***Please Note:  This story contains scenes depicting sexual acts between members of the same sex.   If you are under the age of 18, or if it is illegal for you to read such material in your state, please do not read further.  If you are offended by this type of material, again, please do not read further.

This story is completely a work of fiction.  The characters and situations in the story exist solely in the author's imagination.   Any reference to the sexual identity of real people is completely fiction.  If you have questions, comments or suggestions regarding this story, please email me.   Flames ignored.

For a list of my other stories, and info about me, go to my Website.

Many celebrities are mentioned in this story, and some of them are even characters in the story.  I am in no way trying to say that I know anything about their personal sexualities by putting them in this story.  Although this story is mainly about a fictional celebrity, I wanted to say that I do not know any of the actual celebrities mentioned in this story.  I am simply borrowing their persona.

"Secrets Of The Morning" is a novel by V.C. Andrews®.  It is not a television show.  "The Eye Of The World" is a book by Robert Jordan.  It, sadly, is still not a movie.  The show and movie are only parts of this story.  Several liberties will be taken with this story, and although I'll try to stick to the true timeline of events in the careers of *Nsync and Backstreet Boys as well as various other stars, I don't see how I can keep up with that kind of research and continue to work at my day job.  The personalities of the celebrities in this story may be quite different than what you're used to.  I'm not concerned with their professional images.

I hope that everyone enjoys the story and realizes that this is only a story.  I don't know any of the stars mentioned in this story personally, and their sexuality, although sometimes under scrutiny, is never anyone's business than their own.  If, on an odd chance, this story reflects actual events at all, that is completely coincidental.  I'm not a spy, and I would never stalk a star. :)

Eric Draven®

all lyrics in the story are also under copyright...please remember that

any lyrics borrowed from other artists will be credited at the bottom of the chapter

Last Time:

    "Chad, he didn't leave us," said Skyler, starting to cry again.  "She divorced him and made sure that he couldn't see us. I read the divorce decree the day he died."


    "She said he was abusive," sobbed Skyler.

    "Was he?" asked Chad.

    "No, he wasn't," replied Skyler, sitting up in the bed.  "He was a good father, Chad. He was the best father."

    "Tell me about him," said Chad.

    Skyler told him stories about his own childhood and his father.  He hated not telling Chad the truth, but he would honor his father's dying wish for the rest of his life.  Chad would have loved him if he'd been given the chance, and Skyler tried to paint a better picture of Ben in Chad's mind than the one he already had of Dave.

    The two brothers talked about the man that Chad had never gotten the chance to know for almost the entire night.  Chad soaked up all of the information that Skyler could give him, and in the end, they were both in tears.  Tears of sadness, loss and grief over the man that had been stolen from them.


"The music world came to a halt today as several stars flew to Denver, Colorado to attend the funeral services for Ben Thomas. A very sad Skyler Thomas gave reporters a statement, saying that Ben Thomas was not the man he'd thought he was, and he was very sad that time had been stolen from them. Sources say that Skyler was with is father when he died."

Sway:  MTV News

"Concerts have been canceled, celebrities have flown to his side, and fan support has been amazing for Skyler Thomas as he prepares for the funeral of a man that last week, he told the world was not important. Skyler Thomas must have had a change of heart, because he is sparing no expense to see that his father is buried like royalty."

Phyllis Stal:  Entertainment Tonight

"*Nsync, LFO, Backstreet Boys, Madonna, Niki Harris, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are among the crowd of celebrities flocking to the memorial services for Ben Thomas. Thomas died on Monday from complications due to Cancer."

Jeff Lynn:  Channel 9 News, Denver



Copyright ©2003-04 Eric Draven®.

All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 18

    The church was beautiful, but it wasn't nearly large enough to hold everyone who had come to pay their respects.  Crowds of people were outside, and Denver Police had blocked off the street to give everyone room.  Fans and celebrities alike were there to show their respect for Ben Thomas and be there for Skyler Thomas.

    Skyler, Chad and Cassie sat in the front row with Madonna, Guy, Jeff and Kaleb.  The three of them held dazed expressions, and everyone kept telling them how sorry they were.  Skyler didn't know what to do anymore.  He was so tired, and this just wouldn't stop.  He kept replaying the last things his father had said to him in his mind.  This had to stop.  He was going to drive himself crazy if it didn't stop soon.

    At the cemetery, after the graveside sermon, everyone walked up to the coffin and placed a white rose on top of Ben.  Skyler's hands shook as he placed his rose, and tear streamed down his face.  His knees buckled, and he would have fallen, but someone caught him.  He leaned into them and cried.

    "Easy," said JC.  "Everything's going to be alright, Sky."

    "She took him from me, Josh," said Skyler as his body shook with sobs.  "Now he's gone."

    "I'm so sorry, Sky," whispered JC as he held Skyler close.  "So sorry."

