© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 4


If it hadn't been for the sun streaming through his window and into his eyes Skyler would have ignored the alarm when it went off. He slapped the alarm clock to shut it up and rolled over facing away from the windows. Today was the day that he was supposed to lip sync the song on camera for the show, and he wasn't looking forward to it.

He didn't mind singing in front of people. He'd actually gotten used to that since he'd been at Barry's practically every night for a week singing all sorts of songs so Barry could record them and coach him on things when they played them back. It was pretending to sing that he was having trouble with. He didn't understand it though. It didn't bother him to act in front of the camera, so why should lip syncing bother him so much.

He'd talked to Laura about it, and she couldn't explain it either. He knew that he couldn't get out of it, because he'd signed the contract. Even if he hadn't he'd given his word. That was even more powerful, in his opinion than a signed contract. Skyler hated to go back on his word to anyone for any reason. That meant that he'd have to get through this scene somehow.

Mark had called the night before to tell him how excited everyone was to see Skyler's first episode. It had aired Wednesday night, and Mark said that the entire dorm had gathered in the common room to watch. He said that Linda, Shelly and Sarah had even come to watch with him. He talked about every scene that Skyler was in and told him how proud he was of him.

Skyler had told Mark about the song and what was happening with Barry. Mark had been excited about that too. He agreed that Skyler should give singing a chance, and he was ecstatic to learn that Skyler would be singing a song on the show. When Skyler told him of his problem with lip syncing it Mark had no advice to give him. He was still too excited about Skyler actually singing on the show. He didn't care if it was lip synced or not. All he cared about was that he would hear him sing.

What was also on his mind was that after shooting the season finale Barry wanted him to work on an entire album. He had three more days of shooting to get through and then the cast would break for hiatus, but Skyler knew that Barry would have him working throughout the summer on music. He still wasn't sure about doing an album. He didn't even know if he could write a song. He'd never tried. Barry had told him that he had songwriters for that, but Skyler still wasn't convinced.

He glanced at the clock and hurried out of bed. He showered quickly and got dressed. He was meeting Kristy Swanson for breakfast at the deli that she, himself and Brian ate at nearly every day for lunch. He didn't want to be late. He and Kristy had liked each other from the moment they met. They were getting close fairly quickly, and Skyler loved being around her. He liked Brian too, but Kristy was the one he felt he could talk to. He'd caught himself almost telling her that he was gay already. That had made him nervous, but he wasn't about to shun Kristy for fear that he would reveal too much.

She was already there when he got to the diner. She smiled when she saw him and stood to hug him when he got to the table. He ordered a bagel and hot chocolate when the waiter came over to the table, and then Kristy was telling him all about the ratings for what she called "his episode." It seemed that they'd had higher ratings than usual the night that Skyler had debuted on the show. He didn't know if he should be happy about that or not.

"You're awful quiet," she said after he hadn't said anything for a while.

"This is going to be a bad day for me," he told her before taking a sip rom his cup. He'd never liked coffee, but he thought he might need something stronger than his usual hot chocolate to get through this. He asked the waiter to bring him a cup of coffee when he came by the table again.

"It must be a bad day already," she said whent he cup was put in front of Skyler. "I didn't think you liked coffee."

"I don't," he said, raising the cup to take a sip. "I just need something to boost my energy today."

"This is the day of your lip sync scene huh," she inquired, giving him an understanding look.

"Yes," he sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "I just don't feel comfortable lip syncing."

"Have you figured out why you feel so wrong about it?" she asked.

"No, and it doesn't make sense," he replied.

"It doesn't have to make sense to feel wrong, Sky," she said, touching his arm.

"To top it off Barry told me last night that he's collecting songs for me to sing on the album," he said, picking pieces out of his bagel. "He wants me to start recording right after we shoot the finale."

"You're not comfortable with that," she said, shaking her head. "Sky, you have an amazing voice. We've all heard the demo. I think you'd make a great singer."

"That's what Laura and Barry keep saying," he replied. "I don't have a problem with recording the album, Kristy. It's the touring they keep mentioning that has me ready to run away in fear."

"I've seen you at your personal appearances, Sky," she said, smiling. "You're great with fans."

"That's different," he insisted. "All I have to do is talk to them. I'm not singing for them."

"I don't know what to say to that," she said, glancing at her watch. "I really have to get over there though. Are you going to stay here for a bit?"

"Yeah," he sighed, gripping his coffee. "I'm not due in there for another hour. I'll sit here and fester a bit longer."

"Don't sit here and fester too long," she laughed. "I'll send Brian after you if you do."

He sat there after kissing Kristy on the cheek before she left, staring into his coffee cup. He didn't know how he would ever make Laura and Barry understand that he just didn't think he could sing in front of people. He had to think of something or else he'd be on the road and at his first concert before he knew it.

"Hey, Zack," he heard from the next table. He looked up as the bus boy came over to remove Kristy's coffee cup.

"Hi, Phil," said the bus boy, who apparently was named Zack. He was at least six feet tall with light brown hair and sky blue eyes. His body was lean, and Skyler was reminded of Mark when he looked at him for some reason.

"Did you and Dale work things out?" asked the guy named Phil from the other table. Skyler hadn't even looked over at him. He'd gone back to staring at his coffee, but he heard their conversation.

"No," sighed Zack, walking over to Phil's table. "He says he's found someone else. He wants me out of the apartment in a week."

