© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 53

There was almost complete silence in the waiting room at Florida Hospital. Soft sniffling and a few sobs could be heard as the assembled group waited. Tabitha sat with Cassie, Chad and Jason awaiting word on both Skyler and Ben. All four of the men in the SUV had been brought to the trauma center at Florida Hospital. Calls had gone out to so many different people to alert them as to what was happening and more and more celebrities began to arrive every other minute or so. The most heart wrenching were Justin Timberlake and Lance Bass as they huddled together, crying.

On the other side of the room were Nick and Drew Lachey along with Trisha Timmons. Tabitha didn't know exactly what was going on in Jeff and Trisha's marriage, but she was certain she'd heard Skyler and Jeff talking about his getting a divorce. Deciding not to pay any extra attention to Trisha, Tabitha turned her gaze on Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson and AJ McLean. The three young men were sitting very close to each other and talking softly. Kevin appeared to be the strong one as both Brian and AJ were in tears.

"Tabitha," came the voice of Madonna, and Tabitha lost her battle with tears as the entertainer came and sat with them. She began to sob and had to be supported by Madonna while she tried to support Cassie and Jason. Chad was taking it all silently and without tears. He merely looked at everyone in the waiting room with a challenging expression.

"I'm sorry," said Tabitha as she straightened back up and tried to wipe her eyes. "I just wish they'd tell us something."

"You've not heard anything at all?" Madonna asked, looking angry.

"Nothing," she said. "When we arrived they told us to wait here. Clay and Laura are calling everyone in. Madonna, I'm so scared for my guys."

"Wait right here," she said, getting up and walking around Lynn Harless as she and Jackie Littrell came into the waiting room. Brian and Justin both dashed into their mothers' arms, moaning as they were consoled.

"Has there been word?" asked Lynn as she guided Justin over to where Tabitha was sitting with her children.

"Madonna just went to bark at the nurse's station I suspect," she said, feeling the first hint of happiness since she'd answered the telephone four hours earlier. "But no, there's been nothing."

"I'm so sorry, Tabitha," Lynn said, sitting down beside her and putting an arm around her. "I wish there was something I could do."

"Thank you, Lynn," she replied. "Just being here means a lot."

"I don't know Ben very well," admitted Lynn, "but Skyler is quite a man."

"Yes, he is," agreed Tabitha as fresh tears ran down her face. All she could think about was not knowing if they were even alive. How would she live without either of them?

"Where's the baby?" Lynn asked, looking around at everyone in the waiting room.

"Niki Harris showed up just before we left to come here," replied Tabitha. "She's got Preston. The little guy doesn't even know anything is amiss."

"Thank God for that," said Lynn. "If only we could all be so blissfully ignorant."

About that time JC Chasez came stalking away from the direction that Madonna had gone to get whatever information he could. He was crying and nearly hysterical but he didn't look at them. The sight of him in such a state only made Tabitha believe the worst had come for Skyler. She gripped Lynn's hand and began to cry again. Cassie gasped when she saw JC and buried her face in Tabitha's chest.

"Mom?" Justin asked pitifully as tears welled in his eyes. He stood there looking lost, but Tabitha could think of nothing but Skyler and cursing the doctors and nurses for not telling her anything.

"Relax, guys," said Madonna as she came back to the waiting room. "JC is just upset because they won't tell him anything. Tabitha, I need you to come with me. They won't tell me anything either because I'm not family."

Lynn put her hand on Cassie's shoulder as Tabitha got up to follow Madonna but she smiled when she saw Chad put his arms around both of his siblings. She hoped that the three of them would support each other in this time of trial, and she said a silent prayer to God for Skyler as Justin sobbed into her shoulder. Another blond head caught her attention and she looked up to see Britney Spears standing before them. Britney's eyes were red as she looked at Justin and she reached out to touch him. Justin sprang into her arms and the couple stood there crying.

"Chad, Cassie?" said the voice of Kristy Swanson as she and Brian Krause came into the waiting room. They bee lined straight for the Thomas teens and knelt before them. "Any word?"

"No," said Chad. "Madonna took Mom to the nurse's station a few minutes ago, but they haven't come back."

"How are you holding up, buddy?" Brian asked him softly.

"I don't want to talk about it," said Chad. "I just have to be strong for Dad and Sky."

It broke Kristy's heart to hear the fear and despair in Chad's voice as he spoke. She could only pray to God to make this better for everyone and let Skyler and Ben be all right. They all sat and stood straighter as Madonna and Tabitha came back into the room in tears. They seemed to be comforting each other as they walked. That was all it took to break Chad. The young man began to sob as he looked at them.

