© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 13

"It's so great to see you again!" cried Mark when Skyler, Brent and the twins arrived in LA.

"It's good to see you two again, too," said a smiling Skyler. "I missed you guys."

"We heard about your foundation," said Shelly as they made their way out to Mark's rented SUV. "Everyone's been talking about it."

"It isn't my foundation," Skyler said. "I'm just a founder."

"Right," said Mark. "Dianne wants to donate to it."

"I'll give her the address for donations while I'm here," replied Skyler as they got into the SUV.

Mark asked the twins how they liked flying all over the country, and they both told him how much fun they were having. Chad talked about his song, and he told them what Clay had promised would happen when he got back to New York. Skyler just smiled at his brother's excitement. He loved seeing him that excited, and he hoped that Clay really got him a record deal when they got home.

"We have news," said Shelly, turning in her seat to look at Skyler. "We moved into an apartment about ten minutes from campus."

"Finally?" laughed Skyler. "You've been talking about it since the semester began."

"Well I had to beg," replied Shelly.

"I caved though," laughed Mark. "The dorm was expensive, and now that I'm sharing expenses on the apartment with Shelly I have a bunch of extra money."

"Which he spends on magazines with your picture on the cover," teased Shelly, smiling at Skyler.

"Hey!" cried Mark. "My best friend is a star. Sue me. I rarely get to see him in person."

"We'll have to remedy that some how," said Skyler. He'd really missed Mark. He thought about ways to make sure that he got to spend time with his west coast friends as they drove to the hotel.

When they got there Madonna was waiting for them. They met her in the lobby, and Shelly was excited to meet her. Skyler explained that Niki had already flown back to New York when Madonna asked about her, and after checking in the entire gang rode the elevator up to Skyler's suite. He was happy to find that their bags were already in the rooms. He was tired from the flight, and he wanted to relax.

"Wow," said Mark when he followed them into the living room of the suite. "This is nice."

"I really wish you guys could have stayed with us," said Shelly as she looked around. "There just isn't room for everyone at the apartment though."

"This is fine, Shelly," assured Skyler. "We're used to living in hotels most of the time. On tour it was either the hotels or the bus. The hotels are much better than life on a bus."

"You're supposed to call Laura when you get here," informed Madonna. "I don't know why she called me."

"Wait," said Skyler, looking around the room. "Where's Lourdes?"

"She's taking a nap," replied Madonna. "Melissa's with her."

"I want to see her soon," said Cassie.

"You can spend the day with us if you want," replied Madonna, smiling at Cassie. "We're going to do some shopping."

"I need to get a tux," said Skyler, thinking of the Oscars. "I called ahead though. So all I have to do is pick one up."

"What about Cassie and Chad?" asked Madonna. "What are they wearing?"

"We're not going," said Chad. "It sounded fun for a while, but we really want to hang out with Mark and Shelly."

"They'll be spending the night at our apartment," said Shelly.

They talked for a little while about the events of the following day. Skyler was looking forward to the Oscars. He'd opted not to sing for the show. Sitting in the audience would be enough for his first trip to the Academy Awards. He didn't even really care if he and Madonna won the award for best original song or not. He was just excited to be going to the awards.

After lunch from room service Skyler and Chad headed out with Mark, Shelly and Brent to pick up Skyler's tux for the show. Skyler was so happy to be with Mark and Shelly again. He'd been around nothing but celebrities for so long that he'd forgotten what it was like to be around someone who wasn't nervous about who was watching them all of the time. He did his best to ignore the fact that people noticed him everywhere they went. He'd thought about using some sort of disguise, but the thought made him laugh. He'd managed to avoid mobs of fans most of the time, so he didn't think a disguise was absolutely necessary. After all looking at him wasn't as bad as crowding around him for hours at a time. Nothing like that happened until they were coming out of the formal wear shop in Beverly Hills.

When they went into the shop there was no one around that had even looked Skyler's way. They'd talked to the employees for a few minutes, and Skyler signed two autographs, thinking he'd gotten off lucky. When they came out of the shop there were people everywhere. It wasn't as bad as it usually was at the hotels when he was on tour, but there were at least fifty people waiting for him, and more continued to come. He was sure that the newcomers were drawn by the sight of a crowd, but once they saw him they added their screams to the throng of girls around him.

Brent stood by his side as Skyler smiled, singed autographs and posed for a few pictures. Brent was very good about breaking up these scenes at just the right time. Skyler was very happy with the fact that Brent seemed to always know when he was getting tired or needed to get away from fans. Skyler didn't know about other celebrities and their security staff, but he was friendly with Brent.

