~*~ 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.

~*~ Underage reading or any other illegalities is not condoned nor encouraged in any way by said author. He also will not tolerate any form of plagiarism towards any of the words to come as they are his and his alone. Neither the author nor the Nifty Organization makes a profit from this, or any story, posted on their site. He does it of his own freewill.

~*~ Address any type of question and/or feedback to jc71883@hotmail.com, making sure to add a relation to the story on the subject line of the e-mail as to guarantee its reception.

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

~*~ Wicked Blue Eyes ~*~

 

 

He is still sniffling because of his illness but it has gotten much better and he needs to be back at work. The drive is inside and maddening because he hates being idle when there is so much to do. There is always so much to do. The life of a celebrity as huge as he is never rests, takes breaks, or gets dull. The spotlight of fame blinds him still but it does not happen nearly as much as it used to when he was first starting out as a part of the group N*SYNC. Timberlake has both fond memories as well as one he never wished happened while a part of the highly successful boyband. Everything was so new to him and his friends that it seemed all too easy to fall into the negative aspect of the business. The drug abuse or sex scandals or spending the money faster than it is made. Justin has always been able to stay away from all that due to his drive to make to be top and the support from his family.

The day goes on for the songster but he is in and out of attentiveness because of where his mind is. He is not sure what is going on presently but he decides to pay attention and get out of his self-indulgent mindset. Their last conversation poisons his mind to reality however. And it will not stop because he feels deep down that something is wrong. Something else is going on. Timberlake is doing an interview for a couple of TV shows so he clams his agitated mind and focuses on what needs to be done and nothing else. His answers are straight to the point and offer little room for tangent follow up questions because he really does not want to be in the VH1 studio all day. Justin focuses and gets the job done with the rest of the day being for himself. The Sun is almost down anyway so not much of it is left to be excited about. Leaving the studio, his mind breaks free and takes him to his first thought.

It was night but not as late as the outside darkness let on. The deception stuck inside his mind though because his body felt tired and harassed to no end. His mother had just made them a dinner of rice and steak and he ate to keep his body's strength up. And also to make her happy so maybe she would stop worrying about him. Many times however, her son did nothing to ease her him in worrying about him. Justin felt guilty about it but with the fast pace his career has been going, especially since the single's release and the album coming soon; there just were not enough hours in the day. She was smiling at him though because he was finally taking her advice and listening to her. The former boybander smiled back softly and silently mumbled `thank you' under his breath. She has always been there for him. Both his parents have. No one could have asked for anything better because there was nothing.

"How do you like it sweetheart?" Lynn questioned her son.

"It's good---of course. I haven't had food like this in a long time," Timberlake honestly answered back.

"Being on the road all the time---all the restaurants you must've eaten at."

"It's the business. I can't do anything about it."

"It makes you appreciate this so much more doesn't it?"

Justin looked at her and smiled before he replied with, "Yes. Thanks mom---I needed this."

He knew what she wanted and so he gave it to her. It was harmless anyway and he had to laugh at himself for doing it. The table fell silent once again and the only thing heard was the singer's occasional sniffles or him clearing his throat. His golden voice was strained and doing any type of performance now was only going to add to its stress. So perhaps it was best if he just relaxed for a few days and not already plan out days in advance. His eyes were red and his temperature was through the roof but Justin still refused to go to a doctor for he knew that it would pass. This went against his mother's word and the last thing he wanted to do was make her worry even but Timberlake knew he did not need a doctor. And if the press picked it up then a total disaster would ensue. Silence was still abundant in the room. He used his knife to cut a piece of the meat on his plate before his mom spoke up.

"Your father and I have been worried about you---"

"What---why?" he asked back.

"Justin---I notice that you've been acting differently over the past few weeks."

"How?" he pressed on.

"You've been---distant Randall. I call you, you don't return. You're much more private now than I've ever seen you---you don't take care of yourself. Should I go on?"

"You're wrong---everyone gets sick mom."

His mother sighed before, "It's not that only---I feel like I'm losing you son."

"What?"

The response was incredulous but it was unintentional and he had to hold back laughing out or screaming. He could not believe what his mother just said to him and only remained silent to think about it. In his mind, Justin reevaluated his behavior over the past weeks to see if there was any truth in what she was saying but when he comes up with nothing of significance, he continued to look at her for any type of response. It felt almost strained and was awkward. Timberlake had to act normal. He had to remain natural so as not to arouse suspicion from anyone. It would be a big mistake and that was why he took time to reexamine the past weeks again. The conversation was being lost to him however and he was not sure of what to say to bring it back. His mother Lynn rested her fork on her plate and gently dabbed a napkin against her lips before she got up from the table and took her plate with her.

"Are you finished honey?" she asked as if her previous words were not so confusing to him.

