Spirit of Steel 10


Her heart leap at the thought of what he'd considered the good part.  She'd hoped and prayed that it would have been a high point in their friendship instead of a mistake that they'd made.  One thing troubled her though.  She wouldn't have said that making love was what they'd done.  She didn't love him.  She didn't.  It wasn't that it wasn't hard to do, but she couldn't let herself fall for him.  It was weak.  It was expected.  She wasn't one to follow the crowd.

But the thought of it turning their friendship into a relationship at least made her smile.

"So that good part?" he asked.

She shook her head, "Personally I don't think there is anything to discuss.  We had sex and yeah I may have overreacted, but it's old news."

She was shocked to find him silent and brooding.  She thought he would have made some quick come back.  Some defensive crack at her and the whole situation, but he didn't.  He just sat there and looked to be thinking too hard.  His lip was pulled between his teeth for a moment before his hand moved to touch his lower lip, pulling on it nervously.

"What Justin?" she finally said, "What?"

"I didn't say anything," he said.

"I KNOW."  She glared at him.  "Why not?"

"So now you want me to talk?" he asked.

"Justin.  I can't deal with this drama crap.  I have better things to think about right now.  My career is--"  Her voice cracked, "My career is over, my ankle is back at square one and you aren't really even on my list of things to worry about."

"Well," he said with a huge sigh after she'd finished.  "I guess that's all that can be said."  He started to push himself up to stand and when he was upright he looked down at her.  "I guess there isn't anything that I can say to change your mind.  Clearly I've been at the low end of the totem pole for most of the time I've known you and maybe the other night was a mistake--"

"Justin--"

"Don't--"  He paused, "Don't even try to explain yourself.  You've already done enough to show me how you really feel.  I thought that maybe you'd give me a chance to be an actual human being instead of--"  He stopped and made quote signs, "Instead of JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE--but it seems like you're just like everyone else."  He reached and grabbed her hand and made her shake his.  "Thanks for being a friendly neighbor--I had a great time."

"Justin--"  She swallowed a few times and then looked at him looking down at her.  "Justin I'm sorry.  I'm scared to death and I'm sorry if my attention span doesn't include you, but really I have other things that are on my mind."

"Was that so hard?" he asked, moving to sit on the coffee table next to where her foot was resting.  "You're scared and probably angry about having to start over.  I wouldn't hold that against you for a second.  But you have to understand something.  You keep pushing me away when really you and I have so much in common right now that I don't think you realize that I'm the one person in the world right now that knows' what you're going through."

"You don't know what I'm going through."  The truth was, from what she'd heard about him, that he probably did know full well what she was going through, but she'd moved on and she wasn't about to sit and stay in that same hurt place with someone that was just as hurt as she was.  She needed someone strong to lean against, and from her perspective Justin was barely keeping himself together.  She shouldn't have slept with him.  She really just only complicated her life even more, but at the time she'd felt that connection with him and had let it go to a point of no return.  In that moment she forgot about everything around her and him and just was a regular person for the hours that she'd spent in his bedroom--in his bed--in his arms.

"I know your ankle is messed up, that you don't know what the future is going to be like for you and that you are pretty much isolated from the world that you've grown up in and are used to."  He sighed, "I'm not going to tell you I know all that you've gone through, but the both of us are waiting around for our bodies to heal so we can get on with our careers."

"I don't have a career left," she said sadly.  "Even if I could fence I don't think that I'd go back."

"But you're training."

He was right.  She had been putting on a good show and maybe for a while she'd believed that she'd make it back.  For the most part though it was to show everyone Colorado that she could do it.  It wasn't really that she wanted it for herself.  She wanted to prove a point.

"I was trying to not get too far out of shape in case I could get back to it, but with this surgery I might as well start over in peewee leagues again."

Justin just shook his head at her.  "Don't talk like that."

"Like what?"

"You're not a weakling," he said, "You've put up too good of a fight with me for me to believe that you really think you can't get back into fencing."

"You don't know what I've gone through--"

"Well fucking tell me then," he said, "Did you ever give a thought that I might actually fucking care?"

"Why though?" she asked.

"Because you're the first woman I've met in a long time that treats me like a fucking human being and I don't want to lose that."

Personally she'd thought she'd treated him really shitty.  She hadn't given in an inch when it came to him and almost made it harder on him to be around in town rather than trying to be friendly.

"Truthfully," he said, "I don't have many friends right now that can be straight with me.  The list is really short.  Mostly the guys in the group and Trayce, but outside that circle there are very few people I could even attempt to have a conversation like this with."

Her hands reach and rub her temples.  She hated this.  It felt as if whatever answer she'd give him now is going to be her final answer and she wasn't sure that she could give him a definite yes or no to what he was asking.  He wanted to be with her and as much as she might think that she could be with him, she knew that she'd end up hurt.

