© 2005-2015 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 106


They'd ultimately decided to go ahead with the move to Essex. Brent was still in the hospital in Los Angeles, but he'd join them as soon as he could travel. Trisha had been a little loud about Jeff taking their children to live in another country, but in the end she'd agreed. She would be flying over from time to time to visit with her children. Skyler would make sure that he was anywhere but at the house while she was there.

Skyler had read all of the information about Anderson Cooper on the flight from Los Angeles to London. He liked what he'd read about the man. He was impressed by the fact that Mr. Cooper was the son of Gloria Vanderbilt. That told him that the man knew how to act around a celebrity. It also made him think that he'd not do anything dangerous to get his interview. Skyler was prepared to grant him interviews pretty much whenever he asked for them if he proved to be the man that Skyler thought he was.

They set up their cameras in the dining room of the house in the UK. MTV, MuchMusic and MusicNow had cameras there as well. Anderson was an attractive man with almost white hair and beautiful clear eyes. He had a nice smile and carried himself with dignity. He sat across the table from Skyler with his notes open in front of him. The man smiled at him and Skyler knew that he was a good guy.

"Before we begin," he said. "I'd like to know just why you decided to let me interview you."

"Well," Skyler said with a smile. "Your reputation is impeccable. I know that this isn't your usual thing, but if this goes well I am prepared to grant you an interview any time you want one within reason. I wanted to talk to a reporter that I didn't have to fear."

"Given your past treatment I think I understand where you're coming from," Anderson replied. "Thank you, Skyler. You're right that this isn't my usual, but I'm honored that you chose me and I promise I'll do right by you."

"Thank you," Skyler said. "That's all I ask."

"We roll in five, four, three, two," said the camera man.

"I'm Anderson Cooper, and I'm here in England with Skyler Thomas," Anderson said to the camera. "It's September tenth, two thousand two. Skyler, tell us about Brent Cole."

"Brent's doing much better," Skyler said with a smile. "When he's ready to travel he'll join us here in the UK."

"And the trial of Ray Flan Junior?" he asked.

"The last I heard there wasn't going to be a trial," Skyler said. "He pled guilty and claimed insanity or something. I'm just glad that he's not out there somewhere with his gun."

"Charges have been filed by Sky High Entertainment against Ray Flan Senior and twenty-four of his followers," Anderson said. "Do you think it's enough?"

"I hope it's enough," Skyler said. "These people are dangerous. They proved that four days ago when they tried to kill me. I was just damned lucky to have Brent, though I'm so sorry that he was shot."

"Some say that this is all because of the taped conversation that your brother had with Justin Timberlake about the sexuality of a number of celebrities," Anderson said. "What do you think?"

"I think that people will do anything to get what they want," Skyler said. "The Children of the Light targeted me after the tape was leaked, but there were other men mentioned on that tape. They didn't go after any of them. I think there's a lot more to it than just the tape. I don't have a clue what it is, but there's something."

"Your relationship with the press has also been stormy for quite a while," Anderson said. "Would you care to comment on that?"

"The press has gone insane or something," Skyler said, choosing his words carefully. "They were scary before my first son was born, but when I tried to take him home from the hospital they were terrifying. They tried to pull him out of my arms right in front of the hospital. Then in Orlando a photographer nearly killed me and the three people in the SUV with me. They tried to block my path wherever I went, screaming questions at me and shoving cameras in my face. Then when I tried to take my second son home from the hospital they went insane. They nearly tipped the SUV we were sitting in. They broke windows and traumatized my son. It was unacceptable, and I hope that the lawsuit we filed against them made them see that their actions are criminal. I mean there's panic in the industry now."

"You're not the only celebrity to say that," Anderson admitted. "I've talked to several who have said the very same thing about the press. What have you done to try to protect yourself and your children?"

"I've hired an army of security," Skyler replied. "We travel in a convoy and generally stop traffic and cause a problem. I'm sorry for that, but I will make sure that I am safe and my family is safe. Anyone who travels with me anywhere could be in danger without these precautions."

"Now that you're out of the closet," Anderson prompted, "what is your relationship with the fans?"

"My fans are by far the greatest people in the world," he said with a smile. "They waved rainbow flags at the shows, they chanted my name in the streets, they braved protesters and generally showed me love. They've been absolutely phenomenal."

"When you were on tour in Atlanta a show was canceled," Anderson said. "Would you care to tell me why?"

