Spirit of Steel 6


“So do you like basketball?” JC leaned practically across Justin to ask Carolina. His arm almost touched Justin’s leg as he was leaning and Justin wasn’t about to lean back to let them talk.

When they’d gotten to their seats, JC had gone into the row first and Carolina had followed him into the seats.  He had positioned himself not only to get the best view of the arena floor, sitting behind Trayce so he didn’t have too look over the guards shoulders, but also between Carolina and JC—not only to keep them a little separated after their buddy buddy interaction on the way in, but also so that he could keep everyone into the game since neither of them were huge fans of the grizzlies.  It wasn’t going to be that great of a game, because Memphis wasn’t that great a game, but the experience of being there really was what he wanted--what he needed.

"I’m not a fanatic,” she said with a pleasant tone, half yelling over the noise of the crowd, “Justin was trying to get me out of the house so I figured I better accept the invitation.”

Justin caught the sarcasm in JC's voice when he spoke.  “He doesn’t take no as an answer very easily.”

“No,” she said, “I can see that he doesn’t.”

“It shouldn’t be that horrible though,” JC said, “You can always people watch.  Memphis isn’t as great a place to do that as LA is, but it should be fun.”

Carolina nodded slowly.  Justin glanced at her out of the side of his eye and didn’t like the smile that he saw there.  She was acting way too easy with JC, almost relaxed and he didn’t think that was necessary.  If she was going to be on the edge of bitchy with him, he didn’t want her getting all huggy huggy with his friends.  He was confidence in his own masculinity, but it was a bit rude for her to flirt with his friend when he’d been the one to invite her to the game in the first place.

“Are my crutches in your way?” Justin asked to break into the conversation.  He moved them under the folding chairs they were sitting in.

“Not at all,” she said and moved to sit back in her chair, “They’re fine where they are.”

He reached down and moved them a little. 

“Even if they were in the way it’s not like we can complain.” She folded her arms across her chest.

“Thanks,” Justin said and nodded, “I’m just gonna watch the game.  You guys enjoy yourselves.”

“Well if you’d move I’d have a better time,” Carolina said with a serious tone then started to laugh.

“Just for that,” he said and moved so that he was directly in her line of view of JC and when she leaned he leaned, blocking the view no matter where he was sitting.

“Don’t make me beat you up,” she said.

JC’s laughter filled the air.  “I’d like to see that.”  He looked her up and down, “SHE? Is going to beat you up?”

“Hey watch it,” Justin said, “My girl’s tough.”

YOUR GIRL?” she said stunned to hear the words coming out of his mouth.

“Yeah,” he played it off, “My girl.  You know.  My Homie.  My Dirty.”

“Dirty?”

“You’ve been listening to too much X-tina,” JC said with a laugh.

“And this is him sober,” she said.

“Not for long,” Justin said and reached for the beers that were being handed his way.  “I’m gonna enjoy this.”

Her eyes stayed wide when he took a big drink of his beer.  “Are you on medication?"

“I’m not crazy,” he said.

“No,” she said, “I meant are you on pain medication?”

“A little motrin“ He said, “Nothing too serious.”  He handed JC his beer, “Are you on medication?”

“Nope,” she said, “IB profin is about as addicted as I get these days.”

Justin took a big drink of his beer and licked his lips and let his eyes stray from the game.  “Even with your ankle being so ripped up?”

“It’s called tolerance Justin,” she said, “I have a high pain tolerance, but a very low tolerance for you.”

“Really?”  He tried not to look too hurt over it, but it did sting a little to have someone actually say that to his face.

“Don’t look too hurt,” she said with a smirk on her face.

“C?”

“Yeah?”

“Hold my beer.”  He shoved his beer into JC’s hand and grabbed up his crutches and moved passed everyone, out the isle, tapping one of the guards to come with him. 

"Justin?"

He looked down and saw Carolina looking up at him with a worried look on his face.  He reached and touched her nose and made a face.  "I'll be back," he said holding his breath, "Gotta piss before the game starts."

"You sure?" she asked.

"It's not something I can really be unsure about.  I outgrew diapers a while ago and I gotta get out there cuz I'm not so quick on my feet these days."

