~*~ 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-Nine

~*~ The Risk is Worth the Reward ~*~



Through one of the hospital's many entrances the ambulance pulls up and the team rapidly wheels him out of the vehicle to get him settled and prepped to see the doctor. During the ride, his eyes have been fluttering more and more and this is a good sign. The fever has yet to break though and the IV that was once responsible for drawing blood is now feeding cold nutrients into his malnourished system. Breathing has yet to return to normal and there is still no response to any verbal commands. Justin's body is completely beaten down and this is the end result; this hollow and lifeless shell. The lack of sleep and proper food and coherent thoughts has brought him on his knees and now he is lying on hospital bed unconscious. After finding him a private room, two nurses strip the R&B star out of his clothes and put a fresh hospital gown on him before resting him back on the bed. He looks so pale.

Timberlake's eyes are closed and he is helplessly resting on a cold hospital bed with a needle sticking into his left arm to force-feed him vitals. His signature smile is a distant memory and his upbeat and positive personality is silenced by all the machines but more so by his own stubbornness. The emotional state is as much to blame as the physical but no one knows the former. Voices are heard throughout the room as a medical team tries to decipher the former N*SYNCer's diagnosis. One doctor pulls one of his eyelids up and shines a bright light into it, which he retrieves from his pocket, to notice any change. He does so to the opposite side as well all while talking to the two nurses take notes to see what needs to be done. He then takes the intact hand within his own to feel for a pulse; it is faint but much stronger than the pulse recorded at the club and even on the ambulance. Justin is recovering.

"It is dehydration and exhaustion," Timberlake's doctor gives his diagnosis to the two female nurses standing by him.

"Stress related?" one asks him while feverishly taking notes down on a clipboard.

"As well as poor diet and the lack of physical rest. His pupils are responding to the light."

"A standard dilation?"

"Yes. He just needs rest. He should be conscious within the next few hours," the doctor gives his prognosis for the next couple of hours.

"Very good."

"We'll keep him overnight for observation and keep him on the IV. He needs all the nutrients he can get now. His body has been deprived of too much already."

"Everything is in order with his charts then," both nurses agree.

"Very well. I will check up on him in the morning."

"Okay doctor."

The two nurses hang both of his vital charts as well as other various paperwork at the foot of his bed and turn the light off in the room to let the fallen star rest and recover himself in the process. It was just too much and his body could no longer take the neglect so it just gave out in the end. The whole world might know by now but he will be safe here. Justin's eyes twitch but they still remain closed and lifeless. He is trying to wake himself up but his body is fighting him on it. It is still premature. His beautiful blue crystals are dim and almost extinguished because of him. The silent IV feeds nutrients into his bloodstream to help him recover faster. His room is silent and dark as he is fighting back from dehydration and utter exhaustion of the past weeks. Timberlake's body lies motionless on the hospital bed while his insides are easily coming back to power the healthy way. He will overcome this.

It does not take long for the paparazzi to catch on to what hospital the singing star is being treated at and there is an unhealthy crowd gathered outside the medical facility eager for answers to their new hot story. Eager like rabid dogs for pictures or any morsel of information that they can sell to attain extreme amounts of money. Security is called within an hour of Justin admitted to protect the doors and keep unruly members of the media at bay and in order. This is a place of recovery and help and not a nightclub. The hospital then is forced to call the police because things are getting too out of hand and order needs to be restored. Outside the facility is mass chaos as five squad cars worth of police officers attempt to disperse the crowd and leave the hospital intact. It is a media frenzy and everyone is frustrated because they are getting no new details on Timberlake or the nature of his condition. It is hell outside.

Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant sees the scene of destruction in front of the hospital and is careful not to be spotted by anyone. He takes his car to the very top of a parking garage that shies away from the main entrance of the building and kills the engine there; he feels nervous and tense. He has to be extremely cautious about this so he takes his time. The baller, seeing that he is alone on the final floor of the parking garage is able to quickly change out of his uniform. This way, he looks less conspicuous to the masses. His sweaty skin is dry but he still feels sticky and dirty; he sprays cologne on himself to get rid of any trace of musk. Bryant slips out of his gold, purple, and white basketball shorts and quickly puts on a pair of jeans. He zips them up and fastens it to his waist before peeling away his jersey and replacing it with a simple black t-shirt. He finishes with a new pair of sneakers and a NY hat.

