~*~ 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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~*~ Rhyming and Reasoning ~*~
Zigzagging lines cross over his face and body in the dead of night as the world megastar is being chauffeured back to his hotel to get some rest. Japan has been so good to him the past few days and he has managed to find a state of peace within himself; it must be because he is a half a world away from his problems. Timberlake rests his head on the leather seat of the car and looks out the window as light and shadows dance all across his face and body. Today he was mobbed by fans at a meet and greet but the generous outpouring of love and support was addicting. It always has been. Now his body just wants to sleep to regain itself. It has been so lonely in Japan and he truly feels like an outsider. Justin loves the tranquil environment but he has no one to talk to or hang out with. His body has been spoiled from all that time being together with basketball legend Kobe Bryant. It still is not fair.
A motionless elevator is his only escort up to the top of the building so he can be home for the night. The large and always silent grandfather clock tells him that it is almost three in the morning but he already knows that because his brains tells him so as well. Justin is going to sleep on an empty stomach as he does not have the patience to wait for room service to deliver him something to eat. Layers of clothing are stripped off until nothing is left to cover that luminescent skin from the faint moonlight. He plops down onto the large bed and does not even bother to brush his teeth or take a shower. The past days in the heart of Japan has been exhausting but well worth it and needed to get himself away. The former N*SYNCer is constantly reminded how different this world is from his; even the environment stands out. Pale light shines over his bare back and butt as he falls asleep alone and scared.
It is stressful but the good kind of stress that makes him strive to do better and not just want to curl up in a ball and wait for it all to go away. The difference between the two is important and vital to any life. Deep breaths force his back to rise and fall on the bed to create a hypnotic cascading effect. The room is silent and even outside, far down below, is a shell of its former day self. But it will not be this way for long. Timberlake has another round of promoting ahead of him within mere hours from now but also a meeting with his publicity agent to discuss upcoming endeavors. Days are drawing short and to a close in the land of the rising Sun as he is scheduled to return back to the United States in three to four days. Justin looks so innocent sleeping as his lips are slightly parted and his naked body barely moves an inch. The sexy frame is only highlighted by light pouring in from the drawn curtains.
The R&B songster wakes the next morning at exactly nine but it is premature due to his cell phone buzzing against the hardwood floors of the suite to create quite a ruckus. Justin cutely grabs for the nearest pillow and places it over his head to block out the sound but it has already done its job. He is up and not going to be able to get back to sleep anytime soon; it is a flaw within his body. He sits up on the bed momentarily until reaching down on the floor by the foot of the bed to retrieve his pants and, in turn, his phone. Plans seem to have changed overnight and again. Now the schedule has him having brunch with his publicist in an hour and a half and all his other appearances are pushed back further into the day. Timberlake sighs but cannot complain as he gets up and walks to the bathroom to get himself ready. It is going to be another one of those long but good stressful days he hopes. He has to keep going.
Kobe Bryant is less and less on his mind but it feels like a double-edged sword in his opinion. On the one hand it is a good thing because he wants to distance himself from the lies and betrayal that happened throughout the whole course of their relationship and also the many deep unresolved feelings he has for the man. But, in doing so Timberlake is also forgetting or systematically destroying memories and feelings that were, are, still stuck inside his heart. The love they shared was so strong that it took control of them and made the pair believe that they were the only ones in the entire world. The wonderful times they spent together as a couple is being distanced by their emotionally charged breakup and the resonating feelings the singer still has to deal with. Something has to change or give way for this to be over. Justin does not want to go back but he also does not want to lose what they once had.
Timberlake hops out of the shower and gets dressed in record time because he is already running late for his brunch appointment. He retrieves an expensive wristwatch and hat to try and conceal himself somewhat and he is off for the day. The elevator ride is not alone; a charming old Japanese couple is in one corner of the metal box and smiles to him as he gets in. They look to be on vacation or are probably world travelers after working hard all their lives raising their children and providing for them. Now it is there turn to reap the rewards and unwind at this stage of their life. Justin keeps his eyes forward; he is sure that it would have pierced through the metal by now. He will never have that; not in the conventional way at least. The way it is supposed to be. He is not even sure if he will have anybody to spend the rest of his life with. He steps out of the hotel and into an awaiting car trying not to think.
