter, but he's actually ran away from josh a few times, because he was scared of him, so it means something. they have never had an opportunity to exchange words, josh barely knows, how his voice sounds, when he talks, but that doesn't mean josh can't see, how is tyler inside like. he's met many people in his life, but what he saw a few minutes ago was beyond his expectations.

and sure, maybe he is naive, because still waters run deep. maybe he's wrong. it happens. what surprises him even more, is that tyler has created some kind of character on his channel and tries to stick to it. figure of mysterious poet even fits perfectly to his own self in real life, but also, his videos consist of singing some deep lyrics, which josh doesn't even have time and strength to rethink, and reciting sad poems by the weak light of his bedside lamp. everything is perfect there, josh has to admit. everything sends shivers down your spine and makes you contemplate about his and your existence. everything is secretive and dark. except that one song tyler decided to share yesterday night.

if somebody really convinced tyler to do that, that person might have a big impact on tyler. not that josh complains.

"oh, yeah!" brendon notices. "have you heard that? i don't know, what that means!" he mocks tyler, "that was freaking cute!" hayley nods, not looking away from brendon's phone, but being able to listen to the conversation. "he doesn't know, what that means! he's the sweetest human, i can't handle it."

they both start laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, and at the fact, that they still are too loud to sit outside the coffee shop; they make more noise, than the cars passing by.

"but he's also a mysterious, freaky shit," josh adds.

"aw, somebody's scared!" josh hears the words, that are very familiar to him now since the very second morning in his new school. seems like a long ago, but only about two weeks ago.

"i am not," josh responds similarly.

"you are. because that," brendon points at his own phone, "was good."

"that was really fucking great, if i'm being honest," josh declares, being ready for surprised words and wide eyes directed towards him, but he actually notices none of these reactions, so he adds again, "i'm just surprised he sang that. it doesn't match his... theme, because it's kind of happy and fast song. he only sings about dark stuff."

"am i wrong or did you watch more of his videos?" brendon smirks.

josh groans. "i'm just pissed off, that he has ideas for better and better stuff exactly at the time, when i have no ideas. i haven't posted anything for a week."

brendon smiles. "oh, yeah. you were posting something almost every day, and i was always wondering, how many ideas did you have in your head."

yeah, they had been still here a few weeks ago, but magically vanished, when he started being stressed out and had more stuff to carry on his back.

sometimes josh forgets brendon had been watching his videos before they even met. now he finds it really kind of him, and appreciates that he, but also ashley, and the rest of the group of friends, accept him exactly, how is he like, and how his life looks like.

"don't worry. we'll come up with something. i'll help you for sure." brendon's smile doesn't disappear from his face, and again, josh thinks that moving out to this city wasn't that bad as he'd thought at first. everything is harder and more difficult to get used to, but it's a fresh start. he had never realised he needed that. he just hopes nothing will happen, what could make him change his mind.

Chapter Text

"i regret even listening to you,"

tyler types on his phone as he carefully scrolls through every comment below his latest cover video. he can get millions of them, but he would never overlook any. he's honestly desperate for people's opinion, which always gives him a hint about what he should do to intrigue them more.

comments are important for him, because they are about him. reading about himself from many points of view is one of the most interesting things he's ever experienced. everybody wants to know, what do they look like in other eyes. tyler wants too.

he never obeys to any comment though. usually, at least. people tell him not to do that. tyler does that. it became a habit for some reason. if they are really loyal, they will stay no matter what.

"tyler, seriously, did i really wait 4 minutes for actual video to start? that's annoying, dude." the next video tyler posted had 4:30 minute pause at the beginning, during which the only sight from the screen was purple wall, and the only sound was muffled footsteps somewhere behind the camera.

"great music, as always! btw, could you fix the sound the next time? it hurts my ears, when i have earphones in." a thread of people agreeing to the comment appeared in a span of minutes. the next time tyler was recording the video, he put hair dryer on his bed and turned it on. if somebody wanted to hear tyler's voice clearly, they had to turn up the volume to the highest. it had been really cruel and childish of him, tyler started thinking some day, but at least it had been some fun in his pathetic life.

and, of course, dozens and thousands of people pleading him to show his face finally, and the other bunch hating on him for being so weird. what's so important with showing the face? the message is the most significant in his job. he didn't begin this with an intention to shine with his face, even though faces are often half of the success.

tyler reads carefully even comments like these; examining every word. he rolls his eyes afterwards and looks down at another one.

he doesn't reply to anything, still. it seems like he doesn't exist anywhere else except for inside his camera. some think he simply doesn't care, and that's why he never interacts. that's wrong. he's just insanely scared.

sometimes he thinks it would be nice to speak out, but along with that thought comes the realisation, that there's no chance to do that. people know him good enough already, and wouldn't let him go easily afterwards. theories about him are obviously being made. that is already that stage of fame. tyler isn't famous. but it's cool to read something healone doesn't even know about his own self.

coming back to tyler's latest video; singing the song recommended by one person in particular made bigger mess than it had been necessary. tyler doesn't know, why, but people are asking for more. what more? he constantly post more and more content. there's no need to be afraid.

tyler is glad it's getting attention, but he hasn't expected so much attention. it's suddenly too much to deal with in past few days. it's finally some popular song, not personal stuff tyler writes on his phone, that's why people like it. and that's finally some sort of happy song, not screaming out of despair, that's why people are freaking out.

it doesn't take long, when tyler hears a buzz from his phone and he has to stop with his tracks for a moment.

"what's wrong?"

everything is wrong, tyler wants to say, but that's not the right answer to the question. that person tyler has been texting with on tumblr for almost a week now, told tyler to try to learn that song on ukulele. they don't know tyler decided to make a cover of this song and put it on the internet.

since the first day, they've been talking with each other very casually, like lost long friends; no uncomfortable topics, no pressure. they haven't even got to know basic informations about each other, like name or age. it's not, that tyler wants to reveal his name at all. at least not yet.

the main reason that person texted tyler in the first place was his creepy post on tumblr, but they probably forgot about it a long time ago. they don't mention it. however, tyler will have to mention it some time. that's why he wanted a help.

a help with emotional instability, because some josh moved in to his city and tyler has no idea at all, what to do. how weak.

how is tyler going to respond to that text? "nothing's wrong, just a bunch of people want me to sing something like that again, and happy songs make me look weird"? definitely not. tyler hasn't talked about his youtube account, even a word. then why did he start this conversation like that? he has to make up some different proper response very quickly, but nothing comes into his head.

what about telling him finally? him? is that a guy? well, it has to be. tyler doesn't even know. who is he even texting with?

"my sister heard me singing that song and now i have to teach her playing it on the uke."

tyler hates to lie, and honestly can't lie. he can see people knowing he's lying even through texts. that's why he acts like that around josh. he probably already knows everything. he finds tyler scary, for sure.

another buzz.

"i've never heard that song being
played on ukulele, but i bet it sounds
sick."

"hopefully."

to be honest, the person hiding behind message man name makes tyler feel a tiny bit cool. he's never thought a conversation with a complete stranger would be that easy. like with ashley, but ten times quicker. tyler can say anything, that comes into his mind and not be afraid, if it is appropriate, or not.

talking to strangers isn't so bad idea at all. they don't know you. you don't know them. you can tell them anything, though. they still have no idea, who you are. they don't even care. but on the other hand, you have something to kill and fill your time with. someone to listen to you and examine your thoughts and beliefs.

tyler describes himself as boring person. he often doesn't have a proper answer to questions asked towards him. he often answers with nervous laughter or doesn't answer at all. he also has a weird kind of humour, so he prefers to stay silent, than be laughed at later.

but right now, it's not his problem at all. he can send a dumb emoji and still keep the conversation going. maybe that is a good person to share your secrets with. maybe. not yet.

"what are you doing?"

"nothing."

"come on."

"i have a mood for ice cream."

"it's too cold for ice cream."

"it's never too cold for ice cream."

"the colder the better."

"you're weird."

"so are you."

that's how most of their texts look like. at first they both acted mysterious, as if their life depended on it, but in a span of few days they got more comfortable and laughed at that. is it, what tyler wanted? maybe.

however, one stupid question still tortures him on daily basis.

"can i ask you a question?"

not even a single second passes and tyler feels another buzz. he was afraid he wouldn't get any response at all. everybody freaks out at "can i ask you a question?" question.

"come down for dinner."

that's not the answer he was expecting. but that's actually the message he'd been waiting for. his mum is calling him for dinner. good, he is starving.

he closes every page on his computer, even though his computer is safe in this house, at least he hopes so. nobody enters his room without his knowledge. it's not, that he has something to hide. his parents control him enough to manage to hide something from them.

as he walks down the stairs, he notices a glimpse of blue hair from the kitchen. ashley sits comfortably by the kitchen table, staring at her phone.

"hi?" tyler speaks up, as he approaches the table and joins the girl. dinner's not ready yet, tyler's mother is still in hurry in the kitchen.

"hi!" ashley greets tyler with a wide grin. she's happy and smiley again. this girl would never remove that smile from her face. she even smiles through the pain. that's why tyler has to spend much time with her. he's a total opposite.

"why didn't you come upstairs?" tyler asks as the girl puts her phone down on the table.

"i just came in. i wanted to help aunt in the kitchen, but she didn't want me to."

"yeah, look at her," tyler looks up at his mother humming some song on the radio whilst preparing last details of the meal, "she always seems to have like six hands in the kitchen, but she always refuses when i offer her help. then she complains i do nothing productive in this house."

"same with my mom. but i actually do nothing productive."

"oh, are you even in your house sometimes?" tyler jokes, keeping his expression slightly serious. ashley spends more time in tyler's house than in her own. that also contains her sleeping here. when she sleeps in her own room, she often sneaks out and breaks into tyler's in the middle of the night. tyler doesn't mind. at least he's not alone. his parents don't seem to mind as well, so who is he to complain?

"i just came back from my house. i made dad very proud." she smiles sweetly, not looking away from tyler's mother doing who-knows-what in the kitchen. "it smells wonderful."

"it would smell even better, if i helped her," tyler says and chuckles a little. ashley sends him back her small laugh, admiring his lovely face and enjoying the fact, that he seems to be happy. it's good.

"well, mr. perfect, my dad asked about you today."

"yeah? what did he want?"

"nothing, he was just like, tyler is performing tomorrow, right? record him or something, i want to know which song he wins with." she smirks. "look, my father loves you more than me. i got used to that."

"same thing with my mom. she doesn't care about me anymore. she doesn't even listen to me, but always talks with you. we should exchange our parents."

"definitely."

suddenly tyler's face falters a little and his smile fades. he gazes down at the corner of the table and feels his phone buzzing inside his pocket, but he doesn't react.

"what's it, tyler?" ashley notices immediately.

"it's just... never mind."

"come on, you can tell me." ashley smiles and puts comforting hand on tyler's, now fully healed, shoulder.

tyler takes a deep breath and says in one go, "i've been thinking about not appearing at the competition tomorrow."

"why?" ashley asks a little bit too loudly. tyler's mother turns around and looks at the kids, but only for a second, turning her gaze back to the counter and saying something to tyler's siblings.

"i didn't want to perform in the first place. i didn't consider that decision thoroughly."

"but ty..." ashley sighs. "you registered your song and everything is planned out. people are waiting for you."

"i don't think i would get into trouble if gave up in the last moment. i could say i had caught a pneumonia."

"you could, but you could lose your chance."

"chance to what?" tyler asks sarcastically. "to embarrass myself in front of the whole school? i enjoy what i already have."

"why the fuck would you even embarrass yourself? have you seen how many people love your singing? have you read all these comments? or are you too busy watching josh's videos?"

"i read everything, to your surprise," tyler snaps. "i just don't see any use performing at school. i'm good with being a secret youtuber."

ashley looks away, smiling nervously. "i think you're not a secret anymore."

"fantastic," tyler grumbles, leaning on his chair and crossing his arms, wrapping them tightly around his chest. he stares at nothing. it's embarrassing how he keeps bringing himself problems only to avoid josh. he can't keep going that way. life doesn't work like that. well, what would go wrong if he finally told him that simple hi in the hallway? he's comfortable with talking to the stranger. he's known josh for a longer time. what could go wrong?

speaking of the stranger; tyler forgot about him for a moment, so he pulls out his phone and opens the app.

"shoot."

they are probably freaking out at what is taking tyler so long, but that's not going to be some serious and private question. well, tyler should've already known the answer, but he's still hesitating.

"so, message man," tyler rolls his eyes at "i'm assuming you're a male, right?"

"seriously, that is your question?"

"that is my question."

before tyler can get any kind of response, he can hear his siblings shouting, and parents coming to sit at the table. that doesn't stop him from looking down at his phone. unless his parents decide to ask him serious questions he doesn't find serious at all.

"guys, have you seen tyler's cover?" well. or ashley.

tyler shoots the girl a mortal glare, repeating internally you will regret that. tyler hates talking about that with his parents, especially during dinner, when he wants to enjoy food and nothing else.

tyler's mother raises her eyebrows, not looking away from the kitchen table, and with a sigh, asks, "no, how is it?" of course not. what normal parent would watch her son chasing his dreams by doing something he's finally proud of?

ashley answers excitedly without hesitation, "it's amazing, oh my go-"

"-it's okay," tyler interrupts. he knows, what happens, when some of them gets too excited about tyler's interests. his parents aren't happy with that at all. they didn't raise him to do that. music is a pathetic choice and it takes much time to succeed, unless you have rich and well-known parents. at least that's, what they keep telling him.

"i should watch, but zack stole my laptop for homework and still hasn't given it back to me," his sister says.

zack rolls his eyes. "i'm still doing it, you have to wait."

"oh, for two weeks?"

"it's been like four days, dumbass."

"mom." madison turns to her mother, but tyler doesn't care at all and decides to check his phone again.

"yeah, obviously i am. are you?"

then a new message appears just from this moment.

"because if you're a girl, that would be weird."

"why?"

"because all this time i've
been thinking you're a boy,
and if i weren't right, then it
would be a pretty big surprise."

"be glad i'm a boy."

"you can see pictures of my head or something on my profile, so you should've known."

"they're yours?"

"yes."

"well, it's not that we pay hundreds for his progression, ashley," he can hear his mother talking, but doesn't even join a conversation. only his body is with his family at the moment. his head is somewhere else.

"okay, but girls have short
hair sometimes, too."

"it's obvious i'm not a girl."

"i know."

"how old are you?"

"how old do you want me to be?"

"where did that come from?"

"from my brain."

"are you going to tell me?"

"i asked you a question, too."

"why are you like this?"

"i want you to be somewhere near my age. please, don't be some old guy at the age of my father. it would be creepy."

"what if i am?"

"i am running away and reporting you."

"i don't even know, how old
are you, too. you could be
some old guy as well."

"you started talking to me at the first place. don't blame me."

"no way old guys have so soft hands like i have."

"i saw."

"maybe they have."

"no way."

"plastic surgery exists."

"yikes."

"what's so funny on this phone?" tyler's mother brings him to reality. "if you're texting your girlfriend, save it to a different occasion. not during dinner."

"i am not-"

"what's that with parents assuming their kids are talking to some lovers while they're smiling to their phones?" ashley interrupts tyler and saves him from another awkward situation; not just mentioning some girlfriend by his mother, well, that's awkward as well, but the fact, that tyler will never have any girlfriend. ashley gives his parents hints about that every time they mention it. she never disappoints. "i laugh at my own texts every day. funny pictures exist. funny videos exist. do i even need a girlfriend to find something funny? not on my watch."

"more like a boyfriend," madison corrects her.

ashley snorts, not knowing, what to say. "sure."

after a moment of silence, tyler's mother speaks up again. "we were talking about you, tyler."

"i know," tyler mumbles.

"so you should really rethink my words."

"i understand your words very well, mom."

"you're taking this internet thing a little bit too seriously, tyler." his mother doesn't look away from him. he avoids her gaze at all costs.

tyler wants to rip his hair out. "isn't it good?"

"there are more important things for you."

