This story contains FICTION of a male-male nature. Do not read this if you are:

  1. too young, or
  2. too narrow-minded, or
  3. living in a city/state/country where it is illegal.

Again, this is FICTION. While I have bumped into the BSB here and there in Orlando, I do not make any claims about any of their sexualities.

NOTE: If you have not read 'Forever', I suggest you do so before reading this story.

Equilibrium: Beyond Forever

by: DJ

Chapter 19

"What do you want?"

It was a simple enough question. Four short words.

I lay in bed that night, wondering whether or not I had the ability to provide an answer. There was so much I wanted, so much I wished for, and so much I didn't feel I had a right to request.

The house was quiet, quieter than I would've expected with two small children and a dog in residence. Then again, it was after midnight, that time in between nighttime feeding and changing. The children were sleeping, which meant that the adults were getting some rest while they could.

Mom had fallen back asleep within a few minutes of asking me that `simple' question. Jeremy hadn't really said anything, just walked out after checking that the IV bags over the bed had fluid in them. I guess he was letting me make the next move. I'd sat with Mom for the rest of the evening, trying to figure out what I wanted.

No one had come to interrupt us. From what little I'd heard from the other room, the kids had been restless, keeping both Kris and Jeremy occupied. I imagined that Nick just didn't want to talk to me.

I had to admit that I hadn't been prepared for all of the issues surrounding Nick that had come up. His very presence here, at my brother's house in the middle of Montana, seemed so strange to me. Before I'd left, Nick had just been a passing acquaintance for Jeremy and Kris, an `in-law' so to speak that they saw only a few times a year, and always when I was involved.

Now, it almost seemed that Nick had somehow replaced me as Jeremy's younger brother. Actually, from the interactions I'd overheard earlier in the evening, it appeared that Nick got along better with Jeremy than I did. Jeremy and I'd always had distance between us, even when we were speaking. He and Nick seemed to enjoy a tighter, more comfortable relationship.

From what Jeremy had told me, Nick had been making his presence known for a while. What had possessed him to so closely intertwine himself with my family? The obvious guess was my absence, although that guess could've been more because of my `center of the world' mentality. Nick had long been having problems with his own family.Perhaps he'd adopted mine instead.

Whatever the reason, my absence had helped foster closeness between Nick and Mom, at the least, since he was keeping her apprised of my whereabouts. I could only surmise that the same closeness that had developed between Nick and Mom had probably also sprung up between him and Kris.

Kris tended to be a relatively open person, which was one of the reasons she and Jeremy were a good `opposites attract' type of match. She was a good buffer for him when it came to emotional or social situations. If Kris had bonded with Nick, Jeremy would've been drug along by association.

I finally gave up sleeping, knowing my mind was far too active to allow sleep. Within the space of a few days, the chessboard that was my existence had been tilted, sending the orderly pieces of my life, such as it was, into chaos. I had a feeling that I'd be spending a lot of sleepless nights in the near future.

I moved quietly through the stillness of the house. I was hoping not to wake anyone up, whether person or pet. Everyone had been stressed enough lately. I didn't want them sharing my sleepless nights to add to it.

I walked down the steps to the front door where my coat hung on a hook alongside. I quickly slipped it on, along with my boots. I opened the door and stepped out into the brisk winter night.

The light of the street lamp reflected off of the crisp shell of snow on the ground. I knew it couldn't be much more than 10 degrees; however, it was a totally still night, with no wind to make the cold truly unbearable.

`It's amazing how clear your head feels when you're freezing,' I thought to myself as I took a seat on the top step leading down to the sidewalk in front of the house.

Unfortunately, the clear-headed feeling didn't really help my problems right now. Again, I'd somehow managed to end up with a mountain of problems that felt insurmountable. It was pretty much how I'd felt when Preston had died. Overwhelmed.

