A collaboration between: strayphoenix and Contemperina

Duncan and Courtney's rules for getting through life when you're out a hundred grand, your soul-mate is your worst enemy, and karma's out to get you.

Rule 1: Never let them catch you sleeping

Yeti. Chef. Yeti. Back to Chef. Back to the yeti. It was getting lame, stupid, and ugly. Really ugly. Really fast.

Slumped over in the back of the Boat of Losers, Duncan called in the direction of the boat's cabin, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Yo, Hatchet! You can stop now!"

Chef merely grinned and yanked off his head to reveal Sasquatchinakwa, again, before turning back to the wheel and steering the Boat of Losers to only God knew where.

This freaking boat looked like it was going to sink before they ever reached dry land! Duncan sprawled out in the back over a bunch of crates, conveniently pushed together from the last deportee. They were crazy uncomfortable, and he was probably going to end up with splinters in awkward places, but he was so dead from the other night's escapades that he couldn't bring himself to care. Besides, there weren't any better options; he wasn't going to stand for the whole ride, that was for sure. Who knew how long the trip would take? Especially since Duncan had the sneaking suspicion that Chef was driving him in circles to eat up time and throw off his sense of direction…

Sleeping in the forest for the last challenge had been brutal, especially since his time in juvy had left Duncan a light sleeper under even the normal-est of circumstances. And then there was the whole Heather thing. He had to admit that, surprisingly, it hadn't been entirely unpleasant—in fact, in any other situation, he was sure he'd have gotten a kick out of it. A hot chick curled up against you for the whole night? What kind of guy wouldn't want that?

Duncan, apparently. His conscience—which had started sounding freakishly like Courtney—had been nagging at him in the back of his head for as long as he'd kept awake (which wasn't long, considering he'd come in second place in the Awake-a-thon. Pathetic.) Even then, after he'd fallen asleep, it was like there was some bug in the back of his mind, one that wouldn't be impaled with an axe.

Just thinking about that night made him yawn. He was pretty sure he'd had some sort of dream too, but it hadn't stuck with him.

Chef chose that moment to pull off another mask, granting Duncan another minor spazz-attack. "What the hell, Chef?" he cursed from where he'd fallen flat on deck.

"Watch yo' mouth, boy!"

"Try and make me, Captain Crazy!" Dragging himself back onto the crates, he sat and rested his chin in his hands, glaring wearily at the back of Hatchet's masked head. What Duncan really wanted to do was slice his bald head clear off, but that would have taken effort. Duncan didn't have an axe, and his pocket knife wasn't going to cut it—literally.

He really could have gone for a cup of coffee right about then. Duncan could feel more and more of his adrenaline leaking out with every surprise mask pull, and his energy was wearing down low. As he stared at Hatchet, he became vaguely aware of his eyelids dragging shut, and then his head nodding down, and then his torso collapsing, and he'd have to force himself up again before he totally lost consciousness.

He smacked himself in the face a couple of times in an attempt to wake up, pinched his forearms, shook out his legs. He didn't know what to expect when he got to wherever they were headed, but there was no way that he'd be able to face it if he was asleep.

Duncan knew how these shows worked, preying on the weak and defenseless. Ganging up on the new guy in an unfamiliar environment. Attacking the poor fellow before he even had a chance to blink.

Duncan chuckled to himself wryly. He should have copyrighted his tactics.

"Land ho," Chef announced unenthusiastically from where he stood at the wheel.

Duncan jerked his head up and twisted around to glance over the side of the boat. He couldn't see anything beyond the restless waves of the ocean, and he was about to politely inform Hatchet of that fact when a little blotch appeared on the horizon. Propelling himself off the crates, Duncan shuffled over to the starboard side and squinted into the distance, leaning on the cold metal handrail. A tiny current of pain shot up his arm as it jerked back from where it had been resting. "Those damn boxes," he muttered, yanking a splinter out of his palm before turning back to the waves.

