© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 60

"Today we will talk to one of the most famous young men in the world," said Oprah Winfrey to her audience and the camera that was broadcasting the live show to over a million homes. "His music has caused a phenomenon with every album's release. The videos have both saddened us and shocked us from time to time. His movies have become blockbusters that have been seen by billions of people. Yet his private life seems to be what had transfixed America the most lately.

"He burst onto the television screens of America as the long lost brother, Logan Cutler, on NBC's 'Secrets Of The Morning'," she continued. "Soon after that he dazzled the world with his voice. His first single, 'Alone', was released by Maverick Records. Then there was the first American tour that made fans across America see that he was a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. Half way through that tour a secret from his past became public knowledge when his mother and step-father were imprisoned for child abuse. It didn't stop him however. He took his two younger twin siblings along with him and finished his tour. Since then there have been more attacks on his personal life. He's here today to discuss the accident that left him in a coma and the adoption of his infant son. Ladies and gentlemen, Skyler Thomas."

Skyler walked out onto the stage as the crowd stood and cheered. He smiled and waved at them before taking Oprah into his arms in a tight embrace. They'd talked on the telephone for nearly two hours the night before about what exactly would be said during this interview. She'd assured him that his sexuality wasn't something she was interested in. She mainly wanted to talk about the accident. In the end Skyler had told her that he would talk about everything from the beginning of his career to the accident and his recovery. The two had talked about various other things including Preston. Oprah had told him that she was so proud of what he'd done when he'd adopted his brother and made him his son. She extended her condolences for the loss of his mother in childbirth. He'd admitted to her that it had hurt to lose her even though she'd never been a good mother.

"Welcome, Skyler," she said when he released her from his embrace. They sat on the couch as the audience continued to cheer.

"Thank you," he replied, smiling. "It's great to be here."

"So you're doing better," she said though it wasn't a question.

"Yeah," he chuckled. "I'm doing much better."

"That's good to hear," she said with a smile.

After that they began to talk about his short time in college and how he'd been fairing. They talked about the fact that he was still taking his courses over the Internet and he'd been given an extension because of the accident. That brought them to the accident itself and Skyler told her about the event though he admitted that he couldn't remember it. They talked about the dead photographer and Skyler didn't say anything about feeling sorry for the man or his family. He instead told her about his boycott of the press.

"So you're not giving any interviews to the press?" she asked, arching an eyebrow.

"None," he replied. "I've given one interview to MTV since the accident. That was my last press interview. For the time being only press releases from my publicists will be issued to the press. I won't answer any questions or pose for any pictures."

"Your song, 'It's Not Your Business', is a personal statement to the press?" she asked.

"Well it started out as a response to the nasty tabloid trash that had been printed," he said, making sure to put bite in his voice. "Now I guess the statement goes out to all of the press."

"Your second single off the album, 'Rearranged', is said to be about a break up," she said. "You have a different explanation?"

"I do," he replied. "The song is only a song. There is nothing behind it and I wrote the song as I watched a break up of a couple that I know very well." It was a bold faced lie but he didn't feel guilty about it at all.

"And the next single off the album will be a ballad?" she asked. They'd talked about this the night before.

"It will," he said with a smile. He knew that his ballads were what the fans loved the most. When the audience cheered again he smiled at them. "We'll be filming the video right after the New Year."

He wasn't happy with that revelation. His family knew nothing of his plans to film another video. They were already upset with him for doing so many interviews. When they learned that he would be filming a video they were likely to go crazy. He knew they were worried about him but they needed to understand that he wasn't going to sit by and watch his career go down the toilet. He had obligations to his own company and to his fans. His physical health wasn't exactly what it should be but it wasn't giving him many problems. He had headaches from time to time but they were nothing compared to the paralysis that he'd discovered when he woke from his coma.

The interview went on and Oprah asked nothing about his sexuality. They talked about the adoption and how it was kept secret. They went on to discuss the tabloid articles and he out right called the tabloids liars and said that they should be boycotted completely. By the end of the interview they were laughing over the latest tabloid story that he was back but being forced to do the interviews by Sky High. The tabloid said that Skyler's ownership of the company was only a trick played on him by his own father.

"That was revealing," laughed Jeff as Skyler got into the limo after the interview. He'd signed autographs and posed for pictures for nearly an hour after his off camera chat with Oprah.

"Yeah, she's brutal," Skyler replied sarcastically.

"So what now?" Jeff asked as the limo pulled away and headed for the airport.

"Well I have a meeting with Time Warner New York in the morning," he said. "I'm headed to New York."

"I have to be in court tomorrow in Orlando," said Jeff. "So I guess that I will have to head back to Orlando."

"We'll have to meet up after my interviews in New York," said Skyler. He didn't like that he'd have to wait to see Jeff.

"This divorce is over," said Jeff. "This time we're only going to court to sign everything and have the judge declare us divorced."

"That has to be a relief," replied Skyler.

"You have no idea," said Jeff, looking at Skyler with unhidden emotion. "It means that I can actually pursue a relationship with you."

