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Chasing Chasez Part 2 by Will Ang

    "It can't be healthy for him to be cooped up in that room of his all day," Joey muttered, turning to see three pairs of eyes rolled in his direction.

    They had all just returned from Dylan's funeral and were now assembled in JC's place, where I'd moved in to keep an eye on him. JC had gone straight up into his room as usual, even I hadn't managed to see much of him since returning from LA.

    "I don't mean to sound insensitive, guys, but don't you think that Josh's reaction to all this has been just a little extreme?" Lance asked, looking around at each of his friends. He saw silent assent in each of the guys' faces, except mine of course.

    "I dunno, Lance," I said. "It's not like we've encountered much grief like this in our lives, you know? We've been blessed in that sense. Maybe it's just his way of coping. Can you say for sure how any of us would react if someone we once knew and was close to, passed away this suddenly?"

    "Well...I get what you're saying. But then again, look at how he's behaving these past few days. Has he even touched his piano?" he gestured at the baby grand that stood in the corner. 

    I shook my head silently. It was a telling point, to be sure. Josh was fanatical about practising his keys. He never let a day go by without spending an hour playing it, or his keyboards if we were on tour, if he could help it.

    "See?" he continued. "It's as if our old Josh died right along with this Dylan of his."

    I scowled. I didn't like the way he put that last remark. "That's going a bit too far, Lance..."

    "Justin, how close were they, do you know?" asked Chris.

    I felt all eyes rest on me in anticipation. I squirmed a bit at the attention, but they already knew that the three of us once shared the same vocal coach back in Tennessee. I cleared my throat, wondering where on earth to start, and if I could remember the details correctly.

    "Okay...umm...we'll start with life after the House of Mouse. You know I hooked up with his vocal coach after that? Well, so did Dylan Parker. It's just that we were all doing our own stuff then..." I let my voice trail away as I recalled those hectic times.

    MMC had been canceled, but we'd all known it had been coming for quite some time. So we all had time to come to grips with that fact, and besides, I had a great pool of friends to help me get through what seemed like the end of my life. I still do, in fact.

    JC was first and foremost among them. He was about seventeen then, but he had this look in his eyes, that same obstinate set in his jaw, whenever anyone asked him what he'd do after the show. He'd turn to them with this knowing smile, and he'd say, very frankly, "Sing. And dance. For broke if I have to." And they'd always shake their heads, thinking that he was either joking or plain dumb, but I was the only one who never laughed at him, who knew that that smile of his was more prophetic that anyone could imagine.

    So we kept in touch as often as we could. And he was the one who inspired me to get to Nashville and start working on the first days of the rest of my life--my days in music. I touched my throat unconsciously, remembering that it was during that time that I noticed my voice was changing. And boy was I scared shitless. I'd depended so much on my trademark squeak, taken it for granted, and all of a sudden I couldn't reach the same notes I could the day before. I was so convinced that my voice--and hence, me-would never amount to anything. But of course Josh was there...

    "Jus! Hello, Earth to Timberlake, come in please!" Joey was suddenly snapping his fingers in front of my face. I jerked back, startled, and swatted his hand away. "I think we asked for info on a certain Dylan Parker, not a solo trip down Justinland."

    I shot him a dirty look which he roundly ignored.

    "Okay, okay. He was Josh's friend. He was always Josh's friend. I dunno why, er, we never really got along. I guess it's just one of those things. I hardly ever spoke to him, he was kinda...," I frowned, trying to put my following words in a more diplomatic manner. The guy was dead for goodness' sake.



    "...uh, polite,"

    Patronisingly so.

    "...and always at Josh's side," I said lamely, running out of ideas.

    "You already said that," Joey pointed out bluntly. I looked at him helplessly. What I was I supposed to say? That he thought of me as a bratty, snot-nosed kid? That he was barely civil to me for JC's sake? That things became so strained between us until he'd refuse to go out with JC if I insisted on tagging along.

    "Let's go back to the original question, shall we?" said Lance. I threw him a grateful look. "How close were they, Justin?"

    Close enough to make me feel jealous, I thought immediately. Then I felt guilty, because JC was now my best friend, and had always been since forming the group.