"As late as ever---" his publicity agent greets while getting up from the table to shake hands.
"You flew halfway around the world to scold me on my punctuality?" Timberlake snipes back as they both shake hands.
"That---and other things. Take a seat. Are you hungry?"
"Okay. Let's order and then get down to business," the agent says across the humble table.
"Good morning," the waiter bows at them both and greets through his thick accent. "Are you ready to be served?"
"Yes. I'll have the traditional Japanese breakfast but without the natto or tsukemono. And green tea please."
"Very good. And for you sir?"
"A tamagoyaki omelet roll with a side of nori and miso broth. Also, the broiled salmon with a side of caviar. And a glass of orange juice," the former boybander complete his lengthy order.
The bistro is buzzing with activity but they are sitting in a secluded corner when they Sun does not touch so privacy is not an issue. Justin watches as people go in and out of the restaurant to continue with their busy lives while they sit there and wait for their food. His stomach growls and his head feels slightly faint from not being nourished practically all of yesterday and last night but he will be eating soon. As he sits there, he wonders why his publicity agent would fly all this way just to meet with him. Maybe it is an excuse for him to get away from the States as well. Hopefully it is something interesting and worth doing. The R&B singer sips his tangy orange juice in great anticipation for their brunch to begin. It is only a short while later before a different server approaches them with their dishes. Taste buds and nostrils flare at the intrusion of savory flavors as they are all rested on the table.
"So shall we begin Justin?"
"I'm all ears," he complies while sliding out a pair of chopsticks from their cloth napkin embrace.
"Your music career is at its peak right now. You are on everyone's list to work with or be seen with."
"Now you know I'm not a big fan of the second part of your statement. I don't want other celebrities hanging out with me only because they want to be seen or to boost their career."
"But it's how the industry works," his publicist states a fact.
"But it's not how I work," Timberlake curtly responds, dipping a piece of salmon into black soy sauce.
"It was done for you back when you were with N*SYNC and when you were first starting out as a solo artist."
"I suppose that's true."
"The exposure you're gaining here in the overseas market is gold by the way. Record sales have picked up since you've been here."
"That's always a good sign."
"You might be leaving Japan on a new level of fame."
"If you say so."
There is a catch somewhere and it is up to him to find it and renegotiate it if need be. He carefully sips the hot broth and uses the dried seaweed leaves as makeshift crackers. Everything tastes so good to his palette and it only reaffirms why he likes Japanese food so much. Justin is in no mood to play any sort of guessing game but it would seem as if his hand is being forced. Both men become silent when the waiter returns to refresh their drinks and make sure that everything is okay with their food and experience. The publicist handles a text message resulting in the quietness of the table being prolonged. The fogginess of his head is slowly being lifted away by the delicious nourishment of the food. Justin checks his own phone for anything but it is a lost cause as everything is empty. The little free time he finds himself in has him wondering what his ex boyfriend is doing right now. Dangerous thoughts.
"---Sorry about that. Where were we?" he politely asks.
"Huh? You were buttering me up because you want me to do something. A shadow perhaps?"
"You see through that huh? Well---"
"---What is it?"
"It's the whole other level in your career I was talking about earlier."
"I'm listening," Justin pays full attention to what is being said.
"Well you've been single for a while now. Focusing on the music and breaking the N*SYNC image everyone had of you."
"Uhuh," the irony of him being single all this time is heavy.
"Jessica Biel's publicist got in contact with me a few days ago. She says her client is interested in you."
He continues to stare until asking, "Interested in me? What do you mean?"
"Oh don't be so modest," his publicity agent smiles. "She wants me to set up a date between you two."
"Yes. Would you be interested?"
It is the truth though and he never realized it until now. He was so comfortable in his relationship with basketballer Kobe Bryant that it slipped his mind constantly that they were a secret whom no one else knew about. So, as far as the general public is concerned, he has been an eligible bachelor on the market for quite some time. Justin knows this is not what he wants but he has to be suave about this because rumors will start; or continue on from his N*SYNC days. But he does not want to date anyone, most of all a woman. The time of healing from his past relationship has not gone yet and Jessica would essentially be the rebound caught up in his unconventional life. He could not do that to her although she would know nothing. Timberlake finishes his food and stares out the window directly in front of him at the people as they pass by. A budding romance would push him over the top.
