It started out like a joke, really. Nothing more. But as soon as AJ had said the words, everyone fell quiet.
"Well, why not?" AJ continued. "I mean, if we all agreed to it, we'd have to do it."
"But that sure is a high price to pay for losing," Kevin said looking at the rest of the guys.
Somehow, they had all ended up in Kev's
room watching TV. It was a late night in
"What's the price really?" AJ asked. "I mean, so we break up. It wouldn't be the end of the world for any of us, and that's if we lose. If we lose. We're not going to lose. Look at those people, they're running obstacle courses and eating bugs. We can do that."
"But that is a high price to pay if we lose, AJ. This is our careers. What we love doing," Kevin countered. Kevin glanced around at the other guys for their opinions. Maybe this was just another one of AJ's insane ideas.
Brian shrugged. "I'd be up for it. Especially against those guys. I think AJ's right. We would win."
"No doubt about it," Nick chimed in from in front of the television.
"'D?" Kevin asked hoping he'd have something intelligent to say. Despite their ages, the other two were still famous for jumping on the bandwagon.
"Well, it sure would shut them up," he said softly. "What if they didn't even go for it, though?"
"Then they would look like real losers," AJ said. "And they'd be out of the way for good. I'm tired of being compared to them, being asked questions about them. Who cares about them? Let's just get them out of the way."
"Well, it's better than taking a hit out on them," Howie laughed. That had been AJ's other idea.
Nick chuckled. "Can't we do both?"
"No," Kevin said. "We can't do that at all. Look, it's been policy with us to ignore them and whatever they have to say about us. You do realize that if we break with that policy, we risk being criticized. By everyone. The media, our families. Our own fans included, right? I mean, we all share some fans. So then they'd have to pick, too."
"You don't think they'd pick us?" Brian asked.
"But why make them choose?" Howie asked, beginning to realize the extreme consequences of their plan. "That's not fair to them. Why should they have to restrict themselves to which group they like just because we don't like each other?"
AJ shrugged. "Who knows? Who cares? It's not about the fans, or the critics or our families. This is about us. We're finally going to prove who is better, who has real guts and who can put their money where their mouths are."
"And where the bugs are," Nick added.
Kevin looked at each of them, one by one. Though all their decisions were made collectively, the very controversial ones were always left up to him. He was still the leader, and they still trusted him. He wanted to make sure they were sure because he was ready.
"All right. We're all going to sleep on this tonight, talk about it tomorrow, and then I'll get in touch with management. Okay?"
AJ nodded and slumped deeper into the couch. "Sounds like a plan," he said softly, almost like they had just decided to get pizza for lunch.
The other guys went back to the television as well, and Kevin couldn't be sure if they were just following Bone's example. Or if they were really that confident.
It was talked about for weeks. Backstreet Boys vs. 'Nsync on the next Survivor. The record company had had a fit knowing that they were going to lose big time, no matter what. The group left without members on the island would disband, no questions asked, no going back.
Since making their decision, AJ, Kevin,
Howie, Brian and Nick had immediately started to work out. They wanted to be
physically ready for the challenge. Joey, Justin, JC, Lance and Chris had said
they were ready and needed no prep time. As soon as both groups completed their
commitments to management a time and place were set. Back in the
The first obstacle would be getting off the "sinking" ship and swimming to safety with whatever they could carry.
Justin Timberlake leaned against the rail of the ship, rethinking what they were about to do for the hundredth time.
"I can't believe we're doing this," he mumbled.
"You're not the only one," JC Chasez said, coming up from behind him.
"Second thoughts?" Justin asked, peering at JC from behind his sunglasses.
JC simply nodded.
"What if they beat us? All that hard work, just down the drain," Justin said, shaking his head.
"Well, they're NOT going to beat us," JC said.
A loud bullhorn caused both men to slightly jump. That was the five minute warning that the ship was beginning to sink.
"It's time," Justin said, removing his sunglasses.
Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, and Lance Bass joined the rest of their group.
"May the best boyband win!" Chris laughed, trying to ease the situation.
"Guys, I know our careers are on the line, but safety first. I want all of you to get to that island safely. And no foul play," JC said, eyeing Chris.
"What? Why are you looking at me?" Chris asked, batting his eyelashes playfully.
"We're going to win this fair," JC said, eyeing him carefully. "We can beat those guys."
"Yeah, they're just the Backside Boys," Joey laughed. "Backstreet will be back, all right. To say goodbye to their careers."
JC led the group to where their rivals were standing, hoping that what he said was true.
"Here they come," Nick said, turning away to pretend he hadn't noticed them.
Kevin sighed. He still couldn't believe they were going to do this, but AJ was right. It was all about the survival of the fittest, and the Backstreet Boys had been through so much more than NSYNC had. He felt that they should have had to endure the same hardship that he and the fellas had been through, instead of riding in on their coattails.
AJ adjusted his backpack on his shoulders. "You guys ready to kick some butt?"
"Oh, yeah!" Brian smiled, jumping up and down from the adrenaline.
The guys huddled to say a quick prayer before breaking to give each other good luck hugs. Brian broke away in time to see that NSYNC was doing the same thing that they were doing.
So what else is new, Brian thought.
"Be careful," Kevin said, breaking into Brian's thoughts. "I don't want anything to happen to any of you."
"Good luck," a voice said behind Kevin. Kevin turned around to see Chris. He reached out to firmly shake Chris' outstretched hand.
"Good luck to you, too."
"Yeah, you're gonna need it!" Nick smirked.
Kevin smiled at Nick. He knew that good natured ribbing never hurt anybody, and he also knew that if anyone was going to start the trash talking that it was going to be Nicky.
"Not as much as you're gonna need it, Pillsbury Doughboy," Justin said, a smart half smile across his face.
He had been waiting to get back at Nick Carter for the phone call he had made to Britney Spear's cell phone while on live at some radio station in Florida. Justin had answered the phone, then making his and Britney's private relationship public. And it hadn't stopped Nick from completely humiliating her.
Nick's face was immediately red with anger. He knew he wasn't fat, but that didn't keep the media and the jerk in front of him from trying to make him feel insecure about his gained weight.
"Sure, Pube Boy, whatever you say," Nick said, referring to Justin's tight, curly hair.
Justin ignored the comment and turned around to smack Joey a high five when Nick spotted two balls protruding from Justin's backpack.
"What's that?" Nick asked innocently.
"What's what?" Justin asked, eyeing him carefully.
"That," Nick said, pointing to Justin's backpack. Justin removed his backpack and saw that Nick was pointing to the two balls forming out of the backpack.
"Oh, for a second there I thought that Britney was nice enough to lend you her silicone in case you needed a float," Nick said, smiling undaunted.
Brian and AJ burst out laughing while Howie and Kevin stood there openmouthed and surprised. They hadn't seen that one coming. Even Lance had started laughing.
Justin roughly put his backpack back on. He was tired of people assuming that Britney had had breast implants. Before he could respond, the ship suddenly lopsided, causing all ten boys to bump into each other as they slid down to the end already being sucked into the water.
This is it, Kevin thought as he roughly hit the water. He used all of his strength to swim to the surface. As he resurfaced, he immediately began catching the breath that had been knocked out of him. After he made sure that everybody's head was above water, he began to swim to the island. Wait, that was nine, including me, Kevin thought realizing his mistake. He suddenly realized that the dark head that he thought was AJ's was Chris'.
"Brian! Where's AJ?" Kevin yelled, trying not to panic.
Brian looked around, noticing that his friend was nowhere to be seen. Kevin saw the hopeless look on Brian's face. Kevin took in a breath as he dove underwater, hoping that he wasn't too late.
He really didn't see nothing. There was floating debris left behind from the things they had lost in the wreck, fish, rocks, half of some of the guys' bodies as they were swimming as fast as they could.
He came up for air, and then back down looking desperately for whatever AJ could have gotten stuck in. Where the hell was he? He could swim. Kevin knew he could swim. Hell, this was already a bad idea. He already hated this.
When he came up for air again someone was yelling out his name.
"KEVIN! KEVIN!! KEVIN!"
It was Howie waving at him. He was just reaching the shore of the island that would be their home for the next few weeks. AJ was with him.
Thank God, Kevin thought. He then recovered some of the things he'd let go when he started looking for Bone.
"Are you okay?" Nick was asking Howie and AJ as they struggled out of the water. He had been the first one to reach the shore and had even gone back to grab a duffel bag Brian had lost.
"Yeah," Howie gasped. "I'm fine. You okay, Bone?"
AJ was doubled over trying to catch his breath from the long swim and from the scare.
"Are you hurt?" Nick asked while keeping his eye on Brian and Kevin who were very close to getting out of the water.
He shook his head and hugged his sides as if trying to keep the air inside himself. "Fine. I'm fine." He sucked in and released a long breath.
Seemingly satisfied, Nick jogged out to help Brian and Kevin drag in what they had taken off the ship. They were going to need all of the supplies they could get.
"Everyone all right?" Kevin asked right away.
"Yeah, I think," Nick told him. "Maybe Bone just got the air knocked out of him with the fall."
They dragged everything away from the shore to keep it dry, but Kevin's first concern was still AJ.
"What happened? You get hurt?" he asked once AJ was safely sitting on an downed log.
He seemed okay, no visible injuries.
"I got stuck down there, Kev. I don't even know how. It's like we jumped off. We went under, and I couldn't come back up. I was stuck."
"The sinking ship creates a suction, right? Like in Titanic?" Brian asked trying to smile and find a logical explanation.
Kevin shook his head. "Not that fast. The ship wasn't really sinking, right? That was a special effect. I mean, us dying wasn't part of the deal. Did you get tangled in something down there?"
"Don't know, maybe," AJ said with a shrug.
