~*~ 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 Seven

~*~ The Truth Behind Beliefs ~*~



Black shadows taint his lucid skin and his eyes get used to seeing without any light present as they have done so many times before. Spending too much time in this place will force him into insanity. The walls around him are the color of oblivion and his mind is thinking in too many different directions to comprehend anything. Justin is literally being stretched and pulled apart in so many ways that he cannot put up a fight anymore. There is no point in prolonging this hell by fighting it. But he does not want this. A realization that could destroy him inside and out. His soul is burning and his eyes watering. Tears fall from them and are absorbed into the darkness below him. Timberlake cannot stop crying; it is the worst dream to date and he is a distraught mess. Sleep is a thing of the past that laughs in his face. He is defeated and tired and lonely. Broken. No!

The screams echo and reflect back to him and he starts to gain a new understanding that this will never stop unless he allows it to. Unless he allows his body to succumb to the pressure and feelings and just give in to what he knows he wants. The thing he has wanted for so long. The singer wants to feel that way but he is also terrified of it. It is unnatural. He cannot feel that way. His eyes sting when a sharp spectrum of light shoots across the black plane and tears it open to reveal a new path. Something new that has never happened before. It is morphing once again. The invading light is too bright for Justin to absorb and he suddenly feels sick and weak. It is his way out of his nightmare but the price he will have to pay to achieve freedom will not come so easily to him. A price that is too high to pay but one he cannot afford to not pay. Now it is out of his hands.

The embattled pop star cannot deny it any longer and he is tired of hiding the aspect of himself from himself. He shakily gets to his feet; a path is immediately created for him to follow into the burning light, and presses against the darkness for support because of his weakened state. His body feels like it has not eaten or slept for days and there is no energy left. The nightmare is taking everything away from him but it will give him his salvation in the end. Justin looks down to the floor to see the perfect path of tiles that lay before him. He does not want to follow it but the choice is already made. When Timberlake looks around and sees that he has no other options to save himself from his mind's trap, he gathers all the energy he has left to stand on his own and slowly steps onto the tiled walkway that will take him away from this place. The place of his constant nightmare.

As Justin walks each step at a time, they become more confident and powerful. His body's yearning for energy and rest are dissipating and he starts feeling stronger. It is like the white light is healing him. The path is a long one and the singer continues to walk it, still scared of what is about to happen and how different his life will be after he breaks this dream. The industry will never accept him. Hesitation clouds his judgment when he approaches the altar of the light and for a few seconds he cannot move. Justin sees his career passing him by and it makes him want to turn back and run the other way as fast as he can. His bare feet are glued to the pitch black unconscious though so he either has to move forward or stand completely still and have this nightmare all over again very soon. The former N*SYNCer can no longer fight this battle. He has already lost to himself.

He looks into the light and is blinded by it but it is the right thing to do. It is the right place for him to be so he can be at peace with himself. The warmth of it radiates against his shivering skin and is inviting towards its clutches. A warm embrace that promises to end it and allow him to be his true self. This can no longer be contained within his mind because the final edge is right under him. When Justin gets his feet free, he does not look back but instead walks straight into the luminescence. The time to face himself is here and he is frightened of it. Frightened because he already knows what is there and what the truth is. Timberlake walks slowly toward the beaming madness so his body can finally get the rest it so desperately needs. For his own shard of peace he has to accept the light and move on. Warmness embraces his cold skin and he feels better than he ever has for one precise moment.

Timberlake wakes up the following morning with his sheets and skin wet from sweat. His upper body is cool and he sits up on the bed trying to clear his head. The dream is still raw but he knows what he did and what he accomplished. His nightmare will never happen again; he is sure of it. Justin rests his face in his palms to think about it all. It is done. He is free. The industry will never accept him. When the songster sees his ice blue eyes piercing back at him through the mirror, he cannot stand to look at them for too long because he is not that strong yet. He would glance up at the other man staring back at his every movement at times when he is brushing his teeth or washing his face. He cannot restrain himself and keeps wondering if this is the right thing; the right decision. He looks into the mirror and repeats the words that have been on his mind for what seemed like forever now.

"I'm gay."

