© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 89

"Well you're finally here," said Ben, smiling as he hugged Skyler and then Jeff.

"With very little time to spare," said Jeff, as he hugged Ben back.

"I've got a video shoot in the morning," Skyler said in explanation as they got their bags and headed for Ben's SUV. "I set it up before we left Orlando. I have to meet Olivia Plent tomorrow morning at eight."

"No rest for the wicked," laughed Ben. "Chad's excited that you're here. Let me warn you, he's hyper emotional."

"I expected as much," Skyler said as they drove away from the train station. The kids had gone back to sleep once they were safely fastened into their car seats. Skyler stifled a yawn with the back of his hand.

"Cassie says he feels like everyone should be mad at him," said Ben.

"But we're not," replied Skyler. "I've been upset with him over the last few months, but never was I angry."

"We've told him that," assured Ben. "He just doesn't know how to believe it."

"Well I'll do my best to make him believe it," Skyler said.

"Jase is excited," Ben warned. "He got budget approval for the new movie. He's going to be all over you when you get to the house."

"He'll have to understand," Skyler sighed. "Chad first. Then sleep."

"Good luck with that," Ben said, laughing.

His father was right. Jase cornered him as soon as he was in the house, telling him about how he not only had budget approval but a studio to film in as well. He said that the movie was entirely cast, and as soon as the actors arrived in Los Angeles, he was ready to shoot.

"And you've got to get to writing songs for your character," he said excitedly. "You'll want to record them soon."

"I've already written the songs for my character, Jase," replied Skyler, patting his sleeping son's back as he stood there. "I'll record them as soon as we start filming. Right now, though I want to talk with Chad and then get some sleep. I have a video to shoot tomorrow morning, and I'm tired from the trip."

"All right," laughed Jase. "I'm excited. Go have some brother time and get some sleep. What time is your video shoot?"

"I have to meet Olivia at eight," he said, yawning. "She said to expect to be with her for the rest of the day. She's already got a concept in her head."

"You're letting someone decide on your video?" he asked.

"This time," he laughed.

"All right," Jase said, laughing. "Go."

Cassie helped them get the kids upstairs and in their beds. Then Jeff put his arms around Skyler, holding him tight. He knew that Skyler needed to talk with Chad, but he hoped they wouldn't be long. He was tired, and he could see the fatigue in his lovers eyes. He kissed him before letting him go with a promise to be waiting downstairs for him so they could go to bed together.

Chad was sitting in his room with a red haired woman. Skyler smiled at them when he walked in the door. She smiled back, but Chad looked nervous. Skyler didn't like that, but he knew that Chad was in a fragile state of mind. He extended his hand to the girl and introduced himself.

"Hi, I'm Skyler," he said, smiling wide. "You must be Darby."

"That's me," she said. "I just came to see if I could convince this guy that I still love him."

"Well, I'm sorry for interrupting," he said, looking from one of them to the other. "I can come back . . . "

"No," Chad said quickly. "Please stay, Sky."

"I'll leave the two of you alone," said Darby. "Chad, I'll see you later."

"It was nice to finally meet you, Darby," said Skyler, smiling at her again.

"The pleasure was mine," she replied. "I'm a fan of yours, by the way."

"Thank you," he said.

"Sky, I'm so sorry," Chad said as soon as Darby had closed the bedroom door behind her.

"Chad, don't," said Skyler as he crossed the room and pulled his brother off the bed and into his arms. "I'm not angry wit you, and I don't want you to feel sorry. I love you, Chad. I've been worried but not mad."

"I really screwed up," Chad said at the same time.

"None of that," Skyler said. "You made a mistake, Chad. Everyone makes mistakes. You're getting back on your feet now."

"I'm trying," Chad said when Skyler let go of him. "It isn't easy."

"I understand that," Skyler said, sitting beside his brother on the bed.

"I'm scared about court," sighed Chad. "I don't know what they're going to do to me."

"I'm sure it'll be all right," said Skyler. "You've never been in any trouble before. We'll work something out."

"Gonna rescue me again?" Chad asked. His eyes were filled with unshed tears and he looked miserable.

"I'm going to do anything you need, Chad," replied Skyler. "Whatever you need."

"Are you going to let me finish my album?"

"Of course I am," Skyler said quickly. "You can go back into the studio whenever you're ready."

"You mean when Dad says I can leave the house," he sighed.

"Well I think you deserve a reprieve," Skyler said. "How about going with me to my video shoot tomorrow?"

"I'd like that," he replied.

"Well it's at eight, so I'll get you up early," warned Skyler.

"I'll probably be up," Chad said, looking down at his hands in his lap. "I don't sleep well."

"Didn't the doctor give you something for that?" Skyler asked.

