Spirit of Steel 19


His feet were loud in the hallway.  He didn't mean to be that way, but he was rushing to get back to his dressing room before another person approached him to take another picture.  They'd been really laid back about meet and greets in Colorado.  He'd sauntered in, hung out, and sauntered out, unlike how he'd have been if he'd been in New York or Los Angeles.  This way, or even on the days when he was in the bigger cities, he didn't normally mind spending extra time with people taking pictures and talking.  On a normal day it would be fine.  Today wasn't a normal day.  Today was Happy Carolina Day.  He might as well think of it that way, since clearly he was celebrating in his own way that she was there.  She was there.  He smiled at that thought and wondered for a moment if he should get a cake.  She'd probably wonder what they were celebrating and it would cause more trouble than it was worth.

It was already three o'clock.  Where did the time go?

Turning the corner he ducked his head when a few of the crew looked up at him.  He didn't like to avoid people, but today time was key and he knew himself and his crew and the way that they liked to socialize.  He could let a few hours slip away just by talking to one person trying to have a five minute conversation.  They didn't seem to think it was anything out of the ordinary to be avoided every so often so he had no trouble slipping into his dressing room.  The lights were all on and everything looked as if it was still in place, but he knew instantly something was missing.  He stopped and looked around.  Where the hell was she?  He turned in a complete circle.

A laugh filled the air, "You know if you point your toes when you do that you probably can make it into the New York Ballet."

His lips curled into a smile and he turned towards the sound of her voice.  He found her curled up into the couch with a jean jacket thrown over her torso.  Her head was bent to the side and she looked as if she'd just woken up.  "Were you sleeping?"

She sighed.  Her eyes closed and opened slowly and she licked her lips before she moved her shoulders curling into the jacket.  "A little."

While he probably could have stood there and watched her waking up for the rest of his life, he knew he'd better take advantage.  His feet carried him across the room quickly.  He stood over her for a moment before he slid onto the couch next to her.  He put his arm across the back of the couch, propped a foot up onto the coffee table and was rewarded by her movement towards him.  She curled herself against him, shivering for a moment before she moved the jacket up in place again, covering her shoulders and front before her arm moved across his chest to curl around his side, landing her hand just under the edge of his t-shirt.  "You cold?"

"Not now."  Her cheek pressed against his chest and he felt her sigh before she spoke again.  "How as the meet and greet?"

"Good."  He nodded and moved his hand up and down her arm.  He loved sitting like this with her.  He'd missed this.  Missed sitting and watching movies.  Missed beers at The Bait Shop.  Missed it all.  "How was your time backstage?"

She yawned.  "Boring."

"Really?" he said.

"Yeah," she said, "Your stupid television wouldn't turn on so I just took a nap."

"It's the X-box," he said, "You just have to turn it to channel two on the TV and then flip on the VCR--"

Her hand patted his chest and yawned.  "Too complicated."

"Awwe," he said and held her close.  "Everything about me is complicated--"  He spoke carefully when he realized that what he said could be considered as an insult to her.  "Except you."

"Me?

His head tipped towards her and he closed his eyes.  Darkness and silence for a moment was heavenly.  He'd gotten enough sleep, that was for sure, but on the road every time he had a chance to sit down he slipped into some sort of sleeping coma ass soon as he realized he wasn't moving anymore.

"You're tired," she said.  "You should go lay down for a while."

He should have opened his eyes to look at her, but he didn't.  He kept his eyes closed.  He knew that he probably shouldn't do that since he was tired enough to take another nap, but sitting there like that caused him to be in cuddle mode instead of wake up and perform mode.  "Do you want to go out to the bus and lay down?"

She turned her head and leaned and kissed him softly before speaking.  "Do we have time?"

