Spirit of Steel 18

Tour life was definitely more complicated than she was ready to deal with.  As they left the bus Carolina took another look around and noticed the sheer number of people that were around and the amount of equipment that seemed to be around that everyone was working with.  There were at least a dozen or so buses and even more semi trucks and there seemed to be groups of five and ten people working or talking or on their way somewhere to work or talk as they came inside.  And it wasn't just Justin's crew that was there, but a mix of blue shirted, red shirted and yellow shirted security people that were around.

"Hey!"  one guy yelled at them as they walked up a staircase onto a loading platform to walk by the trucks and towards where the door was.

"What?" Justin asked turning around.

"Does she have badges?"

"She's my girlfriend," Justin said with attitude.  He rolled his eyes and grabbed up her credentials from her neck and showed them to the guy, "Next time she comes by here--"

"Justin," she said not liking the attitude Justin was giving the guy.

"Just don't bother her, ok?"

The security guy nodded and looked at Carolina.  "If you have any trouble getting through tell them to call Mikey and they'll come and find me and I'll bring you where you need to go.

Carolina nodded then moved on with Justin.

"What was that all about?" she asked with small voice.

"There are different levels of security.  You have all access so you won't have to worry, but most people don't have that.  Some people have to be escorted while backstage, other people can escort people--"  He sighed, "That guy knows that he shouldn't ask anyone with me about their security tags and it's pissing me off because there are too many people backstage like that.  I don't like to be bothered when it comes to my friends and family and crew."

"You were mean to him."

"I wasn't mean to him."

"He wasn't doing his job right," Justin said turning to motion towards the guy.

"You didn't have to be mean to him," she said, "He was trying to make the backstage area as secure as possible.  I'm sure he would have gotten fired if I was some freak off the street and got back somewhere where I wasn't supposed to be."

He didn't have anything to say to that, just licked his lips and took a deep breath.  "We're gonna be late if we don't go in."

She didn't like the way he was acting and it gave her real reason to rethink her choice to be there with him.  She wasn't sure who Justin really was.

When they got to the door the two security guards that were with them added one more to their crew.  The third smaller guy was walking with them, but did nothing more than wave to them.  He was talking animatedly into a cell phone and seemed to be in the middle of something that he could stop to chat with them about.

"No," the guy on the phone said, "It's not my job to tell you where to hook that shit in.  I told you that the AMPS needed another plug and I was told by Clear Channel that it had been taken care of.  This isn't fucking brain surgery."  He didn't look up when he swore.  "You knew our set up six months ago."

Justin reached for her hand and pulled her close.  "Don't worry about him.  He's harmless.  He's just making sure that we have enough power for tonight's show.  Last night I guess we double plugged or something because it wasn't set up correctly."

"Is that dangerous?" she asked.

"Naw," he said, "At least not on my end--"  He paused for a moment and smiled at her.  "No one was in danger.  We just had the chance that we might blow the power out in the building which would have delayed the show a good three hours, but safety wise it was ok."

She nodded.  "Oh."

When they turned towards a back hallway Justin pushed a door open and stopped short.  "OH."  He cleared his throat and seemed to block the doorway with his body, as if he was hiding her.  "You guys are early."

Carolina leaned passed his shoulder and looked inside the tiny room.  There were thirty or so people jammed in there all with cameras in hand.  They all turned towards him and were laughing and giving him these awed looks.  She ducked behind one of the guards and stayed still.

Justin seemed perfectly comfortable in the group of them as soon as he saw that she was out of the way.  "I thought you'd still be out looking at the stage."

"We came here first," someone else said, "They were setting up that plug from last night so we detoured.  Sorry about that."

"No trouble at all," Justin said then paused, "Are you all having a good tour?  Joe's showing you all the ins and outs and all the secrets.  Right?"

"Yeah," they all seemed to say at once.

Justin stayed near their guard and took a deep breath.  "Well I've got a phone interview to do real quick and I need to get warmed up then we'll get you to see the sound check."

"Cool," everyone seemed to say.

"Have a good rest of the tour.  Make sure that Joe drops you by Catering.  We've got crazy chocolate chip cookies that one of our sponsors sent."