The pop star emerges from the shower with a towel around his waist and beads of water sliding down his chest and back. No matter what is going on with him personally, he has to lock that away and busy himself with work today. Lyrics have to be written, there are appearances to be made, and life must go on with him acting as if nothing is wrong or bothering him. It is what the business is all about and Justin will not disappoint himself. He still thinks about going into the studio with T.I. and it manages to keep his mind focused on his lyrics. Every break he gets throughout the day, he is in his notebook writing words and thoughts down. Being wanted sends him all over the city to do various things and he is sure to remain the same Justin Timberlake that the public knows him as because he will never let any of them in on his real life. He will never show any of them the real him.

The week is off to a slow start and he busies himself with photo shoots and writing lyrics. He and producer Timbaland have come a long way in that there are a few songs up his sleeve now. They are all over the place in his notebook but as crystal clear as ever in his mind. Timberlake's admittance of his true self relieves a great weight of stress and self-doubt from his body and he is able to truly focus on the things he has to get done. His personal life can wait, as always. His thoughts are only about work and impressing his bosses at Jive as well as the fans. The singer never wants to disappoint his fans. The dream has not occurred in days but Justin still lingers on his thoughts before going to bed at night. He has accepted a new lifestyle that pits him against everything he was brought up to believe but he still does not understand it all. Nerves and fright are still embedded in him, for his career.

Justin awakes early in the morning to catch up on his lyric writing. He is going to write the entire album for himself without the help of Jive's hired writers. The people who basically wrote his entire last album. The last day of the week is warm and sunny and the former N*SYNCer is sure that he does not have anything to do today so he chooses to relax in the suite and let his creativity flow onto paper. Depending on his mood, he will go to the hotel's gym to work his body out. It is late afternoon however and he is fast asleep on the sofa in the large living room. A pen is on the floor and the book of lyrics lay nearby as well. The Sun is almost to the point of setting and Timberlake is prematurely awakened but the ringing of his cell phone. When he walks over to it, his publicist is on the other end informing him of a social event he suggests attending. He bothers to fill him in on all the details before hanging up.

Timberlake plops down on his bed and looks up at the ceiling of the bedroom as he yawns and rubs his eyes. When he returns to the living room, he picks up both the pen and notebook from the floor and flips through it, trying to write more words down. It proves to be more of a challenge than he initially thinks it but this album will be the best of him. So everything will get done eventually. When the star realizes that his mind is void of all thoughts and seemingly words though, he decides to heed the advice of his public relations specialist and make an appearance at the event tonight. It is just a gathering so celebrities can meet and mingle with one another. He goes to these things all the time, most of them after being talked into it by his publicist. This is a good thing to temporarily help get Justin's mind off work and to just relax and enjoy celebrity. He has been so wound up lately.

He gathers up an outfit for the night and is in the shower a moment later to get ready to go out and unwind. The songster is really hoping to see T.I. there so they can talk over everything in person about the record they will be collaborating on but he isn't even sure if the southern rapper is in New York tonight or not. A soothing shower cleanses more than his body and he is out and drying his skin shortly after. The relationship between Timberlake and his mirror self is still undecided because there are days when he can look at himself, days when he is forced to look at himself, and days where he just wants to shatter the delicate object in front of him. To avoid any thoughts resurfacing in his mind, he casually ignores the man staring back at him when he passes by and exits the bathroom. Sometimes it has to be this way so he simply ignores his inner demon for now.

After getting dressed and prepped to go, Justin grabs everything he will need for the night and leaves his suite behind for the car awaiting his arrival downstairs in front of the lobby. The time has come once again to put on the charm and charisma his celebrity ego is known for. It does not matter what is going on inside him at the moment because parties like these is a chance to meet many people he can hopefully work with in the future. Timberlake has no form of protection on and knows he will be recognized if anyone were to see him in the lobby but he doubts it will turn chaotic like in times past. Most of the patrons of the lobby are too busy in their own lives to notice him pass by and exit the building to a white Cadillac Escalade parked outside. It is easy this time and he now relaxes into the ride that will take him straight to the shark tank before he can mingle with his peers.

Flash bulbs swarm him from every direction when Justin Timberlake steps out of the SUV and into the night. He instantly regrets not brining a pair of sunglasses to protect his eyes from the bombardment of light against the contrasting night's sky. The celebrity stands perfectly still for moments and plasters a smile on his face so the paparazzi can get their shot and then he does the press line before leaving it all behind and going inside. It is a welcome change for him and he takes a few moments for his eyes to readjust to the lower lighting setting of the club before he starts looking for anyone he knows. Justin walks up to the bar and grabs himself a light drink and relishes his time to simply mellow out and go with the flow of the night. He turns around on the stool he is sitting on and looks out at the large crowd on the dance floor dancing to the likes of 50 Cent.