"Maybe someone just held you down," Nick said. He was suspicious, as usual. "Like one of those brillo heads."
They all looked at him, even AJ who until then had been too busy staring at the sand.
"Well, they're gonna have to cheat to beat us," Nick said. "Why wouldn't they start right now?"
"They wouldn't," Brian said as usual trying to believe the best in anyone.
"You never know," Howie said and shook out his long hair. "Nick might have something there."
Kevin was quiet. Everything was already sitting all wrong with him.
"Well, is this home?" AJ asked finally looking around the deserted beach.
"Looks like," Howie said. "What happened to the guys?"
"They drowned," Nick said squatting down to pick up a pebble. "Nah, this is our side of the island. They got taken to theirs."
"Got taken?" Kevin asked. "Like they didn't go on their own?"
Nick shrugged. "Look, what matters is that they're gone. They're not here. Maybe some wild animal ambushed them and ate them already."
Brian was squinting against the reflection of the bright sun on the beach. He could hear the waves hitting the rocks nearby and some bird calling in the distance. It was still really early, but they had a lot to do.
"Okay," Kevin said giving AJ one last concerned look. "Since everyone is okay, I say we start setting up camp. You guys ready?"
"Um-huh," Nick said wringing some water out of the bottom of his shorts. He picked up a couple of more pebbles before standing back up.
"Jay, why don't you just go through our supplies so you can finish catching your breath? Guys, we're gonna have to build a shelter."
"Log cabin," Brian said.
"Straw hut," Howie offered.
"How about a condo?" Nick asked. "Can I have my own room?"
Kevin finally smiled. "Let's just get this started, yeah? Lets gather whatever logs, wood, branches we can find. Don't go too far into the jungle yet, since we don't know what's back there."
Nick smiled to himself as he headed back to the beach where he had seen plenty of drift wood. Kevin loved being in charge. This was going to be one long head trip for him. He was pretty happy to be away from everything himself. No press flashing pictures of them. No screaming, out of control fans. No one to ask him questions that he didn't want to answer. Questions about his family. About Mandy.
He had promised himself not to even think about her. He wasn't even going to allow himself one thought. He was going to work hard along with his brothers to prove to everyone that they were the ones. They were the stronger, tighter, better unit.
Nick sighed and wiped the light sweat that had already formed on his upper lip and he dragged more drift wood out of the water. First, they were going to have to prove a few things to themselves.
"... poisonous snakes, electric eels, jelly fish and a variety of wildlife. This is the real thing, gentlemen," the island host was explaining to Justin, JC, Chris, Joey and Lance. "Do not take your chances eating anything of a suspicious nature. Take care of your rations of rice, fresh water and look around for tapioca roots. They look like this."
Joey hoped the other guys were paying attention because he really wasn't. He was looking around thinking this really wasn't such a bag gig after all. They did have some rations with them, and maybe they could do some fishing later on. Like the guy said, they could pick tapioca roots and make pudding.
He was going to be eating freaking pudding for days because Chris and Justin were too stupid to turn down this dumb challenge. God, he hated them sometimes. Weren't they ever content leaving well-enough alone? Their dreams were coming true far beyond anything anyone had expected, and they had to go and do this. And for what? To make the Backstreet guys look bad? Didn't they already do that well-enough on their own?
"... a series of challenges. You will get a message from me explaining them. Some of them will be for rewards, and some of them will be for immunity. All of the challenges require that you guys work as a unit and use your physical and mental abilities to their maximum," the host had continued. "If you lose a reward challenge, nothing bad happens. If you lose an immunity challenge, then you meet with me at tribal council and vote out a member. So, you definitely want to win all the immunity challenges that you can. Any questions?"
They guys exchanged glances, and finally shook their heads.
"Great," the host said standing up and brushing the sand off himself. "I'll let you guys set up camp, then. Enjoy your stay here, guys. It can really be a lot of fun." He stretched and smiled. "I'm off to explain the rules to Backstreet. See ya."
"Bye," Joey called.
"This sounds more complicated than I thought," Justin muttered, more to himself than to the rest of the group.
"No shit," Joey spat. "Don't let anyone tell you you're not intuitive, Justin," Joey said, rolling his eyes.
"What is your problem?" Justin asked angrily.
"What do you think is my problem? You and Chris think you're suddenly invincible and convince JC and Lance to go along with this stupid competition when we know NOTHING about surviving out here alone. Unless you've suddenly become an overnight expert on crap like tapioca roots," Joey said, his anger heightening.
Before Justin could respond JC intercepted. "Guys, this is NOT the way to start our first day. Joey, I understand you're upset, but there's no point in fighting over it now. We're already here. Nothing's going to change that. We have to depend on each other,"JC said, giving each member a meaningful look. "Fighting isn't going to help us accomplish anything."
"JC's right," Lance agreed. "Backstreet might already be ahead of us, and that's not what we need," Lance said, standing up to glance around their part of the island. "We need to start building what we're going to live in."
"Where are we going to find the stuff to build our home," Justin whined, sitting down.
"Hold on while I pull 'the stuff to build our home' out of my pocket," Chris said sarcastically.
"Why's everyone getting mad at me?" Justin asked incredulously.
Chris laughed at the youngest member of their group. "Curly, we're not going to find anything sitting down. Get up," Chris said, following Lance to collect what they could use around the island.
"I can't wait until we beat them. Especially Nick. I can't wait to rub that smug look off of his face," Justin said, not making a move to get up.
"You're still pissed about what he said about Brit?" Lance asked, stopping to turn around.
"More than pissed. How would he like it if I ragged on Willa Ford-Chevrolet-Dodge...whatever in the hell her name is this week," Justin said.
"Willa?" Lance asked, confused.
"His girlfriend, ex-girlfriend...whatever they are this week."
"I thought her name was Mandy."
"The bimbo can't seem to decide on a name. First it's Mandy, then Mandah, then Willa, then Ford something or other. First she's blonde and now she's a brunette. Only Nick could find someone that ditzy," Justin scoffed.
"Nick must be pretty important in your life for you to know so much about his girlfriend," Joey said, trying to get Justin mad. He didn't care what JC said. The main reason they were there was because Justin and Nick always had some sort of competition between them and Justin was all about trying to beat him.
"Guys...." JC scolded. "We have to gather things to build our home. Talk about Willard later."
'Willard' Chris mouthed to Lance, laughing.
Justin got up to follow his group. He wasn't sure what Nick Carter's sensitive spot was, yet, but he would find out. He was tired of being compared to him and his group. A snake slithered its way in front of Justin into the water. Justin followed the line it left in the sand to see where it had come from. He looked into the trees, unable to make out anything behind them. What had they gotten themselves into?
Kevin smiled satisfied at the small hut that they had built. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea after all. They had all worked together and built their hut alone. No one on the outside helped. It was just them, him and his brothers. Kevin's smile grew. He knew then that they would be all right. They all depended on each other, and each other was all they needed. The sound of a helicopter caused Kevin to look up. It was landing a couple of hundred yards away from them.
"Hello, gentlemen," a man greeted them a couple of minutes later. "I'm Steven Richards," he smiled, reaching his hand out to shake each of their hands. "I'm here to explain to you what I just finished explaining to NSYNC."
Nick slumped his shoulders at the mention of NSYNC. He couldn't wait to see their faces when they won. He couldn't wait to say, "I told you so!" As to what he had told them he wasn't sure. Maybe that the Backstreet Boys were always better than them.
As the man reiterated his earlier speech Nick's eyes wandered back to the island. He knew that Kevin would pay attention to everything that the man was saying. Knowing Kev, he probably had a tape recorder, notepad, and pencil there with him. Nick realized that he was probably the happiest there at the island. He loved the ocean, and he could think of worse things than having to live out on the beach. Like being in a group named NSYNC.
"....I wish you guys the best of luck and hope that you enjoy yourselves," the man finished.
Nick momentarily returned his attention to the man as he left.
"Pudding?" Brian asked, his face weirdly distorted. "That's gross. First thing I'm doing when we get back home is inventing a microwave that runs on batteries," Brian laughed. "No one should have to live on tapioca pudding!"
"You don't think they deliver pizza out here, do you?" Nick smiled.
Kevin smiled. Brian and Nick were quite a pair.
"We need to make this place more personal," Howie said, looking at what was to be their new home.
"Yeah," Brian smiled. "We need a plant or something to make this our home," Brian said, concentrating on the plants and flowers around the island.
"Why don't we sit Justin right there?" Nick asked seriously, pointing to the doorway of their home. "He can be our Chia pet," he smiled.
Everyone laughed, coming up with more jokes about their rival group.
"Here's one I read online. What has 180 legs and no pubic hair?" AJ smiled.
Kevin was already laughing. Leave it to AJ to come up with a joke involving pubic hair. "What?" Kevin asked, curious to hear the answer.
"The front row of an NSYNC concert," he cracked.
Nick laughed, slapping his knee. "No, no wait! What about this one?"
As the guys continued to joke around with each other, Nick began to realize that maybe this wasn't such a bad deal after all. He had a feeling that he was about to get to know his friends better than he had ever thought possible. Nick's brow suddenly furrowed with confusion. For some strange reason, that didn't sound as appealing as it should have.
Setting up camp had turned out to be a lot more work than they imagined, but they had a good laugh all the while. They had to find a safe spot for their rations and get familiar with their surroundings.
"Tomorrow, we'll go check out what's back there," Kevin said pointing at the jungle. "I think it's kinda late to start right now."
"No kidding," AJ said watching the blue sky turn pink and gray over some big clouds.
"And even when it's daylight, we should agree that no one goes alone. You never know what could be back there. That guy did mention something about snakes, right?" Kevin said.
