~*~ 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 Forty-Three

~*~ The Ever Consuming Nothingness ~*~



Vaguely cognizant of the time he was startled awake by both his cell phone's alarm as well as his best friend, who towered over and called out to him. It was four in the morning and his room was still dark; his insides were forcing him to pull the blanket over his head and fall back asleep but that was not an option. It was time to go. Justin sat up on the bed, his bare chest coming more into view and said nothing. Once JC was sure that he was not going to trick him and go back to sleep, like he did when they were younger and even in N*SYNC together, he left to get himself ready. He yawned and stretched out his limbs in the darkness before pressing his feet against the cold hardwood floors and moving to turn on the lights of the room. The singing star needed a shower and something to eat as his stomach was growling and being unruly. It was a nice time away that was not expected but welcomed.

It had been three days since he came to Paris on that rainy day and it only seemed to let up just a few hours ago. Throughout his entire time it basically rained nonstop so they all were pretty much stranded indoors but that was not a problem. His only reason for coming here was to meet Selene and Stella. She was a beautiful baby and her mother was very nice and humble. They were going to make a great little family. Timberlake rubbed his stomach and scratched his head and let out another morning yawn before he felt fully awake and alert. His things were already packed for him to go back to the States and continue working. He felt a resurgence of new energy and was motivated and even anxious to get back to work. The confusing part was figuring out why; if it was seeing the baby or his new self-fulfilling prophecy he did not know. The bad boy was getting more and more comfortable inside.

Justin felt awkward and a little weird walking into the room while both Selene and Stella were still sleeping but this was his goodbye. Once his former bandmate assured him that it was okay they both quietly entered the quaint bedroom and went over to the crib in the corner of the room. They had not too long ago put her down for the third time after a feeding and diaper change so she looked peacefully at sleep under the watchful eye of the Moon. He rested his hand on top of the railing and just watched his best friend's daughter as she slept. Silvery light from the heavens shone on her milky skin and illuminated off the exquisite gold charm bracelet that was adorned around her tiny left wrist. JC patted him on the back and smiled in the dark before he sat on the edge of his bed. Easily, Timberlake pressed his index and middle fingers to his lips and transported the kiss to her perfect forehead.

"Bye Stella---" the R&B songster lowly whispered.

"Is she okay?" they both were startled to hear a voice from behind.

"Yeah---she's out like a light," Chasez turned around and reassured to his girlfriend.

"Did we wake you up?" Justin asked.

"No---no. Her feeding time was about a half an hour ago so I was already up. Are you all ready?"

"Yeah. We're about to leave now. I brought Justin to say goodbye."

"Justin---" she summoned in her French voice and he walked over to her. "Thank you for everything. I am glad that Joshua has a friend like you and that our daughter will have someone like you looking after her. Thank you Justin."

They hug for an intense second until he broke away and replied, "You don't have to thank me. I'll do whatever I can to help you both out. JC's my family and now you're his family so that means you're my family."

"Okay okay you two. Just we have to go if you want to catch breakfast and your plane."

"Okay. Bye Selene. Take care of Stella---and JC."

"I will do so," she replied.

Varied cool and warm breezes greeted their faces as the door of the charming cottage opened and both men stepped out to get into the expensive Ferrari California. A mixture of sweetness and saltiness hung in the air early in the morning which signified that rain only recently stopped falling to the Earth. The trunk popped open upon approach and all the luggage went into the compartment and each man walked around to their perspective sides to get in. The engine screamed to life and the car warmed up a little before jetting out of the driveway and down to street and away from the house. His short hair was wet from the shower but it would dry in no time so he looked out the window at all the passing houses and then streetlamps when they got onto the highway. They would grab something to eat for breakfast somewhere closer to the airport to save on time. Chasez swerved the car to avoid a slower driver on the freeway and sped in his beautiful machine. He really did have everything.

As the Moon disappeared and the Sun began to take its place more cars littered the streets and thusly created traffic. But they were not too far from the airport and not that late when they stopped off at a small bistro to get breakfast. JC parked the car away from everyone else's and they walked the duration of the parking lot to enter the restaurant and were immediately seated and handed menus. It was still very early in the morning but the little bistro was quite populated with people, most likely grabbing a bite before heading in to work. They both knew the feeling. Timberlake ordered a mimosa to drink because the flight back was so long that hopefully the alcohol would help him get to sleep easier. Sleeping on a plane was always uncomfortable for him, private or commercial jet liners. His stomach growling even harder forced him to stop the waitress so she can take their orders then she was off again.

