© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 22

"Welcome back to MTV Studios in New York City! I'm Liza Burton, and you're watching the Mission Impossible Debut Party. 'Mission Impossible', Skyler Thomas's second album hit stores today," said the female announcer as the lights flashed over the dancing crowd as they danced to Desert Rose.

Skyler sat back in his chair in his dressing room, waiting to be introduced. He couldn't believe all of the screaming he was hearing. MTV had been talking about "Mission Impossible" since the middle of June, and fans were calling record stores all over the country to try and reserve copies before the album was even finished. A smile slipped over his face as he thought about how successful he really was.

"Record stores across New York are reporting in every hour to let us know how the sales are going, and from the sounds of things, Skyler could be looking forward to another platinum release. Stores all over the city are selling out of the CD and singles," said Liza as the music to Desert Rose ended.

Skyler waited for his queue to be on stage as the music to Intuition began. He scanned the dancing crowd from the monitor in his dressing room and smiled as he saw the energy and excitement in their faces. His second album had proven almost impossible to record, but seeing the fans out on the dance floor made it all worth while.

"We have a surprise for you tonight," said Liza as Skyler left his dressing room and headed for the stage. "Skyler is here tonight, and he's going to sing us a song from the album!"

The crowd roared as Skyler stepped onto the small stage and the music to Words Get In The Way began. He sang his heart out, and he really tried to connect with the audience as the song went on. When he was finished, they screamed louder, letting him know that they loved the performance. He bowed once before joining Liz on the other side of the platform.

"That was wonderful, Skyler," she said, beaming a smile at him. "The entire album is incredible. How does it feel to have two new singles on the charts again?"

"I'm still blown away, Liz," he said, smiling at the crowd. "I keep pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming. You know, you never really get used to fame."

"Well, you've had plenty of fame," she chuckled. "Any plans for a tour?"

"We're working on the details," he said evasively. He hadn't even thought of a tour as of yet. "Nothing is definite about a tour right now, though."

"The movie is about to come out, too," said Liz, skipping to a whole other group of questions. "I bet you're excited about that."

"Oh, I am," beamed Skyler, thankful for the subject change. "I'm very proud of the movie, Liz, and I hope everyone loves it."

"Its been so top secret," she said. "Care to give us a clue?"

"Now, come on," he chuckled, wiping his brow. "You'll have to read the book."

* * *

"That went better than I expected," sighed Skyler as he leaned his head back against the seat on the plane that night.

"You sounded great," said Niki. She was seated beside him, and he was sure she was going to protest flying right back to Denver again. "You always sound great, Sky."

"I can't wait to get back to the twins," he said, trying to keep his eyes open.

They'd been running all over New York all day long. Skyler was finalizing plans for his next video shoot, and they'd gone shopping for ridiculous things to take back to Denver with them. Niki insisted that they should have spent the night in New York, but Skyler wanted to get back to Denver to spend time with his family. He never said that he wanted to get back before Kevin had to leave, but Niki wasn't stupid. She knew that they were getting close. Exactly how close they were getting was still unknown to her, but she had eyes.

"I'm surprised that Kevin didn't come to New York with us," she said softly, causing Skyler's eyes to snap open.

"Why would he come with us?" he asked, trying to keep the edge out of his voice. Neither of them were ready for discovery just yet.

"Oh, I don't know," she said, making him sweat. "You two seem to be getting pretty tight."

"We're friends, Niki," he said a little too defensively.

"I know you are," she said, looking at him innocently. "That's why I don't understand why he didn't come along."

"He has nothing to do with my career in any way," protested Skyler. "What other reason would he have for coming on this one day trip?"

"To support you, silly," she said. "He is your friend."

Their conversation died down after that, and when Niki tried to talk to him again, Skyler pretended to be asleep. He wasn't sure if she knew that he and Kevin were now lovers or not. He didn't feel scared that she knew, but he knew that Kevin wouldn't be comfortable with anyone knowing. Skyler knew that eventually someone close to them would find out, but he didn't know what would happen between him and Kevin when that happened. That was what scared him. He didn't want to lose him.

When the plane touched down in Denver, Skyler was sure that Niki could feel his tension. She looked at him for a second before they walked down the isle to get off of the plane, but she didn't say anything. He was thankful for that, and as he walked through the gate into the airport, he let out a sigh as he saw Kevin standing there with his family. He tried very hard to not show how happy he was to see Kevin, but he didn't think anyone would think anything more than he was happy to see his family.

