It all started when Howie took a quick nap between interviews and soundcheck and woke up to find half his left eyebrow shorn and scattered across his shirt. He couldn't begin to count the number of times he had opened his eyes to find something had placed something in his mouth, or on his head, or in his nostril, and had even caught Nick leaning over his head, tongue between teeth in concentration over his prank. The missing eyebrow was the last straw, and Howie decided then and there that Nickolas Gene was going to get what he deserved.
Kevin laughed when he saw Howie's eyebrow, but he sobered quickly when he realized Howie was intent on his mission. Always one in favor of teaching Nick a lesson, and perhaps because Kevin realized his own eyebrows were too large for Nick's razor happy hands to resist, Kevin made a few phone calls.
The idea of punking the same celebrity twice, and said celebrity being clueless enough to fall for it more than once appealed to Ashton Kutcher and his fellow producers, who readily agreed to help teach Nick a lesson when the tour came to Los Angeles.
Howie and Kevin didn't tell AJ or Brian. Brian would have warned Nick, and everyone knew AJ couldn't keep a secret to save his life.
When Nick left the hotel in Los Angeles through the back service entrance, as was their usual method to avoid the fans camping out near the front doors, he almost knocked a girl over. She was dressed in a short skirt and tank top, and looked almost exactly like a fan, except she had nothing to be signed, and didn't appear to want a hug.
"I'm sorry, can you help me?" she asked.
"What?" Nick said stupidly, not expecting her to speak to him.
"I don't feel very... I'm really dizzy, would you mind helping me to my car? It's right over there." She pointed across the small parking area, wobbling back and forth in her heels.
"Uh, yeah, I guess." Ever the not-so-eloquent gentleman, Nick glanced back at his bodyguard, who shrugged.
Nick helped her to her car, and even held the door open for her, which meant he didn't notice the police car pull in. When the first officer asked him to move away from the car, Nick did as he was told, moving slowly, and glancing around as if expecting a SWAT team to jump out from behind a dumpster at any moment.
"Sir, you are aware that it's illegal to solicit a prostitute in this city?"
Nick's eyes widened. "Yeah, but it's not like that! I don't even know her!"
"Of course you don't, sir. What's your name?"
"No, no, let me explain what happened. I didn't... I mean..." Nick turned towards the car and the girl. "You're a prostitute?" He repeated in disbelief, shaking his head when she nodded. "Oh man!"
After another minute of the first officer asking Nick his name while Nick wandered in a small circle, shaking his head and mumbling about how this couldn't be happening and it was just a big misunderstanding, the second officer took over. "Sir, this is going to go a lot faster if you just cooperate."
Nick stopped circling. "I do not know her." He repeatedly slowly. "This is just a really huge misunderstanding."
"Sir, we saw you leave the building with her. You were trying to sneak her out the back entrance."
Nick's jaw dropped. "I was not!"
The first officer turned to the girl. "Was he sneaking you out of the building?" She nodded.
"What the fuck is wrong with you!" Nick yelled, turning towards the car. "That's not what happened!"
The second officer, a tall man, easily the size of Nick, stepped in front of him. "Let's just calm down. If you'll just wait here, we'll get her taken care of, and then we have a few questions for you. Okay?"
Nick sighed and turned back in the other direction, pacing back and forth, running a hand through his hair. "Kevin's gonna fuckin' flip his lid," he mumbled, glancing back towards the police, who were handcuffing the girl and helping her into the patrol car.
Howie and Kevin knew that in a situation like this, Nick would call Brian. Brian was sitting on the sofa in the hotel suite, playing with his cell phone when it rang. He jumped and made a face before answering.
"Brian, don't tell Kevin, but I'm kind of in trouble." Nick blurted.
"Seriously, you left ten minutes ago. You can't be in trouble already." Brian retorted.
"Um, I'm out back of the hotel, and there's some police here, and I think they're gonna arrest me." Nick was talking quietly, trying not to attract the attention of the officers.
Brian laughed. "What did you do?"
"They kind of think I solicited a prostitute."
"I think you'd better find Johnny." Something in Nick's tone clued Brian in that this wasn't one of Nick's stupid jokes.
"Yeah, okay. I'll be right down." Brian snapped his phone shut. "Where's Johnny?"
Kevin shrugged. "He's around here somewhere. What's going on?"
"Nick thinks he's about to be arrested for solicitation in the parking lot." Brian explained quickly, promptly forgetting anything Nick had said about not telling Kevin.
AJ laughed. "Dumbass."
"AJ, it's not funny!" Brian admonished.
"Right. I'll go get Johnny." AJ knew when to make his exit.
Kevin led the way to the elevator, jabbing at the button and then standing with his hands on his hips, the very picture of indignation. "What exactly did he say?"