    JC walked Skyler back to his seat and helped him to sit back down.  He noticed the angry glares from Howie and Jeff, but right then, he didn't care.  Skyler was in pain, and JC wasn't about to abandon him again.  He would stay by his side for as long as Skyler would let him.

    "You can sit here, JC," said Kaleb, standing up.  "He needs you right now. Be careful with him."

    They sat there, Skyler's head on JC's shoulder, until everyone had paid their respects.  Cameras flashed all around them, but neither of them cared at that point.  Skyler was too devastated to worry about the press, and JC was too worried about Skyler to care.  He'd never seen Skyler so down before, and he hated it.  He wished that there was something he could do to make him feel better again, but he knew that if anything could be done, it wouldn't come from him.

    He'd caused Skyler so much pain already.  He didn't know how to make it up to him, but he would die trying if only Skyler would let him.  He loved him with every ounce of his flesh, and if it took the rest of his life, he would show Skyler just how much.  He knew that Skyler was just too emotional right now to turn away from him, and he knew that once this was over, Skyler probably wouldn't have anything to do with him.  That was just a chance he was going to have to take.

    He rode back to the hotel with them.  Skyler never let go of his hand.  JC was thankful that Kaleb had taken Jeff in his rental car, so he wouldn't be sitting across from them in the limo, glairing at him.  All he wanted to do was be there for Skyler.  Jeff and Howie were of no importance to JC right now.  He'd deal with both of them later if he had to.

    At the hotel, Skyler sat by JC's side, but he never said anything, and JC was really starting to worry about him.  Everyone came over to them to tell Skyler how sorry they were.  Skyler would smile at them faintly and nod, holding tightly to JC's hand.  If anyone noticed, or had anything to say, they thankfully decided that it wasn't the time for it.

    After almost everyone had come to talk to Skyler, JC led him off to his room.  Skyler was passive as JC took his shirt off of him, and he even sat on the bed to allow JC to remove his shoes.  JC loved him more than ever as he helped him into a pair of lounge pants and then into the bed.  Skyler was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.  JC quickly stripped down to his boxers and T-shirt before climbing into the bed and wrapping his arms around him.

* * *

    "If you hurt him again, JC," said Chad when JC came out of Skyler's room a few hours later.  "I'll make you pay."

    "I don't want to hurt him, Chad," replied JC, sitting down beside the young man that he had considered his brother.  "I love him."

    "You have the worst way of showing him that," replied Chad.  "Why are you even here?"

    "Look," said JC.  "I know that I've been a bad person to Sky, and I can never take that back. I want to make things right again, Chad. I love him, and I know he loves me, too."

    "He may love you, but he'll never trust you again," replied Chad.  "How could he? What have you ever done to make it easy for him to trust you?"

    "You don't like me anymore, do you?" asked JC, looking at Chad sadly.

    "I don't like anyone who breaks my brother's heart," said Chad coldly.  "And that includes you, JC Chasez. I mean it. If you hurt my brother one more time, I will make you pay."

    "Do you two think you could be any louder?" demanded Chris as he walked over to them.  "I don't think they heard you in Bolder."

    "Chris," said JC.

    "Josh, you and Skyler are just going to have to work this out on your own," said Chris.  "I share Chad's sentiment, though. If you hurt him again, you will pay for it."

    "I don't want to hurt him," said JC miserably.

    "You won't get the chance," said Skyler's voice, startling all three of them.

    "Skyler," said JC, standing up again.

    "Josh, I'm very thankful that you were here with me today," said Skyler.  "It meant a lot to me, but that doesn't solve anything. You walked out on me, knowing that would be the ultimate way to hurt me. You did it, and now that's over. You and I are not going to get back together. I guess I should have told you this before, but I didn't think you deserved to be told."

    "Skyler, I . . ."

    "No," said Skyler.  "I'm not even sure that I can offer you friendship at this point, Josh. You hurt me, and I won't forget that. Nothing you can do now will ever take that away."

    Skyler walked away leaving the three men to stare after him.

* * *

    "I'm going to Dallas," said Skyler firmly.  "I've already canceled four shows, and I'm not doing that again. If you think its too soon, that's your opinion, Kaleb. But I'm going to Dallas."

    It had been a week since his father had been buried, and almost everyone that wasn't supposed to be with them was gone.  Chad and Cassie thought it was a good idea that they get back to work, but Kaleb didn't agree.  He thought that Skyler needed to take a little more time to heal.  What Kaleb didn't understand was that performing was better therapy for Skyler than anything in the world.

    He needed to connect with his audience again.  He needed to hear the love in their screams as they called out to him.  He'd be just fine once he was on stage again.  He'd always pored his emotions into every show.  That's how he dealt with everything.  If it didn't work, he'd see someone about how he was feeling.

