© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 5


"Skyler, you know I didn't mean to imply that I was looking down on you," said Brian as soon as he saw Skyler. "I'm really sorry that I upset you. I wasn't trying to."

"Its OK, Brian," replied Skyler. "I'm sorry for flipping out on you."

"Well I shouldn't have assumed anything about you and Zack," said Brian. "He's here by the way."

"Laura told me he was," said Skyler with a nod. "Where's Kristy?"

"She's here somewhere," said Brian, scanning the crowd of people. "She's really worried about you."

"I owe her an apology too," said Skyler. "I could have handled myself better than that."

"No need to beat yourself up," soothed Brian. "You were shocked, and I suspect you were a little scared."

"But that wasn't your fault," said Skyler. "I assume that you don't care about the fact that I'm different."

"You're not different, Sky," said Brian quietly. "Being gay doesn't make you any less than any of the rest of us. I don't know whoever started that belief, but I'm glad that whoever it was is dead."

Skyler was shocked by the heat in Brian's words. He definitely felt very strongly about this, but Skyler would have never suspected. He felt better knowing this was the way that Brian truly felt about the world. It made him knowing the truth even easier to swallow. Now all he had to do was talk to Kristy. If she could somehow understand maybe things would be all right.

"There you are," she said, coming over to the two of them. "I've been worried sick since you left, Sky. Where did you go?"

"I went home for a while, Kristy," he said. "I'm sorry for making you worry. I'm fine now."

"Well why did you run off like that?" she asked, embracing him tightly.

"I was just freaked out a little," he said, hugging her back.

"Brian told me what you guys were talking about," she said after she released him. "Skyler, I don't think he was trying to be rude to you or anything."

"So you know about me now," he said, looking into her eyes.

"Yes," she affirmed. "And I don't care, Skyler. It doesn't make any difference to me at all."

He was so relieved to hear her say that, he hugged her again. She squeezed him tight and then led him to a table where Brian was sitting. The three talked about anything and everything other than Skyler's sexuality, and he was happy about that. When Zack joined them a few minutes later, Kristy and Brian welcomed him as if he were another cast mate.

"You didn't come to the deli today," he said to Skyler. "I didn't get a chance to tell you that Brian invited me to the party."

"I would have invited you if I'd known about the party before I left the studio," said Skyler. "I went home for a while."

"Yeah that's what Laura told me," he said. "Why didn't you answer the phone?"

"It's a long story, and I tell you about it later," he promised.

They sat there for a while, discussing Skyler's upcoming musical career. He told Kristy and Brian that he was thinking of writing a song for the album and they were both very encouraging. Kristy asked about "Alone" and Skyler told her that he had to record the song all over again. He explained about Maverick's insistence that the song be recorded in their studio.

"What about the video?" she asked. "Do you know anything about what's going to be in it?"

"I know that I have to lip sync for the video," said Skyler, making a face. "I'm still trying to get used to doing that. It just seems silly."

"It's just another form of acting," said Brian. "Think of it like that."

"I tried that the other day," said Skyler. "It didn't work for me then either."

"What about doing the same thing you did for the scene?" asked Brian. "It was awesome. You could even put that version on the album too."

"I'll talk to Barry about it," replied Skyler, thinking that it sounded like a good idea. "I'm still trying to think of a way to get out of singing 'Dizzy' ."

"None of us have heard the original," said Kristy. "But if you feel that strongly about it talk to Barry."

"I've tried," sighed Skyler. "He just keeps insisting that the song will be good when I sing it."

Skyler sighed again. He really didn't like that song, and Barry wouldn't listen to his protests that the song just wasn't something he could sing. Barry insisted that Skyler could sing anything. He swore the song would sound great with the new music and arrangement, but Skyler had yet to actually hear anything new and exciting for the song. In his opinion there was nothing that could be done to make the song better. He just wished that Barry would listen to him.

He made his rounds through the guests at the party, saying hello, shaking hands and hugging people he barely knew, and in some cases people he'd never met before in his life. Laura had told him on the way to the party that socializing, even if it was only a handshake with a smile, would be good for his career. She said that even though it was a party for the cast, industry would be there, and they were always looking. She said that he never knew who he would run into, and she was right. He was making his way through the guests when he saw one he would have known anywhere. Jordan Knight.

"Skyler Thomas," said Jordan, shaking Skyler's hand. "The man everyone is talking about."

"They're all talking about me huh?" laughed Skyler. "I hope it's good talk."

"Very," said Jordan with a smile. "I've heard the song, and I think its awesome."

"Thanks. I loved singing it," replied Skyler. "I just had no clue that everyone would like it so much."

"It's a great song," said Jordan. "Any thoughts on recording an album? I know that this song was for the show, but with your voice you should definitely sing more."

"We're actually trying to put songs together for an album," informed Skyler. "Even one or two that I can't stand."

"I know that feeling," laughed Jordan. "But you never know about those kinds of songs, Skyler. The ones you really despise usually turn into hits that everyone loves. It's a curse in music."

"I'll take your word for it," chuckled Skyler. "I just can't see anyone liking this one particular song. My manager disagrees with me though."

"Give it a shot," said Jordan seriously. "You might be surprised at how it turns out."

