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across a fragile line (hold me down)

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It’s not real. He’s not real. Nothing’s real. It can’t be.

 

It's not until he's back, locked in the hotel bathroom does he feel a surge of cold panic course through his body. He showers with the water as hot as he can bear, but no matter how hard he tries, he can't warm the freezing hollowness in his chest.

 

Why is everything he owns sotight? He tears through his suitcase, frantically searching for something loose, something soft. He grabs a pair of sweatpants, and he pulls a baggy t-shirt over his head.  

 

He crawls into his bed, curling up and burying his head under the blankets.

 

He feels empty.

 

 

 

"Josh," Jenna says carefully, "when he– when you were being hurt, he didn't use… protection, did he?"

 

Josh furrows his eyebrows. "No?"

 

"I was… I was thinking," Jenna says quietly. "Um. There's a Planned Parenthood clinic not too far from here."

 

"I'm not… I'm not pregnant," Josh says, bewildered. 

 

Jenna blushes. "No, no, I know," she says quickly. "It's just that… from what you've told me, it seemed like he was… smooth. He's probably hurt other people before. I was thinking maybe… maybe you should get tested. For STDs."

 

Josh blanches. He hadn't even considered that. 

 

"I read about the procedure," Jenna says quickly, before Josh can say anything. "It's kind of invasive, but the results are really reliable, and it said that you should get tested at least once in your lifetime anyways, so you'll be getting that out of the way."

 

"I…" Josh says, but he can't think of anything else to say. 

 

"I think it's really something you should do," Jenna says quietly, and hesitantly, Josh agrees.

 

 

 

 Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

 

 

The doctor at the clinic is a middle–aged woman called Dr. Eldridge who exudes a calm, professional aura that eases Josh's nerves slightly.

 

"Is this your partner?" she asks Josh, looking at the way he's clutching Jenna's hand. 

 

Josh shakes his head. "No. My friend."

 

"This exam will get very personal," the doctor tells him. "Are you sure you want her here?"

 

Josh nods. Neither of them cared when Josh stripped down to solely a t-shirt when he was asked to put on a gown earlier. They're past that. 

 

Dr. Eldridge nods, sitting down on a chair across from where Josh is seated on an exam table. 

 

"Do you or your partner usually use a condom or another barrier method?" the doctor asks briskly. 

 

"Uh. Usually," Josh mumbles. 

 

"Have you had symptoms of any STIs, in the past or recently?" she says. 

 

"No."

 

"Have you ever had an STI before?" 

 

"No."

 

"Have any of your partner or partners have any STIs, or have they experienced any symptoms?"

 

Josh breathes out through his nose. "I don't know."

 

There's a slight pause before Dr. Eldridge continues. "Do you have any drug allergies?"

 

"No."

 

"Okay," she says. "Josh, I need you to give me a brief summary of your sexual history and practices. I understand that this topic is very personal, but it's vital to this examination."

 

Josh knew that she would ask this, but he finds himself only staring at her with wide eyes. 

 

"I'm not here to judge," Dr. Eldridge says gently. "This is completely confidential. I would not be asking if this wasn't very important."

 

Josh nods slowly, pressing his lips together. "Okay," he says quietly. 

 

"Okay," the doctor echoes. "Are you sexually active?"

 

Josh shakes his head. 

 

"Have you been?"

 

He nods. 

 

"In the past six months, how many partners have you had?"

 

Josh looks down, running a hand through his hair. "One."

 

"In the past twelve months, how many partners have you had?"

 

"Uh, two, I guess," Josh mumbles. 

 

"Are your partners male, female, or both?"

 

"Both."

 

"Have you had a male partner within the last twelve months?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"Have you had a female partner within the last twelve months?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"Okay," Dr. Eldridge says, jotting something down before looking up at Josh. "I'm going to be kind of explicit here, but it's important that you answer these questions honestly."

 

Josh nods, mentally steadying himself. 

 

"In the past twelve months, what sexual contact have you experienced?" the doctor says. "Vaginal, anal, and/or oral?"

 

Josh closes his eyes. "All of those," he says quietly.  

 

"And did you use protection for any of those experiences?"

 

"All but, uh," Josh coughs, and Jenna squeezes his hand. "All but one."

 

"Which form of sexual contact was that?"

 

"The– the second one."

 

"Anal?" the doctor asks, and he nods. "And what was the reason?"

 

Josh has to take a moment to breathe, and Jenna squeezes his hand again. Josh squeezes back gratefully. "He… he didn't want to, I guess." He ducks his gaze, not wanting to see whatever's in Dr. Eldridge's eyes. 

 

"When you did use protection, what form did you use?" the doctor asks, and her voice sounds softer. Gentler. Like she understands. 

 

Josh feels sick. 

 

"Condoms," he mutters. 

 

"Thank you, Josh. I know this must be difficult for you," the doctor says. "Do you have any additional questions?" Josh shakes his head. "Okay. I'm going to begin the exam in a moment, okay? I'll be right back."

 

"Okay," Josh says as she stands and leaves. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

 

 

Once the door closes, Jenna stands up and hugs him. 

 

"I'm so proud of you," she tells him. Josh doesn't reply; he just rests his head on her shoulder. "Do you still want me here for the next part?"

 

Josh nods fervently. "Please."

 

"Of course," Jenna says, releasing him from the hug as Dr. Eldridge walks back in. 

