© 2005-2015 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 105


In Holland the fans were everywhere. They showed up in throngs outside the hotel where they were staying, chanting Skyler's name in the streets and causing a commotion everywhere he went. Police and officials from the hotel had to break up crowds of fans twelve different times. Skyler sat with his brothers and uncle in the common room of the suite they all shared, talking about it. Jeff was at his side and the pair seemed happier than ever to Jason for which he was thankful. He still didn't know Jeff's problem had been, but he seemed to be back on track.

"Well if we thought your career was going to suffer because of the tape we were dead wrong," said Alex as they sat there.

"I'd say you're bigger than ever now," said Evan with a grin. "If the response to 'Thriller' was any indication, I'd say you got more famous after the tape."

"That was amazing," admitted Skyler. "I mean I knew people would like the number but I didn't expect that kind of response."

"I was amazed when they screamed so loud after I was lowered to the stage," admitted Jeff. "I've been a little worried about my career lately."

"I told you," Skyler said, taking his hand. "There's nothing to worry about. When the tour is over and you're ready we'll start recording your album. I'll even produce it if you want."

"That'd be nice, Blondie," he said, leaning close to kiss him. "Thank you."

"So when do you think we'll get to hear some new stuff from you, Jeff?" Jason asked.

"Not sure," he said. "I gotta get with some musicians and work some stuff out. I've got a notebook about half full of songs I wrote. I'll record them all and then let whoever I get assigned pick some for the album. I have a few that I wanna demand get to the album. Two I want to be singles."

"Well I'll give you all the freedom you want with your album," said Skyler. "I don't think you need anyone other than Matt and Clay for now. When you decide to tour and do promotions we'll set you up with someone who can travel with you."

"That sounds good," said Jeff. "As long as Matt agrees."

"I'll talk to him about it after the show," Skyler said.

They moved to the television and quickly watched the DVD of Ashton skating. They saw the entire competition. These kids were amazing on the ice. Skyler and Jeff were blown away by some of them. Ashton came on third and performed the routine that they'd seen when they were in DC. He made no mistakes, but Skyler saw the difference between the triple jumps he'd seen him doing when he was watching and the doubles he was doing in the competition. He remembered that Aiden had said that triple jumps weren't allowed in the young men's novice competitions. He had to wait until he got to the higher level for those. They all cheered as he skated. His scores were awesome and he won the competition.

"He looked great on the ice," Jeff said as they settled into bed that night.

"He sure did," Skyler said. "I miss him like crazy, but I know that he's doing something he loves."

"He does love it," Jeff said. "Don't worry though. The tour will be over in a week. Then we can go and be with him in Los Angeles."

"I can't wait," Skyler said as he snuggled closer to his lover.

The next morning he was in interviews and photo shoots until it was time for the meet 'n greet. Then there were sound checks and dance rehearsals and finally the first show in Holland. Jeff stood just off stage to watch his lover perform that night. He was so blown away by the amazing response of the crowds everywhere. He was so proud of him for what he'd done for the fans in Atlanta and blown away by how they'd responded to what he'd done for them.

He felt so much better after his talk with Skyler and couldn't figure out why he'd been so scared to talk to him in the first place. He'd called Nick and Drew and thanked them for basically verbally kicking his ass. Everything had worked out between him and Skyler and he'd be recording soon, too. He'd been afraid that his career would be over after the tape was leaked, but the response when he was on stage in New York was so awesome that he wasn't afraid to record the album anymore. He couldn't wait to see what happened next.

Both Skyler and Jeff were happy as the tour left Holland and headed back to France for the final two shows. Skyler gave them the best shows he could in Nice and then they were flying back to Los Angeles. It was finally over, but neither of them felt like it had been a horrible tour. There'd been rough spots, but all in all it had been one of the most favorable experiences either of them could remember from a tour.

The single from the soundtrack of the Wheel of Time movie was released while they were in the air. Skyler hadn't planned on going to any of the parties for the release of the soundtrack anyway. They landed in Los Angeles to have a happy reunion with the family there. Then they were getting ready for the party and the hated show's final episode. The party was being held at the school and everything had already been set up by the time they got home.

"Everything is set up at the school for the party," Tabitha told him when they walked into his house.

"Thanks, Mom," he said. "Any word from Dad?"

"He said he'll be home some time today," she said. "He's staying here with you?"

"Yeah," he said. "Don't worry, though, we'll be over to see you if you feel you can't be here with Dad here."

"Well we have to talk, Skyler," she said. "I don't see why I'd be uncomfortable in your home just because your father is here. My grandchildren are here, too."

