© 2005-2011 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
The lawyers from The Boeing Company were very specific about what their client expected from Skyler. They wanted a commercial filmed right away to announce that they were the official sponsor of the tour, and they expected two additional commercials to be filmed during the tour. One had to be filmed in Europe. In return they would let him lease the 777 Freighter for a smaller fee than he'd been expecting. Clay was already trying to secure the jets for each headquarters of Sky High. The deals had all been struck in Chicago, Dallas, Toronto, London and Paris. Construction on the new buildings would begin shortly. Skyler wondered if he would be expected to sit in on meetings held to determine staffing for each city. He hoped not. He had a tour to take care of and other responsibilities to see to.
The first of those responsibilities was seen to that very evening. He and Ashton were photographed for the cover of the next issue of "Reality Magazine" and he'd sat down with Amanda Price to be interviewed. She asked questions that pertained to the adoption and nothing more. For that he was very thankful. He spent the rest of that evening lounging on the couch in the living room in Jeff's arms as the children played on the floor in front of them. He was still smiling about the adoption. He couldn't believe it had gone off without a hitch so quickly. They wouldn't even be coming around to check up on them anymore. They were free of all of that and Ashton was theirs.
Dance rehearsals went on, getting more intense as the departure date drew closer and closer. The dancers were all stoked and Skyler was actually starting to get excited about leaving. He was still angry about the cameras but as long as they stayed in their own hotel they wouldn't be on camera. Gavin had tried twice since that decision had been made to convince Skyler that it would hurt the ratings of the show if he wasn't on camera every day. Skyler had hung up on him both times and the one time he'd tried to talk about it to Skyler's face had been at the sports complex after a rehearsal. Skyler had just grabbed his bag and left, not even bothering to shower.
He was back at the sports complex each day to rehearse, but the day before Chad's court hearing Bruce showed him the completed set designs and surprised him by taking him to the football field to see two of those sets constructed complete with lights. One had laser lights in a multitude of colors bouncing around the stage. The other looked like the inside of a barn with hay bales and the mechanical bull. There were laser lights and a disco ball for this set as well. Skyler laughed when he saw it but he knew that the crowds would love it.
The dancers were enthralled by the completed sets and James held rehearsals on the field so they could get a feel of what it would be like to perform on stage. Skyler was annoyed that the stands began to fill up as he he sang and danced. He was relieved to see that it was only the athletes and their coaches. He just wondered when they'd signed so many athletes and coaches. Of course the cameras were all running and it didn't escape Skyler that this would be a sort of first look for the viewers of the reality show.
What he didn't expect was the Boeing film crew. It was explained after rehearsal that they would use parts of those full out routines in the commercial he still had yet to film for Boeing. He supposed they'd be contacting him about the commercial soon. He smiled at the cameramen for Boeing as they filmed them. He wasn't sure if anyone had told him that they'd be filming anything that day or not, but he gave them what they wanted. He wondered if this was what James had been calling Gavin to the school about.
"Well how was that?" Bruce asked him as they all filed back into the locker room to shower and change.
"It looked great and felt great," Skyler replied. "Great job. I can't wait to see the rest."
"Well you'll see it as we build each one," said Bruce. "They want each set put together so they can film certain things. I'm guessing a lot of this is for the commercial you're going to film for Boeing. I saw their cameras out there tonight."
"Yeah, I'm still wondering about that," Skyler said as he stripped out of the chaps and vest. Bruce had seen him completely naked on a number of occasions so he wasn't worried about modesty. "I don't know if they told me that this would be happening or not."
"Well that's not my area," chuckled Bruce. "I'm happy about that."
"I'm sure you are," said Skyler. "All right, I have to shower and get dressed. We're meeting Adam Winslow for dinner tonight."
He followed Alex and Evan into the locker room to shower. They were both talking excitedly about the completed sets and what it had been like to dance with all of the lights. Skyler laughed as he listened to them. He wondered what they'd think when they were on a stage in front of millions of screaming fans. TV cameras were one thing. Actual human interaction was quite another.
He was putting his clothes on when Jason came into the locker room with a huge grin on his face. He wondered what had happened now as he stepped into his shoes and followed his younger brother out of the locker room. Jason was talking a mile a minute and making absolutely no sense. Skyler stopped walking and put his hand on the younger man's shoulder to stop him. They looked at each other for a long moment, and Skyler could see the excitement in his brother's eyes as he looked back at him.
"You've got to come to the ice," Jason said. "Jeff's over there. Adam is too."
"All right," Skyler said as they started walking again. He wondered why Jason was so excited the ice. He'd seen Adam skate before, and though Adam was a genius on the ice it wasn't something to be excited over every time you saw it.
"You're going to love this, Sky," he said as they made their way through the second locker room and out to the stands around the huge ice rink.
Skyler could see that Jeff and Ashton were on ice skates. Skyler didn't know why Ashton was with Jeff but he was happy to see that the boy knew how to ice skate. Skyler had never been on ice skates in his life, so it was nice to see that his son could do something he couldn't do. It was still odd to call the boy his son, but he was getting used to it. He loved him just as much as he loved Preston and the others so it wouldn't feel odd much longer. He was sure of that. Then he saw what Jason was so excited about. Adam and Ashton were speeding along the ice. Adam jumped into the air and spun around two and a half times before landing on one skate with his other leg extended behind him and his arms out.
What stopped Skyler in his tracks was that a minute later, Ashton jumped into the air and spun around two and half times before landing on one skate. His landing was a little wobbly, but he stayed on one skate with his other leg extended behind him and his arms out. Jeff and Adam were cheering Ashton on and Skyler noticed that Jason was taking blade guards off his own skates and racing across the ice to his nephew. Skyler hadn't realized that Jason was on skates the whole time.
"Did you see?" Ashton cried, skating to the wall in front of Skyler. "I did a double axle just like Adam!"
"I saw!" Skyler cried, leaning over the wall to hug his son. "It was awesome!"
"Jeff said that I can go to dinner with you guys tonight," he said as he held Skyler tight. "Then Adam was showing me some jumps and I tried it. I fell the first two times but I got it on the third. This was my fifth time doing it."
"He gets better each time," Adam said, coming to a stop about a foot from Ashton on the ice. "He's a natural, Skyler."
"So it seems," Skyler replied, smiling at Adam. "How old were you when you started skating?"
"Four," he laughed. "Ashton's a bit late, but with a little training and practice I'd say he could be competing in the junior division soon enough."
"It sounds like a lot of hard work," Skyler said slowly, wondering about training and the tour.
"Well it is," admitted Adam. "I think he's got talent, but he'll need to work hard and really follow directions if he wants to compete. I know you're getting ready to head off on tour, but I'd say as soon as you get back he should get with a coach. You have several on your payroll."
"I'll think about this and discuss it with Ashton and Jeff," he said. "Right now I'm hungry."
Skyler waited while the four of them got out of their skates. He noticed that Jason and Jeff took their skates back to the locker room with them but Ashton held on to his and talked to Adam while he wiped his blades with a towel and then put them in what looked like cloth blade guards. He also removed the insoles from the boots and sat them aside.
"You need to take the skates back, Ash," Skyler said as he walked up to where the pair was sitting.
"Actually I think he should keep those," Adam said. "I can give him a case for them, and I'm sure there are terrycloth guards in the locker room, but he's skated in them once already. He should keep the skates and only skate in them. You'll have to buy another pair as he grows, but take it from me, figure skates are a bitch to break in. If you buy him another pair he'll have to work on them for at least two weeks before he can do anything really good in them. Otherwise they'll tear up his feet really bad."
"Well why don't you get him all set up with a case and guards," Skyler said. "You'll have to teach him to take care of them. I know nothing about ice skates. I've never been on skates in my life."
"Sure thing," Adam said with a smile. "Come on, Ashton."
Jeff and Jason came back while Adam was getting Ashton all set up with a skate case and telling him how to care for his skates. Skyler noticed that the insoles from Adam's skates were still lying on the bench. He was looking at them when Jeff and Jason came to stand beside him. He smiled at his brother and wondered what he was doing. He'd thought Jason would go back to the dancers.
"I told the runt he could go to dinner with us tonight," Jeff said in explanation. "Hope that's all right."
"Of course it is," Skyler replied. "Did you tell him he had to pay for dinner though?"
"Right," laughed Jason. "I'm gonna catch a ride back to your house tonight anyway. That way I can go with you guys to court in the morning."
"Sounds like a plan," Skyler replied.
"Where's the weed?" Jeff asked, looking out to the ice.
"Adam took him to get a case for his skates and teach him how to dry his blades and care for his boots," Skyler replied.
"So he's keeping that pair?" asked Jeff.
"Adam said it was a good idea," Skyler explained. "We'll have to buy him another pair as he grows, but for now he'll skate on the ones he's got."
"Won't be many places for him to use them on the tour," Jeff said.
"We'll figure it out," Skyler replied. "He wants to skate, so we'll let him do it. There's nearly a month before we head off to tour, and Adam's not in training for anything right now so he's just playing around. I figure Ashton can skate with Adam while I'm rehearsing every night."
"And when we're on tour?" Jeff asked as Ashton and Adam came back from the locker room.
"We'll find places and ways," Skyler assured him.
"I have a list of all of the ice rinks in America," Adam said. "I'll give you a copy tomorrow if you want."
"That sounds good," replied Skyler. "I'll have to get someone to give me a list of places in Europe as well."
"Shouldn't be hard," said Adam. "They're a lot more common in Europe than America."
They filed out of the rink after that and to the waiting SUVs. Adam's eyes went wide when he saw the army of security and the convoy of vehicles. No one said anything as they climbed into the vehicle in the very middle of the line. Jason kept up a steady conversation about heading off for Barcelona in less than a month. Skyler was happy to see that his little brother was so excited, but he wasn't sure that Ashton looked all that excited.
"What do you think, Ashton?" Skyler asked as the vehicles began to move. "You ready to see the world?"