He looks around every corner as if this is some sort of covert operation and in a way, it is. There is no way he can get caught here and especially coming to see Timberlake. It is a risk he has to take. For them and to see him. And he enters through a less conspicuous entrance to be immediately lost. The hat does a good job of concealing him but he has no idea of where to go to find who he is looking for. Signs do their best to tell him their secrets but he is not deciphering them properly so he just walks in hopes of finding where he needs to be. Kobe aimlessly walks through long corridors and past various rooms with new machines but he finds nothing. It is hopeless. This hospital has five floors and Justin could be anywhere on any one of them. The longer he walks around the more of a chance he risks being recognized and ultimately caught. Against his better judgment, he decides to ask for help. He has to.

The thought is lost in the back of his mind because in order to get the information he needs, he will have to revel himself so as not to look like a member of the paparazzi trying to invade on the R&B star's privacy. It is simply a matter of who to ask. Someone that will keep their wits about them in this professional setting but also believes his lies. All the lies. Justin is simply his friend and he is worried about him after the incident at the club. No one will know more than that. The basketballer takes the elevator up to the second floor and looks around to see many more hospital rooms. He is in a maze that is getting more frustrating and infuriating by the passing second. When his brain finally decides it is enough, he secretly walks over to the information desk to see a young blonde stationed there by herself. Few people walk by behind him but most are old and do not notice or even care for him.

"Hi---" he clears his voice and addresses her.

"Hello---" the young woman snaps her eyes away from her computer screen and looks at him.

"I need your help in finding someone."

"Okay that's not a problem. Do you have the person's room number?"

Kobe looks away and replies with, "No I don't. That's why I need your help."

"Oh I'm sorry sir. I'm not allowed to give out any guest's room number. The hospital's policy."

"I understand but could you just bend the rules for me please? This is really important. My friend was just admitted," the basketball star states as he looks back at her.

"You're Kobe Bryant aren't you?" she finally notices who she is holding a conversation with.

"Yes I am---please---"

"Oh of course."

"So can you help me---Mary?" he sincerely asks while examining the nametag stuck to her chest.

"It's against policy Mr. Bryant---but I suppose I could look the other way this time."

"Thank you Mary. I really appreciate that," Kobe smiles to her.

Mary asks, "Who is it that you are looking for?"

He looks around with his eyes before, "My friend. Justin Timberlake."

"Okay," the representative responds without any judgmental looks. "Let me see here---Mr. Timberlake is upstairs on the third floor. In room 310."

"Thanks for all your help Mary."

"You're welcome."

The conversation breaks and he knows her eyes are on him as he walks away to find the elevator once again but it is a risk he has to take. She should not suspect anything because the conversation went exactly as he knew it would. So that is in the back of his mind now. Justin is alone in a room and only God knows what it wrong with him. He is scared as he is in the elevator alone and his mind is allowed to think since entering the hospital. He is sure to lower the cap as close to his face as possible when the elevator dings and the cold metal doors spilt open to grant him passage. Signs finally cooperate with him now and he follows a long, winding corridor to a room in a secluded corner of a wing of the hospital. Room 310 displays in front of him and there is no one around so Kobe easily slips in to the darkness of the forbidden room. He searches around for a light switch by feeling the walls.

When florescence illuminates the room, the baller sees an almost suite-like room but it is common until he steps away from the foyer and into the space more. There, Timberlake lies with a needle in his arm and his eyes weakly shut. And he feels a stinging sensation inside of his chest upon looking at him. He looks pale and worn out as Kobe just stares at him not knowing what to say or do. This is so hard seeing him like this. He is always smiling or laughing or talking but the silence now is maddening. His mind takes a million different paths at once and his heart starts to hurt. His lips are motionless and his arms lay by his side and his body is covered from the waist down. Bryant looks around to find a chair and he retrieves one and softly moves it by the side of the bed. He does not look good. His face is slightly thinner that Kobe remembers. He sits there and just stares at his lifeless boyfriend.

