© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 82

"It's so good to be here and know that I can stay," said Jeff as he and Skyler got into the SUV in front of the airport. Cameras were flashing and reporters were still screaming questions at them. They ignored them and got into the car.

"Well I'm glad you're here," said Skyler. "The apartment is going to get a little more crowded but I'm sure we'll deal with that. Helen will be returning to her apartment so she won't be on the couch. That'll help."

"Sky, what happened with Cory and the dancers?" Jeff asked as the SUV pulled out into traffic.

Andrew had issued a statement that Cory Stephens had left Chad's tour along with all of Skyler's dancers. Chad had called from Spain to have his fit and Clay had called again to tell Skyler that Chad's shows weren't going well. Skyler had decided that there was nothing he could do about Chad now. Whatever was going on with him had to be taken care of by Clay.

"Chad has gone insane," Skyler sighed. "Clay thinks it's drugs."

"Oh, Sky," said Jeff, clutching his hand.

"I'm fine," said Skyler, squeezing back. "I'll deal with it all when I see Chad. That isn't going to happen until his tour ends and I'm back in Orlando."

"What does Cassie say about this?" asked Jeff.

"Well she says she doesn't believe it," he replied. "I can understand that. I don't want to believe it but it fits the personality change and all of the other stuff that Clay described."

"It's just so hard to believe," said Jeff. "I know Chad. The Chad I know wouldn't . . ."

"There's a lot that Chad's kept bottled up over the years, Jeff," Skyler said, cutting him off. "Chuck, Mom, finding out about Dad and Jason and then there's my career and his; so much has happened. The abuse was never really dealt with either. Chad has so much."

"But drugs?" Jeff asked. "You had all of those things to deal with too, Sky."

"Yes, but I'm not Chad," he replied. "I dealt with it by putting it in songs and sponsoring charities. Chad's a completely different person. You've heard his music, Jeff. None of it is as edgy or in your face with the past as mine has been."

"What about Cassie?" Jeff asked quickly. "She's been through all of that too."

"Cassie's completely different," said Skyler. "She didn't internalize. She had her melt downs and then there was Tabitha for her to talk to. She has Kaleb. He loves her Jeff. Love can do a lot of things for a lot of people."

"But we all love Chad," Jeff argued.

"Well of course we all love him," agreed Skyler. "But is he the most important thing in the world to any of us? I'm not trying to be mean or say that he's less than anyone else. What I'm talking about is that we don't love him the way that Kaleb loves Cassie or the way that you love me. Chad doesn't have that in his life. Sure he has Lilly, but they just met. She doesn't love him."

They talked about it for a few hours. Christian remained silent but he listened. Skyler was very upset over the idea that Chad was taking drugs but what could he do about it? What could he really do about it? There was nothing he could do about it. He loved his little brother and it hurt like hell that all of this had happened to him and made him make the choices he'd made but that didn't mean that Skyler could change any of it.

They sat around the kitchen table and ate together while Jeff told them about the end of his tour. He had them both laughing and Skyler loved him for that. They talked about the set and all of the things that had been going on. Skyler had been a little worried about what Jeff would say about the photographs of him and Neve but Jeff thought it was funny.

In reality Jeff didn't care about any of that. He was with Skyler again and pretty soon they'd have all of the children home and things would get back to normal until Skyler decided to either shoot another movie or go on tour. It was so much easier for Jeff to follow Skyler around the world than to be a continent away from him all the time. Jeff was happy and that's what made him want to make Skyler and Christian happy.

Over the next few days there were many calls between Skyler and Clay. Chad's antics had been witnessed by the press and now there were articles and pictures to contend with. Skyler continued to tell Clay that there wasn't anything he could do about it. Laura had already formally resigned as Chad's agent. From the sounds of things Clay wasn't far behind her. Skyler truly didn't know what to do about it.

Cory finally called Skyler to apologize for leaving the tour the way he had. They talked about what had happened that last day in the hotel room and Skyler assured Cory that there would be no repercussions for leaving the tour under those circumstances. Cory was ready to head back into the studio and Skyler was prepared to let him.

