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 24

I sat with Mom a few moments longer, weeping at the beauty I'd felt. And, weeping at the loss of someone who'd loved me so much, without condition, these last difficult years. Even when I didn't acknowledge it, didn't do anything to deserve it, she'd still held out hope for me.

Eventually, I rose and went to the window, sliding it open to let the chill of winter in. The room had grown stale with the smell of medicine and even death. Mom deserved better.

I moved over to the bed, pulling her cover up over her, arranging her hands across her stomach. She looked peaceful, serene. Except for the absence of the rise and fall of her chest, she seemed only to sleep. I knew in my heart, of course, that that was not the case.

I walked out of her room and crossed the hall. I knocked very gently on the door to the master bedroom, then stepped inside. I moved over to the bed and shook my brother to wake him up. He grumbled a little before finally waking up.

"What is it?" he wondered. "Is it Mom?"

"Yeah, it's Mom," I replied. I laid a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently. "She's gone, Jeremy."

He stared at me in the dim light of his room. I wasn't sure if he thought I was wrong or if he was just trying to absorb things. Eventually, he sat up and pulled me into a hug. A moment later, I felt his strong body shake as tears overtook him.

We cried together, then, as we had only rarely done in our lives. The distance between us disappeared as we shared a loss that only we two could, at that moment, understand. I felt a third person wrap around us and realized that Kris had joined us.

"She wanted me to tell you both that she loved you," I managed to whisper a few minutes later.

"You talked to her?" he wondered. "Why didn't you wake me up?" He sounded hurt.

"There wasn't time," I replied, trying to make him understand. "She was only awake a few minutes, and then she just...left."

I explained about Mom's final moments, about how she'd talked about Jeremy, Kris, and the kids, about how she'd said Dad's name with such love and feeling. I didn't share the touch that I'd felt after she'd breathed her last. That felt too intimate, and I wasn't all that sure that Jeremy would really believe me, anyway.

After we'd all calmed down again, Jeremy slid from the bed. I stood and walked to the door, intending to give them some privacy to dress if they needed. I stepped back into the hallway, easing the door shut behind me.

I walked quietly down the hall to the stairs, then down to the first landing where our coats were hanging. I grabbed my coat, along with my hat, gloves, and boots from the chest behind the door, then made my way back upstairs.

In the kitchen, I took a minute to dress warmly, then stepped out onto the back porch. The cold winter night hit me like a slap in the face, sending immediate shivers through my whole body. It was very refreshing, which was what I'd needed.

I don't know how long I stood there, staring out at the stars from the back patio of my brother's house. I didn't really think about anything except Mom and all the good times that we'd had in her life.

Occasionally, I thought about Dad and tried to pull up good memories of the three of us, or of all four of us. It was harder to do that, as Dad and I'd had a lot of years of bad memories between the good ones. But, there were a few memories of a trip to Disneyland, or camping in the mountains, that reminded me of the good things my family had shared.

The door opening behind me interrupted my mental wanderings. I didn't really need him to speak to know who it was. As always, his presence was like a siren in the cells of my body, alerting me to his identity before he even said anything.

"Hey, Kevin," I said softly.

"How are you, Dylan?" he asked as he stepped on to the patio and shut the door behind him. His voice was soft, warm, as I'd remembered it from the past. The cold fašade I'd seen earlier wasn't present at the moment.

"I'm okay, Kev," I replied just as softly. "I'm sure it'll hit me harder in a while, but, for now, I'm okay."

"I'm glad," he said. I turned to face him, noting the reflection of the moon on his face.

"I'm sorry you had to be here, Kev," I whispered. "I know this has to be hard on you."

"Do you regret my being here?" he wondered. The cold look seemed to come back for a moment.

"NO," I practically yelled, speaking quickly to try to keep that cold, empty expression from his eyes. The look seemed to waver as I continued.