Brent was at least an inch taller than Skyler with very dark hair and brown eyes. His body was muscular from the hours he spent working out. Skyler had joined him a few times, and he knew that Brent's work out routine was intense. He had squared features that were separately unremarkable, but together they made his face very attractive. He always kept a mustache and goatee, but they were both trimmed very immaculately. His usual style of dress was jeans and a black t-shirt and that day was no exception.

That day Brent waited only thirty minutes before he broke up the gathering and ushered Skyler to the SUV. The others followed quickly, and Skyler sighed with relief as they drove away from the shop. Skyler loved his fans, but he sometimes wished that no one knew who he was. Then he would think about the twins, and he knew that if it weren't for his fame he'd never have been able to rescue them.

"That was intense," said Shelly as they drove to the diner. "Does that happen everywhere you go?"

"Not everywhere," replied Skyler. "Most of the time I can get away without attracting any attention at all."

"You should have seen it the day we went to the mall in New York after just getting off of the tour," laughed Chad. "Today was nothing."

"Yeah that day was horrible," agreed Skyler. "They kept me signing autographs and taking pictures for four hours that day."

"I couldn't deal with that," said Shelly. "I like being able to come and go as I please without anyone noticing me."

"Oh they notice," laughed Mark.

"We need to set a time limit for things like this, Sky," said Brent from behind Skyler. "Today wasn't bad, but sometimes it can get ugly when I try to break it up. You might want to consider bringing Eric along with us when you travel."

"That's probably a good idea," agreed Skyler. "Two of you can do more than you can do alone. I liked that you broke it up after a half hour today though. We should probably keep it that way every time."

"Yeah you tend to get tired very quickly when they're surrounding you," replied Brent. "Thirty minutes is a good time limit."

They were quiet for a while after that. Mark was thinking about how difficult it must be for Skyler when he needed to get somewhere in a hurry. He didn't envy his best friend quite as much as he had before that day. Mobs of fans would scare him to death. His respect for Skyler deepened as he thought about what Skyler had to put up with all of the time. Getting on stage to sing in front of people took a certain amount of courage, and Mark knew that he wouldn't ever know that much courage.

"Skyler!" cried Dianne when they walked into the diner. Mark had called ahead to make sure that Dianne was working, and when she asked him why he just told her that he and Shelly wanted to see her. He hadn't told her anything about Skyler. She rushed over and threw her arms around him when she saw him.

"God it's good to see you," replied Skyler, squeezing her as he hugged her back.

"And Chad, you better get over here and let me hug you!" she cried when Skyler released her. "My God you've grown."

"Hey Dianne," said Chad, smiling from ear to ear. "It's good to see you."

"Oh my boys are home," she laughed putting one arm around Skyler's shoulders and the other around Chad's. "Come on, boys, let's get you fed."

"Hey Sky," called Ed from the kitchen.

"Hi there, Ed," Skyler called back with a wave.

Dianne led them to the center table, and Brent and Mark pulled the adjacent table over to accommodate all of them. Skyler asked if she could sit and eat with them, and Lily, another waitress came over and told her to take her break. She took their orders and was off to the kitchen. Skyler was happy to see Dianne. She'd let her hair grow longer since he'd seen her last, and he noticed her highlights too. She was wearing make-up, and that was new for her too.

"Where's Cassie?" she asked as they all quieted down.

"She's with Madonna," replied Skyler. "She wanted to spend the day with Lourdes."

"How is she doing?" asked Dianne. "Have you guys heard anything from Detroit?"

"Cassie is doing great, and we haven't heard anything new from Detroit," he told her. "Barbara called a few days ago to tell me that the case has been continued again, because Chuck is in more trouble."

"Nasty man," said Dianne, wrinkling her face. "I hope they throw away the key on that one."

"You're looking good, Dianne," said Skyler, changing the subject. He didn't want to discuss his parents.

"You like my hair?" she asked, smiling and shaking her head. "Lily's daughter did it. She's great with hair, Sky."

"You're wearing make-up," he pointed out.

"Well Doug likes it," she said, blushing. "We're getting pretty serious."

Doug Forshaw was another cook at the diner, and Dianne had told him that she and Doug had started dating when the tour reached LA. Skyler could see that he was making her happy. There was a new light in her eyes, and her smile didn't look tired anymore. He wanted to shake Doug's hand. Anyone who could make Dianne truly happy was a great person in Skyler's book.

She asked about the foundation, and Skyler handed her one of the cards for the foundation that he was carrying in his wallet. She told him how proud of him she was. Dianne thought the foundation was a great idea, and when he told her that he and Madonna were talking about expanding it to include other major cities she grew excited.

