© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 61

The music began and Skyler closed his eyes and waited for his cue. When he heard the beat change he began to sing, "Actions speak louder than words, that's what they always say. Some words can be absurd, I hear them every day. Hate is more than just emotion. I wanna run away! Learned and taught just like devotion.

"How would you feel if you were the one who had to hide? What would you say if you were the one who had to hear? Would it be the same to you if you were the one who had to die? This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," came the voice of Janet Jackson through his headphones. "Fists and metal intertwined."

"Just like last time," he sang.

"Last time," sang the voice of Janet Jackson. "You better run, you better hide."

"This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," came the voice of Janet. "Without rhyme or reason."

"This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," sang Janet.

"Your actions tell me all about you," he sang. "You can't hide what you are. You don't like me because of what I do."

"You know you'll never get far," sang Janet in his headphones.

"If this is the way the world will be," he sang.

"I said you'll never get far," sang Janet.

"Then this isn't a place for me," he sang.

"No you'll never get far!" cried Janet.

"How would you deal if you were the one hated?" he sang. "What would they do if your life was taken? Would it be the same to you if I took your life away?"

"This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," came the voice of Janet Jackson through his headphones. "Fists and metal intertwined."

"Just like last time," he sang.

"Last time," sang the voice of Janet Jackson. "You better run, you better hide."

"This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," came the voice of Janet. "Without rhyme or reason."

"This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," sang Janet.

"Broken bones and bruised skin tell me why people like you will never see. Don't you realize? I'm better than that, because I know who I am. Look at you hating me, you just don't give a damn. Next time it just might be you who pays the price. I know you hear me, better take my advice. Every time you walk outside your door you roll the dice. This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," sang Janet. "Fist and metal intertwined."

"Just like last time," he sang.

"Last time," sang Janet. "You better run. You better hide!"

"This is a hate crime," he sang.

"Hate crime," she sang. "Without rhyme or reason!"

"This is a hate crime!" he cried.

"Hate crime," whispered Janet in his headphones.

"That's great, Skyler," said Sebastian Stan from the control booth.

Skyler sighed as he took off his headphones. The song was going to be the title track from the soundtrack of the movie he was currently shooting. His father was angry with him for going ahead with the shooting. Tabitha had taken to short simple answers when he asked her about anything other than Preston. The twins were both a little put out by the fact that Skyler hadn't listened to their parents when they'd asked him to have the shooting pushed back. Madonna was calling just about every other day to check on him and Niki Harris was now residing in Orlando long enough to breathe down his neck. What had him so upset was the fact that he was more tired than he'd ever been and his head was almost constantly hurting. He was loath to admit that he'd been wrong though. He just wished that singing this song hadn't made his head feel as if church bells had been struck inside it.

He was very happy that Janet Jackson had agreed to loan her voice to the track. He had to admit that together they sounded amazing. He sat in the control booth listening to the playback with Jeff at his side. Jeff was the only one in his "camp" that knew anything about how Skyler was truly feeling and he'd been a rock to lean on. Skyler was convinced that it wouldn't be long and he would fall hard for Jeff Timmons. He was a little shocked to find that he didn't care.

"The song sounds great," said Jeff, rubbing Skyler's shoulders. "You and Janet sound awesome together."

"I like the sound myself," he agreed. "Now if I can just escape the lecture at home tonight . . ."

"Why don't we just hide out in a hotel room for the night?" asked Jeff. "Have Madonna get Preston and we'll head over to the Hilton or somewhere."

"Because my family would freak out," sighed Skyler. "They'd call Oliver and then he'd freak out. It would just be a mess that I don't really need right now."

"I know," sighed Jeff. "It was just a thought."

An hour later Skyler was sitting in Oliver's office at Sky High Studios listening, once again, to the song he'd just recorded. They were joined by three other men. Will Orback was from Time Warner. Skyler didn't know why the fifty-something gray haired man was doing there or what his interest was. Jason Williams was on the sound crew for the movie. His presence was expected. Skyler rather liked the twenty-eight year old dark haired man. He was a self professed fan of Skyler's music and movies and he was also easy on the eyes. One conference with the man at the beginning of the shooting confirmed for Skyler that they had their sexuality in common. Then there was Sebastian Stan. Skyler really liked the producer. He was in his mid thirties with sandy brown hair and the brightest green eyes Skyler had ever seen. His lover, Rupert Everett, was one of Skyler's costars for the film. They saw a lot of each other.