"That show was canceled by the arena because fighting had broken out between the Children of the Light, fans and the press. The National Guard was called in to stop the fighting but it was too much for the arena," Skyler said. "They felt that it was safer for everyone involved if they just canceled the show there."

"But you did something amazing," Anderson prompted.

"I called Detroit and made sure that I could book the venue for one extra night," Skyler said. "Then I used the jets that Boeing leased to Sky High to bring the people who had purchased tickets to the second show in Atlanta to Detroit. I booked hotel rooms for every one of them that came and I gave them the show they paid to see."

"In some circles you're called a mad man," Anderson said with a smile. "In other's you're called a saint. What drove you to do that for the fans?"

"The fact that without them I'm done is what drove me," he said seriously. "They stand in rain, snow and the heat to get the tickets to those shows. They pay outrageous amounts of money for the tickets. I'm not ignorant about the cost these people incur to see me. They stand in the rain and snow just to talk to me. They are amazing, so what right do I have to be anything but the man they believe me to be?"

"That wasn't the first time that you tried to move mountains for your fans," Anderson said with another smile. "In nineteen ninety-nine when you were on tour with your brother, you made sure that conditions inside a sky box were good enough for a patient to be transferred from the hospital along with nurses and her family so that she could see your show. She didn't purchase a ticket, so why did you do it?"

"I met her sister at a meet 'n greet," he said, smiling as he thought of Angie and Lissa. "She told me that her sister loved my music and had seen my movie but she couldn't leave the hospital. She said that her little sister had begged and pleaded with the doctors, her family and everyone she could to let her go and see me. Her illness prevented her from leaving the hospital, so I went there and gave her like every stuffed animal from the gift shop. I posed for pictures with her and her family, and I gave her signed CDs and posters. It wasn't enough though. I had to give her what she wanted, so I just moved a part of the hospital to the arena and gave her what she so desperately wanted."

"But that's not all you did," he said. "You paid to have specialists flown in to treat her, you gave her mother and father jobs and a healthy gift to start them back on the road to recovery. Because of those specialists that child is in remission from the cancer, her parents are now working for Sky High Entertainment and she has your private number to call whenever she wants. Why?"

"Because she was such a pure soul," he said. "Her parents were dying under the pressure of those medical bills. They'd been let go from their jobs because their daughter was sick. She was too young to be left alone, and they were too scared that they'd lose her if they weren't there. I couldn't just walk away from that with only giving the girl a way to see the show. I had to help them. It was the decent thing to do."

"You did some checking on my background," Anderson said. "I did some checking on yours, too. What I found was that you are a people person who loves to get out there with your fans and really give them what they want. You try to move mountains when you think something unfair has stepped in their path so they can't see you. Where does this come from?"

"It comes from growing up in fear and pain," he said, looking down at the table. "It comes from a promise I made to myself when my world was nothing but a dark stain. I promised myself that when I got out of that situation I would make sure that everyone around me knew exactly how important they are to me, that everyone knew exactly where they stood. When I became the man that I am now I translated that into being the man that I was supposed to be for the fans that support me. I will do anything in my power for them when something stands in the way of their compensation for standing in the rain and snow to get tickets or to talk to me and have their pictures taken with me. It comes from making sure that I never act like the people who raised me."

"You've never talked about your childhood before," Anderson said. "Why is that?"

"Because no one needs to know that my stepfather tried to destroy me every chance he got," he said. "No one needed to know that I woke up scared every morning after going to bed in fear every night. No one needed to know that I used myself as a shield for my brother and sister every day. No one needed to know about the punches, the kicks and the slaps. No one needed to know about something they couldn't change."

"Some say that certain songs on your albums speak volumes about your past," Anderson said. "Is that true?"

"I used music to let it all out," he said with a sigh. "I couldn't keep it all bottled up inside me, so I used an avenue for venting that was perfect."

"Do you think your fans love you so much because you were so honest with your music?" Anderson asked.

"I don't know why they love me," he said with a smile. "I'm so absolutely blown away by them. I thank God every day for the Lissa Mealiffs and the Aubry Shanes. I thank God for people like the Clemmons family and all of the men and women who help me give the people what they want. I thank God for all of this, my career, my children, my family, all of it. I know that if I'm not honest with the fans I won't have them anymore."

"Some say you were dishonest with them about your sexuality," Anderson said. "What do you say to that?"

