~*~ 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 Nine

~*~ Good is Better Than Great ~*~



Zealously bright skies hover overhead as a car is speeding into the bustling city of New York with Justin Timberlake rapidly typing a text message to his best friend JC Chasez on his cell phone. It is time to show his record company that he knows exactly what he is doing and his confidence level is high. He is ready to have them eating out of the palm of his hand. The demo CD is sitting comfortably next to him and he is too engrossed in his phone to notice much of anything else. He wonders if he should tell his former N*SYNC bandmate of his new budding friendship with NBA superstar Kobe Bryant but decides not to until he explains some things to him first. Justin has to tell him even though privacy is the most important thing to him. If he does not tell JC then he will only continue to worry about him and the dream; it is not fair. That bridge will be crossed when he gets there.

Call me when you get a chance. I want to see you so we can talk. –JT

Timberlake clicks his phone and puts all his personal thoughts away so he can concentrate on his hastily approaching business meeting. It is serious and one of the most important meetings of his career thus far and it will go his way. He is not as nervous as he initially thought he would be because he believes in his songs and the direction he wants his album to go in so much. Timbaland has helped him realize his true vision and hopefully no one will ever consider him a pop star again. They have to see it the way I do. They have to. Justin remembers last night and the vote of confidence Kobe Bryant game him when they spoke. It is coming as a great comfort to him now that he is so close to showing off his work for it to be judged and picked apart. He stares outside at passing clouds and skyscrapers before his phone rings and vibrates against his leg in his pocket.

What's up J? What's going on? Are you okay?

The pop star looks at the words and decides not to reply back; he will just call him when he has time later. This is something that has to be done without having time constraints or to just get it over with. The delicate subject will be treated and dealt with as such. Slipping his phone back in his pocket, he is sure to place it on vibrate only, and continues looking outside and thinking about what he is going to say and do if they do not like it. Both angles have to be considered and Timberlake has to be prepared for either outcome. His entire creative reputation is at stake in this one meeting and he hates it. All of his and Timbaland's efforts could be sacrificed because of the closed minds of a few people. But these few people hold his career in their hands so success at this meeting is crucial. Justin will fight for what he believes in and nothing will change that. This album will be produced his way.

Sitting in the same office as he always does, Timberlake looks around while his CD is sleeping on the edge of the desk in front of him. The windows behind the desk offers spectacular views of the city and as much as he wanted to put all his thoughts away; he is having second thoughts about sending Chasez the last text message he did in the car. He cannot tell him. It would be a mistake and a stabbing intrusion into his privacy. Justin cannot think of the right thing to do and this is not to place for such thoughts. Business has to come first because everything else is irrelevant right now. The trust is there of course but the willingness to share such a guarded secret is met with resistance and hesitation. Just then, the door opens and three familiar faces start entering. But it is them alone. None of the higher executives are among his trio of managers. He jumps up immediately for the greeting.

"Guys---how's it going?" the singing star says to them all at once.

"Justin. How are you man?" Christian asks and they all shake hands before taking their respective seats for the business meeting to begin.

"Good. Where is everyone else?" Timberlake questions, referring to the handful of missing executives.

"This is a preliminary meeting. We report back to them with what you have."

"But you guys can give me an answer today right?"

Jason adds, "We can pretty much guarantee our feelings will be their feelings. So---what do you have for us?"

"A demo," he responds and his eyes land on the CD resting at the edge of the desk.

"A demo---really?" Derrick nods and glances over at the still CD too.

"Yes. Worked my ass off to get it here."

"Well then---let's hear what you got," Christian announces to the group.

He picks up the disk and looks at it with the rest of eyes in the room follow him to the CD player. Anxiousness is building inside him but he has to remain cool and listen to everything that is being said to him. Despite the situation, the three executives in the conference room with him know extensively about the music industry and careers. Their opinions are invaluable. Timberlake sits with his hands in his lap and looks out the window as the room is in complete silence. Relax. All his hard work comes down to this point where he either succeeds or fails. When he hears the song SexyBack start off, he smiles to himself and observes each of his manager's faces secretly to try and read their expressions. Justin tries hard but none of them give off any concluding facial expressions so he stops it immediately. He also sings the words in his mind.

