Don't Ever Give Up Ch. 03bySpotInTheSand©
Note: This is fiction. Sure, most authors, myself included, try to stick to reality as much as possible, but we must take certain liberties. For example, I learned long after developing the concept for this story that a certain statue doesn't actually exist. That statue plays a very prominent role in this chapter. Now, I won't ruin it for you now, but the statue is of one of the most famous men in the history of sports. So, it doesn't actually exist - it damn well should. And this is my story. Voila. Anyhow, if anyone is from the Raleigh, N.C. area, and that factual discrepancy offends you, then... please, just work with me.
Special thanks go out to my two regular editors, LilTexasSexFiend and AnInsatiableReader, for making this infinitely better than it was when I first wrote it. As always, let me know what you think, through voting, comments or private feedback. All three works too! ;-) As I said, this story will go up with one chapter posting daily until it's all uploaded, so don't get too mad about the cliffhangers. Enjoy!
Tim had done this well over 3,000 times. J.T., acting as his co-pilot today, had probably done it more than 5,000 times. Among the passengers on today's charter were three or four other pilots, and all told, everyone on the plane with a pilot's license had probably executed tens of thousands of flawless landings throughout their careers.
Still, Tim never relaxed once the runway came into view, even during the day when he could see the runway easily. This time, he was turning final for an instrument night landing. He could watch the cockpit displays showing the precise track of the plane relative to the runway he'd be on in a few minutes, but that didn't stop him from being nervous.
Like most of the other pilots he knew, Tim was a big believer in one of the oldest overused pilots' phrases: "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one, and if the plane is still functioning afterward, it's perfect." However, he'd also developed a healthy respect for Murphy's Law throughout his career in the Marines: "If it can go wrong, it will. If more than one thing can go wrong, they all will, all at once." He felt he could never be too cautious.
J.T. had been peppering him with questions for the past 10 minutes, but he knew to leave Tim alone during this brief period, the time between receiving the landing clearance and actually touching the tires to the tarmac. Tim's breathing became shallow and controlled as the Learjet inched closer and closer to the runway. As he broke out of the low scud, he was intently focused as first the runway displaced threshold disappeared beneath the plane, followed closely by the numbers on the runway.
Tim's exhalation was audible as the wheels touched down. J.T. engaged the reverse thrusters, and the plane slowly crept to a stop after eating up more than a mile of runway.
"Mile High zero-one, welcome to Raleigh-Durham International. Exit runway to the right when able; taxiway delta to the jet port."
Tim complied with the air traffic controller's instructions, easing the plane to the right, off the runway and onto the taxiway. This was a smaller plane, so instead of taxiing toward the main gates, he headed toward the charter buildings. Just like the main gates, though, there were two linemen ready to greet him and help him get the Learjet parked.
"So, really," J.T. said. "This is a big step for you."
"You know, I would glare at you right now if I wasn't focused on these guys," Tim said. "Glaring is much less effective when you're not looking at the person."
"Seriously, man," J.T. said, simply ignoring Tim. "One of her biggest complaints to Sheila is that you never let her ride home with you, even though you're both going to the same place and coming back to the airport in the morning. So, this is big."
Tim ignored his best friend for just a second and got the plane parked. As soon as he shut down the engines, he signaled for the flight attendant, who opened the door and extended the steps.
"We're still not riding back in together tomorrow," Tim said, turning his attention to his co-pilot as the passengers disembarked. "I'm only letting her drive me home because I left my SUV at her place. I'm fairly certain you know this, seeing as you're the reason why."
Three days before, Tim had returned the N.C. State football team to Raleigh after a game in Tallahassee with Florida State. Carlos had indeed fractured a bone in his right forearm, and wearing the proper splint, he'd become the original fumble-free version of himself. The Wolfpack had whipped up on the Seminoles, and the plane ride home was just generally a good time. It certainly had put Tim in a great mood. Julia was off that particular day, and instead of making her drive all the way to his house on the lake, he'd decided to surprise her at her house instead.
"Speaking of which..." J.T. said, and Tim could only roll his eyes. He wondered how long it would be before J.T. figured it out. "You got back into town Sunday evening. I picked you up over there this morning. You stayed with her almost three whole days?"
"Don't make a big deal out of it."
"It is a big deal, dude," he said. "You don't even like it when she stays overnight, and now you're over there for three days?"