"---Yeah. What has dad said?"

"He thinks you're working too hard. He's told me so on many occasions," she recalled while she picked up the dinner plates to return them to the kitchen.

"Where is all this coming from? You've never said any of this before---"

"I have sweetheart---you never listened to it."

"Mom---"

"Justin you've become distant. Did something happen? Are you in some kind of trouble son?"

"---I---" Timberlake began.

"I just don't know what happened between you and Britney. I know you still have feelings for her---is that what's bothering you?"

Justin almost winced at the name as well as the insinuation while he was still seated at the bare table; his mother was in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes so she was not able to see him. There were no unresolved or lingering feelings between him and his former flame. He did not know how to react to the question and only stayed quiet as she continued to talk. He did not still care for Britney Spears nor did he love her anymore or were they even friends. The pop starlet had clearly moved on to other things and there was no grudge there. Nothing anymore. Timberlake knew how much his mother was fond of her when they were together but he was absolutely clear that he had moved on from that part of his life. His mom bringing it up the way she did stung him and he was slightly upset that she still thought he had feelings for her. The singer could not comprehend where this was going to go.

"Don't worry about me. I'm good---" he said to her.

"Why won't you tell me what happened between you two? It'll help to talk it out and maybe---"

"No mom!" Justin almost yelled out of frustration. "---I'm sorry. But no---"

"This is what I'm talking about---you're so wound up honey," she explained her perspective.

"Weren't you the one who told me that she's married now?"

"I'm sure if you two talked and worked things out---"

"Stop it mom!" he yelled now. "Do you hear yourself? Nothing's going to happen between her and me anymore okay---"

Something snapped inside him and it took him a moment to realize what had just happened and what he just did. Now was not the time to get this aggressive but she was pushing too far. And he only thought about Kobe Bryant. Probably someone he would never be able to introduce to his mother. Or father. Someone who was making him so happy but he had to keep secret to protect his career and reputation. When everyone else was able to be open but they were not. He felt his he eyes on him but he cannot face her so he instead closed his eyes and went deep into thought. To think about how to get himself out of this mess. Justin does not remember the last time he yelled at her before, if ever. Things have been so complicated for him and he knew she knew because she is his mother. Timberlake sat there and kept his eyes closed until he heard the water stop running. She finished the dishes.

"I'm sorry," he heard himself say.

"I know you are. I just want you to take care of yourself Randall. No one else will if you don't---"

She made sense and was right about everything she was saying. If he did not look after himself then he would be in serious trouble. And the media coverage was sure to ensue and create a chaotic mess. The double-edged sword reared itself once again. Justin only wanted to feel better so he could busy himself with work again and possibly set up some secret meetings with his boyfriend. He regretted the tone he used with his mother but he hated when people pressured him to talk about his past relationship with once reigning pop queen Britney Spears. It was frustrating and sometimes Timberlake felt like their failed relationship was all he was defined by on the world's stage. Their relationship was already scrutinized to the extreme by the public while they were together and he did not need the same from the people he trusted most. The people in his inner circle. It was not fair.

The rest of the evening was spent together talking until he announced that he is going to bed. Like a cute little boy, the songster kissed his mom good night and went to his room to catch up on rest. Although the cold has subsided, he still felt its effects on his throat and skin. A short while later, his mother came to kiss him good night once more but he was unaware because he was already sleeping. She watched over her little boy for a moment; she rubbed his forehead and trickled her fingers through his slightly longer hair before she kissed him and left. It was dark outside but lights from every surrounding building in the busy metropolis made it seem like an unreal time of the day. Timberlake was comfortably snuggled into one of the many pillows his bed boasted as his body got the rest it deserved. A light invaded the peaceful room and then his phone went off right next to his head. It was him.

Her words stick to his mind as he drives back to his hotel in Manhattan under pure darkness. The weird conversation with Kobe Bryant clouds his thoughts as well. Something was off and he wants to be there to support his man. It is barely past seven when Justin returns to his suite and the fresh air is doing him good in terms of his cold. He can breathe through his nose freely again and a sudden boost of energy kicks in. In his room, Timberlake ransacks his suitcase for a pair of sweatpants and a white tank top because he feels like running. The young star wants to relieve some of the stress mounting in his head as well as get rid of the tension he feels knotting up in his shoulders and upper back. Today has been long but he would not have it any other way. In an industry where a career can be scorching hot one day and freezing cold the next, so much work is required just to keep up.

