© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 37

"Sky, why are we arguing about this?" JC asked defensively."I just don't want everyone to know I'm here. Why is that such a big deal to you?"

"You're so stupid sometimes, Josh," fired Skyler. "You just told a reporter that you didn't even know I was in New York when everyone in the free world knows I'm here. Where are you going to tell the next reporter that you came from? Mars? Stupid, Josh. This is all because you're so fucking scared that someone will think we're a couple."

"If you yell a little louder, the entire building will know we're lovers!" JC said through clenched teeth. Then he shook his head and sighed. "I think I should go stay at the hotel tonight."

"The hotel?" Skyler gasped, glaring at him. "You mean to tell me that you book a hotel room in every city when you spend time with me?"

"I have to . . ."

"And you want to live with me?" Skyler scoffed. "That's rich, Josh. If you can't even let anyone know that you stay in my apartment when you're in New York City what are you going to tell people about where you live if you live with me in Los Angeles? You're right, though. I think you'd better stay at the hotel tonight. You might want to stay at the hotel the whole time you're here. I wouldn't want anyone to think you spent any time with me."

They'd been arguing since they'd come back to the apartment from Skyler's photo shoot. JC had been stopped by a reporter and asked how long he'd be in town. When the reporter saw Skyler come out of the studio he asked JC if he was in New York to support his friend. JC had lied and said that he hadn't even known Skyler was in New York until he arrived. Skyler got angry because it just seemed that more and more JC was trying to hide the fact that he even knew Skyler.

Skyler understood that he didn't want to be outed, but what he didn't understand was where the fear was coming from. It wasn't as if they weren't careful. Being this paranoid was bound to out them both in the end. Paranoid people make crazy choices and bad mistakes. They're relationship was suffering because of this, and Skyler didn't like that. He loved JC and losing him over something as stupid as the fear of being discovered wasn't something he was prepared to accept.

"Sky can we please just talk about this?" JC asked, looking at Skyler with sad, tired eyes.

"Why are you so afraid lately, Josh?" Skyler asked. "I mean I think I can understand why you would book a hotel room, but I don't like it. You're lying out right to the press when all you ever had to do was just not tell the whole truth. I don't know what happened to make you this afraid, but you aren't the guy I fell in love with lately."

"I don't know," sighed JC, sliding into the recliner behind him. He put his hands over his face and rested his elbows on his knees. "I guess the Utopia thing really scared me."

"Why, Josh?" Skyler asked. "Carlos is more popular than ever now, and a lot of people think it was actually because of the tabloids. We talked about this yesterday!"

"I know all of that," he replied weakly. "I don't know what my problem is, Sky."

They were interrupted by Dianne who whisked Skyler off to his interview in Times Square. Skyler didn't really like leaving the conversation in the middle, but there wasn't much he could do about it. His career wouldn't wait for him to smooth things over with JC. He just hoped that JC was still in the apartment when he got home. He didn't want to have to track him down. He didn't even know which hotel JC had booked.

When he got to Times Square, Kurt Loder and MTV were already waiting. They had a huge platform set up and people were gathering around it. Laura and Andrew were already there, talking with two men that Skyler didn't know. There were a lot of people around that he didn't know, but that wasn't a new development. MTV executives and technicians changed so fast that it was impossible for him to keep up.

There were three faces that he recognized, though. Jeff Timmons and Nick and Drew Lachey stood off to the side of the platform surrounded by lots of people. As he and Dianne got closer the three smiled at him and the crowd changed their focus. He was still amazed by the endurance of fans. It was cold and slightly wet in Times Square, everyone was bundled up tightly yet they were all there to see Skyler.

"Skyler if you'll follow me," said a dark haired man, motioning for him to come with him. He led Skyler to the platform and up the steps.

"Mr. Thomas," said Kurt Loder, smiling at him. "I hope you haven't frozen solid already."

"I'm still pretty warm, Kurt," replied Skyler with a smile. "As long as we aren't out here for hours I should be fine."

