© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 51

"I really wish you'd let us hear something, Sky," said Laura as they sat at Skyler's kitchen table. He'd been recording the album for four days now, and he hadn't let her or Clay hear a single song. She was starting to get nervous. He kept saying that he was doing things a bit differently, but he wouldn't tell them how.

"Be patient, Laura," he said with a smile. "The album is nearly finished. I'm about to record the video for the first single, and then you'll hear the song."

"You're worrying me, Skyler," she said with a sigh before she sipped her coffee. Her eyes never left him, and she noticed the conspiratorial smiles that passed between Jeff Timmons and Skyler. He was up to something. She just hoped it didn't ruin his career.

"Have you heard from the realtor?" he asked, changing the subject.

He'd been trying to buy an estate in Orlando, and he'd asked her nearly every single day since they'd contacted the realtor to inquire if she'd heard back. Today she had good news for him. They'd accepted his offer of $8.5 million, and he could take possession of the property in six days. She had him booked on the first flight from Los Angeles to Orlando the very next morning. They'd be flying out and back the same day, so he could resume his recording schedule.

"Is this about the house you showed me the pictures of, Sky?" Jeff asked, aiding his friend in pissing off his agent.

"Yeah," Skyler said with a huge smile. "It's awesome, Jeff. I can't wait to move in."

"Well you'll be very happy to know that it's yours," she said. "We fly to Orlando in the morning to sign the deed."

"I'll have to tell Will . . ."

"I've already talked to Will," she said. "We'll either fly back tomorrow afternoon, or he'll fly to Orlando and you can finish recording at the Orlando studio."

"Well then that's all set, isn't it?" he asked with another smile. "Thanks, Laura. You're the best."

"What time are you due on the set, Sky?" asked Jeff, looking at the clock on the wall.

"In an hour," he replied, sighing as he stood and pushed his chair in. "I'm going to go get changed."

A little more than an hour later Laura was standing in Sky High Studios LA watching Skyler film the video for a song called "It's Not Your Business". As she listened to the lyrics she sighed and shook her head. The song wouldn't end his career, but it would sure piss off the tabloids. She chuckled as she thought about how much fun Skyler would have with the song. She had to admit that after two years in the business Skyler had learned a lot. He wasn't cocky, but he would let you know when you were stepping on his toes. This song was just his way of letting the tabloids know that they were going a bit far with their articles about him and JC Chasez.

The video consisted of Skyler walking down the street, though it was really the studio back lot, while people threw tabloid magazines at him. They were being very careful to make the mock rags look like the big time tabloids without actually baring the name of any existing magazine. James Pratt, the director, was also being very precise about the way he wanted this video filmed. She watched Skyler getting agitated with each take. She wouldn't have been surprised if in just a few more minutes Skyler started screaming back at the man.

Two hours later she was seated across from Skyler at the Hard Rock Cafe. Jeff was sitting next to him, and they were talking happily about the video Skyler had just shot. She listened to them for a while before she reminded Skyler that they had some important things to discuss. They talked about the album he was recording again, and she told him that Clay was very worried because he wouldn't let them hear anything.

"Well tell him to stop worrying," he said, looking at her hard. "You have the copy of the tape for the video we just shot. Show it to him. He can hear that song at least."

"But when can we hear more?" she asked. She'd tried to get a listen to the tapes in the vault, but they were all locked down tight.

"Laura, you'll both hear the damned thing when I'm finished recording," he snapped. "Now will you please let it drop. This is my company, and my album. Relax."

The next day, after cutting a check for $8.5 million for the estate in Orlando and flying back to Los Angeles almost as soon as the ink dried on the deed to the property, he was back in the studio recording more songs for the album. Laura was pissed off when she tried to get to the studio he was using and a guard informed her that Mr. Thomas hadn't put her name on the list. Since when did he need guards to keep people within the damned company out of his recording sessions, she wondered. Yet when he emerged from the studio three hours later with a huge grin on his face she didn't ask that question.

"It's finished," he informed her. "Will is doing his magic on it now. When he's done I'll meet you and Clay at the house for a private listen. Satisfied?"

"You recorded an entire album in five days?" she asked, stunned.

"Nice when you don't have the problems we had with 'Mission Impossible', huh?" he asked, still smirking at her. "Will won't let anyone in there, so don't try, Laura. He'll send me the dubs when he's finished, and I'll call you."

