~*~ 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 Twenty-One

~*~ Flesh and Blood ~*~



His tactic of keeping himself busy to avoid everything else inside his life is slowly starting to catch up to him because he has covered every possibly route he can go to promote this album and he is starting to get tired. And, more than tired, Timberlake is starting to realize that the only person he is hurting by acting this way is himself. But Kobe has not called him and he refuses to make the first move because he did nothing wrong. The lack of sleep coupled with his loneliness is making him sick; he is positive of it. All the former boybander has to do now is shoot the video for his second single and he is a little nervous about it. It is My Love with the Atlanta rapper T.I. They have chemistry together and the song created out of that chemistry is his favorite of the whole album. Justin is only nervous because he fears he will say or do something to embarrass himself in front of T.I. A worthy fear.

It is a secret that he has not even mentioned Kobe yet but it is nothing that serious. No more than a passing fad he suspects. But Justin does not know where their relationship stands anymore so maybe he will never get the chance to tell him. It would have been inappropriate anyway. Timberlake finds the southern rapper cute, very attractive even. It is simply the way he carries himself and talks and dresses and his cute face and slender body. The irresistible swag he possesses and has mastered over his long tenure in this industry. This is why he is a little uneasy about shooting the video. And it settles deep within his stomach. The singer is more than excited about it of course, but he does not want anything bad to happen to make him look like a fool. T.I. definitely has presence and anyone cannot help but look when he enters a room. He wonders if he has that type of presence and if this could be a crush.

The night is oddly still as he stares out one of the many large windows the hotel suite boasts into the beautiful New York scenery and skyline. The city where the biggest dreams can come true or the worst of nightmares can be made into reality. The twin towers are missing. It creates a less than perfect view of the city but it cannot be helped. Justin pulls back before he feels his minding running too far away on him and walks over to his room to get some sleep. Sometimes, right before bed, he thinks about Kobe and what he is doing. It does not happen every night but when it does, it creates a small void inside him. And Timberlake is unable to stop it. The shoot is beginning early in the morning and he needs rest if he wants to be impressive. He wants to stop thinking about the basketballer but it is cruel. Their relationship is lost to him but he wants more than anything to find it again.

A new day brings renewed hope for the young R&B songster as the Sun hits his face and essentially wakes him up. He forgot to draw the curtains last night but it is only a couple of minutes before he was slated to wake up anyway so it is not too aggravating. His bed is lonely and he has no one to kiss. No one's warm body to touch and press up against. Someone has to give in and make the first move. Justin lies in bed to let energy seep into his body so he can get ready for his day. And his body is yearning for that special touch again. He wants him to be inside again. When he truly realizes what the day has in store for him, Timberlake hops out of bed and into the shower in a split second. He will not even bother fixing his hair but rather just throws a hat on because he will be in hair and makeup in next to no time. There is no point to it. After brushing his teeth, his ride is waiting for him.

The premise for the video is simplicity. The former N*SYNCer will be dancing and associating with one girl and his counterpart T.I. will be associating with a different girl. And there will be connecting shots of course. Due to scheduling conflicts and time constraints, most of the shots with the caramel colored rapper will be shot separately. The latter has to be in Los Angeles tomorrow so whatever they get accomplished together today is what will end up in the video. This makes the pressure that much more demanding. They have to get some good shots today. Timberlake arrives at the studio and is whisked away into hair and makeup without a sight of his costar for the day. Justin becomes slightly anxious and is barely listening when the director is talking to him about the video's concept while he is in the chair getting his hair fixed and making his face look perfect.

The director starts the day with many solo dance shots of the R&B superstar and he is able to showcase his ability as not only a singer but a dancer as well. He does both so well and works hard to make sure his live shows are enjoyable to all the fans. The atmosphere on set is chaotic as sets are constantly being brought up and ripped down for the continuity of the video shoot. A long day is in store for all of them involved in making this video more than a concept. Justin is in the wardrobe trailer trying to figure the right look he wants for the video. It has to be more mature and seamless than his past looks in videos. Even SexyBack. Everything about being a solo artist has to show maturity and growth because the lyrics of this album are his edgiest to date. The line to walk is thin. T.I. is late to arrive and Timberlake becomes a little more anxious, though the shoot continues because time is money.