The interview went well. Kurt didn't ask any questions that Skyler didn't want to answer. He asked a lot about the tour, and Skyler didn't even feel put off to answer all of the questions. Being interviewed by Kurt Loder was never upsetting. Skyler liked that and always accepted an interview with him.

"So you are going to tour soon?" Jeff Timmons asked him an hour later as they sat in a little cafe drinking coffee and trying warm up.

"Oh yeah," replied Skyler. "The dates are already confirmed, and I guess we'll start hiring dancers and start rehearsals soon."

"When is the first date?"

"June is all I know so far," laughed Skyler. "I'm terrible about checking schedules anymore."

"You aren't alone there," chuckled Jeff. "Drew is always after me about checking the promotion schedules before I take off to do anything."

"Where did Nick and Drew head off to?" Skyler asked. The two were alone in the cafe. No other customers were there. Brent had a lot to do with that, though.

"Nick has a photo shoot and Drew has an interview of his own," replied Jeff. "They'll be expecting me back at the hotel pretty soon."

"I'm not keeping you, am I?" Skyler asked quickly. It'd been a little while since he'd talked with Jeff or either of the Lachey men, and he had to admit that it was nice to see them. With everything going on with JC it was nice to be able to talk to someone without arguing.

"No," replied Jeff. "I'm just killing time. Don't worry."

The two talked about business for a little while before the conversation turned personal. Skyler told Jeff about life with the twins and how great it was to have his father back after so long. Jeff told Skyler about his relationship with his own siblings. They talked well into the afternoon and both were surprised when Brent came in to tell Skyler that it was almost time for his meeting. The two exchanged cell phone numbers before Skyler followed Brent out of the cafe to the awaiting car.

At the apartment, Skyler wasn't surprised to find that JC had made good on his threat to go stay at the hotel. What surprised him was that he wasn't angry about it anymore. If JC wanted to play his hiding games Skyler was prepared to let him. JC had left a note telling him which hotel he was staying in and the room number, but Skyler decided that he wasn't going to contact JC. If he wanted to pretend that they weren't having anything to do with each other while they were in New York, Skyler was prepared to actually have nothing to do with him.

The meeting was nearly infuriating for Skyler. Dianne, Andrew, Laura and Clay basically bombarded him with schedules and information. He vetoed most of the upcoming schedule and only signed half of the contracts they wanted signed. He told them that he had video shoots to take care of in the near future and everything else would have to wait.

"What about hiring your dancers?" Laura asked as Skyler was sifting his paperwork into a neat pile in front of him.

"I've contacted all of them from the last tour and most are returning," he replied. "I'll hire more after I talk to Mark."

Mark Portman was the choreographer that Skyler had hired to choreograph his part of the shows. He was supposed to sit down with him in London and discuss what Mark had in mind for the show. The song list had already been chosen. All that was left to do was to see the moves that Mark had in mind and hire the dancers to start rehearsals. He would deal with that in London. What he needed to do right then was get ready for his birthday/release party.

He excused everyone after making sure that they'd all be at the party. A few last minute details for the party had to be discussed and then Skyler was left alone in his kitchen to sigh and stare at the pile of papers in front of him. Owning his own company wasn't as easy as he'd thought it would be. Madonna had warned him, and he wished he would have listened closer to what she'd had to say about the subject instead of just asking for her help to blindly jump into the project.

He sighed again as he looked at the telephone. JC still hadn't called. Running his fingers through his hair, he decided again to just let JC stew. He was the one with the problem, so Skyler was prepared to let him deal with it. There really wasn't anything that he could do to help JC with his paranoia. Without even knowing exactly where it was coming from there was little to nothing he could do about it at all.

Joey, Justin and Lance had called, though. There were messages to call each of them back, so he started with Lance. He wondered as he dialed the number if JC was staying in the same hotel as the other members of the group. He would soon find out, though. If JC was complaining to his friends Skyler was sure one of them would say something to him about it.

