Hi! Chapter 5! *cheering*
Once again thanks to all the people who emailed me, feedback's good, but repeat feedback's DA BOMB! (No I'm not beggin' for email. *sigh* But some more would be nice! *smile*)
I promised myself to make this short so here goes...
**Disclaimer: (Aww... do I have to?) Blah blah blah (JC might be gay.) blah blah. Yada yada minor yada yada yoda (payin' attention?) yada.
--Oh and Justin Timberlake, if by some miracle you're readin' this, the 'rows were a bad idea, good thing you're back to the 'fro bro! (sorry! *grin*)
July 10: Author notes, shoutouts and a whole effin' lot of apologies
at the end.
The dying sun gave one final photonic gasp before it sank below the horizon. A brilliant orange beam found a gap between the blinds covering Tristan's west bedroom window and for just a second illuminated Justin Timberlake, transforming his curls into a burnished gold halo. The sky to the east had already taken on the violet glow of early evening.
Tristan had moved to the foot of the bed and was gazing at Justin with an indulgent half-smile playing around his lips. His eyes however were narrowed with incipient irritation. Justin had been laughing uproariously over his discovery that Tristan still used cartoon character sheets. For five entire minutes. Nonstop. It was getting old.
His eyes fell to one of the pillows that had tumbled off the bed after Justin had flopped on the bed in an extreme fit of mirth. The fingers of his right hand were twitching as he considered picking up the pillow and hitting a surrendered enemy. The morality of the act was giving him some trouble. On one hand, it was breaking a trust. An enemy surrendered and therefore was out of the fight. On the other hand, that damn laughing was getting on his nerves. Bigtime. Oh, what to do?
A false note caught his ear. Justin was giggling now with one arm thrown over his eyes, shoulders shaking with what Tristan privately overacted hysteria. It looked genuine, but... ah! Justin had, for just the briefest second, peeked at him from behind that arm. His mind made up, he took up a pillow and dramatically raised it high above his head.
At that moment Justin chose to steal another look at him and saw the pillow. His laughing stopped immediately. The false hilarity that disfigured his face left and a rueful smile took its place. He asked, just a bit hoarsely, "How'd you know?"
Tristan grinned. Instead of answering he accused, "You were doin' that just to annoy me, weren't you?"
Justin hung his head in false shame. "Yeah." Then he looked up at Tristan with mischief in his eyes. "Was it working?" He asked mock hopefully with a goofy expression on his face.
Tristan narrowed his eyes and gave Justin a look of complete disgust. "You are such a kid."
Justin shrugged smugly. "Hey, it's part of my charm." He gave a Tristan big, toothy and completely cheesy grin.
"Yeah." A sly tone entered Tristan's voice. "I can see why millions of twelve-year old girls like you."
It was Justin's turn to look at Tristan disgustedly and then stick his tongue out.
"Yuh-huh. Still seein' it!" Tristan laughed.
Justin looked about desperately for something to change the subject. The situation wasn't going exactly as he expected it. Why did he always end up second best in these little banter fights? It was as bad as teasin' JC. His eyes lit on an old beaten up box that sat on the top shelf of the bookcase by Tristan's bed. It was roughly the size of a shoe box and made of a rough pine. A box that was compellingly familiar. "Oh my God." He whispered. He was in an almost trance-like state as he got up and reached over to take it.
His hands stroked its dimensions. Every groove and crack in its wooden frame was familiar to the touch. "The Box." The words breathed from his lips while his graceful fingers traced those same characters that were painted on its front. He glanced at Tristan, his eyes wide in wonder. He turned his gaze back to The Box, his fingers still dancing restlessly on its surface. So many memories. Endless, sun filled days beyond number echoed in his unseeing eyes.
Tristan watched Justin with raised eyebrows. He was lost in his own world again. It had happened frequently in the past and had often gotten Justin in trouble in school. He reached out his hand and was just about to shake Justin when the younger man looked up and met his gaze. He stared into those eyes of brilliant blue and noticed that they were unfocused. Justin still had not returned.
He touched Justin's shoulder and shook him gently. "Are you okay, Just?"
Justin focused on Tristan and answered vaguely, "Umm... yeah. Why?"