Helen arrived while they were talking. She was going to sit with the kids while they were all at the party. Skyler thanked her for coming and hugged her. He apologized to her for making her miss the party, but she insisted that she'd rather stay with the kids. He went upstairs to get ready for the party with Jeff.

When they got to the party they were dismayed to see protesters outside the school, but happy to find that police were keeping them well back. There were fans everywhere, too. Skyler was afraid that fighting would break out as he and Jeff made their way inside with Jason, Alex and Evan. No press or photographers were allowed inside the school so Skyler didn't worry about any of that. He planned to just have a good time. Once he was inside the school he tried to forget about the protesters outside and relax.

"Skyler!" said Zack Libby as he came to hug him. "I'm so sorry I wasn't available to tour with you this time. From the sounds of things it was an experience. Hi, Jeff."

"Hey, Zack," said Jeff, shaking his hand when he let go of Skyler.

"The tour had it's rough spots," said Skyler. "It was a pretty positive experience other than those few rough spots. Are you all done with your project?"

"Sure am," he said with a grin. "I'm not taking on anything else for a while in case you need me."

"Well they have the script for the next two Wheel of Time movies at the offices," said Skyler. He'd been told that earlier. "They're just finalizing things with that, trying to find a director and all of that. Several have thrown their hats in the ring for the job. I'm thinking of pushing it and telling them who I want. When all of that is finalized and we make sure everyone else is available it'll be back to Sydney for filming. I'll need you for that."

"I'll just have to make sure I'm available for that," replied Zack. "Don't let me keep you from the party. I'll come by the house tomorrow and we can talk then."

"All right," Skyler said with a smile. "It's good to see you again, Zack."

"Same here," Zack said with a smile. "Have fun guys."

They made their way into the party room and more and more people stopped them as they moved along. Every one of the dancers were there. All of the tour staff were there along with various celebrities and their assistants. Skyler was happy to see that Brian Kraus, Kristy Swansen, Gabrielle Landy and Madonna were all there. He made his way to Madonna and he and Jeff sat down. Jason hugged her and then ran off to join the dancers. Alex and Even followed them.

"Toy, those wretched people are outside screaming that we're all going to Hell," said Madonna as she accepted a kiss on her cheek from him.

"Don't remind me," he said. "They were everywhere when the tour reached the US. I almost wanted to run back to Europe."

"You have a house in London," she reminded him as she always did when they talked now.

"I know that," he said with a smile. "We're talking about going to stay there for a while. We both have things to escape from here."

"I'd say," she replied. "Secret family members, affairs, so-called Christians spouting evil talk at you, preventing fans from entering arenas and all of that. You need a vacation."

"In some ways the tour was a vacation," he said. "I couldn't believe how supportive the fans were this time around."

"And you thought you'd have to leave the spotlight behind to come out of the closet," she said with a smile. "I told you no one would care."

"You did," he said.

"Jeff, how are you fairing now that you're out of the closet?" she asked.

"It's been a rough time for me," he said. "My family has stopped talking to me all together. I got kicked out of my group and pretty much tossed aside."

"Well aren't you glad that your future husband owns a multi-million dollar entertainment company?" she asked with a grin.

"I am," he said, grinning back. "I'm gonna start recording as soon as I find musicians to play for the album."

"That's wonderful, Sweetheart," she said. "Use my number when you're ready. I might be able to help you."

"Sky's going to produce the album," he said, putting his arm around Skyler.

"That's awful sweet of him," she said, eyeing the cameras. "I'd seen some of the episodes of that stupid show, but I had to see it with my own eyes. You really don't give a damn who sees you, do you?"

"Why should we?" Skyler asked. "Everyone knows about us now."

"When's the wedding?" she asked seriously.

"When we figure that out you'll be among the first to know," said Skyler with a huge smile.

"So it's in the works?" she asked.

"Of course it is," said Jeff with a smile of his own. "I can't wait to put a ring on his finger."

"Going to Canada?" she asked.

"Probably," replied Skyler. "I mean we'll have a ceremony here in the US but it won't mean a damned thing to anyone but us."

"You know the US won't accept the Canadian marriage license either," she said carefully, not knowing what his reaction might be on this issue.

"We know," he sighed. "It doesn't matter. We'll know we're married. It'll be legal here some time."

"Gonna have a big wedding?" she asked.

"Huge," said Jeff. Skyler just smiled.

"Ooh, pretty!" she said, smiling.

"I don't know if we'll go the pretty route or not," said Skyler. "It'll be something though."

"Won't it be?" Jeff said, leaning over to kiss him.