"Hey Scoop," he said when Lance answered the phone in the hotel room. "What's up?"

"You know, I was wondering the same thing about you," replied Lance, making Skyler sigh. "I saw you on MTV this morning."

"You did?" asked Skyler, shocked that it had been live when he'd thought it was being taped.

"Sure did. You looked great," said Lance.

"Thanks," he replied. "It was cold as Hell out there."

"Well, you look great with rosy cheeks," laughed Lance. "So what time did you want us to come over there?"

"Well I have to sign more contracts, but you guys can come over any time you want," he replied, wondering if he'd forgotten that they were supposed to be coming over. He didn't think they'd set up anything.

"Great, well we're waiting for Josh to get out of the shower," Lance said quickly. "We'll see you in a bout a half hour. Bye, Sky."

Skyler hung up the phone and stared at it for a minute. He'd just been tricked by Lance Bass. A smile spread over his face as he thought about how much of a friend Lance was. It was clear that he was trying to help, and Skyler liked the gesture, but he didn't think anyone could help. This was JC's problem, and until he figured out why he was so paranoid it wasn't going to get any better. He had to be the one to work it out. He picked up the phone and called to order food. If *Nsync was on their way over, he had to have food. He hadn't really had any time to shop since he'd arrived, so ordering in was the only option.

The food arrived about the same time that *Nsync did. JC was clearly uncomfortable, but Skyler hugged each member of the group and invited them in. They ate in relative silence as each of them watched Skyler and JC. Finally Skyler decided he'd had enough. He started to ask questions about the new *Nsync album, and Lance and Justin excited began to talk. That broke the ice, and soon everyone was talking. Skyler and JC just weren't talking to each other.

"Sky, what's going on with you and Josh?" Chad asked as he helped Skyler take plates to the kitchen. "You haven't said a word to him since he got here."

"We're fighting," sighed Skyler simply. There was no point in lying. Chad lived there. He was bound to see for himself eventually.

"You guys shouldn't fight, Sky," said Chad. "I know that he's a little uptight, but we both know how easy it is for the tabloids to take something innocent and turn it into something bad just to satisfy their readers. I think he has every right to be at least a little paranoid. He's successful, and the tabloids could take away his success. Don't you ever worry about what they say about you?"

Skyler stood there and looked at his little brother for a minute. It stunned him that he'd missed the fact that little Chad had grown up. He smiled at him when he realized that Chad was right. Of course JC was paranoid about being outed. It could kill his career. Skyler couldn't believe how insensitive he was being about it. When he thought about it the way Chad said it, he knew how crazy fighting with JC was when that in itself could get them caught. If they were in public and one of these spats erupted, people would stop to pay attention. Any one of them could have a camera.

"You know what?" Skyler asked, pulling Chad into his arms and squeezing him. "I can't believe I didn't pay close enough attention to see that you're growing up."

"Yeah?" asked Chad. "Then get in there and tell him you're sorry."

Skyler let go of his brother and walked back into the dining room. He smiled at everyone as he walked around the table and took JC's hand in his, pulling him out of his chair and leading him into the bedroom where they could talk. As soon as he'd closed the door he pulled JC into his arms and held him tight. He loved him with all of his heart, and fighting with him over something stupid wasn't the way to show him.

"I'm sorry, Josh," he said quietly as he held him.

"I'm sorry, too," sighed JC, and his body relaxed in Skyler's arms. "I know I go overboard with the paranoia, and I promise to work on it."

"You do go a little overboard, but maybe I don't pay enough attention," Skyler said, pulling back to look him in the eye. "I understand that you worry about being discovered. I even understand how important it is to your career that you aren't discovered. I understand how important it is to my career that we aren't discovered."

"Yeah, but I panicked when the reporter asked me about being here for you," he said. "That wasn't right. If I can't tell the press that I'm here to support my friend, then what am I doing?"