"what?" he almost shouts. "basketball? even though i'm good at it, that doesn't mean i enjoy it."

his mother blinks from a fake surprise. "you've always enjoyed basketball."

"maybe i enjoy music more." tyler is one second away from standing up and rushing out of the house.

"the thing is, your future is certain with basketball. look at your trophies. we are so proud of you."

"then why aren't you proud of me, when i do something different?"

"it's not, what you have been supposed to do-"

"okay, seriously, sorry, but why can't you just let tyler do what he's interested in?" ashley interrupts again. tyler has never in his life been so grateful for her. "he is really successful, you should check him out sometimes. it's not that it's his life, and decision made by his parents can change his whole life completely, duh," she adds with a sarcasm.

tyler knows ashley is his parents' weak point, especially his mother's. ashley is clever most of the time, when it comes to terrible conversations at a kitchen table. they also like ashley very much. they never argue with her.

"i don't want to affect on your life, tyler. i'm just trying to say, that if you choose something beyond basketball, it might not work out."

"you know what?" tyler excuses himself and stands from the chair, looking around and at the table. "i'm performing at a music competition tomorrow, and ashley's dad said i'm going to win it."

he turns around, gets his shoes, and rushes out of the house, slamming the door loudly.

Chapter Text

"i look idiotic," tyler says the second after he meets ashley at the door of her apartment on thursday morning, with his keyboard under his arm. it was a random decision made the previous night in ashley's house.

after the argument with his mother, he ran away straight to ashley's, even though she still stayed in his home with his family, talking about who-knows-what.

he talked almost an hour with his uncle, or, ashley's dad, mostly about the competition he'd been so excited about. ashley didn't lie saying that her dad had his fingers crossed for tyler. it was good to finally talk with an adult about things, that keep you going and you are proud of, who understands you completely and respects your actions. he's always been envious of ashley's parents, but yesterday he was more than ever.

he just can't believe, that ashley's dad and his mother are true siblings from one mother and father. they are totally different. ashley's parents have never had any problem with tyler spending hours in their house after him and ashley started to be friends. they have never had any problem with letting in the other people she wanted to invite either. tyler's parents don't have any problem with ashley, too, of course, but that took much time for them to finally get used to the girl. even thought they liked her, they didn't allow her to come over, because tyler has to practise for this, and study for that. ashley would sneak in through his bedroom window anyway. once his parents found out, they knew they wouldn't be able to oppose. tyler is sure they wouldn't get tyler his way that easily, if ashley weren't a part of the family.

ashley's parents would never yell at her if she got a bad grade at math. it was her life; if she messed up, she would pay for it. tyler doesn't know, if that's what good parents are, but that's definitely, how tyler wants his own parents to be. ashley's mom and dad at least don't control her every move and make for her decisions, that should be made only by her.

tyler didn't come back to his house yesterday. he didn't want to let them win, and make them see him as nobody but a fool, asking for forgiveness after entering the house with "just forget about it".

he spent the night in ashley's house, but they didn't sleep at all. they spent most of their sleeping time to babble especially about tyler's competition; what would people think, and what his chances with other opponents are.

at 3 at night, or early morning, ashley had one of her fantastic ideas, suggesting tyler to bring his piano to school and not only sing, but play. it sounded ridiculous at first, but it wasn't so bad idea at all.

tyler was more afraid of carrying his keyboard to school and explaining to teachers, why he'd brought a piano to class, than performing with the piano in general.

so at 7 a.m. he decided to hurry to his house only to get his backpack, change clothes, and, of course, get his keyboard. he didn't care, what would his parents think seeing him carry his 88-key piano through the door. he told them yesterday about competition, and if they believed him or not, it wasn't his business that time. he removed the key stand and shoved it folded up somewhere inside his backpack, took the instrument with both of his hands, and casually left the house.

"you look cool, people will immediately know you're a musician," ashley shrugs, fully leaving her block and approaching tyler. "do you want me to help you?"

"no, i'm fine." tyler smiles awkwardly. even though the instrument is quite heavy, he is fortunately able to carry it the whole way to school. it will be more difficult to carry it through the school.

ashley notices the downfall of tyler's mood. she was certain, that he would behave that way for the whole day, but he can't remain so nervous, if he wants to win.

"i guess you want to know, what i was doing with your parents after you had left?" she asks.

"yeah, probably."

ashley laughs and takes a deep breath, "i forced them to watch your videos."

tyler doesn't know, what would be worse; ashley watching his videos with his parents, or ashley keeping the intense argument with them. he only rolls his eyes. he doesn't hide from his parents, they could watch him singing anytime they wanted to. yeah, while they wanted to. that's why it never happens.

"and how did it go?"

"i probably made your mom feel guilty," ashley says, "good for her."

"there's no way she could feel guilty. not her."

"then you have to win this thing, and we'll all be alright." she smiles.

"i won't win, i'm sure about that," tyler whines and stares at a horizon far away, before zoning out completely and walking without looking at the street.

"are you serious?" the girl bursts.

"positive."

"you're bringing the piano," she says it, as if it was the greatest thing of the day. "i bet nobody will have any instrument. your performance will be special, and will make people remember you."

"yes, most certainly, for hitting them in the head whilst carrying this through the hallway."

"don't complain, jeez. playing instruments sows the grain of respect in people."

they are almost there, and tyler didn't think holding his keyboard would be that easy. that's probably because he's too nervous to think how heavy it really is. while he thinks about is again, the instrument gets heavier again.

"i still think they won't allow me to play piano," he says.

"and why's that? they will be grateful to finally see somebody so creative to bring the piano."

"it may remind them of something like, look, i brought the piano for this, now let me win."

"tyler," ashley stops in the middle of the street, only for tyler to look back at her. he doesn't enjoy that. the piano is heavy. hurry up. "don't impair my amazing plan."

"i still hope hayley wins," he mumbles under his breath, before exhaling deeply and passing the gates of his school.

the courtyard is always crowded in the morning; no matter, if it's winter, or summer, people find it important not to overlook anybody entering the building. tyler and ashley are never a surprise though. they always stick together, and people don't think it's weird anymore. it would be weird if one of them came without the other one.

"where should i go right now?" tyler asks. "should i go to someone and announce i am here and will perform?"

ashley shakes her head. "i don't know, but we can go and check."

"i just need to put the keyboard in my locker."

things don't go so easily ashley thought earlier. apparently shoving the keyboard into a locker is a new sensation to all students passing by. while tyler carefully puts the instrument inside, and checks, if everything is in the right place after pretty unsafe trip along the city, ashley answers to all the questions asked and not asked towards the couple of them. tyler tries to be as slow as possible, just do hide his face behind the locker door and avoid talking to people.

"we robbed a music store an hour ago, right?" he can hear ashley arguing with some nerdy girl. she takes it really seriously and defend tyler as if her life depended on it. just leave it alone, ashley. "...because school is the last place they would accuse?" she continues.

"i can call the principal really quickly," stranger girl threatens, and at that moment tyler shuts his locker loudly and heads to leave the area.

ashley rolls her eyes to a girl. "go ahead?" she runs away from the stubborn girl and reaches tyler. however, tyler doesn't know, where to go. to his class? to the gym? is somebody already there? obviously there is. the competition starts in two hours. who, except for him, is participating? is every single student from school going to watch? "i can see you worrying."

"yeah, i am worrying," tyler says tediously. he is extremely afraid. performing in his own room in front of his small phone, around his personal space is one thing, and performing in front of the whole school, in front of every judging eye of people, who find you strange, is the other thing.

"tyler, don't worry. we all will be with you, and we will be cheering and clapping like no one!" oh, that makes things even worse.

"thanks," tyler tries his best to show her a small smile. "but how can i know, that you are going to be there for certain?"

"i am going to be there, that's for sure. if i tell a teacher it's about you, there will be no second of hesitation and they will let me go."

"well, that is a fact." tyler shrugs and heads to the classroom, seeing, that most of students are already here. it's history. he isn't going to listen to anything. he's extremely afraid. extremely stressed out.

he decides to pull out his phone and distract himself a little bit, just to start thinking about anything besides the contest. he hasn't heard anything from the message man today. that's a good moment to start a conversation.

"did you know i have a music competition today?"

"you haven't told me."

the response comes really quick, and tyler starts to wonder, if that person really is right now at school, if he is tyler's age? well, tyler is on his phone right now as well, but he wouldn't respond so quickly anyway. he isn't good at talk and doesn't have enough words in his vocabulary.

does he go to school? or maybe he's from different state? time zones exist. is he-

"why didn't you tell me earlier?"

"why would i?"

"just to be nice."

"am i not nice, that i'm telling you right now?"

"it seems to me like you were
delaying with telling me,
because you didn't want to tell
me, or something."

"don't you trust me?"

okay. that was random. tyler immediately looks around the classroom to see, if anybody isn't observing him, and at the teacher, who's lost in his story about crusaders.

he has no idea, what he is going to respond. it isn't the kind of question you get every day and can answer it without thinking much.

they've been talking only for over one week. that's probably not enough time to trust somebody, but well, tyler already trusted him enough to respond to his first message, right?

maybe that was only a stupid question, that meant nothing, but tyler took it too seriously again. he's overreacting.

"i was joking. sorry to scare you."

"but it would be cool if you
trusted me."

"i don't even trust myself."

"that's what i expected you to
say."

"good luck, good luck. :)"

tyler wishes, that luck will stay with him until the end of the day, because he's still so nervous he is sure he will mess things up.

the next hour tyler goes on a rehearsal in a gym, leaving ashley alone by her desk and announcing in class tyler's participation in competition. of course, the teacher disagrees to waste a precious hour of history for a music contest, so it takes a few more minutes to beg him to see their friends sing.

ashley repeated her please chant the whole lesson. it worked. being annoying works very often.

during the second break the whole group heads to the gym, hearing already muffled sounds of background music. the room is already crowded and ashley can't see tyler anywhere around them, so she decides to text him to check, if everything is alright.

"we are here!"

"where are you?"

"you can't see me, i'm hiding."

"good luck, do it for your mom, *wink*."

"no."

the girl only starts laughing and guides the gang, which has just joined her a few moments ago to watch together. rows of seats stretch along half of the gym, people like also to seat on the bleachers above.

they really look like a gang, when they come inside as a group of almost ten people, making people turn around, and occupying the whole long row in the middle. ashley, sitting on the side, has the best sight of the stage. beside her sits brendon, and beside brendon josh, pete, patrick, dallon, mark, and two friends of mark.

"what is tyler going to sing?" brendon asks a little bit too loudly.

"i don't know, he didn't mention. i think some of his own songs," ashley whispers, looking around by the time. the place is really crowded.

suddenly the music stops and whispers quiet, making a single breath audible. it's a weird feeling after previous loudness. lights turn off, but the light of ashley's phone brightens the area around her. new message from tyler.

"hayley performs the last."

"hayley performs the last!" ashley repeats, after turning to her right. she's surrounded by boys. they nod and she looks forward at the stage, seeing some lady announcing the competition.

"when are you performing?"

"i don't know."

tyler is probably going to be somewhere in the middle. it would be good. when you perform first, people don't remember you well later. when you perform last, people are already too tired to listen to you. poor hayley.

ashley wriggles on her seat uncomfortably and groans quietly, "i swear, if he doesn't win..."

"you care more than he does." brendon laughs and josh joins him.

"oh, josh. how nice to see you," ashley throws sarcastically and puts on a fake smile. "i didn't notice you."

josh raises his eyebrows, "am i that boring? maybe that's better so you don't talk to me."

brendon, witnessing another flourishing fight between them both, literally, shoves them with his elbows. "get away, i want to see."

"i came here for tyler, not for you. i have nothing to talk about with you," she adds.

"maybe about tyler," josh sighs.

"shut up!" she whisper-shouts.

that's how the first performance pass, it's the girl singing lana del rey. she has pretty voice, but probably not that special to win the competition. applause is well-deserved though.

the second song is sung by a duo, boy and girl. they look like siblings, twins even. they are not too bad. they are good. they sing acapella, it's not really ashley's and boys' thing, but they agree with her it is good. tyler sends a text again in the middle of the song;

"me and hayley could have made a duo."

"how are you so calm right now? put the phone away."

that would be a good idea. ashley heard hayley singing once, and it was probably the best female "performance" she'd heard. even though she and tyler have different tastes in music, they could end up quite good together as performers.

another performance passes. ashley might have a heart attack.

"hey, i think there are tyler's keys," josh whispers to his left side, to brendon and ashley, and he's right. a few seconds ago it wasn't there, but right now it stands here, in the corner, tyler's keyboard. the whole row starts being louder.

"can we start cheering, or is it inappropriate now?"

"do whatever you can to lighten up the mood."

the same lady like at the beginning walks to the middle of the stage and announces, that the next performer is going to be tyler joseph, age 18. she can no longer be heard as the boys start clapping loudly, the whole gym following them. they are even louder, when tyler appears from the door and approaches his piano, never looking up at people. there's a long pause before anything can be heard. just like in his videos. he's trying to get comfortable.

ashley has almost forgot about her plan to record tyler's performance, so she pulls out her phone before the first chords can be heard.

the first chords make a silent, delicate sound, which makes people hum and already start singing. they know the song. everybody knows this song. apparently tyler didn't choose his own thing to perform. he choose the biggest hit from ten years ago.

"i'm holding on the rope, got me ten feet off the ground," he begins singing, still quietly like his piano, and then everybody knows.

"i love this song!" brendon interrupts, but fortunately he isn't heard by many people. ashley shushes him anyway.

"i'm hearing, what you say, but i just can't make a sound." tyler's voice cracks a little for being so quiet. still, it's audible enough for the whole room to hear. there are speakers all around.

the piano already sounds incredible with that song. it's a piano song.

tyler suddenly raises his voice to sing another verse. "they tell me, that you mean it, then you go and cut me down, but wait," he finally looks up at the crowd, "you tell me, that you're sorry, didn't think i'd turn around and say..."

ashley and her friends feel a huge urge to stand up and sing chorus with him, but they don't want to destroy the performance and tyler's own moment.

"that it's too late to apologize. it's too late..." he starts singing melodiously and high. it's so delicate it could be impossible to match perfectly with now strong sounds of the keys, but it is real. "said it's too late to apologize. it's too late."

ashley's arm hurts from holding her phone above her head without any move, but she keeps recording. she nods in right direction, trying to say that is what they came for.

"but i'm afraid. it's too late to apologize, it's too late."

he repeats the same chorus three times, sounding the same, but reaching even higher and higher, staring at the end of his microphone.

he slowly stops playing and hums the melody quietly, before singing the last words, "i'm holding on the rope, got me ten feet off the ground." and closing his eyes, listening to the loud cheer, again, from every corner of the room. he gives two thank you's and nothing else, disappearing behind the door again.

"your friend should win," ashley hears and she couldn't agree more if she tried.

tyler approaches the group right near the end of the competition, when hayley starts singing. he is still nervous like before, seeing every gaze turned in his direction. it feels new.

he shakes hands with every person in a row, even though he doesn't know some of them. he even shakes hands with josh, turning his gaze away a second after to hide his probably visible blush. he barely feels that though, he's too nervous.

he really likes, how hayley sings. she sings some happy, to his surprise, song, but her voice is strong, and it can be heard with every word accented with nothing but firmness. she gets even louder applause than tyler. he claps too. she should win, he thinks. definitely.

the results are going to be revealed in thirty minutes. tyler doesn't feel so nervous anymore. he wouldn't be surprised, if he didn't win. there were many amazing people before and after him. how didn't he know this school raised talented people?

after a bit more than thirty minutes, the same woman appears on stage again, announcing, that she already knows, who is the winner. if students were the ones to decide, hayley would be probably the winner, and tyler would have second place. well, only judges' choice counts.

she opens the envelope, sending a smile to the crowd. tyler is calm as never.

third place. the name tyler has never heard before.

second place. the name tyler doesn't recognize.

ashley looks at him with opened mouth. "now it's going to be you. oh, man. it's happening."