"Sounds good, cuz," Brian sighed. "But I'm about dead tired right now. Why don't we just eat and hit the sack?"
Nick glanced back at the hut they had built. It was sturdy enough he figured, but it sure was going to be uncomfortable for the five of them to sleep in. He hoped he didn't get stuck in the middle, but it was almost a sure thing.
Howie and AJ had gone to walk along to the beach just to check it out. They had some crazy notion that they were going to find crabs and lobster washed up on the sand. It just proved how much they knew, Nick thought. They were on their way back empty-handed when Brian got the fire burning to make their white rice dinner.
"Ummm, smells good," AJ said good-naturedly. "Like pizza. No, no, no. Like a Quarter-pounder with cheese."
"Like my mom's cooking," Howie said. "Rice and beans."
"Rice and beans?" Nick laughed. "You got half of that already. You just need the beans."
"Not while we're all sleeping in that hut," Kevin said. "No beans."
They laughed at that for a bit.
"I was thinking of sleeping outside," Nick said. "I mean, it should be a nice night, right? I'm used to sleeping on the beach. I do it all the time back home."
"Yeah Frack, but you don't know what's out here on this beach at night, or high the tide will rise," Kevin pointed out. "It's probably safer inside for now."
The "Who-put-you-in-charge?" look on Nick's face made Kevin rephrase.
"But it's up to you. Remember that we only have a very basic first aid kit, and we all need to be ready for the challenges. But it's up to you," he repeated. The last thing he needed was friction with the kid. They sure had been getting along better since Nick had gotten older. But this was a brand-new situation, and Kevin didn't want to regress to having to tell them what to do. Especially not him, since he never took it very well.
"I might just try it tonight," Nick said as Brian dumped the rice into the boiling pot.
"You just wanna be close to the food," Brian grinned showing no malice. "Save me a snack, okay?"
Justin looked up at the sky to the rising, puffy clouds. "Should it be getting cloudy this late in the evening?" he asked.
Joey was busy digging for more rice. His tiny portion had barely been enough to whet his appetite. He was still hungry. "What?" he asked.
"Those clouds," Justin pointed. "Doesn't that look like a storm to you?"
"Well, since I've never lived on a
deserted island in the
"Think our little lean-to will hold up?" JC asked looking over at the structure. It was long, and seemingly strong. They had built it low to the ground and far away from the water.
"Probably," Chris said. "Why not? We built it right? We have to have faith guys."
Lance, JC, Justin and Joey all snapped to him because he sounded so serious.
"Yeah," he continued. "We have to be ready for whatever happens. So, we have to believe that it's all in our control. We agreed to do this to prove that we could. And we can."
"Sure," Lance said.
"Yeah," Justin agreed.
"Of course," JC added.
And they all looked at Joey.
It was just all so stupid to him. Such a big gamble with so much to lose. But he had given his commitment to these guys already, through thick and thin.
"It'll work out," he said setting down his coconut-bowl. "And I'll be happier as soon as one of you figures out how to make coconut cream pie."
"You watch too much Gilligan's
"Yeah," Joey sighed. "I dream of Mary Ann."
Darkness surrounded them much quicker than any of them had imagined. Strange noises filled the air, and the guys looked at each other one by one.
"Bed time?" Justin asked brightly then yawned. "I'm so sleepy."
"Me too," Lance agreed. "Just beat."
Joey nodded taking a long, encompassing look into the night. He could only see a few feet in front of himself. "Yeah, that sounds like a plan."
And then, they all stared at the lean to as they stood in front of it.
"Age," Chris said. "The youngest should sleep in the middle. Justin, let us take care of you, okay?"
"Let you squash me is more like it," Justin said but he knew he didn't have a case. They were older, and they always decided what was going to be done.
"Me first," JC offered. "I'll go in first."
Lance followed him with Justin reluctantly taking his place in the middle. "Great. My feet are gonna stick out," he muttered.
"Just don't kick me," Lance told him. "Okay?"
Joey followed with Chris on the end. They had never been packed so tightly together, and it wasn't very comfortable.
"Tomorrow, we should build a bigger shelter," Joey said.
"Tomorrow? How 'bout right now?" Justin asked.
"Stupids," Chris scolded. "We probably have an immunity or reward challenge. We won't have time to build another shelter. Shut up and make the best of it."
Justin blinked in the darkness feeling suffocated. He'd never get to sleep like this. It was going to be the longest night of his life. Was putting Nick Carter in his place worth all of this crap? Finally shutting him up and getting him out of his life and his career for good? Seeing the fake-blond wonder devastated as he gave up his career, his life, his lovers. Uh no, he meant brothers.
He chuckled out loud. Yes, yes it was.
"Shut up," Chris said again.
"Sorry," he said rolling on to his stomach and kicking Lance a couple of times while he did so. God, he wanted a pillow. Suddenly a thought struck him.
"Hey! What do I do if I have to go to the bathroom?"
"Justin!" JC cried frustrated.
"Don't tell me you gotta--?" Joey began.
"No. Not right now, but what if I do? I'm gonna have to wake you guys up."
From his position Chris could see how dark it was out there. The surf was kicking up, and he could hear the waves crashing loudly against the rocks. Something small was crawling around out there near the still-glowing embers of their cooking fire.
"Bud, somehow, I think you're gonna wanna wait till the morning," Chris said knowingly. "Now get to sleep."
Justin rolled back over on his back and peeled his eyes at the "ceiling." "I can't," he said. "I'm wide awake."
"Go to sleep."
"Justin!" JC scolded.
"Okay, sorry," he said and closed his eyes again.
Nick had taken a mat and a light blanket a little higher on the beach than where they had built the hut. He just need breathing room, and he certainly didn't mind a night out on the beach. When he was home, he always found time to camp out even if it was alone. Some of the time, Mandy had been with him, but usually...
There he went again.
He looked around the area he had chosen as he patted down his mat. He couldn't help thinking they should have put the hut higher up on the beach. Kevin was right. They didn't know how high the tide rose, and that was a bigger problem for them than for him.
He laid back and looked up at the disappearing stars. It was probably going to rain, but he was under a big palm tree and a few bushes, so he should stay relatively dry.
He heard a clap of thunder in the distance, yet he hadn't seen any lightening. More stars disappeared, and he closed his eyes. If he fell asleep before the storm hit chances were he'd sleep right through it. He'd slept through hurricanes back home, he thought with a laugh.
When he opened his eyes again, he knew something was wrong. Rain surrounded him like a curtain, and he could hardly hear the ocean over it. The palm tree above him rocked and creaked as he sat up with a start.
Shit. The guys, he thought as looked around. The hut seemed intact yet the wind was blowing right through it. How could they sleep through this mess? This time, he saw the lightning flash practically before his eyes, and the thunder that followed seemed to fill his whole head. Could lightning hit the hut? It hit trees, didn't it?
Damn, he should have paid more attention to the tutor when they covered weather.
"Kevin!" he yelled as he hurried over there. "Guys! Guys! Get up! Hey!"
The tide was already surging dangerously near the hut, and each wave seemed to push the whole ocean closer to them.
"We're up!" Brian said sticking his head out. "You thought we were sleeping through this? Get in here!"
"No. Get out! You guys get out. The tide's coming in. It's right at the door. And the lightning--."
"Crap, grab the supplies!" Howie yelled as they filed out.
AJ and Kevin were one step ahead of him rescuing what few things they had left a little too close to the water. Howie, Nick and Brian tried to salvage the parts of the hut they could use later. It had been hell to piece the roof together with the walls, and they weren't going to have enough time to do it again later.
AJ saw the lighting crash a few feet in front of him as they tossed everything at the jungle's door.
"Leave it!" he yelled. "We need to get off the beach!"
The guys were able to save the roof and the blankets they had been using as the tide licked their ankles, and the waves seemed to grow in force.
"Move it," Kevin said giving them a push toward higher ground. "Everyone move, now."
They were all soaked and shaken as they reached the little mound Nick had built for himself earlier.
"Oh my God," Brian breathed when he was able to talk. "Look at that. Look at that storm."
"You guys all okay?" Kevin asked passing out the blankets they had rescued.
"I'm okay," Brian said.
"Um-huh," Nick muttered watching a wave reach the part of the hut they had left behind.
"We need to build stronger next time," Kevin said following his gaze.
"Closer to the ground," Nick said. "And way farther from the beach."
"Yeah," Kevin agreed. "You're right. At least we kept the roof and a wall. That should help."
Nick nodded and pulled his blanket tighter around himself with a shiver.
Howie threw his arm around AJ as they all squeezed in closer for warmth.
"So much for your breathing room, Nicky," he said with a chuckle. "Guess you're stuck with us."
"Yeah Frack," Brian laughed. "Here you thought you had your own room."
"You're gonna have to share with us," AJ laughed giving Nick a rough pat on the head. "Where are the munchies?"
Nick smiled absently as he continued to watch the waves grow and wash away two of the walls they had left behind. It was the first time he had felt just like he imagined Kevin always did. He was just happy everyone was okay.
Nick was the first of the group to wake up. He sat up slightly, causing a ripple of cracks from his back.
"Nice," Nick muttered unhappily. He had fallen asleep sitting up against the tree with the rest of the guys around him. He looked down to see Brian asleep on his lap. He must've been dreaming because he had a huge smile on his face. Or at least he had better be dreaming. He couldn't be enjoying sleeping on Nick that much.
Nick laughed. "You know, Bri, sometimes I wonder if we're too close," Nick joked. His joke went unheard as the four men continued to sleep. Nick tilted his head to his left, then to his right to relieve some of the stiffness in his neck. He turned as his head bumped into something, noticing for the first time that Kevin had fallen asleep on his shoulder. Nick cracked a half smile. "Yeah, now who's taking care of who?"