"Well?" his agent pressures.
"I---don't know. I don't think she's my type," he responds definitively.
"She's beautiful with a hot body. Isn't that every guy's type?"
"With the way my career is going I doubt I would have any time to be in a relationship."
"This will be a boost for your career. As well as hers. You two could become the new power couple."
"Maybe. I'm enjoying being single though," the young megastar lies to get away from Jessica Biel.
"Okay. It's up to you Justin. What's the final word?"
They speak further about other upcoming projects and events he should definitely be seen at or contribute to in some way while they finish their brunch. Justin is a little worried about what his answer would mean but it is his life to live and he does not have to date anyone simply because his publicity agent has someone for him. The men pay the check on Jive and leave the restaurant to go their separate ways. Timberlake has a talk show in the afternoon and a photo shoot following that before he is released of his duties for the night. It should be an early one because he will not go to the nightclub his agent suggests to get his image more out there. It is just one nightclub and they can function perfectly fine without him. The songster is in no mood to party after the meeting he has just had. But something has to be done about his single status for the media so he will not become a future target. Dammit!
The chauffeur drives them away from the studio where Justin just wrapped up his photo shoot scheduled for today and he is tired. It ran over a couple of hours and it is now barely past nine as he heads back to the suite to regroup and rest. The thought has been stuck in his mind ever since this morning and he cannot shake it so it would stop. The cold metal box drags him up through the building until he is finally at the place he has called home for the past week. He enters and leaves his keys and phone on the first available table he comes across in a walk to his room. Shoes fly off and socks peel away and he lies back on the bed staring up at the ceiling wondering what he should do. Timberlake has to put himself out there romantically for the world to see but he is not over Kobe or what could have been between them. But it is gone now. And then something inside snaps and absolutely breaks away.
He is sick and tired of doing the right thing. He has been doing the right thing ever since his earliest memories and has nothing but emotional scars and pain to show for it. He always did the right thing in his relationship with the Los Angeles Laker he used to call his own and it led him to a painful dead end and almost off the haunting cliff. For his parents he was always an obedient and positive child who still to this day has never touched a cigarette or any type of drug whatsoever and he got smacked by his father for being gay. Doing the right thing only turns around to stab him in the back. Justin will not allow himself to do this anymore; he will not overanalyze every single situation to try and do what is best or right or even safe. Things have to change and he is at the starting point. He walks back outside and grabs his phone from the table to send a destined text message.
Set up the date.
Sun flows freely throughout the master bedroom with Timberlake sleeping through it mostly due to a pillow covering his head. A breakthrough happened last night; something that he was oblivious to needing but cannot survive without now. It is his once stifled sense of adventure and risk. Ever since he was little, he has always been careful about everything. It never got to the point where it bothered him or anyone else around him so it continued to happen all through his life. At a young age it was never disobeying his parents. As Justin got older and then became famous, it was money. He has always been careful with his money and careful not to splurge on anything deemed too extravagant by himself although he certainly has the resources to buy anything he wants. It is a switch in the back of his brain that kept him from falling into many of the potholes his fellow peers have over time.
But now it feels gone or turned off at the very least. The former N*SYNCer has a good enough head on his shoulders not to get involved in drugs or spend his career money away but he is not going to play it this safe anymore. The time is overdue for him to experience some true risks and yield some rewards once branded as unascertainable. He will go out with Jessica Biel for the media and maybe a little for himself. Kobe Bryant will not ruin this for him either. Justin opens his eyes and stares around reveling in the morning because his day is free. It is one of the few ones that is this way since he came to Japan. As it turns out, Jessica is in town promoting a new horror movie she is starring in so their date is tonight. Timberlake asked if their first date would be on the red carpet of her movie but the premiere already happened a few days ago so they are going out to dinner for their first time.
