© 2005-2015 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
"It's been an emotional day," Skyler said as they sat in the waiting area at the airport to wait for the flight that would take his son back to Los Angeles with his uncle and stepmother. He was giving Jeff some private time with Ashton.
"Yes, it has," agreed Jase. "You seem to be holding up pretty good."
"Only because I know that if I let myself show an ounce of what I'm feeling I'll be a wreck," he replied, forcing a smile for his uncle.
"We'll take good care of him, Sky," Jase said seriously.
"I know you will," sighed Skyler. "It's just hard to let him go."
"Believe me, I know," he said. "Imagine how I felt when I had to go to Texas and leave Mike with Ali."
"Yeah, but you came back a week later for both of them," Skyler pointed out. "I won't be back to LA for three months."
"And you'll be very busy during those three months," reminded Jase. "So will Ashton. You told me that training for figure skating is extensive."
"I don't really know," admitted Skyler. "I only repeated what Adam told me when I asked."
"Well from the sounds of it, the kid is going to be so busy he'll barely have time to really miss you," Jase said.
"I won't be too busy to miss him," Skyler replied. "This is just going to be hard."
Ashton and Jeff came back to their seats at that moment and Ashton walked right into Skyler's waiting arms. He held on to Skyler with all of his might, trying to show his new father just how much he loved him. He would miss him while he was training, but he would do his best to make him proud. He had to. It was all he could do to repay him for what he'd done for him.
"I love you," he said, hugging even tighter.
"I love you so much, Ash," Skyler said. "You be a good boy for Grandma, all right?"
"I promise," he said, pulling back. Skyler could see the tears in the boy's eyes.
"I'll call you as often as I can," Skyler promised for the twentieth time since Ashton had gotten out of bed that morning.
"Will you call every night?" asked the boy.
"Well I'll try, but you won't be able to talk to me every night anyway," laughed Skyler. "You're going to be so tired from your training that you'll be asleep before I could call. I do promise to call a lot though."
Just then a woman from the airline came to tell them that the jet was ready for them to board. Skyler was sending them back in the Boeing. It would refuel and then head straight back. He felt sorry for the pilot and copilot until the men assured him with smiles on their faces that they would be fine and enjoy the flying. They both seemed eager to fly. Skyler wondered just how long that would last. The tour had only just started. They'd be flying back to Europe in a few days and then the tour would get underway again.
"I love you," Ashton said as he hugged Jeff and then Skyler.
"We'll see you as soon as we can," Skyler said as he watched his son walk off with his step-mother and uncle.
They embraced each other tightly and sighed. Skyler looked around at everyone in the room out of habit. It was going to take some getting used to know that he was out of the closet and the world pretty much knew that he and Jeff were a couple. He hoped it would make things easier, but he wasn't stupid. He knew there was going to be hell to pay over this in the end.
"Come on," Jeff said, letting go of him. "We have to get back to the hotel for your press conference."
"I still don't see why we can't do these together," Skyler said as he followed his security out of the private waiting room and to the SUVs.
"Let's just do these and then we'll do everything together," Jeff said. "I promise."
The press was thick around the hotel. Skyler stiffened as he saw them but relaxed again almost instantly. He'd called this press conference after all. They weren't there to hound him. He'd summoned the devil. He smiled at Jeff and squeezed his hand before he got out of the vehicle and walked toward the entrance to the hotel, surrounded by his security. Andrew, Clay and Gavin were waiting for him when he walked in.
"We're doing this upstairs in the banquet room," Andrew said. "I've assigned the seats and checked with the sound people. There'll be three cameras rolling in the room, and only one of them is ours."
"Got it," Skyler said as Jeff squeezed his shoulder.
"Let's go," said Andrew as he turned and walked off toward the elevators.
"You got this, Blondie," Jeff said when they were inside the elevator.
"Yeah," Skyler sighed. "I'm just nervous."
"Don't be," said Jeff. "The hard part's over. Now we get to tell it like it is."
"Damned right we do," he laughed, noticing a look on Gavin's face and wondering if there was going to be a problem. He quickly pushed that out of his mind as the elevator doors opened on their floor.
"All right," said Andrew as they walked into the banquet room. "Just Brent and CJ, like we discussed. Clay, you and Gavin are out as well. I've got him, just let me handle it."
"Skyler, I'll be right out in the hall," Jeff said.
"Thanks," he said, smiling at him.