"Did you discuss LA?" she asked. "We don't have anything like that here."

"We did discuss LA," he replied. "I think that was actually the first city that we talked about. I also want to do something in smaller cities too. Hate crimes don't just happen in major metropolitan areas."

"Listen to him," she said, smiling. "He sounds like a celebrity."

They laughed about that for a bit, but Skyler was excited about the foundation. He explained to them that they were thinking of opening shelters in several cities. He said that the Clemmons family was already working on a hotline in Orlando, and he wanted to set something like that up in LA as well. Dianne told him that she wanted to help, and he told her that when he got everything ready for LA he'd call her, and they would sit down with Mr. and Mrs. Clemmons to talk about what needed to be done.

"Where is Doug?" asked Skyler when Dianne told him that she and Doug were both interested in helping out with the foundation.

"He's up north visiting his son, Adam, for a few days," she said. "He'll be home next week."

"Well that means you're at home alone then?" he asked.

"Until he comes back," she said, nodding. "It's all right though. I'm used to living alone."

"Well how would you like to go to the Oscars tomorrow night?" he asked, smiling at her. "You'll even meet Madonna."

"The Oscars," she gasped. "You want me to go to the Oscars with you?"

"Sure," he said, smiling again. "I'd love it if you went with me."

"Skyler, I'd love to go to the Oscars with you," she breathed.

"Great," he replied excitedly. "You'll have a great time. I promise."

"Oh I'm sure I'll have a great time," she laughed. "Who wouldn't enjoy going to the Oscars with Skyler Thomas?"

"Now come on," he laughed. "I'm just plain old Sky right now."

"Yeah," chuckled Mark. "Sky from college who just happens to be on the cover of every magazine, get mobbed by fans wanting autographs and the press just happens to watch your every move."

"Oh my God!" gasped Dianne. "We'll be on television!"

"Probably," replied Skyler.

"Sky, I don't have anything to wear to something like this," she said, looking stricken.

"Don't worry about that," he replied, smiling again. "Tomorrow morning we'll go and buy you a dress. From there we'll go to the best salon in Beverly Hills."

"You're going to buy me a dress?" she asked with wide eyes.

"Of course," he replied. "I did invite you after all. What kind of date would I be if I didn't pay for all of the trimmings?"

* * *

"Sounds like a party up there," said Brian when he called Skyler. They'd just gotten back to the hotel, and Mark and Shelly were saying good-bye.

"Brian!" cried Skyler. "What do you mean, up there?"

"Yeah I'm in LA," laughed Brian. "Our suite is directly below yours."

"When did you get here?" asked Skyler as everyone in the room fell silent.

"We've been here for about three hours," he replied. "We had to spend one of those hours at the airport with fans though."

"Why didn't you call my cell?" asked Skyler. "I've been waiting for you."

"You needed time with your friends, Sky," said Brian. "We had plenty to keep us occupied, and I didn't even drive the guys nuts talking about you this time."

"This time?" laughed Skyler.

"Oh well I did kind of talk their ears off about you before they let me go to Orlando to see you," admitted Brian quietly.

"Get up here!" laughed Skyler. "Come meet everyone."

"Is it all right if Howie and Nick come up with me for a bit?" asked Brian. Skyler could hear them in the background arguing over who would go upstairs with Brian.

"Sure," he laughed. "Bring them on up."

"K, see you in a few then," said Brian.

"Hurry," replied Skyler before hanging up the phone. He turned around to find everyone staring at him.

"Brian's here," said Cassie with a small smile on her face.

"Yes," replied Skyler, realizing that he hadn't told Mark and Shelly about Brian. They both knew that he was gay, but he didn't want to say anything about Brian without his permission. After all he was scared of Nick telling people. It wouldn't have been right for him to tell anyone about Brian. "He's bringing Nick and Howie up with him."

"First Nsync, and now the Backstreet Boys," cried Cassie as she ran to her room. "Skyler, warn me next time!"

"Nsync?" asked Mark, and Shelly elbowed him in the ribs.

"Yeah," said Skyler with a smile. "I met Justin Timberlake while I was on tour, and while we were in Orlando we hung out with them for a day or two."

"They're really cool," said Chad, smiling.

"You know them?" asked Shelly, raising her eyebrows.

"Who is Nsync?" asked Mark, spreading his hands in front of him with the palms up and looking at them all.

"That song you keep signing," reminded Shelly. "They sing it."

"They sing 'Tearin' Up My Heart'?" he asked, turning back to look at Skyler again.

"Yeah," laughed Skyler. The excited look on Mark's face was priceless.