"Whose beats are these? They're great---" Jason directs his question to him and still with the same face.

"Timbaland. I convinced him to produce the album."

"Where did you get the money to pay him? The record company hires producers?" Christian asks.

"I paid him from my pocket. I needed him to help me produce this for you guys."

"This is sounding hot already," Derrick comments.

"Yes it is," Jason adds. "It's different but not to the point of where people wouldn't recognize it as him," he directs to Christian.

Justin simply lets them talk among themselves while he listens to both them and the music. This is a positive sign but the biggest surprise is yet to come and he cannot wait to hear what they have to say about it. He has to pay attention to both just to make sure he is on top of everything. Christian takes notice of the second song, LoveStoned when it starts playing and they all listen to it to get a further feel of the new Justin Timberlake. Again, the beat is amazing and entrancing and that is partially what makes a good song. It will make a great hit in the clubs as well as on the radio. In general, they all seem to be receptive of it so far and for this he is glad. Jason busily writes down notes on a memo pad while his other two are just listening. Justin would give anything to know what they are thinking or what is going to happen here. Patience will pay off soon he hopes.

My Love is the last song off the mini album and certainly his ace in the hole. They have to like this one. His voice sounds rich and silky and the harmonies will catch anyone's attention. All the ingredients are there for a perfect song and he just has to get them to see that. Halfway during the second verse Christian is about to stop the player but Justin urges him to let the song play out because none of them know who is about to jump on the track. This song, most of all, has to be heard in its entirety. The former N*SYNCer waits for it to happen and most importantly, he pays close attention to see their unbiased reaction to the surprise. It plays until the southern rapper's voice fills the office and he kills his part. His voice and the beats become a cohesive whole that grabs the listener. It is spectacular. Timberlake cannot help but to smile again because he loves T.I.'s part in the song.

"Is that T.I.? How did you two get together?" Christian addresses him.

"Timbaland set it up pretty much," Timberlake gives credit where it is due.

The track is on fire there is no doubt about it. The song ends and the group talks about everything they just heard. There will be no defending here he hopes. Timberlake listens to the criticisms, which is not anything too bad, and he can tell that they all like his work. It is a huge relief and he is one step closer to having everything go his way. Jason extracts the CD from the player and secures it back in its case before they finish up the meeting telling him that he is definitely on to something. A final decision still has to be made by the higher executives of Jive Records but Justin is assured by his team that album will be a go. The beats are hot, the lyrics are excellent, and the songs are exceptional overall. Now he can show the world that he is so much more than a pop singer and the key is this new and edgy album. He leaves the office with a huge grin on his face. It is a victory.

When he is back in the car, he calls his producer to let him know how much his managers liked the demo. It is a complete success and the official word should come within the next few days. They talk momentarily because Timbaland informs him that he is in the middle of something and will call him later for the rest of the details. It could be something for the album. Justin hangs up and puts his phone back in his pocket and rests his head back. All the hard work so far is worth it because his trio of managers genuinely seems to like the new sound, beats, and lyrics the songster has concocted with the help of the very urban music producer as well as the Atlanta rapper T.I. In an instant, he retrieves his phone again. Timberlake looks over his recently dialed numbers to find the one he wants to call. There is a slight hesitation there for a moment but the call happens. Pick up your phone---

"Justin---what's up?" JC Chasez asks his best friend.

"Where are you?"

"In Stockholm. Why?"

"What are you doing over there?" Justin interestingly questions because Stockholm, Sweden is one of his most favorite places on the planet.

"I needed to get out of the States for a while."

"What---are you running from the FBI?" Timberlake jokes.

"Funny J. What was up with your text? What's wrong?"

He will not do this over the phone because it would be in insult to their longstanding friendship. He physically cannot bring himself to say the words over a handheld device where reception is not always at its best. Not to JC. The former N*SYNCer is also using it as an excuse to delay saying the words to someone else besides himself and will continue to do so for as long as he possibly can. This stall tactic will protect him from himself and must continue to work until both men meet up face to face to talk. There is no other option so it has to be this way. Things could potentially become extremely complicated and strained in their relationship if this affects his best friend the wrong way. No. Don't think like that. Both he and Chasez have been through a lot together as brothers and this should be no different. His thoughts are a mystery to him and his brain forces his mouth to change the subject.

