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Well here we are....

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

Why should the world be overwise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

From “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


~ 40 ~

The Healing Process


When Kevin walked out of his meeting with Tim, he didn’t know exactly how to feel. Part of him really did feel a sense of closure but it wasn’t the way he had pictured it in his mind. Of course going in alone wasn’t the plan at all. He reached the end of the long hall and waited for the attendant to unlock the door and let him through back to the world of the sane where Howie was sitting on a chair waiting for him.

“How did it go?” He asked looking up at his friend.

“It wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be.”

“I’m really sorry, Kevin.”

He looked down at Nick as he sat in his wheelchair beside Howie, “I know I’m the one that dragged you both down here…I just couldn’t make myself…”

He knelt beside his friend and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Nick, it’s okay, really.”

“I couldn’t do it either, Nicky.” Howie added, “I knew it was going to be too painful.”

Nick nodded, “There was so much I wanted to say to him…”

“In a way, you not going in there said more than your words ever could.” Kevin said as he placed his hand on Nick’s head and pat before standing up, “Understand?”

He nodded.

“Good, now let’s go meet up with AJ and Brian and get the hell out of here.” He grabbed the handles of Nick’s wheelchair and the three of them left the mental hospital to meet their friends.


AJ and Brian were sitting at the restaurant, patiently waiting for the other three to arrive as silent thoughts went through both of their heads.

The past year had been a rough one for AJ. He found himself yearning for alcohol and drugs and although he was able to resist one, he couldn’t pass on the other so he found himself back in rehab about three months after the accident. Luckily he had now been sober for almost eight full months and pledged he would never touch a drink again. In that time, he also underwent intense therapy for anxiety issues. Before this happened he never really experienced a full on anxiety attack but one afternoon a few weeks after the trial was over he thought he was having a heart attack. Rochelle called an ambulance and he landed in the emergency room.

The doctor told him it was a panic attack. He started having them more and more frequently, especially whenever he watched the news. So, he stopped doing that. In fact, he stopped watching television completely. It was all too painful.

He had also stopped visiting Nick in the hospital. He felt really horrible about that, but he found that seeing Nick triggered some of those attacks. Now that Tim was in the mental hospital and the public finally seemed to stop caring about the tragedy of the entire situation, Nick was the only reminder that the nightmare wasn’t over.

Then there was the letter he got from Tim. Of course that triggered the most severe panic attack ever. He didn’t sleep for three solid days after that and insisted that they sell their house in LA and move somewhere else on the off chance that he ever got out and tracked them down. Now that he had this address they would never be safe.

They moved from the home they loved into a much smaller one outside of Los Angeles. It broke Rochelle’s heart to do that, but she did anyway.

It had been an uphill battle for AJ, but with the love of his friends and family, he knew he was going to make it just fine.


Brian had his own rough path to conquer. The night they almost lost Nick at the hospital, he remembered being ushered out of the room along with Howie as the machines all started beeping. He realized he couldn’t take it anymore at that point. He felt himself dying inside. He knew that if Nick did die in that moment, he would never have been able to recover from it so he had closed his eyes and recited the Our Father over and over again until the doctors came out and said they managed to bring him back.

He went to the hospital chapel that night and stayed until Leighanne insisted he go back to his bed and rest.

After he got out of the hospital, he went back to Georgia to recover. He didn’t really want to leave Nick or Kevin since they were both still not in the best condition, but he also realized that he needed to take care of himself. He not only needed to heal on the outside, but on the inside as well. So, he began to see a therapist regularly as well as a spiritual advisor. That latter one was his wife’s idea.

He had a lot of anger issues he had to work out. Never before, had he been so quick to lose his temper but everything seemed to trigger this rage that was inside of him. He found himself suddenly screaming at Baylee to clean his room or yelling at a reporter if they asked to speak about what had happened to him. He even lost it one day and attacked a member of the paparazzi. That one made the news because it was SO out of his character. The headline on TMZ was “Angelic Backstreet Boy turns into the devil!” Nice…

It was shortly after that, he decided it was best if maybe they ended the Backstreet Boys. He brought the idea up to AJ, Kevin and Howie on the night that Nick was finally moved out of ICU about two months after he entered the hospital. None of them spoke as Brian gave all the reasons he felt like it would be in the best interest of the group if they parted ways. AJ looked devastated, but he also looked drunk which served as just another reason to end things.

