For the past couple of years Nick's work schedule has been insane. Now that his tour with Jordan Knight is only a few shows away from ending, he's looking forward to nothing more than getting home to his wife. What he doesn't know is that his journey home is far
Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters:
Angst, Horror, SuspenseWarnings:
Death, Graphic Violence
I will update the warnings as we go!
1. Prologue by Rose
2. Crash and Burn by Rose
3. I Promise You by Rose
4. Into the Woods by Rose
5. Say a Little Prayer for Me by Rose
6. An Oasis or a Mirage? by Rose
7. The Raven by Rose
8. Trouble by Rose
9. I'm Taking Off by Rose
10. Donít Leave Me by Rose
11. Shattered by Rose
It’s no secret to anyone that you and I aren’t as close as we used to be.
In a way it’s strange to think about that. We used to be best friends; we defined the phrase peas in a pod. At one time no one knew me better but you, and I knew you better than anyone else. When they wanted one of us they knew they’d get the other. Deep down? I know the distance was more my fault than yours as to why it all fell apart. I always wanted to bridge that canyon that opened up between us. Not as bad as you though. We both missed each other. Still, you missed me more. You tried. I simply accepted it. Maybe I should’ve tried more to fix it too. With both of us, it might’ve worked. I wish I had. God, do I wish that. I hope it’s not too late to do so. Soon, I pray I’ll have that opportunity again.
Not that I deserve one…but you do. You do.
When you first went missing, they thought the bus broke down. The band’s bus got there easily enough so yours should too, right? Then we started getting calls from Lauren. After that the police started calling. They needed information. Anything and everything. When the cops called late last night, I’d thought you were dead. We’d all flown out to LA by this point. You get a call from the police at three in the morning… I’d thought this was goodbye.
But it’s not, not yet.
We need you Nick. Here, with us. Lauren needs you now more than ever! The group needs you – you’re the little brother none of us ever had before we met you. I need you. There are so many things we should’ve said. So many things I should’ve said. How many times have you reached out to me in the past? How many times have you needed saving? I wasn’t there like I should’ve been. For that, I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.
I’m here now. I’m here but this time I can’t save you.
I can’t bring you back to us the way I want to. I’m helpless and it kills me.
The only thing I can do now is pray.
Chapter One – Crash and Burn
One thing Nick knew he’d never
admit to anyone? Jordan Knight, lead singer of the eighties boyband New Kids on the Block
–couldn’t sing. Not even slightly. It was a fact the Backstreet Boys had learned during their whirlwind combination tour that spouted off the two groups as headliners and fed off nostalgia. Unlike the formation of their group, NKOTB was put together solely based on looks. They weren’t the manufactured “real boy” that the Backstreet Boys had turned into. Still, Nick had come up with the idea of the Nick and Knight
to start with mainly because he needed the attention. As proud as he was of his second solo album, I’m Taking Off
– an album he felt was far superior than his first solo attempt, it got virtually no attention in the states. He didn’t regret a thing when it came to that album, not really. It simply sort of ate at him that while he was able to media blitz countries like Canada, Japan, Germany, etc., his home country pretended he didn’t exist as a solo artist.
This time, he had some attention going. Mainly because two years prior was the twentieth anniversary of the Backstreet Boys and they’d been touring their last album for the past year and a half. That was why VH1 had approached him with the idea of a small reality show when word got out he was marrying Lauren. He might’ve been able to go it alone and do better this time. But honestly, it didn’t feel like enough for him. Nick knew he needed a gimmick and someone who’d go along with it easily enough while leaving most of the creative control to him. So he’d scrolled down his list of contacts and it was like a light bulb went off over his head when he saw Jordan’s name.
Jordan was the type whose ego needed constant petting. Nick knew if he said the right things Jordan would be placated enough to go for it. Jordan’s solo career tanked every time, worse than Nick could imagine. So really he was the one who needed it more. But that wasn’t how Nick sold it to him. Instead he’d told the New Kid member how much he
. He told Jordan he was doing Nick the favor. In his mind, editing in the studio could fix the vocal problems. The tour itself would pull in fans of both groups. Not to mention this hadn’t been done in the boyband world yet, so it was new, interesting, people would want to talk about it. During live shows he’d look better which while not the point, it was an added bonus. Then after this was done Nick could work on a true solo album that launched off the buzz this created for him in a better spot than he would’ve been before.
Jordan was oblivious to all that however and signed on. They squeezed in recording while Nick filmed I Heart Nick Carter
and during days off Nick had during his second US leg with the fellas. Nick worked with the producers on the lyrics and gave away credit to Jordan on a song or two. Most of the songs were written by the others. It was a safety net so he wasn’t wasting the songs he wanted to share on what was essentially a rebranding project. Most of the world still managed to associate him with the hot mess he was back in 2002. He might never be able to repair that but he knew he was going to try like hell.
What Nick hadn’t thought about however in all this was hearing Jordan sing, night after night, and having to smile through it. It’d been three years since NKOTBSB and he’d forgotten how bad it was. The only one in NKOTB who had any real vocal talent had been Joey. Joey had a superiority complex the size of Texas however which was why he hadn’t called him. He preferred Joey’s voice because his was an actual talent but, he couldn’t work around that ego. But the biggest problem was hearing Jordan go off key, hearing Jordan consistently get pitchy. It was wearing after spending twenty years with his friends, brothers really, in a group who could harmonize without music at the drop of a dime.
“Don’t stop till you get enough!”
Another thing was the bus. They’d agreed two busses beyond the bus for their band were unnecessary. It wasn’t going to be a long tour. Maybe two months top. It didn’t seem like the worst idea to share one. Hell Nick had shared a bus with Brian when he was first hooking up with Botox Barbie – his secret nickname for Leighanne, back in the day. He could handle this right?
“Touch me and I feel on fire, ain’t nothin’ like a love desire…”It’s bad enough when he sings his own songs
. Nick mused as he glared at Jordan from where he lay inside his bunk. I don’t think I can handle him mutilating Michael Jackson without getting fucking violent.
His phone buzzed in his hand and for once Nick was momentarily distracted from Mr. Pitchy. He clicked on his messages and immediately smiled once he saw who it was from. Lauren brought a peace to his life Nick once never thought was possible. He’d fallen hard for this girl ever since that blind date where she’d thought he was stuck up and full of himself. It took some time but slowly their relationship had developed and grown. He even did something Nick never
thought he would do – get married. And cheesy as it was that day had been the happiest of his life. The two had gone on what they’d called a “temporary honeymoon” on a couple days off amidst his crazy tour schedule. Once he got home Nick planned to fulfill his promise for a second honeymoon by whisking her off to Tahiti. He couldn’t wait.
Nick hung up the phone and stuffed it back into his pocket before groaning tiredly as he pulled himself out of bed. Jordan and he had been friends during the NKOTBSB tour but a duo project seemed to push the limits. In all honesty it wasn’t ending soon enough. His partner was sort of needy, something he hadn’t known till now. He also seemed completely unaware as to what this project really was. Plastering on a smile he headed over to where Jordan sat at the tiny table as the bus continued to speed along the highway. A glance out the window showed it was raining and Nick could only guess as to where they were at. Not Canada, they hadn’t crossed the border yet. Maybe somewhere in Washington. He couldn’t remember if they’d done their concert in Seattle yet, the dates were beginning to blur. In interviews they’d say how they’ve wanted to collaborate together for years, but that was a line pushed by their PR. At least Nick thought it was. Maybe Jordan had called before this project. He couldn’t remember. Not that it mattered.
Jordan turned his laptop towards Nick so he could see it better. A quick glance told him it was a letter from a record executive of some sort. “Hey, BMG in Japan emailed me back with what they thought after seeing our show in Vegas.”
He’d forgotten about that. Two nights ago they’d performed at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay Casino. He always loved Vegas. It was almost common knowledge to local fans that he’d usually be at the craps tables before the show. He’d see the tweets and know they knew. But usually they respected his time and left him be though sometimes he’d chuckle as they walked by as casually as possible. But this show he hadn’t been able to do that because he and Jordan after their real soundcheck (as in the one before the VIPs fans paid for) they’d had a meeting with BMG Japan representatives that Jordan had his management get in contact with weeks before. Without Nick’s knowledge. They’d gotten into a fight about it because Nick didn’t want to tour Japan. He didn’t need exposure there and selfish as it was, felt it wouldn’t help Jordan. Japan didn’t even remember who NKOTB were. NKOTBSB was the only BSB tour that didn’t
go to Japan. It’d hurt, rather than helped there. Still, in the end Nick humored them, figuring the same would happen here.
“Yeah.” Jordan grinned. “They’re actually interested cause it’s different and new.”
Nick sighed and swallowed back the first response that came to mind. If I tour any longer with you I don’t know what’ll explode first: my head or my fucking ear drums.
What he’d said out loud was kinder by far. “I told you man, I’m touring worldwide with the fellas next year. We’re continuing the twentieth anniversary In A World Like This
tour overseas.” They’d just finished their second North American leg. “And then after that we’re back in the studio. I don’t have the time.”
It was Jordan who sighed this time. “We can make it work. I could use more overseas exposure man.”You’d need a miracle
. He thought to himself. Unlike Jordan’s situation people cared who he was in the States. It was the media that needed to be wooed, and it’d work. In Japan that couldn’t be said for Jordan. Nick shrugged. “I tried to tell you before you invited them that October and November were all I could promise for touring the album. I’m sorry man.”
“Why can’t you push back the group tour?”Is he fucking serious?
“Because the group comes first. Yeah we give each other space for solo stuff but it works because we keep the group as priority one.” He resisted the urge to roll his eyes, smiling instead. “You know how it is.”
“Yeah I get it.” Though Jordan was pissed and they both knew it.
His phone rang as if on cue and Nick was incredibly thankful. He didn’t even care who it was but thankfully it was one of the fellas. Maybe that would help make the other man feel guilty. Or so he hoped. “Hello?”
“Hey little man.”
Nick snorted as Jordan rolled his eyes. He took that as a cue to turn down the volume a bit as he walked back towards his bunk. “I haven’t been little for almost twenty years Kev.”
“And I keep telling you you’ll always be to me. How’s the tour?”
He paused by the window and wondered yet again. Traffic had been horrible earlier and now it was like they were out in the middle of nowhere. Did we take a detour?
“Almost done. Missed you last night.” Nick realized as he said it that tonight was Seattle’s show, last night had been LA. AJ had come out to support him but Kevin had called two weeks before apologizing because Mason’s play was the same night.
“Don’t worry; I’m making it up to you. I’m on my way up.” Honking noises could be heard in the background as Nick found himself content to watch the rain through the window. It was letting up but the grey clouds and wooded surroundings formed a sort of beautiful dreariness in its own way.
“You are?” His voice couldn’t contain his excitement. Even with vanity projects it meant the world when his bandmates supported his solo work. Brian was the only one who hadn’t gone to a show despite their tour stopping in Atlanta but he tried not to think about it. “You fucking rock!”
Kevin laughed. “C’mon I wouldn’t miss-”
He never had a chance to finish his sentence. The bus swerved wildly and Nick lost hold of his phone as he tried to grab at the nearest sturdy object to keep his balance. Jordan screamed in the background as he flew out of his chair. Both men could hear the driver cry out as he struggled to get the massive vehicle back under control. In the end it was the stormy weather that had doomed them all. The road was slippery from all that rain and the tires couldn’t get enough traction. The road they’d been on was a narrow one, surrounded by wilderness as it went upwards. The bus rolled over the shoulder. He caught glimpses of how steep it was through the window as they kept going down. Nick tried to hold on to the bunk railings as best as he could getting slammed back and forth against the side. Windows exploded and glass rained down upon them.
He screamed as he shut his eyes to protect them from the flying shards.
Jordan’s body was tossed like a rag doll around the bus. It flailed around, completely unable to control the beating it got. Blood seemed to spray out like a geyser but he couldn’t see the source. The last thing Nick knew as he lost his grip, was being launched through one of the shattered windows. The bus finally ceased rolling as it came to a stop against a massive tree. Metal crunched immediately. His eyes were wide with fear as the ground raced up to meet him. He used his arms to try and protect himself though he knew it wouldn’t do him any good. His body crumbled against the ground and pain like nothing he’d ever experienced followed.
Then came blissful darkness and he knew nothing more.
Chapter Two – I Promise You
His entire body felt as if it were mere moments from falling apart.
Slowly he forced his eyes to open, painful a struggle it might’ve been. There was light though it was quickly fading, the sky a beautiful hue of pinks and reds from the setting sun. Now he knew it was almost nightfall. His next goal was to get himself to move. Despite knowing the hurt that it could cause he forced himself to sit up. He brushed off grass and dirt from his arms. Focusing on the insignificant details felt more helpful then. Nick’s mind was a jumble of mixed images as he struggled to reorient himself with his surroundings.