T.I. is behind a large speaker as he watches the talented artist do his thing. Timberlake is unaware of his presence as he continues to sing and dance with the female lead of the video to produce the illusion that he wants her. An illusion that no one is able to see through. The southern rapper watches for a short while longer before he is hauled off into hair and wardrobe because he is now wasting time and he has to be professional. Music blares for the set as more takes are getting done. He strips down to his boxers and grabs the pair of slacks one of the stylists hands him before putting it on. His bare chest is smooth and flawless and his skin almost seems to glow because of its imperfection. He puts on the shirt and the white blazer while he is busily reciting his verse for the song in his head. The two of them have to get as much done today as possible so that the video comes out right. It will come together.

Justin is sitting and listening to the director instructs him as the set right in front of him is quickly being altered for the next take. He drinks large gulps of water from its plastic bottle and is left alone when the director walks off to deal with a camera issue someone was having. He wants to see the playback but is more interested on where his costar could be. Looking around, he still sees no sign of T.I. and he becomes even more fixated on it. Timberlake is a perfectionist and when things do not go according to how it is planned, he becomes on edge and worried. There is no room for mistakes nor is there any time to clean them up. The southern rapper sees him sitting by himself and decides to scare him to see what would happen. He smiles almost evilly as he sneaks up to the former N*SYNCer, being extra careful to have his cover blown. He is directly behind him now and his eyes are sinister.

"Ready to shoot the video?" he childishly jumps in front of the R&B crooner and startles to make his presence notorious.

"Damn!" Justin frighteningly exclaims as he grips on tightly to his water bottle and the handle of the chair. "What the hell?"

"I got you partner! Such an easy target---"

"Shut up," he replies, flushed.

"Wow---you're red. You are an easy target," T.I. laughs at him and then smirks.

"Shut up!"

T.I.'s smile is so innocent and sweet that he cannot even be mad at him no matter how much he wants to be for almost giving him a massive coronary and keeping him worried as to where he was. The rap superstar grabs a chair and sits next to his costar as they begin discussing the video. Timberlake is nervous but he does not allow that to show because he knows how limited their time together to shoot the proper shots for the video is. And now is the time only to be thinking about work and nothing else. When the director sees the two entertainers talking together he walks over to greet the Atlanta rapper and inform him on his role in the video. Justin stays silent as he is being debriefed but his mind instantly runs on Kobe even after he promises himself not to allow it. He hears nothing surrounding him and thinks only of the basketballer. It is the weirdest and most unexplained feeling in the world.

"You okay JT?" the southern rapper asks as he is looking Justin directly in the eyes now.

"Huh---yeah," he attempts to play it off.

"Are you two ready to get these shots done?" the director asks.

"---Yes---" both men say in unison.

As the day goes by, Timberlake becomes more relaxed and easygoing with T.I. at his side. They crack numerous jokes and tricks on each other throughout the rest of the day but they d manage to get most of their shots together done. It feels like they could be brothers or start a fraternity together because of how much play they get out of one another. The rapper has his solo shots to shoot as well and it will be a wrap for him. And he is confident that this song with be number one on the charts and ensures Justin to simply sit back and enjoy the ride to the top. It is around seven in the evening and the next take is already set but almost everyone on set is taking a dinner break. The R&B songster sits by himself and talks on his cell phone for a couple of minutes before he picks at his salad. He is not hungry by any means and it is strange because he did not have much to eat all day. But she shrugs it off

"A salad Timberlake---you're already skinny enough as is," T.I.'s sultry southern voice insults him from behind.

"Shut up! What's going on?"

"I just saw you sitting here by yourself so you tell me---"

"I'm good---just tired."

The rap star's eyes are on him as he replies, "Sure. If you say so."