 

"We're going to begin with a genital exam, okay?" she says as she slides a pair of latex gloves on. 

 

Josh grits his teeth, nodding. 

 

"Please lie back and bring your knees up," Dr. Eldridge says, and Josh complies, gripping Jenna's hand tightly. He closes his eyes, and Jenna places her other hand on his wrist. 

 

He jerks back when he feels a hand on his penis, letting out a strangled sound that he didn't know he could make. He covers his face with his free hand, mortified. Jenna is holding his other hand in an iron grip. 

 

"Do you need a moment?" Dr. Eldridge asks gently, her hands no longer touching Josh.

 

Josh shakes his head, sucking in a breath of air. "No. Do it," he says, closing his eyes as he tries to relax. 

 

There are hands on him again, but he manages to stay still. As still as possible, at least. His body is trembling ever so slightly. 

 

"You're doing very well," the doctor says soothingly as Josh's shaking starts to become more noticeable. "You're doing really well, Josh," she says, sounding as though she's trying to calm a skittish animal. 

 

Josh is a skittish animal, though, or he may as well be. Jenna's hand in his is the only thing keeping him grounded. If it weren't for her, he thinks that he'd devolve into something primal, kicking and shrieking and feeling wholly terrified. 

 

There's no kicking and shrieking right now, but he's getting pretty close to wholly terrified.

 

"Hey," Jenna says, and Josh looks over at her. "Did Tyler ever tell you about the time he tried to take me to Chipotle on our anniversary?"

 

Josh does his best to distract himself with Jenna's story, but it still feels like eons before Dr. Eldridge pulls back, taking off her gloves and dropping them into a trash bin. 

 

"It's over now, Josh. You did really well," the doctor says. "You can dress now."

 

Josh quickly grabs his underwear and pants and dresses as fast as he can. He pulls his gown off and slips his jacket back on.

 

Dr. Eldridge draws some blood and gives Josh a cup for a urine sample, but both procedures are far less invasive, and Josh does his best to pretend that he's getting his blood checked for cholesterol, not HIV. 

 

"We'll send you the results as soon as we can," Dr. Eldridge says. "And, Josh," she pulls out a couple of business cards from her pocket. "This is the number for an organization that that provides different services, including counseling," she says quietly, handing Josh a card. "And here's the card for an organization that has multiple hotlines and other services."

 

The first card reads Sexual Abuse Response Network of Central Ohio, and the second reads Rape and Incest National Network. Flushing, Josh shoves the card into his pocket. "Thanks," he mutters.

 

"You're not alone, Josh," the doctor says. "And talking really does help."

 

"Okay," he mumbles.

 

It seems like Dr. Eldridge wants to say something more, but she just settles on, "Good luck, okay?"

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

 

 

His test results come back clean. 

 

Josh nearly cries in relief. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

"Dude, let me go," Josh says, except it comes out as, "Du, lemme go."

 

Steven pushes Josh roughly into one of the bathroom stalls and follows him inside, locking the stall door behind him. 

 

"Stop," Josh tries. "S-Stev'n, luh-lemme go. I don't wan' this." He's shoved up against the wall, and he can feel Steven tugging at Josh's pants, pulling them down. "St-stop! I don't wan' this!" He tries to pull away, but his limbs won't seem to work, and it feels like his head is full of cotton. "Stop!" he takes another breath, ready to scream out for help, when Steven grabs his hair and slams his head against the wall, knocking the air out of Josh's lungs. 

 

 

 

"Jenna, did you say you wanted to watch–" Josh is saying as he turns into the kitchen, but he stumbles and stops when he sees Ashley standing there, talking to Jenna. "Oh. Hello."

 

"Hi, Josh," Ashley says. Her voice sounds normal, but her body language suggests that she's carefully approaching a frightened animal. 

 

"Hello," Josh says again, shooting a glance over towards Jenna. 

 

Jenna shrugs. I didn't say anything, she mouths.

 

"Mom and I were talking about you," Ashley says, and Josh looks down. He hasn't seen, or even spoken to anyone in his family since… he hasn't spoken to them in a while. The most he's done was email his mom and text his sister. 

 

"Josh," Ashley says quietly, and Josh looks up at her. "Josh, I…" She trails off, and then she's stepping forward and wrapping her arms around her brother. "Josh," she repeats, squeezing Josh as tightly as she can. "I missed you." Her voice sounds thick. "I… you could've come home."

 

"No," Josh murmurs. "I couldn't have."

 

"You could've," Ashley insists. She's still hugging him. "You could've. We've missed you so much, Josh."

 

"I couldn't have," Josh repeats. "It… it would've been too much."

 

Ashley sighs, pulling back so she can look at him. "Okay," she murmurs. "Just… come visit soon, okay? We miss you a lot."

 

"I will," Josh says, and he wonders how truthful he's being.

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

"Dude, let me go," Josh says, except it comes out as, "Du, lemme go."

 

Steven pushes Josh roughly into one of the bathroom stalls and follows him inside, locking the stall door behind him. 

 

"Stop," Josh tries. "S-Stev'n, luh-lemme go. I don't wan' this." He's shoved up against the wall, and he can feel Steven tugging at Josh's pants, pulling them down. "St-stop! I don't wan' this!" He tries to pull away, but his limbs won't seem to work, and it feels like his head is full of cotton. "Stop!" he takes another breath, ready to scream out for help, when Steven grabs his hair and slams his head against the wall, knocking the air out of Josh's lungs. 