So they had survived their first night on the island. The storm had been rough, but they'd all gotten out of the hut in time. Nick smiled. And best of all, nothing had come to eat them alive. Nick stopped as he heard a rustling of leaves on the other side of the tree.
Yeah, you just had to go and jinx yourself, Nick thought playfully. Nick stopped smiling as he heard a crack.
What was that?, he thought, slightly frightened. They were out on an island that had weird things he'd never even heard of. Who knew what was out there making that noise. Another rustling was made, then another crack. A loud crack. A crack that only something heavy could make.
Damn, Nick thought. He couldn't see what was making the noise because of how he was sitting at the tree. And the fact that Brian's big head and Kevin's heavy body was leaned into him wasn't helping either.
I know, Nick thought. I'll just jump up suddenly and scream like a madman. The animal will be so scared at the outburst that it'll just run in the opposite direction.
Right? Right, Nick nodded to himself. Or at least I hope so.
Nick did a sign of the cross, kissed his hand, and looked up at the sky.
Help me out here, he thought silently. On three. One, two....
Nick closed his eyes, jumped up quickly and began jumping and waving his arms around his head, screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Oh my gawd!"
Nick continued to yell and wave his arms around. A sudden burst of laughing caused Nick to stop and open his eyes. He looked down to see Brian rubbing his head and Kevin looking at him as if he'd just lost his mind. Howie and AJ were sitting up alert, looking around for the sound that had startled them out of sleep. They looked at Nick annoyed when they realized it was him. Nick looked at them confused as he realized that they weren't the ones laughing. Nick finally looked up to the direction of the laughing, where the cracking noises had been coming from.
"Great," Nick mumbled, rolling his eyes.
NSYNC was standing there in front of Nick laughing their heads off.
"Are you sure we're allowed to go to their part of the island?" Justin asked for what seemed like the millionth time.
JC stopped and spun around on Justin. They had been up all night since the storm and had been unable to sleep. JC was the one who loved to sleep out of the entire group, so it was no wonder that he would be crankiest had he not had a couple of hours rest.
"If you ask me that one more time, I'm going to run for my life and leave you out here alone. And then what will happen?" JC asked, turning back around.
"He'll probably sit under a tree and cry while some bird poops in his hair," Chris joked. "And, Crunk, you don't want that to happen. It's bad enough that you have to wash all that hair when it's clean. Imagine when it's dirty. You'll need a weedwhacker or something because-"
"Oh, yeah, like you should talk. What was up with that old hairstyle of yours? What, you were going for the pineapple look?" Justin laughed, referring to Chris' old braids that he kept pulled up in a ponytail over his head.
"It was a phase, okay?" Chris smiled, walking over a log.
"My hair's only this long for that movie that I'm doing because they need to braid my hair. After that, weedwhacker, here I come!"
JC finally smiled his first smile of the morning. He knew he shouldn't have gotten the way he did with Justin, but he was just so tired. He was used to Justin, anyway. Why let it bug him out? Next time he would take it easier on the kid.
"Okay, so why are we going to Backstreet's side of the island again?" Justin whined.
Okay, the next next time, JC thought irritably.
"Justin, I'm running...."
"Because," Lance laughed, "the storm last night was pretty rough. We just want to make sure that they're okay."
"But they're our rivals."
"Justin, they're our rivals, but we're not fighting to the death. We don't want anyone hurt."
"But I'm telling you they're fine. They had Nick's big butt to shelter them from the rain. What did we have?"
Joey laughed. If anything, it was going to be funny to see Nick and Justin go at it. They were impossible. Joey wondered if Nick was as impossible for the Boys as Justin was for them. Probably, they're both the babies, Joey thought.
"Oh man, this is gonna take forever," Justin whined. They had been walking for what seemed like hours. No, it seems like forever, Justin thought, wiping his brow of his sweat.
JC ran his fingers through his hair. Okay, so this was the next time. Patience.
Don't run. Don't yell. Ignore. Yeah, just ignore the little kid with the big hair who doesn't shut up, JC smiled, shaking his head.
"Damn...." Lance said, stopping. "Is that their 'thing'?"
"Thing. Yeah, that's specific," Chris said, watching the ground for anything that moved. He didn't want anything biting him.
Lance turned, annoyed at Chris. "Their 'thing'. The thing they built, like we did, to live in while we're on the island. It's broken and there's some stray pieces out there in the water," Lance said, pointing to the alleged 'thing'.
The looks on their faces showed their worry and growing anxiety.
"M-maybe it's just some leftover stuff the island had. We don't know that they used that specific stuff," Justin said, actually worried. He wanted to beat them, he wanted them out of their way, he wanted to not ever hear them try to diss them again, he even wanted to humiliate them, but he didn't want all of that this way. He didn't want them hurt. Please don't let them be hurt, or worse..., Justin prayed, closing his eyes.
Joey picked up their pace, surveying the water and the island in front of them for signs of the guys. Nothing. He didn't see anything that would show that they were okay.
Maybe it was just debris. Maybe the guys were further ahead. Or maybe not.
Joey's thoughts and mouth began to race ahead any reasoning.
"We shouldn't have done this. We should have just laughed them off. We should've known that there's room enough in this freakin' business for both of us. There always has been. No one's record sales have decreased. And it's not even about stupid record sales. It's about the music. It's about the fans. Not ten stupid boys with too much testosterone. It's not about ten stupid boys who don't know how or when to shut up," Joey continued angered. "It's-"
"I see some supplies and a leg!" Chris said, relieved. The others obviously
misinterpreted what he said.
"What? A leg? Oh my gosh! Joey's right! We shouldn't have done this! What could have eaten them?" Lance asked, bewildered.
"I knew it!" Joey said, angered. "This was so stupid!"
"A leg? Where?" JC asked, squinting his eyes in the direction that Chris had been looking.
Chris stopped and looked at his friends. It must be the heat. They couldn't be that retarded. Chris saw that Justin had the same look that he had on his face. Man, if even Justin caught on, then these guys are in trouble, Chris smiled.
"Guys, even I got that one," Justin laughed. "I think Chris means that he sees a leg that's probably still connected to someone's body," Justin laughed, pointing towards the trees where supplies lied around haphazardly around the group of guys. "See, that's Kevin asleep on someone, and the leg he was referring to is whoever Kevin's leaning on. I'm gonna guess he's asleep on Nick. Who else's crusty toes could those be? Take a chill pill, people," Justin laughed.
"Yeah, yeah, I knew that," Lance said, straightening out his shirt. Why he was straightening it out, he didn't know.
Chris laughed. "Whatever you say."
JC laughed with him. "Okay, I admit it. I'm a dumbass. I think all this walking is getting to me. I'm starting to think like Justin, and what's worse, is Justin isn't even thinking like Justin anymore. Someone help me!" JC joked, dropping to his knees.
"Yeah, make fun of the young one. At least I have an excuse. I still have a lot to learn. You're four years older than I am! You should be way ahead of me, J!"
"Guys, let's be quiet. It looks like they're still asleep," Joey warned.
The guys continued to walk in silence to the group.
"At least they're okay," JC whispered.
Chris stepped on something that cracked. JC raised his finger to his mouth to signal that they be quiet. They didn't want to scare them awake.
The five guys jumped at the sudden yell, a couple of them screaming out as well.
Justin was the first to start laughing, the others joining in after the scene in front of them registered.
Nick Carter was jumping up and down, screaming and waving his arms around his head. Nick stopped, looking at his friends, then looking at the guys.
"Great," he mumbled.
"Nick, what's wrong with you?" Brian said, rubbing his head. Nick had jumped up, leaving Brian to bang his head on Nick's toe, which felt a lot harder than it looked.
Kevin was looking at Nick annoyed. "Frack, if you want us to wake up, you shake us and ask us to get up. You don't start screaming and jumping around like a weirdo."
Howie fell back down to where he had been sleeping. "Nick, of all the
AJ was the only one looking at Nick concerned. "What happened, Frack? Did something jump on you? Did you get bitten? Did you hear something?"
Nick didn't have to answer his question. Someone else did.
"What's the matter, Nick? Have a bad dream and trying to scare the boogyman away?" Justin asked, laughing harder.
"Yeah, Fro Boy, my dream was just horrible. Britney wouldn't take 'no' for an answer," Nick said, turning around annoyed that the 'animal' he had been hearing was NSYNC. Well, at least he hadn't been too far off.
JC grabbed Justin's arm as he began to make his way to Nick. He simply shook his head 'no', hoping Justin would just let it go.
"We came to make sure that you guys were okay. That storm was really bad last night. We waited for some light so that we could see where we were going."
"Thanks," Kevin said, standing up after giving Nick a weird look. He still wasn't sure why Nick had jumped the way he had. Kevin turned to look at the five guys in front of him. They were dirty and sweaty, but obviously pleased to find them okay. He was genuinely glad that they had trekked all the way to their part of the island just to make sure they were okay. "Was everything okay for ya'll on your part?"
"Yeah. We just hid out in our lean to," Chris said. "Though that sucker shook so much we thought it was going to collapse right on our heads."
"We didn't have as much luck," Brian said, standing up to stretch. "Nick came to get us out of our little hut because the waves were getting really close," Brian yawned. "Nick's our hero," Brian laughed, batting his eyelashes.
"I think we scared him," Lance smiled.
Kevin finally understood. Nick must've heard noises, thinking it was an animal or something. Kevin laughed. That Nicky. Always trying to handle things alone.
"Hey, Justin, maybe you could help us," Nick said, smiling.
Justin partially lost his smile. Nothing good could come from Nick Carter smiling at him.
