~*~ Every last word of the pages to follow is from an author's vast imagination and is therefore not supported in true reality. Although the characters to be featured are prominently factual, the numerous scenarios, situations, and events they will encounter throughout the course of the tale are not! Its principal objective is that of enjoyment and entertainment to you, the reader.
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~*~ The Tale of Controlling Power ~*~
Floating clouds line the skies of New York City as Justin Timberlake is stuck in the middle of the painful traffic hour. His phone is his only escape from it as he is typing text messages to various people because business has to continue no matter where he is. He has become quite good at the little mobile messages since starting out. The meeting is the furthest thing from Justin's mind because thinking about it before its time will only get him frustrated and agitated. Everything will be taken in stride and dealt with when the time arises and not before. The pop singer rests his phone on the seat beside him and wipes his face with his hands. His mind has to be clear and focused on the main objective of this meeting. It is silent only a moment before the seat gently vibrates and the phone's scream attempts to break the sound barrier. A new text message demands his attention.
Sorry about leaving the way I did J. Something important came up and I had to take care of it. I thought about telling you but I didn't wanna wake you. Don't be mad at me okay. Call me. We gotta do it again! -JC
"What was more important?" the former N*SYNCer asks no one but himself.
Timberlake does not know what to be more upset about, the vagueness or the lameness of the excuse. He should not be this upset but he was looking forward and anticipating the weekend and for it to be cut in half with no apparent reason does bother him. What the hell is going on with you JC? There is definitely more to the story and he suddenly starts to see the irony of the situation he is in with his best friend. It is no different than Justin lying to him about what is really going on inside him. Maybe that's why he did this. He does not feel good being in this position but has to accept it for now because he is doing the exact same thing to Chasez. Timberlake will decide whether or not he will call later depending on his mood. Right now, his concentration needs to be focused on his conviction. It is what is most important so everything else will disappear. Business mode is upon him.
Walking into the Jive office of downtown New York with confidence, Justin remains cool both on the inside and out as he rehearses what he needs to say for the sell. It is crucial that this sticks. His mind plays both scenarios and strategizes on how to make the positive one even stronger while completely changing around the negative one so as to get his desired result. He will not be broken today and they will see that he has what it takes to control this album. As with procedure, Timberlake walks into the same office as before and is alone there. He sits at first but he gets agitated and nervous and walks over to the window to look over the city where people are busily moving about their own lives. Nerves are getting the better of him and he does not know why. He has met with these three managers a million times before. But his body knows it is different this time.
"Are you okay---" Jason says when he opens the door and sees Timberlake staring out the window.
"Huh---yeah," it catches the songster off guard but he quickly recovers and turns to face two of his trio of managers.
"Christian's out of the country dealing with some other business," Derrick answers the question that is in their client's head. "Let's sit---"
"How have you been?"
"Busy but other than that, good. You guys?"
"Busy busy," Jason replies.
Justin asks, "So what's new---what's the deal?"
"Well---" Derrick starts to say.
"---We want to know what your intentions for the album are---" the two men shoot each other a quick glance before directing their attention towards their act.
"Um---a more urban and soulful sound for sure."
"I know the fans won't be expecting it but I also know that they would want something new from me. I don't want to put out the same album again."
"Understood. What else---"
"I'm thinking strong beats and some collaborations of course and sultry lyrics," the former N*SYNCer continues to envision his album for two of his bosses.
"Have you started writing any of these lyrics yet---do you have a sample?" Derrick offers.
"Nothing solid yet but trust me, I have a lot of good ideas in my head," Timberlake reassures them with a sliver of hope building.
"Well---we won't keep you in suspense any longer---" Jason trails off.
"They're giving you a hundred percent total creative control for your next album," both his bosses come out and say together.
"Yep Justin---we beat them down until they got on board with what you want to do for this album," Derrick cheerfully adds.
"No way guys!" he almost screams again.
"A little excited there I see---" Jason laughs.
"You guys really had my back on this---I can't thank you enough!"
"We believe in what you want for your career Justin---we always have even when we have different ideas from you."
"---There's one thing though---" his boss Derrick tries to regain the conversation.
"It couldn't be that easy huh---" Timberlake smiles as he says it.
"Never. They agreed to give you full control of the album provided you get them a demo of new material as soon as possible."