"I will," said Skyler, smiling again. "What are you doing lately? I haven't heard anything about you in a while."

"Oh I'm trying to put together an album of my own," said Jordan, steering Skyler toward the refreshment table. "I'm really excited about it actually."

"That's great," said Skyler. "You've got a great voice too."

"Thanks," he replied. "Any chance you might like to do some collaborating?"

"On music?" laughed Skyler. "I've never written a song in my life. I'm only thinking about attempting to write one for my own album."

"Well I was thinking more about lending your voice to a track or two," explained Jordan. "Or maybe I could lend mine to a track on your album."

"That sounds good actually," said Skyler. "I'll discuss it with Barry."

"Barry Graham?" asked Jordan, taking a glass of champagne from a tray on the table.

"That's him," affirmed Skyler, nodding. "He's my manager."

"You're in excellent hands," said Jordan. "Barry's a great guy."

"I'm finding that out," replied Skyler. "Even if we don't agree on everything."

"Especially if you don't agree on everything," laughed Jordan. "The guy knows music. Trust me with Barry Graham behind you, you will go far."

"Oh I believe that," replied Skyler. "He's always doing something to further my career. The press will hear about the album before it's even recorded I'm sure."

"That's the way it always works," agreed Jordan. "But you have an edge that most singers don't have. You're a successful television star with a song that people are calling radio stations all over the country to request even though the single has yet to be released."

"You seem to know more about what's happening out there concerning me than I do," laughed Skyler. "I haven't heard any of that before."

"Ask your agent and Barry," insisted Jordan. "They talk about you all the time on MTV, and you don't even have a video for them to play."

"Really?" asked Skyler, amazed. He'd had no idea that anyone was talking about him. He was even more amazed that he was proud of it instead of embarrassed. Maybe show business really was where he belonged.

Two hours later, with Jordan's address and contact numbers in his pocket, Skyler and Zack rode back to the apartment with Laura. Zack talked about everyone he'd met and was very excited about having been invited to the party. He said that he'd been approached about modeling twice in the night. Skyler told Laura about his conversation with Jordan Knight, and she confirmed that MTV was talking about him. She said that she'd heard something about "Alone" being requested at radio stations, but she really didn't know how many. Barry would know more about that, she told him.

"So you told me you'd explain what happened today," she prompted him in the SUV.

"That's a conversation that I need you and Barry together for," he replied. "I'm not stalling. I would just like to tell you both at the same time."

"You're really not thinking of quitting are you?" she asked, glancing at him as she drove.

"I won't lie and say that the thought wasn't firmly in my mind earlier this afternoon," he admitted. "I've changed my mind though. I want to renew my contract for the show, and I want to make this album. I'll do whatever it takes to get the album out there, and I'll even tour and consent to the marketing strategies. I'm serious about this. Thinking about quitting let me understand that I really do love what I'm doing, Laura. I just wasn't thinking about that."

"I'm happy to hear that," she said. "But what brought on this sudden change of heart? Yesterday you were so sure that you didn't want to be a singer."

"Well singing I 'Alone' in front of the cast is part of it," he replied. "The rest of it I have to credit to Jordan Knight. We talked for quite a while tonight, and he helped me see that the only thing I'm really afraid of is failure. But with everything happening the way it is, it doesn't look like I'm going to fail at this for a while."

"Skyler do you know that I was approached by seven different directors tonight?" she asked him. "They're sending scripts for television movies to my office for you to read over. Does that sound like you're failing at acting?"

"No it doesn't," he replied, smiling at her. Seven directors? The thought made him pause for a second. "What kind of television movies?"

"Well we'll know more when we have the scripts to look over," she said. "The fact is that you are not failing. You are my most successful client right now, Skyler, and you came out of nowhere."

When she dropped them off at the apartment Skyler was still reeling from the idea of seven directors wanting to send scripts for him to look over. He couldn't believe it. The idea was staggering in a way. He'd almost given up on his career and it was only just starting to take off. He decided that the next time he felt like running away, he'd put the energy into something productive and creative.

"So what happened to you today?" asked Zack when they were sitting in the living room. "You said that you'd explain later."

"Well for one thing, I'm stupid," he laughed. "Brian and Kristy know I'm gay, and I didn't react well when Brian assumed that I moved you in here because you are my lover."

"He thought that?" asked Zack. "Skyler, you do realize that I'm openly gay right? I mean if the press hears a rumor . . ."

"I'll deal with that when, and if it happens," he replied. "I consider you a friend, Zack, and I wouldn't throw you out just because the press might say something untrue about us."

"Even so," Zack said worriedly, "I don't think I should attend any more of those parties, Sky. I don't think I should have anything to do with your career events."

"That's ridiculous," scoffed Skyler. "You said that you were offered modeling gigs tonight. If that's going to happen you should be at every party like the one we went to tonight. I don't care what the press says. I'll fight it, Zack. It will be ok."

"You said that earlier you were thinking about quitting," said Zack. "Now you want to fight rumors in the press. Just what did Jordan Knight say to you?"

That got them both laughing. Skyler wasn't sure how he would fight rumors in the press. He'd nearly collapsed over two friends figuring out that he was gay. What would happen if he read about himself in the paper? He supposed he'd have to talk to Laura and Barry about that too. One thing was clear though, he wasn't throwing Zack out.

