He’d called everybody he could think of first, of course. They’d all pretty much freaked out when he’d mentioned the fact the others hadn’t shown up yet. He’d told them not to worry, though he didn’t know why. Why shouldn’t they? He’d first called Jen, their manager, for some reason. Maybe because she was supposed to manage things in the group. She was supposed to be with them on the bus, but couldn’t find a babysitter at the last minute, so she’d scheduled a flight to Orlando early in the morning. She’d told him not to worry, that she would be there in a few hours.
But Nick found that he couldn’t wait for that much longer. Secondly, he’d called the women. He’d just asked if they’d heard anything from the other four, that was all, but they immediately got concerned, and Nick did not deal well with concerned women.
Not really certain why he went alone, Nick drove the semi-busy streets of Orlando. He knew the roads and turns very well; after all, this is where he’d finally learnt to drive all those years back. The roads had slightly changed since then, but Nick didn’t really mind; he could still find his way around.
You’ve reached Howard Dorough, please leave a message after the tone and I’ll get back to you. Thanks.
With an exasperated sigh, he threw his phone on the passenger seat for the fifth time since he’d begun to drive. True, it wasn’t unlike them to not hear from each other for days, and still be fine with one another. But that was when they had no other work to do. For crying out loud, they were supposed to do an interview in an hour! And if something hadn’t gone horribly wrong on their drive over to Orlando, if they really were just playing with him for no reason at all, Nick considered that highly unprofessional.
He didn’t mind the cold as much anymore. If you couldn’t fight something, he’d figured a long time ago, you had to try and make friends with it. The cold was like a warm blanket now, as weird as that seemed, enveloping him, keeping him safe from the pain his broken legs would cause.
On the other side, he could still hear AJ McLean constantly. It seemed like the younger man was talking just for the sake of talking. And although Brian Littrell couldn’t really understand what he was talking about, he knew AJ was just trying to keep him awake, as annoying as that was. He squeezed AJ’s hand every now and then to pretend he was listening- and not sleeping- to keep the bearded guy from shaking him again.
“Brian!” A lone voice echoed over the damp grassland and Brian could feel his slow heart beat just a bit quicker. It sounded extremely far away and just a tiny bit surreal, but it was one of the sounds he’d hoped to hear the entire night.
“Nick!” he rasped, his voice scorching along his dry throat as he began to struggle against whatever was holding him tight from behind. “Nick! Where are you?”
As numb as he was, he could still feel a flash of panic wash over him as he heard the voice desperately call out to him, “Brian! Help me!”
Brian’s struggle intensified when he decided he’d been useless enough in the course of the night. His body was stiff and uncooperative, however and it protested with every move he made. One leg was still trapped and the other seemed foreign, as if it wasn’t really a part of him at the time. How was he supposed to help Nick?
“Hold on!” he yelled, although it sounded more like a rough whisper than a yell. He blindly grabbed at the freezing grass underneath him, attempting to get a well enough grip to get himself freed once and for all.
No matter what the cost.
Kevin Richardson shivered in earnest as he stumbled along the empty road. The excitement he’d felt when he’d seen the road sign was slowly fading away, replaced by the now learnt fact that they had still about 25 miles to go before reaching civilization.
Walking 25 miles would take hours, and in their condition, he wasn’t sure how much longer they could keep it up.
“Look,” Howie Dorough grumbled beside him and Kevin turned to where he was pointing.
“Wow,” he sighed, figuring he probably would have cared a lot more about the stunning sunrise if he wasn’t exhausted, starving and freezing. Its light casted long shadows over the road and he watched Howie as he walked beside him. The younger man looked like he’d been to hell and back and Kevin figured he himself didn’t look much different. If anyone could see them right now, they would have a hard time recognizing them as two Backstreet Boys, that was for sure. “I would definitely murder for a hot bathtub and soap right now,” Kevin grunted.
Howie made a noncommittal sound that sounded somewhat approving, “My haircut is fucked beyond repair,” he stated sadly.
Kevin couldn’t help but laugh, the sound echoing roughly around them. Leave it to Howie Dorough to worry about something irrelevant like his hair at times like this. Poor Howie, who –admitted- did spend more time in front of a mirror worrying about his hair than the average male equivalent. Only to have it disturbed once more by one of them, usually Nick, a little while later, just for fun.
He tried to swallow the sudden lump in his throat. He knew it would probably take a while before the whole concept of Nick’s death got through to him. And then, he figured, true hell would begin. Cause hell, he realized, wasn’t being caught in an explosive collision and stranded in the fields for hours. Hell wasn’t a bus rolling down a hill with little hope of survival. Hell wasn’t even trying to find his friends when most odds told him that they were either terribly hurt, or dead.
Hell was getting back to life and trying to live with the consequences of what happened.
AJ felt Brian violently jerk against him and had only time to frown before the struggle began. For someone who had motionlessly lain under a bus for so long, Brian possessed a surprising amount of strength still.
Alex wasn’t sure what caused his sudden movements, but they seemed panicked and frantic as if his older friend was scared that something was coming to eat him.
And then he heard it, the hoarse, rasped cry spilling from Brian’s bluish lips. “Nick!”
His own panic grew as he tightened his hold on the smaller man, “The Hell?” he muttered as he felt his heart hammering in his chest.
“Nick! Where are you?” Brian called out again, his head roughly colliding with AJ’s chest, sending AJ’s speeding heartbeat up into his throat.
Maybe he’s dreaming, the thought lingered for a second before he dismissed it. Brian’s eyes were wide open, frantically searching his surroundings, supposedly for a sign of the youngest Backstreet Boy.
His movements suddenly became fiercer and AJ almost got knocked to the ground when Brian shoved an elbow into his stomach.
“Stop it!” AJ called, not caring about how childish it sounded. He didn’t think his friend heard him anyway.
“Hold on!” Brian’s raspy voice exclaimed. The older man dug the heels of his hands into the wet grass and before AJ fully realized what was happening, Brian began to pull himself backwards.
“No!” AJ bellowed, trying to keep the frantic singer from moving, “No! Hey! Stop it!” He kept his voice stern and even as he tried not to hurt Brian when he roughly grabbed his shoulder to steady him.
“Nick,” Brian whispered, his breath erratically rasping in his lungs.
“Listen to me!” AJ commanded, “Just calm down!” It sounded a bit weird as he felt his own fastening pulse inside his head. Brian was still pulling against his burden, most likely screwing up his trapped right leg even more. AJ knew that his older bandmate wasn’t thinking straight, but he would be damned if he let Brian continue this form of self harm.
“He’s dead, Brian! Nick’s dead!” AJ screamed and suddenly, all movement ceased. He could see Brian’s confused eyes running over the field.
“You’re w-wrong,” the dazed man whispered, panting in exertion. “He’s here. I can hear him, and he n-needs help.”
“No he’s not.” AJ said, his voice breaking, “I’m so sorry, Bri.”
“It’s not real.”
He gasped as he heard a distant voice call out, almost unnoticeably. It sounded strange, as if nothing but the wind had carried it on. His sight on the country road blackened and for a long moment, he couldn’t see anything, before he turned back to reality once more.
Firing pain, originating from his right leg, coursed through his body and he slowed the car to a stop, staring out of the windshield with round eyes, not really able to see anything.
He didn’t know how long it took before he dared to start the car again. Not once in his life had he experienced such a thing. The fear of another blackout was eating at his mind as he slowly drove along the misty fields. The sun had almost fully risen in the east, spreading breathtaking colors across the sky, but Nick didn’t pay it any attention. His thundering heartbeat pounded in his chest. He squinted and grunted as he massaged his painful leg.
Maybe something was wrong with him? He tried to think of any medical explanation that connected leg-pain and blackouts but couldn’t come up with anything. It had started rather suddenly, he figured. As if four missing friends weren’t enough to deal with at a time. He remembered the first time he’d felt the pain in his leg had been on his way to the hotel. He’d shrugged it off, pinning its existence on the fact that he’d been working out an awful lot lately to try and stay in shape for the special winter shows. He’d probably pulled a muscle during his time at the gym a day before.
This, he realized now, was in no way a pulled muscle.
“Nick! Where are you?”
He swerved the car dangerously to the side. For a split-second, he could swear he distinguished somewhat of Brian’s voice in the sound. It sounded deformed though, inhuman. He cried out, slamming the breaks as his focus once again turned dark and the cold crept up from his toes, venturing quickly over his entire body.
He smelled a hint of gasoline right before his vision exploded in a world of flames and heat.
What was wrong with him?