"We saw you on MTV tonight," Jason enthused as Skyler reached them. He and Niki traded hugs with each member of the Thomas family, and even Kevin.

"It was great, Sky," said Cassie as she hugged him tight. "Chad can't wait until he has a debut party like that."

"Oh, it'll come soon enough," chuckled Skyler as he hugged Chad. "Don't worry. They'll climb all over you in no time, little brother."

On their way back to the hotel, Skyler listened to his brothers and sister go on and on about his performance. He smiled as he thought about how excited they still were after having seen him on stage over and over again. Kevin joined in with them after a few minutes, and Skyler couldn't help smiling again as he listened to what Kevin had to say.

"There's a review in 'Rolling Stone'," cried Jason, shoving the magazine into Skyler's hands. He turned on his pen light to read through the article.

"Skyler Thomas returns with his sophomore album. This time around, Thomas has stepped up the beat a bit with songs like Intuition and Get Up. He still knows how to make us cry, though. The evidence is clear with songs like One More Try and Words Get In The Way. With his boyish charm and hyper stage performances, Thomas is sure to be singing his way into our hearts for years to come . . . " read the article, and Skyler chuckled as he read it. He was proud of himself and the album, and he couldn't even believe it was finally released after all of the problems that had kept happening while he was recording it. Those problems had sparked the album's name.

MTV was playing the Desert Rose video several times a day now, and Skyler sat with his siblings to watch it for the fiftieth time that night before going to bed. The video took place in the desert with billions of bright red rose petals flying through the wind around him as he sang about rain and a woman he couldn't find. Chris Cunningham was brilliant, and Skyler smiled as he watched the effect of the rose petals swarming and coming together to form a woman in a red dress on the screen.

For the rest of the evening, Skyler sat with his family in what was already known as the common room between their suites in the hotel, talking about his next video. He was supposed to start shooting in three days, and the director, Miles Bennet, was supposed to be arriving in Denver the next day. Skyler had heard nothing but good things about Bennet. Madonna had personally recommended him, and Kevin had even said the man was really easy to work with. What Skyler was most concerned about was the quality of his video. He'd been assured by all three members of Backstreet that the video was in safe hands if Bennet was directing.

By the time he went to his own room to get some sleep, he was missing Kevin. They'd agreed not to spend too much time together. Kevin believed that spending too much time together would give them away, but Skyler wasn't so sure about that. He didn't really like Kevin's fear of being discovered, but he couldn't do anything about it. He understood what the fear of being outed was like, but his friends were all either gay or bisexual. Skyler hadn't had that luxury.

The next morning, Skyler met with Miles Bennet as soon as the man was off the plane. They talked about the concept for the video, and by the time they broke for lunch, Skyler was happy with what he thought the video would be like. Miles was easy to talk to, and he took every one of Skyler's suggestions very eagerly. He told him that it was important for the artist to be a part of the thought process that went into making a video, and Skyler liked that.

The video took all of three days to shoot, and Skyler sat with Miles as he edited the footage, trying to come up with a final product. He was very pleased with what he saw. By the end of the week, Skyler sat with his family, Kevin and Niki to watch the final product. In the video, Skyler was chasing after an unseen woman through light rain as he sang. Now and then, he would stop running and sing to the camera as the rain seemed to fall on everything but him. Everyone was happy with what they saw.

He spent the night in Kevin's arms as they talked about how they would talk to each other on the telephone and watching each other on the entertainment news after Kevin flew back to Orlando the following morning. Skyler was feeling a bit uncomfortable, remembering that Brian had told him that they would talk on the telephone and sneak back to see each other when he left, but he didn't want to tell Kevin that he was worried about what would happen. He decided that he would just have to trust Kevin to at least be truthful with him.

"What are you thinking about?" asked Kevin when the two of them were silent for a while.

"You," replied Skyler, snuggling closer to him and running his hand down the length of Kevin's back before kissing him lightly on the lips. "I'm usually thinking about you when I'm quiet."

"Sky, if you're worried about me doing to you what Brian . . ."

"Shh," interrupted Skyler. "I don't want to talk about Brian. You aren't your cousin."

"Thank you," sighed Kevin. "I wouldn't do that to you, Skyler."

"I believe you," replied Skyler, wondering if he really did believe him or not. "Just hold me."