His eyes flew open during the kiss and he stared at her lips.  He liked her lips, had dreamed of her lips and at the moment if he didn't think someone might walk into the back room he'd want her lips all over him.  Pushing that thought from his mind and hoping that it wouldn't cause other parts of his body to wake up from the thought of her lips on him, he licked his own lips and kissed her again before answering with a nod.  "You have all the time in the world.  You can sleep through the show if you want to.  I, on the other hand, have to be back in here in about four hours."

Her face turned.  Her mouth turning down into a frown and her eyes squinting as if she'd eaten something horrible. He pressed his lips to her forehead and laughed.  "What's that face for?"

"Four hours?"  She grunted. "Why do you have to be at the venue that early? You go on at like seven something, almost eight right?"

He thought for a moment.  He normally didn't have to pay attention to when he went on.  Normally he'd get to the venue around one something, have lunch, do some interviews, do sound check, do more interviews, take a little nap, then get ready for the show and play video games or shoot the shit with Trayce for a while before having dinner.  It seemed like when the time came for him to be onstage someone came and found him and shoved him on it at the right moment.  "More like almost nine something," he said.

"Then why are you here at the butt crack of dawn compared to when you go on?"

He liked the way her eyebrows gathered together and she looked upset as if tour life was torturing him.  That kind of love and devotion was what he needed in his life.  He knew that she would have her own life and her own troubles, but that even in the back of her mind she'd be wondering if she had enough sleep and enough to eat during his days...something that his mother already over worried about, but that was nice to know would be covered doubly by her.

"Part of it is traffic issues, part of it is the fact that today is a slow day."  He shrugged.  He didn't really know why today seemed to be drawn out.  He thought it was going by too quickly himself.  He only had a limited number of hours left in the city to be with her and every minute seemed to be ticking away.  "Normally I'd spend the next few hours hanging out with reporters or corporate jerks that stop by, but today I told them to cancel everything that they could because I knew you'd be here."

"You shouldn't do that," she said making another sour _expression.

"Do what?"  His hand moved and smoothed the lines across her forehead.  "What's with these faces you keep giving me?"

Her cheek pressed into his hand when he cupped her face.  "Don't cancel stuff for me."

His eyes searched hers for some kind of answer to her comment.  He wasn't sure how to take it.  He knew that she'd probably never be the girl that would be chasing him, but at the same time he'd thought that she'd at least care about spending time with him.   "Why not?"

"You shouldn't work your job around me.  I don't feel right about it."

"Well get used to it," he said making sure to look her in the eyes.  "Because I'm not gonna let another few months slide by without seeing you again."

"Justin--"

"There's a trip scheduled for the end of the tour."  He smiled, "Me and the crew usually go to Hawaii or Jamaica or something.  I want you to come with me."

Her eyebrows went up, but it looked to be a struggle for her to not seem to interested in what he was talking about.  "Jamaica?"

"Or Hawaii," he said with a nod and a smile.

She shook her head and looked away, cuddling up against him again to look across the room.  "I don't know."

"Just look at your schedule at least and see if you can make it."  His fingers traced a circle pattern on her arm carefully.  "If you can I'll pay for your ticket and all that."

She shook her head again.  "I don't know."

"Just tell me that you'll think about it--"  He scrunched his eyes up, "Just a little bit longer than two seconds before you say no."

"Fine."  She pushed herself up.  "I'll think about it."

His body relaxed and he took a deep breath.  "Thank you."

*****

Hours later, after a nap and dinner, Justin was escorted back to the dressing room to get ready.  As they walked from the bus inside there were screams from the outer areas of the arena due to the spaces in the fence where people could see them.  He ignored the noise, only waving at no one while picking up the pace to get inside.  He carried her along with him, holding her hand and finding comfort in her presence.  She was amazed by the simplest of things.  She stared when he went through hair and make up.  It wasn't anything big, just a wash of the face and a quick buzz with clippers to make sure his sideburns were straight and the line across the back of his neck was even.  Most nights he'd leave facial hair on, but he shaved quickly that night to give himself a cleaner image.

"It's just clippers and some soap and water," he said when she walked over and stared at him when he was still trying to get his face cleaned off.

