© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 52

The press was everywhere as Skyler and Chad got out of the limo at the entrance to the funeral home. Cassie was still at the hotel and refused to have anything to do with the funeral or the press. Skyler had told his father to respect Cassie's decision although he himself was worried about her accepting the death of their mother. There were so many hurtful memories that stood in the way of any of the three siblings feeling too much grief over the loss of their mother. In their eyes they'd lost their mother so many years ago when she'd let Chuck O'Malley put a ring on her finger and call her his wife.

Claire's parents were gone and she had no siblings. The only family at the funeral was her two sons. Tabitha had stayed home with Cassie and Jason while Ben accompanied his sons to the funeral. Skyler thought it was strange that his father would even want to be there for the funeral of a woman who had caused him such heartache over the years. His respect for his father grew in bounds.

There were no more than twenty people in attendance at the funeral. Most of them were from Skyler and Chad's staff. Laura and Clay were both there along with Madonna and the security staff. Zack had come with Alec and Andrew. They all sat together in the center of the parlor, looking at the coffin while a minister that Skyler had never met gave a eulogy for a woman he hadn't yet let himself cry over. The words were beautiful, but they meant very little to Skyler as he sat listening and thinking about all of the times that he'd begged for his mother to be the kind of mother she was supposed to be over the years.

When the service was concluded there was no procession to get through. Skyler and Chad simply left with their father and climbed back into the limo ignoring the press as they screamed their names. Madonna joined them only moments later after having a word with Clay about something Skyler wasn't privy to. They rode in silence back to the hotel. Once there Skyler only changed clothes and left again with Brent to go back to the hospital to see his infant sibling and future son. This was where he spent the majority of his days since the birth, and he was still wondering who the father was now that he knew that his mother had lied about the conception date. Having the baby in September instead of December had given away the lie that she had died before righting.

"He'll be ready for you to take home soon," said an African-American nurse when Skyler came into the private room he'd paid for. She was bathing the baby. "Doctor said that there really isn't any reason for him to be in the hospital. He's completely healthy."

"That's very good to hear," sighed Skyler as he took a seat near the crib. "I'm eager to get him home where he belongs. I'm in the process of moving to Orlando."

"I'd read that in the papers," she said, beaming a smile at him. "I'm sure you'll love it there. I have family in Orlando, and I always enjoy my time spent there when I can visit."

"There you are," Dr. Martinez said as she came into the room. "I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the funeral, Skyler."

"We understand," he replied, standing to shake her hand. "I was told that I might be able to take Preston home tomorrow?"

"I've started the paperwork already," she said, smiling. "I've also filled out all of the forms that you requested for the adoption, Skyler. I think it's wonderful that you're going to be adopting Preston."

Skyler had decided to name the baby Preston James so that he'd have a name all his own. Tabitha had suggested naming him Tyler, but Skyler didn't like that idea at all. Though Tyler was a great name it was too close to his own, and he wanted his son to have his own name. In the end everyone agreed that Preston James was perfect.

"Thank you," he said. "I'm hoping to get all of this done when we reach Orlando."

"I'd read that you'd bought an estate in Orlando," she said as she wrote in the chart. "Beautiful city, I'm from there originally."

"I didn't know that," replied Skyler, looking at Preston as he lay in the crib.

"My parents have a condo on the west side of the city," she said. "I try to get back there as often as I can."

"I'll have to send them some autographed pictures or something," he said. "Just to thank them for having such a wonderful daughter who's taken such good care of my . . . son."

It sounded so strange to Skyler to call Preston his son. He glanced at the baby as he'd said the word and a flood of warmth passed over him. He loved that little guy so much that it nearly hurt to look at him. He couldn't wait to watch him grow and discover the world. He just hoped that he wouldn't fail him as a parent.

"Thank you, Skyler," said Dr. Martinez, smiling at him. "That's touching. I'm sure they'd love the pictures."

"I'll make sure to send them," he replied.