They sat there while all of the reporters filed into the room. Skyler looked at each of the cameras for a second and sighed. It was really happening. He was really out of the closet. Andrew went over a few instructions for him and reminded him to breathe and not lose his temper. He laughed at that, because he thought that was an impossibility. He smothered the laugh as Andrew stepped up to the podium and began to speak to the press.
"Let me go over the rules of this press conference," said Andrew as he looked out over the sea of reporters. "First, there will be order. Skyler will answer one question at a time. If this conference at any time becomes a screaming match it will end.
"You will raise your hands, and Skyler will choose one, I repeat, one reporter to ask a question," he continued. "He'll answer that question or he won't. You get one question per turn. Do not hammer him with one question after another or this press conference will be over. Now, let's begin."
Every one of them had a hand in the air, and Skyler looked at them, trying hard not to let his feelings show. His heart was in overdrive, his palms were sweating and his head hurt. This was the last thing he wanted to do, but he tried not to think about the fact that these people, or members of their colleagues had terrorized him over and over again, nearly killing him once. He knew several of them by name, but it was a friendly face he focused on first.
"Kurt," he said and smiled.
"Kurt Loder, 'MTV News'," said Kurt, smiling back at Skyler. "Skyler, tell us, is there any truth to the rumor that you're planning to file a suit against your brother and Justin Timberlake?"
"No, there is absolutely no truth to that rumor," he said with a sigh. "My brother and Justin Timberlake are friends and can discuss whatever they like. It's unfortunate that they were recorded without their knowledge or permission, but I can't do anything about what's happened. I can only move forward with my life and career."
Kurt nodded and then sat down again. There was a blonde haired woman sitting next to him. Skyler didn't know her. Her hair was pulled tightly back in a bun that rested almost on the very top of her head. She wore dark framed glasses and held a pad and pencil. She wore a press pass on the right breast of her charcoal blazer. He nodded at her and she stood.
"Alison Franklin, 'Total Entertainment'," she said. She did not smile. "What do you have to say to your fans and friends now that the truth is out? Won't they feel that you've lied to them?"
It was two questions and a clear violation of Andrew's imposed rules. He looked over at Andrew and shook his head slightly before turning back to the reporter. He'd never heard of Total Entertainment.
"I have never answered the question of my orientation," he said evenly. "I always answered those questions with 'NO Comment' or 'It's not your business'. This taped conversation wasn't planned, but I won't lie to my fans about something so important. If my friends had asked me I would have told them myself."
She scribbled notes on her pad and sat back down. Skyler looked at the back row and found a dark haired older man with piercing blue eyes. He was dressed in a black suit with a blue tie. He nodded at the man and waited while he stood.
"Roger Hammilton, Entertainment Magazine," he said. "Do you think your career will suffer because of this, and aren't you afraid your fans will turn their backs on you?"
It seemed clear that they were going to insist on asking more than one question. Skyler sighed and shook his head at Andrew again. He thought about his answer and then looked back at Mr. Hammilton.
"I can't begin to predict what will happen now that I'm out of the closet," he said, trying hard to keep his cool. "I will say that I trust my fans and believe that they are above this kind of thing and can look past my sexuality to see that I'm still the same Skyler Thomas they've always known."
Jeff stood just outside the door with Clay and Gavin, listening as the questions got more and more personal. Skyler didn't lose his temper even once, though he did sound a bit strained when they started asking about the children. He smiled when they asked about their relationship and Skyler told them that all they needed to know was that they were in a relationship. All of the rest of it was between them and very private.
They talked about the show and how he and Skyler were very open. Skyler told them that the show wasn't about him and Jeff Timmons. It was about the tour. They continued to ask questions about the show, and Skyler kept dodging them. It was actually funny to hear the way he did it. Finally he told them he'd answered enough questions, they had what was important and he was done.
"Jeff, you should probably go on now that they're breaking up," Gavin said, standing straighter and looking as business-like as he could.
"I'm staying right here, Gavin," he said. "Deal with it."
Gavin gave him a cold look but said nothing. Clay hadn't said a word. Jeff had no idea where he stood on their relationship, but he knew that Gavin was a slimy prick where that was concerned. He was about to say something to him about it when Skyler came through the door with Andrew and Brent. He saw Jeff standing there and smiled. Then he wrapped his arms around him and held him tight. Cameras flashed behind him, but he didn't care.