They refused to make any final decisions without consulting Nick, who was in no way ready to think about anything but getting better. So, they instead landed on the idea of a year hiatus. Take a year to heal and recover as best as possible, than make that decision when the time was right.

That’s why they were all getting together today.

“How do you think it went?” AJ asked as Brian took another sip of his iced tea. “I can’t believe they all went to see him. How could Nick even consider doing that?”

Brian shrugged, “All part of the healing process. We handle things differently.”

AJ nodded, “I hope for their sakes, they managed to say what they wanted to say.”

It took Brian a long time, but he did manage to control his anger and forgive in his own way. After receiving his letter from Tim, he decided that maybe it was time to let go of all the anger he had for what had happened. He took that letter and burned it and afterward let out a sigh of relief. It was like he allowed all his anger to burn up with that letter and things had been okay ever since. He still had his little outbursts every now and then but nothing he couldn’t control or handle.

“I just hope it brought them some peace.” Brian said, finally at peace himself.


Kevin smiled when he saw his cousin and AJ as the hostess led them to the back table. He really missed these times when they were all together as five. It happened so little. The last time was when Nick was finally released from the hospital about three months ago. They had a little celebration for him at the new apartment he and Lauren were renting in the area. They had all sat around and talked about superficial things and even though it seemed like it should have felt awkward, it just didn’t. He had been through so much with the four of them, no matter what circumstances they had to overcome; nothing could ever break that bond. Even if they did end the Backstreet Boys, the friendship they all had would never disappear.

He would never take them for granted, ever again. In fact, he would never take his life for granted, especially coming so close to dying.

It was a very close call for Kevin after about his first week in the hospital. He knew something wasn’t right as the pain in his ankle was really not going away even after being put on pain killers. He was also running a pretty high fever and had the shakes. The last thing he remembered was the doctors telling him he had an infection and that if they weren’t able to stop the spreading, they would have to remove his foot entirely. He was told by his wife, that he had been unconscious for about three full days of which they weren’t sure if he was going to survive. The three boys kept vigil by his bedside before his crisis had passed. They managed to get the infection under control but in the process they were forced to remove the pins that were put in and just like that, he’d walk with this limp forever.

At first he found the news devastating until he actually took a moment to realize how lucky he was considering what his baby brother was going through. A slight limp he could handle. He interpreted that as his penance. Since this thing was his fault, it felt right that he should have an eternal reminder of it. As long as Nick lived, he’d happily deal with not being able to walk properly ever again.

Because of the difficulties he had, his hospital stay lasted almost a month of which rehabilitation played an important part. He would spend hours working on his ankle and trying to get his strength back and then he’d head up to Nick’s room to keep him company. Howie was often up there as well, taking Lauren’s place when she had to go back to LA and her real life.

The two of them would watch TV or play cards while Nick slept which was most of the time but at least they were always there when he opened his eyes and would join them in a round of Go Fish before dosing off again.

The three of them became incredibly close during that month. Not that they weren’t already close but there just suddenly became a new and much stronger bond that formed between them.

“You seem to be walking a lot better.” Brian said as he stood up and gave his cousin a hug. AJ followed the pattern as they then did the same to Howie and then finally Nick.

“Thanks, I’m trying…every day it’s a struggle.”

“Amen to that!”

They all sat and nodded to the hostess as she left the room they had overtaken. “So how did it go?” AJ asked Howie after their menus arrived and drink orders were taken.


Howie looked down at his food choices before answering. He was ashamed at himself for not going through with seeing Tim. When Nick had called him with the idea, he was hesitant but the more he thought about it, the more it felt right.

The past year for Howie was hell. He was lucky when it came to the physical side of things, but just seeing how bad everyone else was handling what had happened was the worst thing that he could endure. He sometimes wished he was the one who was going through all the medical problems like Nick was but being totally healthy and bearing witness to everyone else’s pain was the price he had to pay.