    On the plane to Dallas, Skyler slept most of the way.  He didn't see how worried about him everyone really was.  He could hear it in their voices when they talked to him, but there was nothing he could do to make them stop worrying.  He was fine, or as fine as he was going to be for a while.  They all needed to stop mothering him, and let him do what he had to do.

    On stage, he made it through Get Up, Is It Me, Perpetual Prisoner and The Deal perfectly.  When he and Kaleb started to sing Lonely Heart, Skyler cried all the way through the song.  Kaleb was sure he'd have to pull him from the stage, but Skyler just stood up at the end of the song and walked to the front of the stage.  His broken voice spoke to the roaring crowd.

    "I love you, Dallas!" he cried, making them scream his name.  "I want to thank you for all of the cards and letters you've all sent. I can't tell you how hard it has been for me, and knowing that so many of you thought enough to let me know how much you care, just makes it easier for me to return to you and show you how much it means to me.

    "I'm trying to stand strong," he said as the crowd grew silent and his tears started to fall again.  "Its hard, you know? The press is always saying something about me. Sometimes it just gets too hard to even think of going on with all of this, but I want you all to know that I wouldn't trade any of you for anything. I guess what they say is true. When you stand on a stage, the entire crowd becomes your family."

    The crowd roared at this, and Skyler backed away from the edge of the stage.  Kaleb was more worried about him than ever now, but Skyler turned to Ray Sallinger, the bass player, whispering something in his ear, and then Sallinger was off, talking to the drummer who began to pound out the beat to Mission Impossible, and the show went on.

    Kaleb watched him as closely as he could.  He knew that his dancing was probably suffering, but at that moment, he didn't care.  He was so worried about Skyler.  As Skyler and Cassie sang Hate Crime, Kaleb looked off stage to see Madonna standing there with a worried look on her face that nearly matched what he was feeling.

    Then the band launched into Its Not Your Business, and Skyler danced and sang just like he always had, and Kaleb got lost in the moves.  The rest of the show was very emotional, but Skyler just seemed to be drawing emotion from the crowd as he stopped now and then to cry for a few minutes.

    By the time they ended the show with Dangerous Emotions, the entire band and all of the dancers were nearly ready to fall down and cry their eyes out.  Skyler had given one of the most emotional shows that any of them had ever seen.  Kaleb was glad it was finally over.

* * *

    They traveled from city to city, giving emotional show after emotional show.  Skyler had taken to not talking most of the time, and everyone continued to worry.  His performances never suffered, though, and the press was going wild over his tear filled shows.

    Pictures of Skyler and JC had made every newspaper, but neither of them seemed to care about that.  Jay Leno made wise cracks about them, and Rosie O'Donnell talked about how sweet they were, but nothing seemed to bother either Skyler of JC about any of that.  Skyler pretended not to notice most of the time.  Kaleb did notice that about the time all of the Skyler/JC stuff started rolling through the press and talk shows, Skyler performed Its Not Your Business with just a little more anger, but other than that, it didn't seem to effect him much.

    The show in Detroit was one of the most emotional of the bunch.  Everyone was there to see it.  Jeff wanted to stop the show several different times, but Madonna wouldn't allow it.  Howie was in tears by the time Skyler started singing Be There.  Madonna was sobbing by the end of Big Boy Now, and the entire group was an emotional wreck by the end of the show.

    Skyler collapsed, crying, into Madonna's arms as soon as he came off the stage.  They'd known that this was going to be a very hard show for Skyler, but none of them were prepared for the state he was in when the show ended.  He sat on one of the couches in the "party" room and shook with sobs.  Every now and then, he would say something to Madonna, and she would run off to make a phone call.

    Jeff was worried about who she was calling, and Howie thought he knew.  JC had been calling Skyler almost every day, and Skyler had been spending lots of time on the phone with him.  He still insisted that he wouldn't take him back, but they talked incessantly.  Howie knew that Jeff was in love with Skyler, but he believed that Skyler and JC were supposed to be together.  It was clear that JC had done some growing up, and maybe he was ready to be the man he had to be for Skyler.

    "We've got to do something about him," said Madonna when Skyler finally went to sleep at the hotel.  "He can't keep going like this."

    "I can't do anything but cry every time I look at him now," sighed Niki.  "I can't imagine the pain he's in, but I know that watching him tonight was Hell."

    "He won't talk to any of us," said Madonna.  "I have to leave for New York soon, and I'm scared that he'll just melt down while I'm gone. I don't know what to do."

    "He won't talk to anyone?" asked Niki.

    "He talks to JC on the phone every day," said Madonna, shaking her head.  "They talk for hours, but neither of them will tell anyone what they're talking about. All Skyler will say is that they aren't getting back together."

    "When are those two boys going to wake up and realize that they are meant for each other?" asked Niki.

