Spirit of Steel 20

Even though he assured her that she would be no trouble, watching the show seemed to be too complicated.  He had to make sure to get her credentials to her and instructed her not to lose them three times before he surrendered her over to Trayce, who had taken a minute to stop and get another drink.  On the way out they had to talk to a few people on their way out to the seats.  She didn't really mind following him around, but felt strange because he forgot to introduce her to people as they went so she stood there feeling insanely like a groupie as he spoke to people.  The first conversation was about getting a trip out the next day to go shopping in the morning and the second was to make sure that Justin had all his gear before the show since Trayce would be out with her in the audience.  Simple conversations, yet the language they used.  Load out, load in, pre-show, after show, gate detail...they all meshed into this language that she could follow, but not truly understand.

The feeling of strangeness only remained when they got to their seats a few minutes before the show would start.  Trayce slid down into his seat to watch things, putting his feet up on the chair in front of him and looking almost tortured to be there.  His baseball hat was pulled low on his head and his face was mostly hidden from the people around them.  She sat for a bit, but when the lights went down that the Black Eyed Peas performance started he pushed her up and motioned towards the stage because the music was too loud to talk over.

She didn't think they were a bad group.  They'd done well the other night in the club, but struggled a bit in front of the bigger crowd.  Fergie was great though, singing notes that Carolina couldn't even imagine trying to hit.  She watched in awe and tried to remember some of the words to the songs from the other night.  She hadn't heard much of them, other than the song that Justin had recorded with them since it was popular on the radio stations.  By the time they reached that song though she'd gotten into things enough with the girls around her that everyone except Trayce seemed to be on their feet and ready to party.

The half hour set ended quickly and she returned to sitting.  "Why didn't you stand up?" she asked.

"Because I'm a loser."

"Don't say that," she said with a laugh.

"It's been a long day," he said, "Sitting is a good thing."

"I didn't pull you away from something did I?" she asked nervously.  He looked as if he was about to be sick or something.  If he needed to lie down somewhere he should be there instead of here with her, "If you want to go back to sleep or whatever go ahead.  I can sit here alone and take care of myself."

He tipped his hat back, scratched his forehead, "I would, if I was an asshole, but if your boyfriend comes out on that stage and I'm not here with you, he's gonna stop the show until I get my ass back out here with you--"  He shrugged, "So I might as well stay.  Besides.  I'm pretty good company aren't I?"

"Of course," she said and moved around in her chair to watch people.

Trayce looked up a little and sounded completely bored.  "Pretty amazing, right?"

"Yeah," she said, "It's overwhelming."

He looked around.  "Just a little."

Suddenly the energy in the room got to be too much for her.  Every where she looked she saw girls with Justin t-shirts, Justin posters, and some of them had JUSTIN written on their bodies.  "It just makes me wonder why out of all the girls in this room that he's taking a liking to me."

"Why?"  Trayce snickered, "That boy is dumber than I thought."


"Well if you're acting like this it means that he hasn't told you that he loves you--which in my opinion is the worst thing he can do right now," he said leaning to tell her so that he didn't have to say it too loudly.

"I know," she said.

He leaned back and smiled then frowned again.  "If he's told you then why are you wondering?"

"He hasn't told me--"  She put her hands in her lap and rubbed them together, wishing suddenly that she had lotion.  "Exactly."

Trayce sat up and put his feet on the ground and leaned over again.  "What's that supposed to mean?"

She sighed.  "He told my voice mail the other night before I got here."

"And you haven't talked about hearing that message?"  He watched her for a moment and didn't let her answer.  "Why not?"

She shrugged.  "It's been crazy since I got here."

"Are you scared?"

She nodded that she wasn't the sighed.  "A little."

"Of what?"

"I don't know."  She looked around.  "This whole world.  This whole atmosphere doesn't give me a real stable feeling about the whole thing."

"What?"  Trayce sat up in his chair, "Why?  Because of all the other girls in here?"