"it's probably hayley. hopefully."

but it's not.

and it's not tyler.

it's the name of the girl, who performed at the very beginning. tyler remembered her name, because she was at the top of the list. people are cheering and clapping. tyler doesn't feel anything at all.

"what the hell?" ashley begins. "i thought she was good at the beginning, but there were many better people than her afterwards. she doesn't deserve that."

"ashley, stop talking like that."

"no, tyler, seriously, she wasn't that good," ashley interrupts. she really cares about that competition more than tyler. he doesn't know, if it's a good thing or not.

"i agree," pete joins.

"i mean, he had the piano, right? everybody had background music played, but he played it himself."

"apparently i wasn't good enough. it's okay." tyler tries to smile. "i won't give up on singing."

tyler smiles, he really smiles, but his eyes don't smile at all. it's obvious he isn't satisfied in the bottom of his heart. judges didn't appreciate him and it hurts, a little, at least. however, he can't forget about the appreciation from the crowd. it was insane, and most probably ashley's impact, but still, something beautiful and something to never forget. he overcame his fear, and that's kind of a big deal.

Chapter Text

if yesterday tyler thought he'd take it easy after his defeat during music competition, he was far from right. he's never thought he'd be worrying over some school contest, but yet the memories of it are haunting him at night, not letting him fall asleep.

he didn't want to participate in the first place. he wasn't expecting to win; maybe his friends were, but he never was. he never finds himself good enough. that performance wasn't probably good enough, he could've done it better. does it mean he messed it up? he thought it was good. just not as good as others.

while tyler is complaining how shaky his voice was, how it was visible and audible, that he almost forgot the lyrics, how his fingers tapped too heavily on the keys during last chorus, and how unfair it would be if he'd won, random students approach him and congratulate for his performance.

"everybody's saying, that results were really unexpected and even counterfeit. most of people definitely remember you the most."

"i know, right?" ashley says, before tyler can even form words, or just a single thank you.

"don't worry about this thing, yeah? they will feel guilty after seeing you taking over some bigger stages in the future."

ashley only nods enthusiastically to tyler and says something similar to "this girl knows, what's going on," with her mouth full of candy.

tyler smiles and says "thank you," more to himself, than to a girl he doesn't even recognize.

he sighs and hides his face in his arms already spread on the desk, hopeful, that nobody else will come here to their desk and talk about yesterday's events.

"i recorded you and showed it to my dad. he wants to see you later," ashley interrupts the silence, and almost wakes tyler up. she's used to him dozing off in classroom quite often. he doesn't get enough sleep at night.

tyler only whines in response at the thought of meeting somebody today. he's extremely exhausted and not ready to face any people.

he hears muffled noise behind himself and raises his head just a little bit to see ashley looking at her phone. "oh, please, don't watch this video in my presence."

"you did great." she tugs on tyler's hoodie hurriedly, but he doesn't make any move. "come on," she says.

"i feel embarrassed, when i watch myself."

however, he turns around and leans back on his seat, rubbing his eyes. he looks and acts like he just got up from bed. he doesn't even see ashley starting the video again, and stares with a dull expression at himself singing behind the piano at the screen.

"oh no, did you-" his eyes immediately widen and he jumps on his seat, "i squeaked like a bird, delete this!"

"hey, it was good. you're overreacting."

tyler covers his whole face with his hands and wipes his eyes. "it sounded like i just hit puberty."

ashley only laughs, as always. "i liked that one song once, i don't remember how it went, but the singers voice always cracked somewhere in the middle, and it was pretty hot."

"how disgusting."

"i need to do a research for this so-"

before ashley manages to finish what she wanted to say, there's brendon running in their direction and shoving his phone to ashley's face. tyler frowns.

"what's up, tadpole? that's ashley." he almost shouts to her ear, and that's when tyler realises he is recording something.

"i'm planning on ripping your wig off, brendon," she says, looking herself directly in the eye on the screen.

"alright, enough! so here is also tyler," brendon wraps his arm around tyler's shoulders, and tyler has to do nothing but smile and wave to the camera. "they both always argue," he laughs.

"not as much i do with you," ashley interrupts from behind.

"yeah, tyler is our sweet love child." tyler only rolls his eyes and nods.

"what do you want, dude?" ashley asks, taking brendon's phone from his grasp.

"not your business, young lady. give me my phone back." he sits on her seat beside tyler, which had ended up being empty after she stood up to snatch brendon's phone. "i will wait. we have all the time in the world. it's good here with ty," he tries his best to include his face in the camera as ashley fiddles with it somewhere out of his reach. "were these seats always so cool? it's better here, next to the window. classroom looks cooler. ashley give me my phone!"

"if you aren't going to tell me, what you're up to, you can forget about your damn phone."

"i'll tell you after it's finished." brendon answers. "now give me my phone." he reaches his hand out, and, to his surprise, ashley throws his phone onto his hand. "was it that hard?"

"shut up."

brendon still doesn't move from his (ashley's) seat and places the camera in front of his and tyler's face again. "she's not like that all the time. she can be lovely, when she wants food, or when it comes to getting a good grade, for example." tyler nods. "and what about you, tyler?"

tyler only turns his face to brendon, question marks in his eyes. brendon laughs.

"he doesn't talk much. shy guy. but it's fun to be with him." yeah, of course, tyler thinks. "okay! it was nice to meet you again. give it up for ashley and tyler."

brendon waves to them both and walks, or runs away, to approach new people and attack them with questions for his video material. they are as confused as tyler, but that's how brendon is. none of them can understand this guy. tyler was too lazy to even ask him, what that was for.

tyler leans on his desk again and watches people and events in front of him. right now is last long break, and just two hours left until they can go home. brendon is the main object of interest in the classroom, and a big circle has already formed around him. tyler didn't notice ashley joining.

he's probably the only person sitting by the table in the room, but he just can't help it. he's too tired, even though it's already noon and he got up from bed six hours ago.

"if it's a footage, which will be shown at the end of school year, i don't want to be included," tyler hears patrick's voice.

then brendon's voice again. "it's not, i don't co-operate with teachers. i'm just recording some video for josh. you know that guy."

and that's when tyler jumps on his seat the second time today. he can barely hear the conversation, but he listens as carefully, as he is able to.

"he's already in the library setting things up, so hurry up and let me record you."

tyler's eyes widen, and he looks around the classroom. brendon recorded him. if that's not enough, he recorded him for josh's video. josh, with million of people, who watch him daily. who might also recognize tyler from the internet.

he can't let it happen, he can't let brendon and josh put his face all over the internet. tyler thought it was just casual stuff brendon always does. brendon's stuff. maybe some material for a school event. he would never expect him to record something for josh.

if brendon wasn't lying, and josh is in the library right now, there's still a chance for that video to not be posted. tyler has no idea, what he can do. he can't just run into josh and plead him to remove his face from the video.

his legs work faster, than his brain, and he's already at the door, running into direction of the library. he's not sleepy anymore. he's never been so awake in his life. it's like a matter of life and death.

it seems like hours, until tyler ends up in front of library door. first he has to push a crowd of people in hallways to let him go, then apologize to them, but excusing himself to go, it's important, he says. then, for a few seconds, he stops, and thinks what he's going to do. he has got no plan. he isn't even ready to face josh. yet he already approaches the library, finally, looking around and seeking for bright, yellow hair, but he finds nothing. is it better, or worse?

tyler comes into the library and turns right to where computers are situated. there are a few people inside, but none of them sitting by the computer.

there's only one thing, that makes tyler in the lead. he remembers well that black backpack, which is thrown under one of the tables. it's just the most casual backpack, probably a few people have the same one, but random marker scribbles on white straps make tyler certain, that it's the property of nobody, but josh dun.

being a total creep finally comes in handy.

tyler faces the area again, wondering why would josh leave the library without turning off the computer, and how long it would take. he quietly walks into the seat, constantly turning around. while he's already at the computer, first thing he's going to do is try to find another devices connected, then scan every icon on the desktop. he finds nothing important, just school and system stuff.

"how can i help you?" the sudden voice startles tyler, literally, and catches him off guard. he immediately removes his hands from desk, as if it burned, and turns his face around, seeing josh, above him, looking at him with raised eyebrows. "oh, hey tyler."

tyler doesn't take his eyes away from josh, and neither does josh from tyler, like that first time they met, not so long ago, but it already feels like ages. tyler stares at him, as if his eyes could reveal the whole truth, why he's there, at josh's computer, and say the truest apologies. "... hi, josh."

"want some help?" josh asks casually, taking a seat beside tyler, in front of another computer.

"i..." tyler begins with voice already caught in his throat. he can't find any word in his vocabulary. he isn't sure, why he's actually here, either.

josh only faces him again, raising his eyebrows for the second time. "hmm?"

tyler can't believe himself. this is, how their first ever conversation goes like. who would've guess tyler would make a fool of himself again?

he looks down at his lap and hands. however, he still feels josh's gaze on him, and realizes there's nothing he can do, other than telling the truth or running away, which is definitely not good solution in this situation.

"i saw brendon... uhm..." tyler stutters, but he has the best intentions in saying this sentence out loud. there's no explanation, why he's so nervous. he shouldn't be. josh is in his school right now. in front of him. he's in his grade, and lives somewhere near school. they are mates, right? "i saw him helping you with a- with... a video?"

"oh, yeah, i still don't know, where he is, cause i wanted to upload this on the computer really quickly, you know? the content he recorded. i have no idea, what he actually recorded, but-- yeah..." he smiles lightly at tyler, and tyler is afraid he's going to faint. it's not him on the video. it's real. it doesn't seem real. "did you want to help me, too, or--"

"no!" tyler interrupts a little bit too quickly, "no, i... didn't mean that."

"then what?" josh laughs, and tyler really wants to run away right now. he can't stand to see josh smiling and laughing in front of him, actually not showing any signs of meeting the creepiest and most burdensome person in his life, which tyler most probably is. it would be much easier, if josh ignored him and stared at that computer screen and do his own work, letting tyler speak. he is always too nice, and he doesn't deserve being nervous and trying to carry on the conversation just because tyler chose being awkward again.

"why is brendon helping you?" tyler asks, not exactly the question he wanted to ask. he has to calm down, or they will not leave this library even until tomorrow.

"he knows this school well, and he told me his idea one day, to record something in school, like, how is it here." tyler nods. "at least he has some ideas for me, i have none for now." he laughs, and tyler smiles knowingly, but not knowing exactly, what to say in response. he still hasn't brought up the main topic of why he appeared here.

they sit in silence for what feels like a whole minute. josh looks relaxed, and just zones out to the window, but tyler finds the silence uncomfortable, especially when it's his turn to speak out.

"so," tyler finally cuts the thick cloud in the air. "i just-- i didn't realize, that brendon was recording something, what would end up on the internet some day," he says in one breath, "and i wanted to ask, if you could, like, delete everything from that video, that contains me. it's really important to me."

"oh, sure," josh notices, "you don't usually show your face. i forgot."

tyler finally looks up at josh, whose gaze only softens by the second. he laughs with resignation. josh watched his videos, or at least one of them, and he knows, what's up. tyler's wants to shout and jump and laugh more at once.

"so you know..."

"yeah, is it bad?" josh smiles, again, and tyler unfortunately has to look away, if he wants to cough up some more words today.

he shrugs.

"sorry, hayley told me-- you know hayley, right?" tyler nods. "hayley told me about you once, and i had to check out."

oh, so hayley told josh. but how did hayley know? does the whole school already know?

"does the whole school already know about my youtube?" he repeats his thoughts out loud.

"so they aren't supposed to know?" josh asks.

"no, i guess. nobody cares, so i'd keep it only to myself."

"there are already so many people watching you, and you still haven't told anyone?" josh laughs. how much does he know? it turns out, that he checked on tyler's channel also. tyler thinks he might die right in this second. he still isn't completely aware of the situation, and will come to realization later, but that's better, so he doesn't freak out so much.

"no. i don't want to boast about it," tyler says.

"it doesn't mean you would. when i had made my first video, my friends and parents knew first."

i know, tyler wants to say, but, unfortunately, tyler isn't josh, no matter how bad he wanted to be. he isn't the one to tell others about his achievements and asking people to help out, no matter how big he would be.

"and," tyler hums under his breath.

josh notices, "what did you say?" he's still grinning.

"how bad are they? the videos."

josh leans a little bit, and pats tyler on the arm. "you are really good," he whispers.

tyler's eyes widen before they look back at josh. he's all smiles; tyler doesn't know, what he did to deserve it. if that meant to cheer him up, josh definitely succeed. tyler feels more comfortable, even though he's still very nervous. he will be, but it will go away soon. sooner, if he doesn't run away from reality anymore.

the combination of events is so funny he starts chuckling, and doesn't even care, that josh is here, because josh is here, laughing with him and being a breathing and living person, not a figment of tyler's imagination. not anymore.

"you should've won that competition yesterday. you were really good. it was probably my favourite performance, i don't remember the others," josh tells tyler.

"many people keep saying that," tyler lets josh know, but it's not, that he doesn't care about josh's opinion. he does. josh's opinion is probably the most important to him. probably; he doesn't know. he would never expect josh to listen to him and his music. everything happened too quickly, that he still feels chaotic and uneasy.

all of these people can lie and make fun of tyler, even though they aren't for real, but josh says tyler was good, and out of all these people, tyler believes him.

"so i am another one, who's saying that. i wouldn't expect you to be that cool type of a musician." josh smirks.

tyler blinks a few times. "excuse me?"

josh only shakes his head and turns to the screen, then to tyler again, remembering something. "so, brendon will be sending the video to me the whole next hour, because it will probably take a long time. i don't know, what this dude decided to record. he should've been here fifteen minutes ago." tyler nods. "if he doesn't show up here, i won't know, how to actually upload it from this thing," josh points to his phone.

then the bell rings in their ears, sounding loud among silent library. josh presses a button behind the computer screen to turn it off and stands up, tyler stands up too.

"i actually maybe know how. i public everything from my phone." tyler's voice sounds even quieter, as people's voices and slamming sounds of library door are way more intense after the bell, no matter if it's a bell for break, or class.

josh grabs his backpack from under the table and throws it on his one arm, and then on his left. "you... you do?"

tyler nods his head and looks up at a clock.

"tyler-- okay... please, could you meet me right here after class and help me out?" josh asks, heading to the hallway and leading tyler with him. "only if you have free time, obviously."

tyler has all the time in the world, and this whole situation seems too good to be true. josh asking tyler for help? they've just met.

or, they met a few weeks ago, but that didn't end up well.

tyler almost agrees with excitement, and says of course, it's not a problem at all. instead of that he answers, "yeah, i have some free time, but it is not that difficult to do, really. you just have t--"

"good, i'll see you here in one hour," josh interrupts, slowly walking away backwards from tyler in the opposite direction.

"wait, but--"

"i really have to hurry up, that red-haired woman from physics will kill me," josh says already almost from the other side of the hallway. "and we're good now, right?"

and with that he disappears behind the white door leading to another hallway, leaving tyler confused. are they good? does tyler really have to show up here next hour? he's handled enough embarrassment for this hour, and he's not sure, if he's able to carry more. however, he runs into his classroom, not sleepy anymore, and, to his surprise, being happier than ever.

Chapter Text

the last class is taking forever, but after a long and torturous hour it finally ends, and slowly, but very hesitantly, tyler walks out of the classroom into the direction of library to meet josh.

he can as well turn back and head to the exit, but decides to better not, as that would prove his cowardice again. he has to finally take mater into his own hands and be done with it, no matter, what josh wants from him. he wants to be nice, and help, when somebody needs his help. otherwise, this whole situation will not let him live.

it already doesn't let him live.

he can see many people, who managed to make it to the library before him, occupying every chair in the room, before opening their notebooks and starting doing their own school work. tyler takes a seat on the last unoccupied chair, and puts his arm onto the back of the chair, leaning his head on it, and waiting for what is going to happen. he is nervous.

but then he looks at the head of insanely bright yellow hair standing at the door and widely smiling at him, and suddenly the nervousness slowly fades away. josh reaches out his hand to tyler, and tyler stands up from his seat to approach him.

