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You & I

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Several hours before daybreak, Josh was torn from sleep by the sound of someone unzipping their tent.

In the time it took him to orient himself in space and time - July, night time, somewhere in Kentucky - Tyler was gone, and the flap had been zipped up again.

The sound, the smell of the tent brought such a specific feeling to Josh’s sleep-hazy mind, sending him back in time to camping trips with his family, long weekends spent in mountain valleys, fighting with his siblings for air mattress space.

Something about being in a tent situated him firmly in the present; the press of not-quite even ground giving Josh a kind of certainty about where he was, what he was doing. It gave him a rare moment of peace.

And then, his instincts caught up to his brain. Tyler was going somewhere, he realized, and the thought mobilized him too.

At the beginning of their friendship last year - when Josh spent the majority of his proximity to Tyler being tentative and enthralled, worried about coming on too strong - he wouldn’t have followed. And then, as they had grown closer, inseparable, Josh wouldn’t have thought twice.

Until a few weeks ago, when their twosome had been thrown into uncertain waters, at once anxious and exciting. The discomfort, he thought, was worth the sacrifice.

Without bothering to find shoes, Josh unzipped the tent. The sun seemed to have taken all evidence of the day’s storm with it when it set, and even in darkness, the heat stuck to Josh’s skin.

Something besides curiosity was moving him forward, and he thought it felt a lot like hope.

Tyler had been gone too long to be visible, especially in the dark - but they had pitched their tent not far from the path that led back to the festival grounds in one direction, and alongside the ones in the other. He didn’t have to think too hard to know which way Tyler went.

The path led Josh through a small copse of trees, over a footbridge, and finally, dumped him out on a grassy embankment that sloped down towards a winding stream, the festival spread out below on the other side, and the stars spread out above.

Several paces in front of him, Tyler lay in the grass with his hands behind his head.

His expression was hidden by the dark, and when Josh walked up, he couldn’t tell from his posture alone whether Tyler had been expecting him to follow or not. He tried not to overthink it.

Instead of greeting him, Tyler let out a sharp stream of air from the corner of his mouth, to discourage an approaching mosquito.

It was so impossibly summer.

It was the kind of hot that only got hotter when you breathed it in.

“Was hoping you’d follow,” Tyler said.

Oh. There was Josh’s answer. The words thrilled him; physically overjoyed him, like he was a kid again. Like it was the first time he’d ever wanted someone like this. Maybe it was.

In answer, he lay down next to Tyler. The grass was inexplicably cool, and the blades brushing up on his bare legs provided some relief from the cloying heat.

Tyler turned his head to him, eyes close enough that he had to flick his gaze back and forth between each of Josh’s, back and forth, back and forth.

“I’m going to kiss you now,” Tyler announced quietly.

His gaze steadied.

Josh’s heart thrummed in his throat. “Thanks for the warning.”

Tyler rolled onto his side, propping himself on an elbow so that he hovered over josh. His eyes looked dark this close up, and warm, and all Josh could register was how little space existed between their chests.

Tyler was hesitating; he could tell.

Josh thought they’d done enough hesitating in the last few weeks.

“C’mere,” Josh whispered, and that was all it took.

Tyler barely had to move to press their lips together, and the contact came swift and easy.

God, I’m kissing him, Josh thought, and even though he’d been at the mercy of Tyler’s mouth twice before, the sensation felt brand new all over again, an unimaginable luxury, a privilege, a dream.

I’m kissing him, Josh thought; and he’s kissing me.

And he was. Either this heat hadn’t been there the last time, or Josh had ignored it. Regardless, it was all he could focus on now. Energy surged through the points where they touched, trembling, and Josh pressed himself even closer.

His hand in Tyler’s hair was involuntary. His hips on Tyler’s hips were involuntary. Or, if not involuntary, then inevitable. When Josh really thought about it - and he allowed himself only a single moment to do so - he could admit that they’d been hurtling toward this all along. Not slow, not steady, but an unavoidable descent toward this exact moment.

Tyler was gripping at the neckline of his shirt clumsily and eagerly, as if he thought Josh might pull away.

I’m right here, Josh thought, trying to press the words into Tyler’s lips. You already have me.

And Jesus, he did.

He was Tyler’s.

He thought there was a pretty good chance that he always would be.

Josh let his control slip for a brief moment, and Tyler seized his opportunity, pressing hands on either side of Josh’s head and rolling nimbly on top of him. It took Josh a moment and a few deep breaths to adjust to the position, to the pressure of Tyler’s body against his, before Tyler’s lips were on him again.

Josh thought of every festival-goer camped across the river, of every fan who had ever seen them play.

Me, he wanted to shout at them all. He chose me. He’s kissing me.

Josh kissed back harder.

Whatever carried away would look like in this moment, they were heading there. Tyler seemed to have the same thought. Very slightly, he sat up, and the resulting pressure on Josh’s hips pulled a gentle groan from him.

“Oh,” Tyler startled quietly.

“I - oh,” Josh echoed, blood rising to his cheeks.

Silence hung between them for a moment, and in the space between two breaths, Josh could feel his life split into two pieces - before that moan, and after. Before the fact of this kiss, and after. He wondered what the after would entail.

And then, Tyler breathed, and Tyler grinned, and Josh’s life reconciled itself into one piece.

“What,” Josh whispered, a smile splitting his face.

Tyler tipped his head back and laughed, and when he righted himself, his eyes were sparkling. “Nothing.”

This was how it had always been.

They pressed their foreheads together and breathed in tandem. When Tyler spoke again, his lips brushed Josh’s chin.

“Let’s stop being shy about this,” he hummed. Josh felt him swallow, hard. “Let’s be... lets just...”

“Yeah,” Josh agreed.

Tyler pulled back to look at him with a half smile.

“Yeah,” he repeated. “You have full permission to lay one on me any time, man.”

Josh thought his face might split from smiling. He couldn’t get his mouth into a position to kiss Tyler properly. He kissed him anyway.

He had permission, after all.

“I might,” Josh managed between kisses, “never stop. Kissing you, I mean.”

Tyler bit down feather-light on his jaw.

“Thanks for the warning.”

Morning peeked over the ridges of Tyler’s shoulders, framing him in orange light.

If this was summer, then Josh would trade the rest of his days for an infinite replay of this moment.

If this was daylight, Josh was never sleeping again.