The next morning he was up before Zack and making breakfast. When Zack came into the kitchen he looked shocked. Skyler would have been gone already if he were still filming. He supposed that one benefit of not having to be on the set every day was that he could sleep later. He was excited though. He didn't know why but after last night he really wanted to tell Laura and Barry everything. The idea had seemed to be a way to lift a weight off of his shoulders when he'd woke up.

"You're in a good mood this morning," Zack said, accepting a plate of scrambled eggs from Skyler.

"Yeah and I don't know why," replied Skyler, sitting across from him at the table. "I should be a nervous wreck. I'm telling Barry and Laura that I'm gay today, and I've decided to discuss possible rumors in the press about us."

"What brought on this bravery?" laughed Zack. "You were terrified to tell me, and from what I gather you nearly flipped out when Brian and Kristy found out about you."

"I don't know," he replied. "I woke up feeling like a weight was on my shoulders and the only way to get rid of it was to tell Barry and Laura everything."

"Well maybe you're finally getting comfortable with it yourself," speculated Zack. "It can happen really quickly and for no reason at all."

"Maybe," said Skyler. "I don't know, but I know that I want to tell them before I lose whatever nerve I grew while I was sleeping."

"Well you'll have your chance soon," said Zack, looking at the clock. "Didn't Laura say she'd be here at nine?"

"Yeah," he replied, taking a last quick bite of his eggs. "I have to get my stuff together."

"I'll take care of clean up," said Zack, and Skyler smiled at him.

"Thanks," he said as Laura knocked on the door.

This was his chance. Very soon he'd have Laura and Barry together in one place. He was about to tell two more people that he was gay. The circle of people that knew about him was getting bigger. He still couldn't believe that the idea didn't cause him to panic. He just smiled when he opened the door and followed Laura to the elevator, out of the building and to her car.

"All right," said Barry when Skyler and Laura were seated in his living room. "You have us together. Laura said you had something to discuss with us."

"Well I have two things to discuss with you now," said Skyler. "First, Zack says that he thinks rumors might start in the press because he's openly gay and associated with me."

"Rumors are going to circulate in the press all of the time, Skyler," said Laura.

"That's part of the backlash of being a star," agreed Barry. "We deal with the press every day. When it happens we'll deal with them again."

"The second thing that I wanted to talk to you about is that I'm gay," he said, shocking himself at how easily he said the words. What shocked him even more was that he didn't inwardly flinch.

Laura and Barry were quiet for a minute. They didn't seem either shocked or upset. They simply looked back at him as if expecting him to say more. After a minute he thought maybe he should say more, but he didn't know what else there was to say after that. He was gay, and that was all there was to it. What more was there to say?

"You're not thinking of coming out of the closet completely are you?" asked Laura.

"No," he replied. "I'm not ready for that. Even if I wasn't in New York trying to have a career I wouldn't be ready to go that far. I just felt like you both needed to know."

"So are you and Zack and item then?" asked Barry.

"No we're not," replied Skyler calmly. It was a legitimate question. "Zack and I are friends, and he needed to get out of a bad situation. I helped him. Nothing more."

"I assume that this is what got you so upset yesterday," said Laura. "Brian and Kristy figured it out, or they assumed it because of Zack moving in with you."

"Brian and Kristy know," he said. "And yes, that's what I was upset about yesterday. I didn't want them to know, but I couldn't lie to them. I won't lie to my friends about my sexuality, and I won't date a girl to cover it up."

"So what makes you so comfortable with saying it out loud to us if you were ready to walk away from everything because Brian and Kristy figured it out?" asked Barry.

"I'm not sure," he replied honestly. "I think its because when I thought about quitting I figured out that I love doing what I'm doing. It didn't feel right to hide something so important about myself from my agent and manager either."

"Well I am glad that you told us," said Barry. "But I don't understand why you would have been ready to walk away from your career over someone finding out."

"And we wouldn't expect you to date anyone to cover your sexuality, Skyler," said Laura.

"The press is fast," added Barry. "If you're seen out and about with a female friend she'll become your current girlfriend in the press. I'm sure they're going to say a lot about Zack too, but rumors change so quickly that I don't think you'll be effected too much."

"Well I don't know why, but I don't care about the press right now," said Skyler. "If they start to throw stones I'll deal with it somehow."

"Good attitude," said Laura. "I'm happy about this change of heart, sudden as it is. I'm just wondering where it came from. Jordan Knight couldn't have said that much to you in the hours you were talking to him at the party."

"That's another thing," he said, temporarily ignoring what she'd intended to talk about. "Jordan is interested in working on something with me. He said he doesn't care if it ends up on his album or mine. I told him I'd talk to you about that, Barry."

"That's possible if his record company doesn't throw a fit. I'm sure Maverick will go for it," replied Barry.

"And Laura, I really don't know for sure what changed my mind about all of this," he said. "I just know that somehow it doesn't bother me much at all since I woke up this morning. I'd intended to have this conversation with you and Barry even before Brian and Kristy found out. I decided to tell you the night that Zack moved in. I just don't know why I'm so comfortable with it now."

"Well I won't question it as long as it lasts," she replied. "I'm happy that you told me. It will make a difference in the way we handle the press, and we'll be better prepared to deal with any slip ups that might happen in the future."

