Spirit of Steel 14


It only took a few moments for Carolina to realize that she was definitely out of her own world when they walked into the club on Justin's arm.  Not only did her wardrobe not really fit into the group of people that were covering the floor of the venue, but she found herself not comfortable at all in the crowd.  They were surrounded by bodyguards and he held onto her possessively as they passed through the front door and were escorted over to the VIP section.  She liked that part of it.  The last time they'd been out together in Memphis he'd not been able to hold onto her because of the crutches.  Music was playing in the room and they were told by someone over the noise of the people dancing on the main floor of the room that the short show that the Black Eyed Peas were doing would start in about twenty minutes.

"YOU OK?" Justin yelled over the noise.

"YES!" she yelled back to him as they slid into a U shaped booth.  She wasn't ok with being there in the crowd with him, but she didn't want to go home.  She knew that he needed to be there and to sacrifice part of her night to hang out with him was what needed to be done.  To bodyguards took seats on either side of them and she found herself trapped in the booth with Justin.  Strangely she found herself feeling suffocated, until Justin slipped an arm around her.  "THIS IS INSANE!"  she leaned towards him.

Justin nodded.  "I KNOW."  He looked around for a minute.  "YOU WANT A DRINK?"

She nodded and was finding herself upset that they couldn't talk.  If spending time with him was doing it in front of the thousand or so people in the club she was really disappointed in the way their few days together were going to go.  "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO GET?"

"BEER," he said with a shrug as if it was the normal thing that he drank.

"CAN I GET A GREEN APPLE MARTINI?"

His eyes widened and he smiled as he nodded that he would get it for her.  "SURE!"

A few minutes later a waitress came over.  Justin leaned to his bodyguard to tell him their drink order then the bodyguard ordered for them.  She didn't suspect that it normally went that way, him going through his bodyguard to do things.  It just happened to be too loud to hear and the guard was closer to the waitress so he spoke the order instead of having Justin yell it at the girl.

Carolina had kind of lost track of Trace as they walked into the club.  He'd been right with them, but must have gotten caught up in something to keep him away.  She imagined that he thrived in places like this.  He reminded her of a frat boy in a sense.  He seemed to know everyone and could probably score alcohol anyplace they went without paying for a drop of it.  He had that strange charm to him.

The next song started and the bass beat was making everything in the place shake.  She could feel the beat against her chest coming out from the speakers set up on each side of the stage and her head started to hurt a little from the noise of the crowd.  She sucked it up though and tried to pay attention to Justin instead of the crowd.  He sat back against the back of the seat and put his hands on his legs.  He yawned at one point then laughed a little when he realized she'd seen him.

"DO YOU WANT TO DANCE?" he asked.

"OUT THERE?" she asked looking at the crowd of people that were standing around waiting for the show to start.  The place held probably a little over a thousand people and all of them seemed to be shoulder to shoulder on the main floor.  There really wasn't room enough to dance, but they all seemed to be moving together to the beat of the songs that were being played.

He nodded and shrugged.  "YEAH."

She shook her head that she didn't want to dance.  "I'LL GET STEPPED ON."

His eyes widened a bit as his head bobbed up and down.  He settled back into his seat, moving his hands to the beat, drumming the beat of the song onto the Formica tabletop and chair dancing his way through the next few songs..

When their drinks arrived the show was about to start.  She sipped her drink down so that it wouldn't spill and let her eyes dart around the room as she left the rest of it on the table.  She tried to ignore the horrible looks people were giving her.  She prayed that it was just her tiredness that was making her feel a little paranoid.  She didn't want to believe that people were giving her dirty looks for her being with Justin.  She hadn't remembered that happening when they were in Tennessee, but she also knew that they were at an after party where everyone in the room was a fan of Justin's and probably fairly protective over his dating status because all young girls these days seemed to want to date someone in Justin's circle of friends.

Justin put his beer on the table then moved so that he could sit on the back of the booth chair.  He touched her shoulder and looked at her with a smile and wiggled his eyebrows at her a little.  When she saw that she wiggled her eyebrows at him then with a wave of his hand that she could do the same, so she moved to sit next to him and had a better view of the stage as the performers came on the stage.

She'd never really paid much attention to the group before that night.  She was more into guitar rock and older songs rather than the R&B that the group played.  Sitting next to him and seeing his energy when the songs came on was catching.  She moved and chair danced with him for most of the show and by the time it was over she could see how someone could get addicted to that kind of lifestyle.