Kobe extends his hand out and it covers Justin's. It rests there for a long while as he continues to look and think and try to stop his heart from hurting. Touching the younger man is helping a lot with that though. He then picks his hand up while it is still securely wrapped in his own and kisses it. Open your eyes. Open your eyes baby. He returns the singer's hand to the side of his body while he uses his thumb to glide across his man's forehead. The shooting guard ruffles his short hair and uses the finger to trace from his forehead to his perfect cheek and then down to his lips. His thumb presses against the beautiful light pink tantalizers as he slowly loses his mind. He wants Timberlake to open his eyes. He wants to kiss him to wake him up. Bryant, finding his restraint overpowered, moves in and sweetly and gently kiss his boyfriend. Something they have not done in so long. It will always be worth it.

"Justin---" the basketball legend calls out in a low tone once their lips part ways. "Justin---it's me baby."

Eyes flutter and, "---Uhh---uh."

"That's it baby. Come back to me."

"---Kobe---" Timberlake's weak voice calls out all while his eyes are still effortlessly shut.

"I'm here Justin. Open your eyes."

It is an initial struggle but the exhausted superstar is finally able to open his eyes and recover from his unconsciousness. It is blurry at first as he adjusts to new sight and then it all falls into place. The ceiling comes into clear view and it takes him a while to fully adjust to his surroundings. Justin is not sure of where he is or what he is doing but when he finally looks over to see his man's brown eyes staring back at him, everything seems to feel right and most importantly, safe. Their stare never wavers and he is not even aware that there is an IV stuck to his hand or that he is lying on a hospital bed because he fell on stage from exhaustion and lack of food. It will all come back to him. All he knows is that Kobe is holding his hand and it feels so damn right. Timberlake moves his fingers within his boyfriend's hand and in a moment, their fingers are interlaced together and both are holding on tightly.

"Where am I? What am I doing?" Justin asks because he is confused and wants help.

"You're in the hospital. You don't remember anything?"

"I---don't know. Maybe---"

"It's okay. Just relax," he coos.

"I was on stage," the singer recalls. "I was on stage and then it all went blank. I don't remember anything after that."

"You collapsed on stage and they rushed you here."

"Wait---you have a game tonight---" he asks while looking Bryant in the eyes and remembering that.

"I left---"

"You left?" Justin asks as if he does not understand.


"Don't they fine you for that?"

"Yes but I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about you," Kobe opens up and explores.

It is the truth. He could care less about the fine and would leave the game again if he has to be right here in this moment with his man. Some things are just more important than winning or making money or being fined. He wants to protect him or at the very least be there. The last statement hangs in the air and they cannot stop looking at each other. Justin feels warm inside knowing that Kobe did this for him. For them. He is supposed to be playing basketball to help his team advance forward but he is here. Being here is more important to him. It makes the singer feel so much better and stronger. He sits up on the bed easily and rests his hands on his lap with as he looks around. The suite is nice and he is sure that it is this way because of who he is but none of that matters. Justin Timberlake is the person he wants to be furthest away from right now. Being him on a constant basis landed him here now.

All of this is his undoing to begin with. The reckless endangerment of his sanity and the careless mishaps of the past weeks. The starving and not stopping to recognize his problems and deal with them. It is his entire fault. Not Kobe's or even his father's. The pressure finally made him fall to his knees and is forcing him to redefine his life. It may not be the way he wanted it to get done but the destruction is over and he is in a safe place. Justin looks down at his hands on his lap and closes his eyes to think. What am I going to do now? He feels movement on the bed and then warmness envelops his hands. Timberlake opens his eyes and looks up to see his boyfriend sitting directly in front of him and staring through his eyes. Staring into his soul almost. The Los Angeles Laker succumbs to the pressure and moves in for a kiss. Neither man denies the advances because it is needed. But it stops so close.