"Carter, don't smile at me like that. I might faint the way most of your fans do. Oh, wait. Maybe not. I have taste," Justin said, trying to get a cut in first. He knew Nick was up to something.
"Yesterday we were talking about making this place more homey, and I suggested a plant. Want to be our Chia pet?"
JC covered his mouth to keep from laughing. Why hadn't he ever thought of that one?
Justin continued to hold his tiny smile. Too bad Nick didn't know who he was messing with.
"Sure, but only if you'll be nice enough to anchor down our supplies. We almost lost them last night, and I don't know anyone who weighs as much as you do. Woah!" Justin said, pretending to tilt to one side. "I think we're beginning to sink! Nick, quick! Run to other side of the island so that you can balance us out!" Justin stopped pretending to sink and smiled at Nick, who was not pleased.
Nick opened his mouth to say something but Howie cut him off. It was fine with him if Justin and Nick wanted to take cracks at each other, but he knew how sensitive Nick was about his weight, and he was not about to just stand there while Justin humiliated Nick.
"Listen Mr.-I'm-All-About-Silicone, thank you for coming over to check up on us, but that doesn't mean that you get a pass to ride on Nick," Howie said calmly. If Justin wanted to tease Nick about his insecurity, Howie was going to tease Justin's about his.
"Leave Britney out of this. Besides, if we want to talk about silicone, why don't we talk about Leighanne?!"
"Hey," Brian said, looking up. "Leave my fiancÚ out of this. I didn't say anything Bitchney Spears."
JC knew that Justin had started it, but he wasn't about to let all of them gang up on Justin.
"Listen, whatever is going on between Nick and Justin is between them, not Justin, Nick, and the rest of his girlfriends," JC said, waving his hand over Backstreet.
"Girlfriends?" AJ said, standing up. "You calling us Nick's girlfriends?" AJ asked angrily.
"Don't let anyone tell you you're not quick, AJ." Lance knew it was pointless to get involved in this argument, but he knew he wasn't about to be disloyal to the guys he considered his brothers.
"Guys!" Kevin said, feeling like the only reasonable one there.
"Stop it!" Joey yelled. "This is ridiculous!"
"The only thing ridiculous is your music!" Nick yelled.
Joey did a double take. Nick just did not call their music ridiculous. They had worked hard on their album, and he was not about to let Nick Carter try to minimize the hard work they had spent on that album. To hell with being reasonable.
"Ridiculous? In order to have an opinion on our album, you must've heard it! Nothing better to do with your time than to sit down and listen to our music? Sorry to say, Nick, but I've NEVER been bored enough to listen to Millennium. Oh, and mad props to you on that title," Joey said, giving them two sarcastic thumbs up. "You know, with the millennium coming up and everyone and their mother using that title for one thing or another, it's not much of a surprise that you used it. Whoever said you guys weren't original?"
"Well, whoever they were, they were RIGHT!" Chris yelled. They had been through so much in the past year and had worked really hard on their album. It wasn't right for the Backstreet Boys to try to demolish that.
"Yeah, I only listened to your album so that when I say that it SUCKED, I meant it!" Nick yelled back.
"I have to admit that I was really bored one time and I listened to your album," Lance said. "I think I was having a suicidal moment or something. No, no, now I remember! I had a date over and I was trying to get RID of her!"
"Him," AJ said dead pan.
"What?" Lance snapped.
"Her. You said her, but you meant him. You had a date over and were trying to get rid of him," AJ explained coolly.
"That's right, it was you, wasn't it? Now I remember," Chris said jumping in and Lance didn't know who was being insulted anymore.
Kevin didn't feel so cool, and he was done being the one with the level head. No one was going to stand in front of him and rudely criticize their album. It was one of his most prized possessions. They had worked more than hard on that album. Something that these little boys knew nothing about.
"You're going to stand there and make fun of our album when you have songs on your record called 'Digital Getdown' and 'Space Cowboy'?! And you're PROUD that you had something to do with those songs?! What's worse, is you actually WROTE those songs! It seems you've made a step up from NSTINK to NSUCK!" Kevin yelled, getting angrier and angrier with every word.
The ten boys continued to yell at each other until they all seemed to be yelling at once. A loud whistle cut through the air, finally getting them to quiet down. They turned to the source of the noise to see Steven Richards, the man who was there yesterday, standing there surprised. Steven knew that these guys didn't like each other, but he didn't think that he would find ten grown men fighting and yelling insults at each other like they were in grade school again.
"I'm glad I have your attention," Steven said, looking at each of them. "It's time for your first challenge."
They all stopped and stared at him surprised.
"Today, I'm going to show you the way to the main beach where many of these challenges will take place. From now, you receive a message from me, and it will be up to you to get there on your own. So watch the trail carefully," he said. "Let's go."
Let's go? Nick thought rubbing his eyes. He had barely woken up and started getting insulted by the Chia pet, and now he had to go.
I'm hungry, Justin thought. It was a waste of time to even check on these losers.
Steven Richards hadn't even given them time to react. He just started walking into the jungle, and they had to follow.
"Frack," Brian called shoving a backpack at him. "Let's go."
"Great," Joey said rolling his eyes. "Where's breakfast? You thought these losers were gonna feed us? They barely got enough food to feed Nick. Look at how skinny AJ is already."
JC rubbed his eyes. Man, he was tired. "Just move," he told Joey giving him a light shove. "You're not rail thin yourself, so we're going to be counting on you for that extra energy."
"Extra energy? Are you calling me fat?" Joey asked as he followed.
Howie had stuck to Steven Richards' heels, so they wouldn't lose him. Kevin and AJ were right behind him with Nick and Brian struggling to catch up.
"Why'd we bring these?" Nick asked throwing the backpack over his shoulder.
"You don't remember?" Brain unzipped his to reveal the stash of snacks they had smuggled on the ship. "Don't know about you, but I'm starved. Hey, Kevin! Catch!"
Kev turned around to catch a package of peanut butter crackers.
"Great," he told his cousin ripping open the package. "Were you guys in the boy scouts or what?"
Justin and JC were right behind Nick and Brian so they overheard the whole conversation.
"No," Justin said loud enough for everyone to hear. "They don't let their kind into the boy scouts. Isn't there a no gay rule?"
JC chuckled and pushed Justin along.
Brian tossed enough packages of snacks up to AJ, Howie and Kevin to give them at least a bit of energy for the challenge. He knew no one had slept very well, and white rice was no kind of meal.
"Guys want?" Brian asked turning around to Justin and JC. They had been nice enough to go check on them and all.
"No," Nick protested immediately. "Brian!"
"Here," Brian was already passing out the crackers. "You guys didn't get a chance to eat either, huh?"
"No," JC admitted. "Thanks. That's cool of you."
"Cool!" Lance cheered opening up his crackers. "Peanut butter."
Justin looked down at his package and almost tripped. "Peanut butter?"
"That's good. Lots of protein," Lance explained. "We need the energy. Eat."
"Food expert here," Chris muttered wolfing down his crackers immediately.
"I can't eat peanut butter. It makes me sick," Justin said shoving the package at Lance. "Here. Knock yourself out."
"But you gotta eat," JC told him.
"I can't eat that. Okay? I'm fine. Forget it!"
Sometimes, Nick really hated having a conscience. He hated having grown up with Brian and knowing that he always had to do the right thing. Why couldn't he just be really mean and ignore that little voice in his head that told him to be nice?
I know, he told himself. Just look at the trees. See how there are so many palm trees? See how there are coconuts up there? See how sorry it felt to let people starve?
He unzipped his backpack and dug out one of the cereal bars he and Brian had brought along. He glanced over his shoulder and threw it at Justin. Of course, he aimed for his head.
"Hey! Ouch!" Justin protested.
Nick smiled to himself, and Brian was so busy eating he didn't know what was going on.
He got smacked upside the head by the same cereal bar which remained unopened, but a little worse for the wear.
"Fuck," Nick muttered and stopped along side the trial to pick it back up and throw it again. This time, he hit Justin in the face.
"Aw, that does it!" Justin said going at him. Time to throw down.
Joey held him back, and Nick just stood there waiting. "Come on," he goaded sticking out his chin. "Right now."
Chris and Lance pushed up to his side, but they knew this was Justin's fight.
"What the hell? Nick, what are you doing?" Kevin had practically materialized at his side.
"Nothin'," Nick said as JC stepped around him to pick up the cereal bar.
He held it out to Kevin. "They're throwing it at each other. Listen, you control your brat, we'll control ours." He didn't want to be breaking up their fights everyday. Secretly, he hoped the first challenge involved Nick and Justin going at each other in a free for all. That would prove who could beat who and shut at least one of them up.
Kevin grabbed Nick's arm and gave him a shove toward AJ and Howie.
"We'll try. Sorry about that."
Justin's lower lip jutted out much the way Nick's did when he was pissed, Kevin noted. What were the odds that he got stuck with one baby over the other?
"You should eat," Kevin said handing JC back the bar. "I can't believe that you guys are throwing food. If we run out of food, we're going to end up eating rats. I hope you keep that in mind while you act like five year olds."
JC nodded at Justin. "He's right, you know? Just eat."
Howie and AJ had doubled back to Brian, and the three of them were watching expectantly, ready to jump into action if any more fighting broke out.
"Rats? I'm not eating rats," Chris said. "That's gross."
"Yeah, and don't forget that it's considered cannibalism to eat your own kind," Nick said not losing a beat. Kevin turned him around and gave him another push toward the now-disappearing host and the others.
"Yeah well, lucky there are no wild pigs here, or I guess we'd run the risk of eating your relatives!" Justin shouted and spat out the bite of the cereal bar he had taken. "I'm not eating this crap. What if they poisoned it?"