It didn’t help either, that he seemed to be the one that everyone called when they needed something. He was the one AJ called the very first time he allowed himself to get so drunk he passed out behind a bar just on the outskirts of town. He cried the whole way down to pick him up and tried not to show his emotions as his younger friend mumbled his fears about Tim finding him and killing him. If only Howie had killed Tim like he was supposed to, AJ wouldn’t have fallen off the wagon.

It was him that Brian called after he had attacked a reporter. “I lost it, Howie! They called Tim the sixth member of the Backstreet Boys and I just lost it. I swear if I had a knife, I would have stabbed him. What’s happened to me? I don’t even know who I am?”

He would listen to Kevin go on and on about how this entire thing was his fault as they sat in Nick’s room and listened to the beeping of his heart monitor. It killed him to see Kevin in such a dark dark place, facing demons he shouldn’t have even had to face.

Then of course there was Nick, who he almost watched die, too many times to count. He found himself up in Nick’s room more often than anywhere else after he was released from the hospital. His wife would urge him to go back to the hotel with her but he refused. Said he felt like his place was right there with his friend. He fought with his wife a lot during this time. She didn’t understand why he was pushing her away. He didn’t really understand it either. He loved his wife with all his heart but for some reason being around her was too painful. He felt like his new life didn’t have enough room in it for true love and happiness so, when she decided she had enough and was ready to go back home, he chose to stay behind.

They separated about two months later.

The light in Howie’s eyes went dull. Where he always used to be optimistic and hopeful, his knew thing was “It is what it is.”

He hated how he felt most times, just breathing but not living anymore. It was finally Nick that woke him up. One day he looked at Howie and said, “Seeing you like this is killing me, Howie. Please go back to being the D I used to know. I have had to deal with so much change in my life, I don’t’ want to have to deal with a new you as well.”

Ever since then, he had tried his hardest to remember what it was like to be the Howie he used to be before the accident. He sometimes caught himself laughing at something and instead of stopping himself or feeling guilty about having a good moment, he would just allow himself to enjoy it. Live a little, it was okay to feel happy sometimes.

He also tried his best to reconcile with his wife. Even though he still decided to stay behind and help out with Nick as he recovered, he also made frequent trips back home to Florida to see Leigh and the boys. They started going to marriage counseling together and in time their relationship began to mend, just like Howie’s lost spirit.

“Nicky and I didn’t go in.” He finally said, “There was no reason to bring up all those feelings.”

“I’m glad you decided against it.” Brian said and then looked over at Nick, “I’m really glad…”

Nick nodded at his friend. He was glad too.


Nick’s road to recovery had been the hardest and was by far not even close to being done yet. He had a very fuzzy recollection of everything that had happened, including his time in the cabin with Tim. Sometimes the others wondered if he was lying when he would say he didn’t remember much about what had happened or if he did remember but chose not to speak about any of it. Not that they could blame him either way. It was probably best to forget anyway.

In all honestly it was a little bit of both. Nick did remember certain things. Never would he forget the feeling of being held against his will. Being tied up and dragged around by Tim. Other things that he should have remembered he didn’t though.

When Howie recounted about their time alone in the bedroom before Kevin showed up and how he had searched the house for ways to kill Tim, Nick just nodded and acted like he remembered but he didn’t. He really didn’t even remember Kevin being there at all.

When he finally woke in the hospital, he felt dazed and out of it. He at first thought he had been on a drug binge and possibly overdosed. He felt ashamed and embarrassed. When he felt Lauren’s hand in his own the first word he uttered was “Sorry…” Because he felt like he had done something wrong.

When what had happened was explained to him he just kept shaking his head in disbelief but then of course the memories started coming back.

For the first few weeks he was awake, he was never alone. If Lauren wasn’t there, one of the guys was. They never left his side for any reason and always reassured him they would be there. He couldn’t do much but nod and occasionally say a few words before being so exhausted he’d end up falling back to sleep.

