~*~ Every last word of the pages to follow is from an author's vast imagination and is therefore not supported in true reality. Although the characters to be featured are prominently factual, the numerous scenarios, situations, and events they will encounter throughout the course of the tale are not! Its principal objective is that of enjoyment and entertainment to you, the reader.
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~*~ Halfway Here, Halfway Gone ~*~
With two days passing by since their first kiss took place; Justin Timberlake busies himself with work, partly because he has a lot to get done and also to keep his mind occupied with his flourishing career. That night will banish itself from his torn mind. Kobe has sent him one more text message since then, the day after, but other than that, there has been no type of communication between them. The tension between them is at a point where the singer feels that their friendship will never be restored. He does not even know if the basketball star is still in New York or not. Timberlake was set to leave today but other things came up and JC wants to meet up with him here so he has to stay for the time being. The kiss just came out of nowhere and caught him off guard. His body did not know how else to react but to run. To put distance between himself and the situation.
He cannot back out of talking to his best friend now because if he does, Chasez will know something is wrong and pressure him to tell. Suspicion is the last thing he needs to be under so everything will remain the way it is. No one can know about the kiss or any of the time they have spent together. It is still hard to believe but there is no doubt it happened. He has to tell him of his own free accord and it cannot be because he feels guilty or pressured to do so. It is a delicate subject to approach and discuss, especially being in the scenario both of them are in with them being famous personalities. His work keeps his mind off that as well as the Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant. Justin is hoping the conversation of trust and honesty will be returned by JC when they take. All the short answers and secrecy and disappearing acts. An old-fashioned heart to heart is just what they need.
When he is by himself however, things are far from the same. The thoughts are there and plague his mind with insecurity and fright. Justin feels stupid for running away the way he did and immaturely and selfishly ignoring the man who stole a kiss from his lips. A serene kiss that could potentially be so much more. His guilt of how he handled the situation bothers him extensively and makes him more self-conscious than ever to call Bryant. Nerves will never let that happen at this point. He wants to but something stops him from doing so. One excuse after another catches his attention and the phone call remains unrealized. He does not know how to explain his actions were he to call. As usual, the only person Timberlake is thinking about is himself. Fuck! He does not know if Kobe is thinking the very same thoughts he is or if he is just as confused by everything as he is. The situation is raw.
The Sun has set hours ago and the former N*SYNCer relaxes on the sofa in the great room of the suite watching TV. The glare from the television is the only light the room sees and when he flicks channels, it goes momentarily dark before coming back in full force. His hand rests itself on his exposed stomach; he is only in a pair of loose shorts, as he lies on the sofa thinking. It has to be dealt with sooner or later; he cannot keep running from it or Kobe Bryant forever. The television holds no interest to him and his mind is trapped in thought when he is startled out of it with a loud knocking at his door. Justin immediately looks at the time before getting up to see what is going on. Timberlake opens the door to find JC on the other side of it smiling back at him. It is a complete surprise and he is not sure how to feel. Now is not the best time to talk about it.
"Did I wake you J?" JC innocently asks.
"No---no. I was just watching TV. Come in," he moves aside to let his best friend pass. "What are you doing here? I thought you were going to call when you got in---"
"I guess I forgot---"
"Hold on---let me get a shirt."
"Okay," Chasez says as he looks around the room and then finds his way to the sofa in the middle of it. "Come on Justin---we have to talk man," he yells out after a while of silence.
"About what?" Timberlake questions when he returns to the room with a white t-shirt covering his upper body.
"You tell me Justin. You sounded so serious on the phone. I was worried about you---"
There is obviously something to talk about, from both of them, but just showing up like this has him at a severe disadvantage. It might come out forced or incoherent or wrong. Justin sits on the comfortable recliner adjacent to the sofa JC is sitting on and tucks his legs close to his body thinking. He was not expecting this tonight and is not mentally prepared for it. A small part of him regrets answering the door but he knows he should not feel that way so the thought goes away. Bryant has his mind warped and not thinking straight and it feels like broken shards of glass are bouncing around in his stomach. This meeting is for him to confide his deepest secret to another person and the sudden thought and closeness of it happening is sending Timberlake into a slight panic attack. Relax. Breathe. Now is as good a time as any to put himself completely out there.
"---I don't know---"
"Justin---we're best friends. Best friends can talk about anything."
"It's not that easy," he whispers lowly.
"Why? Is it me? Did I do something?" Chasez moves a little closer and asks him.
"Justin you're freaking me out here. What happened?"