"Yeah, but I don't want to take it," he said. "I don't like the way it makes me feel."

"Well, you do whatever it takes to get some sleep," Skyler said. "I'm pretty tired after the trip, so I'm going to kiss the kids and hit the sack."

"Thanks, Sky," Chad said, looking down at his hands again.

"You don't have to thank me, Chad," Skyler said. "I'm your big brother. I love you."

"I love you, too," Chad said before Skyler reached over and hugged him tight.

"Get some sleep," he said, letting him go. "I'll come get you in the morning."

Jeff was waiting for him when he got back downstairs. He wrapped his arms around his lover and sighed. He felt like crying after his talk with Chad. To see his brother so broken and utterly crushed was heartbreaking. He just hoped that he could help Chad put himself together again. He wanted his little brother back.

"How is he?" Jeff asked, holding Skyler tighter.

"Not great," replied Skyler, holding in his tears. "Let's get upstairs to bed. I'm so tired."

"Let's," he said, letting go of him.

"Darby, Chad probably needs you right now," Skyler said to the red haired girl. "He's pretty down."

"I've got this," she said. "Night, Skyler."

"Good night," he said, nodding at the others before he and Jeff started up the stairs.

They crawled into bed and were asleep almost before they had a chance to lay their heads on the pillows. It was only ten, but Skyler felt like he'd been awake for a month. Jeff just snuggled closer to him and let sleep take him, and it seemed like only minutes had passed when Skyler's alarm was going off. They stretched and moaned as they got out of the bed and stumbled into the bathroom to shower together.

They were dressed and downstairs with plenty of time to have breakfast before they had to leave for the shoot. Chad was already at the breakfast table, and Skyler was pleasantly surprised to see Darby beside him. Looking at them, he was reminded of a conversation he'd had with Jeff about Chad not having someone to love him the way that he and Cassie did. He hoped that Darby was that woman. He wanted his brother back.

Two hours later, Darby accompanied them to the video shoot. She laughed and joked with Skyler while he was in make up. Then she saw the rack of costumes and started to sift through them. Chad had remained silent, but Skyler was pleased to see the beginnings of a smile on his face as he watched Darby.

"I can make better clothes than this," Darby was saying to herself as she perused the rack.

"Are you a designer?" Skyler asked, making the make up artist sigh because he'd moved his mouth.

"Well, not a professional one," she said, turning to look at his reflection in the mirror. "I've dabbled a bit."

"Got anything I can look at?" Skyler asked. Wheels turned in his head as he thought about maybe giving her a shot at designing the tour costumes if she was good enough.

"Sure, my sketch pad is in Chad's room," she said, smiling. "When you see them, be gentle."

"No worries," he said, nodding at the make up artist to begin again.

Twenty minutes later, Olivia's assistant had Skyler in front of a green screen. Skyler was going to ask what was happening, but Olivia beat him to it when she told him that the video was going to be computer generated. She was just directing him. She had him stand there in his open shirt and faded jeans while she turned on a high powered fan and then the music started.

Skyler's heart started beating faster when he started to lip sync. He was grateful for the make up as he thought about how much he must be blushing. Olivia called out to him to raise his arms as if he were falling, and then she wanted him to dance. Before he could ask, she told him to just feel the music and dance to it.

They were finished with the first part of the shooting relatively quickly. Skyler wasn't happy to learn that he could only go get lunch and then come back to finish. They all headed back to the trailer to wait while he took the make up off his face. He opted for a quick shower to hose off the sheen that Olivia's assistant had sprayed on his chest and stomach. Ten minutes later they were back in the SUV headed for lunch.

"Is that what all video shoots are like?" Darby asked when they were seated in a deli three blocks from the set. The security men had fanned out in a circle around them.

"No," said Chad. "Most of the time you just stand there and pretend to sing. Sometimes there are dancers with you or something."

"And sometimes they set up a scene and you're actually acting a bit," Skyler added.

"A lot of them are going to special effects and computer generation, though," Jeff said. "The last three that we did were computer generated."

"It was fun to watch, but you looked annoyed the whole time," Darby said to Skyler.

"He hates to lip sync," laughed Chad. "He usually makes them record the videos live."

"I'm getting better about it," Skyler said, though he was smiling at Chad.

"So what do you think will be going on when you get back?" Darby asked.

"I'm not sure," he said. "I know that she got all of the shots she needed of me lip syncing the song. I don't know what she'll need now."

But half an hour later he was back in make up, listening to Olivia describe what she wanted for the rest of the video shots. He wasn't exactly thrilled to learn that he would be suspended from cables for the next two to four hours, but he didn't want to throw a fit about it just yet.