"Justin man---hey," someone calls to him over the heavily influenced rap beats.

"Hey Chad---what's up?" he greets the actor Chad Michael Murray.

"Just relaxing. You know how it is."

"Don't I know it. I'm just mellowing out myself."

"Long day huh?" the blonde-haired actor asks as he takes the stool right next to him.

Timberlake looks over at him and their eyes meet for a split second before both instinctively turn away and focus all their attention back to the mob dancing in front of them. It almost feels like they are not meant to make eye contact but it is all a game. Chad sips his drink and remains quiet against the booming music feeling a little bit awkward. It never occurred to him that he would meet up with one of his former teammates tonight but here they are. When the silence lingers longer than it should between them, both simply nurse their drinks without reservation. Justin can see why female fans would find the man next to him attractive. Aside from his physical looks and features, the young One Tree Hill actor has an intoxicatingly sweet and charming presence about him. His hair is a short and spiky mess but it looks good on him and his face is shaved clean. It is smooth and sexy. Stop!

"You don't know the half of it---but it's what I do so I can't complain," the former N*SYNCer shakes his mind clear and comes back with.

"Me either. Being stuck memorizing lines all day isn't exactly the most fun thing but I love it so it's all good. Ay we played a good game teammate," Murray gets out in his smooth voice.

He extends his hand out and Justin slaps their palms together and adds, "Just wanted to win though---"

"We were good---but they had Kobe man. He's too damn good for the game."

His mind immediately runs on the basketballer at the mention of his name; something it has not done in days. And it all goes back to the pair talking in the locker room and even Bryant borrowing his cologne so they both smelled the same. And the black Lamborghini. And their secret, private dinner where he was not Justin Timberlake but someone else. Someone who was more relaxed and confident and happy. The pop star has been too caught up in his own created world to pay much attention to the things going on around him. The stress of the album and writing lyrics for it does make him less focused on other things but now he remembers their dinner together. Because Chad Michael Murray brought his name up during a casual conversation. Everything about that evening was calming and if Justin had a chance he would do it all over exactly the same way. It was comfortable and quiet.

"You're a fan of his?" after a significantly shorter stillness.

"Aren't you?" Chad asks as if he is surprised.

"I don't really follow basketball like I used too---time and all," Justin conveys.

"I know. I try to catch all the games I can but it's hard for me too."

Timberlake looks at him for a while before saying, "You played good. I didn't know you could ball like that."

"You were good too. Damn---we should've won."

"Tell me about it."

"Ay I'll catch up with you later Justin man---I see one of my costars."

"Later man---"

Their hands firmly shake before he smiles and walks off into the crowd towards a brunette female. The singer just gets a ginger ale the second time because he does not want to get drunk tonight either. Too much is going on in his mind for him to try and drink it all away. He will deal with it the only way he knows how; the right way. He picks the glass up from the bar and starts walking around to see who he can spot. A little part of him wants to be back at the hotel writing lyrics to keep up with Timbaland's rapid production of beats but he has to dismiss work from his mind and simply relax himself. Justin mingles and poses for pictures with the likes of Fabolous to Usher, which everyone assumes he hates. He does not believe there is any unspoken competition between them and neither does the R&B star. They simply laugh about the ridiculousness of their supposed feud and smiles for another photo.

"I'm about to stab you in the back Timberlake---" Usher jokes as he is walking away.

"---You wish Usher man---"

They both laugh again before going their separate ways to see who else they can find within the vast numbers of people. Some of the rumors fabricated by the tabloids just deserve to be laughed at due to their sheer absurdity. He does not see Timbaland or T.I. anywhere and is somewhat disappointed, especially by the latter. Seeing the rapper was his main goal but now that he takes a step back and analyzes it, Justin realizes he should not have gotten his hopes up. Now he will only relax and mingle with his friends. He drops his now empty glass on a passing waitress' tray and looks deeper to see Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony at a table together as well as Keyshia Cole chatting with Lil Kim and Missy Elliot at another. Timberlake even notices Rihanna and Ne-Yo laughing at the bar, exclusive to the VIP section only. The atmosphere is delicate.

