Riding the Waves by AJBrianFan
Summary: Just when Alex McLean thought he was living life exactly the way he wanted to, his past comes back to haunt him in more ways than one. Will he find the strength to move on from it for good? Will he be able to cope with the difficult days that lie ahead?
Categories: Fanfiction > Backstreet Boys Characters: AJ, Group
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Graphic Sexual Content, Sexual Content
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 39 Completed: No Word count: 96772 Read: 43578 Published: 09/19/09 Updated: 12/03/10
Story Notes:
This is my first AJ fic, so be nice. ;) All chapters are in AJ's point of view (sort of) unless otherwise noted.

AJ doesn't have any addiction problems in this fic (so far).

1. Chapter 1 by AJBrianFan

2. Chapter 2 by AJBrianFan

3. Chapter 3 by AJBrianFan

4. Chapter 4 by AJBrianFan

5. Chapter 5 by AJBrianFan

6. Chapter 6 by AJBrianFan

7. Chapter 7 by AJBrianFan

8. Chapter 8 by AJBrianFan

9. Chapter 9 by AJBrianFan

10. Chapter 10 by AJBrianFan

11. Chapter 11 by AJBrianFan

12. Chapter 12 by AJBrianFan

13. Chapter 13 by AJBrianFan

14. Chapter 14 by AJBrianFan

15. Chapter 15 by AJBrianFan

16. Chapter 16 by AJBrianFan

17. Chapter 17 by AJBrianFan

18. Chapter 18 by AJBrianFan

19. Chapter 19 by AJBrianFan

20. Chapter 20 by AJBrianFan

21. Chapter 21 by AJBrianFan

22. Chapter 22 by AJBrianFan

23. Chapter 23 by AJBrianFan

24. Chapter 24 by AJBrianFan

25. Chapter 25 by AJBrianFan

26. Chapter 26 by AJBrianFan

27. Chapter 27 by AJBrianFan

28. Chapter 28 by AJBrianFan

29. Chapter 29 by AJBrianFan

30. Chapter 30 by AJBrianFan

31. Chapter 31 by AJBrianFan

32. Chapter 32 by AJBrianFan

33. Chapter 33 by AJBrianFan

34. Chapter 34 by AJBrianFan

35. Chapter 35 by AJBrianFan

36. Chapter 36 by AJBrianFan

37. Chapter 37 by AJBrianFan

38. Chapter 38 by AJBrianFan

39. Chapter 39 by AJBrianFan

Chapter 1 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 9/19. Please read and review! :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
10:05 PM

He was getting impatient as their plane was sitting on the ramp at Los Angeles International Airport. The Backstreet Boys had just finished a show the previous day in Mexico City, Mexico for their Unbreakable Tour and while the show was great and the fans were amazing, AJ McLean just wanted to get home and relax for the fifteen-day break he and the fellas needed before going back on the road to Stuttgart, Germany on April 2nd.

He couldn't wait to see two of the most important things in his life—but he would have to wait until they would let him off this damn plane! What was the hold up?

"AJ! C'mon man, let's go!" Brian Littrell said as he started to get his bags from his overhead compartment.

'Finally.'

AJ grabbed his bag and exited the plane. The Boys walked out of Gate 18 and that's when he saw them.

"Daddy!" A little boy ran to him and he knelt down and scooped him up and into his arms, giving him a bear hug and a sloppy wet kiss. "I missed you so much!"

AJ laughed. "I missed you, too. Have you been a good boy for Mommy?"

"Yes, he has."

AJ put Jordan down and embraced his wife. "Hello, gorgeous."

Kim was a beautiful woman who stood a few inches shorter than AJ. She had long dark brown hair and brown eyes, which was one of the first things he noticed about her when they first met because they were so similar in color to his own. She had a slender frame with an oval-shaped face and a smile that was infectious. Her fun-loving personality and laid-back nature was exactly what AJ was looking for at the time and they immediately clicked. They dated for almost two years before they got married in August 2002.

"Hey, baby." They kissed a few times not caring who was around, just in their own little world for a brief moment.

"How was your flight?"

"Good, uneventful. How was J's appointment with the doctor?"

Kim and Jordan were supposed to fly out to Guadalajara to be with AJ during their shows in Mexico a few days before, but Jordan developed an ear infection and was advised not to fly until he was well again.

"It was fine, she said the infection's clearing up and just have him finish the meds so there's no recurrence."

AJ smiled. "Great. It's too bad you guys couldn't come out, I missed you so much." He hugged her tightly.

"Yeah, he was really upset about it. I missed you, too."

They walked to Baggage Claim to pick up AJ's luggage and went back to the gate.

"C'mon, let's go talk with everyone for a few minutes, then we'll go home." He took Jordan's hand and the three of them went to the group that was now gathering.

As Brian saw AJ holding his little boy's hand with his wife by his side, he couldn't help but be proud of the man that AJ had become. Sure, he was still his wild, dorky self, but when he married Kim and had Jordan, he definitely slowed down and prioritized his life. When he found out that Kim was pregnant, he quit smoking so their baby wouldn't be harmed. He was there for her every step of the way, and Brian knew that he would be an amazing husband and father. He then looked to his own family and smiled.
----------------

"It was great seeing you again Leighanne," said Kim as the two hugged and said their goodbyes.

"You too, you guys should come to Marietta soon, I know that Baylee would love to see Jordan more often."

"That would be great, wouldn't it, J?"

"Yeah!" he said with great enthusiasm.

She chuckled. "C'mon, let's go see what Daddy's doing."

Kim walked up to AJ as he was talking to Brian. "Alex, are you ready to go?"

"Yeah, babe, hold on for one second. Hey guys: it's been fun as always. See you guys in a couple weeks." He made the rounds as he hugged everyone and said his goodbyes.

Slinging his bag over his shoulder and picking up Jordan, they exited the airport, not without a few flashbulbs going off, of course. As always, he was gracious with the reporters and paparazzi, answering a few questions even in his rush to get home.

One reporter asked, "How was Mexico?"

"Good, man, good. The shows were great, the fans were great, we couldn't ask for anything better."

Another asked, "Why wasn't your family with you?"

"Jordan got an ear infection and was not allowed to fly out for the shows. He's doing better now."

"That's great, thanks, AJ."

"No problem, man."

He answered a couple more as he put his things in the trunk and they got in their black Porsche Cayenne S and began the drive home. Kim drove since AJ was wiped from his flight.

Around a half-hour later, they arrived at the house and were greeted by their dog Bernie.

"Daddy's home! I missed you, yes, I did! Yes, I did!" He roughed him up a bit, then turned to Kim who was holding a sleeping Jordan.

"I'm gonna put him to bed."

"How about we both do it?"

"Alright."

AJ took his luggage upstairs to the bedroom and joined Kim in Jordan's room.

"Should we put him in PJs or just tuck him in?"

"Nah, let him sleep. He needs his rest."

AJ pulled the comforter out of the way and Kim laid Jordan down. He grabbed his teddy bear and put it next to him while she covered him. They both kissed him on the forehead.

"Goodnight, J, Mommy loves you."

"Goodnight, little man."

They turned off the light, shut the door, and walked out of the room. Both went into their bedroom and AJ began to unpack. Once he did, they sat on the bed holding hands, kissing.

"Alex?"

"Hm?"

"Will you sing to me?"

"Any requests?"

She shook her head. "No, you can sing the alphabet and I won't care."

"Okay, let's see..." He cleared his throat, looked deep into her eyes and began to sing softly.

Once there was a time love was just a myth
It just wasn't for real, it didn't exist
'Til the day you came into my life
You forced me to think twice
I didn't have too much, no I wasn't rich
You gave me belief someday I'd be more than this
That's why until this day I'm still your man
'Cause you made me understand that

Love is kisses in a bean bag chair
The two of us but no one there
Love is the moment that I climb the stairs
To hold you in my arms after we make love
Love is waking up to see your face
Or kissing in the morning rain
Love is
The only thing that keeps me sane
At the end of the day is that I've got you...


"I love you so much, baby." AJ kissed her deeply and just looked at her. "Hey Kim?"

"Yeah?" she breathed.

"You know what's better than make-up sex?"

She grinned mischievously. "I can think of a few things..."

"What about 'welcome home' sex?"

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that." She rolled her eyes.

"What do ya say?" AJ pushed her down on the bed and began kissing her neck. "God, you're beautiful..." He playfully nipped at her ear.

"Why, you little devil..." she giggled as he pulled her into his arms.

"God, you don't know how long I've been waiting to—"

They both stopped when there was a small knock at the door.

"Mommy? Daddy?" A small sniffle was also heard.

AJ got up from the bed and opened the door, finding Jordan with his blanket and teddy bear in tow. His face was flushed with tears streaming down his cheeks, and was tugging at his right ear.

AJ looked at him sadly. "Oh J...come here, buddy." He picked him up and brought him to Kim. "We've got a situation here, Mommy."

"What is it? Did he have a bad dream?" She then noticed his tears and bright red ear. "Sit him down here." He did so. "Does your ear hurt, Jordan?"

He whimpered, "Uh-huh. A lot."

"Come here, baby, Mommy and Daddy will make it all better." He snuggled up against her as she felt his cheeks and forehead. "Alex, he's burning up. Get the thermometer."

"You got it." He hurried out of the room and into the bathroom and grabbed the ear thermometer and came back.

He walked up to Jordan and tried to put it in his left ear, but he kept squirming. "J? C'mon, it's not gonna hurt. Daddy's just gonna take your temperature with this, remember? It doesn't hurt, see?" He put in his own ear and it beeped three seconds later and read 98.4 degrees. "Okay?" He cleaned the end with an alcohol wipe and Jordan relented, letting him use the device. It beeped and read 103.1 degrees. He showed it to Kim, who then asked AJ to make another trip to the bathroom to get some ear drops and Children's Motrin. He came back and set them on the bedside table. Now the real challenge came: to get Jordan to take some medicine and get him back to sleep.

AJ took some medicine and put it in the dosage cup and held onto it. "Jordan, will you please take some medicine for daddy? If you're a good boy, I'll have Mommy bring you some juice okay?"

"No! Medicine yucky!" He crossed his arms and shook his head.

"Please J? It'll make you feel much better. I promise."

"Uh-uh!"

"Please?"

"No!" He tried to push him away.

"Jordan Anthony, you are going to take this medicine right now!" he yelled.

Kim spoke up and said, "Alex! You don't need to use that tone with him!"

He sighed. "I'm sorry, buddy. Now...will you please take this for me? Please J?"

"Okay," he said quietly.

He handed him the medicine. "There you go, bottoms up."

Jordan drank it and swallowed, grimacing at the taste.

"That's my big boy!" chimed Kim.

"See? That wasn't so bad. Mommy can get you some juice now."

Kim got up from the bed, kissed AJ and Jordan on the cheek, and went down to the kitchen to get a juice box from the refrigerator. She came back to the bedroom, opened it, and gave it to him.

"Alex, do you think we need to call Alyssa?" she asked worriedly. Alyssa Boone was Jordan's pediatrician.

"No, he's got some medicine in him. Fevers always spike at night. If he doesn't improve by morning, we will. Okay?"

"Alright. I'm kinda worried. He seemed fine today, what if he gets worse?"

"I'm sure he won't, baby. If he does, we'll make another appointment and get him some stronger meds. Don't worry, babe." He gave her a squeeze and kissed her hair.

"Hey J?"

He looked up with fever-glazed eyes. "Yes, Daddy?"

"Put your juice down. Lay on your side for me." He did and AJ opened the bottle of ear drops. "I'm gonna put these drops in your ear so it won't hurt anymore okay?"

He sniffled a little and closed his eyes. "Okay, Daddy."

"This won't hurt a bit, I promise." He put three drops into his son's ear and closed the bottle and set it on the table. "I need you to lay still like this for five minutes, okay? I'll tell you when you can get up."

Jordan said, "'Kay."

Five minutes passed and Jordan was allowed to get up. AJ picked him up, blanket and all, and the two of them went to his room to put his pajamas on. They came back to the room and Kim took Jordan downstairs to the living room.

"I'll be down in a minute, I'm gonna change, too." he called after them. He grabbed a pair of plaid lounge pants and a white t-shirt and changed, then jogged down the stairs and into the living room. Jordan was on the couch watching cartoons and Kim was in the kitchen. He joined Jordan just as Kim came to say goodnight to them.

"Is it okay if I go to bed, Alex? I'm pretty beat."

"No problem, babe, I got this. I love you." They kissed each other and Kim kissed Jordan's forehead.

"Goodnight, J, behave for Daddy. I love you both."

"'Night Mommy, love you, too."

"'Night, Kim."

She started to walk to the stairs, then turned around to have one last look at the two of them: father and son. One thing she could not picture Alex becoming when they first met was a family man. They say to never judge a book by its cover, so, when Alex found out that she was pregnant, she was shocked to find out that he couldn't wait to be a dad. Alex knew to cherish these times with Jordan. After all, he wasn't going to be a four year-old forever. She smiled and went upstairs to bed.

AJ and Jordan lay down on the couch, AJ pulling a blanket over the two of them. About ten minutes later, he saw that Jordan fell asleep, still clutching his teddy bear. He turned off the TV, putting his arm protectively around him and went to sleep also.
End Notes:
Song credit: "Love Is" by the Backstreet Boys, an unreleased song from their Never Gone (2005) album.
Chapter 2 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 9/23. Thank you to those who reviewed chapter one. Please read and review! :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
7:52 AM

Around 8 AM, AJ felt someone poking him in the arm. He lazily opened his eyes and saw Jordan standing next to him.

"'Morning, J," AJ said as he yawned.

"G'morning, Daddy."

He quickly sat up and felt his son's forehead only to find it much cooler than the night before. "What's wrong? Does your ear still hurt? Are you okay?" he asked worriedly.

"I'm okay, Daddy. Can you make me some cereal? Please?"

AJ chuckled and ruffled Jordan's hair. "Sure thing, little man." He got up and stretched, then went into the kitchen to get Jordan's breakfast and start a pot of coffee.

He opened their cereal cabinet and asked Jordan, "Do you want Lucky Charms or Cocoa Puffs?"

"Cocoa Puffs!"

"Alright."

He made the bowl of cereal and fixed the coffee pot to start brewing. AJ went back into the living room and gave Jordan his breakfast. He returned to the kitchen to make himself a bagel with cream cheese. As he finished, the phone rang and he answered it.

"Hello?"

"Hi, sweetheart."

"Hey, Mom, is something wrong?" he questioned.

"Oh no, I was just calling to see how you were doing. Kim told me that you were coming home last night."

"I'm fine."

"How was Mexico?"

"It was great. Nice weather and the shows were amazing. It's too bad that Kim and Jordan couldn't come out."

"Oh, that's right. How is he doing?" she asked.

"We had a bit of a scare last night, but, we took care of it."

"What happened?"

"J spiked an 103-degree fever and his ear was really hurting him."

"Oh, boy," Denise said worriedly.

"But we gave him some medicine and ear drops and got him to sleep. He's eating right now, so, he must be feeling a little bit better," AJ explained.

"Well that's good. Give him a hug and a kiss for me."

"I will."

"So what are your plans for today?"

"I think I'm just gonna chill at home with Jordan, you know how clingy he gets when he's sick," he reasoned.

"Right. Is Kim up yet?"

"No, why?" he wondered.

"I just need to ask her something."

"Okay, I'll have her call you when she gets up."

"Alright, son. I've gotta go run some errands and go to the store," she said.

"Gotcha. Love you, Mom."

"I love you, Alex, bye."

"Bye."

AJ hung up the phone, got his coffee, and went into the living room to eat his breakfast with Jordan.

"Hey, J?"

"Yes, Daddy?"

AJ set his food down and picked Jordan up. "These," he hugged and kissed him, "are from Grammy." Jordan giggled. "Oof, you're getting heavy." He set him down and started to eat.

Both of them were watching cartoons when Kim and Bernie came downstairs.

"G'morning, boys." She walked over to them and smiled.

"'Morning, babe. Did you sleep good?" He gave her a kiss.

"Yeah, thanks. How was the couch? Did it mess your back up again?" she asked.

AJ shook his head. "Surprisingly, no. Maybe Jordan here is good luck." He ruffled his hair again.

Kim turned to Jordan. "And how are you doing this morning, J?" she asked as she felt his forehead.

"I'm okay, Mommy." he smiled a little.

"Good. He's still got a fever, but, it's nowhere near as bad as last night."

"Yeah, we can check it when he's done eating," AJ said.

Kim went to the kitchen, got herself some coffee and a bagel, and let Bernie outside to do his business. She went back to the living room and sat next to AJ.

"Are you gonna stay home with Jordan today?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Oh, I just wanted to go out and have lunch with Rachel. We haven't gotten together in months, her job's been keeping her busy." Kim said.

"I can definitely understand that. What time?"

"Around 12:30."

"No problem. I think we need to spend some quality time together, anyway."

"Great."

AJ turned to Jordan and asked, "Are you done, buddy?" He nodded. AJ took the dishes to the kitchen, rinsed them out, and put them in the sink. Then he went upstairs to the bedroom and got the thermometer and medicine and came back to the living room.

"J? Time to check your temperature and give you some more medicine, okay?"

"Uh-uh," he whimpered.

"C'mon, Jordan, it'll take five minutes. Please?"

"Uh-uh!" He buried his face into Kim's shoulder.

"C'mon, J, do it for Mommy. Daddy wouldn't do anything to hurt you, right?" she asked gently.

"Yes..."

"Well, you're sick and Daddy needs to do these things to make you feel better, okay?"

"Okay." he said quietly.

"Good. Now, sit up and let Daddy do what he needs to do."

Jordan complied and AJ took his temperature. The thermometer read 101.3 degrees.

"It's 101.3, Kim."

"Well, that's better than 103."

AJ gave Jordan his antibiotics, Motrin, and ear drops. Jordan went upstairs to go play in his room and AJ and Kim went into the kitchen.

AJ went to the sink and started loading the dishes into the dishwasher. "My mom called. She needs to ask you something, so, call her cell phone. She's out running errands and stuff."

"Oh, okay. I will a little later."

AJ came up behind Kim and put his arms around her waist and started kissing her neck. "Sorry I yelled at Jordan last night. I was just tired, I guess."

"It's okay, baby, you didn't mean anything by it."

"And frustrated that he ruined our 'moment'..." he finished. "But I guess when you have a sick kid, you gotta take care of it." AJ rolled his eyes jokingly.

Kim chuckled. "You know...we can still have our 'moment' right now." She turned to face him and kissed his lips.

"You know what? You're right." He took Kim's hand as he led her upstairs to the bedroom.
Chapter 3 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 9/28. Please read and review! :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
3:17 PM

While Kim was out with Rachel, AJ and Jordan just lounged around in the living room watching TV and eating way too many sweets. Next, they were going to watch a movie and Jordan was allowed to choose which one.

"What do you wanna watch, J?" AJ asked.

Jordan just groaned.

AJ chuckled. "You tired, J? Does your tummy hurt? I told you not to eat all of those cookies."

"A little..." he said quietly.

"You wanna take a nap?"

Jordan nodded and laid his head on his father's lap. AJ grabbed the blanket and draped it over him. He switched the TV from DVD to Cable and settled on watching billiards on ESPN.

Around 5 PM, Kim came home from lunch and shopping with Rachel to a surprisingly quiet house. She figured that the two of them would be bouncing off the walls...or something. She went into the living room and saw AJ watching TV with Jordan in his lap.

"Hey, babe." She gave him a kiss.

"Oh, hey."

"I brought home dinner." she said gesturing to the McDonald's bag and cardboard drink tray.

"Great. Should I wake him up?"

She smiled. "How long has he been out?"

"Since around 3."

She brushed some hair out of Jordan's face and felt his forehead. "He's still a little warm. Did he behave?" she said, looking up from Jordan.

"Yeah, we had a good time together. Watched TV, played around, raided the junk food drawer..."

"Alex! You know not to give him too many sweets..." Kim playfully smacked his arm.

"I know, but we needed something to snack on." AJ gently prodded Jordan awake, which did not sit well with him.

"Hey, sleepyhead. Mommy brought you home some chicken nuggets and fries. Are you hungry?"

He sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Kinda."

"You feeling better?"

Jordan shrugged.

Kim took out Jordan's Happy Meal and arranged it for him. "There you go. Now, you don't have to eat it all, just eat until you're full and then you can have your toy."

AJ took out his food: a double quarter pounder with cheese, large fries, a medium Coke, and a small iced tea, no lemon.

Kim got a double cheeseburger, fries and a Coke.

After they finished eating, they threw their garbage out and AJ cleaned up the semi-mess he and Jordan made earlier in the kitchen. He went upstairs to make a few phone calls.

He dialed a number and someone answered on the other end:

"Hello?"

"Hey, Rok, it's me."

"Oh...hey man." Brian said, a little distracted.

"Is something wrong?"

"No, just got a killer headache..."

"Oh. Are you guys staying in LA for this break?"

"Yeah, it'll be easier that way. The less traveling, the better."

"How are Leighanne and Baylee?"

"They're fine. B's just been going crazy all day, non-stop energy," he said as he rubbed his temple.

"Ha, Jordan's been the opposite. He just napped for a couple hours and had some dinner."

"How's he feelin'?"

"He's okay, still got a fever, but, he hasn't complained too much about his ear. He spiked an 103-degree temperature last night, but, he's considerably cooler and is eating and playing, which is good."

"That's good. Are they coming to Europe with us?"

"I think so, nothing's finalized yet." AJ answered.

"Okay. Well, Leighanne's calling me for dinner. Gotta go!" Brian said from "The Call".

AJ chuckled. "Alright, man. Later."

"Bye."

AJ hung up and called his friends Chris and Reneé to see if they wanted to go out and hit up the nightlife in downtown Los Angeles that night. They said yes and they would meet at AJ's house at 9 PM. Now all AJ had to do was tell Kim his plans and hope that she wouldn't object to them. He jogged downstairs to tell her and found her still in the kitchen doing a bit of cleaning.

"Hey Kim?"

"Yeah?"

"Is it okay if I go out with Chris and Reneé tonight? I haven't seen them since Nick's birthday."

"Okay. Who's driving?" she asked.

"I think it's Chris' turn."

"Please don't get tanked, you promised Jordan that you'd take him out tomorrow," Kim warned.

"I know. We're just going to go catch up, have a few drinks, and head home. I promise."

"Where are you meeting?"

"Chris is picking up Reneé and coming over here around 9."

"Alright."
---------------------

It was 9:15 PM when Chris and Reneé arrived. Jordan had been given his medicine and put to bed about an hour earlier, so, AJ and Kim curled up on the couch watched TV together until they came.

"Hey stranger!" Chris and AJ embraced and AJ hugged and kissed Reneé on the cheek and both went over to say hello to Kim.

"Are we ready to go? I think it's Chris' turn to drive," AJ said.

"Yeah."

"We'll be back by 1 AM. Bye babe." AJ kissed Kim and the three of them left for a night on the town.

They went to a bar and sat at a table in the back so they wouldn't be noticed.

"Drinks are on me tonight, guys. What do you want?" AJ asked.

"A Coke," Chris said.

"Cranberry and vodka for me, Alex," said Reneé.

"I'll be right back."

AJ went up to the bartender and ordered their drinks and a glass of Jack Daniel's for himself. He brought the drinks back to the table and sat down.

"So, Alex...how are things man? How was the tour?" Chris asked as he took a sip of his Coke.

"It was good. The shows in Mexico were awesome as always, there's a lot of Backstreet Pride down there. We're going to Germany next on April 2nd."

Reneé asked, "How are Kim and Jordan?"

AJ took a sip of whiskey and replied, "They're good. Jordan got sick though and they couldn't fly out for the last few shows. It's just an ear infection, he's getting through it."

"Awww...poor kid. Anything else new in your world?" Chris asked.

"Kim and I have to go to some charity dinner on Friday night, other than that, nothing."

"That's cool," Reneé said.

"So, what's been going on with you guys?" AJ asked.

Chris said, "Nothin', just working. Trying to pay the bills."

"You know I'll help you out if you need it, man," AJ suggested.

"I appreciate it, but no thanks."

Reneé spoke up and said, "I'm seeing someone..."

AJ perked up. "Who?"

"Ooh, wouldn't you like to know?" she joked. "This guy named Chad. I met him at Whole Foods. Weird, huh?"

"For how long?" AJ asked.

"A couple of weeks. He's a nice guy. Caring, funny, and he's a personal trainer."

"So he's one of those types..." Chris interjected.

AJ chuckled.

She took a sip of her drink. "Hey! He's a good guy, I actually have a date with him tomorrow night," Reneé defended.

"Ooh..." Chris and AJ both teased.

"You two are impossible!" Reneé scoffed. AJ and Chris just laughed.
-----------

Another glass of Jack, two cranberry and vodkas, and a glass of Coke later, the trio left and took AJ back home. It was 12:30 AM.

"Goodnight guys, it's been fun," AJ said as he exited Chris' Chevy Malibu.

"'Night, Alex."

"Goodnight, man."

He went up to the front door, unlocked it, and went inside. He quietly went upstairs and checked on Jordan. He opened his son's bedroom door and saw him sleeping, half-covered in blankets. AJ felt Jordan's forehead, covered him back up, and lightly kissed him on the cheek and went to his bedroom. He slipped out of his jeans and into some sweatpants and a clean t-shirt and climbed into bed next to Kim.

She stirred. "...Alex? Did you just get in? What time is it?" she mumbled sleepily.

He kissed her hair. "Yeah, it's me. About five minutes ago. It's 12:35."

"You smell like Jack..."

"I know, I only had two glasses. I swear. Reneé is a little tipsy though." He chuckled.

"Uh huh. 'Night Alex, love you." Kim rolled over and went back to sleep.

"Goodnight babe, love you too."
End Notes:
I hope everyone likes this so far, I really like writing this fic. :D
Chapter 4 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 10/12. Please read and review. :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008
10:27 AM

AJ woke up from sleeping and realized something. 'Shit! I can't believe it! I've gotta get it together!' Yep, he'd fallen asleep with his contacts still in...again. That was the second time this week! Frustrated, he got up and went to the master bathroom to take them out and put his glasses on for the time being. On top of that, he was just a tiny bit hungover from the night before. He took some Tylenol for his headache and went downstairs, grumbling to himself the whole way there.

Jordan was on the living room couch watching cartoons. "'Morning, J. You feeling better?" he asked.

God, he swore that smile could melt the hardest heart. "G'morning, Daddy. Yeah, Mommy says I'm not hot anymore." He gave AJ a hug.

AJ returned the hug and ruffled Jordan's hair. "I'm gonna go see what Mommy's doing. Have you had breakfast?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, I'll be right back."

"Well, good morning, sunshine," Kim said as she heard him come into the kitchen. AJ gave her a peck on the cheek and went to the coffee pot to get himself some while it was still hot. Kim looked over to him, concerned. "Are you okay, Alex?"

"Oh. Uh, yeah. I'm okay." he said as he added some cream and sugar to his coffee. He sat down at the island and took a sip of it. Kim sat down also and just looked at him.

"Let me guess...you forgot to take your contacts out again, didn't you?" she questioned.

AJ sighed. "Yeah, the redness should go away in a couple of hours." he responded, referring to his irritated eyes. "And I'm a little hungover," he admitted. Kim shot him a look. "It's just a headache," he said, hopefully blowing it over. He continued to drink his coffee.

"Whatever. Are you still gonna take Jordan out today?" she asked him, annoyed.

AJ didn't appreciate her tone. "What crawled up your ass and died?"

"Excuse me? I ask you to do one thing for me, one thing and you can't even do that, Alex."

"What was that again, 'cause I probably don't remember it either," he snorted back.

"I told you not to get wasted last night."

"I didn't! I only had two glasses of Jack at the bar, call up Reneé or Chris if you don't believe me. And to answer your first question, yes." AJ took his coffee cup and walked out of the kitchen. He went to the office down the hallway and shut the door.

'Wow, that was a stupid argument.' he thought to himself as he relaxed in the computer chair. 'But if she wouldn't jump to conclusions, maybe I wouldn't get so pissed.' He turned his attention to the computer screen and checked a few things, like his e-mail and bank account.
------------------

An hour later, there was a soft knock at the door. "Alex? Can I come in?" It was Kim, who else would it be? He looked up from the screen. "Yeah."

She walked over to him, sat on his lap, and traced the edges of his wire rim glasses with her finger. "I like you in these, they make you look even more sexy." she stated gently.

"Is this supposed to be some new form of seduction?" he asked.

"Is it working?"

"Kinda..."

She kissed him. "Baby, about earlier—"

He put a finger to her lips. "Shush. No need to apologize, I was an ass, too. Love you."

"I love you." She kissed him again. "So, what have you been doing in here all by your lonesome self?"

"Nothing, just checking some stuff, trying to relax." He exhaled sharply.

"Awww...well, at least you have a nice break at home where you belong. Are we coming to Europe with you this time?"

"How can I say no? You know how much I miss you and J when you're not with me."

"Speaking of him, let's go see what he's up to. Have you decided where you wanna take him?"

AJ shook his head. "No, I'll let him choose. I'll do whatever he wants to."

"I'm sure he'll like that plan."

They both left the room to find Jordan still watching cartoons. They both sat beside him on the couch. Kim spoke first. "Guess what, J? You get to spend the whole day with Daddy! Doesn't that sound fun?" AJ joined in. "Yeah, and we'll do whatever you want. No complaints from me, okay?"

"Awesome! I'm gonna go get ready!" Jordan raced upstairs and they both heard his door shut.

Kim chuckled. "I'll go help him get dressed."

AJ followed her up the stairs and went to their walk-in closet to find something to wear. He picked out a pair of jeans and a vintage t-shirt, along with a beanie hat and his black Chuck Taylors. He decided to keep his glasses on instead of putting in new contacts. He went to the master bathroom and took a quick shower, then changed and was ready to leave.

Jordan was already downstairs waiting for him. They said goodbye to Kim and left for what was going to be an exciting day.

"So, what do you wanna do first, J? Actually, can daddy get some breakfast somewhere, do you mind?"

Jordan shook his head. "No."

A few minutes later, AJ pulled into the local McDonald's drive-thru and ordered himself an Egg McMuffin, a hash brown, and a small orange juice. He parked and ate and then they were off again.

"So, where's our first stop going to be, little man?"

Jordan appeared to be deep in thought, then answered. "The toy store!" he exclaimed happily.

AJ grinned. "The toy store it is, then."

When they arrived at 'the toy store,' AKA Toys "R" Us, Jordan practically dragged AJ to the bike section. He was a bit surprised at his son's sudden interest in getting a bicycle.

"I didn't know you wanted one of these, J."

"I've been begging Mommy to take me here for forever Daddy. Can I have one? Please?" he begged.

"Of course you can, buddy, go on and pick one out. Take your time."

AJ must have missed out on Jordan's bike aspirations while he was on tour, which made him feel a little bit sad. Come to think of it, Jordan was four after all, it was time for him to get a bike anyway. He must have followed Jordan around for about twenty minutes before he finally stopped in front of one.

"Daddy, Daddy! I want this one! Can I get it?" he asked. Jordan picked out a sixteen-inch Mongoose that was black with flames on it that had training wheels of course.

"I love it, J! Good choice! Gimme five." He did. "Alright. Do you wanna look for something else now? When we're done, we'll go pay for the bike okay?"

"Okay." Jordan took AJ's hand and they went to look through some of the aisles. He picked out some new toy trucks and chopper motorcycles. "Just like your old dad." he winked. AJ could tell Jordan was getting antsy to have his bike, so they went back and got it and took their purchases to the register.

The cashier Sandy knew AJ and Jordan well. "Is this your new bike, Jordan?" He nodded excitedly. "It's very cool! I'm sure your daddy is going to show you how to ride it and everything!"

"Yep! Thank you, Daddy!" He gave AJ a big hug. "You're welcome, J."

Sandy rang up the rest of their purchases and sent them on their way. "Have a great day, you two, see you soon!"

"You too, Sandy." said AJ and Jordan waved goodbye.

Once everything was loaded in the back of the car, they were off to wherever Jordan wanted to go next.

"Now what do you wanna do, Jordan?"

"Go play with Baylee!"

"I don't know, J, Baylee might be busy today. I'll call Uncle Brian to see if they are or not, okay?"

Jordan nodded.

AJ pulled into a parking lot and called Brian from his cell phone.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Brian, it's me."

"Hey, man, what's up?" Brian said as he coughed a little.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I just have a cold or something."

AJ said in a dramatic voice, "Oh no, is it the 'Backstreet Cold'?"

Brian chuckled. "God, I hope not. I'd hate to get everyone sick while we're on this break or right before we go back on the road."

"Tell me about it. Your headache still there?"

"Yeah. Ugh."

"So, I take it you're not up to having visitors today?"

Jordan frowned.

He sighed. "No, why?"

"Me and Jordan are spending the day together and since I'm doing what he wants to do, he wanted to play with Baylee now and I wanted to see if you guys were free." AJ explained.

"We are, but, I'm really not feeling well. I'm just trying to keep Baylee occupied so I can rest."

"I can take him off your hands for the day if you want. He's feeling okay, right?"

"Ha'choo! Ha'CHOO! Ugh. Yeah, he's fine." Brian blew his nose into a tissue.

"Bless you. We're on our way over. Do you need me to pick up anything for you since we're already out?"

"You don't have to do that." Brian protested.

"No, it's okay. What do you need? Soup? Tissues? NyQuil? Ginger ale?"

He sniffled. "Um...can you get me some tissues? Puffs, with lotion. Those are the best. Add some cherry NyQuil, I'm almost out. Oh, and some chocolate ice cream."

"Jeez, anything else? I'm just kiddin'. Is that all?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. Sit tight, we'll be over in a bit."

"Alright, bye."

AJ hung up and turned to Jordan. "Well, J, Uncle Brian's not feeling good so you can't go play over there. But Baylee is coming with us so he can rest. Okay?"

"Okay, Daddy." Jordan said happily.

"First, we have to go buy some things for Uncle Brian. Then, we'll go to his house to pick up Baylee."

AJ and Jordan stopped at the local Walgreens and went inside. They grabbed Brian's requested items and some extra things for them and went to the register. Once they paid for everything they left for Brian's house.
Chapter 5 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 10/29.

Thursday, March 20, 2008
1:50 PM

"I come bearing gifts!" AJ yelled as he stepped through Brian's front door.

"Up here," Brian said as he emerged from his upstairs hallway.

"Man, I can see your Rudolph nose from down here," AJ joked.

Brian coughed lightly. "Very funny. Put the ice cream in the freezer, would you? Bring your other 'gifts' upstairs." He went back into his bedroom.

"Sure. Jordan, go find Baylee okay?"

Jordan did as he was told. AJ put the ice cream in the freezer and went upstairs. "Oh, God, he's coughing!" he yelled dramatically. He then entered Brian and Leighanne's bedroom.

"Hey, Rok, how're you feeling? Here's the stuff you wanted." He took the bag over to the bed.

Brian was settling back in bed, pulling the covers up to his chin. He looked sweaty and pale with the exception of his red cheeks, and he was shivering.

"Dude, are you sure this is just a cold? You don't look so hot."

"I don't feel so hot..." he replied.

"Where's Leighanne?"

"Out running errands."

"And she left you like this?"

"It's really not that bad."

"Have you checked your fever?"

"Yeah, it's 102.4. I just took some ibuprofen for it before you got here."

"That's way too high for a cold, Brian, I think you've got the flu."

"Yeah, me too." He coughed some. "Could you hand me that water bottle?"

AJ did and he poured the last of Brian's NyQuil in the dosage cup. "Here, take this and get some sleep. I'll take Baylee and bring him back after dinner."

"Okay." Brian put the water bottle on the nightstand and took the NyQuil and laid back down. "I really appreciate this, thanks."

"No problem man, you just feel better. Later."

"Bye."

AJ walked out of the room and shut the door. He went downstairs and left with Jordan and Baylee.

"Do you wanna go back home or do something else, J?" AJ asked.

"I wanna go home." he answered.

"Okay. I had fun today."

"Me too, Daddy."

Once they got back, Jordan and Baylee went inside with Jordan's new toys and AJ put the new bike in the garage. He went inside to find Kim on the couch watching TV and he sat next to her.

"Hey, babe."

"Hi."

"Did you have a good time with Jordan? He told me you bought him a bike!"

"Yep, I did." He gave a crooked grin.

"So, J wanted Baylee to come over?"

"No, not at first. J wanted to go over to Brian's, but he's sick and Leighanne's running errands. I got him some stuff he needed and volunteered to take Baylee for the day so he could rest, so that cut me and Jordan's time together short. Oh well, he's doing what he wants to."

"Well, that was nice of you. Poor Brian...how's he doing?"

"He's feeling pretty crappy, he's got a fever, body aches, chills, cough, the works. He's got a bad cold or the flu or something. I hate this, we can't get sick now or anytime that we're in the middle of touring," AJ grumbled.

"It can't be helped, I just hope you don't get it. We've got that American Cancer Society benefit to go to tomorrow night."

"I know. It's at 7, right?"

"Yeah."
-----------------

About an hour after dinner, it was time to take Baylee back home. He and Jordan said their goodbyes and AJ and Baylee left.

"So, did you have fun, Baylee?"

"Uh huh, thanks, Uncle AJ."

"No problem, little B."

The car ride was pretty silent and Baylee was happy to be home. Both of them went inside and AJ talked to Leighanne for a few minutes in the kitchen.

"Hey, Leighanne," he greeted as he gave her a hug. "How's Brian feeling?"

"Not so good. He's really achy and tired and has a worsening cough. He's sleeping now and has been trying to all day."

"Are you gonna take him to the doctor?"

"I already made him an appointment for tomorrow morning. Hopefully he can give him some anti-viral meds or something."

"Yeah."

"So, Jordan is obviously feeling better."

"Yeah, he's gotta finish his antibiotics, but other than that, he's good."

"Good. Any plans for tomorrow?" Leighanne asked.

"Me and Kim have to go a dinner for the American Cancer Society tomorrow night."

"Oh. I'd be happy to watch Jordan for you guys."

"No thanks, you should just take care of Brian and Baylee. I'll ask Nick if he can."

"You'd pick Nick over me? I'm hurt, Alex." she pouted.

"Oh, stop, you don't need anymore stresses on top of a sick husband and a kid. Don't worry about it."

"Okay."

"Well, I better get going. Tell Brian I said to 'take it easy, listen to the doctor, and feel better,' alright?" AJ said as he walked to the front door.

"Sure thing. Thanks for taking Baylee today."

"No problem. I was happy to do it."

"Have a good night."

"You, too."

AJ got in his car and drove back home. By the time he got back, it was almost 8 PM and all he wanted to do was relax with a nice hot bath. It was perfect timing: Jordan would be taking a bath and getting put to bed soon, then he and Kim could just have the evening to themselves.

AJ went inside and called up the stairs, "Are you two in the bathroom?"

"Yeah!" Kim yelled back.

AJ went up the stairs and peeked in to check on them.

"You guys okay in here?"

"We're fine."

"Okay, I'll be in the bath if you need me."

"Alright."

He left the guest bathroom and went into their master bathroom. He filled the bathtub with warm water, added bath beads to it, lit some candles, turned off the lights, stripped down, and got in.

"Ah..." he sighed as his body immediately relaxed once he lay down in the tub.
----------

AJ got out and changed about an hour later. He was feeling pretty tired, it had been a long day and he just wanted to go to sleep. He went downstairs to say goodnight to Kim.

"Hey, Kim? I'm tired, I'm gonna go to bed."

"Alex, it's only past 9:15. Are you feeling okay?" she asked, worried that he had caught whatever Brian had. She also found it strange that he was wearing his black robe over his clothes.

"Yeah, I'm fine, I swear. I just wanna get some rest, you know how I never seem to get enough sleep out on the road no matter how hard I try. I'm gonna go catch up on some of it right now," he said.

"True. Well, I'll be up soon. Goodnight, baby." They both embraced and kissed, then AJ went upstairs to bed.
End Notes:
PLEASE review this. I get so many reads but zero reviews. If it sucks, tell me and I'll work on fixing it. I don't see the point in continuing to write this when I get no feedback in return.
Chapter 6 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 11/13.
Friday, March 21, 2008
12:43 PM

Kim's POV

Kim was downstairs in the office paying bills online and left the door ajar in case Jordan needed something. 'I need to figure out what I'm wearing to the ACS benefit tonight.' she thought while paying a credit card bill. Come to think of it, she hadn't heard AJ come downstairs yet. 'I swear, that man would sleep all day if he could.' Kim thought as she chuckled to herself. She got up from the computer desk and went upstairs to see if he was awake.

She entered their bedroom to find AJ rolled over with his back facing the door, wrapped in blankets like a cocoon. She walked over to his side of the bed and took a look at her sleeping husband. He was surprisingly pale and looked flushed. She gently prodded him awake.

"Mmmm..." he moaned.

"Baby? You need to wake up."

"Why? What time's it?" he slurred, barely opening his eyes.

"It's almost one in the afternoon. I didn't honestly think you'd take 'catching up on sleep' this seriously."

"I'm not. I'll get up right now. Whoa," he said attempting to sit up.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, just got...a little dizzy." He lay back down and closed his eyes, hoping that the room would stop spinning.

Kim noticed the sweat on AJ's face and felt his forehead. "Alex, you're burning up."

"Really? 'Cause I feel like I'm freezing to death." He shivered, despite still being wrapped up in blankets.

"No. No, no, no, no, no..." Kim repeated in disbelief.

"What, babe?" AJ said through chattering teeth.

"The ACS benefit is tonight and you're sick! You know how important it is to me!" she said loudly, frustrated.

AJ did know how important it was to Kim. Ever since she lost her father to colon cancer almost four years ago, she'd taken a more active interest in finding a cure for the horrible disease. She supported as many cancer charities as she could and tonight's dinner was one of the most important fundraisers of the year. He felt so guilty for being the reason that she would have to go to it without him or worse: not go at all.

"I know, I know, baby. I'm so sorry, Kim." he apologized, then stifled a few coughs into the blankets. He groaned.

"Do you think it's the flu?" Kim asked, hoping that he would say no.

"What do you think?" he replied sharply, then coughed into the blankets again.

Kim bit her lip, unsure of what to do or say. She knew that AJ always got moody when he was sick, or maybe he was just frustrated about the situation at hand. She knew that she was.

She went to the bathroom to get the thermometer and some Tylenol for AJ. She came back and set the pill bottle on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed. She cleaned the end of the thermometer with an alcohol wipe and said, "Baby, let me take your temperature. I wanna see how high your fever is. Can you sit up for me?"

AJ did so slowly and he looked to be in pain from what Kim could tell. 'Men are such babies when they're sick. When I get sick you never see me trying to lap up all of his attention.' she thought to herself in disgust.

When he finally sat up, Kim really took in AJ's appearance and was shocked, repulsed by her previous thoughts. Besides his pale complexion and sweaty face, he had bags under his eyes and looked exhausted. He looked up at her with sad, tired eyes and she could tell that all he wanted to do was fall into a medicine-induced sleep.

"Oh, poor baby." she said quietly as she stroked his cheek. AJ sniffled. She gently put the thermometer in his ear and it beeped a few seconds later, reading 102.6 degrees. 'No wonder he feels horrible.'

"It's 102.6."

"That's nice. Can I lay back down now?"

"Not yet, take some Tylenol for that. Are you feeling achy?"

"Yes, very. Is Jordan downstairs?" he asked before coughing again, a little more harsh than last time.

"Yeah, he's—" Just then, Jordan appeared in the doorway.

"Hi, J. Do you need something?" Kim asked him.

"I'm hungry," he said simply.

"Okay, let me finish up with Daddy and I'll be down in a minute to make you something. I forgot that it's lunch time."

Jordan instead walked up to the bed and stood next to Kim.

"Hey, buddy." AJ said tiredly, giving him a half-hearted wave.

"Jordan, don't go too close to Daddy, okay? He's not feeling good," Kim warned him, knowing that it was an understatement to how AJ was really feeling.

"Daddy's sick?" Jordan asked Kim innocently.

AJ spoke up. "Yes, daddy's sick. But Mommy's gonna make me feel all better, just like she and Dr. 'Lyssa do for you. Go downstairs and wait for Mommy in the kitchen to make you some lunch please."

"Okay." He ran out of the room and downstairs like AJ said to.

AJ turned away from Kim and coughed into his fist several times, it sounded like it hurt.

"Maybe I should make you an appointment with the doctor, that doesn't sound good, baby." Kim said sadly.

AJ shook his head emphatically and replied, "It's just the flu, I don't need a doctor—ah'SHOO! ... ah'SHOO!" He looked up at her with his hands cupped around his nose and mouth.

"Bless you. Well, those sneezes and that cough beg to differ. I'm making you an appointment for this afternoon whether you like it or not." she said as she passed him the tissue box from the nightstand.

"Thanks." He pulled a couple and wiped his nose and sniffled.

"Alex, blow your nose," Kim said.

"Kim, you know how I feel about doing that," he replied stuffily.

"I've never seen a man so grossed out by his own snot..." she said chuckling to herself.

"Ugh, don't even say it. You'll make me more nauseated than I already am," AJ said.

"Just do it, babe, at least I'll be able to understand you better afterward."

"Fine." AJ begrudgingly did so and weakly tossed the used tissues in the small trashcan beside the bed, sniffling pathetically.

"There. Better?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"Do you need anything else before I go downstairs?" she asked.

"Some water and NyQuil would be nice."

"Right, just a second." Kim went back to the bathroom to get them and AJ was shaking out two pills to take with the water as she came back to the bed.

She handed him the water. "Here you go." She began to pour him a dose of the NyQuil while he took the Tylenol. "Drink up," she said as he swallowed the red liquid and drank more water to wash it down.

"Anything else?"

"Can I have another blanket please?" he asked, shivering a little as he laid back down and got comfortable.

"Sure, but don't get too wrapped up, okay? I don't want your fever to get too high," she told him as she went to their walk-in closet to get an extra blanket. She came back and draped it over him, easing his chills somewhat. She kissed his forehead and said, "Try and get some sleep. I'll wake you up when it's time to get ready to go."

AJ coughed weakly. "What about Jordan? My mom's busy today and can't watch him."

"I'll see if Nick can. Don't worry, you just rest, okay?"

"'Kay..." he said drowsily.

Kim walked out of the room, shut the door quietly behind her and went downstairs to make Jordan some lunch. Then she called AJ's doctor's office to get an appointment set up. They had to go in at 4:45. After that, she called Nick to see if he could watch Jordan while they were at the doctor:

"Hey, bro, what's up?" Nick answered, thinking it was AJ calling him.

"Sorry, Nick, wrong McLean," Kim smirked.

"Oh, hey, Kim. What's up?"

"Are you free this afternoon by any chance?" she asked.

"Yeah, until 7 when I'm gonna go out to dinner with some friends. Do you need something?"

"Yeah, I do actually. Um...would you mind coming over around 4? Alex is sick—"

Nick interrupted her. "Wait. Don't tell me, he got sick from Brian, didn't he?"

"Well, yeah. It looks like it."

"Great, now two-fourths of the Backstreet Boys are out of commission. I just got off the phone with Brian, he said that AJ came over yesterday while Leighanne was out to bring him some stuff he needed and took Baylee for the day so he could rest," he explained.

"Right, how's he feeling?"

"About the same as yesterday. He went to his doctor this morning and got some Tamiflu, but said that he's gonna have to be on bed rest for three or four days and let it run its course. Can you believe it?" Nick was beside himself, one of them always got sick at the worst possible moment and it was frustrating.

"So it is the flu then. Well, just be glad that it's not you this time, Nicky," Kim said in an effort to try and console him.

"Yeah, right." Nick said bitterly. "Sorry...what was it that you wanted again?" he asked as he ran a hand through his hair.

"Can you come over around 4 and watch Jordan for us while I take Alex to the doctor?"

"Sure, anything for you guys. Is he okay?"

"Yeah, besides it being 'the flu' and his fever and cough. I want him looked at in case it could develop into something more serious. It seems like it's hit him pretty hard," she said.

"The flu does tend to do that you know," Nick replied dryly.

"Right...so I'll see you later. Thanks."

"Yep, later."

Kim hung up and went back into the kitchen to eat with Jordan and keep herself busy around the house until Nick came over in a few hours.
End Notes:
Please review to let me know what you think so far! :)
Chapter 7 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 11/16.

Friday, March 21, 2008
3:40 PM

Kim's POV

"Hey, Nick, thanks again for coming over," Kim said as she opened the front door and Nick stepped inside.

"No problem. Where's the little rugrat at anyway?"

"Uncle Nicky!" Jordan yelled as he ran into the living room.

"Hey, you! Ready to have some fun?"

"Uh huh!" Jordan said excitedly.

"Not too much fun okay, Nick?" He rolled his eyes in response.

"I'm gonna go get Alex up and ready and then we'll head out."

"Sounds good."

Kim went upstairs and quietly went into their bedroom. AJ was still sleeping as she walked over to his side of the bed. She hated to wake him knowing that leaving the house was the last thing that he wanted to do, but sadly it had to be done.

"Alex?" she asked softly.

No response.

"Alex?" she said a little bit louder and stroked his hot cheek.

He groaned.

"Baby, it's time to get ready to go."

"Don't care," he mumbled with his eyes still closed, not wanting to leave his warm, comfortable bed.

"C'mon, we gotta go see the doctor."

"Don't care," he mumbled again and pulled the blankets tighter around himself.

"I know, but the sooner we leave, the sooner we can get you back home and into bed. I'll get you some clothes. Do you want anything specific?"

"No, but make sure you grab me a hoodie, okay?"

"Sure."

Kim went to their walk-in closet and grabbed a pair of AJ's jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, socks, and shoes. She brought them back to the bedroom just as AJ was sitting up and moving to the edge of the bed. "I think I'll need your help, Kim, I'm so exhausted..." he said as he coughed into his fist.

"Okay, baby. Shirt first." She pulled a clean shirt on him and proceeded to help him into his jeans, then put his socks and shoes on for him. AJ put his hoodie, glasses, and hat on and Kim handed him his cell phone and iPod which he put in his pocket.

"Alright, Alex. Try and stand up, lean on me if you need to." He did and was very unsteady so he leaned on Kim as they slowly walked out of the room and downstairs.

Nick was shocked when he saw how sick AJ looked, he seemed so weak and out of it that he barely acknowledged him as he shuffled past with Kim's help and went to the car.

Kim got AJ settled and buckled in the backseat with his iPod and a spare blanket that they kept in the car to keep him warm. She went back inside for a moment to say goodbye to Jordan and Nick.

"Alright, Jordan, mommy's gotta take Daddy to see his doctor, like when you go see Dr. 'Lyssa."

"He'll make him all better?" he asked.

"Uh-huh. Now, be good for Nick, okay? I love you," she said as she bent down and gave him a hug and kiss.

"Love you too, Mommy."

She turned to Nick. "You know how to reach us if there are any problems. We'll be back soon."

"Okay. Good luck."

"Thanks."

Kim walked back to the car and got in. She turned on the heat for AJ as she pulled out of the driveway and they were on their way to see his doctor.
------------------

AJ's POV

The last thing he remembered before falling asleep in Kim's car was hearing her click the heat on. Now he was getting woken up much too soon once again.

"We're here, Alex."

AJ groaned. "Baby...I really don't feel good." He felt like he could cry, he was so hot and achy.

"I know. Let's get you inside."

AJ stood up and Kim helped him into his doctor's office. He shuffled to a chair and sat down while Kim signed him in at the front desk. The waiting room wasn't crowded, there were four other adults there besides Kim and himself. The clock on the wall read 4:35.

Kim came back over and he laid his head on her shoulder as she put her arm around him. He was shivering despite feeling like his whole body was on fire.

"I'm f-f-freezing Kim," AJ said through chattering teeth.

"I know, Alex, I know," she murmured sympathetically as she rubbed his arm gently.

He started coughing again and tried to cover it, but he was so tired that he didn't care and coughed freely. Unfortunately, this didn't go unnoticed by the others that were present.

"I'm...sorry." he breathed.

"It's okay, we should get called soon."

About ten minutes later, they were called back to an exam room and Kim and helped AJ get there. He sat down on the exam table and Kim on a chair nearby. His nurse Cheryl gloved up and began to check AJ's vitals.

"Not feeling so hot today, eh, Alex?"

He barely shook his head. Cheryl rolled up his hoodie sleeve to take AJ's blood pressure.

"This will feel a little tight," she said as she fastened the cuff around his arm and pushed the button to make the machine work. "100/60, that's a little bit low. Are you dizzy or nauseated?"

"Yeah, just dizzy."

"Okay," she said as she made a note on AJ's chart.

Cheryl wheeled over a heart monitor and turned it on, giving AJ the pulse oximeter. "Clip this on your index finger please." He did so and watched lethargically as numbers appeared on the screen. "Oxygen sat (oxygen saturation) is 98, good. Pulse 106. You can take that off." she said as she recorded that on his chart. AJ took it off and Cheryl moved the heart monitor back to its original place in the room.

She walked back over to them and disconnected an ear thermometer from its cradle and put it in his ear. It beeped and read 103.4 degrees. She whistled. "103.4. That's not good. Have you taken anything for it today?"

"It was 102.6 earlier, I took some Tylenol around 1," he said.

"Symptoms?"

"Um...fever obviously, headache, fatigue, body aches, chills, loss of appetite, a little bit of a sore throat, cough, runny nose, sneezing."

Cheryl scribbled those down on his chart and put it in the rack on the door. "Nate will be in soon. Feel better, Alex. Kim," she acknowledged as she walked out and shut the door behind her.

AJ's doctor walked in about five minutes later. "Hi, Alex. Kim," he said as he shook his and Kim's hand.

"Hello, Dr. Phillips."

"Hey, Doc." AJ croaked.

"Now, what seems to be the problem?"

AJ only coughed several times in response.

"I see." He looked over AJ's chart for a moment. "So your blood pressure's a little low and you've got a moderate fever. It looks like the flu on paper, but let me look you over and we'll go from there. It's definitely going around, my fifteen year-old has been home with it for three days and is finally getting his appetite back. I'm gonna need you to take off your hoodie," he said as he put on a pair of rubber gloves. "When did the symptoms start?"

"I was feeling kinda chilly and tired last night."

"Okay."

AJ took it off slowly and Kim set it down by her chair. Dr. Phillips began to feel AJ's lymph nodes in his neck and could feel him shivering along with his fevered skin. "They're a little bit swollen. Any pain when swallowing?"

"A little bit, I've had worse."

He began to look in AJ's ears. "They're both clear." He shined a light up AJ's nostrils. "You're definitely congested. I'm gonna look at your throat now." He took a tongue depressor from the counter and a pen light from his lab coat pocket. AJ opened his mouth and Dr. Phillips put the stick on his tongue. "Say 'ah' for me."

"Ah—" He coughed again harshly as his doctor backed away and Kim rubbed his back. "Sorry," he apologized.

"It's okay, let's try again." He grabbed a clean tongue depressor. "Ah."

"Ah..."

"Hmmm...throat doesn't look too bad, but it is irritated. How's the coughing been?"

"Annoying, chest kinda hurts when I do," AJ said honestly.

"Is the cough productive?"

"No."

"Alright. I'm gonna listen to your lungs for a moment okay?" Dr. Phillips cleaned his stethoscope, put the earpieces in, and stuck the end up AJ's shirt and onto his back. "Take a deep breath for me."

AJ did and he listened. They repeated the process a few more times before the doctor spoke. "Your lungs are clear, but I'm gonna order a chest x-ray just to be on the safe side."

"Okay."

Within five minutes the portable x-ray machine was brought in and they were taken and sent to the lab.

"Well, Alex, you've definitely got the flu. A bad strain by the looks of it, but we'll know more when your film comes back."

Ten minutes later, Dr. Phillips was reviewing AJ's chest x-ray with him and Kim.

"Your film is clean, which is very good news. If you start feeling short of breath or experience continuing chest pain, you need to let me know. Same goes with a fever of 104 degrees or higher," he instructed them. "I've had a lot of flu cases lately so we're out of Tamiflu. Sorry, Alex."

"You've gotta be able to give me something. We fly out to Germany on the 29th to tour in Europe. ah'SHOO! ... ah'SHOO!"

Dr. Phillips handed AJ the box of tissues from the counter behind him. "Bless you. I'm sorry, Alex, you're just going to have to let this run its course. You could be feeling better in three to four days, it could be a week or more. Has anyone else been sick?"

"Jordan had an ear infection this week, he finishes his antibiotics tomorrow," Kim said.

"Alright. Well, keep a close eye on him and if he develops any symptoms, take him to his pediatrician. I'm done here. I'm prescribing you a cough syrup with codeine so you can sleep," he said as he wrote the prescription and handed the piece of paper to Kim.

"Just drink plenty of fluids, get lots of rest, eat if you can, and I wanna see you back here on Tuesday for a follow-up. I'll have Randi call you with the time. You're on ordered bed rest until then. Oh, and you're gonna have to be medically cleared by me to fly next week."

AJ was so ready to go to bed at that moment that he would have agreed to anything Dr. Phillips had said. If he told him that the sky was red and that Hogwarts really existed, he would have nodded his head just as he did now.

"If you have any questions, you've got my number. If any of your symptoms get worse by tonight or tomorrow, give me a call alright? Have a good one guys." He shook both of their hands again.

"Thanks, Doc."

"Thank you for seeing him so soon, Dr. Phillips."

"No problem. Have a good evening."

"You, too."

AJ's doctor walked out of the room, leaving Kim and AJ alone.

"C'mon, we gotta go to Walgreens and get you back in bed," Kim said, giving AJ his hoodie. He put it back on and they left to go to the drug store.
-----------------

AJ and Kim got back home around 6 PM and went inside.

"Hey, guys, how'd it go?" Nick asked.

"Flu. Cough syrup. Bed rest. Bed. Goodnight," AJ said as pointed up the stairs.

"C'mon, baby. I'll be back down in a minute Nick," Kim said as she began to help AJ upstairs.

"Okay."

The pair of them went to their bedroom where AJ changed into some sweatpants and a white wife beater and eagerly crawled into bed.

Kim made sure he was comfortable, then went to the bathroom to get some NyQuil for AJ. "Alright, baby, time for some meds, then you can go to sleep, okay?"

"Sure."

AJ swallowed some NyQuil and cough syrup and washed both down with some water. He laid down and burrowed under the blankets. "Thanks, babe."

"No problem, you just sleep. Call or text my cell if you need me. I'll be downstairs." She kissed his sweaty forehead and left him to rest while she talked to Nick downstairs.

"Hey."

"Hey," Nick echoed. "How's he doing?"

"Not so good, he's got a pretty bad case of the flu. His doctor couldn't prescribe him any anti-viral meds this time, they're out of stock," Kim said sadly. "He has a cough syrup with codeine which will help him sleep," she added.

"How bad is it?"

"He should be feeling better by Tuesday when he has a follow-up appointment and is on ordered bed rest until then, but it could take a week or more for him bounce back."

"Damn, and we gotta go to Germany next week—"

"Oh yeah. Alex has to be medically cleared by his doctor in order to travel as well."

Nick let out a huff of frustration.

"This upsets me, too, he's my husband and I hate to see him feeling so bad. It sucks that we're going to have to miss the American Cancer Society dinner tonight."

"Yeah. Well, I better get going. I'm meeting some friends for dinner in an hour," Nick said as he made his way to the front door.