"I wasn't expecting this today. Not Right now---"
"I'm sorry I came by so late. I've only been in New York a few hours so far and I wanted to talk to you. Or have you talk to me---"
Timberlake feels nerves spike and prickle his skin and senses it as far out as his fingertips and toes. There is tension and his heart increases its beats slowly as if he is in a dangerous situation. But it is not the case. All these destructive thoughts are in Justin's mind only. There is no avoiding it now seeing as they are here together. Time has run out and never seemed to be on his side in the first place. They have both come this far to turn back now and he simply cannot do it. JC Chasez is his best friend and will be there for him no matter what. He knows this. The pop singer puts the two words together in his mind; it was easier admitting it to himself than trying to tell someone else, and tries to form them on his tongue so they can roll out through his lips. Maybe he should have practiced more but it would not have done any good. There is no practicing or rehearsing what he has to say.
"---Are you okay?" he moves even closer to Justin and extends his hand. "Justin you're shaking. What's wrong man?" he sacredly asks.
He moves away and closes his eyes, pretending he is anywhere but here. This shaking has to stop and he has to collect himself. Some of the memories Timberlake is now betraying flutters in and out of his mind's eye and tries to pull him back in their direction. He won't go. JC is holding him with a worried and frightened look plastered on his face. The question of what is wrong or what is going on eludes his hearing. It should not be this hard. Justin thinks his body is trying to tell him something by having this minor breakdown. Maybe he is not ready to tell anyone. He has not fully accepted it himself so telling it to someone else is just like jumping into it headfirst and without restraint. It has taken him a lot to get to the point he is at now and he will not lose all that progress because it feels safe. Safety cannot always be the number one concern. This has to happen here. No more running.
The singing star opens his eyes, sighs and responds unconfidently, "I figured out what the dream means---"
"You did---that's great. Isn't it?"
"I don't know---" the embattled Timberlake drags on.
His best friend looks at him seriously and asks, "What does it mean Justin?"
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
Justin looks up into JC's eyes and spits out, "I'm gay."
"You're---gay? What?" he asks puzzled.
"It's what the dream was trying to tell me all along. I was hiding a part of myself."
"---Are you---sure?" Chasez stumbles over his words.
It is a hard question to follow up with but the questions will only get harder from here on out the former N*SYNCer supposes. He is shocked at the revelation and their eyes remain locked onto each other's. He is looking for comfort and support and is still unsure of what is in his best friend's eyes. Justin does not know what is going to happen now but he only wants to be accepted at this very moment. Every fiber in his body is begging for a shred of acceptance and warmth and comfort. Timberlake knows where he can get it but he wants it from JC. He wants his best friend's acceptance and approval and support in one of the most difficult times of his young life. There can be no more running. Chasez interrupts their eyes and looks away to think and process what was just said to him. He tries to make sense of it all and also wonders if this is happening in true reality or not.
"Ever since I admitted to myself it stopped happening."
"How long ago was this? How long ago did you admit this to yourself?"
"A few weeks ago," he replies almost weakly. "I'm still having a hard time accepting it myself---"
"---Don't know what to say? Me either---" Timberlake fakes a small smile.
"No---I---what about Britney? What about your career?"
"I don't know."
"I'm confused. Are you sure about this?"
"I don't think I could be wrong about something like this JC," Justin replies back with his eyes roaming the room uncomfortably.
A strange silence befalls the room and Chasez has his eyes glued back to his best friend while Justin's never stay in one place for too long. He then wonders if Kobe Bryant had to deal with this kind of raw emotion; if he told anybody about himself. Doubts flood his head and he feels hurt and tired and wants to take back the entire conversation. Doing this when his mind was not prepared for it has him scrambling just to find something to say or do to take the dangerously shining spotlight off of himself. The songster wants to go back and not open the door. Say something! Anything! JC's eyes are burning stinging holes onto his skin and he wants to take it back. He wants his old life back. To be the old Justin Timberlake his best friend already knows. The new and unknown is now the scariest thought in his head. And if this got out it could jeopardize his career.
"I---don't know what to say," JC breaks the silence again.
"I spent a long time denying what it could be. It felt good when I stopped running---"
"I know," Chasez says. "I know. Have you---told anyone else?"
"Justin---look at me," he requests of his friend.