"I also hear you want to try your hand at directing a movie," she said to Skyler.

"Well Jase said I could be his assistant the next time he films," he said. "If I have my say, he'll direct the next two Wheel of Time movies."

"But Sweetie, you do have your say," she said, smiling. "You own the damned company. Tell them what to do. They have to listen. I thought you proved that when they tried to let Chad go."

"Yeah," he said.

"Speaking of Chad," she said with a grin. "I hear he's making a different kind of sound over there at Sky High Recording Studios."

"He is," replied Skyler. "The sound isn't my thing, but the words are amazing. We had a discussion once about how my music was all edgy and in your face about certain things and Chad's wasn't. Do you remember?"

"Yes," said Madonna and Jeff at the same time. They smiled at each other.

"Well it's all in your face now," he said. "Chad bared his soul with this record."

"Then it should be amazing," she said. "I'll have to catch a listen soon."

"Just call him," said Skyler. "Or talk to him tonight. He's here with Darby somewhere."

"I see him talking to Kristy and Brian," she said. "I'll get him eventually."

"Well we should really mingle," he said, getting up. "Are you going to dance?"

"I might," she said, grinning at him. "The music's good." They were playing the his album.

He and Jeff hit the dance floor and resisted every attempt the dancers made to get them to join them in the moves from the tour. The tour was over for them and they weren't going to dance like that. When the music changed again and a ballad from the album played they moved closer together until their bodies were in full contact. They danced to the music and tried to shut out the cameras that followed their every move.

After the dance they mingled with different people, going their separate ways. Skyler met up with Brian and Kristy and found Chad sitting at the table with Madonna deep in conversation. He was happy about that. He thought perhaps Madonna would get a chance to listen to his new stuff. He only hoped that she liked it.

"So how does it feel to be home to stay?" Kristy asked after she hugged him.

"Different," he said. "But then you both know that filming for another movie could start any time and I'll be off again. Madonna's trying to get us to spend some time in the house we bought in London, too. If this protesting shit doesn't stop soon I might just go there and hide."

"What's with the protesters anyway?" Brian asked. "So you're gay, who cares? The fans sure don't seem to."

"No," he said, beaming at them. "They fans are amazing as always."

"What you did for them in Detroit was all over the news," Kristy said, smiling. "That was amazing."

"Well it wasn't right that they had to cancel a show because of the stupid protests," Skyler said. "Those people paid to get in to see a show, so I gave them one."

"I loved your 'Thriller' at the VMA's," Kristy said. "I was in the audience that night."

"Oh, I wish I'd known that," he said. "Thanks, though. That was a lot of fun. Michael loved it, too. He said that he's going to sign the paperwork to let me do that on the next tour if I decide to."

"That'd be awesome," Kristy said.

"Yeah, but it won't be the same with Justin and Jeff," he said. "I can't just expect both of them to be able to tour with me the next time I go out. Besides I don't even know when that'll be. I know it won't be for a while."

"Gonna record a new album?" Brian asked.

"Maybe," he said. "I've been writing again. I've got some great songs."

"When do we get to hear some?" Kristy asked.

"Later," he said. "I'm going to sing one of the ballads I've chosen for the album. I wrote it for Jeff."

"Awe," she said, smiling. "I bet it's going to be amazing."

"He was having a hard time after the tape first came out," he explained. "He was afraid that I didn't need him and that I'd leave him. It was awful for a while. We finally talked and I reassured him that I love him and I'll never leave him over something as stupid as the tape. I wrote the song the next day. I just locked myself on the bus with my guitar and wrote the song. I wrote some amazing music for it, too."

"So what do you call the song?" Brian asked.

"I named it 'Smack Into You'," he said, grinning.

"Doesn't sound like a ballad," Kristy said.

"Trust me," he said. "It's a ballad. I'm hoping it's a great ballad."

"I'm sure it will be," said Brian as Gabrielle came up to them.

"Skyler Thomas," she said, grinning from ear to ear. Then she grabbed him and hugged him tight. "I swear you get sexier every time I see you."

"Well Gabby, you get more beautiful every I time see you," he countered.

"God it's good to see you again," she said with a chuckle. "Always a sweet talker. You know I was at the last show in New York."

"Why didn't you come back stage?" he asked. "I'd have loved to see you."

"Oh I didn't want to be a bother," she said. "There were so many fans packed into that place that I could barely breathe. You are more popular than ever I do believe."

"I think you're right," he said. "Who knew that being outed by a tape recorded conversation between my brother and Justin Timberlake would be so good for my career?"