"So we both have to work on it a little bit," Skyler said. "We're completely perfect together most of the time, Josh. That's great. I hate fighting with you, and I hate seeing that look in your eyes every time I hurt your feelings because I'm not being understanding."

"About the hotel . . ."

"Shh." Skyler put his finger to JC's lips. "It makes perfect sense that you would book a hotel room in every city you travel to, Josh. I get it. Just remind me every now and then so I don't get all bent out of shape."

"Deal," said JC, pulling Skyler back into another hug. "I love you."

"I love you, too," replied Skyler.

The pair went back out to the dining room and talked with their friends. Chad smiled at Skyler when he saw that JC moved to the chair next to him and the two held hands. Skyler smiled back and decided he'd have to thank his little brother again when they were alone. What had started out as a tense gathering was now a warm get together.

They talked about the release party as well as the recording sessions for the second *Nsync album. JC had told him about the problems they were having with their management, so Skyler didn't push for them to tell him when they would get the album out there. He didn't want to make any of them uncomfortable. There was enough static in all of their lives without being forced to talk about the evil side of the business.

"So I see that the two of you have patched things up," said Lance as he looked at Skyler and JC sitting so close together.

"Let's just say that I was being a bit stubborn, but I had a little reminder of what's important," said Skyler, squeezing JC's hand and smiling at his brother.

"And I tend to go overboard, but I'm going to work on that," said JC.

"So, Josh, where exactly are you staying tonight?" Lance asked with a smirk. "We're getting ready to head back to the hotel. Your stuff is here, so if you need help getting it all in the car . . ."

"I'm staying right here where I belong," he said with a smile.

* * *

"Happy birthday, Skyler," said JC when Skyler opened his eyes the next morning to find him smiling at him.

"How long have you been awake?" he asked, turning on his side and putting his arm over his lover.

"Since I heard Chad on the telephone with Clay a few minutes ago," laughed JC. "He was telling Clay that you'll get up when you get up."

"I love my little brother," Skyler said, yawning. "I guess it's time to get up, though. I do have a few things to do before the release party tonight."

"Sky, it's only seven in the morning," chuckled JC. "What could take so long that you have to get up and do it now?"

"Contracts," he replied. "Want to sit in on a Sky High breakfast?"

"This morning?" JC asked with wide eyes. "Sky, it's your birthday. You have a release party tonight. Do they ever leave you alone?"

"Josh, it's my company," he laughed. "I'm the one who set this breakfast meeting."

"You're never going to slow down, are you?" JC asked slowly.

"I can't right now," he replied. "The company is new, and it needs constant attention. Once I get ready to tour, I'll hire someone to look after the company for me."

"But then you'll be on the road and busier than ever," argued JC. "You need down time, Sky."

"I know I do," agreed Skyler with a nod of his head. "I'll have some soon. I promise we'll have a few days to ourselves. I'll even clear it with Scoop so you'll be available when I take my down time."

"Well I think you have another meeting to get to before the power breakfast," said JC with a smile, forgetting the down time discussion for a moment.

"What are you talking about?" Skyler asked. He scanned his memory to think about anything that he might have forgotten or overlooked. He was supposed to have breakfast with Clay, Laura and Andrew. He had to interview three men who were applying to be his personal trainer for the tour, and he had to pick his family up at the airport just after lunch. That left the press conference and release party. Those were both in the evening. "I didn't have any other meetings this morning."

"Oh just get up and let's shower," laughed JC. "Can't I even surprise you once?"

Skyler decided to drop it and let himself be surprised. Whatever JC had up his sleeve had to be something he'd put together before their fight, so he didn't want to ruin it for him. He obediently followed JC to the bathroom and got in the shower. They washed each other a little quicker than usual, and before Skyler knew it he was standing on the bathroom floor with a body towel around him. JC kissed him lightly and then started to shave.

"Happy birthday, Skyler," said his father, step-mother and youngest brother ten minutes later when he followed JC out of the bathroom shaved, dressed and ready for the first part of the day.

The next chapter will be posted soon.