© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
"The nominees for Video of the Year are," Skyler said, smiling at the audience.
"Will Smith with Gettin' Jiggy Wit It," said Brandy from beside him.
"Brandy and Monica with The Boy Is Mine," he said, smiling at Brandy.
"The Verve with Bitter Sweet Symphony," Brandy said to the audience.
"Madonna with Ray Of Light," he said, beaming a smile at Madonna in the third row.
"Puff Daddy and The Family with Its All About The Benjamins the 'rock remix'," said Brandy.
"And the winner is," he said, carefully opening the envelope and reading the name, "Madonna, Ray Of Light."
The spotlight shown on Madonna as she hugged Guy and stood up to make her way down the isle of seats. She smiled up at Skyler when she got out of the row of seats. His eyes followed her as she climbed the steps to the stage. They grinned at each other as he handed her the envelope. Brandy gave her the MoonMan, and then she swatted Skyler on the butt.
"Get moving, Toy," she said loud enough for the microphone to amplify it. "You've got a performance to get ready for."
"Yes, Ma'am," he said just as loud before kissing her cheek while cameras flashed and the audience laughed.
He walked off the stage and into the production area where Laura was waiting for him. She beamed a smile at him when she saw him and then shook her head. He smiled back, but his heart wasn't in it. Not far from where she was standing stood Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson, two men he really didn't want to see that night.
"That little stunt will be in every magazine in the country by morning," she laughed when he got close enough to her to hear her.
"England as well," he laughed. "I need to get ready."
"Follow me," she said, leading him away from where two sets of Backstreet eyes were watching his every move. "Chad's already getting ready for his performance."
"I bet he's excited," said Skyler as they stepped in front of a door with his name on it.
"He nearly vibrated into his dressing room," she laughed. "He'll perform, then they'll go to commercial break."
"How many awards before my performance?" Skyler asked as he opened his dressing room door.
"Three," she said. "Best Female Video, Group and Rap."
"Then another commercial break?"
"That's right," she said. "Get going. You have a little time, but not much."
* * *
He stepped onto the platform and held the microphone in his hand. They were supposed to leave a chair for him before he got out there. He only hoped that it was there. Seeing Brian and Kevin had shook him a bit. He'd known that they would be there, but he'd stupidly hoped not to have to look at either of them. Kevin wasn't so bad, but he was still very angry with Brian. He just hoped that neither of them decided to try and talk to him.
He had no more time to think about that. He was announced, and the platform began to turn. The crowd was cheering as the platform turned enough for him to see them all. He walked over to the chair that they'd sat out for him as the music began. Brian and Kevin were just returning to their seats as Skyler sat down and lifted the microphone.
"I've had enough of danger and people on the streets," he sang not looking at Brian or Kevin. "I'm looking out for angels, just trying to find some peace. Now I think its time that you let me know. So if you love me, say you love me. But if you don't, just let me go.
"'Cos teacher, there are things that I don't want to learn, and the last one I had made me cry. So I don't want to learn to hold you, touch you, think that you're mine. Because it ain't no joy for an uptown boy whose teacher has told him goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye," he sang and the crowd cheered.
"When you were just a stranger, and I was at your feet, I didn't feel the danger. Now I feel the heat. That look in your eyes, telling me no. So you think you love me, know that you need me. I wrote this song, I know its wrong. Just let me go.
"And teacher, there are things that I don't want to learn. Oh the last one I had made me cry. So I don't want to learn to hold you, touch you, think that your mine. Because it ain't no joy for an uptown boy whose teacher has taught him goodbye," he sang letting his head fall back as the music played on and the crowd cheered again.
"So when you say that you need me, that you'll never leave me, I know you're wrong. You're not that strong. Let me go," he sang and finally let his eyes rest on Brian for just a second. He saw that Brian was looking back at him, so he moved his eyes away from him again.
"And teacher, there are things that I still have to learn. But the one thing I have is my pride. Oh so I don't want to hold you, touch you, think that you're mine. Because there ain't no joy for an uptown boy who just isn't willing to try. I'm so cold inside. Maybe just one more try. Maybe just one more try," he sang as the music stopped and the crowd cheered again.