"What's wrong with you?" Kevin asked catching up to Nick. "Are you nuts? We can't be doing this everyday, Nick."
"Yeah well, I can. I can finish kicking his ass once and for all any day."
"That's not why we're here. I don't have to remind you of that. This isn't personal, and if you're wasting you energy on him, you're going to hurt the group. Keep that in mind, will you?"
He rolled his eyes. These talks always left him feeling like the high school counselor had just scolded him.
Kevin heard that sarcasm loud and clear, but his attention was somewhere else already. They had hit the beach only to find an obstacle course. His eyes glowed as he recognized tires, a wall and monkey bars waiting to get climbed. Just like in football practice.
"Gentlemen, welcome to your first challenge here on the island. We're doing things a bit differently for you, because you are so different from the past survivors. Today's challenge is an obstacle course." He signaled over his shoulder at what they had already seen.
Astro-turf seemed to be covering the sand under the different parts of the course.
"It's a relay-obstacle course with the team that finishes first, that means every member has run the course and returned, is the winner." He shrugged and clasped his hands in front of himself. "It's a very simple course, guys. You run up to the 10 foot wall and jump over it. There's the rope you can use to help hoist yourselves over. Next, you must clear the pool of water completely. If you don't, you have to try again until you make it. You'll get three tries before being allowed to leave it behind. After that, you must run through the tires without falling or tripping. If you fall, you must start over, and once again, you'll have three tries for this. Go across the monkey bars using your arms only. If you fall, you must start again. Last, but not least, you turn around and come back to your teammates. Touch hands with the next guy up, and then he is allowed to go. The last runner must also come back to the rest of the team. Is it clear? Any questions?"
"No, everything's clear," Kevin said.
"Yeah crystal," Chris said.
"I'm going to give you a few minutes to chose your team order. Line up at the start line when you're ready."
Kevin was ecstatic. This was going to be cake.
"I'll go first," he told them. "We can get a good start that way. Brian you take the last leg. Who wants to be after me?"
"I'll go," AJ said.
"Me next," Howie said happy to be in the middle.
They looked at Nick who didn't bother to protest. He just knew better.
"Guys, this is gonna be easy. Just concentrate on not having to start anything over," Kevin explained. "Speed is important, but if you panic and fall off anything, you'll lose more time. So concentrate and be deliberate."
"I think they rigged this," Joey was saying watching Backstreet plan out their strategy. "Didn't Kevin used to play football?"
"Who cares?" Chris asked. "We're not going to worry about them. We're not even going to look at them. Everyone just run the race like they're not even there. Got it Justin?"
Justin rolled his eyes. "Always me. Always me."
"Okay, how's this for the order? First Joey, then Lance. Chris you can be next, then Justin then me?" JC asked. He purposely left himself and Justin to the end knowing they were quicker and lighter than the other three. "Is that okay with everyone?"
"That sounds good."
"Don't blow it, guys," JC pleaded. "Please."
"Lord and Father hear our prayer," Brian began as they huddled before hitting the starting line. "Help us all to run a good race. Please, keep us all safe, and let this be a fair contest. Amen."
And let Justin break his face, Nick thought but knew better than to say anything.
"Amen," Nick said more loudly than usual. Maybe that way, God would hear him and get Justin Timberlake out of his life once and for all.
"Ready? One. Two. Three!"
"BACKSTREET!" they hollered and let go into high-fives and hugs.
Kevin took his place at the starting line and saw big Joey Fatone come do the same.
"You guys are ready?" Steven asked.
Kevin nodded. "Good luck."
"Same to you."
"Runners take your marks. Get set! Go!"
Kevin hit the wall practically immediately and hardly used the rope to jump over it. His goal was to get the guys as far ahead as he could in case anyone struggled later. As soon as he jumped down, he saw Joey hitting the top. So he hauled ass over the water jump and had to skid to the ground to stop the inertia and not fall on his face. Joey had stopped and taken a new running start, so he was losing time. Kevin quickly, danced over the tires never touching even one of them. In no time, he was clawing his way through the monkey bars and running back to the guys who were cheering him on with all their collective might.
He touched hands with AJ who took off at least ten seconds before Joey was able to hit Lance's palm.
"Good job," JC said immediately. "You did go, Joe."
He bent over to catch his breath and hoped Lance could make up the time he'd lost.
AJ struggled over the wall, but he was quickly able to make it over the water jump. Just as he landed, he realized that Lance had actually landed next to him. They were tied.
He went through the tires struggling to keep his balance and his dancing ankles for twisting out of control. He hit the monkey bars first and quickly made his away across. But Lance was right next to him again when they landed. He hauled ass back to Howie who was running and jumping desperately ready to go.
"Go!" Lance shouted at Chris as they touched hands.
Nick took his place at the start line and got ready.
"Aw shit," Justin hissed when he realized they'd be racing each other.
"Ignore him," Kevin said bending down to Nick's ear. "You are part of this team. He is a distraction. Don't get distracted."
Howie and Chris were head to head until they hit the tires. Howie stepped into the second tire and fell face first.
"Start over," the man who was watching shouted.
He saw Chris race by and remembered to be deliberate, not desperate. If he did, he'd just get stuck starting over again.
Finally out of the tires, Howie made it to the monkey bars when Chris was halfway through them. He wasn't that far behind. He pushed himself as far and as fast as he could across the bars.
"AHHHhhh!" Chris shouted as his sweaty palm slipped on the bar, and he fell.
Yes! Howie thought. Yes! He pushed harder to finish going across the bars and felt a pull at his shoulder as he let jumped off.
"Shit," he muttered but continued to run. Chris had recovered really well and was right behind him.
"C'mon 'D! C'mon!" Nick was shouting when he saw him running toward them alone. "Go!"
Justin couldn't believe it! Where was Chris?
Howie touched palms with Nick and yelped at the contact.
"Ahhh! Ah shit! Damn!" Howie cried hugging his strained shoulder.
Nick didn't even look back. He had climbed up the rope and was almost over the wall, when he heard a thud. Justin had hit the wall just seconds after him and was already climbing up.
Nick jumped down and ran as fast as he could to clear the water. He lost his footing when he landed and had to curl up to avoid hurting himself, but he had cleared the jump.
He saw Justin fly through the air as he sprang up and ran through the tires as fast as he could. Nick still had a few seconds over him as he grabbed the first monkey bar and pushed himself harder than ever. That brillo head was not going to catch up, no way. He let his pride take him across the bars and all the way back to Brian. But Justin was at his heels. He could hear his heavy breathing.
"Go Rok!" Nick shouted as they touched hands. "Go!!"
Nick let himself hit the ground and watched Brian's heels race away.
There was a reason why Brian was the anchor man. Kevin was the ex-football player, but the younger cousin was still the jock. In spite of his past health problems, he was probably stronger than any of them, faster.
He could hear the guys shouting as he lithely jumped the wall, and the pool of water in practically the same breath. He looked like gazelle, small, fast, secure.
JC wasn't that far behind, but he noticed how confident Brian was and struggled to catch up.
Brian danced through the tires as well, and when he reached the monkey bars, he had time to smile at the lady who was standing there.
"Hey," he breathed skipping a bar as he made it across. When he jumped down, JC was barely starting on his first bar.
The guys were already jumping up and down, cheering him on triumphantly. He could see his cousin cheering him on like a madman, all the ambition apparent in his shouts and facial features. His best friend was practically out of control shouting over everyone else for him to run. Go Brian, go. Go Brian, go.
"Go Brian, go! Go!" Howie and AJ shouted as well.
He went. He went as fast, and as hard as he could, right into their arms.
"All right, B-Rok!"
"You rock Brian!"
He breathed hard and caught sight of the other guys' lukewarm reception for JC.
"You did good, J," Justin was saying.
"Sorry," he breathed. "Sorry guys."
Brian sucked in air and went to shake his opponent's hand.
"Good job," he said patting JC on the back. "Good race."
"Thanks," JC muttered shaking his hand. "Congrats."
It was kind of sad to see them lose, Brian thought. They really weren't all that different from them. They were just guys too.
"Backstreet, congratulations. You've won the first immunity challenge." The guys broke out in cheers and howls as Steve handed them the immunity idol. "You guys get to keep this until the next challenge. NSYNC, see you at Tribal Council tonight."
JC, Lance, Chris, Joey, and Justin sat nervously around the bonfire waiting for Steven. The guys had been through some horrible things in the past year, but they had survived it. They had been together through it all. But nothing was as horrible as this. They had to vote someone out. They weren't all united anymore. And after tonight, they wouldn't be for the remainder of this challenge.
JC was beginning to hate Survivor. Joey had been right. They should have never agreed to do this. The whole point was to show the Backstreet Boys up, to quiet them down, and to do it all together. It didn't even seem that important anymore. Why didn't they like the Backstreet Boys? Just because they had said a couple of things about them?
So what? They had said just as many things about the Backstreet Boys themselves.
The problem is is that we never gave them a chance. They never gave us a chance. We let Lou Pearlman turn us against each other, JC thought, shaking his head.
They were supposed to finish this as a unit, as a whole. As the brothers that they were. And now, all that they had accomplished was a bunch of fighting and now they were against each other, trying to figure out who would be the one to leave. Rather, about to find out who would be the one to leave.
That's all it would take, JC realized. Is for just one person to be gone. How are we going to be the same with just us four? It's always been us five. Always. And now....
"I love you guys," Justin said suddenly, breaking the silence and surprising everyone. "I truly do. I know I don't say it enough, but it's not like I'm going pledge my undying love to you guys everyday." Justin cracked a smile. "It's bad enough Backstreet's calling us gay. They'd just love to hear this."
Justin's smile disappeared. Although he was talking to them, he wasn't looking directly at anyone. He held his gaze with the flickering fire in front of him.
