© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 27

The Crystal Room was almost completely packed as Skyler and Brent walked in. They were greeted by a host who told them that their party was waiting in the private dining room. Skyler breathed a sigh of relief as they were shown to a large room at the back of the main dining room. Several people looked at him, but he knew that no one would be so bold as to try and get his autograph or picture in this restaurant. Several other celebrities were already seated in the main dining room, and The Crystal Room catered to the stars mostly. He was just glad that he didn't have to have his first dinner with *Nsync in the main dining room. He'd been a little worried about it when Lance had told him to meet them there on the phone earlier.

The five members of *Nsync were already seated at the large round table when Skyler and Brent walked into the room. Skyler saw three other men sitting at a smaller table just inside the door, and Brent smiled at him before joining them. Skyler and JC smiled at each other as Skyler walked over and took his seat beside JC. The other members of the group all quieted as Skyler sat down. When he looked at them, he noticed that they were all looking at him.

"Its nice to see you again, Skyler," said Lance after an awkward moment of silence.

"Its nice to see you, too, Lance," he replied with a nervous smile. "I have to say that I didn't expect to be in a fish bowl, though."

The others chuckled at that, and they all looked back down at their menus, making Skyler sigh with relief. He didn't know what to expect from them, but he was sure that if they started firing questions at him, he'd leave the restaurant no matter what JC thought about it. He wanted to friendly with these guys, but he wasn't going to be made to feel uncomfortable every time he met them.

"Josh tells us that you're going to London at the end of the month to shoot a video," said Lance, breaking the silence.

"I leave the twenty-ninth," he replied. "You guys will be here until then?"

"Unless something strange happens," replied Lance. "We never know what's going to happen from day to day when we force down time."

"We aren't winning any points with management, that's for sure," said Chris, almost glaring at Skyler.

Skyler got the feeling that Chris didn't exactly like him for some reason. He suspected that it was more than the "forced down time" that Lance talked about, though. He made a mental note to be careful around Chris in the future. He didn't know about the rest of them. Lance had seemed completely friendly each time he'd met him, and he hoped he remained that way.

"Well, I'm not sure about your management," he said slowly, "but Josh assured me that there was no problem with rescheduling a few things."

"There isn't a problem," assured Lance before shooting a hard look at Chris. "We always get a hard time from management. Don't worry about it. Josh isn't the only reason we've forced them to let us have a break. We're all a little tired."

"I can certainly understand that," said Skyler with a genuine smile. It made him feel much better about the reasons behind their down time. He still hadn't been comfortable with the thought that JC had pulled strings to keep them all in New York just to spend time with him. This sounded better.

"So when do you start filming?" asked Joey from across the table.

"I don't know exactly," admitted Skyler. "Renny is still finalizing all of the details. All I know is that filming is set to begin next month some time."

"I'm reading the book," said Lance. "Very good stuff. How much of it actually made it to the script?"

"Well, so far, I've only read half of the script," replied Skyler. "Renny is trying to keep the script off the net, so none of us have the entire script yet. I'm sure we will once we're in Australia."

"There's been a lot of stuff on television about the movie," said Joey. "I hear that Shannon Doherty will be in it."

"So far I know that Shannon, Toby McGuire and Neve Campbell will be in the movie," said Skyler. "I'm sure Renny has all of the characters cast, but I don't know who is playing all of them, yet. I don't even think the press knows so far."

"They're announcing the cast mates as they find out," Lance informed. "So far, we've only heard about Shannon, Toby and Neve. They're talking about Billy Zane a lot, though."

"Its going to be interesting to film this movie," admitted Skyler. "I'm very excited about it. This will be the biggest project I've ever been a part of."

"That's all cool, Skyler," said Joey, leaning forward, "but what do you do for fun? I mean, you can't work all of the time, right? You have to do fun things."

"Oh, I have my hands full most of the time," laughed Skyler. "I spend a lot of time with the twins on my down time, and now that my parents and younger brother are in New York, I'll be spending a lot of time with them as well."

"Well I hope that I get to spend some time with you and your family in all of that," laughed JC, taking Skyler's hand and squeezing it lightly.

"Me too," added Justin. "I love to hang out with the twins. I don't know Jason very well, but he seems cool."

"I'm sure that they'd love to hang out with you, Justin," replied Skyler. "All you have to do is call them. They'll include you in whatever they're doing. The twins like you a lot. Jason doesn't know you, but he is a big fan."

