© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 24

Skyler arrived, on time, at the Time Warner building for his test screening. He expected to find a group of people waiting to audition for various parts in the movie when he walked into the outer office, but there was no one there but the receptionist. He informed her that he was there to see Renny Harlan, and she told him to go on into the office, he was expected.

Renny Harlin wasn't anything that Skyler expected. He was a tall, muscular man with long blond hair and squared features. He shook Skyler's hand and told him that he was very happy to meet with him. He'd seen Anger, and he was very pleased with Skyler's acting. He said that he'd only insisted on a screen test to keep the other actors from being upset.

He put Skyler at ease very quickly, and they talked about who else was already cast for the movie. Catherine Zeta Jones was already cast as Moiraine, Shannon Doherty was cast to play Nynaeve, Neve Campbell was cast to play Egwene and Devon Sawa was cast to play Mat. The only roles left, Renny said, were Lan, Perrin and Tam. He assured Skyler that they would be cast quickly and filming would begin as soon as possible. That was how Skyler learned that he had gained the part of Rand.

Renny told him that he'd work out all of the details with Laura, and he shook his hand. To Renny, the deal was done. Skyler just hoped Time Warner was up for the asking price that Laura had already discussed with him that morning. By the time he left the building and headed home to change for dinner, he felt as if his head was spinning. He couldn't wait to talk to Laura.

"How did your screening go?" asked Chad when Skyler walked into the penthouse.

"I got the part so far," he replied. "How was your day?"

"What do you mean, 'so far'?" he asked, ignoring Skyler's question for the moment.

"Well, Renny says the part is mine, but the studio has to agree to the terms that Laura is going to set before them when she talks to them in the morning," he explained. "So, until the contract is signed, it could go either way."

"But you want this part, right?"

"Right," Skyler nodded.

He excused himself to shower and dress for dinner, trying to put thoughts of the movie out of his mind. It was a fruitless effort, because that's all he could think about. He found himself wondering if they might want him to write a song for the soundtrack. If Laura's prediction was correct, then having as many ties to the movie as possible could be a wonderful thing for Skyler.

While he was getting dressed, he started to think of lyrics that might go along with the script he'd read. His mind was buzzing with ideas as he came back out of the bedroom and into the living room of the penthouse where his brother and sister were waiting for him. He almost didn't hear them asking about their father coming for their birthday.

"He'll be here in the morning," he absently replied as he sat down in the recliner.

"Sky, what's wrong?" asked Cassie, looking at him strangely.

"Nothing," he replied quickly. "I'm just thinking about lyrics for a song."

"He got the part," Chad blurted.

"Really?" she asked, smiling excitedly. "That's great, Sky. When do you start filming?"

"None of that has been decided just yet," he replied, "and I only have the part if the studio deals with Laura."

"Of course they'll deal with Laura," she said. "Sky, they'll want you in this movie just as bad as you want to be in it. Believe me."

"From your lips," he replied with a sigh as the telephone chirped at them.

"I'm in New York, Sky," said Kevin's voice when he answered. "I booked a suite. What are you doing tonight?"

"I'm having dinner with Justin, JC, Lance and Joey," replied Skyler. Kevin had said he'd be there the day of the party. He was four days early.

"Oh," Kevin said quietly. "Well, what time do you think you'll get home?"

"I'm not sure," he replied. "I can call you when I get in."

"If its late, don't worry about it," said Kevin. "I'll call you in the morning."

"I'm sorry, but I didn't know you were coming," he explained.

"Its all right, Sky," assured Kevin. "We'll talk later or in the morning. Have a good time."

He didn't have too much time to dwell on the phone call after he'd hung up. It was time for him to leave for the restaurant. He told the twins to call his cell phone if they needed him and left with Brent on his heels. He didn't say one word to Brent or the driver until they were at the restaurant. He was doing his best not to even think about how to tell Kevin that it was over between them.

* * *

JC's day had been long. He'd been grilled by Lance over and over again about Skyler, and he knew he had Justin to thank for it. Lance thought he was getting too attached to Skyler, and he was probably right. What he didn't understand was how fast it had happened. He wasn't in love, but he felt very strongly for him already. It was the strangest thing.