"So the tour is over," she said. "What next new music, another movie or down time?"

"Well hopefully all three," he said with a laugh.

"So you do have new music," she said, grinning. "Can we hear some?"

"I'm going to sing in a little bit," he assured her. "I was just telling Brian and Kristy that I'm going to sing a new ballad. It's something I want on the new album when I record it."

"Can't wait," she said. "Listen, I gotta get back to my table. I love you!"

"I love you, too," he said, hugging her.

"She's been drinking a bit," said Brian with a worried look on his face.

"Problem?" Skyler asked.

"Gabby's starting to drink a bit too much," Kristy said. "She was fired from her last show because she showed up drunk on set too many times."

"That's not good," he said, turning to watch as she took another glass of champaign from one of the wait staff. "Should we do something?"

"We're hoping Zack will soon," she said. "She's been living with him for about a month."

"Really?" he replied, turning to look at them again. "Why?"

"Her husband threw her out," she said. "She was having an affair with some guy."

"What is going on with her?" Skyler asked. "I know I haven't seen her in a while, but I swear the last time I saw her that girl had her head on straighter than any of us."

"We don't know what's going on," said Brian. "Zack tells us that he's almost got her talked into a program, but she won't tell him much. He's afraid that if he has to leave again and she's not in a program she'll hurt herself."

"Skyler, they're ready to start," said Matt as he came up to them.

"Sorry, guys, I've gotta get with the band," he said. "I'm not done talking about Gabby."

"We'll talk, Sky," said Kristy while Brian nodded.

Skyler followed Matt to the area that had been set up for the band. He talked with his band for a few minutes before the music stopped and the spotlight found him. He took the mic from the stand and turned to the waiting crowd. They started cheering before he could start talking. He motioned for them to stop twice before they let him talk.

"Well the tour is over," he said and then had to wait while everyone cheered again before he could continue. "Everyone has been asking about new music tonight. Some of you heard a few of my new songs while we were on the road. This one is for Jeff, but I do plan to record it and make sure it makes my album. So here you go guys." The band began to play and everyone got quiet. Skyler looked into Jeff's blue eyes as he waited for his cue.

"Oh, ooh, oh yeah," he sang slowly and softly. "Oh, ooh, oh yeah. Head down as I watch my feet take turns hitting the ground. Eyes shut, I find myself in love racing the earth, and I'm soaked in your love. And love is right in my path, in my grasp, and me and you belong.

"I wanna run, run smack into you," he sang louder. "I wanna run, oh run smack into you."

The music played for a bit and Skyler watched as Jeff wiped tears from his eyes. He smiled at him and winked before singing again.

"Ears closed, what I hear no one else has to know, 'cuz I know that what we have is worth first place in gold. And I'm soaked in your love, and love is right in my path, in my grasp and me and you belong.

"And I, I wanna run, oh run smack into you," he sang louder. "I'm willing to run, run smack into you.

"Whoa, oh, oh, oh - oh," he sang in a breathy voice. "Whoa, oh, oh, oh - oh.

"Head down as I watch my feet take turns hitting the earth. Eyes shut. I'm in love and I'm racing the earth, and I'm soaked in your love. Love is right in my path, in my grasp and me and you belong.

"And I wanna run, oh run smack into you," he sang, staring into Jeff's eyes. "I'm willing to run, oh run smack into you. I'm willing to run, run, run, run ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh - ooh. I'm wanna run, run smack into you. I'm willing to run, oh run smack into you."

The music stopped as he sang the last word. The crowd was cheering so loud that Jeff couldn't hear what he was saying to him. Skyler put the mic back on the stand and went to him. He took his lover in his arms and kissed him for everything he was worth, not caring that the cameras were still rolling.

He didn't get to talk to Brian, Kristy, Zack or Gabby before the party was over. He followed his family and Madonna to the waiting SUV's. They paid no attention to the press as usual, and the protesters were gone. He was happy for that. He was too tired to mess with them and didn't want to even look at them. All he wanted was to crawl in bed with his lover and get some much needed sleep. He vowed that if anyone woke him up in the morning he'd kill them.

When they got home Helen told them that she'd put the children to bed at nine. She said Ashton had been asking for his fathers and that made Skyler feel bad. He promised her that he spend some quality time with him the next day. He'd made sure that there would be no business distractions. He'd told both Clay and Matt that if either of them showed up at his house the next day it had better just be because they missed him. If either of them came to him with any sort of problem or piece of business they'd be sorry.

"You, Brian and Kristy looked seriously huddled together after Gabby left the three of you," Madonna said when they were sitting in the living room with bottles of water, trying to wind down. "What was that all about?"

