© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 19

Kevin beamed a smile at Skyler as he held the door to the booth open for him. They'd been in the studio for more than two hours, and Skyler had only just now recorded the song. Clay and Sonny had gone over the lyrics together over and over again, discussing how it would fit in the movie. Skyler had wanted to knock their heads together after the first hour, but Kevin had kept him occupied, telling him funny stories about the Backstreet tour.

"It sounds great, Sky," said Kevin, smiling still.

"Thanks," replied Skyler. "I wrote it for the movie, but I didn't know if it really fit or not."

"Well, its a great song," said Kevin as the two of them sat down with Sonny and Clay.

The song played back, and Skyler was very pleased with himself. He'd continued his "one take" legacy and recorded the song without once having to stop and start again. The band had played great, and Skyler was very happy with the music. It was soft and slow, just like he'd wanted it to be. He thought that it expressed the attitude of the final scenes of the movie. His character wouldn't be in those scenes, but they were really great scenes.

"Sonny," said Donna Kane as she knocked and opened the door at the same time, "the band has finished the music for the other song."

"Well," said Sonny, smiling as he looked at Skyler. "Feel up to recording the second track?"

"Sure," laughed Skyler. "As long as you two don't go over every lyric a million times. I'm getting hungry."

"He thinks we're picking apart his music," Sonny laughed to Clay. The two men smiled at Skyler.

"All right," said Clay. "No picking at the song. Just sing it, and we'll discuss it over lunch."

"Deal," said Skyler as he got up and headed back into the booth.

"Ready when you are, Sky," said Clay into the headphones as Skyler took his seat on the stool in front of the microphone.

He gave him a nod, and the music began. The music for this song was very different to "Another Lucky Star". It was still slow, but the attitude of the song wasn't nearly as sad and tragic. It was sad, but not haunted. The song was really about Skyler's character in the film. His character, Neil, was a heroine addict, and that was what the song was really about, but he hoped that the lyrics were ambiguous enough so that not everyone would catch on to that right away. The music changed, and Skyler lifted his head and started to sing.

"It wasn't my intention to mislead you, it never should have been this way. What can I say? Its true, I did extend the invitation. I never knew how long you'd stay. When you hear temptation call, its your heart that takes, takes the fall," he sang in a breathless voice.

"Won't you come out and play with me," sang the background children in his ears, and he preapred for the chorus.

"Step by step, heart to heart, left right left, we all fall down. Like toy soldiers. Bit by bit, we're torn apart. We never win, but the battle wages on for toy soldiers," he sang and listened as the music played.

"Its getting hard to wake up in the morning. My head is spinning constantly. How can it be? How could I be so blind to this addiction? If I don't stop, the next one is gonna be me,

"Only emptiness remains. It replaces all, all the pain," he sang.

"Won't you come out and play with me," sang the children.

"Step by step, heart to heart, left right left we all fall down. Like toy soldiers. Bit by bit, we're torn apart. We never win, but the battle wages on for toy soldiers. Step by step, heart to heart, left right left we all fall down. Like toy soldiers. Bit by bit, we're torn apart. We never win, but the battle wages on for toy soldiers," he sang.

"We never win," sang the children.

"Step by step, heart to heart, left right left we all fall down," he sang.

"Like toy soldiers," he sang with the children, and the music faded out.

"Skyler, that was amazing," called Sonny into his headphones. "I love the song!"

Skyler released the breath that he hadn't even been aware he was holding as he took off the headphones. Sonny loved the song! He was so happy to hear that. He'd worried that Sonny wouldn't like either of his songs, but it turned out that he'd worried over nothing. Sonny was smiling from ear to ear as Skyler came back out of the sound booth.

"Absolutely awesome, Sky," said Kevin, smiling at him and patting him on the back.

"Thanks," he replied, smiling at all three of them. "I was a little worried about that one."

"Why?" gasped Sonny. "It fits Neil perfectly. I understood what you meant in the song, and I think the way you disguised the meaning is perfect. Even that part fits the movie!"

"It is a great song, Skyler," said Clay, smiling at him from his seat. "If this is a preview of what I can expect when we come back to record the album, then I'm very excited."

"I have a few more songs written," admitted Skyler. "I'm not quite ready for the studio, though."