"That's not so bad---"
Derrick completes the stipulation by adding, "If they don't like what they hear then they're going to take back full control of the album and you have to play by their rules."
"Will that be a problem?"
"---No---because I'm going to blow them away with what I'm planning so creative control won't have to change hands again."
"But you understand the conditions right?"
"Yes. Thanks---I can't believe this is really gonna happen. I was starting to lose it---"
They all get up to shake hands but Timberlake hugs both of them instead. They really are risking their careers for him and he cannot find the words or actions to repay that. He is so grateful and a hug does not even come close to showing it but it is the only thing he can think of to do because of his ecstatic state. It is really happening for him. This album that has been in the back of his mind for the longest time will have its time in the limelight. The whole world is going to see him as more than that kid from N*SYNC. Justin will prove his music prowess this time around and no one will doubt his talent again. Yes. Yes. Yes. Now the pop singer is free to do whatever he wants to get this album to be his way. They finish up the meeting; he hardly hears anything beyond `a hundred percent total creative control' and leaves the building feeling better than he has in a while. Yes!
His good news has made him instantly forgive JC for leaving the way he did while they were in Florida and he will call his friend when he gets back to the hotel. In all the excitement, Timberlake forgot to mention to his managers that he already spoke to and convinced Timbaland to produce the album; there will be other times to tell them though as that is a feat in itself. A car speedily takes him to his home for the next night or two. Dinner and a shower are quick and he is lying on the sofa relaxing. Justin's mind is finally able to process everything and the once inhuman excitement levels have now subsided into cool confidence. Now is the perfect time. He fetches his cell phone from the bedroom and looks through his recent call log for his friend's number. Maybe this time you will be happy for me. They all will see his vision in time and he cannot wait for it.
"What's up JT?" JC Chasez asks after the line rings twice.
"Man guess what---"
"You finally realize I'm always going to be better looking and sexier than you?"
"Be serious---" he sighs.
"What's going on?"
"They're going to give me full creative control of the album," his voice cannot contain the excitement his body is feeling all over again.
"Yeah---I had a meeting with them today and they agreed to let me do my own thing this time around."
"Damn---that's good news bud."
"Oh yeah! I'm so frikin' hyped right now!"
"I see that."
Timberlake asks, "What's happening with you? Where are you at?"
"In South Carolina visiting some friends---"
"Anyone I know?"
"No," the shortness and vagueness of JC's responses is back once again.
"So---" Justin tries to ease into the subject. "What happened when we were down in Florida?"
"Oh---I forgot I had an appearance to make and had to leave earlier than expected," Chasez recites his excuse.
"On Sunday? I thought you cleared everything so we could hang out the whole weekend like I did---"
"I thought I did too but I forget that one I guess. Sorry about that."
He gives his answers as if he hardly cares about them and it is irritating. Justin senses something is up and wonders why JC is acting this way with him. All secretive and somewhat dismissive. It is the same strange irony as before because he knows what it feels like to lie to a friend. Except now, he is the one being lied to. He is lying to Chasez about not figuring out his dream and now his best friend is lying to him about some unknown situation. The circle is complete and filled to the brim with lies. The singing star remains quiet and thinks about what could be going on. It really does not feel good being on this side and the curiosity is provoking him to find out what is going on. Maybe it's something serious. Not knowing is the worse part. Justin remains to himself though because it is clear that this is something his best friend does not want to discuss. His will not let these lies upset him; not right now.
"Yeah---" Justin says into the silence to crack it wide open.
"Hey---my publicist was telling me about this celebrity basketball game that benefits cancer research for kids."
"Why---you don't know how to play basketball."
"Forget you Justin! You wanna play with me---the invitation lets me bring a guest."
"I dunno---I know I won't have time."
"Come on J---it's for a good cause."
"When is it?"
"Let me get the ticket---hold on," JC says and his voice temporarily leaves the line.
Timberlake hesitates because he knows how busy he is and now more pressure is added to get a demo to his record company as soon as possible. He does not think he will have enough time in the day to do it all and, eventually, some things are going to have to start giving. It does sound like fun and something he would be interested in though because he loves playing basketball, not as much as golf though. The former N*SYNCer hears rustle over the phone and takes it as Chasez looking through his things for the all-star basketball game ticket. He is not sure he can do it but the idea is intriguing to him on a high level. Justin begins to wonder what other celebrities have signed up to do this event and why his publicist has not informed him of the charity event. Raising money for children, especially ones stricken with cancer will always be a noble and worthy cause.