"Slip ups?" laughed Skyler. "I said I was comfortable with telling you and Barry. I didn't say I was ready to date."

"All right knucklehead," laughed Barry. "If that's all out of the way then what do you say about taking a crack at the song?"

"I still don't like the song," he said, standing. "But I'll sing it anyway."

"What? No argument?" Laura said with a mock shocked expression on her face.

"Cut it out," he laughed. "Let's just get this over with."

They went into the studio and Barry played the new music for Skyler before he sent him into the booth, telling him to listen for two distinct pieces of music. On the first one he pointed out for him, Barry said he would have just finished singing "You're making me dizzy." The second time he had Skyler listen closely, he said he would resume singing. The time between those two points were meant for Skyler to take a break in singing.

Skyler had to admit that the new music sounded much better, but he didn't think it would matter with the words of the song. He was sure the song was good in its day, but he just couldn't see it doing anything in the present. But he really didn't know much about the music world, and people liked plenty of songs that he thought were silly.

"Do you think you've got it down?" asked Barry. "We can play it back a few times so you can really get it if your stuck."

"No," said Skyler after a second. "I've got it."

"Well get in there and sing then," said Barry.

He fully expected to stop Skyler a few times to correct something and start again. He didn't care what Mitch and Stan had said about Skyler singing "Alone" in one take. The boy couldn't be that damned good. Sure he'd heard the almost perfect pitch the kid could sing in, but everyone made mistakes when they tried to sing a song for the first time.

Skyler went into the booth, sat on the stool in front of the microphone and took a deep breath. Before he put the headphones on his head he took a minute to steady his breathing. He'd done the same thing before singing "Alone" both in the recording booth and live for the scene. He didn't know why, but trying to control his breathing usually relaxed him. When he was relaxed he could sing anything.

Finally he put the headphones on and heard Barry remind him once again to listen closely to the music while he sang. He smiled at him and gave him the thumbs up sign. Barry was really particular about certain things, and he believed that Skyler would mess up. Skyler was sure he wouldn't though. If anything fear of having to sing the song again would keep him from messing up. He almost chuckled at that thought as the music began. He listened for his queue.

"Dizzy," he sang and counted off the beats until he had to sing the chorus. He still didn't like the song, but what Jordan had said the night before was still in his mind. If this song could become a hit, then he wouldn't argue about it anymore.

"I'm so dizzy, my head is spinning. Like a whorl pool it never ends, and its you girl, making it spin. You're making me dizzy," he sang, trying not to smile. It was hard for him to sing with a smile on his face, but the lyrics were kind of funny.

"First time that I saw you girl, I knew that I just had to make you mine. But it's so hard to talk to you with fellas hanging round you all the time," he sang, and he nearly did laugh at those words.

"I want you for my sweet pet, but you keep playin hard to get. Goin' round in circles all the time," he sang through a smile. It was difficult but not impossible.

"Dizzy," he sang, and barely suppressed a chuckle.

"I'm so dizzy, my head is spinning. Like a whorl pool it never ends, and its you girl, making it spin. You're making me Dizzy," he sang as he closed his eyes and listened to the music. He waited for for music to change again to let him know when to sing again.

"I finally got to talk to you, and I told you just exactly how I felt. Then I held you close to me and kissed you, and my heart began to melt. Girl you got control of me, 'cause I'm so dizzy I can't see. I need to call a doctor for some help," he sang, trying hard not to even think about what he was singing at all.

"Dizzy,

"I'm so dizzy, my head is spinning. Like a whorl pool it never ends. And its you girl, making it spin. You're making me dizzy, my head is spinning. Like a whorl pool it never ends, and its you girl, making it spin," he sang, knowing that the song was almost over.

"You're making me dizzy. You're making me dizzy, my head is spinning. I'm so dizzy. Like a whirlpool it never ends. You're making me dizzy," he sang and listened to the music fade out in his headphones. He was so happy that he got through the song without laughing.

When he opened his eyes, Barry and Laura were staring at him. They had the same look on their faces as Mitch and Stan had on the day he'd sang "Alone" in their studio. He didn't understand it, but he hoped it was a good thing. He wasn't going to sing it again no matter what Barry demanded. He wouldn't sing that song again unless it reached number one on the charts.

"Well?" he said after a few minutes of them simply staring at him.

"Skyler, could you come back in here for a minute?" asked Barry.

He knew it couldn't have been that bad. He took off the headphones and walked through the door to join them. He waited for a second to see if Barry would just tell him what he had done wrong. He really didn't relish the idea of another take. The song wasn't going to get any better. He would tell him so if he decided to make him do it again.

"What did I do wrong?" he asked finally. The two of them were just sitting there looking at him again. He didn't like that. He wished they would say something.

"I want you to listen to the playback with us," said Barry after a few seconds. "Just come over here and sit down, Sky."

He walked over and sat beside Laura and waited for the song to start playing. He didn't understand why Barry wouldn't just tell him what he did wrong. If he'd missed his queue or something he could do it again. He wouldn't like it, but he'd do it again. He listened to the song as it played, intending to pay close attention. However when he heard it he was stunned by the way it sounded. Even with the words that he thought sounded silly, the song sounded good.