"My fans knew me," he said. "They knew the real me. Gay, straight, bisexual, those are all just qualifiers. They don't define a person, and they sure don't define me. I am a gay man. They know that about me now. If they'd asked me I'd have told them. I'm in love with a remarkable man. I have the love of my family, friends and fans. I'd say they don't think I was dishonest with them. It was there for anyone to see if they just looked."

"Everyone knows that the man you're in love with is Jeff Timmons," Anderson said. "The reality show on MTV showed the world just how much the two of you love each other. What does he think about your career, your all out war with the press and the way you try to move mountains for your fans?"

"You'd have to ask him that," laughed Skyler. "He tells me how blown away by it all he is. We had a rocky moment after the tape was leaked, but we're back on track. We're raising children together. We're a family."

"I have to ask," Anderson said, looking at Skyler with a pained expression. "I'm sorry for this, but are there wedding plans in the works?"

"You don't have to be sorry," Skyler said with a smile. "I can finally tell the word how much I love Jeff. That's a beautiful, amazing thing. Never be sorry for asking about us now that I can actually answer questions about us. I will say that we have been discussing marriage. It isn't legal here for men to marry each other, but we have been discussing professing our love and commitment to each other and our family before God and our friends and family. No we have not set a real date yet, and we don't know when any of this is going to happen. But yes, wedding plans are definitely in the works."

They wrapped the interview up after that with general questions about the house and Sky High. Skyler thanked all of the cameramen and women for coming. He shook hands with Anderson Cooper and invited the man to stay for a while and hang out. Anderson declined, saying he had to get back to the US but asked for a rain check.

An hour after everyone left Skyler was at Sky High Studios London with a photographer for "Reality Magazine" and a makeup artist. She did his hair and makeup for the shot and then he saw what they wanted him to wear. He laughed out loud about it as he stripped down to his underwear and then changed those for the black Speedo they wanted him to wear. He let them help him into the brilliant white feathered wing harness and then he was kneeling on the floor with his legs spread for the first ten shots. The photographer praised him after each shot with words like beautiful, perfect and smashing.

Then they had him pull down one side of the Speedo just enough to show his pubic hair. He laughed like crazy about it but he did what they asked. They took several shots of him in that pose, too. Then they were putting the camera and lighting away and packing up their kits. Skyler showered and put his clothes back on. He thanked them for coming and then went back to the house.

He and Jeff laughed about the outfit and the poses for the pictures the photographer wanted. He'd given the interview for the article the day after Brent had been shot. He'd still been pretty raw when he'd given that interview and now he couldn't remember a thing he'd told that reporter. He hoped he hadn't said something he'd regret. His interview with Anderson Cooper was perfect. He wasn't upset about anything that Anderson asked or anything that he said in response. Jeff was happy with what he said so that was all that mattered. Everyone had seen the interview as it was being broadcast live on NBC, MTV, MuchMusic and MusicNow. They'd taped the interview at the house and Skyler and Jeff settled in that evening after the reading hour with the kids to watch it.

The only dark spot was that Ashton was still in Los Angeles, training for Regionals with Aiden. Skyler wished that there was a sports center in London like the ones in Los Angeles, Orlando and Dallas. The next day he had his agent track down lots of land for sale in London and around that were big enough for the complex. Then he was on the phone with Bruce about getting all of the certification and the crew together, buying materials and getting over there to break ground. He wanted it done as soon as possible. Bruce had been itching for a project and jumped on this one.

He was given an advance copy that wasn't such an advance of the magazine that hit stands the day he saw it. He laughed out loud at the picture on the cover and the news that it was too suggestive and was wrapped in brown paper on the news stands. They'd used the picture of him with his thumb hooked into the side of his Speedo, pulling it down to show his pubic hair. The magazine's title was "Skyler Thomas: Fallen Star?" He read the interview and sighed with relief when he read what he'd said to the reporter. It wasn't all that much different than what he'd said to Anderson. He handed the magazine to Jeff to let him read. Clay and Matt already had copies. Matt looked scandalized by the cover, but Clay was laughing along with Skyler.

"You start recording tomorrow," Clay said as he looked at his notes. "Madonna is in the studio today recording her parts of the tracks you sing together."

"That's right," Skyler said. "Tom's there with her now. Jeff starts recording the day after."

"Yes," said Clay. "We have him in Studio E. All of his musicians have already recorded their parts. His back up singers have all done their parts as well. He's all set."