"Huh---nothing. They liked the demo."

"Man---am I the only one who hasn't heard it? When am I going to hear it?" his former bandmate is excited.

"I don't know now---they have it. They love the track with T.I."

"I still can't believe you got him to do a song with you."

"What---he's a cool guy. See, you would know that if you didn't stand me up at that basketball game," Justin attempts to make him feel guilty.

"Okay---I deserved that one."

"I need to work with different people and he's definitely not pop so."

"That he isn't," Chasez say softly. "Why did you sound so urgent in your text? Did you have the dream again?"

"Can we not do this now?"

"Then when Justin? You send me this crazy text saying you need to talk and now you want to drop it. I'm worried about you---"

"---Don't be---" he almost snaps. "I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself."

"I never said you weren't," his best friend replies back, his voice getting to the point of harshness.

"I didn't say you did---"

The songster does not want a fight between them on his hands right now and regrets ever sending the now infamous text message. JC is right, of course, but he is far too stubborn to ever admit it or to try and repair their, to some extent, strained friendship right now. But there is no taking back the text or reversing time so what is done is done and each man has to deal with it on their own for right now. Justin needs to think it over again to make sure he is doing the right thing and that this is what he beyond any doubt wants to do. And he cannot say what he has to say over the phone. He will not disrespect their friendship that way. Timberlake has to keep his growing anger in check because he will not end up fighting with his best friend when he is halfway across the world. But all of Chasez's disappearing acts and secrecy and aloof behavior over the past weeks come back to bother him.

"Look Justin, I don't want to fight with you okay---"

"Me either. I'm sorry. I do need to talk to you---"

"In person?" Chasez picks up on his tone and asks.


"Are you still in New York?"

"Yeah, but I'm not sure for how long. Just call me when you get back to the States," Timberlake offers him.

"I'll leave tomorrow---this sounds serious."

"No---don't do that. Finish what you have to do over there and just let me know when you're closer."

JC thinks for a second before coming up with, "Why don't you come over here? I know how much you love Stockholm."

It is a tempting offer but the singing star has to decline it because he is far too busy to take a leisurely trip at this critical point in his album's progress. He knows he will not allow himself to enjoy Stockholm knowing he has to work on the album. There are new songs that need to be conceptualized and written down as well and finding the proper beats to marry them together in a perfect union. It could be beneficial though because of what he is going through personally but he has to put his career first, especially now. Timbaland will want to meet up again as soon as they can to get more stuff done and Justin has to remain on top of his part for this to be as successful as he wants it to be. He does not want this album to fail and have his record company be proven right. Timberlake can handle every aspect of this and he will show Jive Records as well as the world that he is so much more.

"I want to but I can't. I have too much to do," Justin replies with no certainty.

"Ever since I've known you Justin, you've always put work first. Why not do this for yourself? A couple days away won't hurt anyone. Well, maybe you---"

"I can't JC. Plus we went to Florida to play golf remember?"

"Uhuh," Chasez tries to guard himself against another guilt trip. "I'll call you when I'm back then."

"Yeah," he says distracted now.

"Later man."

What will you think of me JC?

He ponders this thought on the rest of the ride. He won't be doing anything for the rest of the afternoon as nothing is scheduled. Timberlake wants to get out of New York though but will wait a day or two more before hopping a flight to the next destination, wherever it is. Maybe he will leave after the official word. The singer wants lunch and to use his free afternoon to relax. Making the demo took a lot out of him as he was so pressed for time from Jive. The afternoon is spent sitting thinking and writing lyrics. He is distracted every so often but the pressure of being on a deadline is not weighing him down as much as it was just mere days ago. Justin has appeased his record company for the time being so there is a little less stress in his life. He will definitely not be going anywhere tonight because aside from working on his lyrics, he has to find the words to tell JC everything.

The night pounces upon Timberlake with him still being submerged in his own thoughts. They are consuming and draining but also liberating and accepting. He puts away his lyrics for the evening, finally noticing that it is dark outside. Streetlights a million miles below him light the way for the city's patrons when he steps outside for some fresh air; it is cool against his skin. In the shower, Justin Timberlake lathers soap all over his body and shampoos his short hair. He recalls his N*SYNC days where he had the curly blonde hair. Never again. It is a stage of his life that he is happy to be over with. The short brown hair is his more mature, grownup side finally emerging through the distant boyband era. He walks out of the bathroom with a pair of boxers on to his phone screaming into the heavens. A towel coils around his neck when he walks over to answer it.