"I am so hungry---" he cutely whined.

"I'm really going to miss you JT," Chasez told him from across the small table.

"Yeah---but you have your new family to take care of now. I guess you can't take care of me anymore."

"I thought you didn't like me worrying or taking care of you?"

"No one likes to admit when they need help."

"That's true," his best friend smiled.

"But I've always appreciated you looking out for me Josh. You know that. I was in a weird place after---" Justin recalled almost as if he was forced to.

"---Yeah. I know. Are you still in that place?"

"I'm---not sure. I'm honestly not sure."

No matter what he said or did he knew that Chasez was going to be there for him and worrying about him; it went the same way vice versa as well. It had been the nature of their relationship for years and it was never going to change. Having someone there to talk and check in on him after his breakup with Kobe Bryant prevented him from bottling up everything and having it harm him that way. But a tinge of guilt fluttered inside because of Jessica Biel; Justin wanted to tell him about her but then he knew he would be lectured on the spot because it was wrong so he decided to keep it to himself and let JC find out whenever the rest of the world caught on. His relationship with the stunning siren was for the public anyway so it was only a matter of time before their pictures were splashed all over the tabloids. By telling his friend about her he was going to have to admit to himself that it was a fraud.

The reason for Jessica Biel was because he was lashing out against Kobe Bryant and his former weak self. This new bad boy was gaining more control and he was letting him have the power. Doing the honorable and perfect relationship did not work out and now he was hurt and determined to do anything possible to get away from that. Jessica seemed like a nice girl but he was absolutely sure that he had no type of attraction to her but the power was going to come back to him. And her bright star was going to make it so. The waitress returned with their breakfast and they waited until she left before they started to eat. JC smiled as he took a croissant off the tray and he looked content with his decision. Maybe this was exactly what he needed to grow up a little and to settle and become more stable in his life. Justin doubted that he himself would be stable in a long time but this was the path he chose.

"Hey---I wanted to say thank you for making me see the light," Chasez offered before sipping his drink.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm sorry I thought you betrayed me when I wanted her to get an abortion. I don't know what I was thinking---"

"It was a rough time for you---" the former N*SYNCer tried to say.

"---That's not an excuse. If you thought it was the best thing to do then I wouldn't have Stella in my life right now. And I honestly can't imagine life without her now. And she hasn't even been here a week yet."

"She's an angel JC. A perfect child."

"Yeah. But I think we're biased."

"Maybe---" Justin trailed off, wondering. "So how are things with Selene? I mean---"

"---Am I happy?" he cut in. "We're---working out. I'm taking it day by day."

"She seems like a good person."

"Oh yeah---she is."

Another mimosa round was ordered for the table and more people came into the restaurant to get their day started. He and Selene were working out so that was good. All children deserved to have both their parents raise and love them. She was caring and compassionate and if she managed to settle JC down then that would be an extraordinary feat. It was going to take time, as with all other things, but Timberlake believed that they could be a happy couple together. It was exactly what his former bandmate needed. They continued to eat and talk about his new life and when, and if, he was ever going to return to the States. His family was halfway across the world now; it was going to be an unselfish adjustment. The young waitress returned to check up on them and left once they assured her that everything was fine. Justin had been wondering about something ever since coming to Paris.

"You haven't told her that I'm gay have you?" the megastar asked in almost a whisper because he had a right to know. "I'm just curious---"

"What difference does that make?"

"I don't think she would've wanted me as her child's godfather if she knew."

"You really think that Justin?" Chasez asked and was shocked.

"Hey it is what it is---"

"What does that mean?"

"Come on JC. You know what the world thinks about people like me," Justin said the sad realization.

"Where is all this coming from? And Stella is our child."

"So you didn't answer the question."

"No Justin. I haven't told her because she doesn't need to know," he replied, a little upset. "Being gay doesn't make you a bad person. Is that what you think?"