"Good," said Jeff. "I can't wait to get in there."

"You'll have your shot," Clay said with a smile. "Skyler, I'll be in the studio with you. Matt will be as well. I want to hear some of what you're recording this time."

"That's fine," he replied. He had no surprises in store for them this time.

"You have the premiere on the thirteenth," Clay said. "You'll be attending here in London, right?"

"Yeah," he said. "At the Palace Theater. It's all set up."

"Good," said Clay as he consulted his notes again. "Chad's album is being released on the twenty-seventh. You plan to be in Orlando for that?"

"Yeah," he said. "Jeff's going with me."

"All right," he said. "Now I'm not coming back to London with you after the party. I'm going to be in Orlando with Cory."

"All right," Skyler said. "He's recording again?"

"Yes," said Clay. "He's asking about touring with you this time."

"I'm not planning a tour for a while," Skyler said. "I'm waiting on everyone to be free to start filming again. Jase is going to direct the next two Wheel of Time movies and I'm going to act as his assistant. We'll be in Sydney for a while again."

"So you're wanting to focus more on movies for a while then?" Matt asked when Clay said nothing.

"Yeah," replied Skyler. "I won't be ready to tour again for at least another year. I think you guys should send Cory out with someone else. What's April Fool doing this year?"

"Screaming that she wants to record with you," said Clay. "Other than that she's already on tour."

"Well there's got to be someone," said Skyler. "I won't be ready. Carlos won't be ready. What about Justin?"

"Justin and Christina are locked in for next summer," Clay said. "I'll find someone for Cory to tour with. It won't be a problem. You know after this tour Brody's quite popular. Our marketing research tells us that he could headline a tour now because of you."

"Then why don't you talk to Brody about Cory touring with him next summer?" Skyler asked. "That'll really work. I'm going to talk to Cassie about touring with The Hardy Boys when they're ready. She's ready any time, but she knows she can't headline. Neither can The Hardy Boys but if we set it up right it'll work. They're doing really well right now."

"That's actually a good idea," said Clay. "I'll talk to Brody about touring with Cory and we'll set up a time to talk with Cassie and the boys about next summer."

"Sounds good," said Skyler. "Now if you guys don't have anything else I'd like to spend the rest of the evening with my lover and our kids."

"All right," Clay laughed. "We can take a hint. We'll see you tomorrow morning in the studio."

"That's right," Skyler said, grinning at Matt. "Now scoot."

After they left, Skyler and Jeff went upstairs to play with the kids. They colored and they played with trucks. They tickled and they hugged. They loved and they played. It was the most relaxing thing either of the men could do in their lives. The children were always happy to include them in whatever they were doing. They didn't just play around them. They played with them.

Play time rolled into bath time for the children and then phone time with Ashton. Then it was bath time for the adults and finally bed time for everyone. Skyler and Jeff slid into their bed and into each other's arms. They held each other without speaking for a long moment. This was the ritual for them since the shooting. They just needed to feel each other's beating hearts for a while each night to remind them that both were still alive and unharmed.

Jeff went with Skyler to the studio the next morning. As promised Clay and Matt were already in the booth with Madonna and Tom Kelly. Skyler had to do some playing before he could get to singing. The first single of the day required a lot of his guitar work. Madonna smiled as she watched him play. Jeff just rocked back and forth with a soft smile on his face as he watched the man he loved work.

There was a lot of guitar on this album. Jeff didn't know if Skyler was attempting to change his sound or if he was just trying to be more involved in the music than he already was. He sang the words when he was done playing for the track. Jeff was blown away by his haunted voice as he sang his heart out into the microphone. Madonna and Tom played with levers and keys on their mixing boards and Skyler just sang. It was a beautiful song about being tempted by a life of nothing more than ordinary things. When the song ended they were all silent as they digested what the song had meant.

"That was perfect, Sky," said Tom Kelly, the fifty something gray haired bear of a man was all smiles. "Shall we cue the next?"

"Sure," said Skyler with a smile.

Then more guitars and synthesizers began to play in the booth. The music was loud and harsh with a dance beat underneath and lots of different synthesized sounds. It played for a bit before Skyler began to sing and Jeff was amazed by the sound of the music alone. He couldn't wait to hear Skyler's voice in the middle of all of that. He got his chance when his lover began to sing in a firm voice.

"Words like violence break the silence, come crashing in, into my little world. Painful to me, pierce right through me. Can't you understand, oh my little world.

