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Feel It On The Way Home

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One look is what started it all. Josh and Tyler both began to change out of their sweaty clothes in the green room they shared. Although green closet might’ve been a more appropriate term, Tyler thought to himself. Tyler took off his sweat-drenched shirt and tossed it on the single chair in the room, it was a wonder that the two of them could even fit in the room alongside the chair. Tyler exposed the black geometric tattoos on his chest and arms. Tufts of thin, dark brown hair showed on his chest and the area below his belly button. He stretched his arms above his head, finally free of the clothing that had constricted his torso.

Josh turned around to ask Tyler a question, but before he could get any words out, his mouth went dry. The dark parts of his eyes widened to take in as much light as possible. Neither of them had bothered to turn on the one singular overhead light in the room. The only light in the room came from the hallway of the venue and the tiny, dirty window that faced the parking lot. Josh focused his gaze on the intricate black lines of Tyler’s chest tattoos, one on each side. He always wondered what each of Tyler’s tattoos meant, but he was always too afraid to ask. The clean black lines looked nearly perfect against Tyler’s tan skin. Josh let his eyes wander further down, following a thin trail of hair that started in the middle of Tyler’s chest and led all the way to the patch below his navel. His eyes crept further to where the hair disappeared under Tyler’s black jeans that were slightly sagged in the front, revealing the tiniest sliver of underwear waistband.

Tyler noticed Josh’s eyes on him as they moved down his body. A million thoughts rushed to his head at once, but the only thing he could manage to squeak out was a quiet, “Josh?” Josh looked back at Tyler with his soft brown eyes before he realized what he’d just done. Even in the darkness of the room, Tyler could tell a bright red blush started to appear on Josh’s face. He snapped back to reality and Josh quickly pulled on the closest shirt within reach. He grabbed the rest of his stuff with lightning speed and practically ran towards the door.

“I’ll be in the car,” Josh sputtered out before he turned on his heel and once again quickly made his way out of the venue.

Tyler tried to play back what just happened, time moved way too fast. Did Josh just check him out? The room was dark but there was no doubt in his mind Josh’s eyes were definitely on him and him only. It was a look Tyler had never seen on Josh’s face before. The blacks of his eyes were huge, yet looked so soft at the same time. His mouth was slightly agape like he was just about to say something. And he could’ve sworn Josh was blushing as he left the room. Only when Tyler said his name was when Josh seemed to realize he’d stared down his shirtless friend. Maybe he should’ve waited a few seconds longer before he said anything. It was almost as if Josh had been lovestruck, but that couldn’t be it. Tyler filed that thought under wishful thinking and continued to finish up in the green room.

Tyler scanned the nearly empty parking lot for Josh’s car before he saw him in the front seat, presumably as he waited for Tyler to come out of the venue. The air outside was chillier than Tyler thought it would be and hugged his bag to his chest while he walked over to Josh’s car. He pulled on the door handle and got in the passenger side of the car. It felt good to finally sit down, even on the worn-out fabric of Josh’s car seats. He threw his bag on the backseat next to Josh’s.

The cool, night air filled the car and Tyler felt a shiver run down his back. He grabbed a dark blue sweater off the floor of the car and pulled it on to himself. There were five holes in the sweater, but Tyler only bothered buttoning up the first two. He figured he would get hot and take it off soon anyway.

Tyler played with one of the buttons before he looked over in Josh’s direction, he seemed to be preoccupied with whatever thought was in his head. Tyler delicately spoke, a little quieter than he intended, “Hey Josh. You all good?”

The sound of Tyler’s voice once again seemed to snap Josh out of his thoughts. He flashed a huge grin at Tyler and responded, “Heck yeah, of course! I’m ready to sleep in my own bed tonight.” They’d been on the road for the past week on a semi-tour around Ohio. They played a couple of smaller venues, usually around college campuses. Tonight, they played a show at a tiny bar in Athens, Ohio. The city always brought back memories of the first time they played together. It was less than a year ago that Josh officially joined the band.

Instead of staying in another crappy motel, they agreed to drive home to Columbus after the show. The chances of them actually staying in a motel, had they not decided to drive home, were slim anyway. They hadn’t made too much money from their gigs, so sleeping in Josh’s sedan was the more likely outcome of not driving home tonight. The rest of their tiny crew decided to drive separate with all the equipment.

Josh started the car and cautiously pulled out onto the road. Even when practically no one else was on the road, Josh was always the most cautious driver. It was one of many things Tyler loved about him. After a few minutes, Josh pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald’s. “I’m gonna get myself some coffee, do you want anything Ty?” Josh asked.

“Coffee at midnight? Josh, I knew you had a caffeine addiction but I didn’t know it was this bad,” Tyler let out a short chuckle at his own response. Tyler’s favorite thing in the world, besides Josh, was teasing him.