He filters the request to think about it and after a short while, he gives in and faces the other man he was once in a boyband with. Whatever is said at this point could define their friendship as one worth saving or letting go. But it he will not let it come to that. The pair stares at each other with Justin finding it increasingly harder to hold his own under such intense pressure. His face is hot and his head is a cloudy mess. He is losing it and his mind feels like it is mocking him. Timberlake wants more than anything to break the gaze they are sharing but he feels like he will be giving up if he were to do so. This can potentially destroy him or make him stronger. He will not let it destroy him so the latter must come true. The singer breathes deeply and tries to psyche himself out if it is the only way he can relax and stop jumping to conclusions. As much as he tells himself to, he still cannot relax.
"Are you sure about this?" his former bandmate questions again
"Listen, this isn't going to change anything between us okay. Look at me," he repeats again when Justin's head falls to the floor again. "We're brothers and nothing will change what you mean to me. I don't care that you're gay Justin---I care about you."
"Really. Are you scared?"
"Yes---I don't know what to do," he admits and looks at JC of his own freewill. "Thanks. I'm feeling a little better."
Chasez smiles sweetly before replying with, "Hey, what are best friends for."
"Thanks JC. I really needed to hear those things from you."
"I'll always have your back Justin."
"I'll always have yours."
The two men pound their fists together before getting up and embracing in a hug that surpasses relief and doubt. It is the true picture of friendship and Justin feels so safe in his arms. Someone else knows and he is not rejected or shamed. Coming down from his mountain of nerves, confusion, and fight will take some time but he fully intends on getting there. JC is fighting off his demons for him; demons he has never been able to defeat. When they break apart, Chasez smiles at him again before announcing his leave because of how late it is. Timberlake walks him to the door and they hung once again while JC offers him a few more words of encouragement that will hopefully get him through the dark times. They separate and he heads away from the suite. Alone again and a few tears finally make themselves knows as he still cannot stop shaking. It is so hard as he wipes them away.
Fans are screaming and cheering above and all around him as he shoots the ball to miss a perfect three-point opportunity. Then, as quickly as it appears, it is gone and he is on the run again. The coach is screaming something to him which he knows all too well. But Bryant's mind is too far gone to be even remotely interested in what his head coach is saying. While his body may be invested in the game because it is forced to be, his mind has checked out and left him all alone. The opposition passes him and cameras follow uncoordinated movements and one careless shot after another. Today is not his day and the baller only wants this game to be over so he can try to get over what has happened. But that freedom has not made itself known to him yet and he is still confused and a little hurt at the rejection. Another failed shot has the fans, his fans, wondering what is going on.
The Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher retrieves the ball from a rebound and dribbles it all the way back to score a magnificent layup to keep his team alive. The scores between the two opposing teams are so close that it is a give and take for the lead. It is not a good time to be doing this but backing out at the last minute would have only caused an unwanted media frenzy at his very high expense. No matter how hard he tries though, Kobe cannot shake off the kiss from that night or how wrongly the last few moments between them went. After the few texts with no incoming responses, he decided to give Justin Timberlake time to figure out what he wants to do. Maybe it was too soon for the kiss to happen but Bryant felt it being right in the moment they were in. He had to go for it or be cursed to wonder if he missed a golden opportunity to kiss those perfect pink lips of the Justin's.
And, regardless of anything, it is one of the sweetest and most innocent kisses of his life thus far. Everything was right in the moment to go for it and he followed his body's orders. Failing to control himself may have cost him a great friendship and the basketballer is most worried and upset by this part. Timberlake is unlike anyone he has met in a very long time and their conversations are real and fun and extremely easy. A quick pass sees the orange globe in his hands and a quick shot makes it in after bouncing off the backboard. Not his usual style but his body is forfeiting too much for him to just function at this basketball game so the crowd, the viewers, nor his coaches will see him at his best today. Even all the yelling and ambush plans cannot help Kobe with his game today. It is a horrid and distorted version of what he is truly capable of on the basketball court.
"Defense Bryant!" a coach yells from the sideline while trying to get his attention. "Cover your man!"
Words can barely reach him though and it is evident that he is not having a good game but not why. No one can know why he is off or what is actually in his mind. Those soft lips. That cute smile. His crystal baby blue eyes. Not noticing his position, Kobe attempts to pass to ball to an open teammate but a towering man from the opposition steps in front of his movements and steals the ball away as it is in midair. It causes an uproar from the fans when the stolen ball makes it into the basket against the Los Angeles Lakers. Maybe the coaches will bench him; that would definitely make the news as it would be juicy. Then the whole world would want to know why he was benched and why this game is such a low point in what was shaping up to be a spotless record for him. Bryant cannot be bothered with any of it but this is his career. Justin Timberlake should not affect him this way but he does.
"Time!" the head coach yells out and a familiar horn bellows. "Get in here boys!"
The whole team falls back to their respective sides with most of them retrieving Gatorade bottles before heading into the huddled circle to hear new plans and criticisms. Kobe Bryant's throat is so dry it feels raw but he does not drink anything; he is the first one in the circle. All players remain silent against the large crowd and listens to their coaches yell and scream that the team is not performing as a whole. It is all his fault. They offer stricter plays, dangerous methods, and tricky deceptions to try and become the victors of this game. It is all about winning. The basketball legend floats in and out of the session with his fellow peers but desperately wants to clear his head for the game. His game is suffering and it is making his teammates suffer too; it is not fair. But he cannot stop thinking about Justin or how they have not spoken since it happened.
If only they got a chance to talk then he could try to explain the kiss and promise that it would never happen again if it is not something Timberlake wants to happen. Their friendship is far more important than selfish desires right now. Kobe misses talking to him and laughing with him and just hanging out with him. It looks like they have nothing in common and that is true but they were getting to know each other and he thought they were really good friends. And, above all, he trusts the singer and that is a huge deal to him. Maybe his feelings are mixed and confused. Regardless of which scenario his mind chooses to follow on what day, it still does not bring the two of them back together to talk through the impassioned kiss. This is what needs to happen most of all. Bryant does not know why his mind flat out refuses to stop thinking about Justin. Something has to be there and worth exploring.
The group of tall men dismantles and he begins to walk away but, "Not you. Step over here."
"Your game is suffering kid. What the hell is going on out there?"
"That's the best you got? What the fuck Bryant?" the man asks again.
"I'm doing my best out there---" Bryant lies and is still zoning in and out of the conversation.
"Is this your best game of the season so far?"
"Huh? No. But I'm trying---"
"Well, try harder. You're playing like a damn rookie out on the court."
"Yeah. Okay," he dismisses and tries to shake himself loose once again.
"Get your ass back out there! That's time."
Justin is having a bad effect on him and his concentration of the game he loves so much. It is not supposed to be this way and maybe their friendship is lost and will never be regained. That is not a path he wants to look into but if the coaches are riding him this hard then this has to be the worst game of his season. And possibly his career so far. Kobe does not understand because when things get bad for him personally, he is usually able to leave it all at the side of the court or locked away in the locker room so his game never has to suffer. His love for basketball and being the best always manages to put any negative feelings and emotions out of his mind so his only focus can be winning. Not this time however. Something is definitely different about this time and Bryant knows his attention is being drawn impossibly thin in two completely opposite directions. It has never been this bad before.
Back on the court and his head is still airy as it refuses to come down from the clouds. His body runs and plays as if nothing is wrong but the fans notice and his coaches have definitely taken notice of it. This game could be damaging not to his season but to the questions it will raise about him. Sportscasters nationwide will go to the lengths of questioning his commitment to the game and his team to possibly wondering if he is into any drugs. His public image can really take a hit from this game. But it would easily be a career over if anyone from the public media were to find out that he kissed another man. That he initiated a kiss between pop's King Justin Timberlake and was possibly rejected for it. This piece of information leaking will ruin them both. Even though all this seems stuck on his mind a million miles away, Kobe knows his body feels the inclinations but refuses to return his game.
"Get the ball and pass it!" another coach seems to be yelling at the team in general. "Defense!"
The competitive nature of these games gets people saying and doing things as well as acting in ways they never would in their normal lives. It is the pressure of wanting to be the best and being a global franchise where people can pick apart the team at any second of the day. Undermining can be a dangerous thing as well as a powerful driving force. Kobe Bryant shoots the ball even though his teammate Derrick Fisher is wide open for a clean shot. This upsets their team coaches does nothing to deter the comments made that he never passes the ball. Shannon Brown raises his hands in the air to ask him what taking the shot was all about but the game will continue. The Los Angeles Lakers are trailing by six points when the buzzer sounds and signals halftime. Bryant interlaces his fingers and rests them on his sweaty head while trying to catch his breath to come back to life.
Kobe remains back until the rest of his teammates are in the locker room before he walks in. He is letting them down with each passing second of the clock. Guilt is there and is mixed with resentment and severe doubt. No one should be able to get to him like this. The fact that Justin does proves something. There is a deep connection there that has to be explored no matter what the consequences are. The basketballer feels it deep into his bones; it is on such a visceral level that there is no avoiding or simply forgetting about it. A full locker room is busy with talking and planning to try and turn the game around in the second half. It is his entire fault and he feels slightly nervous when he passes though the concrete archway to enter the inner sanctity of their locker room. Bryant's thoughts feel so violated by the kiss and what he thinks he is feeling for the singer.
He walks over to the water fountain to claim a drink before heading to the locker housing his stuff to look for his cell phone. No text messages or phone calls. Maybe he is expecting too much from something that is not understood. He sits on the bench and fiddles with the handheld device while everyone around him is talking or cleaning themselves up to go back out and fight for victory. Bryant wants to get out of here and go somewhere so he can be alone to think and recapture himself. He is only now realizing that he inadvertently left a part of himself with Timberlake on the night they kissed in the car under the rain. This is why he is unable to concentrate on his game or himself. A piece is missing. Kobe hangs his head and closes his eyes to try and mentally slap himself so he can concentrate and get Justin away from his mind. He is unaware when someone sits next to him.
"Hey---coach wants a quick meeting before we go back out," Derrick Fisher informs him.
"What's going on with you out there?"
"Nothing," Bryant does not feel like answering the question.
"You're not playing at your best."
"It's nothing Fisher man."
"Alright. The meeting's in a few---" his teammate says again.
The questions are too hard to answer and professionalism must be maintained. His game is obviously so far off from his best and Fisher bringing it up makes it weigh down heavier on him. This self-absorbed behavior has to stop otherwise the game will be the ultimate sacrifice. The pair of men looks at each other but it does not last long. Kobe knows the other man only wants him at his best to win the game and that he means nothing by the questions. They are just hard to answer; especially if he tells the truth but that will never happen so making up lies will become another chore. His body is slowly falling out of function and the game is not important to him. And the game has always been important to him because he genuinely loves it. Also, most people in the world only know him as a basketball player to that fuel his love of the game and the drive to be the best.
"I got a lot on my mind," the baller does not know why he says this.
"Ay I know what you mean. My girl's pressuring me to pop the question. She says we shouldn't wait if we love each other."
"Do you? Love her I mean---"
"Yeah I do," Fisher smiles at the thought of his girlfriend.
"---Must be nice---"
"Yeah it is. But I'm not ready to get married."
"I know what you mean."
"Team! Huddle now!" a coach bellows into the locker room for everyone to listen.
"Guess it's that time."
"Time for me to get chewed out again---" Kobe says lowly.
"Get your head in the game Bryant," Derek Fisher tells him.
They both get up from the steel bench to join the team for the meeting before heading back on the court. The team is already discussing plays, strategies, and exploiting weaknesses when the two final members join in. Bryant remains silent when everyone is talking and is sick of his lack of concentration. As much as he wants to think about Justin Timberlake, it is affecting his work and he cannot continue to make this mistake. There will be change in the second half and he will go out there and do what he has to do to turn this around for himself and his team. Everyone is talking or thinking and he knows what they all want to say to him. He knows they want to verbally attack him for his poor game and he would to were he in their position. So much of it rides on Kobe that he feels like he is about to snap. Justin was one of his only escapes and now there are not even talking.
It was left to the coaches to bite his head off and he feels like a miniature spec of his actual self after they get through berating his performance for the first half of the game. The team stays silent and only nods at the appropriate spots to try and drill it inside his head. Kobe feels the pressure building inside as everyone is coming down on him and it cannot go on. This situation with Timberlake is not going away until he deals with it and right now, he does not know where they are with one another. He can't play anymore; he has to figure out a way to deal with whatever is going on between him and Justin. Teammates and coaches' words go in and out of his ear as they all try to figure out what is going on with him and how to stop it. Bryant has enough of all of them though. This game is obviously not going to go the way he wants it to. It is too late and the team is filing back into the arena.
"Just take me out," the basketballer hears himself say. "I'm off my game. Take me out."
"What?" the head coach who stays back with him exclaims. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Take me out. My head's not in it right now. I have to go. I have to get out of here."
"You're not going anywhere Bryant! Get your shit together and get back out there."
Kobe sighs, "I can't. I just can't coach."
No matter what anyone says he is not going out there. The press can assume whatever they want because he is done with this game. A huge fine will be charged to his name but he does not care. This arena is stifling him and he has to get out of here before he loses it completely. The Los Angeles Laker steps away from his coach and walks back to his locker alone to gather up his stuff to leave. He never should have played in the first place. What happened between them is too prominent in his mind. They are still talking about him staying but he ignores it and accepts the fine as he puts the strap of the duffel bag over his shoulder and exits the locker room through another exit. The announcement has to be made already and Kobe wonders what his teammates think about him. If he has disappointed any of his fans. It just was not meant to be today so he had to stop.