 

Josh rests his forehead against the wall, feeling paralyzed as Steven manages to get Josh's pants and underwear down to his knees. He tries to gasp for air, but it feels as though he's drowning, and he barely registers the sound of Steven spitting. Tears spring to his eyes when he feels a fingergod, there's a finger inside of him.

 

"Please," he hears himself whimper.

 

Instead, there's just a feeling of another finger worming its way into him, and Josh grits his teeth, grimacing in pain. He feels like he's being lit on fire, but he can't bring himself to care. There's another finger, twisting and turning, but Josh barely reacts. 

 

 

 

Friday night finds him walking back from the grocery store, clutching a beg of groceries, when he hears someone catcall the girl who's walking past him. 

 

"Damn, girl!" the guy shouts. "Don't be like that, honey. Let me give 'em a squeeze."

 

Josh finds himself turning to the guy. "Leave her alone," he says, and both the girl and the asshole stop in surprise. 

 

"What's that?" the guy says, raising an eyebrow.

 

"I…" Josh bites his lip nervously. He can feel the girl's gaze on the back of his head, so he swallows and says, "Leave her alone."

 

"Why do you care?"

 

"You're harassing her."

 

"I'm complimenting her."

 

"Telling someone that you'd sleep with them like that isn't a compliment."

 

"Like you'd know, faggot," the guy snorts. He rolls his eyes, turning around and walking back the way he came.

 

"Thanks," the girl says. She pauses when she sees the way Josh is struggling to breathe normally. "Are– are you okay?"

 

"Yeah," Josh says. "I– I'm just not used to talking to people. That's all." He tries to smile at her, but it probably comes out more as a grimace. "Uh. Bye." He starts running back to Tyler and Jenna's apartment before she can reply, because it's getting harder for him to breathe, and he doesn't want to have a panic attack in the middle of the street. 

 

Josh barely makes it back before collapsing, tucking his head between his knees. He fumbles for his phone, about to call Jenna, but he remembers that she's out with Tyler for their anniversary. He doesn't want to bother her. 

 

Fuck. 

 

He goes to shove his phone back into his pocket when something pointed stabs his hand. He pulls the offending object out, and it reveals itself to be one of the cards Dr. Eldridge had given him. It's the one for the hotline, and Josh shakily dials the number. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

"Dude, let me go," Josh says, except it comes out as, "Du, lemme go."

 

Steven pushes Josh roughly into one of the bathroom stalls and follows him inside, locking the stall door behind him. 

 

"Stop," Josh tries. "S-Stev'n, luh-lemme go. I don't wan' this." He's shoved up against the wall, and he can feel Steven tugging at Josh's pants, pulling them down. "St-stop! I don't wan' this!" He tries to pull away, but his limbs won't seem to work, and it feels like his head is full of cotton. "Stop!" he takes another breath, ready to scream out for help, when Steven grabs his hair and slams his head against the wall, knocking the air out of Josh's lungs. 

 

Josh rests his forehead against the wall, feeling paralyzed as Steven manages to get Josh's pants and underwear down to his knees. He tries to gasp for air, but it feels as though he's drowning, and he barely registers the sound of Steven spitting. Tears spring to his eyes when he feels a fingergod, there's a finger inside of him.

 

"Please," he hears himself whimper.

 

Instead, there's just a feeling of another finger worming its way into him, and Josh grits his teeth, grimacing in pain. He feels like he's being lit on fire, but he can't bring himself to care. There's another finger, twisting and turning, but Josh barely reacts. 

 

Then the fingers are leaving him, and he gasps in relief. But the relief dissipates as quickly as it came when he hears the sound of a belt unbuckling and a zipper being pulled down, and Josh's hips are being grabbed and pulled back and oh god

 

Josh gasps wetly, clenching his fists. He tries to struggle away, but it just allows Steven to slip deeper into him.

 

He closes his eyes and tries to take himself far away from this. It isn't hard. Nothing about this feels real. 

 

 

 

"Hi, I– uh, called the other day," Josh mumbles. "I– I was, uh, having– having a panic attack at the time. I– I talked to, um, Ana. Is– is she there?"

 

"Oh, Ana?" the women on the other line says. "Yes, hold on." Josh hears words that he can't make out, and then Ana is saying, "Hello?"

 

"Hi," Josh murmurs. 

 

"Josh, right?" 

 

"Yeah."

 

"How are you feeling?" she asks. 

 

"Better," he says. "I just… I kinda– I kinda left you hanging. The other night. I just…"

 

"You're letting me know that you're all right," Ana guesses.

 

"Yeah. You, uh, called me back a couple of times. I just thought…"

 

"Yeah. Thank you," Ana says. "I was worried about you. You didn't sound like you were doing so great when you hung up."

 

"Yeah, uh. No," Josh mumbles. 

 

"Do you want to talk?"

 

"I… I don't know," Josh confesses. 

 

"That's okay," Ana says gently. "I can talk for a bit now, if you'd like that." Josh doesn't respond, and she takes it as initiative to begin talking. "I'm going to start talking about the laws in Ohio, okay? Rape is generally a first-degree crime, but if you were drugged, there'll be a mandatory term. If there was force or–"

 

"No," Josh interrupts, and Ana quiets. "I– I can't press charges. It– it didn't even happen in Ohio. And it was months ago. There– there isn't any evidence left." Wow, where did the elephant come from? And why is it sitting on his chest? "I– I don't– I don't know the guy's name."