His day begins with a light breakfast and a rough workout during the early afternoon. He is nervous about his date seeing as he has not been on one with a woman in quite some time. There were a few women in and out of his life after he and Britney went their separate ways but nothing as serious as what he thought they had. And the future of this relationship is already determined; if they do have something together, it will be nothing like what he and Kobe once shared together. But that is starting to play it safe again so he stays away from that. Justin will go with the flow of life more often now because he is no longer worried about doing everything right. This relationship deserves a chance just as much as anything else in his life but he knows he will not love her romantically. Maybe they will end up being good friends and the publicity will already have been gained so it cannot be retracted.
The day sails by smoothly well into the late afternoon where he begins to get ready for his date. It is obvious that this is a setup because his publicist brings up her name and she is already miraculously in Tokyo promoting her movie. It is overanalyzing again so he pushes his mind onto something else so as not to psych himself out before the date even begins. He seems to forget that he is Justin Timberlake and that there are many women out there that want him. He is not that egotistical though thus never thinking like that. But some of that centric behavior will be needed tonight to help him get through the date. The singing star jumps out of the shower and changes into a pair of jeans and nice shirt that would do his image justice. A pair of shoes covers his feet and a fitted cap rests on his head to get ready to go. The hat covering his growing hair reminds him that he needs to get it cut short again.
In the car he hands the driver the address to the restaurant and sits back to try and relax himself. The only other time he was this nervous and anxious was when he and Kobe first started talking and he knew they were going to be something more than just friends. He starts wondering if this is a mistake but proceeds on ahead against his better judgment and heart's words. Justin looks at the late evening turn to night right in front of his eyes and gets himself mentally prepared for his date with the actress Jessica Biel. He has known about her for some time but they have never formally met or hung out together or even sit next to one another at award shows. The former boybander closes his eyes trying to think of what to talk about or how he should act or if he should kiss her at the end of the date. His mind is already going there but Timberlake snaps out of it when the car stops in front of the restaurant.
Anticipation builds even further when he steps into the upscale restaurant and gives him name for the reservation to be validated. Small murmurs and whispers come from the crowd eating and enjoying their company as no one seems to pay him any mind. They are all wrapped up in their own conversations and dates to know or even care that a superstar is amongst them; the hat was not needed. This place will be private. Justin follows his host to a private table covered behind damask drapes and he sits here to wait for his date. His date with a woman. Nerves extend from the tip of his fingers to the back of his neck but this is a good thing. The host disappears leaving the R&B singer alone in his new surroundings; he looks about and can barely make out the other patrons through the silky smooth fabric encircling the table. A rustling sound approaches and the drapes are pulled back to reveal her.
"Hey," Timberlake greets in an uneven voice while getting up from the table.
"Hi Justin," the gorgeous Jessica Biel brushes her hand into his and then smiles when he kisses it.
"We will be back shortly so you may place your orders," the host says in perfect English.
"Thank you," he dismisses the man. "You look---beautiful," it begins with.
"Thank you," the both sit at the same time.
"How are you enjoying Japan? Is it your first time here?"
"It is and it has been wonderful. The fans are great, the cities are beautiful, and the food is out of this world."
"Tell me about it. This place has been good to me every time I've been here."
"And how many times would that be?" Jessica inquisitively asks paying full attention.
"A few back when I was with N*SYNC and this is my second time coming here as a solo artist."
A brand new waiter interrupts them by pulling back the red damask drapery and entering the private space to take drink and entrée orders for the couple. Everything is going remarkably well thus far and Timberlake finds it easy to talk to and get along with his date. Only a few hardcore nerves remain and he is pretty much relaxed and chill about the whole evening now. He can play straight once again. After all, he pretended to be straight for more than half his life so far so this will be no different. Jessica smiles at him while he orders his meal after she finished ordering hers and the waiter picks up their menus and disappears behind the fabric wall erected for privacy but also ambience. Since there is practically no need for it, Justin removes his fitted hat and rests it on one of the pillars of the chair he is sitting on. His hair has grown some and is becoming a curly mess like back in the days of the band.
"You're letting your hair grow back?" she asks while sipping a cocktail the waiter only returned with a few moments ago.
"I don't want it to. I haven't had time to get it cut. It grows so fast I just can't keep up."
"I can see that. You're everywhere I turn. Congrats on the album by the way. It's a really good sound for you."
"You like it? Some people have labeled me a sellout for switching genres," Timberlake completely does not know why he says this.
