© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 79

"Skyler Thomas, Jessica Simpson," said Nick, beaming from ear to ear as he introduced Jeff's lover to his own.

"It's good to meet you, Skyler," said Jessica, shaking his hand. "Nick has talked of nothing else since I got here."

"I hope he hasn't tainted what you thought of me already," he laughed.

"Absolutely not," she replied, smiling. "You're one of the most talented men I've ever met. I think Nick's a little envious but definitely a huge fan."

"Well we're all in very talented company," replied Skyler. "I'm a fan of the guys and yourself as well."

"Thank you," she beamed. "Are we having dinner together tonight?"

"That's the plan," replied Skyler. "Helen will be with Preston."

"I can't wait to see the little guy," said Nick as they walked into the suite the guys were sharing.

"Where is Jeff?" asked Jessica as they sat in the sitting room.

"He's with Preston right now," replied Skyler. "I don't know which of us he was happier to see."

"Well the press sure paid attention to the way he acted when you guys got off the plane," said Nick. "Don't worry though they got no pictures of Preston."

"Thank you," replied Skyler, smiling at him. "I don't care what the press thinks of me and Jeff. I just don't want pictures of any of our children in the magazines."

"'Our' children'?" asked Jessica with wide eyes.

"Of course," replied Skyler, not batting an eye. "We're a family after all. We both have to watch out for the kids and make sure that the press leaves them alone."

"You guys really are a family," she said with a smile. "Forgive me but I had no idea how it worked."

"It's no different than any other family," replied Skyler. "Sure we're two men but everything about the family unit is the same. We love each other and we love our children. We're just celebrities and have to take more steps to ensure the safety of our children then ordinary couples."

"I told you Baby," Nick laughed as he took Jessica's hand. "They're practically married."

"It's just a shame that you can't be open about it," said Jessica. "I could see the love in your eyes when you greeted each other in the airport and I was struck by how reserved you had to be because of keeping your secret."

"It can be difficult sometimes," said Skyler. "Especially when we've been apart for a while but we make up for it when we're around friendly people who know the truth and accept it for what it is. We love each other. Jeff is one of the most important people in my world and that isn't like to ever change. Hopefully one day we won't have to hide it but until then we'll do what me must. Believe me neither of us is hurting in the love department. Jeff and I do everything in our power to let each other know how much our relationship means to us all the time. There's never any doubt between us."

At that moment Jeff came into the room with Preston in his arms. The child was giggling like crazy and there was a goofy, satisfied grin on Jeff's face. He walked over and sat next to Skyler, leaning his head to kiss his lover as the child crawled from Jeff to Skyler and back. Jessica watched the scene before her with rapt attention.

"Love you Blondie," Jeff said when their kiss ended.

"Love you back," replied Skyler. "All played out?"

"No," laughed Jeff. "Got my PJ fix and needed my Blondie fix to go with it."

"Well we're all yours from the next three nights," replied Skyler with a smile.

"Helen said to tell you that she's going to grab a quick shower then she'll be ready," said Jeff. "We're doing dinner tonight yes?"

"Yes," replied Skyler. "We'll have to bring something back for Helen."

"Will do," said Jeff, smiling wide. "I can't believe you're here."

"Well I'm here," said Skyler, taking Jeff's hand and entwining their fingers. "You can just touch me to make sure any time you want."

"God I love you Skyler," replied Jeff.

"I missed you Baby," Skyler said softly.

"Not half as much as I missed you."

"Oh really?" laughed Skyler, noticing finally that Jessica and Nick were silently watching them. "Sorry guys."

"Don't apologize," said Jessica with a huge smile on her face. "I never get to see Jeff like this. It's nice."

"You guys are good together," added Nick with a smile of his own. "I'm happy for you both."

"Thanks," said Jeff, squeezing Skyler's hand.

"Forgive me here," laughed Jessica. "Seeing you like this together is blowing my mind a little. I mean I knew you were together it just . . ."

"Seeing it is another story?" Skyler asked, smiling.

"Yeah," she replied. "It's beautiful and amazing but I guess I just didn't know what to expect."

"It's like I said earlier," he said, smiling at Jeff. "No different than any other couple."

"Damned right," chuckled Jeff as he leaned closer to kiss Skyler again.

"It's so good to just be with you again," sighed Skyler as the kiss ended. "You don't know how much I've missed you."

"The tour will be over in May Sky," Jeff said softly. "We'll be together then."