All through dinner with Skyler, JC was nervous. He had to have suspected that something was up, because JC couldn't say more than a word to him here and there. The rest of the conversation was taken up by Lance's questions and Justin's talk about what he'd bought for the twins. He noticed that Skyler kept looking at him, but he really didn't know what to say. He was afraid that if he said anything at all it would come out wrong, or he'd out himself right on the spot.

He didn't think that Skyler would tell anyone. He didn't know for sure, but something about the guy told him that he would be cool. Justin had remarked several times that Skyler never said anything about gay issues, either for or against them. He just never talked about relationships at all. JC wondered if Skyler had ever been in a relationship in his life. He found himself wondering what it would be like to be in a relationship with Skyler.

"Did you have to grill him?" JC asked Lance once they were back at the hotel and Skyler had gone home for the night.

"Josh, I'm trying to figure him out," said Lance. "You don't even know if he's gay. I'm sure he's not, but that's beside the point. If you keep this up, he'll know that you are. We need to keep that a secret. This could kill our career, and I'm sorry if you think that I'm being too nosey or whatever. I just want to keep us from being shot down."

"But you didn't have to ask so many personal questions," JC fired back. "He had to have thought that he was in an inquisition or something."

"What I learned about him makes me want to know more, Josh," Lance said patiently. "I know how you're feeling about him, but you have to understand that the rest of us don't know him nearly as well as you and Justin do."

"Josh seems to know him better than I do," Justin interjected. "He spends more time with him than I do. Skyler invited him over this morning, not me."

"But you're the one who introduced us to Skyler Thomas in the first place, Curly," reminded Lance.

"Well, what did the third degree do for you?" asked Justin. "What do you think of him now?"

"Until tonight, I knew that he was gaining more success than anyone has ever known by this time in their career, he hangs around with very powerful people in this industry, and he's more talented than just about anyone else in this industry. I wanted to know more about who he is instead of what he is," said Lance.

"And?" demanded JC.

"We need to talk to people that know him," said Lance thoughtfully. "I want to know what he thinks of gay people."

"He lived with that guy, Zack," said Justin. "He even put his name on a foundation for a boy that was murdered for being gay. Doesn't that tell you anything?"

"It tells me that he's a good person, Justin," Lance said, and it was clear that he was tiring of his friend's questions. He was only looking out for JC, and he thought that the others would support him on it. Instead, Justin, JC and Joey were acting as if they were angry with him for caring at all.

* * *

"I told you I'd call," Skyler said to Kevin on the phone.

"I didn't think you'd get in so early," replied Kevin. "I was expecting to talk to you in the morning."

"Well, you said you wanted to talk about something," said Skyler. "I have something to talk to you about, too."

"When would you like to get together for this talk?" asked Kevin.

"I'm free right now," replied Skyler. "The sooner the better."

"Would you come over here?"

"I'll be there as soon as I can," Skyler said before hanging up the phone.

In the cab, all he could think about was how to tell Kevin that it was over. He wasn't sure if what Kevin wanted to talk about was his sexuality or anything. He just didn't know what to expect from him. He'd told Skyler that he loved him over and over again, and on one level, Skyler never believed him. He believed that Kevin was in love with the idea of being in love. That was completely different from actually being in love.

He thought about their first night together and Kevin's very first profession of love. He believed that Kevin truly believed that he was in love, but he didn't believe that he was really in love. He supposed they'd both lied to themselves and each other. Skyler had never said that he loved Kevin, but he was sure that Kevin thought he was in love with him. Skyler never really felt anything more than a very close friendship with Kevin. Having sex with him was wonderful, but that wasn't love.

On the elevator, on his way to Kevin's floor, he rehearsed what he was going to say. He wondered if he should let Kevin go first. Maybe Kevin would tell him that he couldn't be in this relationship anymore, and then he would have to say anything at all. He knew that was a cop out, but it was actually possible that Kevin had decided that he couldn't deal with being with a man.

Kevin was expecting him, so there was no trouble once he stepped off the elevator. No one said anything to him as he made his way down the hall toward Kevin's room. He was still going over how to tell him that it was over when he knocked on the door. He hoped that there wasn't going to be a big scene. He couldn't imagine Kevin throwing a fit, but he didn't really know what to expect. He'd never broken up with anyone in his life.

"Come on in," said Kevin as he opened the door and stepped aside.

"How long are you going to be in town?" asked Skyler as he walked into the room.