They talked for a few more minutes before the doctor returned to her rounds. Skyler walked over to the crib and lifted the sleeping infant into his arms. He carefully made his way back to the rocking chair he'd been sitting in and rocked slowly as the baby stirred. He caressed the baby's face with a finger as he sang lullabies to put him back to sleep. Once the baby was asleep once again, Skyler just gazed at him in awe.

He was easily the most beautiful thing Skyler had ever seen. He couldn't believe that after so many ugly years something so beautiful could enter his life. Vowing to make sure that there was never anything in Preston's life that would make him feel the pain and suffering that he and his siblings had suffered, Skyler slipped off to sleep with the baby in his arms.

It was a just a cat nap that was interrupted about ten minutes later when the baby began to fuss. Skyler quickly took him over to the changing table and changed his diaper. They'd had to show him how to do these simple things shortly after the baby was born. Once Preston was diapered and dressed, Skyler heated a bottle in the warmer and sat back down in the rocker to feed his son.

"Now that's an awesome sight," said the voice of Jeff Timmons as he came into the room. "I was hoping I'd find you here."

"What are you doing in Detroit?" asked Skyler, beaming up at him.

"I came to see the baby," replied Jeff. "And you."

"I'm glad you came," said Skyler, looking back down at the suckling child in his arms. "Meet Preston James Thomas."

"Hi, little one," said Jeff softly as he came to stand beside the rocker and gaze down at the baby. "He's beautiful, Sky."

"He is, isn't he?" Skyler said with a smile. "God, Jeff I can't tell you how much I love this little boy."

"You don't have to tell me, Sky," replied Jeff. "I can see it just watching you with him. When do you get to take him home?"

"Dr. Martinez said that I can take him from the hospital tomorrow morning," he said. "I'll spend the night here tonight. I hate to be away from him."

"And then you're leaving for Orlando?"

"That's the plan," sighed Skyler. "Everything is set there already. The furniture was delivered and Dad and Tabitha flew down to make sure that it was set up. They took a bunch of my clothes and stuff down there, and the nursery was Tabitha's project while they were there. They got back this morning just in time to go to the funeral with us."

"How'd that go?" Jeff asked softly.

"As I expected," Skyler sighed again. "I really don't want to think about my mother right now, though."

"Understood," said Jeff.

"So how's your little one?"

"He's great," replied Jeff with a huge smile, but Skyler could hear in his voice that there was something wrong. He thought he knew what it was.

"Things aren't so great with your marriage, though," he said softly.

"It's over, Sky," Jeff replied. "I can't do it anymore. Just thinking about how she conspired to get pregnant . . ."

"Believe me, Jeff, I understand," said Skyler as he got up to put the baby back in his crib. "You want to go down and get a bite to eat?"

"Sure," said Jeff. "How is the food here, anyway?"

"We're about to find out," chuckled Skyler as he followed Jeff out of the room. He looked back at his sleeping son one last time before they headed for the elevators.

The pair caused quite a stir in the hospital cafeteria. Nurses and visitors alike gasped when they figured out who they were looking at. Skyler smiled at everyone and waived. Jeff did the same as they made their way through the line to get their food. Skyler chose a salad thinking that it was probably the safest choice along with a bottle of water. They made their way passed a gang of people to a table in the back of the room furthest from the door.

"I see we've caused a sensation," laughed Jeff as they sat down.

"If we just ignore them maybe they'll leave us alone," replied Skyler. "I'm not really in the mood for fans right now."

"I can understand that," said Jeff. "Where is your security?"

"Day off," he replied with a smile. "They never come to the hospital with me anymore. I haven't been bothered so far."

"What about the press outside?"

"I come in through the employee entrance most of the time," explained Skyler. "So far they haven't caught on."

"Lucky you," chuckled Jeff.

Skyler looked at his sexy friend and wondered exactly what he was feeling. Divorce had to be the worst possible thing. Skyler remembered the hell of getting out of his relationship with JC. Thankfully there were no children to complicate the matter. JC had done that enough on his own. Still he knew that Jeff had to be hurting. He wondered if there was anything he could do for him.

"So there's no hope for salvaging your marriage?" he asked tentatively, eyeing Jeff as he spoke.