But, the answer wasn't to bail this time. Mom had been right about that. Like it or not, the mountain of problems I had were of my own creation. It was time to face up to the things I'd fucked up and try to set things right. Now that I'd acknowledged that, I was back with the question.

"What do you want?" I asked myself out loud. "Easier asked than answered, I think."

"Talking to yourself?" Nick asked from behind me. I jerked around, surprised that I hadn't heard the door open.

"Only person I can trust," I joked, then immediately regretted it when I saw the hurt look on his face. "Sorry, Nick. Old joke, and shitty timing." He stepped outside, pulling the door shut before joining me on the step.

"I'm sorry if I woke you up, Nick," I apologized. "I didn't intend to."

"I know," he said, speaking softly, unwilling to disturb the tranquility of the winter's night. "I don't sleep a lot right now. Tour and all."

"How's your career been going?" I wondered, making the polite chitchat that I'd avoided at my house the other night.

"Good. New record's been riding high for a while. Just got certified five-times platinum." There was a note of quiet pride in his voice.

"Nick, that's great," I said with some enthusiasm. "Sounds like you're still going strong."

"Yeah, I am," he replied. "I'm doing what I love to do, and I'm succeeding on my own. Couldn't really ask for more."

"Anyone special in your life, yet?" I questioned softly, not wanting to sound too intrusive.

"Not really, no." He seemed resigned to his fate. "I've seen a few people since...since you left. But, nothing that's been long-term material."

"I'm sorry, Nick," I said, reaching over to give his arm a gentle squeeze before pulling my hand back.

"It's alright, Dylan," he replied. "There's not really anything you can do about it, anyway."

"So," I paused, "I'm Dylan again?"

He looked over at me, a guarded expression on his face. He stared at me a moment before turning back to the street.

"You've always been Dylan to me," he whispered. "But the man I saw the other night...he scared the shit out of me."

I didn't say anything. He was right. The man he'd dealt with in San Diego had been frightening. Unfortunately, he was a large part of the person I'd become.

"What do you want, Dylan?" Nick broke in on my reverie.

"What?" I wondered, unsure what he'd said.

"I asked you what you want," he elaborated.

"I wish I knew," I replied. He paused a moment before he said anything, obviously considering his reply.

"I think you do know, Dylan," he said. "I think you're just too afraid to ask for it...or too guilty."

"You know me too well, Nicky," I nudged him with my shoulder as I spoke, trying to keep the mood from getting too heavy.

"I should, DJ," he nudged me back. "Before you bailed, I was your best friend, remember?"

"I do remember, Nick," I assured him. I looked him straight in the eye. "Please believe that."

He didn't speak for a few moments. I could almost hear the gears turning in his mind. I had a fairly good idea what he wanted to discuss, but I let him figure it out on his own. It was my job to be there for him, to be open and willing to talk about anything he felt he needed to discuss.

"How could you do it, Dylan?" he finally asked. "How could you just walk away like that?" I sighed.

"You never did start with the easy stuff, Nick," I replied. I took a long, deep breath, gathering my thoughts before I answered.

"I wish I could say it was hard, Nick," I began, speaking softly, slowly. "I wish I could tell you I thought of y'all constantly, yearned for my past life...but, I can't."

"The truth is, it was pretty easy. It's always easier to bury feelings than deal with them, at least for me. When I was younger, in high school and college, I used to pride myself on my ability to repress strong emotions, my ability to remain calm and disconnected. Unfortunately, it's an ability that is the proverbial two-edged sword. It can cut me as easily as it protects me."

"The minute I got to San Diego, I got a new job. I picked one that allowed me to travel constantly. I joined a gym so I could work out when I wasn't working. I didn't do anything that would let new people into my life. I wouldn't even get any pets for company. I kept a cold distance from everyone, knowing that I couldn't afford to get close to anyone."

"If the memories came back, and I couldn't fight them down, I just took on several extra assignments or," I hesitated to say the next part, but I knew I had to tell him everything. "I just picked up a bottle and drank until they left."