"I don't know," he replied. "I've never been anywhere before."
"Well we're going to see all sorts of places," Skyler told him. "We'll be on busses and the new jet. We'll stay in hotels and have room service."
"Will we have fun?" asked the boy.
"Oh I'm sure we will," Skyler said, smiling at him.
"Don't worry, Ashton," said Jason. "We'll make sure you and your brothers and sister have a lot of fun on the tour."
They had dinner at The Crystal Room and Adam looked like a tourist as he gawked at everything. There were several other celebrities in the dinging room and Adam did his best not to stare. It helped that Skyler, Jeff and Jason continued to talk about the tour. He finally got used to sitting there when Skyler started asking him about his training. He wanted to get an idea of what Ashton was getting in to.
"Training is hard," Adam said after a minute. "You have to get up really early, and you never get to do the things you want to do like everybody else. It's worth it though when you get out on the ice in front of a crowd and hear them screaming for you. They throw flowers and stuffed animals at you when you're done and they love to watch you skate."
"But do you like skating?" Skyler asked.
"I love skating," Adam said with a huge smile. "This is my dream. I'm living it now."
"I'm sure it's also a lot of hard work," Skyler said.
"Well sure," Adam replied seriously. "I'd be lying if I said that it was easy. It's anything but easy. You fall on a surface that feels like stone, and your feet hurt a lot. I've sprained my ankles landing jumps the wrong way, and my muscles are sore a lot of the time. But, Skyler, you know the kinds of things I'm talking about. You're a dancer. It may not be on ice skates, but you work just as hard as I do before a tour and during a tour."
"Yes, tours are a lot of hard work, lost sleep and general aggravation," Skyler agreed, turning to Ashton. "You sure you want all that?"
"I know I want to try," said the boy, and Skyler smiled.
"Well we'll let you try," said Jeff. "Just remember that if you find out that you don't like it you just have to tell us and it'll stop."
"But listen, we have to get out of here," Skyler said, smiling at Adam. "Ashton needs to get to bed and we've got court in the morning."
They filed out of the restaurant and took Adam back to the school. When they got home they sat in the living room with Darby, Jase and Ali while Ashton went upstairs to play with his siblings. It was strange to think of Chad coming home and their parents were on tour with someone who wasn't even family. Skyler understood it, but it didn't make it any less strange.
"So we're sure the judge'll let him come home?" Darby asked as they sat there, drinking their iced tea.
"Yes," Skyler replied, smiling at her. "He's coming home tomorrow."
"Are you guys coming with us on the tour?" Jason asked.
"No," she sighed. "Chad wants to work on his album. Skyler, has he talked to you about the album?"
"He's only told me that he wants to record it," he said. "He said he had new music and that the sound was completely different. That's all he told me."
"Well maybe you'll get to hear something soon," Darby said.
"I'm hoping so," he said. "To be honest I don't really care what his new sound is as long as it's music he enjoys making."
They went up and put all of the children to bed, promising Ashton that they'd take him with them to the school so he could skate with Adam the next evening. Skyler and Jeff stripped and climbed into bed, falling into each other's arms as they pulled the sheets up around them. Skyler wrapped his arms around Jeff as he slid down in the bed to rest his head on the pillow. Jeff settled into the bed with his head on Skyler's chest.
"So we're going to let Ashton skate?" Jeff said as he nuzzled Skyler's chest.
"We're going to let him try it out," said Skyler. "I don't want to hold any of the children back from their dreams, Jeff. I want them to follow them and I'd like to do whatever I can to help them reach them."
"Sounds good to me," said Jeff. "You should have seen the way Adam was with Ashton tonight. He was so patient and excited. You know that double axle wasn't what he started with. Adam had him try a single first and then was only showing him the double when Ashton started trying to do it. I have to admit that it made me feel really good to see him out there on the ice with that huge grin on his face."
"Yeah," sighed Skyler. "His life has been shit. We're just gonna have to make sure that it's so much better from now on."
They snuggled together and fell asleep. The next morning they were up before the sun so that they could get showered, dressed and have breakfast before the children were out of bed. The kids would be staying with Ali for the morning. The adults would head over to the court house to be there for Chad. Even with getting up so early by the time they got into the SUV and the entire entourage had made it off the estate and to the court house they had only ten minutes before Chad was to be before the judge.
Chad was already in the courtroom with his clinician and a plain clothed policeman. Skyler and the rest of the family took their seats behind the glass partition, directly behind Chad. He looked at them and gave them a smile that was almost like the old Chad. Skyler's heart began to beat faster as they waited. The wait wasn't long. Judge Schear came in, everyone stood and then he had them sit back down. He called Chad's case first and before Skyler knew what to think Chad had been ordered to undergo random drug testing for one year and was placed on supervision. He was released after that, and they were all filing back into the SUV caravan before it actually started to sink in.
They headed back to the house with all of them talking at the same time. Skyler smiled when he saw that Darby refused to let go of Chad the entire time they were in the vehicle. Chad laughed and talked with each of them, and Skyler could tell that the broken Chad was gone. He may not be completely back to normal but he was getting there, and that made Skyler happy.
The kids were all excited to see them when they got home and Skyler laughed out loud when Chad got down on the floor and hugged Preston and Junior. He swept Alyssa off her feet and swung her around, telling her how much he'd missed her and her brothers. Then he sat her down and hugged Mike tightly. He looked at Ashton and smiled. Ashton hung back a bit, looking nervous. Skyler was about to say something when Chad took care of it perfectly.
"So you're my nephew," Chad said, putting his hand out to shake hands with Ashton. "I've heard so much about you, and I can tell you right now that I'm very happy to have you for my nephew."
Ashton shook his hand and then looked at him for a long moment. Everyone was silent while Ashton watched Chad from two feet away. He must have decided that Chad was all right because he smiled and said, "Are you going to come and see me skate tonight?"
That got everyone laughing. After Chad promised to watch him skate things got going. Darby went off to the kitchen to start lunch for all of them and they all settled out on the deck to watch the kids play in the grass. Chad never stopped smiling as he sat there with them. He talked about how great it was to be home. Skyler told him how great it was to have him home. Cassie held her twin's hand for a long time as Kaleb smiled at her.
Chad seemed excited when Skyler explained that Ashton had been skating with Adam Winslow the night before and had landed a double axle on the ice. He told him that he'd agreed to let Ashton skate with Adam while he was rehearsing each afternoon. Chad seemed to be interested in both watching Ashton skate and Skyler rehearse. Skyler assured him that he wouldn't have to watch Ashton skate every afternoon and they all laughed at that.
They had a great lunch on the deck, rounding up the children so they could eat as well. Then they were all sitting in the living room with cups of tea or coffee in front of them. Chad talked about his new sound and what he wanted his music to be like now. Skyler paid close attention and held back any comments when Chad told him that he was switching from pop to rock. He decided that he'd have to wait and hear what it sounded like before he made any decisions about it.
Skyler went upstairs to change and get ready to leave for rehearsal after a bit. He had Ashton come upstairs so he could change into a sweat suit and put on three pairs of socks like Adam had suggested. Then they were all climbing into the vehicles again to head over to the school. This was only Chad's second time encountering the security measures that kept his older brother comfortable. He laughed as they got into the SUV.
"We're like an army of FBI or something," he said, smiling at Skyler.
"After what the press has done this is the only way I'll leave the house," Skyler said, and Chad noticed that he wasn't smiling.
They encountered an intense scene when they arrived at the school. Skyler was at first thrilled to see Chip, Christian and Justin standing in the gymnasium but one look at Chip's face changed that. Skyler looked across the room to where Shane Dodds was talking to another dark haired young man that Skyler didn't know. He was a good looking young man and after a second Skyler realized that he looked a little like Chip. He thought for a moment that they were family, but then he dismissed that thought because if a member of Chip's family showed up in Los Angeles, Skyler was sure he'd have known about it before it happened.
"Skyler," said James as he came up behind him. "I was going to introduce you to my new assistant but it seems that it's causing a bit of tension. I can't say that I know who any of these new people are other than Justin and Christian, so I'm assuming the brooding hunk over there is Justin's father, Chip."
"Yes," Skyler said. "Who is your assistant?"
"His name is Kyle Dodds," he said. "I suppose they're related, but I hadn't thought about it until they stormed into the gym a few minutes before you arrived."
"Kyle?" Skyler said in shock. "I thought he was in college in Texas."
"He's graduated," Chip said as he made his way over to Skyler and James. "Thank you for hiring him, James," he said, extending his hand. "I'm Kyle's older brother, Chip."
"Pleased to meet you," James said, shaking Chip's hand. "I assure you that he was hired because of his qualifications."
"I wasn't trying to imply anything," Chip said slowly. He turned to Skyler and forced a smile. "It's good to see you, Sky."
"And you," Skyler said. "I wasn't aware that you guys had left Orlando."
"Well Kyle called us last night to tell us he'd be arriving today and that he'd been hired by James," Chip explained. "I'm waiting patiently for a chance to talk to him."
Skyler thought about the still tense relations between Chip and Shane and wondered what would happen with them both in the gym at the same time. Fortunately Jase solved that problem for him. He walked over to Shane and was introduced to Kyle before he took Shane with him through the locker room to the ice. Chip walked away then and hugged his youngest brother. Skyler watched them with a growing feeling of panic in his chest. Then he saw Adam and smiled.
"I thought I'd pop over here to see if you and Ashton had arrived yet," Adam said, grinning at Skyler as he came to stand in front of him.
"Hi, Adam," Ashton said with excitement in his voice.
"Hey, buddy," Adam replied. "You ready to skate?"
"Yeah!" cried Ashton.
"You go ahead and follow Adam," Skyler said, leaning down to hug his son. "Be good and do what he tells you, all right?"
"I will," said Ashton just as he turned and followed Adam back into the locker room.