"hey," he still smiles, when tyler comes closer to him. "i was afraid you wouldn't actually come."

they stand between the library door frame, probably blocking the passage.

"why?"

josh only gives him a knowing smile and leads him out of the library. oh, well, right. tyler not actually running away from josh is something new.

"where are we going?"

"okay, are you really free? don't you have any homework for tomorrow or lots of studying?" josh asks tyler curiously, but he isn't looking at him; he's eyeing the crowd instead.

"i have, but it's not much, don't worry."

"i just don't want to waste your time, so i want to make sure," he laughs and tyler smiles.

josh wastes most of tyler's time, actually.

"you won't, i promise."

so they walk together through the hallways; josh dealing with people approaching him and saying hello, and telling them, that they can talk later, because he's busy, and tyler giving them a small smile, or sometimes a wave.

"so," tyler speaks out after they leave the crowded space and slowly reach the exit. "how are things with your teacher?"

josh laughs. "she hates me with a passion for my hair. i think it blinds her eyes a bit."

"what's her name, again?" tyler asks.

"i still don't know all teachers' names, tyler. but she has red hair."

"oh, i know her, but i don't really know her, you understand?"

josh laughs, again, and probably looks at tyler all the time, but tyler doesn't have a courage to look up. "yeah, i understand. be glad she's not your teacher."

"i am," tyler says.

they walk out of school into a cool autumn air. it's that time of the year, when there's no green on the trees, and it's not late enough for leaves to fall. the whole world is warmed up by hot tones of yellow and orange october.

"ty, so are you going to help me with uploading this thing from my phone?" josh startles the boy listening to complete silence of the area. sounds of cars and people sound so distant here.

"uh, i thought that's why i'm going with you... somewhere." tyler stops, having no idea, where they are actually walking to. he thought they'd be doing what they had to do at school, in the library, but hanging out with josh outside of school had never came into his mind. it was impossible to him, actually, but there they are, walking alone through the silent road littered by small brown leaves.

"i thought it would be better to do this in silence, and calmly, without that crowd of people there interrupting everyone, so i'm inviting you to my house, if you don't mind."

hanging out at josh's house had definitely never crossed tyler's mind.

josh notices tyler's conflicted look and explains shortly, "i don't bite often, i promise." he laughs. "my parents are at work, so you don't have to be nervous."

tyler finds it very nice, that josh tries to comfort him and let him know, that he isn't so bad himself after all these times tyler seemed so scared of him. it's better for people, and even for josh, to think about tyler that way, than to know the real reasons, why he acted that way.

"gladly, josh."

josh smiles.

josh's house isn't so much bigger than tyler's, and not so much different, as every house in this part of the city looks almost the same. probably everything inside seems similar to what it looked back in his old home, but tyler still looks around and scans every detail, when they come inside.

some boxes still lay in a few corners of the house, but it doesn't disrupt the warm, woody atmosphere which hangs in the air. even though everything looks traditional and like from some old comfortable house, it's definitely expensive, and josh's parents apparently put their whole hearts into the new property.

"my cat is somewhere here. don't worry, if she jumps on you. she probably won't, cause she's too lazy to even stand up from couch, but just letting you know," josh says after throwing his backpack on the floor and telling tyler to do so.

when they approach josh's room, the door is opened, and that's exactly how tyler thought josh's bedroom would look like, just because it looks exactly the same, like in his old house from his videos.

"welcome to my cave," josh speaks out behind tyler, holding the door.

the whole surface of black and grey walls is covered with band posters. the same bed with the same blue blanked and fluffy yellow pillow is situated in the middle of the room. the same vinyls hanging above the bed. the same high, black bookshelf with dozens of albums and books stands proudly in front of black desk, and more books on the desk, and camera on the books.

josh's room has nothing in common with warm and cozy look of the whole house, but it is the kind of rooms you see in family movies, the rooms that belong only to the coolest guys in the city. yeah, that one.

"it's sick," tyler says, grinning, and he means it.

"i love it, too. i told my parents i was going to recreate everything from my room in vegas, and i succeed, i guess. it looks almost the same, and i even told them i want the same walls. it's my own room, after all."

"my room is so messy, and the walls are purple, and any color doesn't match there. your house is amazing."

"it's just because it's still new. you can look at it again in like half a year again," josh smirks, and taps on the space on his bed for tyler to sit. tyler forgets, that his heart is about to jump out of his chest, and smiles, making his way to the bed beside josh. now, he's trapped between josh and the wall. "how are you feeling?"

"what?" tyler asks, surprised.

josh laughs. "i'm just making sure i don't scare you off again."

"ugh, forget about it, please." he pulls his legs to his chest out of embarrassment.

"i just want to know, why you were so terrified. was it something i said?" josh asks. "i was asking everyone, what was the reason, but nobody knew. and then i saw ashley leading you out of school, and it was-- i was afraid."

it was obvious, that josh would bring this up, and no matter, how hard tyler tried to be comfortable around josh, he's getting anxious again. he doesn't have any proper explanation, and now he finds out josh saw him crying during their first meeting. tyler is surprised josh had a courage to talk to him after that, and, well, invite him to his own house, and his own room.

"i have no idea, why i did that, i'm sorry, i was just too exhausted and probably didn't want to face anyone," tyler says in one breath. "but you didn't do anything wrong, i swear, you were nice to me."

"it didn't happen once, tyler," josh tells him seriously, but laughs lightly right after to lighten up the mood.

"oh, yes, i ran away after i... bumped into you?" josh nods. "i started wondering, what you were thinking after i had ran away the first time, probably some strange things, so i ran away once again. it was dumb. i'm sorry, don't blame yourself on this."

"okay, you didn't run away today, so it's a success," josh says, never removing the smile from his face, and tyler starts wondering, how he can be even nicer in the real life.

"i'm not going to again, i promise."

"okay," josh turns his body to tyler, "so we're good now?"

he asks the same thing, as earlier today in the hallway, and tyler has completely no idea, what he meant by it, and josh is so close tyler can perceive all his features very clearly, and see these round, dark eyes, so he can do nothing, but slowly nod.

"you don't have to be afraid anymore, and if you want to say something, shoot. i'm just me. forget, that i'm some guy from the internet."

and it's funny, because no matter, how bad tyler wants to forget about that, and act casually, one second after he remembers, that josh is this guy he insolently stalks on daily basis, and he's real, so the helpless side of him comes into his life once again, and such things as running away have to happen.

tyler, not wanting to be awkward anymore, but to keep up the conversation in some way, answers, "forget, that i am some guy without a face," and earns a wicked grin from josh.

josh probably has no problem with the atmosphere of the conversation, and starts again, "tell me, is there some story, that hides behind that guy, or is it just some thing, that came into your mind out of boredom?"

tyler thinks about it for a moment, and says, "both."

josh doesn't ask anything else. tyler is glad he isn't pushing him to talk about this topic. maybe he will tell him some day.

on the other hand, josh apparently finds him interesting enough to ask about his appearance; josh, the person, who's the reason tyler started even playing music. he will definitely tell him some day.

"that's why i was so nervous about my performance yesterday. i know it doesn't connect with what i do on youtube, but i just probably have some paranoia, i guess."

"you shouldn't, you're doing well so far," josh tells him, and tyler probably starts blushing immediately, feeling the unusual heat on his cheeks.

"thanks, i try, but i'm not that good."

"you are," josh tries to convince him.

"josh," tyler turns his head to face him and to look him in the eyes.

josh looks up at tyler and raises his eyebrows. he can see tyler's big, chocolate eyes precisely only for the second time in his life, considering, how many times he actually met him and the boy did everything to avoid his gaze. "hmm?"

"i'm not." tyler answers quickly and looks away.

if that was some different person saying good things about tyler, he would probably thank them five times, and it wouldn't be enough, but when it comes to josh, tyler's mind is completely dull and emotions blank. everything goes by too fast, and he doesn't have enough time to re-think his actions.

if that makes them more comfortable around each other, maybe it's not so strange at all, though tyler still tries not to faint.

"okay," tyler takes a deep breath. "no matter, how bad i am, and how much i have to learn, i would never expect words like that to come out from you." he looks up at josh, who still smiles right in tyler's face, that it could get annoying, but never for tyler, who got used to it so long ago. "you have obviously seen many insanely talented people, and you still say... this... to me, so if you aren't lying, then thank you very, very much."

"this..." josh accents. "you can't even admit to yourself, that you're good."

"and?" tyler questions.

"nothing, you just could say, that i told you, that you're good, but you avoided that word like the plague... this." josh mocks him, and tyler rolls his eyes, moving away from him to lean on the wall.

"you have 2 million followers, dude, and you are telling me i am good." tyler looks at his left to josh with a knowing expression, which is childishly supposed to inform josh, that tyler said he was good, but didn't admit it.

however, josh frowns. "i told you to forget about me from the internet. 2 million or zero, i would still find you just as good."

suddenly something inside tyler's guts decides to light a match and make his insides boil with delight.

"but it does matter. you have more experience with people."

"then that should tell you something, tyler," he pats tyler on the arm and tyler blinks with confusion. josh patted him on the shoulder, so it probably isn't a dream, even though it's very likely to be.

josh, after seeing tyler flinch a little, asks, "are you okay? i didn't know it was that hard, sorry."

he touched tyler lightly, and he would never hit him, yet it apparently hurt him.

"it's fine, it's just that shoulder, that collided with your arm that day. is still hurts a little, as you can see," tyler explains.

josh raises his eyebrows, and looks at tyler's shoulder, even though he is not able to see anything except black hoodie covering it. "was it that bad?"

"yes, pretty much," tyler nods.

josh smirks and points at his chest, "well, your elbow collided pretty hard with my ribs."

he quickly grabs the hem of his shirt to pull it up, but tyler immediately stops him, catching josh's wrists with his hands, and saying, "no, don't show me!"

"i was kidding." josh laughs, and tyler lets go of his wrists. "you gave me chest pains, tyler."

"you gave me bruises," tyler snaps.

"fair enough."

"you're lucky they healed completely," tyler says, and josh laughs loudly, leaving tyler thinking, what made him laugh so much. "okay, you were supposed to work on the video, not make fun of me."

"right..." josh stands from the bed, remembering, that indeed, they came here for something in particular, but he was pretty distracted, that he almost forgot, what was it for.

he grabs his phone, which he left on his desk before, and takes his laptop fully covered with black and white stickers.

"brendon sent me the whole thing, so we have to edit it first," he comes back to his bed and sits down next to tyler. "and i have no idea how to do that on the phone, and have no idea, how you are able to do it every time."

"i think editing on a computer is more difficult," tyler says, moving away to make more space for josh, even though there is enough room for him. "but you have to download some apps, unfortunately."

"what apps?"

tyler grabs his own phone from inside his hoodie and unblocks it, sliding the screen to see the apps. "so the first one is to cut out the clips, then another one is to rotate the view, but if brendon was holding the phone correctly, you don't need this one, but i doubt he was." josh laughs. tyler does too. "the next one is to put the videos together, and another one is to compress the, um... size, because it's usually too big, then--"

"how many of them?" josh interrupts.

"then i have the app, which uploads the video, cause you can't upload it to youtube from youtube app, no matter, how ridiculous that sounds, because youtube app actually sucks, and the video is too long for it to handle it. and the last one is just an editor app."

josh looks at him with admiration. "do you really use all of them every time?"

"yes," tyler nods.

"i don't think i have enough memory in my phone for that."

"it's just a few apps, you can handle it."

"wait..." josh interrupts, and looks tyler directly in the eyes, zoning out immediately.

"what?" tyler asks, confused, but josh doesn't answer, just stares at tyler without even blinking, and tyler is one second away from looking away, but he just gives josh the last chance and asks again, "what?"

"i'm so stupid." josh laughs, looking now at the wall behind tyler's back.

"why?"

"i really brought you here with me, when i can simply transfer the video from my phone to the computer."

"oh, yeah, you can," tyler notices. "i just thought you were not able to, or something, because it was obvious you can move it to your computer and upload it from there."

"no," josh shakes his head. "it didn't even cross my mind. i've been too busy lately i don't even think correctly. sorry."

"you have nothing to be sorry for. i can relate."

josh smiles, for the hundredth time this day.

"i will still need you, though, if we want to remove you from the video. you know, so you see the whole process, and don't blame me, when i overlook something."

tyler couldn't agree more, if he tried. he didn't think josh would agree to that, but watching him cutting out the clips including tyler from the video is the safest solution.

"now we have to watch this disaster." josh's phone lights up, and tyler can see a picture of beautiful, pink sky on his screen. he smiles to himself. josh, despite his personality, does really have a soft side for particular things. who would expect him taking photos of sunsets?

josh opens the 22-minute video, and moves closer to tyler, so he sees everything clearly, and they watch brendon babbling some nonsenses for five minutes, and after that they both find themselves literally laying on the bed beside each other.

to tyler's surprise, brendon's next move was to approach tyler's and ashley's desk, and they were actually one of the first people included in the video apart from him.

"what's up, tadpole? that's ashley." they can hear brendon shouting to ashley's ear. tyler rolls his eyes, whilst watching.

then, brendon introduced tyler to the camera, sitting down beside him. "tyler is our sweet love child." tyler smiled and waved at that.

"adorable," josh mutters quietly. tyler has to face him to make sure, if he didn't imagine that, or josh didn't say it to someone else, but he's still staring at the phone screen. tyler doesn't say anything.

then, the sweet introduction turned into a fight between brendon and ashley over a phone. ashley was holding his phone at the moment, and brendon kept shouting at her. the camera was turned to her face, but she was too busy arguing with brendon to look at the screen.

when ashley finally gave up, and brendon got his phone back, he was filming tyler again, but tyler stayed as confused as before. brendon laughed and stood up, approaching new people.

josh suddenly stops the video and sits up on the bed, looking down at tyler. "i won't have a heart to remove that part."

tyler only stares at him, worried. it was said they were to remove that part. josh can't be serious right now.

"are you sure you don't want to be in this?" josh asks.

"yes, i am sure. please-"

"okay, listen," josh interrupts, and moves again to face tyler completely. they sit in front of each other with crossed legs. "it's going to be a great video, you know, most people from school are here..." tyler shakes his head, but josh continues, "i'm not forcing you to anything, but you actually didn't say anything all that time on the video, and people on youtube know you only by your voice. they have no idea, how you look like, so they won't know it's you."

"why is that so important to you?"

"i don't know, it isn't. it just wouldn't be fair, if you weren't included here. after some time it would be nice to watch it again and see yourself on the video with the whole school. i just want to be nice."

tyler sighs loudly out of helplessness, because josh is right, of course, but it's still too risky, even though, like he said, there are no reasons to be afraid. but tyler is afraid of everything on social media at this point.

"i can still remove it, just think about it twice before you make a decision," josh tells him.

tyler pulls his legs to his chest, and hides his face in his knees. "i don't know anymore."

"i can repeat the video, so you can see, but you didn't even make a sound," josh convinces him.

"okay, i know, i know."

josh grabs tyler's hood, and puts it over his head, tapping on it in process. "if anyone gets suspicious, i will delete the video."

tyler looks up and stares at josh with hooded eyes. "then they will get more suspicious."

"i don't know, i will do something."

"i swear, if they recognize me by my hoodie..." tyler continues seriously, but with an evident resignation.

"your plain black hoodie is the one and only one in the whole world." josh rolls his eyes, and tugs on a string of tyler's hoodie, making the hood hug tyler's head tightly.

"i swear, first i don't have to help you with uploading the video anymore, then you aren't removing me from it at all. why am i even here?"

josh shrugs. "at least you won't run away from me anymore, will you?"

tyler sighs, and wants to say, you didn't have to remind me of it again, but instead, answers, "stop, josh."

but josh only stares at him with fake offended look; he's always staring, and he would be staring even longer, it would be no problem for him, if tyler didn't speak out.

"yes, we're good, josh."

