© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 29

"I'm sure you're all wondering what it is that I wanted to discuss with you," said Skyler once everyone was seated around the table in the kitchen of his hotel suite. Clay had only arrived an hour before, and Laura had been trying to get a clue from Skyler about what the meeting was about the whole time that Madonna went to get Clay and Wendy from the airport.

"You have our attention," said Wendy nervously. Skyler remembered the last meeting he'd had with her, and he knew that she was worried about what he had to say. He was still unsure why Maverick had sent Wendy. She wasn't a partner, and he'd told them it was very important. Still, he had one of the Maverick partners with him already, and she was on his side.

"Well, first let me assure you that I am not going to make demands of any kind today," he said, smiling. "What I called all of you here for this morning is more of a sales pitch than a demand. I am still planning to head into the studio to record my ballad album as soon as I get back from Australia. I also plan to fulfill my contract."

"I don't understand," said Wendy, looking from Skyler to Madonna and back. "If this isn't about your contract, then what? You can't want to make changes to Chad's contract. He's only just begun his career . . ."

"Wendy, calm down," chuckled Madonna. "This isn't about demands of any kind concerning anyone's contracts. Let Skyler talk. I promise you'll understand very soon."

"First," said Skyler, giving Madonna a look filled with gratitude, "let me start off by asking Clay and Laura what they think about joining me in a business venture."

Clay looked at Laura as she looked back at him. They both had confused expressions stamped across their faces, and when they looked back to Skyler those expressions didn't change. They waited patiently, but Wendy looked like she was going to say something, so Skyler continued before she could begin to say anything.

"We'd be partners," he said, sitting down across from Madonna at the table. "I want to form an entertainment company similar to Maverick, but I want both of you on board before I even try to go ahead on this."

"What sort of involvement are we talking about?" Clay asked, leaning forward in his seat and eyeing both Madonna as well as Skyler. "I assume that Madonna's on board."

"I'm here to give Maverick's initial support for Skyler's idea," she corrected. "I'm not on board for anything. This, if he can pull it off, will be Skyler's baby. Not mine."

"All right, Skyler, you definitely have our attention," said Wendy as she dragged her eyes off of Madonna and looked at him. "What are you proposing?"

"Well, let me explain the first part of what I want to do," he said, looking at Laura. "Laura is an agent, and she mostly handles film and television. This wouldn't change. What I want her to do now is become the head of a department of agents. They would answer to her."

"Answer to me?" Laura asked quickly. "You mean that you want to start an agency?"

"Not exactly," he said, smiling. "That's only a division of what I want my entertainment company to handle."

"A division?" Wendy asked, looking at him hard.

"I'll get to the rest of it soon, Wendy," he said, ignoring the hard look she was giving him and turning to Clay Silver. "Clay, you're role in the company would be the same as what you're doing right now. You're a career manager. I don't pretend to know exactly which area of the business that you specialize in, but I assure you that you'd have all of the freedom to do what you are currently doing if you join me. Just like Laura, you would head up a division with other managers under you. You both would have the authority to bring in your own teams and supervise them."

"You're talking about a lot of work, Skyler," said Clay. "I don't just handle musicians and singers. I handle actors, models, painters and so many other artists."

"I'm not asking you to leave behind your clients in any way, Clay," he said. "What I'm asking is that you join them all under one banner. My banner, actually. What I want is an entertainment company that handles television, film, literature, music and whatever else you want to throw in there."

"You're trying to form another company like Maverick?" Wendy asked.

"Oh, this one will be so much bigger than Maverick, Wendy," said Madonna. "Skyler's vision is a lot larger than mine was. I have to say that I'm very impressed with what he's shown me."

That's when Skyler began to hand out his packets of papers to each of them. He even had a packet for JC to look over, though JC would in no way be connected to the company. He just didn't want to leave him out while the others were reading. Skyler was silent while they read. He had one other surprise for them, but it had to wait until Clay and Laura had made at least a tentative decision on the company.

"This is massive, Skyler," said Wendy. "How do you expect to pull this off?"

"With the help of his management team," replied Clay, smiling. "I think its brilliant, Skyler. You can count me in."

"I'm sold as well, Skyler," said Laura, beaming at him. "I wondered what you were up to when you had me track down some of these figures. I have to say that I'm impressed. I see your college courses are paying off."

