Only Skeleton Bones Remain
“We’re Twenty One Pilots and so are you!” Tyler shouted, removing his arm from around Josh’s as they bowed. He turned to Josh, a widespread grin breaking out.
Josh began to walk off the stage, the lights dimming as the show drew to a close.
The fans cheering behind them, the sounds of chants surfacing above the cacophony of sounds erupting from the hall.
Brief interactions with fans outside as Tyler and Josh made their move back to the tour buses, showering, resting, and then going out to explore the town before they had to leave for the next stop on their trip for concerts.
Words left unspoken, the only sound filling the empty alleyway being their breathing and the sound of their shoes hitting the ground. They walked, draped in a familiar sense of comfortability, wrapped in silence that offered its thoughts and opinions, reminding them of things they didn’t care about.
Their shoulders bumped and hands ghosted across one another, falling into a rhythm of banter and cheesy jokes, verging on flirtations, but staying just beyond the line.
It was too late when they realized they were lost. When they realized there was a third set of footsteps echoing down those alleyways.
It was Josh who turned around first, eyes wary and voice faltering as he attempted to reply to something Tyler had said. It was Josh who shoved Tyler behind him, yelling out “Stay back !”
A tall figure stepped out of the shadows, a ring glinting against his hand, a lilt to the cackle that floated from his throat. Long, lithe, and agile like a cat, prowling and scavenging the streets until an unlucky mouse fell upon its path. It wasn’t until the man leapt forward, scuffling with Josh for a while in an attempt to fight this attacker off, that either of them realized they weren’t dealing with an alley-cat, no this was a lion, ferocious and ruthless.
The man grabbed Josh’s shirt, holding him up off the ground. A swift punch to Josh’s face knocked his face to the side, a thin cut across his cheek. Another punch, across the temple, knocked him out.
Tyler could only think that this wasn’t happening. Josh wasn’t unconscious, he wasn’t bleeding. No, he was sleeping, his hair dye had leaked , that was it.
Tyler soon joined Josh in the realm of silence as the man advanced on Tyler, who remained frozen in fear.
It was an unknown amount of time later when Tyler and Josh woke up, one before the other, leaving the conscious one horrified of a world without the other. Tied to chairs that faced each other, they both sat, soft tears threatening to spill over as they wriggled and struggled against the bonds that restrained them.
“Hope you two got cozy,” the man said as he entered the dark, damp room.
“Go to Hell,” Josh said, spitting on the ground at the man’s feet.
The man darted forward, grabbing Josh’s chin and forcing him to lock eyes with him. “ I control the show today, boys.”
Josh puffed up his chest and glared at the man, gritting his teeth and shifting his jaw.
“You’ve got spunk, kid, I’ll give you that. But, you just made my job easier,” the man said, pushing back his dark hair. “Name’s Gavin,” he continued, holding his hand out for Josh to shake before laughing. “Ha, sorry, forgot you were a little tied up at the moment.”
Josh bared his teeth and let out an animalistic growl.
“J’,” Tyler warned, voice low.
“‘ J’’?” Gavin repeated. “God, this just can’t get any better, now can it?” Gavin asked, walking around the room. “Oh, wait, I forgot it can.” Gavin turned around, pulling his fist back and clocking Josh across the face.
Josh let out a small yelp, turning his face back to Gavin as blood dripping down the side of his face.
Gavin repeated the process, taking time to lean in close, rubbing his hand across Josh’s face affectionately, mocking both him and Tyler. He threw some hits at Josh’s stomach, grinning at the way Josh folded in on himself, whimpering softly in pain. He only stopped when Josh began to spit up blood, coating the inside of his lips and mouth until he choked on it.
All the while Tyler screamed and begged for Gavin to stop, just stop , tells him that any ransom he asks for they’ll pay it.
But, Gavin only screams back “ I don’t want your money !” before leaning over the drummer, locking eyes with him and saying “It’s going to hurt him, more than it will ever hurt you.”
Josh shakes his head, telling him that he doesn’t know what he means, but Gavin merely moves to Tyler, fingers curling into a fist.
Tyler closes his eyes, body tense and preparing for an onslaught of pain and torment, but after one punch, two punches, three, four, five, he’s begging and crying, telling him to please stop.
“ Gavin !” Josh yells, urging his voice to be as deep and commanding as he could possibly muster.
The punches slow to a halt.
Gavin turns around slowly, staring at Josh expectantly.
Josh stared at Gavin, fear creeping into his blood.
“You’re a monster, a fiend!” Tyler shouted.
A word sprang to Josh’s mind: anathema.
“Oh, I’m not the monster, you killed her, my baby girl…” Gavin trailed off, leaving both Josh and Tyler in the dark.