"A few days," replied Kevin as he walked to the couch and sat down, motioning for Skyler to join him. "I'm expecting Cassie and Chad's gifts tomorrow, so I'll have them for the party."

"You didn't have to buy them anything, Kevin," Skyler said quickly, not knowing what else to say.

"Oh, they aren't from me," Kevin said slowly. "Mine are already wrapped and ready. These are from the guys."

"Even Brian?" asked Skyler, cocking an eyebrow.

"Yeah," Kevin said, looking away slightly as he said it. "Look . . ."

"I don't care that he bought gifts for my brother and sister, Kevin," Skyler cut him off. "Just as long as he doesn't plan to attend the party."

"He isn't coming," mumbled Kevin. "I really needed to talk to you, Sky."

"All right," said Skyler, mentally bracing himself for what Kevin was going to say.

"This isn't easy for me," said Kevin, looking away again.

Skyler was sure that his first thought was correct. Kevin was going to break things off. Instead of being relieved, he found himself feeling a bit sad. He wasn't sad that the relationship was ending. He just felt sorry for Kevin. He didn't know what he was thinking, but Skyler had been sure that this would happen eventually. It was no shock.

"Just come right out and say what you need to say, Kev," he said softly.

"I really do care about you, Skyler," Kevin claimed.

"But you can't handle this, right?" Skyler finished for him.

"It isn't what you think," Kevin said quickly. "I haven't been cheating on you, Sky."

"I never thought you were," admitted Skyler. "I saw this coming, Kevin. I knew that you would have problems with this."

"You don't hate me, do you?" he asked.

"No," replied Skyler honestly. "I'm happy that you told me face to face, and I understand how you feel in a way. To be completely honest with you, I was coming here to end things myself."

"You were?" Kevin seemed genuinely shocked to hear those words.

"Kevin, do you think I couldn't feel the difference the last few times we talked?" Skyler asked. "I mean, you weren't exactly distant, but you weren't all the way there, either."

"I never meant . . ."

"Kevin, I'm not angry or hurt by this," Skyler interrupted again. "I don't know if its possible, but I want to at least salvage our friendship. I like having you in my life, but I know that things can't go on the way they were."

"You're worried that we'll hate each other after this?" asked Kevin, looking shocked again. "Sky, I could never hate you. You are one of the most important people in the world to me."

"Things may get strange between us after this, Kevin," warned Skyler. "Don't promise to never hate me. You don't know what will happen in the future. I can't promise that I won't be the one who gets strange after this, either. Let's just agree to try to remain friends."

"Absolutely," said Kevin with a nod of his head.

They talked about how they would go about keeping that friendship alive, and Kevin still seemed to be sure that Skyler would hold some resentment for him because of the break up. Skyler didn't know what to say to make him understand that he was fine with things, so he just stopped trying to tell him so. There was no point when he wasn't sure exactly how he felt about it to begin with.

By the time Skyler left, it was nearly two in the morning. He had a long day ahead of him with rehearsals and getting ready for the show. There were also a lot of details for the party to be worked out still, and he still had to talk to Laura about the movie. He wanted to make sure that she was flexible with the studio. This was a part that he wanted more than any other. He had to make her understand that.

The twins were both sleeping when he walked into the apartment. He was so tired that he didn't bother to undress for bed. He just fell across his bed and let sleep take him with thoughts of the movie in his mind. He hoped that Laura would just agree to what the studio offered.

* * *

"You were worried about nothing," Laura told him when she came to the apartment for breakfast. "I sat down with the studio executives last night while you were having dinner."

"Did you agree to their offer?" he asked quickly. He so hoped that everything went well. She'd said that he had nothing to worry about, but that didn't mean that everything would be easy.

"No, they agreed to our asking price." She beamed a smile at him as his eyes got wide. "That's right, Sky. They're paying you two million for this movie, and you got the role of Rand."

"Oh my God!" he cried, standing up so fast that he nearly knocked his chair over. "I can't believe it."

"Well, believe it," she laughed. "Filming starts in September."

"Where are they filming? I didn't even know that Renny was that ready," he gasped.

"They're filming most of the movie in Sydney," she said. "Some scenes will be filmed in L.A. Renny told me that they'll be using a lot of computer animation for this movie. Some of that can be done on the set in Sydney, but a few things need to be done in L.A."

"This is unreal," he laughed. "I can't believe it."