Fuck, what happened? His head currently resembled a pounding tribal drum more than anything else. He reached up to rub his temple and was surprised to find it sticky and wet. His pulled his hand down to stare at it, at the redness spread along his fingers. Blood.
The shock caused him to take in a sharp breath where more agony followed. His hands moved down to his sides and he jerked them away after the softest of touches caused practically blinding misery. Nick pulled up his torn, now bloody, t-shirt and stared down at the black and blue patterns traveling down along his chest. I bet at least some of my fucking ribs are broken.
Immediately he reached for his iPhone and blanched when he couldn’t find it. That was when Nick fully realized what had happened. The images started to make sense to him. He’d been on the phone with Kevin, who was on his way to Seattle as well for the night’s show. Kevin had wanted to make up for missing the LA show the night before. Jordan had been sulking over the fact Nick had reminded him he was too busy in 2015 to commit to a run of Nick and Knight in Japan. The rain had even been letting up.
Then the driver couldn’t control the bus. He’d held on as long as he could, struggling to dodge the flying objects as the bus slid down the shoulder and rolled down into the heavily wooded area. Jordan wasn’t so lucky. He’d seen the other singer get tossed around like he was one of those NKOTB Barbie dolls from back in the eighties.
I’m lucky to be alive. He remembered how finally, just before the bus met its final stop against a tree Nick had lost his grip on the bed railing and flew out one of the broken windows. His eyes shifted down towards his arms that showed the various cuts and bruises between the fallen glass and the impact when he finally hit the ground. The ground, while not as soft as it could’ve been, must’ve been wet and mossy enough to cushion his fall. He reached up to the back of his head, the source of the persistent throbbing despite what he assumed to be a somewhat shallow wound along his forehead. A large lump confirmed his growing suspicions and was tender to the touch. I might have a concussion.
That meant no sleep for awhile, if he could manage it.
He got up cautiously, afraid of hurting himself more. His arm started to feel sore when he’d used it to push himself up and he wondered if maybe he’d sprained something. Nick knew it couldn’t be broken if only because for the most part he’d been able to move it with no problems so far. As sore as he was though, he was reminded yet again of how lucky he was. I could’ve broken my neck. Or fractured my fucking spine. But I’m alive. I can walk.
Now that he was done assessing his own injuries for the moment, his eyes tracked the area around him. An owl hooted solemnly in the distance. There were trees everywhere. He looked to the left up him and could see the steep hill the bus must’ve rolled down to get here. The road was up there but Nick wasn’t so sure he could climb up it in his condition. He looked around again for the bus itself and it took a minute due to the fading sun but then he saw it. It was a long tube of mangled and twisted black metal, smoke rising slowly from the front. The glass was shattered in the front window and Nick shuddered at the dark splatters coating it as well.
At the sight of that he suddenly stopped caring about his own injuries and raced for the vehicle. He had to see if anyone besides him was alive. They had to be. It wasn’t a question. It’d landed on its side but fortunately with the door side up. Nick rubbed his hands together and took a deep breath before wincing, remembering his ribs. He knew climbing in was going to hurt like hell but what choice did he have? Their driver, Dave, was inside. Jordan was inside. For all he knew the bus could blow at any moment. He couldn’t leave them there to die. It was the easy solution and could keep him alive longer. But in the end being alive meant living with yourself and the choices you’ve made. He knew he couldn’t do that if he just ran off to save himself.
Smoke still hissed from the hood of the bus as Nick jumped and grabbed onto the side. His shoulder instantly screamed in protest and confirmed that he had in fact pulled something if not sprained it. Ignoring it, he grit his teeth and used every bit of energy to pull himself up onto the side of the bus. The slid slightly but was able to shift himself around and sit up. His feet used the mighty trunk of the now bent tree it’d crashed into to brace himself. For a few moments he simply sat there, catching his breath from the bits of exertion. That’s how he knew he was worn out. Years of performing nonstop had taught him he was capable of far more endurance than this in normal situations.
“Hello!” Nick screamed. He needed a sign of life, anything.
“Is there anybody alive?! Somebody?!”
A soft groan was his reward.
“Hang on!” He struggled to shove the folding door open. “I’m coming!”
Spinning his body around on the bus he used his feet and finally managed to get enough space so that he could slip inside. Lying on his stomach he slid through the hole while hanging on till he could drop without injuring himself further. Nick knew he needed a doctor but nothing was life threatening as far as he knew. And even if something was, there was simply nothing he could do about that right now.
“Da-holy fuck!” Dave was still in the driver’s seat. His eyes were open and staring off into space at something Nick nor anyone else could see. A branch had come crashing through the window, presumably from another tree. It had been thick enough to burst through the window and impale the man directly through the neck. Blood was everywhere – on the seat, on the windows, a grotesque final spray paint of death. His head danged to the side off the branch. Remnants of tissue and skin were what kept it still attached rather than a complete beheading.
Nearly Headless Dave. He couldn’t help thinking. Too many weekends on tour being stuck watching ABC Family’s “Harry Potter Weekend” he supposed. His fingers gently pushed the eyelids shut partly out of respect but mostly because the unrelenting gaze from beyond the grave chilled him to the bone. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. Rest in peace.
Nick didn’t want to move any closer but the thought occurred to him. The guy had to have a phone. He’d lost his and even if he found it, odds were that it was broken. Reaching towards the already cold body, he checked his pockets. The first one was empty of anything useful. Just what he assumed to be house keys and a wallet. He leaned over, trying not to vomit as he shoved his hand into the other pocket. There was so much blood. There’d been other wounds Nick hadn’t seen. Finally his grip found smooth plastic and he pulled out the phone only to sigh once he saw it. The screen was shattered and there was red beneath the glass. He pushed the button anyway, praying for a miracle.
He threw the phone down furiously, trying not to stumble as he moved forward. It was a hard task with trying to avoid shards of glass and cabinet doors wide open. Nick almost wanted to give up. This place reeked of death and it felt cursed. He didn’t want to be brought down along with it. He stepped towards the mini kitchen and looked around. Before the bus started swerving this had been where Jordan was last. He looked around, unable to quickly spot his friend amongst the debris.
Did he get thrown out like I did? Maybe he should’ve taken more time walking around the crash first.
“Jordan!” He yelled. “Jordan if you can hear me, I need you to make a noise so I can find you!”
“Nick?” His voice was soft, almost inaudible but it was enough.
He hurried forward, practically tripping over the fallen table but kept going. Pain radiated throughout his body in immediate protest but he didn’t have time for that now. No, that could wait. He skidded to a stop. “Oh god.” He murmured.
There’d been a reason Jordan wasn’t so easily seen. His body had been thrown in the end to the back of the bus where the little entertainment area was. The TV had fallen toward on top of him along with the couch. He was pinned right into place. Shards of glass from the shattered TV screen stabbed into his abdomen as if they were extra latches in case he tried to escape. Debris covered the rest of his body. His face was pale and damp with perspiration along the splatters of blood that dotted his cheeks. He gazed up at Nick but his dark eyes were unfocused, his pupils heavily dilated despite the bright lights still flickering within the vehicle. Jordan’s fingers twitched from beneath another branch that had torn through a window.
Do I move him? Does that help or make it worse? Fuck I don’t know what I’m doing! Nick kneeled down beside him. He felt almost in a panic. What was he supposed to do? For what felt like a lunatic moment he actually found himself reaching for his smart phone so he could try and Google what he should do with someone so seriously injured. Then he remembered his phone was a destroyed piece of trash somewhere within this bus of death. He again took in Jordan’s many injuries. Moving him meant trying to remove the glass embedded within. Glass that wasn’t causing a lot of blood loss. Nick idly wondered if maybe he’d had the luck of the glass cutting and therefore helping staunch the blood in the arteries they’d been slicing. The knowledge came from watching 1000 Ways To Die in the middle of the night when he couldn’t sleep.
“God, I…I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should try and move you out or what?” Nick said though he didn’t really expect an actual answer.
Jordan coughed violently, his body racked by them. “Nick…”
“I’m going to go get help okay?” He wondered just how aware the other man was. So far all he’d said is his name. Did he really know Nick was there? Was the pain too much for him to try and say anything more? He had so many questions.
He shook his head. “No…” More coughs followed. “Don’t leave me.”
He doesn’t want to die alone, Nick realized. He frowned at Jordan. Negative thinking wasn’t going to get them anywhere. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But he couldn’t let himself think the worst. Otherwise they might as well give up now. “No, I gotta go man. If I don’t we’re both gonna die out here.”
You definitely will. He added mentally. Fuck! No. Stop that! We’re both going to live! If I don’t think positive we’re both fucked and we’re both going to die!
Nick pulled himself up and sighed deeply. This was hard but he had no choice. “I’m going to come back as soon as I can with help. I promise you, it’s going to be alright. You’re not going to die. Not here! There’s gotta be someone who I can get to. We’re gonna get out of this.”
Finally as if in defeat, Jordan nodded.
“I’ll be back.” He called as he made his way carefully to the front of the bus.
He didn’t know how far it’d be to the road since the one they’d careened off of was too steep to reach. He wasn’t sure how he would find his way there without a map, GPS or any real clue of where they were. But they were living in a century where everyone was connected thanks to technology. Someone had to be out there, nearby. Nick didn’t care who that person was. He didn’t care how hurt he was himself. Nor did he care that Jordan needed immediate care. Somehow, someway, he was going to get the help they needed. Somehow, someway, he would find a way to save him. He’d promised Jordan he’d come back. He’d promised him that they were both going to make it out of this alive.
And Nick never went back on his word.
Chapter Three – Into the Woods
The only thing he’d been able to salvage from the bus was the leather jacket he’d been sporting throughout the tour. Well that and a water bottle he’d found by Dave’s body and was thankfully unopened. While temping, he knew that he would have to go easy on the water until he found help or any sign of human life whatsoever. The rain from earlier had stopped completely – for now, and Nick considered that a lucky break. Later it might become unlucky once he was in a desperate thirst, if it ever reached that point. His mind kept coming up with different tangents and felt like it was spinning out of control. Images of the crash kept flashing through his head over and over as a morbid and grotesque inner instant replay. He had many questions but they were ones he knew he wouldn’t get the answers to.
Does Kevin know what happened?
The logical assumption would be yes. Still, Nick knew it wasn’t that simple. Nothing ever was. It all came down to this: Did Kevin hear the crash? Or, did the phone disconnect before he heard anything revealing? The connection had been slightly strained. They’d clearly been in an area where reception could come or go at any moment. Kevin was a logical sort of guy. He always had been in all the years he’d known him. What if without the telltale noises he simply thought the best rather than the worst? If that were the case, his situation shifted. That would mean judging by how close it was to nightfall, they would have only just realized that perhaps something was wrong.
Of course they would’ve noticed his and Jordan’s “tardiness” a few hours earlier. The VIPs and soundcheck parties would be cancelled due to their absences. Even so, that might have been chalked up to traffic problems, especially if the jam led to their doomed detour made it on to the news. Not to mention their band could’ve mentioned it upon their arrival. None of the band would know anything else even remotely helpful. How could they? It occurred to Nick then there was likely a massive amount of angry messages on their cell phones. Mike would be especially mad at him. He and Jordan’s bodyguard Gus had decided to take a short charter flight. He wished now he’d joined them.
Picturing the voicemails themselves almost made Nick want to laugh.
Nick where the hell are you?
You guys better be late for a good reason and not because of some personal after party of Jordan’s again!
Nick, it’s Jenn, where are you? Stop ignoring your calls and call me back!
Where are you? This better not be like Texas where you took that side trip to see the world’s largest cowboy hat!
The lack of answers and the fact they still hadn’t shown would end up being just cause to worry. He was absolutely sure of that. Showtime was about now – or so he guessed. There was no way to be sure without his phone or a watch. Anyone who knew him personally or hell even fans knew that he’d never do a no-show on a concert consciously. He remembered being barred from travel back in 2008 because he so sick and yet the next day when he was cleared he forced himself on stage despite the fact his voice hadn’t even returned completely. Even in the height of his train wreck days he stayed sober on stage and never failed to appear for a show. So the next, their people would shift the calls to Lauren and Jordan’s wife Evelyn. The assumption being that perhaps the wives knew something they didn’t. Fair enough.
