The Truth

From Writings On The Wall Fanfiction Awards Season 5
Best Suspense - Winner

May 21, 2003

MTV News: Former Backstreet Boys member, AJ McLean was rushed to Cedars-Sinai hospital late last night after complaining of chest pains and collapsing at a music industry party. So far no word on his condition has been released…

You close your eyes
Try not to see
Convince yourself you're free
But when you sleep
And when you dream
Can you hear the screams?

May 20, 2003

"Better not be any rum in that," the voice rumbled, the accent a little sharper than he remembered it. Of course it did make sense; he'd been home for a few months and one does tend to revert.

"About as much rum as there is rye in your ginger ale," he replied with a slight grin.

"Oh. Well. That's all right then. Just checking, mate."

AJ laughed, putting his glass back on the bar and giving the taller man a quick hug. "How you doin' Rob? When'd you get back?"

"Few days ago. I am supposed to keep a low profile for a few days. Telling people in NYC to get off their asses and go buy the album is apparently 'not done.'" Robbie rolled his eyes. "I don't get Americans, really I don't. It's okay to promote your album, but not to actually say 'buy the thing.' Twats, the lot of 'em."

"Hey, man, I'm American!"

"Yeah, but you're a right wanker so you don't count. You got a copy of the album before it even came out. 'Sides, us former boy-band blokes gotta stick together."

AJ raised his glass, clinking it against Robbie's. "Amen, brother. Though I think I can guarantee that none of N'Sync has it."

Robbie gave a chuckle at AJ's perfunctory ridiculing of his group's 'rivals.' "Wrong there, mate. Chris called to give me a hello. Said some of the tracks were so dark he didn't think I should be alone. Personally, I think he just wanted someone to go play golf with him now that Joey is off changing nappies."

AJ snorted and Robbie continued. "Not that I'd play with him anyway. I thought JC was the fashion-challenged one, but have you seen some of the get-ups Tricky wears on the course?" He shuddered. "Someone has to tell him that orange plaid and purple stripes don't go together. Especially on someone with a Mohawk thingy on his head."

"Yeah, but do you remember the way his hair used to look?"

"Mate, none of us can talk about good hair. Even your pretty boy got all Flock of Seagulls and dead ferret with his head. What was he smoking that week anyway?"

"We think he got into some of JC's crack," AJ laughed. "Also explains the skirts."

"JC does not smoke crack." The tone of the voice brooked no contradiction.

"Hey, Justin," AJ smiled. "Didn't think he did. We were just commenting on Kevin's hair issues."

"You're one to talk," Justin snickered.

"Yeah, mate, that was what I was saying, but you know the old boyband coda: always insult the other group," Robbie grinned.

Justin rolled his eyes. "Can we please get over that crap, yo? I thought that shit was over."

"It is. Force of habit, I guess," AJ shrugged. "So how you doing, Ju? I thought you were off being Christina's lapdog or something."

Justin laughed, a little tightly, "other way around. Whiny bitch is driving me nuts and the tour hasn't even really started yet. I had a couple days off so I thought I'd hang at home rather than in that tabloid-infested hell you call home, Robbie."

The English man smirked. "Stop patting Kylie's bum and they'll back off."

Justin rolled his eyes again. "Dawg, she's getting more air play off that shit than I am. How do you live with all that? I thought it was bad here but there's damn paparazzi around every corner there."

Robbie shrugged. "Wish I could say you get used to it, but you never do, right? Just gotta play 'em the way they're playing you. Some of them are decent enough chaps."

"Right," Justin replied in a disbelieving tone. He caught the eye of the bartender and ordered a Heineken. "So how you two? How'd you get your asses dragged here?"

AJ shrugged. "Gotta keep the public presence up, you know. My turn with the short straw."

"Got tired of the stick-up-your-arse attitude in NYC," Robbie nodded. "It used to be fun when I was stoned, but now…"

Justin took a healthy swig of his beer and nodded. Then realized he was drinking alcohol in front of two recovering alcoholics and looked sheepish.

