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 them here and there in Orlando, I do not, in fact, know any of the Backstreet Boys, nor do I make any claims about any of their sexualities.

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

'Happy Anniversary' to Dylan and Kevin...or I guess 'Happy Wedding Day' is more appropriate. If I did my math correctly, this Saturday, 1/27/2001, would be the date that Kevin and Dylan tied the knot in 'Forever'.

Several people have asked me about the timeframes for 'The Past' and 'The Present' in 'Equilibrium'. The time for 'The Past' is actually our future, centering around May/June, 2005. 'The Present' is further in our future, taking place in December, 2006. Hope that clears things up.

I'm only posting one chapter tonight. I think you'll understand why once you've read it. I'm also not including any further author's notes after this initial piece. This chapter speaks for itself.

Equilibrium: Beyond Forever

by: DJ

Chapter 5

The Past

"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of your flight crew, we'd like to welcome you to Orlando, where the current local time is approximately 7:30am."

The flight attendant's voice shattered the all-too-brief sleep I was struggling to get. I'd ended up on a red-eye flight, leaving San Diego around 10:00pm to arrive in Orlando in the early morning. I hated this type of flight, as I could never sleep on planes. But, per my agreement with Kevin, I was trying hard to limit my time away.

June was starting to creep by, now. In the month since Kevin and I'd had our late night talk, things had settled into a relatively comfortable state. I could still tell he wasn't happy, but he never said anything, and we both did our best to make our time together worthwhile. As such, we rarely discussed my work, or my travel time.

I'd approached Anna about moving into a more silent role in the business. It had taken a while to convince her that I was serious; however, she'd eventually agreed that, once the San Diego office was up and running, I could phase out of things. I'd stay around long enough to get a local replacement hired and trained, then I would be merely an investor and no longer an employee.

"Sir?" the attendant's voice interrupted my thoughts.

"Yes?" I asked.

"Were you planning on staying on the plane?" she wondered, the amusement noticeable in her voice.

I glanced around and quickly realized that I was sitting alone. Somehow, I'd been so distracted, I hadn't even noticed that everyone else was off the plane. I threw a chagrined smile at her before gathering my things and walking off the plane.

I made my way through the airport slowly. While I was in a hurry to be home again, I was also exhausted. This week had been a series of very long days with little or no rest in between. Last night's flight home to Orlando hadn't exactly been refreshing, either.

I flagged down a cab at the entrance to the airport. After mumbling my address to the cabbie, I turned to stare out the window as the scenery passed by. I had no idea what route we were taking. I just trusted that he'd get me there eventually.

But, as exhausted as I was, it had been worth it. Our new office would be open in another two weeks. And, it wouldn't be necessary for me to be there again until the opening day. All of the staff was hired, including a very experienced manager to oversee the operation.

I didn't have to fly back until a day or two before the office opened. Anna thought it would be good to have one of us there to show we felt this new office would be very important to the business. And, since she was entering her third trimester of a difficult pregnancy, I was the one for the job.

I'd thought about inviting Kevin to go with me. He hadn't been out to the coast in a while, and once business was done, I'd have plenty of free time to devote to him. I thought it might be nice to head to Catalina or some other fun locale, just the two of us.

Thoughts of Kevin invariably stirred up uneasy feelings. While everything seemed to be going fine, something was missing. Something that hadn't really ever been missing from our relationship before. Not without reason, anyway.

We hadn't made love. It had been a month since the last time, and, while I'd been travelling to San Diego regularly, I'd also spent every weekend home with him.

It wasn't that he wasn't interested in me, physically. He was still as demonstrative as he'd ever been, hugging, kissing, and cuddling with me. But, that was as far as it went. Nothing further. Another reason for inviting him to San Diego was in the hope that this gap in our relationship would again be filled by some time alone.

I stirred slightly as I realized that we'd turned into my driveway. The cab pulled to a stop. I stepped out, taking a moment to grab my bags and pay the cabbie. I thanked him as I closed the door, turning to walk up the front steps.

I tried the handle, but it was locked. Kevin was notorious for forgetting to lock the door these days. I think it was a rejection of sorts to the days when he couldn't even open a window in his house without a fan or nosy neighbor peeking in on him. Unfortunately for me, he'd remembered today. I sighed as I dug through my pockets, struggling to find my keys.