"Wow," he said when the song ended. "I guess new music really did help the song."

"That wasn't just the music that made that song sound so good," said Barry. "Skyler, that was all you."

They recorded four songs that day, and "Alone" was one of them. When Skyler told Barry what Brian had suggested for the video, Barry loved the idea. He called Gabriel and asked him if he would object to playing the song again for the video. When Gabriel said he would be thrilled to do it Barry asked if he could come to his house. He gave him directions, and when Gabriel got there Barry had the electric piano hauled into the sound booth.

The crew was already at the house by that time, so they set up all of the equipment so that they could film the booth while Skyler sang and Gabriel played. They were going to patch into the microphones in the sound booth to catch the sound, and they all thought that the acoustic version of "Alone" would be perfect for the video. Barry recorded it with the other version of the song as they shot the video.

Everyone was shocked at how perfect Skyler sang the song. The crew talked about it while they packed everything up, and Jason Burke, the director for the video was thrilled that it had gone off without a hitch. He had the video he wanted, or so he said. Barry knew that when he'd told Jason that the video was going to be changed he was very upset. He covered it well, but he was upset.

* * *

"A desert road from Vegas to nowhere, someplace better than where you've been. A coffee machine that needs some fixing in a little cafe just around the bend," Skyler sang as he closed his eyes. He made his voice sound as haunted as he possibly could. In his opinion that was the tone of the song, and he hoped that Barry agreed with him.

"I am calling you," sang a female voice in his headphones, and he wondered who that was. Her voice was piercing, and he really liked her sound.

"Can't you hear me?" he sang just before her voice faded completely.

"I am calling you," sang the voice again.

"A hot dry wind blows right through me. The baby's crying and I can't sleep. But we both know a change is coming. Come in closer, sweet release," he sang.

"I am calling you," sang that awesome female voice again.

"Can't you hear me?" he responded again.

"I am calling you," she sang again.

He listened to the music, waiting for that voice to sing again. That was his queue this time and he thought it was simple. Barry lectured that he had to remember to sing at the right time anyway. He had laughed at that, but Barry grew aggravated when he laughed. Skyler got a lecture for his trouble, and he vowed to remember never to laugh when Barry was trying to instruct him on a song again.

"I am calling you," came the voice.

"Oh, can't you hear me," he sang louder.

"I am calling you," she sang again in that voice that made him want to cry.

"A desert road from Vegas to nowhere, someplace better than where you've been," he sang.

"I am calling you."

"Why can't you hear me?" he sang, moved by the sound of that voice again.

"I am calling you."

"Desert road from Vegas to nowhere," he sang and opened his eyes.

"Perfect," said Barry when the music stopped. "That was awesome, Sky."

"Who is the woman singing?" Skyler asked. He had to know who it was.

"That's Niki Harris," replied Barry. "She's going to be doing a little background stuff on most of your songs."

"She's got an amazing voice," he said. "She made me want to cry."

"You'll meet her in a few days," he said. "You can tell her that."

"She's coming to New York?" asked Skyler, excited. He thought it would be cool to meet her.

"She sure is," laughed Barry. "Now are you ready to try 'Cupid'?"

"Barry, I really don't think that's a good song for me," he complained. This was the other song they weren't agreeing on. Skyler thought the song was cute, but he didn't think singing it would be a good idea.

"Just try it for me, OK?" pleaded Barry. "It probably won't make the album, but sing it anyway."

"I can't believe I'm doing this," he sighed, glaring at Barry. "All right, I'll sing it."

"Thank you," said Barry with a goofy grin on his face.

Skyler did his little breathing exercise and prepared to sing a song that he was sure would seal his fate as a failure. He vowed to get Barry for this some day. He couldn't wait until the day came that he could actually write his own songs and not have to cover these kinds of songs. "Dizzy" had been one thing, and "Calling You" was a great song but this was going overboard, he thought as the music started. It was only a piano, but he still didn't like it.

"Cupid, draw back your bow and let your arrow go straight to my lover's heart for me. For me. Cupid, please hear my cry and let your arrow fly straight to my lover's heart for me,

"Now, I don't mean to bother you but I'm in distress. There's danger of me losin' all of my happiness. For I love a girl who doesn't know I exist, and this you can fix,

"So, Cupid, draw back your bow and let your arrow go straight to my lover's heart for me, nobody but me. Cupid, please hear my cry and let your arrow fly straight to my lover's heart for me," he sang and put his head down as he waited for his musical queue to start again. He couldn't believe he was singing this song. Barry was nuts.

"Now, Cupid if your arrow make a love storm for me, I promise I will love her until eternity. I know between the two of us her heart we can steal. Help me if you will,

"So, Cupid, draw back your bow and let your arrow go straight to my lover's heart for me. Nobody but me. Cupid, please hear my cry and let your arrow fly straight to my lover's heart for me,

"Now, Cupid, don't you hear me callin' you, I need you. Cupid, help me. I'm callin',

"Cupid, draw back your bow and let your arrow go. Cupid, please hear my cry and let your arrow fly,

"Cupid, I need you. Cupid," he sang and then put his head back down as the music faded away.

"Perfect, Sky," said Barry. "You can come on in here now."

