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."
"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."
"Of course, I trust you."
A few minutes of silence passed before AJ spoke again.
"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."
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.
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