She leaned around the corner and saw him rubbing his stomach before she found herself in the middle of a crowd of people walking out of the room.  She couldn't help but notice a few strange looks at her as she passed everyone.  Soon the door was closed and she and Justin were alone, leaving the guards outside.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Meet and Greet tour," Justin said and flopped down onto the couch.  "Have a seat.  I have to be in here for a little bit to do my interview, but you can hang out with me while I do it."  He pulled a folder out from underneath the coffee table in the room.  "They walk a group of fans around the arena and then in about twenty minutes we're gonna do a sound check and they get to watch that."

"That sounds like fun."  She walked around and sat down on the edge of the couch.  "You were really great with them.  I've never really seen you around fans, but you seem really sincere about everything you say to them, and the joy--not joy really, but the appreciation you have for them being your fans.  I've never heard of anyone being that way before."

"Thanks," he said only glancing up from the paperwork in front of him.

When she looked over his shoulder it seemed to be some kind of schedule.  "Looks busy."

"It is," he said with a sigh, "But not that bad."

"So," she went on to ramble out.  "This is backstage."

"This is it."

She moved to sit down and curled her legs up a little and pulled a pillow from the couch.  It was nice backstage.  His room was quiet and if it had windows it would look remotely like someone's living room.  "It's not as exciting as people always make it out to be."

"You can meet up with Joe's tour if you want," he said pointing towards the door.

"Justin--" she said.

He laughed a little, "Thank you for the compliment and yeah...it's not exciting back here.  Just me and the crew working and hanging out until show time." She sighed when he put away his schedule and turned to look at her.  "Sorry about that.  I just wanted to make sure the schedule was still the same for the day."

She nodded.  "I'll stay here."  Walking around with a group of fans was just going to get her into trouble.  She knew that Justin's personal life was important to his fans and having her running around after them wasn't probably the best way for her to spend her time on the road with him..  "So is this a typical day?" she asked, "I mean, wake up at the crack of dawn and work, then take a nap then work again?"

"Normally it's a little more crazy, but since I was here yesterday I got most of the promo stuff done then so I can rest a little...tomorrow morning I'll pick up the pace a little and do a little more stuff, but this afternoon is a little easier."

A knock at the door sounded and the guy from before came in with a clipboard.  "You've got your call to make," he said looking at Carolina for a moment.  He leaned across the table.  "I'm sorry I didn't introduce myself before."  He paused.  "Niles Cranston," he said.

"Nice to meet you," she said and shook his hand.

"You gonna call?" he looked at Justin.

"Yeah,"  Justin got up and walked over to a table and sat down again.  Niles joined him.  "This should only take a little bit," he explained, "One of the New York Stations wants an interview during their evening commute show.  Twenty minutes tops."

Carolina nodded.  "Mind if I look around a bit?" she asked pointing towards Justin's things on the far end of the room.  Normally she wouldn't have felt at all strange about snooping around, but with security being so tight she didn't want Niles thinking that she was snooping around for stuff and she didn't want Justin to get upset at her while he was doing an interview.

"Go ahead," Justin said, "It's probably really messy over there."

She nodded and got up and went over to the industrial looking armoire.  There were hanging clothes on one side and a few drawers and a shelf on the other side.  The drawers were slightly open and there were clothes sticking out of the drawers.  There hangers on the other side though were perfectly in order, a few shirts and pants perfectly pressed, hanging without touching the other hanging things.

On the shelf in the tiny armoire were two sticks of deodorant, a perfectly white towel folded in half then half again, a small box that said Urban Outfitters which she wanted to open up because it seemed to be one of the jewelry boxes, but didn't, an open package of double a batteries, a walkman and a CD holder case.  She looked back over at Justin who was now in the middle of his conversation then reached and opened up the CD book looking at what he was listening to.

Maroon 5, Coldplay, Donnie Hathaway, Al Green, and strangely a Jim Brickman instrumental CD.  She smiled at that and looked back over at Justin who was listening to the phone conversation on speakerphone now.


The moment that Justin's interview was over the guards reappeared somehow and they were escorted out to the main arena floor.  They came into the room at the back of the stage and Justin stopped at the bottom of the steps.  "I'm gonna go up on stage and do the whole sound check thing--"  he turned towards one of the guards.  "Can you get Carolina a good seat on the side so she can see--"  He stopped and looked back at her.  "If anyone gives you any shit I can't stop doing what I'm doing so just come back over to the side of the stage and come sit back here if someone says anything."

