© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 49

"Excuse me?" he asked, gripping the phone in his hand so tightly that he was afraid it would break.

"You heard me," she replied. "I want to know what you think you're doing, talking to a tabloid and then pulling the little stunt you pulled on stage with that song."

"Well let me tell you, Ms. Chasez, I don't think that any of this is your business," he snapped.

"Oh it's my business," she hissed. "He's my son!"

"Well then why don't you call your son and ask him why he's the one showing his ass?" Skyler barked. "I didn't talk to any tabloids, and what I do on stage in my show is my business. You need to take care of yours, and I'll take care of mine."

"How dare you . . ."

"Go straight to Hell, Karen," he said and slammed down the phone.

Those calls followed him from Anaheim, California all the way to East Rutherford, New Jersey. He'd had heated meeting after meeting with his staff to stop these calls, but Karen always found a way. By the time he reached London he'd stopped taking calls from anyone, and each of his hotel rooms had the phones removed. He told Clay and Laura in Leeds, England that if they didn't solve this little problem there would be no tours after this one.

"You're serious?" asked Bruce Beckham. He was one of the men Ben had hired for construction. He and Skyler had become friends over the course of the tour, and they'd become closer friends just after Skyler and JC's relationship ended.

"This is bullshit, Bruce," Skyler replied. "I won't do this anymore if they can't make sure that cracked-pots like her don't call anymore."

"Sue her," suggested Bruce.

"Then there'll be even more press about it than there has been so far," said Skyler. "Let me tell you, there's been plenty."

"I've seen the tabloids," remarked Bruce.

"I could choke the life out of JC Chasez!" growled Skyler.

"Then there really would be plenty of press," laughed Bruce, making Skyler glare at him.

"Come on," said Skyler, getting up. "We have to get back to the bus. We leave in twenty minutes."

"Anyone said anything about me sharing your room on the bus?" Bruce asked as they walked out of the stadium.

"Nothing so far," replied Skyler. "I'm sure they think a lot more is going on than there really is."

"Probably," laughed Bruce.

Bruce was engaged to be married, and everyone on the tour knew that. When he and Skyler started spending a lot of time together no one said much of anything. In Chicago, Skyler decided that Bruce should move from the bus the rest of the crew was using to his bus. His parents raised their eyebrows when Skyler moved Bruce into the large room at the back of the bus. Skyler's room. There was nothing sexual in their friendship, but Skyler was sure that everyone believed that there was. He wasn't ready for any time of romantic relationship, and Bruce was straight for all Skyler knew. Still the two had a strange friendship that Skyler enjoyed very much.

They arrived in London as quietly as they could. People noticed them no matter what they did, and there was always a throng of fans waiting for him at every hotel. Just like Karen Chasez, the fans knew his itinerary well. Fans he could deal with. It was lunacy that he was having a problem with. JC was the one who decided to just believe the stupid tabloid article and blame him for it. He's the one who refused to answer Skyler's calls. Skyler didn't understand what Karen was doing at all. It wasn't like he'd just dumped her son in the middle of nowhere.

"You look tired, Toy," said Madonna when she showed up at the hotel later that morning.

"It's been a long tour," he replied. "Coffee?"

"Bite your tongue," she said, giving him a reproachful look. "When did you start drinking that?"

"Houston," he replied. "Where's Lourdes?"

"With Guy," she said, eyeing him. "What's with you?"

"I'm waiting for the phone," he replied through a yawn.

"Who's supposed to be calling now?" she asked.

"A mad woman," he replied and then told her all about the phone calls from Karen Chasez in every city of the tour.

"Is she insane?" Madonna asked. "Doesn't she know that you could have her arrested for this?"

"She knows I'll do no such thing," he replied. "There's been enough press over me and JC. Anything we do now will just look worse than the original tabloid article."

"Come on," she said, standing and holding out her hand.

"Where are we going?" he asked, looking at her hard.

"Away from this," she said. "I don't like the way you look. You need a day off."

"This is my day off," he said, spreading his arms to imply that all he had for his day off was his hotel suite.

"Not in London," she said, grabbing his hand and dragging him out of his chair. "Lourdes has been asking for you since I told her you were performing here anyway."