He got up, bowed, and then walked off the stage. He rushed back to his dressing room to change, finding both Laura and Chad waiting there for him. Chad was nearly jumping up and down. He was so excited about his performance, and Skyler couldn't help being excited right along with him. Chad was nominated for an award that night, and Skyler hoped he won.
"You sounded great, Sky," said Chad as Skyler opened the door to his dressing room.
"I didn't get to hear you," replied Skyler, taking off his white jacket and putting on his black one. "These rooms are really soundproof."
"I know," laughed Chad. "I didn't hear you announce, either."
"Madonna got the award," Skyler informed.
"I know," laughed Chad. "Laura told me you two were bad."
"We were," chuckled Skyler. "But it was fun."
As soon as he was changed, they headed back to their seats in the audience. Skyler noticed that all of *Nsync was now seated in their row. Skyler smiled at Justin as he passed him, but his eyes lingered on JC for an extra moment. If it hadn't been for the announcement that Monica and Brian Littrell were going to announce the nominees for Best Male Video, Skyler would have stood there and stared at JC forever.
"And the nominees for Best Male Video are," said Monica just as Skyler got back to his seat.
"Will Smith with Just The Two Of Us," said Brian Littrell, looking right into Skyler's eyes.
"Eric Clapton with My Father's Eyes," said Monica as the crowd cheered.
"David Bowie with I'm Afraid Of Americans," said Brian, still looking at Skyler.
"Skyler Thomas with Desert Rose," said Monica as the crowd cheered again.
"Brian McKnight with Anytime," said Brian without taking his eyes off of Skyler.
"And the winner is," said Monica with a huge smile as she opened the envelope and read the name, "Skyler Thomas with Desert Rose."
Skyler let out the breath he didn't even know he was holding as he stood up, hugging his brother and sister. He made his way down the row of seats, feeling JC's hand brush against his own as he passed him. On shaking legs, he mounted the steps to the stage and took the envelope from Monica before hugging her. He turned to Brian and accepted the statue. Brian looked as if he was about to hug him, too, but Skyler stuck out his hand. The two men shook hands while looking each other in the eye.
"Congratulations, Sky," said Brian as he let go of Skyler's hand. Skyler only nodded in reply before turning to the podium.
"Thank you!" he cried as Brian and Monica made their way off stage. "I'd like to thank Madonna for making my second album possible. Chris Cunningham put together an amazing video, so I'm eternally grateful to him. Thank all of you for screaming for me like you do." The crowd screamed again after he said that. "And I thank God for everything, most of all. Thank you!"
* * *
Two hours later, Skyler stood with JC, Laura, Madonna, Chad and Cassie in the ball room of the Regency Williams Hotel in Los Angeles. It was the first and only party that Skyler had agreed to attend after the awards, and several celebrities were there. The list included, to Skyler's discomfort, Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson. The rest of *Nsync was circulating throughout the room, and Brian Krause, Kristy and Gabrielle were also circulating. Mark, Shelly and Dianne were seated at a table.
"Seeing him is a problem for you, isn't it?" JC asked Skyler as he watched Brian walk across the dance floor.
"Not really," replied Skyler. "I just don't want to talk to him."
"What about me?" Kevin Richardson's voice said from behind Skyler, making him turn around quickly.
"Kevin," he said, trying to smile. "I was wondering if you were ever going to make your way over to talk to me."
"So I take it you're not avoiding me the same way you're avoiding Brian," said Kevin, looking from JC to Skyler and back.
"I would never avoid you, Kevin," said Skyler. "How are you?"
"I'm doing well, thank you," said Kevin, his face softened finally. "I hear you're headed for Sydney soon."
"The day after tomorrow," replied Skyler. "Shooting begins soon."
"Well, I'll let you get back to your friends," said Kevin. "Call me, Sky."
"I will," he replied, wondering if he ever really would.