Will still wasn't done with the album the following night when she stood in Skyler's living room, watching him and Jeff fidget in their tuxes. They were attending the premiere for the new film, Tapped that night. She sighed as she thought about the fact that he'd let her stand in the control booth and listen to the song he'd recorded for the soundtrack. When they were ready to leave she was near lividity. He still hadn't said a word about Will's progress, and she had to get with Andrew and Dan to talk about promotions for the damned album in the morning.

"The song you did with Madonna was hot," said Jeff when they were seated at a table at The Viper Room later that night.

"Laura's going to flip when she hears it," laughed Skyler. "She'll shit when she hears 'I Want Your Sex'."

"She'll shit over more than just that," replied Jeff, laughing as well. "What did Clay think of your video?"

"I don't know," he replied. "I haven't talked to Clay since the night we got back from Italy."

"Think he's pissed?"

"Over that song?" he asked with raised eyebrows. "Nah. He probably laughed till he split a gut. Clay isn't as uptight as Laura. Just think about how pissed she'll be when she finds out that I have the dubs for the album at home and didn't say a word to her about it."

"Why did you do that, anyway?" Jeff asked. "Are you having fun pissing her off?"

"No," he replied. "I just didn't want to listen to them bitch today. I wanted to get through he premiere and the parties in one piece."

They were both quiet for a while after they stopped laughing. Skyler kept glancing at Jeff, but he didn't say anything for quite a while. Jeff knew he would be asking him what was going on between him and his wife soon. He'd been sleeping in one of Skyler's guest rooms since recording began. He supposed he'd have to tell him when he asked. He just didn't want that the fact that he was starting to fall in love with him was the very reason for what was going on between him and his wife. There was more to it, obviously. He'd been wanting a divorce for over a year, but she'd gotten pregnant on one of their good nights. He suspected that she'd done it on purpose, and that's what pissed him off. He loved his son with all of his heart and wouldn't trade him for the world, but he couldn't stay married anymore.

Skyler didn't ask him what was going on, though. Carson Daly came over to the table and asked Skyler for a quick interview before whisking him off to a quiet corner. He sighed with relief as he watched Skyler walk off with Carson. He wanted to tell him the whole story, but he was really afraid of what Skyler would say to him when he told him that he was falling in love. Would he return the sentiment? Surely not. Skyler probably wasn't really over JC, but did that mean that Skyler couldn't love him back?

The next day, while Jeff was spending the day with his children and thinking about Skyler most of the day, Skyler was sitting in the living room of his house with Clay and Laura listening to the album. His father and step-mother were in the room with them, and Skyler was nervous about what they'd have to say about the sexually charged lyrics of some of the songs. He watched Tabitha's face go scarlet while she listened to the song he sang with Madonna, but then she was near tears when she heard the best ballad on the album. When the tape ended, he sat holding his breath and waiting for the onslaught.

"You realize that this album will change the way your fans look at you?" Clay asked before anyone could say anything. They were all staring at him, though. Laura looked like she would pass out at any moment.

"I realize it's a gamble, Clay," he said carefully. "But that's kind of what I was shooting for. That and changing my image."

"But do you want your image to be so tainted?" Laura asked in a shrill voice, causing everyone to look at her sharply.

"I'm not sure that tainted is the word I'd use," responded Clay before Skyler could speak. "It's very mature music, and I think that sexual lyrics will put off some of the fans, but most will be thrilled with what they hear."

"What do you think?" Skyler asked, looking at his parents.

"I think it'll probably go platinum on it's first day of release," his father replied with a smirk on his face that Skyler had come to know as his "you dirty sneak" smirk.

"With all that's being said about you in the tabloids, I don't think your fans will be put off at all by the lyrics," said Tabitha. "In fact, I think you might gain a few thousand more or so. I'll admit that some of the lyrics are a bit much for my taste, but I love it just the same as I love your other music, Skyler. I'm proud of you."

"So am I, Sky," said Ben. "I'm very proud of you."

He was silent for a moment as he soaked up what they'd said about the album. He knew that some of the fans might not take kindly to some of the lyrics, but he agreed with Tabitha. He didn't think he'd lose many if any at all. He was sure that new fans would come his way with this new sound and type of music. There was a little something for everyone. There was the edgier guitar hate ballad and the techno charged sexually demanding dance song. There were four ballads on the album, and that would satisfy most of the fans.

"Then that's all that matters," he finally said and smiled.

"So, 'It's Not Your Business' is the first single off the album?" Ben asked. Skyler nodded. "Isn't that going to make the tabloids talk about you more, Sky?"

