Tyler met Josh three times before they had a real conversation.
The first time was at Chris' house. It was his birthday and even though Tyler felt like laying in bed all day, he couldn't disappoint his friend. So he dressed up nice, but not too fancy, wrapped a pair of new, dark-wooded drum sticks and drove to the house.
It wasn't a party, more like a gathering of friends that knew each other or didn't. Tyler placed himself on the couch, occasionally sharing some words with a few of the people that he knew. After a while Nick sat down next to him and quickly they were gripping controllers and playing Mario Kart.
Tyler didn't feel happy or sad, but it was okay. Sitting here, not talking or thinking, was fine. It was easy. Maybe it wasn't so bad that he came after all.
It got late and soon people started to leave. The sun was already down and there were only a handful of guests scattered around the room as the doorbell rang.
Tyler looked up, the sound ripping him out of his game, sending his Luigi right off the lane.
Chris went to open the door and suddenly everyone was quiet. Nick and Tyler couldn't see into the hallway so Tyler tried to read from the other people's faces what was going on.
Everyone seemed worried or uncomfortable. Some took the new arrival as their cue to leave and discretely slipped into their jackets.
Tyler went to stand up to see what was going on but then Chris turned around the corner. At his side was a boy about Tyler's age. He had brown curly hair and a lip ring. But the most noticeable was the dark, swollen lip and the blue bruising around his left eye. He swayed slightly while walking and Tyler could see more bruises flashing out from under his hoodie.
Without a word, Chris placed his friend on a chair and disappeared into the kitchen.
Tyler mustered the boy. His clothes were a little too baggy. In his hand he clutched a small box, wrapped in red paper.
“I think we should leave,”Nick murmured and slowly got up. Tyler wanted to follow him, the awkward silence made his palms sweat.
Chris came back with an emergency kit in his hands. His eyes briefly flickered to Tyler.
“Could you please get me a wet towel, Ty,”he said and then began examining the boy's wounds.
Tyler moved quickly. He tested the water with his fingers, lukewarm. Then he filled a cup up, too. Tyler knew you were supposed drink a lot after loosing blood.
After handing Chris the towel and placing the cup on the ground, Tyler wanted to leave. But something kept him standing to the side, watching his friend and the stranger. All the other guests except for Nick had left.
“Got ya a gift,”the guy mumbled and pressed the package into Chris's chest.
“That's not important right now;”Chris handed the gift forward to Tyler,”He did this to you, am I right? He fucking did it again, that bastard.”
Tyler's eyebrows shot up. It wasn't often that Chris swore and talked with such venom in his voice.
“It's okay. He didn't mean too.”
“Dammit, Josh! Why do you let him treat you like this? I- I don't get it!”Chris sighed and rubbed a hand over his forehand.
The boy, Josh apparently, lowered his head and closed his eyes.
“You don't understand, Chris. I- I love him. And he loves me, I know it”
Chris sighed again.
“Are you hurt anywhere else?”he just asked.
Josh fumbled with a loose strand at the hole in his jeans.
“My hips,”he whispered and if it wasn't so awfully silent in the living room, Tyler wouldn't have heard it.
Chris closed his eyes as if he was the one in pain. Then he raised up from his crouch on the floor.
“Come one Josh. Let's do this in the bathroom”
Slowly and with a small wince, Josh got up and shuffled into the small bathroom.
Chris looked at Tyler.
“I'll see you on Wednesday at practice?”
Tyler nodded and watched his friend leave the room.
“Let's go Tyler. I'll give you a ride.” Nick stood in the doorway, jacket already on, car keys in his right.
Tyler looked down at the gift in his hands. Carefully he loosened the tape and let the red paper fall down to the ground. Then he opened the simple, black box.
A set of drum sticks, the dark wood contrasting against the white batting, was laying inside.
The second time Tyler saw Josh, they actually exchanged a few words.
This time, it was also a real party. Loud music, people dancing and so much alcohol.
Tyler was in a good mood to his and everybody's surprise. Twenty one pilots had just played a gig in a small bar and there were more people there than ever before. He still could count them all, with no problem, but it was a step forward and Tyler needed something like that so bad.
Sipping on a beer he shoved himself through the mess of sweaty people. He wasn't sure whose place this even was, but Nick had to be here somewhere.
Suddenly a girl was at his side and pressed his body to his hip. At first he was disgusted. Her breath smelled like vodka and her hands were way too grabby. But then the bass seeped into his blood and the alcohol began to make his brain fuzzy.
Tyler smiled his brightest smile and turned his attention to the girl. They danced tightly for a while, then she grabbed his hand and lead him upstairs. The music was dulled and the halls less crowded.
Tyler stopped, spun the girl around and pressed her into a wall.
“I'm Tyler.” His face was inches away from hers.
“Katy.” The girl pressed their lips together.
Warmth pooled in Tyler's lower abdomen. His hands roamed over her curves, ass and breasts. He earned for her touch, for something. Only now realizing how long it had been since someone had touched him like that.
When the bulge in his pants got bigger, he grabbed her hand and dragged her to the nearest room. As he opened the door, they stopped in their tracks.
“Occupied,”a deep voice said.
There was that guy, Josh, laying on the bed. His eyes were closed and pants pooling around his ankles. Another man was hovering over him, hands pinning Josh onto the mattress.
“Oh,”Tyler turned around to leave but turned around once again. Something bugged him about this situation. Josh seemed kind of- not there. His cheeks were way too red and body too still.
But then the girls lips were on Tyler's neck and he let himself being dragged down the corridor.
The party had calmed down a bit. Tyler made his way down the stairs, trying to rub the lipstick stains from his face. Katy had been good, but just when things started to get interesting, the girl had just promptly passed out. He didn't want to be dick and just laid her onto the bed and closed the door.
“You here with, uh, Katy?”he asked a girl that wore the same College-Sweatshirt as Katy and then directed her to the room upstairs. Men were assholes and he didn't want anything happening to Katy.
With a sigh Tyler got himself a glass of water. He could feel the alcohol buzzing in his veins and making his head hurt. He would hate himself tomorrow. But what else was new.
Tyler sat down on a bar stool and laid his head onto the cool counter.
