Spirit of Steel 23


Leaving.

That's what today was about.

It was the hardest part of his tour.

It was the hardest part of his life.

Either he was leaving or someone was leaving him.  This time it was the latter of the two and he hated that.  If it was him that was leaving he could figure out some way to prolong the actual moment, but because she was firm about her decision to go back to Colorado Springs to work, their parting was only getting closer and closer.

"Justin?"

It had started to snow a little--nothing was sticking on the ground, but the sight of snow and gray skies just made the day even more depressing.  He knew the moment that he saw that it was snowing that he was going to go straight to his bus and go to sleep for most of the ride.  It was the only way to get through a day like that.  He could watch movies or play X-box, but if he went to sleep he could wake up hours and miles down the road and make whatever time that he had to spend on that bus move by faster.

"Justin."

The heater near the window clicked on and he let himself blink a few times as the heat hit his legs and torso before disappearing into the room.  His saving grace was the feel of Carolina curling up to his back, moving her arms around his middle and shoving them in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt.  She pressed her face against his back and squeezed a little.

"What?"  He turned away from the window to face her, pulling her into a normal hug.

She looked at him sideways for a brief moment then seemed to understand that all he needed was another squeeze.  "Are you ok?"

He nodded not sure that he really was going to be ok.  When he'd left before he'd totally thought he'd be back in a few days, this time he knew it would be weeks before he'd see her again and if she backed out on coming to Hawaii he knew that he wouldn't see her for a few months.  He gave her a squeeze.  "I'll be ok.  It's just been a long day already and I have a boring schedule today so I'm not really looking forward to everything."

"Lucky you," she said, "I get to drive back then go to a meeting with one of the girl's parents.  It's not the best way to spend and evening.  As much as I love the girls, their parents are a little over zealous when it comes to their training and they don't understand always that a person can only train a certain number of hours a day before losing their mind."

"Hmm," he said, "You should meet with Johnny then and try to explain that to him.  Every once in a while we have to sit down and redo my schedule because he forgets that I'm human and that I have to take pee breaks."

She let out a small laugh.  "You love it though."

He sighed.  "Some parts more than others."

Her expression turned very serious.  Her eyes darkened.  "Today?"

"Today--"  He moved to cup her face with his hands.  "--today isn't one of the days that I like.  Bus rides are the worst and saying goodbye to you isn't going to start off that trip on a high note."

"So you're gonna be mopey for the rest of the day?"  The small smirk on her face teased him.

"Maybe."  He moved his hands to her neck, then her shoulders then down to hold her sides.  His forehead leaned against hers and he looked into her eyes.  "I'm going to miss you."  He tipped his chin forward so that their lips could meet and he kissed her ever so slightly.

"I'm going to miss you."  She pulled back and started to fidget.  Her hands moved on him, rubbing his back rather than staying still.  "Don't start in on me about Hawaii.  I'm going to try to get out there ok?"

"I know.  I know."  It was shocking how well she could tell what was on his mind.  He hadn't found that in a while and when a person had started to get that close to him he'd pushed them away because that kind of closeness had seemed uncomfortable.  With her though, it just showed how perfect they were for each other and now that he had her back in his life he wasn't planning on doing anything to jeopardize that.  "I just hope you can make it.  We always make a big deal about being in Hawaii.  I've been there six times in the last three years and every time we become complete tourists.  We do the horseback riding on the beach thing, go to the pineapple fields, go surfing and snorkeling and--"

"I'm working on it."  She withdrew form his body and moved towards her suitcase.  Her hand went to her hair, tucking it behind her ear.  "Where is my jacket?"

"On the back of the door," he said pointing lazily at the hook on the back of the room's main door.  Although he didn't remember putting their jackets on the hook on the back of the door, both her jacket and his were on hooks there now.  It looked homey--as homey as a hotel room could be anyway.  The idea of them being side by side that way, in perfect order seemed to work for them.

She zipped up the bag the rest of the way and moved to set it on the floor as if she was ready to leave.  "I need to head out soon or I won't make it back in time for my meeting tonight."

He sighed.  "I'll walk you out."

She looked as if she was going to start to walk away, but instead she paused.  "Can you?"

"I'm going to anyway," he said, "We'll have Todd with us, but we can at least escape to the parking garage for a minute before you drive out."

She nodded.  "Ok."

Justin watched her put on her jacket and when her arm got caught up he moved the jacket into position for her before he pulled his own down jacket from the hook on the back of the door.

Getting his key, he patted down his pockets for his phone before moving to open the door.  "You got your bag?"

"Yeah," she said wheeling it behind her out into the hallway.

"Hey Todd," she said with a wave down the hall.

Justin looked down the hallway to see Todd sitting at his post.  He was looking half asleep, being at the end of his duty for the night, but he got up when he saw them in the hall.  "Y'all going down to the car now?"