"What can I say, J.T.?" Tim replied. "She just keeps coming back for more. I fucked her Sunday night right into Monday morning. I was ready to leave, but she convinced me to stay. And let me tell you, she can be pretty damn persuasive. She has this thing she does, where she puts ice in her mouth then goes down on me for a minute, then switches to coffee... it's marketable, dude. Anyway, we stayed there all day Monday. Tuesday, we went to work, but she got off first. I went over there and made sure she got off first a few more times."
J.T. was stunned.
"What?" Tim asked.
"Bullshit," J.T. finally said. "Now you're just making shit up so I'll stop asking you about it."
"Maybe I am," Tim said. "Maybe I'm actually telling the truth."
"But you never offer details."
"Yeah, like it was a big fucking secret what we were doing over there all that time, man," Tim said. "And if it will get you off my back, then, hell. What's a little sharing between best friends?"
Tim left the cockpit, descending the steps onto the asphalt. J.T. joined him soon thereafter.
"Tim, you could show me the video and it still wouldn't get me off your back."
"OK," Tim said, shooting his friend a cautious glance. "You're starting to scare me."
"All the shit we've been through together, and NOW I'm starting to scare you?"
Tim laughed and rolled his eyes simultaneously. "You have a point."
"Still, man, you could have asked me to drive you over there," J.T. continued. "It's a big deal."
"You're about to find out how big a deal it is when I call a cab to take me over there and you have to explain to her how I was gonna let her drive me home, but you wouldn't shut up."
J.T. put his hands up in surrender. "OK, OK."
The pair walked silently into the charter terminal. They made their way through the building and into the MHC, Inc. offices. Julia was sitting in one of the chairs, idly flipping through the latest copy of Sports Illustrated.
"I keep telling you she's a keeper, man," J.T. said, pointing at the magazine. "Any woman who reads Sports Illustrated without being forced..."
"What do you mean, without being forced? You don't keep anything in here but that and Aviation Weekly," she answered. She'd already stood up. There was a look on her face that she always had when she met Tim at the airport - like she wanted to run up and jump into his arms. She didn't because she thought he would get mad. Lately, he wasn't so sure.
"True," J.T. said. "Just trying to turn people on to the important things in life."
"Hey, you," she said when Tim reached her. "I just got off work and figured I would drop by to see if you guys were back yet."
"I know," Tim replied. "I talked to Shelby in your office an hour ago."
"Why?" she asked.
"Wanted to see when you'd be off," he answered. "Turns out I'm going to need a ride to your place."
Her eyes lit up. Tim smiled involuntarily.
"J.T. couldn't drive you?"
"Oh, he could have. It's just..." Tim tried to spit it out, but it wasn't coming.
"He'd rather go with you." That was J.T., being ever so helpful while rifling through the mail. Tim glanced over at him, and then looked back at Julia, who was beaming. He raised his eyebrows a bit and then nodded.
"Cool," she said, clearly trying to conceal her happiness. That was one of the things he enjoyed most about having Julia in his life, at any level: it didn't take much to make her happy. Though Tim had always been willing to go the extra mile to make his friends happy, just the tiniest things - like him letting her drive him 10 minutes to her apartment - made her act like it was her birthday.
"You good, bro?" Tim asked, not looking at J.T. but trying not to maintain constant eye contact with Julia, either. He wasn't sure why.
"Yeah," J.T. said. "You're at RBC tomorrow?"
"Hoops at noon?"
Tim headed for the door, holding it open for Julia. He spotted her Toyota Camry in the parking lot and headed for it.
"How was Tennessee?"
"Awesome," Tim said. "Of course, everything looks awesome at 5,000 feet."
"I know," she said, smiling at him. "Who were the passengers? And while we're on the subject, why did J.T. have to come kidnap you at five this morning?"
"We were picking up a bunch of J.T.'s dad's friends," Tim said. "Old friends from when he grew up in Nashville. I guess that's the benefit of being rich - anytime you want to see your friends, just scramble up a Learjet and say, 'Go fetch.'"
"OK, but he just planned it this morning?"
"No," Tim said. "Steve was supposed to be J.T.'s co-pilot, but he called in sick. J.T. knew I was at your place."
"Ah, and since he lives a mile away, he just figured he'd come get you in person."
"Honestly, I think he was trying to set this up," Tim said. "He was pretty adamant about letting him drive."
"Hmm.. guess I have to thank him then," she replied.