Chapter Text

tyler joseph is not so bad himself at all.

josh wakes up with a headache, and one earphone in his ear and another one around his neck, with music still playing. then he remembers, that he fell asleep late at night after tyler had left, whilst trying to edit that video. it's still a series of some random clips not connected together, and if josh doesn't hurry up and post it shortly, people will get impatient, what leads to them being annoying, even though they have probably already been ever since he moved to columbus.

the latest video on his channel is from over 3 weeks ago. in a few days it will be the whole month, and that is really unusual of him.

he would get nervous every time people told him they were waiting for new stuff, that it had been four days already, so then he would upload something - no matter what - quickly.

his schedule has always been messy and never regular, but at least a little more organised than now. he would post something every day, or every 2 days, or twice a week; whenever an idea occurred in his head, and that was happening quite often.

a head is full of ideas, when you spend one half of your day in big city buzzing with life, and the other half in your room scrolling through the internet. the ideas are not always really clever.

the video from 3 weeks ago wasn't so interesting; it was just the one he had planned to public anyway, the one, where he explained, obviously, what had made him move from nevada to ohio, how were things in his new place, and what were his thoughts about the situation in general. he didn't mention leaving youtube, but considering, that his account is clearly dead at the moment, people are probably assuming, that he's slowly deciding to finish this fragment of his lifetime, or at least appear some time, but it wouldn't be the same after all, and that he is being quiet about this to not cause any drama.

but he's not going to, he repeats it to himself again. it's actually, what his whole life depends on. he makes money from that; money, which he saves for his future, and which he sometimes gives to his parents to help them in need. it become his job, no matter, how funny it sounds, and no matter, how easy it looks, he's not independent at all.

it all started a few years ago, when he was 16 and got his first guitar for his birthday. it was, to be honest, a big surprise to him. sure, he had always wanted to have a guitar, even though he didn't know, how to play, but after his parents had bought him drums, he had never expected anything else from them. for a few months he was still thinking, that they didn't do that from pure generosity, but apparently they did.

he couldn't read sheet music and didn't know any chords, but learned to play one song watching tutorials, and that's when the odd idea of showing it to someone appeared in his head. not exactly to someone. to people. dozens of people. hundreds of people. dream big, kid.

he did a guitar cover of a song now even knowing, how to play guitar, and only knowing that song by heart. it didn't seem so difficult. he could learn to play another song afterwards. he didn't even think about showing himself drumming, because people were rather obsessed with boys with guitars. at least that's what he had been thinking.

after a few months he realized he had sucked, and till today he regrets picking a guitar to his first ever video instead of drums he had been already comfortable with for a few years.

he most probably didn't gain viewers by his astonishing talent or his amazing image, but because of constant pathetic begging people from the street to watch him. after a few months literally everyone from his neighbourhood and the area around it knew about his youtube, and no matter, if they weren't going to even check him out, they knew, that it existed, and how desperate josh was.

he was desperate to that point, that he asked his teachers one day, if he could visit every classroom and tell people, that he, a student from their school, was trying to be a musician, and if they could help him out a little.

it was pathetic and probably unfair, but he got, what he'd wanted, so he didn't mind it at all.

people didn't seem to mind either, when he had decided to add some new content other than music to his channel. it wasn't an easy nor quick process, but a successful one. and that's how it still goes.

most of people related with youtube have one embarrassing video, that caught most attention of people. josh is one of these people.

and even though he doesn't regret making that video, the idea was dumb and childish, and not the one he wanted people to know him from. still, he kept making similar videos after that one.

it was 24-hour overnight challenge in target he decided to do with a few of his friends, colin, rian, jack and spencer. they tried to stay the whole night in target store, when the doors would be already closed. if they'd got caught, they could get arrested, for real.

they entered the store at 11 p.m, which was closing at 12 a.m. so they had an hour to run away from security and hide. two of them got inside earlier to watch the security and employees, and then the rest of them went after them, but separately not to get anybody suspicious.

despite one employee wandering around, josh managed to hide on one shelf behind baby pram boxes. colin and spencer probably did too, but he didn't know; josh was the one filming. rian and jack, who had entered earlier, left the store and situated themselves in a car to observe things from the outside.

after the announcement, that store was being closed, two of the boys joined josh and they stayed completely silent behind the boxes, limiting themselves only to whispers. there were dozens of alarms and cameras on the ceiling.

they came out after one hour and did something that seemed like a trip around the shop. they were aware of cameras and sensors, so they tried to be careful, but only at a beginning. after a few hours they were kicking balls and riding bikes along the aisles. they were loud and dumb, but josh still was probably the one most responsible there.

somewhere after 8 a.m. when the store had been finally opened again, they got out from behind the boxes, but at the same time some employee lady casually saw them. for some reason she was totally fine with that. she was probably thinking they were some kids having fun in the store and hiding between boxes. they hadn't caused any damage, so they left target as normal people, totally not having their whole night spent inside. it was just a clear luck, nothing else.

it was dramatic, and people liked it. they wanted more. josh gave him more. and that's how it still goes.

or at least how it was going. josh still has to fix his updating schedule and finally post something as quick as it is possible.

unfortunately, yesterday, he and tyler were doing everything except for editing the video brendon had recorded for him.

that's when josh thinks again, that tyler joseph isn't really who he was expecting him to be.

the first time josh saw tyler was in one of his videos. he still knew nothing about him, however, his videos made him feel strange and maybe uneasy. it was late at night and he was exhausted. maybe he didn't actually know, what he was watching. he still doesn't know. tyler was really good, and that was obvious, but the whole atmosphere of his channel filled josh with uncomfortable feeling, from the other side than music. music was amazing, beyond josh's expectations. just the atmosphere.

probably because josh is not used to that side of youtube at all.

after seeing tyler's artsy videos studied to every smallest detail, josh imagined him as a perfectionist kid, self-confident and talkative, and as loud as in some of his songs, even though he is still extremely shy in his videos and doesn't talk much. josh was just confused.

after seeing tyler in school for the first time, all of josh's expectations turned out to be incorrect, but made josh confused even more. the kid was full of mysteries; he would pass the hallways quickly with his face turned down, then stare at you with the corner of his eye in the classroom.

he is still full of mysteries, but josh is glad he got to know some of them yesterday. he got to talk to him for the first time, and it wasn't so bad at all, considering, how timid the boy had been. he seemed like he'd got comfortable around josh, and that's probably the most important. josh is a simple person; he doesn't want to gain enemies; if there's a possible chance to reconcile, then why keep the useless tension still?

hanging out with tyler seemed a little bit like building a trust with a small kid or a new animal you brought into the house. it's insanely difficult, because you are not aware, that sometimes your good intention can turn out to affect on another person negatively, but when you finally achieve the goal, it makes you happier and prouder than ever.

josh liked talking with tyler. he's different, interesting, intelligent; at least that's, what josh could perceive during the first time they hung out like friends. despite the amount of nervous laughter and awkward stares, they managed to find their mutual language, and turn their conversation into talking about everything and nothing at once.

josh found it adorable, how passionate tyler got, while he was explaining to him, how he posts his videos, and how he didn't want to watch the non-edited footage from school, when josh played it over and over again, how he was afraid of touching anything in josh's room.

if they are good right now, that's good. they are both doing similar job, and even though they create completely different things, they can still be business colleagues and share advices with each other. right? right.

josh gets up from his bed, postponing the video to the next time again. his phone battery isn't full, far from it, as the music was playing the whole night. this day couldn't start off worse.

he finds a random shirt in his closet and puts on the same jeans he wore yesterday, not even looking at himself in the mirror, but shuffling to the kitchen, where his family can be heard already.

"josh..." his sister sighs from behind the kitchen table as josh makes his appearance in the room. they all seem ready to go and rule the world, and he is looking like he just returned from the war for survival.

he takes a sit nonchalantly on one of the chairs, and out of blue there's his cat, called midnight, crawling onto his thighs and looking at the table from his lap.

"you could finally change your hair", his mom speaks up, when he's dully staring at the window.

"why?"

"it's still so bright it hurts my eyes sometimes," she tells him.

he smirks. "i'm sorry, but that's exactly how i deal with people these days."

his mom only rolls her eyes and comes back to get herself ready to work, but then his sister interrupts, "seriously, how is it still so bright? it's not even clear yellow, but some weird yellow-green neon—"

"it's called professionalism, ash," josh hums. "better eat, or you'll be late."

ash doesn't back down. "pink was better."

"maybe."

"she's right," his mom yells from the living room.

"i'm not going to change it anyway," josh shrugs. he used to change the color of his hair a lot, that he would have different hair in every following video. he doesn't change it so often now, but still dyes it a lot to keep the color intensity.

"why?"

"because i just had pink, and i don't come back to any color again. i never had yellow before, so that's why i'm yellow now."

"there are still other colors, josh."

josh raises his eyebrows. he can't believe he woke up to argue with his sister about his hair. "seriously, what's so wrong with yellow?"

ash shakes her head and looks at the rest of her siblings, who don't even care about their presence and eat in silence. "nothing, it's just really unusual."

"and pink was magically usual?"

"yes, especially among girls. but it looked cool to see a guy with pink hair. you looked badass."

"thanks," josh smiles to her. "but i'm not going to change it anyway."

"we'll see."

josh snorts. "yeah. you'll see."

they keep eating and watching each other, but josh is scrolling through his phone and just waits until 7:30 to leave the house.

"what's so interesting there, that you're not even going to eat?" his mom breaks the silence and brings josh back to reality.

"hmm?"

"how are things?" she asks.

"things..." he looks at his mom questioningly.

"at school, on the internet, how are you feeling? you haven't mentioned much since we moved here."

"it's okay here, i guess?" he answers, but his hesitation isn't convincing to his mother.

"be honest with me at least for once," she says sternly.

"i'm always honest with you," he tells her, looking offended. "i'm serious! it was terrible at first, but it's beginning to be okay."

"was it terrible? why?" his mother asks. josh can't believe she's being serious. they literally risked to take his whole life away from him, but that's probably the reason to be happy now. he would handle it better, if they told him earlier about their decision, which was huge, but they thought it would be better to tell josh to come to their room and tell him, that they most probably were leaving their house permanently in over a week. or josh was just too blind to not see them planing moving out two thousand miles away from home. still, it's not his fault and he has the right to be annoyed at them.

"why? you told me about that out of nowhere. i had literally no time to rethink it. besides, that was where i grown up and where everything was. there are still many people, who were my friends and who were helping me. now i have to begin from nothing all over again, and it's not fair. it's just hard." he says it more to himself than to his mother, looking down at the cat on his lap.

"i'm sorry, it was hard for kids, too, for everyone of us, but we had to. otherwise we would go bankrupt," his mother says, guilty.

"i'm glad you actually didn't." he rolls his eyes. he knows he will regret his words later, because that was not his parents' fault, too, but he doesn't care at the moment. maybe he's just selfish again. his mother knows he won't let her win. she stands up from the table and heads to the living room. "why would you bring this back? i'm okay now."

"josh, that's great," she says from behind the wall. "we are really sorry for all of this. i hope you will understand it some time. not everything in life goes according to plan."

"i know," he hums.

"i'm really sorry, josh." she looks at him again, making her appearance in kitchen again.

josh rolls his eyes and laughs. "mom, it's okay!"

"okay, i'm leaving now. me and dad won't be back probably until late evening. don't burn the house down, all of you," she calls from the hallway.

"we're not 5-year-olds. now leave, you'll be late," josh smiles at her.

"oh, josh, i almost forgot," she begins again. "there's a package for you here. i received it yesterday, because you were too busy with your friend to come downstairs."

josh stands up, grabbing midnight with his hand. "oh, really-"

"yeah." she turns to josh. "you really should introduce me to your friends sometimes."

he closes his eyes and sighs. "mom."

she only nods her head and looks at her son. she will be extremely late to work if she keeps doing that.

"why would you want to know my friends? to embarrass me in front of them?"

"i knew all of your friends in vegas," she tells him.

"don't talk about vegas!" josh interrupts. he's had enough of this topic for today. "don't talk about vegas. and of course you knew. why wouldn't you? you're so stubborn."

"sure. listen, it's just nice to talk with some teenagers other than my kids, who never shut their face for a minute of a day."

"talk with teenagers? i need to make them talk with me, first." josh immediately thinks about tyler, who hardly even spoke to josh, and now he would talk freely with his mom? very interesting.

she looks at him sternly. she's very stubborn. "you could just introduce your friend to me, and not sneak out of the house thinking, that i didn't see anything. something like see, mom, you came late, but this is my friend—" she pauses. "what's his name?"

"see? that's why i don't invite my friends over here anymore." his mom raises his eyebrow. he rubs his face dramatically, putting the cat on his shoulder. "it's tyler. will you leave me alone now?"

"you should introduce him to me in person—"

josh gives up and raises his arms. "i will! okay! now go to work, you'll be late, and i don't want you to almost go bankrupt again."

"it's not the topic to joke about, joshua."

"yeah, it isn't. okay, mom. leave, bye." he opens the door for his mother and holds it until she leaves the house, closing it behind her. he sighs loudly, coming back to where his siblings sit and letting the cat fall on her paws onto the floor.

Chapter Text

the next time josh catches a sight of tyler is when he's sleeping. or at least looking like he is. he's not in his bed, in his room, nor anywhere else where he could be sleeping. he's in a classroom, face-down to a desk. he hasn't moved for ten minutes, since the long break started.

josh watches him from another end of the classroom with raised eyebrows and sympathetic smile. he actually can't see his face, as it's covered by his arms and a backpack, but he wouldn't mistake tyler with somebody else even if he tried.

he almost walks there to him to wake him up, but then realizes, that if he fell asleep on a school table, he had to have an important reason, probably hadn't got a decent amount of sleep at night, so he will better leave the kid alone now.

tyler doesn't get his well-deserved peace anyway, because a few moments later, his beloved blue and yellow haired friend bursts into the classroom like a rocket. she stops in her tracks, when she notices a dark figure cuddled on her seat, that could as well be recognized as an unconscious person, but she doesn't look surprised at all and turns her gaze to josh, who wasn't fast enough to hide his smile and look away.

"what?" she asks.

why would she even speak up? it's not, that josh is so willing to talk to her, but he just looked at her, geez.

"is he always like that?" he answers with a question, not wanting to be perceived as a creep, who only watches people from afar. or he just doesn't want to argue with this girl again, and she really can turn anything into an argument.

"sometimes," she says calmly. "he has huge problems with sleep, and sometimes things like that happen during a day."

josh isn't sure, if he's more surprised by ashley's kind answer, or more afraid of tyler's condition, that the utter lack of sleep at night makes him fall asleep at school.

however, ashley doesn't seem to have any problem with that, because she leaves josh and sits beside tyler, and starts poking the boy in the arm. "tylerrr."

tyler sighs immediately. "what?"

"you're not sleeping?"

"would i talk to you if i were sleeping?" he answers, still facing the backpack-covered table and sounding like talking to a pillow.

he raises his head up to face the girl, being blinded by sudden light in his eyes, but instead catches himself looking at some yellow hair just behind ashley, and sits up completely.

josh can't help, but laugh at the sight, and smile almost sympathetically like before, shrugging, when he sees all red-faced tyler with barely opened eyes and a questioning look, only waiting for josh to tell him, what is happening.

"tyler is not so bad anymore?" the sudden voice and quite hard pat on josh's shoulder startles him and makes him look away. brendon takes a seat beside him, as always, and looks at josh expectantly, sending him one of his devilish grins, which try to tell josh that brendon knows something he doesn't.

"hmm?" he hums and turns around on his chair, so that the back of it is on his front.

brendon rolls his eyes and leans on a table, looking in direction, where tyler and ashley should sit. josh can't see, though. brendon blocks the whole view.

"don't pretend i didn't see that."

"see what? i can't look at anyone? brendon, i swear—"

"no, okay," brendon interrupts, looking back to face josh. "i just thought you both hated each other."

josh raises his eyebrows and takes a breath. does everyone still think they both hate each other? is anyone even thinking like that? he doesn't mind, he doesn't care; the less people know the truth, the better, if it comes to him, but it's still a surprise for him. hatred is the last emotion he would feel towards another person, especially towards tyler. "still, i can look at anything i want to."