"It's nothing. I want the day to be over already," Timberlake vents.

"What---you're not having fun with me?"

"---No---no it's not that," he stumbles out.

T.I. laughs, "Relax Timberlake. Man you need to lighten up. You can't be serious all the time."

"Words of wisdom from the `King of the South'?"

"Damn right shawty! I think the director's waiting on you diva," he plays as he punches the R&B singer on his bicep.

"Get off me!" Justin tugs away and laughs. "You're the prima donna here---showing up late."

"I got it like that."


T.I. smiles at him again and it is so sexy. The man is pure sex. The way he looks. His perfect height and frame. His creamy soft skin and those hazel eyes that cannot be helped but to stare at. He is the whole package. Justin snaps himself back to reality because he realizes that the other man is only his escape. His escape from what really matters, Kobe Bryant. And the hugely underlying issues of their unknown relationship. It is easier for him to think about the ATL rapper than it is to try and sort through the mess he is in with the Los Angeles Laker. So that is why Justin's mind is misbehaving in such an inappropriate way. Ha can fall so easily though. It is hard not to. They talk amongst themselves a while longer; it is mainly the southern rapper making fun of him in an attempt to get him to loosen up. To be himself. Timberlake appreciates it and becomes more receptive to the onslaught of insults.

It is past midnight when they finally decide to halt production for the day because everyone is tired and wants rest. The video was never going to be created in one day only so stopping is the best idea. T.I. was supposed to leave a long time ago but he simply told Justin that he moved some plans around so they got all the shots they needed for the shoot and then some. Timberlake is grateful that his video is important enough to the caramel colored rapper for him to stay and see it through. It makes him feel special. Most of the production staff is gone and the former N*SYNCer is in his trailer changing and getting ready to leave when there is a knock at the door. It goes unnoticed at first; he is busy ransacking the spacious trailer looking for the missing shoe to complete the pairing. His jeans are hanging low on his waist, showing his boxers and his shirt is draping off the sofa. It is a sight.

"What's wrong JT?" the rap superstar asks as he takes it upon himself to enter the private sanctuary.

"I'm looking for my other Nike. What---are you still doing here?" Timberlake asks the other man as he continues scurrying around.

"Just came to see what's good with you---"

He takes a seat on a nearby sofa and watches amused as Justin does everything but tear down the trailer looking for his missing shoe. He is so innocent and youthful and it somehow reminds him of the childhood he never had. Growing up in the projects surrounded by drugs and guns. He was never exposed to any of that. T.I. finds this extremely funny as he simply sits there with a huge grin plastered on his face. He also notices how smooth and toned the young singer's body is. His arms and pecs and abs are defined but not overly so. He has a nice shape to him. The rapper admits that he had fun shooting this video as well as working together. It could be viewed as a possible risk and a detriment to his career but it does not matter because his main concern is making great music and working with great people along the way. And this way, he can tap into a whole other market; Timberlake's fans.

"Man---where is that thing---" he frustrates.

"This is funny as hell."

"Shut up! Shouldn't you be going? It's late---"

"Whatever you say dad," T.I. continues his pleasurable torture.

"It's probably in the wardrobe trailer. These stylists---"

"Okay---we're on the case of the missing shoe," the caramel colored rap star says as he hops to his feet.

Justin smiles sarcastically before he retrieves his shirt and slips over his naked chest and they are out of his trailer and heading across the studio to the dressing room. The time is going quickly and he wants to get back to get some sleep to start this all over again tomorrow. And, except for that one weird isolated incident, he has not thought about Bryant at all today. Maybe it is because he was so busy. Or maybe because he had his costar to keep him busy. He finally has time to stop and think and he wonders what T.I. is still doing on set with him. Everyone has left already and they are the only two people still in the building. They walk in silence and Timberlake starts to feel a little uncomfortable as they get to the dressing room. He opens the door to let them both in and immediately spots the black shoe in a corner. The former boybander grabs it and puts it on before he is finally ready to leave.