"It's not that," she said, "It's just--I've never seen anyone be so picky about the smallest details.  I mean you perform to a few thousand people right?  I mean how many people actually check to see if your facial hair is straight or not?"

"You'd be surprised," he said, "You wouldn't think, but it's a big deal."

She shook her head, "Your life definitely is a lot more interesting than I thought it was gonna be."

"You thought I'd be uninteresting?"

"No," she said leaning against the counter, "I expected something truly outrageous, but THAT isn't something I expected."

"A lot of little things end up being a big thing," he said.  "Speaking of that.  Tonight I got you a ticket out front.  Second row right in the middle so when I'm on the catwalk--"  He turned and smiled at her, "I'll be able to see you."

"Ok," she said with a shrug.  "If that's where you want me, that's where I guess I'll sit."

"I'm gonna have one of the guards standing in the gutter watching you--so if you get into any kind of trouble I'll have him get you out of there."

"Trouble?"

"I'm just saying that if something happens you'll be ok."

"Ok," she said with a sigh.

"Do you want me to have Trace sit with you?"

"Is it gonna take him away from something he needs to be doing?"

"Nope," Justin said, "The only thing he's doing tonight is probably taking a nap.  He was up a few nights in a row going over the schedule with Johnny and my mom and working in some other stuff that I've been wanting to get done.  My life is worse than trying to balance a checkbook."

A knock at the door caught her ear and they turned and found a security guard watching them from the doorway.

"Hey Mike."

"J, we gotta Carolina out to her seat soon.  BEP is about to start."

"Ok," Justin said and turned towards her, "Do you want to go out there or do you want to stay with me?"

"I'll go out.  I might as well see the whole show," she said, "Besides, you've got things you probably need to be doing."

Justin shrugged.  He didn't have anything better to do, but she should see the whole show.  He didn't want to smother her even though he would have liked to have her sit with him for a little while longer before he went on.

"Mike, can you get Trace out here?"

"Sure J, what's up?"

"Can you set up to have another seat added to the second row...so that Trayce can sit out there with her?  And can you find his ass and get him out here to go with her?"

"Sure."

A few minutes later Trayce came walking into the dressing room, Cherry Coke can in his right hand as his left hand was scratching at his scalp as if he'd just woken up.

"What'd you need?"  He yawned a little bit.

Justin moved across the room and grabbed up a bottled water and turned to look at his friend.  He didn't like him looking so out of sorts, but he understood that his friend had been working just as hard as he was.  "Can you sit through the show with Carolina?"

Trayce shrugged.  "If she needs a buddy then yeah."

"I don't need a buddy," she said, "I don't want to bother you if you need to be sleeping or something."

"Naw," he said, "It's been a while since I watched the whole thing."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah," he said, "You need earplugs.  I'll get you some."

"Ok," she said, "Thanks Trayce."

"No troubles.  You want a drink or anything to eat before we go out?"

"No," she said, "I'm good."

"Cool," he said, "I'll be back in a second."

"Mike's gonna be in the gutter watching you two so don't get in any cat fights."

Trayce threw him the middle finger then disappeared out the door.

"I don't want to cause any trouble," she said.

He shrugged.  "No trouble at all."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes," he said, "Do you want a jacket with you or anything?"

"No."

"Do you want a Justin Timberlake T-shirt?"

She shook her head.  "No offense, but wearing my boyfriend's t-shirt really isn't the mature approach."

"Boyfriend's?" he said excitedly.

"Yeah," she said, "I'm your lady...right?"

He nodded.

"Let me at least introduce you to Christina before Trayce takes you out there."

"Don't trouble her," she said, "I'll meet her later on.  I don't want to disturb her before she goes on."

"You seem a little worried about causing trouble."

"I just don't want to get in the way.  This is your workplace and even though technically you're the boss. I don't want people getting pissy over me being here.  Ya know?"

"I guess," he said, "Really you're no trouble."


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