"You'll be happy to know that all of the lip sync scenes have been shot," said Olivia, tossing her long dark locks over her shoulder. She had a way of looking at you that made her dark eyes look like they were boring into you. "They're all very good. This is the actual guts of the video. I promise that when you see the finished product, you'll be happy."

"I trust you, Olivia," he lied. What he really thought was that she might be losing her mind. He wasn't a stunt actor.

He let them hook him up in a harness that was nearly invisible. She told him that the computer boys would edit the harness out as well as the cables. He smiled at her and tried to remain calm. Then he was lifted into the air while she told him to do the dance moves he'd done earlier in the air. Skyler didn't think that was possible without the ground under his feet, but he gave it his best shot. She only barked "cut" twice while he was dancing.

He was relieved when they finally lowered him back to the ground. Quite a few people had gathered around the "closed" set to watch. He thought they'd have gotten a real show if he'd been dropped. He stood still and practiced his breathing as they extracted him from the harness. Then he was back in his trailer to get the make up off again. Olivia had said that he was free to go home now. She had what she needed.

"I'll contact you in a few days when the video is finished," she said, smiling at him. He thought the smile, lips painted ruby red to contrast her chalky face, made her look sinister. He was glad to be leaving.

He didn't say a single word to anyone until he was out of make up and in the SUV, headed out of the parking lot. His heart was still pounding from his "flying" stint, and he didn't trust his voice not to shake.

* * *

"Skyler," Laura said when he walked into the house. "I was wondering when I would see you."

"Laura, how are you feeling?" he asked as he crossed the room to hug her.

She was seated on the sofa in the family room. Ben and Tabitha were on either side of her, and Clay was sitting across from her. She was pale and drawn with a turban wrapped around her bald head. The chemo must have made her hair fall out. Skyler nearly cried when he saw how much weight she'd lost, but he knew that wasn't what she needed.

"I feel better than most days," she said, smiling at him. "That's why I asked Clay to bring me over here today. I need to talk to you about something."

"Well, do you need to talk alone?" he asked, looking at the others as he spoke.

"No, I don't think they'll be too shocked by what I'm about to say," she said. "I'd just as soon get it over with."

"Well then," he said, sitting beside clay on the couch. "What's on your mind?"

"The fact that I won't be returning to Sky High even if this is successful," she said quickly, holding up a hand to silence both him and Clay when they both started to speak. "I know what you're both going to say, but I'm looking at this realistically. I want to spend time with my nieces and nephews, Skyler. I want to go home."

"Laura, you know you can hold your position at Sky High from New York," Skyler said slowly.

"No, Skyler," she said, shaking her head slightly. "I want out of Sky High. I want out of the industry completely. Call it retirement."

"Laura, what are you saying?" Clay asked.

"I'm saying that I want to sign my stock of Sky High Entertainment over to Skyler," she said. "It was his vision, Clay. I think he should have more control over it, and I want out. It works in both of our interests."

"Laura . . . "

"Skyler," she said, cutting him off. "I own one third of Sky High Entertainment, and I want you to own my third. Now, you can either accept or I'll just will it to you, and you'll receive the shares when I die."

"I accept," he said, thinking that he'd do anything to keep her from talking about dying.

"Then all we need is my attorney," she said, smiling. "I'll call him, and we can meet with him tomorrow."

"This is all crazy," Skyler said with a sigh. "I don't even know what to say."

"There's nothing to say, Skyler," she said, smiling at him. "I love you as if you were my own son, and I want to do this. I also want out. It's time for me to be with my family."

"I agree that you should be with your family," he said. "And I love you, too, Laura. That's why this is so hard to process."

"Skyler, I've watched you grow from the embarrassed television star who never argued about anything into the mega super star that you are today," she said. Tears welled in her eyes as she spoke. "I've watched as you turned Barry Grahm on his ass, you showed Maverick that you weren't a silly little pop star and you backed Time Warner into a corner over the Clemmons movie. Skyler, you've become what it takes other decades to become in less than five years. Everyone knows your name. It doesn't matter if they like you or not. They know who you are. How many others can say that after five years in this business?"

"I've just done what I had to," he said. "I took things as they came, and I reacted to them the best way I knew how."

"That's just what I'm saying," she said. "You know this business inside and out. I think you're ready to head your own company. I don't think you need me and Clay to hold your hand anymore. Skyler, you can do this."

"Skyler, we'd talked about this when we agreed to sign on in the beginning," said Clay. "We both agreed that if either of us retired, in fact when both of us are retired you will own the entire company."

"But you're not retiring," he said to Clay.

"No," laughed Clay. "I'm not ready just yet. I've still got some go in me."