"All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms. Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm," he sang and let the music play for a bit.

"Vows are spoken to be broken," he sang. "Feelings are intense. Words are trivial. Pleasures remain, and so does the pain. Words are meaningless and forgettable.

"All I ever wanted, all I ever needed is here in my arms. Words are very unnecessary. They can only do harm," he sang in that firm voice and then whispered, "Enjoy the silence."

The song ended after that and Jeff was smiling right along with Madonna, Tom, Clay and Matt. Then they cued the next one and Jeff heard Madonna's voice at first, singing, "Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down."

"Ooh, ooh, baby," sang Skyler. "That's right.

"Lookin' for some education. Made my way into the night. All that bullshit, conversation, baby can't you read the signs?" he sang in his breathy voice.

"I won't bore you with the details, baby," he sang louder. "I don't even wanna waste your time. Let's just say that maybe you could help to ease my mind. Baby, I ain't Mr. Right, but if you're lookin' for fast love, if that's love in your eyes, it's more than enough. Had some bad love, so fast love is all that's on my mind."

"Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down," sang Madonna in the background.

"Oh yeah baby," sang Skyler.

"Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down," Madonna sang once again.

"Lookin' for some affirmation," sang Skyler in that breathy voice that Jeff loved so much. "Made my way into the sun. My friends got their ladies, they're all havin' babies, but I just wanna have some fun.

"I won't bore you with the details, baby," he sang louder. "I don't even wanna waste your time. Let's just say that maybe you could help to ease my mind. Baby, I ain't Mr. Right, but if you're lookin' for fast love, if that's love in your eyes, it's more than enough. Had some bad love, so fast love is all that's on my mind."

"Gotta get up to get down," sang Madonna. "Gotta get up to get down."

"So close," sang Skyler. "Taste it now baby."

"Gotta get up to get down," sang Madonna. "Gotta get up to get down."

"In the absence of security," sang Skyler in his firm, loud voice. "I made my way into the night. Stupid Cupid keeps on callin' me, and I see lovin' in his eyes. I miss my baby, oh yeah I miss my baby tonight. So why don't we make a little room in my BMW, babe, searchin' for some peace of mind."

"Hey, I'll help you find it," sang Madonna.

"I do believe that we are practicing the same religion," sang Skyler.

"Gotta get up to get down," sand Madonna. "Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down. Gotta get up to get down."

"Oh, you really oughta get up now," sang Skyler. "That's right."

"Gotta get up to get down," sang Madonna.

"You oughta get up," sang Skyler.

"Gotta get up to get down," sang Madonna over and over again as the music faded out.

"Perfect," called Madonna. "Skyler, that one sounded amazing!"

"Thanks," he said. "Let's do another. How about 'Smack Into You'?"

"We'll cue it," said Tom.

The music began and it sounded nothing like it had when Skyler sang it at the end of tour party. Jeff liked this new music a lot. There were cymbals and guitars and keyboards all at the same time. Skyler sang the words in his breathy voice that Jeff loved so much. It sounded different with background vocals, and Jeff recognized both Jason's and Marcel's voices in the background. It was still one of the most awesome songs he'd ever heard. With all of the extra music and vocals the song sounded amazing.

They went from that song straight into "Possession". That song sounded better with the full music and background vocals. Jeff wondered when Skyler had found the time to sing the background, because he was sure that was Skyler's voice in the background. He loved this song, too. It had no special meaning that he knew of, but it was one of his favorites.

After that one they launched into the duet he had written for him and Madonna. Jeff was treated to an unusual experience, seeing her in the booth and hearing her as if she were in the sound booth with Skyler. The song was called "Pretending" and the words were amazing. It didn't really sound like a song that Skyler or Madonna would have done, so again he wondered if Skyler was being eclectic or going for a complete style change.

"That's it for today," Skyler said, rubbing his throat. "I'm done."

"You did great, Sky," said Madonna. "We got six done today. There are only nine more on your list. If we do another day like this you could be done completely in three days."

"We'll record more tomorrow while Jeff's upstairs recording his," Skyler said. "Right now I want something hot to drink."

"Come on outa there," laughed Tom. "You can listen to this while I send one of the assistants after a cup of hot tea with honey."

"Cool," he said as he took off his headset.