"I hate this. I hate having to vote one of you out. Of having to sit down all day agonizing over who I was going to have to put a hand in in letting go."
The four guys watched Justin with slight surprise as his eyes slowly welled up with tears.
"It's as if we're against each other now." Justin now looked up at the four people he'd spent the past five years of his life with. "But it's not, so don't think that it is. We will never be against each other. Never. Especially not after everything we've been through." Justin sighed and took a breath so that he could even out his already shaky voice. "If any of you voted me out, I won't be mad. I've been impossible since we got
here, especially whenever Nick's around. It would probably be wise that I'm gone. I love you guys, no matter what." Justin smiled and looked at them again, and reassured what he said. "No matter what."
JC was the first one up and at Justin's side. Soon, all of the them were crowded around Justin giving him a huge bear hug. Justin laughed as he realized that it would take a lot more than a stupid show and a stupid group called the Backside Boys to break them up. Even if they did lose, they would still have each other. And for Justin, that was enough. But they weren't going to lose. Not if Justin could help it.
"This is just part of what we agreed to do. Just because one of us isn't here, doesn't mean we're any less or that the person who leaves is any less. It just means that we're temporarily separated, but we're stronger than that, guys. We're that...," Justin stopped to think of a word, when the perfect one came to mind and he smiled his gorgeous smile. "We're that in sync."
JC smiled. "And we always will be, kid."
The Kodak moment was as soon over as it had started when Steven came out of the trees.
"It's time, guys," Steven said.
Nick was beaming. They had beat them! He hoped that Justin was the one to leave. Why wouldn't they vote Justin out? He made the most trouble anyway.
I wonder if they'll let me vote. He would spell out J-U-S-T-I-N in huge letters, so that Justin could be sure to understand that he wanted him gone. He probably still wouldn't get it, Nick laughed. I'll have to make a note to buy him Hooked On Phonics.
Nick crossed his fingers. Send Pube Boy home. Nick stopped. But then, he couldn't continue ragging on Justin. Justin would get to go home and relax in air conditioning, pizza, and cable while Nick stayed on the island eating coconuts and rice in hundred degree weather. Besides, as much as Justin bothered him, what was making their stay on that island so interesting were his constant insults towards Justin. Maybe Justin
But before this is all over, I should cut off all of that boy's hair, Nick smiled. Nick's smile grew wider. And I should do it while he's asleep. Nick began to laugh at the look he imagined Justin would have when he woke up in the morning with curly hair falling all over him as he sat up.
"I'm scared to ask."
Nick stopped laughing and only smiled innocently at Kevin.
"Afraid to ask what?" Nick asked, batting his eyelashes.
"Uh-huh," Kevin said knowingly. "When you're laughing like that, no good comes from it. You're thinking up something."
"Yeah, you. Either that, or you've eaten so much rice that you're going delusional. What are you going to do to Justin now?"
Nick smiled at Kevin. He was somewhat pleased to know that Kevin knew him so well. But there was no way he was going to let Kevin know that. Then Kevin would probably realize that half of the things that Kevin thought Nick was doing he was. Nick was getting better and better at not getting caught.
"I ain't gonna do anything to Justin. Britney might bitch slap me with one of those silicone things."
Kevin tried not to smile. He knew laughing at Nick's ridicules towards Justin would only encourage him. But he couldn't help it. He let out a hearty laugh.
" 'Silicone things', huh, bro'?"
"Yup," Nick said, nodding his head with a huge, proud smile.
Howie and AJ joined Nick and Kevin. Kevin could immediately tell by the look on AJ's face that he wanted something.
"What do you want?"
AJ raised his eyebrows. How did Kevin do that? Nick seemed to know what AJ was thinking.
"I was just wondering the same thing."
AJ smiled while Kevin looked between them confused.
"What were you just wondering?" Kevin asked.
Nick looked at him playfully confused. "I guess he doesn't do it all the time, Aje," Nick smiled.
Kevin shook his head. "Forget it, I don't want to know."
"Well, back to what I wanted," AJ smiled.
Kevin raised his eyebrows. AJ was smiling so big Kevin thought that his teeth would fall out.
"And what you wanted was?"
"Real food! C'mon, Kev! You're the talker of the group. You can work something out with them. Actually, you like to talk a lot."
AJ smiled bigger when Kevin gave him another look.
"A really good talker, I might add!"
"And how do you expect I get us food?"
"Well, if you guys wanna do the Jeffrey Dalmer thing, NSYNC is on the other side of island. Besides, didn't they say we could eat rats? They won't even miss 'em," Nick smiled.
Howie laughed. "Nicky, right when I think that I don't have to wonder about you, you open your mouth."
"This is real food," Kevin said, raising his small coconut bowl of rice. "We agreed to this."
"But Kevin!" AJ whined.
"Don't 'but Kevin' me," Kevin warned. "This was your idea. Remember, Einstein?"
"I think that AJ hardly qualifies as an Einstein," Howie smiled, dodging AJ's attempt to hit him on the head.
"I know!" Nick smiled. "They're sending one off of the island tonight. Why don't we kidnap them before they leave, hold him for ransom, and demand real food in exchange for whoever it is!" Nick smiled, knowing full well that he was only kidding.
"Nah, I don't think they're worth that much," AJ laughed.
Nick was about to indulge into AJ's comment when he noticed for the first time that Brian was sitting alone and hadn't said much. He watched the face Brian was wearing and was suddenly worried for him. He slowly made his way to Brian.
Brian sat around the fire that they had built, absently eating his rice. The entire group had been ecstatic since they'd won, and Brian had been up there with them until the realization of what happened hit him. Right at that moment, NSYNC was probably voting someone out of their group. They were having to separate with a person that they had come into this with. Having to make a decision that would probably make one of them feel isolated from their group....possibly forever.
What must that feel like? To have the majority vote you out? Would you think that maybe you didn't know your friends the way you thought you did?
Brian shuddered. That's how much he didn't want to ever be in that situation. He watched the faces of his friends as they animatedly talked with each other. What if they weren't always this happy? What if within 24 hours they found themselves in the same predicament? They had to win. They had to keep winning. If they didn't, and it was an immunity challenge, one of them would have to leave. One that everyone voted out.
"Hey, Bri, watcha thinkin'?" Nick asked, sitting down next to Brian.
"We have to win, Nick," Brian said, watching the fire in front of them.
Nick laughed. "Of course we're gonna win. We did today, didn't we?"
"No," Brian said, turning to look at Nick. "I'm serious. This was one challenge. We still have many more to go, Nick. If we lose, we're going to have to go through what NSYNC's going through right now. How easy do you think that is?"
Nick grew quiet, the soft features on his face drawn in confusion. He looked around the small camp and at his friends. Who would be the first one to go? Who would Nick vote to leave? Nick shook his head, as if doing so would easily shake the problem away. But he knew better. They were going to be faced with that situation sooner or later. He was just hoping that it was later. Way later.
The five guys sat in a row holding each other's hands with their torches lighted behind them. They had decided that this was not going to tear them apart. JC looked at his friends. Of course they had said that. Whether or not they really meant it they would find out in a minute when the votes were tallied. Who knew how the person who would soon be voted out might feel?
"First vote is for..." Steven said, pulling out a paper from the black pot, "Justin."
Justin felt his stomach drop. He knew what he had said before. And he meant it.
Nothing was tearing them apart. Nothing. But he couldn't deny that it hurt that someone had voted him out. But he had voted someone out, too. Just roll with the punches. Justin knew who had voted him out. He could recognize that handwriting anywhere. In a bathroom stall, on his address book, scribbled on the back of the tour bus. Anywhere. Justin smiled as he remembered when he had jokingly signed the back of the tour bus. He tried to disguise his handwriting as a fan's and wrote, 'I love Justin because he backs his thang up' just to try and get Justin in trouble with their manager, Johnny. But Justin had recognized his handwriting then. And he recognized it now. He smiled at him, letting him know that it was okay.
"Next vote is for...Justin."
Justin felt JC squeeze his hand. Justin tried not to get emotional. Why was this so hard? One of them had to go. Why not let it be him? They would probably have less trouble, anyway.
"Next vote is for....Joey."
Joey closed his eyes. Someone had voted him out? Why? Because he thought it was stupid to be on this island? Joey opened his eyes and tried to smile, to let his friends know he was fine. To try and act like it didn't bother him. But it did. And there was no way hiding that.
Stick to what we said earlier. Nothing tears up apart, Joey thought.
"Another vote for Joey."
Justin and Joey glanced at each other, but it was nothing more but a quick glance. They were almost afraid to look at each other. But why? They'd known each other forever. They even knew what kind of underwear they wore. But they also knew why they couldn't look at each other. The next vote revealed who would leave. It was obvious the group had made up their minds as to who should leave. Joey or Justin. And they were about to find out which one it was.
This is stupid, Justin thought as Joey glanced away from him again. We know everything about each other. We shouldn't feel uncomfortable with each other, especially not now.
"Last vote is-" Steven began, unfolding the paper.
"Wait," Justin said, standing up. "Hold on a sec, dude."
Justin crossed over Lance and Chris to sit next to Joey. He grabbed both of Joey's hands and winked at him. "Till the end, bro'. Together."
Joey smiled, feeling a wave of something he couldn't explain. And it was because of four little words. "Till the end, bro'."
"Okay," Justin said, returning his attention to Steven. "We're ready."
"Alright. The last vote is for...."
"How do we know who they picked?"
Kevin opened one eye sleepily at Nick. Whatever Brian and Nick had been talking about earlier had Nick suddenly concerned with NSYNC. Kevin tried to hide his small smile. He guessed he was doing it pretty well because Kevin's back was to the fire, casting a dark shadow over his face.