"It's pointless to try," replied Jeff. His palms were sweating and his heart was beating fast, but he decided to just take a plunge. "I'm completely in love with someone else."

"Oh," Skyler said in surprise as he eyes grew large. "That certainly would make your marriage difficult."

"I told her that I was in love with someone and she just screamed at me," said Jeff, looking at the table. "That's all we ever seem to do anymore is scream. I don't want the kids to grow up that way."

"This 'someone' you're in love with, how does this person feel about your children?" Skyler asked slowly not wanting to put a gender label on the person for two reasons. One he didn't want to out Jeff in the hospital and two he didn't want to be presumptuous.

"Well I'm not sure about my own children," he said. "But this person seems to be enthralled with a baby at the moment. I have hope."

"A baby?" Skyler asked, thinking that Jeff Jr. was still a baby and wondering what Jeff was getting at until realization slapped him in the head. Jeff was talking about Skyler! "Oh!"

"Yeah," said Jeff with an unsure smile. "I couldn't figure out how to tell you, and I know that this isn't the perfect time or place."

"Nothing wrong with the timing," said Skyler slowly. "I'm just a little shocked."

Shocked was an understatement. He wasn't sure how to respond to Jeff's proclamation of love. He cared for Jeff and he had to admit that the idea of being with him was appealing, but did he love him? The honest answer to that question was no. He believed that it was too soon after his break up with JC to really be in love with anyone. He was over JC, but he wasn't quite ready for loving someone else. He was a little shell shocked.

"You don't have to say anything, Skyler," Jeff said after Skyler had been silent for a full two minutes. "I just wanted to be honest with you and tell you how I feel. I know that things aren't completely settled in your life right now and you only just got out of a relationship. Please understand that I know exactly how I feel and I don't want it to screw anything up as far as our friendship goes."

"Jeff you have to understand right now that this won't end our friendship," said Skyler immediately. "I can't return the sentiment in the way you want right now, but I do know that I'm very interested in seeing where this can go with us. I don't think now is the right time for it, though. Just know that I am receptive and I'm happy that you told me how you feel."

"I'm happy to hear you say that, Sky," sighed Jeff with a smile. "I honestly expected you to say something completely different."

"Oh, don't mistake me," said Skyler, thinking that Jeff was getting the wrong idea. "I can't get involved with you until after your divorce is final. I'm sorry but I don't want to be a party to that."

"Sky, I wasn't going to suggest anything like that," said Jeff quickly. "I'm just happy that you're at least interested in trying."

"I think we'd better take this conversation back up to Preston's room," said Skyler, looking around at all of the people staring at them. None of them were close enough to hear their hushed voices, but he would feel better if they weren't staring at them while they both talked about a relationship.

"Actually, I have to get back to the hotel," said Jeff, looking at his watch. "I promised Trish we'd talk tonight."

"Well just call me and let me know how that goes," said Skyler. "If you call tonight just call my cell phone."

"All right," replied Jeff. "I'll try to be here in the morning when you take Preston out of here."

"Thanks, Jeff," said Skyler.

That evening, while feeding Preston and doing his best to burp him, Skyler thought about his conversation with Jeff. He had the night to himself to think. The rest of the family had agreed that Skyler's nights with Preston were important so they didn't come to the hospital to interrupt. Brent would be there around three in the morning. For some reason the man thought that Skyler would need him by then. He chuckled when he thought about it.

Being in a relationship with Jeff Timmons wasn't something that Skyler was against at all. He did have feelings for Jeff. They were romantic feelings. He was just shocked to find out that Jeff was in love with him. It seemed that once again he was stunned to learn that someone felt for him in a way even similar to the way he felt about them. Was he completely clueless? He supposed there had been signs that Jeff was feeling something more than friendship for Skyler over the last month or so. Maybe with everything that had been going on with JC and his mother, Skyler just hadn't seen what was right in front of him. However his last thought before drifting off to sleep that night on the fold out bed next to his infant son's crib was how amazing it would feel to have Jeff in his arms and not have to hide the fact that he was enjoying it.