"tyler is a good choice, dude," brendon tells him, half-joking, half-serious.

"he is." josh smiles to himself and searches for tyler's look to annoy brendon more, but tyler sits at his desk, leaning against the wall and trying his best not to turn around. "he's okay."

"okay?"

"yes. why do you care?"

"what happened to your instant want to destroy the little kid?" brendon asks, and josh immediately looks offended, looking around the room involuntarily.

"i never said that," josh protests before brendon even manages to end his sentence properly.

"you did," brendon nods.

"i didn't. i know, what comes out from my mouth, dude."

"you said something similar. i don't remember." brendon shrugs. "just admit it."

josh doesn't want to admit it, but he begins to give up.

"i know i said some weird stuff, but it was a long time ago, besides i was annoyed at my parents, everyone here, at myself, at you—"

"at me?" brendon interrupts, sounding, like it's the most ridiculous thing he has ever heard.

"yeah?" is josh's answer, which sounds more like a question. if josh has to be completely honest with someone, it's usually brendon. they have never had that awkward part of friendship and immediately moved into talking about things, that if somebody could hear them, they would question their well-being, and insulting each other daily. it doesn't feel like they've known each other for two months.

but lately, brendon has been acting differently, like he's not in his world anymore. he's still the loudest in the group, but rather gloomy, and more curious, and more pissed off at everything surrounding him. somebody could tell he's still the most cheery person from school, which isn't wrong, but josh knows him enough to know, that something burdens him. he has a few guesses.

"me? annoying? you must have mistaken me with somebody else," brendon says and josh smiles to him, shaking his head. "but yeah, tyler is not so bad anymore," he points out.

"i said, he's—" nice, kind, funny in a cute way, helpful, adorable, intelligent, creative, clever? "—okay."

"of course," brendon agrees immediately. "he's a-okay guy. unproblematic..." he nods at josh. "told you, he's a cool guy."

"i know, i just said it."

"it took you so much time to realize..." brendon tells him with a sleepy voice.

"i realized the first day," josh admits.

"are you kidding me?"

"not at all," josh shrugs. if tyler doesn't hear them both at this point, he must be half-deaf or really zoned out. he's sitting literally a few tables away.

"you were two fighters from the internet, pretending that you both didn't know each other," brendon mocks josh. "but why not collide ways?"

josh snorts. "how childish would it be to fight with someone?" probably childish to that point like after his first research about tyler, he realizes.

"you just denied yourself, josh. you just denied yourself."

"are you going to point out my failures right here?"

brendon only smiles cheekily, knowing, that he won this time, again. "just admit it."

"what have i to admit again?" josh frowns.

"nevermind," brendon grunts. "i forgot, what we were even arguing about. you're complicated."

"you talk like a girl in love." josh laughs at him, only to receive an annoyed look from brendon, and that's the end of the conversation for now.

but josh knows what's up, and his earlier hypothesis becomes confirmed, when one second after a bell for another break brendon runs out of classroom only to wait and watch, or spy, like dallon's group leaves the classroom opposite. he could just tell josh. he's not so stupid to find out.

he smiles to himself and leaves his friend alone; he will talk with him about it next time. when he's gone, he has nothing to do. most of his friends went home an hour or two ago. they are one of last few people in school right now.

he passes by tyler, who seems to be in hurry, fully awake right now despite his nearly unconscious state even a couple of minutes ago, and pretending he doesn't see josh looking at him. he's trying his best to hide and show, that he's doing something just to keep himself busy.

josh is aware, that tyler does it only to be left alone and ignored by people, josh too, but he's also aware, that tyler just has no idea how to behave and is probably too shy and confused to start any kind of a chat. so josh does it for him.

"sweet dreams, tyler." he smiles to himself whilst saying that, and tyler immediately raises his head to meet josh's gaze and smiles, too. josh was right.

"very funny," tyler answers, interpreting a fake sleepy voice. "very funny."

"you should at least bring your pillow from home. these tables are... rough," josh keeps going anyway. "wasn't it?"

josh doesn't know, what are his intentions with making tyler annoyed, or whatever he's doing, but he's probably really bored and wants to spend his every possible time with someone. brendon's presence can be influential.

tyler shakes his head and looks away from josh, trying really hard not to burst laughing, and if that meant to exact some kind of cheer from him, josh wouldn't mind to keep being stubborn like that.

"are you having fun?" tyler finally asks sarcastically.

"yeah, really much, thanks."

josh realizes he is standing in front of tyler possibly blocking his way to move and leave the classroom; he's just standing like a stone hovering over tyler and sharing the awkward stare with him, so he tries to adjust his posture and leans against the wall by his arm.

"that's bullying," tyler hums, still keeping his fake-serious tone, which doesn't sound anything near serious at all.

"well, what are you going to do?" josh shrugs after tyler stuffs all his books inside a backpack and stands properly, so he has nothing to hide behind now.

"probably run away, that's what i do the best," tyler says after a moment of thinking and congratulates himself silently for being able to continue what josh is playing, even though it's a clear joke about himself.

josh laughs in surprise. "you won't get over it, will you?"

"it haunts me and doesn't let me sleep, do you blame me?" tyler finally looks up again at josh innocently and says without any hint of facetiousness in his voice and the look on his face.

"no, but..." josh stops and takes a breath to think, what to say. "it's a serious case, i play an important role in this."

"the main role," tyler responds.

they leave the classroom and walk ahead, not even knowing where exactly, just walk together shoulder to shoulder without a word like a couple of friends, without knowing who is leading whom, not wanting to leave one another.

"how was your sleep?" josh breaks the silence without slowing his pace and turns to tyler.

"that was a random question." tyler laughs lightly to himself.

"no, i asked earlier."

"okay, okay," tyler nods, and he unfortunately doesn't know, what else to say. he hopes josh keeps up the conversation, because he totally sucks at it. lucky him, that josh is kind of a talkative person.

"i should be worried, that you fell asleep in a classroom, tyler."

"it was nothing, at least i feel better now."

josh stops him by putting his hand on his arm. "it wasn't nothing. school is fucking disgusting that students can't even have free nights."

"yeah, that's true." tyler chuckles to lighten up the mood. if he could count the nights he has wasted on studying, it would take him a few hours to count, and even more if he could count the nights he just couldn't fall asleep, because his nerves took a control over him and kept telling him ridiculous stories. "but i was just exhausted today, and if i wouldn't fall asleep in class, i probably would during the game, and that would be much worse, believe me."

"the game?" josh asks.

"a basketball game."

"what about basketball game?"

"you didn't hear?" josh shakes his head. tyler continues, "today is a basketball game between... us and a school i was supposed to go to in the first place, but yeah, it always has weaker team, so..." he shrugs.

"i heard something, but i didn't think it was important," josh tells him.

"well, it's just between two opposite high schools, so maybe it isn't that important, but it will still be a big game, and every game just has to be important to me." josh nods his head.

he likes, when people open up and start talking about what they are interested in, and build trust. when tyler talks about his interests, he shows his smart and clever side even more. josh is sure he could even turn a talk about a ceiling into a ten minute debate.

"why? do you play or something?" josh asks indifferently.

"yes," tyler answers shortly.

"wait, really?" tyler nods. "i just asked because—i didn't expect you to say yes."

"why?"

josh smiles. "i wouldn't expect you to play basketball, to be honest. but it's cool."

"why?" tyler continues.

"you don't look like a basketball player," josh shrugs.

"... why?"

"you're—i mean... you're lean and short to be a basketball player, but that doesn't mean you can't be good and all, it's just that you don't look like one, you know, stereotypes."

"yes, i know. well, i don't know how good or bad i am, but i represent our school, so that means something, and i'm quite proud."

josh nods and zones out for a second, trying to connect everything in his head.

"it's amazing. i really like basketball, too, to be honest," he speaks up again.

"really? that's cool. if you like it, you're probably good at it."

"maybe, but i didn't make it to a basketball team," josh says before remembering what tyler said earlier and considering his own words. "wait. you're... in the team, so... wait, you play today!"

"yes, i do," tyler says simply, like it's the most obvious thing in the world.

"wow. i was actually going to ask you if we could hang out at my place so you could finally make me do what i have to finally finish, but i guess you're busy tonight?" josh asks with a hope. one time tyler spent his time around him for longer, josh actually got motivated to move from his bed and begin doing something, which still didn't bring him any effects, but at least it was something.

"the game isn't late at evening, but yeah, i will probably be pretty exhausted and you don't want me to fall asleep in your room." tyler laughs awkwardly whilst gripping tightly the straps of his backpack.

"i wouldn't mind," josh shrugs. "so when's the game?"

"um... what time is it now?" tyler looks around the hallway for any sight of a clock. "like, in half an hour?"

josh raises his eyebrows and answers louder than it is necessary, "half an hour? tyler, are you ridiculous? don't you have to practice before or something? go to the gym, kid!"

tyler starts laughing that bubbly laughter which echoes through the whole room and mixes with muffled sounds of music and distant voices.

"it's fine, i practice enough at home, and besides, i had to spend that one hour in english class anyway. almost everyone else had finished classes much earlier today," he tells josh.

"yeah, i realized. so okay... see you... tomorrow? or whenever we will come across each other," josh finally says, not wanting to stop tyler with running wherever he will have his basketball game. it's obvious he has to warm up and it takes some time. josh wouldn't want him to be late because of him.

but tyler's mood suddenly falters and the happy sounds of joy can't even be remembered anymore, even though they could be heard literally seconds ago. something suddenly changes in him and josh isn't quick enough to ask tyler.

"oh... oh, yeah, right," he nods his head a few times and tries to put on a smile. "right, see you tomorrow," he says hesitantly before breaking his eye contact with josh and starting looking around. "i need to... you know, hurry up."

josh gets confused, that tyler just told him that he doesn't need to rush and it was okay that they were talking, but he suddenly changes his mind. though, josh doesn't question it, he's obviously tired and probably nervous about the game, he should think about nothing but basketball right now, and maybe that's better for him, that he decided to cut off the conversation.

"sure. good luck and fight until you don't have any strength in your limbs, okay?"

"okay!" tyler calls already from afar, running into another hallway, without looking back.

josh watches him until he disappears behind the wall, then turns on his heel to head to exit. what is different than usually is that there are quite a lot of people in the building, considering that it's almost 4 p.m. the muffled sounds of music and shouts that are remote, but intense are coming from from—wait, the gym. josh didn't realize that until now.

tyler ran into a direction of these sounds. lockers and exit doors are on the other side of the building.

josh wants to slap himself in the face when he finally realizes.

the game apparently takes place in this school. it should be obvious, but actually the school could be invited somewhere else, but not today.

it would be great if josh could sneak into the gym to see. he actually doesn't have anything to do at home, and if he has, he doesn't want to think about it. he doesn't even know, if you had to get some sort of invitation to an event, or if you can just go and watch. there wouldn't be probably enough seats on bleachers for all takers. but it's worth to try.

he turns around and walks to the direction of the gym, and hears, that, of course, the voices get louder along with his steps.

he can see at least thirty people crowding the door, including adults and basketball players from different team; all of them having foreign faces. and even though josh still doesn't recognize half of the students here, they don't look like from this school. he just has that feeling.

he excuses himself and opens the door casually, not to get anyone suspicious, even though there can't be anything suspicious in casual entering the gym during a game, but he's apparently the last person, who passes through the main doors. when he's inside, most of faces on bleachers turn to his face, and it would look funny, how neutrally he walks through the court to the crowded bleachers.

there aren't any unoccupied seats visible, but he has to fit himself somewhere here, not to get kicked out for standing on a court. it's probably not possible, but he's got enough to have additional problems, this time with teachers.

just before he gets to sit on some free space he just found, he can see orange color standing out of the crowd, and realizes it has to be nothing and no one, but hayley. and if hayley is here, she should have brought somebody else with her.

he lightly pushes people blocking the way and tangles with their legs, and a few kicks on his ankles later he makes his way to a group of people of three; hayley, brendon and ashley.

"josh," hayley smiles to him. "did you see you attracted an interest of all people here?"

"yeah, it was amazing," josh laughs and looks for any free seat.

"we all just turned left when the door opened, and, like, everybody's eyes followed you. we thought you wouldn't find us."

"thanks for your colourful hair," josh responds. "isn't here any space for me?"

ashley moves lightly on her seat and pushes brendon, but it doesn't make any bigger difference. josh doesn't have a place to situate himself without blocking the view with his posture. "uh, sorry, there's not."

"oh, wait, there's one behind." josh notices one clear seat right one row behind and above their heads. when he finally seats, he speaks again, "you ran away, brendon."

brendon turns around and looks at josh. "i was actually looking for you, but couldn't find you, so i assumed you had gone home."

"oh, okay. thanks, dude," josh says. "i was going to go, but just heard there is a game, so sneaked in."

"sure."

"what about the game?" asks josh.

after a few moments, hayley begins, "well, pe—" but before she can properly begin what she wants to say, ashley interrupts her.

"i just saw tyler, and don't know, what to expect. he looks bad."

josh frowns, and he doesn't get to see others' faces, but they both turn to ashley. hayley tells her, "i saw everybody was a nervous wreck. i understand them."

"tyler slept in class," josh says, even when ashley knows that, but just to remind them.

"it doesn't matter. he used to be in a worse state and it was okay."

"worse state?" josh frowns.

"he has problems with sleep, i told you," ashley answers without turning around, but josh doesn't have a time to respond as the audible voice from speakers stops him in his tracks and announces the event.

josh spends the whole musical and cheerleader performance completely zoned out and looking at his phone, and doesn't see, that the game is about to start, when he hears hayley.

"well, they all look pretty terrified."

"they look amazing. why couldn't i play basketball?" brendon can be heard in front of josh, and josh looks up to see, what is happening in the court.

he missed the whole beginning of the game, not even knowing how, but the game just seems like heating up. to his surprise, he can recognize about half of the team; he talked to most of them in person.

the opposite team is just a group of complete strangers, obviously, but some brutal strangers, who seem to fight their lives to win. but if they are as great as they show themselves, josh doesn't know.

they seem to be really aggressive and chaotic, try to make a mess on the court, but that isn't what the game is about. they don't have firm tactics, just use their force to weaken the opponent, especially that one long-haired guy, who for some reason tugs on players' jerseys to get the ball. that isn't okay, some people shout, but the other half doesn't seem to mind.

he just almost made his way to the net, squeezing through the crowd of opponents and players from his team waiting to keep the ball if their friend doesn't succeed, when out of sudden the ball soars in the opposite direction, simply taken away from behind by one person, who didn't seem to draw attention before.

before josh can think, the boy who has stolen the ball runs nearer to where they sit, ahead of everyone with his only goal to reach the net or hand the ball to his friend guarding in the back, and he's been so fast, that it's not a surprise he wasn't so visible earlier. in a span of a second the realisation hits josh on a chest.

tyler is the clever and shrewd one, who distracts the attention to pay back with a ten times bigger force.

josh has to admit, that he didn't notice him before, because he was pretty much hiding, but he just appeared out of nowhere and suddenly all the attention is situated on him slipping past the whole length of the court with his golden skin and fully concentrated look on his face, lean and athletic, with no mistake slipping out of his hands. is that even possible? it was probably his main goal. josh is truly amazed.

the crowd always follows tyler, and when he gets closer and closer, he decides to throw the ball to different hands without a risk of losing it. he doesn't have to score himself; the most important thing is that their team scores.

the applause fills the whole room and before the whistle players have some time to take a breath, so tyler just decides to look up at bleachers and directly at his friends, that are cheering at him. he probably knew earlier, where they sat, but it's also not difficult to find bright blue, orange, and also yellow in the room of mostly brown and black.

josh doesn't know, if tyler sees him. well, he obviously does, but probably isn't paying attention to him at the moment, so josh raises both of his hands and gives him thumbs up, at which tyler responds with a huge toothy grin. unbelievable.

josh smiles and raises his eyebrows, questioning, if tyler for real is looking at him, because he might as well be looking at someone behind him or next to him, considering, that there is a crowd of people surrounding josh, but tyler responds raising his thumbs and the corner of his lips even further. josh has to take a breath before blinking.

tyler smile is so... nice and warm, and brings the feeling of calmness and safety. josh has never seen him smile so widely before, and so brightly. it's a huge difference and a thing he's not used to, but the thing he could gladly become accustomed to.

he can't believe tyler was a complete opposite not so long ago before the game.

tyler comes back to the game and this time josh watches him more precisely, because, honestly, he suddenly seems to make the game more interesting, seeing him getting more and more tired by the weight of fight, but not giving up, and his skin gleaming more and more with the way he moves, josh catches himself staring, before tyler looks up at him again.

the game gets more heated and aggressive by a second, and speed fights with flair, that no one knows, who leads anymore. but some people know, who plays with more grace and fairness.

finally, the home team wins proudly with seven points ahead. that was a long game, but not a torturous one; everything was unexpected and just worth to see. the court fills with more people and players share the cheer and sadness with each other.