He couldn't remember why he had come in the first place. He knew alcohol made him sad and big crowds of drunk, dancing people weren't his thing. He loved music, but the bass and the voice rapping about boobs and asses didn't inspire him. He just wanted to go home in his bed, maybe jerk off and then sleep.
Tyler had just decided to get up and leave, as a person stumbled into the room. The brown curls were tangled, cheeks splotchy and neck covered in hickeys.
It was Josh.
Tyler stopped. There was something about this boy that just made him stay. Again.
“Hey, you okay man?”
Josh ignored him. He gripped the edge of the counter and stared onto his feet a few seconds. Then he slid down the wall and hugged his knees with his arms.
Tyler took a step in his direction but stopped when Josh shook his head.
“I'm fine. Just leave, please.” His voice was rough and he was slurring the end of the words slightly.
Tyler took his still filled glass and placed it next to Josh.
“You're gonna need it,”he said and then left.
The last time was Tyler's favorite. Probably because Josh wasn't drunk or hurt, just happy.
And Tyler was too. They were playing a show and people actually came. The crowd was wild. Dancing, screaming, some even singing the lyrics.
Letting the music taking control of him he flew over the stage. His mind was empty, his heart hammering. He had never felt so alive.
With a jump he landed on a speaker. Cracking open his heart and pouring all his feelings into the song, he screamed into the mic.
That's when he saw him.
There in the crowd he stood. Later Tyler would wonder why he hadn't noticed him earlier, he was right in the first row.
Josh was moving with the people around him. His arms were raised and his eyes didn't loose Tyler for a second.
Tyler's world stopped and he felt like he couldn't breath. But then he smiled and continued with the show. If he was even more energetic, the crowd only loved it.
Backstage Tyler saw Josh again. He was standing with Chris but came over when Tyler entered the room.
“Just wanted to say that was a really good show. Chris invited me and you were great. I mean, all of you, but you, I mean, you're really awesome,”Josh stuttered awkwardly,”I'm Josh by the way”
Tyler felt his heart melting right there.
“Thanks, man. Appreciate it,”he answered, trying to not sound too excited. In his mind he was screaming because, holy fuck, in good light and without bruises Josh's face was breathtaking.
'Ask him for his number, ask him, ASK HIM' Tyler's brain screamed and he opened his mouth when a ringing noise let him stop. Josh pulled his phone out of his pocket and answered. His face fell and the excitement immediately left his eyes.
After a few mumbled words, Josh hung up after a short time.
“I've gotta go, sorry. It was a really good show, I mean it. Hope I 'll see you around again some time,”he said and then exited the room with fast steps.
Tyler tried to push down the disappointment and went over to Chris who hadn't witnessed anything.
“That was a good one,”the drummer said and looked up. Tyler nodded and smiled.
“It's going forward.”
“Have you talked with Josh? He desperately wanted to meet you,”Chris asked and looked around the room.
“Yeah we shared some words but then he got a call and had to leave.” Tyler tried not to sound too upset.
Chris furrowed his brows in worry.
“Why is he always doing this,”he mumbled, more to himself than to Tyler.
“Doing what?” Tyler was curious. There was something off about Josh and he felt like everyone knew what it was except him.
But Chris just shook his head and then started packing up.
Tyler let it got. It wasn't any of his business anyway.
Tyler felt like these three times could tell him more about Josh than the boy had ever told him. But Tyler didn't notice. He didn't really pay attention or tried to connect the dots. To be fair, he had his own share of demons and problems to deal with.
After the concert where he had met Josh, Tyler went on facebook. It didn't take long until he had found Josh and then he was on youtube watching videos of him drumming.
House of Heroes were fine. It wasn't really Tyler's type of music but they were good, no doubt. But Josh was something else. The way he drummed, Tyler couldn't stop staring onto his screen. For hours he spent watching performances, analyzing the way Josh moved and hit his drums.
Many people had commented, good or negatively, to Tyler about the way he performed on stage. Always moving, shaking, spinning. He knew he was different, maybe a little weird. He was just full of energy and he had to get it out. On stage he was himself and released all those dark thoughts and feelings. He had to move, he couldn't do it any other way.
Tyler felt like Josh would understand.
>Hey, it's Josh. From backstage, remember? Chris gave me your number<
Tyler was just eating fruit loops, minding his own business, when the message came in. His mouth fell open, cereal dropped from his spoon back into the milk.
He couldn't answer. Not now at least. He had to wait or he would seem desperate. Or worse, like a someone who didn't have anything to do at 3pm except for eating cereal.
Tyler always knew he had zero self control so he wasn't surprised at all when he only managed to eat his cereal for five more minutes before grabbing his phone.
>Uh yes I remember. Thanks again for coming<
Did that sound rude? Tyler started biting his fingernails and retreated to his couch. Why was he stressing so much over this? Yeah, so what if Josh was super cute and interesting and amazing and Tyler desperately wanted to learn more about the boy? Not an excuse to get all anxious and sweaty.
Josh answered faster than Tyler.
>I hope it isn't weird that I'm just texting u but I thought you were really cool and I felt bad for just leaving <
>its fine really. If I'm being honest, I looked you up on youtube and gotta say you seem really awesome yourself<
What. The. Fuck. Did Tyler really just write this? Didn't it sound way too flirty? With a frustrated moan he buried his face in the cushions and just wished for a quick death.
He felt his phone vibrate and slowly glanced at the screen.
>haha thanks. You wanna hang out some time?<
Yep, Tyler was definitely going to die.
Kissing Josh felt like fireworks and lazy Sunday mornings at the same time. Everything inside of Tyler was on fire and his thoughts were running completely wild. But at the same time he was calm. His hands were steady and all his anxiety and worry about meeting Josh was gone.
Tyler hadn't expected to kiss Josh on this evening but he certainly didn't mind.
When the older boy had shown up at his door with Tacos and beer, Tyler had already accepted his place in the friend-zone. But then they had played Mario Kart and while completely loosing, Josh had slowly scooted closer to Tyler. And then Josh's Toad stopped driving and Tyler turned his head. Josh was looking at him, gaze flickering between his lips and eyes.
Tyler swallowed and set down the controller.
He wanted to make the first move. It was so obvious what Josh wanted and Tyler wanted it too, he wanted it so bad. He wanted to be the one who was confident and strong and brave. If he would just get out of his fucking head and push aside his insecurities, maybe he could lean forward and-
“Is this okay?”Josh's voice was barely more than a whisper. His hand had found his way to Tyler's cheek.