"You know who's going to be there?" he asks when he hears his friend come back on the phone.
"Uhh---it's like less than two weeks away and I really don't know who's gonna be there. From what my publicist told me, NBA players and celebrities are going to form teams together to balance it out and then play the game to raise money for the research. You should go Justin. Come on---don't make me go by myself."
"Ugh---why you always have to drag me everywhere with you---" Timberlake laughs.
"Because it's fun. You're going to do it?"
"Yeah---I'll really try. Okay?"
"Okay man---let me let you go. I'll talk to you later."
Days pass by with the singing star being busier than ever, mainly in his own mind writing lyrics and trying his hardest to make them sound nothing like the pop genre he is known for. It is proving to be a harder challenge than he initially thought it would be because that style of music is engrained in him and he has to figure a way to crack that shell and get to the real core. Justin's concentration is shot and he is literally forcing himself to concentrate on his words; no worthy song will ever come to life this way. He does not even have the decent makings of a first song yet; he hopes he isn't in over his head on this one. Can't think like that. No doubts. Timberlake can feel his nerves flopping around inside and is starting to panic a little because nothing is coming to him. The pressure is unreal and words mock and scathe him. No; he will get it together and show the world what he is capable of.
The end of the week approaches and this is the weekend of the celebrity basketball game for charity and he decides to take part in it. Still though, the pop star does not know who else is going to be there but it should not matter because it is such a noble event. A good game of basketball with some of the NBA's best and his fellow peers will hopefully clear his mind and allow for new words to formulate themselves into lyrics toward his new album. It is the night before the game and he is in his room relaxing because he wants to get up early tomorrow to warm up on the courts before the actual game. Timberlake remembers the last time that he played the sport; it was with JC and he won by only a marginal few points. Justin is staring at a blank page in his lyric book when his phone lights up and buzzes near him. The number is unknown to him but is his line for work; most of the numbers are unknown.
The former N*SYNCer picks it up and asks, "Hello?"
"Yo Timberkid---it's me---"
"Who's me?" he laughs.
"Don't play---you forget whose gotta work on that album of yours?" the visionary producer comes back with.
"My b---what's up with you man?"
"Straight chillin'. Where are you---in NY?"
"Three thousand miles away in Cali---"
"What you doing all the way over there when I need you here boy?"
"You need me---what's going on?"
Justin gets a little anxious and a little excited at the same time; it could be something great or another setback. This conversation could go either one of those ways and he is personally hoping that it will go his way. So many obstacles and people are against him in this idea that all the negative energy is starting to sink in and make him the star doubt himself and his talent. Most of all, his vision might suffer from all the negativity. That cannot happen because this album is going to be great. Timbaland must see his vision too otherwise he would not have agreed to produce the album. Timberlake has to take comfort in that; at least one other person shares in his vision so the negativity subsides slightly. But nerves build themselves and inch closer to the edge before he realizes how much emphasis is on this one conversation. This one moment. Don't jump the gun!
"I started working on some beats for your punk ass today---" the muscular producer tells him.
"What---are you serious?"
"Yeah man---it's sounding tight as hell. I wanted you here to see if you like them or what---"
"Man they're your beats. Everyone likes them."
"True that," Timbaland does not even try to be modest because it is the truth. "But I wanted your opinion to see if it's the direction you want the album to sound---"
"Oh man---I got the basketball game for charity tomorrow so I can't make it back over there until Monday."
"You---play basketball? I thought white men couldn't jump---"
"A riot man! A damn riot! It's for charity so I'm willing to make a fool of myself. It should guarantee me a spot in newspapers around the country if I do."
"Uhuh. Publicity whore."
Timberlake laughs at the title before coming back with, "Whatever way I can keep people talking about me."
"Nah---you want them to focus on the positive stuff you do."
"But you know they only publish the negative---"
"Definitely---so what we gonna do about this? I don't wanna make any more beats if you haven't heard these yet."
"Damn---when can we meet up? The earliest I can be back in NY is Monday," Justin tries to be reasonable and says again.