Nick rubbed his arms with a shiver. The wind was just beginning to really pick up. The jacket did help, but it wasn’t as much as he’d have liked. His thoughts traveled elsewhere yet again. Perhaps to keep from focusing on how bleak his situation really was. This time his mind focused on the bright spot in his life, Lauren. His heart ached at the realization his wife was likely worried beyond belief about him at this very moment. Because there was nothing he could do about it. There was no way to reach out and tell her that he was alright and alive. In the end the only bit of solace Nick could seek was in the fact the last time they’d talked he had said (well, texted) that he loved her. Because he knew what she was doing right then. How she was likely reacting.
He could see her pacing.
Lauren was always the worrier. Nick was the dreamer; she balanced him by being the realist. Dreaming had always been his escape. Whether it was art or music or just performing in general, his ability to dream and imagine beyond what was simply around him had created the haven he’d so desperately needed as a child. It was what helped him in that moment. The way he focused on what was happening with those he knew as opposed to himself. Lauren used to tease him early in their relationship that his head was often lived in outer space with the aliens he loved. What it really was, was that Nick had learned years ago if he didn’t take life as it came or spin it into his own fantasies, he’d always find him quick to anger with the urge to break whatever was near. So as the worrier, she’d pace. She always paced.
The conversation that he imaged was likely happening now or soon enough was easy enough to picture.
“Josh, what do you mean he’s not there?”
“His and Jordan’s bus never showed up.” A pause. “When did you last talk to him?”
She’d bite her lip then and suddenly stop in her tracks. “Around noon. We didn’t talk-talk, we just texted.” She’d try to keep control. “Has he been missing since then?”
“We don’t know but so far you’re the last to hear from either one. Can you think of any reason why Nick would be late? Something the rest of us wouldn’t think of?”
He hoped Lauren wouldn’t be close to tears, but he imagined her to be. “No. Nick puts the show above everything else. Always.”
Nick sighed deeply before jerking at the immediate reminder of his injuries. He gazed upwards, focusing past the congestion of leaves caused by the many trees and at the patches of sky he could see. The clouds had broken up a bit and revealed stars clearer than any he’d ever seen in Los Angeles or Nashville. The moon was partially obscured yet still managed to lend enough light to aide Nick in his attempt to navigate through the dark and lonely woods. Owls hooted in the distance as the wind continued to blow and added an eerie howl to the soft chorus of nature. His head throbbed dully still, almost in tune with the other aches of his body and even the music of the woods.
Am I even going in the right direction? He wondered. It would be cruelly ironic if with every step he took was a step further from the help he (and Jordan) so desperately needed.
Fuck, what would Kevin do? In his younger days he and AJ would often joke about WWOAKD – What Would Old Ass Kevin Do? It was meant to mock their surrogate older brother with his old fashioned lectures. As the years went by however it became something Nick took to heart. So much so that it and the book Kevin had gifted him with were a direct cause of his personal battles against substance abuse and turning his life back around.
“Kevin, seriously, what the fuck would you do?!” He yelled up at the stars, knowing no true answer would follow.
Not that it mattered. Deep down Nick knew the answer anyway. Kevin grew up surrounded with woods like these. He’d been their own personal Nature Boy, complete with caterpillar eyebrows that Nick used to joke came from sleeping in the woods so much. He’d never seen his friend’s home back then, but had heard enough stories from Brian to give him proper mocking material. Though finally, last year the five had decided to revisit their hometowns as a way to give a story to the documentary they’d started filming. Kevin’s had been the first. His had also been the hardest to get to. He smiled to himself at the memory.
“Who’s fucking idea was it to hike through this shit?” AJ whined with a pout, causing Nick to laugh. Back in the day it’d been him who did all the whining while AJ laughed at him. It was a nice change. It also felt like in some ways the group really had come full circle in their twenty years together. Often he wondered just what the next twenty would have in store for them. Would they still be together? He hoped so. He couldn’t imagine life without this surrogate family of his.
Kevin smirked. “Who’s the old man of the group now?”
The middle finger was the only answer given.
Brian laughed, close behind Nick. “Are we camping outside tonight?”
“Why else are we dragging this shit with us?”
Nick snorted. “By drag you mean carry a backpack with sleeping bags on top. At least this part ain’t being filmed. No one will see you being a wuss.” The group had decided that they’d take an extra day and camp out on their way up towards the campgrounds Kevin had grown up on. This way they could reconnect as they had in London but this time with less cameras. The five men had agreed that a break might do them some good.
“I’ve never been camping.” Howie chimed in. He was the most excited of them all. “I’m glad we are. I’ve always wanted to do it.”
“Howie’s so happy.” Brian lisped playfully as they continued the trudge uphill.
“AJ! Come on!”
“My body’s fucking falling apart!” He called out after them as he attempted to catch up. “Someone should carry me.”
“Oh sure man,” Nick grinned back at him. “I’ll carry you.”
“And drop me down a fucking cliff.” His friend retorted with a laugh. “Kevin!”
“I’m not carrying you dawg. Come on y’all, there’s a clearing up ahead we can settle down in for the night. We’ll need a lot of rest for tomorrow.”
“Especially AJ.” Howie chimed in. “He’s got the body of a sixty year old.”
“Fuck you guys!”
Kevin paused by a tree with Nick as the two waited for the others to reach them before continuing. He smiled at him. “You can learn a lot just by being out in nature.”
“Yeah? I mean it’s pretty out here.”
“But more than that. You can navigate yourself by following the stars because out here you can see all the ones you’d miss in the city.” His voice was wistful. “My dad taught me how when I was a kid so I’d never get lost.”
“My dad, well you know.” Nick’s dad taught him things he wished he never learned. Even now he still went to therapy sessions to help him un-learn them. “Your dad sounds like he was a great guy.”
Kevin wrapped his arm around his shoulders. It was like he knew exactly what Nick was thinking. It wasn’t surprising. Kevin just had that way about him and while he’d never admit it, Nick secretly loved that. “He was. You are too. We’re proud of you, you know. And tonight I’ll teach you some of the things I know. Alright?”
He gazed up at the stars again, searching for a certain constellation. He didn’t know a lot but what he did know he planned on using. Maybe going north wasn’t the right direction but at least he’d know what direction he was going in. That would be a start. It was hard to see due to the many intimidating tall trees but he eventually managed to spot the big dipper. Nick’s smile began to grow.
“Once you find the corner of the big dipper, little man, you just look straight above it.”
He snorted teasingly. “It’s just a really bright star Kev.”
Kevin ruffled Nick’s golden hair, knowing he hated when he did that. “That really bright star is Polaris. It’s directly above the North Pole. So if you follow that by staying beneath that star, you’ll always know what direction you’re going in because it never changes.”
A smirk formed. “Is that why you’re using Google Maps?”
“You’re such a wise-ass. The stars can guide you but yeah, I feel better using a map.” He laughed. “It doesn’t mean it’s not good to know these things.”
Brian popped up in that moment with a cheesy grin. “Look! AJ’s still alive!”
“I need a fucking smoke.”
Kevin and Nick rolled their eyes almost in unison which got Howie and Brian cracking up again. Kevin smirked. “That’s why you’re having so much trouble to begin with. Now come on.”
Kevin would tell him the follow the North Star and hope it led to the road or some sign of human civilization. He’d tell Nick that he needed to stay strong but not to push too hard. It was weird but he really missed Kevin right then. Perhaps because in times like these people needed their fathers. But for Nick that role had always been filled by the oldest of the fellas. The fellas probably knew by now. Lauren would’ve called them before his “real” family tied together by matching DNA.
Sighing he found a large tree and slid down to the ground against it. He wasn’t sure if he could sleep yet. His head still hurt and he had no idea how to tell if he had a concussion. Nick took a swig of water and tried to ignore the endless rumbling of his stomach. Food would have to be a problem of tomorrow. For now, he just wanted to relax. He hugged himself tightly for warmth and hoped perhaps nature would continue to smile on him by having the wind quit. A lone howl reached his ears and he shivered, though it wasn’t from the cold.
It’s gonna be a long fucking night.
Say a Little Prayer for Me by Rose
Sorry guys, had to repost the updates after the maintenance done by AC!
Chapter Four – Say a Little Prayer for Me
“Nick? Its okay baby, I’m here.”
“What?” For some reason her voice was the last one he expected to hear.
A soft laugh followed. “Open your eyes.”
Blinking slowly a soft light filled his vision. Immediately he found himself smiling at the sight of the face above him. His loving wife Lauren was hovering above him, a look of worry in her dark, gentle eyes. He reached up and tucked her long brown hair back behind her ear, gazing tenderly into her caring face. But that didn’t make sense, did it? No. He wasn’t home. He was on tour with Jordan. His brow furrowed as he tried to remember. How did he get here? When did he get here? Not that he was complaining. It wasn’t until he met Lauren and fell so quick and so hard that he finally understood the fellas and their need for breaks. Of course they wanted to go home; they had something to go home to. Now he did too. He simply wondered why he couldn’t remember the end of the tour. Or coming home.
Nick shook his head slightly at himself and his many questions. None of that mattered now.
“Of course I’m okay. Like you said Boose, you’re here.” He grinned and sang softly. “You’re all, I need to get bye…eeeeyyyye.”
She smirked at him. “I miss your cheesy one-liners when you’re gone.”
“When I’m gone? But you don’t gotta worry baby, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Better not for a little bit. You deserve a break.” She smirked. “Though you can’t keep hurting yourself like this.”
Lauren kissed him softly and held out a hand to him. Taking it, he let her help him up with a groan. Immediately after he winced as his hand went towards his side. He rubbed it with a frown. It felt like it was throbbing. How badly did he fall? Nick smirked at her. “I must’ve done more damage than I thought.”
An image of Jordan flashed quickly before his eyes. Was that blood?
“I know.” She picked up a stuffed animal off the floor. “I didn’t think something like this would take you down.” Lauren tossed the bear onto the nearby couch. “Leslie must have thrown this when I wasn’t looking.”
Leslie? My sister? But she’s… Nick blinked, staring at her. He still thought about his sister often even though it’d been two and a half years since he lost her. He sometimes wondered what he could’ve done differently. Was his family right? Could he have saved her? Deep down he knew the answers to those questions. In the end however, it never stopped the questions from rearing their ugly head now and then. “Leslie?”
His wife chuckled and turned away and moved to a crib that Nick hadn’t noticed there before. “Yeah, if I’d known I’d have found a way to keep you from getting hurt.”
“I told you, I’m okay.”
He was thrown out into the air as the bus continued to roll. His eyes were wide with panic as he rushed to meet the ground coming towards him rapidly. Behind him the bus finally met its end against a massive tree.
A beautiful baby was lifted up into the air, chubby and healthy, looking no more than a year old. She had a wild tuft of blonde hair held back by a headband with a big pink bow. Her bright blue eyes lit up at the sight of Nick and she reached her arms out for him, crying out. Lauren laughed and walked over. “Good thing, she needs her daddy.”
Nick took the baby into his arms and smiled as she patted at his face. She was wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers onesie which made him even happier. He blew raspberries against her neck and she giggled, grabbing his hair. The pictures flashing though his mind were immediately forgotten thanks to the little one within his arms. “Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.”
“Nick, I’m sorry.”
He was alone, alone in a forest without a clue of what to do.
She gazed upon him without a word. Her eyes seemed to do all the talking in that moment.
“What is it?”
“Nick, you need to wake up now.”
He took a step towards her, cautious of Leslie. His eyes went wide when the baby quickly vanished from his arms. “What? What’s going on?!”
She bit her lip as she watched him. “I wish I could stay here with you. I want our dreams, all of them, to be real and for you to be safe and sound. Just make sure you come back somehow. I need you Nick. We all need you. You can’t give up, you promise me that?”
“Of course I promise! But what is this? What’s going on?!” He was so confused and wanted answers as he raced towards her. Nothing else seemed important. Inches before he could reach her, she disappeared.
Lauren reappeared from just behind him as he whirled around in search of her. “You know. You just don’t want to admit to yourself. But Nick, you have to go back. You have to face it. I can’t be your escape for you forever.” She sighed and shook her head. “As much as I would like to be, I can’t. You have to go.”
Dave was impaled through the neck. Jordan was slowly dying if he didn’t find help quickly. Nick touched his forehead and suddenly there was blood when he pulled his hand away. Like before.
The room grew cold and foggy, his wife stood alone in the darkness. A lone light illuminated her frame as she watched him. There were no more smiles. Just a sad, forlorn look that made his heart want to break in two. “Lauren wait!”
“I have to go. But I have faith in you Nick. Every night I’m going to pray for you to stay safe. Just remember to face up to everything that’s happening for me. Fight it if you can. Don’t run away.”
“Lauren?! What are you talking about baby? Boose? No! Wait!” She faded back into the abyss that was closing in on him with every breath. Everything faded back into nothing. Nick ran forward despite being completely lost within the void. “Lauren!”