AJ caught the look and laughed. "Don't worry, Ju. Seeing you with a beer isn't going to make me freak out and grab the Jack bottle."

Robbie grinned at him mischievously. "I don't know. Might make me wrestle him to the floor and make him cry uncle."

"Thought that was your way of picking up chicks," AJ retorted blandly, taking a sip of his cola.

"Fuck you, McLean, you twat."

Justin tried to change the subject. "So basically you got conned into this gig and all your going to do all night is stand around and insult each other?"

"Yeah, well, we were gonna trash your crew but you got your knickers all in a bunch about it."

"Nah. Just hate that whole 'JC and crack' bit. Getting old, you know? 'Sides, he's such a freaking snob he only gets tanked on Pinot Noir. Doesn't touch street drugs." Justin winked, "'Sides, who said I was wearing panties?"

Robbie laughed and AJ pulled a nasty face. "TMI, bud."

"Methinks, little JuJu is worried about how Josh's album is going to play out. Do I detect some jealousy?" Robbie teased.

Justin flushed a little. "Nah. I'm set no matter what." He ignored AJ's mutter of 'yeah, at Nick's expense.' "I'm just… It's gonna be good and I am just not looking forward to that whole 'support each other' shit." He grinned. "Now, Joey's album: that is one I am looking forward to. He's sent me a few clips of the stuff that he knows they won't let on, and I almost peed myself laughing. Even the stuff he did at me. Fucking hilarious."

"Send me some," AJ said. "Fatone is always good for a laugh. When's it coming out?"

Justin shrugged. "I think he's having as much trouble with Jive as Jayce is."

"Bloody record companies."

"Well excuuuuse me, Mr. £68 Million Man," AJ snorted and Robbie shot him the bird

Justin nodded as he glanced over Robbie's shoulder. "I better go. Getting the 'thou shalt schmooze' signal." He sighed. "See you ladies later."

When the end faces you
You'll face the truth and what will you do
When the end faces you
You'll face the truth
And what will you do
When the truth judges you

Robbie slid next to AJ. "Hide me," he whispered.

"What the fuck you do this time?"

"Me? I'm the innocent one. That bloody bird over there seems to be looking for some young meat and decided mine'll do just as well as any."

"Robbie Williams turning down sex? Isn't that one of the signs of the Apocalypse?"

Robbie flipped him off. "I got self-respect now, man. She looks about 65 with a facelift that is about to unravel. If she'd been a brunette with big knockers you'd have been on her in a flash."

"Fuck you too."

"What you doing hiding over here? Thought you were gonna get out and do the smily thing."

"I did." AJ shrugged. "Feeling a little blagh so I thought I'd sit out for a few. Can't leave yet."

Rob looked at him worriedly. "You alright?"

AJ nodded, eyes glancing about the room. "New pills. Have to get used to it."

"Oh, man," Robbie groaned. "Not now! You were doing so well. Don't fall back into that shyte, man."

AJ smiled at his concern. "Not that. You'll be proud of me. I'm off it all and starting on D-Ox-Tysine-4*." He named a new, experimental, drug that was slowly being tested at some of the newer rehab centers across California. It was a low dose drug that worked to build strength in an addict's liver and stomach - the worst places hit by alcohol or drug dependency. It's major side-effect - the thing that was making it so popular, is that reacted to foreign chemicals in the bloodstream causing an almost allergic reaction. Users literally could not hold their alcohol or drugs.

"Are you nuts?" Robbie gaped. "That shyte hasn't been tested fully."

"I know," AJ replied, leaning over to knock the ash off his cigarette into the ashtray. "And I see my doctor every week now to keep an eye on it. You should have seen me at first, man. Even the barest whiff of booze made me hurl. But I'm damned if I am going to let this beat me. Given in too often, you know?"

