June 8, 2000
email:  hamado23@edsamail.com.ph

Ssup y'all!  A'ight, part 4, woohoo!  Pat myself on the back. *heh*
-Props to K-OS (I fixed the disclaimer already, homophobe! *grin*) and Aliana, thanks for bein' so cool and not minding me using you as  models.
-All you great authors out there, keep on writing, we all love you (even if not all of us email our appreciation.)
-Shoutout to Billy Burrew.  Wow, you mentioned me!  With praise.  Thanks!  I promise the story's gonna speed up soon.
-Thanks to Khiem--your emails've kept me goin' these last few days.  Get that story out there!  Can't wait to read it.
-As you guys may have noticed, I'm publishing a new email address, the hotmail thingy was too inconvenient, though I will still check that addy once a week or so.

***Disclaimer:  The author does not claim sure, evidence-backed knowledge that the real life basis for any character of this story, including any member of *NSYNC, is gay (although he is mighty suspicious about JC--[C'mon.  You are too, right?]).  If you are a minor (you know who you are!)or this type of fiction is forbidden where you live then please... don't get caught!  If you do get caught, bluff!  (Anyway, reading is better than doin' drugs or having casual-unsafe sex, right?)

Chapter 4

    Strangely, Justin's apprehension left him as he stood before Tristan's door.  It looked so familiar, so ... so... welcoming.  As if it had been waiting for him all these years and now it was glad to see him.  In fact, the entire house seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when he reached the top of the stairs, as if it had been the one afraid.  Afraid he'd turn back and leave.

    Justin shook his head, clearing his mind of these odd fancies.  He raised his hand and knocked.  Tap-tap.  Pause.  Tap-tap-tap.  Pause.  Tap-tap.  He stared at his knuckles in wonder.  The secret knock.  Another thing from a half-forgotten past.  They had come up with it one rainy, boring Thursday afternoon when he was seven years old and still fascinated by secret clubs and the like.

    He startled from his reverie by a muffled "Come in."  Hesitantly, he turned the knob and started to step into Tristan's dimly lit room.

    His gaze was immediately drawn to a huge desk dominating the room and a tangle of electronics on it fit for a sci-fi movie.  Three nineteen inch monitors showed a complicated diagram with arcane symbols at the intersection of two or more lines.  Cables from a steel gray CPU case trailed all over the desk and ascended both to fierce looking speakers mounted in all four corners of the room and a sophisticated looking sound system in front of the wall facing the bed.  More cables connected an inkjet printer, a joystick, a scanner and a laptop to the main system.  Other, less identifiable devices, glowed or beeped incomprehensibly in an almost hypnotic cadence.  Seated in front of this technological shrine hunched the slim figure of Tristan, like a modern day Paracelsus, having forsaken alchemy for the equally esoteric art of computer programming.

    Justin cleared his throat and was about to speak when Tristan, still not turning around, raised his head and said, "You didn't have to come over."  Justin again tried to speak but Tristan continued, "I would've sent you the results in a little while.  But since you're here, come and take a look at this, I think I've solved the coding problem we had with..."

    Tristan spun his chair around and almost fell off it in surprise when he saw Justin.  Justin couldn't help it.  He grinned.

    "JJ!  I mean Justin!  Sorry."  Tristan's voice was almost shrill with surprise and a little embarrassment as he stuttered, "What,uh, why, uh,"  And then trailed off into a spluttering silence.  He took a deep breath and started again, "I thought you were somebody else.  It was the knock, you see.  Only my friend Brian knocks like that."  He made an awkward gesture towards the door.

    " The knock."  Justin repeated as his grin failed and felt a strange pain in his chest.  He shook of the peculiar sensation and advanced slowly into the room.  He held out the black wallet in his hand and said, "I came to return this.  You left it in my..."  Then his voice trailed away as his eyes fell on the rumpled bed.  On it were the clothes that Tristan was wearing this morning and a wallet absolutely identical to the one in his hand, except this was brown.

    Tristan followed his gaze must have sensed his puzzlement because he began to speak. "That's mine too."  He scooted his chair over and gestured for Justin to take a seat on the bed then he continued, "You have my ID wallet."  He nodded to the brown wallet on the bed and said, "That's my money wallet."

    Justin, his expression signaling he was more confused than ever, gave vent to a mildly exasperated "Huh?"

    Tristan smiled and tried again.  "The brown's where I keep my money.  Got that so far?"  He raised his eyebrows.

    Justin rolled his eyes at Tristan's slightly sarcastic tone and irritably gestured for Tristan to continue.

    Tristan's smile grew wider and he pointed to the wallet that Justin still held.  "That's my ID wallet.  It contains..."

    Justin almost cut off Tristan with a curt gesture.  Tristan's tone for some reason reminded Justin of JC when the older boy was engaged in subtle teasing.  Then he realized that Tristan was teasing him and that this was one of the ways Tristan had teased him back when they still hung out together.  The mildly condescending tone had absolutely infuriated him when he was younger.  Justin experienced a mild epiphany at this point.  He realized that most of the qualities that had originally prompted him to seek JC's friendship back in the MMC had first belonged to Tristan.  That was why he felt such a strong rapport towards the older boy even though there was a difference of five years in their ages.  His thoughts were interrupted by Tristan's fingers snapping in his face.