"I just want to know," Nick said, nonchalantly.
Kevin smiled again. Although Nick insulted NSYNC any chance he could get, he cared about them in his own way. Nick was a good kid, Kevin knew. And he would never wish anything harmful or hurtful to anyone. Not even his best friend, Justin Timberlake, Kevin smiled, knowing full well the look he could expect from Nick if he ever referred to Justin as Nick's best friend out loud. I'll save that for a good time, Kevin chuckled.
"You think something's funny, Kev?" Nick asked, confused.
"Nah, I was just remembering something. Sit down, Nicky."
Nick sat down facing the fire, leaning himself on Kevin's back.
"What's going on?" Kevin asked, staring into the darkness. There seemed to be a 24 hour urge of his to take care of the guys every chance he could and he was watching the darkness for any sudden movements. Nothing would hurt them if he had anything to do with it.
Nick shook his head. How did Kevin always know what was wrong? Nick was about to make something up when he decided to just tell Kevin.
"I'm worried about the guys."
Kevin sat up slightly, craning his neck around at a weird angle to make sure that the other three were in view. They were talking quietly amongst themselves around the fire.
"Is something wrong with Brian or the fellas?"
Kevin had misunderstood Nick.
"I'm worried about the other guys. You know, Brillo Head and them. The guys on the other side of the island," Nick said, beginning to fidget. He didn't like admitting any sort of sympathy for NSYNC.
Kevin smiled, proud at how good a person Nick could be. Proud that he had turned into such a good person despite everything he'd been through. It ranged from a deranged girlfriend, to problems with his family, to the stress of his career.
And Kevin knew that although Nick and Justin always fought, they each had a soft spot, if you could call it that, for each other. They were so much alike it was a wonder that they didn't get along. Or maybe that was exactly why they didn't. Kevin noticed how Nick only named Justin and referred to the rest of the group as 'them'. Well, okay, so he hadn't specifically said 'Justin'. He had said 'Brillo Head'.
Hey, we gotta start somewhere, Kevin smiled.
"Exactly what are you worried about, Frack?"
"About what they're going through. Having to vote someone out. That has to be hard, Kev. I don't think I could do it if we had to. We won't have to, right? We're gonna win, right?"
Kevin sat up after hearing the desperation in Nick's voice and turned around to face Nick. Kevin sometimes could still see the 12 year old that he had first met in Nick's eyes. When he was lost or scared and didn't know what to do, that part of him came out.
"Frack, you know it's possible we might not win every event, and it might come down to one of us having to vote someone out. I'm sorry. But I won't lie to you, besides, I think you already knew that. You just don't want to know that you know that."
Nick closed his eyes. "What's going to happen to us when we vote someone out? How are they going to feel? How are we going to feel? It's going to be in the back of their head that they were betrayed. Us being torn apart isn't worth dropping NSYNC off of the Billboard charts, Kev."
Kevin blinked. He hadn't thought of it from that stands point.
"Nicky, don't worry, okay? Go to sleep. It's getting late," Kevin said, tousling Nick's short hair.
Nick gave Kevin a small smile as he went to get his blanket. Kevin watched Nick playfully hit Brian's head as he walked by him. Soon, the four of them were throwing sand and whatever else they could find at each other.
Nick was right. Losing this to top NSYNC isn't worth it, Kevin thought as he watched them joke around.
But he knew they were already too far in. Contracts were signed. Kevin was glad that Nick had talked to him. Now Kevin realized just how serious all of this was. He had known before, but when the realization is hitting you in the face, you see it in a completely different perspective. Kevin suddenly smiled as he laid back down. Who knew that it would be Nick teaching Kevin a few things?
Justin knew it was wrong, but he was relieved beyond his imagination. The last vote had been for Joey. But Justin didn't take much time to dwell in his happiness. He reached right over to Joey to hug him and Justin could feel Joey's wet tears seep through his shirt.
"Joey, get your things together. You're flying out with me tonight," Steven said.
"We're sorry, Joey."
"Sure, I know," Joey said. Nothing will tear us apart, Joey repeated silently. So don't let this tear us apart.
"Now Joe, on the island, fire represents life. Bring your torch over," Steven said gently.
Joey smiled and grabbed his torch.
Justin quickly wiped his eyes, so that the other guys couldn't see how much this hurt. But they were all feeling the same way.
"As you bid farewell to the island, we extinguish your torch. Good-bye, Joey," Steven said.
He cupped the extinguisher over the fire and gave it a few seconds to burn out. Joey sighed and glanced back at the guys.
"Hey, man. Now you get to go home and watch MTV all comfortable in air conditioning. I'm totally hatin' on you right now," JC smiled.
"Yeah," Chris said. "And give Danielle a kiss for me. Tell her I miss her."
"Just one kiss?" Joey asked, trying to lighten his own mood.
"Hey, Fatone, stay away from my chick," Chris laughed, wagging his finger at Joey. "I love ya, man," Chris said, taking Joey into a hug. He was starting to hate this.
"And you," Joey laughed, pointing at Justin, "try and stay away from Nick, huh? Who knows? You two might actually end up friends."
Justin laughed. "Yeah, sure. That'll be the day. Yup, in about a week to NEVER!"
"And if you miss us, turn on the TV and laugh your ass off at how we're struggling out here," Lance smiled. "Or just laugh at Justin. This humidity is making his hair do some weird, scary thing," Lance said, pulling on one of the curls peeking out of Justin's bandana.
"Joey, it's time to go," Steven said.
Joey gave each of his group members one last hug before turning to follow Steven.
He didn't even turn around to give them a final goodbye or wave.
"It's starting," JC said sadly, before turning to walk away.
Justin was afraid to ask JC what he meant. He had a bad feeling that he knew. What? Things were starting to fall apart? Justin shook his head. He had a bad feeling at that moment that they weren't going to win. And he was hoping that he was wrong.
"You guys need to head back to camp," Steven said looking at their glum faces. "Tomorrow will be another long day, and you need to be ready. Get some rest."
The guys looked at each other and one by one, stood up and started the long trek back to their side of the island.
"Think Joey will be okay?" Justin asked as he followed the path Chris was lighting with his torch.
"Yeah, he'll be fine. He knows that it's part of the deal. He won't be mad, bro. Don't worry," JC said though he wasn't sure how honest he was being. He just didn't want to stress out the kid anymore than was necessary. Besides, he didn't know how hard he taken almost being voted out. So, he decided to see if he could find out. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Justin said glancing over his shoulder to make sure Lance wasn't falling too far behind. They didn't need to lose anyone to wild animals. "I'm cool. I guess I already know I'll be next if we lose again."
"We're not going to lose again," JC said. "And who said you'd be next?"
"Well, it's obvious. But that's okay. I'd understand," he said brightly. "But if we lose again, we'll be sure to lose the whole thing. I don't want to leave my whole career behind because of those guys, JC. Tell me why we're doing this again?"
JC sighed loudly. "I've been asking myself the same question. Putting those guys in their place isn't worth all of this. But it's a bit late to back out now. Besides, it's only been one day. Who's to say we won't win all the other challenges? That they'll be ones voting people out and feeling the way we are?"
"I don't wish anyone to feel the way I do right now," Justin said then thought about it. "Well, Nick "Eternal Baby Fat" Carter. I think he should have to vote himself out. He would be that dim. 'Uh? Who do I vote out? Uh? Me!'" Justin scratched his head and laughed. "I can see it now. There's nothing worse than a dumb blonde except for a fake dumb blond."
"You really hate him? I mean really?" JC asked. "'Cause I was thinking about how this whole feud thing got started, and I couldn't really remember. Did we hate them first? Did they hate us?"
"Honestly? I don't know. But Nick's always made everything personal with me. I mean, what business did he have calling Britney that one time? You'd figure with as much crap as he puts up with with his relationship with Mandy/Mandah/Willa/Whatever, he'd understand how hard it even is to have a relationship. But no! He had to go pulling his crap on us." Justin shrugged. "Honestly, I'm not even sure how we ended up hating each other, but we just did. Kev and the guys are fine. They're guys. Whatever. But Nick? He does need to be put in his place, have his trap shut once and for all."
JC looked at him, the hostility playing on his usually-harmless face. It bugged him that he carried that grudge around like that. They had been friends for so long, and all he ever wanted was the kid's happiness. And most of the time, they were really happy. Most of the time, Nick Carter wasn't around.
"You know, you should just let that go," JC said as they came upon their camp. "It's just going to screw you over more than him."
"Maybe," Justin shrugged. "Maybe he'll finally get what's coming to him."
JC rubbed his face and wondered if they weren't going to be the ones getting what was coming to them.
"Well, at least there's no storm tonight," Chris said as they extinguished their torches and stuck them in the sand. "I hope we don't have to drag these things out again for awhile."
The waves lapped up the rocks easily and slid softly over the sand. It was quiet, warm night.
"You know, if we hadn't just lost Joey tonight, it would be like we're on vacation or something," Lance said looking around. "It's actually kind of nice here."
"Some vacation. Look at these sleeping arrangements," Chris said pointing at their sorry lean-to. The storm had left it leaning too much. "Where's the Swiss chocolate on my pillow? My luxury robe? I want my damn money back! Somebody call the front desk."
Nobody laughed, not even to make Chris feel better about his joke.
"Well, at least there'll be more room for sleeping tonight," JC sighed.
"I think I'll sleep outside today," Lance said with a shrug. "It's a warm night and all."
"Good idea," Chris said. "It should be nice and safe."
JC shrugged and looked at Justin. He was pushing the bandana off his head and pushing his curls off his forehead. He didn't say a word. He just sat down in front of their dying fire and stirred the ashes.