Heya guys! Here's Part 5 of my continuing series. I just want all of you to know that this is the last of the pre-written chapters...from now on there won't be daily updates until I write some more chapters. But I can assure you I have a story to tell and by golly I'm gonna tell it all!
I'll be leaving for my pilot training programme (yes I hope to be a commercial airline pilot one day--wish me luck), and I don't know if I'll be able to write my stories, much less post new chapters...where I'll be will sorely lacking of internet facilities. So give me a few days (or weeks) to get settled down first, then I'll be back. That I promise you!
Corniness aside, please enjoy this chapter, and kindly take some time to tell me what you thought of it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: "What? I don't know 'N Sync. Well sure I know of them, but I don't know them personally. This story? Er...haha, um...it's just a story. I swear! No, please don't--no! I didn't know there were underaged kids reading it! If they're not legal they're not supposed to, I've said it before, no, not that, please, not--NO!"
CHASING CHASEZ, Part 5
by Will Ang
It's funny how cruel the world seems to be.
I looked out at the busy streets of downtown Orlando from JC's car. There they were, people from all walks of life, running, talking, shopping, laughing.
Oblivious to the fact that barely four days ago a man, a whole person, a being which once held life; had died. Friends and family loved him and cherished him, just like their own did with them.
And yet the world can still turn on its axis, uncaring.
Beloved by his family, beloved by his friends, read Dylan's epitaph. Now where did that leave Josh? He wasn't quite family, yet he was more than a friend. My gaze wandered to him. He drove like he always used to, head bopping occasionally to the Faith Hill CD, reaching up occasionally to thumb his sunglasses back up that nose of his.
It had been two days after the funeral, and Josh seemed fine. More than fine, to my slight surprise. That perpetual frown he'd been wearing had smoothened into a mere thoughtful look, and he'd gone back to his music with usual gusto. He hadn't said a word about Dylan yet, however, and I was tired of constantly pushing him.
And now, here we were, on our way to the studio to finish off some tracks, and to dutifully attend meetings. Like nothing had happened.
How would I react if Britney suddenly died on me, I wondered. A sickening feeling hit me in the stomach, and I felt like throwing up my breakfast. Quickly, I filed that black thought away in the farthest reaches of my mind, shuddering in fear. Some things were just not meant to be speculated upon, I told myself firmly.
I sighed heavily. God, Dylan's death was affecting even me. I can't remember the last time I held a morbid thought in my head. Heck, I can't even remember the last time I felt depressed; really, mind-numbingly depressed.
Maybe during the lawsuit? But during then my misery had company, at least--the rest of the guys were similarly affected. We thought we were going to lose everything we'd built thus far to that smug bastard Lou.
Even then, I realised, I was never really down. Josh had sat with me and explained all the details to me, every little, insignificant thing. I must have pissed him off about a hundred times, asking him to clarify this and that, making him repeat himself. But damn if he wasn't patient with me. I actually felt proud that he'd trusted me and thought me mature enough to handle it all. And when he took me by the shoulders, telling me everything would come out alright, how could I not believe those big blue eyes?
Of course, everything had been alright--relatively (we still lost a healthy chunk of our fortunes)--and we went on to release our best album ever. Now, we were quite literally sitting on top of the world.
Except that this had to happen, I thought bitterly. JC suddenly being gay on us, and having a secret boyfriend he'd been keeping for the past three years, and who'd just gone six feet under. And now I've got to be the strong one--even though I sometimes still felt like ripping JC's guts out--because he's in mourning and everything and I've got to be sensitive and "mm-hmm" and "uh-huh" and "everything's going to be just fine" at all the right parts.
It was a weird feeling, being the needed instead of being the needy. But I liked it, and my chest still burst with pride every time I recall what JC said to me about coming to me with his problems.
It's almost enough to make me forget that he'd been keeping this shit from me for so long. Almost.
I spared a sideways glance at JC. His Oakleys started to slide down his nose once again. I told him to get them calibrated to fit his face when I gave them to him, but he was lazy about these things. I knew I'd eventually have to drag him off to do it. His high cheekbones tended to play havoc with his eyepieces. But they were so nice...I envied them, I really did, as well as the way JC's stubble served only to accentuate his beauty.