"Basically, I buried the real Dylan under a mountain of work, working out, and alcohol, although thankfully the drinking wasn't a solution very often."

"That's pretty fucked up, DJ," he whispered.

"You have no idea, Nicky," I whispered back, a tear slipping down. "I abandoned everyone and everything in favor of a cold and sterile and...SAFE life."

"I just can't see how you could be so cold, man." There was a note of pain in his voice. "How you could just toss us aside like that." I shrugged.

"I don't know what to say, Nick. It's just something I did. I'm not proud of it, not anymore. But, it's done, and now I'm left trying to repair all the damage I did."

"What are you going to do?" he wondered.

"Frankly, I wish I knew." I tried to keep the despair from my voice. He didn't need to deal with that.

"Are you going to come back to Orlando?"

"Honestly?" I asked, glancing over to catch his nod. "I don't know. One minute I think `sure', the next I think `better if I just give everyone closure and go back to San Diego'."

"How could you do that? Just leave again?" He asked, a slight thread of steel in his voice.

"Oh, Nick," I sighed. "I wouldn't walk away like before. It's just..." My voice faded. I was unsure how to put my thoughts to words. I took a moment to put things together in my head before I continued.

"Nick, I hurt so many people by...abandoning my life." I paused, reflecting. "I had no idea that so many people cared about me so much."

"I'm just afraid that I would be a harsh reminder of things that happened the last year and a half. I don't want to make things worse just because I suddenly decide that it's okay to face life again." I turned to look at him.

"You said a minute ago that, before I left, we were best friends. So, tell me honestly, Nick, do you think you could forgive me for bailing on you, on life? Do you think you could ever come to the point where you didn't somehow resent me every time you saw me?"

We stared eye to eye for a few moments. I could tell he was considering a lot by the serious look on his face. I also knew that his answer, one way or the other, would have a pretty large impact on me and whatever I was to make of my life, now. He finally turned away and took a breath, ready to answer.

"Honestly?" His voice was again soft in the night. "I don't know. I think...I think yes, but," he turned to me, "I couldn't guarantee it. You missed a lot, man, and it really hurt the way you canned me like that. It's gonna take a lot to let me trust you, again." He looked away again.

"But, Dylan, you WERE one of my best friends, especially after Brian and Leighanne got married." He paused, thinking.

"You understood how screwed up things could be in my life. You knew how the business treated me, but you were never influenced by the business. You were outside of that." He stopped to take a breath in the icy night air.

"You never held my career against me, never got mad if I had to cancel plans or couldn't be somewhere. You were there when I needed you, at least until," he stopped.

"Until Preston died and I cracked," I whispered, finishing his thought for him.

"Yeah," he agreed. "You were important to me, Dylan. I counted on you to keep things real, to keep me grounded."

"You seem like you've done okay without me, Nick," I supplied, trying to be positive.

"Because I had to, Dylan. I couldn't just quit because you left."

"No," I replied, "that would make you just like me. And we both know, you're better than that."

"Maybe," he agreed.

"Gee, thanks," I joked. He smiled a moment before letting it slip away.

"What do you expect, Dylan?" he wondered. "You're here now, and that's cool. But it doesn't erase what's gone down since Preston died."

"No," I agreed. "It doesn't, Nick, and I understand that. I hope...I hope you'll forgive me someday, Nick. I...I really have missed you, even if I would never admit it."

He turned toward me slightly then, reaching a gloved hand around to cup my cheek and turn my face to his. He leaned over and surprised me with a gentle kiss on my lips.

It wasn't passionate, or even sexual in any way. Nick and I had long since moved past the love he'd once declared for me. The kiss was his way of saying that things might just work out all right after all.

"You haven't really asked me the one question that's eating away at you, Dylan," Nick spoke up a few moments later, breaking the silence that'd fallen between us. I didn't say anything right away, although I knew precisely about which question he was talking.