"Gabby's been doing a lot of drinking lately," he said. "She's living with Zack now because her husband threw her out. I guess she'd been having an affair and he caught her. She's been fired from the show she was working on because she showed up drunk one too many times. We were discussing doing something about it."

"What can you do about it, Skyler?" Madonna asked. "If Gabby isn't ready to give up the bottle then no one can help her."

"I know that," he sighed. "It's just that we were close once, and I feel guilty for leaving her behind."

"Don't do that to yourself," Madonna said. "You career took you to places that Gabby couldn't go. It wasn't anyone's fault, and it damned sure isn't your fault that she's turning into a drunk. What she needs is a clinic."

"Zack's working on that," he replied.

"There, see?" she said. "Zack is taking care of Gabby. You take care of you and your family. You're far too busy to be getting involved in a mess right now, Skyler."

"Yes, Ma'am," he said with a smile. "How long are you staying?"

"I'm flying back to London tomorrow," she said. "I only wanted to be here for your tour party."

"Well thanks for coming," he said. "It meant a lot to see you there."

"Thanks, Toy," she said. "Now you're falling asleep sitting up. Take that beautiful man of yours and go to bed."

"Yes, Ma'am," he said, getting up with a groan. "So glad the tour's over. Come on Jeff."

They each kissed her goodnight before heading up the stairs. They checked on all of the children before they headed for their own room to strip down and climb into bed. Skyler was so tired he didn't know why his eyes were still open. Jeff let out a sigh like a man finally come home from so long in a field.

"I loved the song," he said in a voice that dripped fatigue.

"I'm glad you liked it," Skyler said, snuggling close. "Let's sleep now."

"Okay," Jeff replied, but Skyler didn't hear him. He was already asleep.

The next day was so warm that he and Jeff wrangled the kids about two hours after breakfast and put them all in swim trunks and suits and headed for the pool. Chad and Darby joined them along with Jason and Alex. Even was off somewhere with Cameron. They splashed around in the water with the kids and had a great time until their stomachs alerted them that food was needed. They didn't want to children to get too much sun anyway.

"We're working on a new routine," Ashton told Skyler when he asked the boy how skating was going. "I'll be old enough to skate in the Junior Men's division next year."

"That's great," Skyler said. "I sure missed you like crazy while you were away from me."

"I missed you guys, too," he said. "How long are you going to be home?"

"Hopefully for a while," Skyler replied. "We might fly over to stay a few nights in our new house in London, but I'm sure Aiden can spare you for a day or two."

"He's really strict about time off, Dad," Ashton said.

"Well he'll give you the time off because I will make him," Skyler vowed. "Have you been keeping up with your studies?"

"Yeah, the tutor came every day," he replied. "Can I go play?"

"Sure you can," Skyler said. The boy hugged him before he went upstairs to join his brothers and sister.

Skyler and Jeff went up to their hot tub with bottles of water. Skyler purposefully turned their phones off. Jeff smiled at him when he saw what he was doing. They went up and told the kids where they'd be. Then they were naked and in the tub together. The hot water felt so amazing on Skyler's tired muscles. He leaned into Jeff and just let his body soak it up.

"I'm so glad to be home," Jeff said. "The tour wasn't as bad as usual, but I couldn't wait to just be home again."

"I know exactly how you feel," Skyler said. "This is so nice. I'll probably just stay in this tub till I die."

"No you won't," laughed Jeff. "I've got something for us to do today."

"Oh, Jeff," he sighed. "I just wanted to relax."

"This doesn't involve leaving the house," Jeff promised. "I want to talk about the wedding."

"Oh," Skyler said, turning to face him. "So let's talk."

"So when do you want to get married?" Jeff asked.

"Tomorrow," Skyler said with a grin. "Seriously, though Valentine's Day is out because it's my birthday and I'm always busy that day. June is such a girl thing. What about Halloween?"

"You're serious?" Jeff asked.

"Yes, I'm serious," he replied. "We can really do it up and not worry that it's on someone else's special day that way."

"Well all right then," Jeff said with a smile. "So do we rent tuxes or ask Darby to make them for us?"

"Well why don't we talk it over with Darby at dinner tonight and go from there?" Skyler asked.

"That sounds like a plan," Jeff replied. "So do you want to get married this year or next year?"

"Well if we're going to seriously plan the wedding it'll have to be next year," replied Skyler. "That way we can both make sure that we've got nothing going on for the week before. I want at least a week for the honeymoon as well."

"Where are we gonna go on a honeymoon?" laughed Jeff. "We've been everywhere on tour."