"Good," he sighed. He turned back to Laura and smiled. "Laura, I love you so much. I want you to be happy, and if this makes you happy I say do it."

"Come sit with me," she said as Tabitha got up to make a place for him.

He sat down where his mother had been and took Laura's hand in his. She smiled at him, and he saw that she wasn't crying. She was going back to New York to be with her family. He hoped that she beat the cancer. He prayed that she would live a long life. He couldn't imagine the world without Laura in it.

"When are you leaving?" he asked.

"As soon as the doctor says I can travel," she replied. "He wasn't happy with me for leaving Orlando."

"I bet not," laughed Skyler. "But you've never been one to do what the doctor orders."

"I will this time," she said, smiling at him. "Because once I get there I won't leave again."

They sat there, talking about what she would do with her new found freedom. Skyler hated to lose her, but he understood that she was tired and wanted to be with family. He knew that Gavin would be all right for him. The two were getting along really well, and Skyler already considered the man a friend. He just wished that he could still have Laura. She'd been with him since the very beginning of his career, and to lose her now felt like he was losing so much more than just an agent.

When Tabitha helped Laura upstairs to rest, Skyler sat down with Jeff in the family room to discuss what she'd said. Jeff was very attentive to the fact that Skyler was hurting over losing her in a few weeks. He was also elated that Skyler would have even more control over the company that he was responsible for founding.

"I think it's great, Sky," he said, smiling. "You're going to have all kinds of control now."

"Well I already have all kinds of control," he said. "Laura and Clay don't argue with me about much of anything. It's just going to be odd not to have Laura around."

"I can understand that," said Jeff. "She's been with you since the beginning of your career."

"Well I guess the only thing left to do is move forward," sighed Skyler.

"And what do you have planned?" Jeff asked. "Not another trip to Australia."

"No," laughed Skyler. "I'm not going back to Australia until Renny's ready to shoot again. What I'm going to do is release my album and start working on Jase's movie."

"You still haven't told me anything about that movie," Jeff replied.

"Jase asked me not to say anything to anyone," sighed Skyler. "You'll be here for the filming though, right?"

"I'm hoping so," he said. "We're supposed to talk about another album, but I really want to stop for a while."

"Then tell them so," said Skyler. "You don't have a contract anymore."

"No," he said. "And Nick wants to go solo so bad he can't see straight."

"Then tell him to work on his solo record and let you rest a while," said Skyler. "Push a little, Jeff."

"I think I will," he said. "I want to spend some time with you and the kids. I know you can't slow down in your career right now, so I'll just put the breaks on mine for a while. They have to let me. Like you said, we don't have a contract. Nick can do his solo record, and Justin can do his movie project. I'll just sit pretty and spend time you the family."

"I love you, Jeff," Skyler said, smiling at him.

"If you love me half as much as I love you then we're in trouble," laughed Jeff.

Laura's attorney came the next morning just a few minutes after they'd all had breakfast. Skyler, Laura and Clay signed the paperwork, and Laura's third of the company belonged to Skyler. It was official. They talked about a press conference to announce the change of power, but Laura told them she wasn't up to dealing with the press. She said she was free now and that's how she would remain.

Skyler noticed that her color was a bit better that day. He laughed as he thought that maybe her signing over her third of the company to him might have had something to do with that. He suspected that it was the news that she could go home as soon as air traffic resumed. From the sounds of things it wouldn't be much longer and they could take to the air again. Sure there were going to be even more strict guidelines, but at least they wouldn't be reliant upon trains and buses.

Skyler thought about those new airline rules and regulations and sighed. He thought that maybe it really would be a good idea to buy a jet. He could buy one for Sky High and likely write it off. He would be the star that used it the most though. He'd have to talk to someone about what he could get away with when it came to the jet. He didn't need a big one. He didn't plan to use it on tour.

"This is actually a great time to buy," Gavin said excitedly when Skyler mentioned wanting to buy a plane later that day. "Unfortunately with what's happened the prices have come down a bit, and there are more on the market. What size are you wanting?"

"Well I don't know," Skyler replied, shocked my Gavin's excitement. "I'd want it to be able to seat my family comfortably with a cabin in the back for sleeping."

"Sleeping for how many?" asked Gavin.

"Well I guess I'd need bunks like we have on the busses," he said. "I'd want a cabin of my own in the back of the plane, too."

"I tell you what," said Gavin. "Let me do some looking around. I'll have some information for you to look over as soon as I can."

"Thanks, Gavin," he said, smiling. "I didn't know you knew anything about planes."

"My father is a pilot for America West," replied Gavin, smiling.

"Well wonders never cease," laughed Skyler. "Thanks for this, Gavin."

"No thanks necessary," he replied with a warm smile. "So what's on your agenda? Anything I should concern myself with other than the jet?"