"You were kinda out of it there, J." There was an affectionate mockery in his voice.
"It's the Box." Justin said in a tone of reverence. "I can't believe you kept it."
"Of course." Tristan smiled, a hint of sadness in his eyes. "There're a lot of good memories attached to that box, J." Then he grinned, all traces of sadness gone. "And don't you remember how long it took me to nail that together?" He added with raised eyebrows, "All by myself?"
Justin returned Tristan's grin and replied mock defensively, "Heeey... I totally helped!"
Tristan rolled his eyes, "I don't consider standing around, hopping from foot to foot and criticizing as helping Justin." He made a face at Justin. Justin just laughed and then he returned to his contemplation of the Box.
Justin sank down on the floor and rested his back on the side of the bed. He was dismayed to notice his fingers trembling slightly. Hoping Tristan hadn't noticed he stilled them and opened the Box. A great excitement filled him as the lid rose.
Almost without his volition his hands dived right in and picked up a worn pocket knife from the top of the pile of stuff in the box. Tristan had followed Justin to the floor and picked the knife out of Justin's grasp. Justin deftly retrieved the knife and inspected it.
"Wow! This is your old pocketknife." He flipped all three blades open and contemplated it.
"Yeah, my mom gave it too me for sleepaway camp, remember?" Tristan's tone was wistful. His eyes lit upon the tip of the smallest blade, where there was a dark stain marring the silver finish. He pointed it out to Justin whose only response was a puzzled glance. Tristan held up one finger, telling Justin to wait, and rummaged around the box in Justin's lap. His hand came out with a flattish rock, the center with a stain almost exactly the same color as that on the knife.
Comprehension lit Justin's eyes. Almost unconsciously his fingers traced a crescent shaped scar located at the base of his thumb. He noticed Tristan doing the same thing with his fingers. Their eyes met and simultaneously they both flashed back through the years to a summer almost forgotten. They had both gone to camp, the only year that Justin had not spent the summer with his dad and grandparents in Tennessee. Their ears filled with the stories of camaraderie told by an overzealous camp instructor, they had snuck away one night. Tristan had taken out his pocketknife and cut the base of Justin's thumb. Justin had done the same for him and they mingled their blood on the round stone. Then they had dipped their index fingers in the mixed blood and drawn their initials on the other's face and they swore eternal brotherhood, with oaths written in heart's blood.
Justin cleared his throat and broke the spell. "So," He stopped and cleared his throat again. His voice had gone strangely hoarse. He tried again, "So, what else have you got in here?"
Tristan smiled, not answering right away. He was sure his voice too would be a little unsteady.
Justin waited silently though he did raise his eyebrows when he thought Tristan was taking too long.
The next hour was spent pleasantly reminiscing and digging into the unexpectedly capacious box. Old GI Joe figures were brought out into the light once again after God only knew how long. An old report card of Justin's that Tristan had somehow gotten hold of turned Justin's ears red while a Valentine given Tristan by Joanne Thibodaux in the second grade performed a similar task for him. Lion-O's Sword of Omens was unearthed by Justin's probing fingers and he once again laughed at Tristan's having Thundercats bed sheets. The assorted junk of a childhood spent together was laid out on the floor of Tristan's room when the only thing left in the box was a tissue paper wrapped object that Justin could not place.
"What's this?" He asked, holding it up so Tristan could see.
Tristan frowned and started to shake his head in puzzlement but then his eyes widened in dismay. "Justin don't, it's noth--" He started to cry out, but too late as Justin had already unwrapped the object.
Justin stared at the thing in confusion. It appeared to be an old Mickey Mouse Club mug that had been shattered into a thousand pieces. Somebody had meticulously glued it back together but had missed a big chunk from the handle. He turned it over and saw a name printed on the other side. Justin Timberlake. His crystal blue eyes widened in surprise and he shot a questioning glance at Tristan.
Tristan face reflected acute embarrassment as he met Justin's gaze, however in his dark eyes lingered the echoes of old pain. He managed a small, crooked smile and a one sided shrug.
"Tristan, what is this?" Confusion reigned in Justin's voice.