Skyler took off the headphones and joined Barry. This was his third day of recording, and they'd recorded twenty songs. Skyler was sure they had enough for two albums. He hoped they were done. His throat had been hurting all day long, and he really wanted to give it a rest. It hadn't affected his singing so he hadn't said anything to Barry about it.

"I think we've got enough to dazzle the record company," said Barry when Skyler sank into a chair beside him. "We're done, kid."

"Thank God," sighed Skyler. "I'm tired of singing for now."

"Oh?" laughed Barry. "Well you'd better get used to singing, because I know that whatever they decide to release off the album is going to be a hit."

"You're thinking of the tour aren't you?" asked Skyler, wincing. He wasn't so worried about singing in front of people now. He was thinking about his throat. If his throat was sore after only three days of singing he couldn't imagine what it would be like to tour.

"That," nodded Barry, "and TRL, talk shows and videos. You hate to lip sync remember?"

"Oh I'll lip sync for any video we make from now on," vowed Skyler. "I don't care how silly it feels."

"Glad to hear it," replied Barry. "Are you sure you and Zack don't want to come over here tonight to watch the premier?"

The video for "Alone" was premiering on MTV and VH1 that night and Kristy, Brian and Gabrielle were coming to Skyler's to watch. Skyler planned to be on the phone with Mark the whole time too. He'd already called the twins to warn them about it, and they promised to watch. Chad told him that their mother and step-father were wanting to watch the video too but not because they were proud of him.

"The gang is coming to my house to watch," explained Skyler. "Plus I'll be on the phone the whole time."

"Well Joel should be ready to take you back to your apartment if you're ready to get out of here," said Barry. "I have to call Maverick to tell them we're finished and set up a time to talk to them about the album."

"I really hope that "Cupid" doesn't make the album," laughed Skyler. "It'd be embarrassing for sure."

* * *

"So how'd it go?" asked Zack when Skyler got back to the apartment. "Did he make you sing 'Cupid'?"

"Oh yeah he did," laughed Skyler. "I'll be hiding if it makes the album."

"When will you know which songs they're going to use?" asked Zack.

"He said that we'll know pretty soon," he replied. "He's only sure that 'Alone' will be on the album. He said that since Maverick already released it as a single it has to be on the album."

"When will the gang be here?" asked Zack. Brian, Kristy and Gabrielle were almost always with Skyler lately. Everyone had taken to calling them "The Gang." Zack was also always included in that little group. The others loved him, and Skyler had come home a few times to find one or more of them at the apartment hanging out with Zack.

"Any time now," said Skyler, glancing at his watch. "I'd thought they would already be here."

"Gabrielle called a little bit ago to say that she was on her way, but I haven't heard from Brian or Kristy," said Zack. "Should we call them?"

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the doorbell rang. They expected it to be Gabrielle, but they were both surprised when all three of them came in after Zack opened the door. They were each carrying something to eat, but Zack had already taken care of refreshments. He told them to put everything in the dining room while he went to get the food that he'd made out of the kitchen.

"I didn't think we'd ever get here," laughed Kristy as she hugged Skyler. "Brian had me at the racetrack and traffic was insane."

"Did he win?" asked Skyler as Brian headed off toward the kitchen to help Zack.

"No," she said, "but he doesn't care. He said he had a blast. I guess that's all he cares about."

"Probably," laughed Skyler. "We finished recording today."

"I bet you're happy about that," she said. "Did you finally tell Barry about your throat?"

"No," sighed Skyler. "We have twenty songs now, and Barry said that was enough. If there had been any more of them I would have said something."

"You're still drinking that tea right?" she asked.

When Skyler's throat had started to hurt, Kristy had given him an herbal tea with lemon and honey. She'd told him to drink a cup before and after he went to Barry's to record songs. He'd done as instructed but it hadn't helped really. It was most effective when he came home. It soothed his aching throat after he'd been singing for most of the day. He had yet to drink his tea that day, but he was sure Zack was making him a cup at that moment.

"I'm drinking it," he said. "In fact I was about to grab a cup when you guys came."

Zack did come in with a cup of tea in his hand for Skyler, and the group settled in on the couch to watch MTV. They still had a little time before the video would air, so Zack and Brian put snack food on the coffee table in front of them. The others had either soda or juice, but Skyler sipped his tea and reveled in the soothing effect it had on his throat.

A video for a song called "As Long As You Love Me" was playing when they all sat down. The group's name was Backstreet Boys, and Gabrielle and Zack commented on which ones they thought were attractive. Skyler didn't really pay attention to what they looked like. He was focusing on the song itself. It wasn't the sort of song he would have chosen to sing himself, but it was catchy. The video for Madonna's "You'll See" played next, and Skyler loved the song. He was watching the video when the phone was handed to him.

Mark told him that a similar gathering was taking place in the common room in LA. Skyler said a few words to Shelly, Linda, Sarah and Dianne. He was shocked to learn that Dianne was at the dorm, but she told him that she wouldn't have watched the video anywhere else. She was with her kids as she put it, waiting to watch her famous one on television again.

Mark told him that Dianne had come to the dorm to watch the season finale of "Secrets Of the Morning" as well. He said that she was now officially a part of their group. They were planning to head off to the diner after the video aired, and Skyler missed them like crazy. When Mark mentioned the diner Skyler wished he could go with them.