"Good to see you, Sky," said Christian coming up to stand beside him.
"It's good to see you, too," Skyler said. "I was a little worried about Chip and Shane being here at the same time. Still am, actually."
"Don't be," Christian replied. "Chip will be on his best behavior. Trust me."
"Have a leash on him, do you?"
"Something like that," laughed Christian. "It was more his sister's doing than mine though. She had a long talk with him on the phone today."
"I wonder what she said to him," Skyler said as he noticed another attractive dark haired man lounging on the bottom bleacher. He wondered who this one would turn out to be. Then he saw Evan talking to him and thought that maybe he'd been wrong about Evan. Maybe this was Evan's boyfriend and Skyler's gaydar really did suck.
There was a look about this guy, though. Skyler couldn't put his finger on it, but he definitely reminded him of someone. He watched them while he talked to Christian about Chip until James called the dancers together and Evan walked away from this new guy. Skyler smiled at Christian and then joined the dancers in the center of the gym as Kyle turned on the sound equipment and "Let Yourself Go" piped through the speakers over their heads.
As they danced Skyler noticed that the guy he now thought of as Evan's boyfriend watched them all closely. He seemed extremely interested in Alex and Evan. Skyler wondered just who the guy was. The music changed and the routine changed with it. Suddenly they were dancing to "Invincible". He noticed that Chip, Christian and Justin were seated two rows above the would be boyfriend of Evan. They watched with rapt attention as well.
By the time they'd gotten through the entire song line up and everyone was drenched in sweat Skyler no longer cared who the mystery guy was. He wanted a shower and then to collect his son and lover and go home. He watched Evan walk over to the guy and then saw Evan motion him over. He wondered if he was going to out himself as he walked over to them.
"Skyler, this is my twin brother, Cameron," Evan said. "Cameron, as promised, this is Skyler Thomas."
"Twins, huh?" Skyler asked, shaking Cameron's hand. "Nice to meet you. Sorry I'm all sweaty."
"No problem," said Cameron with a killer smile. "We're fraternal twins."
"Obviously," Skyler replied with a smile. Then he thought of something. "Listen, if he's going to stay here at the school you'll need to have him sign the agreement."
"He's not staying here," said Evan. "He just wanted to see me dance and meet you. He's staying at the Hilton."
"Ah," Skyler said, wondering where this twin brother got the money for the Hilton. Evan had told him when he'd started the show that his family wasn't at all wealthy.
"Yeah, I'm doing some modeling work for Jerry Taylor," said Cameron. "There are four of us in the shoot. He set us all up at the Hilton."
"A model," Skyler said, smiling. "But not one of ours?"
"Not yet," he said, smiling that killer smile.
"Bring your portfolio to the Sky High offices tomorrow after your shoot," said Skyler after a moment of thought. "Tell them I sent you. I'll call the office when I get home and leave a message to expect you. Cameron Bradford, right?"
"That's me," he said, grinning once again. "Thanks, Skyler."
"No problem," he said, shaking his outstretched hand again. "Listen guys I'm gonna hit the showers and get home."
"Later, Skyler," said Evan.
"It was great to meet you, and thanks again," Cameron said.
"You're welcome, and it was nice to meet you, too," he said as he turned to head for the locker room.
Skyler called the office and left a message for the front desk about Cameron as soon as they got home. Ashton kept a steady excited chatter going about what he'd learned that afternoon. Jeff told Skyler that Ashton had almost landed a triple salchow. Skyler had no idea what that was but told Ashton to keep trying anyway. He was sure it was a great jump.
"You know Justin talked our ears off all the way here about your dance moves," Chip said when Skyler and Jeff joined them on the patio to await dinner.
"I seem to remember telling him he could dance with my dancers some time," Skyler said, smiling.
"You tell him that again and I'll have to break your neck," laughed Chip.
"Not to worry," Skyler replied. "I have my hands full with this tour already."
"What makes you say that?" Christian asked.
"Well people keep springing siblings and other surprises on me," he said. "You both know how much I loath the show as it is."
"Yes," Chip said with a grin.
"Now I've booked hotels in each city and Gavin is nearly rabid to get the information before we arrive in each city," he said. "Clay won't look me in the eye and Gavin is having secret meetings with James which neither of them will tell me about."
"Sounds intense," said Christian.
"I'll put a stop to it soon," Skyler vowed. "Jeff thinks they're plotting some kind of stunt for the tour. I told them both if they try to change anything or add anything to the tour their both fired."
"Be a shame to fire your official choreographer so soon after he signed that contract," Chip said seriously.
"It would, but I've had enough of these nasty little surprises," he said. "Gavin knows better now, so if he's doing what I think he's doing he deserves to be fired. I can't think that James would do anything that would piss me off. He knows how pissed off I still am over the cameras following us around on tour."
"Yeah, I think everyone knows how pissed you are about that," Christian said with another smile.
"I didn't know that Kyle was going to be James's assistant, either," said Skyler. "He doesn't have to clear things like that with me, but it would have been nice to know that another member of your family would be contracted to Sky High."
"I only found out just before we left for the airport," Chip said quickly. "I'd have told you."
"I want to thank you for not getting loud about Shane tonight, by the way," he said. "I know you still have issues with him."
"I'm working on those," Chips said, squeezing Christian's hand.
"Is Shane staying here in the house?" Christian asked, and Chip tensed at the question.
"No," Skyler replied quickly. "He's been staying across the yard. With my parents on the road and Jase filming in LA it seemed like a good idea that someone be over there."
"He's not alone over there, is he?" Chip asked.
"No," replied Skyler. "A few friends of my mother's are there as well. It's all good. Trust me."
"Well at least he has company," Christian said, taking Chip's hand again.
"Darby says dinner's ready," Chad said as he came into the room. "I helped her."
"Will we die if we eat it?" Skyler asked, barely holding back a smile.
"None of that," laughed Chad. "Come on now. I'll help you guys with the kids."
"Where's Jase?" Christian asked as they all got ready to head to the dining room.
"He and Ali are having an evening out," Skyler explained. "I told them we'd keep Mike."
Darby had gone all out with dinner. She'd prepared braised lamb chops with curry, fried asparagus and crusty fresh baked bread. It looked and smelled great. For the kids she had breaded chicken pieces with sliced potato french fries and chocolate pudding. She came into the dining room with a bottle of red wine and started to fill glasses, smiling at Skyler as she moved around the table. Chad filled the children's glasses with milk before he sat beside Preston to help him with his food.
"This is amazing," Christian enthused as they ate.
"It's my sister's recipe," she said, smiling at him. "She serves the lamb chops and fried asparagus in the restaurant."
"We definitely need to eat there before we head back to Orlando," Chip said.
"When are you going back to Orlando?" Skyler asked.
"Well, Jase gave me a part in his current movie and I'm supposed to star in the next," Christian replied. "Of course this one is being filmed here in LA, but the next one will be the first feature film shot at Sky High Studios Dallas."
"I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been to Irving to see the studio or any of it," Skyler said. "It's good that Jase'll be the first director to do anything over there though."
"I hear they're building another complex like the one in Coppell," said Chip. "So it worked out for you?"
"It seems to be," Skyler said with a smile as he thought about the stands nearly full of athletes, coaches and managers when they'd rehearsed on the sets on the field. Then he thought about another problem. Christian working on two films with Jase back to back put Chip and Shane together quite a lot. He was about to say something about it when Chip beat him to the punch.
"I see you worrying, Skyler," he said. "Don't. I'm hoping that Shane and I can burry the hatchet while we're so close to each other."
"Well then I hope it works out for you," said Skyler.
The grudge Chip carried for his younger brother bordered on fanatical, and the last thing that Jase would need during filming would be a blow up between the two brothers. Skyler just hoped that Chip could really set the past aside and forgive his brother for something that was only indirectly his fault as he saw it. Thinking of them reminded him about the new Sky High Dallas and how he'd refused to even take any time away from the dancers to inspect the site. Construction was nearly finished at any rate. It had to be if Jase was planning to shoot a movie on the studio lots any time soon.
They were building the offices as well as the studio lots in Irving, Texas which wasn't the biggest city for their venture. It was close enough to Dallas to keep the name of the division and commutes would be short for employees who lived in Dallas but worked at the offices in Irving. The sports complex, which would house dancers or any other type of entertainers on one side and athletes on the other just like the complex in Los Angeles was being constructed in Coppell, Texas which was also close enough to the area to let it keep its name. Skyler had seen the scale models of each of the buildings being built as well as photographs of the land. He'd had video conferences with the construction crew in Bruce's office and had seen how far along construction had gotten.
They were back at the school for rehearsals and annoying filming the next afternoon, and Skyler finally found out what Gavin and James had been having secret meetings about. He actually laughed out loud when he found out what was going on. It seemed that there would be no rehearsals the next day because Skyler and all of his dancers were needed for the filming of the Boeing commercial. James was having secret meetings with Gavin to give him a piece of his mind periodically as the date drew closer and closer.
They went through each routine and James pointed out problem areas for some of them and then Skyler sat on the side of the stage with Evan, Alex and Jason to watch as the rest of them went over the entire routine again. Then James called it quits for the day and told them to practice on their own or they'd never be ready in time. Skyler thought that was odd because they'd been rehearsing for so long. He'd have thought they'd have had the entire show so solid they could've performed it in their sleep.
"I think it's just laziness on most of their parts," James informed him when he'd said as much to him before he headed off to shower and dress. "The fact that we've been rehearsing for so long is hurting us."
"Another thing to lay at Gavin's feet," sighed Skyler. "They'd better be on their toes when the show takes off or I'll fire Gavin and let them tell him after they've all received their walking papers."
"Go shower," James said after a moment. "I'll wrangle these knuckleheads. You worry about the commercial. I guess it really is important. The idea of a 777 to fly around the world on is appealing."
"Later, James," Skyler said, smiling.