"Don't you remember it Justin?" Tristan was blushing with shame. "It was around eight years ago, one Saturday afternoon. I was waiting for you in your house 'coz we always watched cartoons together. You were wrapping up your first month on the Mickey Mouse Club. You came home you were carrying that mug..."
Justin lost himself and was catapulted into the past as he began to relive Tristan's words.
Justin got out of the car and waved goodbye to Keri and her mom. There was a spring in his step and a huge smile was painted on his face as he sped through the front door. He paused for a bit and made his way to the kitchen when he heard voices coming from there.
He barreled into the kitchen to find his mom talking to his best friend, Tristan. Tristan? What was he doing here? Ignoring his friend for a moment he bounced straight to his mom and started to talk. He began telling her what a great day he had and how the whole crew was great, especially JC and his friends. They had even... then he dramatically waved his new mug under her nose, and showed her his name printed on it and the MMC logo on the other side. He also told her how JC and his friends got it for him as a one month celebratory present and how they presented it to him in a little ceremony at the end of their shoot.
His mother smiled indulgently at his exuberance and let him go on a bit but then excused herself to go upstairs to take care of some 'things'. She then glanced significantly and somewhat pointedly at Tristan, hoping her son would take the hint and talk to him.
Justin frowned at his mom's retreating back but whatever thoughts he might have had were interrupted by Tristan face entering his visual field.
"Hey JJ!" cried Tristan excitedly. He started waving his wrist in front of Justin's face. "If we hurry we can still catch Thundercats! It's almost four o'clock!" He took Justin's arm and started dragging him to the living room. "C'mon!"
Justin pulled his arm out of Tristan's grasp and exclaimed, "I don' wanna!" Suddenly, after hanging out with JC and his friends, Tristan seemed very childish. JC was concerned about other things besides cartoons. He had dreams and goals. Justin had decided he wanted to be like JC. "I don' wanna watch cartoons." He reiterated. Ignoring the dumbfounded look on Tristan's face, he walked back to the kitchen and started looking through the refrigerator for something to eat.
Tristan stood there, stunned, for what seemed like an eternity. He literally couldn't process what Justin said. Not wanting to watch Thundercats? Thinking it was all a misunderstanding and that Justin was just cranky (he got like that sometimes when he was tired but a dose of cartoons always made everything better.) He said, "But JJ, it's Thundercats!"
Cringing at the whiny tone Tristan used, Justin adopted what he hoped was a reasonable impression of JC at his most mature. "Cartoons're for lil' kids Tristan. I got more important things to think about now." Perfect delivery.
Tristan looked at Justin, once again not believing what he heard. "But," He swallowed, "But JJ, we always watch Thundercats together. Always." He shook his head, hoping that he would wake up from what was obviously a nightmare.
Justin's voice was as cutting as a twelve year-old's voice could be. "I said I don' wanna! And," He added, "The name's Justin. Not JJ."
Tristan finally realized what Justin was saying and his face drained of all color. The stricken look on his face almost caused Justin to relent... almost, but he realized he had gone too far now not to see this through.
Tristan spun around and ran towards the kitchen door but as he moved he bumped the table upon which Justin put his new mug from the MMC. Justin gaped in horror as the ceramic object passed inches from Tristan's fingers on it's way to the floor. Tristan looked up at Justin as the mug shattered on the floor. He knew that he could have caught it, if he wanted to, and staring into Justin's eyes, he saw that Justin knew it too.
Justin stared at Tristan for a fraction of a second and then went berserk. "GET OUT!" He screamed as he flew to pick up the pieces. Tristan tried to apologize, to help, to do anything to make it all better but Justin just got louder and louder, sobbing incoherently and shouldering Tristan away.
Lynn Timberlake came flying down the stairs and stood in the doorway in shock. She saw her son crawling desperately over the floor, trying to collect every ceramic piece. She also saw Tristan flash her a look of absolute pain and remorse before he fled. She quickly made her way to Justin's side and took him in her arms. She listened to him sob and ran her fingers through his hair. She murmured nothing words that would make him feel better and felt his crying gradually ease.
Tristan lay in his bed, tears streaming down his face as he clutched a pillow tightly to his chest. He gazed with unseeing eyes out the window and slowly rocked back and forth, trying the hold on to the remnants of his reality the way he held the pillow. He stayed exactly like that until the sun sank down past the horizon. Then a new purpose entered his eyes and he made his way to the window and silently, with the ease of long practice, made his way down the tree and into the Timberlake's backyard.