"No. I thought maybe she thought that. And that maybe you two had a fight about making me Stella's godfather."

This conversation was going deeper than he expected or even wanted it to but he had to know the truth and what being Stella's godparent truly meant. He did not want this out of pity or guilt or anything else. Justin was becoming more twisted and paranoid as the new bad boy took over; it felt worse now than when he was ignoring his basic needs and ultimately crashed on stage. But this had to work. Things were going to be his way because it was demanded. JC's eyes on him felt like burning bulbs against his skin as the overall mood had changed almost instantly. There was nothing to say but a small part of the young superstar felt safe that his best friend had told nobody. That part still contained innocence and benevolence. Maybe this was not such a good idea. He was going to ruin that little girl with all his lies and deception and destructive self behavior. No. It could not be.

"---Justin. Hey---" Chasez snapped his finger over the table.

"Huh? You were saying something?" the R&B star tried to cover his tracks but failed.

"Where were you just now?"

"---Thinking about all the work I have to do when I get back to the States," he lied.

"So---are we good?"

"Yeah I guess."

"If there's something else you want to say then say it Just," JC said in a calm but slightly irritated tone.

"I'm happy for you Josh. I really, really am."

"I can't imagine life without her now. Isn't that weird?" he mused.

"I hear children have that effect on many people."

"Wow---look at the time! We have to get going J."

"I'm full. Let me get this and we'll be out of here---" Justin started to reach for his wallet.

"Don't even think about it!"

Timberlake felt the stern look and easily slid his wallet back into his pocket as the bill was placed on a plastic card. There was no use putting up a fight so he let his best friend have this one. It only took a moment for the waitress to appear at the table to take the bill away and then return with a receipt. Both men stood up at the same time and casually walked out of the restaurant and through the parking lot to the still lonely sports car. JC opened the car and wondered deep in his mind about the man sitting on his car's passenger seat. He wondered how Justin was truly dealing with his breakup from Kobe Bryant or why he never wanted to talk about it. Dwelling on the past was never good but it also helped to talk it all out so it could be moved past. He was not going to pry though; things could get out of hand if he did. The car stirred and started quietly as the final destination was forthcoming.

He did not mean to act that way back at the bistro but something inside him could not help it. Now he just wanted JC to stop worrying about him; the more he wanted his best friend to stop worrying about him was the more he did. It was an ironic change of events, which most of his life seemed to be for the past few weeks. A short vibrating against his upper leg forced Justin to retrieve his cell phone. It was Jessica Biel but he could not risk taking her call here because it would ruin everything. JC had to find out just like everybody else on the planet for this to work. He would have gained back all his power and really hurt the one who hurt him. His twisted mind figured it all out and bad boy Justin Timberlake was in control now. Bryant broke him in many ways and some of them did not seem like they was ever going to be fixed. It was right. This was the way it had to be.

Maybe it was the alcohol from the few mimosas the singing star had but it felt awkward in the car now. And he was sure it was all him because he was envious. It may not have happened the way Chasez wanted it to but he had a family now; a beautiful girlfriend and angelic daughter that loved him dearly. It was envy and pity and anger scrambled together because Timberlake was never going to have the normal life. The family his best friend now had would never be like the family he might have and it made him sick to his stomach. The feelings were unhealthy and although they were about JC, Justin knew the only person he could feel any anger toward was himself. His life was his responsibility and no one else's. He had to get away from the envy and small resentment that built inside his stomach. For his sake, he had to let that go and be happy for his best friend like he knew he truly was.

"You want me to just drop you off or go in with you?"

"Come in with me," Timberlake heard himself say in a low voice.

His former bandmate glanced over at him quickly and then, "Okay. We're almost there now."

Silence fell against the car again as it swerved off the main highway and onto the airport's exit ramp. They really were here. Both men remained quiet while they looked for a parking space so early in the morning. The day had begun as more people were out on the street and in the airport. JC found a nice spot and easily pulled his car into it before turning off the motor. They got out and retrieved luggage from the trunk and started their journey to the busy airport. There were still unspoken words between them as if it was not safe to speak but so many things had to be said. The jealously was something the former N*SYNCer was going to have to deal with on his own but it was hindering his ability to speak at present. They walked side by side deeper into the large airport until the private counter was upon them. There were hardly any people there and the clerk was busy typing in front of them.