Brian ran a hand along the back of his head. "I don't remember exactly. He was either being arrested or he thought he was going to be. Um, are you all coming with me?"
"Yes." Kevin said firmly, smacking the elevator button one more time for good measure.
"When dealing with Nick, the best policy is safety in numbers." Howie offered.
"I'm going to fucking rip his head off." Kevin announced as the elevator arrived.
"No, you're not." Brian said calmly.
"I mean, really." Kevin pointed out as they hurried down the hallway outside the hotel kitchen, his boots making sharp sounds against the tile. "It's the middle of the damn afternoon. What was he thinking?"
"It's Nick." Brian said, as if that explained everything.
"I thought I told you not to tell Kevin!" Nick hissed at Brian when they arrived. He was obviously upset, and Howie was pleased it was going so well.
"It slipped out." Brian shrugged, grabbing Nick by one arm to stop his nervous pacing. "What happened?"
"I was leaving the hotel, and this girl asked me to help her to her car, and I did, and then there were police everywhere and they think I was, you know, with her. And then when they asked her, she said I was."
"Were you?" Kevin demanded.
"No!" Nick shouted. "Dammit, Brian, why did you have to tell him?"
"Because someone has to get you out of all your goddamn messes." Kevin snapped.
"Kiss my ass." Nick retorted.
"Stop it, both of you!" Brian clapped his hands, exactly as if he were trying to get the attention of his dogs.
Kevin stared down at his cousin, dumbfounded. "What... did you just clap at me?"
Howie had to turn away to hide his smile.
After they finished questioning Nick, Kevin argued with the officers for a few minutes, displaying some fairly impressive acting skills, and after the second time they threatened to arrest Kevin as well, Brian took over.
"Your name, sir?"
"And you're part of..." The first officer consulted his clipboard. "The Backstreet Boys?"
"Yes sir, I am."
"And the argumentative one, you know him?"
"That's Kevin. He's my cousin." Brian explained. "He's in the group as well."
"I see." The officer made a note. "Do you have any other family members in the group?"
Brian stared at the officer for several seconds. "No. I don't."
When Nick started crying, Howie kind of felt bad. It had only been an eyebrow. It had been an annoying, stupid thing to do, but eyebrows grew back eventually. "Come on, Nick," he offered. "It'll be okay."
Nick snuffled something into the arm of his shirt that could have been "no, it won't," but Howie couldn't really tell.
"Nick, calm down." Kevin sounded worried. "We'll take care of it."
"I don't understand." Brian said to Howie as the police officers put Nick in the back of the car. "This doesn't make any sense."
"Hey, Nick?" Howie said through the open window of the patrol car. "Kevin and I just punk'd you."
Nick's expression changed from worried to angry in less than two seconds. "What the fuck, Howie!" He fought with the car door, trying to open it.
"This was just a big prank?" Brian demanded, his eyes hard. "You made him cry. You're both jackasses!"
"Yeah, that wasn't part of the plan." Kevin said quickly, bending over to peer in the back of the car. "I'm really sorry about that, Nick."
"Punk'd?" Nick repeated, leaning out the window to look at the police officers. They waved at him. Nick laughed. "Oh my god, I can't believe they did this to me twice!" He rattled the door of the car. "Let me out!"
"You're not going to hit any of us or tackle us or anything, are you?" Howie asked.
Nick shook his head, and Howie reached over and opened the door. As soon as he was out, Nick put Howie in a headlock and walked him in circles around the parking lot.
"Nick, stop!" Howie yelped in protest, trying to save his hair. "My hair!"
"Fuck your hair, D." Nick deliberately messed Howie's hair more. "I thought I was going to end up on the front of People for something I didn't do. Again."
Kevin laughed. Nick dropped Howie and went after Kevin. Kevin didn't have any hair to mess with, and he was strong enough that Nick couldn't wrestle him around for long. It was Kevin, so it turned into a hug after a few seconds anyway.
Brian stood off to the side, shaking his head as if he couldn't believe he was associated with such morons. He shook the hands of both the police officers though, so Howie figured he couldn't be very upset.
"Okay, Johnny's on his way!" AJ announced, joining the group almost ten minutes later.
"Fat lot of good you are, AJ." Nick shook his head. "It was just a stupid prank Howie and Kevin set up with Punk'd."
AJ raised an eyebrow. "They punk'd you again? Damn, Nick."
"Howie actually punk'd someone?" AJ smacked Howie on the back. "Nice going, D."
"I only did it to get Nick back for my eyebrow." Howie explained.
Nick looked confused. "What?"
"That time you shaved off my eyebrow."
"I never did that."
"Uh-oh." AJ glanced from Howie to Nick and back again. "That wasn't Nick. I shaved your eyebrow."