"Our next video has been in much demand of late," said the MTV VJ on the screen as Skyler and his friends all grew silent. "The song was heard for the very first time on the popular prime time NBC drama 'Secrets Of the Morning', and Skyler Thomas became one of our most requested artists even before there was a video. Well tonight we're excited to announce the premier of Skyler Thomas's first music video. Here it is everyone, 'Alone'."

What Skyler saw on the screen wasn't exactly what he'd taped for the video. He could tell that the sound was from the day they'd filmed the video in the sound booth at Barry's house, and some of that footage was in there, but there was a lot of extra stuff in there that Skyler hadn't known anything about. Jason must have gotten a hold of video footage of the photo shoots, because there were a few scenes from both shoots in the video. He wasn't happy about appearing on the screen in that bikini, but there was nothing he could do about it now that the video was already airing.

As soon as the video was over everyone was talking at the same time. Mark and the gang from LA could be heard on the telephone at Skyler's ear, and the group in his living room were all talking about the video too. Everyone liked it, but Skyler was still a little self conscious about being on the screen in nothing but that bikini. Sure he was already in magazines in the same apparel, but he didn't really like that Jason had done that to his video. He would talk to Barry about it for sure.

"The video was awesome, Sky," said Mark in his ear.

"It was a little different than I expected," said Skyler. "But I'm glad that you liked it."

"It was great," replied Mark. "Everyone here loves it."

"I'm getting the same reaction from everyone here too," chuckled Skyler, deciding to forget about his discomfort for the time being.

Mark told him that he had to get off of the phone so they could all go eat. Skyler ate a bit after he hung up the phone, but the others were still excited over the video. Gabrielle and Zack were talking about how sexy it was, and Brian and Kristy kept saying that they couldn't get over how amazing his singing was.

Skyler wasn't so sure he liked hearing about how sexy he was in the video, but he smiled at Brian and Kristy's praise. He still didn't see what any of them were talking about when it came to his singing. Sure he thought he sounded better than some he'd heard before, but he was nowhere near the best in the land. There were singers out there that could blow him away with their voices. One of them was Niki Harris. He could still hear that haunted voice in his head.

The next day Skyler was back at the studio, talking with Milton Drake and Laura about his contract. Milton was eager to have some insurance that Skyler would return for the next season, and Laura was talking about tour demands and personal appearances. It seemed that Barry was already planning for the tour. The album hadn't even been put together yet.

"We can put a clause in his contract that he can leave for the tour as long as he films a certain number of episodes for the season," said Milton. He was trying very hard to make sure that Skyler stayed on the show. He had told them that ratings were higher than they'd ever been since Skyler had joined the cast.

"Why don't we hold off on the contract until Barry has more information on the tour," suggested Laura.

"We need something now, Laura," said Milton. "I'm getting my ear chewed off every day about this. If we don't sign him today, I don't know what's going to happen."

"Are you threatening to leave him off of the show?" she asked, leaning forward. "Because if you are I can find a way to get him out of the rest of your original contract, and you won't even have him for the season premier."

Skyler couldn't believe they were arguing over him that way. He'd tried to tell Laura that he wanted to stay on the show, but she told him that with the success of "Alone" in its first day on the shelves of music stores he might have fans to contend with soon. She insisted that Maverick was very excited about him, and they were already discussing which of the twenty songs he'd recorded to use for the album.

"You can't get out of the rest of his contract, Laura, and you know it," said Milton calmly. "If he doesn't show up for filming at the end of the summer the studio will sue both of you. It's that simple. Now what I'm trying to do is solidify something for the rest of the season. Surely you don't think you can keep him from doing what he wants."

"How do you know what he wants?" she demanded. "You haven't talked to him since the party! Yes he wants to remain on the show, but he wants to pursue his music too. You know what that will entail, Milton. All I'm asking is that the studio be flexible."

"Will he be singing anything more for the show?" asked Milton, switching gears so fast that Skyler was confused.

"That will have to be discussed at a later date," she replied firmly. "If there's anything about music in that contract we're done here. You know that he now has a binding contract with Maverick. Anything you want from him musically will have to be negotiated with them."

By the time they left that meeting Milton had a signed contract for no less than ten episodes with nothing musical mentioned in any way. Laura was still angry when they walked into the deli. She told him that she had never once been threatened by Milton Drake, and she intended to end her professional relationship with him over this time.

"I don't want to be the cause of that," said Skyler quickly. Laura had told him that she'd been working with Milton since the first day the show had started filming.

"You aren't the cause, Sky," she said. "He is. He knows better than to threaten me. If he thinks I'll just sit back and let him get away with it he has another thing coming."

"What about your other clients working on the show?" he asked.

"Gabrielle will be leaving the show at the end of the upcoming season," she informed him. "She's wanted out since the beginning of last season. As soon as I get you settled there, I don't have much to do there. I won't be bringing any new clients to Milton Drake. I know that technically he brought you to me, but that doesn't give him the right to claim you like that."

He'd thrown that in her face at the meeting. He reminded her that he was the one who had "discovered" Skyler Thomas in pretty much those words. Skyler had been very uncomfortable in that meeting. They rarely asked him anything the whole time he'd been there, and he had the feeling that they were talking about him as if he were property. He understood that in a way he was the property of his contracts, but that didn't mean they had to talk around him like that.