“I do have a caffeine addiction, but this is just so I can stay awake for the drive home. Unless of course you prefer sleeping on lumpy car seats.” Josh would admit that his car wasn’t the nicest around and it certainly didn’t have the most comfortable seats. However, it’d gotten him and Tyler all around Ohio so he wasn’t about to complain too much.

“Nah, I’m too sleepy to eat anything right now. Thanks for the offer, Josh,” Tyler drug out Josh’s name when he said it. They both giggled as Josh drove around to order and pay for his medium black coffee. Tyler would never be able to understand how someone could drink coffee, let alone black coffee. The taste was way too bitter in his opinion, he much preferred drinking something a lot more sugary. Josh grabbed the hot cup of coffee from the woman at the window and pulled back onto the road.

Tyler sat in the near silence of the car while Josh drove, the only sound came from cars that passed in the opposite direction. Tyler hated to sit in silence, and it was clear Josh wasn’t about to make any effort to break it, so Tyler switched on the radio. The entire car seemed to light up with blue light from the rectangular screen of the car stereo. A popular song played through the speakers before Tyler turned the volume way down, he only wanted some quiet background music. He twisted the tuning dial until he came across a station that was playing orchestral music. He just needed something to fill the space with sound, anything to distract his mind from thoughts about the way Josh looked at him earlier in the green room.

A quick sparkle caught Tyler’s eye when Josh shifted in his seat. A fan had thrown plastic beads on stage and for some reason Josh still had them on. The light from the radio caught the gold beads just right to reflect and shine in Tyler’s eye. “Why are you still wearing those beads?” Tyler asked.

Josh looked down the beads and then smiled at Tyler, “I thought they looked good on me. I think I might become a chain guy. What d’ya think?”

Tyler giggled at the thought of Josh with chains around his neck. He never thought of Josh as someone to accessorize too much with his outfits, whether it was for lack of effort or lack of money. They both fell back into their comfortable silence as relaxed string music played through the crappy car speakers.

Tyler moved his head back on the headrest of the car seat and closed his eyes. He tried to think of anything else besides their moment in the green room, but it was no use. His mind wanted nothing to do with anything that wasn’t about Josh, and eventually Tyler relented. He allowed his mind to wander and replay the way Josh had stared at his body before he left in a hurry. The way his brown, dough eyes had looked in the darkness of the green room gave Tyler much to think about. Now, Josh’s eyes were focused on the road in front of them. He wanted to see Josh’s eyes again. Through the silence, Tyler tried to tell Josh to look at him. He thought maybe Josh could hear him in the silence.

Tyler opened his eyes. At some point he must’ve dozed off because the moonroof on the car was now open and the night sky was lit up with stars. They were still far enough away from Columbus that light pollution hadn’t touched the sky yet. Tyler nearly whispered, “Look up.” Josh looked up through the moonroof and quickly gazed at the stars that dotted the sky.

Josh put on his right blinker, even though the next car was miles away, and pulled off to the side of the road. Once safely away from the state highway he turned off the car, which killed the orchestral music in the background. Josh pulled a lever beside him and his seat creaked down so he could gaze up at the stars through the moonroof. Tyler did the same. The two of them laid there for what felt like hours, the only sound that filled the space was their matched breaths.

“Did you find the Big Dipper?” Josh eventually asked. His coffee breath caught Tyler’s attention and then faded as quickly as it appeared. Tyler took a deep breath in through his nose, wanting to breathe in every part of Josh he could.

Tyler shook his head and Josh pointed up to the sky in the direction of the constellation. He moved over in his seat to see from Tyler’s perspective. Tyler thought he felt Josh’s breath, or maybe he just imagined it. Josh’s shoulder brushed against Tyler’s while he pointed up. The light touch felt electric to Tyler and he couldn’t stop the smile that appeared on his face. Tyler craved more touch from Josh. Tyler shifted in his seat to move his head closer to Josh’s. He moved slowly, so as to give Josh the chance to move away if he wanted. Neither pulled away.

Tyler felt the sides of their heads softly collide into each other. Tyler swore he could almost see sparks fly from their simple touch. The short prickles of hair on the side of Tyler’s head mixed together with the soft brown curls of hair on the side of Josh’s head. Josh moved further into the touch, the sides of their heads rubbed together, creating even more sparks in Tyler’s vision. Tyler hoped the smell of Josh’s shampoo would rub off on him, even though that scent was probably long gone after the high-energy show they’d performed just a few hours ago. Still, he hoped.

“You’re my best friend,” Tyler let the words pass over his lips and fall into the silence. He wondered for a second if Josh heard him or not, then he decided he didn’t care. Josh was his best friend. And he wished he could be more. Tyler nuzzled his head even closer to Josh and let his eyelids slowly droop shut over his eyes. He let Josh fill each of his senses as he fell asleep under the stars.