The next week they sat in the living room with Devon, Toby and Leo to watch Renny's interview on VH1. Renny told the reporter that this shoot had been the hardest of his career and he blamed the tabloids for the problems. He talked about how the tabloid reporters stalked Skyler and all but broke laws to get at him. He talked about Shannon throwing rocks at photographers and Neve being cornered as she left the set.

"I have never known the press to be so out of control," he said. "Look what happened to Skyler. They nearly killed him to get a picture. This is crazy and celebrities aren't safe anymore. Skyler's boycott of the press may have ignited this current storm but I think he did the right thing."

Two hours after that live interview Jeff accompanied Skyler to another set to shoot a video for a single from his album. Jeff loved the song and watched as Skyler had trouble with the shooting. He hated to lip-sync and Jeff didn't understand what the problem was. Skyler was an actor. He'd have thought that this would be old hat for him but it wasn't. It took thirty takes to get the video shot. Luckily Martine was a patient woman and understood Skyler's problem. When they left that evening Skyler was happy and Martine was thrilled with the video she'd shot.

Over the next three days Jeff saw that Skyler's life was just as hectic as it had been before he'd left for his tour. He watched with worried eyes as Skyler and the rest of the cast tried hard to outsmart the press as they came to and left the set. Skyler was cornered a few times and Neve was cornered as well. Jeff tried not to laugh at the questions about Skyler and Neve's relationship. He knew that this was all done in fun and there was nothing to be upset about. It helped when Skyler and Neve both answered with "No comment" every time they were asked anything about the other.

What Jeff thought was going to be a nice night out with Skyler, Christian, Leo, and Devon turned out to be a talent scouting mission. Skyler took them back to Throb to see a performance by Three Six Eight. It was clear from the first song that they were a cover band and they were covering Skyler's music. Jeff couldn't understand why they were there to see them. He was about to ask about it when the band announced that they were taking a break and introduced a blond haired guy in a college sweatshirt named Brody Tanzek. Skyler and the rest of the gang cheered loudly when he was introduced so Jeff decided to wait and find out what the kid was all about.

The music started and Skyler and the boys calmed down to watch. Jeff was surprised that the music was mellow. He'd expected something upbeat. Skyler usually didn't pay attention to any unknown singer unless they performed something he could dance to. All thoughts of why stopped when Brody picked up the microphone and began to sing in a haunted voice that sent chills down Jeff's spine as he listened.

"Have you ever loved somebody so much it makes you cry? Have you ever needed something so bad you can't sleep at night? have you ever tried to find the words but they don't come out right. Have you ever? Have you ever?" he sang with a breathless voice that Jeff just couldn't believe.

"Have you ever been in love; been in love so bad you'd do anything to make them understand? Have you ever had someone steal your heart away? You'd give anything up to make them feel the same. Have you ever searched for words to get you in their heart but you don't know what to say and you don't know where to start?" he sang, looking at various members of the crowd but never actually stopping on Skyler. Then he threw his head back and his voice got louder.

"Have you ever loved somebody so much it makes you cry? Have you ever needed something so bad you just can't sleep at night? have you ever tried to find the words but they don't come out right? Have you ever? Oh, have you ever?" he sang and the music got a little louder as he put his head down and swayed back and forth to the slow beat. He lifted his head just as the music got softer again.

"Have you ever found the one you've dreamed of all your life? You'd do just about anything to look into their eyes. Have you finally found the one you've given your heart to only to find that one won't give their heart to you? Have you ever closed your eyes and dreamed that they were there and all you can do is wait for that day when they will care?

"Have you? Have you ever loved somebody so much it makes you cry? Have you ever needed something so bad, so bad you just can't sleep at night? Have you ever tried to find the words but they don't come out right? Have you ever? Tell me, have you ever?" he sang and lighters were ignited and held high all over the club. Then he got louder again.

"What do I gotta do to get you in my arms, baby? What do I gotta say to get to your heart? To make you understand how I need you next to me. Gotta get in you my world. 'Cuz baby I can't sleep.

"Have you ever loved somebody so much it makes you cry? Have you ever needed something so bad you just can't sleep at night? Have you ever tried to find the words but they don't, don't come out right? Ooh, have you ever loved somebody so much it makes you cry? Have you ever needed something so bad you just can't sleep at night? Have you tried to find the words but they don't come out right? Have you ever? Oh, have you ever?