"Thanks again, Nick, Alex and I really appreciate it," Kim said as they both hugged each other.

"You're welcome. Tell Jordan 'bye' for me, okay?"

"Sure."

"I hope Alex feels better as soon as possible, this really sucks."

"I agree."

"Have a good night," Nick said as he closed the door behind him.

Kim heard Nick pull out of their driveway and she went to see where Jordan had wandered off to.
End Notes:
Please review. :)
Chapter 8 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 12/2.

Saturday, March 22, 2008
2:41 AM

AJ was jerked awake from his medicated slumber and groaned softly. He slowly sat up, crawled out of bed, put his glasses on, and went into the bathroom. He regretted it immediately when he realized how exhausting that walk is when you have no energy to begin with. AJ quickly did his business and shuffled back to bed. He switched on the bedside lamp to take more medicine so he could sleep again.

Kim rolled over and squinted at the light. "Hey, baby. What are you doing up?"

"I had to go to the bathroom. I'm just gonna take more meds, you can go back to sleep," he said tiredly.

Kim wiped the sleep from her eyes and sat up in bed. "Well, if you're up, I need to be up with you. How're you feeling? And none of this 'it's just the flu' stuff," she said in a serious tone.

"I feel like shit, plus, feeling like I got hit by a Mack truck," he replied as he coughed into his fist, wincing a bit as he did so. Bernie, who slept on the floor at the foot of the bed, stretched and came over to AJ, nudging against his leg, whining softly.

"Hey Bernie, how you doing. boy?" AJ said as he pet him. He turned his attention back to Kim.

"Do you feel any worse?"

"Maybe a little bit. My head is killing me and I'm so exhausted. It's like someone sucked the life force right out of me."

"How's your cough?"

"About the same."

"Alright. What's your temp?"

"I don't know, hold on. Ah'shoo!" He sneezed into the crook of his elbow.

"Bless you."

"Thanks—ah'SHOO!" That seemed to make the pounding in his head worse.

"Bless you, Alex."

"Ugh. Thanks." He sniffled. AJ put the thermometer in his ear, took his temperature and put it back on the nightstand. "103.2," he said miserably.

Kim just looked at him. "I hate seeing you like this, I would trade places with you if I could. You need to stay healthy so you can continue touring."

"I know. I remember back in '97 before our first US album came out and we were touring, Nick and I both got strep throat several times within a few months. It was hell. I had to take nighttime cold medicine so I could sleep. I was beyond exhausted and my voice was shot, it was so 'go, go, go' that our immune systems just went to shit. There's only so much that a body can handle."

"I know, baby. That's why you've gotta take it easy for awhile so nothing gets canceled or rescheduled, same with Brian."

"How's he doing?" AJ asked as he took more Tylenol and NyQuil.

"Nick talked to him and he said that he was able to get Tamiflu but is going to have to rest for three or four days and let it run its course."

"That's good, 'cause this really sucks—" He broke off into a coughing fit.

Kim slid over next to him and rubbed his back as he coughed, feeling his body tense up as they jerked him forward. They finally stopped and he took a drink of water.

"God, that was annoying," he breathed.

"Okay, well, get back in bed and let's get some sleep, okay?"

"Fine by me. Bernie, go lay down," AJ said as he switched the light off and got comfortable.

"No blankets?"

"I'm too hot," he said as he propped his pillows up so he could breathe better.

"Alright, I'll leave you some if you get cold again. Get some rest, babe, love you," she said as she kissed his cheek.

"I love you, too. 'Night."
----------

2:17 PM

"Hey, baby, how'd you sleep?" Kim asked as she walked into the room because AJ texted her while she was downstairs.

"It was okay, I can't believe I was asleep for almost twelve hours."

"I can, you were out like a light. Snoring up a storm though." she joked.

"Cut me some slack, I'm sick, remember?" he said as he sat up. "How's Jordan?"

"He's okay, a little bummed that you can't play with him. He still doesn't quite understand that you can get him sick."

AJ sighed. "I feel bad, I'm supposed to be enjoying my time at home, not be confined to my bed stricken down with a virus."

"I know, baby. There will always be other opportunities. At least we're gonna be with you and the Boys for awhile, it'll be fun," Kim said to try cheer him up. "Are you hungry?"

"No."

"Thirsty?"

"A little bit."

"Good, you need to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes balanced. What do you want?"

"Do we have any Gatorade?" AJ asked.

Kim thought for a moment. "I think so, I'll be right back. Fruit punch?"

"Uh huh. 'SHOO!"

"Bless you," she offered as she left the room and went downstairs.

"ah'SHOO!"

"Bless you!" she called while walking into their kitchen. She heard AJ groan loudly in response and chuckled lightly. She went to the refrigerator and grabbed a Gatorade, then went back upstairs to the bedroom.

"I'll take that groan as a 'thank you'." Kim said as she walked in on AJ blowing his nose.

"Heh, yeah. Thanks." he said as he balled up the used tissue and tossed it in the trash can. "Two points."

Kim chuckled. "You're welcome, here you go."

AJ accepted the bottle, opened it, and took a drink. "So what have you been doing all day?"

"Not much. Your mom called earlier. I told her you were sick and she's a bit worried."

He sighed. "There's no need for it. I'll be fine in a few days."

Kim shook her head. "She's just concerned that you won't be well enough to go back on the road this week."

AJ rolled his eyes and took another sip of Gatorade. "It's the flu, I'm not dying."

"I know that, Alex, but, she's your mother and she's just looking out for you."

"Yeah, yeah. I performed sick plenty of times when she was on tour with us back in the day. Hell, we all did. If it comes down to me having to suck it up and take one for the team, I will."

"Well, let's just call that the 'worst-case scenario' okay? I wouldn't worry about it."

"Thank you. You should really go talk some sense into my mom, she must think I'm on my deathbed based on what you're telling me."

"Oh, Alex...you really are something aren't you?"

"Yep, and you love me for it." He flashed a cheeky grin.

"Awww...I've missed that smile of yours." Kim gave him a peck on the cheek and checked his fever.

She frowned a little. "You still feel really warm, babe. Wanna take your temperature?"

He sighed. "Can you do it? I'm too achy to move."

"Sure." Kim reached over to the nightstand, picked up the thermometer, and put it in his ear. It beeped a few seconds later and she read the result.

"What's the verdict?" AJ asked.

"102.9, it's down half a degree from yesterday. That's good," Kim said as she set it back down.

"Yep," AJ paused as he looked down. "I don't want any more," he stated, referring to the Gatorade.

"Alright." She closed it and put it next to the thermometer. "How's your headache?"

"Its still there, but not as bad as last night."

"Good. Do you wanna go back to sleep now?"

"Uh huh." He coughed a few times and sighed tiredly.

"Okay, time for another dose of cough syrup." Kim said as she poured it and gave it to AJ.

"On second thought, hand me my Gatorade," he said. She did and he swallowed the medicine and washed it down with his drink. AJ repeated the process with the NyQuil and Tylenol and laid back down as he suddenly felt the chills come again. "Ugh, when I can s-s-stay awake longer than f-f-fifteen minutes at a time, remind me to kill Brian."

"I'm glad to see that you still haven't lost your sense of humor," she said as she chuckled.

"H-H-How do know I'm not being s-s-serious right now?"

"Because you're a lover, not a fighter and you hate confronting people," Kim smirked.

"Whatever." He swallowed. "I'm s-s-so cold, Kim."

Kim looked upon her sick, shivering husband and covered him with the extra blanket that was on the bed. "Shhh. You're alright, try to sleep, okay, baby?" She lightly stroked his cheek and started to walk out of the room.

AJ waited until his teeth stopped chattering before he spoke. "No, stay," he whispered.

"What, Alex?" Kim asked as she turned around and walked back to him.

"Stay with me until I fall asleep. Please," he whispered again.

"Of course, sweetheart. I love you," she said as she began stroking his hot cheek again.

"Love you too Kim..." he said a bit drowsily.

AJ fell asleep within five minutes and was snoring lightly. His cell phone buzzed on the nightstand and Kim quickly answered the alert so he wouldn't wake up. He must have been checking his messages while he was awake. It was a text from Chris: What's up? Wanna go out tonight? You're driving. ;)

Kim replied, This is Kim. Alex has the flu and is sleeping now. No partying for him for a few days.

Chris responded saying, Oh, that sucks. Hope he feels better soon. Thanks.

Kim didn't reply that time and instead turned AJ's phone off to conserve the battery and so it wouldn't wake him up. She went into the bathroom and washed her hands, then quietly left the room to let him sleep.

Kim's POV

Kim went downstairs to see what was Jordan doing. She found him sitting on the couch in the living room watching TV.

"Hey, J, whatcha watching?" she asked as she sat down next to him.

"Spongebob."

"Oh."

Jordan turned to look at her. "Mommy?"

"Hmmm?"

"Is Daddy ever gonna get better?"

Kim couldn't help but feel her heart breaking for her little boy. He didn't realize that AJ had only been sick for two days but he was feeling lonely without him around and she felt the same way, even though he was right upstairs.

"Come here, Jordan. Let mommy tell you something," she said as he scooted close to her and she put her arm around him. "Daddy's pretty sick right now, but he's gonna be okay. He just needs to sleep a whole lot so he can feel better. Mommy would never let anything bad happen to Daddy, I promise. Okay?"

He smiled a little bit. "Okay."

"That's my boy. Now, do you wanna watch a movie? You pick."

"Um...Incredibles!"

Kim rolled her eyes playfully. "The Incredibles again?"

Jordan nodded excitedly.

"Alright, I guess we can watch it."

"Yay!" Jordan got the movie from the shelf and Kim switched the TV from Cable to DVD and opened the DVD player door with the remote. He put the disk in, closed it, and Kim waited for the main menu to come up before she pressed play.

The two of them had a good time laughing at the movie and just being together. When it was over, Kim decided to make an uncharacteristically early dinner since AJ wouldn't be awake to eat it anyway. She went to the kitchen and got started but couldn't help it when her thoughts ended up being about her 'pretty sick' husband upstairs. She decided to go check on him so she could have some peace of mind knowing that he was right where she left him.

Kim went upstairs and into their bedroom to find AJ in the same condition as before other than the fact that he was snoring louder, probably because his sinuses were congested again. She smiled lightly knowing that he would much rather be sick in the comfort of his own home than in some hotel anywhere in the world, no matter how fancy or expensive, and she loved that about him.
End Notes:
Please review. :)
Chapter 9 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 12/7.

Friday, March 28, 2008
9:09 AM

The week came and went as AJ and Brian both battled the flu for several days. Brian recovered well without any complications and was feeling one-hundred percent again besides feeling a little tired. AJ, on the other hand, was a different story.

He went back to his doctor a few days before to make sure that he was recovering like he should be. Everything checked out fine, except, he was still coughing. Dr. Phillips dismissed it saying that the dry cough could last for a few days after his other symptoms were gone. Unfortunately, it only got worse as AJ started developing chest congestion along with the cough on Thursday and here he was, back at his doctor's office for the third time in a week.

"Alright, Alex, take a deep breath for me. Again. And one more time. Good."

Kim called Dr. Phillips when she woke up that morning and updated him on her husband's condition. He told them to come back into his office at 9 AM for another examination so he could get AJ on the right course of treatment for what was ailing him.

"You've got a fair amount of wheezing going on, so, I would say that you have acute bronchitis. It's not uncommon after having the flu, probably caused by those same flu viruses. That's mostly why you still have a fever because it is an indicator of infection. I want to have another chest x-ray done to confirm the diagnosis and take a sputum sample to determine if it's viral or bacterial, just in case. Are you coughing up anything?"

"No—" Just then, AJ went into a coughing fit and ended up spitting a hunk of phlegm into a tissue. "At least, I wasn't," he said as he cleared his throat.

"Alright. I'll get this to the lab."
-------------

After the x-ray was taken and reviewed by Dr. Phillips, it was confirmed that AJ had bronchitis. Now they were just waiting on the sputum sample analysis. Cheryl brought the lab's findings to them when they were finished.

He looked over them before he spoke. "I have your results of the test. The bronchitis is viral and will just have to go away on its own. Fortunately, we caught it early so you'll only have to take it easy for about a week."

AJ was shocked. "A week!?" He couldn't believe it.

"Now, Alex, don't get yourself all worked up. Relax," Kim interjected.

"How can I relax when this is going to disappoint so many fans? Damn it. I mean, Backstreet Boys don't get sick days. You know that. What am I gonna tell the fellas? 'Oh sorry, we gotta cancel a bunch of shows because I managed to get a chest cold after just having the flu. My bad.'?" AJ said angrily.

She rubbed his arm gently. "I know, baby. Don't worry, we'll figure this out."

"I'm just being cautious, you don't need this to progress to pneumonia and have to be hospitalized. You really need to rest. Your recovery will take much longer if you don't get as much sleep and relaxation as you can, especially since this has the potential to get worse before it gets better. That means vocal rest, too, alright? Make sure that you don't strain or overuse it for now. I know that you've been sick for a week and have been cooped up in your house, but you really should stay home," Dr. Phillips instructed sternly.

AJ let out a big sigh and looked defeated.

"Bronchitis is extremely contagious and you shouldn't risk spreading it around to your band mates or anyone else. I hate to play the heavy, but that's just the way it's gotta be. Trust me on this, okay?"

AJ coughed some before speaking. "Of course, Nate, you're right."

"There could be an explanation as to what brought this on. Any new stresses at home? Work? Marital?"

"Well, we are touring and that's always stressful, but I don't think that's it..." He thought for a moment. "Me and Kim have been trying again, for another baby. That could be it," AJ said thoughtfully.

"For how long?" Dr. Phillips asked.

"A few months, since before the tour started in February."

"Hm...that is a possibility. I definitely understand, having four kids and two dogs. My family does cause me a great deal of unnecessary headaches, but I wouldn't have it any other way." He paused for a moment to look AJ right in the eye. "Alex, listen to me. As your doctor and friend, I'm telling you right now that I wouldn't order you to take time off if my medical opinion did not justify that it was absolutely necessary. I know that you're extremely busy and that 'no rest for the weary' really comes into play in your line of work. If this was something like a sinus infection, I would just prescribe you some antibiotics and send you on your way."

'That sinus infection is sounding really good right now...' AJ thought as he tried to see past his own stubbornness about the situation. 'Or maybe not.' as he quickly remembered that mucus grossed him out.

"I'll see you Wednesday at 1 PM for another follow-up appointment. Thank you for coming back in and for taking this seriously," he said as he shook their hands.

"Thank you, Doctor," Kim said.

"Thanks, Nate."

"Take care you two."

AJ's doctor left the exam room and they gathered up their things to go back home. "C'mon, baby, it's back to bed for you," Kim said.

"Yay, back to my padded cell we go," AJ replied as they left the room and went to the car.
------------------

AJ's cell phone rang as they were on their way back home. He didn't bother to look at the caller ID and answered it.

"Yeah?" he asked tiredly.

"Alex?"

"Hey, Mom."

"Hi, sweetheart. What did the doctor say?"

"Viral bronchitis. Gonna have to take a week off to fight it and on top of just getting over the flu, it's not going to be easy." He sighed which caused him to cough a little.

"I'm sorry. Do you want me to bring Jordan home later? Keep him overnight?" Denise asked.

"Hold on, let me ask Kim."

Kim looked in her rear view mirror back at AJ. "Ask me what, Alex?"

"Should my mom keep Jordan overnight, or no?"

"If she could, that would be great. You really need to rest and I could use a break," she answered. Taking care of her sick husband all week and a rambunctious four-year old was draining to say the least, she just had to make sure that she wouldn't come down with anything herself. So far, so good.

"Hey, Mom? Can you keep him overnight for us?"

"Sure, Alex. You know I love spending time with him."

"Is he around? Can you put him on the phone?"

"Here he is."

"Hi, Daddy," Jordan said shyly.

"Hey, buddy. How do you feel about spending the night with Grammy tonight?" AJ asked him.

"Okay."

"Are you sure? I can have her bring you home or have Mommy pick you up."

"No, it's okay. Grammy says you're real sick and need to sleep a lot."

"Alright. I love you. Be a good boy for Grammy." He gave him a kiss through the phone.

"Love you, too, Daddy. Feel better. Bye."

Denise came back on the phone. "Well, that's settled then. Do you need anything?"

"I've got everything I need at home. I'm gonna go, I'm beat. Love you."

"I love you, too. Feel better, sweetheart."

"Thanks, Mom. Bye."

AJ decided to call the Boys' manager, Jenn Sousa to let her know what was going on. After a few rings, she answered.

"Hello?"

"Jenn, it's Alex."

"It's 10 AM, do you ever sleep?" she joked.

"I may be an insomniac at times, but I do sleep occasionally. God knows that I've practically slept through the last week. I'm like Rip Van Winkle for crying out loud."

Even Kim chuckled at that comment.

"This better be important if you're waking me up this early."

"Actually," he cleared his throat. "I'm on my way home from the doctor."

"And...?" she pressed.

"He said I've got viral bronchitis."

"Damn. This means no touring for how long?"

"A week at least."

He heard her sigh heavily on the other end. "Jive is not going to be happy..."

He sighed. "I know, they'll have my ass for this. I'm really sorry, Jenn."

"No, no. It's not your fault, sweetie. You just get home and rest, okay? I'll let everyone else know."

"But how are we gonna tell everybody? The venues? The crew? The fans? The—"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, cowboy. We'll figure it all out. There's still four days until the Stuttgart gig, we've got plenty of time. Don't worry."

"Okay. Well, I'll let you go. You probably want to go back to sleep."

"Nah, I'm awake now. Get some rest, okay? Bye, Alex."

"Thanks, later."

AJ hung up and tossed his phone to the side. He covered himself in a blanket as his chills returned. They weren't as bad as when he had the flu, but they still made him feel like crap, so it really didn't make much of a difference. He began to cough heavily and it took what little energy he had out of him.

"We'll be home soon, Alex," Kim said sadly as she watched helplessly from the rear view mirror.
---------------

Once they got home, AJ repeated the process of taking more medicine and crawling back into bed to rest his weary body. He couldn't believe he let himself get so run down, but touring did eventually take its toll no matter how many times they'd done it. It affected everyone's health sooner or later. This reminded him of an answer he gave to a question at the soundcheck party in San Juan, Puerto Rico on February 22nd:

"I also wanted to know what the hardest part of traveling is, do you take your families with you, or do they stay home?"

"We all try to have our families come out as much as we can and friends. I mean, Howie, Brian, and myself usually have our wives out and Brian's got Baylee out as much as they can, just like when I have Jordan out here on the road with us. My mom tries to come out as much as she can, as well as my step-dad try to come out, you know, and friends. Nick has had Aaron out here for a little while, which is good for both of them to bond again. You know, we all try to have as much family and friends out here as we can, 'cause the road life does get a little nerve-wracking from time to time. I mean, you know, sometimes it just finally wears and tears on you. And we're not as young as we used to be, so, sometimes a mild cold can become something really bad."


"God, how true is that statement?" AJ said as he thought out loud.

Kim walked in with his Mucinex from the store. "How true is what, Alex?"

"Oh, nothing, just an answer I gave at a soundcheck back in San Juan about traveling. How we try to have family and friends come out as much as we can because the road life can be stressful at times, how we're not as young as we used to be 'so sometimes a mild cold can become something really bad.' You think?" he explained as he rolled his eyes and coughed a few times.

"Awww, baby," she said as she sat on the edge of the bed next to him, "you know that there's things in life that you can't control or stop and being sick is one of many. I know that you're probably really angry with yourself right now, but I'm sure that everybody will be understanding of the situation at some point."

"The fans are gonna be pissed. There's always been backlash whenever we've had to cancel a show. They pay money and sometimes travel from far distances to see us perform and we can't because of me. We can't give them what they want and I can't do what I love, all because I've got the fuckin' plague."

Kim put her hand on his shoulder. "Alex—"

AJ shrugged it off and glared at her. "Just don't, okay? I know that it will all work out eventually, I just need time to 'process the loss,' so to speak," he said as he remembered a step in his grief therapy after his beloved grandmother's death. "And you know what else? I can't stand being in this bed any longer. I'm going downstairs." He quickly got up and left the room in a huff.

Kim still sat on the edge of the bed, stunned at what just happened. She then listened sadly as AJ's harsh coughing filled the silence of their home.
End Notes:
Soundcheck quote used from this video @7:12 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlnAkJ8DHsg - I added and took things out as needed.

Please review. :)
Chapter 10 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 12/11. This chapter's mostly dialogue, so it's kinda boring, but I PROMISE that the next one is better!

Friday, March 28, 2008
11:05 AM

AJ saw Kim come downstairs and go toward the office down the hall without saying a word. He sat there on the couch as he heard the door close, thinking about his little outburst from less than an hour ago. He hoped that she didn't feel like he was mad at her because he wasn't. He was just sick and tired of being sick and tired, to be quite honest. He also hated the constant doctor's visits, not being able to spend time with his wife and son—oh, and the coughing, we mustn't forget that. God forbid if he could go five minutes without hacking up a lung, or both.

Once the fit subsided, he heard the office door open and Kim came into the living room.

"You heard?" he asked wearily as he fell back against the cushions.

"That really doesn't sound good Alex," she said with worry evident in her voice.

"Tell me about it. I never realized just how much energy breathing takes out of me when I'm sick like this. I want this crap out of my chest." He rubbed it slightly.

She sat down next to him and rubbed his back. "Does it hurt, babe?" she asked, concerned.

"Not really, only if I have a bad fit. It feels more like pressure, like someone is sitting on it," he tried to explain.

"That's gotta be uncomfortable. Maybe you could try taking a hot shower later to loosen up the mucus. It could help you relax, too, your muscles are all tense and everything. You have to stay calm and just take this in stride. You can't stress out like this, Alex."

"Is my Mucinex still upstairs?"

It seemed that her statement just went through one ear and out the other. "Yeah, on the nightstand. Want me to get it?" she offered.

"No, I got it...nevermind," AJ said as he felt a wave of dizziness hit him when he stood up. He sat back down and put his head in his hands.

"I'll get it. Be right back." Kim raced upstairs and back and brought it to him.

"Thanks Kim." He took a pill and washed it down with some water.

"Do you need anything else? Are you hungry?" she asked.

"No, I think I'm just gonna take a nap right—" he let out a big yawn, "here." He turned the TV off and started to lay down.

Kim went to the hall closet and got a spare blanket and pillow for AJ. "Before you get too comfortable, you might want these." She set the pillow down and covered him with the blanket.

"Thanks, babe. I'm sorry about earlier. I was just angry, but, not at you, okay?"

"You're welcome. I know, baby, don't worry. I just wanted to give you a chance to cool off. We're fine, just rest. I'll be in the office if you need me."

"Gotcha." AJ coughed a little and closed his eyes, taking slow, deep breaths as he tried to sleep.

Kim could tell that he was just worn out and quietly left the room. AJ groaned softly as the house phone rang and Kim quickly answered it, going down the hall so she wouldn't keep him awake.
-------------

AJ woke up from his nap around 1:30 and went into the kitchen. He decided to make some ginger tea because it normally helped when he had a sore throat. He peeled and sliced some fresh ginger root and put it in a boiling saucepan of water on the stove. He covered the pan with a lid as Kim came in.

"Hey," she greeted.

"Hey, yourself."

"What are you making?"

"Some ginger tea."

"Ooh, that sounds good. Did you sleep okay?"

"Uh huh. What have you been doing?" he wondered.

"Canceling and changing our flights and such for Germany. I'm almost done taking care of it."

AJ sighed as he wrapped up and put the rest of the ginger root in the refrigerator.

"I hate seeing you so upset like this. I feel helpless."

"Yeah, me too." He coughed a few times and spit phlegm in the sink and quickly rinsed it down the drain as he tried not to gag. "That's nasty." He shuddered.

Kim rubbed his shoulders. "It just means that the medicine's working. I bought the Extra Strength kind so you can get over this as fast as possible."

He turned around to face her. "Except that means more coughing and I don't think I can take much more of this. This sucks," he said, sulking a little.

"I know, but you should still rest as much as you can. I would hate for you to go back out too soon and relapse. Risking your health for a tour isn't worth it, and you know it. I would trade places with you in a heartbeat if I could. C'mon, let's go back to the couch and relax until the tea is done."

They both went into the living room to watch TV until the tea was done simmering. AJ added honey to his and Kim added lemon to hers. Soon after they had settled there, AJ's cell phone rang. He turned down the TV and answered it.

"Hey, Jenn."

"Hi. How're you feeling?" she asked.

AJ shrugged. "Not much different from when we last spoke. You're on speaker phone. What's up?"

"I talked to Jive about the situation and they're not happy at all. They want proof that you're too sick or whatever. This is a bunch of BS," she explained.

"Seriously? What do they want from me, a personal phone call?" AJ was livid.

"I have no idea." She sighed. "I'm just trying to figure this all out."

"And you're doing a great job, I appreciate it. I think I'll give Barry Weiss (CEO of Jive Records) a call and straighten this out myself."

"You wouldn't," she said in disbelief.

"Oh, I will. Now, I was thinking—"

"Congratulations," Jenn said sarcastically.

AJ laughed. "Seriously, I wanna do a video for the fans explaining what's going on. They have a right to know but Jive doesn't have to know about this."

"Alex..." Jenn sighed.

AJ coughed some and continued. "Come on, I can give them more details than some dumb statement on our website. The fans trust me. Who cares what the label wants. Once they approve our time off, I'm gonna do it."

"Okay, if that's what you really wanna do..." she said in a warning tone.

"It is, since when have I cared about what Jive thinks?" he asked her seriously.

"That's true, it's been awhile."

"Exactly. How did the fellas take the news?" He took a sip of his tea.

"They haven't tried to get in touch with you?"

"No, I took a nap after I got home anyway and just made some ginger tea for me and Kim."

Jenn chuckled. "You and your crazy home remedies..."

"It's not crazy. It works wonders, it's my secret recovery tool for strep throat. Don't tell anyone okay?" he joked. "And it's not a home remedy. I just like tea." he said simply. "Anyway, back to my original question."

"They're okay, we all hate letting the fans down. Brian's feeling pretty guilty though," she admitted.

"Why?"

"He says that if he hadn't gotten you sick in the first place, this wouldn't have happened."

"He can't blame himself. It's in the past, ain't nothing we can do about it now." He shook his head. "I'll call him later. Anything else to report?"

"Nope, that's all for now. I'll call you if there's an update."

"Can you text me instead? I'm supposed to be resting my voice, doctor's orders."

"Sure. Bye, Alex."

"Later."

AJ hung up and set his phone on the coffee table.

Kim looked furious. "Ugh! I can't believe them! Are they really being serious right now? Proof?!?!" she yelled.

"I know, I'll work it out. Don't worry. I'll call them both in a little while. Let's just relax, don't stress out. I'm sure that I'm stressed out enough for the both of us."

"I hate this. Why does everything have to be so complicated?" she asked as she rested her head on his shoulder.

"Shhh, shhh. Come on, Kim, it's okay. I love you." He kissed her hair.

"And I love you." She curled up next to him and tried to concentrate on the TV for the time being.
End Notes:
Still hope you liked it, please review. :)
Chapter 11 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 12/29. Sorry I haven't updated lately, I got really stuck on the next few chapters. I've decided to post two new chapters since it's been awhile. Enjoy. :)

Sidenotes: I got tired of writing using Sarah as AJ's wife, so I made up a new character. I know it's kinda sudden, but hopefully you guys don't mind. I would suggest re-reading the first chapter for more information.

This chapter contains graphic sexual content. Viewer discretion is advised. lol ;)

Friday, March 28, 2008
3:29 PM

" ... Rok, you can't beat yourself up over this, it's just as much my fault as it is yours. My doctor even told me that it was going around, I would have gotten it sooner or later, who knows what kind of germs my kid brings home from his playdates." ... "Right?" ... "Exactly. So are we good again, no more blaming yourself for what's happened?" ... "Good. I gotta go, got another important phone call to make." ... "Yes, more important than you, Mr. The-Universe-Revolves-Around-Me. Just kidding." ... "Yeah right! Later dude."

'One down, one to go...'

He hung up and dialed Jive's main line and waited.

"Yeah, hi. This is AJ McLean, can I speak to Barry Weiss please? It's urgent." ... "Yes, I'll hold." A few minutes later: "Hi, Barry, it's AJ. How are you?" ... "Not so well, which is actually why I called. I've got bronchitis and have been instructed by my doctor not to go back on tour for about a week and have been put on vocal rest, as well. Some of your employees don't seem to understand that and I was wondering if you could set them straight." ... "Our next show is on the 2nd in Stuttgart, Germany." ... "I've had worse, we caught it early so—excuse me. So a week should be plenty of time for me to get better." ... "Thank you so much for understanding, I really appreciate it." ... "I owe you one, Barry." ... "Yes, of course." ... "I will. Thank you again." ... "You, too. Bye."

AJ hung up the office phone as he relaxed in the computer chair. "Phew...glad that's over."

There was a small knock at the door. "Alex? Can I come in?"

"Yeah."

Kim entered and shut the door behind her. "Did you get the week off?"

"Yep, we all did." He coughed some, then noticed his phone vibrating on the desk. He flipped it open and answered the alert, it was a text from Jenn: Just got the word. You really did it, didn't you?

AJ: Let's just say I've got friends in high places... ;)

Jenn: Well, you can do your little video now, I still don't think it's a good idea...

AJ: Too bad, it'll be our little secret for now, along with Kim. I'll take the heat for this, okay?

"Hello? I'm still here, Alex," Kim said to take AJ's attention away from his phone.

"Sorry, babe, it's Jenn. We're just discussing what the next step is for getting the info out about the tour changes," he explained.

"Which is...?" she pressed.

"Hold on, I'll ask her."

Kim rolled her eyes.

AJ: Is Jive preparing a statement? Do they want me to say something?

Jenn: They are for tomorrow and they probably will. Go do your video. You remember the password to the bsbofficial YouTube account, right?

AJ: Yep, I do. Later.

"I think my laptop's in the bedroom, wanna do a cameo appearance?"

"Sure," she decided on a whim.

Both of them went upstairs and set up AJ's laptop to make a video using the webcam above the screen. He cleared his throat and pressed record.

"Hey, guys, this is AJ." He waved. "I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so, forgive me if I sound a little bit crappy. In fact, I probably look like crap too. But I digress... You all won't see this until tomorrow, but here goes nothing. What's up, Team Europe? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but me and the fellas have decided to cancel the next four shows in Stuttgart, Munchen, Leipzig, and Rotterdam. You guys deserve to know what's going on, so, I am going to tell you. I've been sick for over a week now and I need some more time off to get completely better so all four of us can put on our best show for all of you. I caught the flu from Brian last week. Don't worry, he's fine now. But I—" He stopped to cough, then looked off-screen to Kim who was giving him a concerned look. "I'm fine, babe." He turned back to the camera. "Kim's here, too, say hi, Kim. C'mon, don't be shy." She leaned over into view and waved. "Hi, everyone. Jordan's not here, he's at Alex's mom's house for the night. We're both doing well, this guy, on the other hand, not so much."

AJ only shrugged and continued. "As I was saying, Brian got me sick and it's actually kinda funny the way it happened. Last Thursday, I went to go pick up Baylee for the day because Leighanne was out and Brian was too sick to watch him. So, being the good friend that I am, I did it and brought him back after dinner. When I got home, I started feeling tired and kinda chilly, so, I took a hot bath and went to bed early. It was—"

Kim cut in. "He can't fool me, I knew he was getting sick. You thought you were being slick, didn't you? You should give me a little more credit than that." AJ playfully pushed her out of frame. "Anyway, it really hit me early Friday afternoon. I broke out in a near 103-degree fever, I was hot, I was cold, sweaty, achy, dizzy, exhausted beyond belief. Kim made me go see my doctor who diagnosed me with a bad strain of the flu. I wasn't able to get Tamiflu this time, which is an anti-viral medicine that can ease the symptoms of the flu, but, Brian did. I did get cough syrup though." He gave a thumbs-up. "So, after living on Gatorade and NyQuil for a few days—kudos to Vicks by the way, I went back for a follow-up on Tuesday and I was feeling much better. The only problem was that I was still coughing which I was worried about. My doctor said it would go away in a few days, but if you couldn't tell by that wonderful coughing fit that you just had the pleasure of witnessing, it hasn't."

"I started developing chest congestion yesterday, Thursday and I went back to my doctor again this morning. If you lost count, that's three doctor's visits in a week. Yeah, it definitely sucks. He diagnosed me with acute viral bronchitis, or a chest cold for those who don't know what that fancy medical term means. We caught it early which is good, but my doctor told me to take it easy for a week and he's put me on vocal rest, as well, hence the canceled shows. Dr. Phillips, if you see this, thanks for looking out for me, you're awesome. I couldn't ask for a better doctor."

"Continuing on with the sappiness, to all of our German and Dutch fans watching this: I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart that this has happened. If there was any way at all that I would be able to perform on Wednesday, I would do it in a heartbeat. My wife will probably kill me if I take one step outside my house within the next week, but I would." Kim cut in again. "I definitely will, you can count on that." She chuckled and ducked out of frame.

"Touring can definitely take its toll, as you can probably imagine with all of traveling and shows that we do. We're not robots and we get sick just like everybody else. We try to push ourselves as much as we can, but it's not my decision to make this time. We hate letting you guys down by having to cancel shows, but I have to listen to my body and what others are telling me, even if that means that we've gotta wait a bit longer than we originally planned before we can go back on the road." AJ looked down to see how long the video was so far. "See? This is why I shouldn't have a webcam, I just keep going and going and going like the Energizer bunny." He stopped again to cough. "Wow, excuse me." He cleared his throat. "Alright, everyone, I hope this finds you well and in good health, unlike me at the moment, obviously, haha. Once again, I'm so sorry you guys. Thank you for your understanding, the dates will be rescheduled as soon as we can fit them back in. Say bye, Kim." She waved. "Bye, everybody." "I'll talk to you guys soon. Peace, God bless."

AJ pressed stop and stood up. "Well, that was fun."

"Yep." Kim followed him downstairs where he soon talked to someone from Jive about the press release and gave his comments about the situation. He didn't know how much of his input that they would use, but at least they wanted it, right?

Once that was taken care of, AJ took Kim's advice and headed for the shower. He hoped that it would give him a chance to clear his head, his brain was going a million miles an hour about everything that had happened over the last week. He let it get really hot before he got in, the water having an almost immediate soothing effect on his tense muscles.

'Holy hell, Kim wasn't kidding...I'm more stressed out than I thought.'

AJ stood underneath the shower head for about fifteen minutes when he heard the door open.

"Kim?" he called out.

"You okay in there?" Kim asked.

"Fine. Thanks for the tip."

"I do what I can," she quipped. "Is it helping?"

"A little bit, I can feel it loosening up. At least I'm more relaxed." He cleared his throat.

"Good, I'd hate for you to make yourself sicker over this."

"I don't see how that's possible, my cough already sounds like I've smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for twenty years," he retorted.

"Have I ever told you how happy I am that you quit smoking?"

"Only about a hundred million times."

"...Do you miss it?"

"Not really. Sometimes when I'm really stressed out I feel like I need one, but other than that, no. I'm much healthier without them. Can you imagine how much worse this situation would be if I still smoked? I'd be sick for weeks. Plus, Jordan nor you deserve to be harmed by a choice that I made for myself."

Kim smiled. "You know, I—"

"Kim?"

"Hm?"

"Shut up and get in here, already," AJ said impatiently.

"Oh? Someone's a little pushy. And what if I say no?" she teased.

"Then I'll drag you in here, naked or not."

"Just a second..." Kim stripped down quickly and got in as he pulled the curtain back into place.

AJ felt his heart skip a beat as he took in the sight of his breathtaking wife of almost six years.

"Hi." He kissed her lips passionately.

"Hi," she echoed and returned the kiss. "Are you sure we should be doing this? You are sick, after all."

"Baby, in this very moment I've never felt better. If you haven't caught anything from me so far, you probably won't now," AJ reasoned.

"But—" Kim wrapped her arms around him when she felt his lips crash down on hers once again and just went with the flow as he sucked on her bottom lip. They broke apart and AJ moved from there to her neck, where he began kissing gently.

She soon felt his kisses move lower and tilted her head back. AJ moved between her full breasts and brushed his lips over her peak and felt it harden at his touch. Kim moaned softly, and he pulled back. "Someone's excited..."

"Mhm..." she mumbled.

AJ continued to tease her with his tongue, then kissed her stomach which sent shivers down her spine. He gauged her reaction and did it several more times before he pulled away, he dare not go lower. He stood straighter and kissed her neck again.

"Why'd you...stop, baby?" she moaned.

"Your turn," he sang.

"Ooh..."

Kim took and stroked him gently as soft moans escaped his lips. "You know...seeing you all wet like really gets me off. Like the first version of the "Drowning" music video, and you in that fishnet shirt..."

He nodded slightly as he remembered that shoot. "Yeah..."

She moved from there and placed her hands on his chest, tracing the lines of his well-defined abs with her finger. She rested her head on his shoulder and he kissed her cheek.

AJ suddenly moved away and began to wash himself. Kim looked at him, confused.

"What was that for?"

"Oh, I changed my mind," he said nonchalantly as he rinsed off and stepped out of the shower.

He wrapped a towel around his waist and started for the door when he heard the water shut off and Kim came out as well. "You, Alexander McLean, are such a tease." She covered herself with a towel and innocently walked to the door, then proceeded to chase him out and onto the bed as they started round two.
End Notes:
Please review. :)
Chapter 12 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 12/29.

Saturday, March 29, 2008
3:15 PM

AJ was sitting in the office going over the public statement that Jive was planning to post on the Boys' website about his illness and tour postponement. He was surprised that they had actually let him review it beforehand, usually they just posted it and he read it later. They decided that once he was satisfied with it he could post it, which gave him the perfect opportunity to add his video message to it. AJ re-read it a few more times before he posted it to their website. The record label was in for a surprise. The statement said:

Sat March 29th, 2008 | 3:37 PM

BACKSTREET BOYS’ AJ McLEAN DIAGNOSED WITH BRONCHITIS

GROUP CANCELS SEVERAL TOUR DATES

OTHER THREE MEMBERS AND TRAVELING PARTY TAKING PREVENTIVE MEASURES


The Backstreet Boys are sad to announce they have cancelled this Tuesday's show in Stuttgart, Germany at the Porsche Arena on April 2nd due to member AJ McLean having been diagnosed with viral bronchitis. He is under doctor's orders to rest his voice for a week and refrain from performing full shows.

This unfortunate occurrence will also result in the cancelling of these dates:

April 3: Munchen, Germany - Olympiahalle
April 4: Leipzig, Germany - Arena Leipzig
April 6: Rotterdam, Netherlands - Ahoy Rotterdam
April 8: Berlin, Germany - Max Schemling Halle *** If necessary

"We apologize to fans," the band said in a statement. "Unfortunately we're having to postpone these dates due to AJ's illness."

The other three members, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, and Brian Littrell have seen a doctor and are not showing any symptoms. As a preventive measure, the doctor has advised the group and their touring party, who have just returned to the States from Mexico, to have no physical contact with AJ until told otherwise due to the contagiousness of his condition.

“I had the flu earlier this week and this is what it has escalated to. I'm on medication and am under doctor's orders to rest my body and my voice for the next week.” McLean says. “l want to sincerely apologize to all of our loyal German and Dutch fans, you all have given us so much love and support over the years and we can't thank you enough for that.”

The Backstreet Boys are touring in support of their latest album UNBREAKABLE, on Jive Records. The rescheduled dates for these shows have not yet been determined. ALL ORIGINAL TICKETS REMAIN VALID for the new dates. Details to come.

The Backstreet Boys sincerely regret these unavoidable cancellations and apologize to fans for any disappointment caused.

Video Message To The Fans From AJ:

ATTENTION ALL GERMAN AND DUTCH FANS...FROM AJ McLEAN...
-------------

Pleased with his work, he left the office and walked into the kitchen. He went to the fridge and started looking in it to see what he could make himself to eat.

Kim was out running errands and such, so he decided that the best thing to do would be to use up whatever was left since she would be bringing home new groceries anyway. He fixed himself half of a turkey sandwich and chips to go along with some leftover ginger tea from yesterday. He took his food downstairs to the small recording studio he had built when he bought the house back in 2000. It was then that he made the permanent move from Orlando to LA.

AJ sat down at the soundboard and put on a backing track that he had mixed awhile ago. Now it just needed lyrics. He moved to a small table which had his notebook of songs and a pen. He took a bite of his sandwich, flipped to a blank page, and listened, letting the wheels in his head start turning. An idea sparked and he wrote it down:

When I wake up in the sunlight and look into your eyes
And I hold you for a little while—


AJ stopped and listened, then quickly scribbled out the rest of his idea and took his food upstairs because he heard Jordan, meaning that his mom had brought him back home. He set it down in the kitchen and went to the front door.

"Hey, Mom," he said as hugged her.

"Hi, sweetheart, how're you feeling?"

"Eh, not much better. I'm sure it'll be a few more days until I'm on the mend."

"Right, are you resting? I know how stir-crazy you can get," she said knowingly.

"Yes, but I was actually working on something downstairs in the studio. Nothing big, just a song." AJ turned away and coughed several times. He motioned for Denise to follow him into the kitchen where he drank some more tea to relieve his tickly throat.

"Did Jordan behave?" he asked, hoping to take the attention off of himself for a moment as they both sat down at the island.

"Of course, he missed you both though. Where's Kim?"

"Out grocery shopping and stuff, she should be back soon."

"Oh, that's good. How's everything with the tour? Are new dates figured out yet?"

"No, we just released a statement today and everyone's tickets will be valid for the new dates. We'll figure it all out when the time comes."

"Sounds like a plan. How are the others?"

"We all hate letting the fans down, but we're just taking this as it comes. I've just gotta focus on getting better so we can get back out there."

"Don't be in such a hurry, now—"

AJ interrupted her. "I know, I know. I'll be fine, it could be worse you know." He ate a couple of chips that were on his plate. "How's Dad doing?" he asked, referring to Denise's second husband, his step-dad Tony.

"He's fine, worried about you being sick, as we all are," she replied.

"That's good." He got up to refill his mug with more tea. "You want some?"

"No, thanks, but, can I have some water?"

"Sure, is bottled okay?" he said as he went to the fridge.

"That's fine."

AJ brought it to her and sat back down. "I wonder where J ran off to...?"

"I think he is in his room. He went upstairs."

"Hm, okay." He took a sip from his mug.

Just then, Kim walked in with her arms full of groceries from Whole Foods.

"Hi, Alex, Denise," she greeted as she set the bags down on the counter. She gave AJ a quick kiss on the cheek before going back to her car to get a few more bags. Once they were brought in, AJ volunteered to put them away.

"How are you?" Denise asked Kim who took AJ's seat.

"I'm fine, yourself?"

"I'm good, Jordan and I had a great time together," she answered.

"Where's Tony?"

"In San Antonio for a conference with his company, he'll be back in a few days."

"Oh. They've been having nice weather down there lately."

"Yeah, he said it's been warm and sunny, no rain so far."

"Babe? Where does this go?" AJ asked as he held up a can of peaches.

"The cabinet below you to your right," she said.

"Thanks," he sang as he continued to put the groceries in their proper places.

She laughed. "You're too cute."

He poked his head out from behind a cabinet door and grinned. "I know."

Jordan came running into the kitchen from upstairs straight to Kim.

"Mommy!"

"Hey, you!" She gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Did you have fun with Grandma?"

"Uh-huh! We went to the movies and saw Horton (Horton Hears a Who) yesterday!"

"Wow, did you like it?" she asked.

"Yeah, it was really funny!"

"We'll have to buy it when it comes out on video, okay?"

"Yay!" he chirped.

"Hey, where's my hug?" AJ asked as he finished putting the groceries away.

"Oops," Jordan giggled. "Sorry, Daddy." He went over to AJ and hugged him.

"I'll let it slide just this once," he smirked.

AJ's cell phone rang and he answered it. He walked out of the kitchen and into the living room.

"What's up, man?" ... "I've been better—oh, you saw it?" ... "Haha, yeah. I'm looking glamorous right now." ... "You know it." ... "Oh, yeah? That sounds good, bro. We have a break in the tour at the end of May which is the end of the European tour, then, we have four dates in South Africa in June. We start the first leg of the North American tour in late July. I'm sure we can get together then." ... "Good, it's been too long." ... "Ugh, sorry. It's been like that since Thursday." ... "Right, it figures. I'm sure I'll be fine." ... "Alright, hit me up whenever, dude." ... "Okay. Later."

AJ went back into the kitchen.

"Who was that?" Kim asked.

"Ryan," he said.

"Oh? What did he want?"

"To do some work in the studio soon, maybe write and record some songs."

"Ryan who, Alex?" Denise asked.

"Ryan Tedder of the group OneRepublic."

"Oh," she said, not recognizing either of the two names.

"Yeah, he's really talented and has an awesome voice. He's great to work with."

"Well, that's good." She glanced at the clock on the wall and stood up. "I better get going, I'm gonna go home and make some dinner and clean the house up a bit."

"I have a better idea," AJ said. "why don't you stay for dinner? You haven't in awhile and the cleaning can wait."

"That's true. You're very convincing when you need to be, you know. Are you okay with this, Kim?"

"Of course, we'd love to have you," she replied warmly.

"Great. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm in the mood for some Chinese. Any objections?" AJ questioned.

Everyone was silent.

"Alrighty, then, I'll order it. Mom, do you want your usual?"

"Yes."

"Okay."

AJ took the house phone and ordered the food for delivery. It arrived about an hour later and everyone chowed down until they were stuffed. Denise also told Kim and Jordan some embarrassing stories from AJ's childhood, including the one about when AJ pretended that his name was Duane in school so he wouldn't get in trouble about not doing his homework when his teacher called home.

A great evening was had by all and the weekend winded down as they began preparing to go back on tour the coming week if AJ was given the OK to travel.

Will he or won't he, that is the question...
End Notes:
I used band statements from the Backstreet Boys, Staind, and White Lies to help create my own. No harm is intended.

Song credit: Lyrics are part of "London" by AJ McLean from his first soon-to-be-released solo album Have It All (January 20, 2010 in Japan ONLY for now).

Please review. :)
Chapter 13 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 12/31. My last update for 2009. I will probably update again tomorrow for New Year's Day. Happy New Year everyone, I hope you all have a great 2010! :D

Sunday, April 6, 2008
4:41 AM

'I hate this! Why can't I sleep?' AJ thought while staring at the ceiling. Everyone had to be up and out the door by 7am for their 8:15am flight from LAX to NYC, then from there to London and finally to Berlin. It was going to be a long day... Maybe he was nervous about going back on tour. Or excited. Or maybe both. Whatever, all he knew was that he was wide-awake and decided to get out of bed and bring his, Kim's, and Jordan's luggage to the front door. 'Might as well do something productive.'

AJ did that as quietly as he could, made a pot of coffee in the kitchen, and went downstairs to his studio. It was a place of solace for him when he was angry or stressed out. AJ was able to use it as a creative outlet instead of holding things in which was his nature. He could pour his heart and soul onto a page or into a microphone, do whatever was creatively necessary to find relief. He saw his opened notebook and pen on the table and sat down to look through it. The latest entry read:

When I wake up in the sunlight and look into your eyes
And I hold you for a little while
And I see behind your smile
I remember how beautiful I used to think you are
Now the only love that meant something is gone

I still hold onto the memory of how we were meant to be
And I wonder
Did you ever care?
You were never there for me
I thought I was stronger
But then why I am I here when there's nothing left to say?
Now the only love that meant something is gone


'Nah,' AJ thought, 'I need to clear my head, start something new.'

His thoughts were immediately about his beloved wife who was sleeping peacefully upstairs. Kim had put up with a lot of stuff with him since he'd been sick, not to mention taking care of their son too. She was Superwoman, even though we all face our kryptonite once in awhile. 'She's my world, my life, my...everything.'

The words seemed to just come immediately and in a little over an hour later the song was written. AJ was quite pleased with his work, he hadn't written something like this since their wedding when he wrote and performed a special song for Kim at their wedding reception in front of their family and friends. 'That's pathetic.' he thought in disgust at himself. 'Oh, well, can't do much about it now.'

AJ went back upstairs to the kitchen to find Kim sitting at the island sipping on coffee.

"Mornin'," he said shortly as he walked back over to the coffee pot for a refill.

"G'morning."

AJ gave her a kiss and sat down next to her. "Is J up yet?"

Kim yawned. "No, I figured I'd let him sleep a little longer."

"Yeah," AJ said, remembering how hard it was to get Jordan to sleep last night. He was fussy and being difficult, but what can you do? At least they'd all be able to nap on the plane. They were not morning people at all.

"Were you in the studio?"

"Uh-huh, just messing around with stuff. Couldn't sleep."

"Oh. I see all of our things are already downstairs. Thanks, babe," Kim said with a light smile.

"No problem, I decided to do something productive while I was awake."

"How long have you been up?" she wondered.

"Since like 4:30," he said quietly.

There was a pause. "You're ready to go back, right? You feel okay?"

"Mhm. Other than the occasional cough, I feel one-hundred percent better. I wanna get back out there." AJ stood up. "It's almost 6:15, I'm gonna get Jordan up."

"Okay, you want anything to eat?"

"I'll just have a bowl of cereal. Corn Chex. With sugar. And some toast. With strawberry jam. Please?" he asked with a grin.

"Of course. Hurry back." Kim gave him a kiss.

"I will."

AJ walked out and went upstairs into Jordan's bedroom. He lingered in the doorway, just watching him sleep. He hated to wake him, but they had to leave for the airport soon and they couldn't risk missing their flight. AJ walked quietly over to his son's bedside and gently prodded him awake. Jordan stirred. "...Daddy?" he asked, groggy.

"Yeah, buddy?"

"Is it morning already?" he questioned again.

AJ chuckled lightly. "Yes, we gotta go eat breakfast and go to the airport. We've gotta fly on the plane today."

"Is it gonna take forever?"

"Not forever, but it'll take a good amount of the day."

Jordan pulled the covers back over his head and whimpered. "I don't wanna go, Daddy, please don't make me."

"Why not, J?" AJ was confused, he'd never acted this way before. Lucky for them, Jordan loved flying and was well-behaved on airplanes. Maybe it was just too early in the morning and he wanted to go back to sleep, AJ could vouch for that. Or maybe there was a real reason behind this.

"Hey," AJ said gently. "What's wrong buddy? You know you can tell me anything, right? Is something bothering you?"

"Kinda," he said in a small voice. "I wanna stay home, I don't wanna go touring. I want you to stay here, too, I miss you."

That last statement about ripped AJ's heart right out of his chest. "Jordan, Daddy's not going anywhere. You and Mommy are coming with me, remember? What do Mommy and me say about when we aren't here for awhile when daddy has to work?"

Jordan pulled the covers down and looked up at AJ. "That...home is where we're together, no matter what?"

He smiled. "That's right." AJ and Kim had embraced that philosophy from Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee, especially after Jordan was born and they didn't travel too much together until he was a little bit older. The separation anxiety was hard to overcome, but they worked through it. "So, all that matters is that we are together, right?"

"Yeah. I love you, Daddy." He reached over and gave him a hug.

"I love you, too, buddy. Are you okay now, can we get breakfast?"

"Uh-huh, I'm hungry!" Jordan climbed out of bed and raced out of the room.

"Hey Speedy, wait for me!" AJ said as he trailed behind him.

They made it downstairs to the kitchen where breakfast was waiting for them. After, they had to get Jordan dressed and take their bags out to the car and go to the airport.

"There are my two favorite men! I thought you were going to hurry up?" Kim said as AJ gave her another kiss and sat down to eat his food.

"I tried to, but I had to have a talk with Speedy Gonzalez over here. It's fine, I'll tell you later. Thanks for making this, babe."

"No problem, it didn't take too much effort." Kim made Jordan a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and went upstairs to change clothes and double-check things to make sure that everything was in order for traveling.

Soon enough, they made it to LAX and everyone went through security and waited at the gate. Just before they boarded the plane, they got in their prayer circle to ask for blessings as they traveled today.

AJ volunteered to lead the prayer in the busy airport. "I got it you guys." Everyone got in a circle, held hands, and bowed their heads.

"Dear Heavenly and Gracious Father, thank you for this day and for everyone who is here and is represented in this circle of family and friends. I ask that You protect us and keep us all safe as we travel today. Let there be no problems, complications, or delays. Please keep the loss of luggage to a minimum so we can make our flights on time. Be with the pilots and the staff, Lord, as they do their jobs to the best of their ability. I ask that You protect our planes and equipment used so that we can be safe. Thank you for healing me so we can finally go back on the road and do what we do best. Please continue to bless us all as we fly to Germany and Europe to bring the Unbreakable show there and to rock their faces off! Thank you for all of Your many blessings that You have given to us and the ones to come. All of these things we ask in Your name. And everyone said: Amen." all of them finished together.

"Alright, let's go!" their security said and everyone walked in the gate and onto the plane. It soon took off and the Backstreet Boys were on their way.
End Notes:
Song Credit: Lyrics are part of "London" by AJ McLean.

Please review! :D
Chapter 14 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 1/4. My first update of 2010. I struggled with writing this chapter because I'm trying to figure out where I want this to go. Suggestions are welcome and appreciated. This one's kinda short, but here you go. :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Berlin, Germany - 11:40 PM CET (Central European Time)

After about thirteen and one-half hours of flying, everyone made it to Europe safely without any problems. The Boys had just finished their first show on this leg of the Unbreakable Tour and were now on a three-hour bus ride to Hamburg, Germany for their next show on the 9th.

AJ thought that the Berlin show went great. He felt that he did fine besides feeling a bit winded a few times, but he attributed it to being the first show and that his lungs were still healing from his recent illnesses. Once he got back into the swing of things, he'd be back to normal.

AJ was in the back of the bus with Nick screwing around on their guitars.

"What's this one?" Nick asked. He started playing something and AJ had to guess what song it was.

"Uh...isn't that some Nirvana song?"

"Yeah...it's "Polly", duh."

"Well I'm not the Nirvana freak like you." AJ pushed him and started playing a song.

"That's "If You Could Only See" by Tonic. Didn't you do that song as Johnny No-Name back in the day?"

"Yeah...good times. You'll never guess this one," AJ teased.

Nick listened for a moment as he played. "You're right, dude, I have no idea what that is."

"That's because I've never played it for anyone before," AJ said.

"Is it part of a solo song?"

"Kinda, yeah."

Nick moved his guitar to the side and sat back. "Well, let's hear it, then. Lay it on me."

"Nah, it's not finished yet. Nevermind," AJ lied, hoping to change the subject.

"Bullshit. Might as well play it."

"It's for Kim, which is something you wouldn't understand."

"Awww...is Alex still in love with his wifey after all these years?" Nick teased.

"As a matter of fact, yes. I would cut the crap if you really wanna hear it so badly."

"Hear what?" Brian asked as he slid open the door and came in the room.

"A song Alex wrote for Kim," Nick chimed.

AJ rolled his eyes. "Thanks, buddy, I knew I could count on you."

"Naturally," he smirked back.

"No offense, guys, but I really want Kim to be the first one to hear it. Can't you respect that?"

"I guess," Nick pouted.

"I don't even know what's going on, so, I'm cool with that." Brian said. "Don't stay up too late, you two. Goodnight."

"'Night."

"G'night, Rok."

Brian left and slid the door closed behind him. AJ started to play his guitar again and sing softly.

If you could only see the way she loves me
Then maybe you would understand
Why I feel this way about our love
And what I must do
If you could only see how blue her eyes can be when she says
When she says she loves me

Well you got your reasons
And you got your lies
And you got your manipulations
They cut me down to size

Sayin' you love but you don't
You give your love but you won't

If you could only see the way she loves me
Then maybe you would understand
Why I feel this way about our love
And what I must do
If you could only see how dull her eyes can be when she says
When she says she loves me


He shook his head. "Nah." AJ tried something else.

I am just a worthless liar
I am just an imbecile
I will only complicate you
Trust in me and fall as well

I will find a center in you
I will chew it up and leave
I will work to elevate you
Just enough to bring you down

Mother Mary, won't you whisper
Something but what's past and done?
Mother Mary, won't you whisper
Something but what's past and done?

Why can't we not be sober?
I just want to start this over
And why can't we drink forever?
I just want to start this over this time...


"Alright, I'm gonna go to bed. You coming?" AJ asked as he put his guitar back in its case.

"Yeah, in a minute," Nick said.

"You good?" AJ wondered.

"Yeah."

"Okay, goodnight."

"'Night."

He left the room and put his guitar underneath his bunk and got in.

After laying there for about fifteen minutes, AJ realized that he couldn't sleep. Kim was sleeping soundly next to him and Jordan's steady breathing could be heard in the bunk above him. Usually the humming of the bus would lull him to sleep, but that wasn't the case tonight. His mind was racing and he wished it would shut off. This happened from time to time and he hated it. Well, lately it had been occurring more often than not, unfortunately.

He sighed quietly. 'Just tell her, she'll understand.'

'It will eat you alive if you don't...do it while you still can...'

'She'll be more upset later if you don't come clean ASAP.'

'What are you so afraid of...?'

"Shut up, brain," AJ whispered into the darkness. 'I think too much for my own good sometimes.' He decided to get up and find a distraction or else he'd never sleep at this rate.

He got up quietly from the bunk and went to the middle of the bus where there was a small kitchen. AJ began searching through the cabinets when he stumbled upon a bottle on Tylenol PM. 'Perfect, just what I need.' he thought, satisfied.

"Hey."

AJ turned suddenly to see Kim awake, standing a few feet from him.

"Christ, Kim! Scare the crap outta me, why don't ya?" he hissed.

"Are you okay?" she asked, coming closer to him.

"Fine. Just, uh, couldn't sleep."

Kim noticed the bottle in AJ's hand. "What's that?"

"I don't know, wrong cabinet. Was looking for something to eat." He put the bottle back and began searching through the one next to it. 'God, I'm such a bad liar.'

Kim shook her head with a smirk. "Don't take too long, get some rest, okay? Love you." She walked to their bunk and climbed back in.

AJ made sure the coast was clear, then opened the cabinet back up and took the Tylenol into the bathroom and shut the door. He sat down on the toilet and read the directions in order to take a correct amount of the medication.

Adults and children 12 years and over: Take 2 caplets or geltabs at bedtime. Do not take more than 2 caplets or geltabs in 24 hours.

"Got it. This is just a one time thing, it's not like I'm gonna be doing this every night, right?" he asked himself.

He took two pills with some water and left the bathroom. He put the bottle back where he found it and went back to the bunk. AJ pulled the curtain back and settled in next to his wife who was already asleep again.

Within ten minutes he already felt sleepy. 'This is great, now I can finally catch some z's.'

AJ fell asleep soon after, hoping that he would truly rest for the first time in weeks.
End Notes:
Song Credits: "If You Could Only See" by Tonic and "Sober" by Tool.

Please review! :D
Chapter 15 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 1/6. This chapter's much longer, I hope you guys like it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Helsinki, Finland - 5:18 PM EET (Eastern European Time)

4/15/08 

I've gone back to keeping a road journal, I haven't done this in a few years. 

The shows have been going well, everyone's doing great on stage. We're all sounding good and the routines are perfect. 