Holding each other spawned soft kisses and caresses that turned into more insistent petting. Skyler kissed Kevin's jawbone, letting his kisses trail down his neck and over his collar bone as Kevin began to moan and run his hands up and down Skyler's back. They were oblivious to the time that they spent as they explored each other's bodies, giving and taking pleasure to and from each other until they were both panting and sweating in post climactic bliss.

"That was incredible," Kevin said between deep breaths. "Every time with you is awesome, Sky."

"I love being with you, too," replied Skyler as he slid back up in the bed and found his niche in Kevin's arms again. "It feels like we've always been together."

"I can't believe it took me so long to see that I was in love with you, Sky," said Kevin. "We could have had so much more time together than we've already had."

"Should have, could have, would have," sighed Skyler. "Those don't get you anywhere. We're together right now, Kev. Just enjoy it."

They fell asleep in that same position, not caring about who figured out what they'd been up to. Nick and Howie were both back in Orlando, and the twins were both late sleepers, so Kevin was sure that he could slip out of Skyler's bedroom before they woke up. He'd have to get up to his own room to shower and dress for his flight anyway.

After several soft kisses and a few longer and deeper ones, Skyler and Kevin said goodbye to each other long enough for Kevin to get upstairs and shower. Skyler showered and dressed with thoughts of how strange it would be for Kevin to be gone, and he was just coming out of his bedroom as Chad came out of his. The teenager smiled at his brother, but Skyler could plainly see that the boy wasn't really awake. He was merely answering the call of nature.

When he sat down to breakfast with his father and Tabitha, Niki was just coming out of her room to join them. She smiled at Skyler and commented on the video again as Kevin came back down from his room. His flight would be leaving in three hours, so he and Skyler were going to spend as much time together as possible without letting anyone know how they really felt about one another.

"So what's on your agenda for today?" asked Niki as Chad and Cassie both joined them at the table.

"I thought I'd stick close to the hotel and hang out with my family today," replied Skyler. "Kevin will be leaving in a little while to go to the airport, so that just leaves us."

"We could play that video game you bought me," said Jason from across the table.

Skyler had bought little presents for everyone while he and Niki were in New York, and Jason loved his video game. He'd been asking everyone to play it with him since he'd opened the box. Skyler smiled at his enthusiasm. He thought it would be nice to have a little mini tournament with the video game after Kevin left. That way, he would be spending a little time with each of his siblings.

"That sounds good," he replied. "What about you two? You guys want to have a little tournament?"

"Sounds fun," said Chad, looking at Cassie. She shrugged and nodded.

Until Kevin left, Skyler spent as much time with him as he could without letting the others know how close they really were. He noticed Niki watching them closely, but everyone else seemed to accept that Kevin was his friend, and he would miss him when he was gone. He wondered when Niki would actually put it together. What's more, he wondered what Kevin's reaction would be when she finally did.

After Kevin left the hotel, Skyler had to try very hard to keep his spirits up. He tried to ignore his fear that Kevin would break up with him while he was gone, and he put all he had into playing the video game with his siblings. By the time they were all tired of playing the game, it was time for supper. They gathered around the table in the common room to eat, and they all talked about what was coming up.

Skyler had no idea when his new video would be released. That was really up to Maverick. It was shot, and he was proud of it. That was the subject of conversation throughout most of the meal. His father also asked him if and when he was planning to tour for the album. Skyler had promised his father a job on the tour, and Ben was really looking forward to that. He promised his father that he would start making plans for the tour soon.

For the rest of the month, Skyler and Chad hid from the press and spent time with their family. Niki had to leave Denver a few days after Kevin left, so it really was just the family for the rest of the month. Skyler and the twins left for New York on the 30th, and they sat together with Ben on speaker phone as they watched the video on MTV the following day.

Laura called the next morning, and Skyler went to lunch with her. She handed him a script to read through, and they talked about the storyline over lunch. The movie, The Eye of the World: The Wheel of Time, was being directed by Renny Harlan, and Laura wanted Skyler in the movie. She wanted him in the film so much that she'd set up a meeting with Warner Brother's, the studio filming the movie, for Monday morning. She planned to get Skyler a part in the movie as quickly as possible. From there, he was supposed to fly to Los Angeles to appear on "The Tonight Show". He complained that he was getting too busy too quickly.

