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The next day, Howie and Leah explained to the boys that Lexie was going into the hospital and tried their best to explain that she going to help save little Alex. Tyler began to cry, afraid that Lexie was going to get sick too. She tried to reassure him, but he was beginning to make her cry. John came over and sat with the kids as Leah and Howie took Lexie to the hospital. She had decided this morning that she didn't want Howie to call AJ. She told them it didn't matter if he was there or not. AJ was there, in the counselor's office waiting. Nick had come to be with AJ and he was outside the office with Leah and Howie.


Inside the office, AJ and Lexie sat in chairs next to each other. They faced the counselor who sat across from them. AJ was in a stylish dark suit, looking subdued, but nonetheless the celebrity he was. Lexie's sunny summer dress off set his solemn look. Lightly tanned legs were crossed in front of her; one of her sandaled feet bouncing absently in the air. AJ noticed that she wasn't looking at him or the doctor, but her eyes roamed the office.


"I've heard your story." The counselor, Dr. Hemming, said.


"What story?" Lexie asked, refocusing on her. Her eyes never touched AJ.


"I know that you're AJ's daughter and you two haven't had a lot of contact in the last couple years."


"You mean the last 19?" Lexie said. It was out before she had a chance to stop it. She couldn't look at either one of them. "I'm sorry." She looked down at her hands that were twisting around each other. I've gotta make that stop, she thought to herself absently.


"No, it's all right." The counselor said.


"It was rude, I'm sorry." She apologized again without looking up.


AJ could feel his stomach rolling. When he had called Howie, he told him the test results and about the mandatory counseling. Howie had warned him that she wasn't really like the quiet, shy child she had been the day before.


"Are you ready for this?" Howie had asked him.


"Do I have a choice?" AJ snapped.


"Just be careful, all right?"


"I will."


"She's got a sharp tongue, like her mother. She's scared AJ, I haven't seen her like this in years."


Howie loved her like a father and AJ could see that. How would he feel if it was reversed?


It would never be reversed, Howie would never do what he had done.


Howie had built a wall around her, but AJ used that as an excuse for years to avoid her. Now, he didn't have one. He didn't know how he was going to deal with both meeting Lexie and having Alex so sick.


"Why are we here?" Lexie asked, sounding short and feeling vulnerable.


"The doctor thought it was important that we talk." AJ said, trying to contribute anything.


"Oh." She said, but she was staring off as one of her feet continued to bounce in the air.


"When was the last time you two saw each other?" she asked.


"Two days ago." Lexie answered.


"Before that."


Lexie just shrugged.


"I. . .I think she was about 5."AJ said, unable himself to look at her.


"Is that right, Lexie?"


"I guess." She shrugged.


"How do you feel about donating?"


"Okay, I guess."


"Just okay?"


"Yeah. I have to do it."


"You don't have to."


"Yes, I do. I'm the only donor, without the marrow, he'll die."


"The transplant still might not work."


"I have to."


"Do you have any other feelings? About your father?"


"No. . .look, why are we doing this? If you find me psychologically unstable, are you going to deny him the transplant?" Lexie snapped.


"I'm asking about your feelings. . ."


"What does it matter?!" She demanded, getting testy.


"You must have some feelings about your father. . ."


"Oh, god! Will you give it up?! He's not my father! He's AJ!" she yelled, getting to her feet. "He's AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys! That's all he'll ever be!"


"Lexie. . ." AJ began, wanting to say something as he watched her get to her feet.


"I'm here, aren't I?! Isn't that enough?!" she yelled, still not looking at him. She was focusing all of her anger on the doctor. "Why do we have to do this?!"


"AJ, why don't you wait outside." The doctor said. AJ rose, wishing he knew what to say. He was afraid, afraid that if he said anything at all, she'd turn on him.


In the hall, they had heard the raised voices. Leah had gotten to her feet and started to pace, Howie trying to keep up with her. Nick just sat there with his eyes focused on the tile floor below his fine Italian shoes. Leah and Howie hadn't spoken a word to him since Lexie went into the office. They all froze and faced the door as it opened and AJ came out, closing the door behind him.


"What's going on?" Leah demanded as she ran up on AJ.


"She's upset." He said, standing there with his eyes downcast and one hand still on the doorknob.


"I can hear that!" Leah snapped.


"Leah, calm down." Howie said, "AJ, tell me what happened."


"The doctor asked about her feelings about me. . .she just went off."



"Lexie, tell me why you're so upset." The counselor kept asking, but Lexie had been reduced to tears.


She hadn't wanted to say that. She didn't want to hurt him. She didn't want to drive him farther away, but she had. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say that. It just came out." She cried as she sat back down. "Can I just see my mom? Can I? Please?"


"Of course." The counselor went and opened the door.


"Mrs. Dorough, can you come in here?" she asked. Leah pushed herself past AJ and ran to Lexie's side. Leah drew a hysterical Lexie into her arms, tucking her dark head under her chin.


"Can you get my husband?" Leah asked of the counselor.


Leah saw a glimpse of AJ as the door opened to admit Howie. He never lifted his eyes as Howie walked by him or looked inside the office to see how Lexie was doing. Her eyes locked with Howie's as he pulled a chair up on the other side of Lexie and wrapped his arms around them both. Neither one of them had seen her like this in years, but they were old hats at it. Leah squeezed her own eyes shut against her tears, but opened them as she felt Howie's hand on her arm. She looked into his face and for the first time since this all began 10 years ago, she saw regret. She could only gently nod her head to him to reassure him that he hadn't made a mistake, even if she wasn't sure herself.


AJ watched Howie follow the doctor into the room with Lexie and they closed the door. Nick rose to stand by his side. AJ brushed him off, giving him a look of utter helplessness.


"I suppose you think I'm some kind of monster." AJ said quietly. He walked to a window and leaned against the jamb, staring at the Orlando sun.


"No, AJ. I don't." he said to AJ's back.


"You'd never leave your daughter, would you?" AJ threw back at him over his shoulder.


"This isn't about me versus you. I was a lot older when I had CJ." Nick said.


"Before was bad enough, how do I make it up to her doing all of this for me?" AJ said, turning to him. "How do I ask her to help my son, when I wouldn't even help her?"


"I don't know AJ, but she's here." Nick said, trying to be strong for his friend.


"Thanks once again to Howie." AJ said bitterly. AJ had walked past Nick and headed down the hall. No doubt to where his car and driver were waiting. Nick couldn't help but see the irony of him leaving her again.


Nick picked up his own pace, making the instant decision to be with AJ. He had heard her scream through the door. The pain was very visible in her voice. If Lexie Dorough did agree to go through with this, she would be one amazing young woman. She was being far kinder to them, than they had been to her.



"I'm sorry, Dad, Mom. I just opened my mouth and it just popped out. . ." she sobbed, wiping her nose with a tissue.


"What 'popped' out?" Leah asked, looking behind her to Howie.


"I yelled at him, I didn't want to." She sobbed, "God, I'm so stupid sometimes!"


"No you're not. You're just scared, that's all." Howie said, tearing his eyes from Leah to Lexie.


"It's just another reason for him to hate me." She cried.


"Hate you?! Lexie!" Howie said, grabbing both her arms. "Look at me, Lexie, AJ doesn't hate you?!"


"He does hate me, Dad!" she cried, throwing her arms around his neck, "And I don't blame him!"

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