Robbie nodded, remembering the few times he'd fallen off the wagon and the struggle it had been to get himself back together. "Bloody drastic though, don't you think?"

AJ nodded. "Yeah, but I needed it. Life was just, like, falling apart. Sarah, Mom, the guys, the whole shit. I wanted something I could work on. Something good. Something that wouldn't let me fall back on the crutch, you know? And it's working too. 'Course it also isn't too friendly to all the caffeine I drink, which is why I think I'm a little off now."

"You do look a little green."

"Yeah, well. Better get some water or OJ or something." AJ stood up. "You gonna keep on skulking?"

Robbie looked out over the crowd seeing that the woman who had been coming on to him now seemed to have waylaid Erik Michael Estrada. "Nah. Looks safe now. I think I'm gonna go chat up that bird from Angel. Later?"

AJ nodded as he headed towards the bar.

The rage you hide
Behind a smile
Will show itself in time
You've made yourself believe
You've pulled it off so far

Look at him there. Standing there without a care in the world. Thought he was the shit. Shithead more likely. Thinks he's all better than the rest of us. Needs to be taken down a notch or two.

He giggled drunkenly as he reached into his pocket, fingers grasping the small plastic bag. Maybe that would do it. One of those and the asshole would be shown for what a loser he really is.

Man, sometimes he was freaking brilliant! He giggled again. Nothing like a good practical joke...

But you can't change what you are
When the end faces you
You'll face the truth and what will you do
When the end faces you
You'll face the truth
And what will you do
When the truth judges you

May 30, 2003

He entered the police station, demanding to see the officer in charge of the case. Being a celebrity in this town meant a little something and he was ushered into a room almost immediately.

"Mr. Williams? You'd asked to see us?" It was the thin blonde with the receding hairline who spoke. The short black man just slid into the empty chair across the table.

"Yeah, I did." He pulled the newspaper clipping from his pocket and slapped it on the table angrily. "What the fuck is this bullshyte?"

The black man spoke, saying, "now, now. Language please," in a light, slightly chiding voice.

"Fuck my fucking language. This is not true!"

The other man reached out picked up the clipping looking at it. "Backstreet Boy dies of drug overdose" read the headline. "Actually..."

"If you are going to bloody tell me that AJ OD'd you can bloody well drop it. You don't know what the fuck you are talking about," Robbie growled angrily, one hand rubbing his swollen bloodshot eyes.

The two policemen glanced at each other. The white man pulled a chair from against the wall and sat down. "Maybe we should start again, Mr. Williams. I'm Det. Miller. This is my partner Det. Simons. Now what makes you think that we got this wrong?"

"Because he wasn't bloody on drugs, is bloody why!" Robbie exploded, fresh tears starting to trickle down his face.

"Should I get you some Kleenex?" Simons asked. Robbie shook his head, wiping the tears away quickly, trying to compose himself.

"Obviously Mr. McLean was a good friend of yours and you are eager to protect him. But you have to know that he had a history of drug use…"

"Don't we all," Robbie retorted. "Look, he wasn't. He was getting clean. He was trying damn hard. He'd been through shyte; we'd all been through shyte. It's that kind of business. But he was doing his best. Doing more than he should have, really."

"He admitted just recently that he'd fallen off the wagon." Miller turned to his partner. "Did some thing with a magazine saying he had started up again, cheating on his fiancé and such."

"Stop reading your daughter's Teen Beat, Don," Simons chided lightly. He turned to Robbie. "When we interviewed you after this happened you said something then…" he pulled a small notebook out of his shirt pocket and flipped through it. "'Must have been a reaction to the drugs.' That leads me to think that maybe you…"

Robbie interrupted him with a rude scoffing noise. "You didn't get it all down, you twat. I said it was a reaction, but not to that Ecstasy. He was taking other stuff; stuff to get clean. The shyte was even making him shaky with Coke. Why would he take anything stronger?"

"Coke? Cocaine?"