 

"Okay," Ana says softly. "That's okay. Just– Josh, breathe."

 

"Sorry," Josh gasps, squeezing his eyes shut. He will not cry.  

 

"No, no, Josh, don't be sorry," she says gently. 

 

"I– I let him buy me the drink," Josh whimpers. "I– I danced with him. I didn't– I didn't fight hard enough; I have muscles, I have abs, and he drugged me, but it shouldn't have– I barely fought, he didn't know I didn't want it, I was dancing with him, he probably didn't– didn't hear me when I said– I said no."

 

"Josh, I–"

 

"I'm– I'm all dirty now, I tried to deny it at first, I showered all the time, I threw away the clothes I was wearing, I dyed my hair a different color because if I can't see it then it didn't happen, right? But I kept remembering, and I got mad, I got so mad, I got mad at everything, I got mad at God, I got mad at my best friend because it was me who got hurt, not him, I'm a fucking awful person, oh god."

 

"I need–"

 

"And then I dyed my hair back to brown because people kept looking at me, I stopped wearing all that fucking tight clothing, I took out my piercings, I almost got my tattoo removed, my tattoo, because he kept telling me that my hair was what made him notice me, that my ass looked so good in my jeans, and he kept touching my tattoo. And then I just felt sad all the time. I just kept sleeping and I started to have panic attacks and I walked in front of cars without caring if they'd hit me, and I was just so fucking drained, and now here I am, it’s been months since it happened and I’m not getting over it, I can’t get over it, oh god, oh god." Josh wheezes, scrubbing viciously at his eyes. He’s such a fucking child. This is why he can’t get over it. Because he can’t stop fucking crying.

 

"Josh, I’m going to breathe deeply, and you're going to try to match my breaths, okay?" Ana says. Josh tries to follow along, but his mind gets sidetracked.

 

"No one will ever touch me again," Josh whimpers into his arm. "I– I don’t know if I’ll ever want anyone to touch me, but that– that’s different. No one will ever want to touch me because someone dirty did and now I’m dirty, I’m filthy, I’m impure, I’m unholy, and not even God will want me anymore because no one’ll want me in heaven, no, not when I contaminate everything I touch."

 

"Follow my breathing, Josh," Ana says, and Josh finally starts to listen.

 

Ana guides Josh through his panic attack smoothly, speaking firmly but gently. Josh closes his eyes and shuts his mind off. It’s not hard; he’s had plenty of practice over the last couple of months.

 

"I used to get panic attacks too," Ana says quietly when his breathing is mostly normal again.

 

"How– how did you stop having them?"

 

"I got help," she says quietly. "I talked to people. Getting it all out, it makes it more tangible. Less foreign. Less scary."

 

"Oh."

 

Over the next couple of weeks, Josh calls the hotline five more times.

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

"Dude, let me go," Josh says, except it comes out as, "Du, lemme go."

 

Steven pushes Josh roughly into one of the bathroom stalls and follows him inside, locking the stall door behind him. 

 

"Stop," Josh tries. "S-Stev'n, luh-lemme go. I don't wan' this." He's shoved up against the wall, and he can feel Steven tugging at Josh's pants, pulling them down. "St-stop! I don't wan' this!" He tries to pull away, but his limbs won't seem to work, and it feels like his head is full of cotton. "Stop!" he takes another breath, ready to scream out for help, when Steven grabs his hair and slams his head against the wall, knocking the air out of Josh's lungs. 

 

Josh rests his forehead against the wall, feeling paralyzed as Steven manages to get Josh's pants and underwear down to his knees. He tries to gasp for air, but it feels as though he's drowning, and he barely registers the sound of Steven spitting. Tears spring to his eyes when he feels a fingergod, there's a finger inside of him.

 

"Please," he hears himself whimper.

 

Instead, there's just a feeling of another finger worming its way into him, and Josh grits his teeth, grimacing in pain. He feels like he's being lit on fire, but he can't bring himself to care. There's another finger, twisting and turning, but Josh barely reacts. 

 

Then the fingers are leaving him, and he gasps in relief. But the relief dissipates as quickly as it came when he hears the sound of a belt unbuckling and a zipper being pulled down, and Josh's hips are being grabbed and pulled back and oh god

 

Josh gasps wetly, clenching his fists. He tries to struggle away, but it just allows Steven to slip deeper into him.

 

He closes his eyes and tries to take himself far away from this. It isn't hard. Nothing about this feels real. 

 

There's the sound of the bathroom door opening, and Josh's eyes widen.

 

"Help me," he croaks out. "Please, help me, help me, please."

 

There's only the sound of someone urinating and a flushing sound. 

 

"Help me!" Josh manages to cry. "Please!" He hears footsteps walking away. Panicking, Josh yelps, "Please! Please, help me, oh god."

 

He hears the door opening. Was he not heard? He takes a deep breath, preparing himself to scream. "HELP M"

 

Steven shoves a couple of fingers down his throat, cutting him off. Josh gags as he hears the bathroom door shut. Something new breaks inside of him. He knows he was heard. Why didn't anyone help him?

 

 

 

"I have something to tell you," Josh says, and he falls completely silent. 

 

"Yeah?" Tyler asks after a moment of quiet. 