As soon as he was showered and dressed he followed Jason over to the ice to watch the tail end of Ashton's practice. He was still thinking about what James had said about starting rehearsals far too early and all of the dancers growing tired of the routines. He really was thinking that it was probably time to get rid of Gavin as his agent and talk to someone else. He tried not to let his anger show as he sat in the stands beside his lover and brother to watch his son skate.
"What's wrong, Blondie?" Jeff asked quietly after Skyler had sat there for a few minutes, tension gripping his body like a vice.
"The dancers are screwing up," he replied simply. With Jeff there was never a need to go into complete detail.
"They'll fall in when the tour starts," he said. "Don't worry. Rehearsals are only exciting for so long. You guys just started way too early."
"I think I want to fire Gavin," said Skyler, watching Ashton make his axle jump and cheering right along with everyone else.
"I've been wondering when you'd get around to thinking about that," Jeff said when they were seated again and it had quieted down a bit. "He's been running amok a lot."
"I don't want to fire him so close to tour time, but I can't put up with his antics much longer," Skyler said softly.
"Well you'll do what you have to do, Sky," he replied. "Maybe if you just have a one on one with Gavin you can straighten him out."
"Enough about me," he said. "How was your meeting with management this morning?"
"Tense," Jeff said. "Nick wants to work on his solo stuff, Jessica wants to get married and the others are all just tired."
"What does that mean for the band?" Skyler asked.
"Limbo for now," Jeff replied with a sigh.
"I'm sorry," Skyler said. "I know that part of this is because you demanded time to tour with me and the kids."
"Don't be sorry about that, Skyler," Jeff said, leaning a bit closer to him. "I wouldn't change that no matter what happens because of it. You and the kids are the most important thing in my life. Besides, if the band is over I can always sing and dance for Sky High."
"That's always a given, Blue Eyes," Skyler said, smiling at him.
"We'll be fine, Sky," Jeff said, inching his hand closer so he could rub his pinky over Skyler's in a reassuring gesture.
"Always," Skyler said softly, hating the world for having to be discreet.
"And forever," Jeff replied, their own special way of telling each other they loved each other when there were ears to hear the wrong things in the right words.
"So I have the commercial to film in the morning," Skyler said, changing topics.
"Yeah, Gavin informed me that I am not to be involved," Jeff said, his voice hard. "JR and Alyssa are not to be on the set. Only your family will be in the commercial."
"Gavin can kiss my ass," Skyler said through his teeth. "You and the kids will be in the commercial or I won't film it. I'm so tired of Gavin's shit."
"I figured that'd be your decision," Jeff said after a moment of silence. "Sky, if you're sure about it then we'll be there, but don't let it hurt you."
"I have a plan, Jeff," he said. "I'll fix this fairly easily. Trust me."
The fix turned out to be a handful of Sky High celebrities and their families who were still in Los Angeles and not working on current projects. Skyler gave Gavin a cold look when he tried to protest. There was a tense moment when Skyler had to explain what everyone was doing on the set to the Boeing cameramen, but that was all smoothed over when Skyler informed them that having them all in the commercial would be a good idea. After all they wanted his jet to look like a family friendly environment. How better to show that than to have children and parents who were also celebrities in the commercial. They'd all be paid by Sky High so it wasn't a problem for Boeing.
In the end it worked out perfectly. They sat around in the open common space of the jet in a circle with their children on their laps or on the floor in front of them, playing with toys or just having fun. Skyler said his lines as if he were talking to the others instead of to the cameras. "It's just a great feeling, knowing that the people you love can be with you and that they're safe and sound. These jets are large enough to keep your whole family comfortable and safe. I love mine."
The Boeing people loved it when they saw the raw footage. Skyler sat in a booth at Sky High Studios to watch the editing process and finally saw the entire commercial. It was a long commercial with shots of rehearsals, shots from the sound check on the sets and of course Skyler's sit down with the others and their kids. Everyone was happy with the final result. Skyler shook hands with the people from Boeing and looked around his personal jet with a smile on his face. At least until Gavin came aboard.
"I think it's high time that you and I sit down and have a professional talk, Gavin," he said, looking at the man evenly.
"The commercial turned out perfect, Sky," Gavin said, smiling. "I was wrong and I apologize."
"That's only a small part of what we need to talk about," Skyler said, motioning him to have a seat on the over stuffed cream colored sofa. He thought about what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. He didn't really want to fire Gavin, but he would if this conversation didn't go his way or if Gavin didn't straighten up. "There are a number of things that I'm unhappy about with your performance as my agent."
"Skyler, I haven't done anything to try to make you unhappy," Gavin replied.
"Just stop," Skyler said, raising a hand to shut him up. "The show was your idea, and because of it my dancers are all sick to death of the routine and we're not even on tour yet. Then there's the way you constantly try to keep Jeff and the kids out of my career. That has to stop. You signed a contract, Gavin. It stated that things would ultimately be done my way. Well that's going to start happening or I'll have a new agent.
"And for the sake of all things holy, stay away from James," he continued. "I don't know what you think you're doing, telling him that I'll probably change the line up. Gavin, that's completely unprofessional. Now I don't want to fire you, but I will if you don't straighten up and act right. Damn it you're supposed to be an agent, Gavin. You're not my keeper."
"I've only been doing what I think is right for your career," Gavin said after a moment. "The show was a good idea, Skyler."
"The show was a fucking terrible idea, Gavin," Skyler spat. "Maybe if you had done it a bit differently and started it later it would have been a good idea. That show has wrecked my dancers. It's completely alienated me from my own fucking show because you knew damned well what it would mean for me and Jeff. You need to get one thing through you head right now. When it comes to all of this bullshit, the career, the tours, the music and the movies pitted against me and Jeff, I'll choose me and Jeff every time hands down. Get the picture?
"So don't sit there and tell me that the show was a good idea," he went on. "If you ever pull a stunt like that again without talking it over with me first you'll be fired, not only as my agent but from Sky High as well. Read your fucking contract, Gavin."
"I'll do my best to be better for you, Skyler," he said. "I understand that you're angry, and I even understand why. From now on anything I do will be discussed with you first. Please give me another chance."
"You've got your chance, Gavin," Skyler said. "Don't blow it."
When he finally got home he spent some time with Ashton, listening to the boy enthuse about his double lutz. Skyler showed all of the excitement required and Ashton was happier than Skyler had seen him since he'd known him. He hugged the boy and told him how much he loved him and how proud of him he was. Then he sat in the floor with Jeff and the rest of the kids to play for a while.
The next day at rehearsals the dancers performed the routines flawlessly. Skyler decided that whatever James had said to them had worked. They were in a better mood that day as well. Skyler thanked them for working hard and promised to make the tour as fun as possible for them. He thought about the fact that he wouldn't see much of them while the tour was going on but he decided then and there that he'd figure it all out while they were on the road. He chose four of them to go to the release party the next night and made sure not to pick Evan or Alex so the rest of the dancers didn't think he was playing favorites.
The release party was held at The Viper Room and Skyler wasn't surprised to see the club done up in all black for this party. He made his way backstage and wished Deacon luck. The younger man was all excitement and nerves, but Skyler quickly settled him down and told him to just do what he loved to do and he'd be fine. He joined Jase, Jeff and the dancers at their table as Deacon was announced.
He came out on the stage and looked at everyone with his guitar held tight to his body. Skyler thought for a moment that the boy would freeze up but then the music started and he began to play.
"Another sleepless night I can't explain," he sang and Skyler was pleased to find that he sounded much better than he had the first time he'd heard him. "Somebody said they heard me call your name.
"The radio won't let you leave my mind. I know it's over but I don't know why," he sang and gripped his guitar as he started the chorus.
"Shoulda known better than to fall in love with you. Now love is just a faded memory," he sang, looking out at the crowd. His eyes found Skyler's and he smiled. "Shoulda known better. Now I'm a prisoner to this pain and my heart still aches for you."
He played for a while and Skyler looked around at the others in the club to gage their reaction to the music. Everyone was on their feet, cheering and having a great time. Skyler was happy to see that. Deacon had been one of his prospects. It was nice to see that he'd been a good idea.
"Oh, there was no risk that I wouldn't take," he sang, drawing the crowd in again. "Not a promise that I didn't make. All I asked was that you just hold on. Now I'm wonderin' what I did wrong.
"Shoulda known better," he sang, "than to fall in love with you. Now love is just a faded memory. Shoulda known better. Now I'm a prisoner to this pain and my heart still aches for you."
Skyler posed for pictures with Deacon and members of his band after the performance. He talked to music television reporters and praised Deacon's performance. By the time the night was drawing to a close he was never so happy to be heading home to be with his family in his life. They dropped the dancers off at the school and then the convoy made its way to the estate and Skyler and Jeff melted onto the living room floor with the kids as Chad and Darby watched from the sofa.
"How'd it go?" Chad asked when they came in.
"It was good," Skyler replied. "Deacon was a bit nervous but he pulled it together."
"I have something for you to listen to when you can sit still long enough," Chad said, smiling at him.
"New music?" Skyler asked as he took his place on the floor beside Jeff.
"Yeah," Chad said. He looked a bit nervous.
"Well now's as good a time as any," Skyler said, getting up.
"The kids shouldn't listen," Chad said quickly as Jeff started to get up.
"It's fine, Chad," said Darby. "Jeff, you go and have a listen with Skyler. I'll keep the kids busy."
"Thanks, Darby," Chad said, kissing her.
"Chad, calm down," she said softly, but Skyler could hear her. "He's gonna love it. You'll see."
Skyler and Jeff followed him to the studio and sat in the booth. They didn't to do anything but activate the microphones in the booth. Chad sat with his guitar and began to play. Skyler hoped he loved the song. He wasn't sure about Chad going rock, but if it was truly what his brother wanted he would support him. He knew all too well what his support meant to him. He watched as Chad closed his eyes and began to sing in his most haunted voice.