"Probably," he admitted. "I just wanted to do something to make a statement about the way they've treated me."

"Well you certainly make a statement with the song," said Tabitha. "I like the song, personally."

"Thank you, Mom," he said with a wide smile.

Two hours later the family was on a plane to Orlando to see the house. Skyler had made plans to meet Lance Bass and Justin Timberlake once they had seen the house to go shopping to fill the house with furniture. It was his plan to move into the house as soon as possible. Recording was over, and most of the video shoots were going to be at Sky High Orlando anyway. He'd discussed the move with his parents, and they were all for it. Jason, Cassie and Chad were still being tutored, and the tutor they'd used for the tour had actually come from Orlando. It would work out on so many levels.

The house sat on thirty acres of land with a huge swimming pool, stable and tennis courts. There were six outbuildings on the property, and the entire estate was surrounded by a twenty foot high iron fence. Huge palm trees lined the back of the estate and provided some privacy. The house itself was three stories high with ten bedrooms and eleven bathrooms. There was a room for practically everything, and Skyler had left orders with a local construction company to convert two of the ground floor rooms. One would become a studio while the other would become a home theater.

Skyler had decided that this time he wanted his family with him. Living in two separate houses was all right, but having everyone under one roof would be so much more convenient in the end. The house was large enough that everyone could move comfortably through it without actually having to see any other member of the household unless they wanted to. Everyone fell in love with the house as soon as they saw it. His siblings found rooms to call their own on the second and third floor. Skyler was a little worried about why Jason wanted to be on the third floor all alone, but he decided that the teen had his reasons.

The decision to let each of them furnish their own rooms turned out to be a good one. Cassie took off with Tabitha to shop while Skyler and Ben wrangled the boys and met Justin and Lance to do some shopping of their own. They hit just about every upscale furniture store in Orlando, making people gasp and scream everywhere they went. Skyler, Chad, Justin and Lance stopped three times to sign autographs and pose for pictures, but each time Brent made sure that the events lasted no more than twenty to thirty minutes at most. After the furniture for the bedrooms was purchased, Ben took the boys and said farewell to Skyler. Chad still had recording to do, and Jason was doing a bit of background vocals for the album.

Skyler joined Lance and Justin for dinner at Orlando's Hard Rock Cafe. The night had turned balmy so they chose to eat outside. The table directly beside them was filled with their security staff. They were half way through dinner when Skyler got the call from his father telling him that his mother was in labor.

"My God!" cried Skyler, making everyone around them look at him. "I have to go. Brent, we have to get to the airport now!"

"What's going on, Sky?" asked Justin with a worried look on his face.

"Nothing's wrong," laughed Skyler excitedly. "It's happening! I've got to get to Detroit."

"Oh my God!" gasped Lance, knowing exactly what was going on as soon as Skyler said Detroit. "Sky, do you want us to come with you?"

"Don't be silly," he replied. "You guys have stuff to do. Brent?"

"Let's go, Skyler," he said, standing as the others at the security table stood as well. He turned to Lance and Justin. "I trust that paying the tab for tonight's meal won't be a problem?"

"Oh, hell no," said Justin. "Go, boy!"

"Love you guys," said Skyler as Brent walked him away from the table and to the waiting rental SUV.

He was a bundle of nervous energy all the way to the airport. His family would be meeting him there, and all he could do was talk to his security about the fact that he was about to be a father. He couldn't get his hands to stop moving. He kept fiddling with the gadgets that controlled his window, the locks and the cigarette lighter next to his door. His smile was still plastered across his face, and he suddenly thought that he'd never been so excited in his life.

When they pulled into the private parking lot of the airport, Skyler bounded out of the vehicle and raced inside with Brent hot on his tail. He saw his father waiting for him at the ticket counter and reminded himself not to run in the airport. Reporters had gotten wind of his movements and were now trying to take his picture while airport security swarmed them. He didn't care about any of that. The baby was about to be born. He was going to be a father. He had to get to Detroit.

"I've got your ticket," said Ben. "Your brothers and sister are already on the plane with Tabitha. I've called Laura and Clay, and Tabitha called Madonna. Let's go, Sky."