"No, Kev, I'm so happy you're here that I can't even begin to tell you. It's just," I paused, gathering thoughts, "I know that this has to be a harsh reminder for you of when your dad passed away. And...I know it can't be easy for you to be around me...my family."

"Dylan," he began, shifting a little closer to me, "Dad died a long time ago. Yeah, I miss him, but I don't mourn him anymore. I just...I just wanted to be here for you...your family."

"Thank you, Kevin," I said. "We...they appreciate that, I'm sure."

We stayed there a few minutes, neither of us moving. I took the opportunity to drink in the sight of him, to store up as many moments as I could, as he would allow me. His face in the moonlight was devastating. Again, I found myself taking a step towards him, unable to break the hold he had over me.

My movement seemed to startle him. He shook himself, and, when he looked back to me, the empty expression was back on his face. I sighed and turned away, knowing that I'd lost him once again. I only hoped that it wasn't permanent.

"You should come back inside," he said, his voice now lacking any feeling. "Jeremy and Kris are gonna need you."

"Thanks," I replied, keeping my voice neutral, polite. "I'll be inside in a minute."

He didn't wait for me. He turned and went back in the house, leaving me once again alone with my thoughts. Unfortunately, those thoughts weren't very good company at the moment.

Part III -- Finding Balance

Chapter 25

When I stepped back inside, I immediately noticed the aroma of hot chocolate. I glanced over to the stove and saw a kettle there, simmering. The bottle of peppermint schnapps next to the kettle told me that Kris had decided to make some Alpines.

It seemed fitting, in a strange way, to drink a toast to Mom. She had still remembered how to party once in a while, even if her body didn't handle it as well as it had when she was much younger.

`Besides, the hot chocolate and a shot of alcohol might help us all sleep,' I thought as I glanced at the clock and realized it was barely 2:00 a.m.

I moved into the living room. Jeremy and Kris were on the couch, Nick and Lindsay were on the love seat, and Kevin was across from them on a chair. Lindsay immediately stood and moved over to me, wrapping me in a warm hug.

"You okay?" was all she asked. I nodded above her head.

"I'm fine," I replied softy. "For now, anyway."

"And later?" she wondered.

"I don't know, really," I admitted. "The way she went...it was almost...beautiful...uplifting. It's hard to be sad, really." She nodded against me before I said anything else.

"It's a blessing, sometimes," Kevin surprised me by speaking. I looked over at him, and our eyes met.

And, for a split second, we were again connected. Our mutual grief had briefly reformed the bond between us. I didn't want to see it break again, so I just smiled softly and acknowledged his words with a slight nod, then turned back to hugging Lindsay.

We stood there a few more minutes, no one saying anything. Lindsay continued to hug me. It felt good to have the contact, to be loved, to have my dear friend back, even if only for a short time.

I knew then that I would have no trouble keeping my promise to Mom to stop running. I knew that I didn't want to give up this happiness again, even if it meant dealing with the pain. I couldn't prevent myself from glancing at Kevin, although thankfully, he was absorbed in his own thoughts and didn't meet my gaze.

"Kris?" I broke the silence. "Could I get a bit of that hot chocolate? And a shot of the schnapps, too, if you don't mind."

"Sure, Dylan," she answered, giving me a small smile as she stood and moved into the kitchen. I turned to gaze at my brother.

"What now?" I asked, unsure what arrangements Mom had made.

"Well," he began, "Mom wanted to be buried next to Dad in Bismarck. They'll be here to pick her...her body up in a few minutes. I've already made arrangements to have her sent to North Dakota."

"Does...did she still have the house?" I wondered, realizing I didn't even know how long she'd been living with Jeremy and Kris.

"Yeah," he replied, nodding. "We decided to wait to sell it until after...after she'd passed on. She did have time to get her will up to date, though, so we won't have to deal with the relatives hovering again."