    "I don't know," replied Madonna.  "But I think that, together, they're eventually going to destroy each other."

    "They're so good together for a while," said Niki.  "Then one of them will just shut himself off, and everything goes to Hell."

    "Jeff Timmons is really hurt by everything that's going on," said Madonna.  "I thought that he and Skyler would get together, but Jeff says that Skyler can't let go of JC. But he still refuses to go back to him. Its really stupid, Nik."

    "What do we do?" asked Niki.

    "I don't know," sighed Madonna.  "But we have to do something fast."

* * *

    "Josh, what's going on?" asked Lance in Orlando.

    "What do you mean?"

    "I know that you talk to him every day," said Lance.  "He won't return anyone else's calls, Josh. How is he?"

    "He's a mess, Lance," said JC, starting to cry.  "I don't know how to fix this."

    "Fix what?"

    "Skyler is pushing himself every day," said JC.  "He goes through every performance like its the last one he'll ever give. Madonna is worried sick. She had to fly to New York this morning, and she said that she's so scared that Skyler will just collapse or something."

    "Where is Skyler right now?" asked Lance.

    "DC," said JC.

    "It won't be long, and then he'll be here," said Lance thoughtfully.

    "What are you drumming up in that head of yours?" asked JC.

    "Nothing," smiled Lance.  "How have your phone conversations been going?"

    "They're going," said JC, still not elaborating.

    "Well, are you planning to be at the show?" asked Lance.

    "Martians couldn't keep from it," said JC.

* * *

    Skyler told everyone that things were looking better for him just before the show in Jacksonville, Florida.  Kaleb half believed him.  Skyler had been smiling all day, and he'd actually talked to almost everyone in the show.  It wasn't hard for Kaleb to figure out what was making him happy, though.  He'd been talking to JC on the telephone, and in two days, the show would reach Orlando, where JC was waiting for him.

    Kaleb just hoped everything worked out if Skyler went back to JC.  He'd become a very good friend over the course of the tour, and if JC did anything to hurt him again, Kaleb would make him suffer like no one had ever suffered before.  Kaleb still wasn't sure that Skyler was really feeling better, and for JC to set him up for yet another fall would probably do him in.

    "We should get there around three in the afternoon," Skyler said.

    "Well, do you want me to meet you at the airport?" asked JC on the phone.

    "No," he replied.  "We'll go straight to the hotel, and I'll call you when I get there."

    "Sky, I'm really glad that we're at least trying to be friends," said JC.

    "So am I," he replied.  "I can't hate you anymore, Josh."

    "I'm glad to hear that," chuckled JC.

    "Well, I can't just forget about what you did to me, but I am trying to put it behind me."

    "I know I was an ass, Sky," said JC.  "If I could make it up to you in any way, believe me, I would."

    "None of that," said Skyler seriously.  "We're taking this one day at a time, remember?"

* * *

    "You're doing one show in Orlando, and then its off to Sydney, Australia to end the tour," said Mason Callier, the DJ at the radio station.  "Can we expect a show anything like the Orlando show last year?"

    "Well, I'm hoping to surprise the audience with a few things," laughed Skyler.  "But I can't say if it will be anywhere as great as the last show."

    "Any special guests that you'd like to warn people about?" asked Mason.

    "Now, that wouldn't be a good idea," said Skyler.  "I never give away my secrets."

    "I'll remember that," laughed Mason.  "Tell me about the tour, how its been, how you feel about its success."

    "Oh, I'm very happy with the success of the tour," said Skyler.  "I've been getting a little more personal with the audience lately, and I think its really paying off in many ways. You know that I lost my father, and the shows have been very therapeutic for me."

    "You certainly have been giving them a piece of your soul lately," agreed Mason.  "Some say that your shows have become the most emotional events of their lives."

    "I've heard that," replied Skyler.  "Scores of letters and gifts have been poring in from all over the country, and I can't thank my fans enough for all of their support during my time of sadness. All I can do is show them how much it all means to me when I sing for them."

    "Well, now I have to ask that question you're so good at evading," said Mason.  "Is there someone special in your life?"

    "Mason, there are several special people in my life," said Skyler.  "I don't know where I'd be without all of my friends. I thank God every day that they are with me, and I wouldn't trade anyone for anything."

    "Are you in love?" he asked.

    "Are you?" laughed Skyler.

    "I asked you first," chuckled Mason.

    "Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell you the truth," said Skyler, making Mason Callier think he was about to get the scoop of a lifetime.  "Its not your business."

    Skyler erupted in laughter, and Mason sat, stunned, and stared at him.  There was a few minutes of dead air time while Mason recovered from wanting to choke Skyler Thomas, and Skyler recovered from his laughter.  Everyone listening to the show was laughing, Skyler knew they were.

    "Nicely put," said Mason, clearly annoyed by the answer.