"Let's get you checked in---" Chasez said to them both.

"Wait here. I'll do it."

Timberlake walked up further and struck up a conversation with the young man behind the desk as his friend looked on from behind. He wondered the toll it took on him when he broke up with Bryant and how sore he really was. In all the time they knew each other Justin was a poor liar but he was always great at pretending that things were okay when they were not. He was a contradictory man that way. A bad liar but a great pretender. A glance at his watch told JC that the fight was a little more than a half an hour away; they made great time. The singing star walked back to him and smiled out of the corner of his mouth before embracing the other man in a tight hug. It was completely unexpected and there was definitely something more to the embrace; a need for support and attention. Justin needed to be supported in so many ways but his bad boy alter ego would never let him admit that.

"They're boarding now---" he said when they finally broke apart.

"We made it just in time then," JC smiled softly.

"Yeah. Thanks to you."

"Hey---what are big brothers for---"

"Always looking out for me," the R&B crooner said with both appreciation and a hint of annoyance.

"Um Justin? You are---going to be okay right?"

The question penetrated through his skull and sat on his brain. It almost felt like he knew but he could not have. No one did. This thirst for power was briskly consuming his senses and his moral compass was being strained to the point of being broken. That was not what Chasez had in mind when he asked him to be Stella's godfather. He had to decline. There was no way he was going to get an innocent child caught up in his dirty and sinful life. He had every intention of regretfully declining because of his clouded judgment and raw negativity. What was not showing on the outside was seething and brimming on the inside. The Los Angeles Laker really destroyed his once moral and decent insides. It was not far to blame the whole ordeal on Kobe but Justin was far too gone to even care about being fair or rational. He made him hurt and now it was his turn to hurt. Stella could not be. Not like this.

"I need you to be okay Justin," he best friend started off his true goodbye with.

"I am okay."

"Call me if you need to talk. Ever. Anytime."

"I know. I don't need to be lectured Josh," Timberlake groaned but then smiled at the thought of someone caring for him. "I have to get on."

"Okay. Take care of yourself. I love you bro," he said and grabbed the younger man into a heartfelt hug.

"I love you too man. And I love Stella so much already. I want to be her godfather."

"Yeah? You mean it?"

"Yes. She got to me. I can't refuse her."

"I knew she would. Thank you Just. This means a lot to me."

"Me too. More than you know---"

The men grip together one last time before Justin walked away to board the private jet liner to take him back home. After all the traveling it was going to be nice to go home for a while. Every fiber in his body forbade him from becoming that little girl's godfather but the very small part of himself that is still innocent wanted it so bad. Being in this innocent child's life might force him to grow up and act maturely. Maybe Stella's presence in his life would force the bad boy aspect of his personality away and he could go back to how things were before. Before Kobe Bryant and before his heart was shattered into non-findable pieces. The small good part of himself hoped that JC's daughter could help him in a way that no one else could; not even his own self. So he had to be her godfather. It was selfish and underhanded and loathsome but he had to have that little girl intertwined in his life this way.


Blistering light enters the still room and a soft chiming sound grinds into his ears as he reaches over to quickly shut it off. It is seven o'clock in the morning and the shooting guard is up early because he has many errands to run today. Vanessa is still comfortably sleeping by his side and completely unaware that someone is watching her. He used to watch Justin sleeping as well; the similarities in the two relationships become strangely too familiar. Bryant easily maneuvers out of the large bed and walks through the new light into the bathroom to get ready to leave. Things are so much easier now that he is living one life again but Kobe does not want his life to be easy. He does not want to give up his young singer but fate has forced his hand to do so. He strips away his boxers and quickly uses the bathroom before getting into the shower. Today his life will change whether he wants it to or not.

"Aww---umm," the basketballer lets out effortlessly as the water touches his skin.