"Someone's gonna say something to me?"

"I don't know," he said with a shrug, "But people have said things to the girls I've been in relationships with and I just want you to know that you don't have to sit there and take it.  Ok?"

She nodded and took a deep breath hoping that she wouldn't have to deal with that.  "Ok."

He leaned and kissed her cheek.  "We'll grab a drink and hang out after this is done then maybe one of the guys can get you a seat to watch the show tonight if you want to see it."

She nodded.

"You ok?"

She nodded, "I'm ok.  I'll be fine.  Don't worry about me."

"Ok."  He smiled.  "It'll be like a half hour."

She nodded again and half pushed him towards the stage.  "Everyone is waiting on you."

She made her way out to the seats and sat with some girls at the end of the second row just about the time that Justin came onto the stage.  She leaned back in her chair and watched him stride across the stage again.

"Hello there--"  He cracked a smile then sighed, "Again.  I'm sorry that I had to kick you out of the dressing room, but I'm sure that you had more fun walking around and seeing everything then you would have if you'd stayed back there."  He smiled and waved to a little girl at the far end of the row from where Carolina was.  "Hey there honey."

"Ok," he said with a sigh, "I'm gonna talk to my band for a second then we'll go through two songs for you and then I'll come around and sign some autographs and get pictures and all that taken care of.  Ok?"  He turned back to the band and then turned back to the crowd.  "You can take pictures while I'm doing the sound check if you want."  He gave a cheesy smile and winked out into the crowd.

He spoke to the band and then broke into one of his songs.  She'd heard this one on the radio more than a few times in the last week, but this was the first time she'd seen him perform it.

There was something in the way he moved across  stage and interacted with dancers that somehow crept out from behind the band and came to dance next to him was like pure magic.  She'd seen people in fencing have a perfect match, the fluidity of their feet sliding back and forth across the stage reminded her of matches she'd had where everything seemed to just be perfect.

"Hey," a voice said next to her and she found Trayce sitting there with her.

A few girls reacted to his presence and she leaned and gave him a hug.  "You only missed a little bit."

"Thanks," he said, "I've seen this a million times."

"Oh," she said, "Yeah, right."

Justin finally reached the end of the first song.

A girl behind her tapped her on the shoulder, "Can you get Trayce to sign this for me?"  She handed her a piece of paper and a pen.

Carolina turned to Trayce who was now typing out a text message on his two way pager.  "Trayce, sign this for the girl over there."

"Sure," Trayce put down his pager on the seat next to him and signed the paper then turned around and handed it back to the girl.  "Sorry about that."

"No trouble."  She sighed.  "Can I ask you a silly question?"

"What's that?"

"Is there a restroom around here I can use?" she said with an embarrassed smile.

"Yeah," he said, "You came in the back door, right?"

"Yeah," she said.

"Go out that back door and turn down the hall to the right."  He stopped, "Do you want me to take you?"

"I think I can get it myself."


"Oh wait," he said before she got up to leave.  He brushed her cheek with his finger.  "Eyelash."

"Thanks."  She moved out of the isle and down the way towards the gate.  She showed her pass and walked around the back, watching a little towards the stage as she was leaving.

At the door she asked one of the female security guards where the restroom was and the woman pointed the way.  "Thank you."

"No trouble," she said.

Her trip to the restroom didn't take that long, but when she came back out into the hallway Justin was standing there.

"Hi," she said.

"You ok?" he asked immediately wiping his forehead.

"Don't you have a meet and greet?"

"Yeah," he said, "I told them I was gonna grab them some pictures.  Are you ok?"

"Yeah," she said, "Why?"

"Where'd you go?"

"To the restroom," she said and turned her head to the side.  "Where'd you think I went?"

"I don't know, but I saw Trayce--"  He sighed, "And you left--"

"I had an eyelash," she said with a smile, "On my face--and I had to pee."


"Yeah," she said rolling her eyes with a laugh, "Oh."

"Sorry about that."

She smiled at him and leaned and kissed his cheek.  "Calm down," she said, "I'm not running away just yet."  She took a deep breath and laughed.  "It's ok," she said, "Go back out and hang out with your fans.  I'll be around."

"OK."  He moved and kissed her on the lips then turned and ran out the door towards where his fans were waiting while she found her way back to the dressing room they'd been in before.

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