"Girl.  You need to wake up and smell the coffee before you ruin this for yourself.  He doesn't save the L word to just anyone and if he said it, he meant it.  I don't know who you've been talking to lately, but I wouldn't take it lightly that he's said that to you."

"I just don't want to take it for more than he meant it to be,  I don't want to get hurt--"

"--Again?" he supplied for her.

"Yeah," she said, "He left town on me and I'm sorry if that's shitty to be harping on it, but really I can see it happening again.  I hope it doesn't, but I think that it might."

The lights flickered and then went out.  She didn't know what to think of it, but as soon as the lights came up Trayce pointed her towards the stage.


Christina's hour and a half long show went by in a flash.  It was the most energetic show she'd ever seen and it was hard to take it all in.  When the final high energy song ended and blue and silver confetti flew into the air she got the impression that this was what life was like with Justin.  There was no sweet simple way to do anything in life, even if you wanted to, so she made herself forget about her nervousness and decided that she needed to live a little.  She needed to take advantage of the experience she was being given and live the rock star lifestyle for a while.

First she needed to use the restroom though.

"Where are you going?" Trayce asked reaching out a hand to grab onto her arm.

She turned her head at him wondering what possessed him to reach out and grab her.  "Restroom."

"Do you want to go backstage and go?"

She shrugged.  She didn't know if she wanted to do that.

"Come on," he said pushing himself up, "The lines are probably really long anyway.  Besides, if I let you in a public restroom with those girls they're bound to steal your credentials and leave you stranded in the bathroom."


They made their way across the three sections of seats then to the right side of the stage where they passed through a security checkpoint before sliding back into the hallways that they'd spent most of the earlier parts of the day in.  Trayce somehow knew where to go and soon Carolina was slipping inside the restroom with his voice echoing after her.  "I'll be right out here when you're finished."

It only took her a few moments for her to visit the restroom and when she came out into the hallway Trayce was nowhere to be seen.  Everyone seemed to have disappeared from the hallway and three huge men were walking down towards her as if they were on some kind of mission.


Carolina jumped back into the doorway of the bathroom just in time to see Justin passing.


He jumped a little and stumbled a few steps before he reached out and pulled her along.  "What are you doing back here?"  He held onto her hand tightly and she could feel the energy surging through him.  His eyes darted around.  "Where's Trayce?"

"He brought me back to go to the restroom and disappeared.  I'll find him.  Don't worry about it.  I'll find him again."

"I'm about to go on," he said, "Are you gonna be ok?"

"Yeah," she nodded.

The chaos around them suddenly surged as they walked out into the dark arena.  The lights had been shut down and everything was turned up a notch as flashlights pointed their way.  He pulled her close, wrapped his arms around her and stood there for a moment, leaning his forehead against hers.  "Thanks for being here!" he yelled into her ear as screams filled the air and music started to play.

"No trouble!" she screamed back.

"I've gotta go," he pulled away.

She pulled him back quickly.  "Justin?"

"What?" he asked.

"Have a good show."

"I will," he yelled back.

It was now or never.  She wasn't sure that she should reveal her feelings towards him in this setting, in this way, but she took a breath and decided to say what was on her mind.  "I LOVE YOU," she screamed at him over the noise as someone came up to Justin to pull him away.

Suddenly in the chaos Trayce appeared and was pulling her away as someone pushed Justin towards the stage with a stunned look on his face.

"YOU DISAPPEARED!"  Trayce said to her loudly.


"Feel better?" he asked as they went back out in front of the stage.

"Yeah," she said.

"Glad you said it?"

"You heard me?"

"I think EVERYONE heard you," he said with a laugh and pulled her along back to their seats.


By the time they got back to their seats Justin was already to the middle of the stage in the middle of his eight dancers.  Everyone was dressed in grey and white fairly casual clothes, unlike the costumes that Christina's dancers had been dressed in.

The songs went by so quickly as she watched him move around the stage that she wasn't sure when one song ended and the next began.  Finally, dressed in dark pants and a leather jacket, he came to stand at the end of the catwalk above her.

