Nick finally found Brian and Petunia hiding in a heavily wooded area underneath the Treetops Café, across from the Panda Canyon. “What are you two still doing here?” he hissed. To Brian, he added, “I thought you would have hopped on Petunia’s back and flown her out of here by now!”
“I tried to,” Brian replied, “but then we encountered one teeny little problem.”
“Well…” Brian sighed. “Petunia can’t fly.”
“What?!” Nick looked at the pandaskunk in surprise. “But… I thought all pandaskunks could fly!”
Petunia shook her panda head sadly.
“It must have just been Patches,” said Brian. “Maybe he rolled around in some pixie dust while he was at Disneyland or something.”
“Hm…” Nick thought quickly. “So… all we need to do is go to Disneyland, find Tinkerbell, and steal some pixie dust! Then we sprinkle it on Petunia, and… problem solved!”
“Not quite, Nick,” said Brian. “We gotta find a way to get her out of here first, before they find her and lock her back up in that research facility! Have you thought of how we’re gonna sneak a full-grown pandaskunk past all the zoo staff and guests without a single person spotting her?”
Nick was at a loss, until Leighanne suddenly stepped forward. “I know!” she cried, her blue eyes alighting with an idea. “We’ll use the magic scarf!” She unwrapped the Wylee scarf from her own neck and handed it to her husband.
Brian played along is if they’d planned the whole thing. “Ohhh, of course! The magic scarf!” he exclaimed, winking slyly at his wife. “Let’s see… we’ll just slip this around your neck, and-”
“SERIOUSLY?!” Everyone stopped and stared at Nick, who was standing there with a look of total revulsion on his face, a little slower to catch on than Brian. “Stop trying to make the pandaskunk model your ugly-ass scarves!” he snapped at Leighanne. “Enough already! Brian, man, back me up! You said yourself her clothes were awful!”
He looked expectantly at Brian, whose face turned bright red. Immediately, Brian started backpedaling. “Nick, I never-”
Leighanne was also looking at Brian, her expression slightly crestfallen. “Husband?”
But when Brian could only shake his head, speechless, Nick stepped forward. “He hasn’t got the balls to tell you this to your face, so I’ll say it for him: your Wylee stuff? It sucks. It’s ugly and overpriced. The only people who buy it are Backstreet Boys fans, and the only reason they do, the only reason they even bother to show up to your little Wylee parties, is to get closer to Brian. And sometimes it works. They’ve seen how you play favorites with the fans who are always singing Wylee’s praises, so they buy stuff, too, and wear it to BSB events in hopes of getting the same kind of attention. But don’t kid yourself: they don’t give a shit about you or Wylee. It’s all about Brian. I think, on some level, you must already know that, though, or you wouldn’t force him to model your stuff. I mean, look at him!” He gestured to Brian in his blue turtleneck and mullet poncho. “He looks ridiculous! No straight guy would ever be caught dead in that outfit, but he puts up with it because he loves you and doesn’t wanna hurt your feelings by telling you the truth. But I love him too much to let him go out in public dressed like this, so I’m saying it. Sorry, bro,” he added to Brian.
A teary-eyed Leighanne turned from Nick to Brian, her chin trembling. “Husband, is this true?”
“I… uh…” Brian hesitated, then sighed, his shoulder slumping. “I wouldn’t have used Nick’s words, but… I… I would rather pick out my own clothes than wear Wylee all the time,” he finally admitted.
“Because you think they’re ugly??”
“No… not ugly. They’re just… not really my style,” Brian said carefully.
“But you’re such a hottie in Wylee!” Leighanne insisted, causing Nick to snort with laughter. He tried to stifle it, but Leighanne heard and turned back to him, her eyes flashing dangerously. “And you! Who are you to give fashion advice? You wear the same three Fruit of the Loom t-shirts with everything!”
Nick looked down at his thin, gray v-neck and shrugged. “Yeah - so?”
“So!” Leighanne shook her head. “I have never been more insulted in my life! You should be ashamed of yourself, Nick Carter! And you too, Husband, for not sticking up for me!”
Brian gulped. “Baby, I-”
“Save it!” Leighanne sniffed. “I’m leaving! Come on, Bay!” She took her twelve-year-old by the hand and marched him away.
Brian started to follow, but Nick threw his arm out, catching him in the chest, and held him back. “Don’t, man. Let her go cool down. You can talk to her later, when she’s calm. You don’t wanna have this conversation in public anyway.”
“Gee, ya think?” Brian snapped. “You promised you wouldn’t tell her what I said! Thanks a lot for that.”
“Sorry, man, but I was just being honest. You’d think after all these years, I could speak my mind without insulting your wife.”