"It's been a while since I could hold my head up high," he sang, and Skyler nearly started to cry. The sound of his voice and the words themselves said a lot. "And it's been a while since I first saw you. It's been a while since I could stand on my own two feet again, and it's been a while since I could call you. But everything I can't remember as fucked up as it may seem, the consequences that I've rendered, I've stretched myself beyond my means.
"It's been a while since I could say that I wasn't addicted, and it's been a while since I could say I love myself as well, and it's been a while since I've gone and fucked things up just like I always do. It's been a while, but all that shit seems to disappear when I'm with you. But everything I can remember, as fucked up as it may seem. The consequences that I've rendered, I've gone and fucked things up again," he sang and then he played for a bit.
"Why must I feel this way? Just make this go away. Just one more peaceful day," he sang in an even more haunting tone and Skyler was in tears.
"It's been a while since I could look at myself straight, and it's been a while since I said I'm sorry. It's been a while since I've seen the way the candles light your face. It's been a while, but I can still remember just the way you taste. But everything I can't remember as fucked up as it may seam, I know it's me. I cannot blame this on my brother. He did the best he could for me.
"And, oh, it's been a while since I could hold my head up high, and it's been a while since I said I'm sorry," he sang and brought the song to a close.
Skyler went into the booth and wrapped his arms around Chad as the two of the cried. Jeff left the studio to give them some privacy. Skyler didn't know what to say after the song. He just knew that Chad had nothing to apologize for. The song was so haunting and full of pain that Skyler could only hold his brother and try to let his love pour out to him.
"That song was about the last year," said Chad as he held his brother tight. "I'm so sorry for everything, Sky."
"You don't have anything to apologize for," Skyler said, finally letting him go so he could sit on the stool beside him. "Chad, you had a problem. It wasn't exactly your fault. Life has been hard for both of us, and you were only reacting to the life you were forced to live. I understood then and I understand now. I love you, and you have no idea how much."
"Thank you, Skyler," Chad said, leaning close to hug him again. "Did you like it?"
"Oh, Chad," he breathed. "The song was amazing. I'm so proud of you, but it was so painful to listen to. That's only because I know exactly where it came from. You're going to have so many new fans with this type of music. If this is what you truly wanted to sing all along you had to know I would support you."
"I was so worried that you'd hate the song," Chad said, squeezing him tight.
"Chad, it may not be my kind of music, but that doesn't mean it wasn't an amazing song," said Skyler.
They sat there for the next three hours as Chad played a few more songs for his brother and Skyler told him how much he loved them. Each of the songs that Chad played poured out more pain and heartache. The lyrics were so powerful and had come from his heart, and Skyler was so proud of him. He knew just from listening to Chad sit and sing with only his guitar that these songs were going to be very popular.
When they came back to the living room, Darby was smiling expectantly at them. Both of them were still trying to wipe the tears from their eyes. Jeff had decided that he'd waited long enough. He got up from the floor and wrapped his arms around Chad and held him tight. Skyler had told him all about the lives they'd lived growing up with the monster who had hurt them, and Chad's drug problem, his lashing out all of it was just a reaction to that life. Jeff told him quietly that he was proud of him and blown away by the song. He told him that he loved him like a brother and he wanted him to always remember that.
They continued to stick close to Chad for the next few days. He went with Skyler to rehearsals and laughed as Skyler yelled at the cameramen. They took him and Darby to dinner after rehearsals the next day and then Chad went to the studio with Skyler the next day to record the song for Jase's movie. It was a different sound for Skyler and not what Chad liked but the song was great. He sat with Jeff and watched as Skyler went into the booth.
"Just let me know when you're ready, Sky," said Gloria as she and Mel sat in the tech booth. Skyler put his headphones on and gave them a thumbs up to start the recording. He waited until he found his place and then started to sing, making his voice as haunted as possible.
"Blues outside my door," he sang. "I don't even know if it's rainin', but I've been here before and I don't wanna be here again.
"Every now and then, voices on the wind call me back to the first time. Far away and clear, you can hear the teardrops fallin' for the last in love."
The music played on for a bit and Skyler watched Mel and Gloria for their reaction. This wasn't his normal sound but he loved the song. It made him think of Jase for some reason. The fact that Jase wanted to use the song in his movie said a lot too. He hoped he loved it when it was recorded. He also hoped that Chad at least liked the lyrics. This wasn't the kind of music that any of them listened to, but Jase was making a movie about a country singer so Skyler had written a country song.
"If I let you down, all I can say is I'm sorry. Now it's all over town, so I don't wanna hear it from you," he sang, keeping his voice low and haunted. "Please don't look away. It's hard enough to say this could go on forever. When the night is clear I can hear the teardrops fallin' for the last in love.
"Every now and then, voices on the wind," he sang and let the music play for a few bars. "I may love you forever and always. Far away and clear you can hear the teardrops fallin' for the last in love. Callin' for the last in love. Oh, will we always be the last in love?"
"That was great, Skyler," said Gloria as he took off his headphones. "Come on in here and have a listen."
* * *
"This is Catherine Bradford, Ben," said the voice on the other end of the line and Ben slowly sank down into his chair in shock.
"What do you want?" he heard himself ask. The last time he'd seen Catherine had been during the union strike in Denver before Jason was born. He and Tabitha had been having a very hard time and many problems. He'd nearly left Tabitha for Catherine. Shame filled him at the thought of the affair.
"I believe my son is dancing for Skyler," she said, and Ben thought of Evan Bradford and sighed. "I'm going to need some money, Ben. Or I'll tell Tabitha all about our affair and let her know that Evan and Cameron are your sons."
He looked over at Tabitha. She was sitting on the couch, going through papers sent over from Sky High. God, how he loved her. He couldn't let this hurt her, but how could he deny his own sons. If what Catherine said was true then he had two more sons to think about. He knew he'd pay her the money. There was no other way, but could he pay her off and still get to know his sons? Evan would be leaving for Spain with Skyler's show soon. He wished he were going with them.
"How much?" he asked finally.
"I thought you'd see reason," she said. "They really are your sons, Ben."
"How much?" he repeated a little louder.
"Who was that?" Tabitha asked twenty minutes later when Ben hung up the phone. She turned to look at him and he felt a pain in his chest as he looked back at her. He had to tell her. There was no way he would pay Catherine that much money to keep her silence. He couldn't do it. He had to tell.
* * *
"Just throw them on the bed," Skyler said as he went through his drawers to get underclothes for the trip. "I guess we should really start packing for the tour while we're at it."
"First things first," laughed Jeff as he put Skyler's electric blue silk shirts on the bed. "Has Landon called?"
"Four times," laughed Skyler. "The kid's so excited that he can't stand it. I told him I'd be there in the morning and to calm the hell down."
"I still wish I could go with you," Jeff said for the fiftieth time since he'd told Skyler he couldn't go because of talks with his management.
"Jeff, I'll be there for two days," replied Skyler. "Then I'll be back here and we'll pack up our clothes and get the kids' stuff ready and leave for Spain. You have to talk to your management and figure out if your group is going to continue. We'll call each other both nights. Don't worry."
"You know how I feel about you flying off somewhere by yourself," Jeff said.
"I won't be by myself," Skyler replied. "I'll have eight of the security men with me. Brent'll be with me, Blue Eyes. Don't worry about me."
He was putting his shirts in the garment bag when his father walked into their bedroom. He stood in the doorway, looking at Skyler with a look of complete defeat on his face. Skyler stopped what he was doing and looked at him for a moment. Things weren't back to normal between them, but something about the look in his father's eyes made him put all of that aside.
"Skyler," his dad breathed. "I know that you and I aren't exactly seeing eye to eye right now, but I'd like to go with you to Florida."
"What's going on?" Skyler asked, putting the garment bag on the bed.
"Tabitha would just like me not to be around for the next few days while she thinks," he said, he put his hands over his face and shook his head. "She's probably going to divorce me, and I can't say that I'd blame her if she did. I just have to know if Evan knew anything about this. He's at the school? We could drive over there to talk to him."
"Dad, what are you talking about?" Skyler asked quickly.
"I got a call from Catherine Bradford this evening," Ben said with a sigh. "She wanted money to keep quiet about the affair we had before Jason was born. She told me that Evan and Cameron are my sons. I refused to pay her, so she said she'd go to the press and Tabitha would find out. I told Tabitha everything and she asked me to leave the house for a while. I leave for the tour two weeks after you leave for Spain, but if I could just stay here until then and go with you to Florida, I'd appreciate it."
Skyler sat down on the bed and looked at Jeff. Both of them were shocked by what they'd heard. Skyler couldn't believe his father would have had an affair. He just couldn't believe it. The idea was alien to him. His dad and Tabitha were the most solid couple he knew of. It just didn't make sense. Then he thought about Evan and Cameron and his mind really started to run wild. His dad had said that he wanted to know if Evan knew about it. Did he think that Evan was in on the blackmail? He couldn't have been. After all it wasn't as he could have been sure that Skyler would pick him to be one of his dancers.
"You can stay here," he said finally, looking up at his father. "And you can go with me to Florida."
"Thank you," Ben said. "I'll just go pack a bag."
Then he was gone. Skyler could only sit there and stare at the space his father had just vacated. He couldn't believe it. Two more brothers, Tabitha divorcing his father, his father having an affair, all of it was too much to believe. The affair had been over eighteen years ago but Skyler still couldn't believe it of his father. He looked at Jeff and the two of them just looked at each other. Neither knew what to say about this.
"You all right?" Jeff asked after a long moment of silence.
"I don't know," Skyler replied. "It's a lot to take in. I mean I just can't believe it."
"I know what you mean," said Jeff, coming to sit beside him. "But it sounds like we're gonna have to believe it. I mean he's staying here in our house because Tabitha wants him out of theirs because of this."
"What if Evan was in on this?" Skyler asked. "If he was, then I have to fire him."