    "Kinda close," I shrugged. "There weren't many people their age around, so naturally they spent lotsa time together."

    I did not need to add that Dylan never considered me anywhere close to his age--which was the same as JC's.

    "How come we never heard of him, then?" Chris mused. I shrugged. That was another bone left for me to pick with dear Joshua.

    "I dunno either. Josh and I were already working on familiar stuff--pop, top 40s, country--but Dylan was more into classical and instrumental stuff. You should have seen him tinkling the ivories, he'd blow you away."

     No matter how I felt about him, there was no denying the fact that Dylan was a virtuoso on the piano, outstripping even JC by far. In fact, I had a funny feeling JC picked up most of the stuff he knew now from Dylan.

    I also realised sadly that the long, tapered fingers were forever stilled, never again to dance deftly across those black and white keys he loved so much. I guess the rest were also thinking the same, they were all silent, mourning the loss of talent, if not the actual person.

    I took the opportunity to concentrate on Dylan's life, as best  as I could recall. We weren't at Nashville long--at least, I wasn't. I went back to Orlando after a month or two, for a tryout band that failed miserably. That's when I knew Chris, resident lunatic that he was. We decided to try again on our own, and I called JC without hesitation. And Dylan--

    What happened to Dylan after that? I frowned. I never asked, and all through the years never once did JC mention him again, up till two days ago.

    Oh, we all knew what he did as a living before the accident--he taught music privately, and lived with his sister in that whitewashed house near our place. She seemed to be his only living relative, although I wasn't sure. JC was never around for us to quiz, and when he was, he seemed to sorrowful we just kept our distance.

    "--think that Dylan and our Josh were much closer than we thought," Lance was saying. I broke out of my reverie and looked at him hard. What was it he just said? Did Lance know something we didn't about JC? Something I didn't?

    "But he held up well during the whole thing. He wasn't like, crying hysterically or anything." Joey looked at me. "Did he?"

    Good question. Now that I thought about it, never once did I see a tear course down those cheekbones. Not the day he got the call, right through the funeral proper. It was always that same, deep frown and the look of interminable sadness.

    "No, I haven't seem him cry. But then, I haven't seen much of him at all," I said.

    "Tears aren't necessarily indicative of grief," said Chris automatically, like it was a line from his psychology texts.

    "So...what you're trying to say, that our Josh and this Dylan..." Joey didn't want to say it. He looked around, an none of us, even Lance, seemed inclined to finish his sentence.

    "Well, this is preposterous. I for one, refuse to believe it," I snapped. What on earth were they doing, speculating on our friend's sexuality in this situation? "Josh is my--our--best friend. There's no way he wouldn't tell me, at least, if there was someone--someone like that in his life," I spluttered.

    "He didn't tell you about keeping in touch with Dylan either, Jus," Lance pointed out quietly.

     I threw my hands up in the air, feeling more and more exasperated by the second. Didn't they see, couldn't they know that I'd certainly know about something like--like whatever Lance was implying?

    "There could be any number of reasons for that. Dylan could--he could have--" Right now I couldn't think of one, for the life of me. "--there's no use speculating anyway. I'm telling you guys," I stood up and met each of their gazes firmly, especially Lance. "Josh isn't--he's not--"

    "Not what, Jus?"

    We whipped our heads around to see a very rumpled, very weary JC at the foot of the stairs, one eyebrow raised inquisitively at me.

    "Josh! You'," Joey exclaimed, revealing his excellent grasp of the obvious.

    "It's my house, Joey. I've been here for quite some time now," he said quietly, looking at us in turn. Those blue eyes had a sad but determined look which all but pinned us to our places. I was still the only one standing, looking at my best friend uncomfortably as his eyes finally rested on me.

    "You want to know who Dylan was to me, all of you?" he came around, and stood facing us. I had a horrible foreboding of what was to come.

    "He was my friend."

    I closed my eyes.

    "He was my lover."

    I  gritted my teeth.

    "He was my boyfriend."

    My hands curled into tight fists.

    "And he has been for the past three years."

    And the bottom fell out of my perfect, idyllic world.

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