"I've pretty much been avoiding it, Nick," I replied, my voice barely a whisper, my breath a fog covering my eyes momentarily.

"It's still going to be there, Dylan," he answered. "It's not going to go away, no matter how much you might wish for it."

"I know, Nick." I paused. "But, as long as I don't hear the answer, I can still..." I choked, unable to actually say the words.

"You can still hope?" He whispered the question. I nodded, momentarily unable to speak.

"Dylan," he began, but I raised a hand to stop him.

"Please don't, Nick," I said. "Don't say anything about Kevin. Not yet. I'm not...not ready to face that, yet. Please?" I turned to look at him, my eyes watering slightly. He studied me for a while before finally nodding.

"Alright," he agreed. "For now."

"Thanks, Nick." I laid a hand on his leg, giving it a brief squeeze of appreciation.

"Sure, Dylan," he replied. "But...it's not going to go away."

"I know, Nick," I spoke softly again. "I know."

Chapter 20

The next day dawned crisp and clear. And very, very cold. The temperature overnight had dropped below zero again, much too cold for my now-tropically-acclimated taste. Fortunately, I had an electric blanket to keep the cold away. Unfortunately, I would eventually have to leave the blanket behind when I got out of bed.

I stretched under the blanket, enjoying the steamy warmth of the cocoon of covers. One of the best things about living in the colder climates was being able to snuggle under layers of covers and just be a vegetable. It was difficult to have a ton of blankets on my bed in San Diego. It just got too hot too easily, which spoiled the fun for me.

I was relegated to one of the spare rooms in the basement. This room served as Kris's office most of the time, but she had a futon in here, as well, to accommodate `overflow' guests.

Nick was across the room in another spare bedroom. I'd been informed at one point last night that it was actually considered his room. Yet another perk of his getting involved in my family, I guess. He got his own room. And, yet another sign of the long haul I had to make with everyone. I got relegated to a futon while he had his own bed.

Nick and I had stayed up only a few minutes longer, passing the time in silence. It was really nice, for me at least, to be able to just sit there with him. It felt good to have a friend again, even if our relationship was nowhere near what it'd been before.

I heard footsteps on the ceiling, indicating that people were up and about in the house. A glance at the clock told me that I, too, should be moving. I hated the thought, but I knew I had better things to do than lay in bed.

I sighed as I braced myself for the cold, then threw the covers from me. The room, while nowhere near as frigid as the outdoors, still had a bite in the air as I quickly jumped from the bed. I stepped to my suitcase, pulling a sweatshirt over my head before stepping into a pair of pants. I made a mental note to run to the mall and pick up some flannel pajamas. While I'd never actually sleep in them, they were good for lounging around the house in winter weather.

Nick's door was still closed as I stepped from my room. I figured he probably needed the sleep. While it was true that his inner clock often got shifted around when he toured, he still required plenty of sleep to be at the top of his game. That part had never changed from his youth.

I made my way upstairs, gradually hearing more and more noise from the others in the house. Jana and Dylan were obviously up, judging by the clatter and rattle of toys and the murmur of little voices in the living room. Someone, probably Kris, was moving around in the kitchen. I headed there first.

"Morning," I said as I stepped through.

"Hey," Kristin replied from her place at the counter. She had a cup of coffee in hand, which wasn't too surprising. While she'd kicked many of the habits of her younger years, drinking and smoking primarily, coffee was one thing she'd always refused to give up. She drank a minimum of two large cups every morning, more often three.

I'd often joked with her about her antisocial behavior prior to her morning `jump-juice'. She was almost scary before that first cup of coffee, especially if you did something to irritate her. I wondered if the kids had mellowed that, or if she just took out her irritation on Jeremy instead. And, speaking of my brother...

"Where's Jeremy?" I wondered, glancing into the dining area to see if he was there.

"He had to run into the office for a little while," she answered. "His boss has been really good about all the extra time off, but one of his projects is coming due, and they needed him in today."

