Every Second Counts

Part One

12:35 A.M.
The Bar

Jen Maguire was giggling loudly as she lifted her glass to her lips and two arms wrapped around her waist from behind, but the sound was drowned out by the loud music playing in the cruise ship's bar. As Jen kept giggling, the two arms, which happened to belong to her best friend Kevin Richardson, pulled her off of the bar stool and onto her feet. Putting his hands on her hips, he turned her around to face him.

"I'm back from the little boys' room," Kevin said with a drunken smile.

Jen giggled some more as he leaned forward and began to kiss her neck. "What did you see there?" she replied, her laugh sounding just as tipsy as his voice was.

Kevin stopped kissing her and frowned in thought. "A really fat dude," he replied after some consideration. "But you're prettier."

More giggles. "Oh, Kevin," she said, embarrassed. "Don't make me blush!"

"Okay," Kevin agreed happily. "Hey," he said, getting an idea, "wanna make out?"

Jen pushed him away, rolling her eyes. "Ke-vin," she groaned.

"What?" Kevin whined. "You're hot! I wanna make out!" he complained. "Pleeease?" He pouted at her.


"You know you want to, Jenny," Kevin teased.

"Oh, fine," Jen finally consented.

He grinned and pulled her to him again. "Good," he murmured before starting to kiss her.

Jen giggled and went along with him for a minute before pushing him away again.

"What!" Kevin protested immediately. "You said I could!"

"I know, but not here," Jen said impatiently.


"In your room, silly!" Jen said, giggling. She took his hand and started to pull him towards the door. "Come on!"

12:25 A.M.
The Bar

Howie sighed as he watched Kevin and Jen leave the room, unable to keep from smiling. This should definitely prove interesting when the two of them sobered up again, considering the fact that Kevin had had a huge crush on Jen for quite some time now. Normally Howie would look out for his friends and keep them from doing stupid things if they were drunk, but he had a feeling that Kevin would thank him for not interfering later on. Especially if the two of them ended up getting together later on all because of tonight. Maybe eventually they would even get married. G- d knew they got along with each other well enough.

As his thoughts wandered to the subject of marriage, his face turned sad, and he flagged down the bartender to order another drink. Marriage had been causing so much of the tension in his life lately. After ordering the drink, he turned around to face the dance floor and tried to get his mind off of the subject. Normally he would be dancing and having a great time...with her. But not tonight. Not now. Now things were different.

12:30 A.M.
The Observation Deck

Kara sighed to herself and rested her cheek on her fist as she stood alone in the cool, silent night air on the deck of the boat. Sometimes she just hated her life. This was getting to be one of those times. Not that she had really cared all that much about Matthew. Lately their relationship had been nothing but long periods of screaming fights interspersed with very brief periods of really good sex. It was just that getting dumped always depressed Kara in a way that nothing else quite could.

Hearing the door opening behind her, Kara jumped and whirled around quickly. She sighed and relaxed, seeing Nick Carter, her best friend since childhood. He was holding two full drinks and trying desperately not to spill them, and Kara couldn't help laughing as he very, very carefully closed the door with his hip.

"Hey," she said wearily.

He smiled encouragingly at her. "Hi, sweetie, I saw you come up here and I was worried. Martini?"

Kara smiled back wryly and took it from him. "Trying to turn me into an alcoholic again so you can get me in the sack, Carter?"

He smirked. "Am I that transparent to you?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

Nick smiled and shook his head. "Seriously though...what's wrong?"

Kara's smile faded, and she shrugged and turned back to face the water again. "You know...the whole getting dumped thing," she sighed.

Nick faced the water too, leaning against the railing beside her. "Did you really care about him?" he asked.

"No...not really," Kara admitted factually.

"Then what's the point of being upset about it?" Nick concluded logically. "If you didn't care about him, it's a good thing you got out of the relationship. You were wasting your time on him."

"I know. I just hate rejection," Kara said morosely. A smile played across her lips. "And I wouldn't say I was wasting my time. I mean, when we actually weren't fighting, the sex was really good."

"Aw, baby, if that's all you're looking for, you can always find it right here," Nick offered, turning towards her and pointing to himself.

Kara grinned and pushed him away. "You're pathetic, Carter."

"Hey, I try," he agreed, grinning back. "C'mere," he said, opening his arms. She smiled and stepped into them, wrapping her own around his waist. "Listen, Kara," Nick said softly, speaking to the top of her head, "everything's gonna work out fine. You're gonna find the right guy and fall in love with him...and he'll get lots of play instead of me..."

Kara laughed. Almost a year ago, when she had been coming out of a bad phase of her life, she and Nick had had a very brief fling when they had been all over each other all the time. However, after about a week, it had become too strange, and they had gone back to being just friends again.

"So are you gonna be okay?" Nick asked.

Kara looked up at him and smiled weakly. "Yeah, I'll be fine," she said.

Nick gave her a final squeeze and a kiss on her forehead. "I love you."

Kara smiled. "Love you too, Carter."

Just as she said that, the door opened again. "Oh, sorry, looks like I'm ruining a Kodak moment," said the intruder sarcastically.

Kara rolled her eyes and let go of Nick, the smile dying from her lips when she heard that voice. "No, Brian, you ruin every moment," she said under her breath. She had hated Brian Littrell, Nick's best friend, practically ever since the day she had first met him. There was just something about him that she couldn't stand, and vice versa, and whenever the two of them were in a room together, it usually resulted in a huge verbal free-for-all.

Nick swallowed, seeing Kara just looking even more miserable while Brian chuckled in satisfaction. He quickly pulled her into a hug again. "If you don't mind, Rok, we were kind of in the middle of something here," Nick said.

"Actually, we were just coming to the end," Kara corrected, pulling away from Nick. "I'm going to bed. See you tomorrow."

"Goodnight," Nick replied as she walked to the door.

"Sweet dreams, sugar muffin," Brian cooed at her as she opened the door.

"You too, sweetums," Kara snapped just as she went inside and the door slammed shut.

When she was gone, Nick gave Brian a look. "Do you always have to treat her like that, Bri?"

Brian's jaw dropped. "You're blaming this on me?"

"Yes, I'm blaming this on you! You could have just left us alone!"

"Why? So you could keep making out with her?" Brian muttered.

"What the hell, Brian! She was all depressed before and I finally had her feeling better, but you ruined it!" Nick complained.

Brian sighed, seeing that he wasn't going to win. "All right, fine. I'm sorry. But Kara and I have never gotten along, you know that. It's not like it means anything anymore."

"I know, but there are times when it's just not right to treat people like that. She was seriously upset."

"I'm sorry, Nick, what else do you want me to do?"

"Tell her," Nick suggested.

"Yeah, right!" Brian said immediately.

"G-d you're immature!" Nick mumbled. "Fine. Don't."

"Look, I just came up here to tell you that A.J.'s looking for you," Brian said matter-of-factly.

"What does he want?"

"Not a clue, but he was staring at something with googoo eyes the entire time he was talking to me," Brian answered. "'Go get Nick for me,'" he imitated with wide eyes as he pretended to drool, finally making his friend crack a smile.

"I see," Nick replied. He already had an inkling as to what A.J. wanted. "I'd better go talk to him then." He picked up his and Kara's drinks from the railing and started for the door.

"Frack," Brian said, stopping him.

He turned. "Hm?"

"I really am sorry."

"That's fine, Brian. I'm not mad. But I'm not the one you hurt," Nick said simply. Then he opened the door and went inside.


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