Spirit of Steel -- 30

It was called a meet and greet and basically that's all it was.  Carolina took their plates to the bartender then made her way to the backstage area, leaving Justin to deal with the radio station DJs that brought in a few dozen people to do a really quick picture taking and autograph session.  She'd missed this part of the meet and greet in Colorado, disappearing to the bathroom while he'd gone through the actually up close and person experience with his fans.  She was fascinated this time to watch him interact with everyone.

"You can go out there and get a better look."

Carolina almost jumped out of her skin.  She knew that the band was wandering around the venue doing their own thing until show time.  She'd heard rumblings of some sort of a remote control race car race happening, but she hadn't seen anyone so she'd thought she was alone.  Clearly she'd assumed wrong.  She turned to find one of the female back up singers Denosh standing there.  "I know," she said trying to make herself not look too strange standing there staring at everyone from what was basically a big box.  "I don't want to interrupt."

"You won't.  He's not going to get embarrassed by you sitting out there or anything.  People may wonder who you are, but most of them will assume that you're his girlfriend even if you pretend to be something else."  She undid the ponytail that her hair was in and smoothed it back up into a better fitting ponytail.  "You should go watch him.  He's pretty great with the fans."

She stepped back a little more from where the main part of the stage was and glanced over towards where Justin was posing for pictures with people.  "I don't want to get in the way."

Denosh smiled, "You're definitely a different one."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Carolina asked instantly feeling as if she was being interrogated or prodded into going out there and making a fool of herself.  She didn't know why she'd suddenly feel that way, but she didn't know Denosh and didn't know if her pleasant nature was real or not.

"No offense," she said, "I didn't mean to have that come out as an insult by any means.  We're all--the band and everyone--are all impressed with the way you've become a part of his life without seeming to barge in and ask for attention.  It's nice that way."

"Oh," Carolina felt her cheeks turning pink.  "Sorry.  I didn't mean to be so defensive."

"It's ok," Denosh said.  "I'm gonna go sit out on the edge of the stage and watch for a bit, if you want to sit with me."

Carolina was now embarrassed about her reaction to the whole thing.  She watched Denosh walk out to the edge of the stage and take a seat near one of the speakers.  No one seemed to even notice that she was there so Carolina took a deep breath and made her way over to sit next to her.

"See," Denosh said, "You'll be ok sitting here."

"I'm really sorry about overreacting a minute ago."  She motioned towards the far side of the stage.  "It's just hat all of this is so new and even though no one really has been mean to me, I keep expecting to be in the way."

"You're fine.  Believe me."  She dug in her pocket and pulled out a piece of cinnamon gum.  "Want some?"

"Thanks," Carolina took a stick of gum and gave Denosh a smile.  "So how did you end up working with Justin?"

"I'm actually a studio singer.  I worked on a few overseas projects with Johnny--You've met Johnny haven't you?"

Carolina shook her head.  She didn't know if she had met him or not.  It seemed as if Todd was the only familiar face in the crowd of people around Justin.

"Well, Johnny is Justin's manager.  He manages a few other groups.  Some are really big here in the US and some are really big overseas and haven't gotten over to the US just yet.  ANYWAY, I was working with some groups that were touring in Europe and Japan and he called me up and said to come home to the US so there I came, running home to work on this project."

"That must be great, getting to travel so much.  I've traveled a lot with my sport--I used to fence at the Olympic level, but most of my tournaments were in out of the way places.  Not really tourist type cities."

Denosh nodded.  "Stick around this guy--"  She motioned towards Justin, "--and you'll end up all over the world."

"Well I hope I can stick around for a while."

"So how'd you meet Justin anyway.  We've all kind of heard about you, but Justin hasn't sat us all down and said...hey.  This is my girlfriend."

Carolina hadn't even noticed that she hadn't been introduced to most of the people on tour.

"You were in Colorado weren't you?"

"We're neighbors back home in Tennessee."  She sighed.  That seemed like such a long time ago.  She didn't even think that she was the same person that she was back then and it had only been a few months.  "We hung out when he messed up his ankle then lost track of each other for a few months.  He came and found me when I was in Colorado Springs and invited me to the Denver shows so I came up for the weekend."

"Cool," Denosh said.  "My boyfriend Beau and I met at an industry party two years ago.  We were both up in New York at this stuff executive party.  He bumped into me literally and spilled wine on my shirt and when he offered to buy me a new shirt I didn't think he'd take me out shopping right that minute to get a new one."

"That's sweet," Carolina said.   "So where is he?"