"You just really want to hear the fecking worst, don't you?" Robbie rolled his eyes. "Coke. Coca Cola. Pepsi. The Real Thing. That shyte. Look, we were talking earlier that night. He told me he was on that D-Ox shyte. Trying to get totally and truly clean. Does that sound like a bloke who was going to go out and pop some X?"

Simons glanced at Miller. "D-Ox?"

"Yeah, you know; that wonder detox shyte. Makes you sick as a dog if you even think about drinking. Or anything stronger. He said it was even making him feel queasy if he drank too much caffiene. He did not bloody OD!" Robbie declared decisively.

The two officers glanced at each other again. Miller nodded and Simons exited the room. "Actually, he did. We found X in his system. Pretty high dosage of it too," he told Robbie softly. He looked up as Simons re-entered the room, holding a file in his hand.

Robbie shook his head, disbelieving. Tears streaming down his face unheeded. "No… he wouldn't…" he whispered shakily.

Simons opened the file, pulling out the autopsy report. "I'm afraid so. 'Tox screen picked it up immediately. Funny thing, though. It did also picked up D-Ox-Tysine-4 as well."

"See? I told you!" Rob lowered his head into his hands giving into his sobs for a minute. Then his head shot up. "He was dosed!"

The two officers glanced at each other. They did that a lot and Robbie was starting to find it fucking annoying. "There is that possibility," Simons replied cautiously.

"Possibility? Blooming fuck that! He must have been. He wouldn't…" Rob stopped to take a deep breath. "Look, I know you cops all probably think us rock stars are all drug-addled wankers. Probably think we all deserve to keel over dead. But not AJ. He was fucked-up, sure. We all are somewhat, eh? But he was my friend. Not a 'chat on the phone' all night one, but one who understood, you know? We'd both done the boyband route to fame and knew what a bloody crock of shyte that was. Went to AA meetings together sometimes. We understood what each other was going through. I talked to him that night and he swore he was getting clean. In one of the hardest ways out there. I respected that. I was damned proud he trusted me enough to tell me. He and I… we haven't got much reason to trust people. So when he said he was getting clean, finally and for good. And I believe him." Rob leaned back in his chair, exhausted by his speech.

The two men were quiet. Then Miller spoke up. "For what it's worth, I believe you."

Simons leaned in. "We've talked to others; his friends, his doctor, his ex. He told them all the same thing he told you. I'm not sure how that story got out, but it isn't the truth. The whole truth at least. That's one of the reasons we've been sitting on it. Trying to gather more evidence. The problem is we can't find anything that could lead us to whoever dosed Mr. McLean. Nobody saw anything, apparently. Or if they did they didn't understand what they were seeing."

"But you got to tell them!" Robbie protested. "You got his family, his lads, his fans all fucking freaking over this. They're all thinking…" He broke off. "You got to tell them."

Simons nodded. "We're going to. Public Information is setting up a press conference as we speak. We may not be able to solve this one, but we can at least clear Mr. McLean's name."

"My daughter is a fan. This has been tearing her apart, and that hasn't made my job any easier," Miller put in. "It was good of you to come by." He stood, signaling that the meeting was over.

"He was a good chap. A friend," Robbie replied quietly. "I don't have many but he was one of them." He stood, taking a deep breath and stretching his shoulders quickly. "If there is anything more I can do, please, let me know."

"We will," Simons said, holding out his hand for Robbie to shake.

"Thanks." Robbie looked at both of them. "Thanks. I thought you American cops were all wankers. But if you are really going to try and find out what happened… Thanks."

The officers watched him trudge out of the meeting room. "Don? What's a wanker?"