"The song is both edgy and haunting," said Oliver when the recording ended. "I like it. It fits the movie perfectly."

"Thank you," said Skyler. "I have to say that Janet was amazing on the track."

"She was," agreed Oliver with a nod. "Now why don't you tell me about your head ache?"

"You've talked to Madonna," sighed Skyler, running his fingers through his hair. "My head is fine."

"Is that why your eyes look tense?" Oliver asked, looking at him hard.

"Look," he sighed again. "My head hurts a little every day. This isn't new, Oliver. I'm fine though."

"As long as it doesn't become a problem on the set I'll say nothing," replied the director. "But, Skyler, I don't want you running yourself to death for this picture. You have seven scenes left to film before you're finished. When you get that seventh scene filmed I want you to stay home."

Skyler stared at him for a moment before he said anything. He wanted nothing more than to be at home with Preston every day but he believed that he should be on the set for the others. He knew that arguing with Oliver wasn't something that his career was likely to survive though. In the end he just sighed and nodded. Everyone else in the room had remained silent while the director talked to his star. They knew better than to interrupt or cast their own opinions. They didn't even so much as agree with Oliver.

Skyler went home for the day but he wasn't happy about it. One look at Preston and all thoughts of anger and the movie shoot left his mind. The baby smiled up at him and Skyler's heart melted. He reached into the crib and picked up his son.

"Hey there, little guy," he said. "How're we doing today?"

"He's had his nap," said Chad behind him. "Mom fed him just before his nap after Cassie gave him a bath."

"Well then I guess I get to have the fun part," Skyler said to his son. "I get to hold you and love you."

"Skyler, what are you doing home so early?" Tabitha asked as she came into the room.

"I've been given the rest of the day off," he replied. "So I decided to spend the day with my son."

"Are you all right?" she asked, looking at him worriedly.

"I'm fine," he said, smiling at her. "I just don't have any more scenes to shoot today."

He didn't tell her that he had no more scenes to film for the movie at all or that he wouldn't be returning to the set for the duration of filming. He decided to just remain silent. Fighting with her wasn't fun and he wanted to spend some quality time with his son. He wondered where Jeff was, but he supposed that Jeff had to spend at least some of his time in his own house.

"Why don't you relax for the rest of the day, Skyler?" asked Tabitha, and Skyler had to resist the urge to bite back at her.

"I planned on it," he replied. "Have you seen Jeff?"

"He said something about his apartment," she replied. "I'm sure he'll be back soon though."

"All right," he said evenly. "I'll just sit in here with PJ for a while."

"If you need anything . . ."

"Thank you," he said, cutting her off. This was crazy. They had to back off. He didn't know what to do to make them back off but he had an idea. If he went through with what he was thinking it would make them all more angry and worried than they already were.

They'd been so worried about him when he'd filmed the video at the beginning of the month and when he was recording the song for the movie that he knew that they'd have something to say when he decided to tell them what he planned for his schedule for the rest of the month and the first part of February. In fact they were about to be very upset with him. He was supposed to sign autographs at Hard Rock Cafe on Friday and he'd also decided to sing a song while he was there.

"What?" demanded his father when he heard about the signing at Hard Rock. "Skyler, do you ever listen? I know you hear the doctors but do you actually listen to them when they tell you to take it easy?"

"Dad, calm down," sighed Skyler, running his fingers through his short hair. "It's only signing autographs and singing one song. It's a slow song, Dad. I won't be dancing around or anything."

"But you have to know that it will be stressful, Skyler," he said, slamming his hand on the table. "You are supposed to be recovering, damn it."

"It's been four months, Dad," cried Skyler in desperation. "Four months of recovery. I'm fine!"

"It has actually only been three months, Skyler," pointed out his father. "You haven't reached the four month anniversary yet, and I'm trying to make sure that you don't meet that anniversary in a hospital bed. Damn it will you please slow down?"

"I can't slow down, Dad," he said. "My career . . ."

"Is amazing right now," interrupted his father. "Skyler, you're bigger than ever now."

"That's exactly why I have to keep going," argued Skyler. "If I slow down they'll start looking for other forms of entertainment. Dad, I love this job and I want to do it for a long time. I don't want it to die because I had to take a break."