Justin Timberlake walks around and stops to take pictures and converse with many of his peers and friends. He is happy that he came but he wants to go home and sleep now because his day was too long and he wants to try and wake up early tomorrow morning to start the writing process once again. It is coming along but not as fast as he would like it to; the words cannot be rushed or feel forced in any way. Justin wants to beat or at least tie the Sun tomorrow morning. The young star strolls over to the balcony the VIP section boasts and stands there to stare out at the masses of people below him still partying and most likely unaware of his presence hanging above them. His mind is lost in the faceless crowd below. Maybe I should go. I have so much to do---so much to write for this album. Timberlake feels someone gently brush against his elbow and turns around immediately.

"Hey---" basketballer Kobe Bryant looks down at him and smiles.

"Hey," he manages to spit out even with all his nerves in his throat.

The tall and slender man looks great in a pair of black jeans and a royal blue button down shirt with the sleeves gently rolled up just below his elbows. It is a complete surprise that he is here on the other side of the country at the very same time as Justin. As if on cue, nerves file into his body and inhabit every inch of his insides. Blaring music flows through them as each remains silent through initial uneasiness. This has to stop. Get a hold of yourself JT! I thought these nerves were gone--- Their eyes stare at each other's for another still moment before Bryant clears his throat and smiles at him again. His smile is so warm and endearing; it does not even seem as if he is nervous at all. A wandering paparazzo passes them on the indoor balcony and asks to take their picture. The two celebrities oblige him and he is off on his way a short time after.

"There all over the place. I never get used to it," Kobe tells him while they are still close from the pose.

"Most of them will leave you alone if you give them their shot."

"You would know Mr. Bigshot Recording Artist---"

Justin smiles with the compliment and comes back with, "I'm just that damn good."

"Yeah---you said it."

"Shut up!" he laughs.

"Okay---okay. I'm sorry."

"It's cool."

"Did you have fun the other night?" he asks out of nowhere.

Their eyes briefly connect for another small period of time and the singing star does not know what to think. But it is going back to how it was like at dinner that night. The sniping comments and playful attitude between them returns even though they are surrounded by hundreds of people. He knows he had fun and he is sure Kobe knows it too so he does not understand why he is asking. Timberlake feels his face getting warmer than normal and an entire colony of butterflies has now taken up residence deep within his stomach because he is over-thinking and overanalyzing everything once again. What's wrong with me? He remains calm and smiles back as he tries to think of something, anything else. The question hanging in the air needs to be answered before they can move on. Bryant confidently rests his large hand on the banister and cockily waits for an answer with that smile of his.

"Yeah it was fun. Good food too," he answers the question again.

"It was. I'm glad you liked it."

"So---why are you following me from coast to coast?"

"What---me---following you? Okay---you're not even my favorite singer."

Justin smiles at him before retorting, "You know---you should think twice about retirement man. You're past your prime out there on the court."

"Is that so?" the basketballer smiles back calmly. "But which team won that charity game---and which team were you on?"

"Oh---damn! You got me---"

"I thought so."

"So what are you doing out this way?" the singer tries to recover.

His smile is so alluring and enticing. Timberlake feels himself in trouble and the butterflies are vastly multiplying in his already full stomach. Calm down! Just then, his ice blue eyes focus in on a figure beyond Kobe Bryant and across the VIP section. He stares but is unaware he is doing so until it is too late. The NBA basketball star looks on for a short while before turning around to look at what he is looking at. Or who rather. There, on the other side of the room was the blonde pop star Britney Spears and a man Justin can only presume is her new husband from what his mother previously mentioned to him. She is giggling and smiling with him on her arm and they are getting drinks together from the bar. Justin knows his face is being flushed red, not because of his ex girlfriend's appearance but because Kobe Bryant is looking in the same direction as he is.

He turns back to Justin and asks him, "Does that bother you?"

"Naw. Why---should it?"

"Come on---I know what you guys had. Hell, the whole world knew. So that, and the fact that your cheeks are red---"

"I am not red!" he adamantly states.

"Okay okay---"

"Sorry. I didn't mean to say it like that."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah I'm cool. Why?"

Bryant pulls back and replies, "Okay."