"Well, you'll believe it more after one o'clock," she said seriously. "We're meeting with the studio to sign your contract."

"Wow," he said, smiling still.

"And I have even more good news for you," she said. "I checked this morning. Anger is at number one today, and you have two top ten singles."

"This is a good day!" he laughed. "Have you talked to Clay?"

"We're having lunch this afternoon," she replied. "You'll already be going to the studio after you sign the contract, yes?"

"I don't think so," he said. "We don't have studio time booked today."

"I thought Clay said that you had rehearsals all day today," she said, reaching into her bag to find her appointment book. Laura had an appointment book for each of her clients.

"I can call down there, but I don't think I have studio time today," he said.

"You really need to carry one of these," she said as she pulled out the appointment book.

"I have a day planner, but I never remember to write things down in it," he replied with a smirk. "What I need is an assistant."

"That's a great idea," she said. "An assistant would always be able to tell you where you were supposed to be at any given time."

"Well, maybe I'll hire one," he said seriously.

An assistant wouldn't be a bad idea. He was usually forgetting something that he was supposed to remember, and he really was bad about writing things in his day planner. Having an assistant would eliminate the need for writing in the day planner, and he'd stop forgetting things. Of course, the assistant would have to sign the confidentiality contract.

Clay and Laura had come up with the contract for anyone connected to Skyler's professional career right after Clay signed on as Skyler's manager. It basically said that no one could discuss anything about Skyler with the press or any other form of news media. Skyler hadn't thought it was necessary at first, but when so many people that worked for him started to find out that he was gay, he was happy that they'd all signed the agreement.

"Ok," she sighed. "It doesn't seem that you booked any time today, but you have the studio for most of tomorrow morning, and the show is tomorrow night."

"Right," he replied. "We have the studio from six to two."

"So, now you know about the movie," she said, fixing him with a pointed look. "What time is your family arriving?"

"Oh, Dad called a little while ago," he said. "They won't be here until the day of the party now. Something is happening there that he has to be there for."

"They are going to make it, right?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied. "Dad said that he confirmed the flight reservations before he called me to tell me about the change of plans."

"Why don't we talk about the tour now?" she asked, sipping her coffee.

"When did you suddenly become Clay?" he laughed.

"Skyler, I'm serious," she said. "Chad is begging Clay to let him tour, and you keep dragging your feet. You say you want to tour with him, but you aren't willing to tour until after filming is over. Now you're about to be absolutely contractually bound not to tour until after filming, so what are we supposed to tell Chad?"

"I said that when I could sit down with all three of you, we'd talk about it, Laura," said Skyler a little more forcefully than he intended. "If Chad can't wait to tour then let him go. I won't stop him. If Clay doesn't want to wait, then Clay can send him on tour. I'm not going to be forced to tour until I'm ready. I told you that I want a world tour, and I want to tour with my brother."

"Calm down," she said quickly as soon as he stopped talking. "I'm not trying to force you into anything. Its just that Clay is running out of ways to hold Chad off."

"Send him on a small promotional tour," said Skyler. "I did one for 'Dizzy', he can do one for his album, and it will leave him open for a tour later."

"Won't you be wanting to take the twins to Australia with you?" she asked. "You'll be over there for at least three months, if not more."

"I will give them the option of coming with me or staying in the states with Dad," he said, shocking even himself. He hadn't even thought about that in reality.

"I see," she said. "Will your father allow Chad to go on . . ."

"My father won't have a choice but to allow Chad to promote his work, Laura," said Skyler. "I've already signed all of the contracts, and with me being his legal guardian, that makes it all binding."

"Your hackles are up," she said quietly. "You've been raising your voice with almost every word. Something is wrong here, and I want to know what it is, Sky."

He thought about that for a moment, but he didn't know what to tell her. She was right about one thing, though. He was angry. He didn't know if it was just that she had seemed to be trying to force his hand, or what it was. He suspected that the former had nothing to do with his mood, though. He'd been working an awful lot lately, and he really needed a break. That thought had occurred to him several times over the past few days. Maybe that was what was going on.

There was no hope for a break any time soon, though. If he was going to film the movie, he'd have to report to work in a little less than a month. Filming would last for at least three months, and he was sure he'd have to write a song for the soundtrack as well. That would mean another video, and he would definitely have to perform the song at least six times before the movie premiered.