"I know," sighed Skyler. "One more month. It just feels like years."

"It sure does," said Jeff. "But we'll make up for it. I have a surprise for you in Orlando."

"Funny," laughed Skyler. "I have a surprise for you when we get back to Orlando."

"Oh?" Jeff asked with an excited smile on his face.

"Don't even ask," laughed Skyler. "All you need to know is that it's paid for and will be yours when I have it delivered."

"That gives me about a gazillion things to guess it could be," laughed Jeff. "Don't you even want a hint about what I have for you?"

"No," replied Skyler. "Just knowing that you have something for me is enough for now."

"Oh I have a bunch of stuff for the kids too of course," he said quickly.

"So do I," laughed Skyler. "I didn't buy clothes for Alyssa or Junior because they'll just grow out of them before I see them again."

"Yeah," laughed Jeff. "But toys are cool."

"Yes," agreed Skyler. "And I'll have to have them shipped to Orlando when it's time to come home. I have so many of them now."

"Tabitha said that you've got a lot of packages from fans at home too," Jeff informed. "They were sent over from Sky High."

"Looks like I'll be writing about a million 'thank you' notes," laughed Skyler.

Helen came in to take Preston so they could meet Drew and Justin for dinner. Skyler and Jeff kissed Preston on the top of his head before following Nick and Jessica out of the suite and to the elevator. They met up with Drew and Justin along the way. They laughed and joked with each other in the elevator and were still laughing when they reached the ground floor with security assembling around the group.

"Looks like you brought the cavalry Blondie," laughed Jeff as they made their way through the lobby to the entrance of the hotel.

"Can never be too careful," replied Skyler seriously. "We're still in America after all."

None of them said a single word as they made their way from the front of the hotel to the waiting SUV that was parked and waiting for them. They climbed inside the vehicle as the various security men climbed into the second waiting SUV that would tail them to the restaurant. Jeff felt like an idiot for making a joke out of the amount of security Skyler had come with. He knew full well why it was so and reminding Skyler of it wasn't necessary. He sighed as Skyler slipped his hand into his own and laced their fingers.

"So how's shooting going Sky?" asked Justin as the SUV pulled out into the main parking lot.

"Shooting has been great," replied Skyler. "The press is another story. I'd thought that since we were in Australia the press would be a little tame. I was wrong about that and I won't forget it."

"We've been seeing a lot of you in the American tabloids lately," said Drew.

"More lies," sighed Skyler. "My battle with the tabloids in both countries will never be over I guess."

"They print stories about all of us all the time," said Justin.

"Not as much as they do about Skyler," pointed out Nick.

"The price I pay for my success," replied Skyler with a lopsided grin that helped to settle everyone's mind a bit. Talking to Skyler about tabloids or the press in general was always a possible mine field.

* * *

Chad stood to watch the first number in Cory's show. This was their first show together and the first in Tokyo. He'd been pleased by the amount of fans at the airport and very happy to find that it was his name they were screaming. He'd been a little afraid that they'd scream for Skyler or worse, Cory. He was getting really sick of the way the press and fans wanted to know about Skyler when this was Chad's tour. He didn't like the way the crowd screamed at Cory either.

"These are the days of the open hand. They will not be the last. Look around now. These are the days of the beggars and the choosers," sang Cory and the crowd screamed for him, making Chad's mood darken further.

"This is the year of the hungry man whose place is in the past. Hand in hand with ignorance and legitimate excuses," sang Cory. Chad recognized the song and sighed. This was the song that Skyler had written before leaving for Australia. Chad had thought he was writing it for himself.

"The rich declare themselves poor and most of us are not sure if we have too much but we'll take our chances. Because God stopped keeping score. I guess somewhere along the way He must have let us all out to play. Turned his back and all God's children crept out the back door.

"And it's hard to love. There's so much to hate. Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of. And the wounded skies above say it's much too late. Well maybe we should all be praying for time," sang Cory and the crowd screamed so loud that Chad winced.

Cory stood there at the edge of the stage, bending down to touch the fingertips of the girls in the pit. Chad could see their excited faces. They were excited to see Cory Stephens. The boy had been absent from the limelight for three years and they loved him anyway. Chad folded his arms as he watched.

"These are the days of the empty hand. Oh you hold on to what you can and charity is a coat you wear twice a year," Cory sang.

"This is the year of the guilty man. Your television takes a stand and you find that what was over there is over here.