"I'm ready to go," Skyler said when he let go of Jeff. "I'm sure they'll have plenty to write about now. Let's go home, Jeff."
"Sounds good to me," Jeff said, taking Skyler's hand.
They walked down the hall, through the throng of reporters that were still coming out of the banquet room. There were more camera flashes, but they ignored all of that. They met up with the rest of Skyler's New York security in the lobby of the hotel. Then they walked outside and got into their SUV. Brent and CJ got in as well.
"Well we're out of the closet officially," Jeff said that night after his own press conference. Nick, Drew and Justin came to be there and officially announce the end of their group.
"We are," sighed Skyler. "Life is about to get very interesting."
"It sure is," agreed Jeff before he kissed him.
Madonna met them at the airport in London two days later. She hugged them both and tried not to bat an eye at the amount of security that Skyler had brought with them. She told him that the dancers were all behaving and that the sets were going up at the arena as they rode to the hotel. Skyler was glad that Gavin and Clay weren't in the SUV with them. He was starting to really dislike Gavin. The man showed nothing but contempt for Jeff when he thought Skyler wasn't looking, and it was really pissing him off.
"I want you to come and look at an estate tomorrow," said Madonna as the SUV pulled into the hotel parking lot.
"Sounds like a plan," Jeff said before Skyler could reply.
"See that he agrees," she said to Jeff with a conspiratorial smile. "I've been after him since dirt was invented."
"I know," chuckled Jeff. "It really has been one thing after another that's kept him from doing this."
"Oh, Sweetie, I know what his life is like," she sighed. "It's about to get worse, I'm sure. That's why I want him to look at this estate."
"We'll be there with bells on," Skyler assured her. He was just as worried as she was about the future now that they were out of the closet.
"I have an information packet for the estate I want you to see," she said, handing him a blue folder. "Barrington Hall is quite a house."
"Sweet Jesus," Jeff gasped as he looked at the pictures of the house. "Blondie, it's a palace."
"Not quite," Madonna said with a smile. "It's a very large house, but I think you'll be comfortable there."
"When can I see it?" Skyler asked.
"Well we can drive over now," she said. "I'd just have to call Mr. Cowan to make sure he's available. That is, if you want to actually go inside the house."
"Let's do that," said Jeff, smiling at her.
They waited as she called Mr. Cowan. She talked with him about heading to Bishop's Stortford and opening the house for Skyler and Jeff. Then she instructed the driver to drive to Bishop's Stortford and then turned back to Skyler and Jeff. She smiled at them, thrilled that they had finally agreed to at least look at an estate. The estate was about seven miles outside Bishop's Stortford, so they looked over the packet thoroughly along the way.
They talked about the eight bedrooms and nine offices that had originally been bedrooms. Skyler had no use for nine offices, but Jeff informed him that if he was really going to spend any time there the offices could be used by Sky High when they came to the house. Skyler thought about that for a moment and then decided that Jeff was right, provided he wanted them in the house at all.
"We'll need a staff," he said as he looked over the land information. "A large one."
"Of course," said Jeff.
"And you realize we won't live there permanently," Skyler said, looking at Madonna.
"Sweetie, no one said you had to live there permanently," she said. "I told you to think of it as an escape."
"I like that idea," he said, thinking of what life was about to be like now that they were out of the closet.
"I see a studio in the guest house," laughed Jeff.
"Maybe not," Skyler replied. "There are studios at Sky High in London. I don't think I really need one for the house."
"We have one in every other house we own," Jeff said. "If you could have found a way to add one to the penthouse in New York I'm sure you would have."
"The ones in the houses are there so I can work on music at home," Skyler said. "I don't know that I'd want to work on music at home here. If this is to be my place to escape to, then it should truly be a place to escape to."
They talked back and forth about what Skyler wanted and didn't want in connection to the house. He told them that he thought the Sky High meetings that he'd have to attend belonged in London and not his house. Madonna mentioned parties and social activities, but Skyler assured her that he doubted that he'd be in the mood to party if he had escaped to the UK to get away from the industry and paparazzi. She was silent after he said this and began to think about what he might think was coming that he so wanted to escape from. Sure he was out of the closet now, and the press would be hounding anyone connected to his staff for quotes and interviews. He'd want to escape from that she supposed, but he was talking as if there was a real dark cloud on the horizon and she so wanted to know what he thought it was all about.