All of them were silent as Kevin walked away. Skyler still wasn't sure how he felt about being Kevin's friend. Kevin had done nothing to hurt him, but it felt awkward to be around him now. He looked at JC and instantly smiled at the worried expression on his face. He inched closer to him and whispered in his ear that there was nothing for him to worry about. That got Madonna to clear her throat, and Skyler blushed when he thought of how intimate that had to look to the others at the party. It hadn't escaped his attention that the press was there at all, but he'd sort of forgot to think about them.
"Will you at least give me a hint about what you want to discuss with us tomorrow?" Laura asked him once they were seated at a table again. "Clay is worried, and to be honest, so am I."
"Its nothing to worry about, I assure you," Skyler said soothingly. "I just have a proposition for the two of you, and I won't tell you anything more until you're both sitting at my kitchen table tomorrow morning for breakfast."
"Fine," she sighed. Then she looked at Madonna. "I suspect you already know what he wants to talk to us about."
"Do I look guilty or something?" Madonna replied. "I know what he wants to do, and I'm sure that I already know what he wants to discuss, but I can't tell you anything more than he has already. I promised."
"Great," sighed Laura. "I just knew you'd take his side."
"My side?" Skyler gasped. "Laura, this isn't a fight or anything. I promise you that no one will be the least bit upset when they leave my house tomorrow. Now please try and have a good time. This is a party, after all."
JC was looking at him hard. Skyler hadn't told him anything about what he wanted to do. It wasn't that he was trying to hide it from him. He just wasn't sure about how everyone would react to his wanting his own label. JC would find out in the morning just like the rest of them. He just hoped that Clay and Laura would be as excited about the prospect as he was.
"Exactly what time do you fly back to New York?" Laura asked. "Clay's flight lands at six in the morning, but when are you going back?"
"I'm staying here until I leave for Sydney," responded Skyler. "Josh and the boys will be here that long, and I really want to visit with Mark and Shelly before I leave the country again."
"So you're going to be here in LA?" JC asked suddenly. Skyler hadn't shared this information with him, either.
"Surprise," chuckled Skyler, beaming at him. "I was going to tell you in the morning, but now was good I guess."
That got them all laughing, and then an endless stream of people came to talk to both Skyler and JC about what they were planning in their careers. Skyler answered so many questions that he thought he was being interviewed instead of talking to other celebrities. By the time they let him alone, he was sagging in his chair. Luckily it was almost time to leave the party. They'd set a time that they would leave before they'd even arrived at the award show. Skyler was thankful for that.
Almost two hours after they left the party, they finally made it back to the hotel. People were everywhere. Fans were lining the streets, some even mulled around in the streets, trying to get a glimpse of the celebrities as they made their way from party to party. They'd had to stop six different times, because of fans blocking the streets. Police were everywhere as well, but they were having a hard time getting the fans out of the way.
The press was another matter. Before they'd even made it to the car at least twelve television talk show reporters had stopped Skyler for a question about his award or his performance. They even asked about the film. Skyler tried his best to be as sweet as possible, but by the time they made it to the car, he was at his wit's end. The fact that he and JC were riding in separate cars also grated on his nerves. He hadn't been alone with JC in a while and he wanted to at least be able to sit with him in the car. It had been Chris Kirkpatrick that had pointed out that it would look bad if JC didn't ride with the rest of *Nsync. Skyler was really starting to dislike Chris Kirkpatrick.
The boy had it out for Skyler. He didn't know why, but Chris did everything in his power to keep him and JC away from each other. Twice JC had been forced to confront him about it, and still he wouldn't quit. Skyler was ready to have it out with Chris himself, but he'd promised JC and Lance that he wouldn't. It pissed him off to no end.
"Why are you so tense?" Madonna demanded from her seat beside him. "You'll see him in a few minutes."
"It isn't that," sighed Skyler. "Its Chris."
"Yes, Chris," snapped Skyler, and he was instantly sorry. He looked at her, and she gave him a tentative smile. "He's infuriating. He keeps trying to find ways to keep me and Josh apart, and its really pissing me off."
"I'm sure you're over reacting . . ."
"No I'm not," he insisted. "Josh has had to get in his face a few times about it. I'm not over reacting at all. I just don't know what that guy's got against me. I barely know him."
"You spent a lot of time with them before you left for London," she said.