And that had been the end of their discussion. Friday came and Ben refused to go along with them to Hard Rock. Skyler, Brent, Clay and Laura arrived at Hard Rock ahead of schedule. The band wasn't there yet so Skyler and his entourage sat in the office to wait. They'd come through the service entrance so they hadn't been seen as of yet. He'd had the same kind of discussion with both Clay and Laura but since they both had a financial tie in to his career they didn't argue as strenuously as his father. He was thankful for that because another plan was forming in his head as he sat in the office of Hard Rock. His father would likely have a stroke over it but it was something that Skyler really wanted to do.

"Hey guys," said Adam Stahl as he and Denny Hall came into the office. "Having a pow-wow?"

"Something like that," replied Skyler with a smile. "How are you guys? Where are the others?"

"They're setting up out in the dining room," said Denny. "Good to see you, man."

"Thanks," said Skyler. "This should be good."

"Oh, no doubt," said Adam with an excited smile. "We practiced for like ten hours yesterday. We've got this."

"Very cool," said Skyler.

Ten minutes later everything was set up and ready. The cafe was filled to capacity with more people outside. Skyler made his way to the little stage and took a mic from one of the stands as the crowd in the dining room began to cheer. He felt their power instantly and beamed a smile at them. The band began to play their warm up and Skyler closed his eyes and counted to five. The band began to play the song and Skyler opened his eyes and began to sing.

"Never knew I could feel like this," he sang, and the crowd grew silent. "Like I've never seen the sky before. I want to vanish inside your kiss. Every day I love you more and more. Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing? Tellin' me to give you everything. Seasons may change Winter to Spring, but I love you until the end of time. Come what may. Come what may. I will love you until my dying day."

Lighters were lit and held above nearly everyone in the dining room. Skyler worried for a second about the cafe's sprinklers but the power of the audience took him again as they began to sway with the music. He smiled at them again and began to sing when he heard the music change again.

"Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place. Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace. Suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste. I all revolves around you, and there's no mountain too high, no river too wide. Sing out this song and I'll be by your side. Storm clouds may gather and stars may collide, but I love you until the end of time. Come what may. Come what may. I will love you until my dying day. Oh, come what may. Come what may. I will love you, I will love you. Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place," he sang and the music slowed.

"Come what may," he sang softly. "Come what may. I will love you until my dying day."

He made his way, with Brent at his side, to a table just in front of the stage as the band began to dismantle their instruments and prepare to leave. Skyler was shocked when they stayed after their equipment was packed. He began to sign autographs, smiling for pictures and shaking hands with fans. This was what he did all of this for. This was what it was all about. The fans loved him and he loved them.

"Well if it isn't Angie Mealiff," he said with a wide smile as he signed her picture. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," she said with a wide smile of her own. "My mom and dad are here, too. They're outside."

"Bring them in for me, Sweetie," he said, handing her the picture. "And how is Lissa?"

"She's doing so much better," Angie said with an even brighter smile. "She's just not quite strong enough to come to a place with this many people."

"I'll have to stop over and see her soon," said Skyler. "Hurry, hun, go get your parents."

"K," she said and ran off.

"That's all for today," said Brent, standing up and alerting the extra security that had been hired for this event. They stepped in front of the table and started asking people to head back to the tables.

A few minutes later Skyler was face to face with Rich and Alice Mealiff. They both smiled and hugged him one at a time. Skyler listened to them thank him over and over again for their new house, Rich's new job and especially the specialists that had been called in to work with Lissa. He silenced them by asking about Lissa's health.

"Oh, you wouldn't recognize her, Skyler," said Alice with tears in her eyes. "She's up and moving around again. It's like a miracle."

"I'm so happy to hear that," he said seriously.

"We saw pictures of your son in the magazine last week," said Rich. "Beautiful."

"Thank you," said Skyler, smiling wide. "PJ is my life."

"You're going to make an awesome daddy," said Alice.

"Thank you," he said, hugging her again.

They talked for a few minutes before Rich announced that they had to get back to Lissa. Skyler signed pictures for each of them before they left. Brent smiled at him when they left the dining room and headed back to the office again. Skyler hugged his security man as soon as they were behind the closed door.

"You're awesome, Sky," said Brent as they let go of each other.

Hate Crime is a song written by Eric Draven. Come What May is a song by Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

The next chapter will be posted soon.