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Author's Chapter 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."


"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.


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..."


"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!"


"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.
Chapter End Notes:
Song credit: "Innocence" - Seether

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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!