"Well I'm going to hold a press conference tomorrow," he said. "I was going to ask you to set that up, but I got sidetracked with the jet talk. Other than that I'm waiting for Jase to say he's ready to start shooting."

"All right," said Gavin. "I should have some information on the jet for you in a few hours. I don't know how soon you want to buy the jet. With air traffic suspended I'm not sure how you would get it here unless it's already in LA."

"Well get the information for me anyway," said Skyler. "I'll talk it over with my father and see what he has to say about it. Hopefully we'll find on that's in LA."

"Sure thing," said Gavin as he gathered his folders and put them in his briefcase. He smiled at Skyler before he left the room.

"Did I just hear you say something about buying a jet?" Jeff asked as he walked into the living room with a wide grin on his face.

"You sure did," chuckled Skyler. "I'm excited."

"Baby, you know that we can't fly anywhere in the US right now," Jeff said, putting his arms around him.

"I know that," replied Skyler. "They can't keep us grounded forever, Jeff. When air traffic resumes I want to be able to come and go as I please without booking flights."

"You'll still have to hire pilots, get clearance and all of that stuff," said Jeff, holding him tighter.

"Well sure," said Skyler before he kissed him. "But just think of how much more comfortable my jet would be than United."

"Uh huh," said Jeff, smirking at him. "So you're doing the press conference tomorrow?"

"If Gavin can set it up," he replied.

"But you've also got him tracking down information about jets for sale, right?" Jeff asked.

"He can handle it," laughed Skyler. "Quit trying to make me panic."

"All right," laughed Jeff. "What do you have up your sleeve for the rest of the day?"

"I thought we'd grab the kids and go outside and play," Skyler said, smiling.

"Sounds like a good idea to me," laughed Jeff. "I'll get the munchkins. You get the pool stuff."

"Got it," replied Skyler, kissing him before he turned and walked out of the room.

* * *

The living room was a mess. The furniture was overturned here and there. The couch was missing all of its pillows, and feathers were everywhere. There were broken picture frames, and the glass coffee table was destroyed. She'd locked herself in the bathroom, and he was pounding on the door with bloody knuckles. Blood ran down the side of his face where Mark had struck him with the framed wedding photograph. His side hurt where Mark had punched him repeatedly, and his bare torso was covered in scratches and bruises. He was standing there in his boxers.

"Come on, Shelly," he cried, pounding a fist against the door. "Open the door. He's gone now."

"Leave me alone," she cried through the door.

"It's all over now, Shel," he said. "You can come out now. Mark's gone. It's just us now."

"Go away," she cried.

He turned and looked through the living room to the door. He hoped and prayed that Mark wouldn't come back for a second round. The guy hit like a power house. His ribs hurt when he breathed in, and he was sure he'd probably have to go to the hospital to have them checked. The cut on his head was bleeding pretty good, too. He was starting to hitch with every step he took, and darkness was clouding his vision as he made his way to the bedroom to find his clothes.

He stumbled as he tried to put his pants on. The shirt was impossible, because he couldn't lift his arms over his head. He sat down, teetering on the edge of the bed and picked up the phone. He dialed 911 and told them to send an ambulance just before he lost his grip on consciousness and fell off the edge of the bed.

Shelly opened the bathroom door when she heard someone pounding on the door to the apartment. She went to the door and looked through the peep hole at the paramedic that was standing on the other side. She opened the door quickly and stepped aside. She wondered what they were doing there. She hadn't called for an ambulance.

"Are you Shelly Sanders?" asked the dark haired paramedic.

"Yes," she said. "Who called you?"

"We received a 911 call from this apartment about twenty minutes ago, Mrs. Sanders," he replied. "It was a man."

"Chris?" she called, turning away from the paramedics at the door.

She made her way through the destroyed living room to the bedroom and found him laying face down on the floor. She gasped when she saw him, and then she was shoved aside as the paramedics entered the bedroom. They checked for a pulse and found one. Next they gingerly turned the man onto his back and started to treat his injuries.

Shelly couldn't believe Mark had done this. She was so ashamed, but Mark had become so violent. He'd scared her nearly to death when he started screaming at them. Then he was beating Chris like he was a madman. She shivered as she thought about it and pulled her bathrobe tighter around her. She wondered where Mark was.

* * *

Skyler and Jeff were just coming downstairs from putting the children to bed when Mark came in the front door. One look at him was enough to tell Skyler that something was terribly wrong. He went to him quickly with Jeff right behind him. Mark swayed where he stood for a second and then looked at them.

"I beat him nearly to death," he moaned as he nearly collapsed.

"Mark!" Skyler cried, catching him before he fell.