Skyler thought about that for a moment. A relationship with Jeff Timmons would be nice. He just didn't know if he could love this man. He already cared for him but could that care turn to love? He knew that he wanted to love Jeff but he didn't know if wanting to love someone could make it so. However he wasn't going to deny that he found him attractive. He decided that it couldn't hurt to at least find out if there was anything for them in the future.

"That also means that I won't have to work so hard at playing hard to get," he said with a sigh and a smile.

"Well then," said Jeff quietly. "In twelve hours I'll start wooing you."

"Wooing me?" laughed Skyler.

"Yeah," said Jeff with a smirk. "It's time you knew what a real man's attention is like."

"Oh, and let me guess," said Skyler, barely able to suppress his laughter. "You are that real man?"

"You're going to be fun to play with," laughed Jeff. "Just wait and see how much fun it'll be."

Once Skyler was on the plane he began to laugh thinking about how much fun it would be to play with Jeff. He decided that the poor guy didn't know what he was in for. He laughed so hard that Brent looked at him funny for a few minutes. Skyler had forgotten that Brent had been on the other side of the soundproof screen that had separated the front seat of the limo from the back. The security man had no clue why Skyler was laughing.

He wasn't laughing when he was in Warren Nesly's office the next morning. Warren was a fifty-something, over weight executive with a nasal voice that grated on Skyler's nerves. His salt and pepper hair was buzzed so short it almost wasn't there. He also had teeth the color of corn. What he was saying to Skyler wasn't making him any happier than any other part of the man.

"Oliver is very excited about this picture, Skyler," he said. "Mrs. Clemmons assured us that you would sign on."

"Oh I have every intension of playing Tobias in this film, Mr. Nesly," replied Skyler.

"Warren, please," said the executive, smiling and showing Skyler his yellow teeth.

"All right, Warren," said Skyler. "What I don't understand is why this picture is being shot by Warner."

"Well as you know you still have a contract with us," said Nesly. "There are still two . . ."

"I'm aware of that," said Skyler, cutting the man off. "I'm also aware of the fact that Sky High films can fulfill the films left on my Warner contract. Now Mrs. Clemmons is a close personal friend of mine. We had an agreement that Sky High would make this film. If you . . ."

"Wait," said Nesly, holding up a hand to stop Skyler. "A young executive director from Warner talked with Mrs. Clemmons for nearly three hours just three weeks ago."

"You mean a head hunter," snapped Skyler. "Mr. Nesly, this meeting is over. This film will be filmed by Sky High or I won't sign on at all. And you can forget about Mrs. Clemmons's signature on any contracts with Warner."

Back at the apartment Skyler called Bev Clemmons and had a little chat. He was relieved to hear that she hadn't signed any contracts at all. She'd talked to Oliver Stone about directing the movie and she said that Oliver was very excited. She was distressed to learn that Warren's head hunter had tried to steal the movie from Sky High.

"Skyler, I didn't know that he was from Time Warner," she said on the phone. "He told me that Sky High and Time Warner would be working together."

"I'm sure he did," replied Skyler. "Don't worry, Bev. He was right about one thing. Sky High and Time Warner do work together. They just don't work together the way he tried to make you believe. I'm still going to play Tobias, and this movie will be shot in Orlando. Sky High will be the studio. I'll be home after the New Year, and we'll sign a contract at the office."

Next he called Oliver Stone. He was so shocked when he was put right through to speak with him. The two had a long conversation that really shocked Skyler. For one thing Oliver wanted to start filming right after the first of the year. Skyler told him about his video shoot and Oliver said that wouldn't be a problem. He wanted the contracts signed by the fourth of January.

"Skyler you can't start filming a movie this soon after your accident," said Tabitha when he told his family what Oliver had said. "You have to call him back and tell him that you can't film this movie for at least six months."

"Mom, I can't order Oliver Stone to push back a movie shoot for six months," he gasped. "This is an incredible opportunity for me. Working with Oliver Stone is an amazing accomplishment. Don't you understand?"

"What we understand is that your head hurts more often than you admit," said Ben sternly. "We understand that you're already doing too much with all of these interviews. You told us when we left Lexington that you were going to be interviewed by Rosie. We thought that was the only booking you had."

"I didn't lie to you," he said. "I was interviewed by Rosie shortly after we got back . . ."

"I know that," said Ben. "I was in the audience. Skyler what I'm saying is that you've been traipsing all over the country to tape this interview and do this one live. You're already running yourself too hard."

"Dad, this movie is important," Skyler argued.

"I know it's important, Skyler," replied Ben. "Believe me I'm proud of you for playing this part. I just don't want to see you over extend yourself."

"Dad I'm doing this movie," said Skyler. "I'm sorry that you and Mom aren't comfortable with this decision but I have to do this."

* * *

"Wow," said Jeff when Skyler told him about the conversation he'd had with his parents three days later. They were sitting in the green room at ABC Studios. Skyler was waiting to go on for his interview. "That sounds intense."