He watched intently as the little blotch in the distance turned into a bigger blotch, and then an ever bigger blotch, and then an island, and then an island with a square on it, which then turned into a building, and finally into a ritzy hotel. Palm trees decorated the sandy grounds, steadily giving way to correspondingly tropical potted plants, which lead up to a line of solid glass doors that opened into an equally ritzy lobby. It wasn't really his scene, but it would have to do. Anything was better than the island—except for maybe juvy.

"Well, that took long enough," Duncan mumbled as he smoothed out his Mohawk and rubbed some of the sleep from his eyes.

Hatchet turned and leered at him, revealing half a mouthful of decomposing teeth. "You got something to say?"

"Uh, yeah." Chef pulled up next to a dock, and Duncan couldn't help but notice that it was in way better shape than the one back on the island. All the boards were still intact (this new island hadn't seen much chainsaw action, apparently. He could fix that), and there weren't even any barnacles growing on the edges. Refreshing. "Where are we?"

Cutting the engine and tying the Boat of Losers to the wooden post on the edge of the dock, Chef began a mechanical speech, obviously performed eighteen times over already: "Welcome to Playa De Losers, a custom-built, five-star island resort where all the contestants who are voted off the show will reside until the season's conclusion. Here, you will be treated to three gourmet meals a day plus a snack buffet, a posh room of your own,"—The look on Chef's face conveyed that the words were courtesy of Chris—"all day pool access, and a fully equipped gym, along with many other amenities."

Chef rummaged through a beat up shoe box for a few moments before producing a shiny silver room key from its depths. When Duncan went to grab it, Chef moved it out of his reach. "Here's your room key."

Duncan jumped up and swung at it, but missed.

"Girls are on the second—I mean third floor." Chef's mouth formed an out of place smirk. "And boys are on the second floor." Using up his last bit of energy, Duncan swung at the key one last time. Hatchet rolled his eyes and dropped it into Duncan's palm.


"Enjoy your stay!"

"Hold up, Chef," Duncan called as the man turned to walk away. He grabbed his duffel bag and followed after him. "What time is it?"

"What's it to ya?" Hatchet yanked open one of the towering glass doors and stepped into the darkened lobby, Duncan on his heels.

Duncan quickly tried to take in all his surroundings, if only so he could find his way around in the morning. All the lights had been dimmed for the night, but from what he could see, the lobby was just as swanky as its surroundings. In one corner, a bunch of fluffy chairs so full of stuffing that they looked on the verge of explosion were pushed into a semi-circle around a giant flat screen TV, mounted on the wall.

Several hallways branched off from the lobby in different directions, each labeled with its own sign. Duncan leaned in to read the one nearest him, which boasted, "Fitness Center" in fancy, looped script. Across the room was the reception desk, though it looked abandoned for the night. Duncan turned back to where Chef had gone ahead and ran to catch up with him.

"Isn't there some kind of night staff in this joint?" he queried, his mind already forming plans of late-night hijinks with DJ and Geoff.

Chef whipped his head around. "And who exactly do you think that night staff would be, little man? Huh?"

Duncan stared at him. "…You?" he tried. Hatchet nodded stiffly and turned down one of the long hallways. (Did Hatchet being on the night shift mean the man never had the opportunity to sleep? Duncan was almost afraid to ask.)

"That's right, me!" Chef pulled out a clattery key-ring from his apron pocket and stuck a bronze key into one of the hallway doors. "Like Chris would let anything intervene with his precious beauty sleep!" he sneered.

Chef twisted the key around and pushed the door open roughly. Duncan, duly confirming that the pair had a highly dysfunctional relationship, attempted to follow him inside the room; Hatchet stopped him with an outstretched hand. "These are my quarters, boy! Find your… own." He snickered at the joke before slamming the door in his face.

What was so funny? Duncan didn't understand, but he quickly decided he'd be back at that door the next night, pocket-knife at the ready. And Chef's door wouldn't be the only thing he was carving...

Duncan took a moment to collect himself. His first impression of the resort, besides the fact that it was decidedly and ridiculously ritzy: it was huge. Excessively huge, especially since it would only ever house a maximum of twenty teens, plus Chef Hatchet, maybe Chris (if he didn't have somewhere better), and whichever camera crew had landed the unpleasant job of working there.

