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Chapter Twenty-Three

Anna smiled as she walked through the door to Kevin’s room. It was a week later and he was still in the hospital recovering from his most recent injuries. The past week had been rough, and the visits had to be kept minimal, so not much talking had been accomplished, however since Kevin’s recovery progress was coming along just about as good as could be expected, and starting that week, the visits were aloud to be made longer. Anna couldn’t wait, and hoped that it was one of her boyfriends good days and not one where he was groggy and not quite himself. Days where he was obviously doped up on some sort of medication and he wasn’t able to think fully clear. Anna hated those days because he was sweet and romantic with his words, but the next day he didn’t even remember what he’d said. Anna knew he meant it, though when he was rambling on, it was like a drunk person spilling their feelings without meaning too.

“Hey my love,” Kevin greeted with outstretched arms before she even had the chance to say anything herself.

Anna’s smile didn’t fade as she neared him, walking right in to his arms. She finished the long embrace with a soft kiss on the mouth before pulling away slightly, staring in to his eyes. They were clear and bright, meaning that it was a good day without the prescriptions which made him a bit loopy.

“You have the most gorgeous eyes,” she quickly made the excuse when she saw the odd look that Kevin was giving her, “They’re so pure...I missed looking in to them.”

Kevin blushed, buying the excuse, which was true, but not the full reason she’d been starring. Kevin didn’t know what she thought of his off days, and she wanted to keep it that way. There was no use upsetting him or making him self-conscious. She loved him all the same either way.

“So how are things with the guys and Stephanie and Jaime?” Anna questioned. Every time she had come to visit, the room had been empty of everyone but Kevin, obviously.

Kevin shrugged, “They come by for a little bit every day.” he replied, “I get the feeling that they are uncomfortable being near me after what I did.” His shoulders slumped and he lowered his eyes, “I suppose I don’t blame then, but I regret it. I wish that they could just see that and let the past be the past.”

Anna tried to hide a blush. It was obvious that they were thinking the same things as her, only she was hiding it from him. The silence said it all though as Kevin looked up at her face, watching her bite the corner of her bottom lip.

“You feel the same, don’t you?” he asked, hurt lingering in his soft voice.

Anna was quiet for another few moments. She didn’t want to lie to him but again, was so afraid of hurting him too and him getting angry with her. She didn’t know which was worst and what would bring the worst consequences. Anna scanned her brain quickly for be best way to tell him with honesty. Which would be hard considering the look he was giving her. It was full of love and adoration combined with confusion and hurt. All this coming from those soulful brilliant green eyes of his.

“It...its not so much being uncomfortable around you,” Anna tried to explain, pushing a strand of hair out of her eye and behind her ear. She looked downward to avoid his gaze. She realized that Kevin’s arms were still wrapped firmly around her, “I...it’s that I am terrified that you...you’ll try to...kill...well, you know...end your life again.”

Kevin sighed. He knew that it would be something alone those lines. He didn’t know what to say. He was slightly embarrassed that he no longer held her trust. That every time his girlfriend would look at him, she’d remember what he only wished she would forget. He wondered if she still even wanted to be with him, or if it would be too awkward. Kevin couldn’t picture his life without Anna in it. Suddenly he started to worry. Worry that now that he was awake, everyone in his life would leave him, thinking him to be a psycho. Everyone including Anna. The thought had never crossed his mind before. Not until then.

“I wish you’d just believe that I wouldn’t...” Kevin’s voice trailed off as A.J and Howie walked in to the room. The frown turned in to a forced smile when he saw them, not wanting them to suspect that anything was wrong. Anna in return didn’t reply to him. She knew that there would be more where that conversation came from later. Likely the next time they were alone. She was determined to set Kevin’s mind at ease of whatever what bothering him.

“Hey guys,” Kevin greeted the two best friends, “What’s happening?”

A.J. shrugged, avoiding complete eye contact with the elder man. Kevin sighed. A.J. hadn’t been acting completely normal around him in months. Since his first accident, to be exact. He couldn’t help but notice that nothing had really changed. He could feel his heart sink, feeling more than ever like he’d lost everything from his spontaneous selfish act months earlier.