“I love you Nick. Always.”
Nick awoke with a sharp gasp that radiated pain throughout his body at the too quick movements. The taste of his wife’s name still lingered upon his lips as his head shot backwards and the back of it rammed into the trunk of the tree he’d propped himself up against the night before. He rubbed the sore spot with a frown but it quickly faded when he realized he saw no blood on his hands this time. He stretched rather carefully though it was somewhat fruitless and gazed upwards. Grey clouds obscured most of the sky above though he could see enough of the sun to tell it was likely around midday. Groaning softly he forced himself to get up rather than sit the way he wanted to. He slipped off his jacket gently before rotating his still aching shoulder.
“Not dislocated” he said mainly so he could hear the sound of his own voice. The solitude was quickly bugging him. He was second only to AJ in his lack of ability to stay alone for a significant amount of time. “Maybe only pulled a muscle if I’m lucky.”
He next pulled up his shirt to examine his chest again. Once what were light bruises became a spider web of deep blacks, blues, and purples overnight. He ran his fingers over the discolored skin lightly and promptly learned there had been some swelling as well. He had no way to find out just how seriously injured he was or if they were worsening. Though the fact he wasn’t coughing up blood yet seemed to be a good enough sign so far.
“Okay. Gotta find somebody.”
Maybe if he said it out loud it might help. It felt more like a goal then. The wind had died down though visibility was still questionable thanks to the fog that continued to settle in. Nick grabbed his jacket and put it on before grabbing his water bottle. He started walking in the direction he’d been last night. If he was careful maybe he wouldn’t veer too far off the northern course he’d been making for himself. He took a small swig from his water bottle before tucking it in the pocket of his jacket. Who knew when he’d find a river or something? Plus he remembered something about having to boil that sort of water and he had nothing to boil it in. Suddenly he wished for rain if he ever hit that point of desperation.
How long can someone survive without water? Three days right? So far he was okay then.
His stomach rumbled demandingly and he was immediately reminded of the fact he hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning. Nick sighed and kept walking. Maybe he’d find some acorns or something. Kevin showed him which berries were safe to eat and what ones weren’t. But he couldn’t remember. They all looked the same when this was being explained to him. Let alone now when he was forced to pull back that seemingly useless knowledge. Today seemed just as ominous as the day before. He thought about trying to mark the trees or something. That way if he got lost he could go back the way he came or at the very least prevent himself from wandering in circles.
He reached in his pockets. “Fuck!” In his hands was his wallet and one of his guitar pick. He didn’t even carry a pocket knife. “Fucking idiot. Can’t cut without a knife or even a fucking key.” And why would he need a key? He was on tour which meant no house or car for a couple of months.
I wonder if Jordan’s still alive.
It was a valid question even if it was one he didn’t wish to address. Every step forward was motivated by the fact that his friend was trapped in a bus in desperate need of help. Jordan would die if he failed. It wasn’t even a question. If he kept letting himself think about how he was likely lying dead in that bus, he’d crack. He had to shake those thoughts away. Thoughts of Jordan’s eyes staring unblinkingly at the side of the bus, his flesh pale and cold. Bugs coming upon the bus and feasting on two human buffets while the sole survivor wandered the forest. It was already true for Dave. There were plenty of animals out here. Nick heard the howls last night and it’s what kept his sleep from coming close to even the idea of sound and peaceful. Animals might’ve climbed in the same way he did. Now they were chowing down. They might be even eating Jordan alive. He pictured maggots crawling in and out of his eyes and mouth. There was no way to know for sure how things were at the crash site.
No! I can’t think like this.
“God, I know you might not have been the biggest fan of mine…” Nick said just before stumbling over a few rocks. The ground was still wet and somewhat sticky from the previous day’s downpour. How long had he been walking while his thoughts traveled down that morbid road? Time was elusive and slipped away from his grasp now. “But please, please let me make it out of here alive. Guide me to save Jordan.”
In that moment, just the act of praying got him thinking of Brian. Would Brian pray for me? Is he praying for me right now? Once upon a time he never would’ve had to ask. “And God if you don’t want to listen to me, if Brian’s praying…maybe listen to him.”
Nick stumbled again and almost fell face forward into the grass. “Dammit! Geeze, I get it. I’ve sinned to much or some shit. If I ever get out of this I’ll ask Bri and…” He trailed off in that moment.
Almost falling had caused him to see something he definitely would’ve missed otherwise due to not watching just where he was walking. It wasn’t that he was distracted. It was that his focus was more on finding anything edible. Still, what he saw suddenly seemed better than the discovery of food. Because of the muddy ground between the patches of grass, he could see all sorts of footprints. Many belonging to foxes and birds most likely. His eyes were settled on one set in particular. He couldn’t see where they led, true. It was one patch of mud so it was hard to tell if they continued. But for now just the simple hope it gave was enough.
One pair of footprints was human.
An Oasis or a Mirage? by Rose
The second update that had to be reposted. I promise the next update will be real LOL.
Chapter Five: An Oasis or a Mirage?
Another night had passed him by without any food. Despite his best efforts his search for some had been fruitless and he wasn’t quite bad off enough to start digging for earthworms or snails. Then there was the water problem, he was nearly out and kept praying for the miracle rain that refused to come. In fact the clouds had broken apart that morning. To sum it up, Nick was simply exhausted. Last night he was unable to simply pass out like he had the first time. Instead the hours had been long and arduous as he tossed and turned on the hard and unforgiving ground. The cool temperatures had seeped through his clothing thanks to his inability to make fire despite the many seasons of Survivor he’d seen. The still unseen pack of wolves made themselves heard again and their howls had been enough to keep Nick sufficiently on edge. At best he got patches or sleep, catnaps, in the rare moments his body caved to his pleas for rest. His stomach ached in ways that day he’d forgotten about. Ways when years ago, it happened on occasion in his family’s lowest point of poverty, back when the Backstreet Boys weren’t even a twinkle in that fat bastard, Lou Pearlman’s eye.
As he forced his body to keep trudging through the woods, his mind thought back to the scattered interviews they’d done about their upcoming documentary. It was supposed to be released in select theaters throughout the world in the first two months of 2015. The subject of Lou was one they couldn’t avoid and it was the first question unoriginal reporters jumped to along with asking for advice they’d give to this generation’s boyband, One Direction. With Lou, they lied. They lied to the fans. They lied to the media. It wasn’t a conscious decision the first time it came up. However once it happened the group subconsciously agreed it was best to stick to it.
“We wanted to confront him.” They’d parrot in almost every interview. “But the warden refused to allow all five of us, so we didn’t go.” Yet, they had been allowed to see him.
The group had wanted to know why. To quote their most famous song, they wanted Lou to tell them why. Why did he use them? Why did he steal from them? They had been so loyal in the beginning. Why create NSYNC? Was anything he said real? Was anything he did real? Did he care? Was it all just a farce? Questions that they weren’t brave enough to ask back then. Questions they’ve always wondered. Their beginnings were forever tainted by this man. Their names were always going to be connected to him.
They had a right – no, they’d deserved to know.
So they tried to get the answers they so desperate sought. It didn’t go as planned.
“Fuck you!” Nick screamed at him. “It wasn’t fucking business! You made it personal Lou. You know you did. You fucked up our lives and…and…” he stopped himself. “Just own up to it you sick fuck!”
“Nick!” Kevin grabbed him by the arm so he couldn’t lunge.
“Nick the guards are gonna drag us out of here.” Howie motioned around to the small visiting room the five of them and their sole camera man had been allowed to enter so they could confront their former manager. “You need to calm down.”
“Nicky, there’s no need to get violent.” He was so damn smug. “I taught you better.” Lou had the nerve to say.
“You taught us how to screw over people.” Brian was leaning against a wall. He’d been the one against doing this at all but went with it for the good of the group.
AJ was shaking his head. “Just…shut up. We get it. None of it was real.”
“Sure it was.”
That was when Nick lost it again. “You fucking prick! You forget, I know what you did to Aaron! What you did when I wasn’t there to protect him! He called me while we were away on tour. You might’ve been too scared to try shit like that with us, your first experiment. But I know you started your shit with Aaron! I saw the way you used to look at me when I was a kid!”
He’d never told the others. It wouldn’t have been fair to Aaron. It’d explained so much in retrospect.
Nick always told the truth when asked about the sexual allegations against Lou when it came to him. Lou never touched Nick. But he had with Aaron. Four heads turned in his direction. Four sets of eyes were wide with shock. AJ was picking at his nails like crazy all of a sudden. Howie simply stared at them.
“Dear God.” Brian whispered.
Kevin on the other hand lit up with rage. “He did what to Aaron?”
Needless to say within five minutes they’d been escorted out and later the group demanded that footage be scrapped.
“I fucking hate being alone.” He said to no one. His steps were unsteady and everything was forced. Yet he knew he couldn’t stop. “Too much time to fucking think.”
Nick wasn’t a fan of quiet time. He liked to blame it on his turbulent life. When his mind got going it often liked to jump around. Sometimes it would be on painting and sketching ideas. Other times he’d get ideas for songs and melodies would simply pop up into his head. Once in awhile he’d even get story ideas for short films or movies that he’d one day love to film. He was artistic in every sense; he always had been since he was little. But with that came an imagination that wouldn’t quit. A mind that refused to ever shut down and grant him a break. So now that he was alone in an area with only the vaguest idea of where to go, his mind wouldn’t shut down. Part of him didn’t want it to. He was lonely and wanted nothing more than to have someone there with him. Perhaps then he wouldn’t be so scared he’d fail and let Jordan die as a result.
He kept his focus, touch and go as it might be on the ground. He’d compared the footprints to the size of his own feet yesterday. Paranoia had set in quickly after he’d gone off in the direction of the footprints. What if they were his and he was going in circles? What if he was getting his hopes up for nothing? Fortunately upon the comparison he learned that the owner of them had feet three sizes smaller than his. Nick had even been rewarded for finding another set two times more before he settled down beneath another large tree for the night. He hadn’t spotted any today but he refused to give up hope. Sighing he shook the sharpened stick in his hand. It wasn’t very much. But maybe he’d stab a rabbit or something.
As if summoned a small fluffy white bunny hopped into his path. It nibbled on the grass innocently and glanced over like Nick wasn’t even the slightest bit of a threat. His eyes narrowed at the rabbit’s brash behavior. Dammit you should be afraid of me!
He lunged with his pointy stick. “DIE RABBIT DIE! Fear the Nick Carter! Rawwwwwwwwrrrrrrr!”
The rabbit dodged him and leapt forward, glancing back at him before munching on more grass. Nick fell hard to the ground and pain radiated throughout his chest. “Fucking piece of shit bunny!” He forced himself up despite the fact he might’ve just made his injures worse. He stabbed at it again and the bunny darted around like it was a taunting game of nature tag. Nick was it. “You were supposed to be dinner!”
Getting up, Nick raced after the animal. It was the first he’d physically seen rather than heard that wasn’t some sort of bird. In the back of his mind a small voice kept yelling he could be getting lost again but he ignored it. The gnawing hunger was in control of his actions now. He could just make it out up ahead. Maybe the rabbit would tire out or something. Everything had to tire out sometime. Every breath was almost pure agony but he ran through it. It would all be worth it if he managed to get food. He’d figure out how exactly to cook it without knowing how to start a fire later. The priority now was catching the bunny from hell.
He frowned when suddenly the bunny vanished mid-hop into thin air. It hadn’t gotten away, he would’ve seen that. One minute the creature was there and in another it had faded away. Nick screamed in frustration. Was his mind starting to play tricks on him now? “Fuck! Fucky-fuck fuck! I’m gonna die out here!”
Turning around, his foot caught a rock. His arms flailed in the air as he tried to catch on something but to no avail. His body continued to fall through the air and roll down the ledge he hadn’t even realized he was at. His face soon scraped against the rocks and pebbles along the ground before he finally fell into a shallow stream.
“Ugh…fucking rabbit, vision bullshit.” He groaned as he slowly pushed himself upwards. It was in that instant where he was clicked in his head. If this was a cartoon Nick knew he would’ve seen a lit up light bulb hovering above him. “Water!” He dunked his face into the water and took big gulps. “Fuck, I should be boiling this.”
Without an answer Nick resigned himself to possibly getting sick later. Dehydration would still be worse. Pulling out his dented up bottle from his jacket pocket he filled it up. Once he did that he tucked it away again and simply enjoyed the feel of the cool water. It only took a minute before he started shivering. How could he forget it was November? He shook himself off as best as he could, like a dog. It didn’t do much but that couldn’t be helped. Still the water, despite the cold, seemed to rejuvenate him. His steps were more self-assured now. He didn’t feel like he was stumbling over his own two feet. He glanced back, considering trying to go back the way he came before he started chasing some weird bunny mirage, but he was afraid that would make him even more lost than he already was. Sighing softly he continued forward from where he fell into the stream. Now he had a water source to come back to.