"No rush, I'm not pushing," said Clay, putting up his hands. "I'm just excited."

"And I'm hungry," laghed Skyler. "Lunch! Please!"

Clay sent Kevin and Skyler off with Sonny while he went back upstairs to check in on Chad's recording. Skyler wanted to check in on him, too, but he didn't want Chad to think that he was checking up on him, so he followed Kevin down the hall to the elevator with Sonny behind him, talking about how wonderful the songs were.

They ate lunch in the cafe next to the studios, and Sonny continued to gush about the songs. Skyler was happy that he liked them, and he was eager to start filming both the videos and the movie. He asked Sonny when he would start shooting, and Sonny informed him that his first scene could be shot as early as the next morning. All he had to do was aleart the crew and call all of the actors in the scene to the set.

Skyler didn't want to drag all of the actors away from whatever they had planned, but he really wanted to get started. The sooner he got started, the sooner he'd be finished, and then he planned to work on the videos. He knew he'd have to do at least a little promoting once the video aired, but he decided he'd deal with that when it happened.

After lunch, Skyler and Kevin were both free for the rest of the day until Laura called about the apartment. They spent a while browsing through a few stores near the studio and talking about Skyler's plans for his next album. He told Kevin that he had been writing a lot lately, and most of the songs were ballads. He wasn't sure what the record company would think about that, but he didn't expect all of them to make the album anyway.

"But you have complete control, now," reminded Kevin with a smile. "You could just make sure that all of your ballads make the album."

"I could, couldn't I?" laughed Skyler. Then a thought occurred to him. "Or I could just make another album of nothing but ballads and include all of the ballads I've written."

"You could do that, and it would satisfy one of the albums that would be left on your contract, too," said Kevin.

"That would leave me with two more to do again," laughed Skyler. "I'd be right back where I was before the contract was ripped up and rewritten, only I'd still have more money for the albums and complete control over them as well."

"It really is a sweet deal, Sky," said Kevin.

"I'm starting to realize that," said Skyler.

Two hours later, Kevin stood watching as Skyler singed a bank draft for $1.6 million. In just thirty days, the apartment would actually belong to Skyler. He was excited for his friend, and the excitement on Skyler's face made Kevin smile. He went with Skyler to talk to the interior decorator, but he was silent while Skyler chose wallpaper, carpet and paint samples, talking about which rooms everything went in. He chose tile for the kitchen and bathroom floors, and even tile for the bathroom walls.

The twins were going to decorate their own rooms, but Skyler was taking care of the spare bedroom. He told the decorator to just paint the room ivory, and leave the bare hardwood floor. That way, he didn't have to worry about what anyone thought about his choice of wallpaper or anything like that. The whole thing took nearly three hours, and then they were off to shop for more furniture. The realtor had told Skyler that he could begin moving in any time he liked, and he'd given him three sets of keys to the apartment and the building itself, though Skyler would never need to use his key to gain access to the building.

"What kind of furniture are you looking for?" asked Kevin as they walked into their first furniture store.

"Well, I have the furniture in the apartment I'm in right now, but the new apartment is huge," replied Skyler. "Besides, its all new, so I thought I'd get all new furniture to go with it."

"You can certainly afford it," laughed Kevin. "If I can ask, how much are you being paid for the movie?"

"Close to two million," replied Skyler. "Sonny really has faith in me. I know that most actors are never paid even close to a million for their first film."

"And you're getting how much per album in advance?"

"Two million," he replied. "Did I mention that I love my new contract?"

"So you're about to make almost four million, and you spent a little more than one million on your apartment?" asked Kevin with wide eyes.

"Yeah," said Skyler, turning to look at him. "I know it sounds outrageous. I'm still not sure this isn't all a big joke myself. Laura gets sick of me asking her if they're really going to pay me that much, and I wouldn't even have believed her if Sonny hadn't already paid me for the movie."

"Clay Silver must be an awesome agent, Sky," said Kevin.

"Well, Madonna is mostly responsible for my new contract with Maverick," he replied. "She's the one that got them to listen to me."

"But, still," said Kevin. "You have a contract like the rest of us dream about."

