© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 39

"Out of my sight, but the vision is still the same. Out of my mind, but the memory remains unchanged. Stones thrown in anger hold twice the hurt. Return to sender could only make things worse.

"You've got to break these chains around my heart, 'cause I've been lonely too long. You've got to break these chains around my heart, so I can finally get on with my life," he sang and let the music play while he waited for his next cue.

"Don't ask me why, why I've lived with this all alone. Locked up inside, and its cutting me to the bone. Love is a stranger avoiding me. Beware of danger is the only sign I see.

"You've got to break these chains around my heart, 'casue I've been lonely too long. You've got to break these chains around my heart, so I can finally get on with my life," he said and went right into the bridge of the song.

"Are you listening? Is there something that you'd like to say? Am I getting through? Are you just gonna leave me this way?" he sang and let the music play on for a bit until the next cue came.

"You've got to break these chains around my heart before it tears me in two. You've got to break these chains around my heart. That's all I'm asking of you. You've got to break these chains around my heart, 'cause I've been lonely too long. You've got to break these chains around my heart, so I can finally get on with my life. So I can finally get on with my life," he sang, and the music ended.

"Skyler Thomas, guys," said Rosie as the audience screamed. "We'll be back after this, and he's going to talk to us."

The audience continued to scream and cheer as Skyler put the microphone back on the stand and walked across the stage to join Rosie at her desk. They hugged each other, and Skyler moved to the couch beside the desk and sat down. He was happy to be on the show again.

"It was strange to start out singing and then come over here," he said when the audience quieted down.

"Yeah, I don't know why they decided to do it that way," said Rosie as she sat down behind her desk. "I do love that song, though."

"Thank you," he replied as the cameraman gave them the signal that they were about to be on the air again.

"Welcome back," said Rosie when they were on the air. "I'm here with Skyler Thomas, and he's just charmed us with a song. That's from the movie you just finished filming, right?"

"It sure is," he replied. "The premier is getting close, too."

"And you've released the dates for your tour," she said. "I also hear that you've hired dancers."

"I've hired some great dancers," replied Skyler. "You should see these guys, Rosie. They're amazing."

"We had a chance to talk with your choreographer the other day," she said with a big smile. "Mark was such a sweetie. He told us that you guys are still deciding on dance moves and props. What kind of show are you planning for us, Mr. Thomas?"

"Well the dance moves are really more Mark's choice than mine," he said. "As for the show itself, you'll have to wait and see."

"You're so secretive," she laughed.

"I have to be," he said, smiling. "If you all know what the show is going to be like before the tour even starts, why would anyone come to see it?"

"Oh I think there's one huge reason to come see the show," she said with a mock serious look on her face. "We'll all come see the show to watch you shake that cutie-patootie butt of yours!"

"Oh yeah," he chuckled. "I forgot about that part."

"You're so fun," she said, turning to the audience. "Isn't he the funnest?"

"Rosie, I don't think 'funnest' is really a word," he said, pretending to be serious.

"Funnest isn't a word?" she asked, turning to the audience and shrugging. "I thought it was."

"Well if you think its really a word, then I have to be wrong," he laughed.

"Meanie," she said, sticking her tongue out at him.

"Hey, I'm not mean," he laughed. "I brought gifts again."

"You did, didn't you," she said as the audience cheered. "He's brought CDs again, guys."

The audience cheered louder as six guys in Skyler Thomas t-shirts came down the isles, passing out copies of Skyler's newest CD. He'd signed them all that morning. Chad had laughed at him when he was done. His marker had leaked, and his hand was covered black ink. It had taken almost an hour to get it off.

"You even signed them!" she gasped, holding up her signed copy.

"I always sign them when I bring them to your show, Rosie," he said, smiling at the audience and making them scream again.

Fifteen minutes later they were sitting there laughing with each other as the audience filed out. He really did love doing Rosie's show. It was always fun, and she was a riot. He and Madonna often talked about their "fun" times with Rosie. Lately, Skyler was happy for any fun that he could find with all of the media coverage of Chuck's death and funeral.

The press had put all of the stories about the abuse that he and his siblings had suffered back in the papers. Even the mess with his father calling Barry Graham and not being put in touch with Skyler was back in the news. They talked about almost nothing else. They were hounding him and Chad, and they were even showing up all over the place to ask Ben and Tabitha questions. Cassie had been stopped twice while she was shopping. It was getting crazy.