Bright and early the next morning Jeff showed up with coffee and donuts. He woke Skyler with a kiss on the forehead. Skyler had only been asleep for about an hour since the last time that Preston had woke him crying. He was happy to be woke up again though. This was the morning that he would take Preston home.

"Morning," he said, smiling at Jeff. He glanced at his sleeping son before sitting up.

"Morning," replied Jeff. "I brought breakfast so you didn't have to leave the room. Thanks for telling the nurse's station that I could come and go as I pleased."

"I didn't," said Skyler as he accepted the cup of coffee that Jeff was offering him. "They must have assumed that it was fine because you were up here yesterday."

"Well at least they let me in here to wake you up," said Jeff just as Preston began to stir in his crib.

"Yeah," said Skyler as he handed the cup of coffee back to Jeff and got up to tend to his son.

He took him over to the changing table and changed him. Once the fresh diaper was on he chose the blue sailor outfit that Tabitha had bought to bring the baby home in. After another bottle and burp, Skyler put Preston back in his crib and accepted the coffee back from Jeff along with a donut. He was surprised to find that the coffee was at least still warm.

"Well I see everyone is awake and ready for the day," said Dr. Martinez as she came into the room with paperwork in her hand. "Sky I just need you to sign these forms and then you and the baby are free to go home."

"Great," he said, smiling. He handed his coffee back to Jeff and used a baby wipe to clean the sugar from his fingers before accepting the stack of papers from the doctor. After signing three of the documents he handed them back.

"All set," she said, handing him back copies of the forms he'd signed. "There's also a recommendation for a pediatrician in Orlando. His name is Jason Fairbanks and he's a great doctor. We went to medical school together."

"Thank you," said Skyler. "I'll give him a call as soon as we land in Orlando."

"What time is your flight?" she asked.

"Not until tomorrow," he said. "I called the hotel last night and had my father book the flight. He'll let me know all about it when he gets here."

"I'm already here," said Ben, coming into the room with Brent on his heels. "I'm ready to take my boys and go home."

"And we're ready to go," said Skyler, looking around the room as Jeff was already packing the clothes, diapers and other supplies in the big blue diaper bag the hospital had given him.

A few minutes later they were all getting off the elevator on the first floor of the hospital. Skyler led the group to the employee entrance, but as soon as he stepped outside the press began to yell at him. Preston began to cry, and Skyler held him close to his heart as Jeff placed his hand on Skyler's arm. Brent stepped in front of Skyler and Preston, but the press would not move. Several reporters advanced on the group with cameramen flashing pictures while they screamed questions at Skyler.

"Dad!" cried Skyler as one reporter actually tried to move his arm and get a picture of the baby.

"Get back!" shouted Ben as he roughly shoved the reporter away from his son.

Hospital security came running out of the employee entrance, and someone got word to Skyler that the police were on their way. The group inched their way back to the doors but the reporters had surrounded them. Each were screaming questions as they enclosed their ranks around the group. Skyler was never more scared of a group of reporters in his life.

"You people are vultures!" he screamed, completely aware of the hysterical infant in his arms.

Jeff moved his hand from Skyler's arm and put his arm around him instead. He was attempting to shield the baby as flashbulbs went off all around them. Reporters started to scream questions about the nature of Skyler and Jeff's relationship as the first set of officers arrived on the scene. The officers pushed their way through the throng of reporters to stand in front of and behind Skyler and Jeff. As more officers made their way to the center of the circle several reporters got physical.

Before Skyler knew what was happening CJ and three other members of the Skyler/Chad security team arrived and began to push the reporters out of their way as they got to Skyler. It was two hours of complete chaos before Skyler was ushered to the waiting SUV that sped off away from the hospital as soon as he and Preston were safely inside. Ben, Jeff and most of his security team were still in the sea of reporters as they fled. Skyler didn't look back.

"Where are we taking you, Skyler?" asked the driver.

"Take me to Metro," he replied as he tried to sooth the baby. "I want out of Detroit."

"Yes, Sir," replied the driver and the SUV sped up.