I glanced at the clock on the wall as I tossed my keys on a table in the hall. It was only 9:00am, which was pretty good given what time my flight arrived. However, I was surprised at the total silence in the house. After all, it was Saturday morning, and I would've expected not only Kevin to be up, but Preston as well. Strangely enough, Saturday was the only day that he was willing to get up early. I suppose he liked his cartoons or something.

I wandered through the house to the kitchen. I had to blink when I walked in, as the sun shining through the windows onto the white tile seemed extraordinarily bright. I noticed that Sierra's dish was gone, which struck me as strange, also. Then, I noticed the note.

Kari had car trouble in Jax last night, so I drove up to get her. Preston's at Howie's, along with Sierra. He has meetings in the afternoon at 1:00, so he'll be dropping Pres off around noon. Hope you had a good flight.
Love, Kev'

I choked off a sigh of disappointment. I'd really wanted him to be home when I got here. I'd missed him a lot this last week. My schedule hadn't permitted time for many phone calls, so I was yearning for his presence. I wanted him to hold me.

I shrugged it off, turning to make my way back through the house. I figured I could use the time to sleep, make myself better prepared for when he did get home. There would always be time to hold each other later.

I stumbled into our room a few moments later. I debated taking a shower as I stripped out of my clothes, then thought better of it. I was too tired, I knew, to stay standing that long, especially in a warm, soothing shower. Instead, I walked to the bed I shared with my husband.

I peeled back the covers on my side of the bed, then crawled in. The light cotton sheets felt cool and refreshing against my skin. I reached over, grabbing Kevin's pillow and wrapping it up in my arms. I took several long, deep breaths, savoring his scent on the pillowcase. That was the last thing I remembered as I drifted finally to sleep.

"Papa, you're home!" my son's voice and bouncing body woke me some time later.

"Preston, stop that," Howie's voice joined my son's. "You know better than to jump on the bed."

"Howie, YOU know better than to scold him since YOU'RE the one who taught him that," I mumbled into my pillow. Howie chuckled at me in reply.

"I suppose you're right, DJ," he said. A moment later, I felt his weight join Preston's as they both started jumping on my bed.

"Is there something you two wanted?" I questioned, barely awake enough to register that they were actually there and not just a dream.

"Gotta get up, Papa," Preston replied.

"Why?" I wondered, although I should've known better than to ask a 4-year old that question.

"Because, `Papa'," Howie chimed in, "Uncle Howie has meetings, and you need to watch your son."

I sighed, finally remembering Kevin's note. I was surprised he and Kari weren't home, yet, but I figured they were getting Kari's car fixed rather than bringing it home to be repaired.

"Come on, Papa, come on!" Preston was yelling as he bounced on my bed.

I quickly threw back the cover, grabbing my son's legs and pulling him down on the bed. I immediately started tickling everywhere I knew he was ticklish.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to wake your sleeping Papa?" I asked in an evil voice as I continued my tickle assault. His only answer was to giggle uncontrollably.

I kept up my tickle torture for several minutes, until his thrashing nearly led him to fall off the bed. I grabbed him just before he fell, then told him to calm down and climb off the bed.

He immediately jumped up and ran from the room. I sighed, staring at him and envying the seemingly limitless energy he possessed. I turned to see `Uncle' Howie smiling down at me. He offered me a hand to pull me up from the bed.

"I feel older every time I look at that kid," I said to him.

"I feel pretty much the same," Howie replied.

We wandered downstairs, heading for the kitchen. I was still incredibly tired, which wasn't surprising considering I'd only slept for a couple of hours. I sat down at the table, inviting Howie to sit with me. Preston was in the back yard, trying to coax Sierra to fetch a stick for him.

"How're things going, Howie?" I asked, opening conversation.

"Great, actually. Did Kevin tell you that Deb's pregnant?" he wondered. I immediately grabbed his hand in mine.

"No! Howie, that's great! I'm so happy for you two!"