*****

They sat like that for the first four songs of the set.  She didn't know most of the words, but would mimic Justin's dance moves and eventually caught onto some of the chorus's of the songs.  They sang the songs to each other and drank their drinks until somehow all the attention in the room got turned towards the booth they were in.

"THANK YOU EVERYONE!"  Fergie, the only girl in the Black Eyed Peas yelled about halfway through the set.  Carolina wasn't quite sure how Fergie really fit into the group.  She seemed to be an afterthought to an already formed group.  It wasn't THAT obvious, but she suspected that the girl probably hadn't been performing with them for long.  She seemed a bit out of place on stage even if her voice was fairly strong and clear.  "Next up we're going to sing our newest single and we have a treat for all of you."

Everyone in the place screamed with the news and started to chant, "WHERE IS THE LOVE!"

Fergie turned her attention towards their booth and put a hand over her eyes to block the stage lights.  "THERE IS A FIFTH PERSON THAT SINGS ON THIS SONG AND WE'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE HIM HERE TONIGHT."

Carolina thought for a moment that it was strange that she had to yell all this information at the crowd because they were being so loud, but Fergie seemed to be very in control of what she was saying and how she was delivering it to the crowd.

Justin stood up on the bench seat and let out a sharp whistle and threw up his arms drunkenly.  "FERGIE!"

Carolina laughed at him as he started to fall over a little.  She grabbed for his hand, but instead he reached and leaned against her shoulder a little.  Taking his cue about needing help, she reached over and held onto him around the knees to hold him in place so that he wouldn't fall down.  She could just seem him being drunk off his rocker and falling over and hurting himself.  It would seriously mess up his day at this point in the evening.

"TIMBERLAKE," one of the guys on the stage said joining Fergie at the front of the stage. "GET YOUR ASS UP HERE!"

Justin put his hand on the top of Carolina's head and pushed her away a little to show her that he could stand on his own then jumped out of the booth with one of the guards.  When he was standing he crawled back over quickly.  For a moment she thought he might kiss her, but he didn't. "STAY HERE.  I'LL BE BACK."

She nodded since the noise of the room exploded when everyone realized that he was going to go on stage.

His route to the stage was cleared and by the time he got up there he looked almost out of breath.

"Thank you Denver," he said into the microphone that was shoved into his hand.  "Tonight's show out at the arena was bananas, but I think that BEP has been KICKING ASS UP HERE TONIGHT."

Everyone screamed.

"ANYWAY," Fergie said.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly until Carolina saw Fergie moving to hug Justin a little as they spoke to the crowd.  She felt instant jealousy even though there wasn't really a reason for her to be.  She wasn't his girlfriend, barely was back to being his friend at this point, but she still didn't like the look that Fergie gave him.

"I LOVE KIDS INCORPORATED," Justin yelled with a laugh and got a shove from Fergie.

"MICKEY WAS HOMOSEXUAL!"  Fergie yelled back.

She wasn't sure about the whole Kids Incorporated comment, but she had a feeling that it was something that Fergie must have been on before joining the Black Eyed Peas considering her remark back to Justin about Mickey Mouse being gay.

Trace appeared and crawled up into the booth with her, setting his beer down on the table to pull a brown haired girl up with him.  He smiled at her when she stared at him for a moment then proceeded to motion to Carolina to watch the show so that she wouldn't miss anything.

The laughing died down a moment later when the other guys in the group came over and started to pull them back into the idea of singing.

Going to a concert wasn't a new experience for her, but having someone she knew up on stage definitely made her pay attention even more than she would have.  Justin was comfortable there.  He danced around with his microphone when it wasn't his turn to sing and seemed to almost float over the stage when he walked back and forth to see all of the crowd in front of them.  She'd seen tapes of him singing and dancing, but seeing him live was a whole new experience.  She'd always had the theory that someone who danced well was probably good in bed and from memory of him she suspect that in his case it was definitely a truth instead of a myth.

At the end of the song Justin made his way back over, bouncing the whole way and climbed up into the booth again to sit next to her.  "THAT WAS AMAZING!"  she screamed at him.

He was moving around to find a more comfortable way to sit and before she could grab onto him to steady him his butt slipped off the back of the seat and he ended up knocking into the table next to them landing with his feet up in the air, now hanging over the back of the seat where he was sitting before.

She couldn't help but laugh at him, but when he didn't move to get up she leaned over towards him.  "YOU OK?"

He nodded, but looked suddenly sober.  "Yeah."  She could barely hear his voice and she knew instantly that he was embarrassed by what had happened.