"So you scream from behind your door, say what's mine is mine and not yours. I may have too much but I'll take my chances because God stopped keeping score. And you cling to the things they sold you. Did you cover your eyes when they told you that He can't come back because He has no children to come back for?

"And it's hard to love. There's so much to hate. Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of. And the wounded skies above say it's much too late. Well maybe we should all be praying for time," he sang and they screamed again.

"Maybe we should all be praying for time," he sang and put his head down.

Chad watched the spotlight as it lit up the crowd. Everyone was on their feet for Cory and screaming at the tops of their lungs. Would the scream like that for him? Would their sound be any louder? He hoped so. If not he wasn't so sure there was a reason to do this anymore.

"TOKYO!" screamed Cory and the crowd screamed back.

Chad didn't want to watch anymore. He turned and headed back to his dressing room where the sound would be cut off. Jason looked at his brother's face and sighed. Chad had been in a very bad mood since Cory had shown up in Mississippi. Sure he said it was because of Rory being arrested but that wasn't what Chad liked to scream about whenever the press talked to Cory instead of him.

Jason could understand why he was upset about that. He would have been too. This was Chad's tour and Cory was only the opening act. Chad took it further than just irritation though. He kicked things and threw things. Twice their father had to follow him to his dressing room to calm him down. The little sing off that Cory and Chad got into at every sound check was starting to keep Chad in a dark mood as well. Jason didn't understand why Chad challenged Cory if it was just going to make him mad when just the dancers and band seemed to like Cory's songs better than Chad's.

What was worse was the fact that whenever Skyler's name was mentioned around Chad the man barked at whoever slipped and said it. He'd remind them loudly that this wasn't Skyler's tour and Skyler wasn't anywhere around them. Then he'd stalk off to his dressing room or his hotel room and slam the door. It had been getting worse since they'd come to Japan. Jason didn't know how much more he was going to be able to put up with it all before he called Skyler to tell him what was going on.

He didn't know what calling Skyler would do though. Their father's talks did nothing to calm Chad down but would he calm down for Skyler? Jason thought he'd find out if things kept on. All through Cory's show he danced with the dancers to warm up but Chad never came out of his dressing room. He didn't come out of his dressing room until Laura told him he had five minutes before he had to be on stage. Then he barked at the dancers as they lined up.

"You'd better all be on your game tonight," he snapped as he walked back and forth in front of them. "No mistakes. This show has got to be great."

"Chad I think you should just calm down," said Laura as she stared at him. "They have it."

"Butt out Laura," he snapped turning his hateful gaze on her. "I want that crowd on their feet and screaming. They won't be if we screw this up."

"Chad what the hell is the matter with you today?" Ben asked, coming over to stand next to Laura. "You don't talk to your agent like this."

"This is my career Dad," he snapped at his father. "We've had this discussion before. Stay out of it."

"Well maybe I should just go back to Orlando then," said his father hotly. "I'm not going to stick around to be treated this way by my own son."

"Then go," snapped Chad. "I know you're bored here Dad. This isn't Skyler's tour. I know all of you think my stuff is nothing compared to Skyler's. Just go if you want. I really don't care."

Before anyone could say anything back to him he walked down the dimly lit corridor to the metal stairs that would take him to the platform. It would be moved into position once Cory was off the stage and the lights were off. The stairs that he would walk down would also be moved into place at the same time. He just hoped there were no mistakes. If there were he'd never let them forget it.

Cory was taking an extra long time getting off the stage. Chad stood on the platform, silently fuming as he listened to him say goodnight to the crowd. The boy didn't even say a word about Chad. No introduction from Cory. That was fine too. Cory could go when the rest of them did. He would be much happier with Skyler anyway.

The lights went down and the platform slid into place. He could see the stairs coming into place as he stood there. The crowd was chanting Cory's name, and Chad wanted to puke. The music for his opening started and the spotlight came on over the stairs.

"I'm waitin' on the green light to make you mine but your heart's just takin' its own sweet time. You wanna be sure if you'll sink or swim. Well grab a hold of me and just jump on in. You're playin' it safe but baby I'll wait," he sang as he walked down the stairs with the spotlight on him. The dancers were making their way out onto the floor in the formation that Mara had insisted on.