He sidetracked her with talk about Ashton and his training. Ashton hadn't been gone long, but Skyler had talked to the boy on the phone every night since he'd left them in New York. Training had already started and Ashton seemed excited but tired. Madonna was thrilled for the boy and vowed to see him skate in person as soon as she could. She was well aware that he'd changed the subject intentionally but she was prepared to let him keep his secrets for the time being. She was just too happy about him agreeing to at least look at an estate in the UK. The fact that he and Jeff seemed to be planning what to do with all of the space and time off made her think that he might really purchase the estate or another very soon. That was enough to make her back off and let him stew over his own secrets for at least a little while.
By the time they pulled up to the heavy black iron gate they'd talked about everything from Ashton's skating to Cassie and Kaleb's honeymoon. Skyler was getting good at sidestepping things he didn't want to talk about. Madonna knew that if she wanted to get at what was really worrying him she'd have to be clever. This wasn't the time, however. They met Michael Cowan as soon as they pulled up to the gate. He was a thirty to fortyish man with a polished look. His dark hair was cut short and parted to the left. His brown eyes looked out through black metal framed glasses. His face was smooth other than the immaculately groomed mustache above his top lip. He was dressed in a pin striped charcoal suit with a dark shirt under the jacket and a deep blue tie. At his feet were polished black leather shoes. From what could be told through the suit he had a fit body. He was at least six feet tall.
"Mr. Thomas," he said, smiling as he shook Skyler's hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm a big fan."
"Thank you, Mr. Cowan," Skyler said, smiling back.
"Please, it's Michael or Mike," said Cowan. "Shall we head on up to the house?"
"That'd be great, Mike, thanks," said Skyler with another smile. "We'll just follow you."
"Great," said Mike as he unlocked the gate before getting back into his sleek black car.
The grounds were immaculate, and Skyler liked the fact that the house sat so far back from the gates. There were bushes and shrubs grown in a pattern that made the place look almost like a park. Off to the right was a large lake with a brick wall around the outer side which marked the end of the property. To the left was so much land that Skyler couldn't see the end of it. Madonna smiled at the excited look in his eyes as he looked around the property.
Finally they pulled up in front of the huge house. It was three stories tall and constructed of bricks and stone. Peaks and towers topped the roof, making it look much like a small palace. They got out of the car and followed Mike up the stone steps to the long porch and in through the front double oak doors to the grand hall beyond.
The parquet wood flooring in the grand hall was polished so perfectly that it was nearly reflective. The walls were stone with very dark wood runners about hip high. The woodwork around the doorways was intricately carved and matched the runners and baseboards with their deep tone. Mike informed them that all of the wood in the house was oak. The doorway to their left opened on the huge parlor with a heavily shined parquet floor in a different pattern. Unlike the star shaped pattern in the hall, the parlor had a herringbone pattern with a deep blue carpet running through the middle of the room. There were two deep brown leather sofas sitting face to face with a dark stained oak coffee table between them. A huge crystal chandelier hung directly above the coffee table. A massive fireplace was behind the far sofa with its stone hearth and beautifully carved marble mantel.
At the far end of the room were three steps that led down into the massive kitchen and dining room. The flooring in this double room was black tile with red and black diagonal tiles checked in the center of the room. A huge black iron stove was built into the inner wall with a counter that extended to the end of the room. Cabinetry could be found under the entire counter and built into the walls above. The dining section of the room was dominated by a long thick dark stained oak table with twelve dark chairs. The chairs were padded and the seats and backs were covered with a forestry patterned fabric. Above the table was another crystal chandelier.
A chest high wooden railing separated the room from the main living room. This room was just as long and wide as the kitchen and dining room. Three steps at the far end of the room just past the table and chairs led up to the living room. There was no furniture in this room, but there was another massive fireplace with another intricate stone mantel. Floor to ceiling windows lined the outer walls and two crystal chandeliers hung in the room, one at each end.
Back through the huge doorway to the grand hall and up the grand stone staircase to the second floor the found a stone railing that overlooked the grand hall as well as the living room and the reception room they hadn't entered on the ground floor. There were six bedrooms along the right side of the long hallway, each with its own bathroom. A library sat at the far end of the hall with another conference type room at the other end. A second staircase took them to the third floor where there was storage and bathrooms.
