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Author's Chapter 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!"



"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.


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."


"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."


"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 

"...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.
Chapter 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