Then there was the ballads album that he was determined to do as soon as he could write enough material for it. He'd booked himself pretty tight, and eventually, with or without Chad, he'd have to tour again. He'd already said that he wanted a world tour this time around, and he still did. It would mean more shows and a lot more work. The ideas he had for what he wanted his show to be like would mean a lot more dance rehearsals than last time with even more difficult moves to learn.

"I don't know what's wrong," he replied almost completely honestly. "I'm just getting a little itchy lately. I want to film the movie, and I want to tour. I guess I kind of feel torn about it, and its bothering me."

"Chad will probably be happy with a promotional tour," she said soothingly. "You don't have to get upset about wanting to film this movie. Sky, this could possibly be the best move you've ever made in your career. I'm telling you that this movie is the big one."

"I understand that," he sighed, running his fingers through is hair. "Maybe that's the problem. Its a very daunting role."

"So you think its nerves talking?" she asked, softening her eyes even more. "If that's all that's wrong here, then I guess we'll all have to put up with a little biting from you until the filming begins."

"I'm sorry for snapping at you, Laura," he said honestly. "I know that none of this is your fault."

"Forgiven," she said, smiling.

They were quiet as Laura looked through her date book, and Skyler picked up the pencil that rolled out of her case and started doodling on the message paper that was sitting on the table. The message was that JC had called three times the night before. Skyler smiled when he saw that. He was still wondering what was up with the third degree that Lance Bass had put him through at dinner the night before, and he supposed that JC was calling to try and explain. He'd call him after Laura left.

Laura's phone began to chirp, and she smiled at Skyler after she saw who was calling. He sat quietly, doodling, while she talked to Renny Harlin on the telephone. Her side of the conversation was filled with "No" and "Yes" here and there, and then finally: "Certainly. We can do that." Skyler was ready to come unglued by the time she clamped her phone shut and grinned at him.

"What?" he asked, returning her smile if only on the surface. He was more agitated than ever.

"Well, after I have lunch with Clay and talk to him about Chad's promotional tour," she said with a pause, "how would you like to sign a contract for the movie?"

"Today?" he asked, mentally scanning his mind for what he had planned for the day.

"Unless you have something that I don't know about going on," she said.

"No," he laughed. "I'll sign the contract today."

* * *

"So, you've just done 'Saturday Night Live', you've signed a multi-million dollar contract, your current movie is at number one, you have two top ten hits, and you're snapping at everyone?" asked Madonna on the phone two hours after Skyler had made it home from the studio Saturday night.

"I'm just edgy," he replied with a sigh. "I don't know what my problem is."

"Well, you'd better figure out what it is and solve it soon, Sky," she said seriously. "Renny Harlan won't put up with any antics."

"I know that," he said, making sure to keep his voice light and without a hard edge. "I think once I start filming, I'll be better."

"Are you sure that this has nothing to do with Kevin Richardson?" she asked, stunning him.

"What are you talking about?" he asked quickly. He'd thought that he and Kevin had been completely careful in hiding their relationship. He didn't think it would matter much if she knew about it, especially now that it was officially over, but if she knew, then who else knew?

"I think you're heading for a heart break," she said. "Kevin is straight, Skyler, and I think you're getting too attached to him."

Skyler laughed out loud over that remark. How wrong she was, he thought. He couldn't believe she thought that he was falling in love with Kevin. He'd actually tried to fall in love with the guy, but there just wasn't any way he could. Now she thought that he was going to get his heart broken over it. The idea was just too funny.

"What are you laughing at?" she demanded.

"You," he replied once his laughter subsided. "I'm not in love with Kevin Richardson. I'm not even overly attached to the guy."

"Well, you could have fooled me by the way you are always talking to him on the phone," she said. "This is just the way that things started with his cousin."

"Kevin and Brian are the last men on earth that I'd fall in love with," he replied. "Trust me, I'm not falling for Kevin."

"I'm glad to hear that, but you have to figure out what's going on with you, Sky," she said. "Cassie called me this morning to tell me that you're being an ass. If she feels it, just imagine what Chad is feeling."

That got to him. Chad was the quiet one of the twins, and if Cassie was already talking about his attitude, then Chad was at least thinking about it. Skyler hated to think that he was upsetting either of them. In truth, he knew exactly what was wrong with him. Madonna had been right about him heading for a heart break, but she'd had the wrong guy in mind.