 

"I have something to tell you," he repeats, but that's as much he can get out. 

 

"Josh?" Tyler tries. Jenna squeezes Josh’s hand.

 

"I have…" Josh says, but he trails off, rubbing his face with his free hand. "I– I don't know how to tell you this."

 

Tyler's eyes have moved down to where Josh's hand is clutching Jenna's. "Are… are you guys…?" he asks hesitantly, looking stricken. 

 

"No, no," Josh says quickly. "No. We– we're not." Jenna is shaking her head rapidly in agreement. "She– she's like my sister."

 

"Oh," Tyler says, relaxing minutely. "I didn't think so; it just looked like…" He shakes his head. "So, what were you going to tell me?"

 

"I…" Josh begins, and Jenna squeezes his hand in encouragement. "I'm gay," he blurts. 

 

Tyler blinks. "…oh," he says, sounding more confused than anything else. "That's… cool."

 

Jenna is shooting Josh looks that hover somewhere between disappointed and bewildered. 

 

"Okay," Josh says, trying to sound calmer than he is. "Okay," he repeats as he releases Jenna's hand and tries his best not to run as he leaves the room. 

 

"Was that all it was?" he hears Tyler ask. 

 

"Eh," is all Jenna says. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

"Dude, let me go," Josh says, except it comes out as, "Du, lemme go."

 

Steven pushes Josh roughly into one of the bathroom stalls and follows him inside, locking the stall door behind him. 

 

"Stop," Josh tries. "S-Stev'n, luh-lemme go. I don't wan' this." He's shoved up against the wall, and he can feel Steven tugging at Josh's pants, pulling them down. "St-stop! I don't wan' this!" He tries to pull away, but his limbs won't seem to work, and it feels like his head is full of cotton. "Stop!" he takes another breath, ready to scream out for help, when Steven grabs his hair and slams his head against the wall, knocking the air out of Josh's lungs. 

 

Josh rests his forehead against the wall, feeling paralyzed as Steven manages to get Josh's pants and underwear down to his knees. He tries to gasp for air, but it feels as though he's drowning, and he barely registers the sound of Steven spitting. Tears spring to his eyes when he feels a fingergod, there's a finger inside of him.

 

"Please," he hears himself whimper.

 

Instead, there's just a feeling of another finger worming its way into him, and Josh grits his teeth, grimacing in pain. He feels like he's being lit on fire, but he can't bring himself to care. There's another finger, twisting and turning, but Josh barely reacts. 

 

Then the fingers are leaving him, and he gasps in relief. But the relief dissipates as quickly as it came when he hears the sound of a belt unbuckling and a zipper being pulled down, and Josh's hips are being grabbed and pulled back and oh god

 

Josh gasps wetly, clenching his fists. He tries to struggle away, but it just allows Steven to slip deeper into him.

 

He closes his eyes and tries to take himself far away from this. It isn't hard. Nothing about this feels real. 

 

There's the sound of the bathroom door opening, and Josh's eyes widen.

 

"Help me," he croaks out. "Please, help me, help me, please."

 

There's only the sound of someone urinating and a flushing sound. 

 

"Help me!" Josh manages to cry. "Please!" He hears footsteps walking away. Panicking, Josh yelps, "Please! Please, help me, oh god."

 

He hears the door opening. Was he not heard? He takes a deep breath, preparing himself to scream. "HELP M"

 

Steven shoves a couple of fingers down his throat, cutting him off. Josh gags as he hears the bathroom door shut. Something new breaks inside of him. He knows he was heard. Why didn't anyone help him?

 

The fingers leave Josh's mouth, and Josh rests his forehead on the gross, sticky wall. His legs are no longer supporting him. The pressure keeping him pushed up against the wall is enough to hold him up. Josh chokes on a sob as he feels the fingers tighten around his hips, and oh god, oh god there's something wet inside him, leaking down his thighs. His stomach heaves. 

 

Steven pulls back, and Josh slumps to the floor, no longer being supported. He hears a zipper and a belt buckle, and then Steven is gone. 

 

Just like that, he's gone. 

 

 

 

"Josh."

 

Josh nearly jumps out of his skin when he hears Tyler, not noticing that he'd walked into Josh's room. "Tyler," he says, trying to encourage his heart to beat a little less quickly. 

 

"You're my best friend," Tyler tells him, sitting down across from Josh. "You're my best friend, and your sexual orientation doesn't change that."

 

"I…" Josh begins, but before he can try to stop, he's crying full-body sobs, curling into himself and hiding his face. He can feel Tyler placing gentle hands on him, trying to soothe him. 

 

"I'm not gay," he gasps out. 

 

"Josh…"

 

"I'm not gay," he repeats, squirming away from Tyler's touch. "I– I'm not gay, I'm not, I'm not, I swear"

 

"Josh," Tyler says quietly, "it's okay. I promise."

 

"–I'm not gay, I'm not gay, I'm not, I'm–"

 

"I was kind of surprised, but it doesn't change anything between us, okay?"

 

"–not gay, I'm not"

 

"You're still my best friend."

 

"–gay, I just told you that because I couldn't think of anything else to say, I didn't want to tell you."

 

Tyler's quiet for a moment. "What?"

 

"I'm not gay," Josh hiccups, refusing to look Tyler in the eye. "I… over the tour, I went out, one night, by myself, to a club, and…" He buries his face in his knees. "I met someone. And he… he drugged me. And he– he made me go with him to– to the bathroom. And he– he did– he did things– he did things to me."