"Hello?" he asks to a number that is newly familiar.

"Justin---what's up?"

"Nothing man---just got out of the shower actually," the songster responds.

"Oh. Do you have anything planned tonight?" basketballer Kobe Bryant asks him.

"Nope---nothing---" Justin replies while rubbing lotion on his bare chest and arms.

"Do you want to grab some dinner with me?"

It sounds like he is driving and Justin does not know when he will get used to Kobe Bryant calling him. It still feels weird to him, but it is weird in a good way. An innocent way. They are friends after all and he has never been one to be shy about meeting others. But he is different though. Their friendship is different somehow. Timberlake sits on the edge of his bed and reaches to the nightstand for the bottle of lotion again. Thoughts form themselves inside his mind about going out tonight and his body is divided about it. A handed towel attempts to dry off his hair when the line becomes silent. Kobe's invitation comes out of nowhere and on a night where he just wants to be by himself. Justin returns the lotion bottle back to its spot and is still rubbing his naked chest and arms while trying to decide what to do. In the meantime, he is trying to buy time for himself to think.

"You're in New York?"

"Yeah. I got in a few hours ago. I'm driving to my hotel now."


"So---" Bryant presses on with his question. "---How about it?"

"I don't know. I didn't really want to go anywhere tonight---"

"Oh," he replies lowly. "Okay."

What the hell are you doing Justin?

"Forget that. Yeah---I'll go with you," Timberlake says back after a short silence and a quick change of mind.

"Are you sure? No pressure or anything---"

"I'm sure---"

"Okay then. I'll come pick you up in a few hours?" Kobe tries to finalize the reservation.

"Sounds great."

He can hear the sincerity in the NBA star's voice and it draws him into the proposition for tonight even more. Now the idea is suddenly exciting and he cannot wait for the next few hours to transpire with dinner being the most appealing idea to him. When he was in the shower, he had no appetite and was simply going to relax and watch TV but now that he is going out to dinner, he is hungry. Timberlake gives him all the information he needs before they hang up. He falls back on his bed and looks up at the ceiling, wondering what his feelings are. His heart rate is slightly faster and he is excited as he jumps off the bed and goes looking for something to cover his almost naked body. Justin needs a pair of shoes and debates if he should wear a hat to conceal himself. Kobe did not say where they are going, if he even knows himself. He suddenly wonders if it is such a good idea to agree to after all. Yes.

The television is playing in his massive room but he pays no attention to it as he is running around trying to get himself ready for his new plans that have just formed themselves. A pair of faded light blue jeans hugs his hips seductively with the help of a black leather Christian Dior belt. They aren't too tight but show off the slenderness of his lower body so it will do. The singer settles on a slightly darker blue shirt to offset his jeans and it also illuminates his eyes passionately. He fixes the collar behind his neck perfectly before sitting on the bed one again to lace up a new pair of black Nikes. Justin barely feels any anxiety about his impending night but is rather looking forward to it. Deciding it best to wear a hat, he searches for one and comes up with a white Von Dutch one that will rest on his head as he is leaving. He is almost ready to go out for the night, still not knowing what is going to happen.

The former N*SYNCer rests the hat on the bed before disappearing to the bathroom to brush his teeth and comb his hair, even though it is as short as it is. He wonders where they are going and what they are going to be eating. He and Kobe are hitting it off very well and he stops to ponder why for a moment before applying a thin layer of lotion on his face. Its smell is intoxicating. Timberlake is watching TV in the great room of the suite and waiting to be picked up by the basketball star. His stomach lets out a low grumble because of his now apparent hunger. His mind runs on JC and the talk they will inevitably have to have sometime in the coming days. A part of him wants it but a much bigger part is stopping him from telling anyone anything. He suddenly wants to be alone. Justin will have to face it while only having himself to lean on. His phone buzzes in his pocket.

I'm downstairs waiting for you in the black Gallardo Spyder.