They snuck out of the hotel, and she made him leave his cell phone. She wasn't in the mood for interruptions that day. They made their way to Guy's apartment where she collected Lourdes, made a picnic lunch for them and herded him back into the car. Skyler and Guy only had a chance to say hello to each other and shake hands before she had Skyler back in the car, waiting while she buckled Lourdes in.

When they got to the park, Brent, CJ and Madonna's security made sure that they had a spot where they wouldn't be disturbed before they were allowed to unload the car. Madonna spread a blanket and began to get the food ready after telling Skyler to sit with Lourdes and wait.

"So JC freaked when the tabloid article came out, and now his momma is calling you with crazy talk everywhere you go?" she asked as she handed him a plate. He smiled as he looked at the plate of vegetables and fruit. With Madonna there was never a surprise in the food department.

"That about sums it up," he replied.

"And your relationship with Bruce?" she asked, shocking him.

"All right, who's talking now?" he asked, setting the plate on the blanket in front of him.

"Cassie," she said. "Now spill."

"There's nothing going on between me and Bruce Beckham but friendship," he replied. "I knew everyone would start talking when he started sharing my room on the bus."

"Cassie said no one is against it," she said. "They just want you to be happy. However, isn't Bruce supposed to be getting married?"

"Yes," he sighed. "Bruce is engaged to be married. As I said we're just friends."

"Looks a little funny with him in your room," she said, eyeing him. "One bed and all."

"I'm not having this discussion," he said tightly enough to make Lourdes glance at him.

"Oh my," said Madonna. "You are wound up."

"Look," he sighed, picking at his food. "I'm not really sure how I feel about the break up, I'm about to become a father any time now, and the press is acting like I'm the hottest topic since the Bible. Now Karen is calling constantly, and I needed a friend to talk to. Bruce was that friend. So if I'd rather that he be on my bus so we can talk than on the crew bus that's my business. Everyone can just think what they think and leave us alone about it."

They were silent for a while after that. The only sound was Lourdes giggling occasionally when one of them would make a face at her. Skyler was sorry for snapping at Madonna, but he was so tired of all of it that he didn't know what to do. He'd canceled interviews and refused to reschedule in almost every city of the tour, because he didn't want to talk about the tabloid article. JC was running to every reporter he could find to deny the article's authenticity, and the press was talking about how silent Skyler was now. It was really starting to get to him, and he didn't know what to do about any of it.

"I'm sorry," he said finally, but Madonna just looked at him. "I shouldn't have unloaded like that on you. I'll figure all of this out. Don't worry about me."

"I do worry, Sky," she said. "I don't like seeing you like this at all. Something has got to be done about all of it, and I want you to know that I'm here for you if you need me."

"Thank you," he said. "I have a feeling that this will end as suddenly as it began. I just wish it would end now."

"Come on," said Madonna as she began putting things back in the basket. "We're being photographed. Keep Lourdes out of the line of the camera, please."

She motioned for security to come, and she talked quietly with her guys about getting Lourdes back to the car quickly and under cover. Skyler talked with Brent and CJ about the photographer, but there really wasn't anything they could do about it now. He'd taken at least a roll of photos. They just packed up and got out of there.

"I'll see you at dinner, Skyler," said Madonna just before she kissed him.

They got into separate cars and drove in different directions. Skyler went back to the hotel. He was surprised to find Jeff Timmons sitting with Tabitha when he got back to the family suite. Jeff smiled at him when he walked in, and Skyler had to admit that he was happy to see him.

"How's it going?" Jeff asked as Skyler sat down on the sofa next to him.

"Ragged," he replied with another smile. "Madonna's worried about me."

"That bad," said Jeff, smiling. "Well we'll just have to see what we can do to make you feel better."

"Ban Karen Chasez from all phones," said Skyler, and Jeff looked at him strange.

"Sounds intense," replied Jeff. "Tell me about it?"

Skyler started from the beginning. He told Jeff about the benefit concert and his night with JC. Then he talked about the tabloid article, making Jeff nod his head, JC's refusal to talk to him at all about the tabloid and his decision to end the relationship completely. When he got to the part about Karen calling, Jeff interrupted him.