She told him a little bit about some of the television movie scripts that had come in. She said that out of all of them there was only two that she'd even consider letting him look at. The others were just not something that she would have thought he would be comfortable with. She said the characters ranged from a murdering stalker to a prison inmate. The subject matter of those scripts had made her cringe. Skyler trusted her on that. He didn't know anything about making movies of any kind, and he was sure that his limited experience on the show had not prepared him for even a television movie. If Laura said that most of the roles were far too difficult or not good for his image he wasn't going to argue.

Over the course of the next few weeks, "Alone" climbed the charts until it hit number two on the pop charts, and the video stayed on TRL at number one for three weeks before being toppled by the Backstreet Boys. He was excited about that, but he didn't really let on to anyone how much it made him excited that his song was doing so well.

Maverick decided on the ten songs for the album after three weeks of arguing over them, and Skyler was mortified when they told him that "Cupid" had made their list. He went right to work, filming the video for "Dizzy", but when Barry suggested Jason Burke again Skyler told him he would never work with Jason again. There had been a long discussion about that, but in the end Barry understood.

The day after the video premiered on MTV they started shooting the video for "Calling You" , and Skyler got to meet Niki Harris for the first time. She hugged him tight when they were introduced, and they'd talked almost the entire night after filming the video, which they filmed in the Mojave desert. Skyler had been sad to leave all of the gang behind to fly out there, but Niki made sure that he wasn't lonely. Her upbeat personality and love of practical jokes kept Skyler on his toes the entire time they were there.

The album, named "Dizzy", was released at the beginning of August, and Maverick threw a huge party at The Crystal Room to celebrate the release. Skyler met so many people that night that he barely remembered everyone. One person however, stuck out in his mind like a beacon. Brian Littrell from the Backstreet Boys had been at the party, and when they were introduced Skyler was nearly awestruck by him.

The two had talked for nearly two hours, and Skyler was very impressed by him. He'd learned that Brian was twenty-two years old, originally from Kentucky, and that he was a fan of Skyler's music and he watched the show as often as he could. Brian told him that most of the guys in the group watched the show, and "Dizzy" could be heard playing in their hotel rooms quite a lot.

"So I hear that you'll be on 'The Tonight Show' and Late Night," said Brian as the two of them sat at a table at Gabitoni's. Brian had called Skyler the morning after the party and invited him to dinner. He said he'd be leaving the following morning, and he liked the talk they'd had at the party and wanted to continue it.

"I just found out about that yesterday," laughed Skyler. "Laura and Barry do things so quickly that I often learn about what I'm doing a day or two before I have to be somewhere."

"Sounds familiar," laughed Brian. "I have the same problem at times, but it's mostly because I wasn't paying attention during a meeting or something like that."

"Don't talk about meetings," cringed Skyler. "I'm still recovering from the last meeting I attended."

"Something happen that you didn't like?" asked Brian, taking a sip of his drink.

"Oh just a fight over me," said Skyler. "The television studio isn't really happy about my singing career."

"I'm glad I don't have that problem," laughed Brian. "Singing is all I do."

"Sometimes I wish it was all I did too," said Skyler. "But I love working on the show."

"Any plans for a movie?" asked Brian.

"I've rejected two television scripts so far," he replied. "I haven't heard anything about any others so far."

"Are you wanting to do a movie?" asked Brian. "I know a lot of people assume that you do because of the show."

"I'd love to do a movie," admitted Skyler. "I just want to be careful which project I become a part of."

"I understand that," said Brian.

They talked about happenings in their careers, and Brian told him that he was surprised by the fast success that Skyler was achieving. He said that his group had been trying very hard to catch the public's attention for a while. When Skyler talked about how unreal it all seemed to him at times, Brian admitted that he was envious.

They were both surprised to learn that they shared piano and guitar in common. Skyler could play both instruments very well, and Brian was trying to learn guitar. Skyler admitted that he loved to play, but he hadn't had a chance lately. When Brian suggested that Skyler play one of the instruments on his upcoming talk show appearances Skyler thought about it for a while.

When he got home there were messages from Laura, Barry and Milton Drake. He sighed when he read the message from Milton. The man was trying very hard to get more episodes out of Skyler, but Laura had forbade him to discuss his contract without her in attendance. The message from Barry was just to call him no matter what time he got home, so Skyler thought whatever he wanted had to be important. He picked up the phone and dialed Barry's number as Zack came into the living room.

"It's me," said Skyler when Barry answered the phone. "I had a message to call you."

"Are you sitting down?" asked Barry. "I've got some news for you that's going to knock you on your ass."

"Am I going to like this?" chuckled Skyler, sitting down in the chair closest to the phone. "I'm sitting."

"I got a call from Wendy Bartlett over at Maverick this evening, Sky," said Barry, and Skyler could hear the excitement in Barry's voice. "'Dizzy' sold a million copies as of this morning."

"Oh my God," cried Skyler, standing up. "Are you serious?"

"I'm serious, Sky," laughed Barry. "'Dizzy' went platinum on its very first day in stores."


The Next Chapter Will Be Posted Soon.


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