That seemed to break the ice with the rest of them. Lance and Joey talked to him about music and movies on and off, Justin continued to talk to him about shopping and hanging out, and JC reminded them all that he and Skyler would be spending at least some time alone together if he could help it. The only one who didn't say much of anything was Chris. Skyler got the impression that Chris just flat out didn't like him at all for some reason. He decided not to worry about it unless it became a problem later.

After dinner, Skyler and JC went to see a movie after calling the apartment to ask the twins if they wanted to hang out with Justin and Joey. Lance and Chris went back to their hotel room. Skyler decided not to even bring up his suspicions about Chris not liking him. JC hadn't said anything about it, so he didn't want to invite trouble. They had a great time at the movie, but their picture was taken several times that night. JC told him not to worry about it, though.

For the rest of the time that they were all in New York, Skyler hung out with each of them separately as much as he could while still spending a lot of time with JC. He included JC in his time spent with his family, and he was pleased with how great he got along with everyone. Ben and Tabitha thought JC was a great guy, and they only asked celebrity questions at the first dinner that JC had with Skyler's family.

He and JC began to grow closer over the eleven days that they spent nearly always in each other's company. Four days after having dinner with the group, JC spent the night in Skyler's apartment. They didn't make a big deal of it, but Skyler was still making sure that their relationship progressed slowly. That night they never made it past the heavy petting stage, but they did a fair amount of kissing.

By the time that Skyler was seeing *Nsync off at the airport, he and JC had done nothing more than kiss and touch each other. It was frustrating Skyler to no end, so he knew that JC had to be going nuts over it. He supposed that they could have sex when they saw each other next. They'd already talked about which sexual role they were both comfortable with, so that was out of the way. Skyler smiled as he was driven back to his apartment to finish packing for his trip to London.

Cassie would be flying with him this time, as this was probably the last trip she'd get to take before she had to get back to homework and tutors. He'd decided that he wouldn't force her into a school, because if he needed her to fly with him or something, it would be easier to just get her assignments from the tutor and go. Skyler had been doing very well with his own online tutor, and he would be entering into his last year of college very soon.

"What time do we land in London?" asked Cassie as they got out of the limo and headed for the plane. They'd been driven onto the tarmac, and they were taking a small jet to London. Skyler was actually thinking about buying one, but he supposed that it probably wasn't a great idea at that point.

"Two A.M. their time," he replied, yawning. He'd had very little sleep the last two days, and it was really starting to get to him. "We can sleep on the plane, Cass."

"Will we get to meet the royal family?" she asked as they climbed the steps to board the jet. "I would love to see Prince William."

"I'm sure you would," chuckled Skyler as they walked down the isle of seats and sat down near the front of the plane. "I don't know if we'll meet royalty or not."

Brent was seated a few seats behind them, and Skyler was happy to hear that he and Eric had decided to actually have a real relationship. Skyler had leased the apartment directly below him, and the two men were inhabiting it. He wanted them to be happy together, and he wasn't worried about how their relationship would affect his or Chad's security. He just wondered how absence would affect their relationship.

The flight was uneventful, and Skyler dozed on and off through it. When they landed in London, he was pleased to see that there was no group of fans waiting for him. He followed Brent off the plane and he and Cassie got into another limo that would take them directly to their hotel. He would call JC from there in the morning. He didn't want to call him before sleeping.

They didn't have to check in at the hotel, and Skyler didn't pay very much attention to what it looked like. He only had to stop at the desk to get the keys to his suite, and then they were on the elevator. There was a long comfortable looking bench at the back of the elevator, and Cassie went straight to it and sat down. Her eyes were only half open, and Skyler didn't want her to fall asleep again before they reached their floor. He thought about sitting beside her, but he knew that he'd fall asleep if he did.

The suite itself was more than comfortable. Skyler loved the blue plush sofas, and his first thought was to collapse onto one of them and sleep there. Cassie didn't comment on anything she saw. She only asked which room was hers, and then she disappeared behind her door. Skyler chuckled as he headed to his own room. The bed was huge, and he quickly lost himself in it and let sleep claim him.

"Well if it isn't sleeping beauty," said Madonna's voice seven hours later, waking Skyler up. "You'd better get showered and dressed, Toy. I want to take you shopping today."

"M, what are you doing here?" he asked as he rubbed sleep out of his eyes.

"I told you I would probably be in London when you got here," she reminded him. "I'm spending some time with Guy."