    "Well, you guys will never learn," said Skyler.  "I'm sorry for being rude, but I mean, come on. I have never answered that question before, and I don't understand why everyone keeps asking. I'll tell you this, when I believe the time is right, I'll finally answer that question.  However, that will never happen on a radio show. I want Barbara Walters."

* * *

    "That was some interview, Sky," said Jeff when Skyler came back from the station.

    "I sure enjoyed myself," said Skyler.  "He deserved it. They all deserve it."

    "Well, you know that you'll have Barbara Walters wanting an exclusive now," said Jeff.  "And she won't settle for less than your sexuality and who you are in love with."

    "And you never know," said Skyler, smiling.  "I just might tell her."

    With that, Skyler went off to take his daily nap, leaving Jeff Timmons to stare after him.  He couldn't believe that Skyler had said that.  What was even worse was that he believed that Skyler was completely serious.  He believed that Skyler would out himself on national television, if Barbara Walters asked him the question.

    "What's wrong?" asked Kaleb, coming down the hall.

    "Did you hear Skyler's radio interview?" asked Jeff still looking shell shocked.

    "No, I was in the shower," replied Kaleb.  "Was it good?"

    "Oh it was fine," replied Jeff.  "But he just told me that if Barbara Walters asked him if he was gay, he'd probably tell her the truth."

    For the rest of the afternoon, the buzz around the group was Skyler's shocking words to Jeff before he went to take his nap.  Chad thought it was hilarious, and Cassie didn't seem to be worried by it.  Kaleb hadn't said anything about it.  The rest of the dancers didn't seem phased, but they all talked about it.  During rehearsal, it was all you could hear about.

    Jeff thought about calling Madonna, but she'd probably support him in his decision.  Jeff didn't think he could stand that.  He just knew that Skyler would be throwing away his entire career if he came out to the world.  He didn't want him to do that.  He had to find a way to keep him from telling the truth.

    During the show, Jeff was a nervous wreck.  Every time a song stopped, he was afraid that Skyler was just going to blurt out the truth to the audience.  He was on pins and needles when Skyler gave the speech about hate crimes and his foundation after singing Hate Crime.

    The show was just as emotional as the others had been since Denver, and Jeff was so afraid that tonight would be the night that Skyler spilled everything about himself, JC, Howie and even Jeff.  He was pacing by the time Skyler started singing Dangerous Emotions.

    "What is wrong with you?" asked Drew Lachey, grabbing his arm as he walked past him for the hundredth time.

    "Nothing," said Jeff, yanking his arm free.  "Don't worry about it."

    "You've been a wreck since I got here," said Drew.  "I thought you said Skyler was doing better."

    "He is," said Jeff.  "Just don't worry about it."

    "Something is going on with you," said Drew.  "I won't drop this until you tell me what it is."

    "You know for a runt, you can be awful damned pushy, Drew," said Jeff.  "I told you to leave it alone."

    "Fine!" cried Drew as his eyes darkened.

    "Drew," sighed Jeff.  "I'm sorry. I just have a lot on my mind, and I'm not ready to talk about it yet."

    "Does it have to do with Skyler?" asked Drew.

    "Yes, it does," admitted Jeff.

    "You're in love with him, aren't you?" asked Drew, eyeing him carefully.

    "Yes, I am," said Jeff.  "But I know he doesn't love me, Drew."

    "Who does he love?"

    "After everything that has happened, and everything he's done to him," said Jeff angrily.  "Skyler is still in love with JC Chasez."

    "Could you say that just a little bit louder?" demanded Howie Dorough, startling both of them.  "I don't think the press heard you outside."

    "Howie, what are you doing here?" asked Drew.

    "What do you mean?" demanded Howie.  "I came to see Skyler. I was with the rest of my friends when we heard you two."

    "Is everything all right back here?" asked Brian Littrell, coming around the corner.

    "Great!" cried Drew.  "Another Backstreet Boy."

    "Good to see you, too, Lachey," said Brian smugly.  "What's the problem back here?"

    "No problem," said Jeff.

    "That's not what it sounded like to me," said AJ McLean, coming up to stand beside Brian.  Kevin and Nick were right behind him.

    "Look," sighed Jeff.  "This is none of any of your business. This is between me and Drew."

    "Well, could you keep it down?" demanded Howie.  "If Skyler wants to come out of the closet, he should be the one to do it, Jeff. He doesn't need you screaming your head off that he loves JC and outing him."

    "What?" cried Brian.  "He's going to come out?"

    "No one said that, exactly," said Howie.  "You heard the radio interview, Brian. I was simply talking about what Skyler said about Barbara Walters."

    "What does any of this have to do with Timmons?" asked Nick.  "I thought he was diddling Jordan Knight."

    "Kid, you have an awful big mouth," said Jeff, glaring at Nick.