Her presence should not affect him this way and especially since all the time that has passed but it does. Timberlake does not still want her and is happy that she has obviously moved on with her life and he knows he would not have cared if he saw her by himself. But the basketballer being with him is throwing him off psychologically. It is different this time and he does not know why. Talking to Bryant while seeing her should be no different than seeing her when he is by himself. He does not want her to see him at all and so far she remains oblivious to his presence. It has to stay this way. Justin knows the other man's eyes are on him and he turns from his ex girlfriend's direction and looks over the balcony again. A new kind of discomfort swarms into the songster's body and he has to get himself away from this party. Spears should not be affecting him this way. Not anymore.

"I should be heading out. I have lyrics to write early tomorrow---" he clears his throat and tries to excuse himself.

"Hey---did you ever get a hold of T.I. for your album?" Kobe, getting the hint, changes the topic completely.

Justin looks at him and answers, "Yeah. We worked something out."

"Great! I can't wait to hear what you two come up with---"

"Me either---" he trails off.

"It's really bothering you isn't it? Do you---"

"No---she not bothering me!"

"Okay. Did you drive?"

Timberlake looks at him funny and answers, "No. Why?"

"Let me take you home," the Los Angeles Laker comes back with instantly.

"What---no. I'm good man but thanks."

"Come on---let it be payment for your dinner the other day."

"Payment? You paid then too."

"Oh yeah---" the smiles makes itself known again.

He sighs, "Okay---"

Justin does not understand what is going on right now be he remembers promising to himself that he would just go with the flow from now on. Not everything in his life has to be planned or mapped out or scheduled as he was once made to believe. And just the simple conversation with Kobe Bryant on the balcony edge makes him feel a little more relaxed. Well, until he noticed Britney Spears and her new husband. It all just went haywire after that so making a quick escape is probably the best solution. Again, the pair looks at each other before their eyes scatter away and Justin does not know why but he suddenly wants Kobe to take him home. They nod to one another silently before leaving the balcony and navigating through people to the club's exit; he is extremely sure to avoid the bar completely. A scandal will not be born tonight. She looks happy---

Of course, they are stopped for more pictures on their way out and each hesitantly does it as they are becoming increasingly uncomfortable at the party. Bryant leads him to the entrance he used to bypass the photographers outside and they both slip away from the rest of the crowd and onto a back alleyway that leads to a large parking structure. They walk to the car in complete silence. Justin finds himself looking at the floor for most of their trip there because he wants his face to stop being red. They are over; it has never been like this before. When they reach, Kobe fetches a bunch of keys from his pocket and Timberlake finds himself looking at virtually the same car he saw behind the Staples Center in Los Angeles with the exception of the color. This one is a dark, metallic blue. The doors click open and the basketball star knows a pair of eyes is on him. It is not the same however.

"What---I have a thing for Lambos. Get in---" his smile is cool.

"Yours again?" Justin asks when he sits in the passenger seat.

"A rental this time---"

The ride back to the pop star's hotel is mainly a quiet one. He is deep in thought and now that he is close to Kobe Bryant again, he realizes how similar he feels to the last time they were together. The thoughts of Britney Spears are swirling around but they are not dominant like they were at the club. They feel to be melting away and his anxiousness disappears. Seeing his ex triggered something different this time and it was made even worse by the baller picking up on it. The party turned out like nothing he expected it to be. Justin guides him to where he can park; they are in another structure because the hotel he is staying in needs more than one because of how vast it is. Kobe drives until they find a secluded parking spot high in the parking building. He parks and turns off the sultry machine to an even more deafening silence now. Timberlake has to snap back into his mind and stop this.

"Thanks---again," he modestly smiles and looks outside to the car nearest to the expensive Italian machine.

"What was that about?"

"What?" Justin asks.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah---I told you I'm fine."

"You don't look fine," he notices. "Your cheeks are still red."

"I have to go man. Early day tomorrow---"

Kobe says nothing but instead reaches over to him and opens the glove compartment to extract a torn piece of paper and a pen. The excuses have to stop sooner or later. Timberlake looks as him as he closes the compartment shut and uses the pen to write on the piece of paper, pressing it against the steering wheel as he does so. He wonders what the other man is doing and butterflies are fluttering wildly in his stomach. He cannot help but to stare as if it will automatically click in his brain what is going on. But when the basketball legend is finished writing, he rests the pen back in its place and remains still. Quiet, as if he is thinking about something he wants to say. Justin only looks forward through the windshield now and waits for the ice to be broken. Maybe he is upset. Maybe he wants them to go back to the party. But then the basketballer looks over to him in the passenger seat.