“Hey Kev,” Howie returned the greeting after the uncomfortable silence, deciding to break it. He turned to Anna, “Hi Anna.” he turned back to Kevin, “How are you feeling today?”

“Better than most,” Kevin admitted, “Still achy, but I think I’m doing better.” He paused, concentrating for a moment before adding, “I feel better. I just wonder how much longer I’ll be cooped up in here.”

He had a sort of light heartedness in his voice, but they all could sense that he was impatient too. Ready to pick up with where he’d left off with life. Nobody knew when that would be however, so nobody said anything, not wanting to give their friend false hope.

“So anyways,” Howie’s voice trailed off in hopes to quickly change the subject, “Management wants to know when we’ll start touring again. Whenever it is, Bluewave will be the warm up band...possibly No Authority as well. It depends on how Tommy is doing. As for now, he’s in remission.”

Kevin didn’t say anything for a moment. He thought deeply, really considering the question whereas months ago he would have totally dismissed it as ridiculous. “I don’t know about touring.” He finally stated, “Part of me would still feel funny about going out there like this, but I do miss it. A lot. So if it comes up again, just tell them that we’re working it all out and will get back to them as soon as it is figured out.”

Howie nodded, understanding where Kevin was coming from, hoping that in the end he’d make the choice that they were all waiting for. A.J though still said nothing, not noting his input in the situation. Kevin couldn’t take it any longer. He needed to know what was eating away at his friend, because frankly, he couldn’t live having the man acting like he was a leper of some sorts.

“Howie, Anna, could I please speak to Aje alone?”

The two looked surprised but nodded, agreeing to leave two men for awhile. Anna gave Kevin a quick kiss before following Howie out of the room, closing the door behind them. A.J looked almost scared as Kevin turned his eyes to him.

‘What’s with you?” Kevin asked, cutting straight to the chase.

“Nothing,” A.J. lied, answering much too quickly.

“Bullshit,” Kevin answered, crossing his arms over his chest, “Ever since I’ve woken up, and hell, months before that, you’ve acted like the mere sight of me disgusts you. Not so much now, but you back away like I’m contagious.”

A.J. said nothing, for he felt there was nothing he could say. He’d been caught, and now he felt the need to explain all before Kevin continued to go on thinking that he hated him.

“I just feel so guilty for all of this,” A.J. said, “I’d acted so hostile towards you for so long. I feel that I drove you to do this to yourself. I regret how I treated you and would take it back if I could. I can’t though, and I feel it is best if I just stay back.”

Kevin sighed. True, A.J’s rejection had been part of what had made him go off the deep end, but saw no use in bringing it up. So in turn, he just said “I would have done it anyways. I was feeling so worthless that I felt it was the only way out. So eventually, I would have tried it anyways, weather it be a week later, a month or even six. I’m sure of that much.”

“I’m sorry for how I acted though. Not to dig up old graves, but I was just so pissed at you. You go and hypocrite me and then go off and do the same thing. My results have never hurt anybody as much as yours. And never landed me like...well, you know. Then when I read the note you left...I was so scared. I mean, I was worried I’d never get to talk to you again and tell you I’m sorry. All the anger I felt towards you vanished into worry. Which is why I say that nothing I ever did hurt anybody like this.”

“That’s where you’re wrong though,” Kevin muttered, remembering how hurt he’d been with A.J’s past, but quickly moved on before A.J. could ask for a repeat, “I know it was wrong of me. I’m sorry for that. But could you please forgive me? Could we please forget all of this past crap and call it even and be close again?”

A.J. didn’t know what to say. He didn’t want to seem like he was crawling to Kevin, giving in easily. Then again, Kevin had suffered enough with everything that had happened, including nearly a year of him being the worlds largest asshole towards the eldest. He missed his friend, and with the past events, he knew that anything could take him away in a matter of seconds, or any of them for that matter. A.J. didn’t want another day to pass with Kevin thinking that he was hated. If he did, next time it might be too late for A.J. to make things right and let Kevin know that there really were no more grudges to be held.