"I don't feel so good, Sky," Mark said before his eyes closed and his body went limp.

"Let's get him into the living room," said Jeff as Brent and Matt came into the hall.

"We've got him," said Matt as he and Brent took Mark's unconscious form out of Skyler's arms. They moved quickly and lay him on the couch in the living room.

"Do you want us to call 911?" Brent asked as Jeff and Skyler came into the room.

"Not yet," Skyler said. "Can you check him over?"

"Sure," said Brent. "I think we should call . . . "

"Check him, Brent," Skyler said quickly, cutting the man off.

Brent used his medical training to check Mark over. He didn't have many injuries. His knuckles were bloody, and his left eye was swollen and dark. Brent thought he might have a concussion, but he had no way to know. They had to call 911 and soon. Mark may have needed more medical attention than Brent's two years of medical school could give him. Then Mark opened his eyes.

"Brent?" he asked, trying to sit up.

"Don't sit up," Brent said quickly. "You're hurt."

"Just in shock, I think," he said. He sat up and swung his legs around so that he could plant his feet on the floor. He looked at his worried friends and tried to smile. "It's not as bad as it looks. The police will probably come looking for me soon though."

"The police?" Skyler asked.

"I guess I should explain all of it," sighed Mark. "I just got back from Burbank this evening. I went home and found Shelly in bed with Chris Kirkpatrick. I guess I went a little nuts. I beat him pretty badly."

"Chris?" Skyler asked with shock clear in his voice.

"Yeah," said Mark. "I didn't touch Shelly, though."

"Skyler," said Dianne as she came into the room, "Shelly's on the phone." Her eyes focused on Mark, and she gasped. "What's happened?"

"Dianne, call my dad and ask him to come here," he said in reply as he moved through the room toward the doorway. "And call Gavin and Clay. I'll need both of them, too."

"I should leave," Mark said as he tried to sit up again. Brent pushed him back down onto the couch.

"You're staying put, Mark," said Skyler. "In a little bit we'll take you the hospital to have you checked out."

"Sky, I don't need a hospital," Mark argued.

"Humor me, tough guy," Skyler said, smirking at him. With a sigh, Mark lay back on the couch, covering his face with his arms.

Skyler couldn't believe this was happening. Chris Kirkpatrick? He was confused. He knew he'd have to talk to Shelly to find out how it happened. Mark had said that she'd been in bed with Chris when he came home. Skyler couldn't believe it. He'd believed that Shelly only had eyes for Mark, but Chris Kirkpatrick?

They waited for Gavin and Clay to arrive in silence. Ben came shortly after Dianne called him. He took one look at Mark and started asking Skyler what had happened. Skyler did his best to tell him, but it was all still too shocking. Ben settled in to wait for Gavin and Clay along with the others.

When Gavin and Clay arrived they wanted answers. Clay didn't really have much to say, because Mark wasn't his client. With Laura's retirement, Gavin had become his agent. He asked questions about the entire event and listened quietly to Mark as he told him the details. When Mark stopped talking, Gavin was on his phone. Then he told Mark that he had to go to the hospital to be checked out.

"Skyler, I imagine you'll be wanting to come along," Gavin said as he came to stand in front of him.

"Yes," Skyler said, nodding.

"Well I'll tell you now that so far the press doesn't have this story," said Gavin. "As long as they don't catch it from one on the hospital staff then I might be able to get things to just end quietly."

"What do you mean?" Skyler asked.

"Let's talk about it on the way to the hospital," replied Gavin.

Mark insisted on walking to the SUV, and Skyler didn't argue. Gavin talked quietly with Dianne for a moment before he followed them out the door to the garage. With security along they had to take two vehicles. Ben and Clay rode with Skyler, Gavin and Mark. None of them said a word until they were on the street. Then it was only Gavin telling Brent to take them to UCLA Medical Center.

Skyler was happy to find no press waiting for them at the hospital. They walked in with no trouble, and Mark was taken back to a room to be examined. Skyler followed him. Then the trouble started quickly. Skyler was only paying attention to what the nurse was saying. He wasn't watching the other patients and visitors.

"Skyler," said a voice that he was very familiar with and didn't want to hear. He turned around to face JC Chasez and sighed.

"What are you doing here?" he asked as Brent and Matt came to stand on either side of him.

"I'm here with my friend," JC said hatefully.

"Well I'm here with mine," Skyler replied. "What do you want?"

"Are you happy with what Mark did to Chris?" JC demanded.

"JC this is none of your business," Skyler said quietly. The last thing he needed was for the press to be called to the hospital because of a confrontation with JC.

"Oh it's my business," he snapped. "I want to know what the fuck you think you're doing here?"