"That's not fair," said Phil. "It was your apartment."

"Yeah, but the lease is in his name," replied Zack in a defeated tone. "I'm searching for a place to move fast."

"Can you afford to live on your own?" asked Phil.

"No," he replied. "You'd think I'd have found a job in my field by now. Sometimes I wish I had never graduated from college."

"You'll find something eventually," said Phil. "Have you thought about a roommate?"

"Everyone I know is either attached or already has a roommate," he said. "I might have to go back to Nebraska."

Skyler looked up again when he heard that. He wasn't trying to listen, but they weren't exactly being very quiet. He'd deduced that Zack was gay and that this Dale had been his boyfriend. From what he could figure out by the conversation, Dale had broken up with Zack and was throwing him out. Something about that sat wrong with Skyler. When Zack had said something about having to move back to Nebraska Skyler felt for him. He wondered what his field was, and he hoped that he found somewhere to live.

Then an idea struck him. He needed someone to look after the apartment while he was traveling. Sure he wouldn't ask Zack to be a housekeeper. That might insult him, but maybe he could rent him a room. He would actually give him the spare bedroom if he consented to watching over the apartment while Skyler was gone.

When Skyler looked up again Zack wasn't anywhere to be found. The table next to his was empty, so he figured out that Phil had left while he was thinking and Zack had gotten back to work. He'd have to think about inviting the guy to stay with him. After all he didn't know him at all. Up until he'd heard his name mentioned he hadn't even known his name.

* * *

"This isn't working," he sighed after trying for the fourth time to get through the scene, lip syncing the song they now called "Alone". It wasn't that he couldn't remember the words. He'd been singing the song in his head for days. He just couldn't lip sync it. He still didn't understand why, but he wished they would just let him sing it for real.

"Skyler," sighed Martin Blacklidge, a portly man with thinning blond hair that was almost white and watery blue eyes. He was the director for the show, and Skyler knew he was getting frustrated with him. "What's the problem? You know the words. It's your song, but you can't get through this scene."

"I'm having trouble with the lip syncing, Martin," admitted Skyler for the third time. "I wish you would just let me sing the song for real."

Martin thought about that for a moment. There was nothing saying that he couldn't have Skyler sing the song on camera. Laura and Milton had said nothing about it. He knew the kid was now a client of Barry Graham's, but Graham hadn't said he couldn't sing the song on camera. All he'd have to do was get the sheet music for Gabriel, the one pretending to play the piano. The guy could really play so it wouldn't take any longer than it already had to get through the song if he let Skyler sing it for real.

"I need the sheet music for this song," he called over his shoulder. "Find it for the piano. Gabriel, you're going to play the song for real and Skyler, as soon as I get you a hand held mic you're going to sing."

Skyler sighed with relief. He knew he could get through the song if they just let him sing it for real. He couldn't believe that he was fighting for that though. He was nervous about singing in front of them. Kristy, Brian and Gabrielle were all seated at the tables that had been set up for the scene along with other actors for the scene and the extras. They were all tired, and if his voice cracked he knew he'd never get over the embarrassment.

Martin handed Gabriel the sheet music and a mic to Skyler. When Martin said to start Gabriel started playing the song. It sounded a bit different with only the piano, but Skyler sang it with just as much emotion as he could. He did notice that he kept up with the music in a way that he'd not noticed any other time he'd sang the song, and by the end of the song he was sure that he'd done a good job. All of the actors were clapping, and Martin was staring at him.

"Cut," he said, and then he smiled.

"My God, Sky," said Kristy, coming over to him. "I love to hear you sing!"

"I told them it would be easier if I just did it for real," he said, smiling. "How'd it sound?"

"Awesome," said Brian, stepping up beside Kristy. "When are they releasing the single?"

"As soon as this episode airs," he replied, smiling. He was actually kind of excited about the prospect of releasing the single. After all it wasn't recording that scared him it was singing for people. He'd done it that day though, and he hadn't even thought about it. He'd only been thinking about finishing the scene.

"I bet it hits number one," said Gabrielle, who Skyler hadn't realized had joined them until that moment. She was a bit shorter than Kristy with long curly blond hair and bright blue eyes. She was smiling from ear to ear. "It was awesome."

"Thanks, guys," he said. "Now if you'll excuse me I want out of these clothes."

The others laughed as he hopped off of the platform and walked toward his dressing room. He was thrilled with their response to his singing, and he couldn't wait to see the episode. He was done filming for the day, and he only had six scenes left to film before he was done for the season. The last scene he had to film was the final scene of the finale. They were filming it in three days, and almost the entire cast would be in the scene.

"I heard you singing," said Laura, falling in step beside him as he walked. "You sounded great."

"Thanks," he said. "I just have to change, and then I'll be ready to leave. Are you doing anything this evening?"

"No," she replied. "Barry and Joel are working with Cory tonight, so you're free too."

"Why don't you come over to the apartment," he asked, thinking of Zack. "I have something I'd like to discuss with you."

"All right," she said. "You get changed and I'll meet you downstairs. I need to talk to Gabrielle for a few minutes."

"See you in a bit," he said as they reached his dressing room.

He wasted no time changing out of the wardrobe. The tux they had him in was just a bit too tight. He didn't mind wearing one, but he didn't understand why just about everything they had for his character was so tight on him. He had been meaning to say something to James about that. It kept slipping his mind though with all of the talk about recording an album and having to sing in front of people.