"Don't think I can't see you hiding over there, Chad Thomas," said Rosie shortly after the audience was completely gone. "Why are you hiding? Get your cute self over here."

She stood up and wrapped her arms around Chad when he came over to them. He hugged her back and laughed. Skyler invited her to lunch with them and they had a great time. The press even left them alone. By the time they dropped Rosie back at the studio, Skyler had almost forgotten the press entirely.

"That was fun," Chad said as the driver drove them to the airport. They'd flown to New York to tape the show, but Skyler was itching to get back to LA. He didn't want to leave his family alone for long.

"It was," agreed Skyler with a sigh.

"JC withdrawal again?" laughed Chad.

"I'll see him soon enough," replied Skyler. "I'm just not itching to run into the press again."

"Its been a few days since the reporters have tracked any of us down," remarked Chad. "Maybe they've moved on."

"Maybe, but I doubt it."

"Surely something else will happen in the world that will require their attention, and they'll leave us alone," said Chad.

"From your lips," Skyler breathed as they pulled into the airport parking lot.

"Just don't do anything to stir the tabloids for a while," laughed Chad as they made their way through the airport, being careful not to draw too much attention to themselves.

Skyler was surprised when they made it to the plane without anyone so much as saying their names. They found their seats and he slid down in his and promptly tried to fall asleep. Chad was right about him missing JC. They'd been talking on the telephone as often as they could, but Nsync was out doing personal appearances and trying to keep themselves out there, so the only time they got to talk was usually late at night. Skyler was feeling the effects of the loss of sleep.

The last night they'd actually seen each other was the night of the Grammys. They'd talked a bit before the show and after, but then JC was gone again. They'd flown out that night to head for Florida again. The phone calls started once JC was checked into the hotel. That had been only two days ago, but it seemed like a lot longer to Skyler. Any time spent away from JC was long for him. They'd been spending so much time together that he was getting used to having him around. For the first time since they'd gotten together Skyler found himself wondering what their lives would be like if they weren't famous.

Since his birthday, Skyler had shot a video and been chased around by the press. Soon The Eye Of The World would premier, and then he'd be back in the studio again to record a song for Sky High's first movie release. He'd decided to cover a song for the soundtrack while they were filming. They'd be finished filming very soon, so Skyler didn't have much more time left to record the song. The soundtrack was supposed to be released a week before the movie.

Ricky Martin had told him once again at the Grammys that he wanted to work with him. Skyler told him he'd love the opportunity, but all they'd agreed to that night was to get in touch with each other soon. Both Clay and Laura were excited to hear that Ricky still wanted to work with him, but Skyler didn't know when they'd be able to collaborate. He wasn't planning on writing anything new for a bit.

"You know," said Chad, pulling Skyler out of his thoughts as the plane leveled off in the air. "I think that Dad might be getting itchy about heading off on the tour."

"Why do you say that?" Skyler asked, but he knew. Their father had already started interviewing for his construction team, and the start of the tour was still months away. Any time he'd tried to remind his father that there was time, Ben had only smiled and told him he wanted to be prepared.

"He's asked me four times what kind of construction my sets will entail," explained Chad. "Sky, I don't know anything about that kind of stuff. I've never done anything like this before."

"You've performed live," Skyler argued.

"Yeah, but there were no sets involved," replied Chad. "All I did was get out there and sing. My only prop was a microphone."

"Well why isn't Dad talking to Clay?" asked Skyler. "Clay would have already come up with your set designs I'm sure."

"What about yours?" asked Chad. "You said that you were going to come up with a show of your own."

"I've been discussing it with Mark," replied Skyler. "We've come up with a few ideas. Shelly is supposed to be sketching a few things for Clay and Mark to look at. I suppose that Dad should look at them, too. He's the one who will know if its possible to do what I want."

"Well now that he's finished the renovations on both houses he's bored," said Chad.

"I guess we'll just have to find something for him to do then," replied Skyler.

They were met by throngs of reporters when they got off the plane. They shouted questions about Chuck and their reaction to his death as Brent and Eric pushed their way through them to lead their employers to the waiting SUV. Skyler resisted the urge to scream obscenities at them as they drove off toward the house. He was getting so tired of the press.