"I'm not sure Timberkid---I'm packed next week. I'll call and let you know---"
"Okay. Ay thanks man---I really appreciate this."
"Don't sweat it---my bill's in the mail already---" the super producer keeps up with his joking demeanor.
"Already? Damn! Okay---I'll see what I can do."
"Later man---I'll call."
That single conversation boosts Justin Timberlake's confidence to uncharted regions and it starts to settle in that he is doing the right thing by his album. Yes! There were lingering doubts and nerves at first but now that he knows that Timbaland is taking this project as seriously as he is, it will motivate him to push that much harder in terms of his lyrics. Now that it seems like the intense pressure is off, more free-flowing words should come to him and Justin is confident that he will have some words to tie together to the edgy beats. He cannot do anything more tonight though because his body just wants to relax and his mind wants to stop thinking about his album for the moment. It cannot be forced because the fans pick up on such things and it is the last thing he wants so the songster puts his lyric book away and just relaxes on the sofa. The demo for Jive continuously looms over him though.
Timberlake wakes the next morning to the sound of the hotel phone ringing, a wakeup call, at eight in the morning and eats a hearty breakfast and drinks plenty of fluids because he will need all his strength today. The game should be fun and catching up with JC to finish their broken weekend is something else to look forward to. Of course his best friend has to be punished first for leaving the way he did. Justin's wardrobe consists of a basketball vest and shorts set and matching pair of Nike running shoes. The hat is tilted to the back and a pair of sunglasses hides his blue ice crystals of eyes behind its protective tinting. He looks into his duffel bag at the corner of his bed to make sure everything is present there for the game today. His game face is on and he is ready to warm up before playing against his unknown peers and the professionals of the NBA. The suite is empty moments later.
The Staples Center isn't nearly as packed as it would be if a professional game were going on but it is also deserted for the most part because he is so early. He tries calling Chasez to see where he is but he is not picking up his phone; it is the third call Justin has made since waking up this morning. He will give it time. Faint nerves grow in his stomach because he is more than curious to know who he will be running into and ultimately playing with and against in the stadium he is standing in front of. Another call to his best friend finds him listening to voicemail. The singer returns his phone into his pocket and walks into the building. For the most part, the arena is empty with the exception of a few coordinators of the event busily walking around and finalizing plans and ideas before the crowd starts to show up. A few notice him and shoot him weird looks because he is too early.
"Mr. Timberlake," a woman wielding a clipboard and a walkie-talkie walks over and addresses him. "I'm Catalina Rochert, the main events coordinator."
She extends her hand and he takes it within his own, "I know I'm early---I just wanted to get some shots in before the actual game."
"Well we are still setting everything up but I think we can accommodate you Mr. Timberlake."
"Call me Justin."
"Okay---Justin. Well, the locker rooms are beyond that corridor over there," she says as she points it out.
"And I'll speak to someone about getting you a ball when you return."
The two shake hands again and he walks with the small duffel bag in tote to the direction that was just pointed out to him. In the bag, the pop star has a change of clothes and cologne for after the game. There is no way he is leaving the stadium with his clothes and body sweaty. In the spacious locker room, he picks a locker close to the exit and checks out the facility before tossing his cell phone into the bag and taking out a Nike headband and fitting it around his head. He needs another haircut; his hair isn't long at all but it's too long for him. He does not even know why he allowed his hair to grow out the way it did when he was in N*SYNC. He was young and wanted to try different things, especially when it came to his appearance. It was his signature curly hair that he was known for but now all he wants is to break away from that image. The short hair works just fine.
His wallet finds itself in the bag as well and once he is sure that nothing else is on his body but his clothes, he stuffs the duffel bag into the locker and makes a mental note of its number. 130. It is weird being in the locker room where the Los Angeles Lakers play their home games and have no one here with him. Maybe some Lakers will be a part of the game. What the songster is more interested in however is who from the entertainment world will be here and then his mind runs back onto his best friend. The unanswered phone calls make him angry. Timberlake drops to the floor and does a handful of pushups and various stretches so that his muscles are warmed up and free for all the stress they are about to be placed under. Justin emerges and finds the event coordinator he just met holding a basketball and looking at him, smiling. He walks over to her to retrieve the orange globe.
"I promised I'd get you one didn't I?"
"Thanks---just let me know if I'm in the way."