Off stage hasn't been so good for me anyway. I'm stressing out like crazy. I just don't feel like myself. I wanna be alone a lot more than usual. I'm trying not to go off by myself so no one suspects anything. I'm just trying to go on as normally as possible...

I still can't sleep at night, I'm trying really hard not to take anything for it. I don't want it to become a habit. But I also don't want to negatively affect my performance by not sleeping. God, I feel stuck, helpless...this sucks.


'I need a drink...and maybe a cigarette. No, Kim would kill me if I started smoking again.'

AJ closed the book and put it back in his bag. He took a piece of paper and wrote a note to Kim explaining where he was going. He left it on the bed and walked over to Jordan. 

"J, daddy's going downstairs for a little while. I'll be back soon. Tell Mommy when she gets out of the shower, okay?"

"Okay."

He kissed Jordan's forehead. "Love you, be good."

AJ left their hotel room and took the elevator to the lowest level. He went into the restaurant and sat down at the bar. He ordered a half-pint of Guinness and sipped it thoughtfully.

'This isn't the answer. I know that. But what am I supposed to do? What if it's too late? What if it has already happened? ... I feel like shit—'

"AJ?"

His head snapped up and he looked around to see who said his name. 

"Oh, hey, Howie. What's up?"

"Not much. What're you doing down here?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?" he joked, gesturing to the beer in front of him. "Want one?"

"No, I'm good. We're all gonna go out to dinner in a little bit if you guys wanna come."

AJ nodded. "Sure, sounds good. What time?"

"Around 6, is that okay?"

"That's fine. Do you know where we're going?"

"Nope. I think we should let our wives handles that, remember the last time one of us picked a place?" Howie asked him. 

"Oh, God," AJ shook his head. "I honestly think I'm scarred for life because of that day." He laughed and almost choked on his beer. He felt like that was the first time he genuinely laughed in years, this whole depression thing had sucked the life out him as of late.  

"Yeah, I'm still trying to forget that night. I hope Baylee or Jordan never have to see one of those places again until they're legal."

"Or never, if I can help it," AJ quipped with a serious tone. 

The two of them were of course reminiscing about the time Nick took everyone out to dinner on the Never Gone Tour in Stockholm. Everything was fine...except that the 'restaurant' was a strip club! No one ever lets him live it down, always bringing it up when everyone is together for a meal.

"Well, I'm gonna go back up. Gotta get ready," Howie said.    

"Alright, dude, see you later."

"Later."

AJ returned to drinking his beer. He sat there thinking for a while, then paid for it and went back to his hotel room. 

"Hey, babe," he said as he shut the door behind him. 

"Where were you?"

'She looks pissed.' "I left a note, you didn't read it?"

"Oh."

"It's on the bed, see?" 

"I didn't see it, sorry. So, where were you?" Kim repeated. 

"I went down to the bar to have a beer." Kim shot him a look. "What?" 

"Nothing," she said, hoping to end it. 

"I didn't even finish it, I drank like half of it. ... Wait, why do I even have to explain myself to you? What's the big deal?"

"You're right, it's not. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. Listen, everybody's going out for dinner later. You wanna go?" AJ asked. 

"Sure. Go get ready." AJ kissed her cheek. "And brush your teeth, would you?"

AJ just laughed and went into the bathroom. He showered quickly and got dressed. He trimmed his beard and came back out to put his shoes on. "Is everybody ready?"

"Yeah, I just talked to Brian. We're going to some restaurant called Omenapuu."

"Hm...never heard of that one."

"Me neither. Well, let's go meet everyone down in the lobby."

"Alright. C'mon, Jordan, it's time to go," AJ said.

"Coming!" 

The three of them left their hotel room and met everyone downstairs. They went in some rental vans and it was about a twenty-five minute drive to their destination. 

Once they got there and were seated, everyone ordered drinks and began to look at the menus.

"Wow, now this is my kind of place. They have everything here—burgers, pizza, pasta, fish, steak, traditional European dishes, even a kids menu," AJ said, impressed. 

"Yeah, I sure know how to pick 'em," Brian said with a big grin.   

"Oh, come off it, Rok. We all know that Leighanne picked this place," Nick said.

"At least Leighanne has never taken us to you-know-what!" Howie said with a cackle. He loved taking the opportunity to bust Nick's chops once in awhile.  

"Seriously, guys, that happened what, two years ago? It was an accident, an honest mistake! Do you always have to bring that up?" Nick replied, obviously flustered. 

"Yes, yes we do," Howie said triumphantly. "I win." 

"Well, it was my idea to go out to eat, so there," Brian added, sticking his tongue out at Nick. 

"Can we please act like adults here? I swear, Baylee and Jordan are more mature than you guys most days." Kim said with a laugh. 

The three of them shrugged and continued to look at their menus. A few minutes later, two waiters came with their drinks and they ordered food. AJ got a water, he wasn't going to risk anyone telling him off for drinking when he'd already had a beer earlier. He didn't see anything wrong with it anyway.

About a half-hour later, everybody was just waiting for their food and making small-talk with each other. AJ wasn't saying much, he was checking his phone constantly and fidgeting with his fingernails. "Damn," he muttered under his breath. 

"What's up, babe?" Kim wondered. 

"Nothing, my nails are chipping."

"Well, maybe if you'd stop picking at them then they wouldn't become brittle and chip," she smirked.

AJ just let out a huff and left it at that. 

"What is with you lately?" she hissed. 

"Nothing!" he said a bit loudly. Everyone stopped and stared at the two of them. "Sorry," AJ said quietly and checked his phone again. He texted someone and put it back in his pocket. 

Everyone went back to talking and didn't say a word to either of them. AJ went back to picking at his nails and was happy when the food arrived because it gave him an excuse not to say anything.

Kim noticed that he was picking at his steak and potatoes, not really eating it. "Is that good?" she asked him.  

"What?" He looked up, obviously distracted.

"Is that good?" she repeated. 

"Uh huh." He took a bite in hopes to satisfy her so that she would back off.

AJ was pretty much silent for the rest of the meal. He couldn't wait to go back to the hotel and get away from everyone. Well, almost everyone. He just had this overwhelming feeling that he needed to be alone.   
---------

When they got back, everybody went to their rooms and chilled for a bit. AJ was sitting on the bed with the TV on but wasn't really watching it. He had more important things on his mind than some stupid show. He sighed and laid back and tried to clear his head. 

"Hey," Kim said as she laid down next to him.  

"Hey," he echoed. 

"I love you." She kissed him. 

"You too." AJ put his arm around her and rubbed her back. 

Kim kissed him again and once on the neck and back to his lips. She was trying to get him riled up and he knew it. "Not tonight," AJ said shortly. 

"Awww, c'mon, baby...it's been like, two weeks. I miss you."

He looked at her. "How could you possibly miss me? I'm right here."

"You know what I mean," she said, then started kissing him again.  

AJ rolled over with his back to her. "I said not tonight." He sat up and sighed heavily. "I gotta piss." He got up and went to the bathroom. 

There was a knock at the door. Kim got up and answered it, surprised to see Howie standing on the other side. 

"Hey, Howie. Alex just went to the bathroom, I can get him if you want."

"No, it's okay. I actually wanted to talk to you. I'll make this quick," he said quietly. 

"Okay, come in. What's up?" Kim wondered. 

"Alex was awfully quiet at dinner tonight and we all know that's not like him. Do you know if there's anything going on with him?"

"No, I don't. I've been wondering the same thing. He went down to the bar earlier and had a beer before dinner which isn't like him. I don't think he's been sleeping well either," she said worriedly. 

"I know. I found him down there and he seemed okay. I don't know about the sleeping thing though."

"Yeah, I found him awake the other night looking through the cabinets on the bus for some food or something. He has been looking tired lately..."  

Howie rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. "I don't know...I just hope that he comes to one of us or figures out whatever's going on in that head of his."

"Me too...is that all you wanted?"

"Yeah, thank, Kim. Goodnight." They hugged.

"'Night." She shut the door and turned around to see AJ standing there glaring at her. She could only pray that he hadn't heard the conversation that had just taken place.

"Hey," Kim said a bit nervously. 

"Hi," AJ replied. "What did Howie want?" he questioned, hoping to catch her in a lie. 

"Oh, nothing, just uh—"

"Save it for someone who cares," he growled. 

Kim started walking toward him. "Alex—"         

"If you're so worried, or if anyone is for that matter, why can't I just be asked instead of people sneaking around trying to get the dirt on me?" 

"I have asked you and every time I do you say you're 'fine' or that it's 'nothing!' Why can't you talk to me about this? Why are you shutting me out? I'm your wife," Kim fired back, her voice rising slightly. 

"You know what? I really don't need this right now. I don't have to take this from you." AJ avoided her question and went to the closet to put his shoes on.

"If not me, you can talk to someone! I don't care who it is! I don't mean to push you."

AJ just ignored her, not saying a word. 

"You are so stubborn, you know that? So, this is how it's going down? You're just gonna run away?"

"Yep." AJ got his room key and wallet and went to the door. 

"I love you. Please don't do this," Kim practically begged in a last-ditch effort to try to get him to stay. She was no fool, she knew exactly where he was going.

AJ just turned around and stared at her for a brief moment, pain evident in his eyes. He left and shut the door as quietly as possible so Jordan would not wake up.

"Alex..." Kim whispered. She turned the TV off and went into the bathroom. "Why won't he just talk to me?" she asked herself. She began to cry and wished he was there to hold her, to reassure her that everything was going to be okay, that he would talk to someone about what was going on with him.   

'I just hope that it's nothing too serious...'
-------------

"Bartender? Another."

He refilled AJ's shot glass and set the bottle next to it. "It's all yours."

"Thanks." He downed another shot of Irish whiskey and poured a third one. He stared at it for a moment, thinking about what Kim had said to him upstairs. He shook his head to rid himself of those thoughts and threw back the glass, almost enjoying the burning sensation as the liquor went down his throat. 

And then he poured a fourth.
End Notes:
Please review! :D
Chapter 16 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 1/12. This took me awhile to write, I hope you guys like it. :)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Helsinki, Finland - 3:40 PM EET

"AJ! What took you so long? Soundcheck starts in twenty minutes!" Nick yelled as he walked up to him.

"Sorry," AJ muttered, not wanting to deal with him at the moment.

"You're late," he stated. He tipped up AJ's sunglasses to see his friend's eyes tired and bloodshot. "...and hungover." Nick shook his head in disapproval. "Tsk, tsk."

"Can it, Carter." He moved past him to go get ready.

"Hey, guys, look who decided to show up! Watch out, though, homeboy here be trippin'."

"Shut the hell up, Nick! God!"

Confused, Brian glanced over at AJ as he rushed past him and back to Nick. "What was that about?"

"Nothing," he said. "Just forget it."

During the soundcheck party, AJ wasn't feeling so good. He felt like everybody was watching his every move which was probably true, he was on stage after all. He wasn't really interacting with anyone, only talking when necessary which wasn't often. He felt bad because his vocals were not as good as they normally were and the fans, especially the ones that were paying a lot of money to see them at a soundcheck, didn't deserve anything less than perfection. The others could tell that he wasn't really feeling it, that he wanted to be done with it as soon as possible.

After it was over, AJ rushed to the bathroom to go throw up. Nick followed him and waited outside the door to give him some privacy.

AJ heard someone come in as he lifted his head up from the toilet. "Who's there?"

"It's me, Alex," Nick said.

"What do you want? Come to rag on me some more?" He spit.

"No," he replied. "How much did you drink last night, man? You're a wreck," he asked, genuinely concerned for AJ's well-being.

AJ doubted Nick's sincerity, but answered his question anyway. "I don't know, some ten to fifteen shots of whiskey, some Guinness. I can't remember, it's been quite awhile since I've had that much. Oh, God..." He started throwing up again and groaned. "I feel like shit."

"Did you black out or anything?"

"I wish I did," AJ muttered.

"What was that?"

"Nothing," he said quickly.

Nick was hesitant to leave AJ alone. "I'll be right back. Stay here."

"I'll resist the urge," he replied dryly, then, started to throw up again.

Nick went back out and saw Brian and Howie standing near by.

"Is AJ okay? He wasn't looking so hot earlier," Brian wondered.

"He had a little too much to drink last night is all. I'm sure he'll be fine."

A worried look crossed Howie's face and he hoped no one noticed it as he thought back to the conversation that he had with Kim the night before. 'What is AJ doing? I hope he's okay...'

Nick went over to the cooler and grabbed AJ a bottle of water and went back into the bathroom.

"I'm back. I got you some water, do you think you can keep it down?"

"Y-Yeah," AJ said, his voice shaking a little. He unlocked the stall and slumped against the toilet with his head in his hands.

Nick opened the door and handed him the bottle and AJ sipped it slowly. "Wow, you really do look like shit, which isn't really much different from normal for you."

AJ barked a laugh. "You're an ass."

He smiled a little. "Are you good now?"

"I think so..." He tried to stand up and just ended up with his head back in the toilet. "Well, that disproves that theory." AJ said as he wiped his mouth and flushed it.

"What's going on with you, Alex? You've been so quiet lately, distant...and now you're going out and getting wasted the night before a show?" He paused. "You can tell me."

"It's nothing," he sighed.

"You know the more times you say that, the less I believe you. I think I know you better than that."

AJ just stared at the floor and didn't say anything.

"And how you've been acting hasn't exactly gone unnoticed by the rest of us. You're not exactly Mr. Stealth, that's Howie's thing."

AJ cracked a smile.

Nick looked him right in his eyes. "I know about the pills."

A look of surprise came over AJ, he should've been more careful. "I saw you go into the bathroom with them on the bus the other night." He paused. "What did you take?"

He swallowed before answering. "Just some Tylenol PM. I-I haven't been sleeping well for awhile now." He returned to looking at the floor.

"Have you been taking them every night?"

AJ shook his head. "No, just the one time. I don't want it to become a habit, you know?" he said honestly.

"Mhm. Have you talked to Kim about this, does she know?"

"No, I really wish I could, but I just can't right now."

"Well, I know I'm just the 'little brother,' but you can always come to me if you need to talk about anything and you feel like you can't go to your wife. You know that." Nick sighed and put his hand on AJ's shoulder. "I worry about you, dude."

"You don't have to. I'm fine."

Nick rolled his eyes. "Oh, right, I forgot. Because puking your guts out in an arena bathroom stall as a result of drinking too much the night before totally passes for fine. I worry about all of my brothers, even the ones from otha mothas."

"You're a dork."

"Oh..." Nick started to sing.

I can see in your eyes
Broken windows, fallen skies
Baby, baby, what you hidin' from?
The light that followed you around
Lately nowhere to be found
Don't you know that I'm your place to run?


AJ rolled his eyes as Nick put his arm around him.

You've been holding on so long
Tryin' to make believe that nothing's wrong
Not letting it show
And there ain't nothing you can do
To make me turn away from you
I need you to know...

That you can let go.


"Okay, now you're just an über dork."

"In case you haven't noticed, we're not in Germany anymore."

"Shut up." AJ playfully shoved Nick and stood up. "Let's get out of here."

Both of them left the bathroom and found Brian and Howie snickering outside the door.

"Not a word from either of you," AJ said seriously as he walked by them.

They busted out laughing once he was out of ear shot. "So you had to serenade AJ to get him to come out, huh, Nicky?" Howie asked.

"Well, he needed some cheering up..." he explained with a sheepish grin.

They both started cracking up again and Nick left the pair of them alone. 'Kids...'
----------

Thursday, April 17, 2008
Zürich, Switzerland - 3:25 AM CET

The Boys had to catch a red-eye flight out of Helsinki after their show that night. Everybody was dead tired including AJ, he even slept for most of it. Now the opposite was occurring: he couldn't sleep. Just staring at the ceiling. Wide awake. Again. 'God, this shit is getting really old.' Frustrated, he got out of bed as quietly as possible and went into the bathroom.

After turning on the sink and splashing water on his face, AJ looked into the mirror. Only this time he didn't like what he saw, having to look away after about three seconds. It was in that instant that he went from seething with rage that he would have punched the mirror to a sadness that he was feeling all too often these days. It made him weak in the knees and he sat down against the sink and let a few tears fall. "Damn it!" he whispered. AJ wiped his eyes and stood up, only having to sit again and contain the sobs that overcame him.

One part of AJ wished that Kim would hear his cries and come in and try to console him, but another part of him felt so isolated and alone in the mess he had made for himself; he didn't want to drag anyone else down with him. So he just stayed as quiet as he could until the storm passed...for now.

AJ eventually got up and took two Tylenol PMs out of his pants pocket. He swallowed them quickly with some water and went back to bed. He felt bad about having to resort to substance like that, especially after what he told Nick yesterday, but he needed to in order to sleep right now. AJ climbed into bed next to Kim and just tried to clear his head. Within fifteen minutes he was asleep, but his dreams were anything but peaceful...
------------

Thursday, April 24, 2008
1:09 AM CET

One week later...

AJ was in the back room on the tour bus with the TV on low volume, nursing a headache he'd had since the end of their show in Madrid, Spain. They were now on their way to Lisbon, Portugal for their show on Friday.

'And to think we could've taken a thirty-minute flight, now I'm stuck on this damn bus for six and a half hours...'

He groaned in annoyance as he heard the door slide open, hoping that it wasn't Nick coming in to bother him.

"What do you want?" he asked in exasperation.

"Hey, babe." It was Kim.

"Oh, sorry," he apologized. "I thought you were Nick."

She came over and sat next to him on the couch. "It's okay. Headache still there?"

"Mhm. And ever-growing."

"Awww...poor baby. You guys have been working hard," she said sympathetically.

"No kidding, three shows in four days. Did Jordan go down okay?"

"Yeah, he was fine. Worn out, but fine."

"Good. Hey."

"Hm?"

"Love you." AJ kissed her lips.

"I love you, too."

AJ turned the TV off as Kim lay back against him and he wrapped his arms around her. He realized that they hadn't been this intimate in a few weeks. He had to admit, it felt so good to hold her again. He felt so secure in that moment, so sure of everything that he never wanted to let her go. It was then that he realized that Kim and Jordan were going back home to LA on Saturday...which was two days away.

AJ sighed. "I wish you didn't have to leave." He kissed Kim's neck.

"I know, baby, me too...it's times like these when I wish you would've picked a more 'normal' career, but I love our life together and everything that comes with it."

"Good answer," AJ joked. "God, I love you so much, more than anything in this world." He held her closer, just enjoying the moment.

"You're quite the affectionate one tonight. Where have you been?" Kim asked, looking up at him.

"I've been such an asshole lately, I'm so sorry, baby. I wish I could just spit it out, tell you what's going on in my head—"

"It's okay," she said calmly. "You will when you're ready, it's okay."

"It is?"

"Of course, I trust you."

A few minutes of silence passed before AJ spoke again.

"Kim?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm scared."

"Of what, baby? What's wrong?" Kim sat up and moved next to him. "Take your time."

AJ took a deep breath. "I'm scared of having another kid. There, I said it."

Kim didn't say anything.

"I knew it! You're mad at me, aren't you?"

"No, of course not, Alex. If you're not ready for another one, we can wait."

"It's not that. What if you bring him or her into the world and I screw it up?"

Kim quickly remembered that they went through this exact situation before they had Jordan. "Alex. Alex, look at me. You won't screw anyone up. That little boy in there loves you to death, you're his whole world. You're mine, too. You are not your dad, do you hear me? You are the kindest, most caring, big-hearted person I know and I don't want to spend the rest of my life with anyone else but you. Ever." He just looked at her. "It's okay, you can tell me."

"I've just...been thinking about my dad a lot, too. He didn't want me Kim, he didn't want me..." AJ started to sob and Kim took him into her arms and just held him, speaking softly to him.

"It's okay. Let it out. It's okay. I know it hurts, baby. You're in a lot of pain, under a lot of stress."

"Hurts so bad...why?...hurts..." he wailed in between sobs.

"I know, I know. It's okay. I'm here, I'm not going anywhere."

"Weak, so tired..."

"I know you are, it's hard to hold all of that in."

"Mhm..."

Kim held AJ for what seemed like hours before he calmed down and sat up.

"Are you okay now?" she asked gently.

"I think so..."

"Okay." She rubbed his back. "We'll get through this, we always do. Don't worry."

"There's something else." AJ said quietly, looking away from her. "All of these things going on in my head, I can't sleep at night—t-they keep me awake. I've been taking pills to help with that."

"Alex," Kim gasped.

"Nothing bad or illegal, just some Tylenol PM I found on the bus." he explained.

"So that's what was in the bottle. Why did you lie to me about that?"

"I didn't want to. I just wasn't ready to tell you all of this. I'm really sorry," he said sadly.

"And how bad were you going to let it get before you told me, Alex? Until you were taking them every night? Until you show up drunk at a soundcheck? Walk out on me again? Go drinking every night? Isolate yourself further? Ignore Jordan?—"

"Never," AJ snapped.

Kim stood up. "Do you know what your problem is? Whenever you get into one of your 'funks' you don't think about anyone but yourself and what you're feeling, what you're dealing with."

"Kim, stop, just hear me out for a second—"

"I don't need to, nothing you can say will justify the fact that you're going behind my back doing this—"

AJ was furious at this point. "Damn it, Kim, listen to me! I've only taken them twice! Twice! On the eighth and the seventeenth. I swear to God it's the truth! I'll take a lie detector test if it'll convince you! What happened to 'I trust you,' huh?"

"I don't know. I don't have the energy to fight with you tonight. I'm going to bed, because unlike you, I actually can sleep at night. Goodnight, Alex." Kim turned on her heel and started to walk out when AJ grabbed her arm.

"No, you don't get to do this. We're not fighting, I'm telling you the truth, damn it!"

"Oh, really? I don't get to do this? I can't walk out on you, but you can walk out on me? Hurts, doesn't it? Let go of me, I'm going to bed."

"Kim, I love you and I'm not going to bed angry. We're gonna talk about this tomorrow or some other time, okay?"

"Now, Alex," she said firmly.

AJ did and she left him alone, just staring at the door.

'What the hell was that? What the HELL was that?!?!?'

AJ punched the couch as hard as he could and put his head in his hands. He looked up and grabbed a pillow and yelled various profanities into it. When that didn't help him calm down, he flopped down on the couch and put in his headphones and played the loudest, angriest song he could find on his iPod and tried to lose himself in the music, because there was no way in hell that he was going to sleep tonight, pills or no pills.
End Notes:
Not the ending you were expecting? Well, too bad! LOL Just kidding. The idea I originally had for the ending got changed 'cause I thought this would be better. Sorry if this chapter was a little too split up, I apologize.

Don't forget to review! :D
Chapter 17 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 1/25. I'm SO sorry that I haven't updated in almost two weeks. I got stuck on this chapter and just didn't feel like writing much. I apologize. This chapter is longer than I anticipated it to be, hope you guys like it. :)

Friday, May 2, 2008
Oberhausen, Germany - 5:19 PM CET (9:19 AM PST (Pacific Standard Time) - US)

"I miss you, Daddy."

"I miss you, too J, very much."

"When are you coming home?"

Jordan was talking to AJ via webcam. They tried to do it at least once a week with their home office computer and AJ's laptop because Jordan had a hard time with not physically seeing his father for long periods of time. It was a good way for Jordan to cope with AJ being gone and it was a reliable means of communication for the three of them. He called at least twice a day depending on where they were and the time difference but sometimes, that wasn't enough. 

"Soon, I promise," he said gently.  

"Why can't you come home now, Daddy? Mommy misses you, too. And Bernie."

"I have to work, remember? With Uncle Nick, Uncle Brian, and Uncle Howie."

"Oh, yeah," he said sadly. "Tell them I say hi, okay?"

"Of course. Have you had breakfast yet?"

Jordan shook his head. 

"Mommy will make you something. Go on. Get her for me will you, please?"

"Okay." Jordan disappeared from view and a few minutes later Kim sat down at the computer. 

"Hey," AJ started. 

Kim sighed. "You look like hell, Alex."

"Well, you look gorgeous," AJ countered, hoping to take the attention off of himself.   

She ignored his compliment. "I'm serious."

"I know you are, but what am I?" he asked with a light chuckle.

"Are you okay? You're not stressing out or anything, are you?"

"I actually have a legit excuse this time. I think Nick gave me his stupid cold," he grumbled.  

Kim frowned. "How are you feeling?"

"Like shit, thanks to Mr. D-Bag over here." 

"Who, me? Hey, Kim," Nick said as he came on-screen. 

"Go away, dude," AJ whined as he tried to push him away. "You already got me sick, have you come back to do more damage to my immune system?"

"No, I just wanted to say hi to the pretty lady you're conversing with."

AJ rolled his eyes. "Seriously Nick, I'm really not in the mood for you right now. Go bother someone else, before I sneeze on you...on purpose," he warned, getting agitated.  

Nick didn't move. "Awww, c'mon, man! You wouldn't really do that...would you?"

"I'm n-not k-kidding..." He pitched forward as a sneeze exploded from him. 

"Bless you," Kim said. 

He smirked at Nick. "The next one's for you. Promise."  

Nick shuddered visibly. "Fine. See ya, Kim, tell the mini-me that I said 'hey,' would you?"

"Of course, bye."

AJ waited until Nick was out of earshot before he continued. "Remind me to disinfect this later." 

"Will do."

"We got done with soundcheck, like, twenty minutes ago. It went well."

"What did you get asked?"

"If I got any new tattoos or dogs."

"Well...?"

He laughed. "No."

"That's good to know, I like to stay informed."

"Any plans for today?" AJ asked.

"Jordan has a playdate at Jeff's and Lindsey's with a few kids at 1."

"Sounds good. What are you gonna do?"

"I gotta go grocery shopping and stuff, nothing exciting." She shrugged. 

"Oh, and like my schedule is exciting? Sleep, eat, perform, repeat. Airports, hotels, buses, in a different city every other day?" 

Kim sighed. "I know, babe, I know." 

AJ continued on his mini-rant. "Miles away from you and J for three more weeks?" Granted, I love doing this, but...I miss you, baby. I hope I haven't pushed you away." he said with a hint of sadness in his voice. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I always have to fuck everything up."

"I know, Alex. I miss you, too, so much. Don't worry, you'll be home soon and we'll figure this all out. Didn't I tell you that I forgave you? I know you're going through a lot, that you still have some unresolved issues to work through."

"Do me a favor, would you?" AJ asked. 

"Sure, anything."

"Can you make me an appointment with John for a few days after I get home?" Dr. Stehlik was AJ's psychiatrist. AJ had worked with him before on his family issues and he referred him to a grief counselor after his grandmother's death in 2001. He saw him every so often to check in, to keep him up to date on how things were going.    

"Of course. Any time preference?"

"No, any time is fine."

Kim smiled. "I'm proud of you, I know how hard it is for you to ask for help. You'll get through this, we both will." 

AJ nodded and yawned. 

"You tired?"

"Yeah. Had to be up at 8 to do some early press this morning."

"Well, how about I let you go, then? Go back to the hotel and rest before the show. Make sure you eat something, too. Something preferably healthy."

"Yes, dear," he said with a smirk and coughed a little. "Get J."

Kim got up and came back with Jordan so he could say goodbye. 

"Hey, Jordan? I gotta go now, I'll call later though, okay? To say goodnight. I love you, buddy."

"Love you," he said shyly.

"Alright, baby, I love you so much. I'll call after the show."

"Okay, feel better, don't work too hard."

"I promise I won't. I love you both." He blew them kisses. 

"Bye, Daddy!"

"Bye, Alex."

AJ disconnected the chat and packed up his laptop so he could head out to the rental van and back to the hotel. Once he got to his room, he ordered some soup and tea and took a short nap before going back to the arena.
-----------

9:25 PM CET (1:45 PM PST)

"I can't wait to take a shower," AJ coughed and swallowed. "I feel disgusting."

"I think we all do after sweating non-stop for two hours," Brian said knowingly. "You alright?"

"Yeah, throat hurts is all."

"I'm not surprised, you sang your little heart out tonight," he said with a laugh. 

"Thanks."

"Hey, I didn't say that you were any good," Brian joked. 

"Shut up," AJ laughed which got him coughing again. "Damn." He drank a swig of water that was next to him and sighed. "When is the bus picking us up again?"

"Around 10."

"Good, I'm gonna go shower real quick."

"Alright."     

AJ went into the shower room with some clean clothes and got in. He immediately relaxed once the hot water began to massage his weary frame. He couldn't believe how tired he felt, he just wanted to take some NyQuil and go to sleep. 'Wait...gotta call Kim first. Then bed, thank God.' He could care less if it was in a crappy hotel bed or his bunk on the tour bus at this point. He got out and changed, then waited for the bus to get them. Their next stop was in Luxembourg the next day.

AJ was in the back room on the bus with the TV on. He always liked to be alone when he made phone calls home or when he talked to his friends out on the road, especially since he was around people all day. He just wanted a private moment with Kim and/or Jordan to bring him back down to reality, the ever-present reminder that being a Backstreet Boy was his day job and he was a husband and father first. He had struggled with that when the Boys went back on tour in 2005 for their Never Gone album. He didn't have just Kim anymore at that point, he had a baby at home and realized that family was his priority over his job or being 'AJ.' He had to learn how to be a family man while being halfway across the world from them, and most of the time it worked out.    

"Hey, babe."

"Hey, you. How was the show?"

"Great, I love Germany. We always get a lot of love when we perform here."

"Good. How are you holding up?"

"Not much better. Throat hurts like a bitch and I'm really tired," he said with a sigh. 

"I'm sorry. I hope you didn't over do it. Your health's been taking quite a few hits lately."

"I didn't, or at least I tried not to. This sucks." He coughed.  

"Is it after 11 there? You should go to bed, baby."

"Yeah, but I wanted to call. I promised you that I would." 

"You're so sweet, you could have just went to sleep and would've understood."

"I know. I love you."

"I love you, too. Now, go to bed," she said gently. 

"Kim—"

"No buts. I'll tell Jordan you said goodnight. Go get some sleep, you have another show tomorrow."

"I think I know my own schedule, Kim," he said with a laugh. "I'm going, goodnight, baby. Love you." 

"Alright, I love you. I hope you feel better. You need to start taking Airborne, seriously."

AJ laughed. "Thanks, me, too. Bye."

"Bye."

AJ hung up and went into the bathroom to take some NyQuil. He had already changed clothes, so, he headed to his bunk. 

"Care to join me in burning the midnight oil?" Nick asked as he headed in the opposite direction toward the back room. 

"No, dude. I feel like hell, I'm going to bed."

"My bad. Well, goodnight."

"'Night."

AJ climbed in and got comfortable. He felt drowsy in about ten minutes, feeling the cold medicine's effects as he fell into a deep sleep.
------------ 

10:13 AM CET

"Yo, AJ!"

"Alex!"

He groaned but didn't move as his curtain was pulled open, the bright light infiltrating his dark oasis. 

"What?" he mumbled. 

"Show's canceled," Nick said. 

"Why?" he asked, sitting up a little. 

"A fire broke out somehow at the arena so we're going to our next stop."

"Oh. That sucks. Is that all?" He tried to be more concerned about the situation but was just too tired to do anything but sleep. He could worry about the canceled show later.

"Yeah."

"'Kay. Goodnight." He lay back down and closed his eyes. "Shut the curtain, would you?"

Nick did and walked away. AJ went back to resting for a couple more hours before he was woken up again. 

"Yeah?" he asked.

"We're gonna stop for some food, you want some?" It was Howie this time.

"No."

"Are you sure? It's Mickey D's, your favorite."

AJ thought about it for a second. "Erm...no. Can you get me a strawberry milkshake though? My throat kills. I'll get my wallet—"

"I got it. You okay?"

"Yeah. I'm just gonna try and sleep to nip this in the bud, we don't need a repeat of a month ago." 

"Right. We'll be stopping soon, so, I'll get it ASAP."

"Thanks, man."

"No problem."

AJ lay back down and grabbed his phone that was beside him. He sent a text to Kim. 

Hey, just woke up. Show in Luxembourg is canceled, I'll explain later.

Kim: Hi. Why is it canceled? You can tell me now. Are you okay? She was worried that he'd gotten worse and they had to cancel for his sake. 

AJ: A fire broke out at the arena, we're going to Belgium now. I'm okay, still feeling crappy.

Kim: Oh. Wow. You guys are okay though, right? Sorry you're still sick. :(

AJ: We're fine. Happened before we got there. Thanks. :/

Kim: Okay, good.

AJ: Were you asleep? I didn't mean to wake you. Isn't it like after 4 AM there?

Kim: You're fine, I was awake. Just missing you. Yeah, it is. lol

AJ: Awww...I miss you too baby. Get some sleep okay? I'm always home, remember? Love you. xoxoxo

Kim: :) Okay. Love you, too, goodnight.

AJ shut his phone and just tried to relax under the blankets. His head was starting to hurt slightly and he cursed under his breath. 'I'm gonna kill Nick...' He groaned.

"Hey, dude," Brian said as he passed his bunk. "Are you gonna get up today? It's past noon you know."

AJ just turned away and coughed.

"Dang, you are having the worst luck lately health-wise. Are you gonna be okay for the show?"

"Oh, yeah, it's just Nick's cold that got to me is all," he said, brushing it off.

"Well, hopefully the buck stops here. God knows we don't need to be canceling anymore shows." Brian looked at AJ. "No offense."

"You're fine."

"Alright. I think we're stopping now. Do you want anything?"

"No, Howie's getting me a milkshake."

"Ooh, how'd you convince him to do that?"

"I offered to pay, but he insisted on getting it. I'm not hungry."

"Okay, we'll be back in a few minutes."

"Cool."

"You comin', AJ?" Nick asked.

"No, you guys go ahead."

He shrugged. "Suit yourself."

Once AJ was alone, he lay back and thought about what Kim had said to him yesterday. "No stressing out, no stressing out, it's all good. I'll be home soon enough. I just hope I can hold out until then," he said to himself.
End Notes:
Ooh...is there more drama in store? You'll just have to keep reading now won't you? Hehe. ;)

Don't forget to review! :D
Chapter 18 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 1/26. Wow, two updates in one week and on consecutive days! I'm on a roll and I like it! I guess this is karma for not updating for almost two weeks. lol Enjoy! :D

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Liverpool, England - 5:45 PM GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) (10:45 AM PST)

AJ stepped out of the shower and dried himself off with a big, fluffy, white towel and wrapped it around his waist. Everybody was going to get together for dinner in the hotel restaurant at 7 and he wanted to relax before going down there. He changed into some clean jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt before shaving and putting some new contacts in. 

He went back to the main room of his suite and sat down at the desk provided. Since he started keeping a journal again, he realized that writing things down helped him relax when he couldn't say them out loud. He opened it up and flipped past the last recent entries and started a new one. 

5/6/08

On a professional note, the shows are still going well. Our vocals and dance routines are on point, as they should be. We had to cancel another show two days ago and no, it's not my fault for once. Haha. Although, I was sick for a couple days with some throat issues (THAT is Nick's fault), but I'm all good now with some rest. Thank God for small miracles. Maybe He can spare me a couple months, I'm healthy as a horse, I swear!

On a personal note, things have gotten a little bit better. Finally told Kim pretty much everything (I think that's the only good thing about the situation at the moment) and she was very upset with me about the pills. I don't blame her. She was mad at me for a couple of days, but she reluctantly forgave me and we promised each other that we would work it out when I got home. We decided that there was no point in staying mad while I was still out here, that wouldn't solve anything. It's just gonna take time. I can handle that. I think I can...I think I can.

I had Kim make an appointment with John for when I get back. I gotta spend some more time on his couch again...I know it will be worth it though. I guess I'll never "get past" all of the things that have happened, but I can try. That's all I can do. I have to do this...we both want more kids and I can't let my fear and insecurities get in the way of that again. Well, they already have I guess. Damn. But I can't get stuck, I've gotta keep moving forward.

I really miss my girl and my little man. And my dog. And the rest of my family for that matter. That reminds me...I need to call Mom. It's been 10 days since they went back to LA, but it feels like an eternity. I can't wait to see them, hug them. To see her smile, hear his laugh. Home...I guess my heart is already there, 17 days early. May 23rd can't come soon enough. 17 days...


AJ smiled at thought of being with his family again and closed the book. He put it away in his bag and sat down on the bed. He took his cell phone out of his pocket and dialed a number. After a few rings, someone picked up. 

"Hey, Mom."

"Alex, how are you? Your dad says hi," Denise said. 

"I'm fine. Yourself?"

"Even better now that you've called."

"Did something good happen that I don't know about?" AJ wondered why she sounded so happy. 

"No, it's just good to hear your voice. How are things?"

"Good, the tour's going great. We had an issue in Luxembourg, though."

"What happened?" she asked. 

"There was a fire at the arena before we got there and we had to cancel the show."

"Wow, is it going to get rescheduled?"

"I don't think so, but, who knows?"

"Hm."

"What?"

"Nothing, just thinking is all."

"Okay..." AJ said warily. "So, what are your plans for today? It's after 6 here."

"We're gonna go out to lunch with Dan and Laura for sushi. You've met them before."

"Yeah, I remember them. But Dad hates sushi."

Denise chuckled. "He's being a good sport about it. We haven't seen them for quite some time, especially with Tony traveling for work and we're practically jumping at the chance to meet up with the two of them."

"That sounds good. I'm sure you'll all have a nice time," AJ said. 

"What about you? Do you guys have a show tonight?"

"No, we have had three days off because of the Luxembourg show being canceled. We have one tomorrow night here in Liverpool," he explained. 

"Oh, good. Kim was telling me the other day that you weren't feeling well again. Are you okay now?"

"Yeah, it was just a bug I picked up from Nick or from God knows who or where. You know how it is."

"That I do. Maybe you should be more like Brian, I think he's the healthiest out of the four of you," she said with a laugh.

"Mom, that's because he doesn't go out or have fun out on the road. You gotta live it up while you can, right?"

"Yes, but without running yourself into the ground either. You know your responsibilities, I just don't want you to get burnt out so early on. Make sure you take care of yourself. Please? For me?"

AJ smiled. "Anything for you, Mommy. We're all meeting for dinner in a little bit here in the hotel."

"That's nice. Have you talked to Kim and Jordan today?"

"Yep, about an hour ago. Jordan's really missing me, I feel bad that they're not with me. I wish they were."

"Awww. Poor little guy. You'll be home soon enough."

AJ sighed. "Yeah, I know. I miss them, too."

"I'm sure you do. I miss you, too. I can't wait to see you."

He smiled and looked at the digital clock next to him. "Same here. Well, I better get down there. I don't wanna be late."

"Alright, I love you. Be good," she warned jokingly. 

"I always am. I love you, Mom. Bye."

"Bye."    

AJ hung up and stood. Just as he picked up his room key and wallet, his room phone rang. 

"Hello?"

"Mr. McLean, this is the front desk. There is a package for you and someone will bring it to up your room momentarily. We hope you are enjoying your stay."

"I am, thank you. Goodbye."

He waited a few minutes before his doorbell sounded. He opened the door as a bellhop stood there with a medium-sized cardboard box. 

"Your package, sir."

"Thank you." AJ took the box from him and gave him a tip. 

"No, sir, thank you," he said emphatically as he received the money.  

He shut the door and put the box on his bed. He noticed that the return address was from his home back in LA. 'Ha, it's probably a care package from Kim. It can wait.' he thought.    

He grabbed his necessary items and took the elevator down to the lobby. He saw that there were a few fans, so he waved and headed into the restaurant. 

"Hey, guys," he said and sat down next to Jen. 

"You shaved," Jen noticed. 

"Yep, it's all gone. Wanna feel?" he asked while stroking his face suggestively.

"No!" she said with a laugh.

"Have it your way, then," he said with a laugh of his own. He turned to Howie. "Dude, Kim sent me a package. I hope she remembered the Coffee Bean this time!"

He shook his head with smirk. "You're a weird one."

"Uh-uh, I just know what I like."

"Whatever, dude. You never send me packages, babe," he said to Leigh.  

"Well, I'm not Kim, now, am I? And I'm not a whole other continent away from you, either. Stop being such a baby."

Everybody laughed. "Love ya, Howard!" AJ yelled. 

"Yeah, yeah," he replied, feigning annoyance.

"Is everybody here? Can we order drinks now?" Leigh asked. 

"Nick's not here yet. He's probably upstairs in his room playing with something," Howie said. 

"Probably himself," AJ added, which earned him a smack upside the head from Jen. 

"You're so gross, Alex!" she exclaimed. 

He laughed. "I'm never sitting next to you at dinner ever again. That hurt!"

"Look who's being the baby, now! Kim would do the same thing and you know it, I went easy on you compared to her."

He chuckled. "True."

Nick came up to the table and sat down. 

"Well, look who decided to show up! Hey Nick, I guess you finished playing up there, huh?" Howie asked. 

"What are you talking about?" he asked, completely oblivious to the conversation that had just taken place. 

Everybody busted out laughing as their servers came and the meal started. 
----------

8:56 PM GMT

"Do you want another?" the bartender asked AJ as he placed his empty beer bottle down on the coaster.

He stayed behind and had a beer after dinner with his bodyguard, Marcus, Nick and Howie. Brian didn't feel like having one and went back to his room along with everyone else.    

"No, thanks." He paid for it and left a tip. "I'm gonna go back to my room. See you losers in the morning," he said with a laugh. 

Howie chuckled and rolled his eyes. "Fine, lightweight. Goodnight."

"'Night," Nick said and took a sip of his beer.  

AJ and Marcus turned and left the bar, then, went back through the lobby to get to the elevators. There were still a couple of fans there so he stopped to say hi, sign some autographs, take a few pictures. The usual fan interaction with Marcus by his side.

After that was done, they both went up to AJ's room and parted ways before he went inside. He put his things down and kicked off his shoes before turning the TV on. He skimmed through a few channels before turning it off with a sigh. He hadn't been in his room for five minutes and he was already bored. It was then that he noticed the package beside him, still unopened and untouched from earlier. 

'Might as well open it. At least I'll have some proper coffee in the morning,' he thought happily. 

AJ tore the packaging tape off and opened the flaps of the box to see the contents within it. There were a bunch of packing peanuts on top and once he got past those, his breath caught in his throat.
End Notes:
Don't you just hate cliffhangers? I know I do, but I gotta keep you all wanting more don't I?

Please review, it motivates me to keep getting updates out to guys! :)
Chapter 19 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 1/28. I think you guys will like this one...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Liverpool, England - 9:02 PM GMT (2:02 PM PST)

... It was then that he noticed the package beside him, still unopened and untouched from earlier.

'Might as well open it. At least I'll have some proper coffee in the morning,' he thought happily.

AJ tore the packaging tape off and opened the flaps of the box to see the contents within it. There were a bunch of packing peanuts on top and once he got past those, his breath caught in his throat.


Inside was something AJ didn't expect to see...sitting on top of another layer of packing peanuts were five pregnancy tests, each marked with a check in green Sharpie. He stared at them for a moment. "Oh, shit. Oh my God," AJ choked out.

Along with those was a piece of paper. AJ picked it up and read it.

Call me.

AJ quickly pulled his phone out of his pocket and fumbled with the buttons as he dialed his wife's speed-dial number and hit "SEND".

"Kim."

In that one word, she understood. "You got the package," she said calmly.

"Uh huh." He sat down on the bed.

A moment of silence ensued.

"Alex?"

"I can't believe this," AJ said shaking his head.

"Me neither. Are you okay?"

"Uh, yeah. I'm just...well...shocked." He chuckled nervously. "You're pregnant...we're having another baby." He smiled.

"Uh-huh."

"Oh my God, baby. Oh my God. This is unreal."

"I know."

It finally hit him. "God, I love you so much. We're having another baby!" he yelled and grinned from ear to ear.

"Are you okay with this? This is what we both want, right?" Kim asked him hesitantly.

"Yes, baby. Yes! I can't believe this! I can't believe this! I love you so much! Oh my God!"

"I love you," Kim said.

"God, I wish you were here. I wanna hug and kiss you all over." He took a deep breath to calm himself. "Does anyone else know?"

"Nope."

"Can I tell everyone, like, right now?" he asked with excitement.

Kim laughed. "Sure."

"Hold on for one second, babe." AJ quickly sent a mass text to the fellas and their crew:

EVERYONE: EMERGENCY MEETING. MY HOTEL ROOM. NOW.

"I sent everyone a text to come to my room. We'll tell them together."

"Sounds good."

"Where's Jordan? Is he around?"

"He's upstairs playing in his room."

"Oh. Has he noticed anything weird going on with you?" he questioned again.

"No, I don't think so."

"Good, I want this to be a surprise."

"Me, too," Kim agreed.

A few minutes later, everyone gathered in AJ's hotel room, chattering excitedly.

"AJ, what's up with this?" Nick asked.

"Yeah, man, what's up?" Q, one of their security guards questioned as well.

"Okay. Baby? I'm gonna put you on speakerphone, alright?" He did. "Can you hear me?"

"Yeah."

AJ took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Everyone, the reason I called you all in here is because Kim and I have an announcement to make. Go ahead, baby."

"I'm pregnant!" Kim yelled.

"We're having another baby!" AJ added and grinned.

"AJ got it past the goalie!" Nick yelled. The room erupted in cheers and many hugs and 'Congratulations!' were exchanged. AJ ended up crying as everyone hugged him, he was feeling so many emotions at once and just tried to take it all in.

"Congratulations, man. You deserve it. You both do," Brian said as he embraced AJ.

"Thanks, Rok. You know, if I didn't shave, my beard would be running right now."

He laughed and took AJ's phone to talk to Kim as it was Leighanne's turn. "Congratulations to both of you. This is wonderful news."

"Thank you. I'm very happy," AJ said.

"Alex?" Kim asked, still on the phone.

"Yeah, babe?"

"I gotta go, okay? I love you so much, baby. So much."

"I love you, too. Wish you were here."

"Me, too," she said with a sigh.

"Alright, everybody, Kim's gotta go now. Say bye."

"Bye!" everyone said.

"Bye, guys. I love you, Alex."

"I love you, too. Bye, baby." He gave her a kiss through the phone.

"Bye." He hung up and tossed his phone on the bed.

"So, how did you find out?" Howie asked.

"Um...you know that 'package' I got?" He gestured to the cardboard box and the packing peanuts scattered on his bed.

"Yeah." he said and came over and looked inside it. "Wow. Some 'coffee,' huh?"

"Yeah," he sighed.

AJ went around hugging and excepting well wishes for awhile before everyone left, except for Nick. Some of the guys offered to go out and celebrate, but AJ politely declined. He needed to be alone to process the last half hour, to take it all in.

"Are you sure you don't wanna go out with us? Free alcohol for the daddy-to-be! Again!" Nick said.

"No thanks dude. I need to step back and take this all in. It feels like a whirlwind just went through here."

"Alright. Congrats again, man. I'm so happy for you and Kim."

They hugged again. "Thanks."

"Have you decided how you're gonna tell Jordan?"

AJ hadn't thought of that. "No, uh...we haven't told him yet. I think we should wait until after I get home."

"That sounds good. I'm sure he'll be a great big brother."

"Yeah," AJ smiled at the thought.

"Alright, see you in the morning."

"Goodnight, Nick."

He reached for the door knob and turned around. "Hey, Alex?"

"Hm?"

"I hope I can be as happy as you are someday. You've got a beautiful, loving wife, a strong, healthy little boy and possibly another one on the way. You're an amazing husband and father just like Brian and Howie. I look up to the three of you so much as my big brothers and I want what you guys have and I know that will come in time. Even though you're going through a lot of personal issues right now, maybe this is exactly what you need to put things into perspective and to turn things around for yourself. Just think about that." With that he turned the door knob and walked out the door, shutting it behind him.

AJ stared at the door Nick had just closed for a moment and sat down on the bed. It didn't take long before a few tears ran down his cheeks and he let it all go. All of the pain, the fear, the uncertainty, the anger, and the sadness that had plaguing him for so long had resurfaced for a moment but he soon realized that they were tears of joy more than anything else. He hadn't felt this happy in what seemed like forever.

AJ pulled himself together and picked up his phone to call Kim.

"Alex? What is it?" she asked worriedly.

"I just need you right now. To hear your voice," he said, feeling the knot in his throat return. "I love you so much. I'm so damn happy."

"Awww, baby. I love you, too and I'm happy that you're happy. That doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling right now. I'm ecstatic. Thrilled. Shocked. Scared."

"Me, too. When did you take those tests?"

"On Sunday night. I realized that I missed my period for April and I put two and two together. I took quite a few and they all came out positive, obviously. I packed then up and shipped them out to you as fast as I could," she explained.

"How far along do you think you are? Oh." AJ said suddenly remembering the night of baby number two's conception. "That was a great night..."

"Mhmm. Sure was. You've still got it, baby, even when you're delirious with fever." Kim smirked.

"Hey, I was only hot for you that night and I always will be. Just remember that."

"Of course."

AJ sighed happily. "God, I want you so bad right now," he admitted and gave a throaty chuckle.

"Mm, me too. Just wait until you get home..."

"I don't think I can. I miss you," he pouted.

"I guess distance really does make the heart grow fonder," she mused.

"That, and being extremely horny," AJ added bluntly.

"Alex! If you were here, I'd smack you!"

"I know," he said with a laugh. "So...how do we break the news to our first-born?"

"I was thinking that we should wait until you get home."

"That's exactly what I was thinking. I knew there was a reason I married you."

"We'll sit him down and explain to him that he's going to have a little brother or sister in nine months' time."

"Yeah." AJ smiled.

"There's something else in that box, too, you know..." she said, leaving him hanging.

AJ grabbed the box and dug through the bottom layer of packing peanuts. "Oh really? I wonder what it could be?" he questioned already knowing what it was, or so he thought...

"Wait a minute...this isn't coffee!" AJ exclaimed.

Kim laughed. "Nope. I was serious about you taking Airborne, you know."

Yep, Kim had packed two boxes of Very Berry Airborne along with the pregnancy tests and note. "You're just full of surprises tonight, aren't you?" AJ asked while examining the box.

"Uh-huh. I looked it up online and it's very easy to use. You just take it as needed, like when you guys do a few shows in a row or if you're doing a lot of traveling and can't rest as much."

"Or if one of the fellas gets sick and I don't wanna catch it. Where was this last week? Oh, well."

"Exactly."

"Hm. I never thought of it like that before. I'll definitely keep it in mind. Thank you, baby."

"I just want you to stay healthy, you've still got a couple more weeks until you fly home. You don't need anymore stress besides the obvious."

"I think I've used all of my sick days for this tour already, anyway," he joked knowing full well that 'sick days' didn't exist in Backstreet Land. You have to be sick enough to not be able to perform which usually meant that you were so weak that you couldn't get out of bed or in AJ's case recently, being put on bed rest until the doctor says you're good to go.

"Right. All the more reason to try a different approach."

They were both silent until AJ spoke again. "Hey, Kim?"

"Yeah, babe?" she replied casually.

He cleared his throat softly and began to sing what he co-wrote the day after they first met at Brian and Leighanne's wedding:

I open my eyes, I see your face
I cannot hide, I can't erase
The way you make me feel inside
You complete me, girl, that's why
Something about you makes me feel
Baby, my heart wants to reveal
I'm down on my knees, I'm asking you
So, these three words I wanna hear from you

Yes, I will, take your hand and walk with you
Yes, I will, so these three words I promise to
Yes, I will, give you everything you need
And someday start a family with you
Yes, I will, take your hand and walk with you
Yes, I will, baby I promise to
Yes, I will, give you everything you need
And someday start a family with you

Oh, yes I will

This is no ordinary love
And I can never have enough
Of all the things you've given to me
You're my heart, my soul, my everything
Every night I thank You, Lord
For giving me the strength to love her more
And more each day I promise her
As long as I hear those three words

Yes, I will, take your hand and walk with you
Yes, I will, so these three words I promise to
Yes, I will, give you everything you need
And someday start a family with you
Yes, I will, take your hand and walk with you
Yes, I will, baby I promise to
Yes, I will, give you everything you need
And someday start a family with you

I stand beside you, in everything you do
Wherever you go, whatever you do
Baby, I'll be there
As God as my witness
I will carry this through
'Til death do us part, I promise to you

Yes, I will, take your hand and walk with you
Yes, I will, Baby yes I promise to
Yes, I will, give you everything you need
And start a family with you, baby
Yes, I will
Yes, I will
Yes, I will, I promise you
Everything's gonna be all right
It's gonna be all right
I will...


"That was beautiful, baby. You know I love it," Kim said as she wiped her tears away. Out of all the songs ever created, "Yes I Will" was her favorite song to hear AJ sing. Not just because he wrote it for her, but because it represents that he knew she was 'the one' from the moment he laid eyes on her. She didn't find it creepy at all that he wrote that after he first met her, it made her feel special that she had such a profound effect on him. It was fate, or whatever you want to call it that brought them together.

"I love you. I can't to see you," Kim said.

"Same here, baby. I'm so proud of us, but you're gonna be the one doing all the hard work. I just helped the process along."

"True. I made an appointment with my gyno (OB/GYN) for Thursday at 2:30 to get an ultrasound done and go over my diet and stuff, get some pre-natal vitamins."

"I wanna be there with you so badly. I don't wanna miss any part of this, not for one second. I would be on the next flight out of here if I was allowed, you know that," AJ said honestly.

"Of course, Alex. You have a responsibility to the guys, the crew, and the fans and I can't jeopardize that for you. I could never do that."

"Yeah, but family comes first before work. Always. I wanna come home. 17 days..." he said hoping that the 23rd would come sooner.

"Yep. I gotta go, Jordan needs me. I love you."

"And I love you. And Gumby."

"What? No, we are not calling our unborn child 'Gumby,' Alex," Kim said, laughing.

"He or she has gotta have a nickname, Kim! I was 'Big Al' and Jordan was 'Belly Bean,' it's practically a family tradition by now. Can we name it, please?"

Kim rolled her eyes. "Fine."

"Yay! 'Gumby' it is, then."

"Alex! Nevermind, I really gotta go. Love you."

"I love you, too. Bye."

AJ hung up and sighed. He stared at the wall for a few moments before he called another number.

"Hey, Kev? It's Alex."

"Hey! How are you?"

"I'm doing great, really great. Actually, Kim and I have some news to share with you..."
End Notes:
Song Credit: "Yes I Will" by the Backstreet Boys. AJ actually co-wrote that song in real life. :)

Please leave a review! :D
Chapter 20 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 2/8. Sorry for the long wait again. This one took me awhile to write, it took me quite a few days to come up with ideas for this one. I hope it doesn't disappoint. Enjoy! :D

Thursday, May 22, 2008
St. Petersburg, Russia - 11:22 PM MDT (Moscow Daylight Time, 12:22 PM PST)

16 days later...

5/22/08

I CAN'T WAIT TO GO HOME, DAMN IT! We finished our last show of the European leg about two hours ago and I feel amazing! I am so done with touring right now! In just 20+ hours I will be holding my wife, son, and unborn child in my arms. Kim is ten weeks pregnant, I've missed so much already and I hate it! I cannot wait—


AJ stopped writing as his phone starting ringing and he answered it.

"Hey, beautiful," he said with a big grin. 

"Hi, baby," Kim replied weakly. 

Kim had been having a rough couple of weeks with morning sickness. "Are you feeling any better?"

"Not really. It comes and goes."

"Jordan's not giving you any trouble, is he?"

"Not today, no. Now yesterday..." she said with a sigh. 

"I know, I think he's just excited that 'daddy's coming home.'" AJ said with a laugh. 

"I'm excited that 'daddy's coming home,' too. I love you, I can't wait to see you. What time is it there?"

"Same here, babe, same here. Almost 11:30."

"Wow, you're eleven hours ahead. How was the show?" Kim asked.

"It was great. We did "Siberia" off of Never Gone for the encore instead of "Shape Of My Heart," the fans seemed to enjoy it a lot."

"Ooh, I love that one! Sing it for me please, Alex? Please?" She sounded like Jordan when he wanted a new toy or some type of sweet before dinner. 

AJ laughed. "Okay. The whole thing or just my part?"

"Doesn't matter."

He cleared his throat lightly. 

I was drifting in between
Like I was on the outside looking in, yeah
In my dreams you are still here
Like you've always been

Oh yeah 
My heart did time in Siberia
Was waiting for the lie to come true
'Cause it's all so dark and mysterious 
When the one you want doesn't want you, too


"I love it! I love it! God, I love that song. I could listen to you sing forever."

"So you've said on many occasions," he quipped.

"But it's true. I love you."

"And I love you." AJ heard Kim talk to someone in the background.

"Jordan wants to talk to you."

"Put him on."

"Here he is."

"Hi, Daddy."

"Hey, J! Daddy misses you so much, I can't wait to see you!" 

"Me too! When?" he asked. 

"Tomorrow. You and Mommy have to come pick me up, remember?"

"Oh, yeah! Here's Mommy again."

"Okay, I—"

"Alex?" Kim was back on the phone. 

"Yeah?"

"Why don't you go to bed? Your flight's at 5:30, right?"

"Yep, got a layover in London and in New York City. Brian's going from there to Atlanta, Howie's going from there to Orlando, and Nick's going from there to Nashville. It's gonna be a long ass day tomorrow..." he said with a heavy sigh.

"Alright, baby. Go get some rest. Love you."

"I love you, too. Goodnight, see you in the morning your time around 9:30 or 10."

AJ hung up, picked up his pen, and continued to write where he left off:

I cannot wait to see my beautiful family. They're all I've ever wanted and more. I am truly blessed. Less than a day to go now...

'A short entry, but a good one.' AJ thought to himself as he put his journal away. 

He climbed into bed and fell asleep quickly as he dreamed about tomorrow's journey across the ocean, his final destination until he was to do it all over again.
-----------

Friday, May 23, 2008
7:13 AM EST (Eastern Standard Time - US, 4:13 AM PST)

AJ yawned. "I know, I know, baby. I'm sorry. I'll be home before you know it. I'll call you when I have more info, try and go back to sleep. Love you. Bye."

AJ and the rest of their crew were stuck in John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. Shortly after their layover was finished, it had been announced that all flights were delayed until further notice because of severe weather. AJ was in line trying to find out what he could about the situation.

"Excuse me? Do you have an estimate as to when the delays will be lifted? I really need to get home as soon as possible."

The lady behind the ticket counter sighed. "Tell that to all of these people. I've heard from my supervisor that it could be at least an hour, maybe two before the storm clears up enough. Until then, the planes stay grounded. Is that all you wanted, sir?"

AJ frowned. "Yes. Um, thank you." He walked in the opposite direction back to where he came from and informed everyone of the news he had just acquired.

"It'll be at least an hour or two before the delays are lifted. Sorry, everyone."

A mixture of dissatisfied groans were heard. AJ sat back down and tried to distract himself with a game of Brick on his iPod to try and pass the time. "I just wanna go home, see my wife and kid, maybe pet my dog. I haven't kissed Kim in almost a month. Is that too much to ask, I mean, really?"

"You prayin', AJ?" Nick asked as he sat down next to him. 

"Ha, I wish. Damn," he said with a scowl as he had to start over on his game. "God, I suck at this."

Nick leaned closer to AJ. "What're ya playin'?"

"Brick. That I suck at, FYI."

"Well, now is a perfect time to get some practice in," he smirked.

AJ put his iPod down for a moment to text Kim what he just told their touring party. 