"---About time---"

"That's it? The case of the missing shoe is already over shawty? Damn I'm disappointed," he smiles.

"Let's get out of here."

"I was waiting for you."

Justin looks at him and asks, "Why?"

"It was a good shoot today JT."


"What are you saying thanks for? It was only good because I was here."

"Damn T.I.---how do you fit that ego in that scrawny body of yours?" Timberlake spits out.

"Whatever shawty. I'm out. I'll see you when I see you man."

"Yeah definitely. Thanks for coming through."

"You got it. Let me know when it goes one---"

The pair shakes hands in the parking lot before going their separate ways. Timberlake watches as the rapper walks away and ultimately disappears before he leaves the studio for the night as well. He is tired and the hunger is now catching up with him but he refuses to eat anything this late. It will only sit in his stomach and make it upset tomorrow in the morning. And tomorrow will be hectic, if not more hectic than today was so everything needs to be right from the very beginning. The ride back to the hotel is anything but quiet; the radio is off but his thoughts are loud and in control. A lot of work got done today and but more will have to get done tomorrow. Once in the room, Justin takes a very quick shower and jumps into bed. His phone is close to his head and he is seriously thinking about calling Kobe and telling him everything on his mind but that is vulnerable. He is not vulnerable.

The video shoot continues a little later so he has a few extra minutes to sleep in and relax because of last minute changed plans but the former boybander does not mind this. Yesterday was an extremely long day so it is well worth it. He notices that he has a few missed called when he is finally awake and looks through his phone to see his publicity agent's phone number as well as his mother's. Checking his message, the agent informs him that he is scheduled to perform at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show this year. The taping is less than a month away and he has to begin rehearsals immediately. Justin does not know how to feel about this just yet and it will have to wait because he has to get back to the project at hand. Timberlake grabs a quick breakfast and is out of the hotel in record time. He will not call his mother as it will eventually lead into things he does not want to talk about. He knows her.

The rest of the day goes by pretty easily with everyone doing their job and coming together to make the video complete. Time constricts are tight and some shots are nailed quickly and forgotten about because the video has to enter its postproduction stage tonight. Jive is not willing to pay for another day of production but they will not have to. Timberlake lip-syncs through the whole day and until late in the night. It is not the same without T.I. here but that is not his main focus right now. Justin breathes a sigh of relief a little after midnight because the video shoot is wrapped. He returns to his dressing room to gather up the rest of his stuff to leave because it is so late. This thing he is doing with Kobe is immature and self-serving. He cannot keep it up because it is really starting to bother him inside and drain what energy he has. The sleepless nights are catching with him and his body. Way too fast.


SexyBack is the song he will be performing at the fashion show so he busies himself with rehearsal. His performance cannot be adlibbed at the request of the show's producers and coordinators so the hours must be put in to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible on camera. There will be live props there in the form of supermodels of course so it all has to come off looking natural and fun. He gets a chance to see his new video before it is released to the public in a few short weeks and the singer is extremely pleased with how it looks. He and T.I. have presence together and he wants to work with the southern rapper in the future again. Justin's career is officially in overdrive once again and it will keep him out of trouble this time. Kobe is in the back of his mind but he is still there. What he feels he cannot forget but he wants to. They should be over. There has been no contact in weeks.

Timberlake needs to unwind so he heads out to enjoy himself and be set free of his emotions. He has to come out of his own head for the night and just be among other people. There are only a few more days in New York before he has to fly back to Los Angeles then come back to the Big Apple for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. This is how it is always going to be and that is why he barely has time to spend with his family. His mother is right. The singing megastar sneaks away and will go to the first club he comes across. It does not matter because he will get VIP treatment wherever he goes. It is one of the many perks of being a celebrity. There is uproar when he is seen outside of the club and he is quickly rushed in so the crowd can maintain control once again. Justin walks over to the bar and orders just one cocktail. The purpose for coming here is not to get drunk but to relax.