“I forgive ya,” A.J. stated, giving Kevin a hug
after making sure that nobody was looking. Kevin returned the hug willingly, feeling better about things already. But suddenly a thought struck Kevin that brought some of the stress back to him.

”For real this time?” Kevin asked, just to make sure, remembering the last time they’d had a conversation like this and the bitter ending outcome of it.

A.J. laughed, “Yeah, for real this time.”

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By the time Anna got back from the cafeteria, Howie had already returned and the rest of the gang was now there as well. They seemed to all be in the middle of a deep conversation, which Anna hated to interrupt or intrude upon without welcome. However she also couldn’t stand the thought of leaving Kevin any longer. Since he’d awakened, she felt as if she needed to be near him at all times, most of the time to make sure he didn’t slip away from her again. That was her worst fear, Kevin leaving her alone again for another series of long, torturous months. She couldn’t admit this to anybody, but she was afraid that he’d try to kill himself again. She wanted to trust him, but under the circumstances, she just couldn’t. Not yet, as painful as it was to admit that and as awful as it sounded.

Stephanie was the first to notice that she was back, her face brightening a little. She turned her head back to everybody else, her voice ringing out over Nick’s, who was most likely saying something stupid. Nobody really seemed to notice the interruption which told her that nobody was really paying attention to Nick in the first place.

“Oh my god, Anna’s here.” Stephanie stated, a hint of enthusiasm in her voice, which was a surprise. Normally her tone was nothing but full of sarcasm.

“Thank god,” Jaime complained playfully, “Now you can tell us this huge news you’ve been keeping from us since we all got here.”

Anna walked over to them slowly, a half smile on her face. Her eyes read confusion as she neared her friends. She immediately greeted Kevin with a kiss, as always before asking the question that was on her mind.

“What’s going on?”

“Don’t know,” A.j. mentioned, “The woman’s been keeping us in the dark since we all got here. She said we had to wait for your slow ass to get back,” he teased, then added after turning his attention back to Stephanie, “So now that Anna is here, would you please tell us what is going on, woman.”

Stephanie laughed quietly. She was nervous for some reason about telling them her news. She was afraid of how they’d react suddenly, worrying what they would all think of her. She had a good guess that they’d be happy, considering Jaime had already had her little girl. Then again, she was the ‘responsible’ one, preaching of safe sex and all that garbage that not even she’d been able to practice without getting her own little surprise.

“Well see, I umm,” she stuttered a little, “There’s going to be another new addition to the Backstreet family.” she told them, hoping that they’d catch on to the little hint. All she got was a series of blank stares. She sighed in exasperation when even Nick gave her a blank stare, “Me and Nick are um, contributing to it.” She got a few raised eyebrows in response as well as continued stares of blankness. She didn’t know how much obvious she could get without just coming out and saying it, which was what she was going to have to do. She took a deep breath before saying, “I’m pregnant.”

Nobody said anything and she wondered if she had to draw a picture for them...a detailed, graphic picture of a woman giving birth. She breathed a sigh of relief when the first person spoke of her news.

“That’s great,” Howie said with a smile, “Now little Lauren won’t grow up with nobody to play with.” he winced at how stupid he sounded.

“Congrats, you guys,” A.J. grinned, “Although, Nicky, you sure your child won’t be more mature than you?” he cracked, “More common sense. Just don’t drop it on its head and give you a run for your money on being blonde at heart.”

“Haha,” Nick rolled his eyes.

In the midst of all of this, Anna and Kevin exchanged sad smiles. Anna more than anything wanted a child of her own, and Kevin more than anything wanted to give her that. They all knew though that it wouldn’t be possible. At least not yet. Not for awhile, if ever. It was something that they’d have to live with. Anna broke the eye locked connection that she and Kevin had shared and forced an enthusiastic smile.