"Talk to me. What happened?" Bryant whispers while their hands are still connected and their lips almost connected.

"I can't---not here."

"Okay. Come away with me---"

"What?" Justin looks into his eyes, confused.

"Let me take you away. I have a log cabin up in Aspen. We can spend a few days there while you recover."

"---I don't know if that's such a good idea---"

The baller sighs lowly and then, "Justin---let me take care of you. We both need this time together---away from work and everything else."

"I don't know what to say---" he is increasingly warming up to the idea.

"Say yes. It'll only be for a couple of days---a weekend if you want."

"I---okay. Okay. I'll go."


Their hands are still together and his eyes are passionately burning through Justin's like it never has before. He wants him so badly. He wants to be with him. To be there for him. To touch him. Again. But this is not the right place or the right time for what they both want. The singing megastar has to recover and he should be leaving before anyone catches them in the compromising position. Neither of their careers would ever benefit from this but it has to be done. Kobe accepted the risk and took it just to be in this very moment with his boyfriend but it is not beneficial to keep being here to more likely get caught. The nurses should be checking in. Timberlake's eyes are weary and weak; he is exhausted. As much as his body is hinting at it, the basketballer can no longer deny it. He has to leave. His man will not be in his arms tonight. It is just the way it has to be. Bryant's eyes clearly tell a different story.

He smiles sexily and says, "---I think I should get going."


"I might get caught," Kobe tries to comfort his man.

"I know---"

He moves so close to Justin on the bed and softly expresses, "Justin---please don't ever scare me like that again."


Kobe does not wait a second longer and charges their lips together in another kiss he does not want to end. Protectively, his is still holding the recovering singer's hand within his as they share the beautiful moment between them. He is happy that they are going to be together at least for one weekend. Time away from everyone and everything in their lives. This will bring him back to normal. It just has to. For Justin, it will be time to recover and gain his strength back. For the baller, he will get some much needed alone time with his boyfriend and time away from Vanessa. Lying to her will have to be convincing to get the time he needs. He will never admit it to himself but he is drifting away from her with each second more he spends with Timberlake. It is not supposed to be happening this way. He is so far under his skin that it is more scary than comforting at this point. He breaks away from the kiss.


"No---get some rest baby," the Los Angeles Laker gently commands while their lips are still so close together. "Promise?"

"I promise."

Justin attempts to get comfortable on the foreign bed he is forced to spend the night in as he watches Kobe's eyes on him. The towering man is just about to walk away from him and he is going to be alone. He smiles and is finally able to let go of his man's hand so he can make a clean getaway and hopefully not be seen coming out of this room. And then, in an instant, the basketballer is gone and the room is dark once again with no trace that he was ever here. Except for the taste he left on his boyfriend's lips. Timberlake cannot deny that his body wants sleep although he is fighting to stay up and figure out what happened to have him here. But his stubborn streak is partly the reason for him being here. The stress is too much though and with Bryant's taste still on his lips, the former N*SYNCer is able to fall asleep to catch up on all the rest he has been caustically denying himself. He needs rest.


Kobe Bryant sits in his car on his driveway under the velvet darkness of the night's sky as he thinks and breathes in slowly. Seeing Justin that weak and out of it has him extremely scared and his insides feel like they are ripping apart without his man's warm touch to keep him together. He looks at the palatial mansion in front of him and looks up at the window he knows protects his bedroom. All the lights are off in the house which means that Vanessa is fast asleep. Good. It will give him a few moments more of freedom. He sits there and mulls over everything in his life. His parents. His father. His career and how he walked away from the game tonight. Vanessa and if she saw him disappear in the middle of the game. And, of course, Justin. Kobe sighs at what his life has become and both his hands are still on the wheel of the fancy sports car. The steroids. The lies. Everything.