Tyler just managed to nod slightly. Then Josh's lips were on his and Tyler was gone. The kissing hadn't started innocent and it got even wilder real quick. Josh pushed Tyler back until he was lying flat on the couch. His finger crawled beneath his shirt and caressed his abs, slowly making his way up to his nipples. Tyler gasped as Josh sucked hard at his neck, teeth grazing the soft skin. Tyler loved it. Every touch felt oversensitive and he yearned for more. He wanted to feel Josh everywhere.
Stopping all the voices in his head, Tyler grabbed Josh's biceps and threw them around. Now he was sitting in Josh's lap, pinning the boy onto the couch. Josh let out a small moan and grinned slightly.
“Didn't take you for the dominant type at first.”
“Shut up,”Tyler growled and attacked his lips.
With rushing movements Tyler pulled off his own shirt and then went for Josh's. He paused in surprise as he saw the black binder covering Josh's chest. But then he couldn't wait anymore and worked his way down to his pants.
The sex was great. It had been a long time since Tyler had slept with someone so he didn't last very long, but Josh hadn't made fun of him. He had been completely overtaken by want. Tyler had barely got a condom, before Josh had pushed himself down on him.
Tyler knew sleeping with him had been Josh's plan all along but he didn't mind.
The next morning felt weird. They had fallen asleep on the couch, Mario Kart still on.
As usual, Tyler was awake way too early. He got up, made breakfast and coffee and waited for Josh. It didn't take long for the drummer to arrive in the kitchen.
Only dressed in boxers and a loose shirt, he shuffled into the room and let himself fall down onto one of the chairs with a loud sigh.
“Morning. Coffee? And toast?”
“Just coffee. Please.”
Tyler set down a steaming mug and watched Josh.
His dark curls were disheveled and the pattern of the cushion was imprinted on his cheek. His chest was showing from under his shirt but he didn't seem to care.
Tyler awkwardly cleared his throat.
“So... last night was- it was...”
“It was nice.” Josh looked up at him smiling. ”You're really good in bed, Tyler.”
Something in the way Josh said his name made Tyler blush and he lowered his gaze.
He could hear Josh's bare feet tapping on the tiles as he made his way over to Tyler.
“I would love to do it again,”he whispered and then disappeared into the living room.
Tyler buried his face in his hands and groaned.
This boy would be the death of him.
“I think I'm going to ask him for a date.”
Tyler was spinning on the desk chair behind the counter but stopped at Chris's question.
“Josh,”he answered as if it was the most obvious thing,”Dude, I've been talking about him all day.”
Chris sighed and looked up from his thick book. He had been entering the sales figures all morning and had asked if Tyler wanted to spend him company since the work was boring but it had to be done. Tyler had agreed in a heartbeat, needing someone to ramble to about his feelings for Josh.
Tyler looked at the other man. Chris was suddenly all focused on Tyler and seemed very serious.
“I don't think that's a good idea, Ty,” he said.
“Why? We fucked. And he said he wanted to do it again! I just want to get to know him better and I know he is amazing and I feel like there is something special about him.” Tyler leaned forward, desperation laying in his eyes.
Chris sighed again and laid down his pen.
“I've known Josh since about two years now. And so many times he had come in with bruises or crying or on the verge of a panic attack. And every time days before that happens, he tells me about this new guy or girl he met. And how amazing they are and how in love he is. Josh attracts shitty people and then fails to see how bad they are.”
“I would never hurt Josh.” Tyler felt slightly offended at Chris's words. He cared about Josh, thought he consisted of stardust and all that. He couldn't bend a single hair on that boy.
“No, I know that. I'm just saying that maybe Josh needs a friend now more than someone he can fuck. He needs to learn to not give his heart out to every single stranger that he meets. He has many people who fuck him but very few friends who love him,”Chris explained.
Tyler swallowed and looked at his feet.
“Maybe you're right,”he mumbled.
“I am. But hey,”Chris touched Tyler's shoulder,”Coming from someone with experience, Josh is an amazing friend.”
They had Taco Bell again. But this time they didn't play Mario Kart. They sat on Tyler's couch, on different endings, just toes touching.
“So, last time you were here,”Tyler started and then trailed off. He awkwardly unwrapped his Taco and avoided Josh's gaze.
“It was fun,” Josh answered.
“Yes, yes. It was. Really, it was. But I think,”he looked up. Josh was staring at him, face completely blank,”Maybe- I mean- I talked to some people and- like- I think we should just be friends. Without the- the sex.”
Tyler searched for any sign of emotion on the drummer's features.
“Hm,” he made. Then he took a big bite of his Taco,”Can't say I have heard that many time before.”
“I'm sorry, really. You're amazing and hot and really good in bed it's just, I don't know, I feel like we would be even better as friends and not-”
Josh kicked Tyler against the shin to shut him up.
“It's fine. I would love to be your friend”
Tyler blushed and lowered his head.
“Alright, enough tear jerking, Joseph. I need to know something about you if I'm going to be your friend.”
Tyler couldn't believe how easy things were with Josh. Yes, he still stared at his lips and maybe touched him an unreasonable amount but Tyler knew that this would work. He knew this friendship would be something really special.
After they had finished their food, they had started up the Wii and were playing Mario Kart again. For the last hour they were throwing the most ridiculous 'Would you rather'-questions at each other.
“Hm... Would you rather... have to get up at dawn or stay up to 3am every night?”
Tyler chuckled and passed Josh's cart.
“I'm already staying up until 3am so no big change there.”
Josh laughed. “True. That was a dumb question”
Tyler glanced over to the man. “Would you rather be rich or play music forever?” he asked quietly.
“Why not both?”
Tyler just stayed quiet, clearly waiting for a real answer.
Josh set down the controller and turned to him. “No, seriously. I mean, money is not the reason I want to play music. But -and this might sound arrogant or something- I want to be big. I want to make music that the whole world listens to and that the whole world understands”
Tyler heart stumbled for a second. “Dude, I want the same! Twenty one pilots is very local at the moment, if at all. But I don't want it that way. I want to go further. Out of Columbus, Ohio and even America. I want to fill stadiums!”