It is the right thing he is doing. It is for them both after all and the past must remain there if his future is to have any chance of survival. He completely immerses himself under the spraying nozzle and washes away any sign that he was asleep not too long ago. His lanky arms reach for a bar of soap to quickly expedite this process because he wants to leave even before Vanessa has a chance to wake. The shower runs very quietly so he is grateful for that. Bryant lathers across his chest and under his arms to get clean all the while his mind wanders and so does blood inside his body. And even without his hands running across his lower body, his dick starts growing at his memories. Those sweet memories of Aspen and being by the fireplace and holding him so close when it got cold. They are bittersweet now because he desperately has to move on but the memories keep him stuck in one place for eternity.

"Dammit," he disapproves under his breath but it has to be taken care of.

Kobe's dick grows long and almost begs for attention so he steps away from the showerhead and soaps his hand to begin his dirty work. Vanessa will never know about this. She will never know about her boyfriend's lust for something he can no longer have. His lubricated hand wraps around his thumping shaft and starts the sinful display of pleasuring himself while thinking of another man. Justin's soft lips against his is the hardest memory to get rid of. That and his innocent, boyish smile. And the things they did together. The Los Angeles Laker feels his shaft become tougher and ready to explode thinking about his sex life with Justin Timberlake. The young megastar that everyone on the planet wants a piece of. Whether professionally, personally, or sexually they all wanted him and he had him. Bryant had all of him for a time. The thought alone just makes him more lustful and feel guiltier about it all.

He pumps harder and faster and his nipples are erect and every muscle in his body tenses up to show how truly toned he really is. The many years of being a professional ball player has kept his body in the best shape and will allow him and his family to live lavishly for the rest of their lives. He at least owes that to Vanessa and their unborn child. The baller's left hand grazes against each nipple so slowly while he presses his back into the tiles for support. Moans tumble out of his lower lip when his hands move away from his chocolate brown nipples and begin to fondle his balls. Kobe remembers his sweet whispers and the sultry kisses. It feels like all the blood in his body is fueling his raging hard pole and he wants Justin here badly. He wants to do so many things to him here. No matter that there is only a thin layer separating them from Vanessa. Showers have always been more fun with Timberlake.

"---Uhuh Justin. Damn baby---" Bryant hears the lust in his voice.

As soon as the name escapes his lips cum erupts from his stimulated organ and blasts out into the shower. They are fated to be intertwined in some way. It is a cruel joke. His muscles go limp to soak in the momentary waves of bliss but it is all soon revoked and life sets back in. This unexpected activity has set him back so he quickly finishes up with his shower and hops out to brush his teeth. Kobe may be freshly clean but he feels dirty for what just happened. His pregnant girlfriend is on the other side of the wall serenely sleeping and he was just in here jacking himself off and thinking about another man who he loves so much. It all has to go into the back of his mind to be evaluated later because he is running late. Bryant tries his best to avoid the mirror as he finishes brushing his teeth and easily opens the door to make his way to their closet to get dressed for his day. To leave memories behind.

The basketball legend fishes out an outfit and sits on the edge of their bed once he is dressed to put his shoes on. Vanessa is still resting behind him and when he looks at her, the guilt becomes unbearable. But soon that guilt will be absolved away so he will not be torn inside. He fits on a pair of nice dress shoes and gets up so his slacks fall almost to the floor. The outside Sun gets warmer as the day getting on and he really has to get going. She will know nothing. Strong cologne splashes against Bryant's neck and the Van Cleef & Arpels watch fasten to his wrist. It really is a handsome watch. He places his wallet in his back pocket and puts on a hat and shades to try and conceal himself. His height is the main thing that gives him away though. Kobe glances over himself quickly in the mirror and walks over to his girlfriend's bedside and kneels down to kiss her on the forehead. He truly does love her.

"I love you baby---" he feels he needs to say it.

A quick passing through the refrigerator grants him a small bottle of orange juice and he is off to the garage. The engine screams to life loudly but then reverts to a quiet rumble and he is off into the morning. Inside him still feels dirty but he does not care because Justin Timberlake is his lustful fantasy. A fantasy he wants to have all over again but knows he cannot. Not now. The roads are busy with people scrambling to get to work this early in the morning. The beautiful driving machine stops at a red light and his lips come in contact with the rim of the plastic orange juice bottle. Going deep into the city is always a hassle but this time is simply cannot be avoided. Kobe sees a garage and decides to park in there instead of on the street so as not to draw any attention to himself. He drives up endless ramps until he is on a floor practically to himself. The car shuts off and leaves the floor in silence.