 

There's no response, and after a moment, Josh cautiously looks up. 

 

Tyler is practically vibrating with anger.

 

"What's his name?" he demands. "I– I'm gonna kill him, I swear–"

 

"No!" Josh blurts. 

 

Tyler blinks. "What?"

 

"I don't– I don't want to drag you into this," Josh whispers. "I don't want you to have to become a part of this."

 

"Josh," Tyler says quietly, "you're my best friend. You're my brother. The moment someone hurt you was the moment I became a part of it. Even when I didn't know."

 

"Yeah, but," Josh sniffs, "don't hurt him. You can't hurt him."

 

Tyler looks perplexed. "Josh, I…" He trails off, furrowing his eyebrows. "Do– do you know him? Why are… why are you so opposed to me hurting him?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No. I don't know him. I just–" his breath hitches. "I knew him for like, half an hour, but I trusted him. I got hurt by someone I trusted at first; don't– don't show me that someone else I trust can hurt people too."

 

Tyler's face crumples. "Josh," he whispers. He goes to hug Josh, but he pauses. "Is– is this okay?" he asks. 

 

Josh responds by pulling Tyler into a tight hug. 

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

"Dude, let me go," Josh says, except it comes out as, "Du, lemme go."

 

Steven pushes Josh roughly into one of the bathroom stalls and follows him inside, locking the stall door behind him. 

 

"Stop," Josh tries. "S-Stev'n, luh-lemme go. I don't wan' this." He's shoved up against the wall, and he can feel Steven tugging at Josh's pants, pulling them down. "St-stop! I don't wan' this!" He tries to pull away, but his limbs won't seem to work, and it feels like his head is full of cotton. "Stop!" he takes another breath, ready to scream out for help, when Steven grabs his hair and slams his head against the wall, knocking the air out of Josh's lungs. 

 

Josh rests his forehead against the wall, feeling paralyzed as Steven manages to get Josh's pants and underwear down to his knees. He tries to gasp for air, but it feels as though he's drowning, and he barely registers the sound of Steven spitting. Tears spring to his eyes when he feels a fingergod, there's a finger inside of him.

 

"Please," he hears himself whimper.

 

Instead, there's just a feeling of another finger worming its way into him, and Josh grits his teeth, grimacing in pain. He feels like he's being lit on fire, but he can't bring himself to care. There's another finger, twisting and turning, but Josh barely reacts. 

 

Then the fingers are leaving him, and he gasps in relief. But the relief dissipates as quickly as it came when he hears the sound of a belt unbuckling and a zipper being pulled down, and Josh's hips are being grabbed and pulled back and oh god

 

Josh gasps wetly, clenching his fists. He tries to struggle away, but it just allows Steven to slip deeper into him.

 

He closes his eyes and tries to take himself far away from this. It isn't hard. Nothing about this feels real. 

 

There's the sound of the bathroom door opening, and Josh's eyes widen.

 

"Help me," he croaks out. "Please, help me, help me, please."

 

There's only the sound of someone urinating and a flushing sound. 

 

"Help me!" Josh manages to cry. "Please!" He hears footsteps walking away. Panicking, Josh yelps, "Please! Please, help me, oh god."

 

He hears the door opening. Was he not heard? He takes a deep breath, preparing himself to scream. "HELP M"

 

Steven shoves a couple of fingers down his throat, cutting him off. Josh gags as he hears the bathroom door shut. Something new breaks inside of him. He knows he was heard. Why didn't anyone help him?

 

The fingers leave Josh's mouth, and Josh rests his forehead on the gross, sticky wall. His legs are no longer supporting him. The pressure keeping him pushed up against the wall is enough to hold him up. Josh chokes on a sob as he feels the fingers tighten around his hips, and oh god, oh god there's something wet inside him, leaking down his thighs. His stomach heaves. 

 

Steven pulls back, and Josh slumps to the floor, no longer being supported. He hears a zipper and a belt buckle, and then Steven is gone. 

 

Just like that, he's gone. 

 

Josh doesn't know how long he lies there on the dirty bathroom floor, pants and underwear around his knees. He's fairly certain that other people come and go, but no one speaks to him. No one helps him. No one says a word.

 

It's only until he hears the music stop playing does he drag himself up and pulls his pants back on. The hotel is only a couple of blocks from the club, thankfully, and Josh feels as though he's floating back. He feels hollow. Numb.

 

 

 

"We should call the police."

 

It takes Josh a moment to remember how to speak. "What?"

 

"The police," Tyler repeats. "The guy who– he can't get away with this."

 

Josh shakes his head. "This was months ago, Tyler. No one's gonna find him."

 

"Still," Tyler tries, but Josh shakes his head again. 

 

"No, Tyler," he mumbles. "He's not gonna be found. And…" he swallows, "and I don't want anybody to know."

 

"Josh," Tyler says, voice breaking, and Josh feels himself being suddenly enveloped into a hug. "Josh."

 

Josh hesitantly returns the hug. 

 

"I wish you'd told me sooner," Tyler says into Josh's shoulder.

 

"I was scared," Josh whispers. 

 

Tyler hugs him tighter. "You're my best friend," he murmurs. "I love you. You're my best friend."

 

"I love you too," Josh says softly.