"that was a good game," brendon says.

"indeed."

"it still would be, even if we didn't win. did you see them? for a second i was thinking they would bite each other for that ball."

"tyler was smiling like crazy even when we were losing, though," hayley adds.

"what happened to him?"

"we were the best at clapping," says ashley, and josh just wants to tell them, that he mostly wasn't smiling at them, but behind them, but he doesn't want to kill the mood and make the entire happiness go away.

Chapter Text

tyler has been sneezing for the whole long week. the main reason he got sick had been, most probably, the basketball game, when he had went out into chilly air right after he could leave the gym, all panting and sweaty, to meet his friends. was it worth that victory? maybe.

when he got home after individual team meeting to celebrate another good score, he jumped face-down onto his bed and fell asleep with clothes he'd been wearing outside and shoes on. he woke up the next day at 2 p.m. with a torturous headache and a sore throat. well, at least we won. everything for the team, right? he thought sarcastically. at least it was saturday and he could worry about his cold later.

but he didn't feel any better even on sunday, monday, tuesday... the sickness swallowed him whole. for some reason his mom let him stay home and heal, which meant lay in bed, watch movies, send hundreds of messages, and leave his own room only to go to bathroom, and that was that.

one day he even brought half of the fridge with himself to his room, covered the window with a curtain and additionally a dark blanket to make that place even darker. he watched 4 full movies that day. when his dad had asked him to come down outside to help him carry stuff from the car, and when he opened the door, he had to blink fifteen times to see clearly. the day was sunny. his room had been drowned in cimmerian darkness.

another night ashley wanted to sneak in through his window again, but tyler strongly disagreed. he said, if she wants to come over, fine, but no sleeping in his bed if she doesn't want to get sneezed on her face every 5 minutes. tyler didn't want her to either hear his whines every time he coughed.

so that he spent that whole night on his phone, because the pain spreading everywhere wouldn't let him sleep, talking to random people on group chats, because he had clearly nothing else to do.

ashley agreed, that she would give tyler her notebooks everyday, so he could rewrite notes, but she barely writes anything in class, so that didn't really help. that's the only reason he doesn't like missing school. he has no idea what is happening there during his absence.

almost two weeks later, when he returned to school half-conscious of his surroundings and being informed, that he had missed six tests, he finds himself walking beside josh on his way back home.

tyler has his eyes barely opened and feels like the sight of teachers alone and people he doesn't like drained every ounce of his energy, and usually he wouldn't enjoy any company, but josh is tolerable enough and won't yell into his ear, like most of people he ever talks with would do. not that he ever talks to a lot of people.

"it was lonely without you there," he hears josh say, and suddenly wakes up a little, trying to extract a small laugh.

"as if my presence would make any difference," he answers, wiping his eyes to make himself see clearer. at the moment his sight is blurry and foggy, and it probably won't change. he should go to sleep; that's the only solution.

"wouldn't it? everyone missed your presence exactly everywhere, you know, your hilarious sense of humor and your witty comments..." tyler listens in disbelief and erupts a giggle, that interrupts josh, who nods seriously also with a bright smile on his face. "am i right?" he starts again, and tyler furrows his eyebrows, as if he doesn't know, what josh is talking about, but he knows well. "who wouldn't notice, that the person who always brightens a mood when there's a dead silence in class wasn't there?"

it shouldn't be so funny for tyler, and it really isn't, but instead it is hilarious. he likes to laugh at himself, because sometimes it's the only thing that makes him feel better, and josh is clearly making fun at him in front of his face.

"shut up," he manages to say through his laugh, really trying his best to stop himself and not look like a fool, who laughs at everything, because come on, was it that funny? he's mocking him, because tyler does absolutely nothing in class besides his responsibilities. he's not really active and prefers to be invisible in school. he can't help himself and chuckles for the last time, wiping his tired face again. maybe that's this sickness.

"aren't i right?" josh asks behind him.

"i didn't know that you l-like making fun of the fact that i'm scared of people. thank you." tyler tells him, even though he's not completely serious; well, partly he is, he doesn't mind anything that happened a moment ago.

however, for a second he regrets saying everything he said. people not always perceive the ones with mental illnesses, fears, in a good way. tyler understands them a little, because sometimes it is really hard to communicate with that person; you can make things worse from good intentions, so that people are afraid to take the first step and talk. there are also ones, that would offend you and look at you like at an animal on purpose.

but josh only laughs and says, "we all are," and tyler breathes out the air that he didn't know it filled him inside. and it's okay. "but as i said. it was lonely."

right, they are still playing this game. at least josh doesn't have any problems with tyler's weird behaviour. i am here, but not clearly here. okay, he will play along. "as if we've talked to each other for so long that you already felt any different without me."

"and whose fault is that?" josh asks.

tyler almost rolls his eyes and speeds up the pace just a little to avoid this talk again. "sorry, i can't hear you!it's this... uh, wind. bye, it was nice to meet you again," he calls from afar, not even wanting to leave josh behind and walk away without him, so he is glad when he feels a presence approaching him and sees josh from the corner of his eye a few moments later.

he is smiling, tyler can say, and it's all good. the weather is cold, maybe too cold for tyler to wear only a thin turtleneck without any shirt underneath it, but it's all good. the sun is already slowly setting, it's this time of the year, and it decorates the sky with bright shades of purple and blue.

so when he notices, that they are too silent, too gazed on the surroundings and maybe it's getting quite awkward, at least for him, he decides to solve that by asking the first question that comes into his mind.

"did something... interesting happen, when i wasn't in school?"

perfect sentence to start a small talk. congratulations.

he's not good at small talk, and would prefer not to talk at all instead of this, but now there he is, suggesting it first. what came into him? he would be grateful if every relation with people started without awkward questions and stares, and people could skip to, for example, telling your new friend already, that you tore your window-blind out of anger.

tyler did that once. but if he ever told that someone, they would take him as a freak, so that's why he doesn't tell stories often. but he was just angry at some kid in a video game. it was worth it.

josh doesn't seem to mind, or find it uncomfortable at all. well, he seems to always have any solution from problematic situation, doesn't he? what an awesome guy.

but he doesn't say anything for a moment, and tyler slaps himself mentally; which time today, again? he shouldn't open his mouth at all.

"um, let me think..." fortunately for tyler, josh says. "oh, well, people were loud about it last week. some girl got pregnant."

"what?" it startles tyler suddenly, and makes him look to his left in josh's direction. well, that's new. he doesn't go to school for once and actually things happen. "really?" he repeats.

josh laughs lightly at tyler's astonishment. "i mean, not that it is some material for first pages in newspaper—"

"are you kidding?" tyler interrupts, still slightly shocked and inadvertent, "i can't believe i can fall asleep in class while i work for my highest frequency because i have nothing else to do there, and when i stay at home for like one day, everything happens at once."

"you were absent for like one month." josh smiles.

"i was absent for two weeks," tyler defends himself quietly. "exactly two full weeks."

"it seemed so much longer."

"my game was right before halloween. and now it's november—" tyler stops to pull out his phone and check the date. "eleventh."

"okay, maybe you're right." josh nods and speaks again after some time to think. "this semester goes by too slowly, it should be december right now."

"yeah, i guess," tyler agrees, taking a deep breath and wondering, what to say. "at least right now is the best time of the year," he points out, looking at all the trees spreading along the street, the trees that already lost all their leaves, and the trees that scare creatures with their sharp branches at night.

"more like the worst," josh answers.

tyler stops in his tracks for a second to turn his face to the boy next to him once again. "really? fall is the best time of the year," he repeats.

"the only good thing about fall is the fact, that christmas is coming."

"you are impossible," tyler scoffs under his breath, what makes josh laugh a little louder than before at tyler's over-exaggerated seriousness.

"summer is the best," josh shrugs a moment later.

"it's not, summer is disgusting. you are sweating and laying next to a fan and nothing else," tyler tells him immediately.

"i don't know, summer is not that bad for me."

"i disagree," tyler says playfully this time, but still, he doesn't understand people who choose summer over fall or spring for example, where you can go out comfortable in a hoodie and you don't need anything else. it's not about summer break this time or being able to travel, just the weather itself.

tyler is lucky that the wind today isn't too strong, otherwise he would freeze in his clothes, especially when he's still recovering from his quite intense cold. the thing is, that the last time he went to school it was warm, hot, the end of summer like. he hadn't left his house very often since that time, so this quick change of weather oddly surprised him. still, it's november already. he should have been warned.

trees and autumn plants he's never seen here before make him realize, that they turned opposite to tyler's destination. before he opens his mouth to say, that his house is far behind them and say goodbye, he notices one familiar building, also in front of which he's standing at the moment.

"wanna come over?" josh turns to tyler, who raises his eyebrows and stares at him questioningly.

"um, you know, i don't want to get you sick or something," he mumbles, hiding his chin in his sweater. he doesn't have any better excuse.

they keep approaching josh's house, tyler behind josh. "you aren't sick anymore, are you?"

"only because i'm outside and inhaling fresh air. it's worse in warmer area," tyler answers.

"i mean," josh stops for a second. "only if you want."

"i mean," tyler repeats after josh, "i don't want to bother," he almost whispers, still moving closer to the door, despite what he just said.

"you won't," josh tells him, looking for keys in his pockets. "my mom wanted to meet you one day."

tyler's eyes widen while he looks at the wooden door. his mom? how does she know tyler?

"how does she know me?" he says his thoughts out loud.

"she saw us leaving the house one day, i guess." josh shrugs, in comparison to tyler, who nervously tugs on his backpack straps and imagines a lot of various scenarios of meeting josh's mom. interactions with adult people make him anxious a little.

they enter the chilly house together once again, but it's not dully quiet this time. television playing, voices humming—

"josh?"

"yeah, i'm home," josh calls from the hallway, taking his boots off and grabbing tyler's backpack to put it away. he leads him to the living room, where his mother is sitting by the table, watching news and painting her nails. his siblings didn't come back from school yet, for what josh is grateful, so that they won't have any interest on new person in house, at least for now.

back in josh's old home, no matter if he would bring his guy friends and girl friends, they all ended up with his younger siblings, who just begged to play with them. they were still not older that twelve, and all of them have been childishly confident and stubborn with what they wanted, that's probably a family thing, so that was nothing of a problem to distract josh's friends from him. he didn't mind, usually. kids are kids.

they both are so quiet josh's mom doesn't hear them walking into the room and she doesn't look up from her hands, probably not noticing anything different, like tyler's presence.

"i brought a friend, if you're interested," josh speaks up from behind tyler, who puts his weight on a left foot and tries to show the best smile to the woman looking up at him right now, even though it isn't really honest.

"oh, nice, nice," she hums and waves her hand to dry off the nail polish. "you are—oh, i think i forgot your name?"

"tyler."

"oh, yes. nice to meet you!" she smiles in his direction and points to a chair in front of her. "go ahead, take a seat. make yourself comfortable."

tyler does as told and occupies one of big chairs at the dining table. a smell of nail polish scratches his nostrils, but it's a nice smell. a smell he's familiar with. he looks around to keep himself busy with doing something and finds josh disappearing in a kitchen.

"so tyler, do you live somewhere in the neighbourhood?"

"actually, yes, not so far away," he answers politely, looking at tv.

"oh, really? are you new here?"

tyler emits a breathy chuckle, which sounds more like a nervous laughter and answers, "um, no, i've lived here since i was born."

"that's interesting. i haven't heard about you. you must have a quiet family," she smiles at tyler. he does the same.

"well, you could say that," tyler tells her, while thinking in his head, that not really. maybe his parents aren't really problematic, but they are really socially active. it sometimes scares tyler, how hard they try to be that one perfect family. just to be appreciated by others.

suddenly a cracking sound can be heard from the kitchen, followed by josh's voice. tyler raises his eyebrows trying not to laugh. "is there any sharp knife in this house?"

his mom sighs loudly and slams her hands on the table playfully. "if you have a problem, go and buy a new one," she calls.

josh answers immediately, "but i can't even—ugh, never mind."

tyler hears something, that sounds like closing a cupboard, and then josh comes to a sight with two water bottles in his right hand, handing one of them to tyler, who debates, if he really should take it or not, but takes it eventually with a short thank you.

he takes a seat on a chair next to tyler and takes a sip of water from his water bottle, which for some reason is half empty now. how did he even—

"what are you watching?" he asks his mom while turning his sight to tv. "ugh, i hate him," he points to one man being interviewed, some politician, that's all tyler knows.

"why?" tyler asks.

"you don't know him?" tyler shakes his head. "this dumbass acts against the constitution and community is protesting not to put this dumb law into effect."

tyler nods and looks at tv, questioning how josh knows politics here better than he does, living here just a couple of months, but doesn't ask him about it out loud not to embarrass himself.

"so!" josh's mom starts again, making two boys face her. "tyler, how did you two meet?" she asks simply, and tyler finds it nice that she cares even about little things like that. it's probably cool to have parents who ask about your day, your friends, and just about how you are doing in general.

it's not that tyler minds his parents, but sometimes it scares him he can't tell them anything, because they wouldn't understand. he has stopped talking with them about his personal life few years ago. now the only topics of their conversations are obviously school or house duties. maybe they don't want to interfere. well, they do enough.

"he wanted to help me with editing stuff," josh tells her casually with a convincing smile, noticing tyler's hesitation and speaking for him.

he is aware of the fact, that tyler isn't really talkative, even though right now he's doing surprisingly well, considering that his mom can be annoying sometimes. not in a bad way; she just sometimes wants to know too much, more that somebody's comfort agrees to that. but she's a chilly mom, she's never minded josh's friends, or maybe just kept her opinions about them to herself.

"that's nice! you are interested in similar things, yeah?" she turns to tyler.

tyler nods. "um, kind of," he says, not knowing what else to tell her. to make a conversation you have to build more expanded sentences, though, he knows that, and he would really like to be able to make them in moments like that.

"you know, you are the first person he has invited to this house so far, so it was a quite surprise to me." now she turns to josh, "or maybe you've been hiding something from me and sneaking in when i wasn't home."

"yeah, because i have nothing better to do," josh answers, and tyler wonders, is it true? well, josh has made at least three times more friends here so far than tyler did in his whole life, so tyler doesn't have to invite friends over, because he really doesn't have any, besides ashley who comes to his house without asking anyway, but josh? that's a surprise. of course, it's not an obligation to bring all friends to your house, any of them, they could prefer hanging out outside, but the thing is, tyler is here for the second time already.

"really?" tyler asks after some time, still to josh's mom statement, who hopefully understands what is it about.

"really." she says. "he used to bring the whole school—"

josh interrupts her, looking offended, "are you kidding?" he looks at tyler and mouths, "that's not true," when his mom continues.

"wouldn't you? i had enough of it sometimes. one person had left the house, another entered, and over and over again. i feel like it was their second home. if i wasn't who i really am, i wouldn't let him all of this, but i really like teens, sometimes talking with them makes me feel more... i don't know... like them."

josh snorts at that and it's just simple. everything is so simple. it seems to feel nice to have your parent as a best friend, or at least a person, who tries to be your best friend, who would not throw at you warning glares nor constantly reprimand.

tyler feels a lot better here than he did a few minutes ago. he even laughs once, when josh tells him what he did to his brother a couple of years ago.

once josh notices his mother constantly looking at boys and then at tv and then at her hands again, josh says, "mom, you're obsessed."