Skyler was beginning to get uncomfortable with the conversation, so he quickly tried to get Kevin's opinion on furniture. He hadn't realized that news of his contract with Maverick would make anyone so envious. Sure, most people would be envious of someone who had any kind of record deal, but he thought that other celebrities wouldn't be phased by his contract. After all, it wasn't that much different than others. There were higher paid celebrities than him, too.

After Skyler had purchased new furniture for every room, and made sure that none of it would be delivered until he was ready for it, he and Kevin parted ways. Kevin went back to the hotel, and Skyler went back to the studio to check on Chad. He was still thinking about what Kevin had said about his contract. It still bothered him a little bit, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it. He certainly wouldn't change his contract back to the one he'd had before. Perhaps he shouldn't have talked to anyone about his new contract.

As it turned out, Chad was finished recording for the day, so he and Skyler went back to the apartment to do some packing. They had gotten through most of packing up things they rarely ever used when Cassie called from Denver. They were both very happy to hear from her, and Skyler made sure that she was actually enjoying herself out there. When she excitedly told him about what it was like in Denver, Skyler worried that maybe she liked it there a little too much. He didn't want to worry about the twins wanting to live with their father, but it was a real possibility.

For the rest of the evening, he thought about how he would feel if Cassie told him that she didn't want to come back to New York. It really ate at him, and he didn't know what to do about it. The thought of not having the twins with him, for Chad would surely follow his sister if she decided to stay in Denver, was one that Skyler couldn't accept. He didn't want to lose them.

Of course, he knew that if they chose to live with their father, he wasn't really losing them, but that's what he was sure it would feel like. He wished that Cassie hadn't sounded so happy to be in Denver. He wished that she hadn't been interested in spending any time in Denver to begin with. Then he chastised himself for feeling that way. It wasn't right to wish that the twins wanted nothing to do with their father. He was glad that he started filming in the morning. He hoped that it would keep his mind off of the twins and Denver.

The next morning, Skyler was at the studio at seven. Make-up took a little while, and Skyler marvelled over how much more make-up they used in film than television. When the make-up artist was finished, Skyler didn't know what to think of the reflection in the mirror. He looked as if he hadn't had a decent meal in years, and his eyes actually appeared to be sinking into his face. He looked almost haggard. The fact that he'd lost almost twenty pounds over the last two months added to the effect.

The wardrobe that they put him in was dirty and faded, and it hung on him almost all over. He'd read the script, and he knew that was basically how Neil was supposed to look, but Skyler hated the way it made him feel. He decided to use that as he acted the scenes. After all, he knew that actors were supposed to use their own feelings about a situation that their character was put in to pull the character off.

Sonny was thrilled with the way Skyler looked. He kept going on about how perfect the make-up was all through the test scenes. When they finally started to shoot the actual scene, Skyler was really into his character. It felt so good to be acting again, and he put his heart and soul into the lines he'd memorized. By the time they broke for lunch, they'd filmed three scenes, and Skyler and Sonny were both thrilled with his performance.

Brian Krause came to the set to have lunch with Skyler, and he blanched when he saw Skyler, saying, "Wow, Sky, you really look sick."

"Don't I?" replied Skyler, giving Brian a sickly pose. He was really getting into it after five hours in character. "I hadn't thought about how much make-up my character would require, but then he is an adict."

"Remind me never to do drugs," said Brian as they sat down at a table in the diner next to the studio.

"Funny," said Skyler.

They ordered their food, and Skyler noticed that a lot of people were looking at him. He started to feel self-conscious, but then he supposed it would probably be something to laugh about later. He and Brian ignored the stares and whispers as they ate. The two caught up on what was going on in their lives, and Skyler found that he really missed hanging out with Brian. That made him miss Kristy and Gabrielle, too.

"Gabby's working again," Brian told him when Skyler asked about her. "She's actually shooting right now, too. She's working on 'Days of Our Lives'."

"Really?" asked Skyler. "That's great. I knew that she was trying to get a part on the show, but I never heard anything about her actually getting a part."

"She's been working on the show for about a month now," said Brian. "You've been so busy with everything that's been going on."

"Yeah, but I feel bad," said Skyler. "I feel like I've been neglecting my friends."