"Have you ever?" he sang and the lights went out as the music stopped. The crowd roared at him.

He thanked the crowd and then went into a faster song and had people on the floor dancing. Jeff watched with rapt attention and didn't notice the look in Skyler's eyes as he watched from beside him. They cheered along with the crowd as Brody thanked them for the last time and made his way backstage. Skyler got up and followed him so Jeff decided to tag along.

"Skyler Thomas once again!" cried a tall dark haired young man with a huge grin on his face.

"Hey there, Tim," said Skyler with a smile of his own. "Great show, boys."

They chorused their appreciation for the compliment though Jeff thought Skyler was only being nice. It was clear to everyone in the club that the real performer had been Brody Tanzek. Jeff remained quiet while Skyler shook hands with the members of Three Six Eight. Brody was sitting on a tattered old couch across the small room eyeing Skyler's every move.

"Told ya he was looking for you the last time he was here," one of the dark haired young men said with a flippish tone and a smirk in Brody's direction.

"Yeah," said Brody as he got up and came to stand with the group. Skyler shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, Skyler."

"The pleasure is mine," replied Skyler. "I wanted to know if you could meet me tomorrow. Maybe we'll have a drink or food."

"What time?" Brody asked as the other three looked at him with wide eyes.

"Well I'll be filming until one," Skyler said, glancing at Jeff. "How about three?"

"Sounds fine," replied Brody. "Where?"

"Why don't you come to the set?" Skyler asked. "I'll clear it in the morning. You can come while we're shooting if you'd like to see."

"That'd be great," Brody said with a huge grin. "Any time?"

"Sure," said Skyler with another of his smiles. "Like I said, I'll clear it. Just go to gate one and they'll have a pass for you."

"Thanks, Skyler," Brody said, shaking his hand again.

"Five minutes, guys," said a voice as the door opened again.

All of them started moving then. They wiped sweat from their foreheads and straightened each other's shirts. It was almost comical to watch. Then Skyler said something that shocked Jeff completely.

"Hey guys, what would you think if I went out there with you and sang a song or two with you?"

"Really?" cried the older of the foursome.

"Sure," laughed Skyler. "I know all the words. Which songs are in your second set?"

Before Jeff knew what was happening he was back in his seat beside Christian and Skyler was on the stage with Three Six Eight singing "Move Away." They were dancing and having a great time. The crowd was on fire as they watched.

Devon and Leo took pictures while screaming at Skyler. Jeff and Christian laughed the whole time. They watched as Skyler sang "Tell Me Lies", "Dizzy" and "In It For Love" with the group before thanking them each personally as well as the crowd.

Someone had tipped off the press while they were in the club. They were outside in droves when Jeff followed Skyler and Brent out the door and to the waiting SUV that took the group back to the apartment building. Luckily security was all over the place at the building and they got inside without incident.

Christian and Skyler were in for a shock when they walked into the apartment to find Chip and Justy sitting in the living room talking to Helen. They stopped in their tracks and Jeff had to push them inside the front door.

"Sky!" cried Justy as he bounced off the couch and sprinted to the door. He wrapped his arms around Skyler and squeezed. "I'm going to be in a movie!"

"That's great!" replied Skyler, squeezing him back. "When did you guys get here?"

"We haven't been here long," said Chip as he let go of Christian and smiled at Skyler. "Jase is talking to Renny on the set. He'll be here in a little while. Mike's in your room. That boy was tired after the flight."

Skyler and Jeff sat on the couch and stared at Chip with smiles on their faces. Christian was in Chip's lap while Justy sat on the floor at their feet. Jeff couldn't believe they were there. He'd known that Jase would be in Australia before long because he had a movie to shoot there. He hadn't expected Chip and Justy to come with him.

"So your going to be in Jase's movie?" he asked, looking down at Justy.

"I'm going to be Peter Pan!" cried the boy.

"Jase is shooting Peter Pan?" asked Skyler with wide eyes. "But what about Disney?"

"Well that's just it," said Chip. "Disney is on board along side Sky High for this movie. I don't really understand it all. Jase'll explain."

"I'm sure it'll all work out," said Skyler with a sigh. "I hope he isn't with Renny long. I've got a five AM scene."