"You know, I still have yet to meet him," he replied, throwing his legs over the side of the bed and sitting up.

"Well, if you get showered and dressed, I'll rectify that," she laughed. "Now come on."

Twenty minutes later, Skyler was seated across the table on the terrace from Madonna and Guy Ritchie. Cassie was happily playing with Lourdes in the living room. Skyler looked at the man that had captured Madonna's heart and smiled. He was a good looking man with light brown hair and eyes. He smiled back at Skyler.

"He was oversleeping," said Madonna once Skyler was seated. She turned to Guy and said, "This is Skyler Thomas. Sky, this is Guy Ritchie."

"Its very nice to meet you, Skyler," said Guy, reaching across the table to shake Skyler's hand. "I've heard so much about you."

"Don't let what she tells you affect what you think of me," laughed Skyler. "I really am a normal person."

"Easy," warned Madonna with a fake scowl on her face.

"Actually, she's told me nothing but good things about you," said Guy. "She talks about you all of the time, too."

"Well, if its any consolation to you, she talks about you all of the time when she's with me," laughed Skyler.

The three of them talked for nearly an hour as Skyler ate his breakfast. Madonna nibbled on a bagel while Guy asked Skyler about his career plans. By the time that Skyler was finished eating, Guy had promised to direct one of his videos and even asked if he'd think about doing another movie. Madonna had warned him that Guy was always thinking about his career, but Skyler found him charming.

An hour later, instead of shopping with Madonna, Skyler found himself scouring the stores of London with Guy. They talked about Renny Harlan and the movie. Skyler found Guy easy to talk to and very easy to get along with. They had similar tastes in music and film, but their taste in clothing was slightly different. However, Guy did convince Skyler to buy three new suits. They stopped for lunch at a small deli near the hotel.

"So tell me about your attack on Maverick," Guy said as they ate salads and ignored the looks from the other customers in the deli.

"My attack," laughed Skyler. "It was more like me throwing a fit and Madonna saving my ass."

"She's crazy about you, Skyler," he said seriously. "You know that, right?"

"I love her," replied Skyler. "You have no idea how much she's been there for me. Without her, I don't know where my brother and sister would be right now. She handled most of that herself, though she tries to deny it. She's an absolutely amazing woman."

"She is that," agreed Guy. "I'm quite taken with her myself."

"That's good to hear," replied Skyler with a grin. "She's kind of attached to you, too."

"Thank you for letting me know," chuckled Guy. "I just hope that I can keep her happy."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Skyler said slowly. "She's not the same woman she was five years ago. She changes so quickly, but I promise you that her wild and crazy days are behind her. Lourdes has definitely calmed her."

"I've noticed that," replied Guy. "Nonnie is a great little girl, and she always brings a smile to my face."

"Spending time with her almost makes me want to have children of my own," admitted Skyler. "I just don't think I'd be a great daddy, though."

"Don't sell yourself short, Skyler," advised Guy. "I don't know you at all, but from what I've seen of you and heard of you, I'd say you'd surprise yourself."

Skyler looked into Guy's soft eyes for a moment, wondering just what he knew about him. He knew that Madonna had probably told him that he was gay, but if she hadn't, maybe he should. He didn't know what to say though. He still wasn't comfortable about outing himself to anyone. Sitting in the deli with other people watching them both very closely, he was sure that this wasn't the place to let any private information about him come out of his mouth. He just smiled at him for a second and then started looking back down at his cup of coffee.

"It isn't as if I'll have much chance to have children anyway," he heard himself saying. "I'm never in one place for long, and even if I did have a child, I'd be on the road too much to really be a father."

"Well it isn't as if you have to worry about it right now," said Guy. "Just don't count yourself out. You never know what will happen in the future."

They left the deli and returned to the hotel. Madonna was waiting for them when the came into the suite. She was smiling at Guy, and he went right to her and wrapped his arms around her. Skyler watched them for a few seconds and thought about JC. He wished that he was there with him, but he understood that it wouldn't always be possible for them to spend every minute together.

"Kevin called while you were out," Madonna told him when they were all sitting in the living room. "He said to call him back."

"Thanks," replied Skyler. "I was wondering when he would call. Where's Cassie?"

"She's in her room with Lourdes," replied Madonna. "Go call Kevin."