    "Back off, man," said AJ, stepping in front of Nick as Jeff started to walk toward him.

    "All of you, stop it!" cried Skyler, really giving them a fright.  They'd been so wrapped up in what was happening between them, they hadn't even noticed that Skyler and the rest of the show was done.  "Jeff, if you can't handle the fact that I play with the press, then you shouldn't be here. Boys, I'm glad that you feel you have to protect me, but it really isn't necessary. I can handle things just fine on my own."

    "That wasn't what we were trying to do," said Howie.  "He just got a little loud back here, and we were trying to calm him down."

    "Yeah," said Drew.  "That's exactly what you were trying to do."

    "I said, enough," said Skyler.  "I'm glad that all of you came to see the show, but if you can't get along, I suggest you don't speak to each other. This is stupid, and I don't want it ruining the mood I'm in. Now all of you be nice to each other, or leave."

    Everyone kind of separated after that.  Skyler's screaming at them had pretty much startled them all enough to get them to be civil to each other, or just out right ignore each other.  Jeff still kept looking at him with a worried look on his face, but Skyler wasn't going to be bothered by that right then.  The tour was almost over, and he was in a good mood.

    "Hey, Kid," said AJ McLean walking up behind Skyler.  "Great show."

    "Thanks," replied Skyler.

    "Listen, about before," said AJ.

    "Don't worry about it," replied Skyler.  "I'm not."

    "Cool," said AJ.  "So you're tour is about over."

    "Yeah, it is," said Skyler, smiling.  "I can't wait. I need some serious down time."

    "I hear you," said AJ, chuckling.  "I heard about how crazy you were with the no bus thing this time."

    "Believe me," said Skyler seriously.  "I'll never do it again."

    "You've got my respect, Kid," said AJ, patting his shoulder.  "You got balls."

    "Thanks," laughed Skyler.

    "Heard you on the radio this morning," said AJ.

    "Yeah, I had fun," he said.

    "Sounded like it," replied AJ.  "You really gonna tell on yourself to Barbara?"

    "I was only kidding," chuckled Skyler.  "I doubt that I'd even consent to being interviewed by her."

    "Well, if you do," said AJ, again slapping him on the back.  "I'm with you."

    "Thanks," he replied.

    "I'd be careful with Barbara Walters," said a voice from behind Skyler.

    "Oh?" he said turning to face none other than Ricky Martin.  "Why's that?"

    "Well, she goes after the question like a bull dog," replied Ricky, smiling at him.  "Great show."

    "Thanks," replied Skyler.  "Nice to meet you."

    "Same," said Ricky, shaking Skyler's outstretched hand.  "Christina says wonderful things about you."

    "She's a great girl," said Skyler.

    "Yes," agreed Ricky.  "Listen, after your 'down time', give me a call. I'd love to work with you."

    "Thanks," said Skyler.  "I'll definitely do that."

    The next morning, Skyler was almost dead on his feet.  The only thing that got him up and going was the thought that he would see JC later that day.  Through his yawns and frequent stretches, he smiled at everyone and laughed with them.  Everyone was so happy to have him in a better mood after such a long period of grief.  Chad and Cassie were happier than anyone.

    On the plane, Skyler tried to keep his side of the conversation with Chad going, but he just couldn't fight the battle against sleep anymore.  Succumbing to it, he drifted off into a peaceful sleep filled with dreams of Joshua Chasez, standing on stage, singing a song just for him.

* * *

    "Gawd, its good to see you again!" cried Justin, nearly leaping into Skyler's arms when he got to Lance's house.

    "Easy, Curly," he laughed.  "Its really great to see you, too. I missed you so much."

    He grabbed his friend and pulled him into an embrace.  He really had missed Justin.  The two of them really had fun together, and they hadn't really had much of a chance to get together.  Skyler had been on tour almost all year, and Justin had been working on the new album.

    "My God," said Lance, coming into the living room.  "You looked big on television, but geese Sky!"

    "Ok," said Skyler sheepishly.  "I've been working out on the tour as often as I can, and the rehearsals really are a great workout."

    "I'm guessing," said Lance, wrapping his arms around him.  "I missed you."

    "Oh, you have no idea how much I missed you, Lance," said Skyler, squeezing him tight.

    "Do I get one of those?" asked JC as he walked in the door.

    "JOSH!" cried Skyler, running to him and hugging him.  "I thought you would never get here."

    "I ran like every stop sign between Lance's and my house," chuckled JC.

    The two didn't let go of each other, and Lance and Justin could see the love in their eyes.  Lance hoped against hope that they would finally admit that they still loved each other and get back together.  He knew that Skyler still swore that he'd never give JC the chance to hurt him again, but something had happened with JC since Skyler had been away.  Lance didn't think that he would hurt him again, even if he was given the chance.