He couldn't believe he found someone with the same big dreams as him. He had always been scared to voice these thoughts, fearing everyone would think he was full of himself. Truth was, he really believed in this band. More than his parents, friends or siblings. Even more than Chris and Nick. Every time a gig didn't go as planned or a song just wouldn't be how he wanted it, there was something inside of Tyler that pushed him to keep going. Stadiums, people singing his songs were in his mind.
“I know it might be stupid to have so big goals when you're still so small, but I can't help it. I just want to make music that means something, you know?”Josh's eyes screamed for desire and frustration.
“You have House of Heroes. You are pretty dope.”
Josh sighed and turned to the screen again but not continuing the game.
“Yeah, they are alright I guess. But I know I'm not a permanent member, I'm just filling in. And -I don't know..”Josh trailed off.
“What?”Tyler urged. He wanted to know what was going on in the brunettes head. He wanted to know his thoughts and dreams and fears. Tyler was completely obsessed with the boy and he didn't even try to do something against it.
Josh sighed again and dramatically let himself fall back into the cushions.
“I don't know. I just feel like, this music, what they are singing about, it doesn't mean anything to me. I love playing with them but only because it's my only chance to play in a band. When I heard your lyrics, it was like you understood exactly what was in my head. I could relate and I know that so many other people can as well. I want to do music that helps people, like music helps me, I guess.”
Tyler stared at Josh. He couldn't believe he had spent 21 years without Josh in his life.
“I know it's dumb, forget it,”Josh mumbled and moved to pick up the controller again but Tyler stopped him with a hand on his arm.
“No! No, it's not dumb. I get it. I feel the same way. I want people to relate to my music and maybe feel hopeful or inspired by it”
Josh smiled and laid back again, elbow pressed against Tyler's ribs and head resting on the other man's shoulder.
“Can I ask you something?”he asked.
“Some of your lyrics involve god and faith. Do you still go to church?”
Tyler didn't expect that.
“Um,”he felt his defense mechanism going up, like always when he was asked about his religion,”I mean, not regularly since I moved out of my parents house. Faith has always been something very personal for me. And I often don't really know how I stand to god, because of my depression and all that. I just feel very alone sometimes and turning to god somehow doesn't feel right at some times. I don't know. It's complicated.” Tyler forced himself to answer. He could trust Josh and he wanted to open up to him.
“Why are you asking?”
“Oh, I was just talking to my sister about you and she said that your family went to the same church as we did”
Tyler ignored the heat crawling up to his cheeks as he heard that Josh had talked about him.
“Do you still? I mean, go to church?”
Josh shook his head. “I don't talk to my parents anymore. They kicked me out when I came out and I'm scared to meet them there. Also just a lot of bad memories connected with churches and mass and stuff. But I do believe. But like you said, it's complicated. It's hard to love a god who made a mistake in creating you and now I'm left alone dealing with this shit”
Tyler looked at Josh. “You are not a mistake”
Josh just gave him a small smile that didn't reach his eyes.
It went like that until late in the night. They had put on a movie but didn't pay any attention. Tyler learned so much about Josh. His family, childhood and dreams. It was almost scary how similar the two were, facing the same struggles with strict parents, depression and trying to make it as a musician. Tyler also learned a lot about Josh being transr and he couldn't say that he could relate or understand everything but it broke his heart seeing the pain on Josh's face when he talked about it.
For Tyler it had never been so easy to open up to someone. It was as if he had known Josh his entire life. He knew the drummer would be a constant in his future.
Josh and Tyler became a package deal after that. Almost every day Josh was over at Tyler's house or Tyler at Josh's. The latter not that often though, since Josh's place was very small and he couldn't afford the good snacks. And Taco Bell was nearer from Tyler's home.
Tyler shared his darkest thoughts with Josh and he knew Josh was opening up too. The singer came to him when he was feeling down, lonely or just needed someone to listen. They also talked about music. How could they not, it was what they both lived and breathed. Tyler had watched every video of Josh performing with House of Heroes. He told himself it was because he enjoyed Josh's drumming and the songs, and he did, but he caught himself often enough just staring at his arms or face, completely lost in his imagination that definitely wasn't PG-13.
Josh also became the first person Tyler showed his new songs. He had been nervous the first time but then Josh had closed his eyes and listened. The audio had only been about 40 seconds, just his recent progress of the chorus, but Josh had started smiling widely.
“Dude, that's amazing!”he had said and that became his initial response to everything Tyler showed him. Tyler knew he meant it every time.
But they were careful. They didn't want music to be the only thing that connected them. Tyler wished, and he kind of hated himself for it, to play music with Josh. He loved Chris with all his heart but there was something about Josh that just seemed different and right.
He knew Josh wanted it too. He always tried to avoid the topic House of Heroes and when they did talk about the band, he didn't look happy. When he was at a Twenty One Pilots gig, he would stare longingly at the stage.
But they couldn't. Josh was in House of Heroes and Chris was still in Twenty One Pilots.
Even though Josh and Tyler had become so close in just six months, Tyler hadn't been to one of his shows. His schedule had been full with practice, work and performing. Josh also didn't seem comfortable having him in the crowd.
But then Tyler had a weekend off, Chris and Nick were busy and no shows were booked.
“I'm going to see you play on Saturday,”Tyler said and waved a ticket in Josh's face as he opened his door.
“I have time and always wanted to see your band. Plus, we are having a gig there too in a couple of weeks so perfect opportunity to check the place out.” Tyler took a step back and let Josh enter. His eyes lingered on the dark bruise flashing out from Josh's shirt. Something in his stomach churned but he didn't say anything.
“You sure?” Josh sounded like he would rather eat glass than having Tyler come to one of his shows.
Tyler nodded. “Ticket is already paid. And you have seen me play countless times, it's my turn.”
“Yeah, but you are, like, good,”Josh sighed and fell down onto the couch,”I mean, we aren't bad but it's not even really my band. I didn't write any of the songs, not that I've ever written any song, but I didn't work with them and I'm just a substitute, nothing permanent. I just don't think-”
“Have you never?” Tyler interrupted Josh's anxious rambling.
“Have I never what?”
“Never written anything.” Tyler looked at him. Josh avoided his gaze and shrugged.