+

The scent of burnt food filled Tyler’s nostrils which woke him up instantly. He sat up in a bed that was not his, and looked around the room groggily. The room looked familiar but he couldn’t place it. His eyes tried to focus around the room. Eventually, Tyler laid back down into the bed that was definitely still not his.

Instantly, Tyler was flooded with relief. The bed smelled like Josh, which meant this must be Josh’s room. Tyler turned his head face down on the pillow to flood his nose with the smell of Josh. It wasn’t a scent Tyler could exactly pinpoint, more of a combination of scents, something like cedarwood mixed with lavender and vanilla. Whatever it was, it was Tyler’s favorite scent in the entire world and he had no interest in ever leaving the warm bed. Tyler turned his head back around to allow himself to breathe.

Josh poked his head in the room to see if Tyler was still asleep. Josh grinned when he saw Tyler was awake and walked in the room, the smell of burnt toast drifted along with him. “Morning sleepyhead, I made some toast for you,” Josh shoved two pieces of very brown toast on his lap. “Sorry, it's a little burnt,” he said with a playful grin.

Tyler didn’t realize how hungry he was until the toast Josh made him was in his lap. The last time he’d eaten was before the show last night. Tyler was always way too tired to ever eat after a performance. He took two large bites before he spoke with his mouth full, “What day is it? And why are we at your place?”

“It’s Sunday and you fell asleep while we were stargazing in the car. I drove to your place, but you looked so peaceful sleeping and I didn’t feel like waking you up. So, I drove to my place and let you sleep in my bed,” Josh explained.

Tyler wondered if Josh slept in the bed with him, he looked over to the other side. The sheets didn’t look disturbed or slept in, but maybe Josh made his bed before breakfast. Unlikely, given Josh’s track record of barely ever cleaning up after himself. Josh watched Tyler’s eyes drift over to the other side of the bed.

“I crashed on the couch if that’s what you were wondering. I figured I’d just let you have the whole bed to yourself,” Josh sheepishly let out. Tyler thought he saw a tiny bit of a blush creep to the top of Josh’s cheeks. Was Josh blushing from the thought of them sharing a bed? He wanted to tell him it would’ve been okay if he slept in the bed with him, but maybe that was a little too forward. It’s not that Tyler wished Josh had shared the bed with him, he wouldn’t have minded it though. Maybe he wished for it just a little bit.

Tyler continued to eat his toast while both of them sat in comfortable silence. The burnt crunch of the toast was definitely not his favorite taste, but he ate it anyway since Josh made it for him. As he finished his breakfast, Tyler noticed Josh had on the shirt he’d thrown on the chair last night.

“Josh? Why are you wearing my shirt?” Josh looked down and realized that he indeed did have on the shirt Tyler wore on stage last night.

“I guess it was the closest thing to me when I left the green room last night,” Josh said. Thoughts of last night flooded Tyler’s mind at the mention of the green room. He couldn’t tell if Josh wanted to talk about last night or not. He hesitated to say anything that could even slightly embarrass Josh. He didn’t want Josh to run off the same way he did last night. Tyler went back and forth in his mind quickly to decide if he should press Josh about last night or just let it go.

On the one hand, it might be a good idea to ask about last night. Maybe, finally, make some headway to figure out if the feelings Tyler have for Josh are mutual. Surely he hadn’t imagined the way Josh had looked at him last night. It wasn’t exactly a friendly look if you asked Tyler. On the other hand, it might be a completely terrible idea to ask about last night. He was terrified to make a mess of the entire situation, freak out Josh, and potentially ruin the best friendship Tyler has ever had. Tyler opted to avoid the topic of last night, for now.

“You should keep it. It looks better on you than it ever did on me,” Tyler said. He threw in the compliment on Josh’s appearance because he couldn’t help himself. It was true though, the shirt really did look good on him. It was a bright blue color with red and white stripes on the sleeves and neck hole. Tyler didn’t quite have the muscles to fill out the shirt, but Josh certainly did. And it looked a lot better that way, in Tyler’s opinion. Tyler loved the way all of Josh’s shirts were always just a little bit tight.

“Thanks man,” Josh smiled at Tyler with another one of his big signature grins. As many times as Josh smiled, Tyler never got tired of it. Something about them always made Tyler feel better. “I can take you home anytime you want, just let me know when you’re ready.”

“Okay thanks Josh,” Tyler said. Josh gave another smile to Tyler and then left the room. Tyler laid back down in Josh’s bed and basked in his scent one last time. After a few more minutes, Tyler lugged himself out of the warm bed and padded into the cold living room. Josh was on his phone, probably messing around with some dumb game he found on the app store.