Timberlake laces up his sneakers and grabs a bottle of chilled water from the mini bar before securely strapping his iPod onto the bare skin of his left shoulder and hopping up onto the running machine. He plugs the earphones into his ear and gets ready to expend his energy on running. The exhilaration will do him good and allow his mind to run away from his career and personal life for a time. But, as he is exercising his body, his mind wanders back to work. He just cannot get away from the stuff and his plans of making this album his biggest one yet. Justin remembers a meeting he has with Jive tomorrow morning. He does not even know how the single is doing on the charts because of how busy he has been as of late. He has not been able to track its progress but has been hearing it a lot on the radio whenever he is able to. He puts all that away for the second time and continues with his running.

 

Later in the evening, he eats a small caesar salad. He thought a lot in the shower about his mother and then Kobe Bryant. The way the baller made him feel that night they were together in Miami still haunts him. Justin's skin is starting to crave it more and more since then and it makes him worry that maybe he is falling too hard far too fast. He is lost in his thoughts and does not even bother to finish the salad he ordered. Then, he is in bed with the television off and the room darkened because he is thinking. He wants to see his boyfriend. To touch him. Timberlake will have to settle for hearing Kobe's voice for right now because of how far away they are from each other. It is the business they are in and on top of that, they cannot be seen in public anyway because it is inappropriate. It is starting to bother him but his mind comes crashing down on him when he hears his phone go off.

"What's up?" the singer asks his producer.

"Word around here is you got the number one single on the charts," Timbaland informs in brash tone.

"What---you're lying---"

"I kid you not Timberkid. You don't know?"

"No," Justin replies. "I've been working so much---I haven't been following its progress."

"The record label didn't call you man?"

"I have a meeting tomorrow. Are you for real---" he hears himself asking.

"Oh yes JT---the masses are eating up that SexyBack."

Justin suddenly has a huge grin on his face and it will not go away. All the hard work and fights with the record company has led everyone involved to this moment. And will lead to the moment when the album debuts at number one on the charts. It starts hurting after a while because of how much he is smiling but he just cannot stop. He knew following his instincts and convincing his record label of his vision would not disappoint him and he could not be happier at the moment. All of his heavy thoughts of the evening have just alleviated themselves from his head for the time being. He has had this feeling before; the feeling of his instincts satisfying him in every way. This is why he fought so hard with Jive to get his way with this record. With this entire album. Now the final pieces are coming together faster and together than he expected but it is welcomed. He physically has to stop grinning.

"I'm so frikin' happy right now!" Timberlake exclaims.

"Thanks to me---"

"Whatever man."

"Come on---give credit where it's due," Timbaland informs him.

"Fine---the beat was hot."

"Of course it is. It's the only kind of beats I make."

Justin becomes serious and says, "Thanks man. I couldn't do this song, hell, this album without you."

"I know---nice to hear it though," he plays around. "I like working with people like you---"

"People like me?"

"You know---" Timberland says in a voice Justin has never heard him use.

"No---I don't," the R&B star tries to understand what is going on.

There is a silence on the line before, "Talented Justin---talented. Damn you just had to make me say it!"

"You think I'm talented?"

"Don't let it go to your head. We got the number one single in the country!"

"Damn---we do!"

They talk for a short while longer until Timbaland tells him that he is off to a party. Justin uses the brief moment to revel in the information the super producer just informed him about. It is a strong feeling of accomplishment because he has taken his music is a completely new direction and all the old fans have made the journey with him as well as many new ones. It is overwhelming and suddenly, the R&B songster cannot wait for the meeting at Jive tomorrow. It must be the reason why he has an appointment. This is what happens when he believes in himself and it is truly one of the best feelings he can experience. My single's number one. Oh my God! He has had number one singles before but every time it happens, especially since he is a solo artist now, it makes his hard work and drive validated. Without thinking, Timberlake dials a number and listens to the phone ring against his eardrum.

"Hey there Mr. Timberlake---" Kobe Bryant's deep, smooth voice greets him.

"Guess what?" Justin cuts in like an eager little boy.

"Your song's number one on the charts."

"What---how did you know?"

"It's everywhere on the radio and the video is always on TV. There's no way it couldn't be number one. You look cute in the video by the way---" the Los Angeles Laker hints at.

"Thanks," he modestly replies. "I can't believe it's number one---"

"Why not? You're a really talented guy Justin. You shouldn't doubt yourself baby."

"I---know. Sometimes I think I'm not good enough---"

"---Well don't," Kobe is the one to cut him off this time. "Believe in your talent baby. I do."

Feelings and emotions in his mind trickle down from the endless cortex and drive throughout his entire body. The way the basketball star talks to him and makes him feel is addicting and unrelenting. He wants it more and is starting to miss him all over again. Justin lets out a low sigh and wonders when fortune will be on their side again so that they can meet up and be with each other. When they are together he never wants it to end and when they are apart, the songster is only thinking about when they are going to be together again. The cycle is dangerous but only one he wants to knowingly travel. Kobe is worth it; he will always be worth it. He wants to explore Bryant's body like he explored his back when they were in Miami. Timberlake wants so much to be with him but he brings himself back to the conversation. Even celebrities of their status do not always get what they want.

