Spirit of Steel 17


When he returned to the room after his interviews he expected for Carolina to be there, but never expected to find her in mesh basketball work out shorts and a tank top standing with one arm in the air curled up towards the sky and a fencing sword in the other pointed straight out in front of her towards the window.  He assumed that it probably had something to do with her training that she'd mentioned that morning, but he'd never seen anyone train for fencing before so he wasn't sure what the point was to stand like she was standing. 

"Carolina?"  He knew instantly that there would be no way to explain this to anyone else he knew.  They'd all think that either she was totally insane or that he'd lost his mind.  Give him a stripper and some whipped cream and he could explain that away, but finding her this way was a lot harder to think up stories for.  There wasn't really a category to put this one into.

"What?" she said not moving her head to look at him, not breaking her stance.

If anyone else would have walked in they would have thought that she was completely insane.  For the moment he only thought she was a bit eccentric.  "What are you doing?"

"I decided to work on my stance here instead of somewhere else."  Her hand that was up in the air moved to scratch the hand that held her foil then moved back into the same curved position it had been in.  "I figured that someone might see my foil and think--well that it was a weapon--and that it'd just be more trouble than it was worth to end up bringing it with me."

She was faced away from him at the time and he wanted to see her so he moved passed her and stood looking back towards the door of the hotel room so that he could see her.  When he saw the front of her he could see her stomach.  She'd pulled up her t-shirt a lot and rolled up a bit of her shorts so the skin from just below her breasts to just below her belly button was showing.  She looked as if she needed a little more of a tan, but other than that, he found the whole scene kind of erotic.  Her standing there like a statue and all made him wonder if he could touch her and have her not move.  He decided instantly that he wanted to touch her stomach later if he could get the chance.

"You look tired," she said.

"A little."  He shrugged. "How long have you been standing there like that?" His eyes traveled up from her feet and took in the position of her arms before he moved his feet into a similar position then put his one arm up and the other arm out to mimic her position.  "It looks uncomfortable."  He broke stance instantly,  "It does hurt."

"No it doesn't," she said glancing down.  "Make your feet less of a T shape and more of a V shape and it'll be more comfortable on your knees."

He moved his feet a little and got back into stance.  "This hurts."

"It does not," she said.  "It's actually a great way to think.  Kind of like Yoga or something.  You totally focus on your body to get it in the right position, but once you're there, your muscles take over and your brain can think straight."  He could see the sweat on her face and noticed then that here legs were shaking a bit as if she'd been standing there in that bent leg position for longer than she should have.

His eyes squinted.  He was in fairly good shape, but this seemed like torture.  "It's painful."

"I've been standing here for about a half hour off and on.  I'm up to going fifteen minutes at a time so I've only done this twice today," she said with a flat tone.  "I've got two more minutes then I'm done."

His eyes went wide with the thought of having to stand that long in one place.  Yeah, he'd been through rehearsals that lasted eighteen hours of his day, but standing still like that would kill him if he had to do it on a regular basis.  He broke the stance and shook his legs out a little.  "You stood like that for a half hour?"

"Come on," she said with a sigh.  He expected her to break stance, but she never did, "Like you haven't ever stood in defensive stance for a long time.  I know you're a big basketball freak."

"Not a half hour," he said with a laugh, "And definitely not on purpose."

"It's all about muscle memory," she said, "You have to work up to this.  You have to train your muscles to remember exactly how to stand to get the best position on your opponent."

"The only position I ever need on an opponent is to lay down," he said and flopped onto the bed on his stomach.  He grabbed up a pillow from the head of the bed and curled it under his chin as she finished her work out.  "So when you're done with this, do you want to have lunch with me?"

"Sure," she turned her head towards him.

He stuck out his tongue then closed his eyes and took some deep breaths and listened to the quiet of the room.

*****

"Honey?"

"Hmm?"  He opened his eyes when he felt her hand on the span of his back between his shoulder blades.

When he finally got her in focus, she was standing there wearing jeans and a long sleeved white button down shirt.  She'd looked to have taken a shower, considering that the hair of her ponytail was wet and she looked as if she was wearing make up.

He watched her lips curl into a soft smile and felt her hand reach out and touch his cheek, like his mom would do to wake him up.  "You fell asleep."

He closed his eyes for a moment then opened them again.  "I did?"

"You were tired," she said then moved away from him and sat on the other bed.  "I ordered some sandwiches.  One turkey and one ham and told them to put everything else on the side so you could pick."

"Thanks," he pushed himself up and stretched.  "How long was I out for?"

