A great, big, huge thanks to all the people who appreciate my story! It's all your kind words that keep me inspired enough to write. And even bigger thanks to those two who watch my back--Patti and Peter, without the both of you thinking for me I don't know what I'd do with this story. You guys gave me the strength to post this and the skills to clean it up properly!

Disclaimer: The boys of 'N Sync are their own people. I don't claim to know them, or to insinuate about their sexuality. It's fiction, baby! And if it's illegal for you to read this, don't. Period.

Questions, comments and general feedback, please direct it to whang@time.net.my 


by Will Ang

    I rolled over and stared dully at the patch of sunlight on the carpet. I smacked my dry lips and debated whether or not to wake up and get out of the bed for a drink. It was still early, and I felt a fuzzy feeling come over me at the thought of sleeping for a few more hours.

    Finally it was the faint creak of footsteps on the stairs that decided it for me.

    JC? Up this early? I hadn't seen any airborne pigs lately. I scratched the faint stubble on my chin. We had sort of made up yesterday...not using words, but it was an understanding that we'd just go on like nothing happened, until he was ready to talk about it. Fine by me, I shrugged. But it had better be soon. Soon, as in like, sometime today.

    I slipped on an old, worn t-shirt and tugged at my stupid hair. I stepped out of my room, one hand trying in vain to flatten my bed-head and promptly bumped into JC.

    "Oh, morning, Jus," he greeted me with a small smile. Then it was back to that goddamn frown.

    I stretched and nodded at him, about to open my mouth and say something when I froze. I looked at him closer and realized that he was wearing the same clothes he wore out last night.

    It was just the two of us--we decided to catch a movie together. Actually, I'd practically dragged him out. He hadn't been too enthusiastic, but he didn't complain. He should have, though. Fifteen minutes into the movie it was obvious he wasn't concentrating on it at all--he spent most of his time looking down at the popcorn. I felt bad, then, for making him do something he obviously wasn't ready for yet--namely, join the land of the living. So we went home early, and immediately crashed out. 

    At least, I did.

    "Uh...morning, Josh. You're up early. Or should I say, you're up late."

    "I couldn't sleep," he shrugged.

    Couldn't sleep? This from a guy who routinely slept through flight turbulences while the rest of us were forming prayer circles, begging God to let us see our families again?

    "That's certainly a first," I quipped brightly, but some of my humour faded when all he did was smile weakly and go into his bedroom.

    I frowned, thinking if it was something I said or did. So I followed him in, leaning against the door frame. He was just sitting on his bed, staring into space. 

    "You wanna talk, Josh?" I asked quietly. I didn't know if I was qualified to listen, though. I wished that any of the others were here to listen and talk to JC as well. What did I know about being comforting?

    But they weren't here, and I was.

    JC looked down at his hands, pretending to examine them closely. "I'm not sure what there is to say."

    I was about to shrug and go brush my teeth or something when I stopped myself. Waitaminit. I wasn't gonna take that lying down, was I? Maybe this was why he never told me anything...I was only too willing to walk away when he clammed up.

    Not this time though, I vowed silently. I walked in and sat right next to him, grinning widely at him when his head came up in surprise.

    "Then don't say anything. But I'll just sit my fine ass down here until you speak up or until you fall asleep."

    JC looked at me sideways. Was that a smile I saw lifting the corners of his mouth?

    It was. "Until you fall asleep, more likely," he looked over at my bleary eyes and rumpled hair.

    I snorted in derision, unconsciously lifting a hand in an effort to tame my curls again. "Excuse me? Mr. Sleepy? I seem to remember the time you slept on that talk show back in Liechtenstein--"

    "Hey! I did not sleep--"

    "You could have at least kept the snoring down, but noooo," I continued, grinning broadly, nudging his shoulders playfully with mine. He pushed back at me, a real smile on his face now. God, I never thought I'd be like one of those teenyboppers--dying to see a smile from JC Chasez!

    It faded soon enough, though, as his eyes took on a faraway look.

    "I remember why I was so sleepy. Dylan and I were talking, the night before," he murmured.

    This was the first time JC spoke of his life with Dylan. There was a stinging feel somewhere in my heart at that thought, but I pushed it away hurriedly, wanting JC to continue. As much as it hurt me to realise that maybe I wasn't the best friend I thought I was, I still wanted to know what kind of hold Dylan had over JC.

    "Justin, why can't I cry?"

    "What?" Did he just ask--what?

    "Why can't I cry for him?" he repeated carefully, turning those blue eyes on my face, as if searching for an answer there.

    I was stumped. What kind of a stupid question is that? It ranked right up there with "Why is a tuning fork", or "Who is the meaning of happiness" or something.

    "What are you talking about, Josh? You cried at Titanic for heaven's sake." Not a fact he was proud of, as we constantly reminded him.