Once he was dressed in his own clothes again he met Laura downstairs in the lobby of the building. Gabrielle was just walking away from her, so Skyler guessed they were done talking. He smiled and the two of them walked out of the building together. She talked about how good the singing had been the whole way to the parking garage.

"So what did you want to talk to me about?" she asked when they were in her SUV. "I hope you're not wanting to change your mind about the album."

"No nothing like that," he assured her. "I'm thinking of taking on a roommate or something like that."

"Anyone I know?" she asked, pulling the SUV out into traffic and heading toward Skyler's apartement building.

"I'm not sure if you know him or not," he said. "He's a bus boy at the deli."

"I didn't know you were friendly with any of the staff over there," she said. "A lot of us know them by name because we eat there so much. Which bus boy?"

"Well I don't even know him," he admitted. "His name is Zack, but I only know that because I heard him called by name today."

"What makes you think he's in need of a roommate?" she asked. "The last I heard, he was living with his boyfriend."

"Right," said Skyler. "From the conversation I overheard today I know that he and his boyfriend have broken up, and he has to be out of their apartment in a week. Now I was thinking of asking him to be sort of like my apartment sitter when I have to travel and stuff, and if he agrees to some light cleaning and stuff I'd be willing to give him the spare bedroom for payment."

"Why are you asking me if you can do this?" she asked. "Zack's a nice guy, and I'm sure he'd appreciate your help. I just don't know why you would want to move him in if you don't know him at all."

"Well I want to help him," he said, and for the first time he wondered exactly why he wanted to help the guy so badly. He didn't know him at all, and until Laura said that he was a nice guy, he didn't even know that much. He'd never even so much as spoken to him before.

"OK, but why are you asking me if you can move him in? It's your apartment," she said.

"Well we discussed my feelings toward homosexuals, but I just wanted to make sure that it was all right with you if I moved Zack in with me," he said.

"Because he's gay?" she asked. "Well I can understand that. You have two new careers just starting, and you're worried about what people will say about Zack living with you."

"Exactly," he said. "I just don't feel right about worrying about it."

"I don't see it as a problem," she said after a moment. "And don't feel bad about worrying over it. That just shows that you're looking out for your career. I'll have to have a confidentiality agreement drawn up though. I was meaning to talk to you about that. Barry requires that anyone who works for one of his clients in any way sign an agreement."

"Do you think Zack would sign one?" he asked. He'd never even thought about such a thing. He had no idea what Zack could possibly disclose about him in the first place. He wasn't planning on telling him he was gay or anything.

"You won't even know if he'll move in unless you talk to him," she said.

"All right," he said. "Can you have the agreement drawn up by the end of the week?"

"Sure," she said. "I'll contact the agency's lawyer and it should be ready by tomorrow afternoon."

"Thanks," he said.

They ate dinner in Skyler's apartment while she talked about the album. She told him that Barry had seven songs for him to look over, and one of them was a cover of an older song that he'd probably never heard of. She said she hadn't heard it, and she didn't know the name of it. Barry was planning to talk to him about that the following day.

"You have to record 'Alone' all over again too," she said. "We gained permission to add it to the album, but whichever record company signs you will require that it be recorded in their studio."

"We can get away with that?" he asked.

"Sure," she said. "Barry's already purchased the rights to the song for you. We just have to credit the writer on the album."

"Who wrote the song?" he asked.

"Mitch," she told him. "He writes just about all of the music for the show."

"He wrote a great song," he said.

"And he was greatly compensated," she commented.

The next morning Skyler didn't make it to the deli. He had a seven AM scene to film, and after that he had touch ups to take care of. He was on the set most of the day. By the time he was done, he was sure that Zack was already off work, but he went to the deli anyway. He was hungry, so he figured he could at least eat something.

To his surprise Zack was working. He was busing tables when Skyler walked in. He smiled at Skyler and told him he'd have a table cleared for him in a second. Skyler smiled back and tried to figure out how to ask him if he wanted to move into the apartment. Zack was off to another table so fast after he cleaned Skyler's that he didn't have a chance, but when he came back out of the back he wasn't wearing an apron, so Skyler knew he was off work.

"Zack," he said as he passed the table. "Do you have a second?"

"Sure," said Zack with a puzzled expression. "How did you know my name?"

"I heard your friend call you by name the other day," he replied. "Have a seat."

"You're Skyler Thomas right?" asked Zack as he sat across from him at the table.

"That's me," replied Skyler with a smile.

"I watch the show," said Zack, smiling back at him.

"A fan?"

"Not until recently," laughed Zack. "My friends all told me that I had to watch now that you're on the show."

"Oh," said Skyler, blushing. "Well thanks."

"So what did you want to talk to me about?" asked Zack.

"Well, you'll have to forgive me, but I overheard the conversation you were having with your friend the other day," Skyler began. "I don't know if you're even still looking but I have an extra bedroom in my apartment, and I was wondering if you'd like to move in."

"You don't even know me," replied Zack, looking at him strangely.

"Well no I don't," he admitted. "But my agent seems to, and she said you're a nice guy and I thought I'd help out if I could."

"It's not every day that one of the stars comes in here and offers me a room in their apartment," laughed Zack.