"Tabitha, what's happened?" Lynn asked, getting to her feet.

"Kaleb and Jeff are being released," she said through her tears. "There's no word at all on Skyler, but Ben has been taken to surgery to stop internal bleeding."

"We also know that the passenger of the truck that is responsible for all of this, a photographer for 'The Rag', is dead," said Madonna. "He was hanging out the window of the truck, trying to get pictures when the truck hit the SUV."

"Good riddance," spat Justin, shocking all of them. "Did you all see how they treated Skyler in Detroit? It was completely unacceptable!"

"Justin, calm down," said Lynn, rubbing his back as she spoke. Turning to the ladies again she said, "They can't tell you anything about Skyler?"

"Nothing," said Madonna. "The doctor is still in with Sky."

They settled in again for the long hall as they awaited word on Ben's surgery and Skyler's condition. Both Kaleb Hassid and Jeff Timmons arrived in the waiting room twenty minutes after Madonna and Tabitha. Both were agitated that no word have come about Skyler. Tabitha noticed that Jeff only spoke to Trisha for a few minutes before she left the hospital and he sat down with Kaleb and Cassie.

Clay and Laura arrived with Dianne and Zack a little later. They were each just as distressed to learn that no word had been given about Skyler's condition. Laura escorted Tabitha and Lynn to the coffee shop inside the hospital to get coffee while Madonna talked to Clay. Chad watched them silently as tears fell from his eyes, but he didn't say anything.

"I can't do anything about the press," Clay said softly, looking around the room at the others as he spoke. "They're everywhere outside."

"Clay, if certain people in the room leave the hospital soon and discover the press out there they'll flip out," she warned, thinking of Justin's outburst.

"I don't know what to do," he said honestly. "The press have every right to be here and unless the hinder access to the hospital there's nothing that can be done."

"Fuck!" she spat. "If only there was news on Skyler's condition. If we had something to tell them . . ."

"They aren't going anywhere," he said as he held her arm.

As the two talked a doctor came into the waiting room and stood in front of Tabitha and the Thomas children. Madonna and Clay abruptly stopped talking and turned to listen to what he had to say. Madonna hoped that he was telling them that Skyler was fine, but a sneaking feeling in her stomach told her not to get her hopes up.

"Mrs. Thomas," said the doctor. "My name is Doctor Phillip Brenner, and I'm the doctor in charge of your son, Skyler's case."

"How is he?" she asked, standing. "How is Skyler?"

"Ma'am, I'm afraid that Skyler suffered a severe head injury," he said with sympathy dripping from his voice. "His vitals are stable, but he's slipped into a coma."

"A coma," she sighed as fresh tears spilled from her eyes. "What can be done?"

"I'm afraid that all we can do is wait, Mrs. Thomas," said Doctor Brenner. "Now I can let two of you at a time in to see Skyler, but I warn you that he doesn't look his best."

"I don't care," she said quickly. "I want to see my son."

"If you'll follow me," he said softly, turning to leave.

Tabitha grabbed Cassie's hand and followed the doctor through the double doors that would take her back to the emergency nurse's station. He bypassed the station and headed for the back of the ward. When he stopped in front of a door, Tabitha held her breath. She wasn't prepared for the sight she saw when the doctor opened the door.

Skyler's face was black and blue. His eyes were so swollen and his lips were stretched from the swelling. There was a bandage around his now bald head, but Tabitha couldn't help noticing that his head seemed to be misshaped. She heard Cassie's strangled cry as she saw him. Tabitha wrapped her arm around her daughter and they cried together.

Slowly they made their way into the room and next to the bed. Tabitha's tears fell as she gazed down at the son she'd only just gotten to know. Fear gripped her heart at the thought of him never waking up from this coma. She'd come to feel like he was truly her son, and thinking of life without him was unbearable. She kissed her trembling fingers and placed them on Skyler's bruised cheek.

"Come back to us, Angel," she whispered. "Come back and let us keep loving you. Please, Skyler."

"Oh, Sky," said Cassie with a wavering voice. "Please don't give up on me. I can't do this without you, Skyler. Please."

She led Cassie by the hand and they made their way back to the waiting room. One look at Chad and Jason, and Tabitha was sobbing. She didn't even know what to say to them. She was so scared that he'd never wake up. How was she supposed to tell her children that she was afraid that their brother was going to die?