I shuddered a little at that. The legal issues surrounding Dad's death had been hell. He'd had a will when he passed away, but it had been terribly out of date, leaving a lot of things as loose ends. That combined with the animosity in the family over a lot of issues, including my being gay, had led to problems and confrontations over the months following his death. I'd been estranged from the family at the time, but Mom and Jeremy both had eventually told me about it. I was glad to hear that we wouldn't have to deal with that with Mom.

"Should we be calling people?" I wondered as Kris walked back in with my hot chocolate. I took a sip and realized it was still pretty hot. I set it on the table beside me to cool down.

"No," Jeremy replied. "We'll start that in the morning. Everyone knows this was coming, and the arrangements are made. There's no sense in shaking everyone out of bed in the middle of the night."

"Yeah, guess you're right," I agreed.

"How are y'all getting to Bismarck?" Nick spoke up. His tone of voice told me he had something up his sleeve.

"I don't know, I guess," I replied. I turned to look at Jeremy. "Do you have room for us all to ride with you?"

"Not everyone, no." He shook his head. "Kris and I have the van, but it's going to be pretty full with the kids and stuff. We can't take both the vehicles since the truck's in the shop until Tuesday."

"I hadn't thought of that," I admitted, embarrassed that I'd forgotten my niece and nephew. I turned back to Nick. "Rental car?" I asked.

"Actually," he gave a small smile as he drug out the word. "I was thinking more along the lines of `rental plane'."

"Nick," I began, ready to argue the point with him.

"Relax, Dylan," he held up a hand to forestall my objection. "I've already got one standing by. I had it set up when I got back on Thursday. Your mom had already mentioned to me that she wanted to be laid to rest next to your dad. I figured it would be easier than all of us trying to drive half-way across the country."

"Still," I started again, then fell silent. I really didn't have an argument for him. I gave in, knowing it would be pointless to try anymore. "Can it fit everyone?"

"Shouldn't be a problem," he replied. "If not," he paused and put a wicked grin on his face, "I'll just have to get a bigger one." I couldn't hold in a chuckle.

"You easterners really hate driving more than an hour, don't you?" I joked lightly.

"You know it," he replied, also keeping his tone on the light side. It felt good to ease the tension in the room, even if only for a moment. I turned to Lindsay, then.

"Are you going to be able to come with us?" I wondered, talking softly again.

"Of course, Dylan," she replied. "I wouldn't leave now."

"I was just concerned about your job, is all," I elaborated. "I didn't know if you could get this much time off." Lindsay glanced over at Nick before commenting.

"Actually," she began, then paused. "I guess I forgot to mention that I don't really have to worry about time off, huh?" I looked at her, confused. She sighed.

"The truth is that I quit my job in Austin," she announced. >From the lack of surprise on everyone's face, I gathered that I was about the only one who hadn't already known this.


"I wasn't happy there. Four years was enough," she answered.

"What are you going to do, now?" I wondered.

"Well," she paused again, this time glancing over at Nick. "I hired on to Nick's tour temporarily as part of the emergency med crew. It's good money, and I could use it because after that," another pause, this time to look back at me, "I'm moving back to Florida."

"Wow," was all I managed. I gave her a small hug. "Congratulations, I guess."

"You guess?" she wondered, giving me a gentle nudge.

"I'm just surprised, is all," I defended my reaction. "If it makes you happy, then go for it."

"Thanks, Dylan," she replied.

Finally, I turned to Kevin. He wasn't really looking at us. He just seemed to be staring at a spot on the wall between Nick on the love seat and Kris on the couch. I hated to interrupt, but I really felt I needed to say something.

"Kevin," I spoke softly, turning to face him and trying to ignore everyone else in the room. He looked up at me, the empty expression back on his face. I steeled myself to ignore it before continuing on.

"I know I don't really have a right to ask," I began, then hesitated. I glanced down at his chest a moment, then back to his eyes.

"I'd really appreciate it if you'd come, too. I know you probably have things you...things you need to do," I stumbled a bit, knowing that his `things to do' probably included a visit to Maya. "But, it would mean a lot to me if you'd come." My voice was very quiet. I was speaking only to him and not to anyone else in the room.