"How is it you're not in school?" I asked as I walked over to join her at the counter. She turned to face me, a strange look on her face.

"Dylan, I haven't worked since Dylan was born," she explained. "We decided, or I decided, that I preferred to be a stay at home Mom, at least until the kids are in school themselves."

"Oh," was all I could come up with to reply. "Guess that's one of those little things I'd have known if I'd been around."

"Yeah, guess it is."

"Is Jeremy...that is, did he say anything about me last night?"

"Not really," she replied. "But, you know your brother. Getting him to talk can be like pulling teeth unless you get him drunk. And, he pretty much quit drinking, so I'm basically screwed on communication sometimes." She smiled a bit, keeping her tone light.

"He quit drinking?" I said, trying not to sound as amazed as I felt. She picked up on it, though.

"Yeah, surprised me, too," she confirmed. "It just kind of happened after Jana was born. I guess having a kid's matured him in some ways."

"Still...to hear that my big bro cut out drinking...it's just shocking," I said, smiling at her. "I mean, this is the guy who was voted most likely to worship the Lord by his high school class, and no one meant God." I jokingly referred to Jeremy's title in high school. His penchant for Lord Calvert whiskey had earned him the nickname of `Father Jeremy'.

"Guess he just decided it was time," she replied, smiling with me a moment. "You Weston's always do things in your own time." I nodded slowly, knowing she was referring to my current situation.

"I guess we do at that," I agreed. A comfortable silence descended over us, broken only by the occasional noise from the kids in the living room.

"Do you think he'll ever forgive me?" I wondered a few moments later.

"Of course he will, Dylan," she said, putting a reassuring hand on my forearm. "You're his only biological family, aside from those vultures your parents called siblings. There's nothing he won't forgive of you. It'll just take him a little time."

"I hope you're right, Kris," I replied. "He was pretty unhappy last night."

"Give it a little while, Dylan. Let him stew in his resentment for a bit. He'll come around."

"We'll see." I was doubtful. "Hopefully, his genes don't have the same level of blind stubbornness that mine do."

"Well, they used to," she said, a knowing twinkle in her eye. "But, I've managed to use electro-shock treatments very effectively to cut down on those levels. And, if that doesn't work, I just withhold sex until he wises up."

"Kinky bitch," I joked.

"You know it," she agreed.

"Mornin', guys," a sleepy Nick interrupted from the corner. Kris immediately had a cup of coffee at hand, ready for him. He smiled gratefully when she handed it to him.

"Nick, you been workin' out more?" I wondered, seeing him for the first time in shorts and a t-shirt.

"Yeah, some," he nodded, a shy little smile of pride on his face. "Gotta look good for the fans."

"Well, it's definitely paying off. But, I thought it was all about the music," I said, joking with him a little.

"It is, buddy," he agreed. "But, it's also about the total package."

Having said that, he strutted his way up to the counter next to Kris. She was having a giggling fit, which told me she had to have made it to her third cup of coffee. I just chuckled, shaking my head a little at Nick's behavior.

"It's good to hear you laugh, Dylan," Kris mentioned a few moments later.

"Honestly, it's good to laugh." I let my voice drop. "I can't really remember the last time I did it, Kris."

"Ya know," she said, looking up into my eyes, "I've been so mad at you these last months. Taking off like you did, leaving us to deal with Mom's illness, not to mention the rest of the family." She paused for a few seconds before continuing.

"I never really stopped to realize just how shitty you had things, how barren your life was. No friends, no family," another pause, "no one to love. I think...I think that us...punishing you or being angry with you doesn't really serve a point, does it?" I knew it was a rhetorical question, so I didn't respond.

"You've already punished yourself enough, more than any of us ever could."

"I wish," I began, then hesitated, glancing at Nick, "I wish that were true, Kris. But, I think that there's still one thing left to lose that's going to make how I've lived seem like a paradise in comparison."