“I’m happy for ya,” she stated, “You’re going to be great parents.”

After all of the fuss over Stephanie and Nick was over, Kevin turned his gaze to Jaime who was holding Lauren still.

“Speaking of babies, who’s the little one over there?” Kevin asked, having forgotten that Jaime was pregnant before the latest horrific incident in his life.

“Oh,” Jaime smiled proudly, “This is Lauren Grace McLean.” she told him, “Me and A’J’s daughter. She took A.J’s last name...until we get married, eventually.”

Kevin’s face fell, “I really did miss a lot, didn’t I?” he asked regretfully, not able to grasp the thought that the world had gone by and so much had happened while he’d been asleep, “I can’t believe I missed one of the most important days of my best friends’ life. I’m sorry.”

A.J. shrugged, “Don’t worry about it,” he quickly replied before Kevin could feel worse, “All that matters is that you’re awake and here now and able to meet our daughter.”

Kevin dismissed the thought from his head, not wanting to dwell on the past and events he could not change. A.J. made a good point. All that mattered was that he was awake now and didn’t plan on missing anything more.

“Can I hold her?” Kevin asked

Jaime smiled and handed Lauren in to Kevin’s arms. Kevin smiled down at the curious, cooing infant, rocking her gently in his arms. She stared up at him with intent interest with her big blue eyes. He felt a shallow, sinking feeling in his heart. He so badly wanted this. A child of his own to raise. He wanted what Jaime had and Stephanie was about to have. He wasn’t exactly getting any younger, and who knew how long it would be before he and Anna could have children. All he knew was that he couldn’t imagine life without having his own. Bending down, Kevin kissed Lauren’s forehead. For now though, this was the closest he would have, and Kevin knew that it would just have to do.

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Along with waking up and getting better slowly came a series of other surprises, including counseling sessions with a hospital staffed psychologist. Kevin should have known that after trying to kill himself, he’d have to go to them after he was thinking more clearly. He knew that it was a precaution, just to make sure that he was in the right state of mind to be released, however Kevin already knew that he was. He would just have to convince the psychologist by the name of Linda Saunders of that.

So as he wheeled himself to her office on the other side of the hospital, being followed by a nurse to make sure he didn’t try to escape, Kevin was silently thinking of just how he could do that. The less sessions he’d have with this woman, the best. He wasn’t crazy. He didn’t belong there, in her office, being questioned about his supposed ‘sick’ mind. As soon as Kevin was in the office, the nurse closed the door behind him, leaving the two alone.

“Good morning...” Linda greeted, looking down at a folder on the table next to her, “Kevin. How are you today?”

Kevin tilted his head to one side, taking in the woman. She looked trustable enough in her navy business suit, freshly pressed. She had short black hair that was done in a mod style. Her eyes were dark brown, her skin a caramel color. She looked to be about his age. Kevin sighed, deciding that he could talk to this woman without being judged, solely on her appearance and soft tone.

“I’m doing well,” he told her, “And yourself?”

“Fine, thanks,” Linda answered, giving him a
smile, “It sure is a beautiful day outside today.” she stated, turning her head to the window.

It indeed was a beautiful day. The sun was out and bright, not a could in the sky. Kevin could almost feel the warm rays of sun beating down upon his body. He wondered when he’d have the chance to feel it for real. Not through a window.

“Yes,” Kevin replied wistfully, “Too bad I can’t go out and enjoy it. Everything is being held back from me and it just plain sucks.”

Linda laughed, “You can go out though. With supervision of course. Maybe this girlfriend of yours I’ve heard about can take you.”

Kevin raised an eyebrow skeptically. He knew that being released wasn’t going to be in his agenda any time soon. Therefore, he’d have to be cooped up for who knew how long. Suddenly, Kevin’s mood started to darken again. His life was being run for him. He had no control anymore over what happened. Any decision he wanted to make had to be approved with the consent of hospital staff. He felt like a toddler, always being told ‘no’.