    "Hello?" snap-snap "Earth to Justin." snap-snap "You awake man?" snap-snap-snap

    Justin glanced at Tristan and felt somewhat annoyed that his musings had been interrupted.  He hid his irritation however and decided to turn the tables on his friend.  He put on a slightly condescending expression and said, "So the brown has your money and the black has your information."  He arched an eyebrow (that  had taken some practice, he remembered asking JC how to do it back in the MMC) and continued with artful disinterest, "Why?"

    Tristan, either not detecting the challenge in how he voiced the last word or perhaps choosing to ignore it, replied ruefully, "I was mugged in New York a while back."  He ran his hand through his inky black hair and brushed back the curl that threatened to cover one eye.  He continued, "I didn't really mind losing the money.  It was losing the credit cards and driver's license that really got me mad.   It was such a hassle replacing them.  Hence,"  He finished, "the two wallet system.  One to give to the mugger and one to keep."  He looked at Justin, trying to gauge his reaction.

    Justin saw the glance and, feeling mischievous, languidly closed his eyes and gave a big fake yawn.  He heard Tristan's vehement "Idiot!" and opened his eyes just in time to see the blurred outline of the pillow that hit him square in the face.

    Tristan was already ducking as Justin's outraged "Hey!" reverberated around the room and so avoided the pillow that Justin threw in retaliation.  He raised his head and stuck out his tongue only to get a mouthful of pillow.  He had forgotten that Justin was sitting on the bed.  The bed where all his pillows were.  He managed to avoid pillows three and four but had to raise his arms in surrender as Justin threatened him with two more pillows.

    "I give up!"  He blurted out in between bouts of laughter.

    Justin stood on the bed and, with arms raised in triumph, began to turn around, bowing to an imaginary crowd.  A pillow hit him in the middle of the back, causing him to stumble a little.  He spun around in outrage and found Tristan sitting on the floor a few feet away with all the pillows from the bed surrounding him and a smirk of unholy glee pasted triumphantly on his face.  They stared at each other for a while, Justin trying to determine whether to risk it and Tristan telling him with his eyes that Justin was as good as dead.  Finally Justin dropped his eyes in defeat and sank down on the bed.  He could be vaguely heard to mutter, "Cheater."  The comment was heard but Tristan's only response was to widen his triumphant smile to a full victory grin.

    "Give up?"  Smugness oozed from Tristan's words.


    "Secret shake swear?"

    Justin gaze flew up to meet Tristan's eyes in surprise.  Tristan was making sure that Justin didn't renege on his surrender and also subtly reminding him that he wasn't the only one visited by the ghosts of the past.  The secret shake swear was, by long-standing law, absolutely inviolable.  Justin grinned and extended his right hand.  There was some initial confusion on how to perform the shake but the memory returned.

    Tristan withdrew his hand slowly.  He cocked his head to the side and said quietly, "I forgot about the secret knock."

    Justin looked at Tristan's face and saw the unspoken apology.  Not just for a mild betrayal of a long dead friendship in allowing a stranger to usurp a shared secret, but also for taking part in allowing that friendship to lapse.  There was also a deeper regret in Tristan's eyes, something Justin could not immediately fathom.  Justin mentally shrugged off his puzzlement and smiled broadly and extended his hand once again, silently giving his forgiveness and shared his own regret for his part in allowing their friendship to end.

    There was a small silence for a while, but it wasn't an awkward silence, more of a quiet contemplation.  Finally Justin broke the silence with a comment, for he had been looking interestedly around the room and remarked to Tristan, "Aside from that freaky thing over there,"  He gestured to the desk and the computer perched on top of it, "Your room hasn't changed much."

    He continued, "I almost expected your bed to be covered by those Thundercats sheets you were so proud of back in the day."  Justin joked.

    "Hey, those are classics!"  Tristan blurted out and then hurriedly clapped a hand over his mouth.

    "Oh my GOD!  Don't tell me you still have them?!"  Justin glanced at Tristan's reddening face and burst into incredulous laughter.  "No!"  His eyes widened in surprise at what he saw in  Tristan's expression.  "Not only do you have them,"  He gazed piercingly into Tristan's eyes, "But you still use them?!"   His howls of laughter echoed around the room.

    Tristan looked at Justin laughing like a maniac on his bed and felt a strange contentment steal over him, a contentment shared by Mrs. Lim as she stood in the kitchen, staring up at the ceiling where Justin's muffled howls came through.  Justin too, felt something, a strange feeling much like coming home.


    Whew!  Done and done!  That took a little longer that I thought.  June 8 start and June 15 finish.  Sorry 'bout the fact that it's so short but I've been very busy lately and I'm gonna be very very busy these next few months so I don't have all the time I want to write but I'm committed to this thing already so don't fear I'll abandon it.  (That's a mouthful!)
    'Til next time peeps!   Keep it crunk! *LOL*--Hamado (hamado23@edsamail.com.ph)