I didn't elaborate. Judging by the look on Nick's face, he knew what I meant. I spared Kris a glance and noticed the confused look on her face. I turned and set my coffee cup down before walking out of the kitchen. As I started down the steps to my room, I heard the next words they exchanged.

"What did he mean?" Kris wondered.

"Kevin," was all I heard of Nick's reply as I escaped to the basement to clean up for the day.

Chapter 21

I spent most of the rest of the day in Mom's room. She slept through a lot of it. I took the time to read over some tech documents that I'd brought along. Since I had yet to decide what my future would hold, I figured it would be a bad idea to abandon my job just yet. I knew I'd likely need the security if things went as I was beginning to fear they would.

When she was awake, we'd talk. I told her about my life in San Diego, about my travels around the world. I hadn't really done much in the way of tourism while on my trips, but just talking about the places seemed to make her happier. She'd always wanted to travel, see Europe, visit those countries where her family had originated.

Unfortunately, it was now looking like she would never even get out of the room she was in. While she was fairly lucid during our talks throughout the day, it was obvious that she was weak, and getting weaker. I knew, after the hours at her bedside, that it was only a matter of days, maybe less, before I'd be saying goodbye to a second parent.

"You shouldn't be sad, Dylan," she said late in the afternoon as I was watching the daylight pass into evening from her window.

"I'd say I probably have good reason, Mom," I said, trying to smile at her as I wiped a stray tear from my cheek.

"It's like," I continued, "like I've been waking up from this long dream, this dark and almost frighteningly bland nightmare. And, for a few brief moments, things were wonderful. Now, reality is setting in, and I'm going to start losing those things that made me feel...ALIVE again."

"Oh, Dylan," she sighed, patting the top of my hand where it rested on her bedrail.

"You always were too negative," she spoke softly. "You had so many gifts, so many great things in your life. And yet, somehow, it always got turned around into what you didn't have or what you'd lost."

"Too many disappointments, I guess," I said as I stood and moved closer to the window. "Too many times when I looked at the positive, hoped for the good, and just got beat down. After a while, I guess I started to believe in the negative side of life."

"I wish I knew where we went wrong," she said. I turned to look at her.

"What makes you think you did anything wrong?" I wondered, surprised.

"Dylan, I'm your mother. I helped raise you, remember? Part of who you are," she pointed at me for emphasis, "comes from me. And, another part, a bigger part I think, comes from your father."

"I would've argued that the bigger part had come from you, Mom," I replied. She shook her head.

"You would've been wrong, Dylan. You're a lot like your father. Whether you believe it or not, it's true," she shook her finger at me again.

"Come on, Mom," I argued. "Dad and I were nothing alike. That's why we had so many problems."

"Dylan," she sighed, "how can you be so smart at some things and so totally dense in others?" I stared at her in amazement.

"You and your father were both perfectionists, both focused on getting things just right. Lord knows, you were both stubborn as a team of mules," she smiled in memory. "Some of the fights between you two were so stupid, over nothing at all, except that your pride would get involved and neither of you would give an inch where pride was concerned."

"Probably why it's one of the seven deadly sins." I surprised myself at the reference, unsure where the religious fact had come from. Mom smiled.

"Exactly," she nodded. Her eyes took on a far off look then.

"I think the reason that your father reacted so badly to your being gay was that he was scared of what it meant. He was raised believing that gays were deviants, you know. If YOU were gay, it meant that HE was a failure." She turned to stare at me again. "I think that scared him more than anything, failing you as a father."

"I probably didn't help that idea along much when I told him that he was a sad excuse for a dad," I said, remembering the last fight Dad and I'd had before going our separate ways. It had turned out to be the last fight that he and I'd had in his life.

"No," she smiled sadly, "you probably didn't."

She fell silent, then, obviously lost in her memories. Dad had been gone nearly seven years now. And I could still remember the last fight we had with perfect clarity. It was one of the few memories I had of him anymore. It saddened me that I no longer had any of the happy memories left, although I had to acknowledge that there weren't that many truly happy memories to begin with.

