© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 15

Skyler was nervous as he rode the elevator up to the seventh floor of the hotel that his father was staying in. He had no idea what he was going to say to the man. He knew why he had left, and his mother had made sure that he wouldn't come back. He just didn't know what to say to him now. He'd been so angry with him for so many years. How did he turn that off and forgive him for something he didn't have control over so quickly? He knew that he had to do it. He didn't hate his father, and he wasn't angry anymore. He just wasn't so sure that he would be able to talk to him.

Cassie and Chad were back at the hotel with Mark and Brent. They weren't ready to let go of the anger. Skyler could understand that, but he wished that they could understand that it wasn't their father's fault. He'd had no idea that Chuck was hurting them all of that time. He wondered what his father thought when he'd heard the stories in the press. Surely he didn't believe all of them, but a few had been true. He would have to make sure that his father understood what really was true and what was fiction. Skyler was starting to hate the press.

He was surprised that no one was lurking on the other side of the elevator doors when he reached the seventh floor. He was starting to think the press would haunt him everywhere he went. He waited until Brent cleared the hall before he stepped off the elevator. Skyler had insisted that Brent come along. He was taking no chances on this little outing. All he wanted to do was meet with his father without any problems. So far, the press didn't have a clue that he was even out of his hotel room.

"Relax, Sky," said Brent when he came back to the elevator to get him. "There's not even a cleaning crew on this floor."

"Thanks, Brent," sighed Skyler, running his fingers through his hair before stepping off the elevator.

A cleaning crew at this hour would have been very suspicious if they had encountered one. Rooms were only cleaned after check-out, and that was hours past. Skyler hadn't even agreed to come to the hotel until Tabitha and Jason had arrived. He didn't want to have to wait to meet them. His father had asked that they at least sit down and talk alone, and Skyler agreed to that. His only condition was that he meet his half-brother and step-mother before they went off for their private talk.

They walked down the hall to the room that his father and his family was waiting in. Skyler felt his palms get sweatier and sweatier with each step he took. His mind flooded with memories of his father. There weren't many, and he wasn't even sure that most of them really were memories. He thought he could remember climbing onto his father's shoulders to watch Saturday morning cartoons. The smell of his father's aftershave all over the man as he sat on his shoulders. Skyler knew the scent of the aftershave, because his mother hadn't thrown it away in time. He'd stolen the bottle of aftershave from the medicine cabinet and hid it in his room. When he'd finally had to throw the bottle away, he'd bought another. In fact, it was the same aftershave that Skyler had used faithfully every time he shaved when he moved to LA.

Now, he was standing in front of the door that stood between him and the man he struggled harder and harder to remember with each passing year. For so long he'd nearly hated the man. He'd blamed him for everything that had happened in his life, and he believed it when his mother told him that his father had walked out on them. He'd been so naive to believe her, and he felt foolish. On the other side of that door wasn't a man who had walked away from his sons and daughter. This man had been forced to leave by lies and a judge who believed the lies. How in the world would Skyler be able to explain the reasons behind his own anger?

From the very bottom of his soul, Skyler gathered the courage and strength to knock on that door. He had the ridiculous idea that once his knuckles touched the door, they would be sucked into it as if the door was more than wood with brass trim. He shivered as his knuckles hit the door. He nearly let a nervous chuckle escape as he sighed. It was only a door. Nothing supernatural was happening to him, and he silently chastised himself for being childish.

All thoughts of chastising himself for silly thoughts left his mind when the door opened. He was faced with the man he'd seen on television. Skyler could see the younger man that he had climbed all over to watch cartoons. He could remember it vividly as he stared at his father. All of the years of hatred and anger melted away only to be replaced by an equally crushing need. This was his father. This was the man that had been forced to give up his family and walk away, and Skyler's heart swelled with so much love for the man. It nearly broke as he thought of all the times he'd thought bad thoughts about him, and before he knew what was happening, he was crying like a baby.

"Oh, Sky," said his father, stepping forward and engulfing him in his arms. "My beautiful famous boy."

"Dad, I'm so sorry," he sobbed against his father's shoulder. "I'm sorry for everything."

"Hey," said his father, pushing him back to arms length, "there is nothing for you to be sorry for, Skyler. Nothing that's happened is your fault. I love you so much, Sky. Never forget that."

"I should never have believed all of the lies she told me," sighed Skyler. "I should have known better, Dad. I should have known that she was lying all that time. I believed her when she said that you left us. I'm so sorry."

"Come inside, Sky," said Bend, looking at Brent. "We don't want to put on a show for anyone."

"Dad, this is Brent," Skyler said, realizing who his father was referring to. "He's one of my security men. I never leave the hotel without Brent."

"Right," his father said, smiling as he extended a hand to Brent. "Ben Thomas."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Thomas," said Brent with a soft smile.

"Well, why don't you both come in," said Ben. "Skyler, I have so much to tell you."

"I know about Tabitha and Jason, Dad," said Skyler as he and Brent followed his father into the suite. "I talked to Tabitha on the phone yesterday."