The tall building he needs to be in is slightly off in the distance so he starts the trek through the concrete jungle. This is the right decision for them and the only one that will stabilize his life. A cool breeze brushes against his exposed cheek when he steps out of the parking structure and onto the street. The hat lowers close to his eyes and shades guises his eyes even more as he walks amongst other people to his destination only a few blocks away. The surrounding skyscrapers make them all feel like tiny ants amidst their presence. Bryant keeps to himself and tries not to bump into anyone to make sure his identity is secure. The day is in full swing now and everyone either seems to be too busy talking on the phone or to each other to worry about who is around them. The entrance of the building is only a few feet away but he is approached by a young boy who looks to be no more than twelve. He is a fan.

"Hey mister---" his prepubescent voice calls out and upwards to the much taller man. "You're Kobe Bryant aren't you?" he hopefully asks.

Bryant's heart melts but before he could confirm or deny the claim a woman approaches and, "Justin! I told you not to let go of my hand. I'm sorry if he's bothered you."

"It's no---" Kobe tinges at the little boy's name but is interrupted.

"But mom! I want to ask him for his autograph. He's my favorite player. It's Kobe Bryant!"

The young and new Justin says it so loudly that a scene starts to unfold and before any of them knows it, a mob has gathered. Everyone wants to shake his hand and take pictures with him and gain his autograph. Bryant cannot be mad at the young child though and makes sure to give him his autograph first. And then he poses with the child for a picture snapped by his mother. Everyone wants a piece of him and it is quickly becoming out of control. The crowded mob surrounds him so he cannot exit to entire the building that is right there. He needs help. People are yelling and screaming that they found one of their Los Angeles Lakers but it is quickly becoming a spectacle and more people are taking notice of the commotion and coming to investigate. The snowball effect will surely keep him here all day and night; he needs help to get away from this crowd. Being a celebrity is a fickle and crazy business.

"Okay---okay," he is overwhelmed. "Let me by."

He is hopelessly stuck smiling and signing pictures as the pack gets closer and tighter onto him. The baller tries his best and maneuvers as close to the door as possible but it is to no avail until someone spots him. The security guard inside the building spots the large crowd and immediately recognizes who is in the center of it. He quickly assembles a small team to quickly diffuse the situation and they begin to intercept the crowd. They move swiftly into the crowd and start dispersing the multitudes of people. The four security officers strip the layers of people away from the superstar basketball player and are finally able to reach him. They gently but firmly push people aside and Kobe feels when one of them grabs onto his hand and tug at him. Eyes meet for a brief second before he begins to follow the leader. The crowd is insatiable and cannot stop compressing into them. It is hectic.

Around a giant crowd of people two glass doors of the tall skyscraper open and five men enter and quickly shut it behind them. Members of the crowd become agitated and upset that they are denied entry into the public building as the same man holding onto the basketball star's hand leads him further away from the entrance until finally letting go. They bang against the glass and the doors craving more autographs and pictures but red and blue lights soon flash behind them all and relief can finally be seen. A pair of Los Angeles police cruisers pull up to the curb of the road and uniformed officers get out to control the crowd. Heavy mechanized voices magnified through bullhorns disperse the crowd slowly but surely. The madhouse that was once outside is slowly thinning away until the sidewalk can be seen again. The sunglasses and hat did not work but he does not blame the young Justin for this.

"Thanks," Bryant graciously says to the security officer closest to him.

"Are you okay? Are you hurt?" he asks without looking back.

"No---no. I'm good."

"Do you need to talk to the cops Mr. Bryant?" the security officer now turns to face him.

"No. No one was harmed. I really need to get going."

"Okay then."

"Thanks again for your help," the basketballer replies and makes a path to the elevator.

Once surrounded by cool metal walls and only a few patrons he has time to relax and calm down. The situation outside was not that bad but it would progressively become worse had the security officers and cops not put their hands in to get him out. And all this happened because an innocent little boy recognized his favorite player on the street. Kobe cannot even begin to be upset at this but maybe his judgment is clouded because of the little boy's name. Even at that though, he can never say no to his young fans. They look up to him and he always wants to set a positive professional example for them all. Image branding is everything in this fickle business. Many floors up and Bryant has the elevator to himself so he is able to collect his thoughts for what he is about to do. The morning's activities will not deter what is coming. At the top of the building the metal lift allows him to go free. It is the time.