"Yes, but we've been to some really beautiful places for nothing more than work," Skyler pointed out. "I mean we never get to really enjoy a place when we're on tour. This will be different."

"Well then where?" Jeff asked. "France was nice."

"Yeah but in October?" Skyler asked, wrinkling his nose. "What about Greece?"

"Now you're talkin'," Jeff said, smiling wide. "We could rent a place on the beach and have a great time in the sun. We'd be alone, right?"

"Of course we would," Skyler replied. "Why would we take anyone with us?"

That night at dinner they talked to Darby about the tuxes for their wedding. She cried when they asked her. She was so thrilled to have been asked to design them that she vowed to start immediately. Skyler had to remind her that they weren't actually getting married for a year. They hadn't even found a venue yet.

"Are you going to hire a wedding planner?" she asked.

"We hadn't planned on it," Jeff replied. "I think between the two of us we know what we want."

"Halloween," Chad said with a grin. "Are you gonna have costumes?"

"No," laughed Skyler. "We chose Halloween because there was no way it was anyone's special day. This way it can be ours."

"That's cool," Chad said. "So where are you thinking about going for the honeymoon?"

"Greece," Skyler said, smiling. "We're gonna rent a place on the beach and just have a good time of it."

"That's awesome," said Darby with a huge smile. "I'm so happy for you guys. I can't believe you've decided to get married!"

"We love each other so much that there's nothing left but to marry each other," said Jeff with a goofy grin on his face.

"I love you guys so much," Chad said with the happiest smile Skyler had seen on his younger brother's face in such a very long time. He got up and walked around the table to hug Skyler tight. Then he hugged Jeff. He went back to his seat with that smile still on his face. "I'm so damned happy for you both."

They talked back and forth about plans for the wedding throughout dinner. By the time they left the table Skyler's face hurt from smiling so much. The kids were all smiling at them, though he was sure that none of them but Ashton really understood what was going on. He hugged them each and then sat down in the living room with them for their reading hour. He'd missed this while he was on tour. There'd never been time for it with everything going on.

After the reading hour he let Jeff take the little ones up to the play room for some quality time while he took Ashton into the family room and got out the paints and brushes. He set him up and then they painted together while Ashton told him all about his training and how he was working really hard on the triple jumps and had even landed a wobbly quadruple jump. Skyler was so proud of him. They painted together until it was time for Ashton to take his bath and get ready for bed. Aiden would be coming for him in the morning. Skyler hugged and kissed him three times before he let him go upstairs. He cleaned up the paints and left the painting they'd worked on to dry. It was blurry, but he could tell what it was. It was a young boy on the ice, twirling around.

Ashton was so talented in several different areas. He was blown away by his painting skills. The boy could fly on the ice and he looked so wonderful on the ice that Skyler could barely keep from bursting with pride. He was good at math and had already learned to play quite a number of songs on his keyboard.

Skyler told Jeff all about the painting as they bathed the younger children and get them ready for bed. Jeff went down to take a look at the painting himself before coming back upstairs to shower with Skyler. The real world would claim Skyler in the morning, but for that night he was Jeff's. They made love slowly with a lot of kissing and touching. By the time they were both sated they needed another shower. This time they didn't waste time in the shower. They dried off and snuggled in the bed and went to sleep.

Skyler spent much of breakfast the next morning on the phone with Clay and Matt. Protesters were outside the Sky High Office Complex. The police had been called but they hadn't arrived by the time Skyler got there with Brent and several other security men. They pulled into the lot and got out of the SUV. Skyler was about to say something to Brent about giving him time off when he shoved Skyler back and stepped in front of him as a gunshot that sounded like an explosion rocked Brent. Skyler started screaming for help as he eased Brent to the ground beside the SUV.

There was a huge commotion in the group of protesters. The police had arrived and they had the gunman in custody pretty quickly. Skyler held his hand over the wound in Brent's shoulder, applying pressure and begging the man to stay with him. He was crying as he held on to his security man, pleading with God to let him be all right. The ambulance came and Skyler got inside with Brent. The other security men followed the ambulance in a procession of black SUVs.

They took Brent into surgery and Skyler was left in the private waiting room with seven of the security detail. He looked down at himself and discovered that he was covered in Brent's blood. The television was on a news channel and on that he heard that he'd been shot. He quickly pulled out his phone and called Jeff to tell him that he was fine, the news was wrong and to give him the news about Brent. Jeff said he was on his way.