"Yes," said his father. "I know about that. But I want to tell you why I left."

"I know that, too," said Skyler as he sat next to his father on the couch. "I saw your interview."

"Skyler, I didn't leave you on purpose," replied his father. "You have to know that I never tried to hurt you in any way. Your mother . . ."

"Is a horrible woman," said Skyler, cutting his father off. "I know that already. I don't want to talk about her or her husband. The twins live with me now, and Mother and her husband are in prison. We don't have to worry about them anymore. What I want to talk about is you."

"The twins," said his father, and Skyler saw a shadow pass over his father's face. "I assume that Chuck is their father. I don't think Claire was pregnant when she divorced me. She claimed that she wasn't."

Skyler was silent for a few minutes after that. His mother had told the twins that Ben was their father, too. Chuck never treated them any differently than he'd treated Skyler, and even he had said that Ben was their father. Could his mother have lied to them? It was all too much for Skyler to even think about. The twins had to be Ben's children. He couldn't tell them that Chuck was their father. It would destroy them both.

"They have to be your children," he said just above a whisper. "Mother told us that you are their father. Even Chuck said he wasn't their father. He hated us all, because we weren't his children. He told us that all of the time."

"I know that my name is on their birth certificate," said Ben. "I've checked on that. They have my last name, because it was Claire's last name when she gave birth. Even though the twins were born seven months after the divorce, I just assumed that she'd told the truth when she said she wasn't pregnant in court . . ."

"Dad, she's lied about almost everything else," said Skyler, cutting him off. "She told us that you were abusive, and she told me that she'd had to call the police to make you leave me alone. Looking back, I should have known she was lying, because whenever Chuck would hurt me, she always made me feel like it was my fault. She lied so much, Dad. How can you believe that she told the truth in court?"

"I've seen their pictures on television and in magazines," said Ben. "They do look like you. Chad doesn't so much, but Cassie does. I suppose its possible. Hell, she did lie through her teeth about everything else. I suppose this wouldn't be any different. Damn her."

"They have to be your children," said Skyler. "If I have to tell them that Chuck is their father . . ."

"Skyler, we have to be sure," he said. "I don't want to lie to them."

"You are listed as their father on the birth certificate," said Skyler. "That makes you their legal father. You can call the hospital in Detroit. They have all of our blood types from all of the times that we'd had to go to the emergency center."

"I'll check on that," said his father. "We won't say anything to them until I know more. Right now, there's no reason to upset them any more than they already are. I assume that they're angry with me."

"They aren't ready to meet you or talk to you yet," said Skyler. "Chad can't let go of what Chuck did, and he still blames you for it a bit. Cassie hasn't stopped crying since I told her that I was coming here."

"Those poor kids," sighed Ben, rubbing his face with his hands. "Damn you, Claire."

"You have to be their father," sighed Skyler.

"Well, for the time being, I am, legally," said Ben, smiling. "There's no reason for them to know otherwise unless I find out that the really aren't my children. I don't want to hurt them any more than they already are."

"Chad's a little upset about Jason," admitted Skyler. "I don't really know why."

"I do," said his father. "Chad thinks that he never got to meet his father, and Jason has had him all his life. I understand where he's coming from there. Jason knows that things won't be wonderful between him and his siblings, but I'm hoping that things will change soon. He doesn't know that the twins may not be his brother and sister. Tabitha knows, but she agrees that he's had enough shocks for a while."

Skyler thought about Jason for a few minutes. He didn't resent him at all. Sure, he was a little jealous of the time he'd spent with their father, but that was no reason to resent him. He was his brother, and Skyler would accept him. He'd treat him the same way he treated the twins. Sure, the twins had led harder lives than Jason, but that didn't mean he deserved to be treated any different. Skyler just had to figure out how to make the twins understand that.

"We can't tell them," said Skyler. "We can't tell any of them, Dad. I don't want my brothers and sister to suffer any more than they already have. Promise me that no matter what you find out, we'll never tell the twins or Jason."

Ben was quiet for a few minutes, but he studied Skyler hard. He understood where Skyler was coming from. He couldn't imagine what life had been like for the twins, but another blow could be more than they could take. If they really were Chuck's children, they may not be able to deal with that knowledge. Ben found himself hoping that they really were his own children. Sure, he'd hate Claire even more for keeping them from him, but he could love them now. He could make up for it if they were his children.

"I promise to say nothing to anyone but you, Skyler," he said finally. "The only thing we have to worry about is the press. I see how they attack stars. If any of them find out that I'm not their father . . ."

"We'll deal with the press," assured Skyler. In his mind, he was already formulating strategies to keep the press occupied for a while. Clay and Laura would probably have heart attacks, but Skyler would do anything to keep his brothers and sisters from finding any of this out. He'd wait until he knew the answer to the important question before he did anything, but if it wasn't the answer that he wanted to hear, then he would shake things up in the press as fast as he could.