After spending the last few days with JC Chasez, Skyler was falling for him. There was no denying it now. He couldn't wait to talk to him on the phone, and the only time he was truly his old self was when they were actually together. He had to get a grip on it, but he didn't know how. He'd felt something strong for Brian, and he'd tried to feel something more than friendship and lust for Kevin, but this was completely different. He thought he was falling in love with JC.

"We can talk about this at the party," he sighed, deciding to tell her exactly what was wrong with him. He thought about her birthday as soon as he mentioned the twins' birthday, though. "Speaking of parties, its after midnight. Happy birthday, M."

"Thanks, Toy," she said with a laugh. That was now her nickname for him. "Try to be nice to everyone until we talk, ok?"

"Sure thing," he replied.

* * *

"No one will talk," sighed Lance as he slammed the phone down in frustration. Everyone on the Skyler Thomas front would tell him nothing that was useful. He got the same things from each of the people he'd talked to, and Brian Krause had been out right rude to him.

"Are you still playing the snoop?" asked Joey. "I thought you promised Josh that you would just let it go."

"I did," Lance sighed again. "Joey, I can't help it. I want to protect him, but no one will tell me anything about Skyler that I don't already know."

"Maybe there isn't anything to know about him, Scoop. Did you think of that?" asked Joey. "I mean, I'm sure that if he hated gay people, someone would say something, right?"

"Well, I don't come right out and ask them if he likes gay people, Joe," said Lance impatiently.

"You're going to just have to let Josh deal with this on his own," advised Joey. "If you meddle too much, you'll piss him off, or you'll scare Skyler."

"Scare him?"

"Yes, scare him," repeated Joey. "Did you ever think that the people you've been asking about him will tell him that you're asking a bunch of questions? What's he going to think about that when he finds out?"

"I hadn't thought about that," Lance sighed for the third time. "I guess you're right."

"Right about what?" asked JC as he and Justin came into hotel suite. They were both carrying bags, and Lance sighed again as he thought about the money that Justin was spending on the twins.

"Right about backing off and letting you handle Skyler Thomas," Joey blurted. Lance gave him a dirty look.

"I thought you were going to drop this, Lance," JC said forcefully. "You promised me."

"I know," replied Lance. "I'm just worried about you."

"I appreciate that you worry, Lance, but enough is enough," JC breathed as he sat down beside Joey, pushing bags off of the sofa to make room.

"Are you going to help him set up the party this afternoon?" asked Justin as he sat down beside Lance across from JC and Joey.

"He said he'd call me when he was ready to head over there," replied JC. "I don't want anyone answering the phone." He eyed Lance hard.

"I'll leave him alone," Lance said quickly, raising his hands in front of him.

"Are you sure that you want to tell him how you feel tonight?" asked Joey. He'd been worried about what could happen if JC told Skyler that he was gay since JC had announced that he was going to tell him over breakfast that morning. He didn't want his friend to get hurt, and he didn't want anyone to find out that JC or Lance were gay. Lance was right about it ruining the group's success, but Joey was more concerned with his friend's feelings.

"I have to tell him, Joe," sighed JC. "Its driving me nuts. We leave in two days, and if I leave without telling him how I feel, then I'll never stop thinking about what could have happened if I did tell him."

"Look, all we're asking is that you think about it," Lance said quickly as Joey gave him a hard look.

"Scoop, I've thought about it long enough," replied JC evenly. "Like I said, it will eat at me if I don't tell him. I promise you that everything will be all right. I mean, if he hated gay people, he wouldn't have let Zack stay with him, would he?"

"You don't know what his relationship with Zack was," said Lance. "Even if he isn't gay, that doesn't mean that he even knew about Zack's sexual preference."

"Oh, come on," sighed JC, slumping down on the couch. "You can't expect me to believe that he didn't know about Zack. Skyler doesn't strike me as a stupid person, Lance. I've heard from enough people that have actually met Zack and seen him with Skyler to know that Skyler knew that Zack was gay. The fact that he let him live with him proves that he either doesn't have a problem with it, or he's gay himself."

"You may as well save your breath, Lance," warned Joey. "He's going to tell him no matter what you have to say about it."

"You can all stop worrying about it," said Chris as he came into the room. "Skyler is probably gay."