"Please don't," he answered. "That boy's ego is already threatening to take over Wake County. Don't encourage him."
"If he's going to keep coming up with ideas like this, I'll give him all the encouragement he needs."
Tim was going to respond when his cell phone started ringing. It was 99 Problems by Jay-Z. That could only mean one person.
"You have wonderful timing, Carlos," he said, sliding into the passenger seat of Julia's car. "And by wonderful, I mean horrible."
"Sorry, Doc," Carlos said. "I need a favor."
"I can't play wingman for you tonight," Tim said. "Really, now that I'm officially employed by the school, I can't do that for you ever again."
"I don't need you to," was the reply. "I need you to play wingman for Pat Kersee. With the cops."
"Kersee got into trouble? What, did he get caught doing homework during normal partying hours?"
"You remember that shit I told you a couple weeks ago, on the plane ride back from Boston?"
Carlos repeated their conversation. Tim's eyes just got wider and wider. He noticed Julia watching him from the driver's seat.
"Jesus, man," Tim said. "What are you, some kind of prophet? I'll be right there."
He hung up the phone and looked apologetically at Julia.
"We need to make a pit stop first."
She nodded and started the car. Five minutes and one hasty explanation later, Julia's Camry pulled up in front of the main entrance to the RBC Center. There were only two police cars there, but the dual sets of flashing lights served as a beacon, drawing anyone within range to North Carolina State's basketball arena. Tim saw Carlos' blood red Ford Fusion parked 100 feet away from all the commotion, and he motioned Julia to park behind him.
"Wait here, OK?" Tim asked, getting a nod in return. "I'll just be a minute."
He hastily got out of the car and headed over to Carlos, who was sitting on the hood of his own car.
"I spent the whole drive over here hoping like hell you were pulling a prank, Carlos," Tim said.
"Doc, I can't even make this shit up," he said. He was dressed in early American ghetto - a bright orange Charlotte Bobcats' jersey, sagging blue jeans, and enough jewelry to get himself mugged at this time of night.
"You talk to him yet?"
"Yeah, but just for a sec," Carlos replied. "Po-po got real upset when they found out he texted me."
"So, why am I here?"
"One of the cops recognized me when I got here," Carlos said. "Asked Pat if he was on the team, Pat said yeah. They told him to call a coach to come over here. I said I'd handle it."
"What about Tia?"
"That's trickier. They pressed her until she admitted she was a cheerleader. Got someone at the station to look it up, and they called the cheerleaders' coach, or whoever they have that runs them."
"Ah," Tim replied. To say Nicole Clifford would be something less than pleased would be a huge understatement. Captain or not, Tia would be booted off the team, and Tim wouldn't have a chance in hell of keeping this off the head coach's and athletic director's desks. A thought formed very quickly in his mind. He waved to Julia, and when he caught her attention, he beckoned her over. She looked a bit bewildered, but she got out of the car.
"I didn't know you was bringin' your girl, Doc," Carlos said. "I dropped mine off on the way over here to help Pat, but if I'd known we was havin' a party, shit."
"She's not my girl, Carlos," Tim said, mostly amused. "But she is going to help get us out of this mess." Tim waited a second, and then realized what Carlos had just said. "You have a girlfriend?"
"Nah," Carlos said. "I just got one I hit it with more than the others. That's who I was with just now."
Tim and Carlos both watched Julia walk over to Carlos' car. She was still wearing her Southwest dress, but she filled it out well.
"Daamn, Doc," Carlos said, but an elbow to the ribs shut him up.
"Julia Waters, Carlos McDonald," Tim said, making introductions as quickly as possible. Tim pulled the Southwest Airlines pin off Julia's dress and pocketed it. "Carlos, you know who the cheer coach is, right?"
"Fuck, no," he replied.
"OK, let's try this a different way," Tim said. "Carlos, you've fucked one of the cheerleaders, right?"
Carlos grinned and flashed him a set of perfect pearly whites. No further reply was necessary.
"Good. Call her - any of them, since I'm sure we're dealing with plurals here - and find a way to get a hold of Nicole Clifford. Whatever you need to do, convince her nothing is going on. Just stop her from showing up here."
"On it, Doc," Carlos said, and immediately began working his phone. Julia and Tim made their way toward the cop cars.
"What am I doing here?" she asked.
"Were you ever a cheerleader in college?" Tim answered back with a question.
"Do I look like I was a cheerleader?" Julia replied.