"I told you what I'm doing here," Skyler snapped back. "I don't think you need to talk to me, JC. I think you need to go back to Chris's room and shut the hell up. This isn't about you and me. This is about Mark and Chris. I'm standing beside my friend. Go stand beside yours."

"No, I don't think so," JC said, taking a step closer. He stopped when both Brent and Matt took a step closer to him. "First you convince Justin to break up our group and go solo on your label. Now you've got your friend pounding the shit out of mine. You tell me how this has nothing to do with us."

"I don't have to tell you anything," Skyler said. "Your head is so swelled you think everything I do has something to do with you. Go to hell, JC."

"Mr. Chasez," said Gavin as he came back from the room they'd taken Mark to. "I'd like to have a word with you and Mr. Kirkpatrick."

"Who the fuck are you?" snapped JC.

"My name is Gavin Hunter," he replied calmly. "I'm Mark's agent, and I have something to discuss with you and your friend that may be in his best interest. It's in yours to take me to him. Or did you want the press to find out about what really happened here?"

"What the hell are you talking about?" JC hissed.

"I'm talking about where your friend was found and what he was doing before my client arrived on the scene," Gavin said calmly. "The press doesn't have that story. Yet."

"Are you threatening . . . "

"Make no mistake, Mr. Chasez," Gavin said, cutting him off. "I work for Sky High Entertainment. I don't work for you or your friend. My job is to make sure my client has a career and is safe from attacks such as this one. Now you will take me to Mr. Kirkpatrick, or I will call a few friends and this story will be everywhere. How upset do you think the world will be with Mark for attacking the man that slept with his wife?"

"You wouldn't," said JC.

"I would," replied Gavin. "This won't hurt Mark's career, but can you say the same for Mr. Kirkpatrick?"

"Come with me," said JC coldly after a moment.

"Matt, if you would accompany me," said Gavin.

Skyler stood with Brent as Jeff came to stand beside them and watched as Gavin and Matt followed JC back to Chris's room. Skyler sighed as he turned to face Jeff. They looked at each other for a moment before following Clay to Mark's room. Skyler hadn't realized that Gavin could play so dirty, but he was suddenly very happy to have the man on his staff.

He followed Jeff to Mark's room and was surprised to find Shelly there. He hadn't noticed when she'd come into the hospital, but he'd been a little busy with JC at the time. He didn't know what to say to her, and it was clear that Mark was having a similar problem from the look on his face.

"Mark, please," she said without looking at the newcomers. "I love you."

"You love me?" Mark asked, turning to face her. "Don't stand there and lie to me, Shelly. I saw you!"

"Mark, it meant nothing to me," she said. Tears ran down from her eyes as she looked at him. "Please."

"You make me sick, Shelly," Mark spat. "The thought of that bastard touching you makes me want to kill him all over again. Why? Why did you do this?"

"You're never home, Mark," she said softly. "You're always on location somewhere, and you never want me to go with you. Chris was a friend . . . "

"A friend?" Mark said, shaking his head. "He looked like so much more than a friend when I came home."

"Mark . . . "

"No," he said. "You slept with him! From the things you were saying to each other I know that this wasn't even the first time, Shelly. You can't stand there and tell me that you love me when you've been sleeping with another man for God knows how long. You're sickening to me, Shelly. I can't even look at you without feeling sick."

"We can get through this, Mark," she pleaded.

"I don't want to get through this, Shelly," he said. "You tore my heart out and stomped on it. You chose the one person you knew would hurt me the most. I hated him before, Shelly. Now I can't even describe the feeling I have when I even think of him. Get out."

"Mark . . . "

"Just get out, Shelly," he said, turning his head. "We're done. I'll stay with Sky for a while, and my lawyer will contact you. I don't even want to hear your voice."

* * *

"Who the hell are you?" Chris asked as Gavin walked into the room with Matt and JC.

"My name is Gavin Hunter," replied Gavin. "I'm Mark Sanders's agent, Mr. Kirkpatrick. I've come to discuss something with you."

"Get out!" Chris yelled. "I don't want you here."

"Well I'm afraid you're going to have to listen to what I have to say for a few minutes," Gavin said. "JC can tell you that it's worth your time."

"Just hear him out, Chris," JC said, glaring at Gavin.

"I have a broken rib and a concussion because of your client, Mr. Hunter," snapped Chris. "Why should I listen to you? Tell me why I shouldn't be talking to the police."

"Because it would be the worst possible thing you could do," said Gavin calmly. "Yes, you're beat up. I can see that. And you have every right in the world to wallow in self pity, but if you pick up that phone and call the police you'll be sorry. If anyone on your staff so much as gives an interview about Mark Sanders you will be sorry."