"Would Dad have ever come around, do you think?" I wondered, not for the first time.

"Yes, Dylan, he would've," she replied without hesitation. "You were his son, and he did love you, in spite of the problems between the two of you. He would've come around, eventually."

"Do you...do you believe you'll see him again? When you..." I couldn't say the rest.

"When I die, you mean?" She finished for me, then nodded. "Yes, I will."

"Why?" I wondered. "Why do you believe?"

"Because, Dylan," she replied, completely calm and almost serene, "we loved. And, I believe that God will reunite us because we belong together."

I didn't really have a response. It was so beautiful to me that she felt so strongly about it, that she truly believed it. It gave me comfort for some reason.

"Just like you and Kevin," she continued a moment later. I glanced at her before looking away.

"I don't think that's gonna happen, Mom," I spoke softly.

"Oh, my son, I do love you," she said. "But there are times when I just want to shake you for your pessimism."

"Mom," I began, but she cut me off with the slightest shake of her head.

"Dylan," her voice suddenly had strength again. "Do you love Kevin? No more bullshitting, now. Tell the truth."

We stared at one another. I couldn't say the words, couldn't admit my feelings. But, she wouldn't let me off the hook. I don't know where the reserve came from, but she suddenly had power again. I couldn't look away. Tears started flowing down my face, and still she wouldn't give up.

"Yes," I admitted finally, with a little gasp. "So much that it hurts to even think about it." I turned away, shrinking into the chair next to her bed, covering my face with my hands.

"Then you will be together again," she said with perfect calm, her voice again soft, faded. I looked up at her.

"Mom, how can you say that?" I wondered, my voice barely a whisper in the room, tears still falling. "He must hate me." She nodded.

"Perhaps he does," she spoke quietly, matching my soft tone. "But, the fact is also that Kevin loves you, a great deal. The love that you two had, it doesn't just go away."

"No," I agreed, unable to argue that point. "But, it can change, can fade with time. The anger and hate he must feel might overwhelm anything else. Or," I paused, hesitant to say the words aloud, as though giving them voice would lend them truth. "Or, he might've found someone else to love."

"If you two had the kind of love I think you had," she replied, "then you will be together again."

"And, if not?" I wondered.

"Then you go on with your life, and you keep working until you find that love." She said it as though it were a simple truth instead of the devastating possibility I was fast believing would become reality.

She gasped from her bed, suddenly tensing. From the look on her face, I knew she was in pain. I reached over to the medicinal controls next to her bed and pressed the button that would release additional pain-killer into her bloodstream. In only a few moments, she was asleep again.

I left her alone, then. I stumbled out into the hallway, across the kitchen and out on to the back porch. The blast of cold air froze the tears on my face, but I didn't notice. I leaned on the railing and just cried.

"Dylan?" Nick's voice came from behind me. I turned and grabbed him, hugging him for all I was worth.

"Nick, I still love him so much," I whispered against his neck. There was no need to elaborate on who `he' was.

"I know, Dylan, I know," he replied, wrapping his arms around me.

"I'm gonna miss her so badly," I sobbed, changing subjects.

"I know. So am I," he agreed, stroking my back.

"It's not gonna be much longer, is it?" I wondered, already knowing the answer.

"The doctor thinks another day, maybe two," he confirmed my suspicion.

I cried a few more minutes, then eased away from him. I could see tears on his face reflected in the light from the moon.

"Sorry, Nick," I said, stepping away and turning to face the back yard, embarrassed. "I guess, being so cold inside for so long, I'm not really dealing with all this emotional stuff very well."

"It's alright, Dylan," he said, rubbing my arm briefly. "I understand."

"You're such a good friend, Nick," I told him, speaking over my shoulder so I didn't have to face him. "What'd I ever do to deserve you?" The question was rhetorical, so I was surprised to hear a response.