“Not really. Like, I thought about it, but I'm not good with words. I can't even talk properly half of the time, how could I explain anything of- of this,”he waved his hand around his head,”You are great at it. Always know what to say and turning everything into a metaphor that anyone can understand if they think about it. But I hated school and didn't even go to college. I just hit drums, I'm not really that smart to be writing songs.”
Tyler felt a sting in his chest. He hated when Josh talked like this. Like he was worthless or stupid. Like he didn't see his talent and kindness and how beautiful he was. Inside and out.
“I didn't finish college either. And in High School I have always been a sports kid not academics. And believe me, most of the time I don't know what I'm saying. I just try to write from the heart, pour all that darkness in lyrics,”he said calmly.
“Well, maybe I'm just not that broken.”Josh laughed but it sounded hollow.
“I think you are more broken than you might realize,”Tyler whispered, eyes stuck on the ugly-looking bruise on Josh's collarbone.
Josh didn't say anything and Tyler knew he wouldn't answer. So he stood up and walked over to the TV.
“So, Mario Kart or what?”
Tyler actually enjoyed the concert. It wasn't his usual type of music but the crowd was energetic and the front man sure knew how to put on a show. Josh, of course, was amazing. He drummed with such a passion that Tyler felt it in his bones and couldn't stop staring at him. He was in the first row and when Josh spotted him, he immediately started grinning, Tyler felt like he had never been happier.
After the last fans had left, Tyler waited at the back of the venue.
He could hear voices approaching and then the door swung open and five men walked out. Josh saw Tyler at once and broke out of the group to envelop him in a quick hug.
“So, did you like it?”he asked and looked at him smiling but Tyler could see the small worry in his eyes.
“Dude,”Tyler gave him a light punch to the shoulder,”It was sick! You were amazing!”
“Yeah, he sure is.” A tall man with long brown hair clasped Josh's shoulder and held out his hand. ”I'm Tim.”
Tyler shook his hand. The other members introduced themselves as well but didn't seem too interested in the conversation. Tim didn't took his eyes of Tyler. He also kept his hand on Josh and slightly pulled him back at his side.
Tyler didn't like him for a second.
“Aren't you in a band from around here?”Tim wondered.
“Twenty one pilots.” Tim's hand had wandered from Josh's shoulder to his hip. The drummer didn't seem to mind.
“Did you like the venue? Excited to play here?”he asked and Tyler could feel his heart melting. Josh always thought of him, selfless and caring as he was. Why couldn't he care for himself for once and do something about that man who was full-on groping his ass at this point.
“Um, yeah, hope we are going to fill it out.” In his mind Tim was currently pierced by hundreds of knives.
“I'm for sure gonna come. Gonna take some extra shifts and then I will be first row, promise.”
Tim turned his head at Josh's words and Tyler could see jealousy flash in his eyes. A satisfied smile crept on Tyler's face.
“Oh, I think we can probably give you a discount or something, no pro- dude, lay off of him!” Tim had started to press against Josh's side and nibble at the drummer's neck. Josh didn't do something to stop him but Tyler was burning with fury. How was he allowed to touch him like that? Josh wasn't some slut he could just grope and lick however he wanted.
“Don't worry, Joshua doesn't mind,”Tim spared Tyler not one look,”We are actually going home now and relax after the show, right babe?”
Josh blushed and stared at his feet.
“Um, yeah. Gotta go, Ty. Thanks for coming. See you tomorrow?” He shot a hopeful glance at Tyler and the singer couldn't be mad.
“Okay. See you tomorrow,”Tyler answered and returned Josh's glance sadly. As he watched the two men walk away, Tim's hand still possessively draped around Josh's waist, he tasted bile on his tongue and the high from the concert was gone.
The next morning Josh entered Tyler's house with a limb to his walk. His throat was covered in hickeys, purple bruises and rashes covered his wrists.
Tyler had to excuse himself to the bathroom so he wouldn't start yelling.
It was only a month later when Tyler got a call from Josh.
“It's over,”he said and Tyler could hear that he was crying.
His blood ran cold and he sat up from his couch.
“What? Josh, what is going on?”
“Colin came back and now they don't need me anymore. I'm out of the band.”
“Oh. Just like that?” Tyler hated the relief washing over him. This was bad. Josh was feeling like shit and here he was, happy because Josh wouldn't get fucked by some creepy guy that wasn't him anymore. It also made the possibility for him joining Twenty One Pilots more likely.
“I mean, I know it would happen. The conversation of Colin rejoining was going around for some time. And it had never been a permanent deal,”Josh sniffled,”I don't even know why I'm so sad. I didn't even like playing there but- It just feels like a giant step back, you know? At least I was in a band and playing and now- now I have nothing.” Josh started sobbing quietly and Tyler immediately felt worse.
“Hey, it's okay. You are going to make it. And you don't have nothing. You have me. And maybe some day we can-”Tyler stopped himself. They had never voiced these wishes, these hopes.
Josh didn't answer right away. He knew what Tyler had meant to say.
“Yeah. Maybe someday,”he whispered,”Can I come over? I can bring Taco Bell. I just want to think of something else right now.”
They spent the day watching the X-Files -Tyler would never understand Josh's obsession with that show- and eating Taco Bell. And if Josh sometimes spaced out or lost a few tears, Tyler wouldn't say anything, just scoot closer and let him know that Josh wasn't alone. He would never be.
Josh stayed bummed out for some time. He didn't mention it anymore but Tyler could see it in the way he would stay quiet when someone talked about music or how he didn't go to any Twenty one Pilots shows anymore. Tyler pretended not to be hurt but he missed seeing Josh's face in the crowd or his big grin afterwards while packing up. Chris asked him about Josh's behavior once and Tyler just shook his head.
“He's just down right now. He needs a good thing happening and then he will be back to normal,”he had said with a reassuring smile.
Fortunately the good thing happened only a few days after that conversation. Admittedly it seemed like a really bad thing at first.
Tyler stared at Chris, mouth wide open.
“I need to leave the band.” Chris looked up from his shoes.
“You are seriously telling me this right now?! On a Sunday morning, in my kitchen, when I'm not even dressed?!” Tyler set down his mug with a force that made Chris flinch,”When we have a show next week?! What the fuck, Chris?!”