“I wonder what the guys are doing.” He had an idea as to what though. They were worrying about him. In truth Nick was worried about himself. With each day that passed he became surer Jordan was already dead. With each day that passed he started thinking that he might’ve been better off dying in the crash than having it drag along like this. He didn’t like to think about death, what would happen. Without concrete beliefs like three out of four of the fellas, the unknown frightened him. Brian had even talked to him about it recently, only a few months before during the end of the second leg of the North American In A World Like This tour. A rare moment where they did feel like Frick and Frack again, though they never lasted long.
“Nick.” Brian looked up from his phone, Nick assumed he’d been tweeting.
“What Bri?” The two were sitting on the stage in the Planet Hollywood venue. They were about an hour away from the soundcheck party. The group had just finished their real soundcheck so Kevin, Howie, and AJ had gone off to do their own thing. Usually Nick did too but, something just sort of kept him there that day. He wasn’t sure what.
“Do you ever think about what happens when you die?”
He stared at him and set down the guitar he’d been strumming idly. “Dude, what the fuck kind of question is that?”
Brian shrugged before shoving his phone back in his jean pocket. “It’s just a question.”
“No, that shit’s depressing and I don’t want to focus on that sort of thing man.”
“You know,” Brian wet his lips. “When I first started having my breathing and vocal problems, I thought it was something with my heart. That that was why I was out of breath so much and had to choke things out.”
Nick frowned and walked over so that he was standing in front of his friend. “If you thought it was that serious why didn’t you come to us then?”
A brow rose. “You and I were barely talking. And…I wanted to be sure first.”
It was the truth but that didn’t mean it didn’t feel like a stab in the chest. “That don’t mean I don’t fucking care, Brian.”
“I know you care. I was scared and wasn’t thinking straight. It wasn’t just you. I didn’t tell anyone that I was thinking about my heart. Not even Leighanne.”
If it were possible Nick’s brows would’ve risen so high they would’ve landed halfway through his spiked up blonde hair. “Shit.”
“She still doesn’t know I thought that far. You’re the first.” Brian sighed. “Either way I’ve thought about it off and on ever since. What if it had been my heart? What is dying really like?”
“You’re the religious one.” Nick sat on the stool beside him. “You tell me.”
“I think we continue on. Maybe in heaven like the bible. I don’t want to think there’s nothing. But even I have questions. I have faith but it doesn’t mean you can stop questions like that.”
“Maybe we get reborn. I think its reincarnation.” It always made the most sense to Nick even though he never had it in him to fully believe in anything like that. He wished he did have that ability like Brian. “But I don't know. I don't know anything. I guess I only know how I don’t wanna die.”
Brian smiled at him. “Yeah, how? Not getting eaten by zombies, right?”
“Alone. I never want to die alone.”
It was the deepest conversation he’d had with his former best friend in years. Now he might be facing one of his greatest fears. After marrying Lauren Nick thought he’d never have to worry about that again. Even if he someday lost his Backstreet brothers, even if he lost the few close friends he had outside of the group, he’d always have her. He wouldn’t die alone. Except now he was lost and alone and starving. He found water so maybe he’d last a few more weeks. But if something didn’t change, the fact remained that he would die. And he would die alone.
Dejectedly he continued his walk. He thought of Lauren who was likely going insane by now. He thought of his family who he hoped worried rather than used this as another chance for attention. Nick knew Angel would worry at least, so there was that. He pushed past some trees and blinked at the sudden onslaught of sunlight shining directly at him. The woods had been so congested he’d gotten used to the pseudo-dusk that continued around him. Nick rubbed his eyes and stared at the sight before him. He walked slowly towards it.
Please God, let this be real!
There in a small clearing that looked man-made rather than natural stood a small log cabin. There was a tiny tool shed behind it and a motorbike leaning against the side of the house. Just beyond it Nick made out a dirt path that looked well ridden. His heart leapt up into his throat. Why was he feeling like this? He should be happy. This probably housed the owner of those footprints he’d seen earlier. He must’ve missed a path leading down here. Nick stepped up to the door and reached out. His hand hovered before the door, terrified this was another image from his hunger driven mind.
You’ll never know unless you make sure dumbass. Slowly, he gently knocked upon the front door.
When it opened, he couldn’t help but almost fall over with relief at the woman standing before him.
Chapter Six: The Raven
“Holy shitballs! You’re, oh my every loving Lordie, you’re Nick Carter!”
It wasn’t the reaction he expected though he was grateful nonetheless. In the end he shouldn’t have been surprised. She was about five foot seven with dark blonde hair and blue eyes framed by a pair of glasses. The woman looked to be in her mid-twenties which was the ripe age for someone having been a diehard fan of the group back in the 1990’s. Or even a non-fan would’ve likely at least found him familiar and then made the connection. She wore a set of scrubs decorated with some weird looking rainbows and the words Zombie Rainbow beneath them, frowning as she took in his appearance. Nick supposed he was a hot mess to her. He’d be a mess to anyone though he lacked a mirror to know for sure.
“Oh my God, what happened to you?” She ushered him inside and shut the door behind him.
Nick slipped off his jacket stiffly and hung it on a coat rack sticking out of the wall. “My bus crashed. My friend’s trapped in there; can I use your phone?”
“I’m a nurse.” She told him as she led him to a worn red leather couch that looked as if it’d seen better days. “First I need to get a good look at you. Then I’ll drive you to the nearest station.”
“Because there aren't any cell towers that give service out here.” She helped him take off his ripped shirt so that she could get a better look at his chest. “My dad built this cabin years ago and it’s out in the middle of nowhere. No landline even. I only come here when I need to get away.” She continued her examination. “My dirt bike can barely get back to the main highway.” She stood up. “Wait here, I’m gonna wrap up your ribs and your arm could use a sling.”
Nick sighed deeply as he looked around the living room. It figured the first place he found had no cell service but at least now he had help. They’d go get someone to see if Jordan was even breathing still. The cabin was somewhat plain. There were family photographs along the walls, five kids and two parents. Three of the kids were boys and two were girls, just like in his family. The photos mirrored the family life he didn’t have growing up but wished he did. Her footsteps got louder and he glanced up to see her returning with a rather large first aid kit and a few other items.
“Okay.” Raven set some of the items down on the coffee table in front of the couch before gently taking his arm and placing it in a sling. “That should help give the muscles I think you pulled a break. I saw how stiff you were when you took off your jacket. My name’s Raven, Raven Salome by the way.” Raven grinned up at him as she grabbed the gauze and shifted closer so she could tend to his ribs. “So you know who’s feeling you up.”
Nick chuckled weakly and let her do her work. “I’d introduce myself but I know you already know who I am. Thank you.”
“I did grow up in the nineties. I’d have to be a nun not to. But you’re welcome.” She continued to wrap his chest. “There’s not much I can do about your ribs. The swelling and bruising makes it pretty obvious you probably broke them but the wrap will help them heal slightly faster. Keep taking deep breaths too. I know they hurt but it’s the best thing for you.” She paused. “Was your bus the crash I heard about on the news a few days ago?”
It wasn’t much but he did feel a difference in his chest thanks to her. He wondered if the fellas requested his name stay out of the press till he was found. “Yeah, I’ve been wandering the woods ever since.”
Her quiet was almost inaudible with her next question. “How badly was your friend injured?”
Nick looked away and focused on his dirty hands covered with scrapes and cuts. Suddenly he had the urge to try and pick at the grime beneath his fingernails. “He was pinned and really pale. Impaled by glass from the window. I know he wouldn’t be able to get out of the bus on his own.” He sighed. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”
“The report said they found two bodies but wouldn’t say who.”
He stared at the floor.
“Nick, I’m sorry. I’m sure he knew you tried like hell to get him help.”
Jordan coughed violently, his body racked by them. “Nick…”
“I’m going to go get help okay?” He wondered just how aware the other man was. So far all he’d said is his name. Did he really know Nick was there? Was the pain too much for him to try and say anything more? He had so many questions.
He shook his head. “No…” More coughs followed. “Don’t leave me.”
Jordan, like him, hadn’t wanted to die alone. Nick didn’t. But his friend suffered the fate he so desperately feared. He prayed it’d been quick. He prayed in that moment that his body had been found quick enough so that it wasn’t torn apart by animals. He prayed for a lot of things. But deep down he wondered if his prayers truly reached anything, or anyone. “Yeah.”
“They wouldn’t release who was in the crash on the news.” Raven said softly. “Just that it took a day to find the bus and that they were protecting the privacy of the families. Now I get why. They wanted to find you before anyone realized it was yours and Jordan’s bus.”
He glanced up. “You knew it was Jordan?”
She shrugged. “I know you two were on tour together. I downloaded your album a few weeks before I took a vacation.” She grabbed some gauze. “Turn around so I can get a better look at the back of your head.” Raven frowned after he did was he was told. Her hands were gentle as they mapped out his head but the area around where he’d hit it was still rather tender. “It’s a mess.” She grabbed the antiseptic and went to work. “Do you know how hard you hit it?”
“Enough to knock me out for awhile.” He hissed when she hit a sore spot. “I got launched out the window before the bus stopped rolling.”
“I think that’s what saved your life.” Raven said matter of factly. “The final impact was likely the worst and you missed it.” After cleaning what she could of the wound she began to wrap his head. “Later I’ll check this out again.” Her hands rested on his cheeks and turned him towards her.
Suddenly a bright light flashed into his eyes. “Shit, what are you doing?”
“Your eyes aren’t too dilated or unfocused. Did you vomit after you woke up from your head injury?”
Nick stared at her as if she’d lost her mind. “No.”
“You remember what happened and you’re able to retain new information.” She smiled at him and turned off her keychain flashlight. Raven tucked it back in the first aid kit along with the rest of her gauze. “That’s good news cause you didn’t get a concussion. You were lucky.”
It was as if she could sense his morbid thoughts. Raven stood and brushed her scrubs off. “Have you eaten? I want to give you something for the pain but I can’t till I know you have some food in your stomach. Then we can head into the little town up the road. Is that okay?”
Slowly, Nick nodded. Part of him felt guilty because he knew he needed to get to the others as soon as he could. Knowing for sure now that Jordan was dead he could only assume they thought the same about him. They needed to know that he was okay. They needed to know he was alive. He could imagine just how sick with worry his wife was and that was the last thing she needed. But at the same time Nick knew he wasn’t going to hold up much longer. He’d become accustomed to ever-present aches and pains of his damaged body but soon he wouldn’t be able to take much more. Not to mention his stomach felt like it was slowly eating itself.
Raven flashed him a pretty smile. “Okay. Let me get you some new clothes too. My father passed away a couple years ago but I’m a packrat so I never threw out his stuff. I’m sure some of it will fit you.”
Nick didn’t anything. He simply watched her walk away. His eyes traveled the walls again. Off in a corner was her diploma from some nursing school. He didn’t bother to read which one. As much as he wanted to leave, part of him was afraid. Afraid of what, exactly? He wasn’t sure. His nerves were on edge. All his hairs seemed to stand on end and he couldn’t figure out why. Perhaps his mind hadn’t caught up to the fact that he was safe, finally. Or perhaps it was the fact Jordan died because he got lost in the woods and took too long to find his way. Maybe he should’ve stayed with Jordan instead of leave. Would he have been found already? Would Jordan still be alive?
I’m sorry I fucked up Jordan. I’m sorry. I hope it was quick for you.
“Nick?” Her jerked back and glanced up. She was standing there with a folded flannel and a pair of jeans. Her smile was understanding though it didn’t quite meet her eyes. “These look pretty close to your size. I’ll go start on some lunch while you get changed.”
It took a few minutes before he finally responded. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing.” She replied. “You helped me many times when I was a teen with your music. It’d be wrong if I didn’t try to help you. Don’t worry about it.”
She walked into the tiny kitchen just off to the right of the living room and Nick slowly stood from the couch. It took some effort, getting his jeans off. He knew he couldn’t just go commando right then like he sometimes did, so he left his boxer briefs on. Getting jeans on one handed was awkward and he almost tripped, bumping into the nearby handmade coffee table. A paperweight slid off and made a resounding thump when it hit the ground. Thankfully it didn’t break.
“I’m alright!” He yelled back. Raven was kind but still a fan. He didn’t want to try changing right in front of her. Besides, I have one pant leg on, just need one more.