"You have back-up dancers, Sky," Jeff reminded. "I think you're just gonna have to talk to Evan and find out what he knows. For all you know he could not even know that Ben is his father. I mean if he did know it I'm sure he'd have said something. I've met the guy, Sky. I don't see him being in on any kind of plot for money."
They were silent after that. Skyler couldn't stop thinking about how this had happened. The woman had called his father and demanded money to keep her from going to the press. That made him groan inwardly. The last thing they needed was to be hounded by the press again so soon. He didn't think he could handle another bout with them. He was still thinking about the press when Ben returned.
Skyler showed him to the bedroom across the hall from Chad and Darby's. He didn't know what to say to his father just then, but he knew they had to go to the school to talk to Evan. Skyler still couldn't think of him as his brother. This was going to take some getting used to. If he'd been involved in the plot to blackmail their father then he wouldn't think of him as anything because he would never have anything to do with him again.
"Skyler, we have to talk about this," his father said when they went downstairs to the living room.
"Dad, I understand everything you told me," Skyler said. "It's hard to believe, but I understand that it's the truth. Now what we need to do is go to the school and talk to Evan. I want to know if he had anything to do with his mother trying to blackmail you."
They left the house, leaving Jeff at home. Skyler would have liked to have him with him, but Jeff pointed out that this was something that he and his father and Evan needed to discuss without him present. He assured Skyler that he'd support him no matter what his decisions were after talking to Evan. Skyler hugged and kissed him before leaving with his father.
"Having another set of twins that I knew nothing about is hard to deal with," Ben said as they sat side by side in the SUV with Brent in the front seat. "I pray that neither of the knew what their mother was up to."
"So do I," replied Skyler. "I have to admit that this is blowing my mind a little. Are you sure that you and Tabitha can work this out?"
"We have to," he said. "I don't want to lose her. I love her, Skyler."
"I know you do, Dad," he said. "So do I."
"How do you feel about having two brothers you knew nothing about?" asked his father.
"To be honest that part isn't bothering me at all," he said. "I don't know Cameron, but I do know Evan. I like him. We don't actually know that they're your sons, Dad."
"What do you mean?" Ben asked twisting in his seat to look at his son.
Skyler was silent for a few minutes as he thought of how to say that their mother could be using them to get money and that it could all be a lie. He wasn't sure what to think about them as his siblings, but if they were innocent in this and they weren't his father's sons then there would be a lot of things to work through. If they were innocent and they turned out to be his brothers he would do his best to make sure that they had what they needed as well as a place in the family.
"Dad," he said, deciding to just say it plain. "She could be lying to you. They could not be your sons."
"I've thought of that, Skyler," said Ben. "That's why I'm going to ask them to submit to a blood test."
"All right," Skyler replied, but the idea of demanding blood from either of them didn't sit right with him. Yet how else would they know for sure?
"I'm assuming he's with Alex," said his father. "The two seem to be getting pretty close."
"They are," confirmed Skyler. "I thought you and Alex were working on building a relationship with each other."
"We are," replied his father quickly. "I talk to Alex every day either on the phone or at the school. I was there this morning actually. I had breakfast with Alex."
Skyler'd had no clue about any of that. It made him happy to know it. He'd been very disappointed in his father for the way he'd treated Alex from the beginning. What was in Alex's past was not important. Sure the press would likely get wind of it, but Skyler dealt with the press every day of his life in one way or another. He'd deal with that too when the time came.
They found Evan with Alex and Cameron. The three looked up at them as they walked into the living room of the dancer suite. Skyler and Ben took seats at the small round table across from the three of them. Skyler looked at his dad, waiting for him to start asking them questions. Ben was looking at them hard. It was clear to Skyler that he was looking for any resemblance, any indication that they were his children. That wasn't always the way it worked though, and though neither of them looked like a Thomas to Skyler he remembered that Alex and Jase didn't looked like his father and they were his brothers.
"Evan, Cameron," Ben said. "I have a question for you."
"All right," said Evan, glancing at Skyler. Skyler just looked at him with, he hoped, a neutral expression.
"Is your mother Catherine Bradford?" he asked, and they looked at each other and then back at him.
"Yes," Cameron said. "How did you know that?"
Skyler hoped that his question and the confused look on both of their faces meant that they weren't in on the blackmail scam with their mother. If they weren't then a new set of questions would have to be asked and blood tests would have to be undergone. Skyler shook his head slightly at the thought of it. He noticed Alex watching him closely. He wished he could take Alex aside and explain what was going on, but he couldn't do that.
"Did you know that she called me this afternoon and demanded one hundred fifty thousand dollars to keep her from telling the press that she and I had an affair in nineteen eighty-three?" Ben asked them.
Both of them just looked at him for a second. Then they looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Skyler didn't know what to think of that. He continued to watch them and noticed that Alex was staring at Ben with his mouth open. Yes, it was a shock all right. It seemed to be a shock to Evan and Cameron as well. He supposed he'd know soon enough if it was a real surprise or a put on.
"You had an affair with our mother?" Evan asked at the same time that Cameron asked, "She did what?"
"I had an affair with Catherine Barnes in nineteen eighty-three," he said slowly. "She was a secretary at the construction firm I worked for at the time. My wife was pregnant with our son Jason at the time and we were having a few problems. I made a mistake, but it seems your mother wants me to pay for it now."
"Why would she blackmail you?" Evan asked. "We're both sending her money out of what we make here. It doesn't make any sense."
"Doesn't it?" asked Cameron with a strange tone in his voice. "It's actually just like her. I'm sorry, Mr. Thomas, I don't know what to do to call her off though."
"Neither of you had any idea that she was going to do this?" Ben asked, looking from one of them to the other.
"Mr. Thomas," Evan said quickly. "I'd have told someone if I'd known. I'd have told Alex."
"No, Sir," said Cameron. "We had no idea. I'm so sorry for what my mother is doing though."
"There's more," Ben said with a sigh. "She also told me that the two of you are my sons."
"But Jack Bradford is our father," Evan said, looking at Cameron.
"There's a simple way to find out," said Skyler. "The three of you can have a blood test. If he's not your father then at least that part of what your mother is trying to say can be disproven. If he is your father then at least you'll know. You can't tell me that after what he's told you there isn't a doubt in your minds about who your father really is."
"I want the blood test," Cameron said after a long moment of silent staring. "Can we do it tomorrow?"
"I'm going to Florida tomorrow," said Ben.
"Dad," said Skyler. "Why don't you just stay here in LA. You can get the blood tests done and stay at my house with Jeff and the kids. I'll only be gone two days."
"You're sure?" asked Ben.
"Yes, Dad," he replied. "Just get it over with. I mean you've already told Tabitha. At least this way you'll be able to tell her for certain if they're your sons or not. I know that she'll want to know."
Ben finally agreed. They stayed and talked with the younger men for a while longer but Skyler had to get back to the house and finish packing. It was getting late and he wanted to be there to say goodnight to the children. He was flying to Orlando in the morning and he wouldn't see them the next night. He apologized to everyone and they made their goodbyes with Ben promising to pick them both up at the school in the morning to go have the blood test.
"What am I going to say to Jason and the twins?" Ben asked as they were driven back to the house.
"Be honest with them, Dad," replied Skyler. "But tell them soon. You can call Cassie. I don't think it's too late. Jason and Chad are at the house. You have to tell them before she makes it to the press."
"You're right," sighed Ben. "If I put it off then they'll hear it the wrong way. I guess I'll tell them tonight. Be prepared for Cassie to call you, Chad to come to you and Jason to come to you too."
"I'd have thought that Jason would want to talk it out with you," Skyler said after a moment. The twins he understood. The bonds they'd formed were with Skyler. Their father had only been in their lives for a relatively short time. Jason, however had been with their father his entire life.
"Jason and I aren't exactly seeing eye to eye," Ben said, looking out the window of the SUV. "I guess I was an ass about a few things."
"He loves you, Dad," Skyler replied.
"Ah hell, Sky," Ben said. "I told him that if he went on tour with you this time he had to move out of the house. I was angry because you sided with Alex. Now I know that he's family, and I'm trying very hard to work all of my shit out with Alex. I just haven't had the chance to take back what I said to Jason."
Skyler said nothing to this. It hurt him, but he couldn't hold it against his father if he was going to try to mend their relationship. Things were often said in anger that weren't exactly meant. He was getting a little tired of the way things were always said about him when anger swept through the family, but now wasn't the time for that conversation. Chad was fragile and Jason, it seemed was a little fragile at the moment as well. Learning about the possibility of two more siblings they'd never known about was going to be difficult enough without Skyler bitching and moaning about trivial things.
"Maybe now is the time to take back what you said," he said finally. "He's going to need you."
"Just be there for him if he comes," said Ben. "Please, Sky."
"Oh, I will be," Skyler assured him as the caravan pulled into the gates of the estate. "Always."
They said nothing as they got out of the SUV and made their way into the house. Chad, Jason and Darby were in the living room with Jase and Ali. Skyler nodded at them before heading upstairs to find his children and his lover. He found them in the children's playroom and got a kiss from his lover as he sat down on the floor and allowed Preston to crawl all over him.
"Everything go all right?" Jeff asked.
"Just fine," replied Skyler, kissing the top of Preston's head. "He's going to pick them both up tomorrow morning and have a blood test. There's a clinic near the school that can do it fast."
"You all right?"
"I'm fine," sighed Skyler. "I haven't actually taken the time to process the fact that I may have two more brothers. I will say this, though. This family seems to metastasize without warning."
"Well," chuckled Jeff. "As long as you don't show up with a long lost wife I think I'll be fine."
"Shuddup," Skyler said with a smile as he leaned close and kissed Jeff again. "Gonna miss you guys."
"Two days," Jeff reminded him. "You'll barely be gone."
"Itching for me to leave?"
"Actually I'm dreading it, but no point in making a case about it," Jeff said seriously.