    "No, no, that's not what I meant. I--just can't cry you know? Over losing Dylan. God knows I tried, Jus, I really did! I've sat here for hours on end, willing myself to shed a tear or two for my boyfriend. My boyfriend, goddammit..." he bent his head, burying his hands over and over in the dark strands of his hair.

    I just looked at him, not fully comprehending what he was going through right now. I mean, Josh was as emotional as any other guy I knew, this just wasn't making sense to me. But I felt his anguish like it was a tangible thing, rolling off him in waves. I put a hesitant hand between his shoulder blades, patting him awkwardly, wondering all the while what the fuck should anyone say in this kind of situation.

    "Look...um...people deal with grief in their own way. Maybe this is how you're coping," I said.

    He looked up at me, frowning. "But I want to cry. I want to grieve for him with tears. For my boyfriend. My boyfriend," he looked down at the floor once again.

    Now why was he repeating that over and over? I know he was your boyfriend JC, you don't have to hit me over the head with--

    Oh. Wait. What if he's reminding himself that Dylan was his boyfriend? But why on earth for? Didn't they do their normal boyfriend-erm, boyfriend stuff like kiss, hold hands and erm...I do not want to go there.

    Suddenly, though, I had an overwhelming urge to just know everything about them. How they got together, what they did, and how they managed to hide it, fuck. Was I really so blind? Or were they just really good at it? 

    "I--Josh, I can't answer that for you. Really, I have no idea why you can't seem to be able to cry for him. I don't know anything about you two, you made that choice," Ah, fuck, it hurt, it really did, not knowing about such a huge, important chunk of my so-called best friend's life. I didn't want to bring it up now, when he was in such obvious distress, but as usual, my mouth ran miles ahead of my brain.

    "God, Josh, you keep on saying he's your boyfriend, but I've got a hard time believing that. Because you never said a word. Not to me, not to the other guys. Hell, it's like all of a sudden, there's a new Josh Chasez, who's gay, and who's been having a boyfriend for the past three years! God, Josh, it makes me feel like our friendship isn't worth much at all..."

     He still wasn't looking at me, but his body was tense and he was very still. When I put my hand on his back again, he shrugged it off angrily.

    "I'm sorry," he said in the same flat, unapologetic tone he used yesterday.

    I sighed, feeling equally depressed. My attempt to soothe him had only succeeded in making him feel worse. God, I should've just called up Lance and asked him to stay here instead. I'm just not cut out for this shit.

    "O-okay, Josh. I'm gonna call one of the other guys to talk to you, okay? Maybe--maybe Lance can help--"

    His reaction startled me. He whipped around and glared at me with eyes narrowed in hurt and anger. For a moment it looked as if he was about to spit something out at me, something he'd regret saying later, but he didn't. Then his eyes took on a defeated look.

    "Yeah, whatever," he muttered, turning away once again. "Go back to Britney, Justin. She needs you more," he barely hid the bitter undertone in those words.

    "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" I demanded. He'd never really been the best of friends with Britney in the first place, but ever since we hooked up it was as if he barely acknowledged her at all. I put up with that shit for the longest time, attributing it to his protectiveness over me, but I wasn't going to let it go now, especially when he was the one so obviously in the wrong.

    "Well isn't it true? Lately it's always been Britney said this, Britney did that, I gotta see her, I gotta call her. These few days has been the only period of time in months that I've gotten you all for myself, did you know that? I thought, when we'd be in LA together, we could somehow...but...you--" he broke off, breathing hard. "Well guess what buddy? You're not the only one who feels like he's lost a best friend," he shot at me, giving me a stony glare.

    My first instinct was to deny it. My second was to sock him a punch for daring to think such lies up. Thankfully, I decided to think a bit more before opening my mouth.

    Was he right? Was I so completely into her that I completely alienated him--or made him feel left out, at least? I couldn't have taken him for granted, could I? I wasn't that kind of person...

    Was I?

    I wasn't willing to admit it, but I couldn't bring myself to deny it. Everything he said did have a smidgen of truth when I thought about it. We couldn't get away from Britney--not in record sales, not in award shows, not in interviews. And he couldn't even get away from her in his personal life--thanks to me.

    So we just sat in an uncomfortable silence, neither of us willing to look at each other, but both dying to take back the angry words we'd just said. No doubt they needed to be said, but this was hardly the time for it.

    "I, er...I'm just gonna call Lance, and-and ask him if he could stay over. Or would you prefer Joey or Chris?" I asked finally, picking at my dingy shirt with sudden interest.

    "Call all of them. Or none. I don't care. Look, I don't need a babysitter, okay? I won't slit my wrists or something, give me some credit for god's sake," he said bitterly.