"Oh, you love it," laughed Laura. "Have you decided what song to sing for the show?"

"I'm singing the new one," he replied. "I already talked to Jay about it. He called me in Denver to thank me for doing the show in advance."

"That was nice of him," she said.

"It was," agreed Skyler.

"So, about the movie," she prompted.

"I'll read the script, Laura," he sighed. "You said yourself that they haven't even started casting. I'll go with you in the morning to Warner, but that doesn't guarantee that they'll just give me a part."

"Oh, I'm sure they'll give you a part, Sky," she said, beaming a smile at him.

The next morning, Skyler met with Charles Banning and Melissa Reevy, two of the executives at Time Warner. They talked about the movie, and Melissa was very excited to hear that Skyler was even slightly interested in a part. She assured him that she would contact Renny Harlan, the director, and make sure that they got to meet each other. In the end, he walked out of Time Warner with a contract for four movies. He wasn't sure he liked the idea of being contractually bound to Warner for four movies, but Laura was ecstatic.

After leaving the Warner building, he said goodbye to the twins and boarded a plane to Los Angeles. He was pleasantly surprised when he landed. Kevin was waiting for him in the airport. He didn't know how he'd pulled off leaving Orlando again, but he was happy to see him. He wished he could put his arms around him right there in the airport.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, smiling as they walked out of the airport with quite a few people looking at them.

"I have a photo shoot here," Kevin replied. "I found out as soon as I got back to Orlando. I wanted to call you, but I thought it would be better to surprise you."

"So who's with you?"

"Just Dave and Jim," replied Kevin. "None of the guys are here. Its just you and me tonight."

"You leave tomorrow?" asked Skyler.

"Well, I was supposed to, but I want to be there when you tape the show," Kevin said as they got in the SUV and he pulled away.

"So, I guess you're already booked in a hotel," said Skyler. "When did you get here?"

"This morning," replied Kevin. "I knew that you would be coming in, but I thought that you would come tomorrow."

"I was going to, but I wanted to spend a little time with Mark before I have to leave again," he said. "But now that you're here, I think I'll spend time with you."

"Don't neglect your friends, Sky," said Kevin as they drove to the hotel.

"I won't," assured Skyler. "I'll call Mark as soon as we get to the hotel. Are we sharing a room this time?"

"You know we can't do that," replied Kevin, glancing at Skyler.

"Right," sighed Skyler.

They were quiet for the rest of the trip to the hotel, and Skyler wanted to say something when Kevin insisted that they not walk into the hotel together. He hadn't realized until that moment just how much all of the secrecy was getting on his nerves. They'd been seen in public and in hotels together before they started dating, or whatever they were doing. Why was it different now?

He went into the hotel and accepted his room key, leaving Kevin a full six feet behind him. He was irritated when Kevin waited for the next elevator after Skyler stepped onto the first. He didn't know how much of this he would be able to put up with. They were going to have to talk, and he wasn't sure that Kevin would be happy with what he wanted to say.

Without even waiting for Kevin's elevator to reach the floor, Skyler went to his room and put his bags on the floor. He sat on the bed and sighed as he pulled the telephone off the night stand and dialed Mark and Shelly's number. He was more upset about what was going on than he'd thought. He just hoped that there was a way to fix it.

Two hours later, Skyler sat in Mark and Shelly's kitchen, drinking coffee with them. They smiled from ear to ear and told him how much they liked the video. They were both very excited about the movie premiering in a few days, and Skyler told them that Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell were coming to New York to attend the premiere with him and the twins.

"We saw the concert on the internet, too," said Shelly, beaming a smile at Skyler. "Jason is a cutie."

"We had a great time," laughed Skyler. "Jason can't wait till I tour for the album, because he knows that he's coming along."

"When are you going out on the road again?" asked Mark. "The album is amazing."

"Well, I didn't really think it would ever be recorded, to tell you the truth," said Skyler. "I'm stalling on making plans for the tour because of how awful recording went."

"Well, it can't be that bad," said Mark. "You said yourself, you loved the last tour."

"Oh, I did," nodded Skyler. "Most of it, anyway. Things will be much different this time around. I've got more freedom with this tour. I also won't be letting Anton Nikolaievna anywhere near my dancers."

"He was ruff, right?" asked Shelly. "I heard something about that last time."

"He was strict, and he knew what he wanted," said Skyler. "The shows were great, so I guess he did a great job, but I don't want to be worked like a dog again."