Skyler came into the booth and sat on the couch. Seconds later an assistant that Jeff had never seen before brought in a cup of hot tea for him. Jeff sat down next to him and accepted a bottle of water when Madonna handed it to him. Then they played back the six songs that he'd recorded. They said there were technical things to do but those six were done. Skyler and Jeff left after that.

Jeff started recording his own album the next morning while Skyler was downstairs recording more of his album. Matt went from one to the other and back again all day long. Jeff's recording didn't go as smoothly as Skyler's. Jeff was stopped several times when he wasn't stopping the tape himself to do a verse better.

Skyler recorded five more songs that day, leaving four more before the album was finished. Jeff got three recorded successfully but had nine more to go. The only song that he got recorded with no stops was the third, and Matt suspected that was only because Skyler had finished his recording for the day and come upstairs to hear some of Jeff's. Jeff smiled when he saw Skyler and then sang a song that Matt was sure was meant to be dedicated to Skyler.

"I don't record them the way you do," he heard Jeff saying to Skyler as they made their way to the ground floor.

"Baby, it doesn't matter how you do it," Skyler told him. "The important thing is that you're doing it. I loved that last one, and I hope you choose to release it as a single."

"You mean I have the right to do that with my music?" Jeff had asked as they stepped off the elevator.

"Jeff, you have complete freedom with your music," Skyler assured him. "You're my lover. Why would I put stipulations on what you can and cannot sing or release? You're bound to make mistakes, but you'll learn from them the same way I learned from mine. From the response that you got at the VMAs I'd say your fans are waiting for the music. Just give it to them as fast as you can. Don't worry about how long it takes to record a track. Just make sure that you're happy with the end result. Then pick the first single, make your video and set a release date. It's all up to you."

Matt was right about how soon Skyler had his album recorded. By the day of the release of his film, Skyler's new album "Medicine Man" was finished. He was already talking to directors in London about filming a video for the first single. Matt and his lover along with Clay and his wife accompanied Skyler and Jeff to the premiere for The Dragon Reborn, The Wheel of Time that night at the Palace Theater. He was so surprised by how tame the UK press were compared to their US counterparts. Skyler and Jeff even gave quotes and posed for pictures before joining other cast members to go inside the theater.

"So how does it feel to be able to hold Jeff's hand in public instead of being so reserved?" Neve Campbell asked Skyler as they were seated in the theater.

"It's amazing," Skyler said, beaming at her. He was still holding Jeff's hand. "When I first heard the tape on the news in France I was scared to death, but it's been amazing since then. I can't believe how accepting my fans have been."

"Didn't seem to phase them at all," Jeff said with a grin.

"Well I can tell you that Danny was thrilled at first," she said. "Then we broke up and I didn't care what he thought about it anymore."

"I was sorry to hear about you and Danny," Skyler said.

"Don't be," she replied with a smile. "It was over for a while before either of us admitted it."

They quieted down then as the lights went down and the film began. Skyler was thrilled to see it on the big screen. It was truly amazing with all of the special effects. It was odd to see himself with all of that long red hair, but Jeff had a grin on his face the entire time. The movie was awesome from start to finish. Several people told them that they had another Oscar worthy film on their hands. He was tempted to tell them that Jase would be directing the next, but everyone had been asked to keep that a secret until it was announced.

"So when are we filming again?" Neve asked. "I can't wait to play Egwene again."

"We're just waiting for everyone to be finished with other projects," Skyler replied. "Leo and Christian are both working on films at the moment. Drew and Shannon are both working, and I think Catherine and Toby are both still filming as well. It'll be a bit yet. Just don't get busy before Jase makes the calls."

"Well you're going to be assisting him," she said with a smile. "Won't you be the one making the calls?"

"Probably," he laughed. "We'll see."

"Are you guys going to any of the parties?" she asked as they made their way out of the theater.

"No," said Skyler. "We're going home to the kids. Jeff's still recording and he'll be in the studio tomorrow morning. I've got a few things to do at Sky High and then I'm going to be picking up Brent and Ashton."

"How is Brent doing?" she asked. "I wasn't told anything other than that he was recovering."

"He's doing great," said Skyler. "He stayed in LA for physical therapy, but he's eager to get back to work."

"That's great," she said with a smile. Then she hugged them both. "I'm gonna go party. I'll see you boys in Sydney."

They got home in time for Skyler to read for the kids. They settled in the living room and Skyler read to them for an hour before he sent them upstairs with Jeff and called Tabitha. Ashton and Brent were in the air already, but he still wanted to check in with the rest of the family. He missed them all like crazy.