"Good morning Mr. Bryant," a youthful blonde immediately greets him. "I'm Arianna. How are you doing?"

"Well I was mobbed downstairs on the street---" he laughs at it now while shaking her extended hand.

"Oh my---are you alright?"

"Yes. It's been one of those mornings. But I'm fine."

"Thank goodness that unpleasantness is behind you. Welcome to Harry Winston then. If you take a seat over here someone will be with you momentarily," the beautiful sales associate ushers him into a glamorous waiting area.


"Would you like something to drink in the meantime?"

"A bottle of Sei please," Kobe smiles and requests.

She nods at the request and disappears leaving him alone to admire the skyline below him. This is the right decision for them both and their new family. Moving backwards is never an option so he is forced forward and this is the next step in their relationship. The only logical step now that she is carrying his child. Kobe contemplates the thought of being a father every second since he found out and is not sure he can handle it. He could turn into his father and mentally warp and destroy his child the way he is now. Maybe they will want someone of the same sex like he does. Or did. Regardless of anything, the child will be loved and cherished like all children should be. It all still overwhelms him and he is so scared of failing or not being a good father. Arianna returns and jolts him out of his thoughts to give him the expensive bottle of water. He opens and sips it immediately to cool his parched throat.

"If you will follow me," she gestures past him. "We're ready for you."


The little Justin is running rampant inside his mind. The coincidence is strange and beginning to bother him. It has to be fate playing a cruel joke on him. Kobe follows the young lady through the exotic jewelry boutique to one of the last offices where the door was partially closed. He will never admit it but he is still a little shaken about what happened this morning. But that is easily moved past and he has to concentrate on doing the right thing here. A small part of him is excited and anxious to get this over with and he has only a scant idea of what he wants. Of what she wants. It sounds like someone on the other side of the ajar door is just finishing up a conversation over the phone and the basketballer is starting to have second thoughts about the whole ordeal. But he loves her so much. These thoughts should not be here. Especially at this place. Again, the young associate snaps him back to reality.

"He's ready for you," she tells him and opens the door before disappearing.

"Mr. Bryant---good morning. I'm Aaron Montgomery," he extends his hands and Bryant takes it.


"Alright. Please---sit and let's talk."

"Okay," Kobe obliges and takes a seat on the other side of a handsome mahogany desk.

Aaron Montgomery is an older and distinguished man with gray touching either of his temples. His handshake is warm and inviting and they engage in small talk before getting down to business. Harry Winston has been so good to him over the years that it was not even a choice of coming here to get Vanessa an engagement ring. This is the right step to take; the only step. She has no idea he is doing this and it is best this way. There is no pressure and he can control the pace of something in his life. No matter what Kobe is more than determined to create a stable and loving environment for his newborn child. He is determined to create a family for them all full of love, hope, and happiness. He listens to what is being told to him already knowing their mission of satisfaction. Resonant feelings for someone will not hold him back from living his life. From moving on to what is right. Not anymore.

"So what is it I can do for you Kobe?" his salesman instinct kicks in.

"I'm looking to get an engagement ring---" The Los Angeles Laker is short and to the point.

"Oh? Congratulations."


Montgomery intercede with, "Let's get started then. Do you have any ideas on what you want?"

The questions are only going to get harder as are the decisions. He wants everything to be perfect for her. Maybe it will make up for his unknown shameful behavior. So this has to be over the top extravagant because she deserves as much. The pair begins talking ring designs and shapes and, most importantly, the stone. But everything is going to be in steps so they have to slow down. Vanessa has always talked about getting engaged but never about what type of ring she wants. This is how Kobe knows that she is not with him for his money; she just wants to be with him and wants a solid commitment. He can now give that to her without feeling guilty. No matter that she got pregnant first; this is the right move forward for their family. Montgomery swivels around behind his desk to raid a few cabinets for books of standard rings as well as going custom. The process shall be complex and intricate one.

"So we have a lot to discuss and choose from as you can see. Do you have any ideas?" he repeats again.