His expression softened, just a bit. Emotion touched his face, and again, briefly, he was the Kevin I remembered, the Kevin that I loved. He glanced away, but I saw the look before he could hide it.

"Of course I'll come, D," he replied, his voice soft. I wondered if he realized he'd called me `D'.

"Thank you, Kev," I whispered in reply. I decided to leave him alone, then, let things lie between us in this state rather than do something to drive him back to the cold front. I turned to Nick.

"Do you think we could get the other guys to come, too?" I wondered, unsure how close the `family' still was. Jeremy had mentioned them briefly when I'd shown up the other night, but we hadn't really had a chance to catch up on them since.

"Dylan," Nick replied, speaking slowly and in a tone that said I was again being an idiot. "Of course they're going to come. They all knew your mother, and they know she's been sick. They'll come if you ask."

Suddenly, I was angry. No, it was more than that. I was furious. There was no rationale behind it, no good reason for the feeling. Perhaps it was simply stress from the last few days. Or maybe it was grief, striking out in an unexpected way.

Or, maybe it was just a mix of jealousy and fear. Jealousy that everyone in my life had managed, somehow, to become closer with me gone than they'd been with me present. Fear that they would realize they liked that closeness generated by my absence.

"Why, Nick?" I asked, my voice harsh in the quiet room. "Why are you all so damn involved with my family?"

"Dylan!" Jeremy spoke up, obviously intent on stopping me before things got out of hand. I didn't even acknowledge he'd spoken.

"Why do you care so much? What gives you the right to move in on my family when I'm gone?" Nick opened his mouth to speak, but I didn't let him continue.

"And who gave you the right to spy on me? Huh?" I was almost yelling now. "Sending your little manager-boys around to keep an eye on me, reporting back to everyone about where I am, what I'm doing. Passing judgments on my life when you aren't even involved in it."

Nick stood then. Lindsay already had a hand on my arm, squeezing it in an obvious attempt to restrain me before I did something stupid. Nick stepped over until we were face to face.

"What gives me the right?" His voice could almost match mine in anger. "You did, you thoughtless asshole." I started to step closer, pushing into him. Lindsay tugged on my arm, but I shrugged her off as Nick continued.

"You walked out on ALL of us, Dylan," he snarled. "It wasn't just Jeremy and Chris, it wasn't just your mom, it wasn't just Kevin. It was everyone. You took us and just fuckin' tossed us aside without even a backward glance. It was easy, remember?" He threw my words from our talk the night before back in my face.

"Fine, Nick," I agreed sarcastically. "I walked out. I threw you all out like yesterday's trash. That still doesn't give you the right." He cut me off with a shove.

"It gives me EVERY right!" he exclaimed. "What did you think we would do, Dylan? Just forget about you? Pretend we never knew you? Toss you aside like you did to us? Not all of us can be that self-centered, Dylan. Not all of us can be that cruel."

"Your mother loved you," he continued, his voice only slightly quieter. "God only knows why, but the rest of us did, too. And, we deserved to know what was going on with you. And, yeah, we all became closer. Fuck, you should be happy!"

"I should be happy?" I repeated his statement, incredulous. "Nick, you walked in and took over. Hell, you've been closer to my family in the last year than I ever was. You and Jeremy," I waved an arm at my brother on the couch, "get along better than he and I ever have. Christ, what chance have I got to make it with my own damn family when you're already better for them than I can ever be?!"

I didn't wait for a response. Somewhere, deep inside, I knew the argument was pointless, anyway. I was reacting out of fear and jealousy, not to mention sleep deprivation. I turned and walked through the archway into the kitchen.

I hadn't taken two steps before I realized that I was doing it again. I was running, not facing things, just bailing because I thought it would be easier. Or because I thought I couldn't handle dealing with the issues now. I'd promised Mom that I wouldn't do that anymore. And, I intended to do my best to keep that promise.