Hey, I just found out that it's gonna be a couple of hours at least before we can leave. :(

She texted him back a couple of minutes later: Seriously? *pouts* It figures... :( :(

AJ: I know, I miss you. I'll be home as soon as I can. I'll keep you posted. xoxoxo

AJ went back to his game of Brick for fifteen more minutes before taking out his laptop to mess around on it. He opened it up and turned it on, but it would shut off after the HP logo would come up. "Damn it!" He shut it and sighed with frustration. "Battery's dead." he mumbled.

"That sucks. I'm gonna try and sleep I guess," Nick said.

"Yeah, I should too. Don't wanna be tired when I get home..." AJ said as he yawned and stretched his arms above his head. He put his laptop away and settled back and closed his eyes.

"You're goin' home to Nashville, right?" AJ asked, wondering if he was the only one out of the four of them going to Los Angeles.

"Mhm," Nick murmured.

"Brian's going home to Leighanne and Baylee in Atlanta, Howie's going home to Leigh in Orlando. You three only have one-and-a-half, two-hour flights home, my flight's, like, five hours long. Lucky bastards..."

Nick chuckled. "That's what you get for hanging your hat in LA, dawg."

"Haha yeah, I guess..." 

AJ drifted off to sleep soon after that and was woken up seemingly minutes later by Jenn. "AJ, get up!"

"Hm...five more minutes."

"Okay, if you wanna miss your flight, that's fine with me." 

AJ sat up quickly and forced himself awake. "Shit! What time is it?"

"Almost 9:30. You have five minutes." 

AJ made sure he had all of his things and quickly said his goodbyes to everyone before boarding his plane. He was on the last leg of his journey home and back to reality.
-------------

11:41 AM PST

AJ's flight to LA went off without a hitch. He texted Kim once he was on the plane and then tried to sleep more to pass the time. He slept for about half of it before waking and staring out the window after that. 

AJ heard a soft voice on his right. "Excuse me?" He turned around to see a young woman sitting in the aisle across from him. "Are you AJ McLean?"

"Yes, ma'am. Are you a fan?"

"Uh-huh. Since I was eleven. All of BSB's album are great."

AJ smiled. "Thank you. Do you have a favorite?" 

"Millennium. God, that sounds so lame," she said with a laugh and a shake of her head. 

"I don't think it is, you like what you like. What's your name, sweetheart?"

"Laura."

"Well, Laura, the Boys and I think that Millennium is our best album to date. I'm glad you like it."

"I don't mean to bother you. I just noticed you and I thought I would take the opportunity to say hi and say thank you for your music. It's helped me through some tough times," she said, a bit shy. 

"Oh, you're fine. Well thank you for being a loyal fan and I'm glad that our music has touched your life in a special way. We don't get tired of hearing things like that."

Laura just nodded. "So, I'm sure you're happy to be getting home. I hope the European tour went well."

"I really am. My wife Kim and son Jordan went back home at the end of April, I haven't seen them in almost a month. Europe was great, it always is. I'm just glad to be going back home and relaxing, getting some rest."

She liked that AJ seemed genuinely interested in their conversation, which made her feel more at ease. "Yeah, I read about how you guys had to cancel a few shows because you were sick. I saw your video, too, you looked miserable, if you don't mind my saying so. That must've been really hard not to go back on tour. I hope you're okay now."

AJ laughed. "That really sucked. I felt like crap but wanted to perform anyway, but I can't do that now. I'm too old for that and I have to think of my family first. I'm fine now, the first couple of shows were a bit rough for me, but I bounced back quickly."

"Good. I can't imagine what it must be like doing what you guys do night after night. All the traveling and performing, I imagine it gets to you eventually."

"Yeah, I mean we try to take care of ourselves as best we can with the basics, eating right, getting enough sleep. I try to hit the gym whenever possible. But there's always something going around, somebody getting sick or whatever and eventually, we all get it. Well, except for Brian. The dude has a fortress of immunity, I swear!"

Laura laughed. "That's funny, he's lucky."

"Yeah. Have you ever been to a Backstreet show?"

"Nope, but I want to someday."

I hope you do, we don't disappoint. So, what are your favorite BSB songs?"

She thought for a few moments before answering. "Well, I love "Incomplete" and "Everybody." Um..."The Call," "Drowning," and "Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely."

"Those are good picks. A good variety."

"A lot of the unreleased tracks are great too, particularly "Song For The Unloved." It's one of my favorites. Your vocals are incredible on it."

"Oh, thank you. I think I was the only one who wanted it on Never Gone, but it ended up on the CD for a few countries as a bonus track. Do you like the fast or slow version more?"

"There's two versions? I didn't know that. I've only heard the fast one I guess."

AJ felt stupid for asking a question like that. "Oh, my bad. Well, I'm sure it's on YouTube, everything is now."

Laura agreed. "True." She paused. "Well, I'll leave you alone now. Give you some privacy. Now I realize that 'celebrities' are just normal people and that people are right about you."

AJ's curiosity got the better of him. "How so?" 

"Backstreet fans and the like who have met you say that you're genuine, really sweet, you look people in the eyes when you talk to them, you talk to fans as if you've known them forever, and that you give really great hugs." She grinned.

He shook his head. "Oh, stop, you wouldn't be saying that if you met me on an 'off' day."

"I guess I'm lucky then." 

"Do you want something signed, a picture once we land?"

"Really? That would be great!" She dug through her carry-on bag and pulled out an iPod touch and a black thin-tipped Sharpie permanent marker. "The Sharpie's for drawing, it's one of my passions."

"That's cool." AJ replied. "You want me to sign your iPod?" He laughed. "This is a first but hands down the strangest thing I've ever autographed was a guy's fake leg. He asked us to sign it, took it off, and popped it back on when we finished."

"Wow."

"Yeah, it was crazy."

Laura took the iPod out of its plastic case and handed it to AJ along with the marker. He signed it and gave them back to her. She looked the back of it which read in all caps except for his signature:

TO LAURA—

THANKS FOR THE CONVO AND THE LAUGHS. 

GOD BLESS, 

AJ


"Thank you so much. I swear, all celebrities write like you with the caps and everything. Or maybe it's just musicians."

He chuckled. "That's funny. It is my pleasure, I am a firm believer in giving back to the fans. You're the ones who got us where we are—hold on, I've got a call."

"Talk to me," AJ said when he put his cell phone to his ear.

"Hello." It was Kim.

He smiled. "Hi, baby, we should be landing in about ten minutes."

"Yay, I can't wait! We'll see you soon."

"Great, love you. Bye."

AJ hung up. "That was my wife."

"That's what I figured," Laura mused. 

"Yeah." He relaxed against the back of his seat and sighed. 

Just as AJ had predicted, the plane landed around ten minutes later and he got off along with the other passengers. 

"Laura, wait!"

She turned around, confused. 

"Don't you want that picture?" he reminded her with a laugh. 

"Oh! Of course!" She dug through her bag, pulled out her digital camera, and walked back toward AJ. 

He took it and put it out in front of the two of them. "You ready?" She nodded. "Okay...one, two, three." He handed it back to her. "It was great meeting you."

"You, too." Laura reached to shake his hand. 

AJ wasn't having that. "Oh, come on now. Come here." They hugged for a brief moment. 

"Thank you so much. I'll never forget this day ever."  

"You're very welcome," he replied warmly.  

"Take care of yourself. Go to your family, they're waiting for you." She could see them a few hundred feet away.

"Right. Goodbye."

"Bye."

They walked away from each other but Laura couldn't help but turn around and watch as AJ greeted his wife and son. 'I can only hope that I have what he does someday, what a life it must be...' she thought longingly.  

"DADDY!"

AJ crouched down as Jordan ran into his arms, enveloping him in a hug and planting a few kisses on his cheek. "I missed you! I love you." He picked him up as Kim walked over.

"Hi."

"Mm, hi." She leaned forward and kissed him deeply. "I missed you."

"You, too."  

"Met a fan on the plane?"

AJ looked down and noticed that Kim had started to show. "Yep. You look beautiful."

"Eh," was all she said. 

"I'm serious. You're gorgeous. Always."

Kim rolled her eyes. "Right."

AJ looked at Jordan and back to her. "Let's go home."

They walked to Baggage Claim and AJ noticed that Laura was there as well. He gave her one last warm smile as he collected his luggage before the three of them walked out of the airport and into the parking lot.
End Notes:
The songs that Laura listed are actually my top five favorite Backstreet Boys songs but not necessarily in that order. ;)

Don't forget to review! :)
Chapter 21 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 2/12. I didn't anticipate for this chapter to turn out like it did. My original ideas made it about 1,000 words shorter. I just kept going and this is what came of it. At least you guys don't have to wait almost two weeks for an update again! Enjoy! :D

The italics are a flashback.

Saturday, May 24, 2008
10:33 PM

Soon after they had arrived home from the airport yesterday, AJ and Kim couldn't contain their excitement any longer. They sat Jordan down and explained to him that Kim was pregnant, in terms that he could understand of course:

"Jordan, sweetie, Daddy and me have something to tell you, okay?" Kim started. 

"Okay."

"Now, you know me and Mommy love you very much, right?"

He nodded. "Uh-huh."

AJ continued. "And that you are very special to both us because you are our first baby?" 

"Yes."  

"Well...you're going to be a big brother. You're going to have a little brother or sister because Mommy is pregnant and is having another baby."

Jordan's eyes widened. "Wow. Really?"

"Uh-huh." Kim said.

"Where is the baby?" 

"In mommy's tummy. It's going to grow there just like when I was pregnant with you."

"Oh. How did you make the baby? Did Daddy help?"

Kim chuckled and looked at AJ. "Yes, Daddy helped."

"Wow. When does it come out?"

"Before Christmas, an early Christmas present!"

"Wow!"

Kim laughed at her son's enthusiasm. "Here, you wanna feel my tummy?"

Jordan scooted close to her. "The baby's in there?"

"Yep. Be gentle, please."

AJ just watched in amazement at his little boy and tried to take in the moment.

Jordan looked up at him. "If I talk to it, can it hear me?"

"Yes," AJ said. "Go ahead."

He put his face inches from Kim's stomach. "Hi, baby. I'm your big brother, Jordan. I hope you come out soon. Mommy and Daddy are really nice, and Grandma and Grandpa, too. And you get to meet Uncle Brian, Aunt Leighanne and Baylee, Uncle Howie and Aunt Leigh, and Uncle Nick. I'll teach you how to eat ice cream and play Candy Land and how to ride bikes, all the fun stuff that Daddy teached me."

"Eating ice cream, Alex? What am I going to do with you?" she asked him with a smirk.

"Well, someone's gotta do it. You love me for it," he gave her a peck on the cheek.

"Is the baby a boy or a girl?" Jordan asked.

"We don't know yet, buddy. But we will soon," AJ answered.

"Well, I hope you're a boy, that way we can watch Incredibles and play motorcycles and baseball! I love you," Jordan kissed Kim's stomach.

"Awww, J! You're such a big boy! And so cute!" Kim began to tickle him, planting kisses on his cheeks. 

"Mommy, stop!" he yelled between giggles. She continued, then, paused to whisper in his ear. 

"Daddy!" Jordan lunged at him and began to tickle him. 

"Hey! Hey! What is this? You're evil, do you know that?" he called out to his wife.

Kim smiled. "I know."


Life was perfect in that moment. No worries, no fears, no apprehensions. Compared to now, it was perfect.

AJ was so happy to be back home. However, it meant that he had returned to face real life once again, sometimes he wished that he could stay on tour forever, life was a lot easier to handle in most respects when he was away from it all...

AJ was downstairs in his game room which had a fully-stocked bar. He quickly poured another shot and threw it back immediately. He gasped for air as he felt the pain resurface in his chest. Just breathing had taken a toll on him today, he felt weak and unusually tired. It was just the depression making itself known, he mused. AJ was brought back from his detachment when his phone rang. 

"Yes?" he asked with an uninterested tone. 

"It's Chris. Wanna go out? I'm buying."

"Not tonight, man. Besides, I've kinda already started." 

"Started the party without me, huh? Well, I'll just come over there—"

"No!" AJ said quickly, he cleared his throat. "I mean, I just got home, you know. I don't really feel like going out. I'll take a raincheck?"

"Right, right. So how are things, man? Congrats on the new baby, I'm happy for ya."

"Thanks," he returned with a light smile. AJ looked at the bottle of Jack in front of him for a moment before answering. "Things are good." He wasn't lying exactly, it's just that things could be better. "We told Jordan about the baby yesterday."

"Oh, yeah? How did that go?"

"It went great, much better than I expected. You should've seen him, he was asking all sorts of questions, he even talked to the baby. He's gonna be fine."

"That's great, man. And Kim is doing well?"

"She's perfect. She had a rough go with morning sickness, but that should be dissipating soon."

"How far along is she?" Chris wondered. 

"Ten weeks."

"Wow, what's her due date?"

"December 19th," he answered. 

"A Christmas baby! That's awesome, Alex! You must be so excited!"

AJ nodded. "I am. I don't want a ton of kids, but I've always wanted Jordan to have a sibling."

"That's great, he'll be an amazing big brother if yesterday is any indication."

"Mhm. Listen, I'm gonna go. I've got some things to do before I go to bed."

"Alright, dude, later."

"Later."

AJ hung up and turned his phone off. He wasn't in the mood for another conversation, he had unfinished business to attend to. Just as he poured himself another refill, he suddenly felt that he was no longer alone. He turned around to see Kim standing in the doorway. 

"Hey," he greeted. 

"Hey," she replied coolly. 

"Come sit with me." AJ tapped the stool next to him. 

He pulled it out for her and she sat on it. "You good?"

"Yeah. So, what are you doing down here?"

"Well, I sure as hell ain't prayin'." He chuckled. 

"I can see that. Do we have any Martinelli's back there?"

"I think so. Hold on." AJ went behind the bar and found a bottle of the non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider along with a champagne glass. He poured her some, pushed it toward her, and came back around and sat back down. 

"Thanks, babe."

"No problem." He paused. "I thought you went to bed?"

"I did, but I couldn't sleep. The room's lonely without you." She took a sip of her drink. "I thought you were in the studio?"

AJ traced the rim of his shot glass several times with his index finger. "I was. For about five minutes," he said quietly.

Kim looked at him. "Hey. Are you okay?"

He sighed. "I think I'm just nervous about Tuesday." His appointment with Dr. Stehlik was at 4:30. 

She noticed the mostly full bottle of whiskey in front of him. "It doesn't seem that bad."

"Well, I really didn't get a chance to start," he admitted with another chuckle. "Chris called me to see if I wanted to go out."

"And you said no." Kim concluded. 

"Obviously," he said, slightly annoyed. 

"Hey, there's no need to be snarky, mister."

"Sorry," he apologized softly. 

"It's okay."

AJ drank his shot and set the glass down down on the bar. "Didn't want it to get too warm," he reasoned. He couldn't help but feel slightly ashamed of his behavior. He didn't normally drink because of stress in front of Kim, he didn't want her to see him like this.

"I think you've had enough," Kim stated and took the bottle from him. She was surprised that AJ didn't stop her. 

He glared at her for a moment, but his expression softened and he stood up. "We can go upstairs if you want."

Kim put the bottle down and AJ helped her up to the kitchen without cleaning up. They went into the living room and curled up on the couch together. 

AJ kissed her hair. "This is much better. I love you."

Kim didn't answer.

"What? I don't get any love?"

"Why do you do that?" Kim questioned. 

AJ pulled away and sat up. "Do what?"

"Run away and drink when you're stressed out."

"I don't know, baby...I mean, being so young out on tour, going out and partying in the the clubs in Europe was a way to decompress, to relieve stress. It was one of our few outlets. Road life then compared to now...well, there's just no comparison. It was straight-up crazy. Performing shows three, sometimes four nights in a row. The hustle and bustle was insane. The only thing I would wanna do when we did have a day off was sleep." AJ chuckled. "And then of course when my grandma died...she was my everything." He paused to compose himself. "I didn't know how to cope with that loss in any other way besides drinking, who honestly would know how to in that situation? I didn't know anything else."

"I know, baby."

"But, I had you. And my family and the fellas. You guys didn't let me self-destruct."

"Damn straight," Kim said. "If we let you go down that road, you'd be an alcoholic and possibly a drug addict. And the Backstreet Boys probably wouldn't exist and we wouldn't even be together right now."

AJ sighed heavily. "Yeah."

Kim continued. "But I do think that you have some dependency issues, Alex. That's not healthy."

"I know. But you stopped me tonight."

"I'm not always gonna be around to do that though. Case and point:  touring."

"I know. But I have a pretty decent amount of self-control. I hadn't drank since I found out you were pregnant. I had a beer with the guys after dinner before I went back to my room," he finished, not wanting to leave her hanging.

"I think that you should bring this up with John on Tuesday. It'd be something good for you two discuss so you can figure it out and come to terms with it."

AJ could see her point. "I guess."

"I do love you."

"Mm, you too." AJ kissed her deeply and put his hand on her stomach. "I can't wait until you can start feeling him or her move. When's your next appointment?"  

"Friday, June 6th at 1."

"Can I come?" he asked. 

"Of course! I want you to!"

"Great! I think Jordan should come."

"That's a good idea, it will help him adjust better in the long run if we're more hands-on and get him involved during this time."

AJ smiled. "That's exactly what I was thinking. It's a plan."

"Mm...I like plans." Kim began to kiss his neck. "And I like my men with a little bit of stubble." she murmured, caressing his face. 

"Well, I guess I'm lucky but you're gonna have to wait about twelve years for Jordan."

Kim stopped immediately at that comment. "Alex! What exactly are you implying?"

"That our son isn't going to have to worry about shaving for quite some time?" he asked innocently. 

She rolled her eyes. "Sometimes, I worry about you."

"Me, too." he agreed with a laugh.  

He kissed her and she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Say the first part again." Kim said. 

"This is much better?" AJ asked, unsure. 

"After that." she breathed. 

"I love you?"

"Mhm. Say it again." She continued to kiss him. 

"I love you." he repeated with confidence, his breathing getting ragged and labored. "Damn, woman, you're getting me all revved up...maybe we should move this party upstairs."

"That's what I like to hear," she replied with a smirk. "We're fine, Jordan's sound asleep..."

"We're not alone, you know."

"Huh?"

"What if we wake Gumby up?"

Kim rolled her eyes at AJ's pet name for the baby. "Then, we'll be quiet..." She pulled him closer and pulled his t-shirt off of him. 

"I don't think that's possible for at least one of us..."

"Shut up," Kim growled. 

"You just know I'm that good."

Kim chuckled at his confidence. "God, I missed this. You. Hearing your voice say my name. Tell me again."

"I love you with everything that is in me Kim Luisa Borrego. Always." He kissed her forehead gently.

"I love when your Spanish blood comes out. It's so sexy. You should do it more often."

"Oh yeah?" Kiss. "Should I?" Kiss. 

"Mhmm."

"Now...where were we?" He started to unbutton his jeans.

"Mommy? Daddy?"

"Shit!" AJ hissed as he put his shirt back on. "I told you!" 

Kim shrugged. "Sorry."

They both sat up as Jordan and Bernie came downstairs. 

"What is it, buddy? Are you alright?" AJ asked, hoping that this wasn't a repeat of two months ago. 

"I'm thirsty," he said simply. 

"Come here, J." AJ felt his forehead and breathed a sigh of relief. 'Cool as a cucumber.' "He's fine," he said to Kim. "I'll get you some water." He got up and went to the kitchen. He came back handed him the glass. "Don't spill it, okay?"

"Okay."

After a few minutes, Jordan was finished with the water, which meant he had to go back to bed. 

"Alright, time to go back to sleep now. Say goodnight to Mommy, Jordan."

"No!" he protested. 

AJ sighed. "Please, not tonight, J. It's past your bedtime. Up the stairs, let's go." He was in no mood to deal with a fussy kid, especially one that had just ruined his 'mood.' 

"No!"

"I won't tell you again, let's go," he said, a bit more firm. 

"No! I'm not sleepy!"

"Jordan, you have to go back to bed. Go with Daddy, please." Kim tried more gently. 

"No!" He plopped down on the carpet and didn't move.

"Jordan Anthony, if you don't go with Daddy right now you're not getting muffins for breakfast in the morning." Kim warned knowing that her blueberry muffins were his absolute favorite breakfast, which were a special treat once a month. 

Once he heard that, he stood up. "Okay, g'night, Mommy."

"Thank you for listening. Give me a kiss. Love you."

He did and AJ picked him up and carried him upstairs to his bedroom. He set him down on his bed and covered him up. "Goodnight, little man. See you in the morning." He started to walk out. 

"Daddy?"

AJ turned around. "Hm?"

"I love you."

He chuckled softly. "I love you, too. Goodnight."

He closed the door and jogged down the stairs back to Kim. 

"I swear, if it were any other night he would've been fine," he said, shaking his head. 

"Just our luck, huh?"

"Yeah." AJ sat back down on the couch. "I'm actually kinda tired now."

Kim yawned. "Me, too."

"Let's just go to bed."

"Sounds good to me."

They both stood and headed for the stairs. "I need to get out of these jeans." AJ said. 

"I think I just might be able to help you with that."

AJ cocked an eyebrow. "Oh, really?" 

"Definitely."

He faked a yawn. "I'm suddenly very tired."

"Mm, me too."

They rushed up the stairs as quietly as possible before locking their bedroom door to finish what they started.  
End Notes:
Don't forget to review! :D
Chapter 22 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 2/25. Sorry for the long wait again. I'm trying not to fall into the habit of giving spaced out updates. I hope that this makes up for it. :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008
6:10 PM

AJ pulled into the parking lot, killed the engine, and sat there with his hands on the steering wheel. After sessions with John a Starbucks pick-me-up was usually in order and that was definitely the case at the moment. He dialed his house and waited for Kim to pick up:

"Hey, I'm at Starbucks. Do you want anything before I go in?"

"Yeah, get me a Tall hot chocolate with whipped cream, please," she requested. 

"Sure thing, babe. I'll be home in a bit."

"Okay. Love you."

"I love you, too, bye."

AJ hung up and went inside. There were a couple of people ahead of him, so, he waited his turn before ordering. 

"Hey, Alex! I haven't seen you around lately. How are things?" the cashier asked, making polite conversation with him.  

"Hi, Ash. I just got back from the road on Friday. Things are good, Kim's pregnant and I'm so excited," he said with a grin. 

"That's great, congrats! How's Jordan?" she wondered, it had been longer than she remembered since she had last seen his son.   

"He's good, getting bigger every day." It seemed like only yesterday that he was just a baby...

"Time sure flies, doesn't it? So, what can I get you?"

"A container of chocolate-covered coffee beans, a Tall hot chocolate with whipped cream, and my usual," he ordered casually.  

"Ah, something for the missus, huh? That and one Grande white chocolate mocha frapp coming right up. Is she having cravings yet?"

"You know it." He cleared his throat. "Uh, no, those are actually for me." 

"Well, if Kim wants any, make sure you give her some. Never deny a woman chocolate. Ever. Especially a pregnant one," Danielle added with a smirk.   

"I'll keep that in mind," he said with a chuckle. AJ waited for a few minutes as Danielle and Ashley made his drinks and set them on the counter. He handed them a ten. "Keep the change. Have a good one, ladies."

"Bye," they both said. 

AJ walked out and back to his car. He set a drink on the hood so he could get his keys out of his pocket. He unlocked it, got in, and put Kim's drink in a cup holder next to him. He took sip of his, popped a few coffee beans in his mouth, and continued on his drive home. 

He got back around twenty minutes later and went into the kitchen where Kim was cooking dinner. "Mm, what smells so good in here? Your drink." He set it on the counter for her. 

Kim kissed his cheek. "Hi. Thanks for this." She took a sip. "Enchiladas with black beans and rice and plátanos con crema (plantains with cream) for dessert. Should be done in twenty minutes."

AJ's stomach grumbled just thinking about dinner. "You really know the way to my heart, don't you? Can't wait. Can I help with anything?"

"Can you whisk the stuff in that bowl together for me?" She pointed to it. 

"Sure, you just sit down and chill." AJ grabbed a whisk and got to work. 

"So, how'd it go?" Kim asked about his appointment. 

"It was okay. Can we talk about it later, though? You know how they always leave me drained."

"Hence the Starbucks," she noted. 

AJ chuckled. "Yeah. All done, is that good?" He showed her the contents within the bowl. 

"It's perfect. You can leave it as-is."

He set it on the counter. "Anything else?"

Kim shook her head. "Nope, the enchiladas are in the oven and when those are done the plátanos can go in and they'll be done by the time we're finished eating."

"Great." He joined her at the island and they both sipped at their drinks. "Is J upstairs?"

"Mhm. Ooh! You brought home chocolate-covered coffee beans? Gimme!"

AJ laughed with a slight shake of his head. "Don't deny a pregnant woman chocolate..."

"Whoever told you that is 1,000% correct," she said.     

Just then, Jordan came running into the kitchen. 

"Don't run in the—" Kim started with her mouth slightly full.  

"Daddy! Daddy!"

"What? What?" AJ matched his son's tone.

"Come see what I made! Come on!" He tugged at AJ's arm. 

AJ laughed. "Okay, I'll be right back. I'm taking these with me and hiding them, you'll spoil your dinner, missy."

They both went upstairs to Jordan's bedroom. "Isn't it cool?"

It was a LEGO tower with various colors. "You made that all by yourself?"

"Uh-huh!"

"Great job! High five! Wanna make something together?" AJ asked him.  

"Yeah!"

The two of them set to work on making a race car track and before they knew it, it was time for dinner. Kim knocked lightly on the door frame. "Alright, my two construction workers, it's dinner time. Who's hungry?"

"Me!" they both shouted together. 

"Go wash up and set the table."

They both left the room and Kim followed. Once they did that, AJ put the plantains in the oven and they sat down to eat. The enchiladas were corn tortillas stuffed with chicken, rice, cheese, peppers, and corn. The black beans and rice had a kick to them, but weren't too spicy.        

"This is really good," AJ said as he took another bite of his enchilada. 

"Thanks. Do you like it, Jordan?" Kim asked him. 

"Yep! You're a good cook, Mommy," He continued to eat as well.

She chuckled. "Thank you, sweetie. Eat up, there's dessert next."

"Yay!"

"But not too fast. Don't want you to get a tummy ache."

"Okay."

"Did anything exciting happen while I was out?" AJ asked. 

"No, your mom called, though," she said nonchalantly. 

He looked up from his plate. "What did she want?"

"Nothing specific, she probably wants to talk since you just got home and all."

"Right. Did you tell her why I was out?"

"No, why?" Kim eyed her husband curiously. 

"Just wondering," he mumbled.

"I don't tell your mom your business, if that's you're worried about. That's for you to tell anyone you choose."

"Yeah." AJ went back to eating without another word.

Kim figured that he was just tired and didn't say anything for a few minutes. "Was Starbucks crowded when you went in?"

"No, there were a couple people in front of me, that's all. Ashley congratulated us on the baby."

"Aw, she's such a sweet girl. Any other familiar faces?"

"Danielle was working, too. There were no paps either, or at least none that I saw out in the open. I was definitely not in the mood to deal with them," he replied with a scoff. 

"I wouldn't be either," she agreed. 

"I think it's hilarious how if I get a cup of coffee it's somehow news. Can't do anything without those a-holes following you around."

"Yeah, don't forget, I've had my pic snapped by them from time to time as well." She rolled her eyes. 

"One of these days I'm going to buy a video camera and tape them and see how they like it."

Kim laughed. "You definitely should."

"Can I have some more milk, please?" Jordan asked. 

"Eat a few more bites and I'll get you some," AJ said.

"But I'm full," he whined. 

"Full enough to not eat dessert?" he tested. 

Jordan just looked up with a small smile. 

"That's what I thought," he smirked. "A few more bites of each, please."

"Okay," he grumbled. He did as he was told and AJ took his empty cup into the kitchen. He filled it halfway and went back to the table.

He placed the cup in front of Jordan. "There you go."  

"Thank you, Daddy."

"You're welcome."  

AJ sat back down and continued to eat for a few more minutes until his plate was empty. "I'm done."

"Me, too." Kim said. 

"That was muy delicioso. I'll take your plate."

"I'm glad you liked it, thanks. The plantains should be done."

"You know I like anything you make. I'll take yours, too, buddy," he said to Jordan. 

AJ went back into the kitchen, scraped the plates' extras into the trash, and put them in the dishwasher. He took the small casserole dish out of the oven with some hot pads and set it on the counter. He took clean plates and the bowls of strawberries and cream to the table and went back for the plantains.

"And the pièce de résistance," he announced in a thick fake French accent.

"You're silly, Daddy." 

AJ set it down. "Alright, dig in." He turned to Jordan. "Do you want some, J?"

"Yeah!"

"Do you want strawberries and cream?"

"Yeah."

He made Jordan a plate before getting himself some. "Mm, so good. I'm gonna need to do a full workout to burn all of this off," he realized with a groan. 

"I'm glad you approve," Kim replied.

He laughed. "Yeah, but my waistline won't."

Within a matter of minutes, Jordan had made a mess of himself while eating. 

"You need to get cleaned up. Come on." AJ stood up. 

They two of them went into the bathroom and made sure that he washed his face and hands before they came back to the table. 

"Are you done?" Kim asked Jordan. 

He nodded. 

"Okay, you can go play or watch TV."

Jordan went upstairs to his bedroom. 

"I'll help clean up."

AJ and Kim cleared the table, put leftovers in the refrigerator, and loaded the dishwasher. He was washing some extra things that were in the sink and Kim sat at the island.

"So..." she said to break the silence. 

AJ just continued to stand at the sink, remaining quiet. 

"You tired?"

"Mhm," he responded after a moment. "All done." He turned around and rubbed a hand over his face and sighed. "I'll be upstairs with J if you need me."
------------

After Jordan was put to bed at 8, AJ and Kim went into the living room to relax.

"You wanna watch a movie?" Kim asked. 

"Sure. Wanna flip for it?" AJ took a quarter of his pocket. "Heads, I pick the movie. Tails, you pick." He flipped it and it landed on tails. "Your choice. I'm gonna go make popcorn while you decide." He got up and went to the kitchen. "Want anything to drink?"

"Water, please," she requested. 

AJ grabbed a Coke and a water bottle from the fridge and put a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Once that was done, he put it in a bowl and took their drinks back to the couch.   

Kim had decided on watching 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl.

"I hope this doesn't suck, but I guess I'll give it a shot." He handed Kim her drink and set the bowl of popcorn between the two of them. She pressed play as the main menu came up and the movie started.
-------------

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
1:12 AM

AJ woke up with a start, taking a few seconds to recognize his surroundings. After taking a few deep breaths to calm himself, he wiped the cool sweat off of his face with the blanket. He felt chilled and realized that his shirt was damp.

He fell asleep about halfway through the movie. His session with his therapist had taken a toll on him and he just couldn't stay awake. Kim finished the movie and cleaned up before covering him with an extra blanket and going upstairs to bed.

AJ kicked the blanket off and got up from the couch. He went into the kitchen to look at the time on the stove. The green numbers read a little over a quarter after one in the morning. He sighed softly and went to the fridge, taking a water bottle and opening it. He sat down at the island and sipped the water, thinking about the nightmare that had intruded on his sleep. Since that was anything but positive, AJ decided to just go to bed. The longer he stayed awake, the worse sleeping would be in the long run. 

He made a pit-stop at his walk-in closet and changed into a dry t-shirt, tossing the damp shirt on the floor before going into his bedroom. He crept in quietly and climbed in beside Kim.

After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, AJ turned on his side away from Kim and tried to get comfortable. When that didn't work, he turned on his stomach and put his arms under his pillows. He took a few deep, calming breaths and tried to relax...
----------------

3:47 AM

AJ shot up in bed, his breathing heavy. He woke up in a cold sweat again. 

"Mm...Alex? Are you alright?" Kim wondered as she turned to face him.  

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Go back to sleep." He got up and went into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. He grabbed a towel and patted himself dry. Just as he looked into the mirror, he jumped at seeing Kim in it. 

AJ turned around. "Scare me half to death, why don't you?" he hissed. 

"Sorry. You're soaked in sweat. Are you feeling okay?" She felt his neck and cheek. "Hm, you don't have a fever."

"I know that, Kim." 

"Do you want another shirt?"

AJ nodded. 

She went into his closet and got him another t-shirt without failing to notice the one on the floor. "Here." she said and handed it to him. 

He put the dry one on and took the other to his closet, throwing it on the floor with the first. 

"Are you sure you're okay?" Kim asked as he came back to bed. 

"Yeah, let's just go to sleep. We can talk about it in the morning." AJ got back under the covers. 

Kim stretched and yawned. "Okay. I love you, Alex."

"You, too." AJ rolled over on his side with his eyes wide open, knowing that he still had a long, restless night ahead of him.
End Notes:
Please leave a review! :D
Chapter 23 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 3/2. Here's another update, enjoy. :D

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
11:31 AM

AJ opened his front door to see Denise standing there. "Hey, Mom. Jordan's upstairs getting dressed, come on in."

"Hi, sweetheart." They both hugged each other. "You look tired," she noticed with a small frown.  

"It's nothing. Do you want some coffee?" he asked her as they both walked into the kitchen and Denise took a seat at the island.   

"No, thanks. Rough night?"

"Something like that," he replied as he refilled his coffee mug and took a seat next to her. 

"Like what?" she pressed. 

He sighed. "Not now, Mom. I'll call you when you get home after you drop Jordan back off."

"Fine. You're okay though, right?" 

"Yeah, we'll talk later." AJ took a long drink of coffee and tried to think about something else. "How's Dad? Is he at home?"

"Yeah, he's doing some office work today, he flies out to Indianapolis for a conference this coming Monday for a few days."

"Oh. Is that man ever going to retire?" AJ said with a laugh. 

"I seriously doubt it, he doesn't know anything else. I don't think he would know what to do with himself to be honest with you. With all that free time," Denise mused. 

AJ shrugged. "True, it's just a thought."

"Right, right."

After a few minutes, Jordan and Kim walked in from upstairs. 

"I'm ready!" he announced loudly. 

"Jordan, don't yell, please. Mommy has a headache." 

"Sorry."

"Hi, Denise. How are you?" Kim embraced her and sat next to AJ. 

"I'm good, yourself?" Denise asked. 

Kim shrugged. "I'm tired, but, okay otherwise."

"We'll just chill at home today, okay? Maybe order some lunch so you or I don't have to cook?" AJ suggested. 

She smiled. "That sounds good."

Denise looked at her watch. "Well, we better get going. I'll have him home after dinner, I'll make sure he's fed."

"Thanks for taking him today, Mom."

"It's no trouble, I've got quite a few surprises in store..." she smirked. 

"Let's go!" Jordan yelled. 

"Jordan? What did Mommy just tell you?" AJ asked him. 

"No yelling...sorry, Mommy." Jordan apologized quietly. 

"That's alright, now, go have fun with Grandma," Kim said. "Give me a kiss."

AJ kissed her on the cheek.

"That's not what I meant. The other man in my life, please?"

"Oh? And who might that be?" AJ teased. 

"Me, Daddy!" Jordan hugged and kissed Kim and AJ before running to the door.

"Bye, Mom. Have fun."

"We will. No wild parties while we're gone, okay?" 

AJ laughed. "It's my house, Mom."

"I'm just kidding. I love you both. Bye."

"Bye, Denise," Kim said.

Both of them left. 

"Ah...silence." AJ breathed. "It's wonderful."

Bernie came trotting into the kitchen behind the pair of them and stood by the sliding glass door. He whined softly. 

"Do you need to go out, Bernie?" AJ asked without looking at him.

He barked once. 

AJ got up and let him outside to do his business and sat back down. "So..." He took a sip of his coffee. 

"So," Kim echoed. 

"I'm gonna go downstairs." He stood up.

"Alex..." Kim sighed. 

"What?" He knew exactly where she was going with this. 

"What was with you last night?"

Yep, she just went there.

AJ sat back down knowing that he wasn't going to get out of talking about it, he had said that they would, after all. "Had a couple of nightmares. Well, the same one twice actually. The first time was when I was asleep on the couch, it woke me up and then I went to bed," he admitted quietly and drank more of his coffee. 

Kim was surprised that she got a straight answer out of him so quickly. "No beating around the bush this time, huh? I'm impressed."

AJ chuckled.  

"What were they about, babe?" 

"My dad. Well, he wasn't actually in them," he added. 

"What happened?" she wondered. 

"I've had the same nightmare before. Years ago, before we met."

"What is it about?"

AJ took a deep breath and slowly exhaled before answering. "I'm in the apartment that I grew up in when we moved from West Palm Beach, except that I'm in a long hallway with ten doors, five on each side. Keep in mind that I'm two or three in this." He paused before continuing. "Basically, I'm saying 'Daddy?' and calling for him over and over and opening every door, and he's not in any of them. All of the rooms are identical." He stopped again as his voice was becoming increasingly shaky with each sentence. 

"Is that all?" Kim asked with uncertainty. 

AJ swallowed to keep a lump from forming in his throat. "No. I become more upset with the more doors I open, screaming and crying for him. You know, like how Jordan would get really fussy if he was sick and he would just keep crying until he fell asleep from exhaustion."

"I remember those nights all too well," Kim mused. 

"And just before the last door is fully opened I wake up. That's it."

Kim could feel her heart breaking for her husband. "Oh, Alex...so, you haven't had these in how long?" 

"Since I went and saw my dad when I was eighteen. When I saw all of the memorabilia on the walls..."

"Alright, alright...you don't have to say anything else. It's okay. He doesn't deserve someone like you in his life."

"But it's not okay Kim! He didn't want me! Didn't give a damn about me, his own son, his only child! My mom was done with him, but I was only two! Two years old when he walked out on me!" AJ bellowed, his voice rising in anger. 

"I know, I know. You have to calm down. Just breathe. Can you think of anything that might have set this off?" 

He nodded. "I talked a lot about my dad with John yesterday." 

"That has to be it. Do you—"

"I have a lot of repressed anger inside me and he wants to try some 'expressive therapy' with me the next time that we meet."

"I know you do. And I'm glad that you don't take it out on me or Jordan, but that's not a healthy way to live, Alex, and you know that."

AJ exhaled heavily. "I know. That's why we're gonna try it and see if it helps or if I can figure out some better ways to deal with it."

"Good. You do realize that your job is kinda like it? You singing. It's like you pour your heart and soul out into every word, every note." She smiled lightly and placed her hand on top of his.

AJ locked his fingers with hers and gently kissed the back of her hand. "I love you."

"I love you," Kim echoed and rested her head on his right shoulder.

"Your headache still there?"

"Kinda," she mumbled. 

"C'mon, let's go to the couch."

AJ let Bernie back inside and the three of them went into the living room. "Are you ready for 'Take Two?'" Kim asked, wondering if this was part of his master plan to get some action.   

"No, no. Come lay down." AJ lay across the couch and Kim did as well with her head on his chest as they both placed their hands on her stomach. He kissed her temple. "Better?"

"Much," she sighed contentedly.

They were silent for quite awhile, just enjoying each other's company. Bernie had lain down on the carpet in front of the couch and was watching them.

"Baby?"

"Yeah?" AJ replied. 

Kim looked up at him. "You're not falling asleep on me are you?"

"I was just resting my eyes." He chuckled. 

"Uh-huh."

"You hungry yet?" he wondered. 

She sighed lightly. "Not really. How about you?"

AJ frowned. "Are you feeling alright? Is your headache worse?"  

"I'm just tired."

"Okay then, maybe later. Do you need anything?"  

"Just you." Kim rubbed his arm gently.

He kissed her hair. "I'm right here."

Kim looked down to her stomach. "Do you think it's a boy or girl?"

"Gumby?"

"Yeah." She smiled. 

"I don't know. It'd be nice if we had a girl, then we would have the full set."

Kim chuckled. "'The American Dream.'"

"Yeah, kinda. But if Gumby's a boy, I don't mind."

"Me neither."

"Do you wanna know when the time comes?" AJ wondered. 

"I'm not sure. I know we didn't wait when we had Jordan, but who knows how many kids we're gonna have? This could be the last one and I want to enjoy it just like I did the first time. How about you?"

He nodded. "I don't know, you know how impatient I can be. Do you wanna pick names the same way we did?"

"Maybe. We could do the reverse, like you pick the first name and I pick the middle name."

AJ smiled. "That sounds good. I like that."

"I'm glad you approve," she quipped.

"We've got time though. We don't have to make this decision right now."

"Yeah, but it doesn't hurt to get the wheels in our brains turning."

"What, are you going to check in with me to make sure I'm thinking of baby names?"

"Maybe..." Kim smirked. 

AJ laughed. "Woman, you know just how to keep me on my toes."

"One of my many talents. Ow," she winced. 

"Your head?"

She nodded and closed her eyes. "Yeah."

"Want me to get you something for it?"

"No, it's okay. I'll be fine."

"You have approved meds from Liz, right?" AJ asked, referring to her gynecologist. 

Kim nodded again. "Uh-huh. She said I can take Tylenol if I need to."

"We have some upstairs, I can go get it."  

"Just stay," she insisted.

"You know I don't like seeing you in pain."

Kim brushed it off. "It's just a headache, Alex."  

"I don't want you to get stressed out because it could stress out the baby."

She sighed knowing that she wouldn't win with him on this. "Fine."

Kim sat up and AJ stood and went upstairs into their master bathroom. He opened up their medicine cabinet and took out the Tylenol, uncapping the bottle and shaking out two capsules. He put it back and went back downstairs and into the kitchen to get Kim a bottle of water. He took his out that he drank last night and went back into the living room.

"Here you go." AJ handed her the Tylenol and water.

"Thanks." After Kim took the medicine, she relaxed against the couch.

AJ kissed her cheek. "You feel a little warm, babe."

Kim put her head on his shoulder and sighed. "I guess I do feel a little bit crappy."

AJ put his arm around her, holding her close. "If you do have a fever the Tylenol should help with that. Does anything else hurt?"

"No."

"Any other symptoms?" AJ asked. 

"Uh-uh."

"Okay. Love you."

"You, too."

"Wanna watch TV?"

"No, I kinda wanna take a nap."

"That's probably a good idea. Do you want your pillow?"

Kim shook her head. "You can just get me one from the closet."

"Alright." AJ got up and got her one and brought it to her. She lay down and he covered her with the blanket that was still on the couch from the night before. "Is that better?"

"Yeah, thanks."

AJ smiled. "No problem. Try and rest, okay?"

"Will do."

"I'll be in the office if you need me." 

"Stay with me until I fall asleep?" she asked. 

"Of course I will." He sat down on the carpet and rubbed her side in a comforting manner and she was asleep within ten minutes.
--------------

AJ looked up from the computer screen and saw Kim standing in the doorway. "Hey, you. Feeling any better?"

She shrugged. "Not really, I'm gonna go to bed. Just wanted to let you know."

"You'll be more comfortable up there, anyway. Do you need anything?"

"No."

"Alright. I was gonna order something to eat, I take it you're not hungry?"

"How'd you guess?" she asked in a sarcastic tone. "Chhshew!" she sneezed into the blanket that was wrapped around her shoulders. 

"Bless you. Come here." AJ pulled a tissue from the box that was on the desk and handed it to her. 

"Thanks."

"Go get in bed, babe, there's more Kleenex in the bathroom if you need them." He stood up to kiss her forehead. "Go on, I'll check on you in a little bit."

"Okay." She turned around and left to go upstairs. 

With a sigh, AJ sat back down and continued his work on the computer. After about fifteen minutes, he picked up the office phone to order himself some food.

"Victor's Deli & Catering," the person on the other end greeted him. 

"Hey, Bo. It's Alex."

"How are you, man? It's been a few months, you haven't come by in awhile."

"Yeah, it has. I'm doing alright, yourself?" he asked. 

"I can't complain," Bo replied.  

"That's good. I'd like to place an order for delivery."

"What would you like?"

"A Cobb salad, no avocado, with extra ranch and—what's your soup of the day?"

"Chicken noodle," he stated. 

"Perfect. I'll take a small container of that and that'll be it," AJ finished.

"That's all, okay. Your total is $11.29. It'll be about twenty minutes."

"Thanks, dude."

"Just doing my job," Bo said. 

"Who's delivering today?" AJ wondered. 

"Josh."

"Cool. Later, dude."

"Bye."

AJ hung up and went into the living room to watch TV until the food came. The doorbell rang and he got up to answer it. 

"Hey Josh."

"Hey Alex. Your total's $11.29." 

AJ took his wallet out of his back jeans pocket and gave him twenty-five dollars. "Keep the change."

Josh handed him his bag of food. "Thanks, man, have a good one."

"You, too."

AJ shut the door and took the bag into the kitchen. He took the items out and put the soup in the refrigerator. Instead of eating first, he decided to go upstairs to check on Kim. He made a pit-stop back to the office to grab an orange Post-It note and a pen before going into their bedroom.

Kim was snoring lightly with a tissue clutched in her closed fist. AJ quickly jotted a few things down on the Post-It and stuck it on the nightstand next to her where she would see it. He gently brushed some hair out of her face and checked her fever. 'She feels a bit cooler, good.' he thought with relief. He left quietly and went back downstairs to eat.

AJ was about halfway done with his salad when the house phone rang. He got up as quickly as he could to answer it so it wouldn't wake Kim up. 

"Hello?"
End Notes:
Ooh, I wonder who's calling? Stay tuned...

Please review, I appreciate any and all feedback. :)
Chapter 24 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 3/4. Here's another update! I started writing this chapter and I just couldn't stop! Here it is...!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
2:08 PM

AJ hung up the phone and ran up the stairs in a panic to get Kim. He hated to wake her, but they had to go now. He shook her awake. "Kim. Kim. Wake up."

"Where's the fire?" she murmured.

"Get your shoes on. We gotta go."

She sat up in bed. "Go where? What's going on?"

"I'll tell you when we get in the car. C'mon."

Kim knew that whatever happened or was happening was serious. "No, Alex. What happened?"

AJ didn't say anything at first as if his brain froze. 

"Hey! What's wrong?"

"Mom and Jordan...got in a car accident."

"Oh, God. My baby," Kim gasped. 

"We gotta go to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center right now. The hospital just called to get permission for Jordan to have surgery."

"Surgery? Okay. Okay. Get my shoes."

AJ hurried to the closet and brought Kim's tennis shoes back to her. He put on the left one and she put on the other one. They made sure they had everything they needed before rushing to the car.

AJ drove as fast as the speed limit would allow him to, they lived about a half-hour away from the hospital. AJ and Kim just held each others' hand the whole way until he needed to make a phone call. 

"Hey, man, what's up?"

"Brian. I need you to pray harder than you ever have in your entire life. My mom and Jordan got in a car accident. We're on our way to the hospital now. Let the others know. Please pray."

Brian was almost speechless. "I-I will. Be strong. I love you."

"You, too, bye." AJ hit "END" and took Kim's hand again.

"I'm scared, Alex."

He swallowed. "...Me too." He smoothed his thumb over her hand repeatedly. 

Once they made it to the hospital, they quickly parked in the garage and ran to the emergency room. They went up to the triage desk. 

"Excuse me, my mom and our son were in an accident. Denise Solis and Jordan McLean."

"They were both taken up to Surgery. It's on the fourth floor, someone will be able to give you more information up there," the receptionist said. 

"Thank you very much. Let's go." he said to Kim. 

They rushed to the elevators and made it to the Surgical floor. They went to the nurses' station for information but were told to go into the waiting room and that a doctor would come speak to them when Jordan or Denise were out of surgery.

The two of them were ecstatic to see a familiar face. "Dad? Oh my God, Dad!" AJ and Tony hugged, then he hugged Kim. "How long have you been here? Do you know anything about what happened?"

"About twenty minutes. Witnesses say that a Cavalier t-boned her car at an intersection downtown. The driver's side. She was turning and the guy ran a red light—Kim, you look terrible. Sit, you're dead on your feet."

"It's just a cold," Kim insisted, but sat anyway. 

Tony looked to AJ. "You, too, son." 

"I'm fine."

"It could be awhile before we get any word."

He sighed. "I'm fine."

"Alex," Kim interjected. "Sit with me."

AJ did and took her hand while Kim rested her head on his shoulder. "You tired, babe?"

"Yeah." She coughed lightly into her fist. "Did you take any Airborne this morning?"

"I did, actually," he replied quietly. 

"Good, don't want you to get this." She coughed again.

AJ kissed her hair and smoothed it. "Just relax. They'll be fine, they're fighters."

After about an hour, a doctor in blue scrubs came into the waiting room. "Mr. Solis?"

He stood and shook his hand. "Hello, Doctor. This my step-son Alex and his wife Kim. How is she?"

"Mr. Solis—"

"Please, call me Tony."

"I'm Dr. Robert Jarnowski, I'm the Chief of Surgery who operated on your wife. She came in with serious injuries. Fractured ribs, lacerated bladder, spleen, and liver. Her left femur is also broken, which we had to surgically stabilize. We were able to repair the damage, but she lost a lot of blood. She's being taken to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit, you'll be able to see her soon."

"And Jordan?"

"He's still in surgery. I'll find out what his status is and let you all know."

Tony shook his hand again and AJ stood to shake the doctor's hand as well. "Thank you, Doctor," AJ said. 

"You're very welcome. You all sit tight now." He left and AJ sat back down with his head in his hands. He let out a big sigh. It was now Kim's turn to comfort her husband. She rubbed his back. 

AJ was shaking his head in disbelief at the whole situation, it all happened so fast. "I can't lose her. I can't lose him. Oh, God. Dad, did you call my uncle Bill?"

"As soon as I got word of the accident."

"Is he flying out here?" Denise's brother Bill still lived in Florida where AJ was born and raised.  

"Yeah, the first flight available."

"Okay." AJ took a deep breath and exhaled. "Okay."

Dr. Jarnowski came back into the waiting room around fifteen minutes later. "Alex. Kim."

They both stood. 

"The surgeons are finishing up right now on Jordan."

"He's okay?" Kim asked.  

"Dr. Romero will be in to talk to both of you soon."

"Thank you so much," Kim said. 

"Just doing my job. I'm going to go check on Denise right now, excuse me."

He left again and the three of them waited for the doctor to come speak to them about Jordan.

"One down," AJ said. "one to go." He started to pace the floor by his chair, he was too nervous to sit. 

Tony put a hand on his shoulder. "Alex. He'll be alright."

"I know he will." AJ continued to pace until the doctor came.

"Mr. and Mrs. McLean. I'm Dr. Nicole Romero. I'm the pediatric surgeon on-call." They both shook her hand. 

"I'm Kim and you spoke with Alex on the phone earlier. How is he? How's my baby boy?" Kim asked anxiously. 

"He's stable." 

"Oh, thank God," Kim breathed. 

"He has a broken left arm and will have to be in a cast for about six weeks. We needed your husband's permission to perform an exploratory laporotomy to check for internal bleeding and other injuries because he had some bruising on his abdomen. He has a few bruised left ribs and a lacerated spleen, but the damage to it was very severe, so, we had to remove it. Luckily, no other organs were damaged. I'm sure that he's in better condition than your mother is right now. He is being taken to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit as we speak for observation. He's very lucky."

"Intensive care? Is he going to be alright?" AJ wondered. 

"It's just for precaution. His prognosis is good, he did very well. I can take you up to see him right now."

"Dad, you go to the SICU to be with Mom. I'll be there in a little bit," AJ said. 

"Okay." They hugged and AJ and Kim went with Dr. Romero to the PICU. 

"Now since this is an ICU, I'll need to take some blood from both of you to make sure that you're not carrying any infections that may harm your son or any of the other patients in this ward. Let me assure you that this standard procedure for all family members."

Kim spoke up. "Um, I have a little bit of a cold. Is that bad?"

"When did it start?"

"T-today," she answered. 

"Hm, you're contagious. I don't think that you'll be allowed in."

"You mean to tell me that my little boy is in there, just out of surgery after he was in a serious car accident and I can't even go in there because of a cold? That's my son, I'm his mother for God's sake!" Kim bellowed. 

AJ held his wife close. "Hey. Hey. Just calm down, okay? You don't need to stress out, that's not going to help Jordan any, now, will it?"

"No," she said, feeling a bit ashamed. 

"Are you sure, Doctor? There isn't any way that she'll be allowed in if she's sick?"

"I'm afraid not. It's hospital policy," Dr. Romero replied. "I'm very sorry. If there was any other way, I would allow it. But I just can't, we can't take any risks with this."

AJ looked at Kim. "We understand, Doctor, thank you."

"You can come with me so a nurse can draw some blood and we'll get the results to you ASAP so you can be with your son, okay?"

"I have a fear of needles, but alright. Baby, I'll be right back, just sit down and relax." AJ kissed her forehead and went with the doctor.

She led him to an exam room and opened the door. "Here we are. Wait in here and a nurse will be with you in a few minutes."

AJ stepped inside the room and sat down on a plastic chair. He took a deep breath as he was getting more nervous and his hands were starting to get clammy. 

The door opened and a young nurse in pink scrubs walked in. "Hi, Mr. McLean, I'm Chloe and I'm here to take some blood from you for testing."

AJ stood to shake her hand. "Call me Alex." He sat back down. 

"Of course, Alex. Well, let's get this over with, now, shall we?"

"Let's."

"Roll up your sleeve for me," Chloe said. 

AJ did. "I have a fear of needles."

"With all of these tattoos? I don't believe it."

"Yep, it's not something I'm proud of, that's for sure," he said with a nervous laugh.

Chloe tied a rubber tourniquet around AJ's arm and tapped the vein on his inner forearm.  

"Just look away and don't move, okay? Take a deep breath and relax."

AJ did as he was told. 

"A slight pinch," she announced as she introduced the needle into his vein. 

AJ winced a little bit, but in about five seconds it was removed. She applied gauze to the puncture site. "Keep pressure on that," Chloe said as she untied the tourniquet. "All done. That wasn't too bad."

"Not at all."

Chloe taped the gauze onto his arm. "Your results should be back within the hour. You can go now."

AJ stood and went to the door. "Thank you."

"No problem, I'm sorry about your mom and son. It must be hard."

AJ just nodded, left the room, and went back to Kim. "Hey, babe." He sat down next to her. 

"I wanna see him, he needs me."

AJ frowned. "I know, but you can't. Doctor's orders."

Kim buried her face into his chest. "But he needs me. To sing to him. If I'm not there when he wakes up..."

"I'll have to be doing that for the both of us this time."

"But you don't know Spanish," she protested. 

"But I can sing."

She sighed and stifled a sneeze onto his shoulder. "Ugh. Sorry."

"Bless you. Don't worry about it, here." He passed her a tissue from the small box that they took from the surgical waiting room.

"Thanks." She sniffled into it and tossed it into a small trash can a few feet away from where they were sitting. "Perfect timing, huh?" Kim said with a bitter edge to her voice. 

AJ looked at her. "Hey. None of this is, but my mother and our son are going to pull through this like we know that they can, right? We're gonna make it though this?"

Kim nodded slowly. 

"Exactly."

AJ's blood test results came back about thirty minutes later. "Alex, your blood work checks out. Your white blood cell count is normal and there are no signs of infection present. All we need to do now is take your temperature and if that's normal, you can go in and see Jordan."

AJ exhaled a breath that he felt like he'd been holding forever. "Thank God."

Dr. Romero took his temperature with an ear thermometer. "98.5. You're fine. Go in there and wash your hands and arms thoroughly in that station."

"Can someone stay with my wife? I don't want her to be alone."

"Of course. Chloe?"

The nurse that had drawn AJ's blood earlier walked up to them from down the hall. "Alex, so we meet again."

"She took my blood for a sample," AJ said, informing Kim of how the nurse recognized him.

"Oh."

AJ kissed Kim's forehead. "I will be right back, okay? I love you."

"I love you, too," she echoed, feeling herself start to tear up. 

He gently wiped them off of her cheeks with his thumb. "It's okay, I'll be right back, do you hear me?"

She nodded and he kissed her again. 

"Okay then." AJ and Dr. Romero turned around and went through the first set of doors in the PICU. He scrubbed his hands and arms with a sponge-type pad that would lather with soap when wet. He dried himself off and went through the next set of doors, being very careful not to touch anything.

"He's in the last bed, right there," she told him and pointed to it.  

All AJ could hear were the sounds of heart monitors beeping steadily, respirators whooshing rhythmically as they helped their little owners to breathe, and the chatter of the other doctors and nurses as they hustled and bustled around the department. 

"Thank you."

AJ walked to his son's bedside. He looked like he was asleep. "He'll be coming out of the anesthesia soon. If you need anything, don't hesitate to let me know," Dr. Romero said and walked away. 

AJ looked upon his little boy with great sadness filling his heart. There he was, so small, so fragile. He was slightly pale with a few bandages on his face from minor cuts and abrasions, there was oxygen being pumped from a tank near by that was being given by nasal cannula into his nose that was wrapped around his little ears. Under the blanket he was sure that Jordan was hooked up to an IV to give him fluids or whatever he needed. He had a blue cast on his left arm that extended just above his elbow, his favorite color. AJ took his hand and held his son's fingers, not ever wanting to let go as he repeatedly recited a Spanish nursery rhyme to him for Kim:

Sana, sana
Colita de rana.
Si no sanas hoy, 
Sanarás mañana...
End Notes:
The nursery rhyme at the end is called "Sana, Sana." My high school Spanish II and III teacher made us sing and memorize all sorts of Spanish rhymes and songs and that is one of many of them. Here is the English translation:

Heal, heal,
little tail of the frog.
If you don't heal today,
you'll heal tomorrow.

Please leave a review to let me know your opinions on this situation!
Chapter 25 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 3/12. Here's another update, I hope you all like it. :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
4:50 PM

AJ was still holding Jordan's fingers as he looked at his heart monitor, the green line that represented his heart rhythm rose and fell in a seemingly endless cycle. He watched as the numbers on the screen changed at random intervals as his son's steady breathing was heard.  

"...Daddy?" a small voice called out. 

AJ immediately looked down to see Jordan's big brown eyes staring up at him. "Hey, buddy. You had me so worried. Did you have a good nap?" he asked him quietly.  

"Is Grammy okay?" Jordan wondered. 

AJ nodded once. "Yeah, she's okay. Do you hurt anywhere?"

"Not really." He paused. "Is she hurt bad?"

AJ didn't want to completely lie to Jordan, so he told him what he thought he could handle. "A little bit, yeah, but she's gonna be fine. Grandpa's with her, so, she isn't by herself."

"Oh. Where's Mommy?"

"She's outside in the hallway," AJ answered gently. 

"Why?"

"Because they only let a certain number of us in here with you at a time. You're in here so that all of the doctors can take special care of you." 

Jordan looked around the ward and saw all of the other children in beds, some that were younger, some were approximately the same age as he was, and some that were older than him. "Is everyone else here hurt, too?"

"Yes, some are hurt and some are very sick, but they're here to get all better."

"When's Mommy coming?"

AJ sighed and squeezed his son's fingers tighter. "Jordan, the truth is that...Mommy can't come in here for a little awhile."

Jordan lip started to quiver. "Why, Daddy? Doesn't she miss me?" 

AJ's heart sunk. "Of course she does, J, she loves and misses you very much. But Mommy's sick, and this place has special rules. Mommy's not allowed to come in here until she feels better so she doesn't get you sick, understand?"

"I want Mommy." A tear slipped down his cheek.

"I know, but she can't come in here right now."

"I want Mommy!" he demanded a bit louder and started to cry. He repeated that phrase over and over without ceasing as he sobbed. 