"They sure are," chuckled Skyler. "But I also know that it is massive and a lot of work. Wendy, I already have three people willing to handle parts of this company for me. All I need to do now is convince Maverick and Warner that I can do this. The only thing I'd really be doing is sitting on the board and making my music and movies. The rest will be up to the division heads and their employees."

"I'm glad to hear that you know its a huge business," said Wendy. "I think you'll have trouble getting Maverick to back you on this, though."

"I don't think so," said Madonna. "I've already spoken to the partners about this, actually. I haven't told them everything, but I let them know the basic outline of what Skyler was wanting to do. I assure you, Sky, they like what they're hearing. They see the dollar signs involved in this."

"I will expect all of my future albums to be released under this label," said Skyler. "Mine as well as Chad's."

"Well of course," said Madonna. "I just hope you don't expect me to start putting music out under your label."

"I'm not stupid," he laughed.

After more objections from Wendy and much more discussion of what was expected of them each in turn, Skyler said goodbye to Wendy and Madonna. Madonna assured him that he had as good as signed the contracts for his company. He was more excited than he'd ever been in his life. It was time for his surprise for Clay and Laura. He called another suite in the hotel and asked his mystery visitors to join him.

"What have you got up your sleeve now?" Clay asked, eyeing him as someone knocked on the door to the suite.

"You'll see," laughed Skyler as he left the kitchen to answer the door. He returned with Mark and Shelly following him. "Laura, you remember my friend Mark, right?"

"Of course," she said, getting to her feet to shake his hand.

"And this is his fiance, Shelly," Skyler said, introducing Shelly. "Mark, Shelly, this is my manager, Clay Silver."

"Its a pleasure to meet you both," said Clay with a quizzical look at Skyler.

"Mark has decided to try his hand at acting," said Skyler as everyone got seated at the table again. "I thought the two of you would like to meet with him and talk about his plans. I want Mark to be Sky High's first client in the acting division."

"I see," said Laura, clearing her throat and sitting up straighter. "Young man," she said to Mark, "I asked you when I met you the first time if you were interested in acting. I believe you told me that you weren't. What's changed your mind?"

"I'm just not afraid anymore," he said seriously. "I've been in thirteen commercials so far, and I have had one tiny part on a soap. I tasted the apple, and I want the whole pie."

"Nicely put," chuckled Clay. "This one will definitely be easy to work with."

And that was that. Clay and Laura offered to take Mark and Shelly to lunch, and then they were gone. Sky High's very first client was under the wings of two of the company's partners already. Skyler was on top of the world as he closed the door after seeing his guests out of the suite. He slid down into a chair at the table in the kitchen across from his lover and smiled at him.

"This is amazing, Sky," breathed JC, putting the packet of papers down on the table. "I had no idea you were even thinking about this."

"Well, I didn't want to say anything to anyone until I knew exactly what I wanted," said Skyler. "Now, though, I can't wait to tell people that it might actually happen."

"Well, I'm both proud of you and blown away by you, Sky," said JC with a smile. "I had no idea that you were so business minded. I knew you were talented, but I had no idea about this stuff. I can't believe it, really. It makes me excited for you, though."

"Thank you," beamed Skyler.

"I have to have lunch with Joey and Lance in a few minutes," said JC, eyeing the clock on the wall. "I want to thank you for last night, though."

"Last night was amazing," agreed Skyler. "And we didn't exactly go too far, either."

"I'm sorry for stopping you last night, Sky," said JC. "I promise to let you have your way with me any time you want."

"I'll keep that in mind," laughed Skyler as he walked over and took JC into his arms. "Have a good lunch, sexy."

"I'll be back before you have to leave," promised JC.

"You'll be back sooner if you get going," said Skyler before kissing him.

* * *

Not even an hour after saying goodbye to JC, Skyler was shocked to answer the door to his suite and find Chris Kirkpatrick standing on the other side. The two young men stood and stared at each other for a few moments, and Skyler wondered just what Chris was doing there. The two of them had said no more six words to each other since they'd arrived in LA.

"Relax, Sky, I didn't come here to fight with you," said Chris. "I came to apologize and explain myself."