"Very well. Have fun," she sincerely says as she looks into his blue eyes.
Justin takes the ball offered to him and immediately bounces it on the court as Catalina Rochert walks away and starts communicating to someone via the walkie-talkie clipped to her hips. He dribbles and crosses it over before running up to the hoop and trying to sink his first shot of what he hopes will be many today. It rebounds off the metal circle and bounces out of bounds. Great! It's a good thing I came early then. He runs over to retrieve the lifeless ball and starts all over again. Various people pass by the sidelines setting up for the event and look at him warm up his dormant basketball skills. The ball drumming against the court is the most outspoken noise in the arena right now. Timberlake does not mind this because he knows he is constantly watched and even though part of him always wants to rebel against it; another part has already accepted it as fate. Celebrity again.
"Man---good thing I came here early," he says aloud this time when he retrieves the orange basketball with black stripes from out of bounds again. "Where the hell are you JC?"
A determined Justin practices his shots most because he is rustier than he initially thought. His body is feeding off of adrenaline and his dream and insecurities are far away from his mind as possible. This is what he wants and it feels good to just concentrate on the task at hand and not have to worry about a deranged dream or insecurities he knows are mainly in his head. He is already grateful to this charity basketball game for clearing his cloudy head. Another shot heads in as he feels some of the game slowly trickling back into him. Timberlake cannot reach high enough the dunk the ball though he really wants to. He wants to know what it feels like to fly; if only for a few precious seconds. Come on JC---where are you? Aside from honing his skills enough, that is the only other thought in his mind. His best friend still has not arrived at the venue for the charity game.
Time is unknown to him but his body is fully sweating and his breaths are shallower than they once were. The embattled superstar practices his layups but also his three-pointers because this is where he is the weakest. His heart is pumping against his ribcage and he frequents a water fountain on the sidelines to quench his dry throat. It is a good workout but Timberlake is careful not to overexert himself without even playing the actual game yet. The three-point line is under his feet and he shoots the ball as best he could and smiles when it swooshes against the net and bounce on the court again. His first three-pointer since practicing. Justin retrieves the ball and continues playing by himself, unaware when someone else walks through the main entrance and focuses their attention onto him. The slender man walks closer to the court still keeping his eyes on Justin Timberlake.
"Startin' a little early huh shawty?" he says in his own southern accent.
Timberlake stops immediately and turns around, "What's going on man?"
Rapper T.I. is looking back at him and smiling, dressed in a pair of baggy black jeans and a Lacoste polo shirt of the same color. This could get very interesting. He presses the ball into the side of his body and keeps it adhered there by his arm pinning against it and walks up to the new face in the sports arena. He says this slowly as he sucks in all the air he can into his lungs because his body is in need of it. Justin has to catch his breath. Their hands catch together in a quick shake and he still feels the rapper's eyes on him. Timberlake breaks the eye contact very soon after it is formed and continues to breathe heavily into his lungs to get air. They have met at industry parties of course but they have not spoken like this ever. It is more intimate here as it feels like they are the only two people in the entire arena. T.I. knocks the ball away from him and it ends up in his hands now.
"Gotta be quicker than that JT," the Atlanta rapper mocks him.
"Man I'm just trying to say what's up and you already taking my ball---"
"Come get it back homie," he coaxes.
"I will---you playing ball like that?" Justin asks referring to the way the other man is dressed.
"Nah---got my stuff over there," T.I. points to a blue duffel bag sitting neatly on the sidelines.
"Go get changed and we can play together---"
"---Is that a challenge partner?"
"Come back here ready to play and you'll find out---" with one swift motion he knocks the ball away from T.I.'s hand and it bounces once on the floor before he scoops it up into his grasp once again.
"Aight. I see you came here to play---I'll just have to shut you down homeboy."
"All words and no action."
The rap star smiles before coming back with, "Okay JT---I'll get at you in a few."
"Still waiting---" Timberlake extends his wrist and taps it as if there is a watch there.
He watches the southern rapper walk off the court and disappear into the corridor where the locker rooms are before turning his attention back on his game once again. Timberlake concentrates solely on three-point shots now and drops by the water fountain a few more times to full up on water he is burning off in the form of sweat. His body feels liberated and on fire. Their little warm up match can only prove beneficial to him so he cannot wait for it. More people around him scurry even faster because the time of the game is fast approaching and so many things still need to find their place. By now TV cameras are set up and banners advertising the sponsors of the charity event have all been streamlined around the court so the cameras can get a good look at each of them. The angles do not matter here. A newly dressed man emerges from the locker room ready to participate in a basketball game.