"You and me both," said Christian. He looked at Chip. "You're staying here right?"

"Of course," replied Chip. "Justy will sleep on the couch for the night and we'll make more semi permanent arrangements tomorrow while you're shooting and Jase is talking to Disney."

"Sounds good," said Skyler. "I'm glad you're all here."

"Thanks, Sky," said Chip with a smile.

Jeff and Skyler watched as Christian got off of Chip's lap and then led him by the hand back to the bedroom in silence. They would have laughed but Justy was still sitting there. Skyler got him a pillow and blanket for the couch as Jase was coming into the apartment. He had just put the pillow and blanket on the couch when Jase wrapped his arms around him.

"Good to see you, Skyler," Jase said when he let go of him.

"It's good to see you, too," replied Skyler with a smile. "So, Peter Pan?"

"Yeah," laughed Jase. "I was told that I had to work with Disney on this picture before I can shoot my next. It seems that Disney has wanted to work with Sky High for a while now."

"Really?" Skyler asked. "No one has said anything to me about it."

"Well they only contacted Eric last week," said Jase. "Plans were made and finalized and then I was told I had to direct the movie and I insisted on Justy as Peter and the rest is history. We start filming initial scenes Monday."

"Well that sounds great," said Skyler, thinking he needed to talk to Eric himself. "I'll call Eric after filming tomorrow."

"You don't have to," said Jase. "He'll be on set tomorrow."

"Well that's good," said Skyler. "Congratulations on the movie."

"Thanks," said Jase. "I get the impression that this isn't going to be easy. The Disney guys are already laying down the law about what to do and what not to do."

"Well they'll play nice or this will be the last movie Sky High shoots for them," replied Skyler. "If I have to remind them of that I will."

"Easy, Tuff Guy," laughed Jase. "I'm a big boy remember? I can take care of myself. Besides Eric is keeping them in line."

"Good," replied Skyler. "So where are you staying?"

"Renny cleared it so that I can take the apartment next door," replied Jase. "I also know that you have an early morning scene to shoot so I'll get out of here and let you sleep."

"Love you, Jase," Skyler said as his uncle walked to the door.

"Love you, kid," replied Jase with a grin and then he was out the door.

Skyler turned and smiled at Justy before spreading the blanket on the couch for him. Justy gave him another hug and then climbed under the cover and yawned making both of them laugh. Jeff was happy that Skyler was so happy but hearing him with Jase reminded him that even though shooting the movie wasn't supposed to be as hectic as a tour there was still so much to do.

"You're so tired," he said as he rubbed Skyler's shoulders in the bedroom.

"I am," sighed Skyler. "With all that's coming in the next few weeks I don't think I'll ever get enough rest though."

"Please tell me you're taking at least a little break after shooting ends," said Jeff.

"Well I'm planning on it," replied Skyler. "I can't promise anything though. Taking Sky High out of Time Warner's hands makes it completely mine, Jeff. That's a lot of work no matter what you want to do. Sure I've got Eric running things but sometimes I have to step in."

"And you're going to have to step in where Chad's concerned soon, aren't you?" Jeff asked, sitting behind him on the bed and rubbing his shoulders again.

"Probably," sighed Skyler. "I'm not looking forward to that though."

When the alarm went off the next morning Skyler was less than thrilled to meet the new day. He sat on the edge of the bed and stretched, waking Jeff in the process. Then he felt Jeff's arm slide around his waist and try to pull him back down into the bed.

"I can't, baby," he said, pulling back. "I have to be on the set in an hour."

"You want me to come with you?" Jeff asked, sitting up behind him.

"Not if you'd rather sleep," he replied. "I know we had a late night."

"I'm used to it from the tour," Jeff said through a yawn. "Get in the shower. I'm right behind you."

Helen was letting herself into the apartment as quietly as possible as he and Jeff were coming out of the bedroom fully dressed after their shower. She smiled at them and went into the kitchen. Skyler followed her and thanked her for coming so early.

"You don't have to thank me," she said, waiving a hand at him dismissively. "This is my job. Besides I love Preston."

"I know you do," he replied with a smile. "I'm taking a prospective client out for a drink after my day is done on the set."

"Well if you're not home, I'll feed him supper," she said. "Don't worry. Go."