AJ let go of Jordan's fingers and scooted his chair closer to the bed and stroked his brown curls to try to console him. "Shhh, shhh, shhh, shhh. Hey, hey. It's okay, buddy, it's okay. I know you do. Believe me, Daddy wishes that she could be here, too."

He continued to cry for a few more minutes until Dr. Romero came up to Jordan's bed. "What's with the waterworks, sport? You okay?"

"I want," he sniffled, "my mommy."

She just looked at AJ with a small frown. 

"Are you sure that there's no way my wife can come in here? I don't want him to get more upset."

"I'm sorry, I really am. I wish there was something more that I could do," she apologized sincerely. 

"What if she wore one of those things—a surgical mask over her face so she wouldn't spread anything around?"

She didn't answer but motioned for him to come with her so they wouldn't discuss this in front of Jordan. 

"Please? I don't think we can deny him much longer, she always sings to him when he's sick or hurt. How can you keep a mother away from her child?" 

Dr. Romero looked at him with great pity and couldn't blame him for being frustrated with the situation. "I'm very sorry, truly I am. As I told you and your wife before, it's hospital policy. I can't bend or break the rules, I could lose my job. As long as he's in here and she's infectious, she can't see him. There's nothing I can do. I'm sorry, Mr. McLean, that's my final word."

AJ sighed heavily. "I understand, Doctor, and call me Alex, please." He walked back over to his son's bed. "Jordan, I'm gonna go talk to Mommy for a little bit, okay? I'll be back soon, be good."

"Okay," he said. 

AJ got up, kissed Jordan's cheek, and exited the PICU. 

"Alex, how is he?" Kim demanded as they hugged. 

"He's okay, he's been asking for you. He's pretty upset."

"I hate this, I want to see him."

"I know you do, but you can't." AJ was so hurt; that was last thing he wanted to tell her.

"I wanna see him, damn it! That's my son in there!" Kim repeated. She was just as furious, if not more than AJ was over the issue. 

AJ sighed and hugged her more tightly. "I know, I tried to talk with Dr. Romero, but she won't budge. This is just horrible timing, how are you feeling, babe?"

"I'm actually more tired and anxious than anything else. I just wanna see Jordan."

"Well, maybe your cold won't get too bad. You need to eat though, let's go to the cafeteria and grab a bite."

"I'm not really very hungry," she protested, not wanting to leave where Jordan was even if she couldn't be with him.  

"Kim, you're sick and pregnant. You have to eat. C'mon."

"Fine," Kim conceded and the two of them went up to get some dinner.

"Alex! Kim!"

AJ turned around at the sound of his name to see Tony sitting at a table by himself with some food. They both took their trays and went over to sit down with him. "Hey, Dad, how's Mom?"

"She's in a lot of pain and is resting right now. She's been asking about Jordan and wants to see you. She's feeling pretty guilty about the accident."

"Damn, I would've been there sooner but I went and saw Jordan up in the Pediatric ICU. I had blood taken for testing and everything before I could go in. Kim's not allowed to see him."

"Because of her cold?" he pressed. 

"Yeah," Kim said. 

"Oh, man, that's horrible. I'm sorry."

"Yeah." Kim paused to cough a few times. "I'm fine." She assured them and opened the plastic container in front of her before taking a bite of her turkey sandwich.

"Yeah, so fine that you aren't even allowed to see your injured son in the hospital," AJ scoffed lightly.

Kim glared at him. "Do you honestly think that I want it to be this much more complicated? I would have given anything to be in there with our son—"

"Alright, alright. Settle down, you two, relax. You do not want to fight right now, not here. Eat," Tony interjected.  

"But, we're not—"

"Just eat, Alexander," he sighed.

AJ started eating his Subway sandwich as instructed by his step-father and the three of them were quiet for a few minutes. 

Tony was the first to break the silence, he could feel the tension that they exuded due to this stressful situation. "How is Jordan doing?"  

AJ wiped his mouth with a napkin set it down before he spoke. "He's okay, he told me that he wasn't in much pain. That must be some good morphine that they have him on." He chuckled lightly. "He asked about Mom, but he really wants to see Kim. He got all upset, crying and everything."

"The poor little guy," Tony said with sympathy. 

"Yeah."

"Wait, he was crying for me?" Kim asked her husband. 

"Yeah," AJ repeated quietly.

"My poor baby, was he scared?"

"I don't think so, he never mentioned being afraid. I was with him when he woke up and that is what's important."

Kim agreed. "Right, I would have hated for him to wake up alone in a strange place."

"Yeah. Well, I'm done. Dad, what floor is the SICU on?" AJ asked as he stood.

"You hardly ate anything," Tony noticed.

"Yeah, well I can eat later. Save the rest of it for me."

Kim wasn't having that. "Wait, how is that fair to me? You're the one who made me come up here and you're not even staying?"  

"I wanna go see my mom if that's okay with you, Kim. You know, the one that was in the car accident with our son? Which floor, Dad?" AJ asked again, getting more impatient by the second.

Tony sighed, he really wished that they wouldn't fight at a time like this. "Fourth, same as where we waited for news."

"I'll be back in a little bit then." He turned to leave the cafeteria.

"I don't know if they'll let you in though," Tony added. 

AJ immediately rotated back around. "Why not? I'm her son."

"They have a strict visiting policy. One visitor at a time for five minutes every hour."

"Wow. Did you visit this hour?" AJ hoped that he didn't. 

"Nope considering it's a quarter after five. It's all yours."

"Okay. Stay with Kim." He turned to her. "I'll be back, okay?"

"Sure," she replied with almost no emotion in her voice. 

With that, AJ set off to find an elevator and went down to the fourth floor. He stopped at the desk outside of the SICU to see if there were any precautions he needed to take before entering. "Hi, I'm here to see a patient, my mom. Denise Solis."

"And you are...?" the receptionist asked as if she hadn't heard what he said seconds ago. 

AJ inwardly rolled his eyes. "Denise Solis' son, Alex McLean, I'd like to see her, please."

"Can I see your ID?"

"Sure." AJ took his wallet out of his back jeans pocket and flipped it open to show her his driver's license. 

"Okay, thank you. Are you aware of this department's visitor policy?" she asked as AJ put his wallet away. 

"Sort of, one visitor for five minutes per hour."

"Right, you'll also have to wash your hands and arms for three minutes and put on a sterile gown before entering."

"Okay."

The receptionist pointed to the scrub station just past the first set of doors in the SICU. "Just go right in there to get started."

"Thank you very much."

AJ read what was on the glass doors before pushing a button to open them: ONLY MEDICAL PERSONNEL AND IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS ARE ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT.

He stepped up to the sink and took a soap pad, wetting it and washing his hands and arms for three minutes as instructed by the receptionist out in the hall. A nurse was there to help him into his pale yellow gown and he backed into the last set of doors that brought him to the interior of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. 

It looked a lot like the department that Jordan was currently in, all it was really missing were the murals of various animals and rainbows along the walls. 

AJ gasped softly when he saw his mother in a bed a few feet from him. He walked quietly to her side and sat before taking her hand, being careful of the IV needle and tubing that extended from it to a bag filled with clear fluid that hung from a stand next to the bed. 

"Excuse me, are you family?" a young nurse asked from the foot of Denise's hospital bed.  

AJ looked up at her. 'She can't be a day over twenty-five.' he speculated. "Yes, I'm her son, Alex."

"Ah, she's been asking for you. Your step-father Tony has been sitting with her. Sorry, I'm Melissa. I'll be caring for your mom until my shift ends at midnight."

"Hi."

"I'm sorry to hear that Jordan was in the accident as well. I hope he's okay."

"How do you know—you're a fan?"

"Yeah, kinda." She blushed a bit. 

"Well, thanks."

"Let me know if you need anything, Dr. Jarnowski will be in to see your mom soon." She walked off to attend to a patient a few beds down. 

AJ turned his attention back to Denise. She looked much worse than Jordan. She had significant bruising on the left side of her face and he could tell that her broken leg was in a cast. 

"Alex...?" Denise had opened her eyes slightly and was looking up at him. 

"Yeah, it's me. I'm here." He squeezed her fingers a bit tighter as a tear slipped down his cheek, but he quickly wiped it away with his left hand. 

"I'm so sorry, Alex, so sorry..."

"Shhh, shhh. It wasn't your fault, Mom. Jordan's okay, he's gonna be fine."

"But I was driving, I should've been more careful."

"No, no, it wasn't your fault. We'll press charges on the guy who caused the accident. But let's not worry about that right now, okay?"

"I'm sorry," she repeated. 

"You've got nothing to be sorry for, please don't take the blame for this. No one blames you for what happened, we're all just glad that you're both okay," AJ assured her gently. 

"And Jordan?" she wondered anxiously. 

"He had to get his spleen removed and he's got some bruised ribs and a broken arm, but, he'll be fine. I promise."

Denise sighed as her eyes closed again. "I'm so tired, Alex..."

"It's okay, it's just the medicine. You need your rest."

"I love you...always."

"You too, Mom, I love you." He bent down to kiss the back of her hand gently. 

AJ watched her sleep for what seemed like a minute before Melissa came up to the bed. "Um, Mr. McLean? Your five minutes are up. You need to go now."

"Call me Alex. And thank you." He stood and sighed heavily. "You'll let us know if there are any changes?"

"Of course, you can visit again in an hour," she said with a light smile. 

"Thanks." AJ walked over to a hazardous waste bin and stripped himself of his sterile gown before exiting the SICU and walking down the hallway. 

With another heavy sigh, he turned a corner and sunk to the floor against the wall with his head in his hands. The reality of the situation finally hit him like a ton of bricks as he sobbed quietly for things to be like they were just hours ago. Why couldn't it have been some other family, someone else's life that was flipped upside down? He didn't understand it. He was finally trying to fix his issues and it felt like everything was falling apart again. 

None of them would ever be the same after this.
End Notes:
Don't forget to leave a review, your positive comments keep me going! :D
Chapter 26 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 3/19. Here's one more chapter...

Thursday, May 29, 2008
12:21 AM

After an exhausting and draining day at the hospital, AJ, Kim, Tony, and AJ's uncle Bill all went to AJ's home to get some sleep for the night before they would return to see Denise and Jordan in the morning. Bill had flown in from Orlando at 7:30 and took a cab to the hospital. AJ and Kim had invited him and Tony to stay with them as long as needed, so their house was more full than normal. 

AJ, however, wasn't asleep. He was woken up by the same nightmare he'd had the night before about his dad. He didn't want to risk having it again, so, he didn't go back to sleep right away. Instead, he went downstairs to the bar and took a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey and a glass filled with ice into his studio. He was not in the mood to be interrupted and he didn't know if the bottle would be empty or not when he was finished.

AJ took a seat at his small table and opened it, pouring the amber-colored liquid over the small ice cubes. He rose to the glass to his lips and took a sip before drinking half of its contents. "Ah..." he sighed and set the glass down and began to flip through his journal to the next available blank page and began to write. 

5/29/08

So...the worst has happened. Mom and Jordan got in a car accident yesterday afternoon. Some asshole t-boned her car at an intersection downtown and they were seriously hurt. They're both in the hospital at Cedars-Sinai and I'm worried sick. God knows that I do not need this right now. None of us do, but life is full of curve balls and I've currently swung and missed, haha. Oh, that's not funny...


AJ couldn't help but laugh to himself and drink the remaining whiskey in the glass. He poured a refill and continued to scribble on the page. 

Damn. As if things couldn't possibly get any worse, Kim's sick with a cold and because of that she hasn't been able to see Jordan. He's in the Pediatric ICU for observation and the doctors say that as long as nothing continues to go wrong (knock on wood), he'll be moved to the regular Pediatric ward in the morning. I feel so bad for Kim, my poor girl. She's only been able to see him from a video that I took on my phone for her. She cried a little bit and just held her and tried to comfort her. She slept on the way home at 10 and went right upstairs to bed after saying goodnight to Tony and my uncle Bill who flew in from Florida. I hope she feels better in the morning.

AJ put his pen down and drank some more whiskey. He gasped for air as his chest began to ache and he rubbed it to try to ease it. He quickly finished the glass and poured another.  

Mom's hurt worse than Jordan and the poor thing blames herself for what happened. I won't let her do that. I can't. The guilt will destroy her and it's not her fault anyway. The bastard who hurt them is gonna pay big time. I refuse to pay Jordan's hospital bill and I'm gonna make sure mom or Tony don't pay for hers either until justice is served. 

This is so stressful for all of us. When I saw my mom in that hospital bed, I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest. Same as when I saw my little boy. I love my family more than anything in this world. Without them by my side I would have nothing, I would be nothing.

Unfortunately, my two best friends at the moment are the bottle of Jack and the ice-cold glass sitting in front of me.  

We'll get through this, but I don't know what scars will remain and that's what terrifies me...I just want them to be okay. I need them both.


AJ didn't realize he was crying until he saw a tear fall on the page. He closed his journal and pushed it to the side before wiping his face and taking another drink. The tears kept coming and he put his head down on the table and just tried to breathe through the pain. Suddenly feeling drained of energy and emotion, he sat up and swallowed some more Jack and filled the glass again after a few minutes of sitting in silence. God...he felt like he'd experienced enough silence yesterday to last a lifetime and here he was, alone in a house full of his loved ones. But two of them were missing...

As soon as that thought passed through his mind he broke down. His wall crumbled to dust and he was left weakened on his own, left for dead in his own misery. He tried all day, every day to be strong, God knows he did. But he was just too tired to fight it tonight. He threw back another glass of whiskey and slammed it down hard on the table, hearing the ice cubes rattle as his slightly trembling fingers reached for the bottle again. AJ took a long look at the otherwise empty glass in front of him and glanced at its counterpart. 'Why in the hell am I doing this? This can't be right, I'm no drunk...am I?'

AJ had enough, he pushed the glass away and stood up. With a sigh he went back to the bar and put everything in its place. After that was done he rushed into the bathroom next to his studio to go throw up in the toilet. He felt so disgusted with himself for acting like this. He couldn't keep sneaking around on Kim and his family, it ultimately wouldn't end well. If it didn't stop now, there's no telling when or if it would. AJ went upstairs into the kitchen to sip on some water to help settle his stomach before going back to bed. It was just past one in the morning and he figured that it was in his best interest to try to sleep while he felt tired.

AJ listened to Kim snore but otherwise sleep peacefully beside him, she never really snored unless her sinuses were congested. He just hoped that this cold wouldn't require a doctor's visit, last time she developed a sinus infection and those were a miserable few weeks for her. Kim promised him that she would take some medicine before bed so hopefully it would work its magic before morning. She could get really cranky when sick and he knew very well that no one wanted to be on the receiving end of that. 

AJ heard her cough and felt her roll over toward him. He reached over to touch Kim's face gently to check her fever, finding it to be a bit sweaty but not very hot at all. She whimpered softly at his touch and he quickly jerked his hand back as not to wake her. Even in the darkness he noticed that she had kicked off the blankets and sat up to find the end. He covered her back up to her waist so she wouldn't be chilled if she woke up and he laid back down knowing that they all had another long day ahead of them at the hospital.
---------------

6:51 AM

AJ let out a big yawn as he walked into his kitchen to find his step-father and uncle already awake. "Mornin'." he mumbled and went to the fridge.

"Kim still asleep?" Tony asked. 

"Yeah, I'm letting her sleep longer. She needs the rest." He took out the coffee creamer and walked over to the coffee pot. 

"Right. Did you sleep okay?"

AJ took a coffee mug from the cabinet above him and poured himself some. "Eventually, yeah. How about you two?"

"Once I got to sleep, I was fine," Tony replied. 

"Your beds aren't half bad, nephew," Bill commented. 

AJ turned around with his coffee and leaned against the counter. "Good. Are you guys hungry? I make a great omelette."

Tony shook his head. "Not really, I'll just have some toast."

Bill nodded. "I'll have what he's having."

"Toast it is, then." AJ plugged in the toaster and took out some bread and put it in, pushing the lever until the bread popped back up, doing so a few times until there was enough for each of them. "There's stuff to put on it in the fridge." He walked over to it and opened the door. "We've got butter, margarine, strawberry jelly, apricot jelly, orange marmalade, honey. There's peanut butter around here somewhere. Take your pick."

"No grape jelly?" Bill wondered.

AJ chuckled. "Nope, none of us like it." He took a bunch of things out and set them on the island for them to choose from. He went back to the counter, grabbed some butter knives, put the stack of toasted bread on a plate, and brought it to them. "Dig in." He went back again for his coffee mug and some plates before joining them. 

The three of them ate in silence for a few minutes until Kim walked in wearing a pair of AJ's plaid lounge pants and one of his big white t-shirts with her hair tied up in a messy bun. "Het'chishhew! Ugh, g'morning, boys." she greeted them and sat down on a stool next to AJ.  

They blessed her and AJ kissed her cheek. "Good morning, my love." 

"How're you feeling, sweetheart?" Tony asked her sympathetically.  

"Like hell," she replied gravely. 

"Sorry. You're feverish, did you take your temperature?" he asked as he felt her forehead. 

"Yeah, it's 100.4. That's not—Het'chew! Het'CHISH! Ugh! Too bad." she finished and blew her nose with a tissue she brought from upstairs. 

AJ got up and retrieved a box of Kleenex from the living room and set it in front of her. "Here, are you hungry?"

"Uh-uh, you can shoot be though if you want to, but be good little boys and take turns." Kim coughed several times into her fist and rested her head on the cool granite surface. "Is there coffee?" she mumbled. 

"Yes, but you're having orange juice. No coffee for you," AJ said and stood to get her some. 

"No fair, if I want coffee I'll have coffee—"

"But you don't drink yours black and the cream won't help with your congestion, babe," AJ reminded her gently from the refrigerator and brought her a glass of the orange liquid. 

"Right, I forgot. On second thought, I guess I'll have some toast..." Bill pushed the plate of bread toward her and she buttered a piece and squirted some honey on it from a bottle before taking a bite. "I wish I could taste it, ha."

AJ leaned over to kiss her hair. "Take a hot shower after you finish eating, it'll wake you up and you'll feel better afterwards, okay?"

"You're sickeningly sweet, do you know that?" She laughed. "Stop it," Kim said. 

"What can I say? I'm a nurturer at heart. You know you love it," he smirked.

Kim rolled her eyes and continued to eat. When she was finished, she took AJ's advice and went upstairs to take a shower. 

"Do you guys need anything? I'm gonna go work out and shower before we leave," AJ said as he put his coffee mug in the sink after he rinsed it out. He then went to the fridge and took out a bottle of water.  

"No, we're fine," Bill replied. 

"Alright, I'll be down the hall next to the office." AJ left the kitchen and went into his workout room that had all of the equipment he needed.

AJ grabbed a white towel and changed into some black track pants, a white wifebeater and a pair of Nike running shoes. He stretched his muscles before wrapping some white tape around his hands. He picked up his iPod and walked over to his Everlast punching bag that hung in the farthest corner from the door and took a few deep breaths while closing his eyes to focus himself. He opened them, put his headphones in, and swung at the black bag with his right fist before repeating the action with his left. His jabs increased with speed and intensity over the ten minutes that he hit the bag, just concentrating his frustration and energy on the very center of the bag; his target so to speak. 

After wiping the sweat off of his face and neck with a towel, AJ went over to his treadmill and stepped on it. He turned it on to a low speed with no incline and walked for a few minutes before increasing the speed and incline and jogged for awhile. A few minutes passed and he removed his wifebeater, feeling the sweat accumulate on his forehead and chest as he put his headphones back in and continued to run. 

AJ saw Kim walk past the door but she quickly turned around and said something AJ didn't hear. He took one headphone out but still kept his pace on the treadmill. "What was that, babe?"

"I said, 'You look hot,'" she repeated with a light smile and came into the room. 

"Ha, yeah right. I'm all sweaty and gross, how can I possibly look attractive right now?" AJ turned off the treadmill and stepped off of it, he grabbed the towel and wiped more sweat off of himself and kissed Kim's cheek. "Did the shower help?" he asked her and rubbed her back. 

"Yeah, it helped me relax and you can kind of understand me now," she chuckled, then coughed away from him. 

AJ's forehead creased with concern and he kissed her hair. "I'm gonna go shower real quick and then we'll leave for the hospital, okay?"

"Okay."

AJ picked up his discarded shirt and left the room. He walked past the kitchen and upstairs to toss the dirty items into a laundry basket in his closet. He took some clothes into the master bathroom and got in the shower. He relaxed under the hot water for a few minutes before washing and rinsing himself off. He changed clothes and got ready and everyone went in AJ's Porsche to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to visit Denise and Jordan.
-------------------

8:13 AM

"Good morning. How are all of you?" Dr. Romero asked as she walked by them in the hallway as they waited for another doctor to give them a form to sign so that Jordan could be moved out of the PICU and into a regular pediatric room. 

"I'm doing okay," AJ said. 

"I've been better," Kim replied with a sigh. 

"Right, I hope you feel better. Well, I've got a surgery in ten minutes. Can I come by and see Jordan later when he's settled in his new room?"

"Of course you can," AJ replied. 

"I guess I'll see you around then." She walked off down the hallway. 

A few minutes later, a PICU doctor had them sign a form and Jordan was moved out of the department. AJ, Kim, Bill, and Tony followed as a nurse pushed him in a wheelchair down the hall to his new room. He winced slightly as AJ helped him into the bed because of his bruised ribs. "There. Better?"

Jordan nodded as Kim came over to his bedside and tears began to form in her eyes. "I missed my baby boy. Did you miss me?"

Jordan nodded again and yawned. 

"Hey, it's still early in the morning. You can go back to sleep, okay? I love you." 

Jordan closed his eyes and his breathing slowed as he drifted off.

AJ gave her a squeeze as she held Jordan's hand and went outside the room to talk with Bill and Tony who were sitting outside the room in chairs. "Let her have a few minutes," he said quietly and could hear Kim singing to their son as he slept. 

"Of course," Tony replied. 

AJ sat down on the chair closest to the door with a sigh and just listened to Kim sing to Jordan:

Duérmete, mi niño,
duérmete solito,
que cuando despiertes
te daré atolito.

Duérmete, mi niño,
duérmete, mi sol,
duérmete pedazo 
de mi corazón...


"Do you have any idea what she's saying?" Bill asked AJ. 

He shrugged. "Not really, I can only make out a couple of words."

"Well, it's beautiful regardless," Bill added. 

AJ smiled. "Yeah, it is."
End Notes:
The Spanish nursery rhyme at the end is called "Duérmete Mi Niño". Here is the English translation:

Sleep my boy,
Sleep by yourself,
For when you awaken
I will give you cream corn soup.

Sleep my boy,
Sleep my sun,
Sleep piece
Of my heart.

Everybody say it now. Awww...

Thanks for reading and please leave a review! :D
Chapter 27 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 3/29. I'm back with another update, it's quite a long chapter. I hope you all enjoy it... :)

The big section in italics is a flashback.

Friday, May 30, 2008
9:16 PM

"Are you coming to bed, Alex?" Kim asked him. They were both standing in their living room after returning from the hospital a few minutes before. Bill and Tony had retired to their rooms, it had been another long day for all involved.

"Actually, I was gonna stay up for awhile and wind down for a bit," AJ answered hesitantly, wondering how she would react. 

"I just don't wanna be alone upstairs," Kim said quietly and sniffled. 

"Aw, baby, come here." He held her close and rubbed her back. "Tell you what, why don't you go upstairs and change and I'll make you some tea? We can chill down here for a while before we go to bed if you want to."

"Okay." She turned away and coughed a few times into her fist. "Ugh, I hate this. I feel like crap."

AJ gave her a squeeze and let her go. "Sorry, babe, you know I'd change places with you if I could. Go on, change and come back down and we can get comfortable. We need to relax, it's been a rough few days."

"Yeah, that sounds good." She left the room and went upstairs and AJ went into the kitchen to get started on the tea. He took a saucepan and filled it with tap water from the sink and put it on the stove. He turned it to a medium-low heat and went upstairs to change clothes as well.

"You okay in there, babe?" AJ called out as he was in his closet pulling on some sweatpants. 

"Fine—het'chew! Het'CHISH!"

"Bless—"

"'CHISH!!"

"You," AJ finished as he walked in on Kim blowing her nose into a tissue.

She noticed him wince at the sound she made and quickly threw it away. "You're such a baby; it's just snot."

"If my memory serves me right, which it normally does, you're not exactly the best puke cleaner, missy," AJ countered with a smirk. 

Kim just stuck her tongue out at him and pulled on another one of AJ's over-sized white cotton t-shirts. "I'm changed. What, no shirt?"

"Nah," AJ shrugged.

"Just don't burn yourself on the stove, okay? We don't need anymore accidents."

"Kim," he sighed.

"Sorry, let's just go downstairs."

"Do you wanna take some Tylenol or something?"

"No, I will before bed," Kim replied.

"Okay."

The two of them left the room and AJ went back into the kitchen. "Do you need anything, babe?"

"I'm fine," Kim answered.

"Alright, just checking," he said as he dropped slices of fresh ginger root into the now simmering pot of water. 

She changed her mind a few seconds later. "Actually, could you get me a blanket? I'm cold."

"Of course," AJ went upstairs and got a spare blanket from their bedroom and brought it to her. He covered her up with it. "There you go."

"Thanks."

"No problem, the tea should be done in a few minutes." AJ went back into the kitchen to finish it up and brought her a mug of the steaming liquid. "I wasn't sure if you wanted honey in it or not, so it's just got lemon."

"Ginger tea, right?" she guessed.

"Of course."

Kim breathed in the steam for a few minutes before taking a few small sips of it. "It's good."

"Good. Anything on TV?"

She shrugged. "Not really."

AJ took the remote and flipped through the channels until he came across Family Guy on TBS. "Yes, Family Guy's on! Score!"

Kim rolled her eyes at her husband's excitement. "You are so weird."

"What? This is my favorite show, you know this."

"That I do." She set her mug down and snuggled up close to him. "Love you."

"You, too." AJ put his arm around her. "We can watch something else if you want," he suggested quietly. 

"No, it's okay, I—" she assured him as he turned on the channel guide and looked at the shows that were on at the moment. "Ooh, Maid in Manhattan is on...do you mind?"

AJ chuckled softly. "Not at all." He changed the channel and put the movie on. "Make sure you drink all of that, don't let it get cold."

"Alright." Kim picked her mug back up and took another sip of tea. She moved close to AJ again and the two of them paid attention to the TV. They were both silent for the most part except for the occasional cough or sniffle from Kim.

"I heard that," AJ smirked around forty-five minutes later. 

"...Heard what?" Kim mumbled as she stifled another yawn with the least amount of movement required.

"I'm not deaf. Or blind for that matter. Let's go to bed, hm?" He turned the TV off and stood, stretching his arms above his head. "Come on, we've got another long day tomorrow and you definitely need your sleep." 

"Okay." Kim stood as well and picked up her empty mug. 

"I'll take that for you, I'll be up in a minute." AJ kissed her cheek and went to the kitchen. He put the mug in the dishwasher and took a water bottle out of the refrigerator and went upstairs into their bedroom. Kim was sitting on their bed and was about to get under the covers. "I got you some water for the Tylenol, I'll get it." By the time AJ came back from their bathroom she was situated and waiting for him. He handed her two pills and opened the bottle and gave that to her as well.

Kim put the bottle on the bedside table next to her and settled back against her pillows. "Thank you, baby, I—" She was cut off by a fit of coughing that lasted for about ten seconds and took another drink of water before setting it back down again. "I appreciate it. UGH! And the sore throat returns..." she grumbled softly and laid down on her side facing the door, stifling a few more coughs into the top blanket.

AJ turned off the lights and got in beside her. He rubbed her back soothingly and hummed a tune in her ear to help her relax.

He stopped when he heard Kim start to snore lightly. He chuckled and kissed her hair before rolling over to get some sleep himself. It came surprisingly quickly for which he was grateful, he didn't know how many more sleepless nights he could take...
----------------

Saturday, May 31, 2008 
2:21 AM 

AJ's eyes shot open as he slightly hyperventilated in a panic when his recurring nightmare ended the same way it always did. 'Damn it!!' His breathing slowed and steadied after a few minutes but AJ got out of bed anyway to go into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. When he looked into the mirror he felt something inside him click, like a switch had been flipped "ON" in his brain. 

AJ went downstairs as quietly as possible, making the least amount of noise he could as he scribbled a note on a Post-it for Kim in the office and set it on her bedside table where she could read it if the woke up. From there he grabbed his keys and wallet and went in his walk-in closet and quickly put on the first t-shirt he saw and slipped on a pair of Adidas flip-flops and headed for his front door. 

"Where are you going?" That voice stopped AJ dead in his tracks as he reached for the doorknob. He turned around slowly to see Tony sitting at the kitchen island. 

"Out," was all AJ said. 

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" Tony asked again as he stood and walked toward his step-son. 

"I'm well-aware, actually," he replied coolly. 

"Don't get smart with me, Alex." 

"I'm not—" 

Tony sighed and decided to just come right out and say it. "You're having that nightmare again, aren't you?"

"How did you—?" 

"Your mom told me about it way back when. She said that when you had it you would frequently go off by yourself without telling anyone."

"Well..."

"I'm just worried about you, son. I've heard you get up in the middle of the night and go downstairs since I've been here and you look like you haven't slept in months. We can sit down and talk right now, I don't have a problem with that."

AJ hesitated slightly at Tony's correct observations and realized that he should be giving him more credit than he was getting when it came to understanding him. "Thanks, Dad, but I've just really gotta go right now. I-I've gotta get out of here."

Tony frowned, he really wanted AJ to stay and talk it out with him. "Alright, but I need you to look me in my eyes and tell me one thing."

"Shoot," he responded a bit nervously.

"You're not going to a bar or anything like that, are you?"

AJ did as he was asked. "No, sir, that's not where I'm headed at all. I swear."

"I know I can't stop you, so, please drive safely."

"I will." And with that, AJ left Tony standing there confused and somewhat afraid of why he had to leave so suddenly. 

Once AJ got in his Porsche and locked the doors, he exhaled sharply and turned over the engine. He left his drive way and cruised along the open road to get to the highway. He couldn't take the silence and turned on the radio to the local rock station for some noise besides his own thoughts that were practically screaming inside his head.

"Son of a bitch!" AJ realized that he forgot his cell phone, it was still on his bedside table in the bedroom. "Damn it! Just damn it all to hell! I swear to God..."

AJ fumed the whole way to his final destination. A half-hour drive later, he parked and stepped onto the cool sand, taking the spare blanket he kept in his car and a hooded sweatshirt that happened to be sitting on the passenger's seat with him. He lay the blanket out in a spot not too far from where the waves were going in and out. He sat down on it and took a few deep breaths and began to think. There were quite a few clouds in the sky but the moon could still be seen along with its reflection on the water. 

AJ didn't come here often, but it was one of the few local places where he would go if he really needed to get away from it all. It was also one of the few stretches of beach in Long Beach that was public and didn't have a curfew. He could come and go as he pleased with almost no consequences, most public beaches around the area had a curfew of 10 PM that lasted until 5 or 6 AM. Thankfully, there was no one else around so AJ drank in the silence and listened to the water and the wind blow as his thoughts consumed him:

"And now for all of your enjoyment: a special announcement by none other than the groom and the man formerly known as the Backstreet Boys' Hottest Bachelor by People magazine, Mr. Alex McLean," the DJ announced and everyone applauded and cheered. 

AJ stood and motioned for Kim to come with him as he went to the stage, taking the microphone from the stand and clearing his throat before speaking. "Hey, everyone, I want to thank you all again from the bottom of my heart for being a part of this special evening and what it means for myself and Kim. But right now, I have a little somethin' to say to my gorgeous bride that is sitting right in front of me." A friend of his in the crowd whistled and AJ stopped as everyone laughed. "I'm onto you, man, I heard that!" He locked eyes with his new wife for a moment before continuing. "I love Kim with everything that is in me. I never dreamed that I would find someone who is so perfect in spite of her flaws. She loves me for who I truly am and that's been difficult to find at times. She has stuck with me along with my wonderful family and friends through the most devastating time in my life, when my grandmother passed away last April." He looked up and blew a kiss. "I love you, Grandma and I know that you're here with me always." He felt himself start to get choked up and he cleared his throat. "We have weathered that storm together and I know that we can make it through anything, I truly believe that. We can, baby. And now I wanna invite one of my greatest and truest friends up here to help me. He along with my other 'brotha from anotha motha' Kevin have taught me so much about being a good person and now what it means to be a devoted and faithful husband. Please welcome to the stage, Mr. Brian Littrell." AJ looked in his direction as more applause and cheering could be heard.   

"Who, me?" he called from his seat which generated more laughter.  

AJ rolled his eyes. "Yes, you. Get your Kentucky Fried butt up here, ya dorko. It's time," he joked at Brian being from The Bluegrass State.

"I worked at Long John Silver's you know, at least get the restaurant right," Brian smirked as he got up from his seat, came on stage and hugged AJ before sitting and placing an electric acoustic guitar on his knee.

AJ looked at his friend with a light smile and turned his attention back to the crowd of people who were hanging on his every word. "If it weren't for the man sitting next to me, Kim and I would have never met. Why, you may ask? Well, it was on September 2, 2000, the day that Brian married his beautiful wife Leighanne that my life was changed forever. In the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta, fate decided to step in and throw me a curveball that I wouldn't have been able to miss even if I tried. A family friend of Brian's brought her to his wedding as a guest. Across the reception hall she was sitting at her table alone and somehow I struck up the courage to go talk to her. We did for quite awhile and exchanged phone numbers. I had a writing session the next day in Orlando with two gentlemen named Brian Kierulf and Josh Schwartz and I just could not for the life of me get her off of my mind. I talked with them about it and we came up with a little ditty called 'Yes I Will' that is featured on the Backstreet Boys'
Black & Blue album."

Everyone cheered and clapped when he mentioned that. "It was truly love at first sight and she has captivated me from the very second that I first looked into her eyes. I would say that the rest is history except I know we're making history right now, together, 'til death do us part."

AJ paused before continuing. "It has always been a dream of mine to sing a special song to my future wife on our wedding day, and at first, I struggled to come up with song lyrics for this exact moment. I sort of had to put myself inside it and think about how I would be feeling and what I would wanna say, and this is the finished product that took me three months to write after I had asked her those four words. This is dedicated to Kim: my wife, my true love, my life. Here's to us and our bright future together. This is 'Best That I Can.'"

AJ gestured for Brian to start playing and he looked right in Kim's eyes and hers alone as he sang.         
 
Some say that love isn't fair 
But they don't know you and me 
And when they tell me that love doesn't last that long 
That's when I look at you 

And it's alright 
Just let me lead you 

It's okay if you close your eyes 
I'll be standin' by your side
I'm gonna love you the best that I can 
You're my heart and you're my best friend 
And I promise 'til the end, yeah 
I'm gonna love you the best that I can, that I can

AJ started to walk off of the stage at this point and walked over to where Kim was sitting and took her hand, still looking into her now tear-filled brown eyes.  

Time cannot tear us apart  
We're stronger than yesterday, yeah 
And though we've travelled so far you're still close to me 
Love changes everything 

I know that it's alright 
Just let me lead you   

It's okay if you close your eyes  
I'll be standin' by your side 
I'm gonna love you the best that I can 
You're my heart and you're my best friend 
And I promise 'til the end, yeah 
I'm gonna love you the best that I can 

Through the peaks and the valleys you're not alone 
And when the world's upside down 
You know I'm there 
And any time I feel afraid 
That's—


"...When I look at you," AJ finished the self-written lyric in a whisper to himself as he thought over what he had just recalled from memory. "Damn, I've gone about this the wrong way haven't I?" he asked himself, realizing his mistake. 'I should be going to Kim and the people who love and care about me instead of pushing them away...'

Just then, AJ heard a rumble of thunder and it began to pour rain just seconds afterward. He was in shock at the abrupt change in weather at first, but he took it as a sign that he should get back home before sunrise. He quickly gathered up his things and sprinted to his car, unlocking it with the remote in his haste to not get completely drenched. The very last thing his family needed was for AJ to contract pneumonia on top of all of the health issues and stresses that were going on at the moment with Denise, Jordan, and now Kim.

Once AJ drove away from the beach, he stopped at a local gas station a few miles down the road which covered its gas pumps with a large awning. He got out and used his credit card at the pump to pay for gas. After AJ filled his Porsche's tank, he wiped off his wet tan-colored leather interior with his mostly dry blanket and sat on it during the drive home.

The rain shower slowed him down a bit as he pulled into his drive way at 4:07 AM, according to his car's clock. He opened the garage door and parked the car inside it before getting out and entering his house through the front door as quietly as possible. 'I just gotta get upstairs, change, and get back in bed. I'll tell Kim of my little escapade in the—'

"Alexander! Where in the hell have you been?" Kim demanded. She was sitting on the couch, obviously waiting for him to come back.

"You're pissed," AJ concluded. 'No kidding, ya dumbass!

"No...ya think? I've been worried sick! I woke up an hour ago to discover that you were nowhere to be found. It's storming out there and the roads are slick, do you have any idea what it feels like to be me, so scared that something could've happened to you and I would have had no way of knowing, all because you had 'a bad dream'?" At this point, Kim was standing and if looks could kill, AJ would have been flat on his back twenty seconds ago.

"That was a low blow, Kim," AJ said softly and looked down at his feet. Then he started to walk toward the staircase to change into some dry clothes upstairs in his closet. 

Kim instantly felt remorse for her last statement. "Alex, I-I'm sorry..."

AJ stopped for a moment, but didn't turn around. "Yeah, I'm sure you are. But you don't have to apologize for being honest," he dismissed it with sadness in his voice that he didn't try very hard to hide.  

And with that, Kim was left alone in the living room while she heard AJ's footsteps grow increasingly quiet as he ascended the stairs.
End Notes:
Song Credit: "Best That I Can" by the Backstreet Boys.

I totally made up that People magazine thing by the way. LOL

As always, don't forget to leave a review to let me know what you think of this chapter! :D
Chapter 28 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 4/5. Here's another update. :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008
12:37 PM

"I'll be right back with Jordan's discharge papers, excuse me," the doctor said and left the room.

AJ and Kim both turned to their son with smiles on their faces. After spending five days in the hospital, including four days on the Pediatric floor, Jordan was medically cleared to go home just minutes ago by the doctor that had been overseeing his care since he had been transferred from the PICU on Thursday. At this point, he was getting stir-crazy in the hospital bed and was extremely anxious to go home. AJ and Kim couldn't wait for things to return to normal, but they also realized that what they had been going through was a life-changing experience.

"Congratulations, we're so happy for you all," said the mother of Jordan's roommate. She and her husband had arrived at the hospital on Friday morning with their five year-old son.

"Thank you, Lyssa," Kim returned. "I'm sure that Bryce is going to make a full recovery and will be back to his old self before you know it."

She nodded. "Yes, I'm sure he will. The doctors say that as long as he continues to improve, he will be able to go home tomorrow at the earliest." Bryce had come in with severe appendicitis and his appendix almost ruptured, but the surgeons operated in time and a PICU stay wasn't needed after all.

"That's great," AJ said.

"Yes, I guess both of our kids are lucky."

AJ smiled. "Thank God for small miracles."

Lyssa's husband Daniel walked in after getting some coffee from the family room down the hall and took a seat next to his wife. "Here." He handed her the steaming cup. "Anything new?"

"Jordan, here, gets to go home," she announced with a smile.

"Good for you, buddy! Are you excited?"

"Yeah!" Jordan replied.

"That's good to hear, I can't wait until it's our turn," Daniel said with a light sigh.

"I'm back. I'll just need both of your signatures on this form and that'll be it," Jordan's doctor said. "Do either of you have any questions regarding Jordan's after-care instructions?"

AJ looked at Kim, who didn't say anything and he shook his head. "No. Thank you so much for everything Dr. Willhelm," he said as he signed his name and passed the clipboard and pen to Kim.

"Oh, it's no problem, he has been an excellent patient." He walked over to Jordan who was sitting on his bed and crouched down to his level. "Now, remember Jordan, you're going to have to take it easy for a few days, okay? Your ribs are still hurt, so, be sure that you watch as many cartoons and movies as you can until they feel better, alright?"

"Okay, Dr. Joe," Jordan said.

"Do you promise?"

He nodded. "Yes."

"Alright then." Dr. Willhelm stood and turned to AJ and Kim. "You all are free to go. I'll see you next week for his follow-up appointment. Take care, now." He shook both of their hands and took the clipboard. "I'll be back to check on Bryce in a bit." He left the room again and AJ started to gather their things to take to the car.

A few minutes later, Jordan's nurse, Jamie, came in with an empty wheelchair. "Time to go for another ride, Jordan, are you ready?" It was hospital policy for patients to leave in a wheelchair after they had been hospitalized.

"Yeah!" he exclaimed.

AJ stopped what he was doing to help him into the wheelchair before putting his shoes on for him and packing the rest of their things in a small duffle bag. He and Kim both went over to Lyssa and Daniel to say their goodbyes.

"You take care of yourselves," AJ said as he hugged Lyssa and shook Daniel's hand. Kim hugged them both. "Good luck and God bless."

"Thank you so much," Daniel replied.

"It was nice to meet you, Bryce, we hope you feel better soon." AJ gave him a high five.

"Thank you," he said after Kim said something similar.

"Bye, Bryce!" Jordan said with a big grin and waved.

"Bye!"

The four of them left the room, but were stopped at the nurse's station as they passed it. "Excuse me, Mr. McLean? Dr. Romero is stuck in surgery, but asked me to pass on her well wishes to all of you, including your mother," a nurse named Beverley said with a smile.

"Tell her we said thank you very much for everything."

She nodded curtly. "I will most certainly do that. Bye, Jordan, be good, okay?"

He nodded as Jamie continued to push him down the hallway to the elevators and AJ and Kim followed close behind. Once they made it to the bottom floor, AJ went to go get the car to pull it around the entrance before they got in. He helped Jordan in before thanking Jamie and leaving the hospital behind to finally take him home where he belonged.
------------------------

"Ah, home sweet home..." AJ said as he opened the front door and stepped inside along with Kim and Jordan.

"BERNIE!" Jordan yelled as their dog ran to greet them. He stopped to let Jordan pet him as his tail wagged happily.

"Go sit on the couch, okay, Jordan? Be careful, please." Kim said.

"Okay." AJ followed him and helped him up so he wouldn't overexert himself. "Here's the remote, do as Dr. Joe said, okay? Have at it." He kissed him on the forehead and went to the kitchen.

"I'm so glad you're feeling better, babe, I think the worst is over with," AJ said as he came up behind her at the island and kissed her cheek. "No complications this time, no doctor's visit needed."

"Me, too, but more importantly, I'm just glad that our little boy's home now."

"Me, too," AJ agreed with a warm smile.

"So, what time are you going back to see your mom?"

"I'm thinking in a couple of hours, is that okay?" AJ wondered.

"Well, I can't really stop you, it's your mother, for God's sake." 

"Thanks."

"But I'm still pissed at you for that stunt you pulled the other night," Kim added as AJ went in for another kiss and he stopped once he heard that.

AJ sighed. "Kim, I left a note, come on now. Don't be like that."

Kim shook her head. "I still stand by what I've said to you numerous times. You cannot just take off like that, Alex, what if something happened to you? You didn't have your phone, so, I had no way to reach you. I was so scared, I didn't know what to think."

"I know and I've apologized so many times," AJ said and took a seat next to her. He shook his head in disbelief and lightly scoffed. "This nightmare is making me crazy and Mom still being in the hospital certainly doesn't help matters."

Kim moved to place a comforting hand on her husband's back. "And I'm still sorry for what I said about your 'bad dream.' I just got caught up in the heat of the moment and it just spilled out. I didn't mean to hurt you."

"Neither did I," he echoed and took her hand in his, rubbing the back of it thoughtfully with his thumb. "How about we call a truce, hm?"

"I think I can do that. On one condition," Kim added.

"What's that?" AJ wondered.

"That you promise to never scare the hell out of me like that ever again," Kim said with a serious tone.

AJ shook his head. "I don't think I can guarantee that—"

She changed her mind. "Fine, if you ever feel the urge to disappear on me like that again, please, don't hesitate to let me know."

AJ nodded. "I can handle that compromise. I'm really sorry for doing that, babe."

"I do understand why you felt the need to leave though, I would, too. I love you."

"And I love you," AJ echoed softly. "I'm hungry, do you want something to eat?" He stood and went to the refrigerator.

"Yeah. Jordan, Daddy's making lunch. Do you want some?" Kim called to him on the couch.

"Yeah!"

"Alright." AJ took out a few apples and yogurt and opened a cabinet and took out some peanut butter. He went to the other end of the counter and grabbed some bread and went back to the fridge for some lunch meat and cheese.

"Do you want a sandwich, J?"

"No!" he answered.

Kim tried again. "Chicken nuggets?"

"No!" he repeated.

Kim chuckled. "Well, what then?"

"I dunno."

AJ left the counter to go talk to Jordan. "Alright, buddy, you can either have a turkey or ham sandwich or chicken nuggets. Those are your choices."

"A ham sandwich," he said.

"'A ham sandwich,' what?"

"Please," he finished.

"Thank you. Do you want anything on it?"

"No."

"I've got strawberry yogurt and apples and peanut butter. Do you want that?"

Jordan nodded. "Yeah."

"Okay."

AJ went back to the kitchen and got to work making one turkey and one ham sandwich.

He cut up a few granny smith apples and spread peanut butter on them and separated them onto three plates. He added their sandwiches to them and put a yogurt and a spoon on Jordan's plate before carrying it into the living room and placing it on the coffee table. "Don't move yet, I'll help you. What do you want to drink?"

"Milk," he replied.

AJ left and came back with a glass of milk. He helped Jordan onto the carpet and made sure that he was comfortable. "Alright, now, don't move too much, okay? Me and Mommy are gonna eat in the kitchen." He went back there and finished putting his and Kim's lunches together before they ate.

"Thanks for making this," she said before taking a bite of her peanut butter sandwich.

He smiled. "No problem. See? I'm not totally useless in the kitchen, now, am I?"

"No, but after almost six years of marriage,you think you'd be better at it by now," Kim smirked.

"Hey, I'm trying, alright? Sheesh..." AJ sighed and continued to eat.

"So, Tony and Bill are with your mom?" Kim asked a few minutes later.

AJ looked up from his plate. "Yeah, they take turns sitting with her every hour. They'll call me if they need me or if something happens."

"Right."

"Yeah."

After they had finished eating, AJ and Kim joined Jordan in the living room to relax together, just the three (or four, rather) of them as it should be. AJ was more than happy to have his son home safe and sound, but he couldn't help thinking about his mom by herself in the SICU still in the hospital. He needed to be there.

AJ turned to look at Kim. "Baby? Is it okay if I go back to Cedars? Will you be okay by yourself or do you need me to stay longer?"

She didn't hesitate with her answer. "No, no, Alex, it's okay. Go ahead. Your mom needs you. Give her our love, alright?"

AJ stood and kissed his wife and Jordan. "J, I'm gonna go back to the hospital to see Grandma, okay?"

"Can I come?" he asked, his voice hopeful. 

"No, sorry, buddy. You need to stay here with Mommy and rest. Remember what Dr. Joe said?"

Jordan ignored his question. "I wanna go!" 

AJ just tried to stay calm. "You can't, you've gotta stay here. I'm sorry," he apologized gently to him. He glanced up at Kim who was frowning slightly. "I love you both."

AJ picked up his keys from off of the coffee table and went to the front door. He opened it and shut it behind him before walking to his car and getting in it. He sighed before turning it on and heading toward the highway once again. He turned on the radio for a distraction from his racing thoughts as he got closer to the hospital.

"How is she?" AJ asked as he came upon where Tony and Bill were sitting outside of the Surgical ICU on the fourth floor.

"Dr. Jarnowski is with her right now. He said that he'd come speak to us when he was finished," Bill replied.

"So, you got Jordan home alright?" Tony asked as AJ sat down in a chair next to him.

He smiled a little. "Yeah, he's good."

"Good. Kim seems like she's finally starting to feel better," he observed.

"Yeah, she says her throat's still bothering her, but I don't think we need to worry."

"Right, right."

A few minutes of silence passed before Denise's doctor came to talk to the three of them.

"All of the news is good," he started.

A relieved sigh could be heard from each of them. 

"She's improving, but is still quite a bit of pain and will be for some time as her injuries heal. She hasn't presented with any signs or symptoms of infection since the surgery, which is exactly where she needs to be at the moment. Right now, rest is the most important thing for her."

"Thank you so much, Doctor," Bill said with a small smile.

"You're all very welcome. It is my understanding that Jordan went home today?"

"Yes, he did, he's doing well," AJ replied confidently.

"That's wonderful, that's really nice to hear. Well, I've got other patients to see. I'll be back in a few hours, you all take care, now." Dr. Jarnowski shook their hands and walked down the hall and stepped into the elevator.

"Can I go see her, is that okay with you two?" AJ wondered with a bit of an anxious tone.

"Sure," Tony said.

"I'll be back." AJ stood and once again repeated the process of washing his hands and arms before being gowned. He stepped into the ward and immediately went to Denise's bedside.

"Alex," she acknowledged softly as he took her hand.

He felt relief wash over him like a tidal wave as he heard her voice and smiled. "Hi, Mom."
------------------

7:19 PM

AJ, Tony, and Bill walked through the front door after just returning from the hospital. They greeted Kim and Jordan who were on the couch watching TV together. "Hey, you guys. How is Denise?"

"She's doing good, Dr. Jarnowski says that she's improving and is on the road to recovery. She might get to come home next week," AJ said happily as he kissed Kim and Jordan and sat down next to them.

"That's great, isn't it Jordan?" 

"Yay, I miss Grandma."

"We all do, buddy. Are you okay? Does anything hurt?" AJ wondered. 

He pointed to his sore ribs. "They still hurt. And my arm, Daddy, the cast itches!"

"I know it does." he murmured sympathetically. Jordan put his head on AJ's arm and whimpered and AJ put his arm around him gently. "You get to sleep in your own bed tonight, J, doesn't that sound good?" he asked him to try to make him forget about his aches and pains. 

"Yeah," he replied as his voice perked up.  

AJ kissed the top of Jordan's head and glanced over at Kim. "Are any of you hungry? There's dinner in the fridge."

The three of them declined and Bill and Tony went into the kitchen to talk for awhile before heading to bed early. 

7:45 rolled around quickly and AJ and Kim both put Jordan to bed to help him feel more at ease about his first night out of the hospital. He would usually fall asleep by 8 under normal circumstances, but they weren't sure how he would like sleeping on his back all night, so, it could take longer for that reason alone. He was feeling kinda cranky and restless, but fell asleep around 8:15.

AJ had stayed behind in Jordan's room to make sure he was sleeping soundly, humming and singing softly at his bedside: 

For many hours and days that pass ever soon 
The tides have caused the flame to dim 
At last the arm is straight, the hand to the loom 
Is this to end or just begin? 

All of my love
All of my love
All of my love to you now

All of my love
All of my love
All of my love to you child...


Little did AJ know that Kim had been standing just outside of the slightly open door the entire time, listening to his soothing words. 

'I just wish he would realize that what is really inside of him is reflected for everyone else to see...'

She knew that they were meant for Jordan to hear, but she felt comforted by the sincerity in his voice. He really was such a good father and these were moments with him that they would never get back.

AJ heard a noise and smoothed Jordan's hair lightly before standing and placing his son's old rocking chair in the corner next to the door. He saw a shadow that was not his own and left the room. "Hey. What're you still doing up here, my lady?" he asked Kim and wrapped his arms around her waist before kissing her gently.   

"Just listening to you with him. What were you singing? It was beautiful."

"Oh, that? A bit of the mighty Zepp," he said with a chuckle.

"Ah."

AJ kissed her again. "You blew your cover..."

"I had to cough, I couldn't help it."

"You're feeling okay, though, right?" he wondered. 

Kim nodded. "I'm fine, you?"

"I am tired," AJ admitted with a sigh. 

"Then go to bed, silly. You need to start getting some proper sleep, these late nights certainly aren't doing you any favors." She hadn't failed to notice his paler complexion as of late and the bags that had begun to form under his eyes. She would look into them and still see the spark but could tell that he was growing weary as the days wore on.  

"Yeah, quality sleep sounds good right about now." He kissed her and went to his closet to change clothes and met Kim in their bedroom. They lay awake just talking about anything and everything until they fell asleep in each other's arms. AJ finally slept peacefully for the first time in months with his wife by his side, which he hoped was a sign of better days to come.
End Notes:
I wanted a more positive ending to this chapter since the last one wasn't. lol

Song Credit: "All My Love" by Led Zeppelin

There will be another update soon, don't forget to review! :D
Chapter 29 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 4/11. This is over 1,000 words longer than the last one, I really out did myself this time if I do say so myself, hehe. I hope you guys like it! :D

Friday, June 6, 2008
12:07 PM

AJ knocked lightly on their bedroom door. "Baby? Are you almost ready?"

"Yeah, just give me a second," Kim said.

"Alright, J's downstairs waiting in the living room. I'll be with him if you need me."

"Okay."

AJ went downstairs to sit with Jordan until Kim came down a few minutes later. The three of them went to the car, but Jordan chose to sit on Kim's side instead, which struck AJ as odd.

"Don't you wanna sit behind me, J?"

He shook his head quickly and ran to the other side and got in. AJ exchanged a worried glance with Kim before getting in and beginning the drive downtown.

"Mommy? Where are we going?" Jordan asked a few minutes later as AJ was on his cell phone talking with Tony.

"To go see my doctor, Liz, remember? It's time for the baby's check-up."

"Babies need check-ups, too?"

"Yep, to make sure he or she is okay," Kim answered again.

"That's good?" he wondered.

"Yes, Mommy has to go every once in a while to make sure that the baby and I are healthy."

"Oh..."

"That's great, Dad. We're actually on our way to see Kim's gynecologist for her monthly pre-natal appointment. Yeah, Jordan's with us. I am excited. I will. We'll stop by the hospital afterward. Good. I love you, too. Bye." AJ hung up the phone and continued to concentrate on the road in front of him.

"How's your mom today, Alex?" Kim asked.

"Yeah, how's Grandma, Daddy?" Jordan echoed.

"She's good, buddy. Everything's going fine, she's just anxious to get out of the hospital." Denise was moved out of the Surgical ICU on Tuesday morning and into a regular Recovery room. Any visitors could come and go as they pleased within the correct hours which AJ was grateful for, he got to spend a lot more time with Denise and visited every day just as he had been doing.

Kim nodded. "I would be, too. When do they think she'll be able to come home?"

"Dad said that she might get to go home by the end of the weekend at the earliest," AJ said with a smile.

"That's wonderful. Is she gonna stay with us or are she and Tony gonna go home?"

"I was hoping that the four of us could talk about it today."

"It's a plan, then."

"Yep."

The drive to Kim's doctor was otherwise uneventful as they pulled into the parking lot. The three of them went inside the building and sat in chairs as Kim signed in at the desk and waited for her name to be called. There were quite a few other pregnant women with their significant others in the waiting room as well.

A young woman walked in a few minutes later and sat a few chairs down from them. She gave Kim a smile after noticing that she was obviously pregnant. "Is he yours?" she asked.

"Yes, this is my husband, Alex, and our son, Jordan."

AJ waved while Jordan decided to be shy and hide as best he could.

She chuckled. "Aw, he's a cutie. He has your husband's eyes."

"Yes, he does. Are you one of Dr. Novotny's patients?" Kim wondered, trying to make polite conversation.

"Oh, no. I'm here to see Dr. Penoyer."

"Oh, right. It's either one of the two." Kim's doctor shared a private practice with another OB/GYN.

She gave a sort of nervous chuckle. "Yeah."

"...Are you okay?" Kim wondered with concern.

"Just a little anxious is all. I'm getting some test results back today."

"I'm sure they'll come out fine, don't get yourself all worked up now," she tried to reassure her.

"Thanks."

Dr. Novotny opened the door separating the waiting room from the exam rooms. "Kim, you can come on back."

She stood along with AJ and Jordan. "What's your name?"

"Brittany." she answered.

"Good luck, okay, Brittany?"

"Thank you so much," she said.

They went back with Kim's doctor to an exam room where she shut the door and they sat in a few chairs.

"So, how are all of you? It's been awhile, Alex."

"Likewise, Liz. I'm good, yourself?"

She shrugged. "Eh, I can't complain. And Jordan, I can't believe how big you've gotten! What happened to your arm?"

"He and my mom were in a car accident on the twenty-eighth," AJ answered.

Dr. Novotny was slightly shocked. "Oh, wow, Kim never mentioned that when we last spoke on Monday."

"Yeah, Jordan got to come home on Sunday and my mom is still in the hospital at Cedars. She was moved to Recovery on Tuesday from the Surgical ICU and might be released on Sunday."

"I see. Well, give her my best and I hope that Jordan, here, recovers quickly."

AJ gave a small smile. "I will, thanks."

"Alright, Kim, let's get you weighed first."

Kim got on the scale and Dr. Novotny lightly pushed the marker to the correct number and read the result. "Good, you're right on target with your weight gain."

Kim groaned. "The one thing I hate about being pregnant: getting fat..."

"You're not fat, Mommy, you're beautiful," Jordan insisted with a shake of his head.

"Aw, thank you sweetie." She looked to her husband. "Did you tell him to say that?"

AJ smiled. "Honestly? No."

"You've gained four pounds, which is where you should be. Remember that a reasonable amount of weight gain for you is twenty-five to thirty-five pounds. Alright, hop up here on the table and let's get started."

She did so and Dr. Novotny began to take her blood pressure. "So you're feeling completely better? No more cold symptoms to speak of?"

"Nope, I'm all good. I started really feeling better around Tuesday." Kim answered.

"Great. As you know, you're more prone to infections because of your pregnancy so those symptoms will hang around longer than usual because of your lowered resistance."

"Yep."

"That means if Jordan or hubby gets sick you've gotta stay away and have as little contact with them as possible."

"Right," she said a bit sadly.

"I know it's hard, but you'll do what's right for yourself and the baby."

"Yeah."

"Alright, your BP's normal. 110/80. Let's take your temperature now." Dr. Novotny placed a thermometer in Kim's ear.

"We have one of those, Daddy," Jordan observed quietly.

"Yeah, we do," AJ replied.

"Your temp's normal, 98.7. How are you feeling otherwise?"

"I feel pretty good, much better than when I was constantly puking my guts up. I've been feeling a little dizzy and have been getting heartburn more easily, though, which didn't really happen during my first pregnancy."

"That's typical now that you're twelve weeks along. Just make sure that you don't overexert yourself or stand up too fast. I know you like your spicy food but you know you've got to cut back on it."

"Right."

"If you need to, take liquid antacid instead of Tums, it works more effectively. Make sure that you chew and swallow your food well. Don't eat before bed and prop your head up at night so stomach acid doesn't have a chance to travel up to your esophagus."

"Your suggestions are noted."

Dr. Novotny chuckled. "Are you getting all of this, Alex?" she smirked.

"Oh, yes, of course, Liz. Don't you know that I'm a great listener?" AJ smirked back.

"What's the last thing your wife said then, hm?"

"I won't even lie, I kinda zoned out for a minute there, something about suggestions?" he guessed.

She laughed. "I think you've been around too many screaming girls, McLean, they've had to have damaged your hearing."

