~*~ 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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~*~ Ties That Bind ~*~
Work is what's most important now. Everything else will fade into the background and his creative side will emerge and produce the highly anticipated demo for his team. The pair sits side by side and talks about lyrics and beats before Justin walks into the recording booth to start work on the first song. He has to feel the beat and Timbaland is busily using his fingers to manipulate the board in front of him to get the most desired results. Timberlake clips the huge earphones onto his head and he clears his throat before he hears the beat drop in the background and then looks down at his lyrics before getting into the mood. His mind is clear and focused on only one thing. Justin's voice sounds back in his ear and it mixes with the beats harmoniously so he continues on as he looks to see the producer making small adjustments on the intimidating board in front of him.
The melodious beat bounces off the studio walls while both men are hard at work producing the first song to be on the demo for Jive. He gets the feel of the first song and changes his voice up when he needs to; Timbaland flicks his thumbs up through the glass because he likes what he hears. This is what all the hard work was for. All the days and nights of writing lyrics and stressing out about what his record company wants. Despite the forced timing, it all seems to be coming together just at the right time. The former N*SYNCer holds the large earphone to one of his ears and raises the pitch in his voice to get the desired effect for the song. They rewind it to do it over again because he is not satisfied with the end result. Justin is in the zone and does not even notice the physical sign of encouragement or when the door opens and someone steps into the studio. It is the surprise.
"Yo Tim man what's good?" rapper T.I. says after he lets himself in.
The producer gets up and their hands grasp together in mutual respect, "Ay player---what's going on?"
"Chillin'. I see our boy's already working," he takes notice of Justin in the recording booth with his eyes closed.
"Oh yeah---pressure from the recording company."
"Don't we all know about that---"
"Oh yeah. Do me a favor and stand over there."
T.I. asks this as he moves to where he is directed to go; it is away from the glass window that allows the recording studio to see into the recording booth and vice versa. It will still be a surprise regardless of the close call. He sits back on his chair as the southern rapper looks at him and cannot see the singer now. He has to admit that the beats sound addictive and more edgy. Timberlake continues on with the track while being completely unaware that he has an audience now. He is in his element and the studio is like his second home so confidence is a must. He harmonizes on the bridge as well as the chorus; every aspect of these three songs has to be at his best for Jive. The songster is far too invested in this project to give it up. Timbaland cuts the track and Justin's eyes immediately open and his thoughts are lost to him. He looks up and takes the headphones off and emerges from the booth.
"JT---what's up with you boy?" T.I. asks as he tucks his cell phone away in his pocket.
"Snap---when did you get here?" he is completely caught off guard.
"It's your surprise," the producer says in a mellow tone.
"He can't be the surprise---he cheats as basketball," Timberlake jokes as their hands shake.
"Do you want me on this track partner? I could be somewhere else doing something else---" the rap star evens up the score.
"Okay boys---let's get to work. We don't have all day now---" Timbaland reminds them.
"Let me know what you think Timberlake---" the southern rapper asks when he passes the piece of paper to the singer.
"The verse for the song---I wrote it last night. He sent me the rough lyrics so I went off that."
The trio becomes more serious and gets to work on the song they are going to collaborate on together and it makes Justin feel important that they are both working so hard to make his record a success. The fact that the busy rapper T.I. took time off his schedule to help him on a song speaks volumes about his character and the pop star is so appreciative of him and his producer for basically bringing them together. He reads the lyrics and is surprised by how well they tie in to his own and smiles before handing back the piece of paper. Timbaland saves the progress on the last song and puts it aside for now and plays the beat for the whole room to hear. The rapper fetches the piece of paper back and also grabs a pencil from a nearby table. Justin looks at him to see that he is scratching something off on the piece of paper with his verse written down and changing something around. They all like the beat.
"That's some good stuff---" Justin commends and appreciates.
"I guess humble isn't in your vocabulary," he laughs.
"I'm the King of the South homie---no time to be humble. Let's get this done---"
He watches as T.I. takes the piece of paper into the recording booth and slips the headphone over one of his ears and holds it there with his hand. He looks up when he is ready for it to start and confidently smiles. The music comes on and Justin watches closely at his producer as he utilizes many gadgets and buttons to start forming a song for the masses. The Atlanta rapper spits his lines into the microphone in front of him and his rough and somewhat thuggish voice fills the whole room. It sends a shiver down his spine. Three takes later and he is still not satisfied with his performance. Timberlake finds a new respect for him because of his professionalism and his drive to have the verse sound perfect. They are similar in that aspect. T.I. stops to grab himself a bottle of water because he feels his throat getting drier with each word he speaks. It does not take long however for the verse to come out perfectly.