"Ooh whenever you're ready I could be yours in a second or so. Ooh baby come and get me my heart's sittin' on go! Ooh it's off to the races. All you gotta do is let me know. Ooh I'm ready and waitin'. My heart's sittin' on go!" sang Chad, dancing with the dancers. The crowd was screaming but nowhere near as loud as they had for Cory. Chad decided to sing louder.

"You oughta give in now instead of resistin' 'cause I'm not above a little arm twistin'. I'm bettin' it's only a matter of time before you and me are standin' at the finish line. You're havin' your doubts but you'll come around," he sang, breaking from the dancers and running to the front of the stage to make the audience scream. It wasn't rehearsed but he didn't care. Let Mara scream all she wanted. It was his show.

"Ooh whenever you're ready I could be yours in a second or so. Ooh baby come and get me my heart's sittin' on go! Ooh it's off to the races. All you gotta do is let me know. Ooh I'm ready and waitin'. My heart's sittin' on go! You're playin' it safe but baby I'll wait.

"Ooh whenever you're ready I could be yours in a second or so. Ooh baby come and get me my heart's sittin' on go! Ooh it's off to the races. All you've gotta do is let me know. Ooh I'm ready and waitin'. My heart's sittin' on go!"

"Ooh I'm ready and waitin. My heart's sittin' on go! My heart's sittin' on go!" he sang, coming to a stop in front of the dancers as the lights went down and the crowd screamed so loud he smiled.

"Scream for me Tokyo!" he cried as the spotlight found him. The crowd screamed louder but Chad noticed Jason shaking his head as he followed the rest of the dancers off the stage for their costume change.

* * *

They heard the band playing when they got back to the hotel. They'd set up in the ballroom and were going through some of the songs on the tour program. Skyler smiled as he watched Jeff and the boys head for the ballroom. He and Jessica followed them with matching smiles on their faces. They sat down at the front table and watched their men dancing around in front of them. The song they sang was "Give Me Just One Night" and Jeff never took his eyes off Skyler as he sang. Nick's eyes were only for Jessica.

Skyler watched Jeff move but he paid close attention to the sounds of each of their voices. They sounded great together and he loved listening. They went through two more songs before they bowed while Skyler and Jessica hollered and cheered for them. They joined them at the table as the band began to play another song. Skyler looked at them when he recognized the tune.

"Jeff lent them your advance copy of the new album," Justin explained when he noticed Skyler watching the band. "They like that one the most but they can play all of the songs on the album."

"Sing it for us Sky," Jeff said, his mouth close to Skyler's ear.

"All right," he said, getting up from the table.

He stepped up to the mic that Jeff had abandoned when they'd finished singing and looked at the band. They stopped playing and the drummer put his sticks together as Skyler counted. They'd been playing it a bit faster than he'd written it so he needed to slow them down a bit.

When they started to play again he smiled. The tempo was just right. He picked up the mic and walked over to straddle the chair in front of Jeff. He looked into his lover's eyes and began to sing.

"Your eyes burn through me oh like a raging fire. I fall blissfully every time you say just one little word. You know it makes me crazy.

"You ask way too much oh when you say that I can look but do not touch. I've never wanted any other more than the way I want you baby.

"I surrender to what I can't control. Drunk with desire I've opened up my soul.

"You know I would go around the world, I'd take you anywhere. Oh baby anywhere . . . for a touch of heaven. Tell me what you want, I'd give you anything. Oh baby everything . . . for a touch of heaven," he sang as Jeff smiled back at him.

He let the band play for a bit as he looked into his lover's eyes. He loved singing to Jeff and couldn't believe he hadn't done it more often. Jeff's eyes sparkled as he looked back at him. This was what singing was about.

"I have dreamed of this. Your body next to mine. Drowning in every kiss. How I've longed to find my one and only love and I found it in you baby.

"All I ever wanted is everything that you are. Don't leave me longin' be tender with my heart.

"You know I would go around the world, I'd take you anywhere. Oh baby anywhere . . .for a touch of heaven. Tell me what you want, I'd give you anything. Oh baby everything . . . for a touch of heaven," he sang and leaned closer to Jeff.

"Everyone says you've been leading me on," he sang just a little higher. "Too late for warnings I'm already gone," he sang, smiling at his lover.

The others watched them with delighted smiles on their faces as the couple stared into each other's eyes. The band played for a bit before Skyler sat back and started to sing again.

"Oh I surrender to what I can't control. Drunk with desire I'm giving you my soul.