They crept out of the apartment and met Devon and Leo in the hall. They all smiled at each other and headed for the elevator. It was still dark outside when they got in the SUV. Brent stifled a yawn as the car pulled out of the lot and headed for the studio.

"I should be used to this," he said. "The tours should have made this old hat."

"We're getting rusty," Skyler said with a smirk. "Just think what it'll be like when I actually go back on the road."

"Oh just shoot me now," laughed Brent.

"Nope," laughed Skyler. "You're my partner in crime, buddy."

"So which scenes are they shooting today?" Brent asked, changing the subject.

"Well I know that Neve will be filming the final Tel'aran'rhiod scenes some time today," he replied. "My first scene is the fight with Be'lal in the Stone of Tear."

"Isn't that the end of the movie?" he asked, turning to look at Skyler with wide eyes.

"It's close," replied Skyler. "After this we'll have a few more scenes to film but Renny says that the film could go to the editors as early as next week if all goes well."

"That means we can go home!" Jeff said with a huge grin on his face.

"It means we might be going home," Skyler corrected. "If this one is anything like the last there'll be a lot of extra scenes to shoot. Renny said the film might go to the editors next week. Don't count your chickens."

Once they were on the set and Skyler was in make-up, Renny came to tell them that they had a lot more to do than he'd thought. There were fifteen scenes that had to be re shot not to mention the finale and a few voice overs that Skyler still hadn't gotten to. Jeff groaned in his seat across from them as he listened.

"It won't be so bad," sighed Skyler. "We'll get through it."

"I know," said Jeff. "I just want to go home."

The first scene of the day went very well. Skyler was happy that it took only three takes to get everything that Renny wanted. He had a short break between scenes after that so he went to the other side of the studio to watch Neve and the others work. Jeff followed him but stayed at a respectful distance. Most knew about them but not everyone connected to the movie knew. Playing it safe was what it was all about.

After four scenes and a quick meeting with Laura, Skyler and Jeff were off with Brody Tanzek to have dinner and discuss his career. Laura was coming along for the initial talk but she'd promised to let Skyler do the talking and only listen.

Skyler was happy with Laura being there. She'd given him the ultimate news in their private meeting. The final deals had been done and Sky High was now completely free of Time Warner. The last movies to be shot with them were Jase's current project and the very movie Skyler was filming. Renny already knew that when they came back to film the next sequel Time Warner would not be involved at all.

"What's with the smile?" Jeff asked as he looked at him.

"I'll tell you about it soon," replied Skyler. "Don't worry."

"So tell me a little about you, Brody," Laura said with a smile. She brought their discussion to an end and Skyler was happy for that.

"Well I was born and raised here in Melbourne," replied Brody nervously. "I have three brothers, all older and spread out all over the country. I love to sing and write songs. I met Skyler for the first time last night and now we're going to dinner."

"Skyler's told me about your music," she said, smiling at him. "He's very excited about you."

"I'm happy to hear it," replied Brody. "I'm wondering why I'm here instead of the guys from the group though."

"You're here because your music is original," said Skyler. "Your friends are a cover band and though they're good I need original music."

"So you mean to sign me?" Brody asked with wide eyes.

"That's what we'll be discussing very shortly," said Skyler.

Once they were seated at the restaurant Skyler got things going by asking Brody what he wanted out of his career. He could tell that the boy was nervous but he hoped that he could put him at ease fairly quickly.

"I want it all," said Brody, looking at him evenly. "I want a recording contract, videos, concert tours, promotions and all of the rest."

"You know that a celebrity life is never very private," Skyler said.

"I know," replied Brody. "I've read so much about you that I can't imagine you can do much of anything without a reporter putting a camera in your face."

"Well if I have my way you'll be in that very same spotlight very soon," said Skyler.

"You want to manage me?" Brody asked with wide eyes.

"No," replied Skyler. "I have my own career to look after. I'll get you in the studio to record a demo for a few of the Sky High Managers to listen to and then we'll see what happens. I can almost guarantee you that you'll get a contract though. I've heard you sing."

"This is just blowing my mind a bit," said Brody as he took a sip of his water.

"Welcome to Sky High," said Skyler with a smile.

Have You Ever is a song by Brandy.

The next chapter will be posted soon.