His beauty? I chortled in spite of myself. Since when did I start referring to JC as beauteous? But fuck it, the man was gorgeous, and the nonchalant way he went about it was part of his gorgeousity (is that even a word? Hmm). Unlike me, he tended to downplay his attractiveness as if he were slightly ashamed of it, even. Shy, charming bastar--
"Uh?" I grunted, trying to refocus on his face.
"First you're sighing like it's the end of the world, next you're giggling like a schoolgirl with a crush. What's up?" he looked at me, raising an eyebrow.
"Nothin'. Just thinking. You know me, I'm always thinking," I said absently.
He threw me a grin that split his face. "Please be so good as to inform me during the times when you're not thinking. I'll make sure you don't hurt yourself or anything."
It took me a while for my brain to register what he said.
"Oh! I-- I am! I always think! I mean--" I spluttered indignantly.
"I heard ya!" the grin was still in place.
Yup. Ol' Joshy's well on his way back.
The rest of the day sped by quickly, as meetings, meetings and more meetings took up all our time. By the time we finished dinner with the rest of the guys, all I felt like doing was something that didn't involve thinking, never mind what I said to JC earlier
"Hey," said Joey quietly, pulling me aside from the rest. "We're gonna hit the clubs later. You wanna come with?"
I frowned. I was all for it, but why the secrecy?
"Sure, but what's up with the sneaky shit?"
Joey merely lifted an eyebrow in JC's direction in answer.
"Um, yeah I don't think it'd be appropriate to ask him. Tell you what, you guys go on, I'll keep him company." Besides, tonight would be the perfect time for him to open up a little. I was determined to get to the bottom of it.
Joey shrugged. "Maybe we should stay with him too. It doesn't feel right if you're the only one who has to look in on--"
"No, no," I said quickly. A bit too quickly, perhaps. "I mean, there's no point in all of us staying home and being miserable. Anyway I think tonight--I might be able to persuade him to talk about Dylan."
As always, Joey understood. He turned to go, but hesitated, looking over his shoulder at me.
"Don't worry. I'll tell you guys everything," I assured him. After six years of being thrown together 300 days a year you'd have to be terminally dumb to not be able to read your band mate's moods.
Therefore I found myself in JC's car again, heading home this time. His face was weary, and the thoughtful look was in place.
What're you thinking about, Joshy?" I asked, pretty sure of the answer. Now would be a good time to 'soften' him up for the talk.
He glanced at me, then looked away. "You," he said quite matter-of-factly.
Okay. That's not what I expected.
"You," he repeated. "I'm wondering what Justin Randall Timberlake really feels about what he now knows about me, and how even though he knows I'm gay, he seems to be taking it so well."
I shut my open jaw. Right. I asked for this, didn't I? The least I should do is provide an honest answer. I racked my brains for a suitable way to put how I really felt.
"Well, for starters," I said slowly. "Justin Timberlake has been your friend since like, the beginning of forever. And he really, really likes being your friend and he thinks your friendship ranks right up there with God and his family as the most important things in his life. No doubt he's seriously hurt that you didn't tell him earlier about being gay, and also about Dylan Parker, but he knows you to have your own reasons for keeping it secret. So here he sits, all patient and trusting, for that very explanation, hoping--no, knowing that it'll be a good one, and hoping also that in the future you'd entrust him with anything at all. Because," and here my voice became thick with emotion. "Because he can't bear the thought of not being your bestest friend in the whole wide world. You're allowed to be gay as hell, Josh. You're allowed to have all the boyfriends you want. But you're not, not, not allowed to keep it from me!"
I looked straight ahead at the road, tears of frustration welling up. Damn it I was such a pussy, crying over something like this--JC should be envious of my crying abilities. Faith Hill was crooning 'Let Me Let Go' in the background, a welcome filler for the silence that wrapped around us. I turned my head, quickly dashing the tears from my eyes, only now noticing that he'd pulled over to the side of the road some time during my speech.
"You didn't refer to yourself as third party," he said. He'd also been looking straight ahead all this while, but now he turned and looked at me, smiling softly.
"What?" I choked out, not believing my ears.
"The last part. You said I'm not allowed to keep things from you. You didn't refer to yourself as 'him' or 'Justin'. You said 'me' instead."
I laughed weakly through my tears. "Fuck you, Josh!"