Then Skyler was on the phone with Clay and Matt. He learned from Clay that the shooter's name was Ray Flan Junior. The name meant nothing to him. Matt told him that Ray Flan Senior was the leader of the Children of the Light. Skyler didn't care about any of that. He was too worried about Brent. Jeff arrived with Clay and Matt. Jeff hugged him tight and told him that he'd told Chad and Darby what had happened. He'd also told Jason, Alex, Evan and Cameron. Tabitha had been there when he'd told everyone but the phone kept ringing.

They sat and waited in silence for news on Brent. It was hours before a surgeon came to tell them that Brent was stable and would be moved to a private room within the hour. Skyler demanded to see him and was finally taken to the recovery room where he was shocked by how pale Brent looked. Brent was awake and he looked at Skyler with huge eyes.

"Are you all right?" he asked, looking him over.

"I'm fine, Brent," he said. "Worry about recovering."

"Did they get the bastard that shot me?" he asked.

"Yes," he said and then told him who it was and who the man's father was.

They made him leave after that, but Skyler told Brent before he left the room that as soon as he was out of the hospital they were all going to London to stay for a while. When he got back to the private waiting room he found Jase, Ali, Tabitha, Jason, Alex, Cameron, Evan and his father. He hadn't even known that his father had come home. Ben grabbed him and held him tight.

"My God, Skyler," his father said as he held him. "When we saw the news I nearly had a heart attack. Son, I'm so glad you're all right. How's Brent?"

"He's stable," Skyler told them. "They're moving him to a private room. I told him that when he gets out of the hospital we're moving to London for a while. We have to get away from these crazy people."

"You take those kids and get away from here," Ben said. "We understand. Skyler I want you and all of the kids safe. With this crazy shit going on you can't be safe here."

"I know, Dad," he said, hugging him again.

He let go of his father only to be engulfed in a fierce hug by Jase and then again by Jason and then Chad. Tabitha kissed his forehead and told him that she'd brought clothes for him. He had no idea who had called and told her that Skyler was covered in blood. It allowed him to shower in an empty patient bathroom and he quickly put on clean clothes and returned to the waiting room with his bloody clothes in a plastic medical waist bag.

Then Jeff came into the waiting room and Skyler was humbled by what he saw. Jeff looked wrecked. His eyes were red. There were tears on his face. A look of such agony filled his eyes. Then he saw Skyler and he launched himself into his arms, telling him that he loved him and how scared he was, how devastated he was. Skyler held him tight, kissing him and tell him that he was fine that Brent was the one who shot.

"But Skyler," said his father. "How did he get shot?"

"We got out of the SUV and I was talking to him about giving him time off," he said. "Then he shoved me back and down and stepped in front of me and I heard the shot."

"Oh," Jeff moaned and then he grabbed him again and held him tight.

"It's all right, Jeff," he said. "They arrested the man who was shooting. His name is Ray Flan Junior. His father is the leader of the stupid cult that protests outside every event I'm a part of."

"We're moving to London," Jeff said. "We're packing up the kids and moving to London. If Trisha throws a fit she can move there, too. We'll buy her a house."

"Calm down, Jeff," Skyler soothed, rubbing his back. "I've already made that decision. We'll talk about it when Brent is out of the hospital. I'm not leaving him here now."

Clay and Matt came in then and Skyler looked at his agent and manager in silence. Clay was on his phone and Matt looked scared. The poor guy had told Skyler twice that his experience with other celebrities had not prepared him for the avalanche that was Skyler's career. Skyler hoped that this didn't scare him off. He really liked Matt and his lover. He'd done a really good job for Skyler and everyone in the family liked him. The dancers loved him and the tour staff thought he walked on water.

"Skyler, there are about a million reporters outside this hospital," Clay said as he closed his phone. "I just called in every single man on your Los Angeles security detail. They'll be here with the army of SUVs in a few minutes. What I want to know is if you're going to release a statement."

"Shit," sighed Skyler. "Clay, we really need to find that one reporter I can talk to. Did you get me the information on Anderson Cooper?"

"I did," he replied. "It's on your desk at the house. I dug up everything I could on the guy. I think you can trust him, Skyler. He's a good guy."

"Fine," he sighed. "Release a statement to tell everyone that I'm fine and that Brent is stable. Say nothing more."

"Got it," Matt said, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He called Andrew and got the ball rolling on the statement.

"What about a photographer?" Clay asked.

"Don't we have like a million of the on staff at Sky High?" he asked. "We have everything else."

"Skyler, we have fashion photographers," Clay said. "They are not trained to follow you and take pictures."

"I don't want someone to follow me," Skyler snapped. "I want someone to be at events and things like that so that the stupid press can get their fucking pictures."