    They all had a great lunch together, and Lance had a fit when Skyler said he needed to get back to the hotel.  He didn't see the reason for Skyler, Chad and Cassie to spend the week in a hotel when there were five different houses for them to stay in.  He voiced this information before Skyler left.

    "We're way ahead of you, Lance," said Skyler.  "Chad is already at Joey's, and Cassie is with Chris."

    "But you're still staying at the hotel?" cried Lance.

    "I need to stay with the dancers, Lance," he said, smiling at him.  "If I don't, God knows what kind of trouble they'll get themselves in to."

    "Well, you'd better bring your ass over here every day, Mr. Thomas," laughed Lance.  "Or I'll send Joey to tackle you and carry you over here!"

    "Yes, Sir," said Skyler.  "But I really have to get going. Josh will you drive me?"

    "I planned to," replied JC, getting up from the table.

    "Do you think they'll do it?" asked Justin when Skyler and JC were gone.

    "I don't know, Curly," sighed Lance.  "But I hope so. They look so happy when they're together."

    "I know," said Justin.  "Did you see the way they acted? It was like nothing had ever happened between them."

    "I know," agreed Lance.  "I just hope it lasts."

    For the rest of the week, Skyler, Chad and Cassie spent as much time with the five members of *Nsync as possible.  They ate just about every meal at Lance's house, then Chad would run off with Joey somewhere, probably to play video games.  Cassie would disappear with Chris and Kaleb, and Skyler would hang out with Justin, Lance and JC.

    Skyler and JC spent as much alone time together as they could.  Skyler was falling in love all over again, and he kept reminding himself that JC had hurt him twice already.  It was getting harder and harder for him to resist his feelings for JC, and he knew that he had some serious thinking to do.  He'd talk to JC about it, and make his decision, when he returned from Sydney.

    He had to admit that he missed Orlando.  It really felt like coming home when he'd stepped off the plane and smelled the air again.  He called Mark to tell him that he'd be moving back to Orlando when the tour was over, and Mark told him he was already packing his clothes for him.  The two laughed about it for a while, and then Mark gave him his own news.

    Mark had accepted a role in a movie that would be filmed in Orlando that winter.  Skyler was thrilled to hear this, because Mark had not been working much since his contract with NBC had run out, and this meant that not only would he be working again, he'd also be in Orlando.

    Justin and Lance went all over Orlando with Skyler, picking out this and that for the house.  Lance was so happy to hear that Skyler would be moving back, but he knew better than to ask if it was because of JC.  Skyler still insisted that they weren't getting back together, but he and JC were always off together somewhere as soon as the sun went down.  Lance would call the hotel around nine every night, and Skyler would always be in his room, so he knew that he wasn't spending his nights with JC.  He just wondered how long it would be before they both decided that enough was enough, and they got back together.

    The day of the concert, Jeff and Howie arrived in Orlando.  Howie brought Skyler the news he'd been waiting for.  Mariah Carey had agreed to Skyler singing another of her songs at the concert.  He was already covering Without You on the album, and it was part of the show anyway.  But Skyler wanted to sing something that would let JC know that he was almost ready to go back to him, and the song he'd chosen would do just that.

* * *

    "Alright, Orlando," cried Skyler, and the crowd roared at him.  He still couldn't get over the feeling he got inside him when he was on stage before a roaring crowd.  "Are you ready?"  The music to Careless Whisper started, and the crowd cheered again.

"I feel so unsure,
As I take your hand and lead you to the dance floor.
As the music dies...
Something in your eyes,
Calls to mind a silver screen,
And all its sad goodbyes.

I'm never gonna dance again,
Guilty feet have got no rhythm.
Though it's easy to pretend,
I know you're not a fool.
I should have known better than to cheat a friend,
And waste a chance that I'd been given.
So I'm never gonna dance again,
The way I danced with you," he sang, and he was almost floored to realize that the crowd was singing with him.  He loved the feeling it gave him, but after all this time, he was still almost overwhelmed by it.

"Time can never mend,
The careless whisper of a good friend.
To the heart and mind,
If your answer's kind...
There's no comfort in the truth,
Pain is all you'll find.

I'm never gonna dance again,
Guilty feet have got no rhythm.
Though it's easy to pretend,
I know you're not a fool.
I should have known better than to cheat a friend,
And waste a chance that I'd been given.
So I'm never gonna dance again,
The way I danced with you.

What am I without your love?
Tonight the music seems so loud,
I wish that we could lose this crowd.
Maybe it's better this way,
We'd hurt each other with the things we want to say.

We could have been so good together,
We could have lived this dance forever...
But now, who's gonna dance with me?
Please stay.
And now it's never gonna be
That way...

I'm never gonna dance again,
Guilty feet have got no rhythm.
Though it's easy to pretend,
I know you're not a fool.
I should have known better than to cheat a friend,
And waste a chance that I'd been given.
So I'm never gonna dance again,
The way I danced with you.