Justin gets to his feet and flicks off the TV first before heading back into his room for his hat. He has a feeling he will be needing it tonight. His silenced phone slips back into his pocket and the white hat fits snugly around his head. One last check in the mirror and a splash of cologne later and he is ready to leave. The door closes behind him and he walks to the elevator to sink down to the first floor of the hotel. Outside, the star shifts his hat to cover as much of his face as possible before slightly looking up to see his text message confirmed. Sitting on the curb of the street is the Italian sports car that is as black as any night will ever get. Lights shine off its glossy paintjob and Timberlake rests both his hands in his pocket before walking up to it. He knows Kobe's eyes are on him and he feels excited about that. His hand extends out to the handle of the door and opens it before getting in.

"What's up Justin?" Bryant asks him when the door closes, shutting them off from the world.

"Hey," he replies modestly. "Supporting the team huh?"

"Oh---I forgot to take this off," he says as he removes the hat from his head and rests it on the armrest between the seats. "I didn't want to be seen---"

"Yeah---me either."

"So what's up?"

"Nothing much. What about you?"

"Trying to relax. Too much work."

Justin smiles before replying, "I know the feeling."

Timberlake looks down to see the Los Angeles Lakers hat in between them and then over to him: he is wearing a pale purple button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and black jeans. His eyes are glowing mysteriously and his smile is warming. Their hands mend together in a quick shake before Bryant shifts gears and heads out onto the busy streets of New York City. He looks out the window with JC on his mind. The talk looming scares him. Conversation remains light all the way to the restaurant, which Justin still does not know of. He wants to ask the other man but fears doing so will ruin the evening somehow. He is feeling weird; it is almost the same feeling as before but something is slightly off. The songster plays it cool though because he will not allow himself to get worked up over nothing. Relaxation is his only concern. I just need some food.

They pull up to a restaurant much like the one they went to in Los Angeles in terms of location and privacy. Bryant parks the car as far back as possible; it will attract less attention this way, and they sit inside for a while in silence. The restaurant is small and cozy and there are cars in its parking lot but it is not overly crowded. It is a small Italian restaurant. Both look at each other after the stillness becomes too much to handle and then get out of the car to go have dinner. Timberlake watches as Kobe Bryant puts the hat flaunting his team's logo on it back on his head to hide his face. It is pure irony. They silently walk to the entrance and have to be extra careful not to bring any unwanted attention onto themselves. Even though there is no sign of paparazzi present here, people still talk and the tabloids can turn and innocent dinner outing into something dangerous and damaging.

A risk is there and it remains unspoken between them and he wonders if he should bring it up so they can talk about it. This restaurant is completely off the radar of photographs and flashing cameras but caution still has to be taken. Justin has never had a great taste for Italian food but he has to admit that everything they ordered ends up leaving him wanting more. He is sitting across from Bryant in a secluded booth lit dimly by a low-hanging chandelier and they are enjoying themselves. And the privacy here is easily one of its best qualities. The butterflies and weirdness are all but gone and the food manages to fully satisfy his stomach. Again, conversation is light and friendly and Timberlake starts getting the strongest urge that he can trust the man sitting across from him. They order dessert and wait for it. He knows he can trust the basketballer and it puts him at ease.

"Did you like the food?" Kobe asks him as their eyes lock onto one another's.

"It was great---and this is coming from someone who isn't a big fan of Italian food."

"What---you don't like Italian food?"

"Not that much. Maybe I just haven't had good Italian food," he offers. "But this restaurant is really good. Another one of your secret places?"

"Something like that you could say---" the Los Angeles Laker eyes him and slyly says.

"How many of these places do you have?"

"A few. A guy needs to get away from everything every now and again."

Justin smiles to himself before agreeing, "I know what you mean."

The table falls silent before the waiter returns with the last course of the meal and a freshly brewed pot of coffee. Justin helps himself and looks at a nearby window at the precise moment a droplet of water crashes against it. Again, Kobe picks up the check much to his guest's displeasure. The basketballer simply smiles at him and reaches for his wallet to grab a credit card to insert into its proper place in the payment folder. Timberlake tries to look anywhere but his eyes and he knows he is coming off as uncomfortable but he does not want it to appear as such because he is comfortable. He cannot help himself. The friendly waiter returns with the receipt for Bryant to sign and a request for an autograph after seeing the name etched into the square piece of plastic. He does not recognize the singer though because his hat does its job in keeping his identity.

Rain comes down light but steady and he suddenly remembers how he used to play in it when he was smaller. And he also remembers his mother scolding him for doing so. He didn't know then that he would grow up to be a world-renowned star. Both stand under the sheltered portion of the restaurant for as long as their patience lasts before deciding to simply go. The longer they stay then the greater the chance someone will recognize either of them. And being in the middle of a mob will just ruin their experience and time here. They walk briskly to the very last row of the small parking lot where the sensuous black car sleeps. Drops of rain swirl and dance all over the expensive machine and it looks almost magical. The locks snaps open and they quickly get in their respective sides. Kobe starts the car but then looks at him. Those eyes of his light up as if he is a kid in a candy store.

"You want to drive?" he asks out of nowhere.

"Huh? I don't think---"

"---It's not a rental. It's mine and if you crash it, I can always buy another one."

"I don't know---" Justin trails off while looking at him.

"Come on---you know you want to."

"Will you take no for an answer?"

Kobe Bryant responds immediately with, "No---"

"I have no choice then seeing as I have to get back."

The NBA baller smiles at the victory before unbuckling his seatbelt and hopping back out into the rain with Justin doing the same as well. They run to opposite sides of the car and get in as quickly as possible before shutting their respective doors again. They buckle their new seatbelts again and Justin looks straightforward and over the steering wheel as he rests one of hands on its smooth exterior. It feels great under his fingertips and the power of the machine is slowly coursing through him; the experience is somewhat surreal. His other hand instinctively finds the gearshift and he leaves both of them in their respective places. Kobe looks on with a quiet expression as if he is deep in thought. Maybe this was his plan all along. Dinner together was amazing and private. The food was great and their conversations together always keeps him smiling or laughing. Damn---

"I've never been a passenger in this car before---" Bryant's comment brings him back. "You look like you're situated. Anytime you're ready---"

"Are you sure about this?"

"What's the worst that can happen? I trust you remember---" he smiles once again.

He feels the butterflies in his stomach, especially when he smiles at him. What is this? His mind wants to submerse him within its grasp but he will not allow it because it is already late and the probability that he will have an early morning tomorrow is very high. The singing star checks to see if his seatbelt is fastened over his body before putting his foot on the clutch and slowly reversing the car out of its parking space. It runs smoothly. The talk on the way back is scarce and when Justin looks over at him from time to him, Bryant seems to be a million miles away staring outside the window. He wonders what the other man is thinking and does not like that the car is so quiet. It feels too awkward. His eyes are on the road only and they get caught at a red light. The car stops and the engine silently purrs, only waiting to be revved up again. Timberlake is careful not to push it too far though.

"Come on Justin---you're driving like you're nervous," the baller finally says when they start moving again. "Gun it---"

"No man. I don't want anything to happen."

"I told you that nothing bad is going to happen. I trust you."

As the basketball star says this, he playfully squeezes Justin's shoulder in an attempt to get him to get rid of his nerves. He feels the touch down to his bones and simply tries to smile it off but it is not that simple. Bryant retracts his hand only after a second but something is there. He feels it. This car can definitely handle it and there is nothing to be nervous about. A big part of him does want to push the car as far as he possibly can but his more mature side forbids it, even with Kobe telling him that it is okay to do so. He does not want to mess anything up between them. The red light still holds them back and Timberlake just want to let it all go and feel the freedom he knows the car can give him. But this idea surpasses the car and translates to the man sitting next to him. The touch is still driving his mind forward but the basketball legend's confidence is piercing through at last.

"---I---" the former N*SYNCer stutters.

"Relax---just pretend it's your car."

"Okay then. Are you ready?" Timberlake shoots back with a smile of his own.

"I've been ready since we left the restaurant. Just do it---"

The words penetrate his defenses and manage to throttle his mature being. He begins pushing into the gas pedal more and Kobe Bryant seems pleased with himself. The car handles speed extremely well and he comes to an abrupt stop at another light because it would have been too risky to take it. They look at each other again and smile. Damn! The rest of the ride back is far more relaxing once he allows himself to loosen up and enjoy the car. Timberlake is now contemplating buying one for himself. It has been a while since he treated himself to anything spectacular. Outside the hotel, the pop star looks for a place to park and finds one at the very end of the hotel's parking lot; they spot another car readying to leave and wait in silence to claim the spot. Justin shifts it into park and rests both his hands on top of the steering wheel; staring straight to see it raining harder than it was earlier.