"But you're leaving town soon."

"So just because I'm not sticking around a long time means that I'm a fucking asshole and have no heart?"

"I never said that--"  She defended herself quickly.  "I'm just saying that I have a heart--despite my previous behavior--and I can't get involved with you.  I know what the ending is going to be.  I know that you're going to be back on the road soon and despite all the ways that you want a perfect relationship with me it can't happen.  I don't want--"  Tears totally blinded her.

"How can you tell the future?"  His voice sounds sad now.  "How can you stop something before it's even started?  Are you that scared that I'm going to run off to be on the road and never look back?"

"This has gotten way too serious way too fast."  She shook her head.  "I can't make a decision about this right now.  I have surgery to be thinking about.  I have my ankle to take care of before I can take on anything else."

He bit down on his lip hard then sighed, "That's an answer I can accept.  For the moment, but I don't want you writing me off because--"

"I'm not writing you off.  I promise that we'll talk about this after the surgery, but I have to get through the next two days before I can look beyond to everything else."

He nods calmly.  "I'll leave you alone for the night then."  He pushes himself up.   "If you're up to hanging out when you get back from the doctor's, you know where to find me.  If I leave town or anything I'll make sure to leave my phone on."

"Leave town?"

"I can travel a bit now," he explained, "I have to meet with my manager in Orlando.  The group still runs a charity event in the summers and I have to sign some papers with the lawyers for it.  I wouldn't be gone that long.  I'll most likely not even have to go before you get back, but just in case--"

"That's fine."  I sigh.

He leans down and hugs me.  "I should get back over and make some phone calls.  Everyone's been waiting to hear about when I'll be able to walk again."

She nodded and watched him go.  She wanted to stop him, but she wasn't sure what she could say to have him stay.

*****

Later in the evening she hobbled out onto the back porch to sit alone.  Her mother and father were completely upset about going into surgery again and she was sick of them hovering.  It seemed that this time they were being even more protective and she didn't want that so she disappeared to the back porch.

After a few minutes she could hear his voice in the backyard next door.  "I gotta stick around here another few days."  He sounds upset as if the conversation just didn't start--more that he's at the end of his wits when it comes to whoever he's talking to.  "I understand that and they can have their fucking exclusive, but I need a few days.  I need to be in town.  I have to be at the hospital--"  He takes a deep breath.  "No.  Not me.  My ankle is doing well.  I have to be here for a friend."  He growled.  "It's not a bullshit answer--"

"Justin keep your voice down," his mother called from inside the door.

He turned and looked towards the house and sighed.  "Look.  I gotta go, but I'll be in touch.  I have to stay until this is over with then I'll come to Orlando when I'm ready."

*****

Walking into the hospital two mornings later was hard on her.  She had woken up late and had been slow in getting in the car and even the trip from the parking lot into check in was even slower.

"There was a package delivered for you," the nurse at the desk speaks in a low voice.  "He said that you needed to get it before surgery and that he was sorry he couldn't deliver it himself."

"He?"

"Here," she handed over a box with a red bow on it.  "I'll see about getting you to pre-op and you can have that."

Carolina was glad for the distraction and when she opened the box she found a teddy bear wearing what looked to be a cat-burglar outfit.  The card on it's paw said, "To my favorite fencer.  You've stolen my heart -- J."

"Who is that from?" her mother looked over her shoulder and she tore the card off and stuck it into her pocket.

"Justin," she said with a sigh, "He doesn't quiet get that I was learning to sword fight and I'm not learning how to steal things."

Her mother smiled.  "That's cute."

Carolina kept the bear with her until she fell asleep and when she opened her eyes a few hours later the bear was being held by someone else.  It was dark outside already.  She'd woken up after surgery enough to be moved to her room and for a quick talk with the doctor, but when she really started to be a part of the land of the living was hours later after the sun had gone down.

"What are you doing here?" she asked groggily.

"Waiting," he said softly.  He moved towards the bed and handed her the bear.  "Your mom gave you this back to sleep with, but you booted it to the floor.  I should be offended, but I'm too tired to care."

"What?"

"I was in Orlando this morning when you went into surgery.  I was going to be here, but--"

"It's ok," she said finding it easier to talk to him while she was on codeine and was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia.

"Look.  I'll leave you alone. I told you I would, but I just had to be here and see that you were ok."

Her heart raced as he started to leave the room.  He'd kept towards the end of her bed where her one foot was being elevated and her other foot was tucked under her.  "Justin?"

"Hmm?"

"Thank you."

"You're welcome," he said.  He paused for a moment and seemed to be thinking hard.  "I've gotta go out of town for a few days.  When I get back I'll come and hang out with you."

"Ok."


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