Chris pinched the bridge between his eyes and sighed. “I'm sorry Tyler, believe me, I am. I love this band and it hurts to leave it but I have to make a decision. I thought about this for a long time and talked to some people. Tyler I- I want to start a family some day. And with this band- I need money, you know? And this band-”
“Is going nowhere,”Tyler finished Chris's sentence. The drummer opened his mouth to object but Tyler didn't let him,”No, I know what your are thinking. We are playing venue after venue and it's not getting bigger. People still don't look at us or buy our CD's. This band is a naive dream that I had as a teenager and you are right, we need to grow up.”
Tyler gave Chris one last hard look and then stomped back into his room.
He was angry, he wanted to scream and punch and run and he wanted to cry. He wasn't mad at Chris. He understood him. The income from the band and that little income from small jobs wasn't nearly enough for supporting a family.
Tyler was mad at himself. He always poured 100 percent into his music. On stage and while recording and it still wasn't going anywhere. And even when he understood Chris's decision and felt hopeless, he knew he would continue playing and making music. There was no alternative. He couldn't just stop.
A gentle knock interrupted his thoughts and he sighed.
Without looking at the door, Tyler knew it was Chris. A dip in his mattress made him face his friend.
“I'm really sorry Tyler. And I think we should talk about this. Like adults,”Chris said and Tyler hated him for being so reasonable.
“Yeah, I know. But let me put on some pants first.”
Half an hour both of them sat in the backyard. A big cup of hot cocoa was warming Tyler's hands.
Chris had explained what he was feeling and Tyler had cried a little but he wasn't angry anymore.
“It's just- You've been here since day one. I don't know how this is going to continue,”Tyler confessed.
“I know. I hate this too, but I will always support you. If you need my help, carrying stuff or whatever, just give me a call. I'm still you friend, Tyler.”
Tyler looked up and returned Chris's smile.
Then he let his head fall back with a groan. “What about the gig on Tuesday? I guess, I'll have to cancel it.”
“Come on, Ty,”Chris's expression was serious,”You know what you have to do.”
Tyler observed a lump of cocoa powder going circles in his cup, avoiding Chris's gaze.
“I don't know what you mean.”
“Yes you do. Call Josh, you idiot”
Josh was crying again but he reassured Tyler it were happy tears.
“Oh my god, you don't believe how long I wanted to play with you! Where is it? And when is rehearsals? And what songs are you going to play? Trees, right? I swear to god if we are not playing Trees I'm gonna-”
“Josh, chill out,”Tyler laughed,”Rehearsal is tomorrow. And I'll text you the location of the place. It's just some college party.”
Josh was quiet for a second.
“Tomorrow?” He didn't sound so excited anymore.
“Yeah. Around four. At my house.”
“Fuck, I have work at that time. And I can't take time off again.”
Tyler's heart plummeted and he closed his eyes as if he had been punched.
“But that's no problem, I'll just quit.”
“What? Josh, no-”Tyler interjected but Josh didn't listen.
“I wanted to quit anyways. Was a shitty job. Dude, I'm so excited! I'm gonna bring my own drums, right?”
“What- yes you need your own drums. But Josh, wait you don't need to-”
“Alright, see you then. Love you, Ty”
“Uh, yes, bye Josh,”Tyler muttered, his mind still not processing everything the drummer had just said.
The line wasn't dead yet and Tyler could still hear Josh's breathing.
“And thank you. Tyler.” Josh hung up and left Tyler feeling overwhelmed. But then a small smile crept on his lips and suddenly he was laughing.
Everything would be alright.
There was a saying that when the final rehearsal went perfect, the show was going to be shit.
And this time, it fit perfectly.
When they and Nick met in his basement, Tyler expected to go through every songs slowly, helping Josh with the beats. But Josh knew everything. He closed his eyes and played. Sometimes he would add some fills or change something up a little and Tyler was amazed. It was as if Josh had been playing with them forever. He added a new sound but it fit so well that everything worked smoothly.
“Dude, how do you know everything already?”Nick had asked and Josh had blushed.
“I practiced at home the first time I heard your music,”Josh had mumbled and Tyler went hot all over. Nick had just raised his eyebrows and sent Tyler a look.
When they arrived at the house Tuesday night, everyone was drunk already. The host opened the door and stumbled to the stage that was set up in the living room. Tyler, Josh and Nick followed him.
Tyler remembered why he hated parties. The last one he had been at was where he had met Josh in the kitchen. He glanced at the older boy who observed the crowd, visibly uncomfortable in his own skin. Tyler grabbed his elbow and pulled him up the stage.
“Our first show together!” He exclaimed and Josh immediately started to grin as well. “It's going to be amazing!”
Their stuff was quickly set up and Tyler started the first chords of Ode to Sleep. The air smelled of sweat and the people were loud and didn't listen to them, but Tyler quickly lost himself in the music. He felt Josh's kick drum in his bones and when he turned around to look at the drummer, he had his eyes closed and a big smile plastered on his face.
A warmth filled Tyler's chest. This felt right.
They were in the last chorus as the masses suddenly erupted in panic. Tyler stopped playing and tried to figure out what was going on. People were stumbling over each other, trying to get to the door.
“The cops are here!”someone yelled.
Tyler turned to Josh who seemed as helpless as him. Then a hand pulled at his shirt and Nick was urging them to pack up.
With rushing hands they were packing up. Nick was explaining to the police that they were just the band and trying to find the host to talk about the payment, while Josh and Tyler dissembled the drums.
They were quiet. Anxiety and disappointment was churning in Tyler's gut until Josh started to giggle.
“What a great show,”he pressed out and Tyler couldn't stop himself from laughing too.
“Seems like just our luck.”
They couldn't contain the giggles and grins all the way home, Nick just shook his head with a small smirk.
They hadn't talked about it but after dropping off Nick at his place, they both landed in Tyler's room. The equipment was still in the car and both stank like alcohol and sweat. The adrenaline was still pumping in their veins and they were staring at each other.
Tyler didn't really know how they had ended up like this, faces only inches apart and want burning in his abdomen.
Then their lips were crashing together, teeth clacking and tongues invading. Tyler pressed his body against Josh's pushing, pushing until they were on his bed. Shirt and pants abandoned on the floor. Tyler earned to touch. He wanted to feel Josh. He had oppressed these feelings for so long, the advice from Chris in the back of his head. But now all his promises and intentions were out of the window and he couldn't form a single thought except Josh.