"Thank you," he said and laughed a little as a few girls way up in the back yelled that they loved him.  He waved in their direction then looked straight down at her.  She'd noticed that he'd winked a few times and had waved with his hand a bit, but this was the first time he looked straight at her.  "How we doin' Denver?"  He half sang the words as screams filled the air.  "We havin' fun yet?"

She nodded and found herself screaming along with the rest of the crowd.  It was an insane energy that she got caught up in.  There was no reason for her to scream, no reason for her to jump up and down and get his attention, but still she found herself doing it.  It was an amazing to get caught up in that.  She found herself loving the fact that she was the center of attention and when Justin walked back towards the band to start the next song that other people around her were whispering and pointing and totally jealous of her.  It was definitely a great ego booster if nothing else.

When Justin returned to the front of the stage a song later he carried with him a blue guitar and turned to shush the band for a moment before he started playing a song.  Trayce immediately broke into laughter and Justin stopped looking at the position of his fingers on the strings and glared at Trayce.

Carolina was watching Trayce throw him the middle finger when she heard Justin's voice start the song and when she turned towards him he was staring at her.

Dark and silent late last night
I think I might have heard the highway calling
Geese in flight and dogs that bite
Signs that might be omens say I going, going
I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind

With a holy host of others standing 'round me
Still I'm on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me
If I'm up and gone to Carolina in my mind

In my mind I'm goin' to Carolina
Can't you see the sunshine
Can't you just feel the moonshine
Maybe just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I'm goin' to Carolina in my mind

She saw how nervous he was and just when she thought he'd sing her another verse, he turned around and pointed towards the band and they started up another song that involved the crowd, getting all the attention away from the song, and her, and the fact that he'd just serenaded her in front of a packed house.

The ending song came too soon.  Trayce pulled her by the arm away from the middle of the stage and towards where they'd walked back to use the restroom, stopping at the side of the stage to watch Justin hit the last few notes of the song before they slipped backstage.

Trayce paused in the hallway near the door of the dressing room.  "He's gonna be coming off stage, straight into the dressing room and into the shower.  Security will give him a few minutes to change then he'll come out."

"Where should I go?"

"Just wait here for a second and we'll see if he wants you in there with him.  If not I'll walk out to the bus with you and we'll grab something to eat real quick while we wait for him."

A few moments later the same huge bodyguards came down the hallway, Justin walking behind them with a towel draped over his head with a hand on one of the guy's shoulder's not even looking where he was going.  She stood and watched him walk past and wondered for a moment if he was even wondering where she was or if the rest of the details of his night were crowding him.

"Stay right here," Trayce said moving her so her back was up against the wall.  "I mean it.  Don't move."

She laughed, "Can I breathe?"

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


A few seconds turned into about ten minutes.  She didn't know what was keeping them, but standing there in the hallway with a few of the guards really didn't make her feel comfortable, until she saw Todd appear.  He came to stand next to her, giving her a half hug as he put his arm around her.  "Did you like the show?"

"Yeah," she said.

"What are you doing out here?"

She looked around and felt silly for standing there alone.  "Waiting."

"Waiting on your boy?"

She nodded.

"Want me to go in there and check on the guys?" he said, "To see if you can go in?"

"Do you have to do anything else?" she asked not wanting to get him into trouble.

"Nope," he said, "I've got night duty tonight so I'm hanging out until we get back to the hotel."

She looked at him sideways when he yawned.  "Did you sleep?"

"Yeah," he said, "About an hour after you guys came over here I came out and got in my bunk and slept.  I just woke up actually."

"Oh."  She sighed, "You guys all work too hard."

"Tell me about it girl," he said in his easy drawl.  He nodded towards the door, "Let me go tell your man that he's being rude by leaving his lady out here alone."

She nodded, "Don't make it sound like I'm upset, really I know he has things to do."

"You should be upset girl.  A man should never keep a lady waiting."

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