He is approached for a few autographs and pictures, which he gladly obliges before finishing his drink and simply trying to relax. Music blares and lights flash all across the darkened halls of the venue as many people are dancing and enjoying their lives. Justin has almost forgotten how to do so because of the heavy things going on between himself and Kobe Bryant. Then, he realizes that he has been so busy that he has not had time to call JC and he is even unaware of where his best friend is. A little part of him feels guilty but it is long forgotten when he hears his song being played by the DJ for the whole club to enjoy. Timberlake smiles to himself and looks around to see everyone dancing to his song. It is an awesome feeling of euphoric pleasure. And most do not know that he is there, among them. His head is facing the bar once again as he just orders a soda this time; drinking will not clear his head.

"This song sounds familiar---" a voice from behind him notices.

The singing star looks back and smiles before, "What are you doing here?"

"We seem to be running into each other a lot these days---" the actor Chad Michael Murray says back while grabbing the barstool right next to Timberlake.

"If I didn't know better I'd think you were following me."

"Then it's a good thing that you don't know any better because that's not the case at all."

Justin shakes the young blonde's hand and watches as he orders a soda for himself. He too looks as if he wants to only relax for the night without any drama or consequence. They have been running into each other a lot since the basketball game they both stared in a few months back but there have never been any second thoughts about it. In fact, the two of them have sort of developed an industry friendship since the game and subsequent meetings so this is not entirely new to either. Murray commends him on the success of the single and the album and even informs the singer that he has a copy of FutureSex/LoveSounds. They clink their glasses together and both smile before drinking and attempting to unwind. Timberlake feels his body loosening up and he likes it. Chad is offering him good conversation and an overall good time so the night is a success. He is away from himself.

"I've been working so hard," Justin says.

"I can tell---but you're at the top."

"Yeah I know---"

"Justin---" the former model asks. "Are you okay?"


"You sound like you're out of it. Like something's wrong."

"No---I'm good," the songster sighs and orders himself a soda.



"No it's cool."

"Yeah---" Timberlake trails off.

Chad has his eyes on him and Justin feels it. It makes him uncomfortable and awkward but he does not get upset because he senses genuine concern from the actor and that alone is almost impossible to find in the industry they are both involved in. It somehow feels like a compliment of caring concern. Timberlake smiles and sips his soda and when the other man sees this, he smiles too. A small invitation to assure everything is okay and to continue on their friendly conversation. It is a mutual understanding between the two entertainers. Things become quiet and a slight awkwardness falls over that one portion of the bar though. A small legion of fans thankfully breaks it when they recognize the former N*SYNCer and ask him for autographs and picture. Murray steps aside so that he is not in the way and crosses his arms on his and smiles to himself when he sees that he still gets mobbed by girls.

"You haven't lost your touch JT---" Chad Michael Murray walks up behind him and pats his back as the group of girls excitedly disappears into the crowd.

"I guess not---"

"Still got the girls ready to drop their panties for you I see."

"Man stop," Timberlake shrugs the actor's hand off of his shoulder.

"I didn't---"

"No---no," he says as he looks at him. "I didn't mean that."

"You can talk to me if you want man. People tell me I'm a good listener."

"Thanks---but I think I'm going to head out."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. I'm glad we bumped into each other---again."

"Shut up!" Murray laughs as he punches his new friend on his upper arm.

Their hands clasp in a mutual understanding and respect before the R&B crooner makes his way through the packed club to outside where it is even more so. Flashes and screaming takes place at his mere presence and even though so many people are surrounding him, he feels so alone. He navigates away from the limelight to his car and speeds away back to the hotel. Chad Michael Murray's words stick with him. They have been seeing a lot of each other recently and every time he is around the actor, he feels more comfortable. Their friendship is growing past a simple industry one and he likes it. This new friendship gets Timberlake thinking about JC. They have not spoken in a while and he feels guilty because he does not make the effort as he should. Chasez is his best friend but he cannot and is not willing to deny what he feels. They are disconnected and it has been this way for the longest.