I turned very slowly, facing back towards the center of the room. I didn't meet any eyes, but I could see everyone around me. Nick was still standing facing me, Lindsay beside him. I could hear his breath coming in ragged gasps, his anger apparent in the sound.

As fast as it had come, my anger faded. There was no reason to be angry with him, with any of them. Even if Nick had adopted my family as his own, it was more my fault than his. I'd been trying to hide my fear that they wouldn't want me back behind a wall of anger.

"Nick, I'm sorry," I whispered. "I had no right to say that to you. Any of it." When he didn't respond, I raised my eyes to his. He stared back at me, his eyes stormy with emotion.

"I was just...just so scared. You've been so great about welcoming me back that I just was afraid that it might go away, or," I paused, knowing how ridiculous I was about to sound.

"I was jealous, Nicky," I whispered, glancing away from him. "You were right when you said I threw you away." I paused, looking over at Kevin, who refused to return my look. "I threw so many things away then." I turned to look back at Nick.

"And you...you just meshed with my family so well, I guess I was just afraid that Jeremy and Kris would just decide that they were better off without me," I paused to glance at Kevin again, "like I think others already have." Kevin's eyes shot to mine. I didn't wait to see what was there, instead turning back to Nick.

Nick didn't say anything. I knew by the look on his face that my words hadn't really had the impact I'd wanted. I scrambled to come up with something else.

"Do you remember in San Diego the other night? You told me that you'd found me over a year ago?" He slowly nodded. "Do you know what I felt then?" He shook his head. "I was happy, Nick, for the first time in longer than I could remember. I didn't let it show. Hell, I tried not to acknowledge it at all, but it was there. I was so happy to find out that you cared enough to do that, to keep tabs on me, to make sure I was all right. It meant so much to me, more than I can ever tell you."

He didn't respond, just continued to stare at me.

"Please, Nick," I was begging now. "Please, believe me. You are my best friend, even if I'm not yours anymore. Please say you forgive me?"

He stared at me for a few minutes longer. I was beginning to give up hope when he sighed, then slowly nodded. I let a small smile pass my lips.

"Thank you, Nick," I said softly. He didn't respond, just nodded. I wanted to hug him, to thank him more. But, I could tell that he was still angry enough that it wouldn't be welcome. None of us moved for several minutes. Finally, the silence became too much for me.

"I'm," I began, then paused. "I'm gonna go outside for a few minutes. Get some air." No one responded, but I hadn't expected one. I turned and made my way out to the back porch, letting the cold be an excuse for the shivering that suddenly wracked my body as tears slid down my face.

Author's Notes:

Hola, mis amigos!

Well, there you have it. Yet another chapter in the life of Dylan and Kevin. Hope it was worth the wait. Been over two weeks now since I posted. My, how time flies, eh?

The good news is that I solved my little computer issue, although running without a cover on my machine is turning my office into a sauna. The bad news (there's always bad news, isn't there) is that I've managed to stumble onto a case of that most dreaded disease feared by writers both near and far, both good and bad. That's right, folks, I've got writer's block.

I know, I know, sucks to be me. Let me get out the cheese to go with that whine. Anyway, I'm trying to get over it, but I figured I'd prepare everyone now, just in case ;-)

On a side note, I just wanted to remind everyone that this is fiction. While a lot of Dylan is based on me, there are differences. For example, both of my parents are still alive and well. We have a great relationship, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. I've gotten the occasional concerned e-mail lately, and I wanted to make sure people kept the separation between fact and fiction.

And, speaking of e-mail, for those of you who have written recently, I wanted to say 'thanks'. I've been totally slacking on e-mail, and it's piled up on me. So, I'm throwing in the towel on answering it individually ;-) If you'd like to hear from me, e-mail me again and I'll try to write. If you just wanted to express your opinion, know that it's appreciated.

Hope you enjoyed the chapters, and hope to have more to y'all as soon as I can.