"Don't beat yourself up," said Brian. "We can't all keep up with each other and live our lives at the same time. It happens. Gabrielle knows you still care about her. Believe me, she doesn't feel like you've turned your back on her."

"You know, we should all get together soon," said Skyler. "They're working on my new apartment right now, but we can all go out to eat one night, or something."

"I'd like to see the new apartment," said Brian. "I read in the paper that you'd bought it, and I was eager to see what it looked like."

"When they get everything done, I'll give you a tour," promised Skyler.

After he was finished filming for the day, and back in his own clothing without the make-up, Skyler picked up Chad at Maverick and went back to the apartment. For some reason, Brian Littrell had been on his mind throughout the day after lunch, and he was in the mood to write a song. He listened to Chad as he talked about his recording, but half of his head was busy forming lines of lyrics. He finally excused himself to go into his room and write them down.

He'd decided to start recording the new album as soon as he was finished with filming. He had seven songs written that he knew he wanted on the album if he could get the right sound. He had also been looking over some lyrics for other songs, and he'd decided to cover a few for the album as well. The ballads album was also on his mind. He decided that he would talk to Clay about it in the coming days.

The following day was more of the same for Skyler. He got to the studio at seven and spent an hour in make-up. They filmed six scenes that day, and Skyler was unusally tired when he got home, but thoughts of Brian were still in his head, and he couldn't seem to stop thinking about him. He had dinner with Kevin and Chad, and he tried to keep up his end of the conversation, but he still thought about Brian.

He knew what was happening. He was finally starting to feel the effect of what Brian had done to him. He found that it actually hurt more than it angered him. He'd trusted Brian only to find out that he was a liar all along. He felt let down, but he still missed him. That was what he didn't understand. He shouldn't miss him after what he'd done, but as he finished writing the song he'd started the day before, he realised that he missed Brian very much.

The following day, Kevin had to fly back to California and meet up with his tour again. Skyler went with him to the airport to say goodbye, but Kevin promised to call as soon as he got to L.A. Skyler wondered about his new friendship with Kevin Richardson. He didn't understand where it had come from. He liked hanging out with Kevin most of the time, but he couldn't help wondering if Kevin was haning out with him out of pity over what his cousin had done. If that was the case, then Skyler wished that Kevin would just stay away. The last thing he needed was pity.

Laura came to the apartment shortly after Skyler and Chad got back that day. She brought with her a copy of "The Rag" which featured pictures of Skyler in his make-up for the film. A two page article told of how everyone close to Skyler was very worried over his drug use, and a lot of his "close" friends had been begging him to go into rehab for months. Skyler thought it was funny, but Laura wasn't laughing.

"I knew something like this would start up when you started filming," she said, pointing at the open magazine on Skyler's coffee table. "I didn't wnat you in this role, Skyler."

"Laura, its just a stupid tabloid," he replied. "They talk about people all of the time, and this isn't even the truth. I'm not sure why you're so upset with this."

"Because, it could hurt your image, Skyler," she said. "I warned you about this when you asked for this part."

"Laura, relax," he said. "Book me on a talk show, or something, and I'll discredit this tabloid story. Its that simple."

She agreed to book him on a talk show, but she was no happier about the situation when she left his apartment. Skyler couldn't help chuckling at the article. Of course he'd expected something like this to happen. Laura had warned him about it before filiming ever began, but he didn't care then, and he didn't care now. After all, there were much worse real secrets the tabloids could uncover.

It was several days before Laura called with anything about a talk show. She'd scheduled him for the "Rosie O'donnell Show", and he smiled when she told him that. Rosie was one of his favorites, and he even told Laura to tell her he'd sing one of the new songs for the show. He was very pleased with himself at the end of that telephone conversation. He had five days to get ready for the show, and Rosie had already agreed to help him make fun of the tabloid article. It would be great.

However, the article did have its bad side. Late night talk show hosts were now cracking jokes about his supposed drug use, and his father and Cassie had called to express their worries over the article as if the story was true. That hadn't been fun, but he'd gotten both of them to calm down after he explained what had really gone on. By the end of the coversation, both his father and Cassie were laughing about it.

* * *

"So, you're working on the movie now," said Rosie when the crowd stopped screaming again.

"Yeah, I'm having fun," Skyler said, smiling.