And I was truly happy for them. Deb was Howie's wife of two years. They'd met shortly after I'd met the group, and they'd hit it off. They'd dated for several years before Howie finally found the courage to propose. We'd all known it was coming. It had just been a question of when.

"Yeah, she's due in November," he replied with a huge grin on his face. His grin was replaced by a slight frown a moment later. "I'm surprised Kev didn't tell you, Dylan. We told him almost two weeks ago."

I was surprised, too. I'd been home last weekend for four days. For him not to tell me something so important...well, it was very surprising to say the least.

"Is everything ok, DJ?" Howie asked. I looked up to stare into his eyes.

"Honestly?" I whispered. He nodded. "I don't know."

I stood from the table, turning to stare out the back window. Sierra was happily fetching sticks for Preston, although I don't think he realized that the sticks she fetched weren't always the same as the ones he was throwing.

"You wanna talk about it?" Howie asked.

"I don't know, Howie. I don't know what's wrong," I said. I turned to face him again.

"On the surface, everything's fine. We spend as much time as possible together, we talk, we laugh. And, yet..." I trailed off, not sure I should continue. Howie just waited, giving me the choice to continue.

"We haven't had sex in over a month, Howie," I said, lifting my eyes to his. I was glad to see he wasn't uncomfortable with hearing this. I needed someone to talk with, and Howie was the best friend available.

"If it were anyone else, I'd question if he were having an affair," I whispered. "But...it's Kevin. I just can't see him doing anything like that."

"No, you're right, there. I can't see that, either," Howie agreed. A small part of me, hidden way down deep inside, was secretly happy that he'd done so.

"But, I don't know what's wrong. He knows my travel time's pretty much over. And that's the only thing that's really been a problem recently. I just...I just don't have a clue," I said, moving over to sit at the table again.

"I'm so tired, Howie. Not just physically. I'm tired of the stress of...," I paused. "Howie, I think I'm losing him."

"Dylan, come on, man," Howie spoke up forcefully, causing me to look into his face again. "That's ridiculous. You two are made for each other. You're just hitting a rough patch is all. You'll make it through. You just gotta remember the love you have."

"I hope you're right, Howie. I really hope you are," I whispered, turning my gaze away from him again, afraid of seeing doubt there.

"Are you going to be okay?" he wondered.

"Yeah, I'll be fine. I'm sure Kevin and Kari will be back soon. I'll talk to him when they get here," I replied, trying to muster a smile to get him to feel better.

"Good," he said, standing. "Cause I need to get going. I'm meeting with a new potential client in an hour or so."

"Call me if you need anything, okay?" he asked a moment later as we stood at the front door.

"I will," I answered as I leaned in to hug him. "And thanks, Howie," I whispered.

"Any time, DJ, you know that," he replied, his voice soft, yet strong.

"Preston, come in here, please?" I yelled across the yard to my son where he was playing with the dog. He trotted over a moment later.

"Would you do Papa a favor and play in your room for a while? I don't want you wandering around by the pool if I'm not outside," I said.

"But, Papa, I was playin' with Sierra," he whined, obviously not happy about the idea.

"I know, and you can play with Sierra in your room. Please?" I asked, not as forceful as I normally would've been. Perhaps that was where I made my mistake.

"Alright," he said, moping slightly. He turned to head for the stairs, Sierra trailing along behind him. Perhaps I should've paid more attention to his tone or to the look on his face. Another mistake.

"Thank you," I hollered after him, smiling a little at his disappointment.

I turned and walked into the living room. I sat down on the couch and reached for a file folder that was sitting there. It contained the lease papers for the San Diego office. While they'd already been signed, Anna wanted another once-over to be sure nothing got missed in our day-to-day office policies that might cause problems with the lease agreement.

I obviously should've known that reading it at that moment was a bad idea. Legal documents were generally boring as hell. Throw in on top of that the fact that I was exhausted, and you're left with a bad mix.

But, for some reason, I was foolish enough to believe that I could keep my mind awake and focused on the words. For some reason, I was foolish enough to believe that, this time, I could stay alert. For some reason, I was foolish enough to believe that my son would stay in his room.

Within moments, I was asleep.

I never heard the door open.

I never heard the splash.

I never heard the little scream.

I didn't know it, but my entire world ended while I slept.