Spirit of Steel 9


He was restless, pure and simple.  If it wasn't the drama with Carolina and the other night then it was his foot and the doctor's appointment that was coming up.  He wanted out of his brace and back on the road.  Sure he'd leave Carolina behind, but at least on the road he could control things a little easier.  He'd been getting tons of phone calls from everyone asking when he was returning.  Johnny had talked to him nightly about his progress and about how he should be up for tons of interviews when he got back on the schedule, something he actually found himself looking forward to.

By the time he got to the doctor's to get a check up on his foot that Friday he was going stir crazy and bugged his mother all morning before she finally drove him out to the doctors, tow hours early.  He sat in the waiting room and signed autographs until his doctor finally slipped him into the schedule to get him out of the office early.

He held his breath as Dr. Calliber came into the exam room.  They'd taken x-rays of his foot a little while ago and he'd been poked and prodded and was ready to go home.  For some reason everyone was being really quiet around him.  He didn't like it.  They should have been talking to him, should have been assuring him that things were great, but for the most part no one said a word to him about anything the whole time.  "I've got some good news and some bad news."

Justin's shoulders sunk.  He knew that getting the silent treatment was just to cover up bad news.  He suddenly felt like he was going to throw up and lay back on the examining room table.

"Bad news, then good news," Lynn prompted from next to him.  She reached over and held onto Justin's hand which prompted him to sit up a bit and pay attention.

"OK," the doctor said, "The break isn't healing as quickly as we thought."

Justin's stomach turned over and he swore that if he hadn't been sitting down he would have fallen over or thrown up.  "What?"

"But," the doctor went on keeping a smile on his face, "You're healed enough where I think that you can walk a little bit on it.  Nothing big, just around the house and try to keep off it when you're going up the stairs, but if you want to put some weight on it for a few hours during the day that's fine."

It was his head then Justin's eyes that lifted as he finally took a breath.  "Seriously?  I mean really?  I know I've been freaking everyone out being so crabby, but am I really ready to be walking on it?"

Everyone's eyebrows seemed to pinch together.  It wasn't the reaction that they were expecting out of him.  Actually it wasn't the reaction that he was expecting out of himself.

"I thought you'd be looking to be walking again?"

"Momma," he said when his mother butted into the situation.  She was with him always and he loved that, but times like this it made him mad that she was butting in, as if he was too young to understand what was going on around him.  "I'm talking to the doctor."

"Justin Randall."

"Sorry Momma," he said and turned back to Dr. Caliber.  "Sorry about that.  What were you saying?"

"No basketball or anything like that,"  The doctor laughed a little as Justin pushed off his mother a little, showing his independence.  "I know you that well Justin--"

"Yes sir," he said.

The doctor signed a few papers and handed them to Justin.  "Around the house I think it's ok for you to walk on."

"Thank God."

Lynn squeezed his hand and leaned and kissed him on the cheek.

"That's it?" he asked ignoring his mother.

"Yep," he said, "We'll get you checked out next week around this time and see how the break is going and we'll see about getting you back out on the road soon.  I think another two weeks of time off isn't going to hurt you."

Justin nodded then turned to his mother.  "No offense mom or Dr. Calliber, but I want out of here."

"Go on out," his mother said, "I just want to--"

"To check up on me.  I know."

Justin grabbed up his crutches and held them in his hand and started to hobble out of the room.

"Justin--"

"Just out to the car," he said turning back a little.  "I'll put my foot up all afternoon, but I want to walk."

"It's ok," Dr. Calliber said.

In the waiting room Justin ran into a fan who was just getting on a cast so he stopped for a moment and with a sharpie pen drew a smiley face and signed his name.  He was just saying goodbye to the fan when he saw Carolina hobbling out of one of the other exam rooms.  She hurried past him on crutches and he could have sworn that she was crying.

When he decided to go after her he realized that his crutches were across the room so he hobbled after her.  "Hey."  He called after her and rushed out into the parking lot trying to catch her.  She was too fast for him, even if she was on crutches.  "Hey Carolina."

Her only look at him was a glare out at him as she was pulling away.  He  wasn't really sure if she'd even seen him, which upset him.  he wasn't sure if it was because of the other night or if she didn't see him or recognize him, but she looked upset and in a hurry and while he knew he'd like to ask her about what was going on, she definitely wasn't in a talking mood at the moment.

"Justin?"

Justin sighed when he heard his mother behind him.  The car was out of sight and he looked crazy for standing there in the empty parking spot.  "Can we go home?"

"Sure."  Her expression changed to one of confusion.  She smiled sadly at him.  "I thought you'd want to go and celebrate."

"I do," he said covering up the reason for his quick return home.  "I just was hoping to see if Carolina was around and maybe she could celebrate with us."

"Oh," his mother said with a certain mocking tone to her voice.

"Not OH," he said, "She's been helping me out a little lately and if it weren't for her I would have slammed my foot into a wall on more than a few occasions.  She's saved my foot."

"Really?"

"Mom, it's not like that.  We're friends and I feel like having someone around who can understand that walking normally is a serious thing."

"Ok." His mother smiled at him and this debate wasn't over yet, but at least it was postponed long enough to get Justin home.

*****

The house next door was quiet when they got back.  He saw her car outside and thought he saw her in her window, but didn't go back over until he'd called Johnny and told him the good news.  He figured that he'd give her a little time alone then go see what the issue was.  Carolina was stubborn and if he went over too soon she might write him completely off which wasn't something he wanted to deal with.