They left the main house and Mike unlocked the guest house for them to look through. This was a smaller house with three bedrooms and two and half bathrooms, a living room and kitchen. It looked like a smaller version of the main house with the parquet flooring, fireplaces and chandeliers. Skyler found it far too beautiful to tear up just to make a studio out of it. He smiled at Madonna as they looked around. He loved this place and couldn't wait to move in.
They sat in the dining section of the kitchen at the table to go over the price and other information. Mike quickly filled out the application for them and then gave them a card for one of his contacts at the Bank of England in London where they could pay for the house in US currency. Skyler was smiling when they were back in the limo and headed for London. He'd called Mitchell Carrington at the Bank of England and gotten an appointment for the next morning. Mike had assured them that the paperwork was in order and that the owner would definitely accept his offer.
They made it to the hotel in time for a late dinner and Skyler was able to check on the dancers and meet up with Clay and Gavin. He showed them the folder of information on the house that Madonna had given him and Mike had added to once the paperwork was filled out. Then he talked with them about getting the funds to Mike as soon as possible. He let them both enter his appointment with Mr. Carrington the following morning into their books and promised that he wouldn't be handing over any money of any kind at that meeting. This was just so that the offer could be looked over and formally accepted or rejected. Then they would get the money to Mike for the purchase of the estate.
By the time they checked on the children and took their showers jet lag had hit hard. They shared a quick peck on the lips before sliding fully under the covers in the huge bed and succumbing to sleep. Then the wakeup call was coming in and they forced themselves to get up, shower yet again and dress for the day. They had breakfast with the children and half of the dancers before heading out to meet with Mr. Carrington at the Bank of England.
Mitchell Carrington was an older man with salt and pepper hair that was thinning on the top. He kept it cut short and combed back from his forehead. His piercing blue eyes looked through silver wire framed glasses which seemed to match his light gray business suite, white shirt and gray tie. He led them into his office and had them sit in the ladder back chairs around the dark stained conference table.
"Mr. Thomas, I wanted to meet with you to discuss your offer for Barrington Hall," he said in a deep voice. "My client has accepted the offer, and in a few moments Mr. Cowan will be here to discuss payment arrangements. Did you have any questions?"
"I'm surprised that the offer was accepted so quickly," Skyler admitted. "Were there stipulations?"
"None," said Mr. Carrington. "You'll be given a copy of the deeds when it's updated along with a bill of sale. Now you do realize that the amount you agreed to is not in US dollars?"
"I'm aware of that," said Skyler with a smile. "I've informed my business partner of the price and he's talking with my accountant in the States. As soon as I get his call the wire transfer can be done."
"Very good," said Mr. Carrington.
"How soon will the deeds be available?" Skyler asked. "I'll be leaving the United Kingdom on the sixteenth."
"We'll have them for you before then," said Mr. Carrington with a smile.
Skyler was back at the hotel in plenty of time for the meet 'n greet with the contract in his hand. He got Clay on getting the money transferred and then followed Dianne into the conference room of the hotel for the meet 'n greet. When that was over he had lunch with the dancers and then met Madonna and Guy to talk about the house and let Lourdes and Rocko play with the kids.
"So you're buying it for sure?" Guy asked as they sat in the living room of the suite he shared with Jeff and the kids.
"Clay's getting ahold of Keith to set up the wire transfer," Skyler said, smiling. "Did you see the pictures?"
"No, she didn't think to show me," he laughed. "She was too excited about getting you to see them."
"Well I have them in a folder," Skyler said, getting up to get them out of the desk.
"These are great," Guy said as he looked at the pictures. "When can you move in?"
"Well Mr. Carrington told me that I'd have the deeds and the keys before I leave for the States on the sixteenth," he said. "But we won't actually move in or anything until the tour is over."
"And when is the tour over?" Guy asked.
"Well so far the last show is August thirty-first," he said, smiling. "We all know that anything can happen between now and then though."
"Yes we all know the perils of touring," Madonna said with a smile. "Didn't you say that you had a new song you wanted me to hear?"
"Well the band has the music," he said. "I wanted to let them play it a few times. I'm expecting one of them to call me when they think they have it down. It's a bit different. Kind of a rock dance track. Lots of guitar."
"All right," she said. "Can you give me an idea?"
"Well it's sort of my answer to all of this stuff about my sexuality and my career and stuff," he said. "I'll warn you. It's not my usual, and it's going to piss a lot of people off."
"Provocative," she said, smiling.
"That's it," he said as his phone rang.