"And that's how you lace a verse down little JT---" he teases the pop singer when he emerges from the recording booth.
"Forget you man!"
"Don't be jealous partner."
"Of you---no way."
"Ay whatever you say homeboy. Is that it?" T.I. directs his question to Timbaland.
"It should be. You did good in there---" the producer comes back with. "I'll overlay later."
"No doubt. Let me know when you gonna shoot the video for this---" he looks at Justin and says.
"What makes you think I'm making it a single?"
"Oh---you will. And it'll be number one most definitely."
The southern rapper disappears a short while later due to scheduled appointments and Justin is suddenly more excited about his new album than he has ever been. Every little piece is starting to fit together towards completing the whole puzzle. He and Timbaland decide to finish the song T.I. just dropped a verse for and he gets back into the studio and flips a few pages over on his lyrics book. A song is so close to being created that both men can taste it at the very tip of their tongues. The former N*SYNCer harmonizes but he can tell that his voice is starting to strain under all the pressure but now it not the time for it to crack. They are so close. Time manages to get away from them as they are both caught up in the recording process to notice night falling upon the city. It is a long development but the first official song for his album and the demo for Jive is created. My Love.
Later, the tired singer returns to the hotel. He is excited because one song is finished and another is dangerously close to being so. He will have the demo by the deadline he requested. Justin smiles at his naked form in the mirror and walks away to take a shower; he needs one. Now is when all thoughts banished from his head earlier in the day swarm back on him. I'm gay. What about my parents? My fans---myself? He rests his head on the tiled wall of the shower and lets the water crash down and hurt him. Timberlake wants to cry but he cannot bring himself to be so weak. His eyes are somewhat watering though and it is a trick his mind is playing on him. He wants someone, anyone to hold him and tell him that he is okay and that everything is okay. But he also wants to be alone. It is all so confusing. Justin Timberlake emerges from his shower with his smile gone and mind deep in thought.
In an instant, the mirror has become his mortal enemy one again so he does not look at it when he exits the bathroom. A pair of black Tommy Hilfiger boxers covers his nakedness from the world and he does not even bother with a t-shirt or tank top because he just wants to hop into bed and sleep off his anxiety. There will always be some form of anxiety coming at him from some angle. It will not happen for him though. The nightmare may be a distant memory but sleep still does not come as easy to him as it should. Timberlake loses his appetite for dinner and stares at his lyric book before realizing that he is in no mental state to write lyrics. He is upset with himself for finally admitting it. It is not good for him to be this way and it will not benefit anyone. Acceptance is far off and it seems like this ride will never come to its conclusion. Justin only wants to remain on the high he felt during recording.
It is around eleven at night and he is still up watching late night TV. He is lying in the bed and one of his hands is absentmindedly rubbing and tracing around his flat stomach. The touch makes him feel good, even if it is his own. Justin Timberlake then remembers the piece of paper he is so close to. The piece of paper he can touch and feel and utilize to the most of its abilities. His eyes shift from the TV to the nightstand when the wrinkled piece of paper still lay sleeping. The former N*SYNCer does not know what his mind is thinking when he picks up the small paper but it comforts him on some level and he needs that comfort. He needs to feel special and like someone cares about him. He needs someone to talk to. Someone to trust. Timberlake reaches for his phone and dials the number. He stares at it for an eternity before sending the call. His heart skips a beat and he wants to go back and hang up.
"Yeah?" the basketballer's strong voice comes on the line and asks amidst noise.
"Hello---" Justin feels a frog blocking his throat but squeaks out in nervousness.
"Yeah---who is this?"
"Oh---hey. Listen---can I call you back in a few? I'm in the middle of something right now---" Bryant tells him in an oddly distracting voice.
"Yeah---" Timberlake trails off lowly.
The line is dead and he looks at his phone with his heart still racing to catch up with his actions. What the hell am I doing? He drops the phone next to him on the bed and closes his eyes. He does not know why his heart is racing or why he cannot wait until the basketball star calls him back. It feels weird. Justin then remembers that he and his best friend JC Chasez have not spoken in days but he is not going to call because he does not feel like talking to him. The songster watches TV; he flicks the channels frequently, and waits for his phone to ring again. His eyes are closing on him though and his body wants rest because he has to record with Timbaland again tomorrow. He hopes they can finish the remaining songs for the demo so he can give it to his recording company as soon as possible. He thinks of T.I. and how perfect their song is. It will definitely be a single off his album.