"What's her problem?" he asked. "I mean this was no one's fault, and JC was being an ass to begin with. I remember all the trouble you guys were having over his paranoia. So what does Mother Chasez have to do with all of this?"

"I don't know," admitted Skyler. "She mostly just wants to yell at me like a spoiled child who's committed some family crime. I don't get it, but I want it to stop."

"And you won't take legal action for fear of the press's spin," commented Jeff.

"You understand," sighed Skyler, sinking further into the sofa. "I just want all of this to go away."

"Well maybe we can help with that," said Justin Timberlake, startling Jeff and Skyler as he and Lance Bass walked into the living room of the family suite.

"What are you two doing here?" Skyler asked, prepared to scream if they mentioned the article.

"Giving you a heads up and an apology," said Lance. "We know where it came from now."

"It was someone on our staff that talked to the tabloid, Sky," said Justin. "He's been fired and gagged."

"So what's Karen's deal?" Skyler asked.

"She knows that JC was wrong, but she says that you won't talk to him to let him apologize," said Lance.

"And I'm not going to," replied Skyler. "He's been nothing but paranoid from day one, Lance. With this article, he'd be worse, and I don't want anything to do with that kind of headache."

"We don't blame you," said Justin. "We just came here to make sure that we're still friends. Your relationship, or lack of one, with JC has nothing to do with the way we feel about you."

"Thank you, Curly, that means a lot," said Skyler with a smile.

"Still friends?" asked Lance.

"Of course," said Skyler. "But aren't you guys supposed to be in Orlando?"

"Screw the record," said Justin. "None of us can agree on anything anyway. Joey is off doing his own thing, and Chris is trying to keep JC in a good mood. All we do is snap at each other, so we decided to blow it off for a while and come see you."

"Well I'll be here for the next three nights," said Skyler. "We leave for Germany Saturday morning. You can hang out with us until then."

So they hung out in the living room until it was time for dinner, and for the first time since California, Skyler turned on the television to watch MTV. He was surprised when he saw that they were only talking about tour dates and the shows themselves. No reference was made to the tabloid article at all. Nothing was even said about Nsync. It was mostly about Skyler and Chad and the tour.

At dinner, Madonna talked with Justin and Lance about how to keep Karen off Skyler's back. Skyler sat with the twins and Jason and basked in the presence of their father. He was happy that Ben could at least eat with them. When Ben informed him that the sets were finished, Skyler was thrilled that his father could at least relax until they had to spend the night tearing them down.

That night, Skyler and his siblings camped out in the living room of the family suite with Justin, Lance and Jeff to watch more MTV coverage and basically have fun. They slept where they dropped, and Skyler was sorry for that when he got up the next morning with a sore body.

The other celebrities tagged along to the sound checks and meet and greet before the show. They ate lunch with Skyler and Bruce before he headed back over to the stadium for last minute rehearsals. They were all present and accounted for in the reception room when JC and his mother walked in. Everyone got silent when they saw them, but Skyler was ready for a fight.

"What the Hell are you two doing here?" he demanded, looking at them with daggers in his eyes.

"Sky I came to talk," said JC, walking closer.

"Well I don't want to talk," said Skyler. "To either of you."

"That's too bad, Skyler, because I have plenty to say to you," said Karen, coming over to stand in front of him. "If you think I'm going to let you get away with treating my son like . . ."

"Now wait just a minute," said Tabitha, stepping between Skyler and Karen. "If you think I'm going to just stand back and watch while you spout your lunacy at my son, you've got another thing coming. What kind of person are you, anyway? Calling him at every stop around the world to blast him for hurting your son isn't something I find acceptable."

"Just who the Hell do you think you are?" Karen snapped.

"She's Skyler's step-mother," said Madonna. "I'm quite certain you know who I am, though. And let me tell you, Skyler may not want to retaliate against you, but I'll make your life a living Hell if you don't shut your mouth and leave him alone. Your son is the one who freaked out and blamed Skyler when it was someone from his own staff who ran their mouth. I suggest you get your asses out of here before the press gets wind of your antics."

The next chapter will be posted soon.