"Calm down," Clay cautioned. "I didn't mean that we needed someone to follow you around constantly. I only meant the events, Skyler. You could employ this photographer and he, or she could got with you to events."

"And I want a baseball bat," Skyler said, thinking of the throng of press outside the hospital. "I want a good, solid heavy one that can do some damage."

"What are you planning to do with that?" asked his father with wide eyes.

"I'm going to carry it everywhere I go so if they try to box me in I can wave it at them and tell them to get the fuck away from me," he said seriously. "This shit has gone too far. They're shooting at us now. Until I move to London I want a baseball bat. Get it for me, Clay. I mean it."

They all talked at the same time. Each had a reason why Skyler shouldn't carry a baseball bat. They talked over each other, but clearly he'd startled them. He didn't care. He was scared of them now, more scared of them than he'd ever been. Sure he knew that it wasn't a member of the press that had shot Brent, but he wouldn't put it past any of them now that it had happened. He wanted that bat.

"Stop!" he yelled. "I asked for a baseball bat not a gun."

"I think it's a good idea," said Jason, making everyone look at him. "They've gotten too close twice now. The first time was when Preston was born. The second time was when Ashton was with Skyler. Skyler's right. They have to stop. If waving a bat will scare them away from him then I say give him the bat."

"Sweetie," said Tabitha in a calm voice. "You can't beat them with a bat."

"Mom, I didn't say I wanted to hit anyone with a bat. I said I wanted to wave it."

"And what happens if waving the bat only makes them bolder?" she asked. "What if they call your bluff? What then, Skyler? Are you going to hit someone then?"

"All right, Mom," he said with a smile. She always knew exactly what to say. He wasn't angry now. He was just scared, but she was right about them calling his bluff. Then he'd be plenty angry. "I understand. No baseball bat. We just have to make them stop somehow."

A nurse came to tell them that Bent had been moved to a private room and that they could see him in groups of three. Skyler, Jeff and Tabitha went in first. The nurse looked nervous. Skyler thought she'd probably heard their conversation about the baseball bat. He was sorry for bring it up after that. At that moment all he should have been concerned with was Brent. He felt ashamed of himself for what he'd said to them in the waiting room. He wouldn't let the press and protesters push him into becoming someone that people feared.

Brent was awake and clearly suffering the effects of powerful pain killers when they got to the room. Tabitha charged ahead of them and went straight to his bed. She took his hand and spoke so softly that Skyler couldn't hear what she was saying. Brent looked at her and tried to focus, but Skyler could see that his eyes were glassy. He'd probably not remember a word of what she'd said to him.

"Skyler," the man gasped when he noticed him. "You're all right?"

Skyler had talked to him in the recovery room, but he realized that Brent probably didn't remember that. He just kept seeing him covered in blood at the office. His knees threatened to buckle as he thought about why Brent had been shot. The man had taken a bullet for him! That wasn't in the job description, surely.

"I'm fine, Bret," he said as they came fully into the room. "You saved me."

"Okay," he said, relaxing back into the bed. "Okay."

Skyler didn't know what to say to him or how to thank him. This wonderful, muscular, sexy, beautiful and loving man had saved his life and got shot in the process. Skyler's life wasn't just dangerous for him and the kids anymore. Now it was dangerous for his security staff as well. He finally understood just what had happened and the fear and anguish washed over him like a tidal wave. He fought it hard so that Brent didn't see it. He just put his hand on the man's good shoulder and said nothing. Brent slipped into sleep while they stood there. Then Skyler had to get out of there. He left them and walked quickly back to the waiting room and slumped into a chair where he began to shake and gasp.

Everyone looked at him with such pity in their eyes. Tabitha and Jeff came into the room and told them that Brent was fine and sleeping. Jeff looked at Skyler and then was on his knees in front of him in a flash. He wrapped his arms around him and held him while he shook and sobbed. Skyler put his head on Jeff's shoulder and just let it out. He couldn't believe that they'd actually tried to shoot him. What had he ever done to them? All he'd done was sing, dance and act. He ran a company that made other men and women's dreams come true. He wasn't a bad person. Why had they tried to shoot him?

"It's going to be all right, Sky," Jeff said as he held on to him.

"They tried to shoot me," Skyler said softly through his sobs. "They actually tried to shoot me!"

"Yes," Jeff replied. "But they didn't. We're going to get Brent better and then we're going to get out of here."

"Yes, we are," he said. "We so are."


"Smack Into You" is a song by Jon McGlaughlin.

The next chapter will be posted soon.


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