An hour later Skyler sat in first class on a jet that would take him out of Detroit. He'd called the hotel and let Tabitha know where he was going. His father hadn't gotten back yet and Tabitha told him it was all over the news. She assured him that they would join him in Orlando the next morning. He finally got Preston to sleep and then tried to relax. All he could think about was never showing his face in public again and leaving show business entirely without warning. He planned to do just that once he reached Orlando. He would just hide in his estate and hire more security. He had plenty of money.

When he landed in Orlando later that afternoon he was happy to see that there was no press at the airport. He was ushered into a limo and away from the airport without incident. Once he was inside his new house he finally put the baby down. He was still shaking and was surprised that the baby was sleeping. He'd fed and changed him on the plane so he was reasonably sure that he'd sleep for a little while. Skyler had telephone calls to make. First he called Clay.

"Skyler where are you now?" Clay asked.

"I'm in Orlando where I'm going to stay," replied Skyler. "Call everyone and cancel everything, Clay. I'm done."

"You don't mean that, Skyler . . ."

"Yes, Clay, I do mean it," hissed Skyler. "They could have seriously hurt the baby, Clay. You weren't there. You didn't see how terrifying it was. For the first time in my entire career I was scared of them. I won't do it anymore. I'm done, Clay. No parties, no press and no more music."

"Skyler, just try to calm down," said Clay. "You'll feel better about this . . ."

"I won't feel better," Skyler said through clenched teeth. "I'm never talking to another reporter as long as I live. If I see one on the street I'll punch him in the face!"

"Skyler . . ."

"Goodbye, Clay," he said before hanging up the phone.

To Skyler's surprise no one called for the remainder of the day other than his father to tell him that sixteen reporters were arrested and he'd finally made it back to the hotel. He told Skyler to hang tight and they'd be there the next morning. When Skyler told his father that he wouldn't meet them at the airport Ben said he understood. For the rest of the afternoon and evening Skyler paid attention only to Preston and made sure that every time the baby even whimpered he was there.

As the night wore on he finally went to bed once he could stop shaking with anger. He put Preston in the bed beside him ignoring the voice in his head that warned against it. For that night at least he wanted the baby close to him. The night was fitful for the baby. Skyler had no doubt that it was because of the day's events. The next morning he was so tired that he could barely take care of Preston and he was happy that one of the maids that had been hired to take care of the house until he got there decided to help him out so he could take a much needed nap.

When he woke up the next time his family had arrived. He was happy to see them until he saw that Clay and Laura had come home with them. He sighed as he walked into the dining room and sat at the table. Everyone was seated around the table and it felt like an intervention. He calmly listened as first Clay and then Laura tried to talk sense to him about his decision to leave the business.

"Skyler I know that you're upset, and I am too," said Laura. "But leaving everything behind because of one day . . ."

"Laura, you weren't there," he snapped. "Don't tell me about it only being one day. Once was enough! They could have hurt Preston, and I won't go through that again."

"No one is saying that you have to subject yourself, or your son to that kind of thing again," said Clay. "We'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

"Oh really?" laughed Skyler bitterly. "How do you plan to do that?"

"Boycott the media," replied Laura. "I have a statement prepared from Sky High Entertainment stating that all interviews are canceled and there will be no reschedules. Skyler, you don't have to talk to another reporter as long as you live. Just please don't quit on us."

"We're hiring more security," said Clay. "More publicists and personal staff to make sure that every time you go anywhere you are surrounded. Statements can be released to the media by your publicity team. You don't have to talk to a reporter."

Skyler thought about that for a moment. It would certainly piss off the press if he didn't talk to them. He loved his career and didn't want to give it up. It was the press that bothered him. If he could just steer clear of all paparazzi he would be fine. There would be no pictures of Preston either. He would die before he let them have even one.

They'd talked until way passed lunch time. Everyone was hungry and Skyler was glad that it was time for dinner. He fed and changed Preston before sitting down with the group again to eat. They were just clearing the table when Jeff arrived with Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass on his tail. They'd both heard about what had happened and had come to see how Skyler was doing. It was also their very first time seeing Preston.