It is late and he is tired but his mind has to be right before he even steps in his house to continue with his lies. It is already worked out in his head but actually laying it out and having it work is a whole other. Justin's presence lingers on his mind more and more, almost like an invasion and it is both good and bad He has to be able to turn it off in front of her. Turn off what he feels for the young singer. Bryant feels like he may slip up or say something at the wrong time to the wrong person and then his house of lies will crash down to his feet. That can never happen and he will do everything in his power to make sure he is safe and the people he cares for are safe as well. And more importantly, know not a single thing about the other. Kobe's eyes wander to the sky through the windshield to rest on the windows of his room again. She hates it when he leaves her alone because she feels scared.

The house is black when he enters and drops his duffel bag on the large kitchen table before turning on the light to find himself something to drink. He wants to call Justin to say good night again but it is way too late and his fallen boyfriend needs all his rest to regain his strength and energy. And he probably does not even have access to his cell phone. Kobe sips on a glass of orange juice and sits next to his duffel bag on the table as his mind is finally allowed to run free. It is destructive because he knows allowing this to happen will only force him to beat up on himself for all the lies and manipulations he is guilty of. The baller cannot help it because although he wants Vanessa, he wants Justin too. There are things he has been able to freely discuss with his boyfriend that he doubts he will ever be able to bring up with his girlfriend. It is a stressful situation no matter what direction it is approached.

Bryant only enters his room momentarily to get a fresh pair of boxers because his body is craving a shower. Justin's sugary taste is still on his tongue and he returns downstairs to take a shower so as not to wake his girlfriend. In the rather large room, he strips out of his clothes and hopes that all the stress from this long day in on the floor with the pieces of clothing rather than on his dark chocolate skin. It is too much to handle and he wants a break. He wants this break with Justin up in the mountains of Aspen, Colorado. And there is something special up there that he needs to see. Water comes to life and floods the porcelain tub while he waits for a small second before getting in and getting his feet wet first. He wonders where his mind is right now. Everything is just so confusing and complex that the basketball star begins to question if it is worth it. It is not territory he wants to be in but it is getting to him.

Maybe he just needs release from the world. To escape away and regain himself. And, even though he loves Vanessa very much, a break from her is what he needs right now too. And to be with his boyfriend too of course. All his emotions are pent up and he barely ever has time for himself now. Usually he is worrying about his relationship with Timberlake or trying to push back marrying his longtime girlfriend because he is clearly not ready to make that decision in his life and settle down with her. He is not in that place in his life now. Everything is building up at once and when he saw his boyfriend in the hospital earlier tonight, it just boiled over and he could not handle it anymore. The overhead nozzle sprayed a jet of water onto Kobe's dry and restless body while he tries his best to enjoy it and the moment. The only salvation is that he will have a few days alone with Justin very, very soon.

And it gets him in a frenzy when he thinks about being alone with the sexy singer who everyone wants a piece of. Whether professionally, personally, or sexually, the man has a sexy style and swagger all his own that has all the ladies and many of men craving after him. It is a provocative idea that so much of the female population wants to be with Justin but they really know nothing about who he likes and is with. The irony is almost comical so Kobe cannot help but smile at his fortune for having this man in his life. His masculinity grows with the protruding thoughts and he cannot stop rubbing it. It has been a good while since anyone has touched him down there so it is almost foreign. But it does feel so damn good. The baller presses his slick back against the cold wall of the shower to gain any kind of support while he pleasures himself. This has to come first right now because it is needed.

Water hits his abdomen and rushes down his dark legs while his fingers expertly fondle and caress the most sensitive area of the body. Kobe feels his balls churning because nothing has been released in so long that they are eager for that final straw. Despite his steroid use, his sexual drive has not been skewered or displaced in any way. His turgid and slippery shaft bends to his will and keeps rock hard under the sensations of his palms and long fingers. It feels somewhat artificial, especially seeing as he can get it done from not one but two people, but it will have to suffice for right now. Although Justin is in the hospital, what manages to get him is how much fun they will have up in the remote snows of Aspen. Bryant cannot wait for the moment. To breathe the fresh mountain air. To wake up to the beautiful scenery. And his boyfriend's lips can be on his all day is he likes. And they will be.