“Leave us alone! You can’t keep us down here forever!” Josh spat out, eyes glaring and body straining against the chair that held him back. “Do whatever you want to me, but if you hurt Tyler anymore you won’t live to see another day, I swear on it.”
“Oh, J ’,” Gavin says, mockingly, “you can’t touch me. You must be so used to being untouchable, I probably should have given you a few minutes to wrap your imbecilic brain around this new concept.” Gavin pushed Tyler back, stalking around Josh, like a bird circling a carcass. “Tyler, you asked me why I was doing this, this is why. The world needs to know that you can be hurt, that not even you celebrities are safe !” Gavin shouted.
Both band members shrank in their seats, wincing at the anger in his voice.
“Her name was Lucy. She was fourteen , and she loved you both, went to every concert she could, bought all your merch'. But, she wanted to be in the pit, she wanted to get closer to you.
“In your attempts to bring out those drums for the dual-drumming , the platform fell—” A choked sob broke out of Gavin.
“It killed her.” Josh said.
Tyler paled. That was supposed to have been his platform, it was only chance he didn't crash down with it.
“I want you to feel the pain I feel everyday, I want you to suffer the way I did after I lost Lucy. I want you to know the anguish you must live with after losing a loved one.”
It suddenly became clear.
“ No , I can’t, you can’t make me.” Tyler said, eye’s wide and filled with tears, no longer just threatening to fall over, but pushing out and rampaging down Tyler’s cheeks and onto the floor.
“Either you kill Mr. Dun, or I kill you both and your families, slowly, painfully.” Gavin said, leaning back against the dirty wall.
Tyler looked at Josh, bloodied and beaten, clearly in pain. He couldn’t do it. This was his best-friend, someone he loved, he couldn’t.
“The choice is simple, Mr. Joseph,” Gavin said after a moment. “I’ll give you two some privacy.” Gavin crept forward, cutting the ties around their wrists. He slipped a gun into Tyler’s hand.
Tyler hesitated a moment, before pointing the gun at Gavin. “Who’s to say I don’t just kill you right now? It’s all over, we win, you lose.”
“Be my guest, Tyler, but the moment you kill me you’re stuck here until you die of starvation. Only I know the pass-codes and where the key is hidden, and don’t even think of torturing me because I will never give it up.” Gavin chuckled, proud of his plan.
Tyler lowered the gun and fired it once, clipping the edge of Gavin’s leg. He let out a soft yell of pain. At least now if the police ever found that place they could identify Gavin with his blood.
Gavin growled and began moving toward Tyler, rage and fury in his eyes.
Josh stepped up out of the chair. “I keep my promises,” he said, matching Gavin’s growl with one of his own.
Gavin slowed down. His eyes reached the floor, quickly going over the options he had before letting out a murderous “ Fine. ” He walked out of the room. He called out, voice echoing around the room before shutting the door and locking it, “ Only skeleton bones remain… ”
“I-I can’t do this, Josh, please, I can’t do this.” Tyler pleaded, hands shaking and body wracking with sobs.
Josh walked forward, placed his hands around Tyler’s face, thumbs rubbing soft circles on Tyler’s cheeks. “It’s okay.” He leaned in and pressed their lips together.
Tyler’s tears dripped down onto Josh’s face as they fall into each other’s arms for the last time.
Josh pulled away, peppering one last kiss on Tyler’s lips before getting down on his knees and grabbing Tyler’s hand. He took the gun and placed it in it, wrapping Tyler’s fingers around the holt and trigger.
Tyler shook his head. “I can’t live without you, I need you, please don’t leave me, God, please, Josh, please !”
Josh smiled up at him. “It’s okay. It’s okay. I forgive you.” Josh felt the cold muzzle of the gun press against his forehead. He felt the ache of his wounds, the sharp tug of every small movement he made. He tuned those feelings out and focused on the man in front of him. Tyler. Shaking, begs and pleads lost to the world as he realized there was no other option.
Tyler reached down and grabbed Josh’s hand, squeezing it tightly.
“It’s okay, Tyler,”—the gun is cocked—”I love you, it’s okay,”—Tyler inhales shakily—”I forgive you, I lov—” Josh tensed before a ghost of an exhale escaped his lips. His arms jerked up to shield his body from oncoming danger, a natural reaction. He was too slow to stop a bullet. His body fell to the side, Tyler struggling to dash forward and catch his best-friend.
As Tyler rocked the broken body back and forth the soft tunes of an accordion played in the back of his mind. He crooned, voice broken and bleeding, “ I’m a goner…somebody catch my breath… ”
He tilted his head back, the cold touch of death creeping under his throat.
The gun was fired for the third time that night.
“ I’m a goner… ”