"You sure took your sweet time---" Justin gets inside his opponent's head.
"Don't say nothing when you gotta pick your ass up off the floor partner."
"It'll never happen."
"What---shouldn't you be practicing homeboy. You know you need all the practice you can get---"
"Words again man? Are you ready?"
T.I. smiles at him and questions him back, "You ready to ball?"
"You can get first ball---"
"If you say so."
The rapper is in a pair of black basketball shorts and black Jordans and a fitted black tank top and he finally looks ready to play the game. He is skinny but muscular at the same time and his skin is a rare caramel color that the songster is positive he has never seen before. T.I. warms up by stretching out his limbs while Justin stands there and watches his every movement. They start their one on one game of the sport to see who can reach eleven points first while Catalina Rochert and her crew continue setting up everything for the event that is now only mere hours away. She seems flustered because maybe they are a bit behind schedule. That tends to happen when celebrities are involved. Timberlake is glad once again that he decided to come to this event because his body is getting a natural workout and he is starting to get to know the Atlanta rapper T.I. beyond a professional level.
"Your ball," T.I. states as he uses the back of his hand to wipe away beads of sweat that are already forming on his forehead.
"What's the score?" Justin asks as he runs out of bounds to scoop up the ball.
"Nine to eight to me partner. You wanna save yourself the embarrassment now?"
"You wish T.I."
"Aight then Justin!"
The game continues on and Justin Timberlake is finding it harder and harder to score over his competition because of the way the rap star utilizes his body to both block his oncoming advances as well as penetrate his defense. He is a good player; credit has to be given. I hope he's on my team. But no matter how good he is, this match is far from over and he refuses to lose without a fight. The score is now ten to eight with Timberlake trailing by two points. It is critical and the former N*SYNCer needs to regain his balance and pick up his momentum if he has any chance of staying alive in this pregame match. The next shot could end the game but both men stop their crucial game when they see another person walk through the entrance and stop outside the court.
"Yo Timberlake---what's up man? And I see my boy T.I.'s in the house---it's about to be a party then."
Famed Hollywood prankster Ashton Kutcher enters the arena and is the one who addresses the pair on the court. Both men share quick glances at each other because they will never forget how they were embarrassed in front of the whole world because of the man standing only feet away from them. The look that passes between the two of them on the court signifies the same thing and there is a little bit of resentment there. T.I. looks on as the former model makes his way over to them and they both remain quiet not really knowing what to say. As much as he wants to kill the man for making him look bad, it was only a harmless prank that brought laughter to so many. And celebrities need to make fun of themselves sometimes to keep them planted on Earth. Timberlake still cannot live down how he broke down and started crying on Kutcher's television show to his friends and family.
"What you doing here and where are the cameras?" T.I. finally says out loud.
"Nah---no cameras today. I told you boys---no hard feelings. Right?" Kutcher asks as he finishes approaching them.
Justin studies him for a minute before responding, "No---of course not. It was all in good fun."
"You a better man than me JT. If he got me the way he got you---I'd want his blood."
"Nah---not right now anyway. We're all here for a good cause anyway."
"That's right," the prankster says as he puts his hands around both men's shoulders. "So you boys starting without me?"
"I didn't even know you were going to be here," Justin says truthfully.
"I don't know who else is gonna be here either," the rapper states too.
"Well---what I heard from my publicist is that D. Wade's in. Also, Carmelo Anthony and Gilbert Arenas---oh and Bow Wow and Kobe Bryant too."
"Word?" T.I. asks.
"Nope---that's all I know. I knew you were going to be here," he motions to the rapper. "I didn't know you would be here too Timberlake."
"A last minute thing."
"We gotta finish this game Justin boy---I'm one point away from kicking your ass!"
"I'm sorry gentlemen but I'm going to have to ask you to leave the court because I need to get it buffed right away," Catalina Rochert walks over and informs the new trio. "I'm glad you could make it Mr. Harris---Mr. Kutcher."
"Ashton---please," he corrects her on how to address him as she shakes both their hands.