Imagining his man's pouty pink lips on him is doing it very well. His wet dick is hard with blood as he strokes it up and down with a speedy tempo while his free hand gently massages his balls. Low grunts and moans escape the sides of his barely parted lips as his teeth is clenched and pleasure ripples scatter to every last inch of his body. Nipples on his chest tighten and his heart will never stop so he becomes addicted to it. Kobe presses harder and harder into the wall for support because it will all be over sooner than it should be. As it always is. This is why the baller needs someone. The high of eruption is great but when he is with Vanessa or Justin, it continues way beyond that because they talk or cuddle or kiss. Or just hold one another to feel safe and protected. That is sometimes better than the sex itself. Bryant feels that this is how he knows what he has with both of them is real and worthy.

Cum rushes up his long shaft until it spurts out into the world and is immediately beaten down to the porcelain tub by water. The tingles last from the tips of his fingers to his last toe while he stays there and relishes in the peacefulness of the instant. The sweet satisfaction of release that takes him away from his hectic life is only for a few seconds. It is only a short moment but everything is gone and pleasure is the only emotion to experience. It should be like this more often than not. The absence of the post gratification forcibly returns the basketball stud back to reality and he is alone. There is not comfort or cuddling to extend the gratification of being so close to someone else. His skin removes itself from the tiles and he stands under the nozzle to let the water blast him away. Kobe washes his face and the rest of his body until he is clean before he gets out of the shower and dries himself off.

Bryant slips on a clean pair of boxers and brushes his teeth before he leaves the bathroom for bed. His skin smells so clean and he walks around the house in his almost naked state to see if everything is secure for the rest of the short night ahead. With all the lights off and everything in their place he walks upstairs to finally get some rest from the long days past. In the master suite of the mansion, the basketballer meticulously walks across the hardwood floors to arrive at his bed. The bed he shares with her and only her. Vanessa is on her side of their comfortable bed and she is serenely sleeping with the fluffy blanket covering everything from her shoulders down. Kobe softly slips into bed next to his girlfriend and kisses her on the forehead before he allows himself to get sleep. Though it is not as easy as he wants it to be because he is thinking of what has to be done tomorrow. It will be hard to let her down.

The morning light creeps up the floor of the large room until it rests on the bed and ultimately, on them. The windows are cold and watery because they breeze outside is chilly and uncharacteristic of California but it is winter after all. Maybe a cold front is passing through and it is a weak sign of what is to be expected when they are up in Aspen. But he will have Timberlake to keep him warm. His tired body is at the very edge of the bed and he has not moved once since falling asleep only a few hours ago. Kobe's naked torso is exposed up until the dark blue elastic fibers of his boxers and the comforter covers the rest of him. The baller is an exquisite specimen of man with his boyish good looks and his chiseled body frame as well as his compassionate personality. When the Sun becomes too invasive he tosses for the last time in sleep before finally waking up and looking around to find himself alone.

He rolls to the center of the bed and spreads his arms, "Baby? Vanessa---"

The antique clock on their nightstand tells him that it is only a few minutes past nine and his naked body instantaneously reacts to the chilliness of the room. Outside is really bitter and extreme. He sits up on the bed and scratches his head before he rubs his hand on his face to fully wake up and begin this new day. The Los Angeles Lakers' once injured hand is doing much better but it is still in a simple brace and will have to be at least until the new year. The pain is there but not nearly as bad as before seeing as he can use it but not strain it. Kobe rubs his hand through the brace while looking around to see if he really is alone and he is. There is no one in the room with him. Vanessa is not here and he does not hear the shower running. She has to be downstairs so he gets out of bed and heads to the bathroom to brush his teeth and then he will find some clothes to wear before heading down.

"Morning baby---" the basketballer announces himself when he enters the kitchen to see her there stirring something in a pot.

"Good morning honey," she smiles faintly before and after they kiss.

"What are you making?"

"Some tea for us---my throat feels a little sore."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah---it's probably just dry."

"Have I told you how beautiful you are lately?" Kobe overwhelmingly professes to her.

"---No---not recently."

"Well I just did."

"Thank you. What do you want to eat?" Vanessa looks at him and asks.

"Whatever you're having baby," he says before kissing her cheek and moving over to the refrigerator.