"Hey, Mom," he said when she answered. "How is everyone?"

"Skyler!" she cried, happily. "Everyone is doing all right. We were sad to put Ashton on a plane, but we were glad that Aiden went away."

"Is he still throwing a fit because I pulled him out of training for two weeks?" Skyler asked.

Aiden Sharp had thrown a fit with Skyler on the phone when he'd called to tell him that he wanted Ashton with him in London for two weeks so that he could be there for his little brother's birthday party and spend some time with his fathers. The man had argued that this close to Regionals he needed Ashton to be focused. Skyler had put his foot down and finally hung up on the man. Then he'd called Tabitha and made the arrangements for Ashton to fly with Brent when he came over to stay. Skyler would be flying back with him and Tabitha would take Ashton back to LA from Orlando where Skyler would be attending Chad's release party for his album.

"He bitched all the way until we put them on the jet," she said. "Your father told him to shut up four times."

"Well he'll soon learn not to mess with this family," said Skyler. "He may be Ashton's coach by I'm his father. What I say goes in the end."

"Oh don't worry about Aiden," she said. "His bark is much worse than his bite. Believe me we watch him like a hawk. Cameron and Evan go to the school every day to watch his training."

Skyler was still shocked by how accepting his step-mother was with the twin sons of her husband's affair. He was even more shocked that she'd decided against divorce and taken his father back. What had blown his mind completely was the news that both Cameron and Evan were living in the house with Tabitha, his father and Jason.

"That's good," he said. "Tell them to keep him from screaming at my son over this forced vacation."

"Oh trust me, Evan will have a fit," she said. "He reminds me so much of you, actually."

"Jason says the same thing about him," laughed Skyler. "I'm just glad that my pit bull little brother is on the case."

"Chad's looking forward to your return for his release party," she said. "He and Darby are over here quite a lot now that Jase and Ali are gone so much with her filming in Hawaii."

"I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again, too," Skyler said. He missed his family so much that sometimes he wanted to just take everyone back to Los Angeles.

"We'll see each other in two weeks," she said. "You kiss those grand babies for me and give Jeff a hug for me. Is he recording yet?"

"He started this morning," he replied. "I sat in for one song and it was amazing."

"Good," she said. "I've been worried about him for a while."

"Well he's doing all right," he assured her. She'd seen the episodes of the show where Jeff had been down and distant. "We're back on track with planning the wedding."

"Oh I'm so looking forward to the wedding," she said with a smile in her voice. "I'm so happy that the two of you can be so open now."

"You have no idea how much a weight that's lifted off of both of us," he said seriously. "No more hiding every touch and show of affection. It's like a whole new world out there."

"Your father and I couldn't be happier for you," she said. "He says he's ready to tour with you again whenever you're ready to go out again."

"Tell him that'll probably be in a year or so," he said. "I've got movies to film for a while."

"Ever our busy one," she laughed. "Jase is just waiting for everyone to be done. That man can't wait to start working on those films. He says it'll be a dream come true for him."

"Yeah," said Skyler. "I'm kind of looking forward to it, too. I'm going to act as his assistant along side Shane Dodds this time."

"I know," she said. "He talks about that just as much as he talks about the actual filming. He's so excited to help you get your feet under you so you can direct your own movies."

"I'm just trying to figure out things to do when I decide to leave the front lines of this industry," he said. "I'm not ready to do that yet, but I can feel a simpler life tugging at me at times."

"Oh, Skyler," she laughed. "You'll never give up what you have going."

"Don't be so sure, Mom," he said seriously. "Brent getting shot saving me really put things into perspective for me."

"That man went to prison for a very long time, Skyler," she said. "That judge didn't buy his insanity plea for a moment. He sentenced him to twenty years."

"His father's still out there," said Skyler. "He's the man that should be in prison."

"That's true," she said. "To be honest we expected some sort of backlash after your Anderson Cooper interview. I cried while I watched it. So did your father."

"Oh, Mom," he said. "I didn't mean to make you or dad cry over what I said."

"It just made us think of all that time you and your brother and sister spent with that monster," she said, and Skyler could hear the tears in her voice over the phone.

"Don't do that to yourselves," he said. "It's over now. Chuck and Mother are dead. Chad's fine again. Cassie is married and happy. I'm happy. Just remember that you and Dad make up for every moment we spent there with every hug and loving word."

