© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 16

"Oh, Sky, I wish I could be there," said Brian when he called later that night. "I should be there with you now."

"Brian, its all right," assured Skyler. "You can't just drop your own responsibilities to run to my side when something happens. I know that you love me, and that's all that's important."

"AJ and Howie send their best, too," said Brian. "Even Kevin is worried about you."

"Tell them all that I'm fine," he replied. "He is my father, and I know why he left when he did. Brian, I have him back now, and that's all that matters at this point."

"Have you heard anything more about court?" asked Brian.

"We have to be in Detroit on the thirtieth," said Skyler. "We have a few days to prepare for that."

"I should be there with you, too," he said. "Sky, I hate that we both have to be on separate sides of the country all of the time. I wish that things could be different."

"Brian, would you give up all of the fans and the feeling you get when they scream for you?" asked Skyler. "Would you give up being able to get your message to so many people every single day? Can you honestly tell me that you'd give all of that up just so we could be together every day?"

"Sky . . ."

"Brian, you don't have to answer that," said Skyler. "I know what your answer is, because its my answer, too. I didn't want to be a singer, Brian, but now that I am, I wouldn't give it up for anything. I love the time that we spend together, and the fact that we have to work hard to get time to spend together makes it even more special. I wouldn't expect you to give up anything to be with me, and I know you wouldn't expect me to give up anything to be with you, either."

"You're great, Sky," said Brian. "You always know what to say."

"Not always," replied Skyler, chuckling. "You'd be surprised sometimes."

The two talked for a little while longer, but Kevin told Brian that they had to get back on the bus soon. When Skyler hung up the telephone, he went in search of his brother and sister. The two hadn't shown themselves since Skyler returned from meeting their father, and he really wanted to talk to them both. He wanted the three of them to at least spend a day with Jason before he had to go back to Denver. Skyler could understand their reluctance to meet their father, but Jason was completely innocent, and he had to make them see that. He was about to knock on Chad's door when Madonna stopped him.

"Leave them alone for tonight, Sky," she said. "They're both very upset right now."

"M, they have to at least talk to Dad to let him tell them why he left," he sighed, leaning against the closed door. "I don't know how to make them understand that he didn't want to leave us."

"They know that," she said. "Cassie and Chad aren't upset with your father. They're upset with themselves for not going with you tonight. I've talked to them both, and they understand that your mother is responsible for your father leaving when and how he did. The only thing that they aren't sure about is Jason. Sky, its hard for them to accept that they didn't have their father all of this time, and Jason did."

"But that isn't Jason's fault," protested Skyler.

"I know that," she said, putting her hand on his shoulder. "The twins know that, too. Its just going to take them a little bit to get used to the idea that they have a younger brother. When they accept it, then they'll have to accept the fact that they aren't the only siblings in your life anymore."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Skyler, they've been all you had for a while now," she reminded him. "You have been all that they have had for a while now, too. Now there's Jason and your father. They're confused as to where they stand in all of this. Look at things from their point of view."

"I know," he sighed again.

"They are very upset with themselves right now, though," she said, leading him back to the living room. "Cassie wanted to call you back to the suite when you left. She wanted to go with you, but she wouldn't go without Chad."

"I don't know what to say to make them understand," he said as they sat down on the couch. "Everything I can think of to say to them doesn't sound right in my head."

"They do understand, Skyler," she assured him. "They just need to think."

The pair talked until both of them were yawning. Madonna had to leave for New York in the morning to finish filming her video, and Skyler needed to talk to the twins as early as possible. They said goodnight, hugging each other tightly, and then Madonna went back to her suite and Skyler went to his room, stripped and crawled into bed.

The next morning, he found the twins at the table for breakfast. Neither of them looked at him when he sat down. They both seemed content to stare at their plates of fruit. He sighed as he filled his own plate and filled a glass with juice. He didn't know what to say to start the conversation that he knew he had to have with them. He hated the fact that he knew he might have to push them. He didn't want to push them into anything. However, they really had to accept what was happening. It wasn't going to just go away.

He thought about asking them to spend the day with Jason first. Maybe they'd be all right with that as long as their father stayed out of sight for a while. He didn't like that, either, but he had to think of something. They were leaving in three days, so that didn't give him much time. He had to figure out how to make them at least meet with their father before he left for Denver.

"What's he like, Sky." Chad nearly whispered from across the table.

"Dad?" asked Skyler, and Cassie nodded. "He's hurt that Mother did this to him; to us. He wants so badly to make up for all of the lost years, and he wants us to be a family."

"Did he even ask about us?" asked Chad, finally looking at Skyler. There was a mixture of hope and anger in his eyes as he looked at him.

"Yes, he did," said Skyler. "He wants very much to meet you both, and he's even more angry with Mother for keeping the two of you from him."

"What's Jason like?" asked Cassie. She looked like she was on the verge of saying something more, but she held her tongue and waited for Skyler to respond.