"Well I'd be willing to let you have the room rent free if you would be interested in apartment sitting when I have to travel and cleaning up a little here and there while I'm working," said Skyler. "To tell you the truth the place is so big, and I'm not used to all of the solitude."

"Could I come and see the apartment?" he asked.

"Sure," replied Skyler. "When would you like to see it?"

"Well if you heard the conversation then you know I don't have a lot of time to get out of where I am," he said. "Could I see it tonight?"

"That's fine with me," said Skyler. "We can head over right now."

"You haven't even ordered food yet," laughed Zack. "Didn't you come to eat?"

"Well yes, but I didn't think you'd want to sit and wait for me to eat," said Skyler with another blush.

"Actually I don't mind," said Zack. "I'll order something too. I haven't eaten since lunch, and I'm hungry."

They both ordered sandwiches and sodas, and they talked both while they waited for the food and while they ate. Zack told Skyler that he'd graduated from a technical college a year ago, his field was electronic engineering. He hadn't been able to find a decent job in the field since leaving school. To make ends meet he'd taken the job at the deli. He said that what he made at the deli wasn't really enough to rent a decent apartment, and he was thinking about renting a room at one of the motels for a while until he got on his feet better.

Skyler told him all he expected out of him if he took the room. Zack said that he could live with light cleaning as long as Skyler wasn't a slob, and they laughed over that for a bit. He also said that apartment sitting wasn't a problem since he'd be living there if he took the room anyway. He told Skyler that he wasn't really the partying type, and he spent most of his time at home. He did like to have friends over from time to time, but he wouldn't have more than three over at a time without permission. He even said that he had no problem signing a confidentiality agreement.

"You do know that I'm gay right?" asked Zack as they were waiting for a cab.

"I got that from the conversation the other day too," said Skyler. "I'm not worried about that though. Your sexuality is your business."

"As long as it isn't going to be a problem for you," he said. "I don't want to live with anyone who can't handle it."

"I can handle it if you don't throw it in my face," Skyler said. "Who you date is also your business, and I won't throw a fit over every day affection. Kissing and stuff like that is fine, but anything overtly sexual should happen in your room."

"I can live with that," said Zack with a smile. "I'm surprised that you're so laid back about it."

"Well tolerance is something that everyone should learn," said Skyler. "I don't judge people until they give me a reason to. Even then I wouldn't judge them for their sexuality."

"You seem like a pretty cool guy," said Zack as a cab pulled up in front of them.

They were silent almost the whole way to Skyler's apartment. Skyler was feeling guilty about making it sound like he wasn't gay, but he couldn't say anything to Zack about it until the confidentiality agreement was signed. Even then he still wasn't ready to come out to anyone. He was having trouble with that. He didn't understand why he felt he had to hide his sexuality from other gay men. If anyone would be accepting it would be another homosexual.

When they got out in front of Skyler's building, Zack whistled as he looked up at the top of the building. Skyler chuckled and told him he'd had a similar reaction when he'd first seen the place. He told him that he lived on the tenth floor, and then he introduced Zack to the evening doorman. He told Hank, the doorman, that Zack might be moving in. Hank shook Zack's hand and told him that he would love it in the building.

"Wow," gasped Zack when Skyler opened the door to the apartment and they went inside. "This place is awesome."

"You should have seen me the first time I walked into this place," laughed Skyler. "I was a little intimidated by the size."

"Where did you live before you moved in here?" asked Zack as he followed Skyler to the kitchen.

"In a dorm room about the size of my walk-in closet," he laughed. "This is my first job in show business. Before the casting director asked me to audition I'd never even thought about becoming an actor."

"Really?" asked Zack. "I would have thought you'd been acting for a while. You're really good."

"Thanks," he replied. "Do you want something to drink?"

"What do you have?"

"Water, juice and soda at the moment," said Skyler, opening the fridge.

"Water will be fine thanks," said Zack.

Skyler gave Zack a tour of the apartment that ended with the room he would be sleeping in if he decided to move in. He told him that he had free access to the entire apartment whenever he wanted. He only asked that he knock before coming into his room as he would do in return. Zack clearly liked the size of the bedroom, and he said he was happy that it was already furnished because he had nothing to move but his clothes and a few odds and ends.

"Well what do you think?" asked Skyler when they got back to the living room.

"You're definitely not a slob," laughed Zack. "I can't believe you're offering me the room like this. It's like a dream."

"Well the room is yours if you want it, and you can move in as soon as the agreement is signed," said Skyler. "I'll have it in my hand tomorrow afternoon. I'm not sure what time I'll get out of the studio tomorrow, but if you're at the deli I can just bring it over when I have a break."

"I'm off tomorrow," replied Zack. "But I can give you my pager number and you can page me. I'll call you back, and we can meet at the deli."

"So you'll take the room?" he asked.

"I'll take the room and take care of the apartment," said Zack, smiling. "You don't expect me to quit my job though, right?"

"Not at all," said Skyler. "All I'm offering is the room for your services like cleaning and looking after things. I don't know how long I'll have a role on the show, so I don't want to start paying you a salary unless I know I can continue permanently."

"Sounds good then," said Zack. "I can move in tomorrow night then?"

"As long as the agreement is signed," said Skyler.

"That won't be a problem," he said. "You've got yourself a roommate slash housekeeper."