"I love you," Skyler said, leaning his head on Jeff's shoulder.
"Ditto," Jeff said softly before tilting his head to rest it against Skyler's.
That was when Chad and Jason came into the playroom. They both sat down across from Skyler and Jeff. They were both instantly the center of the attention of the four kids. Skyler nodded at his brothers and waited for them to speak. He had no idea what they were thinking or feeling, but he knew that he was a bit numb over it all. Two more brothers really didn't impact his life much. He'd gotten to know Evan pretty well and he liked him, so he assumed it would be easy to forge a relationship with him. Cameron was another story. He didn't know the guy and had only laid eyes on him twice in his life. But if he was his brother he'd do his best to make him feel welcome in the family.
"You guys all right?" Jeff asked, nodding to them.
"Yeah," Chad said after a minute. "I guess it doesn't really matter one way or the other if they're our brothers or not. Nothing is really going to change. We're all adults so it isn't like I'm gonna have to share my room or anything."
"I just can't believe Dad cheated on Mom," Jason said.
"Kiddo," Skyler said. "There's no way to understand that one."
"Yeah," said Jason. "I guess I'm just glad that we're leaving for the tour soon. I need some space from Dad."
"You know," Skyler said, sensing that Chad really needed to hear something from him. "Even if they are our brothers it isn't going to change the way we all feel about each other. You guys are still going to be as close to me as you are right now."
"Thanks, Sky," Chad said softly. Then he stood up. "I'd better call Cassie."
"Tell her I love her," Skyler said. "And, Chad, this really isn't going to change a thing between us either way."
Chad leaned down and put a hand on Skyler's shoulder as he passed him. Then it was time to reassure Jason, but that wasn't hard. He was more upset about the fact that their father had cheated on his mother. That wasn't something Skyler could help him come to grips with. Jason finally left to get ready for bed and Skyler and Jeff got all the kids ready with Mike and Ashton helping.
The next morning he was up before the kids. He showered and dressed while Jeff sat on the edge of the bed and watched him. They'd decided that Skyler would just go to the airport with Brent and the security team while Jeff stayed at home to be there when the children woke up. Once Skyler was dressed and ready to go he kissed his lover and held him tight.
"Gonna miss you, Baby," Jeff said, holding him.
"Me too," Skyler replied. "But this is only one night and two days. I'll be home quick this time. Then when I leave again you and the kids'll come with me."
"Get going, or I'll never let you leave," Jeff said, kissing him again.
Skyler grabbed his bags and headed out of the room. Brent met him in the living room and they headed to the SUV together in silence. All of the calls had been made the day before. The right people knew that Skyler's personal jet would be in the air by eight that morning. He still hadn't received the Boeing jet, but his smaller 737 would do fine for this trip. This would be the first time he'd actually been aboard for a flight.
"Not a Boeing, huh?" Brent asked as the two of them stood in front of the jet at the airport.
"No, but she'll do," Skyler replied, smiling at him. Seven others from his Los Angeles security were flying with them. The plane would hold ten people comfortably so it wasn't an issue.
They boarded after shaking hands with the pilot and co-pilot. Skyler quickly took his seat at the small table in the center of the plane. All of the seats could swivel and they all had safety restraints so it didn't matter where any of them sat. Skyler and Brent played a game while they waited for takeoff. They were just putting it away when the pilot asked them all to stay in their seats and buckle up.
The flight was smooth and uneventful. They arrived in Orlando just after noon, and everyone was waiting at the airport for them when they came down the stairs to the tarmac. Skyler and his entourage were received through a private entrance and all of the SUVs were lined up outside. They quickly got into the vehicles and drove to the brand new house that Skyler and Jeff had spent so little time in. Skyler felt a little sad that he would spend a night in the house without Jeff.
He showered and changed and then called Landon to tell him that he was ready for them. They'd be spending the day and the night in the house with Skyler. The release party was that night and Skyler's security would act for them that night, making it completely safe to come and go from the party. He was putting his clothes in the closet and drawers in his bedroom when Brent came and told him that the boys were there. Skyler followed him down to the dining room where they were sitting. Along with them were Jill Sinclaire, Roy Schneider and Bob Frick. Jill was their publicist, Roy was their new agent and Bob was their new career manager. Skyler had met the trio only a handful of times.
"Everyone," he said as he came into the room.
"Hey, Sky," said Brett Shay with a huge grin.
"So tonight's the night," Skyler said as he took a seat across from them at the table. "Excited?"
"You have no idea," said Bob, smiling.
"They've had two photo shoots today as well as the radio interview this morning," said Jill. "We're creating quite a buzz."
"That was the idea," replied Skyler, turning to look at the boys again. "So all of the industry stuff is out of the way for the moment?"
"Yeah, we've been run around Orlando like crazy today," said Landon, but he was smiling so Skyler didn't worry.
They hung out for the rest of the afternoon. Skyler tried very hard to keep them calm and collected and didn't allow any discussion about the release party at all. He asked them how they were acclimating to life in Orlando and admitted that he missed the city himself. He'd been in Los Angeles so long that it was starting to feel like he'd be there forever. The tour would take care of that though.
For the rest of the afternoon he made sure that they lounged by the pool and did nothing but swim and have a good time. He made them eat a light supper and then they all took turns showering and dressing for the party. Of course the boys would change into their costumes for the performance when they got to the club but that didn't matter. Skyler had them all scrubbed and dressed and in the entry hall by five-thirty. They moved to the SUVs and the convoy made its way through the gates of the community and to the Tobias Clemmons Center.
The press was thick around the center, and Skyler's pulse quickened at the sight of them. Brent looked him over and then squeezed his shoulder as he watched him eye the throng. They parked behind the building and quickly made their way inside without being stopped by any of the reporters or photographers. Skyler left the boys in their dressing rooms and headed for the main dining room where the stage was set up and people were already mingling. His nerves were still high as he took a seat at a table near the front. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he was joined by Madonna and Brian Krause.
"You look ready to blast off," said Brian. "What's wrong?"
"Memories," sighed Skyler. "It's good to see the two of you again."
"Not half as good as it is to see you, Toy," said Madonna. "How are things in Los Angeles?"
"Tense at the moment," he replied. "Dad and Tabitha are having a few problems, and Dad's moved in with me. That isn't exactly sitting well with Jason, but we'll be leaving for the tour soon and Dad'll be gone on tour too."
"What's going on?" she asked.
"Well a woman called him and tried to blackmail him," he said. "Apparently he had an affair with this woman when Tabitha was pregnant with Jason. One of my dancers, Evan Bradford and his twin brother, Cameron Bradford are her sons. She says they're my father's children."
"That's dramatic," she said.
"Dad was supposed to pick them up at the school this morning and drive them to a clinic for blood tests," he said. "I've heard nothing from anyone in Los Angeles so I don't know any more than that."
"I assume this is to be kept quiet," she said.
"It is," he nodded. "I'm sure we'll have to say something eventually but for now we're keeping it close to the family. I haven't even talked to Tabitha yet."
"Well then let's talk about the other secret," she said. "I assume you've booked the venue?"
"The Crystal Room is booked," he replied. "Nick, Jessica and Lance are going to help decorate. Which means that the staff will decorate. It's fine though. I gave them a list of things that I wanted to have for the party."
"You're coming?" she asked Brian.
"Definitely," he replied. "Kristy and Gabrielle will be there as well. I haven't heard back from Zack though."
"When are you returning to Los Angeles?" she asked Skyler.
"Tomorrow morning," he replied. "I don't want to be here without Jeff any longer than I have to be."
"Understood," she replied. "I have a benefit tomorrow night and then I'll head to LA."
"I'll be flying back with Skyler," said Brian. "I only came down here for this event. I need to get back to filming."
Then it was time for the show. Reporters from MuchMusic, MTV, VH1 and MusicNow were circulating. They'd each had their scoop from the boys of the group and the lights were dimming so Skyler knew that they were about to hit the stage. He turned in his seat to watch as his companions fell silent. The band began to play and then the boys made their way to the center of the stage. The girls began to scream and Skyler smiled. The song was catchy. He had to give them that. They were working the crowd extremely well, too.
"I'm cravin' for you," sang Landon. "And just like a fool," the three sang together. "There's no way I can stop stop stop my desire."
"I'm cravin' for you," sang Landon. "And you know it too," sang all three as they jumped and moved around each other. "There's no one that can top top top your smile."
"Girl you got me," sang Landon loudly, making the girls in the club scream louder.
"Love struck," sang the three together.
"You got me," sang Landon.
"Love struck," they sang together. "Love struck."
"Oh, oh, oh, oh," sang Dave.
"Girl you got me," sang Landon, making them scream again.
"Love struck," sang the three together. "Love struck."
"Oh, oh, oh, oh," sang Dave.
"There you have it," said Anne Ray, the reporter for MusicNow once the song was finished and she and her cameraman had made their way to the stage. "The second single of the brand new album from The Hardy Boys! I'm here with Landon, Brett and Dave to talk about the album. Tell me boys how are you enjoying your success?"
"Oh it's a dream, Anne," said Landon, smiling for the camera. "We're still pretty much in the 'it's a dream' stage."
"Well you'd better not stay there too long," she laughed. "My sources tell me that the album is selling like wild fire all over the US."
"That's awesome," said Brett. "We want to thank everyone who bought a copy and tell them that we'll be seeing some of them soon."
"That's right," Anne said with excitement. "You guys are about to head for London. Care to talk a bit about that?"
"Sure," said Dave, watching Skyler for any indication that he shouldn't say anything. "We'll be hitting ten cities, starting with London and ending in New York City. We're just promoting the two singles and letting the fans get an idea of what to expect from us as we go along. It's going to be a lot of fun, and we urge everyone to head to the record stores and buy your tickets."