“You called her clothing line ‘ugly and overpriced’.”
Nick shrugged. “Like I said… I was just being honest.”
Brian sighed. “Yeah, but now I’m the one who’s got to deal with the fallout.”
“Not yet you don’t. First we’ve gotta get this pandaskunk to fly outta here!” said Nick, turning to Petunia. “Oh, look, Leighanne left her scarf.”
“Yes,” said Brian, straightening the scarf around Petunia’s neck. “It’s a magic scarf
.” He enunciated the words, giving Nick a significant look. “You know, like the magic F-E-A-T-H-E-R in D-U-M-B-O
?” he spelled, hoping pandaskunks couldn’t. “Catch on?”
It took Nick a few seconds to work that out, but finally, he understood. “Ohh! Right! A magic scarf! That explains the sparkles,” he said, running his fingertips across the rhinestones that spelled out the word Wylee
on one end of the scarf.
Brian rolled his eyes. “Yeah… so… let’s see if it works, eh?” He smiled encouragingly at the pandaskunk, who blinked back at him apprehensively. “Think of a wonderful thought...”
“Any happy little thought!” Nick chimed in enthusiastically. “Like toys at Christmas!”
“Or sleighbells… or snow!” added Brian. “It’s easier than pie. Now you give it a try!”
The pandaskunk still looked skeptical.
“Let’s go, Petunia!” Nick coached her. “Come on now, work that tail of yours. Up, down! Up, down!” He turned around and started twerking, shaking his ass to show Petunia how it was done. Slowly, but surely, the pandaskunk started to imitate him. “There you go! One, two! One, two! Faster, faster! Get up to flying speed! Retract your landing gear! Raise your fuselage! Take off!”
A cloud of dust rose up around the pandaskunk as she beat her puffy tail against the ground, and when the dust cleared, Petunia was hovering a few feet above the ground.
“Look!” Nick exclaimed.
“Hot diggity!” shouted Brian. “She’s flying! She’s flying!”
The pandaskunk smiled with pride and pumped her tail harder, suddenly seeming much more confident. “Well, I be done seein’ ‘bout everything, when I see a pandaskunk fly!”
sang Nick, as Petunia soared around them in a small circle, then landed gracefully on the ground in front of them.
“Petunia, I knew you could do it!” Brian praised her, petting her furry head. “Wait’ll we get to the North Pole!”***
But there was another problem: the North Pole was still under quarantine, and to make matters worse, a massive winter storm was working its way across Canada, making travel to the Arctic almost impossible. Brian and Nick kept a close watch on the weather from Nick’s condo, where they had been keeping Petunia hidden ever since they’d freed her from the San Diego Zoo, but with only a week until Christmas, the storm was showing no signs of letting up anytime soon.
“What are we gonna now do?” moaned Nick. “We’re never gonna be able to get the toys from Santa’s workshop, and even if we did, how would we transport them without a flying sleigh? God, I wish I still had my spaceship…”
“I think it’s time to hit up Toys ‘R’ Us,” said Brian seriously. “We can use the money you made selling all those VIPs and quickies and Afternoon Delights and whatever else you were offering on your tour-”
“Not that you would know,” Nick muttered under his breath, “since you didn’t go…”
“-to buy gifts for all the good little girls and boys. And as for how we’ll deliver them, well… we could always use the Wylee trailer,” Brian suggested.
Nick groaned. “Oh, no. No way. Not the Wylee trailer!”
“What other option do we have? We need something Petunia can pull behind her, something big enough to hold all the presents, but still portable, ya know? It’s perfect!”
“Except it doesn’t freaking fly!”
“Neither did your spaceship, and Patches pulled that through space!”
“Yeah, but my spaceship did
fly, at one point in time. At least it was aerodynamic!” Nick argued.
“So is the Wylee trailer! Well, sort of.”
“Or not.” Nick snorted. “You think your wife would even let us use her precious trailer? She’s still mad about what I said at the zoo!”
Brian sighed. “I know. Maybe this’ll be a way for us to make it up to her. I mean, think of the free publicity she’d be getting if the Wylee trailer was seen flying all around the world!”
“True,” Nick said thoughtfully. “Leighanne would never turn down free publicity.”
“Stop,” Brian admonished him. “No more talking smack about my wife.”
“Well, fine then, go ahead and ask her. Maybe she can make us some bedazzled bags to carry the toys while she’s at it.”
Brian smirked. “Don’t let her hear you suggest it, or she’ll do it.”
Nick snickered as he walked away. “Oh, I don’t doubt that.”***
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Nick ranted three days before Christmas, as he helped Brian load toys into the Wylee trailer.