 

"What were you scared of, then?"

 

Josh looks away. "I…" He bites his lip. "I thought you might… be disgusted. That– that you wouldn’t look at me the same anymore. I was– I was scared that you might not hug me anymore."

 

Tyler’s grip on him manages to tighten even further. "Never," he whispers vehemently. "There is nothing that would make me feel that way about you. Nothing."

 

 

 

Josh isn't one to drink, so he's nursing a coke that's steadily making its way to lukewarm. He's sitting at the bar and watching some local metalcore band that's truly mediocre when some guy, maybe a little bit older than him, leans up against the bar and smiles at him.

 

"Buy you a drink?" the guy asks, tapping his fingers against the bar. 

 

It takes Josh's mind a moment to figure out what, exactly, is happening. Guys don't hit on him (because they're usually too busy flirting with Tyler).

 

"Sure," Josh says, surprising himself. He's not gay, but where's the harm? He gets practice flirting, and a free drink. 

 

"What do you like?" the guy asks. 

 

"In general, or for a drink?" Josh says with a grin. It's been a while since he's flirted at all, but it's kind of fun. 

 

The guy chuckles. "For a drink." He leans in and whispers into Josh's ear, "We can talk about what else you like later."

 

Josh smiles as he waves his nearly empty coke. "Another coke would be nice, thanks."

 

"Coke and rum?"

 

"Nah, just coke."

 

The guy raises an eyebrow. "Live a little, man! What, are you the driver?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "I don't drink. And besides," he leans forward and murmurs, "not the driver. I'm all alone." He flashes a grin at the guy.

 

"No distractions."

 

"Exactly."

 

The guy smiles at him before motioning the bartender over. "Two cokes, please." As the bartender heads off to go get them their drinks, the guy turns to Josh. "Wanna go grab us a table closer to the band?" he asks. "I'll bring our cokes over when I get them."

 

"Sure," Josh says, standing up.

 

It's a couple of minutes before the guy joins him at the table.

 

"The guy gave us coke and rums by accident," the guy explains. "I was straightening it out."

 

"Thank you," Josh says, accepting his drink. "I'm Josh, by the way."

 

"Steven," the guy says. "You from around here?"

 

Josh shakes his head. "No, just passing through."

 

"Same here," Steven says, taking a sip of his coke. Josh follows suit.

 

"So, what do you do?" Josh asks. 

 

"I work in retail," Steven says. "Nothing exciting." He takes another drink. "You?"

 

"Oh, I'm in a band," Josh says. 

 

"Would I recognize you?" Steven asks. 

 

Josh shakes his head, grinning out of the corner of his mouth. "No, probably not." He crosses his legs and leans forward. "So, do you do this often?"

 

"Do what often?"

 

Josh shrugs. "I dunno. Buy guys cokes in bars."

 

"Well, you're the first one I've ever bought a coke for," Steven says, smirking a little. "But no. Not often."

 

"So, why me?" Josh asks.

 

"Well, it's kind of hard to miss your hair," Steven says, smiling when he sees Josh run his fingers through his bright red hair. "And once you caught my attention, I noticed you looked a little lonely. So," he takes a sip of his drink, "I went over to you before someone else could."

 

"What made you think someone else would've came over to me?" Josh asks, taking a gulp of his coke. 

 

"Are you serious?" Steven asks, raising an eyebrow. "A pretty boy like you? You're like sex on legs, man."

 

Josh feels himself blush. "Well, that's the first time someone's said that to me."

 

"Really?" Steven asks, looking genuinely surprised. "Dude, I thought someone like you'd be getting laid with whoever you want every night."

 

Josh snorts, taking a drink. "No, not quite."

 

Steven leans forward, hand finding Josh's knee. Josh thinks about moving out of Steven's reach, but it seems more friendly than anything, and Josh relaxes into it. 

 

"I hope you're not too affronted by me trying to be one of those theoretical people," Steven murmurs. 

 

Josh feels himself blush, and he drains his soda instead of answering. 

 

"Wanna dance?" Steven offers, and why not? Josh follows him out into the crowd where couples are gracelessly grinding against each other to the music.

 

"Come on," Steven says as Josh hesitantly moves closer to to him. He grabs Josh's hips and pulls their bodies together. Josh's eyes widen when their hips slam together, and oh, that's a penis. 

 

Steven mutters something unintelligible into Josh's ear, hands around Josh's waist as he grinds their hips together. Josh feels his dick twitch in response to the friction. He's not attracted to Steven, or to men at all, but his dick doesn't know the difference. Josh closes his eyes and pretends that it's a hot girl that's grinding up against him. Much better. 

 

"You're so fucking hot," Josh hears Steven growl into his ear, and Josh shivers a little. "I wanna fuck you so bad."

 

Badly, Josh thinks, but he doesn't say it aloud. He's a bit distracted by the way Steven's hands have moved from Josh's waist to his ass and are starting to grope. 

 

"Hey," Josh says, squirming a little. "Stop that."

 

"Come on," Steven murmurs. "An ass like yours is begging to be touched."

 

"Stop that," Josh says again, and he can feel Steven's hands reluctantly move back up to his waist. 

 

"Prude," he hears Steven mutter, and pointedly, Josh grinds against Steven's hips with a little extra enthusiasm. Steven lets out a choked moan, and Josh can feel his dick harden against Josh's hip.