Bryant starts flipping through the book closest to him, "It has to be something beautiful. I don't know---there are so many to choose from."

"Welcome to the first step. All men in your position are overwhelmed at first---"

"How do they get through it?"

"That's what we're here for," he comforts as he is looking through books as well to get ideas. "Let's start with the band---"

"Platinum. I at least know that," Kobe laughs.

"Okay. Now we're getting somewhere."

"Does your future wife have any idea of what she wants? Have you two discussed this?"

"No. She doesn't know I'm planning to ask her."

"Sounds like quite the surprise then. I'm sure we'll figure it all out."

The salesman's reassurance does nothing to quell the insatiable feeling that he is going about this all wrong. The feeling that this is not the time for him to marry her. Kobe becomes more uneasy inside the more time he spends in this Harry Winston boutique. It has nothing to do with Justin but his ability to at last recognize that he is quite possibly not ready for marriage. That his guilt is the major fueling factor in wanting to propose so soon. But pushing this along will not absolve his overwhelming feelings. Pages flip past less profligate jewelry that will most likely never be given a second glance. That is not what he wants for her. Vanessa is his life now and this ring has to express how much he loves and wants her. Even if his emotions are conflicted inside she will never know this or how truly sorry he is. This sorrow is what pushes him forward to do more for her. As much as he possibly can.

"I want to create a ring for her---" Bryant says out of nowhere.

"Okay. You're sure you didn't see anything she would like?"

"Yes but I want it to be special. This way I know it will be."

"Alright---let me get another brochure for us to look at."

Something instantly pops into his head and the baller announces, "She wants a pink diamond. I remember her talking about it when we first started dating. I want a pink diamond. Money is no object."

"Just a sec---" Montgomery pauses him to retrieve a form from deep inside his desk. "So a platinum band with a pink diamond. Do you have a particular carat size in mind?"

"Maybe ten or twelve. With three small diamonds on either side of the pink one and all around the band," Kobe starts getting into it by picturing how the ring will look in his mind.

"And how soon do you need this by?" the salesman is busily filling out the form and asking questions.

"As soon as you can get it to me. I haven't picked a specific date ask yet or anything like that. Why?"

Aaron Montgomery remains silent for a moment but, "Pink diamonds are rare and the bigger the carat the harder they are to find. What you're trying to do will take some time---"

"How much time?"

"We'll have to look for the center diamond if we don't have it in any of our other stores. If we don't have it in stock then all the time will go towards looking for it. It could take three weeks or three months," the truth comes out.

Maybe it is another test but he cannot be negative about this. Kobe is beating himself up far too much over this proposal; it is unhealthy. But he does not have a proposal date in mind so maybe this could spin towards his advantage. Waiting for this could prove disastrous but there is no other choice so it has to be this way. The basketball legend will have to keep his cool and remain on top of himself and simply hope that a pink diamond will find its way to him soon. The associates at Harry Winston have yet to let him down so he is not too worried about the outcome of this ring. More time is granted to make sure everything is perfect for her; this is not so bad. As a part of the custom ring process Montgomery pulls up a program on the computer so they both can get a vivid picture of the ring the consumer wants. Both work for what seems like hours on developing the perfect ring for his girlfriend.

"Try the twelve-carat diamond in the center again," Bryant tells him.

"Alright. What do you think?" once the change occurs.

"Twelve-carat definitely. And can the three diamonds on either side be a little bigger? That should be it."


"Oh yeah. That's exactly the same picture I had in my mind."

The ring is absolutely beautiful and he wants to hold it in his hand right now. He wants to give it to her right now but that is impossible. The middle diamond will be quite a feat to accomplish but he is confident that it will get done. After signing multiple forms, Kobe finally gets up from the other side of the mahogany desk and shakes the salesman's hand. They are finished and it is everything he wants. Now comes the process of waiting as he walks out of the high class boutique and makes his way down the tall building. Most of the morning is gone but he still has to stop off at a couple more places for himself before he can go back home. Walking back to the parking structure comes to an end without any disruption from the outside world and the car starts, ready to go. Vanessa will be so surprised. They will be so happy together as a couple and when they create a family. He has to believe this.