"Maybe forty minutes.  I leaned out and asked Todd and Mike if you had to go anywhere and they said that you had until one thirty before you had to go any place so I let you sleep until I got out of the shower.  I hope that was ok.  We still have about twenty minutes to eat lunch before Todd and Mike said you had to go over to the venue."  She paused for a moment.  "Trayce said that he's gonna run to the store and that he'll catch a ride to the venue and meet up with you when he gets done."

"You finally figured out their names?" Justin asked.

"Yeah," she said.

"Always make friends with security."  He nodded knowing full well that without those guys his life would be a living hell.  He loved his fans and everything, but when the crowd of them were so huge he really needed them around to get through his day.  "They're the ones that save your butt every time."

She nodded.  "So do you want a sandwich in a minute?"

"Definitely," he said.  He watched her walk over and fiddle with her hair again then sighed.  "Come here."

She turned and looked at him.  "What?" she moved her hand to her neck, "Is the tag sticking out or something?"

"No," he said, "I want to hug you, but I'm not awake enough to stand up."

"Oh," she said and moved over to sit on his knee, putting her arms around him and hugging him.  "You just had to ask."

"Thank you," he said trying to cut the extra emotion from his voice.  He didn't need to end up crying or anything over the fact that she was hugging him.

"You're welcome."

*****

They sat on the bed to eat picnic style and turned on the television for background noise.

"You're going to watch the news?" she said when he turned it to CNN.

"Its the only time I get to see what's going on in the world.  I swear I travel so much we went to war overseas and it took me a week to find out about it."  He sighed, "When September eleventh happened I was traveling and only heard bits and pieces of what happened."  He wiped his mouth a bit to stall himself from taking another bite.  "Britney was in Australia at the time and I really got--I don't know--I really got messed up about that not knowing stuff so now I try to figure out what's going on before something huge happens like that."

"I'm not bashing you for it," she said, "But I expected you to be more of an MTV type or maybe ESPN."

"I watch those at night," Justin said, "I've got satellite on my bus so I tend to put MTV on then and ESPN too."

"Nothing ever good is on in the middle of the night."

"None of my videos are on in the middle of the night," he said and picked up his sandwich and took a bite.

"You don't like watching them?"

"I get really critical with myself and it's not that I don't like to see them, but imagine seeing you're fencing matches over and over again.  You know you'd go crazy playing that what if game about it."  He smiled, "What if I'd worn a green shirt instead of a red shirt in that scene and I am forever finding dance mistakes that I make...it might not look like a mistake to the outside world, but I know what it's supposed to look like and can see a million and one places where I need improvement."

"Doesn't sound relaxing."

"It's not."

"So what do you watch on ESPN?"

"Two weeks ago they had the NBA finals games on because they were celebrating Michael Jordan as an athlete.  I got to watch his wins from all six championships that he won.  I watched the final games for every year between ninety-one and ninety-eight...there was that whole nineteen ninety four thing that slipped away from them, but basically that man ruled the nineties."

"Sounds like it was fun," she said.

"Actually it was boring," he said, "I kept thinking of the Grizzlies game and how much fun we had at it."

"We'll have to go again then," she said and took a bite.

"Are you bored?" he asked.

"Bored?"

"Here.  I know it's a pain in the ass to be here and be involved in all this and I just want to make sure you aren't too bored."

"No," she said, "Actually I had a nice talk with Todd at the door, worked out, got my shower and all that.  Nothing that I wouldn't be doing at home...well except the talk with Todd, but I'd probably be talking to someone else."

"You sure?"

"I'm actually looking forward to going backstage.  I've never been backstage before."

"It's a lot less exciting than it sounds.  Especially this afternoon.  Everything is all set up already so the crew just does checks on everything which only takes them like 2 hours then they basically hang out and smoke for the afternoon."

She shrugged, "It still sounds fun to me."

The knock at the door sounded and Justin groaned, "We've gotta head out."

He was amazed at the way in which she handled all of what was going on around her.  She was very efficient and very conscious of their timeline and immediately wrapped up the remains of their sandwiches and put them in the mini fridge in the corner.  They'd only eaten about half of them.  "We'll save them for tonight after the show if you get hungry."

He watched her as he moved to grab up his shoes.  She immediately went over and put on her shoes and grabbed her purse and threw it over her shoulder then stood there calmly waiting to see what would happen next.