"Are you ready to meet your step-mother and brother?" asked Ben after a few moments of silence. "They're both very excited about meeting you."

Skyler felt his heart beat faster as he thought about meeting Jason for the first time. What was he going to say to him? He had thought about the fact that he had another little brother all night long the night before. He wanted to get close to Jason and have the type of relationship with him that he had with the twins, but he didn't know how to go about it. What if the boy just flat out didn't like him?

"Sure," he said, standing.

"Don't look so nervous," laughed Ben as he stood as well. "Jason hasn't stopped talking about you since he got here, and Tabitha can't wait to meet you."

He tried to swallow the lump that had formed in his throat as his father walked over to the door across from them in the suite and knocked. He felt his knees start to quiver, just a little bit, as the door opened and a woman with dark brown hair that was nearly black came into the room. She smiled at him, and he tried to return the smile, but he didn't know if it actually made it to his face. He hadn't been this nervous in a long time. He could stand and meet hundreds of fans with less nervousness than this, but the two people he was about to meet were far more important.

When Jason stepped out from behind his mother, Skyler was sure that his smile reached his face. Jason was at most five feet tall. He had dark hair, but unlike his mother's almost black locks, his was chestnut brown. His eyes weren't as dark as his mother's either. They were brown, but Skyler thought he had enough of their father in him to lighten the color a bit. The smile he beamed at Skyler lit up his face and made him look younger than his fourteen years.

"Hi, Skyler," he said, coming over to shake Skyler's hand. "I'm Jason, and I'm your little brother."

"Well, hello there, little brother," said Skyler. "Its very nice to meet you."

"This is so cool," breathed Jason. "None of my friends believed me before, but when I get back to Denver, I'm going to rub this in their faces."

Skyler couldn't help laughing at that. Jason's excitement almost completely calmed Skyler's nerves. Gone were the worries over how he would get close to Jason. Skyler knew that he'd have no trouble coming to love Jason as much as he loved the twins. It was clear that Jason was excited, and Skyler wondered why he'd worried that the boy wouldn't like him.

"I'll try to make sure that we get a few pictures taken of us together," chuckled Skyler. "Then you'll have something to show your friends."

"Awesome!" cried Jason.

"Its very nice to meet you in person finally, Skyler," said Tabitha, stepping up beside her son to shake Skyler's hand. "We have all of your videos recorded, and Ben and Jason watch them all the time. To see you standing here in front of me is quite an experience for me."

"This is a unique experience for me, too," he replied, smiling at her. "How long will you all be here?"

"We'll be here for three days," replied Ben. "Jason has to get back to school, and I have to get back to work. We'd like to stay longer, but we just can't."

"Well, I promise that we'll spend as much time together as we can while you're here," said Skyler. "This is a mini vacation for me. I came to LA for the Oscars, and now that they're over, I'm visiting with all of my friends here."

"Where are Cassie and Chad?" asked Jason. "I want to meet them, too. Its really cool that I have two brothers and a sister. I've always been the only one, so it should be cool to have brothers to talk to."

"Cassie and Chad are at the other hotel right now," said Skyler, looking at Ben. "They need a little time."

"All right," he said slowly. It was clear that he didn't understand, but Skyler had to keep his promise to the twins and not push them until they were both ready.

"I'll work on them," he said. "We'll all get together soon."

"I hope we do before I leave," said Jason, putting his head down, and Skyler hated that he'd disappointed him the first time he met him.

Skyler introduced Brent to his family, and Jason asked him a million questions. Brent just smiled and answered his questions as quickly as he could. Skyler sat with Ben and Tabitha and talked about Denver for a few minutes. They asked him what it was like to always be noticed everywhere he went, and he admitted that it was very frustrating at times. He told them about a trip to the mall to buy clothes for the twins that got very hectic. Tabitha was wide eyed by the time he finished, and she glanced at Jason.

His father just kept smiling at him, and Skyler couldn't stop thinking that it was all a dream. He told his father all about how he got into show business, and Ben chuckled when he heard about Milton Drake approaching him in the diner. Tabitha asked him what it was like to sing in front of so many people, and Skyler admitted that he'd been terrified of it at first, but after his first show he loved it. He told her that it was the greatest feeling in the world to stand on a stage and look out at the crowd while they screamed for you.

Jason said that he'd love to get out on stage and sing for people. Then he said that he wouldn't want to do it all alone though. Skyler told him that he was rarely on stage by himself when he sang. He told them about back-up singers and the dancers. Skyler was rarely on that stage completely alone. Jason told him that he thought he could handle that. They all laughed at his enthusiasm.

Skyler left them after talking with them for nearly three hours. He was happy to have his father back, and he was looking forward to getting to know his step-mother and half brother as well. Jason was quite a character, and Skyler thought he'd be really fun to be around. All he had to do now was work on the twins. He needed to figure out a way to help them get over their anger. At the same time, he had to keep the knowledge that Ben Thomas might not be their biological father to himself. That one was difficult, because he'd never kept anything from the twins.

The next chapter will be posted soon.