Small specs of light glisten against the black night's sky and creates no kind of illumination as Timberlake tosses in his bed. His breathing is sinfully slow and his body is getting a well-needed rest. The phone is still on the bed besides him but he has his back to it as he is sleeping on his side. It took too long to ring and his body just gave out from fatigue and the lack of dinner earlier. The cross shadows of the Moon's sinewy glow only enhances his alabaster skin and gives off the illusion of creamy silk. A noise threatens and breaks the peaceful serenity when his phone rings and vibrates at the same time on the bed. Justin slowly opens his eyes and turns over to grab the screaming piece of technology to silence it. His eyes squint at the light and he does not recognize the number. He wants to sleep but the phone is persistent in his mind. It seems to be too late.
"Hello?" his voice is low and tired.
"Hey---" Kobe Bryant's voice comes back to him.
"What time is it?"
"Almost three---did I wake you up?"
"I'm sorry about that---and taking so long to call you back," he says in his smooth and natural voice.
"What was going on?" Justin has to right to ask but does so without thinking.
"It was a hectic day for me," Kobe offers him.
"And what about you? How was your day today---well yesterday?" he chuckles slightly.
He smiles to himself, realizing that he is the first person in a long while to ask him about his day. It makes him feel special but weird at the same time. There's no way. He tries to look around his darkened room but there is very little to see due to the restriction of light so he gives up. Justin's mind is tired and his thoughts are a scrambled mess but a part of him wants this conversation. A big part of him wants someone to talk to. Someone who is not his best friend JC Chasez or his parents. He was not expecting the basketballer to call back at all and least of all tonight. It is so late but the conversation will not end just yet. Timberlake shifts his body so that the phone is resting on the pillow with his ear directly above it so that he does not have to constantly hold it in place. There is suddenly a great interest in developing a friendship with Kobe Bryant. He is starting to realize how easy it is to talk to him.
"It was good---productive. I got a lot done."
"That's good. What did you get done?"
"I wrote some lyrics and then went into the studio. T.I. did the song with me."
"He did---" the NBA star smiles. "When did you get a hold of him?"
"A few days ago---Timbaland actually set it up," Justin admits.
"That's cool. How does it sound?"
"Good---it's going to be one of my singles for sure."
"Man---when do you take time for yourself?" Kobe Bryant asks him. "You're so busy---"
"Alone time is overrated," he tries to joke.
"Not always---sometimes you just need to be by yourself. You know---to think and absorb what's going on around you."
It sounds like he is talking from personal experience and he is right. The singer can only imagine how much stress he is put under during the basketball season and how hard his coaches and managers push him and the rest of the players to make the playoffs. Being the best requires a constant amount of work and discipline that just proves to be too much sometimes. That is why celebrities and entertainers and athletes lash out by developing drug habits or carelessly ignoring their body's needs. Fame is a fickle notion that may corrupt minds and destroy lives. The Los Angeles Lakers is equated with Kobe Bryant and having that amount of demand on his shoulders must be tough for him. Justin has a new understanding and appreciation for him. Even with all that, he has such a positive attitude. He is enjoying the conversation and his nerves have begun to collapse and relax themselves.
"---I guess you're right---" Timberlake comes back with. "I didn't think you would call back---"
"Well---I surprised you. I like having the element of surprise on my side," Bryant silkily responds back.
"What are you doing up so late anyway?"
"I could ask you the same thing you know---"
"Uh---you woke me up remember," Justin reminds him.
"Yeah---I did. I'm about to jump in bed now. I told you my day was crazy. I'm now getting to sleep."
"Yeah. I have to be up a couple of hours to write more and do some more recording."
"Oh---well. I'll let you get back to sleep then. I'm tired too," the basketballer says as he rubs his eyes and turns off the light radiating in his room.
"Okay," he replies and there is another period of silence on the line.
"I'm glad you called---" Kobe tells him.
Timberlake is slightly thrown by this and asks in the quietness, "Why?"
"I---like talking to you."
"Yeah. I knew what they said about you wasn't true."
"What did they say about me? I don't really pay much attention anymore---" he is honest.
The press and Justin Timberlake, along with most other celebrities, share a love-hate relationship with each other. On the one hand, he likes the attention to be on him when he is promoting an album or making various appearances but he does not like, and will never get used to, them following him, taking his picture when he is eating or simply walking down the street, or pressuring him for his opinion on certain other people. He imagines it being the same way for Kobe Bryant. The compliment is out of left field and the singer cannot help but to smile at it. Now more than ever Justin is curious to know what the tabloids are have said about him. Moreover, he is curious to know what the basketballer has heard or read about him. Of course it will not be good but this could be a way for him to find out what Kobe thinks about him. It is an indirect quest to find some truth.