After a ten minute phone conversation with the band, Madonna and Guy followed Skyler, Alex, Evan and Jason down to the conference room where the band had set up. Skyler let them play a bit before he stood up and took a microphone. Then they stopped playing, counted it off and started. Madonna loved the music. It had that gritty hard rock sound, but at the same time it was punchy and had a great dance beat. She smiled when Skyler brought the microphone to his mouth and started to sing.
"I don't know what they're talkin' about, I'm making my own decisions. This thing that I found ain't gonna bring me down, I'm like a junkie without an addiction," he sang, shocking her.
He looked right at her and smiled as he sang, "Mamma don't cry I just wanna stay high, like playin' with danger or fear. Everybody's walkin' but nobody's talkin'. It looks a lot better from here.
"All my life I've been over the top. I dunno what I'm doin' all I know is I don't wanna stop. All fired up, I'm gonna go till I drop. You're either in or in the way, don't make me, I don't wanna stop!
"Why don't they ever listen to me? Is this a one way conversation? Nothing they say is gonna set me free, don't need no mental masturbation.
"Too many religions for only one god. I don't need another savior. Don't try to change my mind, you know I'm one of a kind, ain't gonna change my bad behavior.
"All my life I've been over the top. I dunno what I'm doin' all I know is I don't wanna stop. All fired up, I'm gonna go till I drop. You're in or in the way, don't make me, I don't wanna stop."
The music changed tempo and Skyler put his head back and wailed, "I don't wanna stop."
The guys in the band answered with, "I don't wanna stop."
Skyler cried out again, "I don't wanna stop!"
The band played for a bit and Skyler turned to watch them. Madonna was blown away by these lyrics. She didn't know where he'd come up with them, but she loved the song so far. That scratchy yell he was singing in was perfect for the song. She just hoped that the video he decided to shoot wouldn't be too over the top.
"All my life I've been over the top. I dunno what I'm doin', all I know is I don't wanna stop," he sang, tapping his foot to the beat. "All fired up, I'm gonna go till I drop. You're either in or in the way, don't make me, I don't wanna stop.
"All my life I've been over the top," he sang a bit louder this time. "I dunno what I'm doin', all I know is I don't wanna stop. All fired up, I'm gonna go till I drop. You're either in or in the way, don't make me, I don't wanna stop.
"No, I don't wanna stop," he sang and the band stopped playing.
They were all silent as the sound of the amplifiers faded. Evan and Alex were looking at each other, but Jason, Madonna and Guy were all looking right at him. Their silence had him worried at first, but then Madonna smiled. At the same time, Guy started to laugh. Skyler let out a breath he hadn't been aware he was holding and smiled back at Madonna.
"Sweetie, that song is amazing!" she said, getting up and walking over to wrap her arms around him.
"I'm so glad you like it," he said, beaming at her when she let go of him.
"I loved it," she said. "Every time I think I know what to expect you shock the hell out of me. That means that you'll keep your fans on their toes. Skyler I don't think you're going to lose any fans over any of this. They love you."
"Thanks, M," he said softly. "I'm glad you like this one because I have another one, and I want to sing it with you."
"Like this one?" she asked, looking hesitant.
"No," he laughed. "This one is a ballad. It's a love song, M."
"When can I hear it?" she asked.
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He smiled as he handed it to her. Then he turned to the band and asked them to play the song. Madonna stood with him as he sang the entire song. It was smooth and a little haunting. She so loved the way he could make his voice sound devastated and haunted. She loved the words as she read along on the paper.
"What do you think?" he asked when the song had ended.
"I love that song," she said, smiling. "Give me some time to read through these lyrics and we'll talk about it."
"After the tour," he assured her, smiling back.
"Of course," she said.
They joined him and Jeff for dinner in their suite. Alex, Jason and Evan talked with them about anything and everything from the estate to Ashton's training. Skyler got to talk to Ashton late that night before he and Jeff went to bed. The boy was excited about his training and excitedly informed his father that he could now successfully land a triple flip jump. Skyler had no idea what that was exactly, but he assured his son that he was as proud as could be.
The next morning they had breakfast with Madonna. Guy was out scouting locations for his latest project. Skyler was all business that morning. The show was that night and he had a million things to get through from sound check, dance rehearsals and last minute interviews. Madonna smiled as she listened to him bark at Gavin on the telephone about scheduling so many things in one day especially when there was a show at the end of it.