You're safe for now
Behind the walls you've built
And still there is no quilt
But in your last breath
You will see
That you were never free

April 14, 2004

"In one of the most stunning announcements in music history, the Backstreet Boys have released the dates of their upcoming world tour. Exactly 11 years after the formation of the group, and little less than a year after the death of AJ McLean, the Boys have announced a tour that will take them across Europe, the States and on to Australia and Asia. But what truly makes this announcement surprising is the news that Brit Pop king, Robbie Williams, will be joining the group on this tour. No, not as an opener - but taking the spot that AJ McLean would have filled. Williams was on hand at the press conference and had this to say:

"Alex was a good mate of mine. I was there the night he died and I want everyone to remember that his death was an awful accident. Here was a man, determined to get his life back together, brought down by some bloody {expletive deleted} who didn't even have the guts to come forward and admit what they did. I am deeply honoured that Brian, Kevin, Howie, and Nick are allowing me to join them on this tour. And even more honoured as we've agreed that 20% of all ticket sales are going directly to the AJMRF." The AJ McLean Rehab Foundation was created by the four remaining Backstreet members, as well as Williams and several other pop music icons, after it was revealed that McLean appeared to have been accidentally dosed with the drug which caused his death.

This announcement prompted other performers to come forward in support of this tour. Former N'Sync member, Lance Bass, said that he and his group mates were planning to catch a couple shows. "Justin was there the night AJ died and he is still very upset about it. I think this is a wonderful, and brave, thing that the Boys are doing and support them completely."

Cause when the end faces you
You'll face the truth and what will you do
When the end faces you
You'll face the truth
And what will you do
When the truth judges you

November 20, 2054

"There you are! Thought you could try and hide, hunh?" the nurse's loud, cheery voice clanging through his brain.

"No hiding," he replied gruffly. "Just thinking."

"Well, you better do your thinking down in your room," she replied, grabbing the arm of the maglev chair and pulling it back. "Dr. Nagaski has been looking for you. I think they are almost ready for your surgery."

"Don't want any surgery," he replied in a petulant voice. "Don't need it."

She chuckled lightly as she directed his chair to the turbolift. "Why is it that that is what they all say? Come along, that colon of yours needs a good and thorough cleaning and you're going to get it, whether you like it or not."

He pouted the whole way back to his room, moving gingerly from his chair to the bed. He grimaced as the bed automatically reverted to its ergonomic positioning, complaining the whole time that old bones just wanted to be set the way they were set, not bend into some newfangled twist just because the chirosurgeons said so. The chirpy nurse was used to his complaining and ignored it.

"I could die then, couldn't I?" he asked the doctor as soon as she entered the room.

She sighed. "We've had this conversation before. Every medical procedure entails a certain amount of risk, and this one is no different. However, we had no problems the last time we did it and I don't foresee any this time. But the longer we leave that tumour in there the worse things could be."

He nodded, looking out the window, trying to ignore the poking and prodding she was doing in preparation for his surgery. "You know," he finally said. "The Ancient Egyptians believed that you could measure a person's soul against the weight of a feather. If it was light enough you went onto the Afterlife."

"I am sure yours'll float up to the ceiling," Dr. Nagaski replied absently.

He shook his head. "Mine'd sink through the floor." He glanced at her. "I am an evil, evil man."

"Somehow I don't believe that."

"I am. I killed a man once. A friend. Just like that. I wanted to tease him. Make him look like a jackass, and boom, he was dead. I didn't mean to…" he whispered plaintively.

Dr. Nagaski had often heard patients talk about some hurt or ill wish they had caused to come true. Especially when they were about to undergo an operation. And this patient's constant wondering about the danger of the procedure… she was sure it was just fear talking. And said so.

He shook his head. "No. You don't know. Don't know the truth. And I am about to face it," he replied with a weary sigh.

The doctor looked up as the nurse returned. She nodded and the nurse pulled out her table control and began to guide the bed out of the room and down the hall to the operating surgery.

"Not to worry now, Mr. Timberlake. Just a few pre-op nerves. It'll all be better in a few hours. You'll see."

* - To the best of my knowledge there ain't such a thing... but it's fiction, right?

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