"You're a stuck-up wannabe pop star who thinks he's the best thing to happen to the industry. That's about it---"
"Damn they got me pegged good," he continues on.
"Nah---I don't think so."
Justin says, "I like talking to you too."
"That's good. Go get some sleep then---you have to be up earlier than me," Kobe tells him.
"Yeah. I'll talk to you later---"
"Okay. We will. Bye Justin."
"Bye," Timberlake says before the line dies.
He rests in bed for a while thinking about their conversation and trying to trick himself back into sleep. Bryant's full thoughts about him did not exactly emerge themselves but he has a feeling there will be plenty of time for him to figure it out. Justin is unsure of why he is so fixated on this. His curiosity is determined to find out what the baller thinks of him and it is weird because he has never cared what people thought of him. Something is different here. But all that must wait for later tomorrow. Sleep has to happen now and his body can be stubbornly selfish at times so he constantly has to find ways to combat that. It is for his own sanity. Timberlake looks up at the ceiling until he feels his eyelids becoming heavy. The light of the Sun will be upon the city soon and another day of work will begin. He drifts off to sleep thinking about the conversation and him and the chance of a new friendship.
The next few days go busily by with the pop singer in and out of the recording studio working on the rest of the tracks for his demo for Jive Records. He and his producer Timbaland leave the studio at early hours of the morning because they are so focused and caught up with work that it becomes harder to keep track of time. Both work hard to make the deadline and it works. Justin drinks water while in the booth and replaces the earphones around his ears to hear the playback. He is not completely satisfied with it and wants to work the few kinks out before putting it to bed. Lyrics are changed and beats are modified to coincide with his new vision. Timberlake rehearses the words in his mind and then sings the new words. The demo is finally done a short time later. The super producer summons him out of the booth by tapping the glass that separates them to get his attention.
"That's it Timberkid---" he vaguely says.
"What---you have to leave?"
"Nope. It's done."
"The demo---no way!" Justin excitedly hears himself talk.
"Oh yeah. The first three songs for this crazy album are put to bed and ready to go to Jive."
"Damn man---I'm loving this."
"We did it JT. We're done for right now."
"Man---I couldn't have done this without you---" he begins to say.
"I know. The mail must be slow because I still haven't got that check yet---"
Timbaland smiles again before coming back with, "Relax man. I got it like a week ago."
"Good. I was about to go raise some hell at Jive---"
"As if you could Timberkid."
"Ay---I'm their main cash flow right about now. They know it and I know it," Justin cockily says to his producer and friend.
"No arguments here. I gotta head out now. It's late and I gotta be on a plane early tomorrow."
"Yeah---I'm tired as hell."
Justin takes a seat on a stool next to the more muscular man and watches as he burns all their hard work onto a golden disk. It takes but a second because of the hi-tech equipment and it ejects from the computer. Timbaland secures the disk in a CD case and hands it over to him with a smile on his face. The pair shuts everything down at the rental studio and returns everything to how it was found when they got there and walk through the building together, talking about producing a whole new batch of songs. They will have to meet up in a new city because both won't be in New York together anymore. That will all be worked out later. Timberlake and his producer hug when they are outside the building and go their separate ways. He hops into his rental car and speeds off back to his suite for some much needed rest. His phone, resting in the cup holder, comes to life soon after.
"Hello?" the singer asks as he lowers the volume of the radio.
"Hey. What's up?" he asks Kobe Bryant.
"I'm about to go to bed. You?"
"Driving home to go to bed," he laughs.
"Another long night?"
"What else is new? Are you still here in NY?"
"No," the basketball star answers him. "I'm down in Miami doing some promo events actually."
This is the second time the pair has talked in three days. Justin does not mind this at all because he likes talking to Kobe. It calms him down every time they speak just like that night at the cozy Mexican restaurant. The weirdness is still there slightly but it is slowly easing away and he is becoming more comfortable with his new friend. He is still glad he decided to make the call that night even if his stomach did back-flips and ended up in his throat. They feel like friends. At least, he thinks so. He is not sure what Bryant is thinking and now, more than anything, wants to ask him. Justin is still anxious to know what the baller thinks of him but his curiosity is also splitting and wanting to know what he is thinking about in general. What he is thinking about when he is playing a game. Or what he was thinking of that night at dinner. The songster does not feel right about it though so he refrains.