“There’s a lovely courtyard down off of the first and second floor. They have some outdoor activities as well as a small trail. It’s like a mini park, just to get out and feel like you have a life again.”

Kevin shrugged, “Yeah, but I might try to take a run for it and leave this horrid place though,” Kevin didn’t say anything and neither did Linda. He could tell by the look on her face that she was waiting for him to go on, “I’ve been in here for months...before that, I was in here for awhile too, when the accident first happened that landed me paralyzed. I am sick to death of hospitals. Sick to death of having people hover over me all the damned time.”

He watched as Linda wrote some stuff down. Probably taking notes on him, as well as recording the conversation to pick up on little clues. He felt like a lab animal being cornered and tortured. There was nothing he could do to stop it. Just take it in and hope that if he was good, it would all end soon.

“Is that really what is bothering you?” Linda asked.

“Kind of, but it’s more complicated than that too. I mean, I’ve just felt so worthless through all of this. Like I don’t live up to everybody’s expectations. I disappoint them. Even Anna...my girlfriend. She wants kids...I can’t give her that. I feel like she is just sticking with me out of pity and that deep down, she wants better. I mean, she’s a wonderful girlfriend...I couldn’t ask for better. But she deserves more and better and I can’t give her what she deserves.” Kevin now had tears coming from his eyes, visibly upset as he spilled his feelings, “I guess that’s why I shot myself. Because I do nothing but disappoint everyone and without me around, maybe they would be better off and find somebody who could give them what they deserve.”

Kevin was beginning to realize that maybe counseling was what he needed. It took telling what was really on his mind, or rather a small portion of it, to fully see that. Now that he spoke though, there was so much more he wanted to say that couldn’t be said to the group. Just in the confidentiality of he room.

“I think that is enough for today,” Linda told Kevin, turning off the tape recorder, “See you back here in two days, same time?”

Kevin nodded. Linda got up and opened the door for him and Kevin left, wanting nothing more than to go up to his room and think more about what he wanted to say. Maybe once it was out, he himself would start to feel better and let go of the guilt he had burdened himself with deep down.

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Stephanie squeezed Nick’s hand. Her heart pounded in her chest slightly out of being nervous. The day she’d found out that she was pregnant, her and Nick had phoned up the doctors office. He’s scheduled an appointment for them for the following week. That day had come around quickly and they were now waiting in a room full of others, most of which were mothers who were much further along than Stephanie was.

“I wonder what’s taking so long,” Stephanie muttered, tapping her foot impatiently.

Nick laughed, not looking up from the car magazine he was reading. One he’d brought with him from home, in fact. Stephanie rolled her eyes, going back to the Pregnancy magazine she’d picked up off of a table nearby. She was trying to get some insight on what kinds of things to expect, but wasn’t really paying much attention to it. Her thoughts were on other things, such as finding out how far along she was, if the baby was in good shape and things she could do to ensure that nothing bad happened, or rather, make the possibility less likely. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to find this information out for months to come, but Stephanie was also anticipating finding out the sex of the baby. She was hoping for a girl, like Jaime had gotten. Since she’d seen how sweet the infant was, she’d since wanted a daughter to spoil. Nick however, wanted a boy. Someone to teach sports, take with him everywhere, and hope to follow in his footsteps as the new, baby “Backstreet Boy” to follow in daddy’s footsteps once daddy was too old to perform.

“Damnit,” Stephanie muttered, starting to bounce her leg impatiently, thrusting the magazine back down on to the table next to her with a loud slap, “It’s half an hour late...I want to get in and find out what’s going on with me and my baby.”

Nick rubbed Stephanie’s leg affectionately in hopes that his attempt to calm her down would work. She huffed in anger, pulling away from his touch. He never once looked up from the sporty cars in bright, glossy colors on the page. Stephanie couldn’t believe that he was putting a giant hunk of metal and parts ahead of her and their child.