"josh, you better don't say anything anymore," she answers, shaking her head, and after a moment tyler realizes they are talking about her nails, in color mint, that she's not really sure about and kept fixing them all the time. "nobody in this house cares if i ever feel good."

"they look r-really good," tyler chimes in, taking a quick look at the green-ish color.

"oh, you think so?" tyler nods. she looks at her work again, for the hundredth time in a span of ten minutes, and adds, "amazing. a real man opinion. i needed this."

josh then rolls his eyes playfully and decides to stand from behind the table, saying, "i'm going to turn on a computer, because we need to finish some things," he nods at his mother. "ty, come upstairs when you're done."

tyler chuckles and smiles shyly at josh, nodding. seeing him disappearing behind the wall, tyler looks at his mother. "actually, i always watch my cousin painting her nails, so i think i have a good knowledge without any practice."

she looks at him in pure amazement, saying, that he appreciates his interest in things like that. other boys would get bored easily, being the stubborn creatures they are. well, tyler doesn't say he's not bored, sometimes he is, but it's oddly satisfying to watch other people's work.

tyler isn't counting time, when moments turn into minutes, when he's busy with talking to a friendly woman in front of him, despite the fact that he came here for josh, and it seems like he abandoned him, but he doesn't want to be rude and interrupt, when they talk about school, about josh, about her husband, when tyler gets to know the other kids from the family after they come back home from school, and when he sneezes again and again, saying that no, he doesn't need a medicine, he has his own at home, and thanks again, struggling to make full sentences.

so when josh appears downstairs with a certainty that his friend just left the house some time ago, but instead of that he sees him on the same seat as when he left the room, he excuses his mother and sister who seem very interested in conversation with the new person and leads tyler lightly by the shoulder upstairs, leaving his family members annoyed and tyler erupting a giggle beside him.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Tyler has no idea, what led him into Josh's bed yesterday evening and kept him that connected to it, that he fell asleep for what seemed like a big, huge, long hour.

And he had completely no idea, what to feel, when he woke up in unfamiliar bed, when the realization finally hit him, and especially when he noticed, that Josh hadn't moved even a little bit from his spot since when he remembered he had been earlier.

If it wasn't enough, he didn't wake up just to unfamiliar bed, he didn't wake up just to bright screen immediately blinding his sight, and he didn't wake up just to Josh sitting beside where he was laying. No, to addition to that, he woke up with a weird warmth surrounding him, something what felt like a thick blanket on his body, and was certain, that the fact, that he actually did fall asleep in somebody's house and they were pretty certain about it to cover him with a blanket, made him embarrassed enough to regret every single decision in his life, that led him exactly to this.

But Josh was sweet enough and would never complain, that his own bed was occupied not only by himself, but by the other person, who had, well, fell asleep, and wasn't going to move any time soon.

And the funniest fact was, that Tyler had thought he could feel the most comfortable in his own bed, but that situation made him question even that statement. He was so comfortable, even sleeping all-clothed, that he didn't even want to make a move to make it all disappear, but then realized, that the longer he stayed there, the harder it would be for him to leave that bed and that house.

Josh even offered to give him a lift back to his house, because—what time it was? 9 p.m. already—it was dark outside, danger hid outside and all that, but Tyler had to refuse. He didn't want to be more of a burden he had already been.

Even Josh's parents were surprised, that he still hadn't left the house, when they both came downstairs. They didn't seem to mind, either, but actually forgot that Tyler even was upstairs at this point.

Until Tyler left, Josh had asked him a few more times, if he really didn't need a ride, but every time he asked this, Tyler said that he didn't, even though he maybe did, because when he took a step outside, he stood still for a while, it was so cold.

He managed to make his way into his house, but not really sure if he wouldn't catch a cold again. He was still recovering. Who even let him go outside dressed like that?

Fortunately, he didn't wake up the next day any more sick, but for sure he did wake up more tired than ever.

He had to pass two tests already, not being able to study for them at all, as he spent the whole evening with Josh and doing Josh's homework, but hoping he at least wouldn't fail.

He walked back home alone this time, because Josh was nowhere to be seen—he didn't even notice him in school hallways at all—and Ashley decided to wait this one hour for her tennis practice in school this time.

He missed her all that time he stayed sick at home. Sure, she would visit him for dinner or just to check on him or talk with his parents, but it wasn't as much as always before. He has to deal with this fact eventually.

He enters his house a little bit too loudly than necessary, and unfortunately brings the attention from his mother, who immediately attacks him with questions, not being able to catch him earlier in the morning.

"Why did you come back home so late yesterday?"

Tyler curses himself and regrets he didn't make sure his mother was home already, because this conversation isn't going to end up lightly.

"I was at friend's," he answers quickly, hopeful that it was convincing enough and he can run upstairs to his room. But his plan doesn't succeed, when his mother stops him just before he manages to put his foot on the first step.

"At friend's? You have so much overdue work to do and you're at friend's?" she calls from the kitchen. This is the moment, when Tyler realizes he made a huge mistake; he could say as well he was spending time with Ashley and she would leave him alone, but he had to tell her about some friend. Good luck now if you can't lie.

"W-we were in Ashley's house," he tries to convince her, hoping, that maybe a single mention about Ashley would calm her nerves and make her leave him alone, because, for some reason, she never has any problem with Ashley hanging out with Tyler, no matter if he's abandoning his duties or not, but it also leads to not letting him to hang out with anybody else, because she always has an excuse, that he has to study.

"So you finally were at Ashley's or the other friend's?" She looks at him with disbelief. Tyler knows it's not easy to lie to her, that's why he never does it. There's no use.

"Ashley, she was with us." It comes out a little more hesitant than he wanted it to come out. He really sucks at lying. He's making her pissed, it's visible.

"Enough, I'm calling Ashley." She puts down her cooking book on a counter and moves to grab her phone from a table.

"Ashley has a practice now, she won't answer," he says quickly, knowing that it won't even lead to anything better, but there is always chance to try. He is pretty sure Ashley would cover him if necessary, but she really does have a practice really soon and most probably won't be available on her phone. Who knows, maybe this would make his mom drop this topic and let him go into his room.

"So I'm calling her dad."

Great. Fantastic. Amazing. He doesn't even have any excuse anymore, because he knows he's gone at this point. He can only choose a way to die. She even puts the call on a speaker, so Tyler can hear the sound of his disappointment.

"Hi, I'm sorry for bothering you, but I just called to ask you something," she speaks after some time it took for Ashley's father to answer the call. "Was Tyler with Ashley yesterday?"

"Something bad happened?" a voice from a speaker asks.

"He constantly lies to me, now is trying to tell me he was in your house yesterday but I know he wasn't." She looks at the same time at Tyler with that expression which shows he should feel humiliated. He hates that.

"You know that Tyler is always with Ashley, and so was he yesterday. They hadn't seen each other for a few weeks, let them be," Ashley's dad tells her as it's the most obvious. Tyler wants to run to his house at the moment and kneel in front of him, because it seems like the only way to thank him enough. He apparently knows how Tyler's mother can be sometimes, of course he knows, but Tyler would never expect him to defend his butt in situation like that one.

"You're lucky this time," she says after hanging up, with a little surprise in her tone. He rolls his eyes and turns around to head to his room. He wasn't even able to take off his coat properly.

He doesn't get to take his shoes off and put on some more comfortable clothes, and take a deep breath in and out for the first time this day, because his phone decides to interrupt it. It's buried somewhere in his coat, so he has to do an investigation before answering the call, barely making it in time.

"Hi Tyler, I have a job for you," Ashley can be heard on the other side. At least it's not her dad asking what the heck all that was meant for earlier.

"I just entered my room, what?"

"So... You're going to hate me. I left my tennis clothes under my bed today morning, and the practice starts in, like, 15 minutes, so I can't leave school now, and dad is somewhere in mall, God knows where—"

"You want me to bring your clothes to your practice, yeah, yeah," Tyler interrupts her. He just untied his shoes, needlessly.

"It would be great, Tyler," Ashley pleads.

"Okay, I didn't even have time to take my shoes off, but okay." He grabs his keys and closes his room, jumping downstairs, remembering that his mother is still in the kitchen. Great.

"Tyler, please, I'll pay you if you want, just please," he hears on the other side of call.

"No, it's okay, I'm leaving my house now. Hang up." He checks, if he still has Ashley's key on his key ring, even though it's supposed to always be there, but who knows, if somebody in this house doesn't decide to suddenly rummage through his things and take it away from him.

Before he opens the door, he looks at his mother reading something on a kitchen table, not even noticing that he's leaving the house right now.

"Ashley forgot her clothes to a practice, if you didn't hear," he calls from the hallway with a mockery in his tone. "Just informing you, that I'm going outside."

He closes the door without any other word and without waiting for his mother to say anything. The practice probably begins in like 10 minutes at this point, and Ashley's house isn't that close to walk calmly, so he has to pick up his pace a lot.

A plastic bag with Ashley's tennis clothes is at least in that spot she said it would be, so he doesn't have to hunt for it in her bedroom. He leaves her house as quickly as possible, even though he's probably already late. She should have called him earlier. She would have her clothes in time, and Tyler maybe could have avoided that torturing talk with his mother.

The school hallways are almost completely empty, just as empty as during his basketball practices. It's slowly getting dark outside, and this building looks much better at this time of a day.

He finds Ashley waiting for him outside a gym, immediately running in his direction with a smile on her face.

"You're quick!" She grabs the bag from his hand and looks inside, pulling out her clothes. "You're a miracle, thank you Tyler."

"Anytime," he says honestly. "Now hurry, you will be late. See you!" He waves to her, walking backwards and disappearing slowly in another hallway.

During those few short minutes he was inside the building, it got much darker, and even colder outside. The sun is going to set very soon, and the air feels very thick. There will be a storm tonight.

He dressed warmly today at least, but he's still feeling like he's still freezing in his coat. It's November, it's getting cold really quickly, he should be prepared for that, but these two weeks he spent at home made him lose control about everything.

"Enjoying your walk?" he suddenly hears from somewhere behind him. Being hundred percent sure, that it wasn't said in his direction, he turns his head around anyway. He can't perceive anybody, the pavement is clear, but there's a car that stopped right in front of him. "Nice to see you, Sleepyhead."

"Oh, hi, Josh."

"Where are you going?" Josh asks, leaning from the other side of his car to look at Tyler from the opened window.

"Oh, I'm coming back to my house, you know, I had to t—"

"Hop inside," Josh says quickly, pointing to an empty passenger seat on Tyler's side.

"What?" Tyler said a little confused, as always.

"It's warmer here, I'll give you a lift, come on." Josh leans in again and opens the opposite door from the passenger's side and disappears on his seat again.

"No, Josh," Tyler answers.

"Why?" Josh looks up at Tyler again, all smiling and happy, and okay, it wouldn't be that difficult to refuse, if not that smile.

Tyler shrugs. "I can walk back home by myself."

Josh tilts his head and looks at Tyler for a few moments, waiting for him to close the gap and get in, but it doesn't come. "I'm offering you a ride home and you're hesitating? Come on. Look, cars are passing by, they will shout at me soon that I'm standing in the middle of the road."

"Fine, fine," Tyler gives up, mostly because he knows Josh wouldn't wouldn't give up that quickly, but partially not really because of that.

He gets inside, and suddenly a chilly air hits his cheeks; not the stuffy air from outside, but much more comfortable kind of air. The car is comfortable as well, and smells really good. If Tyler had an occasion to drive a car some time, he wouldn't leave it probably for the whole day.

"What's up?" Josh asks, speeding up, to start a conversation.

"Nothing interesting, really. I had some tests today already, and I forgot to study yesterday..."

"Aw, sorry for that," Josh answers, his eyes still glued carefully to the road. Everything feels warm at the moment, and it's not completely about the heat, but the whole comfy feeling inside the car. The road is almost empty, the sun is setting, it's beautiful.

"No, it's okay," Tyler says. "I loved your bed," he adds out of the blue.

Josh laughs at that, turning his gaze to Tyler, who tries to smile with him. "You are welcome there, then."

"Sure," Tyler says jokingly, looking away from Josh's face, back to the road. He wants to curl on his seat and fall asleep, it's really comfy.

The ride is silent, without any music, but Tyler isn't complaining, it's completely fine. He admires marvelous colors decorating the sky, being clearly visible on the horizon at the end of the road. The last time he experienced a full sunset was probably during summer.

"Oh my God," he hums quietly after noticing a purple cloud behind a huge tree from Josh's side.

"What?"

Tyler points to the cloud, believing, that Josh is able to see it from his seat. "It's beautiful. I've never seen something like that before."

"Really?" Josh asks, slowing down the car to turn left, a direction of an old basketball court near Tyler's neighbourhood. Tyler nods, and that's when the car stops completely. He is sure, that he stopped, because it's the end of the ride and he expected from Tyler to walk this short way home, but then Josh gets up and leaves the car and tells him to come out, too. "Did you know about this place?" He points to the basketball court.

"Yes, I would play there really often as a child, actually." He follows Josh, who is looking around as if he is examining a territory surrounding him.

"Well, how would you not know, that sunsets look so sick from here?" Josh asks, looking up at the sky still changing its shades. He finds a mural somewhere behind a court, in front of which spreads a fully open area, giving an amazing look at the clear sky.

They take a seat on a pavement, leaning against the painted wall, Tyler smiling at the thought, that Josh's pure intention of stopping the car was just to look at the sky.

"Did you come home safe yesterday?" Josh asks, closing his eyes. Everything feels so safe.

"I did, as you can see," Tyler says. "You wouldn't probably see me here now if something dangerous happened to me."

Josh laughs. "Right. You still should have accepted my offer to give you a ride. It's not that I had something else to do anyway."

"Didn't want you to waste your petrol for me."

"Seriously?" Josh finds it ridiculous.

"Yes," Tyler shrugs.

"First of all," Josh begins, "It's my mom's car. She doesn't care. Even if it were my car I wouldn't care. Second of all, wasting petrol? Really?" He looks to his right at Tyler with a look of disbelief, who just shrugs again. Josh laughs. "Third of all, it was so damn cold, I should at least have given you my jacket, or something." He says it like it's the most obvious thing in the world.

Josh giving Tyler his own jacket, right. A perfect idea. He would probably have a heart attack before accepting it, but at the same time he's feeling warm at the same thought.

His lips curl up into a smile, just enough to show that he is enjoying the moment. Josh moves closer so that he feels his presence, yet stays quiet, allowing him to stay lost in the bright colors a while longer, before they fade away, and taking a look at his face.

Tyler watches the sun falling behind the horizon with wide eyes, painting the sky with shades of red, pink and orange. An orange haze casts directly over the court, splashing the beaming rays of sun onto his face, mixing the bright pink shade of his cold cheeks with the warm golden color. Shadows from his eyelashes cast over the cheeks, giving them another detail to adore.

At the same time the brilliant orb of amber and tangerine sinks lower and lower in the sky until it dips down into the horizon, painting the sky in even more impossibly magnificent hues of fiery red and crimson. Small diamonds of distant stars can be noticed even now, under not fully dark sky.

It feels like both of them are all alone here, even though some voices and harsh sounds of cars passing by emit around them all the time. But it doesn't disturb the calmness of the moment at all.

"It's so pink," Tyler hums to himself, still looking up, single sparkles in his eyes visible, but Josh is concentrated enough to hear. He hums in agreement, making Tyler finally look away from the sky, and look at Josh straight in the eyes. A lot of words of thankfulness to Josh for leading him here and making him enjoy the sunset just like this, make their way to his throat, but are never brave enough to come out.

Both of them are lost in the sight in front of them, probably busy enough to even smile or say a word. Everything they're seeing are each other's faces cascaded by the last rays of the star hanging dangerously right in front of them.

What makes them blink and come back to the actual world, is a single, but loud thunder growling from behind, forcing them to hurry up and make their way back into the car with a laughter.