Skyler insisted on paying for Zack's cab when he was ready to leave, and when he came back upstairs after seeing him off he felt better about living in the apartment. It would be nice to have someone around to talk to, and he thought Zack was a good guy. He was certainly attractive, but Skyler didn't want a romantic relationship with him.

He called Mark when he got back inside the apartment and told him all about singing the song for the scene. Mark told him he couldn't wait to see the episode, and he nearly broke Skyler's ear drum when Skyler told him they were releasing the song as a single. He told him that Barry wanted him to make a video for the song.

"So then you'll be on MTV," laughed Mark. "Boy you sure are getting success, and you said you wouldn't even get the part!"

"Yeah laugh now, but Laura still asks me if you've changed your mind about coming to New York," he replied.

"I just don't think I'm cut out for that stuff, Sky," said Mark.

"I didn't think I was,either," reminded Skyler. "I still don't half of the time."

"Yeah well you just want me there so you don't have to live alone," chuckled Mark.

"Actually after tomorrow I won't be living alone anymore," said Skyler. "I found a roommate."

"Really?" asked Mark. "Someone from the show?"

"No he's a bus boy at the deli where we all eat," said Skyler. "His name is Zack and his boyfriend is throwing him out. I offered him my spare bedroom in exchange for cleaning the apartment and taking care of things once I start traveling."

"So you've decided to do the album and the tour?" asked Mark. "I thought you were still thinking that over."

"Well the album is a definite, but I'm still scared of the tour," he replied. "But after singing the song in front of everyone today I think I might survive it."

"You know how to block everyone out, Sky," said Mark. "It's just like you taught me when I had to give a speech."

"But that was for a class of fifty students," Skyler pointed out. "We're talking about an audience of at least a thousand or more."

"I think you can do it," said Mark confidently. "You have the personality for it, Sky. Go for it."

"I don't think I have a choice now," said Skyler. "Once Barry hears that I moved Zack in he won't take no for an answer."

* * *

"The room is huge," said Zack after he'd unpacked his things. "I don't know how I'll ever fill that closet."

Skyler had helped him move his stuff with the help of Laura. Zack had signed the agreement at the studio with Jack Himbry, the agency's lawyer present. After that it was just a matter of taking Zack to get his things and give his ex the key to his apartment. Zack had already packed all of his stuff, so all they had to do was put it all in Laura's SUV.

"I had the same problem when I unpacked," laughed Skyler. "More than three fourths of my closet is still empty."

"Yeah, but you'll buy enough clothes to fill it eventually," said Zack. "You'd have to."

"I don't know about buying enough clothes to fill the closet," said Skyler dubiously. "How would I ever wear all of them? I'm always in wardrobe, so I'd never get through a closet full of clothes."

"But you'll be done filming for the summer tomorrow," said Zack. "Then you can wear whatever you want."

"Yeah but I still have personal appearances, photo shoots, interviews and all sorts of things," said Skyler. "I'll be wearing what they tell me to wear to all of that, so I still wouldn't get through the closet. If I did it would take twenty years."

"I never thought about all of that stuff," said Zack. "I never realized how busy a celebrity's life was."

"Well you live with me now, and even though I'm not all that famous now I still have orders to obey," he laughed.

"You'll be famous though," said Zack. "Just wait and see."

They settled down in the kitchen to eat while they talked about Skyler's schedule for the week. He'd be on the set the next day until at least five, and then he'd be free for the rest of the evening. The day after would see him in the recording studio, singing a song he didn't like. Barry had played the song for him earlier that day, and Skyler hated it. It was a song by a man named Tommy Roe called "Dizzy". Barry assured him that the music and sound of the song would be very different from what he'd heard, but Skyler wasn't convinced.

"I have sheets of lyrics for some of the other songs," he said. "But we still don't have enough songs to make an album yet."

"I've never even heard of Tommy Roe," said Zack. "I guess that probably means I've never heard the song either."

"I have a tape of the song," said Skyler. "I just chose to be humane and not torture you with it."

"When does shooting for the video start?" asked Zack.

"The day after tomorrow," replied Skyler. "We're shooting the video at Barry's, so he said we could try to record a song or two while I'm there."

"You really don't sound happy about any of this," observed Zack.

"Well the only thing I'm truly unhappy about is the song he wants me to cover," he said. "I don't mind shooting the video and I'm happy that Maverick signed me for the album, but what are they going to say if we hand them a song that sucks?"

"I don't know anything about the record business," admitted Zack.

"Barry says we need fifteen songs recorded, so the record company can pick ten for the album," said Skyler. "I don't even know of fifteen songs that I'd like to sing."

"But aren't you writing any songs?" asked Zack.

"I've never even attempted to write a song before," said Skyler. "I wouldn't know the first thing about it."

"Have you ever written poetry?" he asked.

"Well sure. I took Creative Writing in high school and college," replied Skyler.

"Then you know something about writing a song," insisted Zack. "Songs are just poetry with music and the words are sung instead of spoken."

Skyler gave that one some thought. He decided he'd talk to Barry about maybe trying to write at least one song for the album. If he couldn't do it then at least he could say he tried. That was better than saying he just couldn't. He didn't even know if he could unless he tried. Zack was already proving to be a good friend.

"I need to tell you something," said Skyler, deciding in that moment to tell Zack the truth. "I just don't know what you'll think about it."

"What?" asked Zack.