"Yes. I'm sorry for the inconvenience but this has to get done now."
"Okay," Justin says for the group. "We'll be in the locker room."
The three celebrities walk off the court together and into the locker room so that the court can get buffed to shine for the game soon. They all go there because there is nowhere else to go plus Kutcher has to change into his basketball clothes. Catalina Rochert disappears and the court is empty, for now. Now that his mind is off the game, Justin begins to wonder again about his best friend's whereabouts. Other celebrities are starting to arrive and the game is so close that a little part of him is worried. The trio enters the locker room and he immediately returns to locker 130 to retrieve his phone to see if there are any new calls or text messages. His publicist sends him a text making sure he is at or on the way to the Staples Center already and he quickly returns that one. But there is nothing else. Not from JC Chasez. What the hell is going on? The songster wonders this until someone addresses him.
"She saved your ass out there," T.I. brags when he sits on the long bench in front of Justin's locker.
"Whatever man. Damn---that was a good workout."
Ashton Kutcher asks, "How long have you boys been out there?"
"I got here about two hours ago. I got about an hour of practice in before he showed up and we started a game."
"I should've done that---I haven't played the game in a while," Ashton confesses as a loud ringing sound coming from one of the numerous lockers in the room.
"It's mine," the southern rapper says this as he heads over to a locker that couldn't possibly any further away from Justin's and opens it up to retrieve his screaming cell phone.
"I need another towel to wipe all this sweat off me," Timberlake expresses as he uses his hands to wipe the thick layer of sweat away from his face.
"I gotta take this---I'll be right back," the southern rapper says to them both and walks away.
He gets up and walks to the other side of the room, leaving Kutcher by himself sitting on one of the many steel benches, to find another water fountain. His throat is dry again and the only energy his body is running on right now is water as all the energy from breakfast is almost gone. T.I.'s voice echoes but gets smaller and fainter until neither can hear any noise whatsoever. Catalina Rochert did save him from a defeat just now and Timberlake realizes it is only going to get harder during the actual charity game. He will be up against professionals of this career. It is intimidating. The pop star finds one and gulps the cold liquid down before allowing it to squirt all over his face to attempt to cool him down. But now Justin needs another towel more than ever. After wiping as much of the new excess water from his face that he can, he returns to where he left the other man. Eyes are definitely on him.
"Here---" Ashton says to him upon his return, his hand extended with a towel at the end of it.
"Where'd you get it?"
"It's okay man---I'll just use the one I brought."
"I already have this one out---a peace offering," he tries to explain the symbolism of the towel he is holding.
"I told you---"
"---I know it was a bad joke Justin. I'm sorry. I did take it too far," Kutcher interrupts and says.
Justin sits on the bench next to him and takes the towel and wipes his face and arms. He is reluctant at first but he can no longer refuse and has to let go of that little bit of resentment that has been there ever this man pranked him on national television. It is a lesson learned and there can't be any more anger about it. That is in the past and it is obvious that both men have moved on past it. And he knows Ashton had nothing personal against him but it did make for great TV. The singing star's shirt is already wet but he doesn't care because it would get wet eventually anyway and the towel does its best to dry every part of him off. Silence is between them as they are still the only two of the celebrity basketball game to be here. Where is everyone else? Timberlake is so upset about JC Chasez that he will deal with him later. Something is going on with him. He stares off into the distance and lets out a subtle laugh.
"You got me good man. I mean---I was crying. I was scared and didn't know what the hell to do," the former N*SYNCer confesses what everyone already saw. "It made for good TV---I can't be mad at that."
"So are we good?"
"When weren't we?"
Their closed fists pound together signifying understanding and respect for one another and also to officially put this whole prank situation behind them. They stay in the locker room for a while longer talking about their lives and wondering when T.I. would be returning to the group. Justin feels his heart rate decreasing and adrenaline has long since dried up from his blood but he will feel that high again soon enough. But JC is still on his mind and he wonders what is going on with him. They are supposed to be here together raising money for the organization together. He is angry but will not let it show now because it is neither the time nor the place. Timberlake is still going to step out on the court and give it his all for the game. Just as they get up and are about to head back to the court to see if the rapper is there, the corridor is filled with a shadow and another fresh face walks in.
"What's up guys?" actor Chad Michael Murray addresses them both.