He grabbed Skyler's arm and walked him down the ramp. They sat down in first class with his family and Skyler could only smile at them. Everyone was chattering, but he couldn't say a word. Brent and the rest of the security staff boarded next. The pilot spoke to everyone about safety and then they were in the air. Skyler listened as his father talked to him about being a good man. He told his son that he was so proud of him for making the decision to raise this baby as his own and show the child the life he knew it would never have without him. Skyler listened patiently and hugged his father.

Landing in Detroit, Skyler's nervous energy was drained out of him. He was suddenly more tired than he'd ever been in his life, and he couldn't believe he was on his feet as they got off the plane and headed for the waiting SUVs in the parking lot. He thanked his father and step-mother for being there with him as they got into the family SUV. All the way to the prison, Skyler told his siblings and parents that he was the luckiest man alive to have them for a family.

Once they reached the prison, Skyler was upset that the twins and Jason were told to remain in the waiting area with Tabitha. Ben accompanied his son inside the prison and straight to the infirmary. They were stopped when they got there by the prison doctor. She was a hispanic woman with long dark hair and dark eyes. Her friendly smile relaxed Skyler, but her words troubled him.

"I'm afraid I can't allow either of you inside the infirmary," she said. "I realize that you are to be the child's father, but Mrs. O'Mally is not doing well. Skyler, I'll level with you here. Your mother's heart isn't doing well. Labor is putting a heavy strain on her right now, and we're doing everything we can to monitor her heart rate and keep her stable. The baby is doing fine and will be born any time. She's fully dilated and everything is going along. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but I thought you should know what was happening."

"Thank you," he said. "You say the baby is all right?"

"The baby is fine, Skyler," she said, touching his arm. "We're going to try to let this happen naturally, but if your mother's heart wont take it we may have to stop labor and perform a caesarian."

"Is that dangerous to the baby?" he asked, worried for his unborn child.

"Not at all," she assured him. "We'll only do the procedure if Claire's heart gets worse. Skyler, I want you to understand how dangerous this has become for your mother."

"Thank you for being honest with me, Doctor," he said with worry in his voice.

"Please go back to the waiting area, Skyler," she said. "I promise you that someone will come to tell you what is going on every step of the way."

He followed his father back the waiting area and was happy to find that Madonna had arrived. She took one look at his face and wrapped him in her arms as he told her what the doctor said. She listened without interrupting him and held on tighter when he told her that he thought his mother could die from having the baby.

"Skyler, I've checked on this doctor," she said as they sat down. "She's top-notch. Your mother is in good hands, and that child will be born as healthy as God will allow. She won't make any mistakes, Sky. She doesn't shortcut the level of treatment just because she cares for inmates."

"I don't want my mother to die, M," he said softly. "She may have been a rotten mother, but I don't want her to die."

"I know you don't, Sweetie," she said, gripping his hand in her own. "I wish there was some way I could assure you that your mother will be fine, Skyler, but I can't do that. All I can say is that whatever happens you've got me to fall back on. I'll be there for you in every way I can, Skyler."

"Thank you," he said. "I just don't know exactly how I'm supposed to feel about this."

"You're feeling exactly the way you should, Skyler," she said. "I'm shocked that you have any compassion for your mother at all, but I'm so proud of the fact that you're a big enough man to understand that what she did to you and your siblings isn't enough to deserve what's happening to her now."

It went on for hours. Skyler watched the clock tick away the seconds, minutes and hours as he sat holding Madonna's hand. Breaks were taken to get coffee and soft drinks, and of course they took little breaks for bathroom visits and the like. Jeff called around one-thirty in the morning to tell him that he was pulling for him. Skyler was happy that he called, but there wasn't anything for him to tell Jeff so far. A man in scrubs had come out just a few minutes before the phone call to tell Skyler that his mother was still in danger, but nothing had changed. She was still in labor, but the baby wasn't moving into the birth canal.

Two hours later he was told that an anesthetic had been administered and that they would be performing a caesarian delivery of the baby in just under an hour. He called Jeff to let him know what was going on, but he only stayed on the line long enough to explain what was happening. Then he was seated next to Madonna, holding her hand once again as they waited for the baby to be born.

It was four-thirty Wednesday morning, the twenty-second of September, when the doctor herself came to tell Skyler that the baby was a healthy seven pound, four ounce baby boy. He was elated at the news, but she had more to tell him. He could tell from the look in her eyes that it wasn't good news.

"Your mother suffered a severe heart attack just moments after the baby was born," she said with a sympathetic tone. "Skyler, we did everything we could for your mother, but our efforts proved not enough to save her life. I'm very sorry."

The next chapter will be posted soon.