"So more than half of the Backstreet Boys are on their way up here?" asked Shelly.

"Yes," said Skyler. "I met Brian Littrell while I was on tour too. And he introduced me to Howie Dorough and Nick Carter. I haven't gotten to know Nick though, and I know Howie only a little better than I do Nick."

"Ok," she laughed.

Skyler nearly launched himself off of the couch when he heard Brian's knock. He smiled at everyone as he walked across the room to the door. They all stared at him as he went. Clearly they weren't used to meeting new celebrities. He chuckled to himself as he thought about that. Maybe it was just male celebrities. They'd taken meeting Madonna in stride.

"Is it safe?" asked Brian just above a whisper when Skyler opened the door.

"Not yet," replied Skyler. "I want you to meet my friends."

"All right," he said, smiling wide. They followed Skyler into the room, and everyone stared at them. Fortunately Chad just smiled and waved.

"This is my best friend, Mark," said Skyler as Mark stood. "Mark, this is Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough and Nick Carter."

"Nice to meet you," said Nick. Brian and Howie smiled.

"This is Shelly," Skyler said as Shelly stood up.

"Hi," she said as she shook Brian's hand and then the other two in turn.

"Come sit down," said Skyler, walking back over to the couch. "I really wish you would have called when you got away from the airport."

"That was intense," laughed Nick as he, Brian and Howie sat with Skyler on the couch. "Fans everywhere."

"I had a similar problem this morning," laughed Skyler. "I got mobbed when I went to pick up my tux."

"How do you guys do that?" asked Shelly as she and Mark sat with Chad on the other couch. "It would drive me crazy."

"It can be a bit brutal at times," said Howie. "But most of the time we're just as happy to see them as they are to see us. They buy the CDs and request our songs, so they're the ones that are paying us to do what we do."

"That's kind of what I said," agreed Skyler. "You just have to not let yourself get blown away by it."

"I've seen you with fans," said Brian. "You charm the crap out of them, and you love every minute of it."

"Most of the time," admitted Skyler. "Other times, like today I was trying to sneak and got caught. That's not fun."

"Do they know?" Brian whispered to Skyler when Howie and Nick talked to the others about signing autographs for thousands of people.

"About me they do," he replied just as quietly. "They don't know about any of you though."

"Well if you trust them," said Brian as he put his arm around Skyler.

"I told you!" laughed Nick to Howie. "You wouldn't believe it, but look at them!"

"You guys are a couple?" asked Shelly, smiling.

"We are as of yesterday," replied Brian, beaming a smile of his own. "Finally."

"Great," said Howie. "Now he'll never shut up about you."

"Hey Cassie," said Brian as Cassie came back into the room. She'd changed clothes and taken her hair out of the pony tail she'd had it in. Now it was curled and hanging over her shoulders.

"Hi, Brian," she said, smiling at him. "I'm so happy for you guys."

"Thanks," Brian and Skyler said at the same time and laughed.

They all talked about every day things for a while, and then it was time for Shelly and Mark to leave for the night. They promised to come back in the morning to get the twins as hugs and kisses were exchanged and then they were gone. After they left Cassie and Chad had a million questions for Nick and Howie. Skyler laughed at the pouting face that Cassie directed at Nick when he told her that he was gay. Chad didn't even blink when he heard about Howie and Nick. He continued to surprise Skyler.

"So are you and Madonna going to stir up the press again tomorrow night?" asked Brian as the conversation started to lag.

"No," laughed Skyler. "I'm taking Dianne to the Oscars. I have to get up early and take her shopping for a dress and stuff. It should be fun. I love to see her excited."

"Dianne?" asked Howie.

"She's a waitress at the diner I used to eat at like every day while I was in college here," explained Skyler. "She's been like a mother to me, and she's alone right now so I decided to take her with me."

"That's cool," said Nick. "I bet she's excited. I've never been to the Oscars, so I know I'd be excited."

"She's very excited," replied Skyler.

"Well I think its time for us to get back downstairs," said Howie, looking at the watch on his arm. "Lou's going to flip out if we're out late again."

"You guys go," said Brian, looking at Skyler as Skyler nodded. "I'm spending the night up here. Tell Lou that if he doesn't like it he can scream at me later."

"It's your head," said Nick. "Night Sky."

"Night guys," replied Skyler.

Shortly after that the twins went to their rooms to go to bed, and Skyler alerted Brent that the phones in the bedrooms of the suite were turned off, and no calls from Lou Pearlman were to be accepted for the entire night. Brian had already explained that Lou had very specific ideas about how his clients should act, and Skyler didn't want to be kept awake all night by phone calls from an angry manager. He'd had enough of that with Barry Graham.