"---I guess---"

"No Justin. Tell me that you believe in yourself as much as I believe in you---as much as all your fans believe in you," he presses on to seal his point.

"I do believe in myself."

"Promise?" Kobe sweetly asks.

"I promise. Are you looking out for me?" Justin asks because he wants to know.

"I'm always looking out for you."

"Damn---it's a good thing you're mine."

"Oh? I'm yours now---I'm liking where this is going."

"In case you didn't know---I really like you Kobe Bryant," he admits once again.

"I know and you know that I feel the same way back."

The star Los Angeles Laker says it convincingly but his stomach feels fuzzy and his guilty subconscious keeps calling him a liar and a cheater. He can only silence it for so long before everything comes back to destroy him. He has worked too hard for that to ever happen so it will not. Bryant also cannot deny what his heart feels. What it wants. He feels like he is luring Justin into an unsuspecting trap and wonders why he first started seeing the singer as something more. He knew what instantly attracted him was the overwhelming sensation that he could trust him. His instincts about that particular situation have yet to fail him. Kobe is the one being hypocritical because he has a hard time trusting people but in this relationship he is in with his boyfriend, he is the one who should not be trusted. No matter what he tries, he cannot leave Timberlake alone. Their growing relationship is a true desire of his.

"I miss you."

"I know. I want to be there to celebrate the single but I can't."

"Yeah I understand---" the former boybander trails off, the disappointment evident in his voice.

"I'm always thinking about you Justin. Remember that. Even when I can't be or not supposed to be thinking about you I am," Kobe says to him.

"Me too."

"So---anything new going on with you?"

"Not really. I have a meeting with Jive tomorrow."

"Probably to tell you about the single," he concludes.

"Yeah. What about you?"

"I'm just resting at home for a few days. I have basketball camp coming up in a few weeks. The season's about to start," Kobe informs him.

"We definitely won't be seeing each other anytime soon."

"Don't say that. When the season starts you can buy courtside seats to see your boy in action. I hear he's someone to watch out there on the court," the baller silently toots his own horn.

"Well---I've already seen my boy in action down in Miami a short while back," Justin smirks and waits for the response.

"Yeah---about that---" Kobe laughs.

"I want to do it again. I want to do it to you---" Timberlake admits to him.

"Are you sure J baby? I mean if you're not ready---"

"I think I'm ready."

"But---"

"I want to Kobe," he says shortly.

Justin is sure he is ready and finds it cute that Kobe is willing to wait for him and is not pressuring him into things he is not ready to do. It is still weird and slightly awkward of thinking about doing sexual acts with another man but his craving libido pushes his forward and past it all. His worldly reputation definitely supersedes him but it is a false image. The singer also knows the importance of keeping an intact image for the public to love and continue to support. Image is almost as important as talent in the industry; a tarnished image could be career-ending. When they finally hang up with each other, Timberlake yawns and looks at the time; it is almost two in the morning. He has a meeting to be at in a few hours and needs some sleep to keep his mind sharp and his body focused. The time just flew away from him. That happens a lot when he is around or talking to his boyfriend. My---boyfriend.

Before the morning light has a chance to beckon onto him, Justin is already out of bed and in the shower getting ready for his meeting. It is early but he has to be up and prepared to start his day to make sure it is a productive one. Kobe believes in him. Believes in his talent. A warm feeling overtakes him as he remembers the conversation they had last night and how much he likes the basketball stud. It is frightening how close they are. He feels refreshed and is ready for his day with the exception of his grumbling stomach. After he gets himself ready to go out, Timberlake quickly grabs a bagel off his breakfast tray and is out of the suite within minutes. The elevator takes a while to reach to him so he munches on his bagel and cream cheese combo during his wait. The metal box finally approaches him and he steps into it. The ride down is mostly quiet while he is under his Von Dutch cap.

It is pure chaos once the singing megastar steps out of the hotel. He is unable to comprehend anything at first but then it registers to him hard that he is being mobbed by a large group of fans. No matter how many times it happens, Justin will never get used to a crowd of people grasping, poking, prodding, and screaming at him for his signature on a piece of paper or to take a picture with him. Surrounded by what seems to be a growing number of people, he panics and fears for his own safety because there are no security guards to protect him and everyone is screaming and yelling. He is overwhelmed by it as the sidewalk in front of the hotel is jammed with more adoring fans. Timberlake's body is at the point of feeling a panic attack coming on because there is no control and every person wants a piece. The short space from himself to the awaiting car on the curb of the street seems so far away.

