It had been their biggest turnout yet. Over 100 people, Mark had said. He’d mentioned this while lecturing them on ‘overselling tickets’, and ‘It’s considered a fire hazard, Tyler.’ But the topic of circumstances was neither here nor there. Josh nearly had an anxiety attack from the combined stress and excitement of looking over a room that full of people who actually wanted to hear them perform. But he’d done it. Playing harder than he’d ever though he could, arms definitely sore afterwards. Tyler’s voice pushed near to it’s breaking point while jumping across the stage, his spastic movements only amping the crowd up more.
Ending with ‘Trees’ was probably the greatest moment of the show, in Josh’s opinion. Standing in the middle of the room, lights almost blinding, hearing everyone screaming the songs lyrics back at them, Tyler cheering them on; it was a little overwhelming, and Josh definitely teared up. Not that he would admit it. Watching Tyler walk backstage, soaked in sweat with an ear to ear grin brighter than the sun itself plastered onto his face, it took every ounce of self control that Josh had not to push him back against the scaffolding right then and there and kiss him senseless.
Walking into the motel room, orange light branching out onto the carpet and fraying leather chairs, they were both exhausted and pumped full of leftover adrenaline from the excitement of performing. Tyler set his luggage on the bed and pulled the blinds closed a little before turning around with a giddy smile.
Their laughter mixed as they entered the room, wandering aimlessly in disbelief. Their fragmented sentences overlapping, both of them eager to verbally share the excitement that had piled up in them during the show.
“There’s no way that-“
“Did you see-“
“And at the end you-“
“You were like-“
“I can’t even-“
“That was just-“
“And you were up there all-“
“The crowd was in-“
Laughter echoed against the walls again.
“That was amazing! You were amazing!” Josh shouted, running a hand through his hair, still pacing and bouncing on the carpet of the room.
“No, you were!” Tyler offered back, sitting back onto the mattress. “Killing it on the platform all, badadadada doosh badumdum dada boom ratatata bapa bam!” He mimed a drumming motion in the air with his fingers, bouncing on the comforter slightly. Josh watched him ramble, chest fuller than it had ever been. “And then you stood up!” Tyler shot up on the bed quickly, following the movement he was describing. “And people were yelling and screaming. The crowd was going nuts! You took your shirt off in one swift move and suddenly the ladies were swooning! Guys too!” He laughed and cupped his hands around his mouth, replicating a megaphone. “‘Josh! Josh! Josh!’” He chanted. “‘We love you, Josh! Woo!’ Dude, they were eating it up!” Josh reddened slightly and stood up, walking to face the bed Tyler was currently standing on.
“But what about you? You were dancing on the piano and running around the stage like a madman and standing on top of the speakers.” He paused. “Did Michael say you could do that?”
“No.” Tyler chuckled sheepishly. “He actually specifically told me not to.”
“Even better!” Josh giggled and hooked his arms around Tyler’s waist, twirling him around with his face pressed into Tyler’s chest. Tyler released a string of laughter, wrapping his arms around Josh’s head, locking his fingers together through his hair as the room spun.
Josh kept spinning and Tyler opened his eyes to look at him. He traced Josh’s features before the world seemed to slow down. He felt like he was underwater. Pressure and the feeling of floating, all at once. Somehow moving in slow motion, and being thrown by waves against sand that tore against his skin. And Tyler felt alive.
After a few year-long seconds, Josh put Tyler back down on the bed, still swaying and and dancing around the room, laughing slightly. Tyler watched him sway and he had to shake his head to try to forget the feeling of Josh’s hands pressed around his waist. It didn’t work.
Josh put his hand behind his head. “Gosh. Dude. That was awesome. And your voice during ‘Trees’? Wow.”
Tyler was still mildly in shock. Josh continued.
“You sounded so real and raw and-“ Josh laughed again. “It was all just so good!”
Tyler fell flat against the mattress letting out a sigh.
“Wow.” He covered his face with his hands. “We did that.”
Josh followed suite, landing on the bed with an ‘oomph’, bouncing Tyler slightly from the force of his impact. He placed his hand onto his stomach and closed his eyes, taking a minute to breathe.
“Yeah. We did.”