"Well I don't think you're a sellout. As people grow they evolve you know? I don't think anyone expected you to go on making pop music as you got older."
"I think some people did. A lot in fact. But I grew up on Michael Jackson and James Brown. I grew up on R&B and soul so it was only time that I expressed those sides of my creativity. I just don't want to be locked in a box labeled bubblegum pop forever," he cannot stop himself from talking.
"Then it's about time you showed the world that you've matured as an artist," Biel comments positively and sweetly.
"I just don't want some of my fans to turn their back on me because they feel that I have abandoned them."
"Yeah. But you have to do what feels right to you. That's what I tell myself. When you do what feels right to you then the success is a much greater reward."
The R&B crooner contemplates this and, "You're right."
Not a moment sooner the drapes are drawn once again and their meals are upon them. Delicious aromas fill their nostrils and both smile as the table is populated with authentic Japanese cuisine. Timberlake feels more comfortable now than he has been this whole day and they engage in small talk while they eat and enjoy themselves. But he is confusing himself in everything. There is no potential here for a relationship. Of course Justin knew this before even coming here but something else is happening. Jessica seems wonderful and is beautiful but there are no sparks of romance between them. His feelings are not premature or false because of how this dinner is making him feel. If something were to happen between them the songster knows he will have to force himself and fake himself into it. That is not what a romantic relationship his supposed to be like. He cannot confuse the two for his own sake.
What he feels is a great level of comfort and playfulness inside just from this dinner alone. There is a strong possibility that they can become great friends he suspects but definitely nothing more. Their conversation thus far is something he cannot take serious in a romantic sense because they are tending to talk more about work and their images rather than anything too personal. But getting too personal on the first date is never a good idea and Timberlake would give anything to know what Jessica is thinking. He doubts she is sharing the same feelings he is but overanalyzing will not happen here. He can date someone who he only views as a friend if it means shedding part of his overly safe self image. Of course the young actress thinks everything is going well and she is only interested in Timberlake romantically. But this must continue even if it is just so he can prove it to himself.
He is going to do it. He is going to act as if he is interested in her as something more than a friend when the reality inside him is something far from it. But the media will eat them up and the former N*SYNCer has to admit that under a different set of circumstances, they would make a great-looking couple. Biel's smiles gives him clues as to how she is feeling and a taste of what this date means to her. He feels bad for her but the selling point of their relationship is media attention and nonstop gossip. The old Justin would have never agreed to go through with something like this, choosing to follow only his heart but that emotional snap that happened earlier has him thinking with his brain and leaving his heart burning in the dust. Leading with his heart landed him in Kobe Bryant's arms and then he was dropped hard on the floor and still trying to get up. Timberlake is sick of always being honorable.
"So you run away from the killer for the entire movie but then get killed at the end?" the singer tries to understand the movie.
"I know it's not original. But the character was calling to me at the reading. And besides that it really is a good movie."
"So they kill you at the end huh? Such a waste of beauty," the signature smile makes its first appearance of the evening.
"You're so sweet. Do you want anything for dessert? I couldn't eat another bite."
"Me either. Everything was good."
"Yeah," she agrees and they look at each other.
"Are you ready?" Justin asks as their need for the restaurant diminishes.
"Yeah. The car just arrived outside actually," Jessica informs while checking her phone.
"Okay. Let me get the bill and I'll walk you out."
Timberlake drinks the last of the sake from its shot glass and retrieves his hat before walking alongside his date up to the counter where they have to pay. He leaves a generous tip for their server while he feels Jessica's arm slip in between the open space of his arm and body and then fasten back to her other hand. He looks at her and smiles, waiting for the transaction between the restaurant and his credit card to be over so they can leave. The credit card goes back into his wallet and the pair walks out of the restaurant into the dark Japanese night. A car with a driver is waiting right in front of the curb for her. They stop just shy of it now to find themselves in that awkward first date moment everyone experiences not matter how famous they are. Justin does not want to kiss her but he has to make her think that he is interested and wants to see her again. It has to keep going. Biel's eyes are only on him.
"I had a really good time Justin," she says, finally parting away their hands.
"Yeah me too. I'm glad we did this."