Skyler stood aside and allowed Chris to enter the suite. He watched him as he walked over to the couch and sat down. He wondered just what Chris was going to say to explain his attitude and behavior. He wondered if he was even interested in the reasons behind the way Chris had acted. To be truthful with himself, Skyler had to admit that he wasn't sure he wanted to forgive Chris.

"Can I get you something to drink?" Skyler asked as he walked over and sat in the recliner adjacent to the couch where Chris was sitting. He regarded Chris with caution as he sat down.

"No, thank you," replied Chris. "I really just came to talk. I know you probably don't even care that I want to apologize, and I completely understand if you don't. I just want you to understand that my attitude and behavior never had anything to do with not liking you as a person or respecting you as an artist, Skyler."

"Forgive me, but I got the distinct impression that you despised me," said Skyler.

"I'm sure you did," sighed Chris, running his fingers through his hair. "Look, I'm not gay. I want you to understand that first of all. I'm completely straight, but I was still jealous as hell over your relationship with Josh."

"Jealous?" Skyler asked, confused.

"Yeah, stupid, I know," said Chris. "I got the idea that you would lure him away from our group somehow, and I got really upset about that. I know that it was stupid, but that's how I felt."

"So what's changed your opinion?"

"I think it was the fit you threw when Josh and Justin wanted to cancel seven personal appearances to fly to Sydney for two weeks," chuckled Chris. "I've never seen anyone talk to those two the way you did that day. Lance doesn't even get that loud with them."

"Look," sighed Skyler, "I don't want them to hurt their careers just to spend time with me. I'd hate it if any of you messed up what you've currently got going over me, Chris. You guys are a group, and you all have your own personal lives and desires. I don't want to be the one personal desire of any one member that destroys even part of the success that your group has gained."

"See, that's what floored me," laughed Chris. "You have all sorts of things going in your own career, but you still keep on Josh and Justin about theirs. That's what made me see that you really wouldn't try to tear us apart."

"Chris, I wanted to be friends with all of you," argued Skyler. "Lance and I have a few things in common that make it very easy for me to talk to him. Joey has a great relationship with my brothers and sister, and that makes him a great guy in my book. Justin helps me remember that I'm still a young guy and can act silly instead of serious all of the time, and Josh . . . Well, you know what I see in Josh. I love him, Chris."

That statement actually shocked Skyler. He hadn't so much as told Josh that he cared for him, but he'd said that he loved him for the very first time to Chris Kirkpatrick. Wonders never cease, he thought. He was elated to realize that he truly did love Josh, but he wished that he would have had the balls to say to Josh instead of Chris.

"I think I can see that you love him, Sky," said Chris. "That's another thing that made me see that I was being an idiot. I don't know if its possible, but I'd really like for us to start over and at least try to be friends."

"SKY!" Chad's loud voice cried, startling both of them as he bounded into the suite. "I'm going to Paris in a week! My promotional tour is starting!"

"That's great, Chad," replied Skyler as his brother jumped up and down in front of him. "I didn't know that Clay had your schedule finalized."

"Hi, Chris," Chad said, turning to acknowledge the other person in the room. "Clay said that all of the details are final now. He stopped me as he and Laura were getting into an SUV with Mark and Shelly. What's that about?"

"That's something I'm not sure I should talk about just yet," replied Skyler. "Where is Cassie?"

"She's with Dad and Jason," replied Chad. "They're going to lunch or something. I came back here to talk to you."

"Sky, I should get going," said Chris, standing up. "Chad I'm really happy for you, and I want to wish you good luck. Sky, please think about what I said."

The two Thomas brothers said goodbye to Chris as he walked out of their hotel suite, and then they turned to look at each other. Skyler didn't feel like talking about his little talk with Chris, so he suggested that he and Chad go and find something for lunch. When Chad agreed that he was hungry, Skyler knew exactly where he wanted to go. He called Brent and Eric and set everything up. Twenty minutes later they were walking into McLintock's Diner.

The diner looked no different than it had when Skyler was last there, and he had no trouble spotting Dianne as she was serving a table when he walked in. The reaction of the other customers was a little more than he liked, but he'd known that people would gasp and stare. Dianne looked up to see what the commotion was and then her face broke out into a huge grin.

"Skyler Thomas, my long lost child!" Dianne gasped as she raced across the diner to envelope him in her arms. "How are you, sweetie? I saw you on television."