Tyler turned slightly to look at Josh. Lights from the vacancy sign outside braking through the blinds and landing on tan, freckled skin. He had his eyes closed and lips parted and slightly upturned, chest rising and falling slowly, coming down from his adrenaline high. Rib cage holding sunsets, and eyes holding stars. He was beautiful. And Tyler was terrified.
He wanted. If any word could be used to describe Tyler in that moment it was some variation or tense of want. He wanted. He wanted Josh to pick him up again. He wanted Josh to hold him close and whisper gold soaked words in his ear. He wanted Josh to pull his lip between his teeth and take his breath away. He wanted to know what Josh’s skin felt like under his tongue. He wanted beautiful things. Smiles hidden against collar bones, neon lights at dusk washing over their bones. He wanted dirty things. Dull fingernails pressing crescent moons into shoulders, wordless mouths gone slack and veins filled with scarlet heat. And he beat himself internally with a metal baseball bat for it. Psychological bruises against his face, back, and sternum from every time he’d thought of Josh.
Tyler pulled out of his Josh centered haze.
“Mm- I- What?”
Josh flipped onto his side to face him.
“Where’d you go, Ty? You looked kinda out of it for a second.”
“N- Nowhere. Just- Just thinking. That’s all.”
“Yes.” Tyler responded a little to quickly.
Josh rolled back over, closing his eyes again.
‘Now or never.’ He told himself. ‘Just do it.’ There was no way he’d be able to muster up courage like this again.
“Josh?” He said meekly.
“I wanna try something.” Tyler sat up and picked at his hands. “And if it’s weird you can tell me and we can just forget about it but I-“
“Do whatever you want.”
“Y- You sure?”
“Yeah. Nothing you do could surprise me at this point. I know you too well.” He smiled.
Tyler gave a deep breath and sat up in his hands before moving closer to Josh. He was trying to even out his breathing but it wasn’t working very well. He didn’t want to ruin everything. But he just wanted to know. He needed to confirm for himself.
His face tight with worry, he lifted himself up and straddled Josh, placing his hands lightly against Josh’s shirt. Josh opened his eyes and sat up slightly.
Maybe Josh was a little surprised.
Tyler put his hands back and against his neck quickly, curling in on himself.
“I’m sorry.” He said quickly. “This is probably weird. I’m so sorry. We can just forget that this ever happened. Or you can quit the band. Or I can. Whatever is fine as long as-“
Josh rested his hands on Tyler’s bent legs, trying not to flip out himself. He knew that would only scare Tyler more.
“Do you feel weird?”
“Then calm down.” Josh moved his hands further up Tyler’s legs. “I don’t think this is weird at all.”
Tyler forgot how to breathe. And Josh couldn’t seem to look away from the boy in front of him.
They were so close. He could feel every minute movement that Tyler made. The muscles of his thighs, warm and tensed under Josh’s palms. He could feel Tyler’s fingers pressed gently against his shirt, Tyler’s breath fanning out, warm against his nose, he could just feel Tyler.
“Are you sure this is okay?” Tyler asked again.
Josh leaned closer, foreheads just barely touching.
“Yes.” He whispered. “Yes.”
Their chests had gotten closer, Tyler’s hand now balled in Josh’s shirt.
“What do you want?” Josh’s voice was so quiet, he wondered if Tyler could even hear him. Tyler wondered how he could hear Josh over how loud his heart was beating.
“You.” He breathed out. “I just want you.”
“You have me.” Josh replied gently.
“What I am supposed to do now?”
“Whatever you want.” Josh mumbled against Tyler’s cheek. “Whatever you want, Ty.”
He always loved the way that nickname sounded falling from Josh’s lips.
“I- I want to kiss you.” His voice was soft and delicate.
“Then do it. I’m right here.” Josh reached up to cup the side of his face. “I’m right here.”
Tyler pressed his lips to Josh’s. Soft, and gentle, and curious, afraid to go to far and shatter the air around them. There weren’t fireworks or an orchestral backing, just them. Together and warm. Tyler pressed himself nearer to Josh. No force or arousal behind it. Just the simplistic need to be close. And they both wondered why it took them so long.
Tyler pulled away after a few seconds, Josh’s eyes still closed and leaning in instinctively, before looking back at him. Tyler drew his hands up from Josh’s shirt to knot fingers into dyed hair. He was so stupid in love. In love with Josh. In love with the way that that Josh looked at him. Pupils blown wide and lips parted, releasing soft and shaky breaths. Like he had the entire world was straddled in his lap, dressed in denim and thrift store tee shirts.