"Yeah," Justin said and turned to make sure the room was locked.  He'd be back of course, but he didn't want the maids in his room before he left.  "Can you take us down there?"

"Sure," Todd said with a low voice as if he understood the sad nature of their parting.

When the door was secured he reached for her bag.

"I can get it," she said looking at Todd.  No matter how much she seemed to have gotten to know security over the last few days, she clearly wasn't comfortable with the idea of having them around.  It was actually quite cute the way she got nervous around Todd.  He was sure that Todd would mention it later to him.  He noticed a lot of things like that when Justin couldn't do it himself.

"I know you can," he said, "It's the gentlemanly thing to do to carry heavy things for--"

"Oh god," she said with a laugh.  "The South has risen again."

"Whatever," he sighed then took her hand with his free hand.

Todd met them at the elevator, already having pushed the button, he stood there quietly but as the bell of the elevator sounded he turned to them,  "You parked in the garage, right?"

"Yeah," she said, "Is it--"

Justin squeezed her hand as they stepped into the elevator.  He wish he could just sit down and explain to her a little more about his lifestyle, but everything was so different about the way he lived, that it wasn't really possible to warn her and explain every little event of his day.  Hopefully if she spent more time with him on the road that she'd be able to experience enough of his life that she'd be able to anticipate how to handle things. 

"No worries," Todd made eye contact with Justin as Carolina turned to look towards the door of the elevator.  "Mike is gonna meet us down in the lobby and help out."

She moved to lean against the backwall of the elevator as if the day was already wearing her out.  "I'm sorry to make so much trouble."

"It's not trouble," they both said back at her.

Justin smiled at Todd a little.  He was sure that Todd knew how important this trip was and to have her feel as if she was a trouble that she wouldn't want to come back to visit again.

She looked between the both of them.  "Are you sure?"

"Believe me," Todd said, "You're not a trouble at all."

"Yeah," Justin said, "It's me that's the trouble."

"Yeah," Todd said, "He's a pain in all our butts."

Justin reached and pressed the button to take them to the first floor and tried not to worry about her feeling uncomfortable.  He just hoped that there wouldn't be many people outside of the hotel.  If he couldn't say goodbye to her properly he was going to be upset.

"Justin?"

"Hmm?" he asked and turned to look at her.

She pointed towards the open door.  "We're here."

"Sorry," he said, "Let's go."

They walked out into the lobby and towards the front door, but as soon as he saw the people outside waiting he started to stall.  He slowed his steps and pulled her hand back to slow her up.  She must have thought that it was a security thing because when Todd found Mike waiting near the door she didn't seem at all nervous about what was going on.

"You two ready?" Mike asked.

They nodded.

Outside the temperature was cold, but not harsh so they walked towards the garage across the street casually.  Mike and Todd kept the fans at bay and when he was asked to signed things he just smiled, "Maybe later."  He got a few boos for this answer, but he wasn't about to bow down to them to sign autographs when he wanted to spend these last few minutes with Carolina.

People weren't that loud that day, but when they got into the garage they got in the car to say their goodbyes.

"I'm sorry about all this," Justin immediately said as she turned on the car to warm up the engine.  People were staring in at them, but he hoped that if he made her look at him and not at them that they could get through the next few minutes ok.

"Call me when you get in to Colorado Springs," he said.

She nodded, "Only if you call me when you get into wherever you end up."

"Of course."  He glanced out the window and people were still watching them.

She put her hands on the steering wheel and took a deep breath.  "I don't want to keep Todd and Mike out in the cold and the engine is almost warm."

"Yeah." He looked down at his feet.  "Be careful on the drive."

"I will," she said, "If you get really bored you can call me.  I shouldn't be in any out of service areas."

"I might do that," he said with a smile then took a deep breath himself.  "I should get going."

She nodded.

He turned to her and over the emergency break of the car hugged her.  "I love you."

"I love you too," she said into his shoulder.

He moved and kissed her lips softly.  "I won't mention Hawaii," he said.

"I know you won't," she said with a laugh.  "If all goes well we'll be out there together in less than a month."

He nodded one last time and kissed her once more.  "I'm gonna hop out."

"Ok."

"I'll see you in a bit?"

"Yeah," she said.

"Ok."  He took a deep breath and moved his hand to the door to let himself out.  "So I'll see you a few weeks from now?"

"Yeah," she said.

"Ok." He repeated.

"You'll be fine," she said, "And so will I."

"I know," he said turning to look at her.  He leaned and kissed her once more.  "See ya."

"Yeah," she said, "See ya."

The next part of their journey went in slow motion.  He got out of the car and moved back and watched her pull out.  He moved around to the driver's side and looked through the window one last time.  She blew him another kiss and soon was pulling away and out of the garage.


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