Skyler excused himself to go to his room and make the call. Kevin asked him about dancers for the video, and Skyler assured him that David, Raz, Robert and Frank were already in London. They'd arrived that morning. Skyler had checked to make sure that they were checked into the hotel on his way out with Guy that morning.

Two hours later, Madonna and Guy accompanied Skyler to the set. They sat with Brent to watch as Skyler and his dancers danced for the camera. She laughed when she saw the scowl on Skyler's face when they told him he had to lip-sync for the video. She told Guy that Skyler hated to lip-sync. Guy was laughing by the time she told him that Skyler had made them get a band and redo his first video so that he didn't have to lip-sync.

It was late by the time they returned to the hotel. They video was shot, and Skyler seemed at least mostly happy with the end result. The dancers would be flying back to New York the next morning, and Skyler and Cassie would fly back the day after. The next day was a free day for Skyler Thomas, and Madonna intended to spend it with him.

"Hey sexy man," JC's voice said over the telephone before Skyler went to bed for the night. "I was wondering when you'd call."

"I spent the day with Guy Ritchie," said Skyler. "Then there was the shoot. I'm finished, by the way. How's your gig?"

"Boring, actually," admitted JC. "We've been sitting here in the hotel for hours. There's some kind of argument going on over tickets or something. I don't really know what its about."

"Sounds tricky," sighed Skyler. He had no idea what it was like to have to endure things like that. Clay and Laura paved the way for him really well when he was out and about.

"There's been a lot of talk about you since we got here," said JC. "Joey and Justin are giving Chris a hard time for the way he gave you the silent treatment in New York."

"Tell them to lay off," Skyler said, smiling. He liked the idea that Joey and Justin cared enough, but Chris had his reasons for not liking him even if he didn't want to share them. "I miss you."

"I miss you like crazy, Sky," breathed JC. "When do you get back?"

"I'm flying out the day after tomorrow," he replied. "I have an interview or something on the second, and we'll see each other in LA."

"Damned right we will," laughed JC. "I'm crossing off days on my calendar."

"I can't wait to see you," sighed Skyler. "I know we haven't been away from each other for very long, but it was hard not seeing you every day."

"I know what you mean," said JC. "Lance and Joey have been teasing me about it since we left New York."

"Well, they'd better stop that," laughed Skyler. "I'll let them have it in LA."

"Have you ever seen the Gibson?" JC asked.

"I performed there," replied Skyler. "It just said Universal on my tour schedule for some reason. I guess Barry didn't have his information correct when he booked the tour."

"Did you hear that Utopia left Graham Management?" JC asked. "It was all over MTV this morning. They're looking for management."

"I hadn't heard," replied Skyler. "I wonder who they're talking to."

"No clue," admitted JC. "We'd never even heard of them until they went on tour with you."

"Yeah, Barry didn't do a great job managing them," Skyler sighed. "Once he got me signed, he pretty much left everyone else in the cold."

"Yeah, but you said that he tried to control you too much, right?" JC asked.

"It was more like parent me," corrected Skyler. "I don't want to talk about Barry Graham. I want to talk about you."

"Oh really?" chuckled JC. "What about me?"

"Just that I'm trying to figure out how to spend time with you while I'm in Australia," replied Skyler. "I want to be able to see you while I'm filming."

"Oh, I'm taking care of that," breathed JC. "We're going to be in Sydney for a while, so you and I will be able to spend some time together. We're booking things over there already."

"That's great," Skyler said with more enthusiasm than he'd felt all day long. "I was worried that I'd be stuck there, and you'd be stuck somewhere else the whole time."

"Easy, Fame Grabber," chuckled JC. "When there's a will, there's always a way."

The next evening, Skyler and Cassie had a private dinner with Madonna and Guy in the back dining room of a restaurant in London. The food was awesome, and they talked about Skyler's plans for the time remaining before shooting began in Australia. Skyler told them about a few projects he wanted to work on, and Madonna offered to help.

"I want my own label," he said, watching to see what her reaction would be. "I know I don't have a lot of experience under my belt, but I really want my own label. There's more to it, but I haven't thought it all out yet."

"You want your own label, but do you want it connected to Maverick?" Madonna asked carefully.

"Well, it would have to be," he said. "I know I'd have to renegotiate my contract, but if I get Laura and Clay on board, maybe I can pull it off."

"Just put together a business plan and decide exactly what you want," said Madonna. "When you've got that, let me know. I'll go over it with you, and if your wants aren't too out of the ordinary I'll even back you on it."

The next chapter will be posted soon.