"That was unreal," said Chad. "Why haven't they let this go yet?"

"Because we refuse to answer their questions," replied Skyler. "Either we set up a press conference or they'll keep hounding us."

"I don't want to talk to the press about Chuck," said Chad quickly.

"Neither do I," admitted Skyler. "I guess we'll just have to put up with them for a while."

"This sucks," sighed Chad, slumping down in his seat as they were driven into the city.

"Welcome to fame, kid," Skyler said glumly, thinking the very same thing that his younger brother had just said.

* * *

"Are you sure you can build this?" Skyler asked his father later that day when Shelly brought over the sketches of the sets he'd described to her for his show.

"It would take a bit of time to put that together, but yeah I can build it," replied Ben, looking closely at the sketch. "These are really great drawings, Shelly."

"Thank you, Mr. Thomas," she replied, smiling.

"Oh, call me Ben," he laughed. "I'm not that old yet."

"Sorry," she said, her smile widening.

"We'd have to use hydraulics to switch these in and out," said Ben. "You have four different sets that you want to use in one show, so hydraulics is the only thing I can think of that would let us switch these in and out fast enough."

"You're the construction wizard," laughed Skyler. "Why don't you think it over and talk to the guys you've hired about it?"

Ben had hired almost fifteen men to work as his construction crew on the tour. He'd explained to them that a confidentiality agreement had to be signed before they could even meet Skyler or Chad, and they'd all agreed. Still he had more men to interview in the coming days.

"Sounds like a plan," he said, patting Skyler on the back. "Shelly, I think you should be paid for these."

"Oh I have been," she said, smiling again. "Skyler paid me a lot more than . . ."

"None of that," laughed Skyler as his father shook Shelly's hand. "You were paid exactly what any other employee who works for me would have been paid for doing the same thing."

In truth he'd paid her a lot more than that. Mark was one of his closest friends in the world, and he and Shelly were getting married. He wanted to do everything he could for her while Mark was away on location. Mark was starring in Sky High's first film. Just the thought of that made him smile. Mark had sworn he wanted nothing to do with show business, and then he'd started auditioning for commercials and now he was starring in a movie.

"Hey sexy man," he said when he answered JC's call that night. "What's your gang up to?"

"Joey's chasing Lance and Chris around the room with a pillow, and Justin's on his phone with Britney," replied JC through a yawn. "What are you guys doing?"

"Oh, you know, the usual," said Skyler. "Dodging reporters, trying to keep from screaming when they find us and generally being held captive in our home lately."

"Baby, I wish there was something I could do," said JC, and Skyler could hear the sincerity in his voice.

"No one can do anything," replied Skyler. "What they want is to shove the knife into our hearts a little more and make us remember ever evil thing that man ever did to us."

"Maybe you should give them something, Sky," counciled JC. "If you answer a few questions they might just leave you alone."

"I suppose its worth a try," sighed Skyler. He didn't think it would do any good unless he, Chad and Cassie talked tot the press. He even thought they would still keep hounding his father unless he talked to them, too.

"Sky, I hate being away from you when something like this is going on," said JC.

"But you have commitments, Josh," reminded Skyler. "You can't cancel anything to come running to my side just because the press won't play nice."

"But we promised . . ."

"We promised that if either of us needed the other we'd make sure that we would be together," said Skyler, cutting him off. "I'd love to have you here, Josh, but I don't need you just because of the press."

* * *

"First let me remind you of the ground rules," Clay said to the room full of reporters. "Skyler and Chad will answer questions that are asked in a calm and collected manor. This will not erupt into chaos, or you can all forget about ever getting any quotes from either of the Thomas brothers for any reason at any time. If either of them refuse to answer a question move on. If you badger my clients, this will end and you will never hear a word from them again. I also strongly suggest that you keep your questions as clean as you can. This entire thing throws off a stench, but if you don't use your brain when you ask your questions this will end."

Clay sat down as Skyler and Chad walked into the press room of the Sky High headquarters in Los Angeles. Skyler had talked to Chad and together they had convinced Clay and Laura that this was what they needed to do. They took their seats on either side of Clay and the cameras began to flash. Skyler sighed as he thought about the questions that were about to be asked. Questions he really didn't want to answer.

Chains Around My Heart is a song by Richard Marx.

The next chapter will be posted soon.