Chad and Jason walked hand in hand down the hall to Skyler's room. They stopped just outside the room and looked at each other's tear stained faces. This was killing them both, but Chad knew he had to be strong. They needed him to help them get through this. He just needed to figure out how to be the man they needed. One look at his brother's broken form and the man he knew he had to be was reduced to a sobbing child. They walked over to the edge of the bed and Chad took Skyler's hand in his.

"Skyler, you can't die on me now," sobbed Chad as he held Skyler's hand. "You're my hero. You can't die. Skyler, please."

He laid his head on Skyler's chest and began to sob as he silently prayed to God to give his brother back. He thought of how happy he was the day that Skyler and Madonna rescued him in Detroit and how he'd been so happy to make him proud with the first song he wrote. All of the memories he treasured ran through his mind as he prayed that God be merciful. His sobbing grew worse. He could hear Skyler's steady heartbeat and he wished on everything that was holy for Skyler to just wake up.

"Please," he moaned as the sobs wracked him. "Please, God, don't take him from us."

Jason didn't know what to do. He ran from the room crying to find his mother. He didn't think he could take it if he stayed in the room a moment more. He was sorry for abandoning Chad, but he had to get out of there. As soon as he was in the waiting room, he flew into Tabitha's arms mumbling about Chad not taking it well. He reluctantly let her go when she went back down the hall to be with Chad.

Chad just couldn't take this. There was no way for him to be strong. The man he knew he should be just wasn't strong enough to be there for everyone. Sobs wracked him as he thought of how much he loved his brother. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Tabitha standing there, but his gaze shifted to Cassie standing in the doorway with tears running down her face. He stood on shaky legs and made his way to his twin sister. They wrapped their arms around each other and cried together. Tabitha could only watch as she cried harder.

"He has to wake up, Cassie," Chad moaned into his sister's shoulder. "He has to. What will we do without Skyler?"

Tabitha's heart broke as she listened to him. She wanted to put her arms around them and make everything better, but who would do it for her? She was thankful when Madonna showed up outside the door. She moved quickly to guide the twins back to the waiting room and let Madonna have her time with Skyler. She just wished she could stop crying.

Madonna stared down at the young man who had worked his way into her heart since the day she'd met him. To see him lying there with so many injuries wasn't something she thought she could take. He had to wake up from this and get better. He had to. She pulled the nurse's stool over to the side of the bed and took Skyler's hand in hers as she sat down.

"Oh, Toy," she said with a shaky voice. "What have they done to you?"

She reached out and stroked his battered cheek as tears ran down her face. His beautiful face was so bruised and swollen. She couldn't believe this had happened. It just didn't seem real to be sitting there seeing Skyler that way. He was supposed to be enjoying his time with his newborn son, not lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life. This was unfair. How could fate be so cruel?

In the waiting room, Lynn finally got Justin to agree to go home for the night and come back in the morning. He wasn't happy about it, but he understood that there was nothing he could do. He said a silent prayer as he made his way to the exit. Once he was outside he saw them. The vultures were in the parking lot. Cameras flashed and in the center of it all was none other than JC Chasez. Justin simply stood and stared at him for a moment. He couldn't believe that Skyler was lying in the hospital fighting for his life and JC was milking the press.

"Joshua!" he screamed unable to contain his anger. When JC turned to look at him, Justin thought he'd have to kill him. The look on his face was making him that angry. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

"Justin . . ."

"Skyler is lying in there fighting for his life because of those poeple!" he screamed, pointing at the reporters. "And you come out here to give a statement?"

"It isn't what you think, Curly . . ."

"Don't!" screamed Justin, completely ignoring the cameras. "Don't you ever call me that again. Get out of here, Joshua. Go find your limelight somewhere else. Somewhere where people you claim to care about aren't dying!"

JC stared at him for a moment before rushing back into the hospital. The reporters began to scream Justin's name once JC was out of site. They screamed for word on Skyler's condition. Several of them asked if he was truly dying. Justin couldn't contain his rage. He actually groweled at them. Cameras flashed in his face and reporters came closer, thinking they were going to get a statement. Well he had one for them all right.

"You fucking people make me sick!" he screamed. "Was it not enough that you had to scare the piss out of him in Detroit? You had to run him off the road, and now you want to check on your handywork! Vicious, uncaring and evil. That's what 'press' really means, isn't it? You want a quote? Well here it is: You people did this! You people made this happen. Are you happy with yoursleves? Is this what you wanted?"

"That's enough, Justin," said the voice of his mother from behind him. She put her hand on his shoulder and forcefully turned him around. It was too late, though. They had everything he said on camera.

The next chapter will be posted soon.