"That's probably true," Kim said with a laugh of her own.

"Hey! Whose side are you on, anyway?" AJ wondered.

Dr. Novotny put her hands up and backed away from Kim. "I'm staying out of this, you two can duke it out later."

"The side of truth," she said with confidence.

AJ rolled his eyes. "Right."

"So, have you two decided to have any genetic testing done with this pregnancy?" she wondered.

"Well, I don't want to have any so there are no risks for the baby with having a procedure done—"

AJ cut Kim off mid-sentence. "And I want to have it done so we can check for anything that might be wrong—"

"You just want a 'perfect' baby—"

"Doesn't everyone?" AJ challenged her, his voice raising slightly.

Dr. Novotny could see that this was going to get out of hand. "Whoa, whoa, time out. I can see that this a clearly split issue amongst both of you. Kim, since you're now at twelve weeks and you can have chorionic villus sampling or CVS done, which offers earlier detection of chromosomal abnormalities like Down's Syndrome."

"How would we go about doing it?" Kim asked hypothetically.

"Chorionic villi are tiny finger-shaped growths found in the placenta. The genetic material in chorionic villus cells is the same as that in the baby's cells. The chorionic villus sample can be collected by putting a catheter through your vagina and cervix into the placenta. The sample can also be collected through a long, thin needle put through your belly into the placenta. Ultrasound is used to guide the catheter or needle into the correct spot for collecting the sample." she explained.

"Hm," was all Kim said.

"I can take Jordan out in the hallway if you two need to discuss this some more."

"I want to have it done," AJ stated plainly.

"And I don't, Alex. Why can't you respect that? It's my body—"

"But it's our baby, don't I get a say in this?"

Kim sighed. "Yes, of course you do. But let me ask you this: if anything did happen to be 'wrong' with the baby, would you love him or her any less than Jordan because he's 'normal?'"

"No," AJ said quietly, he knew she was right. "You're right, we don't need to have any procedures done. I'll love Gumby just the same for better or worse."

"Gumby?" Dr. Novotny questioned with a smirk.

"Don't ask," Kim said as she chuckled.

"Well, alrighty, then. Are you guys ready to hear the baby's heartbeat?"

Kim was just as surprised as AJ was. "Now? Really?"

"Sure you can. Let me go get a Doppler, I'll be right back." Dr. Novotny left the room and shut the door behind her.

AJ breathed a happy sigh and got up to kiss Kim's lips. "God, this is awesome! I wasn't expecting this until the next visit!"

"I know, me neither," she echoed.

He almost forgot their son was in the room as well. "Isn't this exciting, J? You get to hear your little brother or sister's heartbeat!"

"Wow, we do?"

"Yep." He turned back to face Kim. "I love you," he said and kissed her again.

"Oh, heck, I love you, too, buddy!" AJ went over to where Jordan was sitting and gave him a light hug, quickly remembering that his ribs were still healing from the car accident. He sat down again next to Jordan and waited for Kim's doctor to return.

She came back in with a Doppler fetal monitor and had Kim lay down on the table with her shirt pulled up to expose her abdomen. "You guys can come up here, don't be shy, now."

AJ stood and walked over to the table, taking Kim's hand and smiling down at her. He noticed that Jordan had not moved from his chair. "It's okay, buddy, you can come up here. Come on," he motioned gently with his other hand.

Jordan slowly and hesitantly got up and walked to AJ's side with AJ putting his free arm around him.

"Here we go, this will be cold, Kim." Dr. Novotny squeezed some gel onto her stomach and turned on the monitor. She moved the probe around on her abdomen to find the baby's heartbeat. "Hm...almost there...got it, there it is." A rhythmic whooshing sound could be heard. "Ah...now, that's music to my ears. It's nice and strong."

"It's beautiful," AJ said softly. He looked down at Kim who just nodded with tears in her eyes, which resulted in him tearing up as well. "That's our baby, Momma." He bent down to kiss her forehead. "I'm so proud of you."

"I'm so proud of us, you helped, too, Alex, or did you forget?" she teased.

"Of course not, but you're going to be doing all of the hard work. I just helped the process along," AJ shrugged and looked at Jordan. "What do you think about this, J?"

"It's loud."

"Yeah, it is, but that's a good thing. It means that the baby is strong and healthy," Dr. Novotny said to him.

"How can it make so much noise if it's so little?" he wondered.

"No one can actually hear the baby's heartbeat on their own, Dr. Liz has to use that device in order to hear it because it's so quiet," AJ explained to him.

"Oh..."

"Is there any way that we could get a recording of this, like an mp3 file for an iPod?" AJ asked out of curiousity.

Dr. Novotny smiled. "Actually, you can, I'm glad you asked. I was just about to mention this. We got some new Doppler monitors last year that record the baby's heartbeat, all I'll have to do is plug in this attachment right here," she pointed to it, "into a computer's USB port and upload it. Would you guys be interested in that?"

"Definitely," Kim said immediately.

"Great. We're just about done here, let's get you cleaned up and we'll all go into my office after that."

A few minutes later, the four of them followed Kim's doctor to her office down the hall which was next to her partner Dr. Penoyer's office. She waved as they passed by. Kim, AJ, and Jordan took seats in front of the desk that Dr. Novotny sat behind. She plugged the attachment from the Doppler monitor into her PC and began to upload the audio recording of their baby's heartbeat.

"While this is doing its thing, whose e-mail should I send it to?" she questioned.

"Alex's, I'm really bad about checking mine," Kim replied with a laugh.

AJ gave her his e-mail address and once it was done uploading to the computer, she sent the audio file in a message.

"I brought my iPod with me today so I could put it on one of yours if you want," Dr. Novotny suggested.

AJ took his out of his pocket, unplugged the headphones, and handed it to her. Once the audio was stored on the computer, she transferred it onto his iPod and gave it back to him.

"Thank you so much," he said with a grin.

"You're both very welcome. That's taken care of and we're done. You all are free to go—"

There was a light knock at the door. "Come in."

"Hey, Liz? Oh sorry, I forgot that you were with a patient," Dr. Penoyer said as she walked in.

"Hello, Doctor, how are you?" Kim asked her, trying to be polite.

"Kim, please, call me Andrea. And these two handsome gentlemen must be Alex and Jordan, right?"

"That's right."

"It's okay, Andrea, we've just finished up in here. What do you need?" She smiled at the three of them. "Take care, you two, bye, Jordan. As always, call if you need anything, okay, Kim?" They hugged and said their goodbyes before leaving the two doctors alone to talk.

They walked back down the hallway in the opposite direction to the waiting room. They bumped into the young woman from earlier named Brittany while heading that way.

"Hey! Brittany, right?"

"Yeah," she said with a light smile, slightly surprised that Kim remembered her name.

"How did your appointment with Dr. Penoyer go, all good news, I hope?"

"Yes! Everything was fine, I was being tested for cervical cancer and it was negative!"

"That's great!" Kim exclaimed. AJ agreed as they both exchanged hugs with Brittany.

"And yours went well, too?"

"Yeah, we got to hear our baby's heartbeat for the first time," Kim said with a grin.

"Wow, congratulations! That's so exciting!" Brittany replied.

"Thanks, it really is."

"And thank you so much again for earlier, you really helped a lot," she expressed with honesty.

"Oh, you're very welcome, sweetheart. Well, have a great day."

"You, too," Brittany echoed and they all left the building and went to their respective vehicles. Once they were all situated in AJ's Porsche, he pulled out of the parking lot and headed in the direction of their second stop of the day.
---------------

1:47 PM

"Do you mind if I come in?" AJ asked as he poked his head out from the door frame.

"Alex, yes, of course! Get in here!" Denise said.

"I just thought I'd ask. You have more visitors by the way, come on in, guys," AJ added and looked to his left.

"Kim, Jordan...how are you?"

Kim came up to Denise and hugged her gently after AJ did. "I'm good."

"Jordan, come here, sweetheart. It's okay, give me a hug. I promise you won't hurt me." Denise said softly when she realized that he was hiding behind Kim as she went to greet Tony and Bill who were also present.

"It's okay, J, but be careful, please," Kim reassured him.

Jordan slowly walked up to Denise's bed and she put her left arm around him. "There. See? It's okay."

"I love you, Grandma," he said, muffled between sobs.

"Aw, buddy, Grandma's okay, I'm gonna be fine. Shhh, shhh...it's okay."

"But you're still hurt," he hiccuped.

"Yeah I am, but I'm gonna be getting out of here soon. I promise."

"I missed you so much..."

"Oh, I missed you, too, Jordan. I'm so sorry for doing this, it's my fault—"

"Hey," AJ interjected sternly. "I don't wanna hear that from you."

"But it's the truth, Alex," Denise sighed.

"It's not, it's the a-hole who caused the accident's fault. I won't let you blame yourself, I can't."

"You can't?"

"No—just never mind. Forget it," AJ said.

"What is it?" Denise wondered.

"Never mind, Mom," he repeated, now irritated.

She could obviously sense that something was up with her son, she just didn't know what it was. "Could you all give us a minute alone?"

AJ looked around the room and saw everyone staring at the two of them. "Jordan, go with Mommy, please," he said quietly and everyone left the room.

Once the door was shut, Denise spoke. "Now, what's this all about, Alex? What are you trying to protect me from?"

"I just don't want you to blame yourself for what happened, Mom. It's not your fault, there's nothing you could have done to prevent it."

She shook her head. "I know that, but I feel there's something else you're not telling me..."

AJ sighed heavily. "I just don't want you to carry a bunch of unnecessary guilt like you did after the..." He let his voice trail off on purpose and Denise understood.

"Oh, Alex...I forgave myself a long time ago for that." In 1980, Denise was pregnant with twin girls and in the eighth month her water broke. They ended up being stillborn.

"Yeah, I know. But you know what I mean, right?" he asked while moving closer to her.

"I do. I'm okay, Alex, really. This all just has to get sorted with time, Rome wasn't built in a day," she assured him.

"Good."

"And how is my baby boy doing? Are you sleeping better?"

"Mom, not now, please," AJ said, stressing the latter part of his statement.

"I just know when things aren't right with you, you haven't been looking well, sweetheart," Denise remarked with concern.

"Well, I'm dealing as best I can. I've been worried sick about you and Jordan." He changed the subject. "Look, I didn't come here to fight. Kim's appointment with Dr. Novotny was great, it went even better than I thought it would."

"Really? What happened?"

"Just listen to this," AJ said shortly and gave her his iPod that had a special 'song' playing.

Denise listened to it thoughtfully for a moment. "Is that—?"

"Yeah," he replied with a smile.

"Alex, this is so exciting! I love you, this is great!" she exclaimed before hugging him with a tear rolling down her cheek.

AJ carefully hugged her back. "I love you, too, Mom."

Everyone was called back into the room to hear what Denise had listened to just minutes before. Many hugs were exchanged and tears were shed as they celebrated the life that was to be born in about seven months' time.
-------------------

8:56 PM

"Kim?" AJ called while jogging down the stairs.

"Yeah, babe?" she returned from the living room couch.

"I'm gonna go pick up some beer, do you want anything?" he asked walking in.

"From the liquor store?" Kim wondered, puzzled.

"No, I mean in general, silly. I know that you can't drink. Well, you can but I wouldn't recommend it, of course—"

"Alex?"

"What?"

"You do realize that sometimes you're much better off by not speaking, right?" she teased.

He chuckled. "Yeah, I know. Sorry."

"All is forgiven," Kim assured him.

"Good, do you want anything? Anything at all?" he asked again.

She thought about it for a moment. "Um...some Ben & Jerry's maybe? Chocolate Fudge Brownie?"

AJ rolled his eyes, he figured that he would end up going on a Ben & Jerry's run. "One pint or two?" he asked with an over-dramatic sigh. "I'm just kidding."

"You better make it two, I've got a major craving happening right now."

"Alright, but you're not eating both tonight, you'll be sick as a dog later if you do."

"Yes, dear," Kim sighed with a laugh.

"Anything else?"

"Some cherry Twizzlers, too?" she asked with puppy dog eyes.

"Hey, that's my look! Of course."

"And make sure they're the PULL 'N PEEL kind, okay?"

"I'll do my best," he said and gave her a quick kiss. "I'll be back, I love you, baby."

"I love you, too, hurry back."

"I will."

AJ left the house and drove about ten minutes down the road to the local liquor store and walked in. He went right for the beer in the back and picked out a six-pack of Budweiser and a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey for good measure. He went to the up to the register and paid for the alcohol before getting back in his car and driving about three miles to the BP. He went inside and grabbed two pints of Kim's requested ice cream flavor and walked over to the candy and looked over the section for her Twizzlers. Once he found them he placed the items on the counter to get scanned for purchasing. A skeptical expression crossed the cashier's face as he bagged AJ's items.

"My wife's pregnant," he informed him with a chuckle.

"Oh. That explains the ice cream, then."

"Yeah."

Well, congrats. Have a good one," he said and handed him his plastic bag.

"Thanks, you, too." With a smile on his face, AJ drove back home and gave Kim a pint of her ice cream and her candy. Then he went to the kitchen to get her a spoon and to put his beer in the refrigerator. He took out two bottles and set them on the island before returning to the living room.

"Here's your spoon."

"Thanks." Kim took it and opened her ice cream container.

"I'm gonna go sit outside on the patio, it's a nice night."

"Suit yourself," she said with a shrug and took a bite of her 'dessert'. "Want some?" she asked with her mouth full.

AJ laughed and shook his head no. He gave her a peck on the cheek before going downstairs into his studio to get an acoustic guitar and to put his new bottle of whiskey away. He took that and his beer outside into the cool night air.

After twisting off the top, AJ took a swig of his drink and picked up his guitar. He strummed a few chords to a melody he had been working on recently and hummed along with it.

"Maybe it's all in my head...a kiss through the phone just won't do, no..." AJ murmured softly, pondering the words he had just spoken. "Hm, that's not bad," he reasoned with himself a bit louder and took another drink of beer. Another idea for a lyric came to him and he quickly went inside to write it down on something. As he walked back to the sliding glass door, he heard Kim call his name.

"Alex, if I go to bed before you do, make sure you brush your teeth before you come to bed, alright? I do not want to wake up to the smell of beer breath. I'm serious," she instructed him.

"Sure thing, babe," AJ promised her and went back outside to work on his latest masterpiece.
End Notes:
I've never been pregnant so if there are any medical inaccuracies let me know and I will fix them. :)

Yes, AJ's mom Denise actually gave birth to stillborn twin girls in real life in 1979 or 1980. :( Says so in her book Backstreet Mom that I happen to own.

Song Credit: "All In My Head" by the Backstreet Boys.

As always, don't forget to review to let me know what you all think of this chapter and the story so far! :D
Chapter 30 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 4/15. Here's another update. :) I hope you all like it.

Monday, June 9, 2008
4:02 PM

"Hey, how was your run?" Kim asked as AJ came into the kitchen to get a water bottle from the refrigerator.

"Fine," he replied with a sigh and took a long drink.

"Good." She smiled and continued to chop an onion that was on the wooden cutting board in front of her.

"Is Mom asleep?"

Kim sighed. "Yeah, that little get-together yesterday really wore her out."

Denise came home from the hospital on Sunday as planned and a few of their friends stopped by AJ's house to celebrate. Denise and Tony had decided to stay with him and Kim for a few weeks while she recuperated, plus Kim could help her with certain every day tasks such as getting dressed and bathing. She was still in a lot of pain with her fractured ribs and broken femur, so, sleeping was her remedy of choice. She just didn't feel comfortable taking the Percocet that Dr. Jarnowski prescribed her before she left the hospital; she didn't like the extreme drowsiness that it caused.     

"I'll be in the work out room," AJ stated and walked back out past the living room where his uncle Bill was seated on the couch watching TV. He was flying back to Florida on Wednesday once Denise got situated.

AJ went into the room and immediately reached for tape to wrap around his hands. Once that was done, he stepped up to his punching bag and took a hard swing with his right fist, pausing as he listened to it connect with its target, watching as the bag swayed slightly with force. It was held in place by two stainless steel chains on both ends. He swung again with a grunt and continued the motions, increasing his intensity with every punch. By the time AJ finished, he was exhausted, breathing heavily as the all-too-familiar ache in his chest returned with a vengeance. He just tried to weather the storm until it passed, tried to breathe through the pain. A voice broke through his clouded mind after what felt like an eternity of silence.

"Alex? Dinner's ready," Kim said from just outside the door frame.

"What?" he asked, distracted.

"Dinner."

"I'm not hungry," he replied flatly.

"I made spicy corn chowder, I doubled the recipe for the six of us," she added to try to convince him to eat.

"No, thanks," he said in the same tone as before. He stood up from the bench he was sitting on. "I'm just gonna shower and go."

"I thought your appointment with John wasn't until six?" Kim questioned.

"It's not," AJ agreed and went to leave the room, walking past her as he did so.

"Hey," she said gently. "You okay?"

He stopped and turned around. "I'm fine, babe." AJ kissed her forehead lightly and continued on his way upstairs and into their master bathroom. He grabbed some clothes to change into before going in and turned on the shower, listening as the water hit the tile floor and disappeared into the drain. He took his clothes off and threw them into a heap on the floor before entering the steam-filled area. He stood under the shower head for a few minutes to let the water run over his body and quickly washed his hair and body before exiting and changing into clean clothes. He trimmed his beard a bit and left the bathroom to grab his keys, wallet, cell phone, and iPod off of his nightstand. Once he had everything, he jogged downstairs.

"Going somewhere, Alex?" Bill wondered from the dining room table where everyone else was eating except for Denise, she was obviously still sleeping.

"Yeah, I got a thing to get to," he said hesitantly.

"Suit yourself," he shrugged. "This chowder is great!"

"Bye," AJ said shortly. 

"Bye," Kim echoed, annoyed that he was leaving so early.

"Bye, Daddy!" Jordan said with a wave.

"Bye, buddy. I'll be back around eight," AJ added and left, getting in his car and driving to downtown LA to Dr. Stehlik's office. He knew that he was about forty-five minutes early, but he sat in the waiting area with his headphones in for a distraction and his eyes closed, leaning his head against the wall.

Dr. Stehlik called him into his office at around 5:45 and decided to start their session early. They shook hands and AJ sat down in a chair across from him.

"How are you today, Alex?" he asked him.

"I'm tired, John," AJ replied with a sigh.

"How so?"

"I guess mentally, I just can't handle stress well today or something."

"You're feeling stressed? Do you wanna talk about it?" John encouraged him. 

He paused. "Well, my mom's staying with us for awhile. She came home from the hospital yesterday."

"The car accident, that's right. And Jordan is doing well?"

"Yeah, he's been perfect, improving every day. His follow-up appointment with the doctor is tomorrow," AJ shrugged. "I guess I'm just freaking a bit."

Dr. Stehlik nodded. "I understand, you've got quite a bit on your plate right now with your mom and Jordan and the accident."

"Yeah, I guess," he murmured quietly. He was hesitant to mention the nightmare that had been disturbing his sleep since the night before the accident. After about a minute of silence he spoke. "I-I've been having that nightmare again. The one that we discussed way back when."

"And how long has this been going on?"

"Since the night before the accident, I can't even tell you why it came back. It just...did," AJ said, looking down at his hands that he placed on his lap. He was now picking at his nails. "Things have just been so stressful lately."

"Hm. Well, have you been thinking about your dad lately? Your past?" Dr. Stehlik asked after a moment.

A sigh escaped AJ's lips. "I guess, Kim's pregnancy has scared me into thinking that I'm not good enough."

"As a father?" John pressed.

He nodded.

"I want you to know that it's okay if we need to talk about this again. I know that you struggle with this and that your father's abandonment of your family as a child affects you deeply, almost to your core, so to speak."

AJ rubbed a hand over his face. "I mean, I know I'm gonna make mistakes as a parent. Hell, I already have. But what if I screw my kids up for life or something? Do something that is so profound or damaging that there's no coming back from it? I have never been more afraid in my life. Kim can do so much better than me. She deserves so much more."

Dr. Stehlik shook his head lightly. "I personally don't believe that for a second. I know that you love Kim and Jordan more than anything in this entire world. I can tell by the way you talk about her, the light in your eyes when you say her name. The smile that crosses your face when you tell me something funny he said the other day. I think that deep down, even you don't believe that."

"It just feels that way."

"I know it does, Alex, but that's something you've got to work on. You are worth it and Kim does deserve you. We all have our own faults and struggles," he tried to reassure him. "No one's perfect."

"I know. I just...I'm tired, John. I tried not to stress out today, I really did. I worked out to distract myself, but it snuck up on me. I hurt. I'm in pain. My chest aches and it feels like I can't breathe no matter how hard I try."

"The depression has returned?" John asked to clarify his statement.

"Yeah."

"And you're still against taking any medication for it?"

"Definitely."

"Okay, then, I just wanted to be sure. How have you been feeling physically? Your sleep habits? Appetite? Energy levels?" he wondered.

"I feel okay, I guess, I mean I haven't been sick or anything. Kim sent more Airborne while I was still on tour and it's worked wonders. She was sick last week and I didn't get so much as a sniffle."

"That's good, but your complexion says otherwise," Dr. Stehlik noted.

AJ sighed. "I know. This nightmare keeps me up most nights. Sometimes, I lay there for awhile and fall back asleep, but then, I have it again and other times I don't. Other nights I just can't sleep, so, I go downstairs into my studio or to the bar."

"To drink?"

"What do you think, John?" he asked with a hard stare. 

"There's no need to get defensive, Alex, I'm just asking."

"Right, right," he sighed again. "Sorry."

"When was the last time you drank?" he asked.

"Friday night. I had a couple of beers outside while working on a song. It was a nice night."

"So, you weren't feeling depressed then?"

"No," AJ replied with a shake of his head. "I was fine, happy."

"Good."

"I've been eating fine except for today. I'm just nervous about today. I'm not feeling very hungry, my stomach feels like it's in knots."

"I can understand that," John reasoned.

"And I guess I've been getting tired more easily due to the lack of sleep, plus breathing can just take its toll during the day."

"If you're feeling depressed?"

"Yeah. I mean, I try to stay strong during the day and sometimes I just fall apart at night when I'm alone. I try not to drink too much and sometimes, I write instead. I've been keeping a journal since April," AJ said.

"That's good that you're getting your thoughts down on paper. It can help you process what's going on around you."

"I guess it helps somewhat," he shrugged.

"God...I just feel like I'm not a good person anymore, like all I can do is fuck everything up," AJ continued.

"But you're not, Alex, you're just going through a rough period right now. You are a good person, a good husband, and a good father. You've just got to learn to see it in yourself again, and I know you will." Dr. Stehlik said. "Now, I hate to cut this short, but today's the day. Are you ready?"

"Yeah, let's do it."

AJ and John drove out to a local junkyard on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Today was the first day that he was going to try some expressive therapy. He had done something similar when he worked with a grief counselor back in 2001.

"A junkyard?" AJ was skeptical about it being right place to do it.

"You trust me, don't you?" 

"Of course."

"Let's get to it, then." The two of them exited Dr. Stehlik's car and went into the junkyard. They were met by another person who was waiting for them.

"Welcome to expressive therapy. Alex, this is Dr. Julia Rollins, a clinical psychologist. She'll be taking you through this experience today."

They shook hands. "I'm Alex McLean."

"It's nice to meet you. Why do you think you're here?" she asked.

"I guess this is so I can express my emotions or something," he shrugged.

"That's good. For most people, this exercise is used to get people in touch with maybe some unresolved anger that they may be holding onto. It could be toward a person or a situation. What you don't want to do is try to numb the pain, because that only makes it worse in the long run."

AJ knew exactly where she was going with this. "Oh, John...you know me so well," he said with a chuckle.

"You can think of someone you're angry at, someone that you may never confront. You can use whatever you want here." She gestured to the various objects around them. There were sledgehammers, golf clubs, baseball bats, rocks, bricks, dishes, cups, plates, eggs, and other things that AJ could use to take his anger out on the things in the junkyard. 

"Now, why don't you give me a name or tell me someone that you're angry with," Dr. Rollins said.

"I guess it'd be my dad for the most part. He left me and my mom when I was two. They didn't get divorced until I was four," AJ replied.

"So, it's a lot of childhood stuff, then. Do you two have a relationship?"

"No, I haven't seen him in two or three years. He's only wanted to get to know me because I'm famous, just like all of the loser friends I used to have."

"I see. Well, do you want to give a try?"

"Sure." He put on a pair of goggles that she handed to him.

Dr. Rollins made sure that the three of them were ready before continuing. "Alright. You can go in as deep as you want and you can use whatever you want. Just say whatever you're feeling and whatever comes up," she instructed him.

AJ took off his t-shirt and tossed it to the side, wearing nothing but a wifebeater, jeans, and his shoes. He went over to an old car and picked up a sledgehammer that was leaning against it. 

"Don't disappoint us, now," John said.

He flexed his arms with it in his hands and took a few deep breaths. AJ went over to another old car and began to hit the hood of it as hard as he could. "Stupid motherfucker! Son of a bitch!"

"Who is that? Who are you angry with?" Julia asked him to get him to say what was on his mind.

"My dad!" he yelled and hit the hood of the car again.

"What do you want to say to him?"

"Why didn't you come visit me? Why did you ignore me?" He walked around the car and smashed the passenger's side window.

"Just say whatever comes up, Alex," she reminded him as she followed him.

"Why didn't you say you were sorry, asshole?! You never apologize!! I don't wanna hear your excuses!" He smashed the window next to it and went to the back of it.

"That's good, keep going."

"This is for all of the dead-beat dads who hurt their kids!" AJ swung at a taillight.

"Are you gonna be that?" John asked him.

"No," he growled and broke the back window with another swing. He hit the back a few times with full force and breathed heavily. "Asshole! Why did you leave me?!?!" 

AJ walked over to an old TV set and prepared to swing. "Fuck you, Bob!" He broke the glass and smoke came from inside of it. "Asshole!" He swung at the top of it and left a dent. 

"Tell him, Alex!" Dr. Stehlik yelled as words of encouragement to him.

AJ walked over to the car and pounded the top of it, swinging the sledgehammer over his head, hearing the impact that his blows to the steel made. "Why did you only care about me after I got famous, huh? Why wasn't me being your son enough for you, why is it STILL not enough?" he yelled, taking shallower breaths as his anger really took hold of him. 

AJ then went over to a computer monitor and began to break it into pieces, breaking the glass and cracking the plastic.

"What's going on? What are you thinking about?" Julia asked him.

"All I ever wanted was a father! But where were you? The same place you've been my entire life, someplace else!!" he yelled at the top of his lungs and swung again.

"Let it out, now, what do you wanna say? Let it go, Alex."

He walked back over to the car and proceeded to beat the door with the sledgehammer. "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!" AJ took a final swing at the windshield and left a hole in it. "BACKSTABBER!" He dropped it and clenched his fists, breathing heavily, pure rage could be seen in his eyes and body language as he stood beside the battered car.

"See, that's what scares me," John said worriedly. 

"It's okay, no one's getting out of control, he's fine. Alright, that's enough. Come here." Dr. Rollins said and AJ walked over to her. "You're not back there, you're here now, okay? Take a deep breath. Tell me what's coming up, tell me what's going on with your body."

He took a few deep breaths to try to calm himself. "My heart is racing, my breath is...I feel like I can't catch my breath," he said, a bit hoarse from all the yelling that he did.  

"Let's take a deep breath, count to five. Are you feeling dizzy or lightheaded?" Julia wanted to make sure that he was okay. 

"No. I'm okay," he said in between breaths. 

"Take another one, it's okay."

AJ did and he was slowly visibly relaxing.

"You're not back there, you're here now. You're an adult, you can take care of yourself. You're not there anymore," she repeated.

"Yeah," AJ said. "It feels good to break shit. I'm not holding my anger in, I'm pushing it outside of me."

"Right, good. Have a seat. Take a breath, relax," Dr. Rollins said and he sat on a plastic milk crate.

After a few minutes she spoke again. "Alex, why don't you share with John and I what came up for you as you did this?"

"The breathing that I got, it's so key, I haven't felt like that since I was a kid."

"Like a little kid who can't stop crying," John confirmed.

"That's exactly how it was and I haven't felt like that since..."

"So, that's your trigger. Trauma is stored in the body, your body will let you know first when you're being triggered. When you feel that breathing, you know that something triggered you. You feel that in your body, you take a step back, 'I just got triggered.' Try and figure out what it is and take a different way," Dr. Rollins explained to him and AJ nodded in understanding. "Now you're an adult and you can take care of yourself and you have choices. You don't have to do that again, you don't have to do that anymore."

"Right."

"Alright, that's it. Good job." She and John gave him a hand and AJ collected his shirt off of the ground. They all said their goodbyes and AJ left with Dr. Stehlik and went back to his office.

"This was an important step for you, Alex, the exercise allowed you to feel things and be in touch with things that you haven't felt since you were a child," John noted as he drove along the highway.

"Yeah," he sighed.

"Today was good, I'm proud of you."

"Thanks, John," AJ said with a slight smile.

8:34 PM

Soon enough, AJ drove back home and parked in the driveway. He took a deep breath before taking the key out of the ignition and getting out. He went inside and shut the front door. "Hey, sorry I'm late," he said as Kim came up to him. "Therapy ran late."

"It's alright, how was it?" she asked and gave him a kiss.

"It was good, I'm beat, though," AJ sighed and wrapped his arms around her.

"I'm sure. Did you do the expressive therapy?"

"Yeah. It was good, it helped a lot."

"Good," Kim echoed.

"Jordan's in bed?" AJ assumed.

"Yeah, he took a bath and sacked out around eight," she answered. "Are you hungry?"

"No. Well, I'm gonna—"

"Your mom's awake, why don't you go say hi?"

"Okay." He gave her another kiss and went off to one of their guestrooms that was down the hall. He knocked lightly on the door before entering.

"Hi, sweetheart. How was your session with John?" Denise wondered as she was sitting up in bed.

"It was good, I'm exhausted, though." he answered as he came to her bedside. 

"Good. Do you wanna talk about it?"

AJ shrugged. "Not really, they always leave me drained afterward. Maybe later."

"Sure."

"So, how are you feeling, Mom? Do you need anything?"

"I'm fine, thanks," she said. 

Tony came in the room and stood next to AJ. "Hey, Alex."

"Hey. Well, Mom, I'm dead on my feet." He let out a big yawn. "I'm just gonna shower and go to bed, okay? I guess I'm not much of a chatterbox tonight," he said with a chuckle.

"That's okay, go get some sleep, sweetheart. You sure could use it."

"Mom, don't. Not tonight, please. I love you." He kissed her cheek and hugged her gently.

"I love you, too."

"Goodnight, Dad, see you in the morning." They hugged and AJ left the room and went into the kitchen to say goodnight to Kim. 

"Hey, I'm gonna shower and go to bed, okay?" he said and enveloped her in a hug.

"Okay, baby, you've had a long day. Go get some rest."

"Thanks." He kissed her. "I love you."

"I love you, too," Kim echoed and let him go upstairs into their bedroom. 

Once he was upstairs, AJ slipped his shoes off and practically collapsed onto the bed. He didn't even bother to change clothes or cover himself with a blanket, he was asleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow for the first time in weeks.

10:16 PM

Kim entered the bedroom to find her husband laying on top of the bed instead of under the covers with his shoes next to it. She chuckled lightly to herself. 'I guess he didn't make it to the shower, poor baby...' She walked over to his side and ran her hand gently through his brown curls, he looked so peaceful just laying there. She looked closer at his sleeping form and noticed that his cheeks were a bit pink, it was easier to tell because of his pallid skin. Kim reached over to feel with the back of her hand what she guessed was a light fever. 'The stress of everything that's gone on must be catching up with him now. He doesn't have to be strong for me, he should know that...' she thought with a frown. Nevertheless, she turned off his bedside lamp and climbed into bed beside him and fell asleep soon after. 
------------------

Tuesday, June 10, 2008
1:41 AM

AJ was jerked awake from his sleep and heard his stomach make a weird noise. The next thing he knew, he was trying to make it to the bathroom in time to throw up what little he had in his stomach into the toilet. What followed that was a couple rounds of dry-heaving, with sweat pouring off of him as he stayed perched over the bowl. A small moan and a cough escaped his lips as Kim came into the bathroom. 

"Babe? Are you alright?"

AJ lifted his head up to give her a look that said, "Don't worry about me in here throwing my guts up, everything's just peachy." He stopped as another round of dry-heaving consumed him and he spit in disgust.

Kim wet a washcloth and knelt beside him. Wiping his neck, she could feel AJ shivering at her touch. "Are you cold?"

"No." He swallowed hard. "Feels good." He closed the lid and flushed the toilet, sitting back against it as Kim wiped the sweat off of his face. She placed the cool washcloth around his neck and stood up.

"I'll be right back." She returned a few minutes later with a mug of leftover ginger tea in her hands that AJ had made for Denise yesterday. "If you can keep this down, it should help with the nausea."

He graciously accepted the mug and took a few small sips of the liquid, but stopped as it did not agree with his upset stomach and he threw it back up. He turned back around and looked at Kim. "You shouldn't be here, Liz said to—"

"Shhh. I know, Alex, but I can't leave you in here to suffer alone, now, can I?" she challenged him. 

"You can get Bill or dad. On second thought..." 

"Exactly. So, I'm thinking stomach bug?"

"Probably," AJ agreed weakly and took another small sip of the tea. 

"Yeah, you have a fever. I can see tell, I can see it in your cheeks. Let's see what we're working with here." Kim stood to get the thermometer out of the cabinet above them and turned it on. She knelt back down and put the tip in his ear, hearing it beep after a few seconds and read the result. "100.3, definitely the stomach flu. Let's hope that this is just a twenty-four hour virus."

After a few minutes, the two of them decided to go back to bed so AJ could get some proper rest and not spend the night on the bathroom floor.

"Do you need anything? Some Tylenol maybe?" Kim suggested as AJ got under the covers. 

He did have a headache, but he declined. "No, thanks, I don't think my stomach could handle it right now."

"Okay, baby. Just try to sleep."

"Sure," AJ said and closed his eyes. His breathing slowed and he was soon asleep once again with Kim by his side.
End Notes:
The expressive therapy session was inspired by an episode of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.

Please review, I appreciate any and all feedback! :D
Chapter 31 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 5/19. I'm FINALLY back with an update for all of you!! I got a bad case of writer's block and no inspiration, hopefully I've moved past it. I sincerely apologize for the wait.

There's more good news: I think I've decided the whole point of this story which is why I changed the summary into something more specific. I hope you guys like it. :)

Enjoy the update and don't forget to leave me some feedback! :D

Monday, June 23, 2008
11:56 AM

"Oh, Howie. I'm so sorry."

"Thanks, Alex," he replied quietly.

"We've been thinking about you guys a lot. I'm glad Hoke's not suffering anymore."

"Yeah, he took a turn for the worse these last few days. It's kinda hard to imagine him not being here. To see me and Leigh start a family..."

"I know, man. Listen, I'm gonna let you get back to them. You'll call me if you need anything? Do you want me to let everyone else know?" AJ offered his grieving friend, it was the least he could do, after all.

Howie sighed. "No, it's okay. Thank you, though. I appreciate it."

"Alright. Take care of yourself. I love you, take as much time as you need. Give our love and condolences to the familia, will you?"

"Of course. Thanks, Alex, bye."

"Bye."

AJ disconnected the phone call and tossed his cell phone on the bed and sat on it. He ran his fingers through his hair and exhaled sharply. 'Gotta go tell Kim the news...get it over with.'

He exited his bedroom and went downstairs to the kitchen to tell her about Howie's father. "Kim?" he said to get her attention.

"Hey, babe. Who was on the phone?" she wondered as she turned around to face him.

AJ cleared his throat. "That was Howie." He took a seat the island and Kim joined him.

"Aw, how is he?"

"Not so good. Hoke passed away in his sleep yesterday morning."

Howie's father had been battling brain and lung cancer for the past three months. They all decided to cancel their four mid-June concerts in South Africa so Howie could spend as much time with him as possible. AJ could only hope that it was time well-spent.

Kim frowned. "Poor Howie...Hoke was such a good man." She had only met him a few times over the years, most recently at Howie and Leigh's wedding in December, but she could definitely see where half of Howie's nickname came from.

AJ gave a small nod. "Yeah, he was."

"Do you know when they're burying him?"

"No, I didn't want to pry. He said what he wanted to say."

"Right."

AJ took Kim's hand in his and brought it up to his lips to kiss the back of it gently. His eyes were filled with sorrow as he glanced at her for his friend and what he and his family were walking through right now. He had enough experience with death and grief in recent years with his grandmother in 2001, his grandfather in 2003, and Kim's father, David, in 2004 soon after Jordan was born.

Kim noticed that AJ was just looking down at the granite counter top. "What are you thinking about?"

"What Howie and all of them must be going through. God knows we've experienced the same thing..."

"I know," she said softly.

Both of them were lost in their own thoughts of how they related to the situation with Howie's dad for a few moments.

"I haven't been to my grandparents' graves in quite some time..."

"Yeah, it's been a few years," Kim agreed as she tried to discreetly wipe a tear from her eye.

"Hey," AJ tilted her chin up to look at her. "What's wrong, baby?"

"It's just...the whole thing with Howie's dad."

She didn't even have to finish. "Yeah, I know. I feel it, too." AJ stood, still holding Kim's hand. "C'mon."

The two of them went to the couch and just held each other close, with her head on his chest and him breathing in the scent of her hair. AJ brushed his lips up against her temple, kissing it lightly as he let his mind wander. Their stress levels had increased ten-fold since Denise and Jordan's car accident. The doctor's appointments, making sure that they were taken care of, putting themselves last for the sake of their injured loved ones, helping Denise and Tony go back to their own home two days ago...they both needed this time to just unwind and relax. Jordan was at a playdate in the care of a young couple like themselves, their good friends, Jeff and Lindsey, who they'd known for about three years. They had two young sons, so, they knew that Jordan would fit right in the first time they took him to their house.

Yep, all was quiet...no TV on, no dog barking as Bernie was asleep on the carpet next to the couch. Complete and utter—

"Argh..." AJ groaned as he heard the house phone ring. "Get up, babe, I'll get it." She did and he jogged over to the base, answering it after five rings. "Hello?"

"Alex? It's Jeff."

"What's up? Is everything alright?" He usually called if he wanted to get his or Kim's permission to take Jordan somewhere with their boys or if there was a problem.

"It's Jordan. He's not feeling good and wants to come home."

"What's wrong with him?"

Kim sat up when she heard that, anxiously waiting for an answer.

"He says his stomach hurts and he's vomited twice. Lindsey's in the bathroom with him right now," Jeff replied.

AJ frowned slightly. "Any fever?"

"A small one, almost one-hundred."

"Oh, man, I had the same thing a couple weeks back. I'll be right over."

"Alright, take your time. No hurry."

"Okay. See you in a bit." AJ hung up and set the cordless phone back on the base.

"Is Jordan okay?" Kim asked.

"Jeff said he's got a stomachache and he's thrown up twice. Lindsey's with him."

"Awww...he was fine this morning and when you dropped him off, right?"

AJ sighed. "Yeah. It's probably what I had, a twenty-four hour bug."

"Maybe, but I want you to take him to Alyssa just in case it could be something related to the accident. Give me the phone, I'll call her."

AJ didn't really see the point in wasting a trip to Jordan's pediatrician for the stomach flu, but he figured he'd oblige his wife just this once. "I'm sure it's what I had, but here." He knew that neither of them were in the mood for a fight, so, he went upstairs to get ready and came back down just as Kim finished her conversation with Dr. Boone.

"Alyssa said she'll check him out, that it's a good idea to bring him in. She'll be expecting you."

"Alright." AJ gave her a quick kiss. "I'll be back."

As AJ drove to his destination, he couldn't help but feel annoyed that his first relaxing afternoon with Kim since the accident was ruined. He sighed. But his kid was sick, what could he do about it? He just had to make the best of it, he supposed.

Eventually, AJ parked in Jeff and Lindsey's drive way and walked up to the front door. Just as he was about to knock, he was let inside.

"Hey, Alex. Come on in," Jeff said. "Jordan's upstairs," he added and went into the kitchen.

AJ followed the stairs that led up to the second floor. The bathroom was the second door on the right; he stopped just short of it.

"When's my daddy coming?" he heard Jordan whimper.

Then, he heard Lindsey's voice. "He should be here soon, sweetie, try and relax, okay?"

"Knock, knock," AJ announced and poked his head in. "Hey, buddy," he said softly. "Lindsey," he acknowledged with a nod in her direction. The two of them were sitting on the tile floor near the toilet.

"Hey, Alex."

Jordan stood and came over to him. "I don't feel good, Daddy..." he said in a small voice.

"I know, J." AJ knelt down and picked him up, gently pressing his lips to his forehead. "You've got a little temperature." He turned his attention to Lindsey. "Thanks, Linds, I hope there wasn't a mess to clean up."

"Ah, that's what husbands are for," she grinned.

"Kim says the same thing." He chuckled.

"But seriously, he hit the target the second time. The first was on the tile, easy to clean."

"Alright, then."

The three of them went back downstairs, with AJ being careful not to cause Jordan's upset stomach to do somersaults while going down the steps. He just wanted to get him home and into bed ASAP.

Jeff joined them at the door. "Jordan's welcome to come back over when he feels better, maybe Wednesday or Thursday. Feel better, sport." He ruffled his hair a bit.

Lindsey said something similar and opened the door for AJ. "I apologize in advance if Zach or Eric get it," he said.

"Don't worry about it, kids are dirty, sickly little things," she replied with a laugh.

AJ nodded. "Yeah. Thanks for taking care of him."

"Hey, no thanks needed. Give us a ring whenever," Jeff said.

"Will do, see ya later."

"Bye," Jeff said and shut the front door.

After putting Jordan in the car and buckling him up, AJ walked over to the driver's side door and opened it.

"Alex!"

AJ looked up.

"His shoes!" Jeff yelled, coming down the walk way to hand off the small pair of Nike sneakers to their proper owner.

"Oh. Right. Thanks, man."

"No worries, drive safe." He gave Jordan a thumbs-up before heading back inside.

AJ got in the car and turned the engine, pulling out of the drive way and going down the road as the Garner residence seemed to shrink in the distance.

"We're going home now, Daddy?" Jordan wondered softly.

"Not quite yet, buddy, we gotta go visit Dr. 'Lyssa first."

"But I'm tired..." he whined.

"I know you are. We'll leave as soon as possible, I promise."

Jordan pouted and was pretty much quiet for the rest of the drive to his pediatrician's office. Once they got inside, AJ signed Jordan in and sat down to wait for Alyssa. About five minutes later, they got called back to an exam room.

"Hi, Alex, Kim said you'd be stopping by. How are you?"

"I'm fine, it's Jordan. He's got a fever, he's been throwing up," AJ replied.

Dr. Boone put on a pair of rubber gloves and bent down to his level on the exam table. "How ya doing, buddy?"

"I feel yucky," he answered with a small whimper. AJ kept his hand on his Jordan's back to keep him calm and to offer him some comfort.

She handed him a small plastic basin. "If you need to throw up again, do it in this, okay?" She pushed down on his stomach gently to check for any abnormalities with his abdomen.

"It's noisy out there," Jordan said, pointing toward the waiting room.

She looked in that direction. "Yeah, it's a little crowded today. Sorry."

"It's alright, don't worry about it," AJ said.

"So, your tummy feels okay?" Dr. Boone asked as she picked up an ear thermometer from its cradle. "I'm going to take your temperature, alright?"

"It hurts a little," Jordan replied, squirming slightly as the device entered his left ear.

"Yeah, I'll bet it does. 100.2." She took a pen light out her lab coat pocket. "Open your mouth, please." He did and she looked inside it to see if his mucous membranes were dry, which meant that he might be dehydrated. "Tongue out. Ah." She put it back in her pocket. "Yeah, I don't think it's anything serious. Your garden-variety twenty-four hour virus. Nothing by mouth for six hours. Then, sips of clear liquids and if he keeps those down, you can try a little bit of toast and applesauce for dinner."

"Okay, thanks, Dr. Boone. That's what I told Kim, but she insisted that I bring him in." AJ picked Jordan up and started to walk toward the door.

"You're just being cautious after the accident, can you really blame her?"

AJ shook his head no.

"Call me day or night if any of his symptoms worsen or if he's not feeling any better by tomorrow, alright?"

"Of course, Alyssa, thanks." AJ smiled lightly and looked at his son. "Let's get you home and into bed, hm?"

"Feel better, okay, Jordan? I'll see you soon." He gave a small wave as he rested his head on AJ's shoulder.

"Bye." AJ said and left the exam room, walking down the small hallway. A nurse named Jeanie opened the door for him and they went past the admit desk, into the waiting room, out the door and into the parking lot. Once the two of them were in the car, AJ began the drive home.

"Now, we're going home, buddy."

Jordan just nodded in response as AJ's cell phone rang. "Hello?"

"Alex, it's Luke."

He could hear the urgency in his friend's voice. "Hey, man, it's been a while. What's up?"

"You said...that if I ever got in trouble I could call you..."

'Oh, God, will this day just end already? Between Howie's dad dying and Jordan being sick—' AJ quickly pushed those thoughts out of his mind. "Right, I did say that. I'm glad you remembered that. What's wrong? You don't sound so good..."

Luke swallowed hard. "I'm not. I-I...you just need to get to my apartment now."

"Alright, alright. I will, I promise. Listen, my kid's sick, so, I need to get him home first. I'll be there as soon as I can. Just stay put, okay? Stay put for me, Luke, alright?"

He exhaled a shaky breath. "...Okay."

"I'll be there soon. Bye." AJ hung up and seemed to drive faster, watching the green highway signs pass more quickly as he sped along the asphalt.

'God, please let Luke be alright...please.' he prayed silently.
---------------------------

2:09 PM

Eventually, AJ and Jordan made it back home with no other distractions. He carried Jordan inside and shut the door behind him. Kim was on the couch and got up to greet them.

"Aw, there's my little guy. So, it's just the stomach flu, then?"

"Yeah. Listen, I gotta go. It's an emergency," AJ said.

"What's wrong? Is it your mom?"

"No. Luke."

That was all Kim needed to hear. "I'll take him." She reached for Jordan. "Go."

AJ passed him off to her. "Are you sure? I—"

"Alex, he needs you. Go."

AJ took a deep breath. "Okay. Okay. I love you." He kissed her lips before doing so on Jordan's forehead. "You, too, buddy, be good."

He heard Jordan ask Kim where he was going as he pulled the front door shut and jogged to his car. He got in and drove away from his home, praying that he was doing the right thing.
End Notes:
I'm sure you're all thinking: A.) Who is this Luke guy? B.) Why does he need AJ's help? C.) Why is AJ helping him? and D.) When will I find all of this out?

All of these questions and more will be answered in the next update/in future chapters. Stay tuned...

Don't forget to review (please?)!
Chapter 32 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 6/3. Here's another update. Sorry for the wait, the ending took me forever to write. It could have ended in one spot, but I took it a bit further to set up for the next chapter. I hope you guys enjoy it. :)

PLEASE review, I love feedback and it helps me get more updates out to you all. And to all those lurkers out there...I know you're out there. It's really not hard to make an account on here and at least leave me a "Thanks for updating!" comment. The same applies to those who are already registered here, that read this and never review (I would know, I got like 200+ reads the last time I updated ;) ). Every little bit helps.

I also greatly appreciate those who (regularly) review this story. You know who you are. :)

Monday, June 23, 2008
2:47 PM

AJ lightly tapped his fingers on his car's steering wheel, contemplating when to go inside Luke's Inglewood apartment. Part of him couldn't believe he was doing this again, but that was quite a few years ago. The last time the two of them spoke things were fine, he just didn't know exactly what he'd be walking into...

He sighed. 'Here goes nothing.' AJ left the safety of his Porsche and walked to the front door of the apartment complex, hearing it squeak as he pulled it open and stepped inside. If his memory served him right, Luke was on the third floor. He passed the mailboxes and went to the stairs, going up three flights before stopping at 12C. He urgently knocked and again a second time when there was no immediate response.

A very pale and disheveled Luke unhooked the deadbolt and answered the door. He sniffled. "Hey, man."

"You asked for my help, that's what I'm here for."

"T-That's really decent of you, but I'm f-fine," he said.

AJ couldn't believe it. "You called me practically begging me to come over here and now you're 'fine?'"

"I just panicked. Y-You know how it is, Alex, you're sick and you think the world's gonna end."

"Invite me in."

"What?"

"Invite me in," AJ repeated.

"Sure. C-Come on in."

Luke let AJ inside and he looked around. "It smells like a locker room in here." He slipped his shoes off by the door.

"I should've cleaned up before you got here, sorry." He went over to his coffee table and lit a cigarette. "Want one?"

"No, thanks, I quit."

"No shit. Since when?"

"It's been about five years," AJ replied nonchalantly.

Luke took a drag from it and sat on his couch.

AJ stared at him hard. "So, what am I here for? Same as last time?"

"Alex—"

"I thought you were clean, sober."

"I was."

AJ raised his eyebrows. "Was?"

"For four years. I got back into it last year. September."

"Luke..."

"I know, I know." He put his head in his hands.

"That shit is gonna kill you." He went over to where Luke was sitting.

"Oh, like you're one to talk—"

"Look, do you want my help or not? I don't have time for this," AJ countered.

"Well, I don't need a lect—I think I'm gonna be sick..." Luke covered his mouth and AJ hurried to the kitchen for a bowl. He handed it to Luke just before he violently vomited.

AJ knew exactly what he was dealing with. Heroin withdrawal. "We could look up some treatment centers, get you into detox."

Luke shook his head. "C'mon, Alex, I'm not one of those...B-Betty Ford people. I mean, half of my graduating class from Westland is in rehab. I-I'd bump into somebody I know, word would get out, and tongues would wag."

"You should take a look at yourself, Luke. You're a mess." AJ crossed his arms in front of his chest.

Luke rolled his eyes. "Thank you, Mr. Blackwell. I'd l-love to hang out like old times, but I w-was actually going to h-head out."

"Why don't you give me a break?"

"You're certainly not helping—"

A loud knocking was heard at the door. Luke groaned loudly and put his head in his hands, further messing up his light brown hair.

"You gonna answer that?" AJ wondered.

The knocking was heard again as Luke shuffled to the door and unhooked the deadbolt before opening it slightly.

"Luke. Buddy. What's up? Dude, I am sorry it took so long for me to get here. I was in the middle of a wicked poker game and I didn't feel my phone vibrate."

"It's alright, man," Luke mumbled.

He looked cautiously up and down the hallway before continuing in a hushed voice. He unzipped a bag he had with him. "So, anyway, I got you a couple grams of the usual and check this out." He pulled out a small baggie of brown powder. "A gram of this, this is some superb—"

AJ realized what was going on and went to the door, appearing behind Luke. "I think you'd better go."

"Who the hell's this guy?"

"M-My friend," Luke said.

"Well, your friend needs to learn some manners. Anyway, as I was saying—"

AJ lightly pushed Luke aside to get to his dealer. "Hey, I don't think you heard me. I said to get outta here."

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Last time I checked, this was Luke's apartment, okay? So, why don't you go make yourself a hot toddy or something and let us talk."

AJ turned to Luke, his expression serious. "Luke, if you do this you are on your own—"

"Oh, you know what? What's it gonna be, man? Do you want this or not?" His drug dealer showed him again and Luke bowed his head, shaking it for no. "Huh? Yeah? Is that a yeah? Yeah, alright."

Conflict twisted Luke's face as he stole glances at the bag of heroin. "Y-You better go, John."

"Huh. Alright. Well, you know where to find me when Mommy's gone—"

AJ pushed John. "Hey, you heard him! Get outta here." And with that, he slammed the door in his face.

Luke went up to the door and punched it lightly, regretting his decision. With a whimper, he sunk to the the floor, sucking in a breath and sniffling. AJ just stared at him and he couldn't help but think of what drugs had done to his friend.

3:31 PM

Luke was sitting up on his couch with a blanket wrapped around him, shaking with chills. "C-Can you turn the heat up, please? It's like a f-freakin' meat locker in here."

"Heat's cranked up to eighty," AJ said as he turned a page of the local newspaper and put it down. "I'll make some soup—"

"I don't want soup!" Luke bellowed. "I am sick, I need something!"

"I'll make some tea," he replied calmly and stood.

"Ugh, I'm gonna vomit..."

"Use the—" Too late.

Luke coughed and spit. AJ patted his back. "It's okay. Next time you feel it coming on, use the bowl. Don't worry about it. You wanna take your shirt off?—"

"I can't do this anymore!" He kicked off the blanket and started for the door. "I'm getting out of here."

AJ grabbed Luke by his shoulder. "I'm not gonna let you do that."

He turned around and pushed him away. "Get off of me! You are not helping!" He pointed at him, stomping his foot in anger. "You are not helping me, you are not doing jack!" Luke reached for the doorknob.

AJ grabbed him and pushed him away from the door. "The only way you're gonna leave through here is through me!"

"Fine, I'll call John back—"

AJ lunged at the phone and ripped it away from the wall. He proceeded to grab Luke by his shoulder and led him to a chair and held him down. "Sit down."

"I am sick! I need something! You gotta help me...you have to help me!"

"I'm going to help you. I'm going to help you, Luke but you've gotta stick with me!"

He groaned and fought against AJ before giving up. "Alright?" He felt his forehead and sighed. "You're burning up."

"N-No shit, Sherlock."

"Alright, I'm gonna make a few phone calls."

"Phone c-calls?" Luke questioned.

"Yeah, I've got connections at Cedars-Sinai. I'll get some meds for you."

"You're the best, Alex."

AJ chuckled. "Right."

A short time later, there was a knock at the door and AJ was surprised to see an old friend on the other side. "Anna? What're you doing here?"

"You uh, called in a prescription for Compazine (an anti-emetic). You're gonna need a lot more than that, trust me."

"Come on in."

"Luke." She nodded in his direction as she came over to him on the love seat.

"H-Hey, Anna. Long time, no see. Sorry I didn't tidy up."

"It's no problem. You should see my brother Rob's place, it's a super fun sight." She brought a backpack of medical supplies over to him. She was a trauma nurse at the hospital, she'd seen tons of drug overdoses. She opened the bag and took some things out of it. "I've got Clonidine and Propranolol."

"Propranolol?" AJ wondered.

"For his withdrawal symptoms. I 'borrowed' it from the ER. I've also got your saline and rectal Compazine."

Luke took a drag from his cigarette, his hand trembling. "R-Rectal? I got my choice of who gives it to me?"

Anna raised her hand. "That would be me, I'm the medical professional here. I'm gonna get you set up with an IV, okay?" She put on a pair of rubber gloves and got to work. Afterward, AJ brought over a coat rack to hang the saline bag on a hook. Anna injected a substance into the bag with a syringe. "This is gonna lower your heart rate and blood pressure and take the edge off the jitters."

AJ put his hand on Luke's head. "You're gonna be okay," he tried to reassure him.

Luke ate a little bit and fell asleep soon after that, curled up on his couch. AJ was cleaning up some while Anna was looking at the black and white pictures on the wall near by. "These are great photos."

He looked up and joined her. "Those are Luke Gattuso originals."

"Really?"

"Mhm."

"Gritty stuff, it's not what I would've expected," she remarked.

"Yeah, he's got a lot of talents," AJ said quietly and sighed. "I guess that's why this is all so hard to understand."

"Well, this happens to all kinds of people. I see it every day."

AJ just nodded.

"...Before, when I said I had a friend on heroin, I wasn't being completely honest."

Confusion showed on AJ's face. "How so?"

"It was my boyfriend." It was her turn to sigh. "I've done the detox dance more times than I can count."

"How come you didn't cut him loose?"

"It's not that easy when you love someone."

AJ looked over at Luke's sleeping figure. "No," he agreed. "Do you think this is the worst of it?"

"I wish it was."

He groaned and started pacing the floor. "God, I don't know what I'm doing here..."

"You're doing great."

He stopped to look at her. "Thanks for coming."

Anna rolled her eyes. "What are friends for?"

AJ began pacing again. "My kid's home sick—"

"Sick?"

"Stomach flu. Kim's probably worried—"

"Kim?" Anna wondered.

"My wife."

"You're married?"

AJ lifted his left hand to show her his wedding ring. "Since August 2002. I should call her..."

"Wow, congrats."

"Thanks." He sat down on the love seat. "What are we gonna do? Throw him in my car and force him into rehab? He needs help."

"That's the worst thing you could possibly do. Treatment has to be his choice only, we can't make it for him. He's got to want it."

AJ shook his head. "He's got such a bright future, he's so much better than this shit...drugs and all."

Anna came over to AJ and put her hand on his shoulder. "I know. I can see it in him. We'll help him get through this."

"Yeah."
-------------------

7:03 PM

AJ was beside himself with rage at Luke. They'd gone back and forth over the past two hours about him going into rehab. He wished more than anything that he could wake him to see what drugs were doing to him. "Take a look in the mirror, dude, look at you! You're killing yourself and I'm not gonna stand around to watch a train wreck! You're twenty-six years old!"

"Screw you, Alex!" Luke yelled back, his hands balling into fists.

"This is killing me to see you like this. You were doing so well: four years sober, a steady job working with some of the best photographers in LA. What made you decide to throw that all away, to give that up? The cravings were too much for you? They made you—"

Luke scoffed bitterly. "You'd know all about that, wouldn't you?"

"This isn't about me! I—"

Anna stepped in between the pair, putting her arms out to separate them. "That's enough. Either of you yelling isn't helping this situation any."

AJ turned away from Luke and rubbed his face with his hand before sighing heavily. He turned back around to face his friend again, his tone more stern rather than angry as he gave his final plea. "Luke, if our friendship means anything to you, you'll go into treatment. But you have to want this. We can't force you. But if you don't accept what we're offering, I'm walking out that door right now." AJ glanced over at it. "I won't answer your phone calls. If you don't get help, I don't want anything to do with you. Do you hear me?"

Luke was silent. AJ sighed and went to the door as promised just seconds before. "Wait." He turned around and looked at him.

"I-I'll go. I'll go," he decided in a whisper.

AJ gave him a small smile, it was a start. "Great. Let's get your stuff."

Fifteen minutes later, Luke and AJ went in his car and Anna followed them in hers.

"I'm proud of you, Luke. You're doing the right thing."

He shrugged. "...I guess."

After a few minutes of silence, they reached their destination and parked in front of the New Beginnings Recovery Center. They got out and walked to the front doors, with Luke carrying his luggage and AJ placing a comforting hand on his back. Anna was on his left side.

"This is it, you can do this."

Luke took a deep breath and pulled open the door and stepped inside, taking in his new surroundings. He was immediately met by a staff member, as promised when AJ spoke on the phone with the facility.

"Hello, you must be Luke. I'm Corina Maldini, the Admissions Coordinator here. Welcome." She reached to shake his hand and he took it in his.

Corina looked to Anna and AJ as they stood behind him. "I spoke to you on the phone earlier. Thank you so much for accompanying your friend here. It's time to say your goodbyes, we need to get Luke settled and get him started in detox."

AJ nodded and embraced Luke. "Good luck, man, I'll call you every day. Stay strong, alright?"

"Thanks, Alex," he mumbled in return and hugged Anna.

The two of them left Luke behind as they exited the building. AJ breathed a sigh of relief as he went to his Porsche. "Hey, Anna?"