The former N*SYNCer tries his best to navigate through the pack while simultaneously remaining calm but the cause is lost and he seems to be getting carried away. He did not think he would need any bodyguards but he is helpless in the mob and now wishes he had the extra help to get him out of this mess. They are all screaming and taking pictures with their cameras as well as the ones within their cell phones and he feels people's hands all over his body. Violated in a most intimate way. How did they find me here? He knows it is a stupid question because almost every aspect of his personal life is made public. Justin feels he has also been na´ve with his entering and leaving of the hotel. He never did it privately, opting to use the front lobby publicly instead. Someone spotted him and tipped off the public. Timberlake keeps trying among the rabid fans to get away but he cannot move anywhere.

"Back off!" the captured singer hears a loud voice boom from behind him.

"Split the crowd Mike," he hears a much gentler voice command over the ruckus. "You come with me Joseph."

"Yes boss," the bodyguard named Joseph follows.

Before Justin realizes what is going on, he feels the crowd's grip on him loosen and then a pair of large hands press into his back, guiding him to the car still waiting to whisk him away. They push through the people as he is almost utilized as a human shield but a thin path slowly seems to be made in front of them. He manages to look back briefly during the chaos to see his lower body in the hands of a muscular black man with an earpiece stuck into his ear and shades obstructing his face. Timberlake's attention quickly shifts from the manly bodyguard to the much trimmer figure moving further away from them and trying to control the crowd they are all now a part of. The man is in a suit he recognizes immediately as Armani because he has one similar to it. With everything going on around him, he does not realize that he has been pushed into the car and the mob is slowly fading in the background.

"Are you alright Mr. Timberlake?" the driver asks him as the car picks up speed.

"Yes---thanks. Mr. Timberlake is my father---call me Justin," he smiles while catching his breath.

He only caught a glimpse of his second savior; the man in the Armani suit. He was so sharply dressed but Justin still cannot figure out his face because of all the commotion that just passed. Breaths have to enter his body and he has to recollect himself and stop his heart from beating out of his chest. Relaxing into his seat, the R&B star's works on it until his breathing returns to normal and his mind is not a scattered mess as it once was. That was one of the most intense mob attacking that has ever happened to him. But he cannot forget the men who came to his rescue. The man in the Armani suit with whom he had said nothing to but shared a brief moment of eye contact with. It was not even that crazy when he was with N*SYNC. But there were four other guys who were getting the same attention he was getting so it balanced out. Now that he is solo, Timberlake has to deal with it all by himself.

The ride to the Jive offices ends and he thinks twice before exiting but decides he is being paranoid and hops out of the car quickly. He knows his publicist as well as his mother will reprimand him for stepping out in public without security to protect him. It was a dangerous situation he put himself; fans could have had knives or guns. Slight panic rises in him once again but it all has to go away. The former boybander is already inside the building for the meeting with his bosses so his mind only needs to be focused on that. A specialized assistant greets him as soon as he enters the door and ushers him away from the rest of the incoming and outgoing traffic of the huge building. Timberlake smiles at her momentarily before they take a side elevator up to the floor they need to be on. The ride up is quiet; he is still reeling about the ambush this morning. Something serious could have happened.

"Right this way Mr. Timberlake---" she escorts once the elevator stops and the doors split open.

"---Justin."

"Okay Justin. Mr. Bransen will see you in his study."

"Jonathon? I thought I was meeting with my usual three managers---Jason, Derrick, and Christian---" he asks, confused.

"They are actually in Tokyo right now heading up our Jive offices from there. They aren't expected back for at least the next month," the assistant whose name Justin still does not know informs him.

"I didn't get your name---" Justin smoothly asks in a charm that is only his.

"Lilly---" she shyly remarks.

"Well hello Lilly---I'm Justin," the singer says with his hand extended.

Lilly takes it into her own before modestly replying, "---I know---"

"Oh yeah," Timberlake smirks almost bashfully. "I forgot---"

"It's okay. I'll inform Mr. Bransen you're here."

"It was nice meeting you Lilly."

"And you as well Justin."

Jonathon Bransen is the owner and CEO of Jive worldwide and his direct boss. They have had meetings together several times before but for this time Justin feels a slight nerve coat his stomach. This man is his boss and he is sure oversees his every move career-wise. In an industry where there is so much money to be made and so much of it changing hands on a secondly basis, Bransen would not be as successful as he is today without keeping up with all his acts as well as the spending of his global company. He studies the room and makes his way over to the window where he stares outside to the bright day. People below him are busily about their lives and take no notice of him, even when he steps away from the large constructed window and sits on a nearby stool. This is the part he hates the most; waiting. Timberlake cocks his head when he hears the front door of the room click open.

"Justin Timberlake---the man who is about to make me even more untold millions yet again," Jive CEO Jonathon Bransen greets as he gently closes the doors behind him.