"Beau is in charge of security for one of the other guys in NSYNC.  He's been traveling with him off an on this whole year in Los Angeles and since I've been working it's been a long distance relationship."

Carolina frowned.  "You won't get to see him for Christmas?"

"He's actually flying in tomorrow morning.  I'm not excited about getting up at seven in the morning to get him from his red eye flight, since we're having a late show tonight, but once he's here I'm sure we'll have a good time."

Carolina nodded and turned to watch Justin with a fan that had started to cry.


He could feel her eyes on him as he interacted with the fans.  There was something different about having her eyes on him.  He'd had people watch him before and most of them made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end in an eerie way.  This type of recognition, the feeling of knowing that she was there behind him left him with a different sensation.

Bliss.  It was the only word to describe it.  He could feel his lips pulling into a smile every time he thought about her being there and luckily because he was in a photo opportunity he could let that smile out without anyone really realizing what he was doing.

The meet and greet couldn't get over fast enough.  It wasn't that he hated talking to his fans.  No one would be upset to hear that people who were coming to the concerts really were into the music and the show.  Of course everyone screaming during his singing let him know, but hearing it first hand, verbal confirmation that he was doing the right thing really reinforced the fact that he was a success.

Despite getting that kind of feedback from people, it was just a strange reminder about just how public his life was.  People that came to these things were normally slightly obsessive about him and tended to ask him things that he didn't even realize had been published about him.

"Thanks everyone," he said when everyone had gotten through the line.  He looked at the two DJs that had been the host of this event and smiled.  "I need to get some things together for the show, but you're allowed to stay in here so I'm sure you'll all get a good place to stand."  They all clapped.  "Have a good time tonight."

"Thanks a lot Justin," one of the DJs said shaking his hand.

"No troubles," he said, "You guys are all set with your tickets and everything right?"

"Yeah," she said, "We're all set with these guys.  We were going to take them outside again."

"Naw," he said with a smile, "Keep them in here.  Let them get good places to stand and stuff.  I know that a lot of them have done crazy things to get these tickets."

"Thanks," the other DJ said.  "You're definitely welcome at our station anytime."

"Thanks," he said, "Maybe I'll have to come back more often.  It's a good excuse to get out this way."

The DJs nodded.

"Merry Christmas," Justin said with a shrug.  "Early anyway."

He waved one last time to the group then turned his attention towards Carolina who was getting up from her seat at the edge of the stage with Denosh to meet him back on the side of the stage.

"You look like you need a nap," she said instantly when he was in the backstage area away from the eyes of the fans.

"I probably do," he said rubbing the back of his neck.

She moved to hug him and stood holding onto him.  "So what do you have to do between now and the start of the show?"

"In about two seconds Trayce is going to come flying through I'm sure with a list of phone interview calls that need to be made."  He sighed.  "Other than that though I don't think I have much to do."

"Definitely sleeping in tomorrow, right?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, "If you get up before me or whatever, ditch me.  I'm not going to be good for anything until at least after three in the afternoon."

She nodded.  "Why don't we go find a seat and wait for your phone calls?"

"You read my mind," he said.

A few minutes later they were in what would have been considered the green room and found a couch to sit down on.

"You want to take a nap?" she asked.

He leaned back against the back of the couch and took a deep breath.  "I wish I could."

"Well at least close your eyes and sit still for a minute.  I don't think you've sat still other than our nap earlier since I've been here."  She reached over and touched his shoulder.  "You should have taken a nap at the beach instead of swimming."

"I had fun swimming," he said with his eyes now closed and a smile on his face.  He'd had fun at the beach.  It wouldn't have been hard for anyone to have fun at the beach considering the weather and the fact that his girlfriend had been lying out in the sand working on her tan.

"I did too," she said as her fingers pressed against the skin of the side of his neck.  "You got some sun today, even with all that sun block on."

"Yeah," he said and turned his face towards her, but didn't open his eyes.  "I need to get out more like that."  He took a deep breath and his voice started to getting a little more lazy, a little more southern as he started to relax, "I'm glad you're here."  He opened his eyes.  "You definitely--"

"J man!" Trayce said breaking the calm in the room with a hyper energy that seemed unnatural after the day they'd all had.  He stopped short when he saw them sitting there.  "Sorry about that."  He held two cell phones in his hands.  One was up to his ear and the other one was stretched out towards Justin.  "I've got that station on the line."

Justin's eyes came open and he lifted his hand up towards the phone.  "Give it here."

"Cool," Trayce said, "I'll give you ten minutes or so then you've got another one."

"Who are you talking to?" Justin asked.


"Tell her I said hi," he said before lifting the interview phone to his ear.

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