Once they were away from the camera and Anne, the boys found Skyler. He told them to mingle and sign a few autographs, pose for a few pictures and to have fun. He sat with Madonna and Brian and talked about the party he was planning for Jeff's twenty-ninth birthday. He had all of the gifts ordered and most had already arrived. The guest list was set and everyone but Jeff's own family was coming. Jeff's family didn't like the fact that he was gay and though his brother was accepting of it as long as they didn't discuss it, he couldn't be a part of the party because he didn't want to see it. It upset Jeff a lot that his family was like that, but Skyler hoped the others at the party would make him happy.
When he finally got the guys back to his house he was dead on his feet. They'd partied until almost everyone had left the club. Skyler showed them the bedrooms they'd be sleeping in, reminded them that he had a flight to catch in the morning and then went to bed. He called Jeff before he got in bed and found out that his father had taken the Bradford twins to have the blood test and they would know the results in two days. Skyler told him he loved him and then went to sleep.
Two days later, in Los Angeles with his family once again, Skyler sat with his brothers and sister and waited for their dad to tell them if the Bradford twins were their brothers or not. Cameron and Evan sat across the room looking nervous as they all waited for the call that would come from Dr. Hernandez at the clinic at any time. Cassie held fast to Chad's hand and Skyler kept looking at Evan and Cameron. Jason had eyes only for the floor. He still hadn't talked to their father since he'd been told about the affair. Skyler was still thinking about that when Ben's cell phone started to beep.
"Ben Thomas," he said as he put it to his ear. He was quiet for a moment or two and then said, "Yes, thank you. I understand."
He closed the phone and sighed, looking at Evan and Cameron for a long moment. Skyler couldn't stand it any longer. He stood up and said, "Well?"
"Ninety-nine point nine percent," Ben replied. "Evan, Cameron, I am your father."
Things happened very quickly after that. Cameron called their mother and Ben talked with Clay and Gavin about a press conference. The idea was to head Catherine off at the pass. He'd already told Tabitha about the affair, but Catherine was still threatening to go to the press unless he paid her off. By calling the press conference she was stopped cold, for what else could she possibly have to say to the press after Ben and the twins had told the world that they were his sons?
The press conference was called that very afternoon and Ben and the Bradford twins answered questions for two hours while Skyler sat at the house with Chad, Cassie and Jason. They were watching it on television and commenting now and then on what they thought about the situation. Cassie informed them that she would get to know them when she was ready. Chad held his silence but Jason was still angry with their father.
"I just can't forgive him for cheating on my mom," he said.
"We can understand that, Jason," Skyler replied. "How is Mom?"
"Wondering why none of you have called her," he said softly.
Instead of calling her the three of them went to her. She hugged each one of them and cried when they told her that she was still their mother no matter what happened between her and their father. She'd been watching the press conference when they had come into the house. She asked them each what they thought about having two more brothers and each had told her they weren't sure yet.
Skyler didn't see Cameron again until the party. Jeff was surprised and happy to see everyone. Madonna and Guy kept him occupied for a while so Skyler could get the gifts all arranged. They had cake and forced Jeff to sit through a group rendition of "Happy Birthday". Then he was sitting at the table surrounded by gifts and thanking each person as he opened their gift. He'd already received Skyler's gift so he just hugged him and thanked him for the party.
Madonna stayed with them and sat in on dance rehearsals until they left for the tour. Things were still very tense between them and their father the day they were preparing to leave. Tabitha showed up at the airport to see them off and hugged each of them. Cameron was there to see his brother off and Skyler gave him an awkward hug and told him to stay out of trouble.
They boarded the huge 777 jet and were in the air relatively quickly. The cameras were rolling as they sat on the jet and Skyler decided that for the time being it was fine. He would order them turned off and all of the cameramen to return to the forward section of the jet soon. So far the kids were still sleeping and Jeff was dozing beside him.
They arrived in Barcelona on May sixth. Skyler, Jeff, Alex, Jason, Evan and the children headed for their hotel while the dancers were bussed to the other hotel. Skyler still fet a little bad about leaving them to themselves, but James and Mara would keep them in line. The hotel they were staying in had rented them the penthouse apartment for their time in Barcelona. It was a five bedroom suite with a living room, kitchen and terrace. They were dead on their feet when they arrived and headed straight to their beds as soon as they had the children settled in their own beds. Skyler was still amazed that Trisha hadn't pitched a fit when Jeff informed her that he was taking their children on the road with him and Skyler.
For three days they traveled back and forth between the two hotels. Jeff stayed at their hotel with the children while Skyler and the others went to rehearsals. He went with them to the arena to see the sets as they were each put up and shifted in and out. The lighting was working, and everything was all set. They had rehearsals on the stage now and on the afternoon of the first show, Jeff and the children sat in the front row to listen to the sound check. Skyler stood in the center of the stage and made faces at the kids until the music started.
"Time can never mend, the careless whisper of a good friend," he sang and smiled at the kids. " To the heart and mind, ignorance is kind. There's no comfort in the truth. Pain is all you'll find.
"I'm never gonna dance again. Guilty feet have got no rhythm. Though it's easy to pretend I know you're not a fool. I shoulda known better than to cheat a friend, and waste this chance that I'd been given. So I'm never gonna dance again the way I danced with you," he sang and nodded at the band.
They changed the music and Skyler sighed. This was one of his favorite ballads to sing and he was so happy that he'd added it to the song line up. He waited for a few piano notes and then started to sing. "Lying beside you, here in the dark, feeling your heart beat with mine. Softly you whisper; you're so sincere. How could our love be so blind? We sailed on together but drifted apart, and now here you are by my side.
"So now I come to you with open arms," he sang, tilting his head back. "Nothing to hide, believe what I say. So here I am with open arms, hoping your love means to me, open arms."
The piano played on and then Skyler put up a hand and told them to stop. "It sounds awesome, guys. Great job."
Ashton and Mike were allowed to sit with Jeff in the family seats to watch the show, but the other two children were taken back to the hotel by the tutors and Helen. Skyler sat with his family and watched the first half of Brody's show and then made his way backstage to get ready for his own show. He was a nervous wreck, which was the usual case for him before a show. But the show went off without a hitch. Skyler had a great time performing and each of the dancers were so happy to finally be performing for a live audience that they practically vibrated across the stage. They repeated the performance the following night and then boarded the jet once again. This time Skyler didn't allow the cameras anywhere near the main cabin of the jet.
In Germany they were greeted by thousands of fans. Skyler stood and signed autographs and posed for pictures for an hour before Brent was ushering him to the bus that took him and the rest of the tour party to the hotels. The shows were amazing each night and Skyler was happy. He spent his first day of off time in Paris with his children and Jeff. Jason, Alex and Evan had gone to be with the dancers, but they were back for supper. Then Jason was yelling for Skyler in a panicked voice. Skyler and Jeff went to the living room of the suite and found Jason sitting in front of the television. Skyler's blood ran cold when he heard what was being said. It was a tape recording of a conversation between Chad and Justin Timberlake from when Chad was in rehab.
"JC keeps calling," said the voice that was clearly Justin's. "He's all bent out of shape because Lance is moving in with Carlos."
"Why is he calling you?" said Chad's voice. It was hard to hear almost. The quality of the recording wasn't all that great, but Skyler's heart was already pounding.
"Who knows?" said Justin. "He knows that when he broke up with Skyler me, Joe and Lance were on Sky's side."
"Well yeah, but it's been like almost three years since they broke up," said Chad. "And besides, Skyler and Jeff are talking about getting married at some point. You know how much they love each other."
"Don't I know it," sighed Justin. "I just wish someone would love me the way that Sky loves Jeff."
"What about you and Brian Littrell?" asked Chad.
"How do you even know about that?" Justin asked.
"I have ears, man," Chad said. "Do you think you and Brian could have sex in my house without me hearing about it?"
"Well, Brian doesn't know what he wants," Justin said. "He's so worried about going to hell for being with a guy that he drives me nuts. I do care about him though."
"You'll all work it out," said Chad.
"So how are you and Darby?" Justin asked, changing the subject.
"We're good," Chad said. "I asked her to marry me yesterday."
"Oh man!" Justin said excitedly. "That's great! What did she say?"
"She said she'd marry me if I could stay off the drugs for a year," he said. "Since I plan to never touch anything stronger than aspirin for the rest of my life I guess we're getting married some time next year."
Skyler stood looking at the television in horror. He nearly vomited as the German translations were going across the bottom of the screen. A reporter he didn't understand was talking and Jason was looking at him with a sick expression on his face. He looked at Jeff and sagged against him when Jeff put his arm around him. It didn't matter what they wanted to do now. They were out of the closet. The world would very soon be asking a very important question and they couldn't run from it any longer.
"Shoulda Known Better" is a song by Richard Marx.
"It's Been A While" is a song by Staind with lyrics slightly altered by Julien Gregg.
"Last In Love" is a song by George Strait.
"Love Struck" is a song by V Factory.
"Careless Whisper" is a song by George Michael.
"Open Arms" is a song by Journey.
The link to the concert chapter is below.
Well that's it gang! Skyler's big 100. All 17,812 words of it! I'm sure you're all wondering what'll happen next. I know I can't wait to write it all out so you can read it. Skyler's been outed now and he and Jeff said that when they could both come out of the closet he'd leave the industry and settle into a private life. What do you think? Should he do that now? It could mean the end of Remix. We'll have to wait a bit and see what happens. Maybe this will just make him all the more famous. Who knows, right? Well I know, but that's not the point. I'm sure you all noticed the new graphic at the top of the page. It's only Skyler and Jeff because now the story has no room for other love interests. They're a thing of the past for both of these guys. It might be a bit before I get back to this story for the next five chapter block. I promise though it won't be a year this time. So I hope you had a happy 100. Stay tuned for more Skyler Thomas, and remember you can always check out Greybear's Road Not Taken for even more Skyler Thomas. Granted his version of my beloved character is slightly different but it'd be a fix none the less. The Barelona concert link is at the bottom of the links. Just click Concert 6.