"---Here---" he says as he hands Justin the small piece of paper.

"What's this?"

"My number," Bryant responds back. "If you ever want to talk or anything---"


"No pressure. I know how it is to have no one to talk to or trust. You can trust me---"

Justin stares at the wrinkled piece of paper in his hand and at all the digits he finds there along with the name scribbled under it. What does this mean? He continues to look at it and knows that Kobe's eyes are on him. Bryant obviously knows he is not fine but the reason behind it is misconstrued by the party. He is the reason why the singer's cheeks are red and were red at the party they just came from. It was not because his ex Britney Spears decided to show off her new husband. He no longer has feelings for her so it does not matter who she dates or marries. They are no longer connected to each other and have not been for the longest time. The situation of seeing her there while talking to him is why he got so red and was hot. Timberlake felt embarrassed at the party and the only one who will ever know this is sitting next to him in this car. His phone number---


Over the next few days he keeps himself busy by doing a few radio shows in the New York City area while continuing to diligently write lyrics whenever free time is granted to him. It is coming along but his perfectionist mindset keeps him from celebrating prematurely. Timberlake wants to start recording but he knows he still needs to revise his words to get the maximum effect from them. On the comfortable sofa in the spacious grand room he scribbles down rhyming words and replaces a few of them. The demo has to become a product soon otherwise all his hard work will have been for nothing. Justin cannot concentrate anymore as his mind is focused elsewhere. With a pen in his hand, he stops writing and gets caught up looking outside to see the huge ball of fire in the sky dipping below his sight. His mind replays a conversation he had yesterday.

"Yeah?" the singing star asked.

"Justin---how are you?" Christian, one of his bosses at Jive, greeted him.

"The same---you know. What's up?"

"I was just about to ask you that---"

"What do you mean?"

"When are we going to get the demo Justin? They feel like they're waiting too long," he explained the situation of the demo.

Christian was never one to drag his feet when it came to what he wanted to ask or say. The singer found this refreshing most of the time but right now was not one of those times. A demo was nowhere near being done but already Jive was getting impatient with him. Timberlake was a big act for them so naturally they were on top of his every move so he could continue to be a success to them. There was no demo however. Nothing has been fully produced yet and Justin was getting annoyed by his record company's pushing. He wanted to be left alone and not bothered by anyone from Jive. He won't have this project rushed because a handful of executives cannot be patient but he felt overwhelmed. It was all on him because Timbaland did his part and already produced many scorching beats but the lyrics were not coming into existence as easily. He was creatively frustrated because of the pressure.

"---I'm working on it---" the former N*SYNCer came back with.

"Have you found a producer---started producing music? Writing lyrics?"

"Don't worry about any of that---"

"---I knew you were in over your head. You don't understand how many elements have to come together for one song to be completed. I---" Christian interrupted him and sounds disappointed.

Justin cut him off and strongly stated, "---I'm not in over my head. Like I was about to say, I have everything under control."

"Do you? When can we expect a demo then?"

"A couple of weeks at least."

"What---no! They won't wait that long Justin. They're losing patience with you---"

"Does that include you guys too?" Timberlake asked and was referring to his trio of managers.

"Justin---" the manager trailed off.

"You don't think I can handle it?"

"I didn't say---"

"---That's what it sounded like to me."

"Justin you know we're on your side---like always."

"I know I'm taking long but I want it to be perfect," Justin admitted and sighed.

"I know but we need something now---regardless if it's perfect or not. We just want to see what type of progression you've made. Most artists don't get this chance you have. Don't screw it up---"

"I know---I'm not."

Christian added, "We can't wait that long. They're starting to get worried."

"Okay. Can I have a week then?"

"---I don't know if---"

"Please---just a week. It's all," the pop star tried to persuade one of his bosses.