The guard nearest to him managed to pull him back up and after brushing himself off a little he reached for his beer and downed most of it in a single drink.  His eyes closed for a moment.  "NO MORE TABLE DANCING FOR YOU!" the waitress said, suddenly appearing with another beer for him and another martini for her.

"YEAH," he said with a laugh and shrugged a few times.

Trace was still laughing about it when Justin reached over and smacked his shoulder, almost sending him over the edge of the bench seat.  "QUIT IT YOU DICK!"

To stop a fight from happening between the two of them, and to get rid of the jealousy that came up when he'd spoken to the waitress she moved to put an arm around him.  He winced when she rubbed his back a little and she made him turn around.  "LEMME SEE YOUR BACK."

He turned a little and she lifted his shirt.  His back had a huge red line across the back of it, right under his shoulder blades.  She knew enough about injuries that she knew he was going to be bruised.

"LOOKS BAD?" he asked.

"A LITTLE," she yelled back.  It wasn't the worst she'd ever seen, but she figured he'd be sore in the morning.  She told herself to make sure that he took something to ease the pain of it before they went to sleep that night.

"I THINK I'M GONNA HEAD OUT SOON," he said.

She nodded then thought for a moment.  "CUZ OF YOUR BACK?"

He nodded, but also added, "I'M GETTING TIRED."

She nodded and pulled his shirt back down over his back, rubbing a careful hand over the spots that were red before he turned back to face the same way she was.  He leaned against her and his hand slid and rested against her thigh.  He leaned towards her and she thought he was going to say something else, but instead his lips found hers and he kissed her slowly.  He tasted of beer, which really wasn't her favorite thing in the world, but the pressure of his lips on hers made her forget about anything else in the room.

When they broke apart Justin smiled at her then turned and tapped one of the guards on the shoulder and yelled to him that they'd be leaving soon.  Carolina took a moment to lick her lips and press the back of her hand to her mouth so she didn't have spit on her face and when her eyes lifted to the crowd that was around she found people staring at her.

If she hadn't been so tired she would have just brushed off the scene in front of her, but being the type to get paranoid when she wasn't running with a full battery of sleep behind her, she immediately felt as if she needed to escape.

"YOU OK?" Justin asked when he turned back to her.

She nodded and bit her lip trying not to make something so tiny into something big.  She had a feeling that most of the women that were with Justin would have thrown a fit and since she didn't want to be in that category.  Other than the parts about him leaving town and leaving her alone, she felt proud to be a non-Justin Timberlake type and she wanted to keep that sense of pride that came along with knowing that she wasn't a whore and that there was more to Justin and her than being sleeping buddies.

*****

"You're being quiet," she said in the elevator about twenty minutes after they left the club.  Trace had decided to stay a little bit longer and would be catching a cab back later so it was just the two of them to take the car ride back to the hotel.  In the lobby they'd not spoken and it wasn't until they were in the elevator until the doors were closed that words were exchanged.  She leaned against the wall across from him.  "Your back bothering you?"

"A little," he said twisting a bit.  It was a short answer and he seemed to be annoyed at her for even speaking.  She didn't really know how to handle him being in such a neutral mood since he'd seemed so hyper only a half hour before.  She knew he must be at least a little bit embarrassed, but she'd thought that he'd laughed it off with the waitress a while before.

She finally realized how loud she must have been talking and how her ears were ringing.  She opened and closed her mouth a few times and scratched her ears.  "Let me look at your back when we get up to the room."

He nodded.

When they made it to their floor Carolina wanted to say something else to him, but found that she was just as quiet as he was, with the realization that he was going to be sleeping in the same room with her and they hadn't discussed exactly where she'd be sleeping.

"You're being quiet," he said mocking her comment from before.

The elevator opened up and they walked down the hall together, Justin absorbed in his own thoughts and her thoughts turning towards going to sleep for the night.  She followed along with him and tried to gauge his attitude by looking at the faces of the guards with him, but when they got to the door there wasn't anyone to tell her how this was going to end up.

"You tired?" he asked softly with a sigh pulling out his key to the door.

"Yeah," she said and took a deep breath.  "Today was a long day."

"Yeah," he said softly then yawned.

She watched him push the door open.  "Are you going to go straight to bed?"

He paused for a moment before answering.  "I might throw on the television and watch a little bit, but yeah.  I don't think I can stay up much longer than that."

She nodded and watched him motion for her to go inside before she slipped passed him and disappeared inside.


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