"So when can we see each other again?"
Timberlake is careful, "I don't know but I want to. How long are you going to be here?"
"I'm leaving the day after tomorrow but I won't be back in the States for a few weeks."
"I'll see what I have to do and I'll call you okay---"
"Okay," Jessica complies with him.
Their moment only intensifies and he realizes that he is going to have to go through with it. He moves closer and closer to her face and sweetly presses their lips together to form their first kiss. It will not be anything passionate yet but he feels nothing even remotely. It is like he is kissing his sister, if he had one, but they will soon be linked in the press and it will all be worth it. Indulging this long silenced bad boy aspect of himself is starting to feel good in strange but extremely rewarding ways. The pair breaks apart after a couple of seconds of kissing time and he waves at her as she steps into the car. Jessica Biel looks at him through the raised glass and smiles before the car slowly pulls off and heads away. And Timberlake only has to wait a couple more minutes before a familiar car stops in front of the restaurant to whisk him away as well. It was a productive night as will be their new relationship.
He walks into the suite high in Tokyo's sky and takes off his hat, running his fingers through his hair in the process. He sits on the edge of the bed and takes off his shoes wanting to take a shower before going to bed. The kiss did not stimulate him in any way and it only reinforces the fact what he has been running from his entire life. The reasoning behind the dream he has been having ever since he can remember. He truly is gay and has no interest in women. But no one else needs to know that except him. The former N*SYNCer unbuckles his belt and lies back on his bed to relax and think of what his next move should be. The second date cannot be too soon after the first one and definitely has to be when they are back in the United States to maximize on the publicity aspect of it all. After all, there was no press on their first date. Timberlake is about to get up to go into the shower when his phone rings.
"Hello?" he asks, not recognizing the phone number attached to the call.
"Justin---hey. It's JC," his best friend responds back to him.
Paris, France is thundering and pouring rain as the private chartered jumbo jet screeches its tires onto the landing strip of Charles de Galle International Airport. The black tar ground speeding by creates a blurring effect in his eyes when he looks out the window from his comfortable seat. Timberlake is restless but excited to be in the city of lights as soon as possible. It soon becomes okay to removes seatbelts so he does so and gets up to stretch and rush blood back into his legs. The stormy rainclouds well disguises the time of day in Paris, which is a little past six in the evening but the darkness from above creates the illusion of the darkest midnight. After the call last night Justin chartered a flight for the first thing in the morning because this is the part of the world he needs to be in right now. And his career or anything else was not going to keep him away this time. Chasez is too important for that.
The giant aircraft rounds its final strip of pitch black grounding to come to a complete stop in a part of the airport he doubts most people ever see or even know about. There are always perks of being a world-renowned celebrity and privacy is both given and taken on a daily basis. It is satirical. The flight attendant, an older woman, retrieves his carryon bags for him during which the plane opens up to the harsh conditions outside. A door buckles open and slams shut as shoes stomp on light puddles of water and is mostly protected from the hailing water bath by a large canopy umbrella that can definitely cover more than one. The cold metal stairs are slippery wet and leads up to the sky so the umbrella follows the path and patiently waits by the door; it covers a good portion of the airplane opening and is sufficient enough for anyone to make the transfer without getting wet. Timberlake emerges outside.
"Hey. What's up Justin?" his best friend JC Chasez asks as they both begin to share the umbrella.
"JC---what's up bro. Man it's pouring out here."
"I know. Let's get out of this mess and then we'll talk," he replies while talking one of Justin's carryon bags for him.
Both men agree and carefully walk down the metal steps to notice airport workers placing the remainder of his luggage into the small trunk of a blood red sports car. A Ferrari California. Justin stares at the beautiful machine as they make their way towards it. With his suitcases put away JC guides them to the passenger side of the hardtop convertible to allow Justin to enter without getting anything else wet. Then he walks around the front of the small sports car and quickly enters and rests the now closed umbrella behind the driver's seat. He will have to clean up the mess later but there are more pressing matters that demand their attention. The car starts but does not move; the engine roars to life at first but then calms to a gentle and smooth purr. Timberlake examine the inside and it falsely brings back memories of the Lamborghini Kobe Bryant gave him. The cars truly have nothing in common though.