"That's all I am to you aren't I---a money well" Timberlake shoots at him.

He gets up from the stool and they hug immediately though he is not sure it is the appropriate gesture to make. But the news of his single being number one on the charts still has him a bit giddy inside. It is a friendly hug though because aside from having a professional relationship, he also has a friendship with this man. Justin tries his best to keep a great working relationship with all his managers because they are the one who essentially holds his career in their hands. So he is always willing to listen to what they have to say and sucks up their advice and criticisms like a sponge to try and remain on top of his musical game. It is a mutual respect and when they break apart from one another, Timberlake starts to feel the butterflies in his stomach alleviate themselves. His boss guides him to his nearby desk in the study and they both sit opposite each other to get ready for the meeting.

"How are you Justin? It's been a couple of months at least---" Bransen recalls.

"I've been making money for my boss---I have to keep him happy don't I?" Justin smirks easily.

"It's not all about the money---"

"Are you---feeling okay?" he jokes.

"I've had a chance to listen to your album and I must say that I'm very impressed," his boss commends in a serious tone.

He too becomes serious and replies, "Really---you like it?"

"I like the more edgy beats and lyrics but I'm glad you didn't completely abandon your pop roots."

"Yeah it's not about that. I just want to branch out and see what else I can do lyrically. I've been doing pop for so long---"

"Yes. I understand. Justin. The reason I wanted to meet with you was to see if everything is okay."

"Okay? I don't follow---"

Jonathon looks him directly in the eyes before continuing, "I want you to take care of yourself. I know the business means a lot to you and I value that but you also need time away---time alone and with friends."

"This is a little ironic coming from you," the singer deduces and looks at him, a confused expression surely written on his face.

Something is wrong, he has the feeling. He knows his boss' eyes are on him as he looks down onto the large wooden table separating them because he does not know what to say or even think. And it suddenly feels awkward but should not. In all the years he has known Jonathon Bransen they have never once had a conversation and the former N*SYNCer does not quite know how to deal with it yet. His boss is telling him to not work so hard. Something is amiss and not adding up. Timberlake suddenly remembers the conversation he had with his mother a few days ago about this very same thing. Have I been working too hard? He is not sure anymore and doubt clouds his mind. Justin remains silent and when his boss does so as well, the quietness of the room starts getting to him. When thoughts run out, he slightly opens his mouth to speak but the words do not come. An increasing trend.

"Listen---if you don't think you're working too hard then okay. You alone know your body's limitations right---"

"Yes. I'll know when I'm working too hard," Justin says back.

"I know you will," Bransen says shortly but with care. "About the album---"

"Something wrong?"

"No. On the contrary, I've decided to move up the release date to next Tuesday."

"Next week? Really---that soon?" he asks.

"From what I see---the fans want more and more of you. The sooner the album comes out then the better it will be received by the populace," his boss explains.

"I know---"

"Do you have a problem with this?"

The singer thinks momentarily and although he knows he does not have a problem with it, a small part of him is screaming yes because he will not have any time to spend with Kobe. A tornado of press events will be created for him from now until the album's release now less than a week away that will suck up all of his time. Now his mind has to shift into overdrive and utilize the remaining few days to its fullest to get word of the forthcoming out there and create steam. Justin hopes he and Kobe can work something out but it will be difficult with their busy schedules. We'll find a way---we have to. He knows he will have to endlessly promote his album which means even less time for himself and even more hard work. It never stays away. Something is conspiring against him. He has to do it. There is no other way. His feelings will have to wait. His desires for Kobe Bryant will have to wait. This time.

"No---no. I think it's a good idea. I want to get it out already," Timberlake confirms.

"It's done. You've been so busy---I don't know if you heard---" his boss starts but it cut off.

"---The single's number one. I found out yesterday. Timbaland told me actually---" he muses.

"---Interesting---"

"What---don't give me that look," Justin responds almost insecurely.

"Okay no look. Listen---I have to wrap up here. I have a couple of appearances lined up for you to announce the new release date of the album and promote it," Jonathon Bransen informs him.

"What if I would've said no?" Justin looks at him and asks.

"We both knew that wasn't going to happen."

"You're---right."

The head of Jive is one of the few people in the world who can make him feel insecure without ever intentionally meaning to do so. Timberlake looks up and respects his boss in so many ways and he figures that is why this is so. But his concern about him working so hard resonates inside his head but is ultimately washed away and dismissed. They finalize and finish the meeting and embrace in a secure hug once more before parting ways to carry on and keep up with their busy schedules. Justin feels Bransen's eyes on him as he leaves the study but he does not look back because the cloudiness due to doubt is coming back to him. He simply closes the door behind him and gets his itinerary from the executive assistant on his way out of the building. More photo shoots. More TV appearances. More Hollywood parties to attend. The cycle only perpetuates itself over and over.

His day is mapped out carefully for him and he studies the map as he exits the high rise building and heads straight into the car waiting there to take him to his first stop, a photo shoot to post on the Jive website. The paranoia of the mob scene earlier today is all but gone from his mind and he wonders if he should have told his boss about it. It would not have made any sense anyway. The R&B star is only given a few hours for this assignment before he has to move on to the next one on his list. On the car ride through the city his phone vibrates against his leg in his pocket before it sings out. The car has no privacy so he cannot pick up the call; it is his basketballer boyfriend. Justin looks at the phone until the light turns off and a small piece of his insides cry out in hurt and loneliness. His body wants to tempt him to just call back. Just call back and act cool! Timberlake resists with everything in him.

It is hectic when he arrives to the studio for his photo shoot because he is late due to New York traffic and their car almost getting hit by some maniac driver. It was a rush of adrenaline but not in a good way. Stylists and makeup artists rip, tug, and drench Justin Timberlake with clothes and other necessities as soon as they drag him into hair, makeup, ad wardrobe. Once his hair is styled appropriately for the shoot, a barber is on hand to give him a quick trim before, a light layer of makeup is applied to his face to disguise any blemishes or stray marks. Justin's face is naturally smooth and his alabaster skin is close to perfection but the camera does pick up every little detail. In a society where looking perfect weighs as much or sometimes even more than actual talent, a whole team of artists and stylists are a necessity. His first outfit consists of a simple black tank top and white cargo pants. He is barefoot.

Flashes go off as he is standing in front of a blue screen posing according to the photographer's wishes. Maybe it is for a casual summer story spread. He is usually prepped on what they shoot is going to be about so he can know how to pose or act but since they were late, everyone is behind and just wants to get it done as soon as possible. Time is valuable money. Timberlake is just himself in front of the camera today. Several frames have his doing pushups, looking up at nothing in particular with his arms crossed, or staring intently into the camera to continue to sell his image. His face and the lie that he wants women. Almost all his fans are the fairer sex after all. It helps take his mind away from things that have been plaguing him. The next outfit is a turtleneck sweater and black jeans. Justin smiles for many of the frames because the theme of the photo shoot is light and funny.

In hair and makeup once again, a stylist tells him to take his shirt off and only keep on a pair of dark blue shorts. Something he is not expecting but the shoot is already running over time and he is not one of those celebrities who acts high and mighty or comes to work acting unprofessional or to waste time. At least he likes to believe he is not. She then applies body makeup; it is to hide any stray blemishes once again but also creates the illusion of tone and ripples, and he steps into the front of the camera with his chest exposed. Timberlake's pecs are defined but not overly so. His stomach, back and legs are strong because he tries to hit the gym as often as he can but also because his body is almost always in motion because he is a dancer. When Justin looks down at his body between takes and, and even for some of the shots, he remembers how Kobe's hands passed all over him in Miami. He wants it again.

The stressful day finally comes to an end nearly close to nine at night; it is when he is on his way back to the hotel and hopefully his bed. Kobe has not called him back since he missed his call earlier in the day. Maybe he got busy or is caught up in something and cannot get away to make private time to call. Both have to be so careful to keep flying under the radar with their relationship because of how much their lives are under the microscope. Justin wants to see him bad. It is becoming increasingly difficult to handle his career as well as a relationship he wants almost as equally. The time constraints will never be on his side. He starts to get lost in himself when the driver informs that they have arrived back at the hotel. A different entrance is utilized because of the fiasco that happened early this morning. When Timberlake enters the lobby, it is safely quiet so he decides to go for it. They have to talk.

"Hey---how are you?" the songster greets the clerk he meets there.

"---Mr. Timberlake---is everything alright?" the young employee of no more than twenty-five timidly asks the superstar.

"Yes thank you. Is your manager in?"

"Um---"

"I just need to speak with him---nothing is wrong," he assures again.

"I'll check to see if he's in his office---"

Justin is confident he will speak to the man who, with the help of his hired hotel bodyguards, saved him from the mobbing crowd this morning. The man in the sharp Armani suit. Gratitude has to take place. But he does not know why he is pursuing this so. He waits momentarily at the front desk until the clerk returns back and nods his head, allowing the R&B star access behind the desk. A place only meant for employees of the exquisite hotel. He follows the slightly shorter man past a couple of doors until they finally approach a sultry oak one. The front desk clerk kindly informs Timberlake that his boss is waiting for him and he should simply enter the room. He does so once he is alone and able to clear his head some. It is late and he is tired because of his packed day but he has to offer his apology and graciousness for how the other man professionally handled the hectic and dangerous situation.

"Mr. Timberlake," the same man he briefly glimpsed this morning gets up from his desk and greets him. "How are you?"