She followed Skyler and the dancers downstairs and out to the SUV fleet that would take them to the arena for dance rehearsals. Skyler told her along the way that he was seriously thinking of firing Gavin Hunter. He told her about his blatant disrespect for Jeff and how he tried very hard to make sure that he and Skyler were not together for any important events. It was getting on Skyler's nerves, and Jeff was long past hating the guy. Even Clay was getting tired of Gavin's antics.
The arena was all set up, and Madonna was excited about the set they were rehearsing in. They danced around a mechanical bull and the lights and lasers made them all look like they were dancing in a kaleidoscope. The moves were hot and she laughed as James called out to this or that dancer and corrected this or that move. They had been rehearsing this routine for so long that each dancer made small mistakes that James told them about. By the time they were finished with rehearsals James was screaming at them. She waited with Jeff while Skyler took his shower and then they had lunch with James.
He cursed Gavin for the reality show, which was why all of the cameras were following them all over hell and back. He told Skyler that he refused to do anything like this again. Skyler quickly agreed with him and complained that the dancers were bored with the routine, but James assured him that when they were on stage the routines were perfect. He said that the dancers were just tired of rehearsing for the cameras and informed him that they were doing their best to steer clear of any and all cameras most of the time.
Skyler gave an interview for Music Now and then another for MTV before he returned to the set for sound check. She sat in the front row with Jeff, Clay and Gavin to listen and heard for herself when Gavin informed Jeff that he should stay in the family section and away from the cameras. Then she laughed when both Clay and Jeff let him have it. When Skyler came down off the stage and heard them telling Gavin about himself he was furious.
"Gavin how much longer do you think you'll have a job if you keep this up?" he asked as he stood in front of the man. "I'm sick to death of your anti Jeff attitude. You were on thin ice before the tour started, and since we've been in the UK I've been seriously considering calling Stan to send me another agent and sending you packing."
"Skyler this is never going to blow over if you are constantly seen with Jeff," Gavin replied, having the nerve to sound like he was lecturing him.
"Gavin, we've publicly said we're a couple," Skyler said. "We've been seen as a couple since the damned tape was broadcast. You've got to stop this shit."
"I'm looking out for your career," Gavin said in a cold tone. "Someone has to."
"Gavin, I want you out of here," Skyler said. "I'll let Clay find you a flight back to the states. You no longer work for me, and I'll alert Stan that you no longer work for Sky High Entertainment as well. We'll pay you what your contract states, even though you are in clear breach. If you talk to the press we'll slap a suit against you so fast you won't know what hit you. Now get out of here. I never want to see you again."
"I'll see that you don't," Clay said as he stood. "Gavin, if you'll come with me."
"Thank you, Clay," Skyler said with a sigh.
"Shall I call Stan and have him send you a temp?" asked Clay.
"No," he said. "I'll talk to Stan. I'll be fine while I'm in the UK. Gavin already has my schedule packed tight. I'll get with Andrew and cancel a few things. Then I'll meet up with the new manager in the States."
"Sounds good," he said and then the pair of them walked away.
Skyler refused to talk about his decision with any of them as they made their way back to the hotel for the final interview of the day. He did call Andrew to tell him that he'd fired Gavin. He asked that Andrew release a statement about the fact in the morning and to meet him in his suite to discuss his schedule. Then he was sitting in an unused suite to chat with a local reporter about the show.
They had dinner with Evan, Alex and Jason at the arena. Then the men excused themselves to shower and get ready for the show. Madonna and Jeff followed Skyler to his dressing room where he showered quickly and then put on the first costume for the show. She chuckled as Jeff declared him sexy and then Dianne was rushing him off to get in position.
Madonna and Jeff watched the show from back stage. They were thrilled to see the thousands of pride flags held up by the audience. It seemed that Skyler's UK fans didn't care one way or another about his sexuality. Madonna was happy about that. Maybe that would make Skyler see that if he needed to, escaping to the UK was a good idea.
They saw more and more of these rainbow flags in the audience each night. Skyler must have been happy about them as well. He consented to more interviews, went out in full view of the press with Jeff holding his hand and made sure that the Sky High cameras got plenty of shots of the pair of them together, talking to the dancers, feeding the kids or just playing family style.
Andrew did a great job of filling in with Gavin's duties. He agreed to continue until they reached Pennsylvania and Skyler met his new manager. Madonna asked several times if he knew who it was, but Skyler assured her that he'd let her know when he knew. She was happy for him when they met with Michael Cowan to get the deed and keys to the estate that Skyler had bought. She was thrilled to hear him talk about doing some shopping for furniture and other things for the estate when the tour was over.