“What do you mean? This was all your idea!”
“Well, sure, it was my idea to save Christmas, but not like this
!” Nick looked down at himself with disgust. The high/low cowl neck hoodie, red with a white faux fur trim, hung awkwardly on his lanky frame, and the matching B&G pants were equally ill-fitting, baggy in the crotch but several inches too short, so that his ankles were exposed whenever he sat down.
“Hey, man, that was the deal,” shrugged Brian, who was wearing a similar outfit in Grinch green. “Leighanne said the only way we could use the Wylee trailer to deliver presents was if we wore Wylee while we did it.” He was still in hot water at home, but he had apologized for hurting his wife’s feelings and persuaded her to let them borrow her pimped-out trailer. It sat in the driveway of their LA house, shimmering in the sun, the words Wylee by Leighanne Littrell
emblazoned across the side in big, pink letters. They had packed every square foot of the spacious interior with toys, each one wrapped in a bedazzled Wylee scarf, which - if they fell too far behind schedule - could also serve as a parachute.
“I thought the idea was to play Santa, not promote your wife’s fashion line,” grumbled Nick.
“Hey, I’d say we look the part,” said Brian, gesturing to their coordinating elf costumes. “Well, sort of. But c’mon, man, cheer up! You look good in red!”
“I look good in most things, but no one could look good in this,” argued Nick. “I’d rather be wearing my red sweatpants.”
“Didn’t Lauren throw those away?” Brian slammed the trailer’s side door shut. “Okay! That’s everything! Now we just need to make sure Petunia can still pull the ‘sleigh’ when it’s this full.” He whistled for the pandaskunk, and she scampered over to them. “Okay, Petunia,” said Brian, as he hitched her up to a harness woven with Wylee scarves. “Moment of truth. Let’s see if you can make this thing fly!”
Petunia strained against the scarves as she first started to run, slow at first, and then faster and faster, the trailer rolling behind her with ease as she picked up speed.
“That’s it, Petunia!” shouted Nick. “You can do it! Up, up, and away!”
When the pandaskunk reached the end of the driveway, her makeshift runway, she took a flying leap into the air. But rather than follow her upwards, the Wylee trailer slowed to a stop, with its wheels planted firmly on the ground. Tethered to the trailer, Petunia couldn’t fly; she could only float.
“It’s too heavy for her,” said Nick, shaking his head.
Brian sighed with disappointment as Petunia drifted to the ground. “I thought all we needed was faith and trust…”
Suddenly, they looked at each other, realizing the solution to their problem at the same time: “And a little pixie dust!”
“Well, Brian,” said Nick with a smile. “Looks like we’re heading back to the happiest place on Earth. Off to Disneyland!”***
“Thanks for coming, guys,” Nick said to his bandmates as they stood in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle later that day. He had asked the other Backstreet Boys to meet them there, and they had all answered his call, except for Howie, who was spending the holidays at home in Orlando.
“Sure thing, bro. Any excuse to bring the kids to Disney, right, Kev?” replied AJ, who came to Disneyland quite often with his wife and daughter, Ava. Kevin didn’t look quite as enthusiastic about their mission, but he nodded his head in agreement anyway.
“So here’s the plan,” said Nick, drawing them in to a huddle. “We need to find Tinker Bell and collect some pixie dust. We only have a couple of hours to search, so I think we should split up. That way, we’ll cover more ground. AJ, you and Kevin go that way.” He pointed, consulting his map of the park. “Look in Adventureland, Frontierland, and everywhere else on that side of the park. Brian and I will check out Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and Mickey’s Toon Town. We’ll meet back here at the Walt Disney statue in two hours.”
“If you find Tink, gather some of her pixie dust in these bags,” added Brian, passing out a set of Wylee totes, “and then text us. Got it?”
“Got it,” AJ and Kevin agreed.
“On three,” said Nick, sticking his hand into the middle of the huddle. Brian, AJ, and Kevin placed their hands on top of his. “One… two… three…”
“BACKSTREET!” they all shouted their battle cry, then broke apart.
As they walked away, Nick overheard AJ mutter to Kevin, “Brian’ll have no problem attracting Tinker Bell in that outfit. He looks just like Peter Pan.”
“What’s so funny?” Brian asked, as Nick snickered to himself.
“Oh, nothing. Hey, let’s go to Fantasyland first.”
As it turned out, AJ was right. It didn’t take them long at all to find Tinker Bell. She was hanging out with her fairy friends in a place called Pixie Hollow, and as soon as she spotted Brian in his bright green pants and matching tunic, she came right over, beaming at him and batting her eyelashes.
Brian played his part well. “Tink!” he cried. “Nick, look, it’s Tinker Bell!”