"Easy," a soft voice with the faintest Southern accent answered from the doorway. "You fell in love with one of his best friends."

I froze, and it had nothing to do with the cold surrounding me. I knew that voice, almost better than I knew my own. I knew the feelings that it produced in me, knew the tension suddenly singing along my every nerve. It was all too familiar, the memory undimmed even after nearly two years away.

I turned slowly, unwilling to rush, unwilling to be proven right. I wasn't ready for this, wasn't ready to see him. But, I knew it didn't matter. Whether I was ready or not, he was here. And I knew I had to face him.

"Kevin." I whispered his name, my breath instantly turning to vapor as it hit the bitter winter air.

Author's Notes:

Hey, everyone.

Sorry for the long delay. The Archivist took his break last week, and I took one this week. So, between the two, I ended up with a long delay between segments. I was going to post more, but this ended up being a good stopping point. Besides, my 'kid' has been cooped up in his kennel for almost a week, so he deserves some time out, which means I don't have the time to sit in front of my computer ;-)

Hope you all enjoy. It will probably be a few days before the next post, although hopefully not another week. Depends on how busy I get the next few.


The Curse of Denver

So, a few of you may recall that I was leaving Orlando this week to return to my former stomping grounds in Denver. I flew back over the weekend in order to attend last night's BSB concert at the Pepsi Center. I'd bought very good tickets (12th row, center section), and was really anticipating a good show, particularly since I'd already seen it in Ft. Lauderdale from a distance.

My friend and I arrived at the arena last night and proceeded to stand in line for 20 minutes in order to purchase the prerequisite souvenirs. When we stepped inside the arena proper and made our way to our seats, this guy came on stage and started to make an announcement.

Turns out that one of the guys is unable to get into Denver. There was a combination freezing mist/dense fog that had forced the closure of Denver International Airport. So, said BSB member was stuck on the runway in a plane waiting for the fog to clear. The gentleman making the announcement had to let us know that the BSB member had been sitting on that runway for over 4 hours, as though that would make up for his absence.

The announcer also told us that the other BSB had conferred and decided to go on with the show without their missing bandmate. How gracious of them, huh? They did offer to refund our money, but given that I had purchased the tickets through a third party, I was pretty sure that I would not really recoup my loss if I went for the refund. Besides that, I knew the show would still be good, so we decided to stay.

For those of you who haven't yet guessed it, the missing BSB was none other than Kevin Richardson. The show went on without him, and, while the remaining members of the group did a great job, it just wasn't the same without Kevin. Of course, the fact that I was so close I could practically touch the guys, and the fact that I would have ended up with AMAZING pictures of him really had nothing to do with my disappointment. Yeah. Right.

The show was slightly different than the one I saw in Ft. Lauderdale. The song list was the same, but they didn't do the little scene where they take the camera into the boys' dressing room while they're changing. I can only surmise that the scene was pre-recorded (no matter how live it seemed), and they didn't do it because Kevin would have been in the tape, giving away the fact it was faked.

All in all, it was a good show, and I should have some excellent close-ups of Nick if the pictures turn out right. But, the absence of Kevin left me with a disappointed feeling when the night was over.

Oh, and for those of you wondering why I titled this little section The Curse of Denver, the reason's pretty simple. Last year, I saw the Millenium tour in Denver. Great show then, too, except for the fact that Kevin had injured his shoulder the day before out on the ski slopes, so he didn't perform most of the dancing and stunts. This included the portion of the show where the guys got strapped into harnesses and floated out over the audience. Had he been uninjured, Kevin would have floated out right above me. Thus, it seems I am doomed never to be close to the man. Of course, my best friend, who went to both shows with me, is pretty sure that this is because the universe knows that Kevin would take one look at me and fall head over heels, so fate is not allowing us to get near one another.

Okay, so it's a lame thought. But it was a funny idea at the time.