The shows were going great, and she saw that James had been correct about the dancers making mistakes in rehearsals but doing their best during performances. Skyler was in high spirits after each show and she was happy for that. She'd be seeing him off when the tour left the UK for the States in a few days and she wanted him as happy as possible.
Calls back and forth between Skyler and Ashton continued. Jeff called him nearly as much as Skyler did. Madonna was happy to sit in their suite with them three days before they were to fly out for Pennsylvania to watch a video of Ashton's entire routine for Regionals. She smiled happily as she watched the young man do five jumps, so many spins and quite a bit of footwork. He was dressed in a black one-piece workout outfit and she couldn't wait to see the costume he'd wear at Regionals. She made plans to be there for that.
The video came with a detailed breakdown of the routine. She read things like triple flip jump, triple lutz to double lutz combination, camel spin, triple salchow jump, triple axel and so much more that she didn't understand. The boy seemed to fly across the ice and she joined Skyler and Jeff, holding her breath as each jump was attempted and cheering when they were landed successfully.
They had a great time watching the video and cheering for their son. Madonna was amazed by the boy's talent and she was just as excited about it as his fathers. They spent a lot of time that day on the phone with both Ashton and his coach. Then of course it was back to business with sound checks, dance rehearsals and even more interviews.
She was sad to see the tour leave the UK, but she was there to hug and kiss her guys before they boarded the jet that would carry the tour back to the States with promises to get across the pond to see a show or two. Skyler and Jeff slept through a lot of the flight. The rest of the time was spent feeding Preston and JR and singing songs and playing games with the dancers. Jeff had long since figured out that Skyler's tours were a lot more fun than any he'd been on, but they were also that much more exhausting.
The bubble burst as soon as they landed in Philadelphia. There were tons of screaming fans which was expected. However there was another massive group of people dressed in white and holding up signs with bible verses, chanting that immorality wouldn't be tolerated in Pennsylvania. They screamed for Skyler to leave the state while the fans screamed back at them. Skyler looked at Jeff with wide, panicked eyes as his security surrounded them and walked them through the throng to the waiting SUV fleet that quickly sped off to the hotel.
At the hotel they were met with even more of these white clad people who called themselves the Children of the Light. Clay quickly told Skyler that these people belonged to a cluster of churches in the area. Skyler didn't care where they'd come from. He just wanted them kept away from his children. Some of the things they were screaming at them had scared the kids already. Skyler was both furious and terrified of them as they made their way inside the hotel. He was told by hotel staff that the group had set up a camp of sorts around the hotel and Skyler was furious once again. It seemed that the States wouldn't be as accepting as the UK. Skyler suddenly wished they'd never left London.
They were followed the next day to the arena for dance rehearsals. Skyler made sure that the kids were kept at the hotel with people to watch over and protect them. For the days leading up to the first show in Philadelphia Skyler was both pissed off and scared. The night of the show the group tried very hard to keep ticket holding fans from entering the arena. Several gave up and that made Skyler even more angry. He performed the show but it wasn't his best and he blamed these bigots for that as well.
When he left the arena to go back to the hotel the crowd of bigots tried to flank the SUV fleet. Skyler was thankful that the drivers knew what they were doing. It took two hours but they were finally on the road. The press was all over this, and Skyler was sure that they'd put the scene on live television. He wasn't in the hotel long before his phone started to ring constantly. He sighed as he sat down and told his parents that he, Jeff, and all of their children and grandchildren were fine.
The new manager's name was Matt Hummel. He was an attractive guy with short dark hair, the darkest green eyes that Skyler had ever seen and a muscular physique. He was dressed in a charcoal business suit and assured Skyler that he'd do his job without malice or any trickery. Then he informed him that not only was he a huge fan but he was also a homosexual. Skyler smiled at this because he knew that Matt wouldn't try any underhanded crap with Jeff. Now if he could only get rid of the bigots, he thought, he'd be fine.
But they were waiting for him the next day when he tried to go out with his security to run. He quickly changed his mind and went back into the hotel. He was angry about them keeping him hostage in the hotel but he refused to give up and run away. If they wanted a war then he'd give them one.
The next chapter will be posted soon.
I Don't Wanna Stop is a song by Ozzy Osbourne.