"And how do you know that?" demanded JC as Chris took a seat on the couch across from him.

"Well, let's just say that something was definitely going on between him and Brian Littrell," replied Chris, turning to Joey. "You were right, Joe. I talked to Howie, and he wouldn't exactly say that they were lovers, but he wouldn't deny it, either. When I asked him why they aren't ever around each other anymore, all he would say is that it was Brian's fault."

"Wow," laughed Justin. "He really is gay."

"Stop that," ordered Joey sternly. "That doesn't mean that he's gay."

"Well what do you think it means?" demanded Justin. "We all know very well that Brian's bi, right. So what could Howie have meant?"

"Will all of you stop it?" asked JC just before the phone chirped at them.

They were all silent as they looked at the telephone. Each of them were hoping that JC didn't just blurt his feelings out over the telephone. JC was just nervous about actually talking to Skyler after they'd all been sitting there talking about him. He was going to tell Skyler about his feelings that day no matter what anyone had to say about it.

* * *

"So things seemed pretty intense up there," said Skyler as he and JC walked out of the hotel a few minutes later.

"Yeah, the guys are all trying to figure you out," replied JC. He wasn't quite ready to tell him what they were discussing before he called up to be permitted on the floor.

"Did what was going on up there have anything to do with why Lance and Chris have been asking so many strange questions about me to practically everyone who knows me?" asked Skyler as they climbed into his rented SUV.

"What?" JC faltered. He stopped as he was about to get into the automobile and blinked at Skyler.

"Yeah," laughed Skyler. "Just about everyone I know has told me that they've heard from one of them. Even Justin's been doing a little digging. I don't know what they're after, but if the press ain't got it, they won't find it, either."

"Sorry about that," said JC as he tried to recover from embarrassment and shock. He climbed inside the SUV and buckled his seatbelt as soon as the door was shut. Skyler was still looking at him, though, so he knew that there was more he had to say to explain what was going on. "They're looking out for me, I guess."

"Looking out for you?"

"Well, they think I'm getting a little too close to you, and they just want to make sure that you won't get me into trouble with the press or anything," he said, inwardly squirming over his words. This wasn't the way he'd wanted to come out to Skyler.

"Trouble with the press?" asked Skyler. "Are you trying to tell me something about yourself?"

Skyler was already sure what was going on was about JC's sexuality. That was the only thing that made sense. Why else would they be asking questions about Zack. That meant that JC was gay, and Skyler was safe in his decision to come out to him. He wasn't angry about what the others were doing, but it was a little annoying. The first two calls he'd received had been kind of funny. However, when the phone continued to stay busy all day long with friends telling him that an inquisition was afoot, it got down right intrusive.

JC wasn't sure if this was the right time to tell Skyler the truth or not. For one thing, his stomach was ready to expel his recently eaten lunch, and his knees were shaking so badly that he was sure that all Skyler had to do was look over at him to see it for himself. He was more nervous than he'd been before his first time singing in front of an audience. This was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to overcome in his life. He didn't know what Skyler would think, but he was sure that it wouldn't go badly.

The part that wouldn't go the wrong way was coming out to Skyler. He'd let Zack live with him, for one thing. That said a lot about his attitude about homosexuality. JC was sure that Skyler would have no problem with it when he found that part out. It was the other thing that made his insides squirm with nervous fidgits.

Skyler could sense that JC was nervous, and he was shocked to discover that he wasn't nervous himself. He'd been stressing over his decision to come out to JC for a while. It was the biggest reason that he was snapping at people. After the phone calls, and JC's almost coming out to him completely, his nerves had settled down. He knew that it might be something else that JC was talking about, but he was sure that it was his sexuality. He knew that they needed to have this conversation soon, and they didn't need to have it in the car.

At The Viper Room, they were the first to arrive. Brian Krause and Kristy were supposed to help them set everything up, but they were both working, so they wouldn't be there for at least another hour. Skyler decided that was actually a good thing. It meant that they could talk in privacy as long as they stayed away from the bartender that was stationed at the bar to serve them as they set up the party. JC had been silent since Skyler had almost come right out and asked him if he was gay. He didn't like the way that was left, and he felt like an ass for questioning him that way.

"All right," he said once the bartender had gone back behind the bar and left them alone in their corner of the club, "it's time that you and I had a talk, JC."

The next chapter will be posted soon.