She looked up at him from her car door.

"Thanks again. I couldn't have done this without you," He smiled lightly.

"Any time. Let's hope that we don't have to meet again under similar circumstances."

"Agreed," AJ said with a nod.

"Take care of yourself, alright?"

"Will do." AJ got in his car and began the drive home while trying to process everything that had happened over the last few hours, during the day as a whole. He was holding out hope to have at least one peaceful moment before the day was over.
-------------------------

7:49 PM

"How's Jordan?"

"How's Luke?" the two of them wondered simultaneously as AJ walked into the house, shutting the front door behind him.

Kim chuckled slightly and shook her head. "You first."

"Jordan's okay? Is he asleep?"

She sighed. "No. He's restless and fussy. I just came down from his room to get him some water."

"Go relax, I'll get it," AJ offered her and started for the kitchen.

Kim followed him. "I would think that you need to relax, being with Luke all day. It's not good, is it?"

"No, he's back on heroin," AJ replied softly and filled a glass with filtered water from the fridge; they were trying to cut back on buying bottled water. "He said that he was clean for four years. Started up again in September."

Kim knew that this hit her husband hard, especially since he helped wake Luke up the first time he got sober back in 2003. "Alex, I can take that up. Really, I've got it."

AJ put on the best smile he could and declined her offer. "I'm fine. I'll be back." He walked past her and went upstairs, first making a pit stop in his closet to slip off his shoes before going to Jordan's bedroom.

"You're home," he remarked with a small smile.

"Hey, J, I've got your water." He came over to the edge of his bed and handed the glass to him. "Small sips, okay?"

Jordan drank some of it and gave it back to AJ, who put it on his nightstand. "You need to go to sleep now, okay, buddy?"

"Uh-uh," Jordan whimpered and shook his head. "Tummy hurts too much."

"Alright. Lay down." He did and AJ covered him lightly with the top blanket. "What can I do to help you get to sleep?" He went over to the corner and brought over Jordan's rocking chair from when he was a baby and sat down in it.

Jordan only shrugged. AJ racked his brain for ideas until one came to him. "How about I rub your back until you fall asleep? Roll over on your side for me," he requested gently. Jordan did so just as AJ heard Kim come up the stairs and presumably went into their bedroom. "Now, just close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Where's one place you wanna be right now?"

"Disneyland," Jordan answered softly.

AJ smiled, he was of course talking about the theme park and resort in Anaheim. Kim and himself took Jordan there for the first time last summer. "Maybe we can squeeze a trip in before Daddy leaves again for tour."

"Promise?"

"Of course. What would we do there?"

"Ride the tea cups."

AJ heard Jordan let out a small yawn.

"You loved that ride. What else?"

"Dumbo."

AJ laughed. "We rode that thing what, four, five times?"

Jordan matched his father with a giggle of his own. "It's my favorite, Daddy."

"Well, I like the pirate ride."

"Me, too," Jordan agreed and curled up into his blanket as AJ continued to calmly smooth his back. Several minutes and pirate imitations later, Jordan was fast asleep as he clung to his teddy bear. AJ noticed this and put the rocking chair in its proper place before coming back to the bed. He kissed his forehead lightly and picked up the glass from the nightstand. "Daddy loves you. So much," he whispered. AJ walked to the door and flipped the light switch down as he closed it and went back downstairs.

'God, I need a shower...' AJ thought as he flipped through TV channels with the remote. With a sigh, he turned off the TV and stood just as Kim descended the stairs and walked in on him. He looked over at her and couldn't quite read her expression, it didn't look pleasant, that's for sure.

"Hey, babe, I'm gonna go shower and..."

AJ could feel the blood drain from his face after what Kim did next.
End Notes:
Ooh...cliffhanger...I'm evil aren't I? But I gotta cut it off somewhere, haha. Stay tuned for more!

The scenes at Luke's apartment were inspired by an episode of ER. No harm is intended.
Chapter 33 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 7/5.

Hey everyone, sorry for the long wait again. I took a couple of weeks off from writing to just chill and I wrote most of this chapter before I struggled with the ending. I hope you all like it. :)

Monday, June 23, 2008
8:05 PM

"Hey, babe, I'm gonna go shower and..."

AJ could feel the blood drain from his face after what Kim did next.


Kim opened her closed fist to reveal a small baggie that was filled with a white powder: cocaine.

AJ had almost no words, he would recognize it anywhere. "...Where did you get that?" he choked out as he slumped back down on the couch.

"You tell me," she quipped and arched her eyebrows.

"Kim, I swear to God...don't even go there." He suddenly felt lightheaded and decided to stay sitting.

"Drugs? Alex, how could you even THINK about bringing this poison into this house??" She moved closer to him and AJ slightly recoiled, afraid of what her next action might be. "Huh?!"

AJ put both of his hands up in a defensive manner. "Kim, I swear to God I don't know where that came from."

She rolled her eyes. "Really? Where have I heard that before?"

"Stop, Jordan's sleeping—"

"I can't believe you!! After what you promised me! That you would never touch this shit again!" Kim was fuming, AJ hadn't seen her this angry in a long time.

AJ tried to stay as calm as possible. "Wait, stop right there. Where did you find it?"

"I found it in your shoe," she sneered.

Something clicked inside AJ's head. "That son of a bitch! I'll kill him!"

"Oh, don't you dare go pinning this on Luke, Alex! I should've known something was fishy 'cause you went to see him."

"No! Not Luke!" Kim's blatant distrust of AJ's explanation only began to infuriate him more.

"Who, then?" Kim wondered, waiting to hear the story her husband was probably cooking up in his head.

"Luke's dealer, John, stopped by while I was at his apartment and must've slipped it in when I wasn't looking."

Kim wasn't buying it. "Uh-huh, sure he did."

AJ couldn't believe her. "Why can't you just believe me for once, Kim?"

"Why should I?" she shot back.

"Maybe because I'm your husband? Maybe because I wouldn't do this to you after what happened last time? I won't ever put you through that again. I won't ever hurt you like that again."

"I'm hurting right now, Alex," As if AJ needed any reminding.

"I'm not gonna fight with you, Kim. I won't do it! I'm telling the truth! You never trust me! I went off that shit cold turkey for you, damn it! Do you have any idea what I went through for you to change? To be the man you needed me to be? I'm not that person anymore, why do you insist on constantly reminding me of my mistakes?"

Kim didn't answer.

"Our son is asleep upstairs and I'm gonna keep quiet for him. If you wanna fly off the handle some more, go ahead, but I'm walking away before I do or say something I regret. Get that shit away from me, flush it, I don't care." AJ stood and rushed past her and went downstairs into his studio before Kim could get another word in. He locked the door and sat at the table. He just tried to calm down and remember to keep breathing.

The truth was that AJ did care about what Kim did with the cocaine. He hadn't had a craving in years, but he had a whopper of one now. He ran his fingers through his hair and a groan escaped his lips, a sound similar to what Luke made in his apartment just hours earlier. Who knew that the day would turn out like this?

"God, give me the strength...please..."

AJ rested his head on the table and let out another groan. He didn't know exactly how long he'd been sitting there, but eventually he sat up and reached for a pen and opened his journal to a blank page. With a trembling hand he wrote the following:

6/23/08

I can't believe this. How could this happen? I don't do that shit anymore, I haven't in almost seven years. This is unreal. I love Kim, I can't imagine how she reacted when she found me seizing on the hotel bathroom floor, foaming at the mouth, in the midst of my second overdose. She must've been so scared, I can't believe I put her through that.

She woke me up, she saved my life. Every day she does. She set me straight, got me clean and clear-headed. If she didn't leave me then, she won't now. She gave me a chance then, not now...

Ugh, I wanna do a line SO bad...the rush... No. No! Never again. I can't.

God please help me, be my strength.


AJ closed his journal, his body yearning with need for whiskey and lots of it...he could almost visualize his fingers on the ice-cold shot glass, the amber-colored liquid, feel the burning in his throat as it went down...

He wrestled within himself. So many contradicting thoughts passed through his mind. 'Should I or shouldn't I? No. Yes. No...'

Instead AJ went to his keyboard. He wasn't very good, but he knew that he was in a vulnerable state and that some good could come out of this if he wouldn't be so rash. A moment of rationality.

He started to play a random string of notes and hummed to figure out a melody of some sort. He'd do almost anything to distract himself at this point.

A few minutes later, AJ gave up, but made a mental note of his ideas. He looked at the clock on the wall and couldn't believe he'd been in his studio for over an hour already. With a sigh, he turned all of his equipment off and went back upstairs to the kitchen.

AJ realized that Kim had gone upstairs when the kitchen and living room were empty. He decided to go to his closet and change into something suitable for sleeping, their fight left him exhausted. As if he wasn't already before he got home.

AJ could hear the sounds of muffled crying from their bedroom as he pulled on some lounge pants over his boxers. If they had any other fight, he would go to Kim in a heartbeat to console her, to apologize. But she was in the wrong this time.

AJ exited his closet and got a pillow and blanket from downstairs and settled in on the couch. He didn't feel like messing up a perfectly clean guest room.

He hadn't slept on the couch after a fight in a long time. Usually they tried not to go to bed angry, but this time was different.

Even in the darkness, AJ knew exactly where pictures of himself and Kim were in the room. On the shelf next to the TV there was a photo from their wedding day: AJ in a black tuxedo with Kim in her white wedding gown, sharing their first kiss as husband and wife. Next to that was a shot of AJ kissing Kim's very pregnant belly, she was smiling...

On the other side of the TV, a picture hung of AJ and Jordan from the previous year's family photos. The two of them looked like twins in their matching polo shirts and khaki pants.

'He's definitely my son...'

AJ drifted off to sleep soon after with that happy thought in mind.
-------------------

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
12:51 AM

"Mommy! Daddy!"

AJ woke up with a start and began to let his eyes adjust to the darkness of the living room before he heard the voice again.

"Mommy! Daddy!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming..." AJ murmured, kicking off the blanket and rising to his feet. He stretched and went upstairs as quietly as he could to Jordan's bedroom.

"Hey, bud, what's wrong?" he asked and walked in.

All Jordan did was whimper. "My tummy still hurts and I throwed up."

It was then AJ noticed some vomit on his son's chin, his pajama shirt, and on the white carpet next to his bed in front of the nightstand. With a light sigh, he went over to Jordan, being careful to avoid stepping in the puddle of sick. He heard footsteps and Kim knocked lightly on the door before poking her head in, with Bernie at her heels.

"Is everything alright in here?"

AJ looked up at her. "Jordan had an accident. You can go back to bed, I've got this," he dismissed her with a wave of his hand.

Kim gave him a questioning look, she was sure that AJ would make her stay up with Jordan. "You don't mind?"

"Nah, I was barely asleep anyway," AJ replied with a shrug and a slight bitter edge to his voice. "Go on."

"Okay. Goodnight, J, Daddy's gonna stay with you. I'll see you in the morning."

"Love you, Mommy," he said.

"I love you, too. Come on, Bernie." Kim hesitated slightly as she left, she could feel AJ's eyes on her. Sighing, she closed the door behind her and retreated back to their bedroom.

AJ stared at the door for another moment and turned his attention back to his ailing son. "Stand up and come next to me, please." Jordan did as he was told. "Is there any throw up on your bed?"

"I don't think so, Daddy," he answered quietly.

AJ checked to make sure and took Jordan into the adjoining bathroom. He wet a washcloth with warm water and dabbed a bit of soap on it to wipe Jordan's chin clean. They went back to the bedroom and AJ walked over to the dresser. "Let's change your shirt." He took a t-shirt out of the third drawer from the top and brought it over and helped Jordan put it on.

"Alright, is that better?"

He nodded.

"C'mon, you don't have to sleep in here tonight. You can sleep on the couch, okay?" AJ offered him a small smile.

"Okay."

Jordan followed his father downstairs and AJ got him settled, teddy bear included. "I'm gonna go clean up the accident on the floor in your room. Go to sleep, okay?"

Jordan yawned. "'Kay, Daddy, love you."

"I love you, too, buddy, sweet dreams." AJ kissed Jordan's forehead and went down the hallway and into the laundry room to gather some cleaning supplies. He took the items he needed and went back upstairs and began to clean the carpet next to Jordan's bed shortly after.

Once that was finished, AJ returned the items to their proper place and let out a big yawn, it was almost twenty minutes after one in the morning. He turned the light off in the laundry room and entered the guest bedroom that Denise had stayed in while she recovered from the car accident that happened almost a month ago. AJ moved the pillows and pulled back the sheets and comforter before climbing into the bed. So much for not messing up a guest room.

His exhaustion from the previous day's events played a very key role in that AJ fell asleep quite easily, almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
---------------

9:46 AM

The next morning AJ woke up, not caring to make the bed as he left the guest room. He shut the door behind him and quietly walked down the hardwood-floored hallway that led to the living room just in case Jordan was still sleeping on the couch.

His assumption was correct in that Jordan was still asleep, slightly tangled in a blanket and his teddy bear was on the carpet below him. AJ chuckled lightly and went into the empty kitchen to make some coffee and maybe find something to eat, he wasn't feeling very hungry after last night's disaster with Kim.

'Or maybe the whole day was one big disaster,' he thought sourly as he poured some ground up Coffee Bean into a coffee filter and added the water before turning the coffee pot on. He took a seat at the island and let his mind wander.

'Maybe it wasn't a total waste after all.' AJ remembered Jordan's face lighting up a bit last night when he entered his bedroom when he got back from dealing with Luke. Some quiet time with him aside from the giggles shared was just what he needed: a chance to come down from the craziness of the day and let things return to normal. Of course AJ knew that his life was anything but normal, but at times it could at least be familiar and routine.

And of course the clash last night with Kim wasn't normal at all. AJ was glad that she wasn't awake, he wasn't ready to face her just yet.

'I need this quiet time to relax...'

It seemed that just as that thought passed through his mind, AJ heard footsteps on the stairs. Kim shuffled into the kitchen wearing a light pink robe, her eyes slightly puffy from crying herself to sleep the night before. She noticed AJ sitting on a stool at the kitchen island looking down at the granite counter top, seemingly lost in thought.

"Good morning," she greeted him coolly in an attempt to break the silence. She could already feel the tension between them.

AJ just looked up at her with expressionless eyes, slightly wishing that Kim would just go back to bed and leave him alone.

"You're making coffee?" she wondered in the same tone as before. She heard a hiss come from the coffee maker as the dark, caffeinated liquid dripped into the pot behind AJ.

He only shrugged in response.

Kim was growing agitated at her husband's seemingly uncaring attitude. "What? Are you giving me the silent treatment now?"

"No," AJ answered quietly, now beginning to fidget with his hands.

Kim sighed and went over to the fridge and took out the carton of orange juice. She retrieved a glass from the cabinet above her and poured herself some and put it back. She took a seat across from AJ and just stared at him. "What's with you?"

AJ stayed silent and continued to look down, knowing that her eyes were fixated on him.

Kim had enough of him being passive. "Are you five years-old or thirty? Say something."

"If I wanted to talk to you, I would," AJ snapped.

Kim didn't seem the least bit phased by his comment. "Well, this little game you're playing can't last long, God knows you love to talk."

"Game?" AJ wondered, narrowing his eyes at her. "This is a game to you?"

"He speaks," she chirped.

"How are you able to just sit there and act like you did nothing wrong?" he questioned, his voice a bit stronger now.

"Because I didn't," Kim replied, confident.

AJ scoffed. "Oh, yeah? Then why did I hear you crying last night, hm? A bit of guilt, perhaps?"

"Fuck you, Alex," Kim growled.

"You are so right, Kim, you did absolutely nothing wrong last night. I'm public enemy number one, I'm the bad guy. Never trust a druggie. Are you happy now? Does that make you feel better?" he asked her, his tone dripping with sarcasm.

It was Kim's turn to be silent.

AJ scoffed once more. "And suddenly you don't speak."

AJ stood and left her with only his words as he went downstairs into his studio and shut the door behind him, effectively shutting out the rest of the world along with it.
End Notes:
I hope this chapter didn't disappoint and I can't wait to read everyone's feedback! I promise I'll update more quickly this next time, I don't want anyone to forget about this story! ;)
Chapter 34 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 8/4. I really apologize for the spaced out updates, I plan on starting the next chapter tomorrow. :) Enjoy this one guys.

Saturday, July 19, 2008
8:22 PM 

"Hey, dude! Glad you could make it out!" AJ slapped his friend Jason's hand and pulled him in for a pat on the back as a few others joined them. Among their small group was AJ's best friend, Chris, Jason's friend, Greg, Jeff, and his younger brother, Mark. 

"Y'all ready to get your drink on?" AJ asked them with a cackle. "Don't worry, it's on me tonight, boys." The five of them cheered as AJ ordered up a round of Budweisers from the passing waitress. 

Moments later they were brought to their table. "To a guy's night out, fellas! Drink up!" AJ toasted and they each clinked bottles before swigging the beer.

AJ sighed and turned to Jeff. "Ah...man, this is gonna be my last fun night for quite awhile."

"Oh, yeah, you go back on tour next week, don't you?" Jeff remembered quickly. 

"Yep. Kim's made me a prisoner in my own home these last few weeks with Jordan. She's hardly let me go anywhere, to the store and visits to my shrink. That's pretty much it."

"Wow. Why?"

"That's shitty, Alex," Mark added. 

Chris nodded. "Yeah, dude, we've hardly hung out since you've been home." 

"Oh, quit your bitching, = Chris! I don't know who's worse, you, or Alex, over here!" Greg yelled playfully from across the table and drank more of his beer. 

AJ just smirked bitterly. "'Cause she's a bitch." He sipped his beer again.

Mark rolled his eyes. "Women." 

AJ nodded in approval at this one word. "But, anyway, I leave for Canada on the 27th or some shit for the North American leg. Might as well enjoy my free time while I can, right? So, I organized this little get-together so I could get out, spread my wings. Needless to say, Kim was pretty pissed that I wanted to go out tonight. But, I made sure to make these plans before I told her..."

"So, she couldn't say no," Chris finished for him and gave his best friend a high-five. "Good thinking!"

"Well, she did say no at first. But once I said that you guys were already on your way here, no wasn't really an option," AJ smirked again and drank more of his Budweiser. 

"Smart man," Jason agreed.

Jeff spoke up. "Are you guys fighting or something?"

AJ sighed heavily. "Dude, I really don't even wanna get into it. All you need to know is that I've been practically a saint but Kim's been keeping a tight leash on me for God knows what reason."

"Kinky," Chris grinned which earned him a punch in the shoulder from AJ. "What was that for?" he wondered, rubbing his shoulder. 

"You know I ain't into that. Well...except maybe that one time..." AJ purposely left more to be desired. 

Mark's ears perked up. "You got a kink Alex? Do tell." He leaned forward toward him, ready to listen intently.            
          
AJ put his hands up and looked around at the four of them. "Okay, okay. Keep in mind that I was 22, lonely 'cause I was on tour, and extremely horny. She had a pair purple fuzzy handcuffs—"

"Was she a groupie?" Greg asked.

"I'm getting to that. Anyway—"

Jeff cut in this time. "This was before you met Kim, right?"

"What is with you tonight? What are you, the relationship police?" AJ snapped at his friend. "Jesus...yes this was before her, at least six months before, if I remember right. Anyway, we were in my hotel room—"

"What about the handcuffs?" Jeff wondered. 

AJ rolled his eyes at that question. "Do you guys wanna hear the story or not? What is this, '20 Questions' or something?" He paused and looked down at the beer bottle in front of him. You know what, this beer isn't cutting it. Do you guys want something else?" AJ really wanted a shot of Jack, surely that would make him feel better. 'Just one...or ten. Whichever comes fastest.' he thought longingly about his drink of choice.  

Mark, Jason, and AJ opted for a drink change: bourbon. They each quickly downed a shot and AJ ordered three more for them as he continued with his story. "I know what you're all thinking: the fuzzy handcuffs sound too cliche. But let me tell you, it was some pretty great sex. This girl was good. Shit...I can't remember her name. What was it...?"

Their waitress came back with AJ's requested shots of bourbon and she passed them out. "Thank you, sweetheart." He handed her a tip. "Keep 'em coming."

"Sure thing," she replied sweetly and left them alone at the table. 

AJ turned toward her as she walked away. When he turned back around he noticed that the others were staring at him. "What?" he asked, surprised. "I may be married, but I'm not dead. Jeez." He downed his shot and set the small and now empty glass down.

"Must be the alcohol," Chris snickered. 

"Must be," Jeff scoffed lightly. 

AJ ignored his friends' comments and continued. "Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, her name..."
--------------

11:03 PM

AJ threw back his eighth shot of Jack Daniel's in a flash and quickly snapped his fingers at the bartender for a refill. "Another one." he slurred slightly with a chuckle, his words running together with the more whiskey he consumed. 

A hand was placed over the empty shot glass before the burly man could fulfill the request. "No more, Alex. You're done. I'm taking you home," Jeff stated and he meant it.

"What-What're ya doin'? That's mine," AJ protested.  

The bartender responded, "Hey, if the man wants more—"

Jeff interrupted him. "Is the phrase 'cut off' not in your vocabulary?"

"Well, I—" he stammered. 

"Can't you see that he's pretty well pissed, or are you blind? Since he's obviously too far gone to even think about driving home—"

"I'm not," AJ countered and turned to look at Jeff, "I'm fine," he insisted, his voice cracking on the last word.

Jeff turned his attention back to the bartender. "If you let him keep going to the point where he can't even walk out of here, who's gonna pay for a cab? You?" he challenged with a scoff, his voice growing louder with every word he spoke.  

"Fine. Get him out of here. Have a good night," he said and went over to wipe down a spot on the bar. 

"Right. C'mon, Alex, we're leaving." 

"Where's the guys?" AJ wondered, he looked around and didn't see them. 

What AJ didn't remember was that the other four of their friends had left about an hour earlier. Most of them had to work the next day, including Chris who reiterated to Jeff numerous times that he would stay with AJ instead if that wasn't the case.   

"No way, I'm drivin'," AJ argued and stood, clearly unsteady on his feet. "Whoa." He laughed.

"Give me your keys, Alex," he sighed and held his hand out to receive them. 

"I said that I can drive m'self home, Jeff," AJ repeated.  

Jeff rolled his eyes. "You are not. You're drunk, I'm taking you home. Let's go." He put his arm around AJ and started to help him out of the crowded bar. 

AJ shoved Jeff away from him and stumbled backwards. "I can walk." He took a few steps but ended up walking into Jeff.

Jeff could feel the stares of the other patrons watching and whispering figuring that they had recognized AJ, not Alex as he knew him. He sighed quietly and put his arm around AJ to help him again, to give his inebriated friend some stability as they left the bar. 

The pair of them were immediately met by camera flashes and Jeff could see a few guys holding video cameras as his eyes scanned the small crowd in front of the entrance: the paparazzi. 

AJ used his free arm to shield himself from the strobe-like barrage of lights while keeping his head down. He could hear them shouting questions at him, calling out his name repeatedly. 

"AJ! Over here!"

"Are you alright, man?"

"How was your night?"

"AJ!"

"Who were you with?"

"Are you okay?"

"AJ?"

AJ just tried to focus on putting one foot in front of the other as Jeff was still supporting him. The paps were also asking Jeff if AJ was alright and who he was. He followed suit and didn't say a word to the camera-donning men who easily kept up with them as they finally made it to Jeff's black Chevy Silverado truck. He opened the passenger's side door for AJ and he slowly climbed into the seat and Jeff shut the door for him and got in on the other side. Shouts and questions were still heard as Jeff turned the engine over and pulled away from the curb and drove out of sight of the bar and the paparazzi. 

Jeff sighed heavily in response to the last few minutes that had passed and stole a glance over at AJ who had his right cheek pressed against the cold glass window. His deep brown eyes were staring but not really focusing on anything in particular. Jeff sighed again and turned his attention back to the road in front of him. "You better not throw up in here, I just cleaned inside of here yesterday," he warned. 

AJ barked a hoarse laugh, it almost sounded like a cough. "No problem, buddy. Scout's honor..." He proceeded to make the appropriate gesture before dropping his hand next to him and staring blankly at the windshield again.

It was a silent drive back to AJ's house besides his humming of random notes. Jeff could only laugh to himself as he wondered what AJ was thinking about. He pulled into the drive way and cut the engine, pocketing his keys. "We're here, Alex."

"Home..."

"Yeah, you're home. C'mon, let's get you inside." 

Once again, Jeff got AJ through the front door after Kim answered it. She was clearly fast asleep just minutes earlier and did not enjoy seeing AJ being escorted to the living room couch with Jeff's assistance along with being woken up so late at night because of her husband's drunk antics. 

AJ sort of slumped over toward one end of the couch as Jeff started for the door again, first stopping to talk to Kim. 

"How much did he have to drink tonight, Jeff? Honestly," Kim wondered, hands on her hips. 

"Well, he ordered a round of beers to start off with, but he and a few of the guys quickly changed to some shots of bourbon. He went back to the beer for a bit but ended up spending most of his time at the bar with Jack," Jeff explained, hoping that Kim would catch his drift. 

She did and responded coolly, "I see."

"Is he okay, Kim?" He paused for a moment. "Are you guys okay? He said that he's been home a lot lately, that he needed to get out and 'spread his wings.' And that you're at fault for that."

"Is that what he told you?"

"Well, yeah."

"That's so typical of him, always blaming others. I can't answer your questions honestly 'cause I'm not so sure, myself," Kim sighed. 

"This just doesn't feel right...I mean, I haven't seen Alex this trashed in a long time."

"Welcome to the club."

Jeff looked over at AJ's passed out form on the couch. "Has his drinking picked up recently? Do you know?" he wondered. 

"I'll admit that it has. He's been holing himself up downstairs inside his studio doing whatever, I've found a couple of empty Jack bottles in the bar trash can over the past few weeks. He has to be sneaking them inside the house somehow. I don't know." She stared down at her feet. 

"I'm worried, Kim, have you tried talking to him about this?"

"Yeah, but he continually brushes it off as nothing or changes the subject. You know how stubborn he can be."

"I was afraid of that," Jeff murmured. "I need to get going, Lindsey's probably waiting up for me."

Kim wasn't having that. "Listen, it's late and I'm assuming that you've had a few beers. Just crash in the guest room down the hall for the night. It's the least I can offer and I appreciate you bringing Alex home safely," she said gently. 

Jeff gave her a small smile. "Sure."

"And you can take Alex back downtown in the morning to go pick up his car before going back home," Kim added.

"Right."

"Do you want me to get you something to change into? You'll fit into something of Alex's."

"That's alright, I'm fine."

"Okay, then." She yawned. "Goodnight, Jeff, see you in the morning."

"'Night, Kim."

Kim went back upstairs to bed and Jeff left the foyer to go into the living room. He took a look at his sleeping friend. "I wish I knew what's going on in that head of yours..." he whispered and left AJ alone to get some sleep himself. 

'Tomorrow should be fun...' Jeff thought as he quietly shut the guest room door behind him.
------------------

Sunday, July 20, 2008
10:23 AM 

Morning came all too quickly for AJ as he stirred on the couch. He heard voices coming from the kitchen and decided that he might as well get the scolding from Kim over with for last night. He groaned and sat up, rubbing the back of his neck. He must have slept on it wrong, not surprisingly.  

AJ stood and stretched, squinting slightly at the morning sunlight that seemed to pour through the windows of the living room. That certainly wasn't helping his growing headache which was beginning to embed in his skull. 

He made his way into the kitchen and could feel both Kim's and Jeff's eyes on him as he went over to the coffee pot. 

Kim spoke first. "I don't think coffee is the best thing for you right now."

"Right," AJ muttered, remembering his headache and grabbed a glass and went over to the fridge for some water. He joined the two of them at the island but didn't sit down as they continued to stare at him. "What?"

"I think you know, Alex," Jeff said. 

AJ immediately went on the defensive, knowing that he and his wife had backed him into a corner. "So, I went out last night and had a few drinks with my friends, does that make me a bad person?" he challenged them.

"Of course not—" Kim started. 

"Alright, then, God knows I've been a prisoner here since..." He paused. "Well, you know..." he trailed off, hinting at the drug incident that happened a few weeks before. 

Jeff, of course, had no idea what that meant, but he eyed AJ and Kim curiously.

"Alex...baby...I'm just worried about you, we both are." Her eyes were full of concern as she rose from her seat and touched his arm lightly. Jeff nodded in agreement. 

AJ's expression softened for a moment but he tensed back up and shrugged her off. "I'm fine. How many times do I have to tell you? I'm fine!" He was growing more aggravated with each passing second. 

Kim frowned and sat back down next to Jeff. 

"What do you want me to say? What do you want me to say, huh, Jeff? Apparently your marriage is so perfect, maybe I could use a few tips," he scoffed and crossed his arms in front of his chest. 

Jeff ignored him. "Alex...you do realize that the paparazzi followed us to my truck last night, right? Your face and mine are probably plastered all over TMZ by now."

'Shit.' AJ hadn't thought of that. "Great, that's just great." He threw up his hands. "One more thing being thrown at me," he whispered and turned his attention back to Jeff and Kim. "I'm done talking about this. I'm gonna go shower, then we can go get my car, okay?"                              

AJ left the kitchen before he heard a response from either of them, but for some reason he felt that this conversation was far from over.  
 
11:19 AM

"Okay, we're gonna go back down to the bar to go get Alex's car. Thanks for the bed and breakfast, Kim," Jeff said as he hugged her goodbye.  

"Oh, it's no trouble. Give my love to Lindsey and the boys."

"I will. Alex, let's hit the road!" he called out. 

"I'm coming, I'm coming…" AJ grumbled as he made his way from the kitchen to the front door. He checked his pockets for his car keys and wallet and walked out of the house without another word. 

Kim and Jeff just looked at each other and she sighed, frustrated at AJ's behavior.  

Jeff could sense this and tried to reassure her. "I'm sure he'll come around, Kim, I think he needs some space, some room to breathe. He'll come to you when the time is right, hang in there, okay?" He hugged her again.  

She sniffled. "Thanks, Jeff." She let him go and wiped her eyes. "Ugh, sorry. Hormones."

He chuckled. "It's all good. Take care, alright?"

Kim nodded. "I will."

"Maybe we all can arrange a day out after you guys get back from tour. Us four and the kids."

"That sounds good, I'll run it by Alex, he'd like that." She smiled a little and Jeff returned it. 

"I better get out there before your husband decides to drive himself downtown," He laughed. 

"You better," Kim agreed with a smirk. 

"Call if you need anything, we're here for you guys."

"Thanks, Jeff."

"No problem, see ya." He left the house and shut the door behind him, getting in his truck and pulling out of AJ's drive way. 

The drive to downtown Los Angeles was quiet for the first few minutes. Jeff stayed focused on the road ahead but occasionally stole glances at AJ in the passenger's seat next to him. He had his head turned toward the window and was looking out at the traffic and passing billboards. After a few more minutes, AJ finally spoke. He could feel Jeff's eyes look his way every so often. He hated when people stared at him. "What? What are you looking at?!"

Jeff was slightly startled at AJ's reaction. "...Sorry. You just seem...lost in thought."

"Yeah." AJ took a breath and tried to calm down. "I hate when people stare," he mumbled as an excuse and turned his attention back to the window.

Jeff sighed, too, and just continued to drive and wished that AJ would just say what was on his mind, let it out in the open. The tension in the truck cab was uncomfortable to say the least, Jeff didn't get why AJ was so snappy all of a sudden. He was just trying to help, trying to be a good friend. Apparently that's not what AJ wanted at the moment. 'I'll just leave him be, then...' he thought a bit sadly.

Eventually, they made it to the bar and Jeff parked in the lot after AJ got out of the truck. His Porsche was still parked on the street where he left it the night before and he went over to it. 

"Are you fucking kidding me?" AJ saw a white slip of paper held in place on his car by a windshield wiper on the driver's side. 

"What's wrong?" Jeff wondered as he shut his truck door and walked over to AJ. 

"Parking ticket," AJ seethed. 

"Oh," was all Jeff said. 

"Not helping." He took the ticket off of the windshield. "I do not need this right now." He kicked a tire rim. "Damn it! Ow, that was stupid!"

"Calm down, amigo. How much is it gonna cost you?"

AJ hadn't even bothered to look at the fine. "Fifty bucks," he sighed. 

"Well, that's not bad," Jeff reasoned. 

"That's not the point," AJ refuted, shooting an exacerbated look in Jeff's direction.

Even Jeff knew when enough was enough, he'd done his duty as a friend to AJ and now it was time to get back home to his own family. "Alright, dude, I need to get going."

AJ nodded. "Sure, no problem. I'll call you later, okay?"

"Sounds good. Drive safe."

"You, too. Thanks for everything, Jeff."

"No thanks needed. Take care, yeah?"

"Will do." They shook hands and Jeff drove off without first glancing back at AJ in his rear view mirror. He was still worried about him, his seemingly excessive drinking, and his relationship with Kim and the stress that his actions and decisions were putting on her. She didn't deserve that and he could only hope that AJ's relationship with Jordan wasn't suffering, too.

AJ stared at Jeff's truck as it shrunk in the distance and sighed heavily. He got in his car and stuck the parking ticket in the visor above him. He buckled up and turned the engine before driving back home. He was tempted to stop to clear his head on the way back, not feeling quite ready to face Kim alone without Jeff to back him up or distract her from the issues at hand. He quickly remembered that they were both on his case earlier about his drinking. 

'What do they know? They think that I can just "talk it out". Ha, not a chance...'

AJ turned on the radio for a distraction and drove home in silence, hoping to slip away into his studio once he got back. He definitely wasn't in the mood to deal with Kim's "concern".

AJ could only hope that she would hold out until he was ready to talk, although he wasn't sure when that would be. Until then, he just had to try to hold it together. 

And if he knew himself at all, it wouldn't be an easy task.
End Notes:
I'm 99.9% sure that I'm going to reveal the sex of "Gumby" in the next chapter, PLEASE just answer this one question for me in your reviews: What would you like AJ and Kim to have, a boy or a girl and why? I'm REALLY on the fence about it and could use some reader input! Let me know! :D

Don't forget to leave me some feedback about what you think of this chapter and any suggestions of what you'd like to see happen in the story! Thanks for reading!
Chapter 35 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 8/13. I said that y'all wouldn't have to wait long for the next chapter and here it is! Are you ready to find out Gumby's gender...? Happy reading!

Also, now this is the longest chapter and yes, I felt that all of the things that happen in this chapter need to be told in one and not be split into two chapters especially since I said that the baby's gender would be revealed in this one. lol

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
6:10 PM

"I can't do this, John, not today," AJ stated and stood up from his chair that was across from his psychiatrist. 

"Alex, please...we can talk about this," he pleaded, knowing where this was headed. 

"Don't you get it? I don't want to talk about anything. You're lucky that I even showed up. Why can't everyone just leave me alone??" AJ asked in exasperation and turned to leave Dr. Stehlik's office. 

"Alex, wait—" Too late. AJ walked out the door, slamming it closed. 

In a huff, AJ stormed out of the building and went to his Porsche. He unlocked it and practically ripped the door open. He got in and shut the door, just sitting there. It had been years since he had stormed out of a therapy session with John. The last time occurred in late 2001 when AJ was dealing with his grandmother Ursula's death after the Black & Blue Tour. He was at the anger stage of grief; he'd felt that way for quite some time. He got sick of the questions and talking about her, so, he stormed out on John and sat on the curb outside and bawled until he had no tears left to cry. AJ didn't realize that John had followed him until he placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and eventually, the two of them went back inside to finish the session. 

AJ looked to his left and could almost visualize his twenty-three year-old self sitting on the curb in front of him. Now, he felt like he was back at square one; angry. But more than that, he felt...broken. What AJ wanted to tell John before he left was that he wasn't sick or broken, that he didn't need to be cured or fixed. But maybe he was wrong. Maybe he had it all wrong. He was definitely feeling wrong; if there was such a time to feel happy, it was now. He and the Boys were embarking on a North American tour next week for their Unbreakable album, he had a strong, healthy, and bright four year-old son and a beautiful, loving wife that was pregnant with their second child. What more could he ask for? 

AJ snapped his head up in attention, surprised that Dr. Stehlik was opening his Porsche's passenger side door and getting in. He was even more surprised that he didn't stop him. 

"I thought I'd find you in here. Either that, or on the curb," he said gently, hinting at the memory of AJ on the pavement outside all those years ago. 

AJ chuckled. "Yeah." He glanced at that spot once more and quickly looked down at the steering wheel in front of him. He sighed. "What do you want, John?"

"I'm just making sure you're okay. You've gotta get quite upset to storm out like that," Dr. Stehlik said. 

"I wish everyone would stop saying that," AJ sighed again. 

"Do they have reason to?" he wondered, trying to get AJ to open up and say what he was thinking. 

"That's not the point," AJ grumbled low. "They need to stop worrying, I'm fine. I'm functioning."

"'Functioning?'" John repeated, puzzled by AJ's choice of words. "So, there is something there for others to be concerned about?"

He avoided his question. "Just leave it alone, John."

He frowned a little. "It's my job to ask these questions, Alex, or have you forgotten why you come to see me?"

AJ rolled his eyes. "Whatever."

"Alex...what is it? What is it that you're trying not to say?"

"Nothing!" AJ exclaimed. "I-I...I mean—don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think you're the one I should be talking to right now."

John understood and nodded. "Kim?"

AJ sighed. "Yeah."

"Well, I'll let you get to that, then. Remember, I'm only a phone call away. Day or night." He smiled a little and put his hand on AJ's right shoulder. "You'll get through this, Alex. I promise you that. You've been to Hell and back; you can overcome anything. You can do this."

"Thanks, John." AJ said and returned the smile. 

"Alright. Be good and drive safe. Give me a call next week before you leave for Canada."

"Haha, I always am and I will." They shook hands and Dr. Stehlik left the car and went back inside. 

AJ started the engine and left the parking lot and cruised for a few minutes before stopping at Starbucks for his usual and something for Kim to take home to her before continuing the drive home. 

6:44 PM 

Kim heard the front door open and was surprised to see AJ come inside the house. "You're home early. Is everything alright?" she wondered from the couch as he walked into the living room carrying what she recognized as two Starbucks cups. 

"Everything's fine." He bent down and kissed her cheek. "For you." He gave her the white cup. "Tall hot chocolate with whipped cream." He took a seat next to her. 

Kim was satisfied with his answer for now, but knew that something was up. "Aw, thank you baby." She took a small sip of the warm beverage. 

"You know I had to get you a little somethin' somethin'." He nudged her arm playfully. "You don't even have to ask."

"And I appreciate it."

"And I know how you love your chocolate," he added. 

Kim nodded. "Yes, I do."

"J's upstairs?"

"Mhm."                

AJ took a drink of his white chocolate mocha frappuccino and glanced at the show that was on. "Cool. Is there anything good on TV?"

Kim shrugged. "Not really." She turned it off and set the remote on the coffee table, relaxing against the cushions. She moved closer to AJ. "This is nice." 

AJ smiled. "It is." He heard a noise from upstairs and saw Jordan run down the stairs. 

"Daddy, you're home!" He ran over to him and hopped up on the couch and hugged him. 

AJ put his free arm around Jordan and gave him a squeeze. "I missed you, too, bud." He looked over at Kim who was smiling at them.

There really was no place like home.

7:52 PM

The three of them continued to lounge around in the living room watching TV. These were times that AJ cherished more than anything, just being together with his family with no plans, not needing to be somewhere or having to stick to a schedule. He now understood why Brian loved being a father to Baylee, it really was the best job in the world. 

"Mommy?" Jordan asked and looked up at her. She was holding him close to her.

"Yes, sweetie?"

"How come I only have one grandma and grandpa? Where are your mommy and daddy?"

Now, to a curious four year-old these were perfectly acceptable questions to ask, but Kim was not prepared for that at all. She swallowed hard to keep a lump from forming in her throat.

AJ could see the sort of stressed expression on her face and decided to step in, knowing how sensitive Kim was when it came to talking about the deaths of both of her parents. "Jordan, it's time for bed. Come on—"

Kim stopped him. "No, Alex, it's okay. I'll answer it."

AJ was surprised. "Are you sure?" he asked her gently. 

She let out a sigh. "Yeah." She turned to face Jordan. "Jordan, the truth is that...my mommy and daddy are dead."

Jordan frowned. "They are?"

"Yes."

"How did they die?" he wondered softly. 

Kim tried her best to explain it in a way that he would understand. "Well...my mommy, your grandma, Celia, was in a car accident when I was much older than you are now. Kinda like how you and Grandma got hurt. I was seventeen."

"Was she hurt bad?"

Kim nodded. "Yes, she was. She was taken to a hospital and the doctors tried everything they could to make her better, but...she died."

"Oh," Jordan said sadly. "I'm sorry, Mommy. I don't wanna make you sad." He could see that she was near tears and sat up to kiss her cheek. 

"Thank you, sweetie." She sniffled. "Do you wanna hear about your grandpa?"

"Yes."

AJ knew how hard this was for Kim, but he also couldn't feel more proud of her. He took her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

She cleared her throat. "After me and Daddy got married, your grandpa David got very sick with something called cancer. He...fought very hard to get better for a long time, but he died a few months after you were born. He loved you very much, you were his nietecito ("little grandson" in Spanish), his first grandchild.  Do you wanna see a picture of them?"

He nodded. 

"Alex, go get the picture of dad and Jordan and the photo album from off of our dresser, will you, please?" 

"Sure." AJ kissed Kim's cheek. "Be right back." He went upstairs to their bedroom.  

"Do you miss them a lot, Mommy?"

Kim nodded. "Yeah...I do. They would've loved watching you grow, your grandpa spent every moment he could with you." She smiled down at him. "I love you, do you know that?"

"Love you, too, Mommy." 

She kissed his hair. "We need to cut your hair, you shaggy dog." He was sort of sporting a small afro with his curly dark brown locks. 

Jordan shook his head just like Bernie would if it was wet. "But I like it, Mommy."

Kim laughed. "You're just like Baylee, he doesn't want his hair cut, either."  

AJ stood there at the foot of the stairs with photo album in hand watching Kim and Jordan's little exchange and smiled. He walked back into the living room, took a picture off of the shelf next to the TV, handed it to Kim, and sat back down on the couch next to Jordan. 

Kim showed Jordan the picture in the frame first. She pointed to her father's smiling face. "That's your grandpa, David, and that baby he's holding is you." It was his first time holding Jordan a few hours after he was born.  

Jordan's eyes went wide and he looked at AJ. "That's me?"

AJ chuckled. "Yep, that's you. You were a little pipsqueak and you still are." He tickled Jordan's side and he fell back against him, giggling.    

Kim began turning pages of the brown photo album she held in her hands. She stopped when she found the picture she was looking for. "Here it is," she said quietly.  

Jordan and AJ looked over to see a picture of Kim's family from Christmas 1997 according to the tiny orange numbers in the bottom right corner, it was their last 'whole' family photo before Kim's mother's sudden death in January 1998. Standing behind their living room couch was her mom and dad; Kim was sitting in between her two older brothers Mateo (Matthew) and Andrés (Andrew). The family of five was all smiles, even Kim with her mouth full of braces.

Jordan pointed a finger at Kim's mother. "She's pretty, Mommy."

"She was." Kim nodded, staring at the picture and AJ couldn't quite tell if she was thinking of the good or bad memories that it represented. After her father's death in June 2004, Kim's once happy family crumbled for good. She rarely spoke to her two brothers and stopped contact with all of her other relatives. AJ knew one thing, that Kim was one million miles away in thought. 

Jordan yawned and AJ heard it. "Alright, sleepyhead, it's time for bed. To bed, I said!" He looked at Kim. "I've got it tonight, baby," he said softly. 

"Goodnight, Mommy, love you." Jordan hugged and kissed her.

"And I love you." She ran a hand through his hair. "I'll see you in the morning, okay?"

Jordan nodded and AJ scooped him up from the couch and carried him upstairs to bed. He came back down about ten minutes later to find Kim still looking at the picture of her family in the brown photo album. 

She looked up and AJ sank down next to her. "Did he go down okay?"

"Out like a light after five minutes." He smiled a little, but his expression changed quickly as Kim set the photo album aside and buried her face in his chest, sobbing uncontrollably. He put his arms around her and just let her cry, rubbing her back in a comforting manner. "It's okay, baby. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. I promise." He kissed her hair and they stayed like that for awhile before Kim sat up, wiping her eyes and nose with a tissue. She lay her head against his chest, listening to his heart beat. "Why does everything have to be so screwed up?"

AJ sighed. "I don't know, baby. If I knew the answer to that, I would surely tell you." He paused and just held her close. "I can't imagine how much you're hurting right now over your parents and your family. Maybe you should call Matt and Andrew, it's never too late to fix things. I'm sure they miss you, too."

"Speak for yourself," she grumbled. 

AJ sighed again, knowing that Kim hinted at his nonexistent relationship with his biological father, Bob. "That's not the same thing, he never wanted me, Kim. You had a family."

"Yeah? Well, when Mom died, that whole side of the family died along with her. Same with Dad..." 

AJ decided to drop the subject for now and the two of them were quiet again until he got an idea. "I know what might make you feel better, I'll be right back." 

Kim noticed that he went past the stairs and into the kitchen. When he came back to the living room he was carrying one of his acoustic guitars, he must have gone downstairs and into his studio to get it.

AJ sat back down on the couch and began to tune it, strumming chords to make sure that it sounded good. "Will you sing with me?" He began to strum a chord rhythmically and he saw Kim's eyes light up as she recognized the intro to Lifehouse's "You and Me." It was one of her all-time favorite songs that she wished AJ would have written, he certainly had the talent for it.

AJ saw her reaction and nodded. "On the second chorus, okay?"

Kim nodded back and he began to sing to her after he repeated the intro a second time:

What day is it?
And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive
I can't keep up and I can't back down
I've been losing so much time

'Cause it's you and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to lose
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you

All of the things that I want to say just aren't coming out right
I'm tripping on words
You've got my head spinning
I don't know where to go from here


AJ and Kim's voices blended together as she joined him on the chorus and the others after that. She wasn't the most amazing singer, but her voice was music to his ears.

'Cause it's you and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to prove
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you

There's something about you now
I can't quite figure out
Everything she does is beautiful
Everything she does is right

'Cause it's you and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to lose
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you
and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to prove
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you

What day is it?
And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive


AJ let the last chord ring out until it faded and rested the guitar on his knee.

"Thank you, baby, you know I love that song," Kim said and leaned over to kiss him. 

"Mm, that was nice." AJ set his guitar down and cupped her face gently with his hands and kissed her again. He grinned and looked right in her eyes. "I love you, Kim. I don't know who I would be without you. You're everything to me."

"I love you, Alex."  

They kissed again and AJ held her in his arms, their hands placed on Kim's baby bump. They were quiet until Kim was startled and looked up at him. "Alex, did you feel that? The baby kicked."

"He did?"

"'He?'"

AJ chuckled. "It's just a feeling."

"Our baby kicked, it's really in there." Kim looked down to her growing belly. "You, my little futbolista are going to kicking around pelotas in no time."

"He's going to be doing what, now?" AJ didn't know much Spanish, but he loved that Kim was bilingual and talked to the baby that way.  

Kim laughed. "I said that our little soccer player, here, is going to be kicking balls around in no time."

"Oh."

The two of them stayed quiet for awhile and eventually AJ's mind drifted off to earlier with John when he said he was going to talk to Kim about what was bothering him. But he just couldn't ruin this moment, it would have to wait. 
---------------

Friday, July 25, 2008
1:22 PM

"Kim? Alex? You can come on back," Dr. Novotny called to them as they sat in the waiting room. She ushered them in before her and the three of them entered an exam room and sat down.

"How are you guys? No Jordan today, I see?"

AJ spoke first. "I'm doing alright, Liz. Yeah, he's at my mom's for a day of spoiling."

"Ooh, lucky him. And you, Kim?"

"I'm okay," she answered. 

"Just 'okay?'"

"My back is starting to get sore," Kim added. 

"Ah, that's a bummer. It's about that time, though."

"Yeah."

"I really appreciate you moving this appointment up a week, Liz. You know that I'd absolutely hate to miss anything," AJ said. 

"Oh, it's no problem at all. I normally wouldn't because keeping pre-natal appointments on a consistent schedule is important, but I figured that I could make an exception under the circumstances." 

AJ and the Boys had to go back on the road that coming Monday for the US and Canada leg of the tour. This appointment was a win-win for AJ because he wouldn't miss anything going on with the baby and Kim and Jordan could come on tour with him immediately. "I promise that I will fly out here for the other appointments if necessary, every single one. No more date-swapping." 

"Good. Now, Kim, I want you to come in August 22nd—"

"Howie's birthday," AJ chirped.

Dr. Novotny just rolled her eyes and continued. "For a monthly follow-up and then your regularly scheduled one for the 29th, so, that we're back on track."

"Sounds good," Kim agreed.      

"Alright, Kim, let's get you up on the scale."

"I feel like I'm on The Biggest Loser," Kim said with a laugh.

"No, that'd be me," AJ corrected her with a smirk.

"Oh, stop." She hit him playfully on the arm. 

"Hey! What was that for?"

"Must be the hormones," she replied with a shrug as Dr. Novotny moved the marker for the correct result.  

AJ wiggled his eyebrows. "Someone likes it rough..."

"You know it."

"Get a room, will ya? Jeez," Liz exclaimed and rolled her eyes again.  

"The door's right there," AJ reminded her and glanced at it. 

Like she was gonna fall for that. "Hahaha. As much as I would love to leave you two alone in here so that you could go at it like rabbits, I believe that Kim is already pregnant. Or is that not why we're here?"

"Oh, darn, you caught me," he said in mock disappointment.  

"Anyway," Liz turned her attention back to Kim, "Another four pounds, that's good."

"Can't keep her out of the fridge," AJ quipped. 

"Hey, I'm eating for two, you know! What's your excuse?" Kim asked as she hopped up on the exam table. Dr. Novotny walked over to the counter next to the scale and snapped on a pair of rubber gloves. 

"I'm a growing boy," he answered with a grin and patted his stomach. 

"Stupid boy is more like it," Liz smirked and wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Kim's upper left arm.

AJ huffed and pouted. Kim laughed.    
 
"Alright, your BP's normal. 115/85. Temp's next." Dr. Novotny placed a thermometer in her ear and read the result after it beeped. "Normal, 98.8. How are you feeling?"

"Well, like I said, my back has started to ache and I've had quite an appetite lately," Kim replied.  

"That's good, now that you're past the morning sickness. Just make sure that you're snacking on the healthy stuff and not the Ben & Jerry's," she advised her with a light smile. 

"But all's fair in moderation, right?"

Liz nodded. "Of course."

"My abdomen's been kinda sore, too. I think it's just the baby growing."

"It's probably round ligament pain. The ligaments that support your uterus are stretching to accommodate its increasing weight. It's normal," Dr. Novotny explained nonchalantly. "Unless it persists or gets worse when you're resting," she added.

"Right. My boobs are getting bigger and are sort of tender, too—"

"I've definitely noticed that," AJ announced loudly. 

"Of course you have," Liz droned with a shake of her head. "Men."

"Women," AJ mimicked in the same tone and relaxed in his chair.

"Yep, that's happening, too. Your hormones are preparing for lactation. You're going through a lot of changes right now," she continued and handed Kim a plastic specimen cup. "I'll need a urine sample to check your hormone levels and such. At your next regularly scheduled visit on the 29th, you'll be 24 weeks along and it'll be time to test for gestational diabetes."  

"I'll have to drink that sugar water again?" Kim groaned. 

Dr. Novotny chuckled. "Yes."

She shuddered. "That stuff was nasty; it didn't taste like cola at all."

AJ laughed. 

"You try it when I do and see how you like it." 

"Fine," he smirked back. 

"Alright, youtwo. Go do your thing, Kim, and I'll send it to the lab."
--------------------

After Dr. Novotny received Kim's normal lab results and reviewed them with her and AJ, it was time for her to ask one of the most important questions of the visit.

She grinned. "So...are you guys ready to see your baby?"

Kim was overjoyed. "An ultrasound? Today? Really?"

Liz chuckled at her excitement. "Yes, it's time to check the baby's length and limbs to make sure that it's growing properly. And you can find out the sex, if you so wish."

"Great, let's get started!"

"What's this? No comments from the peanut gallery? I'm shocked, Alex."

AJ stood at went to Kim's side. "I'm excited, too." He gave her a squeeze. 

Soon enough, the portable ultrasound machine was wheeled into the exam room and the procedure began. Kim and AJ both teared up a little as they saw their baby for the first time. Dr. Novotny and an ultrasound technician named Elise began to record the baby's measurements and checked for limb abnormalities. So far, everything was perfect or within an acceptable range.

Once Elise's services were no longer needed, they all thanked her and she left the room. It was time for the moment they had been waiting almost five months for: whether they were going to have a new little AJ or Kim by Christmas.

"Are you guys ready?" Liz asked them with a smile. 

Kim gripped AJ's hand tighter. "Yes." 

AJ nodded. "Go for it."

Dr. Novotny began to move the wand around on Kim's gel-covered stomach to find the baby. "There it is." Its little heart was a bluish red blob that was moving. She moved the wand a bit to get the clearest picture possible. 

AJ was looking, too, along with Kim, squinting. He gasped lightly. "Is that a...?"

Liz nodded with a grin. "It's a boy." 

"Oh, Alex..." Kim whispered as a tear streamed down her face. "We're having another son."

AJ's eyes were brimming with tears. He wiped hers gently with his thumb and bent down to kiss her. "Don't get me started, now." He kissed her again. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

They continued to hold hands as Dr. Novotny cleaned Kim up and she printed out a picture of the baby for them to keep. They went over a few more things since Kim was going to be joining AJ and the Boys on tour that coming Monday, like diet, using rest stops often to stretch and prevent blood clots from forming in her legs, sleep habits, and guidelines for fevers and what medications were safe for her to take if absolutely necessary. 

After a few congratulatory wishes and hugs, AJ and Kim left the doctor's office and went to a local restaurant for a late lunch. On the way there, they ordered a specialty cake from Whole Foods to take to Denise and Tony's house as a way to tell them the gender of their second grandchild. Both of them agreed that they should be among the first to know, along with Jordan and the other Boys.

Eventually, AJ parked and they made their way inside. They enjoyed a quiet, relaxing meal, just the two of them enjoying each other's company. Afterward, they had to stop at Whole Foods to pick up the cake they ordered and continued to drive to Denise's and Tony's home to surprise them and Jordan with it.  

"So..." Kim sighed as AJ drove through LA traffic.  

"So," AJ repeated with a laugh. "Mom and Tony are gonna be ecstatic, I think Tony said it was a boy all along."

Kim agreed with him. "Yeah, I can't wait for them to find out. They'll be so happy."

"You know, maybe you should—"

"Alex, don't. Not now." She pulled her hand from his grasp, knowing that he was going to ask her to tell her brothers the news. They didn't even know that she was pregnant; she hadn't spoken to either of them since Christmas. 

"Sorry, I just thought that..." AJ sort of sulked a little.

"Maybe," Kim said and turned to stare out the window. 

'Well, it's a start,' AJ thought, hopeful.

Around fifteen minutes later, they were standing at AJ's parents' front door and were quickly let inside by Tony. "What's with the cake?" he wondered, seeing the dessert being held by AJ.

"You'll see..." he smirked. 

"Bring it in the kitchen, your mom and Jordan are in there." 

Tony and Kim followed AJ into the kitchen where he placed the cake on the island where Denise and Jordan were eating a couple of sandwiches and chips. 

"Mommy! Daddy!"

"Hey, what're you two doing back so early?"

"We have something to celebrate and it wouldn't be right if all of my family didn't participate," Kim said and bent down to hug Denise. 

"Well, what is it?" She took a good look at the cake. It was the right size for the five of them to share. It appeared to be white buttercream frosting decorated with blue and pink sprinkles and swirls of icing. It said "Congratulations!" with each letter alternating in blue and pink as well. "You didn't..."

AJ nodded with a grin. 

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's cut it!" Tony said. 

"Yeah!" Jordan agreed and hopped off of his stool and stood next to AJ. "Can I help, Daddy?" 

"Sure, buddy." He took the plastic top off of the cake container and grabbed a knife and serving spatula from a drawer. He sat Jordan down on the stool in front of the cake both of them grasped the knife. With two smooth strokes, they cut a wedge in the cake and AJ used the spatula to lift up the piece. The cake under the frosting was blue with two layers and some more buttercream in the middle. 

Jordan gasped loudly and his eyes were as wide as saucers. "Blue! A boy!"

A round of hugs and tears commenced as they served up the cake. AJ took a picture of a slice of the cake with his BlackBerry and sent it to the other Boys, Chris, Jeff, and his Uncle Bill with the caption "2 for 2!"

AJ never thought that he would want the family name his sperm donor of a father had left him to be carried on, but when he looked at Jordan, that's all he wanted for him: that he would be able to have children of his own some day. 

That was a long time from now and as of this moment, everything was perfect. What more could he ask for?
End Notes:
So there you have it, AJ hasn't broken the streak of boy Backstreet babies (yet)! :D To be honest, I'd planned on Gumby being a boy all along and hope that I didn't disappoint too many of you. ;)

I plan on starting the next chapter after I post this or tomorrow. Another update will be coming soon, don't forget to leave me some feedback! :D

And I put that Lifehouse song in this chapter 'cause I'm kinda obsessed with it at the moment. lol
Chapter 36 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 8/20. Here's another update for y'all. lol I wonder where some of my reviewers went? Anyway, enjoy and don't forget to leave me some feedback. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Montreal, Quebec, Canada - 3:58 PM EST

"Thanks, Alyssa. You, too. Bye." AJ hung up his call with Jordan's doctor and made his way back to his and Kim's bunk on their bus that they shared with Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee for this leg of the tour. He was beginning to regret that decision ever since both Kim and Jordan started showing signs of a cold the day before. Their symptoms increased ten-fold overnight and neither of them were in any condition to go into the venue to watch soundcheck which meant that they probably wouldn't attend the concert that night either. The last thing they needed was to expose the entire crew to this bug.

"What'd she say?" Kim wondered with a sniffle.

"The basics: rest, fluids, and meds if needed."

She nodded. "We've got that covered, he's out like a light."

"How are you feeling, baby?"

"I'm feeling like this totally blows." She coughed and sniffled again. "Be happy that you're not me or your son right now."

"No, I don't feel like that at all. I'm sorry you're both sick. Do you need anything?" He reached to feel her forehead, knowing that they had to keep an eye on her fever in case it went too high. Kim's doctor had instructed that a fever of 101.6 or higher meant an immediate trip to the ER, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. "I think we need to take your temp again, Kim, you feel warmer than last time."

She sighed, knowing that they couldn't be too careful. "Alright."

AJ went to go get the oral digital thermometer that was in the bathroom. He came back and disinfected it properly before turning it on. "Open up." She did and they waited for it to beep. AJ saw Kim send a text and a few seconds later, his phone buzzed in his pocket. I feel like I'm five again with this thing in my mouth. Except my mom's was glass. lol He chuckled. "I've seen pics, you looked adorable then."

Kim gave a muffled chuckle and AJ heard her breath hitch. "Don't you dare sneeze..."

The thermometer beeped and AJ retrieved it quickly and read the result as Kim practically buried her face in a tissue. "Bless you. It's up slightly, 100.6."