She finally nodded and smiled, "We'll save your seat for you."

"Ok," he said and shrugged then got out to the isle with his guard and started to make his way up to the bathroom.

"I should have fucking brought a hat," he muttered.

"Want me to have the guy grab you one?"

Justin took a deep breath.  He didn't want to hide, but having a hat with him at least gave him some sense of being protected. "Yeah."

"We'll get one when you get back."

"I'm not going anywhere," he said, "I just needed out of there for a minute.  JC was being a prick and I'm not about to pop him in the mouth in front of her just because I'm a little off my game right now."

They stood in the protected hallway for a little over five minutes then Justin took a deep breath and turned and started back out to his seat.  He made it through the crowd only to find that Carolina had moved into his seat and was now chatting with JC as if they were long lost friends.

"Do you want your seat back?" she asked.

He shook his head and moved his crutches underneath the chairs, sat back and crossed his arms over his chest.  He wasn't going to pout over this, but he found himself doing it anyway, that was until he felt the coldness of his beer cup being pressed into his hand.  "Here ya go," Carolina said with a smile then looked at him sideways, "You ok?  Nothing crazy happened out there did it?"

"Nope," He lied, "Nothing at all."  It wasn't really a lie.  Nothing had gone wrong in the hallway."

"You sure?" JC asked.

"Yes," he said and leaned back and sipped his beer.  It was only Trayce that turned around and nodded at him then looked at the two of them and frowned.

"Mr. Timberlake?"

Justin turned his head and looked over to see a little boy about nine or ten standing next to him.  "Hi there."

The kid nervously looked up at the man standing behind him.

"Go on and ask Davey--"  The man spoke in a soft voice.

"Can I get your autograph for my sister?" the little kid said.

"For your sister?" he asked as he took the piece of paper from the little kid.

"She loves your CD so much and I know that its her birthday coming up so I thought that I could get her that for her birthday."

"Wow," Justin said, "That's really thoughtful of you."

His father watched the whole thing with a half smile.

"Hey Trayce?"

"Yeah?" Trayce said turning around in his seat from the game.

"You got one of Melinda's cards on you?"

"Sure," Trayce said.

Justin handed over the card to the dad.  "If she calls that number and talks to Melinda I'll make sure that she gets a poster or a t-shirt or whatever if she wants it."

"Really?"

"Yeah," Justin said with a shrug, "Just don't give that number out though.  Ok?"

"Sure," the dad said, "Thanks.  I didn't mean to bother you, but Davey brought it up and I thought--"

"No worries," Justin said, "Really.  It's not a bother."

"Are you really gonna be a reporter for the NBA?" the kid asked.

"Yep," Justin said, "As soon as my foot gets better I'm going to be interviewing all the cool players."

"Well thank you for your time and for the chance to get the poster for my daughter.  I'll let you watch the game.  It's about to start."

"Thanks," Justin said nodding towards the game.  "Have fun Davey."

"I will."

When they were out of earshot he felt an arm slip through his and felt Carolina lean against his arm.  Her voice was deep in his ear, partly because the game was starting.  "That was very sweet of you."

"It's nothing," he said and pointed towards the far end of the gym flooring to where the team was now appearing in spotlights.

"Really Justin," she said again, "That wasn't something you had to do."

"It's nothing," he said and pulled her arm away from him, "Really don't make a big deal about it."

"Fine," she said and sat back in her chair with a frown on her face.

When a hand slapped at his leg he looked over to see JC glaring at him across Carolina.  "Don't be such an ass."

"I'm not being an ass," he said and pointed to the game.  "I'm watching the fucking game."

"Hey." Trayce said turning around, "Watch your fucking mouth!"

The four younger people in the group, Justin included, cracked up and began to laugh.

"Just chill though," JC said when they calmed down a little.

"I am," he said and moved his hand like a wave, "Like butter."

"I'm sorry for--"

"Let's just watch the game for now.  We can talk later tonight," he said trying to push the conversation back to what they should have been concentrating on in the first place.  "The game is starting.  You're gonna miss the tip off."


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