Following Chef's abandonment, Duncan wandered around the maze of hallways for no less than fifteen miserable minutes before finally ending up back in the lobby. Dragging his duffel bag along behind him, he jabbed his finger into the UP arrow next to the elevator and praised the forces at work when the doors slid open right away.

His eyes clamped shut as they were met with the blinding, fluorescent lights from the elevator ceiling, not to mention the giant poster of Chris that decorated an entire side of the lift. How was anyone supposed to put up with seeing that every day? If he hadn't been so tired, he would have taken the stairs just to avoid that smile.

Then came the cheesy elevator music, starting up as the doors glided closed. "Dear Mom and Dad, I'm doing fine…" What was that? And all those of guys at the end na na na-ing to each other? Duncan sniggered at the lameness of it all. Chumps. Fortunately, as he was only going to the second floor, the elevator bumped to a halt before the song got the chance to repeat.

The door opened up to a long hallway extending out to both the left and the right. The light was dimmer there, the wallpaper lit only by a couple of weak, wall-mounted sconces and the light of the moon, which shone through the full-length window on one end of the hall.

Duncan fingered his own key and held it up to a wall-sconce, illuminating 6G engraved in its head. Not deeming the G important enough to take notice of, Duncan followed a sign on the wall and turned right. Room 6 was the first he came to, and he gladly unlocked the door and dragged his things inside, letting the door close noiselessly behind him.

Compared to the hall, it was pitch black in the room. Duncan blindly groped at the wall around the door in hopes of finding a light switch, but his fingers met nothing, save the patterned wallpaper and a picture frame, which he sent swinging back and forth on whatever screw it was mounted on.

It was then that Duncan was hit with his second impression of the resort: it was hot. Hot as in boilingly, steamingly, roastingly hot. It made no sense. (They were still in Canada, after all! At least…he hoped they were.) But then again, the palm trees and sand didn't make sense either; the heat must've been just another part of the tropical theme Chris had cooked up.

Waiting for his eyes to adjust to the all-encompassing darkness, Duncan stripped down to his boxers, kicking off his Converses and appreciating the calm, rhythmic beating of the ceiling fan. He left his clothes and shoes scattered on the floor and then stood to get a proper look at his new surroundings.

To his left was a second door that had been left ajar, leading into a bathroom. Beside it, a shut door. He opened it and found a closet, already stocked with clothes. They weren't his style, but Duncan's sleep-deprived brain didn't think much of it other than making a note to burn whatever preppy clothes they'd reserved for him to wear.

Across from the two doors was a gigantic, unmade bed, unquestionably king-size. Duncan cocked an eyebrow at the covers all strewn about; they seriously needed to hire a cleaning staff that composed of more than Chef Hatchet and a vacuum.

On the far side of the room, opposite from where he stood, was what looked like a huge, floor-to-ceiling window, though it was hidden by plush, maroon curtains. Duncan walked over and pulled them apart slightly, unveiling a view of the pool deck and, beyond that, the shining ocean. It was nice, really, though it wasn't the type of thing he generally appreciated. Eight weeks at Camp Wawanakwa could make a person grateful for the sissy stuff in life.

But at the end of the day, it was just a rock. Duncan found himself unable to stifle a yawn as he felt his way to the bed, more than ready to dive in for the night. It really was strange that the bed was unmade already, he decided. They really weren't on top of their stuff at that resort…

As Duncan's vision adjusted further, he noticed that not only was the bed unmade—it looked slept in. In fact, it looked like there was a body right there, on the side of the bed opposite him. He turned around and threw the curtains open wide, allowing the moonlight to flood the room and light up a female's sleeping figure. Courtney's sleeping figure.

Duncan barely restrained himself from cursing at the top of his lungs. In a panic, he threw himself full force at the curtains in an attempt to close them before the brilliant moonlight disturbed Courtney's sleep. Then, he stood frozen against the window, breathing heavily, searching for any signs that he'd awoken her. The cool glass slowly turned warm against the back of his neck, and after a few moments of nothing but his own panicked breathing, Duncan sighed with relief; it looked like he was safe for the time being.