"Nice car. Is it new?" Timberlake asks when they are settled within the elegant Ferrari masterpiece.
"Two days old. I had to treat myself."
"Is that how old she is?" he gets excited again as it is the real reason he is here.
The sore memories he has of the basketballer will not come in between this moment nor will he let them. His best friend switches the car into first gear and the once purring engine roars to life and offers movement off the black tarmac of the airport. It is really happening and Timberlake feels a small ball of nerves settle in his stomach and his mind is forcing him to continually think about Kobe. Maybe this was a mistake. Neither says anything while Chasez drives further away from the airport but he keenly looks around the interior of the car, soaking up every detail. It is a magnificent beauty. Thoughts keep forcing themselves into his mind without any justification or provocation and the young singer is getting frustrated. Hard raindrops fall to the ground without any remorse as the silence in the car continues to be drawn out and excruciating. He looks outside through the darkened window.
"You look distracted," JC glances over quickly before putting his eyes back on the road. "What's on your mind?"
"No nothing. I'm a little nervous to tell you the truth."
"No don't be," he comforts. "Everything is going to be fine. How are you doing?"
"I'm good. Everything's moving along so I can't complain. Japan wasn't the same without you."
"I bet. And how's things moving along with---"
The R&B superstar cuts him off with, "---Kobe?"
"Talk to me Justin. I know it's been hard for you. I just want you to talk to me bro."
"There's nothing to talk about. It's over."
"I know that. How are you doing?" Chasez keeps diving deeper.
"You were never a good liar J."
He almost wishes the car would go back to the awkward silence of before because these questions are too hard to answer. Just when he thinks that his body and heart are getting over everything, Justin recedes back into quiet feelings of sharp pain and fiery anger. They are not healthy emotions to hold on to but for the life of him he cannot let them go and move on. Progressing one step but falling back two is his curse. This is not why he was asked to come to Paris but on some lower level he appreciates his friend's worry and protectiveness over him. JC is like his older brother and it has been this way ever since their days back in the Mickey Mouse club. But these questions should not be asked in such a way; Timberlake feels uncomfortable, raw, and exposed in a completely scared way for the entire world to see. He is already exposed for doing what he loves but this is on another level. And it is scary.
"What do you want me to tell you Josh?" he still remains calm and looks over at his best friend driving.
"Well---considering the last time I saw you your wrists were blood red, anything. Tell me anything Justin. Has he tried contacting you?"
"No. He sent me a couple texts for a few days after it all happened but I never responded back. And he called a couple times but nothing."
"Good. I know it's hard J but you have to be strong."
"I'm doing good JC. There's no need to worry about it or me," Timberlake tries to reassure.
"You're my little bro Just. I'm always going to worry about you man."
"Really wish you'd stop. I can take care of myself."
"I never thought otherwise because I already knew that," JC looks at him. "We're almost there."
"This car is cool."
"Rides smooth doesn't it? Like we're driving on clouds."
The rainy streets of Paris are drowned out by its own fault as the sleek driving machine slashes its way through puddles and other collections of water. The rain shows no sign of letting up as the pair zooms past city streets to make it to a distant suburbia. Modest houses and aged trees line the streets now and there is no speeding in this zone so the Ferrari California slows its pace in the presence of the watching houses. Justin looks outward to gain some type of idea as to where they are but nothing strikes him as even remotely familiar. Then the car begins to cruise only in first gear until Chasez turns into a well maintained French-looking cottage. It is now that he realizes that the other houses in this neighborhood bear striking similarities to this one. It seems like a quaint village of days past. This is the place. Raindrops refuse to give them a chance to escape into the dimly lit house. It is nonstop rain.
Water obscures the remnants of a once finely manicured front lawn he notices when looking out from the window of the sports car, which is still their protection from nature. JC reaches behind him for the large umbrella and both men agree to return for the suitcases once the rain has let up and gives them a chance to. He opens the driver's side door and immediately forces the umbrella open but droplets still land on the door and against the seat. It will have to be cleaned some other time. Timberlake waits until his best friend is hovering outside his door before he quickly opens it and steps under the giant awning. This transition goes much smoother the second time around and the pair quickly makes their way to the front porch of the house and is finally able to remove the umbrella from over their heads. Justin looks around and then at JC as he searches his keys and sticks one into the lock to click it.