    "Fuck, Josh, that's not what I meant, I--" I paused. Why was I even bothered to explain? That I can't handle hearing about his troubles? That I was scared shitless I'd say the wrong thing and plunge him into a deeper depression?

    He turned and gripped my arm suddenly, his hands hot and firm on my skin.

    "Then tell me what you meant, Jus," his blue gaze bored into mine.

    Oh fuck it. Fine. Just fucking tell him you're a loser at this counseling shit.

    "I just thought that you need someone to talk to right now. Someone older, more experienced or something--like Chris. Someone who'd be understanding. Josh, I tried, I really did, but I don't understand half the things you've been pouring out to me, and everything I say seems to get you angrier or sadder. Maybe you need Lance, he'll always have something spiritual to quote. Or even Joey, he could at least crack a goofy joke and make you smile..." I said rapidly, not looking at him, still playing with the holes in my shirt. 

    There. I fucking said it, okay? Now let me go call them, it's the least this particular useless friend can do.

    Then I felt his fingers take my chin and gently pull it so I was forced to look at him. I blinked in consternation. His face was...different now. The frown was gone, and...I could swear that his eyes were actually twinkling.

    "Is that it? You mean to replace yourself with one of the other guys 'coz you don't think you're any help to me, but they would be? So it's not really about Britney?"

    I rolled my eyes. "It's not about Britney at all you dork. Well, not this time, at least."

    And then Josh put both hands on my shoulders and threw his head back, laughing. Laughing! I was confused as hell, but Josh was actually laughing, and fuck if it wasn't infectious. I found myself smiling puzzledly.

    "Wha-at?" I drawled, spreading my hands.

    He looked at me again and squeezed my shoulders. This time, his eyes were definitely twinkling.

    "You are the dork here. You think I really want someone who can tell me all the answers, like Chris? Who can make me laugh because of some dirty joke, like Joey? Or who'd say something clever and meaningful, like Lance? God, Justin, I just want you," he said, shaking my shoulders for emphasis.

    "Huh?" I said, rather intelligently.

    "I just wanted you to...you know, be there? To listen, 'coz you're such a good listener. And because you're my best friend, my greatest pal, I know you won't be judging me on whatever I tell you. Jus, we've always, always talked to each other, haven't you realised?"

    That wasn't entirely true, considering the whole Dylan and gay affair, but I let it slide for now.

    "Well, yeah. But I remember our talks being rather one-sided. I'd come to you about love and relationships and important stuff like that. You'd only come to me about things like music or dance moves..."

    "And don't you think those things are equally as important to me, too?" he asked softly, a gentle smile curving his lips.

    I ducked my head, blushing with pride.

    "But Josh, this is way important, man. Way, way, hugely, big important. And I just want it to be treated right," I said to him earnestly.

    "Let me be the judge of that," he said. "Jus, you're the only one I go to when stuff that's really really important is bothering me. And I do that because you never fail to make me walk away feeling better than before. You might not make me laugh, or--or answer all my questions. But you make me feel good. And that's what's important to me."

    If ever I had the urge to just kiss Josh on the lips, it was now. My chest felt tight and my breath came short, but it was all good, because it just felt awesome hearing him say those words, and knowing he meant it. I fought to hold back a sob, and struggled to say something coherent.

    Smiling through a haze of tears, I said "God, Josh, now you're making me cry."

    He just laughed some more and handed me a tissue.

    I took his hand gingerly, and patted it with my other hand. "I'll always be there for all the stuff that's important to you, Josh," I whispered. 

    For a moment there I thought the whole scene and my last sentence was too mushy, but I dismissed it just as quickly. It came straight from my heart and he'd better appreciate it, too.

    He smiled and nodded. "So you're not calling anyone else, okay?"

    "No," I answered, shaking my head. "But I want to know everything, Josh. Everything that you've kept away from me--from us."

    He nodded again.

    "Promise!" I stressed.

    He didn't even roll his eyes as he responded "I promise," solemnly. Good, it meant that he was taking it seriously.

    Then he cocked his head to one side and asked coyly, "But can't a boy keep some secrets anymore?"

    Spoke too soon! I groaned inwardly. But his attempt at banter was encouraging, so I decided to play along.

    "Now, now, Joshy," I wagged a finger at him in mock displeasure. "You know that keeping secrets is what got you in trouble in the first place."

    "I know," he said. "I'll tell you guys everything, in time. Not right now though. Not while you smell of sleep and drool," he wrinkled his nose.

    He slipped out of my reach as I took a half-hearted swipe at him.

    "Hey! I don't drool. Besides--you still stink of cinema, yuck. Didn't you even change..."

Now was it as good for you as it was for me? Ugh, corniness maximus. But I just couldn't resist haha! If you liked it, tell me at whang@time.net.my If you didn't, all the more reason to tell me why! If it dind't make a difference to you...well, just write anyway!