Something seems to be on her mind because she is quieter than usual be he does not pick up on it right away. Or maybe he chooses not to because some part of him does not deserve to know her innermost thoughts as he is in a relationship with two people. She serves them the tea and they sit together to enjoy it with minimal conversation. Justin is submersed in Kobe's mind; he wonders if his boyfriend will be released today. Vanessa looks out a nearby window while she sips her coffee. It is obvious that if she wants answers, she will have to seek them herself. The hot tea helps her throat by soothing its dryness and she only looks over when she feels her boyfriend's hand cover hers on the table. They have to talk but neither wants to start. The moment will be perfect otherwise but the anxiety is preventing anything of the nature. And the tension can be scraped away but it will all still be there.

"Why are you so quiet babe?" Bryant questions her.

"When are we going to talk about it?" Vanessa finally says.

"Talk about what?"

"I see. If you feel we have nothing to talk about then we have nothing to talk about. Whatever you say goes right---" she pulls her hand away.

"I never said that."

"So I was watching your game last night. And you're there one minute and then gone the next. Why did you go?"

Fortunately, he's had time to think about this answer last night while he was sitting in his car so, "My wrist started hurting after the first half."

"I told you to skip this game baby."

"It's my job Vanessa. It was just slight pain and the medic told me not to push it anymore so."

"---What time did you come home last night? Because I waited up for you---" his girlfriend continues the subtle interrogation.

"I stayed there to get treated for the rest of the game and then I just drove around after that. I needed to clear my head."

"Baby talk to me. What is going on with you?"

"I'm frustrated. I hate wearing this brace and my coaches are coming down on me and rehabilitation and---" Bryant begins but stops himself.

He was just about to slip up majorly and say Justin's name to finish off his sentence and that was far too close for him so he keeps quiet. All his emotions are truthful because the brace always reminds him of how he fell and hurt himself and it feels like such a limitation and he Bryant hates being restricted so much. Then that in turn reminds him how he did not confide in his boyfriend about the seriousness of his injury and their fight about that. Not passing the ball to his fellow teammates and his coaches reprimanding him for it. Everything is becoming too knit together and too much and his lie to get away will have to work or he will internally destroy himself. Kobe sighs when he hears his girlfriend tell him to confide in her because Timberlake has told him the same thing a few times now. It has to be him; he truly does have trouble opening up to people. No matter how much he trusts them.

"Maybe we should get away for a week or two," Vanessa suggests to her man while she rubs her fingers along his cold metal brace. "You look like you can use it now."

"It should be that easy---" he begins.

"It can be."


"Why not?"

"I have a lot to do for the league. I'm going to be gone for Christmas and probably New Years babe---" Kobe drops the bomb without hesitation.

"What---baby no."

"I have to do this stuff Vanessa. You know I want to be with you but I'll be on the road a lot and will barely have time for myself."

She looks away "I don't like this Kobe. We haven't been spending any time together."

"I know---I know. But you know I have no other choice."

"Take me with you," his girlfriend adamantly states.

The baller remains calm because this is planned as well and, "You know how it is for me on the road. We won't have time together. Things are too hectic."

"What am I supposed to do here alone then?"

"I was thinking that you spend the holidays with your family. I'm always thinking about you. I thought it would be best to spend time with your family."

"So everything is set then?"

"It's not like that. I just want you to be happy," Kobe truthfully states.

Their stares are intense and he knows she is trying to read him to see if there is anything else going on with him. But it is of no use. The lies have to hold up because it is critical to his relationship with Justin as well as his recovery. He has to go and it will also help him relieve stress as well. Last night in the shower, Kobe remembers how he felt when he thinks about how their time will be up in the mountains. After an initial moment of worry on his part, Vanessa reluctantly agrees with his decision although she is clearly not happy with it because it is not fair and he feels badly for doing this to them. There is still tension at the table but with the basketballer getting away with it so easily it seems to be less significant. He holds her and she continues to stay quiet. It feels like there is nothing else to say so they simply stay that way. Spending time with her family is the best way for both of them.