"Last night when you asked me if I was comfortable with you being gay, I told you the truth," said Skyler. This wasn't going to be easy for him, but he felt that he should clear the air between them. If he didn't he'd feel guilty.

"But," Zack prompted.

"I didn't tell you something that I should have," said Skyler. "I made you think something that isn't true because I'm a coward basically."

"You're not a coward, Sky," said Zack. "You go to a television studio every day and act, and you sing in front of people. Those aren't the actions of a coward."

"Well I'm a coward when it comes to this," he insisted. "Even now I know I have to tell you because I started this. I'm still scared to tell you."

"It can't be that bad," said Zack.

"Well the thing is I shouldn't be scared to tell you this," said Skyler. "It should be easy for me to tell you, but it isn't."

"Look whatever it is can't be that bad, Sky," said Zack seriously. "I know we don't know each other that well yet, but you can trust me not to tell anyone what you say. Even without the agreement I wouldn't tell anyone. I'm not like that, and I don't judge people either. So whatever it is that you have to tell me won't leave this room."

"Well I didn't exactly lie to you," said Skyler slowly. "I just let you believe something that wasn't true. I trust that you won't tell anyone, and that isn't what I'm afraid of. To be honest I don't even know what I'm afraid of. I know I should be able to just come out and say this, but its hard for me."

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, Sky," offered Zack. "If it's important you'll find a way to tell me when you're ready."

"That's just it," said Skyler. "I'm ready to tell you now, I just don't know how."

"Well the easiest way is to just come right out and say whatever is on your mind," replied Zack.

Skyler decided that he was being irrationally weary. Zack was gay, so it wasn't as if he was going to shun him. He knew that he had to tell him now and being scared wasn't going to make that fact go away. He'd already started the conversation, and he had to finish it. He had to tell Zack the truth. At worst Zack would be a little upset for being led to believe something that wasn't true.

"I let you believe that I'm straight, because I was scared to tell you the truth," said Skyler. He let out a sigh after the last word. "I'm gay, Zack."

"I kind of figured that's what you were getting at," replied Zack. "I just don't understand why you would be afraid to tell me."

"I don't know why," admitted Skyler. "Like I said I should have been comfortable telling you the truth. It isn't as if you can judge me for it."

"No, and I wouldn't even if I were straight," said Zack. "I have to ask though, did you ask me to move in here because you expect something to happen between us?"

"No," Skyler said quickly. "I wouldn't have asked you to move in here if all I wanted was sex. I'm not exactly ready to wrap my mind around the concept of having sex with anyone just yet."

"Then there's nothing for you to worry about," said Zack. "I can't be angry with you for simply being afraid to tell me. Am I the only person that knows this?"

"No," replied Skyler. "I told my best friend the night before I left California."

"Is he gay?"

"No," replied Skyler. "He's undeniably straight."

"Are you still friends?" asked Zack.

"We're closer than ever if that's possible being on separate ends of the country," he said.

"That's good to hear," Zack said with a smile. "For some of us, things didn't turn out so good."

"You told your best friend and he reacted badly?" asked Skyler.

"She reacted badly," corrected Zack. "Melissa was my closest friend in the world, but when I told her that I was gay she not only stopped having anything to do with me, she told everyone. That was part of the reason why I moved to New York."

"I'm sorry that she did that to you," said Skyler. "I was worried about the same thing happening to me when I told Mark."

"Well see, you expected the worst and got the best," Zack said, smiling. "I expected the best and got the worst."

"If there's one thing that's always true about people," Skyler started.

"They can always surprise you," finished Zack. "Now I have to ask you a question."

"Shoot," replied Skyler.

"Do you find me attractive at all?" he asked, looking at Skyler expectantly.

"Sure I do," Skyler said without hesitation. "You're very attractive. I would stare at you when you would come out to bus tables while I was in the deli. I don't want you to think that I don't find you attractive. I just didn't ask you to move in with me because I found you attractive."

"That's all I needed to hear," said Zack with a smile. "For the record, I find you extremely attractive. I'm not coming on to you though. I just got out of a bad relationship, and the last thing I need right now is to jump into a new one."

"Well I wouldn't be good in a relationship," said Skyler. "Until I get comfortable with the idea of telling even other gay people about me I won't be any good to anyone for a real relationship."

"You have it harder than I do though," said Zack. "You have to stay in the closet to protect your career. I can imagine that its very hard to trust people in a situation like that."

"I can't go around demanding that people sign a confidentiality agreement before I tell them my biggest secret," agreed Skyler. "But I have to be able to trust some people."

"You'll find people you can trust, Sky," he said. "It'll probably be difficult, but you'll find them."

"I think I can trust Barry, my manager with my secret," said Skyler. "Even Laura. I think she wouldn't care one way or the other. I sometimes think that I should tell them both because they're in charge of my career. Maybe if they knew about me, they'd be able to help me figure out who I can tell."

"Barry Graham is gay, Skyler," said Zack. "Everyone knows that. If you can tell anyone, you can tell Barry. Besides he wouldn't ruin your career with that information. He's trying to build your career."

"I already knew that Barry was gay," chuckled Skyler. "I've met his lover. I know that I should have no trouble telling him, but that doesn't make it any easier to actually do it."

"Being comfortable with homosexuals is easier than being comfortable with your own sexuality, Skyler," said Zack. "We all go through that. Only you can figure out how to become comfortable with yourself. I can't give you any advice on that."

