Nick was bubbling with so much nervous excitement that it was easy to stay quiet without anyone noticing. He asked enough questions about the jump to keep the instructors busy. And when it was time to suit up, he enthusiastically grabbed Amanda's hand and pulled her along - which was good, because she probably wouldn't have noticed they were leaving to change.
The jumpsuits were hideous one piece things that zipped around the clothes they already had on. They made funny swishy sounds, and made Amanda feel like she was about to embark on an Apollo mission or something. Her jump suit was a hideous shade of yellow that made her look like a giant banana. Nick had been put into a brown suit, and Brian into a blue one. She was the only one with a tacky color. Then they were given helmets and put into harnesses that would eventually be clamped onto similar harnesses that the instructors were going to be wearing.
Amanda was so preoccupied with the situation with Brian, that she didn't even really think much about the plane as they boarded it and buckled in to these little tiny bucket seats.
Brian did, though. He gripped the arm rests of his seats and dug his fingers into them. He'd been doing good until the plane had started lifting off the ground and the elevation struck him. The back door of the plane was left open and the wind whistled by it, loud and gushing. The instructors were standing in a semi-circle by it. Nick was leaning over his seat, trying to catch a glimpse, too. Far below, corn fields and farms of various colors - all in perfect squares, like a patchwork quilt - got smaller and smaller until everything was a blur of color and moving dots far below.
"Who's going first?" Josh asked.
Nick looked at Brian and Amanda. "Me!" he called when neither jumped up with excitement. Besides, he thought, Maybe once they see that I can do it just fine they won't worry about it so much.
Josh beckoned Nick over and started hooking their harnesses together.
Brian nudged Amanda with his elbow, "Quick, take a picture. You'll want it for your story, won't you?"
Nick was grinning, waving at them, too close to the door and the rushing air to hear the words they were saying. Amanda turned to Brian, "I can explain."
Brian laughed bitterly, "I'm sure you can."
"It's not an excuse for what I did, but I've changed," she said, her voice pleading.
He rolled his eyes. "Do you remember in the Grand Canyon, when we were at the gift shop just before going to ride the burros? Do you remember what I told you?"
"Not to hurt Nick," she whispered.
"Don't you think he's been through enough shit without you doing this to him?" Brian snapped.
Amanda felt her eyes getting hot.
"Here I go!" cried Nick. The plane dipped to the side. Brian and Amanda both looked up just in time to see Josh, with Nick strapped to the front of him, fall backwards out of the plane. Nick's eyes had widened as they went, and his feet flown up off the floor, his mouth formed a perfect O... and then they were gone, outside the plane, in the air, free falling.
Brian's heart raced at the idea of Nick falling through the air, 13,000 feet off the ground. Nick needed no help falling - he fell all the damn time. Brian prayed that the parachute would work.
"I didn't mean to hurt him," Amanda screamed. Now that Nick was out of the plane, she felt she could let her true emotion show.
Brian turned back to her. "Well you are," he snapped. "Do you have any idea what this is going to do to him? You're gonna crush him," he shouted.
"I didn't know him when I started this! He was just some pop star my father wanted me to write a story on," she cried out, her voice heating up, "He meant nothing to me and I didn't care who I hurt to get what I wanted."
Brian snorted, "Attractive!"
"I know what I did was wrong, Brian!"
"That didn't stop you, though, did it?" he bellowed.
Mesa and Larry were looking at each other, awkwardly, unsure if they should interrupt to ask if they were ready for the jump or not.
Tears sprang into Amanda's eyes. "Oh and here come the water works," he yelled, "How long did you practice crying at just the right times?" he laughed bitterly, "How long did it take you to make up all your sob stories about your fake brother and your pathetic life? You disgust me!"
"Piper isn't a lie!" Amanda sobbed, "I told you that because - because -"
Brian shook his head. "All you wanted from me was a fucking story for your fucking paper. Neither one of us were people to you. We were a paycheck." He stood up, "Well, now you've got your God damned story, and you can go home and Twitter to all your little fucking newspaper friends that you got to break Nick Carter's heart and get paid for it."
Amanda's heart was so tight, her vision blurred, her face hot. She couldn't breathe. Brian's words burned her right to the soul. She gasped, the air coming in loudly. She sounded like a seal, for crying out loud. "Brian, please," she sobbed.
"I told him to trust you," he hissed, leaning over her, one hand on each of her arm rests, getting right into her face. "I thought that you would be a good thing for him, that you would be there for him, that he could rely on you when I'm dead." Brian's eyes were livid. "But he means nothing to you the way he means something to me."
"Brian I love him!" screamed Amanda, her voice racked with emotion.
She stared right into his eyes.
He stared right back.
"I'm not publishing the story," she whispered, not looking away from Brian, "Whether Nick can forgive me or not... I can't do that to you, or to him... I'm quitting my job. I can't afford to, I'm probably going to end up evicted, but I don't care. Falling in love with Nick - with you - opened my eyes. You guys aren't just a story... you aren't just a pop band... you're people, with real lives and histories and hopes and dreams and losses just like me, just like every one else in the world... and I can't do it anymore."
Brian didn't say anything, he just kept staring into her face.
"Do - um - do you guys - wanna jump? Cos - um... Your friend's almost to the ground, and... if not, we're going to land..." Larry interjected hesitantly.
Brian stood up, shoving away from Amanda and turned to him. "Yeah. I'll go."
Amanda watched as they strapped Brian to Larry's harness. He didn't stop looking at her the entire time, his eyes blank, expression unreadable. Amanda sat there, gnawing on her lip, guilt flooding her, making her heart swell. She stared down at her shoes, the ones Nick had bought her, and felt like she wanted nothing more than to evaporate.
"Amanda," Brian called.
She looked up.
"Aren't you jumping?" he asked. His voice had changed, it had softened.
"I dunno," she said.
"C'mon," Brian said.
Amanda got up, feeling numb. She crossed the plane, and Mesa started strapping her to the front of his harness. The wind whipped around her and Brian, whooshing. Brian's eyes never left hers. Once Mesa was done getting her strapped in, he and Larry inched toward the line at the door. The plane started to tip.
Brian held out his hand. "I'm crazy for doing this," he said. And Amanda knew he didn't mean the jump.
She took his hand.
The next thing they knew, the plane was above them, the ground below them, and there was nothing at all keeping them up.