"So who are you going to get to choreograph this tour?" asked Mark.

"I have no clue," sighed Skyler. "I'll let Clay and Laura look around, but I want to interview each person!"

"So, what time do you have to be at the studio tomorrow?" asked Shelly, changing the subject.

"We start filming at six," replied Skyler. "I've got tickets for both of you. I wish Dianne was here."

"She was so sorry that you missed the wedding, Sky," said Mark. "She looked beautiful."

"I wish I could have been here, too," said Skyler. "I wish I'd have known about it."

"Well, let's not talk about that," said Shelly. The reason that Skyler hadn't known about Dianne's wedding was that he hadn't called in a long time, and she didn't want to rub that in his face.

They had a nice afternoon together, and Skyler left them happy. It was nice to be around them again. He only wished that he was excited to be returning to the hotel to see Kevin. As it turned out, Skyler didn't see much of Kevin the whole day long. He was already at his photo shoot when Skyler returned the hotel, and he didn't stay through even most of supper that night. He was quiet and withdrawn the whole time, and Skyler was actually glad to hear that he had to fly out the next morning.

* * *

"So, the movie," said Jay, after the first commercial break. "Tell us a little about it."

"Well, all I can officially tell you is that it premieres Friday, Jay," said Skyler with a smile. "I'm very excited about it."

"Well, we have a clip," said Jay. "Can you set it up?"

"Sure," said Skyler. "This is the scene where my character, Neil, is confronted by his girlfriend for stealing her necklace to buy drugs."

"Ah, well, here we go, Skyler Thomas in Anger," said Jay.

Skyler watched the screen along with the audience. He was thrilled to see himself on screen again. He'd missed acting. He thought that maybe a contract for four films wasn't so bad after all. It meant that he would be acting again, and he really did love to act. He just hoped that each of the four movies were at least good. The last thing he needed to be a part of was a bad movie.

"So, the movie stars Jodie Foster and Kevin Spacey as well, right?" asked Jay when the clip was finished.

"That's right," nodded Skyler.

"What was it like to work with them?"

"Jodie was great," beamed Skyler. "She was like a big sister on the set, and Kevin was a big joker."

"I've heard that about Kevin," said Jay. "They say that every set he works on becomes a practical joke arena."

"Oh, I'd have to agree," chuckled Skyler.

"You're going to sing a song for us," prompted Jay.

"I sure am," said Skyler. "The video just premiered on television, and the single has been released as well."

"Well, after the break, we'll hear Skyler Thomas," said Jay to the audience.

Skyler made his way over to the other side of the stage, thinking that Jay was acting a bit put off by him for some reason. The last time he'd been on the show, Jay had been warm and welcoming, but this time, he acted as if he just wanted to get it over with. He thought he would have a talk with Laura about it after he got back to New York.

When the band started playing the music for "Words Get In The Way", Skyler picked up his microphone and put thoughts of Jay's attitude out of his head. He looked out at the crowd and let the feeling of being on stage fill him as he started to sing.

"I realize you're seeing someone new. I don't believe she knows you like I do. Your temperamental moody side, the one you always try to hide from me. But I know when you have some thing on your mind. You've been trying to tell me for the longest time, and before you break my heart in two, there's something I've been trying to say to you," he sang and tilted his head to the side and looked at the crowd.

"But the words get in the way. There's so much I want to say, but its locked deep inside and if you look in my eyes, we might fall in love again. I won't even start to cry, and before we say goodbye, I tried to say I love you, but the words got in the way," he sang and let the music play.

He turned and saw Mark and Shelly off stage, and he smiled at them. It was nice to be back among his friends after so long. He wished that things were different between him and Kevin, but he knew that there was nothing that could be done about it. He listened for his musical queue.

"Your heart has always been an open door, but baby I don't even know you any more. And despite the fact it's hurting me, I know the time has come to set you free," he sang, looking back at the crowd.

"But the words get in the way. There's so much I want to say, but its locked deep inside and if you look in my eyes, we might fall in love again. I won't even start to cry, and before we say goodbye, I tried to say I love you, but the words got in the way," he sang and let the music play for a few beats.

"I'm trying to say I love you, but the words get in the way," he sang, putting his head back and drawing out the last word as the music ended, and the crowd cheered.

Words Get In The Way is a song by Gloria Estafan.

The next chapter will be posted soon.