But Nick, not realizing how temperamental Tinker Bell was known to be, got right to the point. “Hey, Tink, can we have some of your pixie dust?”
The smile suddenly faded off Tinker Bell’s face. Frowning, she shook her head.
“Please!” Nick begged. “We’re trying to make our trailer fly so we can play Santa Claus and save Christmas!”
Tinker Bell crossed her arms over her chest, still shaking her head defiantly.
“Oh, come on! Don’t you want to make sure all the good girls and boys get Christmas presents?!”
With one more firm shake of her head, Tinker Bell turned and started to flounce away from them.
“Wait!” Nick shouted, but Brian quickly shushed him.
“Never mind, Nick,” he said loudly. “We don’t have time to argue with her. We’ve gotta get over to Tomorrowland for that twerking contest you signed up for, remember?” He winked at Nick.
Tinker Bell stopped and turned around, cocking her head in confusion. Next to Brian, Nick was looking equally confused, but he knew better than to ask. Obviously, Brian had a plan.
“What’s that, Tinker Bell?” Brian asked. “You don’t know what twerking is? What a tragedy! But no worries, we can fix that. Show her, Nick!”
Nick blinked. “Uh… what?”
“Come on, Carter, don’t be modest! You’re the twerking king! Turn around and show Tink how it’s done!”
Suddenly, Nick saw where this was going. “Ohh… well, okay! Here goes!” He turned around and started thrusting his hips and shaking his ass, letting his jelly bounce just like Santa’s belly.
Tinker Bell kept her arms crossed, tapping her foot impatiently as she watched. “He’s pretty amazing at that, huh, Tink?” said Brian, grinning at her. Tinker Bell rolled her eyes and shook her head. “No? Not so much? I bet you think you could do it better, huh?”
Tinker Bell nodded.
“Oh yeah?” Nick challenged her. “Nuh-uh, Tink, there’s no way you could ever out-twerk me! Brian’s right; I’m the twerking king!”
With a smug smile on her face, Tinker Bell sashayed toward them, butting Nick out of the way with her hip. Then she turned around, stuck out her booty, and started to shake it. Although they were in Fantasyland, Tinker Bell’s tiny green dress left little to the imagination, and Nick couldn’t help but stare. But Brian was prepared with an open Wylee bag, which he held under the hem of Tink’s dress, catching the flecks of fairy dust that fell as she twerked.
“Wow,” he said, when she was done. “You were right, Tink; that was impressive! Nick, I think we’ve found our new twerking queen
“Hell yeah!” exclaimed Nick. “Hey girl, maybe we’ll catch you at that twerking contest later, huh?
Tinker Bell actually blushed, ducking her head to one side and batting her eyelashes at him shyly.
Nick smiled. “See ya around.”
“Bye, Tink!” said Brian as he hurried away, holding the bag of pixie dust tightly in his hand. “Nice twerking,” he told Nick, once they were safely out of Pixie Hollow.
Nick didn’t have to look at him to know he was smirking. “Yeah, you know it. My ass saves the world once again!” he declared triumphantly. Brian smacked his butt playfully as they made their way out to the parking lot, where they’d left Petunia waiting with the Wylee trailer.
“We’ve got the pixie dust!” Brian announced. “All we need to do is sprinkle some on…” He and Nick hurled handfuls of the glittering dust at the already shiny trailer. “…think happy thoughts, and…”
“Look!” gasped Nick.
Their mouths dropped open in delight as the Wylee trailer floated up off the ground.
“It worked!” cried Brian.
“Yes!” Nick shouted, pumping his fist in the air. “Come on, guys! Off to Christmas Island!”
They scrambled into their makeshift sleigh, and Petunia pulled them into the sky. “Think of a wonderful thought… any merry little thought,”
Brian and Nick sang, as they soared over the parking lot. “Think of Christmas, think of snow, think of sleighbells, off we go! Like reindeer in the sky… we can fly, we can fly, we can fly!”
“I’m gonna text the guys,” said Brian, taking his phone out of his pocket, “and tell them we won’t be back until Christmas.”
“Cool. Hey, how will we know how to get to Christmas Island, anyway?” asked Nick.
Brian looked up, his eyes searching the skies. “We’ll do what the Wisemen did: follow the star!”
“Which star?” wondered Nick, frowning. It was still afternoon, but the first stars of the evening were starting to come out.
Brian pointed. “Second star to the right, and straight on ‘til morning!”
Nick’s eyes narrowed as they followed Brian’s line of sight to an eerie, pink orb glowing in the distance. “That’s no star…” he said slowly, shaking his head. “That’s a spaceship!”