"I might end up buying myself one of these," he cuts the tension with his words.

"I knew you would like it once you loosened up and enjoyed the ride."

"It's a nice car."

"That's generally the only kind I buy," Bryant responds to him.

"I had fun tonight."

"I did too. I'm glad you decided to come with me."

"Me too. It's coming down out here. I should get going---" Justin tries to segue the conversation into a different direction.

"I'm glad we met and are getting to know each other," Kobe comes out and says.

"Yeah---me too. I like that we're friends," Timberlake replies, his mind racing. "Weird as it seems---"

"Why weird?"

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

"I've been thinking about you a lot since the game---" comes a response after stillness.

He does not know what is going on and feels his heart in his throat because of how loudly it is beating. A pounding, frenzied madness that has never happened before. The singing star rests one of his hands on the gearshift while the other remains dead on top of the steering wheel. Nerves are twitching in his fingers and his head is swimming with new scenarios and possibilities. The possibilities for them in this car under the pouring rain seem to be endless. Kobe lets the words float around in the air as he is thinking as well. This could turn out so badly. Timberlake knows his face is hot again and that he is redder than a beet. His face is giving away his true emotions. The outcome will never be like that though. Justin looks out of the corner of his eyes to see the basketball star taking off his cap and putting it on the headrest of the passenger seat. His black wavy hair is short and neatly trimmed.

"You have?" a soft reply makes itself known.


Timberlake almost jumps out of his skin when he feels Kobe rest his hand on top of his hand that is on the gearshift. He looks down at it, noticing how far apart their skin tones are from one another. Black on white. He feels eyes on him but keeps on looking where their skins are touching and turns his hand around so that both their palms are interacting now. The NBA baller touches his palms with the tip of his fingers as they both look on now. He stays motionless as his hand continues to be gently caressed. It feels so good. Kobe Bryant manages to work each of his fingers in between Justin's and before either realizes it, their hands are interlaced together. The songster brings life back into his wrist and holds on to the one on top of his and they finally look at each other. He smiles again. It is that same sweet and innocent boyish smile that he has shown him many times before.

This time however, there is more behind the smile and Timberlake finally realizes it. The basketballer shifts in his seat, while never breaking the stare, and moves closer to him. With his free hand, he grasps onto the portion of the seatbelt strapped across his chest and leans in as well. A lingering moment passes between the closeness of their faces but their lips touch for the first time. The kiss is small and soft and slow. Something innocent and sweet that could turn into something amazing and blissful. Each man experiments with the new sensations and emotions while their hands are still connected at the gearshift. Justin feels the soft lips against and only wants it to continue. It has been so long since he has felt connected to someone else that he was beginning to forget what human touch was like. There is passion behind it but it is a serene passion and neither hears the raindrops crashing into the car.

Their lips taste and press into one another as innocence starts to become lost and feelings are fulfilled. Feelings that were long buried inside him and neglected because of misunderstanding and fear. Justin cannot think anything because his thought processes are in shambles around and his mind is a deviated mess. Kobe's lips are soft and smooth and warm and that is the only thing registering to him. It was somehow meant to happen this way. For a moment, he is not in an expensive Italian sports car with the rain pouring down on it and he is not a superstar known the world over. He is not Justin Timberlake. His thoughts busily try to rebuild themselves but it is a futile effort and failure is the only option. He cannot control it. The overwhelming feeling to continue on and let this happen cannot be controlled. Bryant's hand grips his a little tighter on the gearshift below them. Is this happening?

He tightly grips the seatbelt securely strapped to his chest as the kiss continues to manifest itself and explore new realms of possibilities. It is far too comforting for either to stop and Timberlake's thoughts are still broken shards scattered on the ground of his subconscious. Their hands are warmly and securely connected together and he feels Kobe apply a little more pressure to the hold, his apparent approval of the situation he is in. A thought forms itself. And then another. Then another. Justin's body suddenly feels like he is a paraplegic when the final of his thoughts comes back to life and he pulls away from the kiss and retracts his hand away from the gearshift and Kobe's even faster than his lips. He sees the basketball star open his eyes to look at him but he immediately looks away, feeling ashamed and wrong in so many ways. The tension in the car cannot be controlled now.