Bending over, he used the arm in his sling to hold on to the pants while trying not to jerk too much and cause himself even more pain. Slowly and with careful movements he managed to get his other leg within the pants and use his good arm to pull them upwards till he could button them. It took a lot of jumping but no one was watching. Nick smiled in triumph. Then it faded. It felt wrong to smile. He was alive, but two were dead. How was that fair? But at the same time he was so relieved that he’d found this place. He was grateful for the fact that he had gotten this far. He could go home. Nick would be able to see Lauren and the fellas again. It felt like a miracle.
“Lunch is ready!”
Nick sat himself at the tiny and round wooden table just outside at the tiny kitchen. Like everything else, it looked handmade. He smiled to himself at the grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken noodle soup set before him. Raven sat across from him a few moments later with a plate of her own. He didn’t care about appearances though. He dived right in and ate like he hadn’t for weeks. Which while exaggerated, he hadn’t eaten for days. It felt like enough justification for him.
“Why come out here?” Nick said between bites. Now that he found another person he wanted his brain to shut off at all costs. If he wasn’t thinking, he wasn’t feeling guilty.
She smiled at him serenely. “It helps me think. Work got too stressful so I took a vacation. My dad might be gone but I feel closer to him here. He was crafty, built this place himself. I have enough backup generators that I could last here for years if I knew how to hunt.” Raven laughed. “Not that I want to. I like being plugged into the world. But breaks are nice.”
“That sounds nice.”
“Oh yeah, and sometimes you can find the most interesting things. Like how I found you.”
Suddenly the world seemed to spin around him. He couldn’t focus. He could see her mouth move, her lips forming the words but it all sounded like he was hearing everything from underwater. He wished impulsively he really was in the ocean he loved so much.
“Nick, are you alright?” It was like she was screaming through the void around him. Raven smiled more. A smile that was so out of place in her face now. Her eyes blazed brightly and eagerly. “You don’t look like you’re up to going anywhere anymore.”
He tried to speak but found he couldn’t. He couldn’t even sit up. Nick fell off to the side of the chair. His vision was blurry though he could see her moving calmly up to his now paralyzed body. She ran a hand through his hair, brushing it off his forehead. She kissed his temple before whispering in his ear.
“Oh Nick, I’m so happy you walked through my door. Finally, my prayers have been answered.”
What…the…fuck? Even his thoughts were becoming slowed and nonsensical. He could barely comprehend what was going on around him. The feel of cold hard metal formed upon his wrists. His eyelids felt heavier and heavier. Weights had been put upon them to force him into a dark abyss he didn’t want to enter.
“The love of my life has finally come home, where he belongs.” He didn’t know if those words had been real, or if his muddled mind created them.
As darkness fell upon him, it didn’t seem to matter.
Sorry about the delay! Real life issues got in the way. But that's all fixed now so expect regular updates again soon!
Chapter Seven: Trouble
“Every little thing about her says she’s trouble…trouble…”
Those are our voices. That’s our song.
“And every little thing she do just makes me want her more…more and more…”
What the hell happened? Where am I?
“She melts, melts herself all over me…me…me…”
I found a house. Got let inside, bandaged up, then what?
“As sexy candle but so much hotter…”
Bright light attacked his eyes as they blinked open bit by bit. He squinted at his surroundings as they slowly adjusted and came into focus around him. This room seemed different than the others. The walls weren’t simply decorated with family photos and tasteful paintings. Instead there were girlish things adorning the walls, star shaped lights strung above the window. Posters along the walls. Nick suddenly realized he was surrounded with posters, countless posters of nineties boybands – NSYNC, LFO, Take 5, 5ive, Otown, Hanson, Youngstown, 98 Degrees… But the most were of the only group that hadn’t disbanded. A group he was proud to be a member of. And then there were many, many pictures of himself, solo.
She said she was a fan but, this is like a shrine to her fucking teeny days. Why am I in here? What happened?
Nick tried to remember what came after that but it was all a blur. Had he hit his head again? It was aching as if he had. He moved to rub it and his brows shot up when he jerked his arm only to realize it couldn’t come down. His wrists slammed against metal handcuffs and frantically he looked around. He was bound down to a heavy wooden bed frame that gave no sign of caving to him any time soon. This made no sense. The last thing he remembered was coming inside and Raven wrapping him up. His brow furrowed as he struggled to recall anything more. Did they have dinner?
No, lunch. We had lunch. Didn’t we? Did we go anywhere? His eyes shot around wildly, frantically like a caged lion. His heart pounded against his chest as he came up with more questions that begged desperately to be answered.
“Hello? HELLO?! I need to get out!” He screamed.
The sound of he and the fellas singing continued to haunt him. “Pain is just pleasure with the volume up, I want it louuuuuuder…”
“Can anyone hear me?! HELLO!”
Then, the music stopped.
“Good morning Nick!” Raven came in the doorway with a sweet smile. In her hands was a bed tray adorned with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and a small glass of milk. They were cut into the shape of hearts. “How are we feeling this morning?”
“What the fuck is this!?”
She set the trey over his chest before sitting in a chair at the side of the bed. “Shhh, if you don’t calm down you’ll reinjure yourself. You’re here for your protection.”
“Turn that shit off!” Nick didn’t know why but the sound of their voices singing in the background felt like the biggest mockery of them all. Raven sighed but reached over and shut off her IPod. “I thought maybe the music would soothe you, something familiar.”
“What. The. Hell. Is. This. SHIT?!”
Raven hovered above him and dabbed at his face with a wet washcloth. Her actions completely contradicted his current captivity. She was almost motherly in the way she tried to tend to him. “Shhh, calm down and I can explain everything to you.”
It took everything Nick possessed not tell her to shove that back to hell and to follow it down. He took a deep breath and winced at the pain in his chest. “Fine.”
She lifted his sheets. One thing Nick was relieved about was the fact he still had his pants on. “Maybe I should’ve gone lighter on the dose. You fell pretty hard and might’ve caused more damage to yourself.” She sighed and shook her head. “I guess what’s done is done.”
He struggled against the handcuffs again but to no avail. “You going to tell me what’s going on?”
Raven simply ignored the question, instead picking up one of the sandwiches. She hummed at him and began to feed him like he was a baby. “Here comes the plane!” Her eyes narrowed when he clamped his mouth shut. “Nickolas, you need to cooperate if this is going to work.”
You think I’m fucking stupid? He thought to himself with an eye roll so hard he felt like he could see his brain.
She rolled her eyes right back at him. “If I want to drug you, all I need now is a syringe. Now you need to eat so I can give you some pain medication.”
Sighing, he opened his mouth and let her feed him. It was as if the mere mention of medication reminded his body of the battle it’d been through so far. His head was aching, his muscles sore. His shoulder in particular was throbbing. Nick didn’t have to be able to reach his ribs to know they were still tender. Every breath he took told him that. He was at this girl’s mercy, as horrifying as the situation was in that moment.
Raven smiled sweetly. “That’s my boy. I tricked you the first time because I know this is going to take time. You don’t know what I know. Once you do then I’ll be able to release you. We can be happy together Nick, we can make this work.”
He spat in her face. “You’re fucking crazy!”
So much for staying calm, he thought immediately after.
Her reaction was swift. Raven stood and slapped him as hard she could, her nails scraping across his skin. Nick’s head jerked to the side upon impact and his cheek burned immediately after. He could feel a wetness trickling along his face and knew she’d drawn blood. His eyes were wide with shock. Why, he wasn’t sure. The handcuffs and drugging were sure enough signs this woman wasn’t with a sane mind.
“Damn it!” She took the washcloth and began dabbing at the small cuts she made. “See what you made me do?” She sniffed and rubbed at the corner of her eyes with her free hand. “I don’t want to hurt you, Nick. I love you. But because I love you, I have to do what’s best.” Raven sighed. “Even if you don’t understand. I’ve done a lot of things people don’t understand because it was for the best. Life is about the sacrifices you make for the good of others. It hurts me, hurting you. Don’t make me do it again.” The warning was crystal clear within her voice.
He swallowed hard. “So what, you’re just going to keep me captive here?!”
“You’ll be free eventually, but by then I just know you’ll want to stay.” Raven kissed him on the cheek. It made Nick shudder involuntarily. Her gentle blue eyes grew cold as ice. “I don’t care how long it takes. I’ve waited a long time for you. I’ve been a fan of you for so long.” Her smile that followed was wistful. “All the way back to your Red Album, my cousin was living in Europe and sent me a copy of your debut saying it was the big thing back there. I saw your picture…” She brushed his hair back out of his face. “And I just knew.”
Slowly she sat back down and began to feed him again. Nick complied out of fear of what would happen. “Knew what?”
She held up a straw from the glass of milk to his mouth and let him sip. Never in his life had he felt so helpless. So at the mercy of another the way he was now. “Knew that one day, it would be you and me. I just had to be patient. A few months ago I was even ready to give up, and move on.”
Deep down, he knew he shouldn’t ask, but he couldn’t help himself. “What stopped you?”
Raven tilted her head and continued to feed her charge. “Your tweet, sweetie, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten…”
Tweet? The fuck? I tweet hundreds, no thousands, of fans…
“I remember tweeting you the way I always do when I notice you’re on Twitter. And you finally saw me! Realized what I did. When you told me you loved me too.”
Oh…fuck. How many times had he tweeted fans that tweeted their love to him? It seemed so harmless at the time. Three words to their twitter handle and they’d squeal and tweet him their happiness. And it wasn’t a lie, not really. Nick did love his fans, the group’s fans. It was their unwavering support that kept the group alive even at their darkest times. But he’d thought they’d all grown far past the teenybopper stage of thinking he was truly in love with any of them. Despite the hate Lauren would get from the more “interesting” section of his fanbase, or as Nick thought of them, completely crazy, he figured even they weren’t that delusional. This is what he got for thinking – becoming a helpless captive of a whacked out fan who thought they were soul mates. Taking a deep breath, he gazed up at his warden as his mind raced for something, anything, to help him find the right words.
Were there any right words for this?
“I love all my fans.” He said with a tone that was as soft and as gentle as possible. It was as if he was speaking to a small child.
Her eyes narrowed momentarily. The cruel look faded as quickly as it came. “You poor thing, you’ve been coached to say that so often it’s probably instinct for you.” She ruffled his hair. “It’s okay. I’ll help you realize your true feelings and we’ll be happy together.”
Nick stared at her. There was nothing he could say to bring her back to any semblance of reality.
“Do you want to watch TV?” She set the now empty TV tray aside and reached for the remote. On the other side of the room was an older television with a huge back. It still worked when she turned it on. “I’ve had this thing since I was a teenager.”
Nick nodded and his eyes widened at his face being plastered along the screen. A young lady by the name of Julie was reporting. “The bus was found along the edge of Shadow Woods two days prior. The bodies that had been found have now been revealed to be the bus driver David Schultz and New Kids member, Jordan Knight. There has been no sign of Backstreet Boy Nick Carter who was also believed to be in the bus on the way to his and Jordan’s next show. Police continue the search for his body.”
Raven giggled, her eyes bright. “They don’t even know you’re alive, it’s like my little secret.”
“The other members of the Backstreet Boys released this statement – Our thoughts and prayers go to the remaining members of NKOTB and to their fans. We still hold out the hope that Nick is alive and want to reach out to anyone who may have information as to what happened to him. If he’s no longer with us, we simply want to find closure.”
“I bet Howie is the saddest…” She mused as she glanced at her prisoner. The story continued on in the background. “You two were the new Frick and Frack.”
Nick kept his gaze on the TV. He knew the fellas were going crazy. They’d been protective of him for as long as he could remember. Even when things got rough.
“His wife, Lauren Kitt Carter had this to say,” Nick’s heart gave a lurch when he suddenly saw the love of his life on the screen. Her face was free of any makeup and her eyes were red from countless tears. “I know deep down Nick is out there somewhere. I love you and please, find your way back to us.”
The reporter continued after the video finished. “Again, if you know anything about the disappearance of Nick Carter, please contact the following number...”
“See, you gotta let me go.” He pleaded, struggling once again against his handcuffs. “They don’t even know I’m alive! Lauren…”
She whirled around on him, her face red. “You will NOT speak of that bitch in this house! Do you hear me? Lauren doesn’t exist anymore! If I had my way she’d be dead with your pitchy untalented friend Jordan! She tried to steal you away from me! If you bring her up then I’ll be forced to punish you!” Tears sprang to Raven’s eyes. “And I don’t want to punish you unless you make me!”
His heart pounded fiercely in his chest. Dear God, what is going to happen to me in here? Lauren, baby, please don’t give up on me!
She took his silence as submission and appeared placated. “There…” Her voice was tauntingly soothing. Raven leaned in and kissed his cheek. His stomach churned, threatening to expel the sandwiches within. “See? It’s gonna be alright. Everything is gonna be alright now that we’re together…”
But Nick knew the truth. Nothing was going to be alright ever again.