"Too much fun?" she asked, tilting her head slightly.

"One can never have too much fun, Rosie," he laughed. "No, really, we've got a great cast, a great script and an awesome director."

"And tabloids," she said, holding up the issue of "The Rag" with Skyler's drug abuse story in it. "This one isn't playing very nice, is it?"

"No, not nice at all," he said, shaking his head.

"Just look at these pictures!" she gasped, turning to look at the screen behind them.

On the screen were the two pictures of Skyler in his character make-up. They were the pictures ran in that particular issue of "The Rag". The crowd made sad sounds, and Rosey clucked her tongue and grimaced.

"Not very flattering, are they?" asked Skyler.

"Not at all flattering," she said. "Not the way we like to see that cutie patootie face of yours, either."

"Well, what can I say," he said with a shrug.

"The article accuses you of doing nasty drugs," she said, pointing at the magazine that was now on her desk.

"It sure does," he said. "Nasty ones."

"All right," she chuckled, turning to the audience. "You know these pictures aren't what the magazine claims they are, right? I mean, he's all made up to look like he's on drugs in these pictures, because his character in the movie is a drug addict, right Sky?"

"That's right," he said. "Those pictures were taken the first day of shooting. I was having lunch with Brian Krause in a diner right by the studio, and a photographer must have taken some pictures."

"And the story was born," she said, shaking her head. "Tabloids love to invent things, don't they?"

"This time they certainly did," he laughed.

"Skyler, tell us," she said. "Are you taking nasty drugs?"

"Come on, Rosie," he said, shaking his head. "You know me better than that! Madonna would kick my butt!"

"Madonna," she said to the audience. "Big advocate for butt kicking. And she despises drugs."

"She sure does," said Skyler. "In fact, we're going to be filming a commercial together very soon."

"Really?" said Rosie, raising her eyebrows.

"Yeah, I'll be in make-up, and we'll be talking about drugs," he replied. "Its a big anti-drug commercial. Sonny's going to direct it."

"Sonny Seinhamn?" she asked as he nodded. "He's directing the movie, right?"

"Yeah," said Skyler. "He's the awesome director."

"He is an awesome director," she said. "But why did you choose the role of the drug addict?"

"Because I felt that the role was powerful and scary on a personal level," he said. "I've never even been currious about drugs, but playing this character makes me see what drugs can do, and it isn't pretty."

"No, it isn't," she agreed. "But you're not on drugs."

"Nope," he said, smiling. "I'm clean."

"And after the break, you're going to sing your new song for us," she said. "Is it from the movie that you're working on that you wouldn't bring a clip of?"

"Yes it is," he chuckled. "I'm sorry about the clip thing, but Sonny is really guarding this movie."

"Yeah, he's like that," she nodded. "All right, we'll be back in a few, and Skyler's going to sing. Stay with us."

"I love how they say that my close friends are all begging me to go to rehab," he chuckled when they were off camera.

"I'm even mentioned as asking you to go to rehab," she said, thumbing through the magazine.

"Yeah, they say that Madonna won't even talk to me anymore, because I won't give up the drugs," he laughed.

"Has she read this?" she asked, looking at him wide-eyed.

"Oh, yeah," he replied. "She called me the day the magazine came out. We had a great laugh."

"I bet," she said, looking past him. "Oh, they're telling me to get ready, so you better get over there."

Skyler took a drink of his water and then went over to the other side of the stage and sat on the stool. He picked up the microphone, and the audience started to cheer. He smiled at them, making them cheer even more as the band played the Rosie theme to signal that they were back from commercial. Rosie talked about the song, and then the lights went down and a spotlight winked on, bathing Skyler in light as the music to "Another Lucky Star" started to play. He listened for his musical queue and then lifted the microphone to sing.

"Your friends may lie. The truth can come from strangers. If I knew why, we wouldn't be in this danger. Leaning out the window of my car, and wishing on another lucky star," he sang in the most haunted voice he could muster.

"Life is long; it is not made to measure. You will go on the same in pain and pleasure. Wondering how we ever got this far by wishing on another lucky star.

"Life goes on, as sure as the sky. Its come and gone in the wink of an eye. You leave your home on the wings of a lie: You will never die.