"You know I would go around the world, I'd take you anywhere. Oh baby anywhere . . . for a touch of heaven. Tell me what you want, I'd give you anything. Oh baby everything . . . for a touch of heaven.

"I'd go around the world, I'd take you anywhere. Oh baby anywhere . . . for just a touch of heaven. Tell me what you want I'd give you anything. Oh baby every little thing . . . for a touch . . . for a touch of heaven. Yeah just a touch . . . just a touch of heaven," he sang as the band stopped.

He hit the button on the side of the mic to turn it off before putting it on the table and leaning in to kiss Jeff. The others were clapping and cheering for him but it was Jeff he'd been singing for. Oh how he loved him. When they ended the kiss he finally looked back at the band and bowed his head. They were all smiling at him as they started to put away their instruments.

He got up and walked over to the band to shake hands with each of them. They each told him what a great song it was to play and complimented him on the writing. He thanked them and told them that though the sound was different with them playing it sounded great.

"That's a great song Skyler," Jessica said, grinning from ear to ear. "You wrote it?"

"Yeah," he replied as he sat back down in his chair the right way this time. Jeff's arms were around his shoulders as soon as his back touched the back of the chair.

"You should hear the rest of the album," Jeff said.

"Who plays the sax on the album?" asked Nick as they made their way out of the ballroom and across the lobby to the elevators.

"Sully," replied Skyler. "He shocked the hell out of me when I heard him playing once on the tour. When I wrote a few of the songs on the album I thought of him playing the sax. He jumped at the chance when I asked him to play for the album."

"Sully's the short guy on your dance squad right?" Jessica asked.

"Yeah," laughed Skyler. "Hard to believe that so much power can come from such small lungs huh?"

It was still early enough that Jeff could call his kids in Orlando. Skyler spent the time watching Preston sleep and thanking Helen for watching him while they ate. He was still standing there when Jeff walked into the room and wrapped his arms around him from behind. Skyler leaned back against Jeff as he continued to watch his sleeping son.

"How are the others?" he asked quietly.

"Ready for their daddies to come get them," replied Jeff. "They miss both of us. Alyssa asked about you."

"You should have come and got me," replied Skyler as he turned in Jeff's arms. "I'd have loved to talk to her."

"The idea was to keep her calm so she could sleep," chuckled Jeff as he turned and pulled Skyler out of the room with him.

"It's so good to hold you and kiss you," Skyler said once they'd stopped kissing. They were standing in the middle of the living room of Skyler's suite. It had been decided when Skyler had called to tell Jeff that he was coming that it would probably be easier if Skyler booked a suite and he and Jeff stayed in it while they were in Atlanta.

Skyler had thought about it only for a second before he agreed that it was wise. This wasn't Jeff wanting no one to know they were staying together. This was just Jeff wanting private time with Skyler away from his band mates. Jeff continued to show Skyler that he wasn't like JC. Skyler loved him more and more every day for more than just that fact.

Jeff completed him in a way that he'd never known he was incomplete before. There was something inside of him that only Jeff could answer and he couldn't believe it had taken so long for him to realize that. They shared everything with each other and held nothing back. There were no secrets between Skyler and Jeff. That brought a comfort like Skyler had never known in any of his previous relationships. For the first time in his entire life Skyler was completely happy.

"Jessica is amazed by you," Jeff said, breaking into his thoughts.

"She's nice," he replied with a smile. "She and Nick make a good couple."

"You should hear them fight," laughed Jeff. "They're worse than us."

"Oh I'm sure that every couple fights more than we do," said Skyler. "I was just thinking about how we are so open with each other. There really isn't ever anything to fight about."

"I don't fight with you very often because I love you too much," said Jeff, holding him tight.

"Baby if you love me half as much as I love you we're in trouble," Skyler replied.

"We could never love each other too much Sky," said Jeff. "I think we're perfect together."

"Oh I do too," said Skyler. "I can't even think of how I lived without you before."

"You were stumbling around in the dark with strangers before I came along," Jeff said with a big goofy grin on his face.

"Is that what I was doing?" laughed Skyler.

"No more than I was," replied Jeff before he brought his face closer to Skyler's and kissed him ever so lightly. "I don't think I can stand this anymore. Come on."

He took Skyler's hand and led him to the bedroom.

Praying For Time is a song by George Michael. Sittin' On Go is a song by Bryan White. Touch Of Heaven is a song by Richard Marx.

The next chapter will be posted soon.