Kim sighed again, frustrated.

"Tylenol would help, are you sure that you don't want any?"

"Whatever." Kim didn't want to take any medication unless it was absolutely necessary because nothing was one-hundred percent safe during pregnancy. But AJ was just trying to help or make himself useful, she supposed.

"It's okay if you don't want it, I'm gonna call Liz again." He reached for his phone and hit Kim's doctor's speed dial number.

"Alex, she's probably with a patient—"

AJ held up a finger. "It's her voice mail. Hey, Liz, it's Alex again. I just took Kim's temp and it's up to 100.6 from a few hours ago. Call me back when you get this, thanks."

"Baby, it's barely even a fever, we don't need to worry her."

"To a non-pregnant woman it is and I thought a fever was anything over 99 degrees?" he quickly reminded her.

Kim sighed yet again. "I know, I know. I thought it was 100.4 or higher?"

"Hm, I'll ask Liz when she calls me back."

"You do that." She lay back down and got comfortable, too tired to sit up anymore. She shivered slightly and AJ brushed a strand of hair out of her face.

"I've gotta go in a few, Marc's gonna stay here in case you or Jordan need anything, okay?" AJ said quietly, knowing that their bodyguard Marcus could handle watching Kim and Jordan rest while he and the Boys did soundcheck with the fans. If he could protect him with 40,000 screaming Brazilian girls surrounding their bus at the height of their fame, he could handle just about anything.

"Sure." She coughed into her fist and AJ checked on Jordan in the bunk next to them. He was still sound asleep apart from his soft snores, courtesy of some Children's Motrin.

"He's still asleep," AJ whispered.

"Good..." Kim mumbled a bit sleepily.

"Getting sleepy?"

"Mhm..."

"Just rest, baby, I'll be back ASAP. I love you." He kissed her forehead lightly.

"You, too..."

AJ closed the bunk's curtain and went to meet the Boys for the soundcheck party just as Marcus was heading to the bus to keep an eye on Kim and Jordan. A group of fans were gathered near the buses and he gave a quick wave before going inside the venue.

Surprisingly he was second last to go on stage for soundcheck, Brian came in after him. His appearance was met by cheers as Nick was walking around singing some song that their band was playing. Apparently it was called "Blue Monday," he announced the title after he was done.

The four of them gathered to check that their microphones and in-ear monitors were working properly before taking their places near their mic stands and stools.

AJ zoned out a bit as Howie said his normal introduction, welcoming everyone to the soundcheck party and explaining how it was going to go. He said that they could pick any songs to request off of the The Hits - Chapter One album and the Unbreakable album. Shouts of song titles from the audience brought him back and the Boys picked "Unmistakable" to sing first.

"Wanna do it a cappella?" Nick suggested.

AJ was in agreement as were the fans. "Sure."

The others didn't object and Nick hummed out a note to make sure that they would all be in tune with each other before Brian started the first verse:

Anytime, anywhere, any place
You could be anyone today
Maybe I would recognize you on a crowded street


AJ came in after him and all four of their voices blended perfectly on the chorus:

Maybe you'll take me by surprise
Will you be the one I had in mind?

There'll come a day when you walk out of my dreams
Face to face
Like I'm imagining
Baby how can I be sure that you're the one I'm waiting for?
Will you be unmistakable?


AJ was really feeling the song at this point as Nick went into the second verse:

People say we watch our lives through a glass
Desperately waiting on a chance
I know you're out there, holding on, holding out for me


AJ came back in to finish the verse and they all sang the chorus again:

And are we gonna know the time is right?
What if you're here and I'm just blind?

There'll come a day when you walk out of my dreams
Face to face
Like I'm imagining
Baby how can I be sure that you're the one I'm waiting for?
Will you be unmistakable?


AJ found it strange that no one went on to sing the bridge. "Okay...I thought we were going there. I guess not. What's next?" He looked out to see what their responses were. "'Treat Me Right?' Okay."

The Boys and the band launched into that song and the next request was for "Helpless When She Smiles." They only sang the chorus when Howie took out one of his in-ear monitors.

"I've got something in my ear, it's talking to me."

AJ chuckled, this would only happen to him. "You got somebody talking to you?"

"It's God, Howie," Brian said in a convincing tone which generated laughter from the fans.

"Somebody's talking to Howie at the same time, He's not saying anything in my ear," AJ pointed out.

Brian said in what he called his 'God' voice, "He is going: 'My son. You sing like an angel, but you're off pitch.'"

The fans laughed again at Brian's antics.

"People are talking to me," Howie repeated.

"'My son. You sing like an angel, but you're off key.'" Brian boomed again.

"He's hearing voices" AJ said in a mocking tone.

One of their security guards let out a terrified scream and Howie pointed at him accusingly. "Did one of you get in front of the microphone and start talking?"

"He's hearing voices," AJ said again and they got back to the singing.

Nick kept the a cappella thing going by asking the other three, "Do you guys wanna do 'Just To Be Close?'" A chorus of yeses and pleases sounded from the crowd and he asked them, "Let's sing 'Just To Be Close,' do you wanna hear it?" and they responded the same way as before.

Nick imitated one of the fans. "She said yeah, puhlease."

"Please," AJ repeated in the same tone.

"She asked us nicely," Nick added.

"Okey-dokey," AJ replied as Brian hummed a tuning note to set the key they would sing in and Howie started with his part with backing harmonies by the other three:

Like a flower to a tree
That's how close I wanna be
To your heart (Baby, to your heart)


Brian was next:

Like the stars to the night
And daytime is to light
We'll never part (We'll never part)


AJ finished out the first verse:

(I want you to be) I want you to be
The only thing that I see (Ooh, ooh)
'Cause I believe it's our destiny, oh

Just to be close (So close)
Just to be close
It's the only thing that I wanna do, ooh
Just to be close
Just to be close
Just to be close to you (Closer to you)
Just to be close


The end was met by cheers and applause. The fans picked "Unsuspecting Sunday Afternoon" as their last song request, and after that it was time for the Q & A part of the soundcheck. Their photographer, Justin, walked near Brian's side of the audience on the far left. "Alright, who's got a question for Brian?" Hands shot up and he picked a girl and gave her the microphone.

"Hi, guys, I'm Lillian from right here in Montreal and I would like to ask Brian, are you and your wife Leighanne planning on having any more children?"

Brian cleared his throat before answering, his tone gentle. "The answer to that is no. We're what they say, 'one and done.' We're happy. Baylee was a surprise, we didn't plan on having a family then, and if we knew then what we know now...um, yeah. But everything happens at the right time for the right reason, but the answer is no." He paused. "Unless we adopt an 18 year-old, 6' 6", 250 (pounds)." Then he did some football-hike-jumping move that AJ couldn't figure out and the audience laughed.

"Don't worry, I'm Spanish," Howie chimed in, "Me and Leigh are planning on having a big family."

AJ rose his hand. "Speaking of that, um...my wife Kim is pregnant...again." His face broke out into a big grin.

The crowd cheered and applauded, going crazy with this news. Brian laughed to himself. 'Leave it to AJ to announce it at a soundcheck...'

"Yep, the baby's due in December and we'd been trying since the end of last year—sorry, was that TMI? Whatever. And...we just found out almost a couple of weeks ago that we're having another boy."

More cheers were heard and Brian said something that he had to repeat because of the noise level. "How does Jordan feel about this news, AJ?"

AJ chuckled. "Well, if he wasn't sound asleep on the bus due to some Motrin," a few sympathetic awwws were heard, "Yeah, he and Kim both have a cold and are resting. He'd probably tell you that he's really excited and can't wait to be a big brother. You heard it here first."

Just then, AJ felt his BlackBerry vibrate in his pocket. He checked the screen and saw that it was Dr. Novotny calling him back. "Guys, I gotta take this." He walked off and behind the stage and could hear Nick answering his question. "Hey, Liz," he greeted her as he answered the call.

"Alex. Is this a bad time?" she wondered. "I was with a patient when you called me."

"No, not at all. What's up?"

"About Kim's fever, it's not that serious. A fever in adults isn't usually medically relevant until it's 100.4 degrees or higher. It's barely above that, so, I wouldn't worry at the moment," she said.

"Okay, good," AJ sighed in relief.

"But do keep an eye on it and if it goes up any more, have Kim take a dose of Tylenol. If it reaches 101, I want you to call me back," Liz instructed further.

AJ nodded firmly. "You've got it."

"If it levels out, Kim can just take some Tylenol and other meds before bed so she can sleep more comfortably. Most likely she'll be fine, the symptoms will probably hang around a little longer than normal, but she'll be okay."

"Thanks, Liz, I owe you one."

"Alex, I'm just the doctor. It's my job to know these things, I didn't go through eight years of medical school to come out having learned nothing."

He chuckled. "Right, thanks again. Take care."

"You, too, bye."

"Bye." AJ ended the call and pocketed his phone before heading back out on stage as Howie was answering his question. "Sorry, I'm back."

"Alright, who has a question for AJ?" Justin asked as he chose a girl.

"Hi, I'm Joanna and I'm from Buffalo, New York."

"Hi, Joanna," AJ said. "You came all the way from Buffalo?"

She laughed. "Yeah."

"Well, thanks for coming out to Canada. What's your question, sweetheart?"

"I was just wondering...what is the greatest or your favorite life lesson that being married or being a parent has taught you?"

AJ whistled. "Wow, that's deep."

"How come AJ gets all the deep questions?" Nick whined, which got the fans laughing.

Brian joined in, "Yeah, dude, save some for the rest of us!"

AJ continued on answering. "Seriously, I'm like floored by this. Usually it's, "What's your favorite thing about bring a parent?" or whatever, but I like this, it's different." He cleared his throat. "I would have to say...'count your blessings.' I have the most amazing wife by my side who has been with me through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows that life can bring. And then, of course, there's my little man who ain't so little anymore." He chuckled. "He is smart and bright and so sweet and reminds me not to take life too seriously. I thank God every day for them. So, yeah, 'count your blessings' is what I'd pick." He smiled.

Brian raised his hand. "I agree."

"Alright, well, now, we're gonna come down and take some pictures with you guys if you want us to," AJ teased and the fans cheered. "See you guys in a couple minutes."

After the pictures were taken and the soundcheck was over, the Boys went backstage to eat a bit of catering and lounge around. Brian pulled AJ aside to ask him about the phone call he answered earlier, wondering if anything serious was going on.

"Is everything okay?"

"You mean the phone call?" AJ assumed.

Brian nodded.

"Yeah, Kim's doctor was calling me back. Her fever's up and I just wanted to let her know and if there was any need for me to be concerned and there isn't."

"Okay, good." He placed a hand on AJ's shoulder and went back to the catering room to go eat. AJ decided to go back to the bus to check on Kim and Jordan.
----------------------

11:39 PM

AJ was nursing a headache in the back lounge area of the bus after their Montreal show. They were on their way to Toronto, where they would be staying at a hotel. He was just watching an episode of Family Guy when he heard the door slide open.

"J? What are you doing up? Come here." It seemed as though Jordan could never sleep through the night when he was sick. "Are you okay?"

He came up to the couch. "Yeah, I need a tissue."

AJ pulled a Kleenex from the box next to him on the small table and handed it to Jordan.

After he used it and threw it away, Jordan got on the couch and rested against AJ who put his arm around him. "You wanna watch cartoons?" He flipped to the Nicktoons Network and Jordan was fast asleep again after about ten minutes of an episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

AJ sighed and carried him back to his bunk and lay him back down. He covered him with a blanket before shutting the curtain and retreating to the back room. He turned Family Guy back on and relaxed against the couch cushions. A few minutes later he let out an annoyed sigh when the door was slid open again.

It was Brian this time.

"You couldn't sleep either?" AJ wondered and sat up.

"I heard you carry Jordan back to bed and come back here." He stepped into the room. "You okay?"

That question really agitated AJ as of late. "Why does everyone keep asking me that?"

"Somebody's cranky..." Brian teased.

"Piss off," he spat.

Brian changed his voice to that of a game show host. "Hm, let's play 'Why Is Alex Cranky?' There's usually five reasons." He began to count them off with his fingers. "He's either tired, sick, hungry—"

"Says the man that puts his own kid's whines about hunger to shame," AJ smirked.

Brian laughed, he couldn't deny that he got very pissy if he didn't eat. "Getting no action, or angry. It could be number one or four..."

He rolled his eyes. "Definitely." He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "Headache."

"I think we found the culprit, folks!" Brian's voice returned to normal. "You take anything for it?"

"Nah." AJ thought about taking a Tylenol PM, but decided against it for fear of facing Kim's wrath again. If she ever freaked out on him like that again, it would be too soon.

Brian came over to the couch and sat down next to him. "I know it's not the headache that's bothering you, so spill."

"Nothing's bothering me," he mumbled, hating that he could be read so well.

"C'mon, I've known you since you were fourteen. And you're a bad liar."

AJ chuckled. "Yeah." He paused and sighed, running a hand over his face.

Brian could easily pick up on AJ's stress, his heart went out to him. "Alex, it's me. You know you can talk to me and it stays between us."

AJ wasn't really in the mood to talk about what was going on. "Look, I'm just gonna go to bed. I could use some sleep." It was true, he was pretty tired and he knew that he needed his rest if he wanted to perform well. He stood.

"It is late, but I'm not done with you," Brian warned him lightly. "Goodnight."

"'Night," AJ said and left the room. He went to the bunk across from Kim's and lay down, they would go back to sleeping together after she was feeling better. Kim was more comfortable this way especially since she was feeling so crappy, he was happy to oblige.

After a few minutes of laying wide awake, AJ got up and went into the bathroom to take something for his headache that wasn't going away any time soon. He opened the medicine cabinet behind the mirror and spotted the bottle of Tylenol PM next to a bottle of ibuprofen. Without a second thought, he picked up the bottle of ibuprofen and shook two pills out and swallowed them. He caught himself staring at the other bottle in the cabinet and quickly closed it and went back to his bunk.

Brian quietly exited the back room and sighed. He knew something was up with AJ, he just didn't know what.

A part of him was afraid to find out.
End Notes:
I used these YouTube videos for the soundcheck part of this chapter:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmfCzQvQVJ0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnj4X3-wmww
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPDzu4T7ewc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXKWi-K8E78
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_v-fEo_IC0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSuCmP3TeR4

Gotta give credit where it's due, there will be more soon!
Chapter 37 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 9/2. Here's another update, enjoy. :) Leave me some feedback...

Thursday, August 7, 2008
Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 9:02 AM EST

AJ exited the bathroom of the bus and went back to his bunk, coughing. "It's official: I'm a freaking human faucet." He sniffled and coughed some more as he lay back down. The Boys' hotel plans fell through, so, they were spending yet another tour stop on their buses. 

Kim was laying in the bunk across from his, still recovering from her own cold. "I'm sorry, baby."

"Don't be." He coughed again. "Is J up yet?"  

"Yeah, he's with Baylee watching cartoons in the back."

"At least one of us is healthy..." He shut his eyes and sighed, he just wanted to rest for a moment...

"Daddy! Daddy, breakfast!"

The next thing he felt was Jordan tugging at his t-shirt. "Papa Bear oatmeal, you promised!"

"What's that?" AJ heard Baylee ask and he sat up. Kim looked at him sympathetically, knowing that all he wanted to do was sleep his already rotten cold away. 

"Oatmeal, it's good, I promise." AJ saw it being made on the Food Network a few weeks prior and it was a big hit at their breakfast table. He stood and went to the small kitchen area of the bus which had a small cook top stove. He began to gather the ingredients needed and started on the oatmeal.

About ten minutes later, Brian and Leighanne made their way near the kitchen area as smells of AJ's cooking wafted through the air. "What smells so good in here?" Brian wondered. 

"Papa Bear oatmeal!" Jordan cheered as AJ placed a steaming bowl in front of him. "There you go, buddy, eat up." He went back to the stove to continue serving up breakfast for everyone. 

Brian glanced at AJ as he was spooning some oatmeal into a bowl for Baylee. "Please tell me Kim made that."

He chuckled. "Nope, I'm flyin' solo. Baylee, do you want bananas and brown sugar?"

"Yes..." He saw Leighanne looking at him. "Please," he grinned. 

AJ added some sliced bananas and crumbled brown sugar on top of his oatmeal and gave him his bowl. "Have a taste," he encouraged him. 

Baylee placed a spoonful into his mouth and his blue eyes lit up in surprise. "Mm." He immediately dove in for a second bite.

AJ smiled. "See? I told you it'd be good." He turned to Brian and Leighanne. "It's Papa Bear oatmeal, my new breakfast specialty. Want some?" He sniffled. 

"Did a duck get shoved up your nose while you were sleeping or something?" Brian smirked. 

AJ rolled his eyes. "No, smart eleck, I just caught a...ah...SHOO!" He felt another sneeze coming and grabbed a paper towel. "Aht'SHOO!! Ugh, here we go..."

"God bless you, Alex. Why don't you go back to bed and I'll bring you some hot tea? See if Kim wants any." Leighanne suggested gently and moved past him to use another burner on the cook top to begin boiling water. 

"Thanks, there should be enough oatmeal left for y'all and there's plenty of stuff to put on it." AJ went to the bunks and got Kim's tea order before climbing in his bunk to rest until it was ready.

"Ginger tea with honey and lemon for you and chamomile tea for you." Leighanne handed them their mugs. "Drink it while it's hot, the steam should help clear you up Mr. Sick-Backstreet-Boy-Who-Has-A-Show-Tonight and Mrs. Sick-And-Preggers needs her rest."

"I've been resting. Thanks for this, Leighanne," Kim said and took a drink. 

She smiled lightly. "No problem, just relax. Me and Bri will keep the boys entertained."

"Thanks, Leighanne," AJ said with a sniffle.  

"Alex, the oatmeal is delicious, by the way. You'll have to give me the recipe, Baylee might like it more than my huevos rancheros."

He laughed. "Sure thing."  

Leighanne left the two of them alone and after they finished the tea, AJ climbed in beside Kim. "Do you mind?"

"No, come here." She pulled him into a hug.

"Good, you can help keep me warm," he said. 

"Are you cold?"

"Not really."

Kim yawned. "Let's go back to sleep..."

AJ kissed her forehead and pulled the curtain back to close it. "Good idea."       
--------------

3:07 PM

It was late afternoon as AJ and Kim continued to sleep as much as possible before soundcheck and the show that night. Kim stirred and checked the time on her phone. 

"Alex?"

"Hm?"

"Didn't you say that you were going to go shower before soundcheck?" she reminded him. 

He groaned and coughed. "Say it ain't so, Joe."

"It ain't so Joe," Kim smirked. 

"Not helping."

"Sorry."

AJ groaned as he sat up on the edge of his bunk. "You weren't kidding, this totally blows. I feel like so much shit right now." He stood and went over to kiss Kim's cheek. "I'll be back. You rest."

"Will do."

AJ left the bus and spotted Brian, Baylee, and Jordan shooting hoops in the parking lot behind the venue. Brian waved him over. "What?"

He shrugged. "Just wondered if you wanted to join us."

"Actually, I'm gonna go—ah'SHOO!

Brian knew that AJ always sneezed in doubles when he was sick, so he counted down until the next one. "Three, two..."

"Shut—aht'SHOO! up Brian!" He could feel his ears turning red, he hated his sneezes; they were always loud and messy. 'Disgusting...

The trio blessed him along with a few fans that were hanging around the edge of the parking lot, he held up a hand to thank them. "I'b gonna go shower, be good, Jordan."

"Suit yourself." Brian said and shot a basket into the hoop as AJ walked into the venue. He headed for the dressing room to grab some clean clothes and was just about to enter the shower room when Nick called his name. 

"AJ?"

"What?" he snapped, annoyed. He coughed as a result of it.  
Nick put his hands up and backed off. "Sorry, nevermind."

AJ tried again. "No, really, what?"

"It can wait." he insisted. 

AJ sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, hoping to find some relief for his congested sinuses. "Sorry, dude, this cold's just got me all whacked out."

"It's okay, I've been there. Summer's the worst for them."

"No kidding. I'll be in here."

"Sure."

Nick walked off and AJ went to go shower, relishing in the hot steamy water that relaxed him and seemed to ease his discomfort. Too bad it was only temporary, he sighed and shut the water off. He dried off, changed clothes, and went to the catering room to make himself some hot tea. He sent Kim a text: Do you want anything from catering before I come back?

She responded about a minute later: Some Gatorade? A sandwich, maybe?

AJ took his tea and Kim's sandwich and Gatorade back to the bus. The fans near by cheered and yelled out his name when he walked across the parking lot, but he didn't stop to greet them. He didn't want to pass off his cold to an unsuspecting fan (some wouldn't mind, he guessed) and he honestly wasn't in the mood to deal with more fans than he had to today. So, he went back inside the bus to chill with Kim before soundcheck. 

"I got your stuff," he said and set it down on the booth table near the door. 

Kim got up from her bunk and joined him. "Not hungry?"

AJ shook his head for no. 

"You should eat something, you need to keep your strength up."

"I'll grab something before soundcheck," A cough escaped his lips and he took a drink of tea.

"Tea?" she assumed and opened her bottle of Fruit Punch Gatorade.  

"Mhm." He surrendered to a fit of coughs and groaned. "Just kill me now, still got soundcheck and the show tonight, and three more in a row after that. My timing is awesome."

Kim looked at AJ, her eyes full of sympathy. "Go lie down, baby, I know you're tired. I'll get you at 4, okay?"

He stood and kissed her cheek before going to his bunk. Just as he was getting comfortable, he heard a cry from outside and immediately knew who it was: Jordan. 

Kim heard it, too and AJ went outside to find out what was wrong. "Is he okay?"

"Fell and scraped his elbow," Brian said. 

AJ went over to his son who was holding his left arm, the same one that was broken in the car accident in late May. This worried him, he hoped that Jordan didn't re-injure himself. "Let me see, buddy." He assessed the damage and decided that the wound needed a bandage. AJ took Jordan inside the bus and let him go back and play after he cleaned and bandaged the scrape with the help of a first-aid kit. 

AJ sat back across from Kim and sighed. "A parent's work is never done."

"Nope," she agreed. 

AJ decided that it was pointless to try and sleep before soundcheck, but he did grab a Peanut Butter Chocolate PowerBar to eat on his way to the stage.

"Hey, y'all," he said into his microphone, the one closest to him on the end. He unwrapped and took a bite of his PowerBar. "My dinner." That earned a few laughs. "Just kidding."

The others came in after AJ and the soundcheck party started. They sang a couple of songs and everything was going pretty smoothly so far. AJ let the audience know beforehand that he wasn't feeling well and was conserving his voice for the show that night and the three to follow. After they sang "I Want It That Way," he fought a losing battle against a sneeze and was about to unleash a second when his phone went off. 'Saved by the buzz.' AJ thought gratefully and noticed that Kim's doctor was calling. "Sorry, be right back." He held up his phone and quickly walked backstage. 

"What's up, Liz?" AJ wondered as he felt the second tickle creep back up in his sinuses. 

"Well, I—"

"Hold ah...on for a second...aht'SHOO!" He sneezed away from the phone and almost immediately felt the nasal congestion return. 

"Bless you. You okay?"

"Thanks." He sniffled hard. "I'm fine, what's up?"

"I haven't had an update on Kim today, so, I take it she's feeling better?" Liz assumed. 

"A bit, I'm making sure she rests and whatnot."

"Good, her fever's down or at least level?" she asked. 

"Yeah, down to just above one-hundred," AJ replied. 

"Good. Anything else I need to know?"

"I don't think so."

"Alright, have Kim or you give me a call if anything changes," Dr. Novotny said. 

"Sure."

"Take care, Alex, it sounds like Kim's cold is catching."

AJ let out a cough. "Too late." He sighed. 

"Aw, that sucks. And you've got four shows in a row, including tonight's? That's gonna be rough." She noted, glancing at a copy of their tour schedule so she could keep track of where Kim was.

"You don't have to tell me twice."

"Yeah. Well, feel better, I'll let you go."

"Thanks, bye." AJ hung up and went back on stage for the rest of soundcheck and crashed on the bus until 6:00 so he could get ready for the concert that night at the Molson Amphitheatre.  

After Brian led the prayer circle, everyone got hyped for showtime. Leighanne, Baylee, and Jordan were going to be watching from the side. AJ knelt down in front of Jordan. "Can I have my good luck hug?"

He nodded and squeezed AJ tight. "Love you, Daddy."

"I love you, too. Make sure you clap and sing real loud, okay?"

"Okay!" He let go and ran off to find Baylee.

"Alright," AJ said to pump himself up and to make him forget about how crappy he was feeling, "Let's do this." He walked near the stage with the others to line up for their introductions.
---------------- 

Friday, August 8, 2008
Toronto, Ontario, Canada - 12:09 AM EST (9:09 PM PST)

AJ held the pistol in his shaking hands and swallowed hard. "Well, if I can't have you...no one will..."

He closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.


AJ felt a hand on his face and shot up in his bunk, a few hoarse coughs racked his body as he stared into his surroundings with wide eyes. He saw a face in the darkness and gasped. 

That face was Kim and her voice was gentle. "Hey. Hey. Alex, it's me. It's me, baby. It's okay."

"Kim?" he rasped. His breathing was still coming in short pants as he reached for her hand.  

"It's okay, I'm right here. You just had a bad dream."

AJ nodded. 'More like a fucking nightmare.' He swallowed. "What happened?"

"I heard you tossing and turning. You were moaning in your sleep." She paused before asking him, "Was it the dream about your dad?"

"Yeah," he lied quickly, "my dad." He certainly didn't have the heart to tell her what he just dreamed. It all seemed so...real. And that's what scared him. 

"I'm sorry, baby, I wish I could take all of that pain away," she said with sadness filling her voice. 

Now, AJ felt bad for lying to her. "Yeah. I know." 

Kim placed a cool hand on his forehead. "You've still got a bit of a fever."

"It'll be gone by morning," he assured her. 

"Are you okay now?" She sounded concerned. 

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. Go back to sleep." He tried to sound convincing and it worked. 

"Okay, get some sleep. And no more bad dreams." She kissed his cheek and climbed back into her bunk. 

AJ waited until he was sure that Kim was asleep to go into the back lounge. He turned the TV on for some background noise and punched in a speed dial number on his BlackBerry. After three rings, the call was answered and AJ cleared his throat.

"Alex? What's wrong?"  

"Nothing, Mom." he sighed. 

Denise immediately picked up on the congestion in her son's voice. He sounded worn out. "Are you sick, sweetheart?"

"It's just a cold." His lungs decided to betray him and he let out a string of coughs that made the raw feeling in the back of his throat return. "It sounds worse than it really is, I swear." 

"Poor baby..." she cooed softly. 

"Kim and Jordan both had it, so, it's only fair that I got it, too, I guess. They're feeling better." He sniffled and coughed again. "Ow. Okay, okay...I'm sick, Mommy." He said in a pathetic voice and let himself relax against the couch. "I could kill for some of your chicken soup right now. In an IV drip. Even though I hate needles."

Denise laughed. "You really are sick if you're willing to get stuck with a needle just for my soup."

AJ's chuckle turned into a cough and he sighed.

"But really, why did you call me? Surely not for me to take great pity on you."

"How do you know?" he smirked. 

"Number one: It's past midnight where you are and you only call me this late when there's a problem and number two: Sleeping is your favorite thing to do when you're sick, so, obviously something is keeping you from doing that."

"I hate you sometimes." 

Denise knew he was kidding. "I'm your mom, I know you. So, spill."

"I don't even why I called you," AJ sighed. 

"Alex...you can tell me anything, you know that," she tried to reassure him. 

"I know. I just...I guess I'm just stressed out." He rubbed the back of his neck. 

"I know, sweetheart, we've all had a rough time lately with the accident and everything. It would put anyone on-edge."

"I know you know that I haven't been sleeping well for awhile now. I just can't without some...help," he admitted. 

"Alexander..."

AJ stopped her. "No, no, no, Mom, not like that. I'm not taking anything, I swear."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I mean, not recently..."

"Define 'not recently.'"

"April."

"What did you take?" she wondered. 

"Just some Tylenol PM a couple of times, and yes, Kim knows and she was pissed when she found out." AJ coughed.

"I see. Have you talked to John about this?"

"Kind of. It's just these nightmares...of Bob and other shit. Stuff. Sorry," he recovered quickly, knowing that Denise definitely wasn't an advocate of swearing. "Decent nights of sleep have been few and far between for months now."

"Months? When exactly did the nightmares flare up again?"

"The night before the accident," AJ replied and paused to cough again.  

"Oh."

"Yeah." He sighed heavily. "I don't know what to do, Mom."

"Sweetheart, I think you and I both know what the only solution is: you have to make things right with him, it's the only way that these nightmares will stop for good."

That was definitely not what AJ wanted to hear, but he knew it was the truth. "I know. I just wish I could sleep at night..."

"I wish you could, too, Alex. When you get home we can talk about this more, but I think that right now you need to get to bed, you need your sleep. It's late and you sound exhausted," Denise said with concern. 

AJ laughed. "Gee, thanks, Mom."

"Go get some rest, feel better, okay?"

"Okay, love you."

"I love you, too," she echoed. "Goodnight, Alex."

"Goodnight," AJ said and ended the phone call with a push of a button. He set his phone down on the table in front of him and fell back against the couch, letting out a few coughs and sighing tiredly.

"Alex? You in here?" Moments later, the door was slid open to reveal Brian standing there in his blue sweatpants and matching University of Kentucky Wildcats shirt. "You okay?"

"Yeah." AJ rubbed his eyes wearily and yawned. "I was just headed back to bed."

"Oh. Is everything okay?" he asked again. 

"Fine. Well, goodnight." AJ stood to leave the room. 

"'Night." Brian said and watched AJ go into the bus' small bathroom to give his nose a good blow and he swallowed a dose of NyQuil before heading back to the bunks. They all had to take a short but early flight to Detroit in the morning for their next tour stop and AJ could only pray that this cold wouldn't stick around for too long.

8:42 AM

"Alex? It's about a quarter to nine, we gotta get moving."

"Mm...five more minutes, Mom," AJ joked and pulled the blanket over his head to block out the light.

Kim gently pulled it back and kissed his cheek. "C'mon, sleepyhead, time to get up. Brian made scrambled eggs and toast."

AJ's head was still slightly fuzzy from the cold medicine and food didn't sound too appealing at the moment. "No, thanks." He let out a few coughs into the blanket.

"Baby, you hardly ate yesterday...you gotta get some food in you if you wanna feel better."

"I know, I'm just not feeling very hungry," he said and sat up slowly. He coughed again and could feel his nose start to run. "Where's the Kleenex?"

"I'll get some." Kim left to go find them when Leighanne walked by. 

"Hey, feeling any better?"

AJ shook his head for no. 

"You poor thing. How about I heat you up some leftover tea?" she asked sweetly. 

He smiled a little. "That'd be nice, thanks."

"No problem." She continued on her way and Kim back with a box of tissues. 

"Here, baby." She passed them to AJ and he blew into a couple. He coughed afterward and groaned. "Maybe you guys should cancel the show, you don't sound good at all."

"Kim, we are not canceling. We've performed with all kinds of illnesses: colds, flus, stomach flus, strep throat, you name it. Hell, Nick had to puke backstage in between songs for a few days during the Millennium tour."

"I remember that," Brian chimed in.  

"I've just gotta push through it. I'll be fine, we packed DayQuil, right?"

"Yeah, and give yourself pneumonia," Kim scoffed. "You're not a kid anymore, Alex, you've gotta take care of yourself if you wanna do this for another fifteen years."

"It's just a cold, stop worrying. I'll sleep on the flight and when we get to the hotel," AJ said, slightly annoyed.

"Fine. Don't come crying to me when you get worse 'cause you won't put yourself first before your job." Kim left him alone to go the kitchen area. 

"I won't," AJ called after her and started to cough again just as Leighanne came by with his tea. "Thanks."

She nodded in reply. "Drink up, we've gotta head to the airport soon."

"Great," AJ said with mock enthusiasm, he hated early morning flights. Theirs was at ten from Toronto to Detroit. After he finished the tea, he got up and dressed and ready to fly back to the US with their whole tour crew.

Detroit, Michigan - 11:13 AM EST 

AJ felt like he had never been so happy to see a hotel suite in his life. He didn't even bother to check it out as he slipped his shoes off in the closet near the door and collapsed on to the plush bed. He sighed with relief and closed his eyes. 'An actual hotel bed, not a bunk...' The flight was about a half-hour and so was the ride to the hotel and AJ was already exhausted. They still had a soundcheck and show to do later on. 'Fuck that...I just wanna sleep. Maybe we could just take a power nap at soundcheck, the fans wouldn't mind and Howie definitely wouldn't object.' he thought hopefully and got comfortable amongst the top comforter and soft pillows.

Jordan hopped up on the bed. "Daddy, wake up! It's not dark out!"

That yelling seemed to increase AJ's headache. "J, get down, please. I really don't feel good..."

"But—" he started to protest. 

Kim came out from the bathroom. "Jordan, get off of the bed. He asked you nicely. Leave Daddy alone for awhile, okay?"

"Okay," he pouted and left to go find some of his toys. 

AJ gave her a grateful look and she came to his side of the bed to feel his forehead. "You still feel warm, want some more NyQuil?"

"Please." 

Kim went to pour him a dose and returned to find him sneezing into a Kleenex. "Bless you. Here, drink this and get some more rest."

He did and decided to get under the covers this time. He shivered a bit let out a small cough, wincing at the pain in his throat. 

"I'll wake you in a few hours, just sleep."

"Sounds good..." AJ replied, a bit drowsy. He was asleep within minutes.
End Notes:
Writing miserable AJ is kinda fun. lol A sort of pointless chapter but whatever. Hope you guys liked it and there will be more soon! :)
Chapter 38 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 11/2. Hey everyone, I'm REALLY sorry for the long delay. I got stuck on this chapter and have been hard at work on the next one. I wanted to post both at the same time as a reward for your patience with this story, but it hasn't worked out. The next chapter will be out really soon and I hope this one doesn't disappoint, enjoy. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Atlanta, Georgia - 1:24 PM EST

"I wish you didn't have to go," AJ said softly as he breathed in the scent of Kim's hair and held her close. Kim's and Jordan's bags were at the door of their hotel suite, they had to go back to Los Angeles in time for Kim's next doctor's appointment on the 22nd.

She lay her head on his chest, relishing in her husband's embrace. "I know, but it's only for a couple of days, baby."

AJ sighed. "Yeah, but then, I gotta fly back to Chicago after the appointment..."

"But Sunday's our anniversary..."

AJ could hear the smile in her voice. "Six years," he agreed.

Kim picked her head up to look at him. "I love you."

"I love you, more." He leaned in to give her a soft kiss.

Kim heard Jordan come out of the bathroom. "Are you ready, Jordan?"

"Yeah," he replied and stood near both of them.

AJ bent down to his level. "Alright, buddy, I'll see you in a couple of days. Be good."

Jordan reached to hug him tightly. "Love you, Daddy."

"And I love you." They hugged for a few more moments before separating. "I'm always home, remember?" AJ placed his right hand where Jordan's heart was. "In here."

He nodded and stepped back, going to the door.

AJ stood and faced Kim once more, glancing at Jordan. "Take care of both of my boys." He bent down to feel Kim's belly and kissed it gently.

She placed her hands there and smiled. "I will."

AJ gave Kim another soft, but tender kiss. "Call me when you land."

"Okay."

"I love you," AJ repeated.

"I love you, too."

AJ pressed his lips to Kim's forehead and smoothed her hair. "Go on." He heard her sigh as she joined Jordan at the door to gather their luggage. He opened the door for them and watched as they rolled their bags down the hallway. Once they entered the elevator, Jordan waved and Kim blew him a kiss just before the doors closed.

Just like that,he was alone and a piece of him was gone, too. He sighed and went back inside his hotel room.

Once AJ shut the door, he looked around the now empty suite. The bed that he and Kim had shared was still unmade from that morning. They cuddled and enjoyed the moment of being together before Jordan woke up and everyone met downstairs for breakfast except Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee who spent the night in their Atlanta-suburb home in Marietta. They would be meeting back up with the crew before the soundcheck party at the venue.

AJ had quite a bit of time to kill before then and he decided to write an entry in his journal. It had been a couple of months since he last touched it, right after the huge fight between himself and Kim in June. A lot of things had happened since...

He took the leather-bound book out of his bag in the closet and grabbed a pen. He turned to the next blank page in it after sitting on the bed and pressed the pen to the paper.

8/20/08

Sometimes I wonder why I've chosen this career for myself, all of the hustle and bustle. Whole cities seem to flash in front of my eyes and before I know it, I'm in a new one and the cycle repeats. But such is the life of a touring musician that I know all too well.

Saying goodbye to Kim and Jordan and now Gumby doesn't get any easier and I know it never will. Every day that I spend with them is a gift. They're on their way back to LA and I'll be joining them there for a few hours on Friday for Kim's next check-up with Liz and then it's back to work in Chicago for our Bloomington, IL show. Then, on Sunday, it's mine and Kim's 6th wedding anniversary.

6 years.

It seems like only yesterday that we were standing at the altar in the front of our families and friends, ready to commit our lives to each other. Kim looked absolutely stunning in her gown as I slipped the wedding band on her finger and repeated the minister's words, pledging my love and faithfulness to her. In my own vows I promised to love her for every moment of forever and I know that I've kept my word.

I can't wait for us to have that alone time together to celebrate, it'll be another unforgettable day. But every day that I have with Kim is worth celebrating, through good times and bad. There's definitely been a mix of both lately.

It's almost unbelievable that in about four months I will be a father to two sons. Two children, well, three if you count Bernie. Some say it's easier with two, but we'll just have to see. It's been just me, Kim, and Jordan for all this time and it will interesting to experience a completely different family dynamic. Two kids running around...it'll definitely be different to bring two on the road instead of one, but that's quite a ways off. I'm so excited and yet so terrified at the same time, but I'm sure I'll be okay...I hope.

Kim, Gumby, and Jordan have been gone for what seems like five minutes and I already long to hold them again. I guess that's just how it'll be for awhile. I never thought that I could love anyone as much as I do them. I am thankful and blessed.

Lord, send Your angels on their wings as they fly home. And keep my heart safe with Kim, it's always been hers.


AJ smiled as he closed the journal and set it aside. He couldn't wait to see his family again in two days' time.

It seemed like an eternity in his mind.
----------------------

7:03 PM EST (4:03 PST)

"You missed me too much already, bud?" Kim and Jordan were only home in LA for about a half hour when Jordan wanted to Skype with web cams.

"Yeah," Jordan said a bit sadly.

"It's okay, I'll be home in two days." AJ held up two fingers and put them down. "That's not long at all."

Jordan nodded. "Look, Daddy, I drawed a picture!" He held it up to the screen.

AJ studied his son's stick figures for a moment. "Is that me and your uncles?"

"Yeah!" He pointed to each one. "That's Uncle Brian." His hair was scribbled in orange, Nick's was yellow, Howie's was brown, and there was a rounded half circle on top of AJ's head.

"Is that hair on my head, J?"

Jordan giggled. "That's a hat, Daddy! And I drawed sunglasses on your face!"

"I see that, it looks just like me. Good job. But it's missing one thing..."

"What?"

"Your name. Every great artist writes their name on their art. We've been practicing together, haven't we?"

"Really?" Jordan questioned.

"Sure, they do, give it a try," AJ encouraged him.

"Okay." He turned the piece of paper over and picked a crayon up, slowly, but surely printing six letters. His tongue was stuck out in intense concentration. "I did it!"

AJ looked up to see JORDAN in big black letters. "You're getting so good at writing, J! I'm so proud of you!"

Jordan beamed. He turned around as Kim came into the living room and sat on the couch. "Mommy, I wrote my name again!"

"Awesome!"

"Show her the other side, J," AJ said and he did.

"Aw, it's Daddy and your uncles! Go hang it up on the fridge."

Jordan ran off into the kitchen and left AJ and Kim alone for a moment. They just looked at each other.

AJ smiled. "Hey."

"I miss you already," Kim replied.

"Me, too. So, Zach and Eric are spending the night?"

"Yeah, it's kind of a trade-off. I'll watch them tonight so Jeff and Lindsey will watch Jordan on Sunday."

"Ah," AJ smirked. "Good plan. I've got lots of plans up here for then..." He tapped his temple with a finger.

"Can't wait," Kim grinned.

"Alright, well, I'm gonna go."

"Jordan, Daddy's gotta go now! Come say bye!"

Jordan ran back into the room in a flash. "Bye, Daddy, love you."

"You, too, be good. Bye, baby."

"Bye, good luck tonight."

AJ laughed. "I think it's you who will need luck."

"You're probably right." Handling three boys ages six and under alone was going to be a challenge.

"I'll call after the show to say goodnight. I love you both." AJ blew Kim and Jordan kisses.

"Bye, Daddy!"

"Bye." AJ disconnected the web chat and shut off his laptop. It was time to focus and get his head in the game.

The Backstreet Boys had a show tonight.
---------------------

Resaca, Georgia - 11:25 PM EST

The Boys and company were traveling about eleven hours northwest to their next tour stop in Bloomington, Illinois, they were a little over an hour north of Atlanta and were steadily approaching the Georgia-Tennessee border.

The tour bus felt so empty to AJ without Kim or Jordan on it. Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee were presumably asleep as he was in the back with his guitar in his lap and laptop on the coffee table in front of him. He clicked play on a drum track and began to play a familiar song that he penned years ago:

I broke a promise now
So I'm less of a man
I'll try to remember how
So, try, forget if you can

Now wash the sheets and tear my face right down off all the walls
Now wash the sheets and tear my face right down off all the walls
Now wash the sheets and tear my face right down off all the walls
Now wash the sheets and tear my face...

Come on and call on me, I wanna let you down
Come on and call on me, I wanna see you right now
I never wanted to bleed you, never wanted your hand
Come on and call on me, dear

I know that decadence defiles what I am
I know that innocence decides what I am

I wanna feel this pain again before I fade away
I wanna feel this pain again before I fade away
I wanna feel this pain again before I fade away
I wanna feel this pain again...

Come on and call on me, I wanna let you down
Come on and call on me, I wanna see you right now
I never wanted to bleed you, never wanted your hand
Come on and call on me, dear


AJ heard the door slide open and looked up to see Brian, but kept playing as he took a seat next to him.

And now I understand
That suffering's everywhere
There's so much left to learn

Come on and call on me, I wanna let you down
Come on and call on me, I wanna see you right now
I never wanted to bleed you, never wanted your hand
Come on and call on me, I wanna let you down

Come on and call on me, I wanna let you down
Come on and call on me, I wanna let you down
Come on and call on me, I wanna let you down
Come on and call on me, dear

And now I understand
There's not much left for me here
I guess it's over now
There's so much left to pay

There's so much left to pay
There's so much left to pay
There's so much left to pay...


AJ let the last note fade and quickly stopped the drum track. He cleared his throat. "What's up?"

"Did you write that?" Brian wondered.

AJ nodded. "Yeah, it's called 'Innocence.' You didn't hear part of it though." He played him what he missed.

"Wow, that's kinda deep. Heavy, even," Brian remarked, impressed.

"I wrote it back when...you know." he trailed off purposely, not liking to talk about his past days of drug abuse. Most days he tried to forget them. "Do you need something?" AJ asked, knowing that Brian wasn't the type of person to beat around the bush.

"I was just wondering if you were okay. I mean, I know Kim and Jordan just left today."

He sighed. "I miss them already, but I'm okay. Really."

"Are you sure? You've been having a lot of late nights recently."

"Yes, I'm sure."

Brian studied his friend's face for a moment, not quite believing him. "Is there something going on that I or one of the others should know about?"

AJ was quick to reply. "No...why?"

"Don't play dumb, Alex. You've been staying up late, you're tired all the time, your health's gone down the toilet recently, and you look like you haven't slept in weeks. We're your family, we know when you're stressed out."

"Brian, I'm fine, really. Just leave it alone," AJ insisted.

"Stop treating me like I'm stupid," Brian snapped. "I know when something's bothering you, it's written all over your face. Stop lying, I'm getting flashbacks of—"

"Don't you dare, Brian, this has nothing to do with my past."

Brian crossed his arms. "Oh, I think it does, Alex, and you know it."

AJ had enough. "If I wanted to talk to you, I would! Stop acting like you know what's going on with me because you don't, Brian! You don't know half the shit I'm dealing with right now, so, just go back to bed with your perfect wife and perfect marriage in tact. And stop checking up on me like I'm five! I'm thirty years old and a grown man, I'll stay up as late as I want to! I don't let my responsibilities fall to the wayside anymore! You're not my freakin' therapist and you're not my mom or my wife! Just leave me alone, alright?!"

Brian remained calm despite AJ's outburst. "You're right. I'm not any of those things and I don't know what's going on. But I am your friend, Alex, and that should count for something." He stood and left the room.

"Damn it." AJ let out a heavy sigh and put his guitar away in its case. He also turned off his laptop and fell back against the couch, not taking his eyes off of his BlackBerry on the coffee table.

'I should call Kim to say goodnight...but it's late.'

Instead, AJ collected his things and slid them safely under his bunk. He went into the bathroom to change his clothes and got in bed, hoping that sleep would come quickly, like it used to.
-------------------------------

Friday, August 22, 2008
4:29 AM PST

AJ quietly arrived at his Los Angeles-area home and disabled the security alarm after dropping his bag at the door. He heard the jingle of dog tags as his four-legged friend came to greet him, he bent down to pet him some.

With Bernie at his heels, AJ ascended the stairs which led to the second floor and slipped off his shoes in his closet. After pausing to open Jordan's door a crack, AJ entered his and Kim's bedroom. He took off his shirt and wiggled out of his jeans, leaving them on the floor and climbed into bed beside his wife.

Kim stirred as she felt the bed move. "Mm, Alex?"

AJ chuckled softly. "Yeah, it's me, baby." He snuggled in close, wrapping his arms around her.

Kim tilted her head to squint at the green LED numbers on the alarm clock beside her and cleared her throat. "I thought you weren't gonna be home 'til eight? It's four-thirty..."

AJ chuckled again. "I know, I took the twelve-thirty red-eye instead of the four o' clock out of O'Hare." He paused. "I missed you."

Kim let out a big yawn. "Me, too. Welcome home, Alex."

AJ kissed her hair. "Just sleep, my love."

A few extra hours of rest could never compare to a few extra hours of time with his family, even if it was spent asleep in his own bed.
End Notes:
Song credit: "Innocence" - Seether

Your reviews are appreciated! :)

This story is nominated for "Best Drama/Angst" story of the 2010 Felix Awards! If you'd vote for my story, I'd really appreciate it! But regardless, let your vote count for all the amazing categories and stories that are nominated here!
Chapter 39 by AJBrianFan
Author's Notes:
Added 12/2. I'm REALLY REALLY REALLY sorry for the long gaps between updates. Ugh, I don't even have a good excuse, really. I just hope that y'all are stickin' with me.

Happy reading and feedback is appreciated. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008
10:04 AM

AJ was standing at the stove in the kitchen whistling a random tune while he finished scrambling some eggs and flipped a pancake on the griddle. When he saw that the second side was a perfect golden brown, he added it to the other two on the plate next to him. He turned a couple of sausage links one last time before turning off the griddle and spreading generous amounts of butter on each pancake. He was so focused on the task at hand that he didn't hear Kim's footsteps on the stairs or the tile floor. 

"What's all this?"

AJ spun around and greeted her with a smile. "Hey. I didn't hear you come in."

"You're cooking? Did you suddenly become a Top Chef overnight?" Her eyes scanned the food on the stove. 

AJ shook his head. "Uh-uh-uh. No questions, you march back upstairs this instant."

Kim gave him one last skeptical look before doing what he asked. 

Once she left, AJ began to arrange the food on a serving tray, making sure to remember the syrup, orange juice, and add some white lilies (Kim's favorite flower) to a small glass vase. He carefully took the tray upstairs to their bedroom and saw that Kim had gotten back under the covers. 

Kim smiled. "Alex, you didn't have to do all of this."

AJ set the tray down in front of her. "This is your 'Happy 6th Anniversary' breakfast, I wanted to surprise you." He could see that she was already devouring the food with her eyes as she looked down at the display of pancakes, eggs, sausage, and bacon.   

"I am surprised, believe me. Ooh, your blueberry almond pancakes! Yummy!" Kim poured some maple syrup over them and cut a bite to put in her mouth. Her eyes lit up at the taste. "Mm..."

"Good?" AJ assumed with a chuckle. 

"Definitely." She moved on to the scrambled eggs, finally noticing the small bottle of hot sauce on the tray. 

"I know you can't have much spicy food, but I figure that you can splurge with some Tabasco for today."

 "You really know the way to my heart, don't you?" She put a few drops on her eggs and ate a forkful. "Fluffy. Leighanne's trick?"

"Cream cheese instead of butter is the way to go." AJ decided to join Kim in bed as she enjoyed her meal, occasionally stealing a few bites of her food. Once she was finished, he set the tray aside for her and fell back against the bed. 

Kim followed suit and sighed contently. "Thank you for breakfast."

"You're welcome." he breathed into her hair and moved in for a kiss. "Mm, syrupy. Happy anniversary, baby."

"Oh, I think it's just getting started..." She kissed him back and another quickly followed. 

AJ suddenly felt the air around them get hotter as he snaked his fingers in her long, dark hair, reeling Kim in as his tongue hungrily explored her mouth. He didn't stop as he slipped a strap of her nightgown off of her shoulder and brushed his hand across it. 

Kim could almost feel goosebumps along her skin despite the warmth that was spreading throughout her body at his touch. It was full of passion, yet, gentle; subtle, yet, completely electrifying. She moaned lightly and moved to kiss his neck, not leaving a spot vacant on the bulging vein just under his jawline...

Who says breakfast is the best way to start the day?
--------------

2:21 PM

Unlike some people, AJ and Kim had their wedding ceremony recorded on tape. As a tradition, they would watch it together every year to relive the wonderful day in which they became one in marriage. 

Just like every year since, they were cuddled on the couch as AJ pressed play on the DVD remote. 

The ceremony was held at Kim's childhood church in Santa Monica. The first scene was of Kim's bridesmaids and AJ's groomsmen entering the church sanctuary as part of the processional. After that, the wedding march started and Kim was walked down the aisle by her father, David, with their flower girl, Abbie, in front of her, who was Kim's cousin Carmen's five year-old daughter.  

AJ heard Kim sniffle and kissed her hair, knowing that she was tearing up over seeing her now-deceased father on the screen. 

What the cameraman didn't show was AJ's reaction to seeing Kim in her gorgeous white gown. He remembered feeling nervous but had a wide grin on his face in spite of it as he tried not to tear up. "You looked beautiful. You still do." he murmured and turned his attention back to the video. 

Once David gave Kim away to AJ, the two of them stood facing each other in front of the minister as he instructed the congregation to be seated before he began to speak. 

"Greetings, all, friends and family. We are gathered here today to celebrate that the lives of Alexander and Kim, braided together by a growing love over the last two years, will now be joined in marriage.

Up to this point, their love has been nurtured privately. In many ways, that deepest connection is private and between them alone, but today, the promise of that bond is made public.

This group of witnesses is bound together by our family relationships—husbands to their wives, parents to their children, uncles, aunts, cousins. We are bound to others here by interconnected friendships. Many of you have shared challenges together—learning to be writers or doctors with each others' help. There are mentors and their students. Neighbors. Lovers with marriages to come. And we are bound by shared memories of those not who are not with us today—those who have let us travel down the corridors of time without them. 

So, when Alexander and Kim thought of gathering people together, they wanted to see not only the faces of the individuals they have loved over the course of their lives, but they wanted to put you together, shoulder to shoulder, to form a whole; a single, solid entity—a group that will witness the declaration of their union. They believe that the strength of this group will reinforce and protect their private union. And in return, they have a promise for you.

With their home as a resource—a place to bring friends and family—they promise to do their part to nurture long-standing relationships and forge new connections between those gathered here. It is to begin this process of weaving this group even tighter that they have squeezed you into this space, and they hope that this will continue as we share a walk, a drink, a toast, a meal, and a dance."

The minister paused for a moment before continuing. "We now will have a reading by groomsman Brian Littrell out of the Bible. First Corinthians thirteen, verses four through thirteen."

Brian moved from AJ's side of the platform to the pulpit as the minister stepped aside. He turned to the passage in the New Testament and put his lips to the microphone and read the following: 

"4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Brian returned to his place on the platform as the minister spoke again. "Thank you, Brian."

"Alexander and Kim stand in front of you today, so truly excited about the years of marriage ahead. Their marriage will be the intertwining of two life stories. As individuals, they have each had a unique and life-shaping past, and now, they willingly choose to set aside the solitary exploration of their individual lives to discover who they are in the presence of one another. We celebrate with them, their arrival at this point in their lives. We are incredibly happy for them that the story of their lives now includes each other. And that their love has brought them and us to the joyous occasion of their marriage ceremony.

Alexander and Kim, if you will turn to me." They did. "Because you will be safe in marriage, you can risk; because you have been promised a future, you can take extraordinary chances. Because you know you are loved, you can step beyond your fears; because you have been chosen, you can transcend your insecurities. You can make mistakes, knowing the other will be there to catch you. And because mistakes and risks are the very essence of change, of expansion, in marriage, you will expand to your fullest capacity. Within the nurturing shelter of marriage, you will continue to grow and develop, so you can discover your individual paths and offer your gifts back to each other and the world. Marriage, then, makes you free—to see, to be seen, to love. Your souls are protected so your hearts can open.

In a sense, the person you marry is a stranger about whom you have a magnificent hunch. This person is someone you love, but her depths, his intimate intricacies, you will come to know only in the long unraveling of time. To get married is to embark on the journey of getting to know each other, of coming to see each other as you really are. This companionship on life's journey is the hallmark of marriage, its natural province, and its sweetest and most fundamental gift.

The contract of marriage is most solemn and is not to be entered into lightly, but thoughtfully and seriously, with a deep realization of its obligations and responsibilities. No other human ties are more tender and no other vows more important than those you are about to pledge."

"Will you please, as an expression that your hearts are joined together in love, now join your hands and face me."

There was a pause as Kim passed her bouquet to her Maid of Honor, her best friend, Nicole, and took AJ's hands. The minister looked to him. 

"Do you, Alexander, take Kim Luisa Borrego to be your wife, your partner in life, and your one true love? Will you cherish your union and love her more each day than you did the day before? Will you trust and respect her, laugh with her and cry with her, loving her faithfully in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, in joy as well as in sorrow, regardless of the obstacles you may face together?  Do you promise to love her for every moment of forever from this day forward for as long as you both shall live?"

AJ never looked away from Kim's face as he answered softly, "I do."

The minister nodded and turned to Kim, asking her the same questions. "Do you, Kim, take Alexander James McLean to be your husband, your partner in life, and your one true love? Will you cherish your union and love him more each day than you did the day before? Will you trust and respect him, laugh with him and cry with him, loving him faithfully in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, in joy as well as in sorrow, regardless of the obstacles you may face together?  Do you promise to love him for every moment of forever from this day forward for as long as you both shall live?"

Kim nodded. "I do."

The minister then looked out to the congregation. "Will the rings please be brought to the altar?"

Kim's friend Stacey's three-and-one-half year-old son, Ryan, brought the two gold wedding bands to the platform on a pillow. A few 'awwws' and whispers could be heard as he walked down the center aisle in a little matching black suit, complete with a bow tie and rose in its front jacket pocket.


"Little Ryan was so adorable, wasn't he?" Kim asked AJ. 

He smiled and looked at her. "He was." They both turned their attention back to the TV screen.     

After Ryan finished and sat with his parents, the minister handed Kim a ring. "Kim, as you place the ring on Alexander's finger, will you repeat after me: May this ring,"

"May this ring..."

"Forever be to you,"

"Forever be to you..."

"The symbol of my growing love."

"The symbol of my growing love."

"With this ring, I thee wed."

"With this ring, I thee wed."

Kim then slipped the ring on the appropriate finger on AJ's left hand. 

"Alexander, as you place the ring on Kim's finger, will you also repeat after me: May this ring,"

"May this ring..."

"Forever be to you,"

"Forever be to you..."

"The symbol of my growing love."

"The symbol of my growing love."

"With this ring, I thee wed."

A tear threatened to fall from AJ's eye and he sniffled. "With this ring...baby, I thee wed," he said, chuckling to keep from crying, which generated a few laughs from family and guests alike.

After the rings were exchanged, the minister nodded to AJ and alternated his gaze between he and Kim as he said the following:

"Before these witnesses, you have joined yourselves in solemn matrimony. May you strive all your lives to meet this commitment with the same love and devotion you now possess. For love is truly the greatest gift we are given to share. Delight in each other's company and never take each other for granted.

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the State of California, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife. Alex, you may kiss your bride."

AJ did so by surprisingly dipping Kim, sealing her lips in a passionate and seemingly long kiss. It was met by cheers, applause, whistling, and a few cat calls. 

Once they stood again, the minister announced, "It is a great honor and joy that I now present to you for the very first time: Mr. and Mrs. Alexander James McLean."

The congregation stood and applauded as AJ and Kim made their way down the center aisle. Once they exited the sanctuary, the rest of the recession followed as Abbie and Ryan left after them with the rest of the wedding party and congregation in an orderly fashion.
 

The last scene on the DVD was of the empty sanctuary before it ended, the main menu replacing the view of the church.

AJ hit stop on the remote and turned to look at Kim. "I love you." He leaned in for a kiss.

"Mm, you, too, baby." Kim moved and rested her head on his chest. "Some days it feels like we're newlyweds again, you know? I can't believe it's been so long."

"Yeah," AJ murmured, wrapping his arm around her and rubbing her side.

"Alex?"

"Hm?"

"...Can I tell you something?"

AJ noted Kim's hesitation. "Anything," he assured her gently.

"Well...for a while, I was scared that we weren't going to expand our family, have more kids."

AJ looked down at Kim in surprise. "Really?"

"Yeah, I mean...especially since Jordan was getting older, around last year. It made me happy that we decided to have another child. We're good parents of one, but I always wanted to Jordan to have a sibling. To have that special bond, to create and share memories on birthdays and Christmases, 'camping' in the living room when it's pouring rain outside, playing tag and sports in the backyard...I want Jordan to have what I had growing up with my brothers. And I know you do, too."

AJ simply kissed Kim's temple, letting his lips linger there.

"And, baby...I know you're scared; scared of what the future holds for our life together. Your insecurities as a father and a husband and a person. I want you to know that I believe in you, I always have and will. You can do anything."   
  
AJ didn't know exactly what to say to that; he struggled to find his voice for a moment. "...Thank you, baby. But really, we don't have to talk about this right now. It's okay."

"You believe me, don't you?"

"Of course I do. But today's a happy day, let's not ruin it, hm?"

"Sure."

"I believe in you, too, Kim. Don't let anything hold you back. Not me, not my work. I would never want to keep you from following your dreams, not ever." AJ wasn't sure where that came from, but felt that it needed to be said. 

"Thank you, Alex," Kim replied softly.  

He replied in the same tone and gently began to smooth her hair, "I mean every word."
End Notes:
Part 2 of their romantic, mushy, anniversary goodness will be the next chapter, stay tuned... ;)
This story archived at http://absolutechaos.net/viewstory.php?sid=9855