He returns to the hotel and gets ready for bed. When he drops his phone on the bed, Justin immediately thinks about Kobe and calling him. As much as he tries to deny it; he has always been unable to. He has wanted to call the star basketballer ever since the fight but he cannot be weak. Because he was not the wrong one and he did not say things he wishes he could take back. It is not going to happen. A short shower soothes his skin again and Timberlake drinks a glass a water before his body wants to give out on him. He creeps into the large bed alone and remembers Kobe's strong forearms around his waist and his fingertips leaving goosebumps on his skin in their wake. The songster feels weak and is in a drastic place. The more time they spend apart, the more it rips and tears at him. He wants Bryant. Just as he feels like he is about to lose it, he picks up the phone and looks at it before dialing.

It is voicemail so he recites, "Hey---it's me. I was thinking about you a lot. I know we haven't spoken---I'm sorry. Call me."

The last few days in New York goes by without ease because he is rehearsing and the schedule is demanding. Being added to the Victoria's Secret Fashion at such a late date is a disadvantage for him because he is now on crunch time and the performances have to be at their best because of how much the producers of the show are advertising him as the musical talent to gain ratings. This performance is going to be right, like all the rest before it and all the rest to come after it. Justin is a perfectionist and everything he does will reflect this mindset. He gets the feel of his stage, the runway, and also to the fact that he will be surrounded by the world's most beautiful women as his props. A small smile creeps past his lips but he cannot lose his concentration. He has to get this right. There will be more practicing in Los Angeles but he is still his own worst critic. That is why his skin is so thick.

California is as the same as he left it before. It is surprising he did not have a reaction considering whose state this is. He is the face of the large west coast state. It is time to debut My Love with the rapper and he cannot be more excited. Justin is gaining more and more credibility as an R&B artist and more surely, he is distancing himself from his N*SYNC days. When he only created pop music to cater to teen and preteen girls. Credibility was there but growth has to happen. The first time he hears it on the radio he is driving to the dance studio to rehearse. He wonders if the public will love the song as much as he loves it. As much as he enjoyed making it. The singer, of course blasts the radio and sings every word of the song; his own. He remembers trying to get T.I. to work with him on the record and how much fun they had in the studio together and making the video. Timberlake is running late.


The week thus far has not been going the best for basketballer Kobe Bryant. The past weeks of conditioning are catching up with his body and draining him, even though they are finished conditioning and he is at home trying to relax because the season is about to begin. He and Vanessa have been arguing a lot recently and it always ends up being about the same thing. So more stress is added to a situation that could turn volatile. This is why he prefers to go on the road alone so he does not have to deal with her sometimes. The baller loves his girlfriend tremendously but the arguments do get to him from time to time. Because it always boils down to the same thing. On top of everything else, he misses Justin. He misses the singer's lips on his own and their fingers touching and their bodies being together. Kobe fears that it may never happen again. That they are lost to each other.

"I'm might be going crazy---" he says to himself when Vanessa is out of the living room getting them both something to drink.

His head is momentarily in his hands until he hears footsteps in the distance so his demeanor changes completely. The last thing he needs is for her to be asking questions or to know that something is wrong with him. A soft expression is on Bryant's face and he is staring at the TV while his longtime girlfriend comes in and sits very closely to him on the sofa. She gives him a cup of what looks like tea and it is hot to the touch. Kobe is a skeptic, not really acquiring a taste for tea but he is in so much pain that he will try anything to alleviate it. But only he knows that it is more than his physical body that that is in pain. The basketballer is still unsure of the concoction and feels her eyes studying him. Despite everything they have been through, everything he has put her through, Vanessa still takes care of him. She still loves him and wants to see him happy. Bryant is being selfish, petulant child.

"Go ahead baby---I promise it'll do you good," she coaxes her boyfriend to drink the substance.

"What is it---tea? Why are there leaves on the bottom?" Kobe is apprehensive.

"Just trust me---it's a green tea blend. It should relax your muscles."