He knew that he would have to produce at least three songs within the next seven days otherwise all creative control of the new album would be stripped from him and he would have to conform again like he had to for the last album. The pressure never seemed to get away and Justin was under the microscope now more than ever. Convincing one of his managers was one thing but the game was over and he could no longer keep Jive at bay. It won't happen. Control of this album won't be revoked and change hands again. Timberlake had only once ace up his sleeve and that was the southern rapper T.I. Their song was going to be his saving point because he felt that strongly about it. The collaboration and style had to be executed flawlessly for it to turn out perfectly. His neck suddenly felt tense and he just wanted it massaged away. Added stress to his body.

Justin snaps back to reality as easily as he fell out of it and is optimistic about completing three songs over the next few days. It will be a push but he has worked well under pressure in the past and this time should be no different. The demo shall be finished by the end of the week. He needs to get in contact with T.I. to see the earliest time they can possibly meet up and he also needs to set up studio time with Timbaland. The former N*SYNCer has one song polished to perfection; the one where the southern rapper promised he would drop a verse on for him and two more that just need a bit more work and tweaks. It is possible to have this demo completed in the time allotted by Jive but he has to break through himself and his pop career to strive for so much more. Timberlake will not let this album go without giving it his absolute best and all that he is. Recording simply has to start right away.

Dark skies blanket outside as he is sleeping. Daybreak is almost upon the city once again and his lyric book and a pen sit silently on the nightstand next to the bed with his phone right next to it. The stress is heavy but Timberlake deals with it the best he can under the circumstances. His body is tired but he stayed up late last night finishing the other two songs and now he thinks they sound and flow perfectly. Sleep is well deserved. He is eager to run them past Timbaland to get his opinion on the flow and words generally. Then they can begin lacing down tracks that will go directly to his record company for evaluation. It is a big step but one Justin feels he is ready to take and face head on with both his producer and the Atlanta rapper T.I. by his side. The tired pop star's cell phone springs to life and rings loudly a short while later. He stirs before reaching over and feeling for it.

"Hello?" Justin's voice is groggy and worn out.

"Timberkid---wake your lazy ass up!" the producer scolds him.

"Man not so loud---"

"You sick?"

"Tired," Timberlake says as he yawns and sits up on the bed.

"Well drink some coffee and let's get to work---"


"We got a studio appointment in a couple hours."

"Wait---what. Who said this?"

"Apparently your people called my people and set it up. Luck you---" Timbaland laughs.

Justin rubs his face in his hands and looks around the room and his eyes stop when he takes notice of a small scrap of paper next to his book full of lyrics. His fingers reach over and grasp onto the paper and he studies it, finally remembering what it is and who gave it to him. He wants to call but feels so weird about it. What would I say? Talk about? The songster is so confused by it all. He easily rests the piece of paper with Kobe Bryant's handwriting on it back on the table and continues to look at it with his mind in deep thought. He hears the mega producer in his ear and he does not know how he is able to pay attention to both his thoughts and the words being spoken into his ear simultaneously. Timberlake is still wondering why Bryant gave him his phone number. He obviously wants him to use it. Why? It will have to wait as his plate is so completely full at the moment.

"What time do I have to be there?" he escapes his mind and asks.

"I already told you around twelve---you're not paying attention Timberkid!"

"I'm usually not when people wake my ass up early as hell in the morning!" Justin fights back but is secretly glad Timbaland is pushing him so hard.

"My bad!"

"Don't you ever sleep?"

"Only on the weekends---and even then it's not much," the muscular man shoots back. "So I'll see you?"

"Yes. I finished the lyrics for three songs. Jive wants a demo now."

"We'll try to lace as many as we can but don't rush it."

"Yeah I know."

The producer smiles to himself and says, "I got a surprise for you---"


"Come to the studio and you'll see."

"Can't you just tell me?"

"What fun would that be Timberkid? Go do what you have to do---we'll catch up later."

"Okay later."

Justin Timberlake yawns again and scratches his head before getting up and heading to the bathroom to take a shower because of his muscles. His shoulders feel like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and he cannot wait to hand his bosses at Jive their demo so they can come off his back. His mind wanders over to what possible kind of surprise Timbaland would have for him but it is a lost cause so he gives it up and concentrates fully on his shower. A satisfying breakfast later and Timberlake is pumped full of energy and ready to get his day going. His voice sounds sharp and crisp but he will do his complete warm-up exercises at the studio. Justin stores all his thoughts about Kobe Bryant at the very back of his mind. He will figure out a way to deal with that situation after he has produced the demo for Jive Records. It is of utmost importance right now.