Now that you're gone...
Now that you're gone...
Now that you're gone...
Was what I did so wrong?
So wrong that you had to leave me alone?" he sang, and the song ended to a thundering response from the audience, and Skyler beamed at them.

    The music to Without You started, and Skyler scanned the audience for one face to concentrate on.  He couldn't look at JC while he sang this song.  He found a girl in the third row that looked like she was ready to faint when he looked at her.  He walked to the front of the stage and zeroed in on her shining face.

"No I can't forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that's just the way
The story goes
You always smile but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes it shows

No I can't forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrow
When I had you there
But then I let you go
And now it's only fair
That I should let you know
What you should know

I can't live
If living is without you
I can't live
I can't give any more
I can't live
If living is without you
I can't give
I can't give any more," he sang, and she sang right along with him, tears running down her face.

"Well I can't forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that's just the way
The story goes
You always smile but in your eyes
Your sorrow shows
Yes it shows

I can't live
If living is without you
I can't live
I can't give any more
I can't live
If living is without you
I can't live
I can't give any more
No I
No no no no I
I can't live
If living is without you...
I can't live
I can't give any more
I can't live," he sang and then the music ended, and the crowd made his heart swell again as they screamed and cheered.

    "I have a special treat tonight, Orlando," he said, making them roar again.  "There's someone here tonight that has been begging me to let them know exactly how I feel. I got permission today to sing this song, and the band hasn't had any time, really, to practice, so don't laugh at me. Special Someone, this is just for you."

    He hoped that JC would understand the meaning as the music to My All began to play, and the crowd started to scream.  They really seemed to love it when he sang a ballad, and he meant to give this song everything he had.

"I am thinking of you
In my sleepless solitude tonight
If it's wrong to love you
Then my heart just won't let me be right
'Cause I'm drowned in you
And I won't pull through
Without you by my side

I'd give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I'd risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
'cause I can't go on
Living in the memory of our song
I'd give my all for your love tonight

Baby can you feel me
Imagining I'm looking in your eyes
I can see you clearly
Vividly emblazoned in my mind
And yet you're so far
Like a distant star
I'm wishing on tonight

I'd give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I'd risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
'cause I can't go on
Living in the memory of our song
I'd give my all for your love tonight," he sang as tears flowed from his eyes.  Out of pure luck, he happened to look up at JC, and he could tell, even from that distance, that his message had reached him loud and clear.

"I'd give my all to have
Just one more night with you
I'd risk my life to feel
Your body next to mine
'cause I can't go on
Living in the memory of our song
I'd give my all for your love tonight
Give my all for your love
Tonight," he sang as the band let the music fade away, and the crowd nearly came unglued.

* * *

    When he left the stage, it was clear that he wasn't going to be able to leave for a while.  The crowd was still screaming for him at a fevered pitch, and Skyler was so pumped from the show, he didn't care if he ever got to leave.  Everyone was electrified, telling him that they'd never seen more emotion during his shows, and he loved to hear it.

    The one person that he hoped had caught the emotion that he'd been trying to hard to convey, just smiled at him with one of the happiest expressions he'd ever seen.  He noticed Jeff looking from him to JC and back again the entire time, but he just couldn't worry about that.  He was in love with JC, and his heart belonged to him.

    When it was almost safe for everyone to leave, Skyler had to sneak out of the stadium with Jeff and Kaleb.  He was a little aggravated that he couldn't leave with JC.  There was so much they needed to talk about, and Skyler would be leaving the next night for Sydney.  He didn't want it to wait for when he came home again.  He needed to talk to JC tonight.

    "You're going back to him, aren't you?" asked Jeff sadly when they were pulling out of the stadium, trying to sneak away from the mob of fans.

    "I don't know," replied Skyler.  "Jeff, I really care about you, I hope you know that, but there was never going to be anything like that between us."

    "I just wish . . ."  He was cut off by the sound of squealing tires.

    "JOSH," cried Skyler just as the oncoming truck plowed into their small rental car.

to be continued

I know, I know...bad cliffhanger! But I had to end it there.  I hope you all understand, and at least I won't be taking a long break between this chapter and the next. You'll have your answers soon, I promise!

Without You and My All  are songs by Mariah Carey.

Careless Whisper is a song by Wham!

My other stories on Nifty:

Christopher's Story
Nicholas And Mark

Adult Youth:
Boys Of Summer
Midnight Encounter

For a complete list of all of my stories, go to my website.

Stories That I Really Like On Nifty:

High School:
Matthew Figures It Out
Carrots And Celery

Family Album
My Step-Brother, Jacob

Working It Out

Prolific Nifty Authors That I REALLY Recommend:

Greg Bowden
Eric Case
Justin Case (In Loving Memory)