"He's very excited about having brothers and a sister," he said slowly. He knew that if he said the wrong thing, they'd both be angry. "He can't wait to meet the two of you, and he hopes that you guys can be close."

"He's happy about us?" asked Chad, looking slightly shocked.

"Of course he is," said Skyler. "Chad, he's known about us all his life. Imagine what it was like for him to know that we were his brothers and sister and not be able to talk to us."

"He doesn't hate us?" asked Cassie, and Skyler nearly gasped.

"Cassie, he doesn't hate any of us," he said. "He's worried that we won't like him."

"Why wouldn't we like him?" asked Chad. "He hasn't done anything to us."

"Well, maybe he thinks that we'll be jealous of him, because he's been with Dad all of this time," said Skyler, throwing in what Madonna had told him that the twins were thinking. "Maybe he thinks that we'll resent him, because we haven't had Dad at all."

They were silent for a while after that. The twins were both thinking that they didn't want Jason to think that they hated him. Neither of them really hated him. Sure they were jealous of the life he'd shared with their father, but it wasn't his fault. He hadn't known what their lives had been like. Their father hadn't even known until the press started talking. Both of them had heard what their father had said in the interview. It wasn't his fault that their mother had let Chuck hurt them. He hadn't even known about it.

Cassie wanted to meet her father so badly. She hated herself for not going with Skyler the night before, and she hoped that Chad was as ready as she was. It wasn't his fault. Their mother had done it all. She'd made sure that they didn't have their father and replaced him with a cruel and hateful man that beat them and made them feel like they were less then appealing children. Chad had to understand that.

"I want to meet them," said Chad, startling Cassie and Skyler both. "I want to meet my father and my brother."

Skyler looked from Chad to Cassie. All he needed was for her to agree, and then he could call their father and set it all up. He only hoped that his father would learn that he really was the twins' father. If he wasn't, then they might never forgive any of them for hiding the truth from them when they found out. He was sure that they would find out. Someone would eventually tell them to get back at Skyler for something.

"I want to meet them, too," said Cassie. "Today."

That had been an hour ago, and Skyler had just gotten off of the telephone with his father. He would be bringing Tabitha and Jason over to the hotel in a little while. Skyler watched as the twins sat and tried to pretend that they were calm. He saw right through their act, though. They were as anxious and nervous as he had been the night before when he'd stood in front of their father's hotel room door. He smiled at them as he thought of how silly he'd felt when he'd momentarily expected his knuckles to pass through the door when he knocked.

When Brent came in with their father, step-mother and brother, the twins looked like they were about to dissolve into their chairs. Skyler smiled at his family and stood to greet them.

"Hi!" called Jason as he walked straight to the twins. "I was afraid that I wouldn't get to meet you guys before we have to leave."

"Hi," said Chad, trying a tentative smile that actually did reach his eyes.

"So you're my little brother," said Cassie as she stood and walked over to the two boys.

After that, everything went smoothly. They even made it downstairs and into the SUV without a spectacle. Skyler smiled as he listened to his younger brothers and sisters chatter away as his father drove them to the mall. Skyler had insisted that he take Jason shopping. He'd spent a small fortune on the twins since they'd been in LA, and he wanted to do something for Jason, too. After a small discussion, his father and Tabitha agreed to let him spend a little money.

Once they were inside the mall, a chain reaction began. It started while they were browsing in one of the clothing stores with Brent silently watching for anyone who he thought might get out of hand. So far, Skyler only noticed a few stares and one or two gasps from other shoppers as they recognized who he was. What he didn't know was that people were rushing through the mall, telling friends, co-workers and even complete strangers that Skyler Thomas was in the mall. A few people said something about his father being with him, and then one after another, several people called the press.

"Well, what do you think of this?" asked Skyler while facing the back of the store. He was holding up a shirt for Jason to look at when the boy's eyes went wide.

"Wow!" he gasped as he gawked at the spectacle that was growing outside the store. "Skyler, I think the entire mall is outside this store."

Skyler dropped the shirt he was holding as he turned around to look in the direction of the glass wall that served as the front of the store. Girls began to scream, and cameras were already flashing. He could see at least three reporters in the crowd, and Brent was already at the door to the store. He'd expected a few fans, but this was way more than he'd dreamed would show up to see him. He hadn't realized just how much attention people were actually paying to the press stories about him and his father.

"What do we do now, Sky?" asked Chad, coming up to stand beside him.

"I'm not sure," he said. Then he chuckled. "You know, you're going to have to get used to this sort of thing, runt. If you're going to record a record of your own, pretty soon you'll be the one they come running to see."

"This is so cool!" cried Jason as he stepped forward only to be held back by their father.

"Until Brent gives us instructions, you will stay here with us," said Ben, holding tightly to Jason's shoulder as Brent came toward them.

"Sky, you're going to have to go out there and say something to the reporters," said Brent. "The fans, you're used to, but this could get ugly, so mall security is on their way."