It was like Josh had been lit aflame. He could feel everything times one thousand. Every twitch of Tyler’s hands, every uneven breath and sigh. He sat staring into Tyler’s eyes. It should have been uncomfortable, awkward even. But it wasn’t. He never wanted to leave this moment. He wanted to imprint the memory in his head. Brand the feeling into heart. Tattoo the way the Tyler’s weight settled comfortably against him felt onto his arms in every color.
Josh gave a small chuckle.
They both wore the same breathless, sleepy, star studded grin before Tyler’s expression fell, hit with a sudden realization, and he hid his face in hands. Josh covered Tyler’s hands with his own, pulling them down.
“What is it?” He said softly.
He watched Tyler’s eyes water as he pulled them up to meet Josh’s.
“I liked that,” He whispered. “A lot.”
“Why would that make you cry?”
“I’m- I’m not gay. Am I?” His breathing started picking up speed and intensity, lowering in length and volume. “What will my parents think? What will Z- Zack and Jay and Madds think? What will people think? There are people who think that- that gays, that this is wrong. I don’t- don’t know what they’ll think. I’ve never- never liked anyone else who was a- a guy. Maybe I’m wrong? And I’m not? Is it wrong? Am I wrong, Josh? I- I don’t want this to be wrong. I want-“
Josh took his hands again.
“Hey. Breathe for a minute. Okay?”
Tyler sat for a minute to breathe, a pained and conflicted expression painted over his features. Tears were falling freely now.
“Do you think that a mistake was made with you? Do you think that you were made wrong? I think God made you exactly the way you were supposed to be made. I don’t think that being gay is a mistake. I think that love comes from Him. And I love you. And I think that’s okay.”
Josh pressed his nose up against Tyler’s neck, hair tickling Tyler’s chin.
“Your parents? I think they’ll understand. Heck, they probably knew. And if they don’t get it, screw them. You can come live with me.”
Tyler wrapped his arms around Josh’s neck pulling him closer.
“I don’t think I’ve ever loved someone the way that I love you.” Tyler mumbled quietly into Josh’s hair.
“I don’t think I’ve ever loved someone the way I love you either.” Came the response.
Tyler was exhausted. Tyler never wanted to sleep again. He wanted to dance, and cry, and pray, and sing, and scream. But more than anything he wanted to kiss Josh again. Over and over, again and again, until he would never be able to taste anything other than Josh, never be able to feel anything other Josh, never be able to remember anything other than the way that the back of Josh’s teeth felt under his tongue.
Tyler’s expression grew intense.
“I’m going to kiss you again.” He said.
“Is that warning?” Josh chuckled.
Tyler gave a small smile.
“Kind of. Because once I start, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to stop.”
Josh’s eyes grew wide and his grip on Tyler’s thighs tightened slightly.
“Be my guest.”
Josh almost fell backwards with the force, Tyler was pressed so quickly against him, lips against his again, hands desperate for any leverage to stay on top of him. Tyler hands roaming Josh’s chest and arms, while Josh’s hands grip Tyler’s waist tightly. Soft touches and even softer noises envelop them. They rock against each other slowly, releasing exhaust ridden breaths. If they couldn’t be apart before, the fact that they were drunk on sleep deprivation and high in each other meant that they definitely wouldn’t be able to keep apart now. Josh decides to take a chance and gently run his tongue against Tyler’s bottom lip, relishing in the sound that he makes.
“I love you.” Tyler gasps in between kisses, fingers intertwining in Josh’s hair. “I love you.”
It was the most beautiful thing Josh had heard. Better than any song Tyler could ever write him. Better than every sonnet he’d ever heard. Better than any girlfriend or boyfriend he’d ever had. Better, better, better. Everything about Tyler was better.
“Josh.” Tyler breathed, when Josh kissed and bit at his ear.
“Josh.” He exhaled, when Josh turned them around, pushing Tyler back onto the bed.
“Josh.” He whined, when Josh ran his fingers down Tyler’s ribs.
“Josh.” He chanted, like a prayer, a poem, a mantra.
It gives Josh a feeling that he can’t name or quantify. But whatever it is, he is most certainly addicted.
As Tyler kissed him again with force, pushing his tongue between Josh’s teeth, Josh came to the realization. Tyler was his now. Really his. And no one could do shit about it.