"Oh I know that," replied Skyler quickly. "I wasn't asking for advice at all. This is a personal problem that I have to figure out on my own. Maybe biting the bullet like I tried to do tonight will work. Once the words are out of my mouth I might actually feel a lot better. I hate that I haven't told them because it feels like I'm hiding something."

For the rest of the evening the two young men talked about Skyler coming out to his manager and agent. Zack was understanding and could commiserate with how Skyler was feeling, but the only advice he could give was to go ahead and tell them. Skyler knew he was right, and when he went to bed that night he made up his mind to tell Barry and Laura as soon as possible.

The next morning Skyler felt a lot better. He supposed that having made the decision to tell them the truth had been therapeutic. He hoped that he still felt that way when he had them both seated before him. Zack had offered to be there with him when he told them, and Skyler was very thankful for that. If he could've had Mark there with him as well at least he'd have the two people in the world beside him that knew the truth and supported him.

"I heard that you moved Zack from the deli in to your apartment," said Brian when Skyler got to the set.

"He's staying in the spare bedroom," replied Skyler.

"Bold move, Sky," said Brian, looking at him strangely.

"What do you mean?" he asked, stopping in the middle of the hall.

"Don't get me wrong, Sky," said Brian. "I don't have anything at all against homosexuality. I just would've thought you would've kept a lower profile."

Skyler was stunned to silence for a few minutes. He hadn't thought about the rumors that might start once people learned that Zack had moved in with him. He didn't like the fact that Brian assumed they were doing something that they weren't. In fact that made him angry. He didn't know what he was going to do to stop these rumors, but he had to do something.

"Brian, I thought we were friends," he said tightly.

"We are," said Brian, looking concerned. "I didn't mean to insult you, Sky."

"Well assuming that something dirty is going on just because I tried to help out a nice guy in a difficult situation is insulting," Skyler informed him. "You didn't even ask the important question in that assumption, Brian. You just assumed that I'm gay and that I'm sleeping with him. That isn't right. If we really are friends I would hope that you would at least ask me about a situation before you made assumptions about it."

"Skyler, calm down," said Brian, looking around them to see who was watching. "I didn't mean to imply that I thought it was dirty or anything. If you like Zack then whatever you are doing is a good thing as long as he feels the same about you. Please don't think that I have a problem with your sexuality in any way. We're friends, Sky. I don't care what you do behind your closed door."

"You just did it again," snapped Skyler, making Brian flinch. "Brian, if you can't even ask me if I'm gay, then how is it that you think we're friends? You assumed that I am so I am?"

"Wait," said Brian as Skyler started to walk away. "Something went wrong here. If I offended you I'm truly sorry. You're right about something though. I did assume that you're gay but not because Zack moved in. I apologize for thinking that something was going on there that isn't, and I should have probably asked you instead of assuming that you are gay. So let me correct the problem. I'm asking now, Sky. Are you gay?"

"Yes," said Skyler before he had even thought about how to answer the question. He was so angry with Brian that he couldn't think of anything but that. When he realized what had just occurred he felt sick inside. Had Brian just tricked him?

"Skyler, you look like you're going to be sick," said Brian with a concerned look on his face. Was he sincere? "Come on. Let's go grab something to drink and sit down."

He took Skyler's arm and led him through the hall. No one seemed to pay any attention to them, so they must have thought this was normal behavior for Brian. Skyler was confused and very upset. He couldn't believe that he'd just blurted it out that way. He had to be careful in the future. If all it took to get him to admit his secret was to make him angry he would be in real trouble.

"What's going on?" asked Kristy when they got to what the cast called the lounge. She'd been sitting at one of the tables, reading a newspaper when they came in.

"I've upset Skyler, and I'm trying to fix it," said Brian. "Could you grab us a couple of waters from the fridge?"

"Sure," said Kristy, getting up to do what he'd asked.

Brian sat down at the table that Kristy had been sitting at, and Skyler sat too. He didn't look at Brian, and he refused to do more than mutter "Thank you," to Kristy when she placed a bottle of water in front of him. She sat in the chair she'd been sitting in when they'd come in. When Skyler realized that she planned to stay he almost panicked.

"Skyler, you need to calm down," said Brian. "I really am sorry for what I did, and I won't do it again. But you don't have to be afraid of me now that I know for sure."

"What are you talking about?" demanded Kristy. "What did you do to him?"

"Does she know too?" asked Skyler, looking at them finally.

"Know what?" asked Kristy with a worried look in her eyes. "What's this about, Brian?"

"Zack," Brian stated and looked at her for a second.

"What did you say to him?" she asked. "Brian, you didn't say what I'm sure you said. What were you thinking?"

"So you think that something dirty is going on too?" asked Skyler, looking at Kristy. Had he been wrong about both of them?

"First of all I don't think that you would do anything dirty, Skyler," she said. "I don't think anything about Zack moving in with you. I respect you enough to not form opinions. If you want to tell me why he moved in you will. If not, then I don't need to know."

"He's not my boyfriend," Skyler said quietly. "I didn't know that helping him would make everything talk like this."

"What are you talking about?" she asked. "What talk? Who is saying something?"

"I think he means me," said Brian. "I didn't think, Kristy. I said something like it was a bold move for him or something."