Bryant sips it gently and his lips quiver because of how hot the liquid is. It is barely sweet but strong as he sips some more. The taste of herbs is overpowering his senses and it feels like it is coating his entire insides. He feels Vanessa's fingers on his shoulder and then her palms on his bare skin; he has a tank top on as she tries to relax him. He drinks more of the green tea while his girlfriend kneads her hands into his hard shoulders in an attempt to break up the tension. Her knuckles penetrates him too deeply so he winces at the intrusion. He just cannot seem to get into the massage. Kobe is not sure is it is him or if she just is not doing it right but he cannot enjoy it. He knows it can be better because he has had better massages before. When Timberlake's smooth but strong fingers were on his back, it was a little taste of heaven and hell rolled into one entity. This is wholly different from that.

"Ow babe---that hurts," the Los Angeles Laker says when he feels another dip of deep pressure on his right shoulder.

"It'll help relieve the tension that's trapped there," she encourages.


He continues to drink the tea while his girlfriend is continually rough with her massage. He knows it is coming from a place of love and devotion but Kobe is not enjoying it by any means. But he lets her continue because telling her to stop would only be rude and uncalled for. Her massage is in constant comparison to Justin's with his winning out every time. There is something different he does but the baller is unable to place a finger on it. Everything was right at that moment. The mood was sensual. They were both open and receptive to it. Timberlake had the purest intentions. Vanessa's intentions too are pure he does not doubt that but the timing just seems to be way off. Bryant's muscles are definitely sore and as much as his body wants him to enjoy the massage, he simply is unable to. He wants his boyfriend to be behind him massaging his shoulders and kissing the back of his neck.

"Feeling any better?"

Kobe drinks some more tea before responding with the lie, "Yeah---a lot. My shoulders feel a whole lot better."

"See---I told you the tea and my massage would work."

"Yeah---thanks sweetheart."

Vanessa moves in front of him and they kiss for a long while. It is a lie. It is all a lie. The basketball star's shoulders are still killing him and the tea only helps the pain a little but the massage was doing him more harm than good. When she would press into him, it feels like his muscles are on fire and that they are about to rip under the pressure at any minute. A good massage is not supposed to feel like that. Kobe feels guilty and the kiss does not make it any easier but he cannot subject his shoulders to any more torture. She usually gives him great massages. Maybe his mind just is not into it right now. And Bryant will never forgive himself if he hurts his girlfriend's feelings by telling the truth. About her uncomfortable massaging skills as well as the things he has done with Justin Timberlake. The way he feels when the R&B singer is around him. And touching him. Maybe it is all in his mind.

The Los Angeles Laker is up watching TV, with his girlfriend sleeping on his lap, and is about to doze off when she wakes up and yawns before motioning them to go to bed. Bryant opens his eye and stares at the TV until he notices her eyes are on him. He does not want to sleep right now so he tells her to go on and that he will be there in a bit. There has to be time to think about what he is really doing. And if all this can continue going on. Vanessa kisses her man lovingly and whispers good night before she gets off the sofa and saunters to the bedroom to get some sleep. Kobe's eyes follow her until she is out of the room and then they focus back on the television. The glow and light from the large piece of technology bathes his skin with light against the darkness of the room. It is eerie. A celebrity gossip show is going on and he immediately changes it because all that gossip is of no interest of him.

It is amazing. He flips through the channels until he sees a game from his past. His last season to be exact. Kobe sits up in the elongated chair and follows the game intently as if he is studying it like the players do while in conditioning. It is against the Boston Celtics and he watches himself clearly and studies himself to see what mistakes were made or how he could have better handled both offensive and defensive plays. It feels weird because the basketball star rarely watches himself play on actual TV and, on the off chance he does manage to catch a game from his past, he becomes overly critical of his performance and actions. It is his father's voice in his head destroying his confidence and trying to get to him. The steroids attempt to help with that aspect but it does not. Bryant's father has become less prominent in his life but his game will never be perfect in the man's eyes.