Chapter Eight: I’m Taking Off
How long have I been here? It was hard to tell.
His thoughts felt more coherent that morning. Was it morning? The past few what he assumed to be days were for the most part a blur of images in his mind. The sun was setting from what he could tell, a rosy hue filtered through the dirty window along with the dying rays of light. He couldn’t remember that morning, though all evidence pointed to it being evening. When he tired his brain seemed to go fuzzy with hazy images fleeing the moment his brain went to fully grasp them. Raven’s face was one of them, hovering from above. Nick shuddered instinctively. Who knew what this woman planned to do with him? What would come next? She truly believed in her cause. Her eyes blazed with the false truth – that he was her soul mate. God only knew when he might be freed from this new hell.
How have I gone to the bathroom? He wondered. There was no bedpan beneath. Nothing that could make that happen. Thankfully he wore no diapers. Such a thing would only further his degradation within this place. Nick once again forced his brain to dive into his memories but he only knew one thing.
She’d been in watching him constantly. She’d been smiling.
Swallowing back the bile that threatened to rise, he forced a smile. It was a fan smile. The smile that so instinctively came any time a fan approached him and seemed a bit off. The smile he used when his family had been shitting all over his life and he had to pretend everything was fine. A smile when he was trapped in a mob of fans on the BSB Cruises when all he’d wanted to do was take a few selfies and the crazy ones had swarmed him. It was fake, and plastered and old reliable. Nick only prayed she didn’t know that smile. Many of the saner ones did.
This chick is out of her fucken mind so maybe she won’t.
He coughed and gazed up into those dark and empty blue eyes of hers. “Still here.”
She brushed his hair out of his face, stroking his bandaged up forehead. “I know baby, and you’ve been so patient. I can’t wait for the day you’re able to be up and about. We can really start our lives together then.”
Steady, Nick... he reminded himself. If you lose it, she’ll kill you.
His bladder probably should be screaming, shouting, but it wasn’t. He was thankful for that one miracle. What could he say to Raven though? Could he truly stomach pretending he was seeing things her way? That he was willing to cooperate with her psychotic delusions? He could hardly handle staying quiet. Each moment felt like acid in his stomach bubbling intensely and begging to burst at just that concept, let alone playing in her little games. His options were few.
Nick refused to become her living Ken Doll.
But, he also needed to survive. For the fellas. For Lauren.
“Thank you.” He croaked.
“Anything for you.” She cooed. Raven reached for the TV remote. “You’re doing so much better today. No complications from your injuries. Your accident was very lucky. You made it out alive and it finally brought us together.” She started channel surfing. She seemed disgruntled at the reports and kept changing channels, Nick saw his face flashed on a number of screens before she gave up and turned it back off.
I hope everyone doesn’t think I’m dead. I need them to keep looking.
Nick stared at her, his fan smile frozen upon his face and threatening to shatter into a thousand shards.
“I want to tell you all about me,” She continued, shifting closer upon the bed. “I’ve been a fan of yours forever it feels like. I remember the first time I saw you in person.”
He swallowed the initial reply that sprang to mind back, inhaling the sickly sweet flowery aroma that seemed to surround her. “Have you?”
“Oh yes. My family was originally in Florida.” Her face darkened. “After my mother abandoned us, we moved to the west coast.”
This bitch is fucking crazy.
“Anyways…” She forced a smile. “Back to lighter memories. The first time I saw you,” she sighed happily as her eyes took on a glazed look, “it was September 21st, 1997. It was in Kissimmee, and when I watched you sing, I knew I was right about you being my soul mate. It didn’t matter that I was only fourteen. Sometimes, you just know.”
Nick, hard as he tried, couldn’t manage to hide his confusion. “We were both just kids then.”
“Age is a number. I mean you’re not that much older than me. Three years is nothing. And less than a century ago plenty of girls got married at that age, because they knew who they loved and who they wanted.” She smiled at him patiently. “I knew, and I was right.”
“I…” He searched for words. “I wasn’t criticizing you. I was shocked, because of my background.” He had to keep her calm. That much was true. “It’s um, hard for me to picture, because of that.”
“Really? Oh. I should’ve realized. I’m sorry.” She kissed his cheek before she stood and brushed herself off. “But I need to start working on dinner. I can’t have you going hungry. I gotta take good care of you.”
Suddenly an idea shot into his head and his head snapped upwards. She hadn’t drugged him yet today. That was why his mind felt so clear and why he wasn’t fighting that thick mental fog that kept him in constant confusion. It had to be why she was so eager to feed him again. “Raven…” His voice was soft, sweet, almost charming. “Wait a minute.”
Nick prayed his face didn’t twitch with the disgust he felt at those words. “I need to use the bathroom, and um, I was kind of hoping, you’d be able to help me to it.” He gazed at her as gently as he could; praying deep down that the acting classes he took over the years might finally pay off. If there was ever a time he needed them too, it was now. “Please…baby.”
Her dark blue eyes lit up with joy. “You want me to help you?”
Thank you God. I said the fucking magic words! “Of course I do.”
Carefully she came over and pulled out the keys to the cuff from her inside her bra. “I was worried I was going to have to use a catheter. I’m glad I don’t Nicky, I’m so glad. I didn’t want to.”
Me too. I dodged another damn bullet.
She unlocked his left hand and while he was tempted to act, the effort would be too futile while the rest of his limbs were still tight against the bed. She cuffed his free hand to the other to keep them together while undoing the right from the bedpost. His legs were unchained only then but quickly shackled together with enough space so that he could shuffle to the bathroom. It was this controlled release of him that reminded Nick that Raven might be completely out of her mind, she was far from dumb.
His body screamed in pain as she helped him sit up and then stand up. Nick had never felt so stiff or sore in his entire life. The pain from the accident and trek through the woods, only to be followed up by being tied down had done its work on him. Slowly she guided him to the bathroom, his feet moving in small shuffled steps. He used her for complete support – half out of necessity and half to keep her in such good spirits. The more trust he had from her then, the better.
God, if you exist, please let the bathroom have a decent enough fucking window! Once inside the bathroom, Raven backed out and shut the door. He could hear the click as she locked him inside. Immediately he wondered when she changed the locks in the house, not that it was important.
“Here you go sweetie.” Her voice called through the thick wooden door. “I’ll be back in about ten minutes. If you need me sooner, yell okay? Maybe we can both eat at the table tonight for dinner, if everything keeps going well. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
“It does.” He swallowed hard. “Thank you.” Then, he waited, his heart beating at a mile a minute. Her footsteps gradually began to fade steadily. Once Nick was sure she was gone, he looked around. For the first time since the crash, he caught sight of his reflection in the nearby mirror.
Simply put, he was a mess.
His face was a mix of fading blacks and blues, there was very little space that wasn’t bruised. In fact he could still see the fading outline of parts of a hand. He frowned; he hadn’t realized Raven had hit him that hard. There were little cuts all along his cheeks as well as a gash she must have stitched up on him just above his right eyebrow. There was a little patch of his forehead and then gauzed wrapped around his head heavily, his golden hair was above the bandaging, messy and going off in wild places. If he didn’t know better, he’d mistake himself for a zombie.
I probably looked way worse when I got to this hell hole, he reassured himself. Focus Nick. That shit isn’t important right now. He had to get out while there was still time. Window. I need a fucking window!
When he turned around to look, there it was, just above the toilet. It was smaller than he would’ve liked, but thanks to the way he’d been keeping himself in shape, Nick was pretty sure he could slip through. It would be tight but it was better than nothing. He walked over and carefully climbed on the seat. It was harder than he first thought given the limited mobility of his hands and feet but he managed, eventually standing atop the seat. He had to move with precise movements if he wanted to stay steady. One crash would bring Raven running, surely.
Music had begun to play softly from the kitchen. For a moment, hearing his own voice threw him.
I keep on sinking in this black hole
Somehow I gotta rise above…
No Captain Kirk here to save me,
Stuck in this vortex of love…
Nick shook his head and ignored Raven’s badly off tune voice singing alone. He had to get moving. His body screamed in protest as he shifted and maneuvered his way to the top of the water tank, using the window ledge to pull himself up into a standing position. He wasn’t sure how much he could take but there was no time to focus on the searing pain in his ribs. Or the ache running down his arm. His head was beginning to throb from the lack of medications, he assumed. Quietly he slid the window open and looked down. There was only one way to get down.
The drop would be wouldn’t be a long one but he knew it’d hurt. Wiggling through the window as best as he could, he let himself fall to the ground. Bracing himself for the impact did nothing as he slammed against the thankfully soft dirt. It must have rained again, fortunately for him. Looking around for any sign Raven heard him, he quickly started half shuffling/half running into the woods. It was the fastest form of escape he could manage with his feet still shackled together. As he rushed into the dark sanctuary of the trees, he prayed for night to fall swiftly.
Darkness would be the only friend he’d have in the world to aide him right now.
Lauren, baby, I’m gonna find my way back to you. I promise. Please don’t give up on me!
The prayer was repeated over and over in his mind and murmured from his lips as he made his escape.
Chapter Nine: Don’t Leave Me
His steps were small but fast. Several times he could feel himself start to stumble because of their limited movement and Nick had to force himself to slow back down. If he fell that could cause a lot of noise. Noise was the last thing he needed. Time escaped him and he could only guess at how long he’d been “running” away from his captor. The only way he had any idea was to judge by the setting sun which was now down to its last rays of light. In the gaps visible between the tops of trees as he navigated through the heavy woods, he could spy the first starts beginning to appear in the darkening sky.
Lauren, I’m coming baby. Please don’t give up on me! It was a silent prayer his mind screamed over and over again. He needed her to believe he was alive. As long as she did, people would still be looking for him. Police officers could be combing these very woods. Every bit of luck possible had to be on his side. The odds were against him otherwise. And he might lose everything he worked so hard for in life.
That wasn’t even including his career.
He wanted to have that dream life he’d been denied for so many years – a stable family. He wanted all the years ahead to live with Lauren, have kids, maybe even one day grandkids. Nick would give all the love his parents failed to give him once money came into the picture. He could do everything right. Make sure his someday family never turned into the wreck the one he grew up in had been. They’d have the fellas as their uncles, their kids as cousins. He never told anyone how often he daydreamed about this stuff because it was simply too personal. He felt vulnerable anytime he’d watch the others and wish for it himself. Now he was a married man to the love of his life…
The crazy bitch wants to take everything away. I won’t let her!
“NICKOLAS!!!” Her voice shrieked through the trees, birds scattered at the sound. It was brutal, wild, an animal like howl that chilled his very soul.
Fuck! Shit! Fuck! Nick’s mind screamed, it took everything he had not to make any noise as he ducked behind a tree. He had to listen, he had to be sure that she wasn’t too close.
“You will come back to me!” Raven’s cry echoed about him as he prayed yet again for the distance between them to stay as it was. “If I can’t have you…Nickolas…NO ONE ever will again!”
She’s going to kill me. She’s going to kill me. Oh my fucking god she will actually kill me. That same thought ran through his frantic mind over and over in a constant loop. His gaze darted around in desperation, continuing his shuffled run. Beads of sweat covered his pale and battered face despite the cold in the air. Nick didn’t let himself wonder why his hands shook so violently from within their cuffs.
“Ready or not…here I come…” Her voice didn’t sound far this time.
Swallowing back the vomit that wanted to come forth, Nick picked up the pace as best he could. Fear controlled his every decision, every step, and every thought. He didn’t have the slightest clue where he was going nor did he care in that moment. That was something that could be sorted out later. When he was safe. A thought that suddenly seemed laughable. Would he ever be safe again? He just knew escape was the only option he had. Sooner or later, his captor would surely murder him for not playing along into her twisted deluded fantasies. Raven would only be content if she got to play out the daydreams in her head. Something Nick knew he could never do. He ducked behind a massive tree as his lungs screamed for air. His bruised ribs couldn’t take much more of this.
“You can’t hide from me.” She said softly, completely calm and devoid of any emotion.
Those words brought only more haunting memories.
“You can’t hide from your family Nickolas!” His mother shrieked over the phone. It’d been his eighteenth birthday and rather than throw a party or celebrate it, he’d done the best thing for him – he’d moved away from home. He needed a life as a person, instead of an ATM machine for his parents. Still, despite encouragement from Kevin and Brian…the guilt gnawed away at his aching heart.
“I’m not hiding.” Lies. “I’m giving myself space. I still love you mom.”
“So you’ll still help.” Also known as spending all of his hard earned money on anything and everything his parents and siblings wanted. He only wished he could protect Aaron who he knew had a chance of suffering the same fate with his fledgling career. Aaron, the brother he liked to call his “mini-me” might become so, in more ways than one.