Afterwards, they cuddled. Naked, except for Josh's binder and their legs intertwined. Josh head was on Tyler's chest and Tyler had an arm draped around his body. They couldn't care to wash up, but Josh didn't complain about Tyler's cum sticking between his legs, so Tyler guessed it was fine.
The singer had wanted to use a condom but the Josh had moaned, pulled him closer and started to suck a big hickey on his neck and Tyler had forgotten everything.
Exhaustion settled over the two.
Tyler wanted to talk. About this. About the show. About the band.
There wasn't any talk about something permanent when he had asked Josh to play. He knew Josh wanted to play with him, but actually joining the band? And would it even work out? They only knew each other for a year and with Nick and Chris he had been friends since High School. And even that didn't work out.
What if Josh decided one day he didn't want to be in Twenty one Pilots anymore. Was their friendship strong enough to stand that? Tyler couldn't loose Josh.
And what was that between them? Tyler knew he felt more than just platonic love for Josh but it was such a big risk. And Josh slept around, Tyler knew that, was he just a hook-up for Josh? Friends with benefits? Tyler wanted so much more but at the same time he wanted Josh just to be his friend, a distance, to protect what they had.
“Stop thinking, Ty,”Josh mumbled into his chest.
Tyler smiled and placed a kiss on the head of dark curls.
“Good night. And thank you, Josh.”
Even though playing with Josh had been amazing, Tyler hit a low the next days. Chris leaving made him realize how Twenty one Pilots was still so regional. He had this dream of being a world-known band but it was as if Tyler had woken up and realized that it still was just a dream. So many other bands wanted the same thing and so very few actually archived it.
Tyler felt that Nick was having the same thoughts and when he asked Tyler to sit down one Saturday evening, Tyler wasn't that surprised.
“I just need to make a decision about my future,” Nick said, guilt plastered all over his face.
Tyler smiled but it felt fake. “I know. It's okay. Thanks for starting this with me.”
“I believe in you. I really do. You have something special and unique here. Don't waste it.” Nick stood up, squeezed Tyler's shoulder in comfort and then quietly made his way out.
Tyler's world made a shift. He didn't know what happened but suddenly he was sitting on the bathroom floor, jeans pulled over his knees and a razor blade in his hand.
All these dark thoughts had built up over the last days and Tyler couldn't stand this void in his mind and his heart anymore. He needed to feel something. Tyler looked back at his years as a musician, at all his songs and performances and only felt hate and disappointment. He had let down his parents, his friends and himself. He had believed that he was different than the other musicians. That he had story to tell, as if his words actually meant something.
Tyler let out a frustrated growl and pressed the edge of the razor into the flesh of his thigh.
Then sharp pain felt welcoming and familiar. He hadn't done it in so long but he also hadn't felt so down in so long.
Tyler meant to drag the blade through his skin, yearning for the numbing pain, as he heard his front door open.
“Tyler? You there? Nick told me you might be in need of a hug and some Taco Bell.”
Josh. Panic settled over Tyler. He couldn't let his best friend find him like this. Tyler had told him everything. Everything except for this. He had thought he was over it, always felt embarrassed of his past. He couldn't let Josh see. Couldn't let him know what a fuck up he was.
The fear stopped Tyler from moving as the bathroom door opened. He was still sitting on the cold floor, the blade in his hands and the pants down.
Josh peeked inside and his eyes widened in shock as he took in the scene.
“Oh, fuck, shit, Ty- Are you- Come one you don't need that. Put it down- put it down.” Josh rushed to Tyler's side. His fingers uncurled Tyler grip around the blade and let him drop it. He inspected the small cut on Tyler's thigh. Only a few drops of blood pooled out. Josh gently wiped them off and then found a small band-aid.
Tyler stared as the man attached the material over the red line. He hadn't said a single world.
“Look, butterflies,”Josh said and pointed at the band-aid. A small smile was on his lips, hoping Tyler would show any reaction.
Tyler didn't move. Josh sighed and sat down next to him.
“You don't have to say anything. But I want you to listen to me, okay?” Josh looked at Tyler and then continued,”You don't need this. You don't need to destroy your body to feel something. All this pain, all this darkness, don't use it to put yourself through even more pain. You are wonderful, talented, smart, funny, beautiful and the best friend I could ask for. I know it's easy to look over all these things and only see your failures. Believe me, I've done that. I know it's easier and relieving to hide your emotional pain with physical pain. I did it too.”
Tyler looked up at Josh's last whispered words. The older boy was looking at him, mimic serious and sad.
Tyler opened his mouth. “I- You- You did?”he croaked, voice hoarse.
Josh sighed. Slowly he pulled of his shirt. Then he hooked his fingers under his binder and pulled it over his head. Tyler made a choking sound and felt tears watering his eyes. Scars covered Josh's breasts. Some small and thin, faded over time. Over them were bright pink ones that raised over his skin.
“I tried to cut away what I hated most about my body. And it was an escape. From all that hate and pain I was feeling inside. But I stopped because I realized scars and blood only made things worse.”
Tyler swallowed and forced his eyes away from Josh's chest.
“I just feel like my life is going nowhere. Nick left the band and now I'm alone. Alone with this dream of becoming famous and successful and I feel so dumb for thinking I could actually make it,”he traced with his fingers over the band-aid,”I thought I had stopped too. Haven't done it for months. It was a coping mechanism for when I was in such a bad place where I would- I tried- When I didn't want to live anymore.”
“Hey”Josh cupped Tyler's cheeks and turned his face so he was facing him,”Hey, whatever dark mindset you are in right now, you need to get out. You survived so far and you will continue to do so, okay? And if you ever feel like- if you ever want to- to hurt yourself, you come to me. You will not die, Tyler Joseph, I will make sure of that.”
Tyler gave him a sharp nod and then gazed over Josh's scars again.
“So you stopped huh. No self-harm anymore?”
Josh chuckled slightly and put his shirt back on.
“I've found new ways. They are way more fun. Come one, let's eat some Taco Bell,”he replied and stood up but Tyler pulled him back down.
“No, I want to talk about this now. You helped me and now it's your turn. I can't stand it anymore,”Tyler said with more heat than he intended to.