Josh broke away, dragging Tyler’s lip between his teeth, causing Tyler to release a small whine.
“Josh...” He mumbled.
“Again.” Josh whispered.
“Again.” He pled.
“Again.” He begged.
“ Josh, ” Tyler moaned, burying his face in Josh’s neck.
“You’re so beautiful.” Josh breathed out. “God, you really are.”
If Tyler wasn’t red already, he definitely was now.
Josh kissed him softly, before he brought his head down and slowly pressed drowsy, open mouth kisses to Tyler’s neck, sucking and nipping, dipping in and out, tracing his Adam’s apple, admiring the way Tyler’s breath caught every time he did. He softly ran his hands down Tyler’s chest. He mouthed at Tyler’s jaw making him sigh, rubbing circles into his hip bones with the pads of his thumbs. Every kiss felt like hours. Like they were floating in their own little corner of the universe. Breathing heavily, Josh gently pulled his lips away from the constellation of small violet bruises lining Tyler’s collar bones, earning a small indignant sound from the boy under him.
He looked into Tyler’s eyes again. He was so fucked. Fucked with a capital F. His eyes were half closed with pleasure and exhaustion, eyelashes brushing the darkened skin underneath, his chest rising and falling deeply, shivering every time Josh’s fingertips brushed against him. Bruises lay like a dark necklace on his chest, more priceless than anything Josh could have ever bought him. Tyler yawned, his fingers pulling gently on the cotton inseam of Josh’s shirt.
“Why’d you stop?” His voice was raw and soft.
“I wanted to- to-“ He was cut off by a yawn “I wanted to remember this. Don’t wanna to forget it.” Josh said, nosing at Tyler’s shoulder and laying down next to him.
“Feeling cuddly?” Tyler asked.
Josh gave a small hum of affirmation.
“Jus’ wanna feel you.” He slurred.
They were both tired. Touring had taken a toll on both of them mentally, the excitement of the days before hand catching up. Despite having not slept nearly at all the days previous, with Josh here, like this, holding each other, it was a feeling of comfort he’d only ever dreamed of.
Josh was just so warm. Almost uncomfortably so. Now Tyler knew why he always had his shirt off. And there was no way Josh could stand to always sleep without a fan on, he thought. But Tyler managed to always be cold, so it evened out in his mind.
Josh began to run his hands under Tyler’s shirt, not going far, settling above his hipbone, imprinting into soft tan skin. Almost like a comfort blanket, his fingers dragging lightly back and forth, as though he was just making sure Tyler was still there, and not a figment of some sleep deprived, Redbull fueled, romantic fantasy. In response, Tyler began to card his fingers through bleached, neon hair. Josh gave out almost a whimper of pleasure at the feeling.
Tyler was mesmerized at how dominant Josh was when they were making out, almost overwhelmingly so, but here, curled into Tyler’s shoulder, he just seemed so soft and small. He gently ran his hands down from Josh’s head to his back in gentle, steady movements. Shifting a little, they settled on laying chest to chest, Josh’s legs in between Tyler’s, ankles intertwined haphazardly.
Josh was already almost half asleep, and Tyler knew he wasn’t far behind, but he didn’t want to stop watching Josh laying there on top of him, peaceful and happy. His shirt had ridden up and Tyler’s palms had now made permanent residence in the small of Josh’s back.
Tyler knew that tomorrow would come. That the sun would come up again, and they would have to wake up, get back in the dreaded van, and repeat the stressful process of setting up for a show all over again. Even if he loved performing with every fiber of his being, it was still overwhelming and exasperating. He didn’t even know if this feeling would there tomorrow. If Josh's feelings would be there tomorrow. He could barely even tell if this was real. Hell, if he got up tomorrow morning and all of this was a dream, and he was lying in graying sheets back in his parents place in Ohio, he wouldn’t be surprised. But he knew that he wasn’t going to let himself let go tonight. He subconsciously tightened his grip on Josh, as if he were afraid of him fading away.
He mumbled some semblance of a response into Tyler’s shirt.
“I love you.”
“Tha’s gay,” He mumbled.
“Yeah. It is.” Tyler chuckled.
Josh pulled his head up slightly, kissing Tyler’s jaw and engulfing half of his face in brightly hued fluff.
“Love you too, Ty.”