"The world is cold. A heart gets torn and tattered. The one you hold, it can be dropped and shattered. Leaning out the window of my car, and wishing on another lucky star," he sang and lowered the microphone as the music played.

"Life goes on, as sure as the sky. Its come and gone in the wink of an eye. You leave your home on the wings of a lie: You will never die,

"Leaning out the window of my car, nd wishing on another lucky star. There's a car outside . . ." he sang, drawing the last word out as he let his voice fade and the music stopped.

* * *

"The show was awesome," said Kevin when he called Skyler later that day. "I still love that song."

"Well, Maverick's getting ready to release it as a single, but I'm not doing a video for it," Skyler replied.

"You're doing a video for the other one, though, right?"

"Sure am," he replied. "I start filming for the commercial in the morning. Its going to be fun."

"You sound like you're having a good day," said Kevin. "How's the apartment coming?"

"We can move our stuff in Friday," said Skyler. "I'm excited. The realtor says he thinks he's got this apartment sold already."

"Well, Friday is two days away," said Kevin. "You can be out, and the knew owners can move in."

"Yeah," said Skyler. "I'm planning a dinner party as soon as I get everything unpacked in the new place."

"Well, keep me posted," he said. "I'd like to come for that."

"Sure thing," said Skyler.

That evening, Skyler met up with Brian, Kristy and Gabrielle for dinner at The Crystal Room. He was so happy to be around the three of them again, and they seemed to be just as happy to be around him again, too. Gabrielle asked about Zack, and Skyler admitted that he hadn't been able to reach Zack for a week. They each wondered what was going on in his life.

"Maybe they're on vacation," said Kristy. "He was talking about a trip the last time I talked to him."

"Yeah, I remember him saying something about going somehwere," said Brian. "I just don't remember where."

"Well, we'll have to get together with him soon," said Gabrielle. "I want the entire gang together again for a while."

"When do you have to be back in California?" asked Skyler.

"My character is missing right now," she said. "That means I'm taking a break."

"I know those breaks," laughed Kristy.

"Well, I do plan to go back to the show," she said. "I'm just taking some much needed down time."

"I hear that," said Skyler. "I'm going back into the studio to record again soon. That means another tour and a bunch of promotion."

"But you have control over that now, right?" asked Brian. "It won't be like last time."

"No, it won't," agreed Skyler. "This time, I plan to have a little fun while I see the world."

"So, you'll be doing a world tour this time?" asked Kristy.

"That's the plan," he replied and then chuckled. "Listen to me. I haven't even recorded one song for the album, and I'm already planning my tour."

They all laughed about that. It was really good for Skyler to be around them again. It was almost like old times. They talked about his father, and how worried he was that the twins would want to go and live with him permenantly. Kristy told him that Cassie called her almost as much as she called them, and Cassie couldn't wait for him and Chad to get to Denver. She said she talked about coming home a lot, too. Skyler felt better hearing that.

Two things happened on Friday. Chad finished recording his album, and he even knew the title of it. "Extaticling" was what they were going to call the album. Clay said it was because he thought of static electricity when Chad was around. The boy was so hyper at times. Chad was an excited ball of boy as he told Skyler about it while they had lunch that day. Chad stayed on the set to watch Skyler film until they left the studio at six that evening.

The other thing that happened that day was that everything they owned had been moved from the apartment they'd been living in to the penthouse Skyler now owned. When they walked in, Chad was in awe of the way everything looked. Skyler was thrilled to see that the furniture had been not only delivered, but set up and arranged nicely. The electricity, phone and cable had all been installed already, so Skyler didn't have to worry about anything. He'd changed his and the twins's address at the post office, and all of the utilities were already on as well.

They spent a little time unpacking until their stomachs reminded them that they hadn't eaten since noon. Skyler took Chad to Gabetonni's for dinner, and they talked about what Skyler wanted to do for his second album. He thought it was time to tell Clay that he was ready to record. Seeing Chad's excitement made him actually wish he was already recording his album.

That night, Skyler went to sleep in his new apartment without a single thought of Brian Littrell in his head, and he slep soundly.

Toy Soldiers is a song by Martika. Another Lucky Star is a song called Wishing On Another Lucky Star by JD Souther.

The next chapter will be posted soon.