"Jesus, Brian," she breathed. "Real nice. Did you even ask him if he was gay? You don't know that for sure you know. I keep telling you that you're insane."

"She doesn't know," Skyler said to himself before he realized that he'd spoken out loud.

"Skyler, it doesn't matter to me one way or the other," said Kristy. "I don't care. If you are then you are. It doesn't change a thing as far as I'm concerned."

"I have to get changed," he said, standing. He ignored the worried looks from his friends and walked out of the lounge.

Kristy worried about him for the rest of the day. He forgot his lines three times, and that just wasn't like him. He was known on the set as "the true actor", because he never messed up his lines. Martin looked at him hard the third time he'd had to stop filming. They got through the scene, but Skyler wasn't himself. Everyone could see it. While they were filming the final scene of the finale Milton came down to watch. Apparently he'd heard about Skyler's bad day.

The final scene was taped in one take however. Tension could be felt between Brian and Skyler very easily, and Kristy was shocked to find that there was tension between Skyler and herself. She didn't like that. She had to find out exactly what Brian had said to Skyler. She wanted to talk to Skyler, but he left the studio as soon as the last scene was declared finished.

Skyler turned his telephone off as soon as he got home. He wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone that night, and he was planning to just go to bed. Zack wasn't home yet, so he didn't have to talk to him. He was sure he'd successfully avoided everyone until Laura let herself into the apartment with her key. He was shocked to see her dressed in a cocktail dress with heels on her feet. She hated to dress like that. He scanned his mind to remember if he'd forgotten an important engagement that night, but he came up with nothing.

"So you're hiding," she said in a irritated voice. "Everyone has been calling since you stormed out of the studio today. Now you have got to get up and get dressed. There's a part tonight for the cast, and you're going. Zack is already there."

"What party?" demanded Skyler.

"They have a party every year when the season ends," she said, looking at him like he was insane. "You'd have known about it if you had stuck around for a bit after the last scene. Jesus, Skyler, the entire studio says you went nuts today. What happened?"

"I'm having a bad day," he said, turning his head to face the wall.

"That's an understatement," she sighed, sitting on the edge of his bed. "Martin says you forgot your lines today. Three times he said."

"I'm human, Laura," Skyler said

"Kristy and Brian are beside themselves," she said. "They've both called at least ten times since you left, Skyler. Brian said that you two had a misunderstanding. What happened?"

"A misunderstanding?" laughed Skyler. "That's one way to put it I guess."

He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. Hiding wasn't going to solve anything. He still had the season premier to get through before he could walk away from all of it. He'd still have to make the album, but there was no contract saying that he had to make another. He could refuse to tour, and that would end Barry's excitement. He could just walk away from it all. He'd never wanted to be an actor, and he'd never wanted to be a singer. He didn't have to stay here.

"Are you going to get dressed, or do I have to drag you to the party in your sweats?" asked Laura, tapping her foot.

"I don't see the reason for me being at this party," said Skyler. "Shooting is over for the season. I've fulfilled more than half of my contract now. There's nothing in it that says I have to attend any parties, Laura."

"So you're just going to quit, then?" she asked, coming into the room and sitting on his bed. "You're just going to tape the premier at the end of the summer and walk away? Skyler, Milton wants to renegotiate your contract and hire you for next season. The entire season, Skyler. Barry is working so hard to make sure that Maverick treats you right. So many people are working hard to make sure that you succeed. Are you going to just walk away and tell them all that their hard work was for nothing?"

A guilt trip. He hadn't expected one, but he didn't know why he hadn't. She was right about everyone working hard to make sure he succeeded. What he didn't understand was why they did any of it. He was no one special. He never had been anyone special. All he'd ever wanted was to graduate from college, get a job and live his life. He didn't have to do any of this to make himself happy. It hadn't really made him happy so far. What was there to make him think that he would be happy in this kind of life in the future?

Then he thought of Chuck and all of the times that Chuck had told him he'd never amount to anyone. He thought of Mark, Shelly and Sarah. He even thought of Dianne. They were all so proud of him. He loved making them proud. He loved being more than just another friend to them. They were proud of him, and they were excited about everything that was about to happen for him. Could he go back to them and tell them that he'd walked away from all of it?

Was any of that a reason to stay and continue though? Could he do all of these things simply to keep making his friends proud and prove to his step-father that he hadn't beaten him down? He had to have a better reason that that. Sure he liked acting, and he loved his current job. He hadn't believed he would but he actually liked to sing, and the feeling he got the day he sang in front of the cast for that scene was incredible. He hadn't even thought about the fact that he was singing in front of them. He'd only wanted to get the scene done. But when they clapped, even though it was scripted that they do so, something inside of him surged and he felt something he'd never felt before.

Could that feeling be the reason? It was certainly a wonderful feeling. It was a feeling of freedom like he'd never known before. In that moment all of the things that had marked his past didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered when he felt that way. He knew one thing that could be reason enough to stay. That feeling could be enough.

"I'll get dressed," he said finally. "And I'm sorry."

"Sorry?" she asked, stopping at the door. "Skyler, do you think you're the only actor or singer to suddenly decide it was too overwhelming?"

"That wasn't what happened," he said. "Let me get dressed. We'll go to the party, and I'll talk to Brian and Kristy. Tomorrow, when I have you and Barry together, I'll tell you what happened. Now let me get dressed."


The Next Chapter Will Be Posted Soon.


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