Josh avoided his eyes and focused on playing with a loose strand of fabric around the hole in his jeans.
“I don't know what you mean.”
“Oh yes, you do. I'm talking about you hopping into bed with every guy you see-” “It's not just guys,”Josh interrupted but stopped when Tyler pressed his palm to his mouth. “No, I'm talking, shut up. You let yourself be treated like a piece of shit. Every time I see you, you have hickeys or bruises or worse. Dammit Josh, you let people walk all over you, because you think it's what you deserve.”
Tyler's chest heaved and he didn't realize all this anger he had been holding in until it was out in the open. He lowered his hands and looked at Josh expectantly.
The other didn't say anything for a moment. Then he opened his mouth hesitantly.
“I feel like it's the only way someone would love me. It makes me forget that my parents hate me, that I have barely money to eat and that my biggest dream is to be a professional drummer but there hundreds of other people with the same dream who are so much better than me,”Josh admitted, his voice quiet.
“You can't destroy yourself just to cover up your pain, just as you told me,”Tyler said. All that fire had left his body at Josh's confession,”I hate seeing you like this. I hate seeing a bruise around your neck, knowing some dude got to touch you like that and only use you for their own pleasure. That's not love. It's not how I would treat you.”
Josh looked up at the last words.
“I'm a jealous person by nature, Josh, but everyone knows what you are doing is bad and please, you need to stop. You could seriously get hurt some time,”Tyler urged, grabbing Josh's hand. He needed him to understand. He wouldn't survive another day with the image of Josh getting fucked by some dude that wasn't him. That wasn't treating him like the kind, loving, beautiful and perfect person he was.
Josh was still staring at him, lips slightly parted. Then suddenly he was kissing Tyler. Hard, hungry. Josh needed Tyler, needed to feel him. Tyler was taken aback for a second but then buried his hands in dark curls and pulled the drummer closer.
“I know you are trying to distract me from the topic,”Tyler mumbled breathless as Josh's hand sneaked inside his boxers.
“Shut up, you love it,”Josh just replied and sucked Tyler's bottom lip between his teeth. Tyler moaned and then let his head fall back.
Afterwards they were cuddling in bed. They had washed themselves up, Josh had disposed all of Tyler's razor blades while the singer made some hot cocoa. He was playing with Josh's hair as they laid under the warm blanket.
“Are you really jealous of all the other people?”Josh asked suddenly.
Tyler closed his eyes and then nodded sharply. His heart raced in his chest and his throat became suddenly dry. He wanted to close off again. He felt naked and too open talking about his feelings. His feeling for Josh.
He felt Josh raising his head.
“Hey, look at me. Look at me”
Tyler opened his eyes slowly. Josh's gaze was honest and burned on his face.
“They don't mean anything to me. I use them as a distraction. They are just there so I'm not alone. I don't feel anything for them. But you, god, Tyler,”Josh swallowed hard, “Tyler, you mean so much to me.”
“Sometimes I'm scared of how much you mean to me too,”Tyler lowered his eyes.
Josh sat himself up and pressed his lips lightly onto Tyler's. There wasn't any heat or roughness behind it like before. It was just tender and full of emotion.
“I think I'm in love with you, Tyler Joseph,”Josh whispered against Tyler's lips.
“I think I love you too, Josh Dun.”
“So, you're like a couple now? Real romance and all that?”
Tyler nodded. Chris whistled and promptly got a half eaten doughnut in his face.
“No, seriously dude. I'm happy for you,”he said and grasped Tyler's shoulder.
“Even after you told me to lay off?” Tyler asked.
“Yeah okay, maybe I was wrong. Josh seems happier with you. I also should have know you couldn't keep it in your pants”
Tyler threw another doughnut but Chris ducked away.
“So, when's the next gig? I plan on getting front row”
Tyler sighed and let himself fall flat onto the couch.
“Don't remind me. I could never pull off a one man show. That would be bullshit.”
After no reply from Chris, Tyler turned around. The man was staring at him, a look of absolute disbelief on his face.
Tyler furrowed his brows.
“That's a joke, right?”
“What's a joke, Chris?”
“Oh my god. Tyler Robert Joseph, you are officially the most stupid person on this planet”
“Hey! You plan on getting another doughnut in your face?”
Chris groaned and then grabbed Tyler's arms.
“You're telling me you slept with Josh, on multiple occasions, he is your boyfriend now but you didn't ask him to join the band?! Didn't you even already play together?!”
Tyler squirmed away.
“Yeah, but that was like super short. And I don't know if he would even want to be-”
“He wants to. Believe me. If I know one fucking thing in my life it's that Josh would give anything to play with you on stage” Chris interrupted Tyler's mumbling and stared at him with firm expression.
Tyler returned his look.
“You really think he would?”he asked quietly.
“Ask him, you fool”
Tyler was nervous. Chris had assured him that Josh would say 'Yes' but Tyler still had this feeling that Josh would just laugh and call him stupid for even thinking he would join Twenty One Pilots.
Josh obviously noticed something was on Tyler's mind. He always did. He saw it in the way Tyler's hand was always in his hair, how he stared into space and didn't really listen to what Josh was saying.
The drummer kept rambling on about something that had happened to him the other day and Tyler normally appreciated his chatter. But now he felt like he was going to explode if he didn't ask right now. He needed to know now or he would never have the courage to ask.
Josh stopped and turned around. Hands wet and dish towel thrown over his shoulder.
Tyler took a deep breath and pressed his eyes shut.
“Do you want to join my band?”
It was quiet and Tyler didn't dare to look at Josh. Then there was chatter and suddenly there were wet fingers on his cheeks and a mouth on his own.
Tyler let out a surprised sound and latched onto the table so he and Josh, who had just planted himself in his lap, wouldn't go flying of the kitchen chair.
“I thought you would never ask,”Josh breathed and kissed him again deeply.
As much as Tyler wanted to just keep making out, he needed an answer. With a small groan pushed Josh away slightly and looked at him with a tentative look.
“So...? Do you?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Josh exclaimed, underlining each word with peck on Tyler's lips.
Tyler couldn't help the grin crawling onto his face. Relief and excitement flooded through him. He would do this, he and Josh would do this. And they would fucking rock it.
“You truly make me the happiest person I've ever been.”