"All of them except Chris," corrected Skyler. "He found other things to do whenever I was around. I'm telling you he's an ass."
* * *
"Well, we're alone," sighed JC as he wrapped his arms around Skyler once they were safely inside Skyler's room.
"Finally," Skyler replied as he sagged against him. "I'm surprised Chris let you come to my room."
"I threatened him with violence," chuckled JC.
"Stay with me tonight," said Skyler, holding JC tighter.
"That was the plan," replied JC. "That way I'll be here tomorrow morning for your breakfast meeting."
"About that," said Skyler, letting go of JC and stepping back so he could look him in the eye. "I'm not trying to hide anything from you. I'm just nervous about what they'll say when I tell them what I want to do . . ."
"Relax, Skyler," said JC, taking him in his arms again. "I'm not upset with you. The very fact that the meeting is with your management team told me that it was business. I don't have to know about every business decision before you tell your managers."
"Thanks, Josh," replied Skyler with a small sigh. "I'll tell you now if you want."
"I can wait for that, Sky," chuckled JC. "Why don't we call it a night. I know you're tired."
"Thanks again," laughed Skyler.
They stripped to their underwear and climbed into the bed where they promptly wrapped their arms around each other again and shared a soft slow kiss. One look into JC's eyes after their lips parted, and Skyler was kissing his neck and collar bone. He left trails of kisses across JC's chest, making him moan his appreciation. As Skyler started to work his way down JC's torso, leaving kisses behind him, JC tensed and put his hands on Skyler's shoulders.
"What are you doing?" JC panted at him.
"What do you think I'm doing?" Skyler replied, looking into his eyes.
"I thought we were going slow," JC reminded.
"We have been," said Skyler. "I think we're ready."
"If you're sure," he said after a slight hesitation.
"If you don't want . . ."
"Skyler," he said, cutting him off. "I want nothing more than to make love to you all night long. I just don't want us to do anything that we both aren't ready for."
"Are we both ready?" Skyler asked, sitting up beside JC. "Josh, I'm getting frustrated with just cuddling and kissing you. I know you are, too. We've been together for a while . . ."
"But we haven't been together much in the time we've been a couple, Sky," argued JC.
"If you think we should wait a little while longer, then we'll wait, Josh," sighed Skyler.
They were both silent for a while after that. They sat there, side by side, each locked in their own thoughts about sex. Skyler believed that they were ready. Hell, he'd had sex with Brian and Kevin before either relationship had even begun. It had been his idea to take things slow with JC, but now he believed that they would be all right together. He didn't think that sex would screw up their relationship. He was about to leave the country for an indefinite amount of time. He wasn't kidding himself about why he thought he was ready, though. He knew that sex wouldn't keep them together while he was in Australia, but he thought that it would show JC that he was serious about their relationship.
After ten minutes of sitting there completely silent, Skyler knew that JC wasn't ready. He slid down in the bed and hugged his pillow, turning away from JC as he did so. JC still sat there with his back against the headboard of the bed, but Skyler didn't think there was anything left to say on the subject. He supposed that they would just have to discuss it later. He just hoped that he wouldn't lay there thinking about it all night long. He had a lot of very important things to say to Laura and Clay in the morning, and he didn't need this on his mind when he was trying to convince them to form a company with him.
He was about to ask JC to turn off the lamp when he felt him begin to rub his back. Then JC slid down into the bed and put his arm around Skyler. Then Skyler felt JC kissing the back of his neck, and there was a definite hardness poking him in the lower back. Cuddling wasn't what he wanted at the moment, and he was about to protest when JC's hand slid down his stomach and into his shorts. He gasped when JC wrapped his hand around his erection and squeezed lightly.
"What are you doing?" Skyler asked in a voice just above a whisper.
"Seducing you, silly," chuckled JC between kisses to the back of Skyler's neck.
Skyler didn't say another word. He turned over to face JC and covered his mouth with his own. The kiss was soft at first, but as JC wrapped his arms around Skyler they picked up the tempo a bit. Soon they were both probing each other's mouths in turn, and their hands moved all over each other until they ended the kiss and panted as they looked into each other's eyes.
The next chapter will be posted soon.