The pain was pretty intense at times. As he was given a list of his injuries, he felt each one. The internal damage was pretty severe. He had only one functioning kidney now and his liver had been damaged. He was told in no uncertain terms that if he ever had a sip of alcohol, it would kill him. His heart had been weakened as a result of all the other stuff going on. Because of the lengthy coma, he did suffer some memory loss which affected his motor skills. He was in a wheelchair mostly because he was too weak to walk but he had to relearn how all over again. Luckily his legs were fine and in time he’d be able to walk around all he wanted but for now, a wheelchair was his primary mode of transportation. 

He spent almost the entire year in the hospital. It became his second home. He knew all the nurses on staff. They would bring him homemade cookies and brownies. Their kids littered his walls with pictures and get well messages.

He and Lauren made the decision to just find a place to live there. He preferred to stay at the place that treated him for the second half of his recovery, the outpatient rehab, instead of moving back to LA and going somewhere new. He was surprised to hear that Howie had rented a place as well as Kevin. They both felt responsible for him. He wasn’t always sure why but he was glad for the company.

The nightmares started about six weeks ago. He’d wake up in a cold sweat, screaming. His therapist told him it was his minds’ way of dealing with what had happened. He was also remembering more and more. That’s what sparked his decision to see Tim.

To make himself feel a little better he had compiled a list of questions to ask the crazy man. He thought he was ready to confront him right until about ten minutes before they came to get them. He shook his head and began to cry like a baby. “I can’t do it…” He confessed to Kevin. “We should just leave because I can’t do this…”

He was glad Kevin went in and feeling his older friend staring at him now, he looked up and smiled.

“I have something for you.” Kevin said which made everyone at the table stop talking. “He gave it to me just as I was walking out the door. I wasn’t sure whether or not to give it to you, but it’s yours to do with what you want.”

Kevin took the letter Tim had given him addressed to Nick and handed it over.

“I was wondering if I was ever going to get one of these.”

He took a few deep breaths, and looked at his four band mates who all seemed concerned and intrigued about what he was going to do. He held it tight in his hands, “I don’t want us to break up.”

The four of them looked confused. Clearly they thought the next words out of his mouth would be about the letter he was holding and not about their fate, but he held firm to this topic, “I love you guys with all of my heart. Being in this group is all I have ever known. I don’t’ want this man to define us anymore. If we break up, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. We need to show everyone, including ourselves, we are bigger than him.”

“I don’t want us to break up either.” AJ agreed.

Howie nodded, “I want us to stay BSB.”

Kevin added, “Me too.”

They all looked at Brian, including Nick as he still held tight to that letter. “What do you say, B?”

Brian paused for a very long time before saying, “I’m not going anywhere.”

Nick smiled, “Good…” and then looked down at the letter.

“If you want me to read it, I will.” Howie said softly.

Nick shook his head, “No D. I know exactly what I want to do.” He then took the unopened letter and ripped it in half. It was hard but liberating as he felt the tears running down his face. “I’m not giving him the satisfaction of having the last word and I certainly am not going to be his hostage anymore.”  

They all nodded at him with a huge sense of pride.

“So I guess it’s time to start planning for the next album?” Howie said after a few quiet minutes with more tears shed by all of them.

“As long as we don’t’ have to all live together again.”

“What was wrong with that, Brian?”

“Yeah, Bri, you ended up with the best room in the house!”

“You’re still not over that are you, Kevin?”

As Nick listened to his friends light hearted bickering he knew that even though he still had a hard road ahead of him, as long as he had these guys to help him with the journey he’d be just fine.

They all would be just fine.

The End


Just wanted to say a giant thank you to all of you for sticking with this story until the end, ESPECIALLY those of you who took the time to leave feedback whether it was a “Great story can’t wait to read more!” or a really detailed review of what you thought was happening. I absolutely loved reading people’s guesses about things and thoughts on Tim whether you loved him or hated him. I can’t even explain how important it is to all the writers out there to know that people are reading and enjoying what they write. I know without your words of encouragement, I might not have been so diligent in updating. It makes a huge difference. I hope you keep that in mind as you read other people’s stories, and maybe one day another one of mine.  *sigh* I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this one. I hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it!

Until next time…


Chapter End Notes:
Thanks! :O)