"It was," he replied. "They're so worried that I'll hurt myself or something. They have to understand that I have a career to look after."

"But are you pushing yourself too hard?" Jeff asked. "I know about the headaches, Sky. I see the tension in your eyes when you have one. But are they that bad?"

"They aren't terrible," he said. "I know when to slow down. When my head starts to pound I get rest. It's no big deal. I can film this movie."

"So are you heading back to Orlando right after this?" Jeff asked, knowing better than to push the issue further.

"No," replied Skyler with a smile. "I've decided to spend the holiday here in New York."

"Well then I guess I'll be in New York until the first," laughed Jeff.

"Skyler," said a dark haired man, standing in the opened door. "They're ready for you."

Jeff sat and thought about what Skyler's parents had said about him doing too much too soon. He'd watched him carefully each time they'd been together and he didn't see that he was overdoing anything. Still he wasn't around all of the time so maybe there was something going on that he didn't know about. Maybe once they were back in Orlando he would see for himself. He thought about how much fun it would be to watch over Skyler as he watched his interview on the monitor. By the time Skyler came back to the green room to get him Jeff believed that it was going to be a lot of fun to watch over Skyler.

"What's with the smile?" Skyler asked as he came into the room.

"Can't I just be happy to see you?" Jeff asked, and Skyler was reminded once more how nearly care free Jeff was about what they said and did in public. He smiled back at him.

"Yeah you can," he laughed. "Let's go eat. I'm starving."

When they arrived at The Crystal Room Skyler was shocked to find JC and Chris Kirkpatrick there. His first instinct was to leave but instead he asked the waiter to seat them as far from the Nsync members as possible. Chris glared at them as they walked by but he said nothing. JC looked like he was about to get up but thought better of it. His happy look was replaced by a sad one when he saw Jeff put his hand on Skyler's back as they passed.

"You all right?" Jeff asked once they were seated. From their table they had a clear view of JC and Chris.

"I'm fine," replied Skyler with a smile. "Why wouldn't I be? JC Chasez isn't a part of my existence anymore remember?"

"Oh I remember well, and I'm thankful for that," laughed Jeff. "I just didn't know if being confronted with him would be a problem for you."

"This is just something that we're all going to have to get used to," said Skyler. "We're all celebrities, remember? We're bound to see each other from time to time."

"Right," he said with a sigh.

"I'm just surprised that he's out with Chris," said Skyler coldly. "You'd think he'd be afraid of what the press would print about them being together."

"Don't get bitter, Sky," warned Jeff with worry in his eyes. "I love the man that you are. Don't change."

"I'm not bitter, Jeff," he replied. "Just angry."

Chris and JC left the restaurant shortly after that, so Jeff and Skyler put them out of their minds and focused on lunch. In a matter of just a few minutes they were laughing and kicking each other's feet under the table. Neither one paid any attention to the others in the dining room. There weren't any in their section so they weren't worried. Skyler liked how that felt. With JC he'd had to pay attention to things like that but it seemed that with Jeff that wasn't an issue. He really liked that.

He felt so comfortable with Jeff that an hour later they were sitting in the middle of the living room floor of Skyler's New York penthouse apartment with Preston between them. They took turns making faces at the little guy to make him laugh. They'd been at it for nearly a half hour when Skyler realized that he felt happier than he'd ever felt. Jeff Timmons was the reason. Was it love? He wasn't sure about that. But he was sure that it could be soon.

He continued to feel that comfortable, happy feeling throughout the rest of the day and the next. Jeff sat with him and looked through the copy of "Time" with Skyler and Preston on the cover. They read parts of the interview out loud and laughed at the silliness of the questions together. The whole time Preston was with them. Skyler was starting to feel like they were a family. It was a strange feeling for him. Even with his father and step-mother along with his siblings that "family" feeling wasn't quite there the way he thought it should be. It seemed that with Jeff and Preston it was there.

Over breakfast on the thirty-first they discussed the various parties in the city and which ones they wanted to attend. By the time breakfast was over they'd both decided that staying home with Preston would be better than any party. Ben and Tabitha watched them closely with small smiles on their faces that neither of the young men noticed.

They had dinner with the family at The Crystal Room, and Skyler was happy to find that JC and Chris weren't there on this occasion. They had a good dinner and everyone was happy. Chad was about ready to head off on tour for his new album so that meant that he wouldn't be seeing his little brother much. Cassie had said that she wanted to tour with him but in the end she'd decided that she didn't want to leave so soon after Skyler had recovered from the accident. Chad was a little worried about leaving but he didn't bother anyone with it.

That night Skyler and Jeff were standing in the living room locked in each other's arms when the clock struck twelve. Jeff leaned in and kissed Skyler softly on the lips.

"Happy New Year, Skyler," he said with so much love in his eyes that Skyler could barely stand it.

"Happy New Year, Jeff," replied Skyler.

This was what he wanted. Being with Jeff made him feel happy and free. It wasn't love yet but it was close.

The next chapter will be posted soon.