And then he pulled me into a fierce hug. I opened my eyes wide in surprise, but I hugged him right back, losing myself in the warm proximity of my best friend.
Later, I'd recall how touchy-feely we've been in the past few days. And later I'd realise exactly how much we've grown apart. How much I've missed his hugs, a light touch on the arm, a pat on the back; the pure physicality of Joshua Chasez. I didn't know how much I missed it all--until we started doing it again.
But that was later, and now he was stroking my back, telling me he doesn't deserve an understanding friend like me.
We pulled back. "Are you absolutely sure you're okay with me liking guys, Jus?" he searched my face with worried eyes. "'Coz one of the reasons why I decided not to tell was because I was afraid of--of losing you..."
I snorted with derision. Was this idiot never gonna get it?
"Josh-y," I said slowly, like to a child. "You could sprout a vagina right now, and you'd still be my best friend. All PMS and everything, but--best friend."
He covered his eyes and laughed. "And how do you know for sure that I'm not?"
"Well for starters, I see you naked all the time. And secondly, you've got this," I swiftly prodded his crotch.
He shot up and grabbed my arm, eyes widened.
"Hey! You wanna touch it, you better be prepared to please it," he grinned.
I opened my mouth, a ready retort at the tip of my tongue, when the realisation hit me like a ton of bricks.
JC, my best friend, my buddy, had just flirted with me. And he's a guy. A gay guy. And he's holding my arm, just above his crotch. Which I'd just...poked...oh god.
He saw the change in my eyes, and his grin faded. He dropped my arm like it was a red-hot poker, shrinking back into the driver's seat, far, far away from me.
"I just frightened you, didn't I?" he said in a trembling voice. "So it does make a difference to you, doesn't it? What the hell was all that "I'm okay with it" shit you just told me?!"
Oh, fuck me. How was I supposed to get out of this one? First I tell him I'm more than fine with him being gay, not two minutes later I'm getting freaked out by some harmless flirting.
Damage control. Step one: light, breezy laugh.
It came out sounding 50% snort and 50% neigh and 100% fake. I hope he didn't notice.
Step two: The lie.
"Of course you didn't freak me out there, Josh! I was just thinking up a funny comeback."
But he'd already engaged the gears, and the Jeep roared forward. The cold I felt emanating from him was chilling. God, I should know better than to lie to JC. I had to settle this right now.
Damage control, Plan B: Be honest.
"Okay, Josh, I'll admit it startled me a little. But I refuse to go so far as to say that it freaked me out. I meant everything I told you, I really did."
Silence. This was bad. Keep talking.
"Joshy, I'm still getting used to the idea, okay? You can't expect to come out and hope that nothing changes in your friends' perception of you."
A pause. Maybe he wasn't gripping the steering wheel quite so hard now, but he still wasn't looking at me.
"You were, weren't you? You were hoping everything would stay the same."
"Are things changing, Jus?" he asked, his tone trembling, wistful.
"I know you better now than I did before. You can be yourself now without having to act straight. If things are changing I'd say it would be for the better. I'll get used to you being gay, Josh. I'll get used to your jokes, your flirting and eventually your dating other guys."
"You freaked out just now. How can I trust what you say when your actions--"
What the--?! The nerve of that ass--
"You're one to talk about trust! Who's the one who has been pulling wool over our eyes about his gay life and his gay partner?" I shot back. "You gave up all your rights to trust about three years ago, Josh!"
"Ohhh I am sooo fucking sick and tired of that excuse already! You won't let that rest will you? You won't ever let me forget that I never told you about Dylan--"
"Damn right I won't let you forget about it! You know what I've been doing, Josh? I've been looking back at those damn three years, looking at all we've done together, and wondering what else was a lie, what else you didn't tell me. I'm seeing again the times when you'd disappear for days, the times you'd blow me off for no apparent reason at all, the times when you're too tired, too sick, too sleepy to go out with us. I've been looking through our previous tour dates and venues and everything, to see if I could find a clue about your relationship, about your Dylan. I've been asking myself, why, why, why fucking why I didn't see it before, why he couldn't tell me, why he felt I wasn't good enou--omigod Josh."
He saw it too, in his rear-view mirror. The flashing red and blue lights. Then he looked at his speedometer.
Okay, so remember it's Will at email@example.com , if you have anything to say about my story. Or if you'd just like to get to know me better, that's fine too!