"...and found the pieces of the mug your mom had put in the trash." Tristan shrugged. "I thought that if I put it back together we'd be friends again." He sighed and looked into Justin's eyes. "But I couldn't find one piece."
Justin looked again at the repaired mug in his hands. Each shard was carefully glued into place, even fragments so small Tristan would have had to use tweezers to put them in place. At thirteen it would've taken him all night. And Justin was sure he did try to do it in one night. He glanced over at Tristan and, for just an instant, imagined he saw a profound sorrow cloud Tristan's features, but he blinked and when he looked back Tristan was looking at him with a kind of rueful humor and a lopsided smile.
"So this is the reason we stopped being friends?" He demanded with some heat, weighing the ceramic object in his hand. "This?" Guilt gnawed at him, then his mind turned to another thought.
"Justin!" Disapproval colored Tristan's voice.
"Profanity is the recourse of uneducated minds." Tristan stood and walked over to the window.
"Fuck!" Justin stood also and faced Tristan. "You probably came around to apologize the next day, right?"
Tristan nodded, a small frown on his forehead as he wondered where Justin was heading.
"I probably wouldn't see you, right?"
Once again Tristan nodded, the confusion on his face becoming plainer.
"And you gave up after that, right?" Not waiting for Tristan's answering nod, "And just now you were going for a little guilt trip, right?" Justin's sky blue eyes were hard as sapphires as they silently demanded true answers.
Outrage painted Tristan's face but withered under the heat of Justin's glare. Rueful acknowledgement twisted his lips and marred his brow before he faced the window again. "I... guess you're right, JJ. I'm sorry."
Justin crossed the small space between them and clasped Tristan's shoulder in a strong grip. In a voice laced with profound regret he said, "No. I'm sorry. And I'm glad you're my friend again."
Tristan spun around displacing Justin's hand and arm. "You are? I am?" Though he tried he could not help but leak a little of the skepticism he felt into his voice.
Justin looked at him with narrow eyes and then, in a quintessential Justin move, engulfed Tristan in a bearhug.
"I'm not letting go until you believe me." Then he tightened his grasp of Tristan's torso.
"Alright, alright!" Tristan tried in vain not to laugh but soon gave up. In between breathless chuckles (Justin was strong!) he gasped out, "I believe you!"
"Really?" Justin's hold tightened a little more.
"Ye-es!" Tristan was truly out of breath now.
"Good." Justin finally let go of Tristan's torso but his left hand drifted upwards to rest once again on Tristan's shoulder. His smile was so brilliant that Tristan was dazzled by the gleaming white expanse of his teeth. Tristan leaned in and their eyes met in a moment of shared empathy, a moment that might have lasted for eternity...
The shrill yammering of the phone caused both of them to jump back in surprise. For an instant their eyes maintained their shared rapport but another demanding call from the phone caused Tristan to draw back and answer it. He listened, occasionally answered back with a "No." or an "I don't think so." and then, the twinkle returning to his eye, he held the phone out to Justin and said, "It's for you."
The surprised expression on Justin's face was comical but he hesitated for a fraction of a second in grabbing the handset. Deep within him he felt a strange feeling of anticipation, like he was poised on the brink of the unknown. As if this simple act would change his destiny forever. He brought the phone to his ear and said, "Hello?"
Yes! And I am done! I am so so so so sorry for the huge delay! Writer's block, exams and reports and sheer laziness all conspired to stop this story in it's tracks! (It wasn't my fault, really!) Please please all of you forgive me?
I would also like to give a shoutout to Khiem who poked and prodded me into starting to write again, you gave me back the flow of the story, man! And to my new reader Angie, who thought my story was tight, thanks for that email, that really made my day. To Kyle, whose story just keeps getting better, I promise JC will show up soon!
I'm not sure when chap 6 will start production but (never fear!) I haven't abandoned this story and I got a few days vacation coming up in a few weeks, we'll see if I can't do it about then.
Finally, to all of my readers, thank you thank you thank you for reading this and I hope it gives you just a little bit of pleasure.