"No," he agreed. "You look much, much better." Julia turned her smile up to high beams as they continued speed walking toward the cops. "Anyway, you're the N.C. State assistant cheerleading coach. Just play along."
She might have put up a fight, but they'd reached the two cop cars. Two of the cops got into the near police car, so Tim and Julia made their way to the other car. Tim spotted a hulking figure leaning against it, with his back to them. About 10 feet away, a drop-dead gorgeous Latina sat on the curb, carefully observing them as they approached.
"Can I help you?" the officer asked. He was short and black - not as well built as Carlos, Tim thought, but he looked about as fast. The nameplate on his uniform said Blue.
"Sure," Tim replied. "I'm Tim Fetters, one of the doctors for the North Carolina State football team. I understand you've detained one of my players?"
"I'm Sergeant Blue. You have some ID?"
Tim pulled out his wallet and handed the officer his driver's license and a business card identifying him as the team psychologist.
"I asked for a coach."
"Yes, I understand that," Tim replied. "Carlos only has three coaches in his cell phone, and he told me he tried to call all three, but none of them answered. I did."
It was a blatant lie, but after a few seconds, the cop bought it.
"Fine," he replied. "Who is this lovely young lady?"
Tim was about to answer for her, but Julia stuck her hand out.
"I'm Julia Waters, one of the cheerleader coaches here," she replied. "We're sorry to have caused you all this trouble."
"Not a problem, ma'am," the officer replied. "How did you both get here so quick?"
Julia took that one as well. "Well, that football player over there didn't know this, but when he called Dr. Fetters here, he called me, as well." She was laying it on thick now, even stepping up her Southern accent for effect. She batted her eyebrows as she jerked her head toward Tim. "Let's try and keep that between us, if you don't mind."
Sergeant Blue eyed Tim now. Some of it was jealousy, but some of it was the classic 'What's he got that I don't?' look, as well.
"Not a problem, ma'am," he said again. He directed them to follow him. As they did, Tim leaned over and whispered the girl's name into Julia's ear, so she could correctly identify her.
"Tia, what the hell happened?" Julia started. Tia looked back at her, clearly trying to figure out who she was. She was dressed in a white sweater and a blue denim skirt. The sweater looked disheveled - clearly, it had been balled up somewhere and just recently thrown back on.
"Why the hell do you care?" Tia replied. Uh, oh, Tim thought. He shot Tia a hard glare before responding.
"Careful, Tia," he said. "You're lucky Ms. Waters here was the one Carlos called and not Ms. Clifford." Tia stared back at him for a second, and he eventually saw the light click on.
"You're right," the girl replied. "Sorry, Ms. Waters."
"Sergeant?" Tim asked when he realized neither Pat nor Tia was going to offer an explanation.
"Apparently, these two couldn't restrain themselves," he said. "We were conducting a routine patrol and happened upon them in a... let's just say... less than appropriate act."
"C'mon, Sergeant," Tim said. "You can level with me. You caught 'em fucking out here?"
Julia laughed. Tia's eyes nearly popped out of her head. Tim looked over at Pat and saw the slightest smirk on his face. For his part, Blue stayed as professional as he could.
"Not exactly," he replied. "Mr. Kersee was leaned up against the statue, and Ms. Lopez was kneeling in front of him. I think you can fill in the blanks."
Tim looked up. Sure enough, there was the statue of Jim Valvano, the legendary North Carolina State basketball coach. Carlos, in his infinite wisdom, had nailed this one, so to speak.
"Yeah, probably," Tim said. "You mind if we talk to them for a minute?"
"As long as you don't mind an audience, go right ahead."
"Pat? Tia? Want to give us an explanation that will stop us from calling Coach Taylor and Ms. Clifford?"
"I'm sorry, Doc," Pat started, finally pulling his weight off the hood of the police car. The car rose up an inch or two. Pat's belt was still unbuckled and his fly was unzipped, but thankfully, nothing was poking out. He also had only a T-shirt on, one that was struggling to keep his large upper body contained. A red N.C. State jacket was lying on the car. "Tia was working out here in the women's weight room. I was working out with the basketball players. We caught each other on the way out, and we got the urge. I didn't think we'd get caught."
"It took us half an hour, you moron," Tia said from the curb. "Of course we were going to get caught."
"Half an hour, Pat?" Tim asked. "I mean, kudos and all, but if you're going to do it in a public place, perhaps a quickie might be the better option?"