The celebrities had a good evening together and Jeff opted to stay in one of the guest rooms for a few days. He'd told Skyler privately that things hadn't gone well with Trisha. The next day Justin returned with a copy of "The Rag" in his hand. One look at the cover made Skyler's blood boil and Jeff laugh hysterically. There was a picture of Skyler and Jeff in the throng of reporters. They'd chosen the picture of Jeff with his hand on Skyler's arm for the cover with the caption "What is the relationship between Jeff Timmons and Skyler Thomas?"

There were more pictures of the pair inside the magazine. Skyler was happy to see that all attempts to get pictures of Preston had failed. In the end he was laughing along with Jeff about the tabloid. They'd scored ten pages of print and most of it was lies about what they'd supposedly said to the crowd of paparazzi. Skyler didn't care. The statement from Sky High would be issued in the morning and then they'd all really be pissed off.

Two nights later he had the tabloid sitting on his desk as he got ready for the release party for the album's first single. He'd be singing "Its Not Your Business" tonight and he planned to clutch the tabloid in his hand on stage. He chuckled when the thought about it. Dianne decided to stay behind with Preston while the entire group headed out for The Platinum House for the party. They each wore shrouds over their faces as they made their way from the limos to the entrance of the club effectively barring the photographers from taking any worthwhile pictures. Questions were shouted at them but hey all ignored it all. Clay had made sure that even MTV wasn't allowed to have more than one camera in the club and Skyler had already refused to be interviewed at all. Instead of staying at the party he'd decided to leave once he'd performed the song. An SUV was waiting at the back entrance.

He wasted no time getting ready for his performance. He took the stage and tightly gripped the tabloid in his hand as the crowd cheered and the DJ stopped the music. His band looked at him hard before they began to play but he just smiled at them and began to tap his foot to the beet of the drum.

"This rag, that rag they all got something to say," he sang bitterly as he held up the tabloid in front of him. "Just rumor, just a lie - a different tail about me every day! Some even say that I'm just crazy in my head. They won't stop talking about me 'till way after I'm dead,

"Its not your business who I choose to love! Its not your business where I choose to go! Its not your business what I eat at every meal! Its not your business! Oh its just unreal! Its not your business!" he sang once again holding the tabloid rag in front of him as he danced. The crowd was chanting along with him and he loved the feeling that gave him.

"Yesterday I heard that I was gay. Different story, different lover ever day! Image is only part of me, guess your too blind to see I'm me and no one else!

"Its not your business who I choose to love! Its not your business where I choose to go! Its not your business what I eat at every meal! Its not your business! Oh its just unreal! Its not your business!" he sang and the crowd sang with him.

He danced around mocking the MTV camera. Laughing silently as Carson shook his head. This was the way it was going to be and there was nothing any of them could do about it. This son, he decided, was going to be his mantra. It really wasn't their business what he chose to do.

"I shouldn't care what two bit writers have to say," he sang, holding the magazine up again, "but everywhere I go its seems their always in my way! Can't have a friend around, because they all will speculate. I wish that all you liars would just go the Hell away! I'm just doing my thing and this is what I get in return; lies and rumors everywhere making my anger burn!

"Its not your business who I choose to love! Its not your business where I choose to go! Its not your business which bed my shoes are under! Its not your business so just go find another! Its not your business! You hear what I'm saying? Its not your business!" he screamed and the lights went out.

As planned Kaleb grabbed his hand and guided him away from the stage to the back entrance of the club. Ben and Jeff were waiting for them in the SUV. Skyler could still hear the crowd chanting the words of the song inside the club as they made their way to the SUV. He was smiling from ear to ear as he climbed into the front passenger seat.

"That was amazing!" he cried as his father pulled away from the side of the club.

A truck with a photographer taking pictures pulled up along side of them as they merged with traffic a block from the club. Skyler could hear the photographer taunting him. He rolled up his window and his father sped up. The truck tailed them through the streets of Orlando. Just as they were about to turn a corner the truck suddenly rammed into them. The SUV spun in a complete circle as Skyler gripped the seat. Before he could even register what was happening the SUV began to tilt.

"NO!" he screamed as the SUV began to roll.

It's Not Your Business is a song written by Eric Draven.

The next chapter will be posted soon.