The steroids takes care of the rest of his problems concerning his father but when it comes to him analyzing his own game, Kobe fails and his father razes him. And the gash feels like it is so deep that it has gone beyond his body to penetrate his soul. He can only watch for a moment longer before he has to change it to preserve his sanity and to stop himself from screaming at the top of his lungs. The frustration is pent up inside with nowhere to go and he wants to release it in a constructive way but that outlet is lost to him. Justin is lost to him so there is no one he can openly and honestly talk too about himself and what he knows is going on inside him. An unknown movie is now flashing against the darkness of the room and he changes it yet again. Local news is up next and it is able to hold the basketballer's interest for a few moments before it changes again. Bryant stops at the next channel; it will stay here.

"Justin---" he softly mumbles.

His new video for My Love began not too long ago and Kobe's eyes are glued to the huge plasma screen television his lover's perfect face and body is now plastered all over. Now he knows what all Timberlake's girl fans across the world must feel like every time they see him on TV and there is definite irony there. He looks so good in the video. His eyes stare at the TV; he cannot possibly stare at something any harder and he listens to the lyrics of the song as well. He listens to his man's sexy voice sing a song. Something he does so very well. The baller wants him. Bryant becomes more aware of his surroundings when T.I. invades the screen and does his part of the song. Justin pops in and out together with the rapper from time to time but it is mainly him doing his thing for the verse with a female costar. Then it is over and the R&B star comes back to finish the rest of the video.

Bryant rests his head back on the sofa and looks up at the ceiling for a split second before he closes his eyes and contemplates. There has to be a way to get this man back in his life. This silence between them has to be over with. It should not matter that he is taking steroids. It is his body and Justin has no right to tell him what he should and should not do with it. The songster went too far looking through his stuff but he knows he overstepped the boundaries of their relationship as well. He wants to kiss him so badly right now and wonders where on the planet the singing megastar is. Things are out of his hands and Kobe feels helpless because he cannot control any of the circumstances that surround him concerning his boyfriend. He wonders if Timberlake has ever come as close as he has to caving in and calling. It seems like he has been busy with work though. He is a busy man after all.

"Kobe honey---" the basketball stud hears a sweet voice echo from behind him. "It's almost three in the morning---"

"I know---" he trails off without looking back.

"What's the matter? Is your shoulder still bothering you?" Vanessa asks as she comes over to the sofa and sits.

"No. I just---can't sleep."

He manages to look at her and sees that she looks elegant in a silk fitted nightgown and her hair tied up in a loose bun behind her head. A few strands have managed to slip out of its constraints and have fallen to both sides of her face and it makes her look all the more beautiful. Instinctively, Kobe simply shifts his body and rests his head on her lap while her arms and silky fingers play with his hair, ear, face, and neck. And then he closes his eyes and tries to erase all of the images he just saw on TV before she came out here. The images of Justin singing and dancing in that video. He is more receptive right now but she is his protection. She is his life; his love. Bryant simply lies on his Vanessa's lap and tries again to close his eyes as she plays with him in an attempt to relax her man. Pretty soon, the finger touches are replaced by soft kisses from her lips on his ear and cheek. She quickly moves back to his ear.

"Let's go to bed."

"Okay---" the baller groans after finally getting comfortable.

"Come on."

She gets up and he does so as well and she finds the remote in the darkness to turn off the large television. He stares as the TV as it goes dead and he still wants to see Justin's face on there. His body. His smile. But the images have already been branded inside his head. So many images of the singing star resonate deep inside his mind. Nothing else can be done or thought tonight so the basketballer allows his girlfriend take him away to their room so he can get some sleep. They hold hands and their bodies are close together as they walk in almost complete darkness now towards the spacious master bedroom to get some rest. Kobe holds on to her hand securely because he never wants to let go. He wants her but he also wants Timberlake too. It is becoming too hard and frustrating to deal with. Everything is surrounding Bryant; he feels like he will fall from the pressure. Like it will all cave in on him.