"Oh. I'm about to leave New York in the next few days too. I finished recording today---"
"You got it done? How many songs?" Kobe interestingly asks him.
"Three---it's a demo for my recording company. They don't think I'm taking my album in the right direction so they want a demo to see if they like what they hear," he explains.
"They should have more trust in you. I mean, after all, you are Justin Timberlake," the basketballer says with a chuckle in his voice.
"Very funny! I hope they like it. I'm giving it in tomorrow."
"You think so?"
"I know so. You are a talented guy after all."
Justin shuts the door to his room behind him with a huge grin on his face. A small piece of his thoughts. Every time they talk he learns something new and is left intrigued and wanting to know more. He feels blood rushing into his face and more specifically, his cheeks again. No one is close enough to see his blushing anyway so he is thankful for that. It is the second time the basketballer has managed to do this to him. The words sound so sincere and truthful when they come from his mouth and he cannot help but believe in it. It is all so confusing and comforting and wrong and right at the same time. Darkness fleets when lights are turned on and he fetches his wallet from his back pocket and rests it on the nightstand next to the bed in the master suite. The newly minted demo CD ends up right next to his wallet. Timberlake can briefly relax and catch his breath upon the completion of the demo.
"For what? You hear that all the time I would think."
"You'd be surprised---" the former N*SYNCer trails off, his mind in thought.
"Hm---" Kobe grunts. "I think they're just jealous. I can't even think of how many people want your career."
"It's hard but I love it so," Timberlake says when he sits on the edge of his bed and starts unlacing his shoes.
"Are you still driving?"
"No---I'm taking of my shoes."
"I thought so. It got really quiet all of a sudden."
Justin says, "Yeah."
"Are you okay? You sound distracted."
"Huh---no. I'm good."
"You want me to let you go?"
"Not yet. Unless---you have to go," Justin offers.
"I'm already in bed so I'm not going anywhere."
The singer tosses his shoes to the side of the room and switches his phone to speaker before pulling off his socks and tossing them aside as well. Now that the momentary pressure is off from producing the demo he has only this night to relax before he is in business mode again. Tomorrow, Timberlake will have to be in front of the high executives at Jive Records selling his demo. Selling the idea to them so he can get to continue with his work. It will be a little stressful but he is prepared to defend himself and his work. He is tired and needs a shower and dinner but he does not want to hang up with Kobe Bryant. But it is late and they will eventually have to hang up with one another. Justin pulls his shirt off and takes his tank top off as well before stretching his arms out and dropping to the floor to do a couple of pushups. He listens to the conversation while working his upper body out.
"What are you doing? You sound out of breath and far away---" it is immediately noticed.
"Some pushups. You're on speaker," Timberlake replies with his breaths spread out unevenly.
"Forget to hit the gym today?"
"No time. This'll have to do for now."
"You're good on the body part. Not too skinny and not too muscular I think."
Justin contemplates this sentence in his already swimming thoughts while his muscles start to hurt after he has been on the floor for a while. A very light coating of sweat is on his chest and he jumps up from the floor when his arms cannot produce another pushup. Then he simply rests flat on his back and begins doing some sit-ups to continue his makeshift workout. He does like his body just the way it is and he really is not looking to build any more muscle but rather keep the ones he already has toned and tight. After, the pop star stares at his body in a nearby mirror while still talking to the basketball star about keeping fit and healthy. Kobe mentions its importance and how hard the coaches push the team during conditioning as well as games. Timberlake flexes his arms and watch as all the muscles in his chest and stomach ripple with the effect. He is in the best shape of his life right now.
"What time is it? I have to eat," Justin looks around for the clock in his room.
"Go eat and sleep---I'll talk to you later man."
"Good night Justin," Kobe says.
"Night Kobe man."
He clicks his phone off and throws in onto the huge bed before unbuckling his belt and pulling it away from all the loops that once held it to his body. He stretches his arms out again and strips off his pants and boxers and heads for a quick shower. Before that though, Timberlake makes his way to the suite's phone and looks for the menu right under it. He browses through it and orders himself steak and mashed potatoes and then finally heads to the bathroom for a shower. It is light and quick but he does have time to think about his conversation with Bryant and how it makes him feel every time they talk. Justin is coming to value their new friendship more and more. There is a genuine connection there and he becomes certain they can be great friends. And in an industry where trust is lacking and privacy is constantly broken into, finding an authentic person is a worthwhile accomplishment.