A single question rose to the front of his mind: What was he doing in Courtney's room? He slapped a palm to his forehead and scolded himself mentally. It all made sense when he thought about it! The preppy clothes in the closet, all of Chef's snickering, the G on his key. It probably stood for Girl! It was an obvious con!

Duncan would have been rampantly pissed at either Chris or Hatchet (but more likely both), but seeing Courtney in "his" bed had given him an adrenaline rush he hadn't been able to afford, and he could feel himself slipping towards sleep.

Muttering a few more damnations in an undertone, he cautiously walked to the side of the bed and rested a hand on the cushy mattress, glancing down at Courtney. She was so peaceful asleep; her biting wit and venomous glare had been wiped clean, replaced with a serene expression, her ever-present scowl traded in for an easy smile. Why can't she be like this all the time? Duncan wondered briefly, before answering his own question. Because she wouldn't be as much fun if she were nice, idiot. That was probably true.

Sleep was desperately trying to overtake Duncan by that point, and Courtney's bed looked so comfortable, all those cushy pillows and blankets—such a change from the cabin bunk beds, and, even worse, the forest floor. He laid himself down on top of the bed sheets to mull over his predicament, careful not to cause even the slightest tremor across the mattress.

If Duncan were to wake up Courtney then, in the middle of the night, it would mean death—not an exaggeration. Princess would probably whip out some crazy self-defense junk and take off his head! Still…there were worse ways to die.

As odd as it seemed, she looked prepared for anything, even when she was asleep. And she looked hot too, but she always looked hot, so that was nothing new. She was stripped down to nothing but her tiny night-clothes, no doubt because of the insane heat, but Duncan fought to keep himself from staring. He felt no shame when she was awake and conscious of his eyes on her, but asleep it felt like too much of an invasion of privacy, something only some creepy pervert would do. It made him feel like a stalker, and that wasn't his crime of choice.

Maybe, he decided, wrapping his arms behind his head, it would be wiser to just get up and leave, to go sleep on one of the sofas downstairs until he could relocate Chef and force the man to give him his actual room key. But the lobby's so far away! his mind whined in protest. Courtney wouldn't mind if he just stayed there for the night, would she? There was a whole layer of sheets between them, after all. Princess could be reasonable. Well, not usually, but maybe if he just…explained himself in the morning…if he just told her…what happened…then maybe she…would…maybe…

Duncan's body gave out on him before he could finish his thoughts.

Whoa! Smells like trouble for Duncan…

And now, some ridiculously long-winded notes from your two co-authors:

strayphoenix: And so begins a great and wondrous voyage into the realm of reality TV fanfiction. (But not really.) This idea originally came from my fanfiction, Courtney vs. The World, in which Courtney gets blackmailed with footage taken in the time she and Duncan were together on Playa De Losers, followed immediately by reading Contemperina's spot-on takes on the TDI cast in Fill in the Blank, after which 2 and 2 made 4. (Or 6. It depends where you live.) We got in touch and thought it would be a fun project to 'ping-pong' (I write, you write, I write, you write, I vanish off the face of the earth, you nag, I write again...) and write a chapter for her FITB story which would tie in to my story as well. As you will learn, that one chapter stuck its tongue out at us and bred like DJ's bunny and turned out far more lengthy, and far, FAR more freaking AWESOME, than either of us intended :) Enjoy!

Contemperina: stray pretty much said it all! The writing is going to be as 50/50 as we can make it, and the plot-line as well. Stray came to me with the original plan, but I like to think that I contributed something, somewhere in this journey… Ha. Haha. (Just kidding. I really did come up with some of the later bits.) So, when you're finished here, go read Fill In The Blank and Courtney vs. The World if you haven't already. The Art of Pretending (which is already rather far in progress) is, as stray said, far more awesome than either of us ever would have imagined, which means more fun for you!—and for us. We have a little Eva coming…some Geoff and DJ…Harold…Lindsay… It's Playa De Losers! What did you expect? At any rate, I hope you enjoyed chapter one and are looking forward to chapter two.

So now, some parting words:

Thanks for reading! Please review. (: