A/N Hi everybody! This is a project I have been working on since March. It's almost completely finished already! So expect updates very quickly, like every few days. I really hope you like this because it's been on my mind for months now.
Summary: The 4 boys go on their annual camping trip in Minnesota, while on break from LA life. Carlos and James stray off the beaten path and get lost in the deep, dense woods. They have to endure freezing temperatures, wild animals, and all sorts of dangers. Can the duo keep each other alive to survive until help arrives?
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Oh and I did research since I have never been to Minnesota or Manitoba, but if I get something wrong or make up a random lake or something, it's just cause I have no idea what is or isn't there.
Also, the Italics are flash forwards, rather than flashbacks. Yeahh I got bored of my normal style of writing and I'm just shaking it up so bear with me, kk? Haha. It's also in first person (James' POV) which is something I very rarely do. So hopefully I don't screw this up to bad.
Carlos lay lifeless in my arms. His pale skin was nearly as white as the snow below us and his lips were blue. You didn't have to be a genius to know that any healthy person should never look this way, especially when that person was supposed to be a tan, vibrant Latino. I didn't want to know if he was alive or not. I couldn't bring myself to check. I just held him and rocked his tiny body as tears rolled out of my eyes and splashed onto his frozen cheeks. I wiped the teardrops away with my thumb, my calloused skin running gently over his smooth, cold cheekbones. I was disillusioned to think he would ever be able to survive through the night, not after what he had been through, but I couldn't ignore that glimmer of hope that sparked warm in my belly, despite the fact that I was close to hypothermia. Carlos wouldn't die on me, not here in this desolate, eerie place. Not when he was this scared and ill. I wouldn't allow it, and God surely wouldn't allow it, would he? Carlos was the one who was supposed to be protected and sheltered. He was nothing more than an innocent boy. He was little Carlos Garcia, boy of chubby cheeks and perpetual innocence. He was my baby brother, and nothing would ever happen to him on my watch. Maybe some would say I was in denial, already in a stage of mourning, because to anybody on the outside looking in it would seem that it would be nearly impossible for Carlos to live, that it would even take a miracle to survive something like this…
Cold wind nipped harshly at my cheeks, but I was warm in my thermal long sleeve shirt, thick flannel, and North Face jacket. Crisp leaves crunched beneath my feet loudly and there was that mid-fall, dead-leaves smell in the air. Several feet ahead of me, I could hear Logan chat about the types of trees we passed by to anybody who would listen, which was actually nobody, but he didn't seem to notice. Kendall sang some classic rock songs under his breath as he kept pace beside Logan. Carlos shuffled beside me, kicking up leaves and mostly staying quiet while he took in the sights and sounds of nature, which was rare for my ADHD friend.
It was just like the good old days, back when we used to camp all the time together, and I was bitter sweetly reminiscent of those memories that seemed like a lifetime ago.
Don't get me wrong, I love LA. I love the sun and the city and the beach, I love the fame and the girls and my Cuda spray. But I love my band mates more, and back in the day, when we would camp the most, we weren't band mates yet. There was a time when we were just blood brothers, brothers of the ice, brotha's from other motha's. Whatever you want to call it, we were best dude friends. I missed just spending dude time with them. Things in LA were getting crazy as we were getting more and more popular with every radio interview and photo shoot we did. It was becoming kind of insane, and we had even been fighting over some really stupid things. The latest fight even forced us to move out and live in crazy places like boxes and cabanas or, in my case, a really rich old guy's apartment. Yeah, we aren't too proud of that day when we look back on it, but stuff like that kept happening more than it should. We were overworked and tired and the pressures of fame were getting to us, so it was safe to say that we needed a little adventure and bonding time. So I ditched the hair care products, microphones, makeup and tanning lotions and traded them in for a week in the woods in our home state of Minnesota, where there were no girls, no Gustavo, no adults, no lights and no fame. It was perfect.
"James, I have to pee," Carlos piped up, interrupting my thoughts. He wove back and forth on the dirt path, accidently banging into me and stumbling a bit. I reached out to steady him and laughed, only somewhat annoyed.
"Can't you wait 'til camp, 'Los? We'll be there soon," I assured him. It was late afternoon and I was anxious to get to camp by now so we could rest up and get ready for the next day. My stomach was grumbling like crazy and I wanted to make smores and sing goofy campfire songs with my friends.
"Nope, gotta pee now," Carlos said, hopping from one foot to the other. "I've been holding it all day."
I sighed. "Ok, I'll wait for you right here. But hurry up!" I told him. Carlos had a habit of getting distracted, a lot. I yelled up to Logan and Kendall that we would catch up to them because Carlos had to pee. They agreed and continued to walk. Carlos ran down the embankment and into the thick wooded area around us where he disappeared behind a tree. But not two seconds later, he appeared again with his pants unzipped, screaming.
"Carlos, what is it?" I asked, rolling my eyes. My younger friend quickly zipped his pants and stared behind him like some kind of three headed monster was there.
"I heard something!" Carlos yelled up to me. "It rustled behind that tree over there. Can you come down here and keep a look out so it doesn't attack me while I'm peeing?"
"Carlos, where do you come up with this stuff?" I asked. His imagination was way too wild for his own good. Carlos looked genuinely freaked out though and he was looking up at me with those stupid puppy dog eyes that he knew I couldn't say no to.
"Please, James? What if it comes and bites it off while I'm trying to pee?" Carlos asked, gesturing down at his crotch area while emphasizing the word "it." I burst out laughing because he was dead serious right now.
"Well if it's to protect your manhood I guess I better get down there," I said. I ran down the slight embankment that separated the trail from the woods and walked through the thick brush to get to Carlos.
"Ok, where did you hear this noise-making, penis-snatching monster?" I asked sarcastically, chuckling at my own immature joke. Carlos blushed and punched me in the bicep hard. I immediately stopped my cackling laugh and groaned, rubbing the pain out of my shoulder while giving him a dirty glare. For such a little person, he sure did pack a punch.
"Over there," Carlos said, pointing to the offending tree warily. "Let's go find a different tree."
"Carlos, are you kidding me? Just pee!" I said. But Carlos was already walking ahead of me to a different tree several yards away. I huffed and followed behind him.
"Guard me," Carlos instructed when he found his desirable and safe tree to relieve himself at.
"Carlos it's not like anyone can see you from here and I can assure you that the critters don't care what your junk looks like," I said. Carlos flashed me the dirtiest glare he could muster on his cherubic features and I held my hands up in defense.
"Can you please just pee so we can get back to camp and have dinner?" I asked. I could feel myself getting more and more impatient as my stomach grumbled and each second ticked by. I turned away from my paranoid friend so he could do his business. A few seconds later, I heard a "zip" and turned to Carlos.
"You good now?" I asked, but Carlos wasn't paying attention to me. He had his eyes fixated on something unseen ahead of him.
"Ssh! I heard something!" Carlos said excitedly. He glanced at me, his eyebrows scrunched up with anxiety, than back at whatever he "heard."
I sighed and grumbled about Carlos' overactive imagination. Carlos suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled, pointing at something and yelling in my ear.
"Carlos! What? Oh-!" I saw a flash of brown and a rustle of leaves, and my only thought was "bear, run!" So, dragging Carlos with me by the arm, I took off in a run, both of us yelling in terror at the giant grizzly that we were sure was following us.
"What is that thing?" Carlos cried while panting. I chanced a look back and skidded to a stop when I saw that the evil bear we had been running from was really just a deer galloping around. It hadn't been chasing us at all. In fact, he was probably just as scared as we were. The deer froze in place and looked at me with innocent, hesitant brown eyes that strikingly resembled Carlos'. I took in a breath and stared at the animal. He was probably the most innocent thing I had ever seen. The deer blinked his wide eyes and flitted away quickly in fear, as if it suddenly remembered that he was supposed to be scared of us.
"Wait," I said softly. I didn't want him to leave yet. I found myself overtaken by the graceful beauty of the scared creature, but he was gone in the blink of an eye.
"He was so prettyful," Carlos said. I frowned. I was kind of sad that we had perturbed the deer's peaceful existence.
"I know… Come on, can we please head back to camp now? The guys are probably wondering what we're doing."
"'Kay," Carlos agreed. We both took a few steps towards what we thought was camp, but we had turned in two separate directions.
"Carlos, camp is this way," I reminded him, pointing my finger to where I believed we came from. I was expecting Carlos to make a "duh" sound and follow me but instead he thought for a moment, confused.
"No, we came from this way James," Carlos said slowly. I shook my head. I was sure we hadn't come from the direction Carlos was pointing towards.
"No buddy, it's this way," I argued, but my voice was rising in pitch with doubt. Suddenly, nothing looked familiar to me. I had been too busy running for my life from a docile deer to pay attention to where we were going. "On second thought, how sure are you Carlos?"
Carlos shrugged and looked around nervously. "M-maybe 40 percent?"
"40 percent?" I cried.
"I don't know! Maybe we came from that way! Or that way!" Carlos exclaimed, flinging his arms in all different directions.
"Oh no," I whispered, pinching the bridge of my nose with my forefinger and thumb. My stomach gave a nervous twist. Could it be that Carlos and I were really lost? How far into the woods had we gone? There was no sign of a trail anywhere, just a thick cloud of trees and evergreens. Everything was green and brown. When I listened carefully, all I could hear was an occasional tweet of a bird or the rustle of wind and leaves. I could no longer hear Logan and Kendall's voices being carried thru the wind.
"What do we do?" Carlos asked after a couple of minutes of just standing there dumbfounded.
"I don't know," I said truthfully. "What direction does your gut say?"
Carlos jabbed his thumb to the right, but he looked unsure of himself. "I really think it's this way, James."
Since I couldn't trust myself, my gut was telling me to trust Carlos. So I put my hand on his back and nodded, indicating for him to start walking.
We crunched over leaves and wound our way through the trees, keeping our eyes open for anything that looked familiar, but that was kind of hard when most of our surroundings were made up of identical evergreens.
"This can't be the right way, we've been walking for too long," I said, running my hand through my long hair. Even though it was chilly out, I realized I was sweating. I was starting to feel a bit scared. "If this was the right direction we would have been on the trail by now."
"This has to be the right way," Carlos said, but now I knew he wasn't sure at all, he was only desperate.
"I don't think it is buddy," I said, putting my hands on his shoulders to stop him from walking. He turned and looked at me, and I could tell he was just as scared as I was.
"Oh my God James, we're l-"
"No, don't say it," I said strictly. "Don't say it 'til it's true. Don't freak out yet. Let's just try a different way now, ok?"
Carlos swallowed and nodded. I could already tell that I would have to concentrate on keeping Carlos calm through this, even though I wanted to freak out myself.
"Do you remember any landmarks you might have seen, like a rock or a weird looking tree or a fallen branch? Anything at all?" I asked hopefully.
Carlos thought for a moment, his small features scrunched up in concentration, than shook his head.
"I don't know James, I wasn't looking," Carlos said apologetically.
"It's ok buddy, we got this. Let's try a different direction," I said, trying to stay light and positive. Carlos trailed behind me as we tried to go a different way, and another way, than another way. Soon, the sun was low in the sky and the trees only seemed to get thicker.
"We're only going deeper in the woods," Carlos cried out, interrupting the silence. I turned around in surprise to see the small boy rip off his backpack and throw it down to the ground in an act of frustration. I could only watch as he kicked the dirt and dead leaves beneath him, his chin quivering in a classic tell-tale warning that he was upset.
"Carlos…" I started, but I realized there wasn't anything I could actually say to make this better when he looked up at me with those huge brown eyes.
"We're lost," he stated bluntly.
"I know Carlos," I said. There was no denying it any longer. For all we knew, we had just been walking around in circles, or worse, straying far away in the opposite direction of camp. We had no clue. There was no way to tell. Logan possessed our only compass, and even if we had one, Carlos and I had no idea how to use it.
"James, what are we going to do?" Carlos asked me tearfully. He waited for some type of answer to comfort him from his older brother that never came, blinking his eyes expectantly. I just couldn't form an answer. Finally, he slumped to the dirt floor and buried his face in his knees while I just stood and watched. My mind was racing, my heart was beating rapidly. Cold sweat dripped down my forehead and palms, and I wiped the sticky wetness away subconsciously.
We were lost. It was mid-fall in Northern Minnesota, and we were lost and alone in God knows how vast of wilderness and nobody knew where we were. As my mind passed over scenario after horrible scenario while brainstorming ways to get out of this, I didn't even notice Carlos start to cry until he whimpered out,
"I want Logan!"
I felt a small pang of hurt in my gut at that comment, but I ignored it and went to comfort Carlos.
"It's ok, bud. I bet Logan and Kendall already called for help. They'll be sending search parties soon. We just have to wait it out, ok?"
Carlos scrubbed his eyes with small, chubby hands. "We have no idea how to survive in the wilderness, James. What if they don't find us? I don't want something bad to happen to us!"
"Hey, calm down," I said softly, putting my hands on his shoulders. "Don't think like that, 'Litos. We'll find them if they don't find us. It'll be fine, buddy. I promise."
"What are we going to do?" Carlos asked me. "Should we keep walking?"
"No, it's getting dark out and I don't want to get anymore lost than we already are," I said. "I think we need to rough it out and spend the night out here. They won't send search parties until the morning."
Carlos looked scared about the notion of spending the night in the wilderness, but we had sleeping bags, food, and the supplies we needed to get through the night comfortably. We wandered around for a bit and found a small clearing, where we unloaded our large backpacks from our wary shoulders.
"I'm so sore and hungry," Carlos complained. He reached his arm up to massage his stiff neck.
"Me too," I agreed. I started pulling random supplies from my bag, while Carlos rummaged around to find everything we needed to start a fire.
"I guess it's a good thing we were boy scouts for so long," Carlos said while he created some kindling for the fire. I smiled as I remembered back in the day, when the boys and I were the four stars of the boy scouts group we were in. Each one of us had our own strengths, and together we all dominated the group and won every challenge that we were set up to do. It was all fun and games back then to figure out how to survive in the wilderness, but now that we really were truly lost, something we never thought would happen, it didn't seem so fun anymore.
"Fire looks good, Carlitos," I said, giving the Latino the praise I knew he needed. Carlos beamed proudly in response, delighted to receive a compliment.
"Let's have some hotdogs," I suggested, pulling out a package of hotdogs from my small insulated bag. I impaled one on a stick I found lying around and gave the first one to Carlos, who took it gratefully and stuck it over the orange flames, watching it slowly turn brown. We ate our dinner of Gatorade and hotdogs in silence. We were too lost in thought to make conversation, not that there were many positive things to talk about when you were lost in the middle of the woods anyway.
When the sun went fully down, it was quite a considerable change in temperature. I could hear Carlos' teeth clatter with each shiver from where I was sitting across from him.
"It's really dark out here," Carlos commented with a violent shiver. He pulled his coat around himself tighter and inched closer to small campfire.
"You scared?" I asked, arching an eyebrow.
"N-no," Carlos said quickly. I knew he was lying.
"It's ok Carlos. I am too if it makes you feel any better," I told him. Carlos' head shot up curiously.
"Yeah. It's creepy out here, dude."
"I have this bad feeling in my tummy, James. That something awful is going to happen," Carlos blurted. His distressed expression was illuminated by the fire light. I frowned and scooted in close to Carlos so I could give him some physical comfort.
"It's going to be fine, Carlos. I promise," I said, rubbing Carlos' back through the thick material of his coat.
"Can we get in our sleeping bags? I'm cold James," Carlos told me. I nodded and set up our warm sleeping bags side by side. Carlos crawled into his and I zipped him up and made sure he was nice and snug before crawling into mine. I sighed at the protection from the harsh cold and laid my head on the hard ground.
"I won't be able to sleep tonight," Carlos said.
"You have to at least try," I told him. Carlos pouted and wriggled closer to me like a worm. I giggled.
"Come on buddy, you need your rest for tomorrow. We're safe here, I promise. Don't be worried."
Carlos didn't say anything, just rested his head on my shoulder. His soft spikes of black hair tickled my face, and I rested my chin on the top of his head.
"Good night Carlos," I murmured. The Latino mumbled something and nuzzled his tiny nose in my neck, already feeling sleepy. Now that he was cuddled against me, he was out like a light, feeling safe and protected. I sighed, knowing sleep would not come that easily to me tonight.
A/N Let me know what you think in one of those lovely things called a review! :D Thanks for reading!