"Justin---" he informs after closing the door behind him.

"Okay Justin. I'm James Stark," the manager extends his hand and Justin captures it. "What can I do for you?"

It is the very same man from before. He looks to be in his late twenties and has an alluring smile. They shake hands for a long while before Timberlake breaks away and sits on the opposite side of his desk. The office is immaculately clean with the exception of the desk now in front of the both of them. Papers, swatches, and file folders are strewn all across the large wooden surface Justin takes no notice of it after the first few minutes of being in the warm and inviting space. His short and well trimmed hair is wavy jet black and his eyes are brilliantly blue in color and almost as intense as the sea itself. Stark's face is mysterious and sultry with a strong jaw line, sexy razor sharp cheekbones and a pair of full dark pink lips. The same Armani suit fits to his body almost perfectly from what the songster could see. James in only a few inches taller than him and their body types looks to be about the same.

"I wanted to thank you---for this morning," Justin comes out and says his reason for being there.

"Listen---I want to apologize for that," he starts out. "I'm not sure how they were tipped off---"

"It was my fault. I wasn't being careful."

Stark starts thinking and Justin can see his jaw clench as he does so. It creates an even stronger image of him and makes him even more attractive than he already is. The room is silent as the R&B star looks at him while he is thinking before he notices that he is staring and immediately looks away. It is almost like his eyes are smoldering though and it is wickedly sexy. Being bombarded this morning was no one's fault but his own because he sometimes rebels against his celebrity status, favoring being a normal guy. Someone who can simply walk down the street without being accosted by photographers or go out shopping in a mall without people following him asking for autographs. It will never happen but wondering about it at times keeps him sane. Being on the top can be very lonely and Timberlake is so happy that despite their relationship being a secret, he has Kobe Bryant to talk to and be with.

"It shouldn't be like that. You should be able to go wherever you want without getting mobbed," James tries to sympathize.

"You and I both know it'll never be like that."

"Yeah---especially with a huge star such as yourself."

"Thanks---" Justin replies modestly.

"I am sorry Justin."

"No don't be. You'd think I'd have gotten used to it by now but I'm not. It's crazy," he talks on.

"I can imagine. Why don't you start using the entrance in the back just to be on the safe side---" Stark recommends.

Timberlake thinks it over before adding, "I thought I could get away with it but I guess not."

"I wouldn't want anything to happen to you," the manager sincerely comments to him.

The words lay lifeless in the air as both men look at each other to maybe decipher the meaning of it. Something is in the air between then and Justin feels that this man could be his friend. The former boybander feels his stomach growl for food and his skin aching for a bath and then to be pressed against soft sheets for the rest of the night. When James smiles at him, he returns one as well before their eye contact breaks. Timberlake looks around the massive office again because some anxiety is there. He got a comforting feeling when he entered the large space earlier. James Stark is striking and his sincerity makes him all the more attractive. He looks as if he is ready to leave because his jacket is resting on the side of his desk and Justin now notices that his cufflinks are off and sitting lifelessly next to him on the desk as well. His sleeves are opened freely. He is holding him back. It is time to go.

"I really appreciate what you did for me this morning," the former N*SYNCer states. "Thank you and I'm sorry I caused such a scene."

"I'm glad I could help. And there's no need to apologize Justin."

"Okay. It's been a long day hasn't it?"

"You don't know the half of it," Stark smiles back. "Or maybe you do---"

"Yeah. I don't want to keep you---"

His smile is heartfelt when he asks, "What makes you think you are?"

"Your cufflinks are off. When mine are off---I'm ready to relax."

The manager of the hotel continues to smile and says, "I guess it's something we have in common then. Is everything okay with your suite?"

"Everything's good. I'm going to get out of here now. I know you want to leave and I have things to do in the morning too."

"Very well. Remember to use the back entrance okay. I've already talked to the staff and you shouldn't have a problem accessing it any time of the day," James offers him.

"Thank you."

"After all, we wouldn't want a repeat of today. I'd like my hotel to gain publicity but not that way."

His genuine and caring attitude is unreal. Justin smiles softly before he gets up from the chair to prepare himself to leave. James gets up as well and they shake hands before he exits the large office and makes his way back to the lobby. The same clerk as before bids him good night as he passes by and the R&B star smiles back before retreating to the elevators. The ride up is silent and even his thoughts are still. He spent more time in the office than he thought he would but the time was not wasted. He enjoyed talking to Stark and is happy he went to thank him for his help. Even though Timberlake's day started out roughly, it was salvaged by the end. He heads into the suite to rest himself for the night. His conversation with the manager James Stark is still fresh on his mind when he takes a quick shower. After a very late dinner he is off to bed and not able to keep his body awake to call his boyfriend.