His hand reached to knock on the door and he felt a little sick.  He'd walked over on his own, slowly and with his mother watching him out the window, but he'd walked.  "Carolina!"  He called into the house.  "You here?"

"No!" she called back, "Go home Justin!"

"Good one Carolina," he said.

He hobbled into the house without an invitation and found her on the couch, foot up packed with ice bags around it and tears all down her face.  He had to admit that she was still as sexy as ever even with tears down her face.  Her eyes looked tired and her whole body screamed for a massage, but she sat up rigidly when she saw him. 

"What happened?" he asked.

She turned away from him and wiped her face.  "Nothing."

He moved around and sat on the couch.

"Where are your crutches?" she asked.

"At the house," he said, "I have walking privileges around the house."

"Really?" she said and forced a smile.  "That's great."

"Carolina, what's wrong?" His eyes moved to her foot as he reached out a hand and grabbed hers.

"Nothing," she said, "Just tired."

"Carolina," he groaned out.  "Come on.  You're not a crier.  I know you're not."

Pushing his hand away she curled up into a pillow and hid her face, only lifting her mouth away from the pillow long enough to speak to him quickly.  "Leave me alone."

He moved the pillow away from her and hugged her against him.  He knew it had to be something serious to get her feeling this way and if she was going to hold out on him as to the reason why she was acting this way he was going to sit and wait it out with her.  He should have just left her alone.  It would have been a lot easier, but she hadn't done that to him and he wasn't about to start being ungrateful for all that she'd done to keep his spirits up the last few days.

*****

It took her almost an hour to calm down.  He sat and stroked her hair and tried to make them both comfortable, and soon she seemed to finally relax.

"My ankle is bad again."

He was startled a bit when he heard her voice and when he realized what she said he was even more surprised.  "Your ankle is bad?"

"Surgery is scheduled for two days from now."

"Surgery?"

"Remember that day when I was walking backwards and fell down?"

"Yeah."

"I popped a pin out and I have to get it repaired."

"That was a while ago."  He sat up straighter and looked at her.  "You've been hurt for that long?"

"I thought it was my training."  She shrugged then started to cry.

"Is it your foot?" he asked when she turned and grabbed her ankle.

She nodded no.  "They told me that I hurt it and now I can't stop thinking about it.  It didn't even hurt that bad before, but now all of a sudden every single nerve ending in my body is screaming that this fucking pin is sticking out of my bone."

"That's good," he said with a smile.  "Get angry."

"I don't want to be angry Justin!"  She moved back a little.  "I'm tired of being angry about this."  She grabbed onto his arm.  "

"Hey hey," he said and touched her cheek with his hand, "Fine.  Don't be angry."

"I fucking hate this," she said contradicting herself with her anger.

"I know."  He sighed.  "I know, but the doctors have to fix it don't they?"

Justin curled her into his arms.  "So you'll have surgery."

"And start over."

He nodded and watched her eyes crinkle as she started to brush away tears.  She held up well under the pressure, but she was really starting to crack around the edges.  She needed to relax a little about this.  He'd seen worse things happen to people.  He could remember when he heard about Howie's sister getting sick and had himself wondered if someone in his life would suffer because he'd had so much good luck over the years.  Yeah his parents marriage fell apart, but it all seemed to lead to a better place.  He had his Mom, Dad, Paul, AND Lisa in his life now and had two brothers to boot.  "And start over."

She shook her head and held it together for a good minute before she started crying harder.  "I don't want to start over."

"Awwee Sweetie," he said.  "Don't cry too much,"  He leaned and kissed her temple and tried to soothe her.  When she started to shake he wondered if he should ask where her parents were.  If she got hysterical he wasn't going to know what to do and he didn't want her to hurt herself more because he was an idiot when it came to women and crying.  "You're gonna get me all wet and then I'll be like the Gremlins and reproduce and then you'll have multiple annoying guys around you."

She laughed a little and hit at him.  "This is serious Justin."

"I know.  I know."  He shrugged.  "I've never known what to do with crying women and I hate to see you like this. I--"  He blushed.  "I just don't want you to cry.  It was bad enough when you walked out of the house the other day and was pissed about spending the night."

"That's sweet." Carolina leaned and kissed him.  "I'm sorry I'm scaring you.  I didn't mean to, but I can't understand why the hell this is happening to me?  I mean what the hell did I do to have this happen to me?"

"You didn't do anything," Justin said, "You're a strong woman and you can handle this.  You have to know that."

"Every time I get close to getting back to where I was it seems like I trip over something and fall down on my face again."

"That sounds like a country song," he said and started to sing.  "I broke my foot and began to stumble, but that dude from WWF keeps saying are you ready to rumble."

"And you get paid for that?" she asked with a laugh.

"No," he said, "I got more skills than that, but you might hurt your other ankle if I sing to you and knock you off your feet."

"You're incorrigible."

"I know," he said then leaned back and smiled at her for a moment before looking at her ankle.  "How'd you get hurt in the first place?" he asked.

"Can we talk about the other night instead?"

"The good part or the bad part?"

"Good part--bad part?" she asked.

"Well there was the good part where you and I made love and fell asleep together in my bed and then there was the bad part when you go out of bed and screamed out what a big mistake it was to sleep with me."  He sat back.  "Your pick."


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