Howie Dorough sighed, watching Kevin continue his desperate search across the field. They’d tried to keep up with him, but gave up fairly quickly. He didn’t have the energy to search an entire field for somebody that was already dead in all probability.
Now who was the defeatist?
A few feet behind him, AJ McLean was continuously cursing every little thing in the universe. Howie closed his eyes, wishing he’d stop. Yeah, he knew the bus crashed and that they were screwed, no need to keep repeating it over and over. Putting his face in his hands, he willed himself to stay calm. They needed a plan that didn’t include barging recklessly across the large field and calling out names every so often.
They needed a real plan.
He was good with plans. The other four may have been heart, body, blood and soul to this group, but he was the brain. If he could only get five minutes without Kevin’s desperate voice echoing over the field, or AJ’s blatant curses behind him, maybe he could think of a way to get them out of there. The smoke had cleared for the most part, thanks to the rain and the wind and he couldn’t detect fire anywhere. The chances of another explosion were fairly slim now. If they were going to try finding the remaining MIA members of their little group, they needed a structured search. Keeping an eye on Kevin, Howie decided that that was the example of an unstructured search.
“Could you shut up for five seconds and let me think?” he barked at AJ, who became instantly silent, looking at him in surprise. Howie knew why; he usually didn’t bark at people. In fact, he didn’t normally speak any of his frustrations out loud if there were other people in
earshot. You don’t get the nickname Sweet D for nothing.
He still didn’t like that one. He sighed when he saw AJ’s big, confused eyes.
“It’s just not going to help if we sit here, feeling sorry for ourselves by saying how fucked we are. We need a plan.”
“Are you suggesting we stomp into that minefield, like Kevin?” AJ commented sarcastically.
“Well no, but-”
He immediately shut up when he saw Kevin reemerge from a few parts of the bus in the distance. The tall bandmember ran clumsily over the field, sinking into the ground with every step, splashing water all over the place. There was a slight limp in his run, but he didn’t seem to notice as he came closer and closer to where they sat with a determined look on his face.
“Kev?” Howie stood up, trying to ignore the stab of pain in his side. It had stopped bleeding ten minutes earlier, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt.
“I…I…” Kevin panted in between breaths. He doubled over, trying to catch his breath after his mad run across the field.
“Woah, just slow down for a second,” Howie said, gently guiding the older member of the group to the ground.
“He’s… he’s over there, he needs help!” Kevin rushed, already getting on his feet again.
“You found him?” Howie asked incredulously. How could Kevin’s tactic of searching possibly lead to any results?
It didn’t make sense.
“Yeah, he’s trapped under the wreckage. We need to get the thing off of him!”
“Come on!” Kevin growled as he pulled AJ up by his shirt to get him on his feet. “We gotta go!”
“But it’s dangerous out there!” Howie interjected.
“I don’t care! We can’t just leave him alone out there!”
Defeated, Howie hung his head. Nodding, he agreed to follow Kevin, running across the field not much unlike Kevin had done. It was close to impossible to be able to elegantly sprint through the tall, snowy grass. The cold was creeping into depths Howie had never thought possible.
If they didn’t die from another explosion, like he’d first expected, they’d probably freeze their asses to death.
After a few minutes of running, Kevin suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and Howie almost collided with the taller man’s back. Kevin cautiously walked around the large piece of debris and Howie bit his lip, wondering if he should follow. He could hear AJ finally catching up with them, as the splashing footsteps he heard were coming closer. The piece of bus was fairly large and if Brian was trapped underneath it, Howie was quite scared of what injuries the younger singer might have sustained. He slowly followed Kevin’s lead and saw the dark-haired singer kneeling beside his cousin.
Howie bit his lip, trying to stay calm as he looked at the scene. A big, heavy looking part of the tourbus was weighing down on almost half of Brian’s body. The black smears of grime on his face made it obvious he’d been caught in the explosion and Howie wondered if Brian would have the same kind of burns Kevin had.
“Holy shit!” AJ’s voice broke the heavy silence rather subtly. “You okay?”
Brian nodded slightly. He was breathing hard, wincing every other second, but seemed alert for the most part.
“Just get this… thing off me.”
Howie frowned, slowly kneeling opposite of Kevin. “I don’t know, Kev,” he said staring at the older man, “That thing must weigh hundreds of pounds. How are we just gonna… lift it off of him?”
“Damnit Howard, we need to do something!” Kevin growled.
Brian watched them both with growing confusion, but Howie ignored him.
“Like what? We can’t call 911, we can barely see a damn thing, it’s so dark, and Nick and Toby are still missing. We’re screwed bad,” AJ supplied.
Howie rolled his eyes, tired of AJ’s negativism. Placing a hand on Brian’s shoulder, he forced him to look into his eyes, “How are your legs? You think they’re broken?”
The younger man looked down, hesitating slightly, “I- I don’t know. I can’t really feel them. Is that bad?”
Howie sighed, “It doesn’t have to be,” he lied, avoiding Brian’s stare, “What about the rest, anything hurt?”
Brian scoffed, “Well duh, Einstein. Stupid bus exploded on me.”
“No need to get sarcastic,” Howie mumbled, but smiled nonetheless. If Brian could still joke in a situation like this, it might not be as hopeless as it seemed, “Any burns from the explosion?”
“Are you interrogating me?”
“Just answer the question, Brian,” Kevin interfered, a concerned expression on his face that clearly told his cousin to stop joking. “We need to know how badly you’re hurt before we even attempt to get you out from underneath it.”
Brian rolled his eyes, sighing in annoyance, but cast his look downwards, “I don’t know, alright?” he muttered, almost inaudibly, “It freaking hurts everywhere, what do you want me to say?”
“Alright, alright, it’s gonna be okay,” Kevin tried to reassure. “We’ll just try to lift it, won’t we?” He stared meaningfully at AJ and Howie, who both nodded obediently.
“We could try,” Howie admitted.
“Right. AJ, go stand on the other side, and Howie, whenever we’re able to lift it even an inch, I want you to try and pull Brian backwards, okay?”
Howie clenched his jaw. He didn’t like this plan… at all.
The wreckage looked heavy and if, and that was a big if, they were able to lift it, chances were big it would slip and cause even more damage. He could now clearly read the fear on Brian’s face, as the younger man had turned a new shade of pale. Nevertheless, he got behind Brian, gripping his armpits tight.
“This is gonna hurt, isn’t it?” Brian whispered softly.
“Likely,” Howie muttered. Brian bit his lip, nodding slowly.
“Let’s just do it,” he breathed.
Howie looked up, nodding at Kevin, who curled his fingers under the piece of debris. AJ followed the example and grunting, they pulled with all the strength he had. Howie heard Kevin cry out in pain from the weight of the bus on his hurt wrist, but when the bus actually started moving a little, he couldn’t hear Kevin over Brian’s agonized, raw screams anymore.
“No, no! Stop, just stop!” the blond singer cried out in between panting breaths. “My leg is stuck, just stop, please!”
“We can’t stop now! It will fall right back on you!” AJ yelled, panic evident in his voice. The straining muscles in his arms betrayed the fact that he wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer anyway.
“Oh fuck!” Brian gasped, arching his back against the relentless pain, almost causing Howie to lose his grip and drop him, “Can’t you just… knock me out or something?”
“There’s no time!” Kevin yelled.
“This is the stupidest plan ever!” AJ angrily announced, his face twisted in pain as the heavy wreckage slipped from his fingers more and more.
“Okay, okay, we just gotta…” Kevin hesitated, looking around him helplessly, “Just lower it slowly back down… damn it, I’m so sorry Brian.”
Brian’s eyes widened even more and he wildly grabbed at anything he could squeeze to a pulp. Howie noticed the tension in his bandmate’s body as they both waited for what was going to happen. Clenching his jaw, AJ threw a glance at Kevin, seeing that his arms were shaking violently too. They wouldn’t be able to hold on much longer and he didn’t dare looking at Brian’s frightened face. Kevin nodded almost unnoticeably, the cue for AJ to start releasing his tight grip on the metal piece of bus.
As he felt the pressure increasing on his legs, Brian was lost in a world of pain. He didn’t really know what he screamed, or how long the torture lasted. All he knew was the white hot bolts of unimaginable agony continuously shooting up and down his legs, all the way up to his chest, it seemed. He’d never felt something so extreme, so terrible before. The pain was maddening and he savagely flailed his arms backwards, writhing in Howie’s firm grasp.
Howie didn’t move, didn’t say a word. All he could do was keep a hold of feverishly struggling Backstreet Boy in his arms. He kept screaming long after AJ and Kevin were done.
Howie had felt this helpless only once in his life. On a plane to a hospital in 1998. That had been terrible. This was almost just as bad.
“It’s okay,” he mumbled softly, putting his chin on top of Brian’s damp hair. “It’s over,” he spoke quietly, knowing fully well that it had only just begun.