“Mom, I…” He sighed deeply. “I’ll still help but I can’t keep funding everything. And you have the book.” A tell-all essentially, written by his mother about her eldest son. How twisted was that?
“We helped get you to where you are Nick. Remember that. You owe us for it.”
“I gotta go.” Without waiting for a reply, he hung up. How much was he expected to repay? Where would it end? He wanted the world for his family, but was it going to be at the cost of his own happiness? When does he stop being a brother, a son…and become only a means to an end?
Nick shook his head as he caught his breath. Now wasn’t the time to get lost in the past. He bet his mother was having a field day with his disappearance though. Sick as it made him, he bet she made a nice chunk of change selling her so-called heartache to the tabloids without checking in with those who actually did love and care about him. He knew his siblings were likely worried though. Even Aaron. His relationship with his little brother was complicated and troubled, but there was always love there.
“Olly olly oxen free…” Raven called softly out into the air.
She was close.
Oh god. He felt panicked as he started running as best as his chained feet would allow. The surroundings became a blur as his reasons for fleeing flashed before his eyes. Lauren. The fellas. His friends. The fans. His siblings. All the things he’s ever done. Everything he’s never had a chance to do. What he’d accomplished and goals yet to be reached. There was just so much more. Life had so many opportunities for him and he refused to go out like this. No. Not after fighting so hard for everything he’d finally been able to achieve and look forward to.
I will beat you!
He never felt the tranquilizer dart pierce him in the side.
Only as everything began to fade into darkness did he realize what had happened.
“Oh Nick, stay with me. You can’t leave just yet.”
Light burned against his eyes, causing him to immediately close them again. Everything felt muddled and dulled as his mind struggled to catch up on what happened. He remembered falling to the ground as the world faded around him. Raven’s voice hauntingly attempting to calm him as she dragged him towards the cabin. Every rock and bump kept him from passing out completely. She’d laughed at his pain, calling it karma. Only once he was thrown into the bed and bound back down did oblivion finally take him into its dark embrace. He blinked again, albeit more slowly that time.
“So you are awake.” Raven’s blue eyes were dark and cold as they stared him down. “Good. We can start.”
His eyes widened at the TV tray at her side, littered with various medical instruments. “Start what?”
She smiled but it went nowhere near her eyes. “What comes next. You have to learn Nick. If you don’t then I have to keep punishing you and…I don’t like punishing you.”
God, please let someone find me! He’d blown his one chance at escape.
“This is a surgical knife.” The metal sparkled in the morning light. “It can do a lot of damage if it’s used for the wrong reasons…or if the patient isn’t properly doped up.”
She moved to crawl on top of him, the weight of her causing waves of pain to radiate along his ribs. He clenched his teeth, refusing to give her what she clearly wanted. Staring her down he maintained his silence as his brow began to glisten. Raven stared back without even a single reaction to his evident agony. “Don’t worry Nick, I won’t let you die. But you should cry if you want…that way I know when to stop.”
No, I won’t give you this. I refuse!
Her work is slow as the knife carves into his flesh unforgivingly. Blood follows though she doesn’t slow. Nick’s crumbling will finally fell to pieces, screaming as she hums to herself contentedly. She had a specific plan in mind. All Nick could focus on was the horrible burning that stabbed through his chest. They weren’t terribly deep cuts, but they weren’t shallow enough either. As a nurse – if she really was one once, Raven must have known how far to go to really drive home the agony without causing him to bleed to death. Tears were flowing from his eyes. Tears that he couldn’t control and hated himself for it. Because he knew, deep down, they wouldn’t gain any sympathy. His keeper would get off on this, and see it as a win.
“I read this in a fanfic once, and I never forgot it.” She said to him as everything began to feel far away. “Maybe now you won’t forget it.” She giggled then, almost like a teenager. “I’d give you drugs…” Raven climbed off, tossing her long blonde hair over her shoulder as she walked to the doorway. “But then it wouldn’t be a punishment. I made sure you won’t die from this, don’t worry. But, if you pass out, I hope you have a good nap!”
He glanced down and immediately felt the vomit rise to his throat. It took everything to force it back down. “You crazy fucking bitch!”
“I’m not crazy! YOU’LL SEE! One day you will love me!” The door slammed behind her. It was only a small win as Nick fought the throbbing pain and gazed back down at himself.
MINE was carved in bloody letters along the center of his chest.
I know, it's been awhile. I want to be sure I'm doing this story right so I'm hording chapters and I kept changing things. Hopefully some of you are still reading and either way, I'm sorry this chapter took me so long to post.
Chapter Ten: Shattered
Nick had a love/hate relationship with staying at the apartment. On the one hand, it was a break from the constant yelling about money – a constant subject in his parents’ many, many arguments. The worst feeling was Nick lying in his bed at night with his sister BJ’s across from his as he pretended to be asleep. Anything to avoid answering her questions about what he thought might happen. He’d keep his eyes shut tight, did everything he could to ignore the screams about how his dreams were causing the money problems as they echoed from downstairs. When he was able to sleep here, he could pretend he didn’t live in a broken home where parents who were supposed to reassure him chose instead to fire a gun out the window or throw things against the walls as scare tactics.
The downside was how the fellas always made him feel like he was some little kid! Nick was the oldest in his family! He could take care of himself. All he wanted was for them to see that, to show that they saw it. Well, sort of. Deep down, though he would never admit it – he liked that (for once) someone was looking out for him. He wasn’t forced to be the strong one in the group. He didn’t have to be a fourteen-year-old-going-on-forty. As annoying as the “little kid” treatment got…they would let him be a kid more than anyone else in his life.
Which was pretty sad if he let himself think about it – and he didn’t want to.
“Hey AJ, you awake?”
A grumble came from the sleeping bag next to his. “No Nick, I’m sleep-talking and if I don’t stop then sleep-punching comes next.”
He sighed, sometimes he forgot how annoyed sleepy AJ could get. “Sorry.”
Something in his tone must have gotten to AJ, because moments later he was sitting up and looking at him expectantly, “What’s wrong?” He waited before continuing when Nick didn’t reply. “You may as well tell me so I can go back to sleep.”
He smiled only slightly making it easy to miss. “Nothing. Just…do you think my parents would ever let me live here if I told them it’d make things easier for the band?”
AJ laughed softly with a shake of his head. “I don’t think they’d go for it.” He paused. “Hey…is everything okay at home?”
Despite his best attempts to hide it in the beginning, the group quickly caught on to the dysfunction that surrounded the Carter household. It was why the others had gotten so protective of their youngest member. Nick had once overheard Kevin and Brian talking about it once when they thought he was well out of earshot and busy playing on his Gameboy. ‘Someone has to look out for the kid Bri, cause his parents sure as hell won’t.’
It’d hurt to hear but he never mentioned it.
“More fighting.” Was all Nick said aloud.
“Maybe I can get my mom to have you over.” He shrugged. “Shit, I get bored too.”
Nick couldn’t help but grin. He knew why his friend was offering it but that didn’t matter. What mattered was the escape from his own life and the fact AJ cared enough to put it out there to begin with. His bandmates saw him for Nick and…it meant everything to him. “I’ll ask my mom when they pick me up next week.”
“Good, now I’m getting some damn sleep!”
Memories faded away in his dreams as pain, dull and repetitive called him back to the conscious world. His eyes blinked open slowly, only to see an expectant face hovering above him. He jerked instinctively but his bonds held him in place and only served to increase the aching in his chest. Nick’s vision suddenly blurred, his mind hazy. Weakly he croaked out the deepest of hopes.
Her hand met his face instantly with a furious force. “You will NEVER speak of that man stealing hideous bitch in front of me ever again!” She shook with rage, her eyes wide and her face flushed. “I find it upsetting.”
Nick’s cheek burned with what would likely be another bruise to add to the collection. His eyes were cold as they met his captor’s. “FUCK. OFF.”
Raven moved to strike him again but stopped herself midway and lowered her hand. “I know you’re angry with me.” She cooed and tucked her dark blonde hair behind her ear. “But it’s for the best. You’ve moved on from her. Now…” She smiled and walked towards the dresser where she’d left the pain medication. “You have me.”
It took everything he had not to say what he wanted. Angry replies were bubbling under the surface that he kept swallowing back. He couldn’t escape and as hard as it was, keeping control of himself might be the only way. Nothing would happen if this psychotic fan never allowed him to heal. It hit him that he needed to think with his head, rather than his heart and be smart about this. That would be how he’d escape this hell. Fan service seemed to be the answer – nothing real would help. So instead he nodded, trying not to show how much that hurt. Silly as it was, he didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing how much pain he was in.
Her expression brightened. “I knew you would! All I want is to connect with you. Be everything for you. Know everything you know. Hear everything…”
A brow quirked. “Hear…everything?”
“Oh yes.” She answered breathlessly. Raven look positively crazed in that moment. “Everything you’ve ever written. Like the unreleased songs, demos, all of it. The fans? We know you have them. I was hoping beyond anything you would share them…with me.”
The fuck? This chick is psycho and stupid now. Okay Nick, focus. Don’t make her mad! The thoughts popped up in his head completely unbidden. He spoke carefully and slowly, anything to keep himself to sound even keeled and keep his true thoughts hidden away. “How can I? My phone, it shattered in the cash. I left it behind because it was useless.”
Raven giggled and waved a hand to brush aside his words. She moved back towards the dresser, pulling out a drawer as if in search for something. From Nick’s position on the bed he couldn’t tell exactly what she was looking for however. So, he simply watched her. “Of course, but…oh Nick I know you must have them backed up somewhere. I never believed you were dumb like so many people who claimed to be your fans did. I knew better. You have a cloud storage account of some sort, right? Of course, you do. As your girlfriend, we should share everything. I know that. So, I thought, and hoped, you would give me access to it. I have a good internet connection out here, despite being so far out. We could listen to the music together and really…connect.”
“Right…I get that.” New girlfriend? Fuck, forget it. Play into it! “But…”
She stopped what she was doing and stared at him, dropping something from her hand back into the dresser drawer. “But…what…Nickolas?”
“I don’t remember the password.” Here he was actually telling the truth. Normally he didn’t forget them but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember. He knew how much was at stake to know that password so she could see him in a more favorable light but he didn’t and there was nothing he could do. He’d give anything to this woman so she could trust him more. But he couldn’t in that moment give her what she wanted.
“You. Don’t. Remember. The. Password.”
Nick shook his head, wincing slightly with a hiss. “No, and I’m sorry. I had it saved in my phone.” Here’s where the lies returned. “I’m shitty with remembering passwords…”
He trailed off when he saw her leave the room, the door was wide open and seemed to mock him. His eyes looked downwards and he couldn’t see the wound from earlier. Sometime while he’d slept Raven must have come in and bandaged him up. Beneath the wrappings though the carving of MINE was there, whether he could see it or not. Annoyingly enough, it looked well done so despite how crazy she was, it seemed she did know what she was doing medically speaking. A thought that, with too much dwelling, frightened him deeply. Because she knew exactly how far she could push him, while making sure to keep him alive no matter what.
But I do want to live.
Once again, he found himself thinking of Lauren. What if he died here, never to see her again? He never got to say goodbye. He never got to do all the things he hoped would come in their life together. Would she know how much he loved her? Did she know how much she changed his life? How she gave him the strength to safe himself from the dark road he’d been walking down before he’d met her? There was no way to know. If he died here he would never know. But he hoped with every bit himself that she knew, that he’d told her and gave her the faith to know all those things and more.
I hope I’ll get to see her again before I die.
The door creaked open. His gaze shot to the doorway where Raven stood with a small smile. Chills ran down his spine and his stomach seemed to plummet. Whatever was coming next, he knew it was nothing good. “I see you want to play games. Fine, if that’s what you want. I like games. They used to get me in trouble when I played them at the hospital. But in this case, I think we can play. Because we can both keep secrets. No one will ever know.” She inched closer. “If you can play keep away…”
He was helpless and he knew it. His heart thudded pleadingly against his chest in his will to live.
“I GET TO PLAY SMASH THE RODENT!” She shrieked as she pulled a large hammer from behind her back. Raven slammed it down on his left hand before he could do anything, before he could blink, or do anything but feel the pure and utter torture that followed. Screams tore from his throat amidst the floodgates of tears that streamed down his face. His body trembled against the restraints as he fought to cope with the agony Raven wrought.
“And now you’re Shattered…” She sing-songed, dropping medication on the bedside table, keeping just out of reach. “If you ever remember that lovely password, I might remember to give you something for your pain.”
The words barely registered to Nick.
The door slammed behind her.
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