 

They dance some more, Steven trying to sneak in kisses. Josh gets out a no, but his muscles are starting to become weirdly heavy, and it's kind of hard to remain upright. 

 

"I think I need some air," Josh tells Steven, words slurring slightly. 

 

"You okay?" Steven asks, pulling back slightly so he can look Josh in the eye. 

 

"Yeah, just" he gestures vaguely, "a little dizzy, you know."

 

"Okay, yeah, I'll get you outside," Steven says, wrapping his arm around Josh to support him. There's a bit too much physical contact for Josh's comfort, but he doesn't say anything. 

 

"Steven, II think the exit's that way," Josh says, trying to laugh as Steven walks him in the opposite direction of the clearly labelled exit sign.

 

Steven doesn't say anything; he just continues pulling Josh in the direction ofof something. 

 

"Steven?" Josh tries. "Steven, wherewhere are we going?" When he doesn't get a response, Josh starts to tug at Steven's grip on his body. "Let me go," he says, but Steven just tightens his grip. 

 

Josh tries to fight down a wave of panic that floods him when Steven tugs Josh into the men's bathroom. 

 

"Dude, let me go," Josh says, except it comes out as, "Du, lemme go."

 

Steven pushes Josh roughly into one of the bathroom stalls and follows him inside, locking the stall door behind him. 

 

"Stop," Josh tries. "S-Stev'n, luh-lemme go. I don't wan' this." He's shoved up against the wall, and he can feel Steven tugging at Josh's pants, pulling them down. "St-stop! I don't wan' this!" He tries to pull away, but his limbs won't seem to work, and it feels like his head is full of cotton. "Stop!" he takes another breath, ready to scream out for help, when Steven grabs his hair and slams his head against the wall, knocking the air out of Josh's lungs. 

 

Josh rests his forehead against the wall, feeling paralyzed as Steven manages to get Josh's pants and underwear down to his knees. He tries to gasp for air, but it feels as though he's drowning, and he barely registers the sound of Steven spitting. Tears spring to his eyes when he feels a fingergod, there's a finger inside of him.

 

"Please," he hears himself whimper.

 

Instead, there's just a feeling of another finger worming its way into him, and Josh grits his teeth, grimacing in pain. He feels like he's being lit on fire, but he can't bring himself to care. There's another finger, twisting and turning, but Josh barely reacts. 

 

Then the fingers are leaving him, and he gasps in relief. But the relief dissipates as quickly as it came when he hears the sound of a belt unbuckling and a zipper being pulled down, and Josh's hips are being grabbed and pulled back and oh god

 

Josh gasps wetly, clenching his fists. He tries to struggle away, but it just allows Steven to slip deeper into him.

 

He closes his eyes and tries to take himself far away from this. It isn't hard. Nothing about this feels real. 

 

There's the sound of the bathroom door opening, and Josh's eyes widen.

 

"Help me," he croaks out. "Please, help me, help me, please."

 

There's only the sound of someone urinating and a flushing sound. 

 

"Help me!" Josh manages to cry. "Please!" He hears footsteps walking away. Panicking, Josh yelps, "Please! Please, help me, oh god."

 

He hears the door opening. Was he not heard? He takes a deep breath, preparing himself to scream. "HELP M"

 

Steven shoves a couple of fingers down his throat, cutting him off. Josh gags as he hears the bathroom door shut. Something new breaks inside of him. He knows he was heard. Why didn't anyone help him?

 

The fingers leave Josh's mouth, and Josh rests his forehead on the gross, sticky wall. His legs are no longer supporting him. The pressure keeping him pushed up against the wall is enough to hold him up. Josh chokes on a sob as he feels the fingers tighten around his hips, and oh god, oh god there's something wet inside him, leaking down his thighs. His stomach heaves. 

 

Steven pulls back, and Josh slumps to the floor, no longer being supported. He hears a zipper and a belt buckle, and then Steven is gone. 

 

Just like that, he's gone. 

 

Josh doesn't know how long he lies there on the dirty bathroom floor, pants and underwear around his knees. He's fairly certain that other people come and go, but no one speaks to him. No one helps him. No one says a word.

 

It's only until he hears the music stop playing does he drag himself up and pulls his pants back on. The hotel is only a couple of blocks from the club, thankfully, and Josh feels as though he's floating back. He feels hollow. Numb.

 

It’s not real. He’s not real. Nothing’s real. It can’t be.

 

It's not until he's back, locked in the hotel bathroom does he feel a surge of cold panic course through his body. He showers with the water as hot as he can bear, but no matter how hard he tries, he can't warm the freezing hollowness in his chest.

 

Why is everything he owns sotight? He tears through his suitcase, frantically searching for something loose, something soft. He grabs a pair of sweatpants, and he pulls a baggy t-shirt over his head.  

 

He crawls into his bed, curling up and burying his head under the blankets.

 

He feels empty.

 

 

 

"Stay alive!" Tyler screams to the audience.

 

He tosses a grin over at Josh's direction, and Josh returns it just as eagerly. They released an interview a couple months ago, featuring Josh speaking about his assault, and the support he received was almost overwhelming. It was nearly frightening to see how many people in the clique had experienced something similar, but it added a new dimension of camaraderie. There’s a clique-created support network now, and Josh nearly cries whenever he thinks about it. They're not sad tears, though.

 

"Stay alive," Josh echoes, "and stay– stay strong."