"What the fuck?" Chris demanded of JC. "You brought this man in here to threaten me? And with a goon no less?"

"Chris, calm down and listen," JC said quickly.

"This is about Skyler Thomas isn't it?" snapped Chris, making JC wince. "You're still so fucking wrapped up in your obsession with Skyler that you're taking it out on me after his friend used me for a punching bag? That's sick, Josh."

"That's not fair, Chris," JC said. "This has nothing to do with Skyler. This is about you and Mark. Nothing more."

"So you bring Mark's agent in here to threaten me?" Chris asked.

"Mr. Kirkpatrick, if you're done with your tantrum I have other business to attend to," Gavin said with a sigh. "I have clients to look out for other than Mark Sanders. This isn't going to be pleasant for you, but if you just let me get out what it is I came to say you can go back to pitying yourself."

"What the fuck do you want?" Chris asked with a sigh.

"I want to tell you that the press doesn't have the story of you sleeping with Mark's wife," said Gavin. "No one has told the press anything so far. Now I want you to think about what it will mean if the press gets their hands on that story, Chris. Will it be in your favor? I don't think so. No, what I think is that the world will side with Mark. After all you were sleeping with his wife. That's adultery. That's not really in holding with what your musical group is supposed to stand for.

"No," Gavin went on. "I think if they get this story you'll be one unliked guy. So I tell you what. I'm going to make a deal with you. If you don't press charges on Mark Sanders, I won't call the press and tell them exactly what happened. If you can't let it go and just take the beating you so deserved, then you'll be sitting in the middle of a press shit storm within twelve hours."

"Get out," Chris said, turning his head.

"Make no mistake, Mr. Kirkpatrick," Gavin said quickly. "This is not an idle threat. If you press charges, I will tell the press everything. This is cause and effect. Think about that."

* * *

"I guess I should have asked you first," Mark said, smiling. It was the first smile Skyler had seen on his face since he'd walked into the house all bloody and staggering.

"You never have to ask, Mark," Skyler said. "You're more than welcome to stay with me for however long you want. I'm about to start filming in the city, so I'll be here for a while."

"Thanks, Sky," Mark said, putting his head down. "You're my best friend."

"And I always will be," Skyler said just as the doctor came in to look Mark over.

Skyler stood in the hall with Brent and Jeff while the doctor examined his friend. Gavin came back with a smile on his face. He asked what was happening and Skyler quickly told him that Mark and Shelly were evidently getting a divorce, and Mark was moving into the house with him.

"I think I've got Mr. Kirkpatrick on the right track as well," said Gavin. "He's thinking it over."

"If he knows what's good for him he'll keep his mouth shut," said Matt.

"This is Chris Kirkpatrick we're talking about," Skyler reminded them.

"I'm releasing your friend," said the grey haired doctor as he came into the hall. "There's nothing really wrong with him that would keep him here. He's got a few cuts and scrapes on his knuckles, a few scrapes on his torso and a black eye. However, there's no tissue damage, and the scrapes will heal. His eye will be fine."

"Thank you, Doctor," said Skyler. "How soon can we take him home?"

"As soon as the nurse comes back with his discharge paperwork and prescriptions," said the doctor with a smile.

They got Mark back to the house and in one of the spare bedrooms to rest. The prescription was for pain medicine, and Mark was sleepy shortly after he took the first pill. Skyler sat with Jeff, Gavin, Diane and his father in the living room. Clay had gone to his apartment for the night.

"That was interesting," Ben said when they were all seated in the living room.

"Unexpected," Skyler sighed.

"Blondie, around us the unexpected happens every day," Jeff chuckled.

"At least Mark is all right," said Skyler. "I don't suggest anyone ask him anything about what happened for a while. If he wants to talk that's one thing."

"We won't push," said Ben.

"You have a press conference at nine in the morning, Skyler," Dianne reminded.

"Yes," he sighed. "I guess it is getting late."

"Well then I guess I should get back to the house," Ben said. "Tabitha will be wanting to know what happened. I'll see you in the morning."

"Night, Dad," Skyler said as Jeff took his hand.

"Dianne, Gavin," said Jeff. "Thanks for tonight."

"Oh you have no need to thank us," said Gavin. "Just looking out for my clients."

"All part of the job," Dianne said, smiling.

"Dianne, take tomorrow off," Skyler said. "I'll have Gavin with me, and Clay will be there. If there's anything I need to know about I'm sure the two of them can keep me up to speed."

"Thanks, Sky," she said, standing to hug him. "My boys. You're all getting into one thing or another all the time."

Skyler thought about the days that she had been their waitress in the diner before all of this had become his reality and smiled. She really was a great woman.

The next chapter will be posted soon.