"I have to go---" he says lowly but quickly before reaching for the handle to open the door.

Surroundings come back and hit him like a brick wall now. The rain, the car, his lips just being pressed against the man sitting next to him. Everything. It hurts like an open wound and Timberlake is embarrassed and mortified beyond any belief. He needs the time to recollect himself and his jumbling thoughts and there is no way it can be done here. The rain is harder now than before and he knows he will get drenched but he cannot be here anymore. Justin's muscles are tingling and his mind is racing for answers as well as for him to scramble to his feet and leave. The kiss was on a whole other scale though. Maybe because it has been so long or that there really is something more going on here. But none of that can be explored right now with his mind in such a state of disarray. Kobe has this effect on him. He is confused and ashamed and stupid for acting this way.

"Justin---wait---" Kobe says to him.

"I have to go---" he repeats again.

"---Can we talk?"

Before the request is finished, the distraught singer opens the door and hops out into the rain before quickly closing it back. He never looks back as he makes his way through the rain and away from the black car where it all happened. His hat prevents water from hitting his face but his clothes are becoming soaked. He does not look back. I'm so stupid! Timberlake's hands are in the pockets of his jeans as he finally makes it to shelter. Still, he refuses to look back. He creates a shallow puddle of water under him when he is in the elevator going up to the room, his safe haven. The only thing in his mind is running. Running away from something that is dangerous and misunderstood. His blood is boiling and there is a prickle in his skin but he ignores it all and breathes a small sigh of relief when the elevator finally lets him go. Justin carefully shuts the door behind him and rests his head against it.

I didn't mean to. If I moved too fast I'm sorry. Call me. Please.

Justin Timberlake finds a towel in a nearby closet and uses it to dry himself off as he looks at the heavy raindrops crashing against a large window of the room. He is too high up to see the parking lot specifically and the darkness will hinder his sight useless as well. Everything is working against him. The towel brushes over his lips and he removes it immediately. He will still savor the taste. The wet clothes are sticking to his body and he peels his shirt off and his pants begin to vibrate. The words are processed in his brain but he denies the request. He has to. He drops the device on his bed in his room and attempts to busy himself with a shower to keep himself from caving in. Justin enjoyed it more than he is willing to admit, even to himself. The mirror will show him his insecurities and common stupidity so he avoids it at all costs. Justin will not allow his susceptible form to fall prey to it.

"Why did I let this happen?" he asks himself under his breath.

Once his body is dry and his teeth feel minty fresh, he walks back into his room to see his phone the same as he left it before. No messages. No calls. Damn! The celebrity superstar sits on the edge of the bed; the phone lies behind him, and thinks. It is his first time of the night. He rubs his bare chest with his hand, still deep in thought. Timberlake handled the situation all wrong but he knew of no other way to deal with it. He kissed another man. Another celebrity. His night will be long and unmerciful. It never once felt forced though. Kobe did not force them to be together or force the kiss in any way. It never felt that it had to be explained but the effects are wearing off and his own insecurities and fear of being caught staples to his brain. It serves as a constant reminder of how careful he has to be when he is out in public. Justin is scared as to what it all can mean.

"Why did this kiss happen?"

Out of curiosity and confusion, he reaches over for his phone and finds the message again. Silently reading it to himself, he cannot understand it. He does not want to understand it or even begin to try to. Timberlake rests the mobile phone on the nightstand next to him and lies in bed with the lights to his room off. The pop star needs sleep; tomorrow has to come for his mind to hopefully clear. The tip of his index finger finds his lips in the dark and gently traces against the bottom half first. The same pair of lips Kobe's was pressed against not so long ago. The finger runs across his top lip before he pulls it away and tries to fall asleep. Justin involuntarily licks them and they taste the same as they always have. There is no difference or even any evidence that they were used tonight. The taste is gone. It is like the kiss between them never happened. And that is a bad thing. A very bad thing.