"I can't believe this is happening," the young superstar relays as they both enter the modest house.
"It's already happened. Two days ago---like you said."
"How do you feel?"
"I can't describe it. I---really can't," Chasez replies the best he can. "Come on."
They thread through the dim house and up wooden steps that creepily creak and squeak in the almost darkness. The R&B crooner looks around to find few pictures or substance of anything else hanging on the walls; it looks rather bare to be a home but there is a warm comfort here. A crackle of lightning illuminates the second floor as they step onto it and follow the preset path to what he assumes is the master bedroom. Neither says anything and the complete silence is maddening but there will be time to talk later. Chasez turns around at the end of the hallway and smiles back at him; it is a completely new smile he had never seen on his best friend before but he cannot explain it. There is just something contagiously serene about it. He opens the door behind him and Justin waits outside until he is invited in. It is his upbringing. He wonders of the possibilities that lie beyond the door frame.
JC returns to the door and, "Okay J. Come on."
"Okay---" he says, to some extent uncomfortably.
"Justin---this is Selene, my girlfriend. And this---is Stella, our daughter," he announces his new family to his best friend.
Timberlake says this as he watches a beautiful raven-haired young French woman sway a small package close to her heart in a rocking chair. He softly walks over to her and kneels down to give her a kiss on the cheek as a formal greeting. He is extra careful not to make any noise but it is useless because the baby is awake; she has always been awake. Those are her father's eyes; there is no doubt. Those bright, beautiful eyes. The innocent creature has both her hands balled up in tiny fists and watches the intruder intently but only for a moment as something else catches her attention and then another. JC looks at him and then to his girlfriend; this moment means a great deal to him. It is his daughter and his girlfriend and his brother; three very important people in his life. Timberlake meets her eyes briefly before focusing back on the beautiful baby girl Stella. It really is what life is all about. He looks on.
"She's---perfect," the former N*SYNCer says tenderly and truthfully.
"Thank you," Selene's first words to him are in a heavy but understandable French accent. "It's nice to finally meet you Justin. Joshua's always talking of how close you two are. I'm so happy you could be here."
"I wouldn't miss it."
"Let him hold her honey," Chasez tells her.
"No—no. She looks very comfortable where she is JC---" Justin starts to say.
"I want you to," he cuts off with and walks over to the pair sitting on the rocking chair to get her.
"Careful with her head," Stella's mother protects as JC charily lifts his daughter away from her.
"Come here baby girl---" JC softly speaks to her and holds her close to him and kisses her forehead. "It's time you meet your uncle Justin."
"Uncle---Justin?" the singing star repeats only to himself but is heard by everyone else.
"Oh yeah. You're not getting out of this one Timberlake!" he relays but there is something else behind the smile.
He cautiously hands over his two-day-old daughter to the outward extended forearms of his best friend and brother. The baby's warmth runs spiraling down his spine and it coves his entire insides shortly after. She is a child sent form the purest place in all the worlds and galaxies in existence; her face says so. Justin rests her head on his folded elbow and brings their bodies close together for support and also to make sure he is doing it right. He does not want to mess up right now; this is not a performance rehearsal where he can start over if he misses a step or beat. Chasez walks over to his girlfriend and holds on to her hand while she gently rocks back and forth slowly recovering from childbirth. The parents cast their eyes over him as he bounces his body up and down to rock and soothe her. Timberlake's eyes are glued onto hers and his large fingers guide her miniscule balled up hand to his lips for a kiss.
"I got something for her in Japan. It's in my suitcase in the car," the former boybander tells them both and smiles at the baby again.
"You didn't have to man---" JC says.
"Of course I did. I am her uncle Justin after all. Yes I am---" Justin plays with Stella in a cute and innocent voice.
"That's so sweet of you," Selene thanks him with.
"Well---about that. There's something we would like to ask you Justin," he offers while their hands are still mended together and resting on the handle of the rocking chair.
"Huh---yeah sure. Anything man---"
"Well---" his best friend and former bandmate begins again. "Selene and I have talked about it and we would like to ask you to be Stella's godfather."