"Oh, Skyler," she said. Then he knew she was crying.

He talked to her for a bit longer, trying to calm her down again. He hated that his interview had upset her. That was part of the reason that he never talked about it. He didn't want people to feel sorry for him. He didn't want his father and step-mother to agonize over the details. It was bad enough for his father to hear the testimony against his mother and Chuck in court.

The next morning they were at the airport bright and early with plenty of security. The flight was scheduled to arrive at nine, but they both knew from lots of experience that flights could be late for a number of reasons. They waited for the flight to arrive as patiently as they could with forty security men around them. It was difficult at times with the security men they didn't know very well. They were always so quiet and watchful, which was what they were supposed to be. Skyler liked the ones who had been with him for a long time and were more like family. He thought of Brent and smiled. He couldn't wait to see him again.

Then the jet was landing and Skyler and Jeff got to their feet. The security men had never sat down. They filed out to the tarmac where the SUVs were waiting. No one had to check in at the airport because this was a private jet. Everything was being handled on the tarmac. Officials from the airport were out there to welcome everyone to London.

As soon as everyone was off the jet, Ashton raced to them and Skyler wrapped his arms around him and lifted him off the ground, covering his face with kisses. Oh how he'd missed him! He handed him to Jeff and then was engulfed in a one armed hug by Brent, who looked a lot better than he had the last time Skyler had seen him. They made their way to the SUV as the staff from the jet was loading luggage and boxes into the SUV at the back of the line.

"Oh you don't know how good it is to see you guys again," Brent said when they were in the SUV. "I couldn't wait to get here. I think I was more anxious than Ashton."

"No way," cried Ashton from between his fathers. "I kept bugging the staff to ask how much longer it would be before we landed. I couldn't wait to be with my dads again."

"And we couldn't wait to have you with us again, either," said Jeff. "We missed you like crazy."

"We sure did," said Skyler. "Your brothers and sister are looking forward to seeing you again, too."

"I missed them real bad," said Ashton.

Skyler was just happy to have them with him. He wasn't so sure about Essex as a home base, but for now it would do. He felt safer there, but it didn't feel like home. He hoped that with Brent and Ashton with him it would start to feel more like home. He knew that his home was in Orlando, though. He missed it terribly.

When they got to the house, Ashton went upstairs to his brothers and sisters. Skyler put on the dubs of his album at Brent's insistence. Then Brent was asking them to tell him everything that had happened since they'd arrived in Britain. Skyler was laughing by the time they were finished. Brent told him that he'd seen his Anderson Cooper interview.

"People don't know what really happened when you were younger," he said. "I do, and I know that Jeff does. You came closer to telling the truth about the past than ever in that interview. Are you sure that Anderson Cooper won't drag it out of you at some point?"

"No I'm not," Skyler replied honestly. "I just know that I trust him. If he drags it out of me in the future then perhaps when it happens it will be time for it to happen. I can't keep it a secret forever. There are public records in Detroit for anyone to find if they know how. I'm surprised the tabloids haven't dug them out yet."

"Speaking of the rags, how are they treating you guys over here?" asked Brent.

"They haven't said much about us actually," said Jeff. "We leave the house with all of the security, but I don't think we need it half the time. They don't hound us over here like the do in the States."

"Things have died down over there since the shooting," said Brent. "I saw interviews with certain celebrities who talked about how reserved the press has been since I got shot."

"It won't last," said Skyler. "They'll never change completely, Brent. They're ravenous for any scrap of a story they can get out of any of us. They'll push and they'll endanger anyone as long as they have a hope of getting what they want."

They were quiet for a moment after he stopped talking. They were each remembering terrifying things from the past that were all caused by the press in one way or another. Jeff was remembering how they tried to pull Preston from Skyler's arms and the accident when the photographer's truck collided with the SUV and they'd almost lost Skyler. Brent was thinking of the day that Skyler brought Ashton home from the hospital. Skyler was thinking about all of those things. No, he thought, they would never change. It would be that way for as long as he was in the spotlight.

The mood was darkened a bit after that. They'd each remembered terrible things and it would take a while before they got their minds on other things. Skyler hoped the kids would help. He took both of the other two men up the stairs to the play room for some good old play therapy.


"Enjoy the Silence" is a song by Depeche Mode. "Fastlove" is a song by George Michael.

The next chapter will be posted soon.


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