"Thanks, Brent," said Skyler as he turned and smiled weakly at his family.

The entire group walked toward the front of the store, and Ben was silently marveled as he watched his first born son charm the mass of people that had gathered in front of the store. He'd had no idea how quickly his son's life had become so hectic. Sure, he knew that he'd performed sold out shows across America when he'd gone on tour to promote his album, but things like this weren't what he'd even come close to thinking would happen if all Skyler did was go to the mall.

His admiration grew for Skyler as he watched him patiently answer questions, sign autographs and hug fans. Skyler seemed to handle the crowd with ease, but Ben felt better when twelve men in security uniforms suddenly appeared in the crowd. They herded the crowd away from the store, and then Skyler came back to them. Brent came with him, and he was talking with one of the security men that had actually come into the store. The security guard stayed with them as Brent left the store via the storeroom exit and retrieved the SUV. They were lead through a store room and through an outside door straight to the SUV. Once they were safely inside the vehicle, the security guard returned to the store.

"Does this sort of thing happen often?" asked Tabitha, turning in her seat to look at Skyler. She looked terrified.

"Usually its only fans," replied Skyler. "This time it was worse, because of the media attention on me and Dad."

"What are you going to do about it?" asked Ben. "I'm sure you have to do something to make them stop hounding you."

"Well, I'll have to hold a press conference," said Skyler. "I'm going to call Laura and Clay when we get back to the hotel and get them out here. Then, if you're willing, we go talk to the press."

"You and me?" asked Ben.

"Well, that's what they want to know about," explained Skyler. "When I was standing in front of the store, that's all the reporters asked about."

"I'll talk to the press with you," said Ben. "After all, if it hadn't been for that reporter from E! I would never have gotten to you."

"Oh, I'm sure that Laura would have caught wind of you sooner or later," said Skyler, smiling. "I'm still planning to find out why Barry never mentioned you, though."

"What happened between you and Barry Graham?" asked his father. "The news just said that you were friends but didn't think you could work together anymore."

"Friends," laughed Skyler bitterly. "If we were friends, Dad, he would have told me about you. What happened between us was that I decided that I was done following orders blindly, and he couldn't handle it. He barged into my sound check before the final show in New York and screamed at me in front of everyone. Then he quit."

"What is Clay like?" asked Ben as he imagined Barry Graham screaming at his son.

"Clay seems a lot different than Barry," said Skyler. "I don't know him all that well, so I can't really say. He's going to be managing Chad, too, so I'm sure with two Thomas boys, we'll keep him in line."

Chad had told their father about his song and his hopes for a career in singing. Ben and Jason had expressed the desire to hear his song, but Chad wasn't ready to play it for them just yet. He was anxious to get back to New York to start working on his music, and he hoped that Clay would deliver on his promises. He was sure that if he didn't, Skyler would make him explain himself.

Tabitha still seemed upset about the mall crowd, but Skyler didn't know what to say to her to calm her down. He understood why she was scared, though. The first time that something like that happened to him, he'd been terrified. He supposed that, like he did, she'd just have to adapt to living around a celebrity. In his case it was much more personal, but he was sure that she would come to terms with it. After all, it wasn't as if they would be living in New York, so she wouldn't see that kind of thing too often.

When they got back to the hotel, there were messages for Skyler to call both Laura and Clay. It seemed that the news was already running on MTV and VH1, so his management team already knew what was going on. When he called them back one at a time, he found that Clay was already at the airport in New York, and Laura was on her way there while she talked to him. They both agreed that, if his father was willing, they needed to hold a press conference and get this all out in the open.

"Well, that takes care of that," he said after disconnecting with Laura. "Laura and Clay already know what's going on, and they should both be in the air in a few minutes or so. They're coming here to talk about what we should do."

"What do you mean? What should we do?" asked Tabitha. She had her hand firmly on Jason's shoulder, and the look in her eyes was one of fear.

"Well, we might want to hold a press conference to get our story out there to everyone," he replied. "That way they won't hound us so much in the future."

"Will it be anything like what happened at the mall?" she asked.

"There will be reporters there," he said slowly. "A lot of them. What happened at the mall was kind of my fault. I didn't think about the fact that every person in that mall would know who I was. I also didn't think about the fact that just about half of this city, if not more, had watched the coverage of the Oscars. I should have thought about all of that and realized that going to the mall the way we did was a mistake."

"No one blames you for that, Sky," said his father, standing up and walking over to stand next to him. "With everything that's happened, you couldn't be expected to think of everything."

"I should have known that something would happen," argued Skyler. "I had no idea that it would be that way, but I know what kind of reaction my presence in a public mall can cause."

"Don't be so hard on yourself," said Brent, coming into the room. "This was mild compared to what happened while we were on tour. You didn't know it would be that way, and if anyone should be sorry, its me. I should have thought ahead. You should have never been allowed to go to that mall in broad daylight, Skyler."

The next chapter will be posted soon.