The two of them spent the night in each other's arms as both young men wished that they could have a life where they could end their days that way every day. Skyler would be retuning to New York on the thirtieth, and Brian would be leaving in two days. He wished that they had more time together. They'd just really gotten together, and now they had to separate for quite a while. He wondered how long it would take before he just skipped out and flew to wherever the Backstreet tour was at that time.

"What are you thinking about?" asked Brian, breaking the silence that had fallen over them.

"You," replied Skyler, holding him tighter. "I'm going to miss you."

"We have two days, Sky," said Brian, turning in the bed until he faced him. "Don't start missing me yet."

"It's just that I have to go back to New York to shoot the movie, and you're going to be all over the world for a while," said Skyler. "We just got together, and in two days we have to go in separate directions again."

"I know," sighed Brian. "It's been on my mind too."

"You'd better call me at least twice a week," said Skyler, running his fingers through Brian's hair.

"Twice a week?" laughed Brian. "You'll be lucky if I don't call you twice a day."

The two settled back down in each other's arms and drifted off to sleep. Both of them were worried about what would happen when they were separated, but worrying about it wasn't going to help either of them. In the end what would happen would happen no matter how much either young man worried. If they were supposed to be together then everything would be fine.

They were eating breakfast with Brent and the twins when Howie came back to the suite. He smiled at them and told Brian that everyone had told Lou that Brian was asleep. So far Lou hadn't even appeared in the hotel that morning, so Brian was safe. Skyler couldn't help laughing at the thought of having to hide from his manager.

"So what's on your agenda this morning?" asked Howie when he took the chair that Skyler offered him and joined them at the table.

"Well I have to call Dianne," he said. "I'm going to take her shopping for a dress, and I need to call and get her an appointment at a salon. Then we have to make appearances at two parties before the show."

"I wish we could go with you," said Brian. "But we'll be answering questions for most of the day. I have to go have my picture taken again, and Nick and AJ both have radio interviews."

"Ah the life of a celebrity couple," laughed Howie. "You guys will see each other again tonight."

"We sure will," said Brian. "I'm staying with Skyler until we leave."

"Fine with me," said Howie. "I don't know how much longer Kevin will put up with it though. He threatened to come up here at five this morning."

"Kevin doesn't like me?" asked Skyler, looking from Brian to Howie and back.

"It's a protection thing, Sky," explained Brian. "Kev's worried that I might be doing something foolish. He likes you as well as he can without having met you."

"So bring him up here to meet me," said Skyler. "I'll call you when I get back to the hotel tonight, and you and Kevin can come upstairs."

They talked back and forth about schedules and times to call each other throughout the day, and then Brian and Howie left to join the rest of Backstreet for their day of interviews and appearances. Skyler showered and changed before calling Dianne, and then he and Brent took off to pick up Dianne and go shopping. Skyler was still a bit worried about how things were going to work out between him and Brian, but he decided again to just let things happen as they happened and not spend so much time worrying about things he couldn't really control.

They scoured Beverly Hills, looking in store after store. Dianne was having the time of her life, but she kept telling Skyler that she would only be able to wear a dress like the ones she'd tried on once. She said that there were no functions that she could even dream of attending that would require a dress so expensive. Skyler just laughed and insisted that she choose one.

The dress she fell in love with was black silk that ended just above her chest, where black lace continued to the neck, shoulders and full sleeves. Skyler thought the dress looked beautiful on her, and he insisted on stopping to buy her jewelry to wear with it. With Dianne protesting the entire time, Skyler paid for a sting of pearls with matching earrings and a black silk bag with strung pearl handles. She cried when he put the pearls around her neck, and she was still crying when they stopped for lunch in Beverly Hills.

"Sky, you have to take the necklace and earrings back tomorrow," she said as they were seated at a table in the back of the restaurant. "They're so expensive, Sky. What will I ever do with them?"

"You'll wear them and remember that I love you like a mother," said Skyler, smiling at her. "Please keep them, Dianne. You were so wonderful to me when I came to LA, and I want to show you how much that meant to me. You have no idea how lost and confused I was when I arrived, but you were always there to smile at me and listen to what was going on in my life when I came into the diner."

"Skyler Thomas," she said with tears in her eyes, "I would have been so proud to have been your mother."

When they left the salon later that day Dianne's hair was off of her shoulders with tiny pearl pins to hold all of her curls in place. Her make-up had been done professionally, and she looked beautiful. When Madonna helped her get changed into the dress, Skyler smiled with pride as she stepped into the living room of his suite. She looked amazing.

The next chapter will be posted soon.