“I guess I’m ready,” Tyler said. He didn’t want this, whatever this was, to end; but he also couldn’t think of an excuse to stay at Josh’s any longer. Josh grabbed his car keys off the kitchen counter and they both made their way out of the apartment. Tyler didn’t bother putting on any shoes and stepped out barefoot. Once outside, Tyler could feel the warm morning sunlight on his skin, a complete contrast of last night’s coldness outside the venue. A small patch of unkempt grass sat between Josh’s apartment building and the parking lot where his car was. They walked together in the patch, the long pieces of crabgrass tickled Tyler’s ankles.

A bumblebee buzzed around Tyler’s feet as it collected pollen from the many bright dandelions that speckled the grass patch. Tyler moved closer to Josh in an effort to not step on the bee. Their shoulders brushed against each other and, again, Tyler felt the same sparks from last night. It was the same feeling from when they nuzzled their heads together. The hair on the back of Tyler’s neck stood up, he wanted to feel that closeness with Josh again. One touch was enough. Tyler wanted to feel it again, all the time, he was obsessed.

Tyler stopped in his tracks and stood in the grass, the ground underneath him was slightly damp with morning dew. The long weedy grass still tickled his ankles as he watched Josh step onto the sidewalk next to the parking lot. Josh noticed Tyler wasn’t next to him and turned around, “Tyler?” he said.

“Josh?” Tyler spoke back. He said it like it was a question with the hope he would get an answer from Josh. To what, he asked himself, Tyler wasn’t completely sure. They stared at each other for what felt like half an hour, Tyler watched Josh’s eyes carefully. Josh’s brown eyes became soft and doughy, almost the exact same they’d been last night in the green room.

“Josh,” Tyler spoke his name again, this time the same way he had last night. He let go of the fear he’d held on to for so long and took a cautious step in the grass. The bottom of his feet were wet now and the crabgrass prickled against him. He took another step, this time the bottom of his feet were met with hot concrete. The hard surface was scratchy on the bottom of Tyler’s feet, and he quickly felt the wetness from the morning dew dissipate. His feet were only inches away from where Josh stood on the sidewalk.

Tyler felt a warmth on his face as Josh let out a deep breath. He looked into Josh’s brown eyes once more and saw everything he needed. It was the same look from last night, the same look Tyler could only describe as lovestruck. He knew what the look from last night meant, and he knew what the shoulder touches meant. He is in love. Tyler looked down at Josh’s lips and back up to his beautiful eyes.

Tyler let his eyelids fall as he closed the gap between his and Josh’s lips. Josh didn’t move for a second, but then he melted into the kiss. Their noses bumped into each other and Tyler angled his head to continue the kiss. Tyler gripped the bottom of Josh’s shirt so he had something to hang on to and pulled Josh closer to himself. He wanted to be as close to Josh as possible. Josh’s lips were softer than Tyler had imagined, they easily glided over each other. Josh moved his arms up to grab both sides of Tyler’s neck as he deepened the kiss. Tyler needed to take a breath, otherwise, he might suffocate. Then he realized that would mean he’d have to break off their kiss and decided that he would rather suffocate.

Eventually, they disconnected from each other, briefly, so Tyler could finally take a breath. A thin line of spit connected their bottom lips. Tyler thought it was probably the hottest thing to have ever happened to him. Josh ran his tongue along his bottom lip, trying to still taste Tyler on himself. Tyler decided that that was actually the hottest thing that’s ever happened to him. Tyler couldn’t stop himself and they connected for another kiss, this time with more force. Tyler felt Josh’s grip on the sides of his neck get even tighter as he pulled them closer and closer.

After kissing for a couple of minutes, they let go of each other and Josh showed off his biggest smile. Tyler felt the sparks fly again and couldn’t help himself as he gave Josh a million small kisses all over his face. Josh couldn’t help himself from giggling as Tyler tickled his face with his kisses. Tyler’s hands were still gripped tight to the shirt he gave Josh. Josh moved his hands down from Tyler’s neck so he could hold the boy’s hands. Josh played with Tyler’s fingers for a bit before he laced them together. Josh brought them up near his face so he could give a kiss to each of Tyler’s fingers. Now it was Tyler’s turn to giggle from Josh’s kisses.

“You’re my best friend,” Josh spoke into Tyler’s hands. The sound of his voice was sort of muffled, but Tyler knew exactly what he said. The warmth of Josh’s breath on his hands tickled and he couldn’t help but smile. Tyler looked into Josh’s eyes and saw something he’d never seen before, maybe this time it was true love. Tyler tried to tell Josh he loved him with just his eyes. Josh met Tyler’s lips once more with his own. Tyler playfully tugged on Josh’s hand, both their faces filled with a grin, as he pulled him back onto the grass patch and back towards Josh’s apartment.