*****

The ride to the venue was smooth.  They took a side exit out, partially because Justin didn't want to deal with the fans but also because he didn't want to have Carolina deal with them.  He thought that she might get scared away if she had to deal with that screaming.    They had a police escort into the stadium parking lot, which, despite the early hour, was already starting to fill up.

"It's only like two in the afternoon."

"They get here around eight in the morning sometimes," Justin said with a laugh.

"These girls are insane."  She shook her head, "Don't they have anything better to do with their time?"

"Its a double edged sword," he said, "No pun intended."  He took a breath.  "If they stop bugging me then it means I'm doing something wrong, but if they're there sometimes they get annoying.  For the most part I don't mind them.  I've met some really cool people on the road.  I've got a few "friends of the tour" in each city.  It's nice to see a familiar face every once in a while."

"So am I a friend of the tour?" she asked.

Instantly he knew he was in trouble.  From the way he worded it someone might think he had a girlfriend in every town.  That wasn't true at all.  For the most part the people that came to visit them were friends of the crew or fans that had been coming to NSYNC shows since the beginning.  They were all considered extended family now and would take care of the road crew when they needed to use someone's car to go shopping or would make runs to McDonalds and the store for the crew if they needed anything.

"No," he said and leaned across the seats between them, kissing her cheek, "You're my lady."

"Your lady?" she asked cocking an eyebrow at him.

It seemed as if he wasn't going to win at anything he said or did that day so he just smiled and tried to act like everything was fine.  "If you have another nick name you'd prefer," he said, "I can call you that too."

She shook her head and smiled.  "You're very possessive all of a sudden.  You're very confident."

He shrugged and looked out the window as they approached the back gate that would bring them to where the buses were parked.  "I don't want anyone to steal you away from me."

"Oh," she said, "In that case, it's ok."

When they exited the car to go to the bus for a minute he put his hand up and waved to the crowd of people standing above them.  Pictures were taken quickly of him before they made their way through the lines of buses and found Justin's bus.  He knocked on the door and it opened.

"You here George?"  Justin yelled into the back of the bus.

"Yeah J," the older man said coming out of the back, "What's up?"

"Nothing," Justin said, "I just wanted you to meet Carolina.  She's going to be here in Denver with us so if she wants on the bus or whatever and I'm not around look out for her, ok?  I'll probably be with her most of the time, but just in case she comes out here looking to take a break, don't give her a hard time."

"Sure," George said reaching a hand to shake hers.  "It's nice to meet you.  I'm really not a big jerk like this guy seems to make me out to be."

"It's nice to meet you too," Carolina said.

"I didn't say that," Justin joked, "I just don't want her to get stuck outside.  I know how you hate those teenies."

"She's not a teenie," George said, "She looks to be a very nice young lady which makes me wonder what she's doing hanging out with you."

Justin threw a playful punch at his driver and they wrestled a bit before George excused himself.  "I'm in the middle of watching a movie and I was gonna call my daughter in a bit."

"We're just gonna take a quick tour and we'll get out of your hair.  I've got sound check and Miss Carolina here is going to hang out with everyone for the afternoon."

George nodded and went and disappeared into a compartment in the middle of the bus.

"I hate to chat and run," Justin said, "But I've got a meet and greet to do."

George nodded.  "The bus will be locked up, but just ask any of the guards to come and find me.  I normally take a nap or walk around during the show."

"Thanks," Carolina said.

"You wanna leave your purse here?" Justin said, "You might get tired of carrying it around."

"Sure."

Justin waved her back into the back of the bus.  "Come on back in the back and put it in my room so it isn't just sitting out."

The entered the back room, which held a full sized bed, a build in dresser.  It was insanely clean, thanks to an extra few bucks to George who made his bed for him and cleaned everything up the other day while he was gone to see Carolina.

"Here's my world," he said.

"It's nice," she said.

He sat down for a minute on the bed and bounced.  She gave him a strange look.  "If you wanna leave your purse here you can."

"Ok."

"We can come back out here to ride back to the hotel.  Everyone is going to climb in here and ride together after the show."

"Ok."

"Are you having fun?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Cuz if you get bored or tired of all this you can come back here and hang out.  George will keep all the teenies away from you."

She smiled.  "I doubt that I'll get bored."

When he stood up and stretched he took off his jacket and threw it onto the bed.  "You ready to go?" he asked.  "I've gotta go get my ears on, talk to my stage manager and then do a sound check and meet and greet.  I'll make sure that you have a place to sit out of the way, or you can follow Joe around while he gives everyone a tour."

"I just don't want to get too much in the way," she said.

"You won't be in the way," he hugged her.


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