Minutes later, a nurse opened the door, calling Stephanie’s name out. She got up quickly, rolling her eyes, but stopped herself. This was supposed to be a happy day. Not one where she held grudges and let the fact that the doctor was running behind put her in a foul mood all day. It was pointless

“Finally,” she muttered, a smile forming on her face as she walked towards the open door greeted by a friendly middle aged woman.

Nick didn’t notice that Stephanie had left until the door was almost closed. He closed his magazine and got up, tripping over himself in his attempt to get back to his girlfriend before he missed the entire appointment.

“Wait!” he called out with anxiety.

He made it to the door just on time before it closed completely, sticking his fingers though a crack to stop it. He sighed in relief and opened it up, finding Stephanie on a scale. He watched from behind as the nurse played with the doctors scale before she writ something down

“One thirty,” she told Stephanie, “Our records from your general family doctor shows that you’ve gained five pounds.”

Stephanie shrugged, knowing that it was likely just pregnancy weight. And even if it wasn’t, it was nothing to freak over. She stepped off of the scale and was startled when somebody took her hand. She turned and saw Nick standing next to her. She gave his hand a light squeeze and he smiled at her, excitement in his eyes. Together they followed the nurse in to a small room, where Stephanie was asked to sit on the examining table as she took her temperature, blood pressure and a series of other things.

“Doctor Jakobs will be with you shortly,” she informed them before leaving the two alone in the eerily quiet room. After a few more minutes of silence, and Nick fidgeting a little with different objects he found, he finally looked up at Stephanie.

“Nervous?” he asked lamely.

Stephanie shook her head but it slowly turned in to a full nod. She was nervous. This was something that would change both of their lives...forever. She took in a deep breath, taking on habits that she’d gotten from Nick by swinging her legs and tearing at the paper disposable sheet that lined the metal table.

“A little she admitted, but I am excited too. I just...hope I am fit to be a mother.” That was her main worry...that she’d end up a lousy parent.

“You’ll make an amazing mother. You love kids and they sure as hell love you.” Nick told her with sincere confidence.

Stephanie was about to reply but was cut short by a short, balding man entering the room. He wore a white coat over top a dressy collard shirt and wore black dress pants. Stephanie could only assume that this was her doctor. He introduced himself, proving her hypotheses correct.

“So, how are you feeling?” Dr. Jakobs asked first off, ready to take notes of whatever she said.

“A little weak,”Stephanie replied, “Wake up sick every morning and don’t feel the best all day, but good enough to go on with life. Ummm...sensitive to certain smells, which is both good and bad. And I am always hungry...”

“I can vouch for that one,” Nick cracked, interrupting her, “She eats all the weeks grocery’s in about three days.”

Dr. Jakobs gave Nick a strange look before shaking his head and turning away from him and back to Stephanie.

“All of that is normal,” he informed her, “Seems that you’re doing fine, however I’m going to take an ultrasound. It will let you know how far along you are and also the health, as you are probably aware.”

“Okay,” Stephanie agreed.

She and Nick were asked to follow the doctor to another room, where Stephanie was to lye down on another table. Dr. Jakobs lifted Stephanie’s shirt, which sent Nick into a jealous funk as he quickly went to her side and grabbed her hand, keeping it clear to his competition that Stephanie was all his. The doctor didn’t seem to notice as he rubbed a cold jelly like substance over Stephanie’s stomach and then placed an odd object on her. Seconds later an image appeared on the screen next to the bed. Stephanie gasped, able to barely make out what was to be her child. Nick scrunched up his nose, finding it to look like a worm or fish or something, but decided to keep his thoughts to himself.

“It’s too soon to really make anything out yet,” Dr. Jakobs replied, but the good news is everything does look normal. You’re just about a month along. Congratulations, you two.”

He let the new parents look at their child for a moment longer before turning off the screen and cleaning Stephanie up. He asked if they had any questions, which they didn’t before sending them to the front to make another appointment for the following month. Stephanie had hoped that she was further along than that, but then had to remember that so far, everything was okay. She hoped that it stayed that way. After all, she still had eight months to go. That was a long time, and anything was capable of happening.
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