"Its great to see you, Dianne," he replied. "I'm doing great."

"I was hoping you would get in touch with me while you were in the city," she said, letting go of him only to envelope Chad in her arms. "You are getting taller, young man."

"Its nice to see you, Dianne," Chad said as he hugged her back.

"Well, come, sit," she said, smiling from ear to ear. "You both have to be hungry." She turned toward the kitchen and screamed at the manager, "I'm taking my break!"

"Ma'am," said Brent, "we'll be needing a table beside the boys . . ."

"No you won't," said Dianne sternly. "Brent, you and Eric aren't just employees to these boys, and you know it. Marcie, help me drag these tables together."

"We can do that . . ."

"Oh, just wait a second," laughed Dianne, cutting Eric off. "Marcie will help me."

"That's Skyler Thomas," said a younger red headed woman as she came over to help Dianne move the tables.

"Yes, and he's hungry, Marcie," replied Dianne. "Now help me with this table and then go and fetch Adam, please."

They sat down and Marcie took their orders as a young man walked out of the kitchen. He was dressed in a dirty white shirt and white pants with a soiled white apron tied around him. Dianne smiled when he came over to the table. Then she told him to sit down and have something to eat. He protested, but Dianne insisted. She introduced the young man as Adam, her step-son.

"Its great to meet you, Skyler," said Adam as he sat down. "Dianne talks about you all of the time, and she tapes everything about you on television."

"Its nice to meet you, too, Adam," said Skyler. "I didn't know you were working here."

"Well, I got into a little jam a while back, and Dad and Dianne let me move in with them," he explained. "Then Dianne got me this job, doing dishes. I like it pretty much."

Adam told them about how he had moved in with Dianne and Doug at the beginning of the year. He didn't tell them why he had left college, and Skyler didn't want to pry. He was an attractive guy with short dark hair, a clear face and blue eyes. Skyler couldn't help wondering just what had happened that had forced him to leave college. He knew better than to ask that kind of question, though.

"I really wish you guys could meet Doug," said Dianne, breaking into Skyler's thoughts. "He won't be off work until this evening, though. I'm sure you've both got a lot to do tonight."

"Actually, we don't," replied Skyler. "I fly to Australia tomorrow morning, but tonight I'm free. Why don't the three of you come to the hotel tonight for dinner?"

"That would be great," said Dianne. "I'll drag Doug and Adam along with me. I'm sure Mark and Shelly will be there."

"I haven't talked to them about tonight, but I don't think it will take much to talk them into dinner," laughed Skyler. "I suspect they'll be excited enough to do just about anything."

He quickly filled Dianne in about his business plans and how Mark was hopefully going to be signed on as Sky High's first client. She was excited to hear about his business and asked a lot of questions about it. Skyler didn't have all of the answers to her questions, but he loved the excited look in her eyes. He told her just about everything there was to tell her about the company so far, but he made sure that she understood that the company was still in the early stages and didn't exactly exist as of yet.

By the time they left the diner, Adam had been forced to get back to washing dishes, and Dianne had been getting furtive looks from Marcie. Skyler knew he had to get out of there and let her get back to work. He reminded her about dinner that night at the hotel, kissed and hugged her and then his group headed back to the hotel. When they got to the hotel, there was a disturbance at the desk. Someone was trying to get up to the twenty-seventh floor where Skyler, Chad and *Nsync were staying. When he got closer to the desk, he saw that it was Zack, and he relaxed.

Zack was supposed to be there. Skyler had simply forgotten to let the desk staff know that he would be arriving. Skyler had hired Zack as his personal assistant, and he'd asked Zack to be there in time to fly to Australia with him. He smiled when he saw him. It had been a while since he'd seen Zack, and he'd been sorry to hear that his relationship had ended, leaving Zack virtually in the same tight spot he'd been in when they'd met at the deli in New York.

"Sky!" Zack cried as their group approached the desk. "They won't let me up there!"

"He's part of our group," said Skyler when he got to the desk. "This is my personal assistant. He'll be staying in my suite until tomorrow morning. I'd arranged this with the manager, but if there is a problem, we can sort that out later this evening."

"There's no problem, Mr. Thomas," said the young female clerk. "We just weren't told that he would be coming."

"I apologize for that," replied Skyler.

They made it up to their room, and Skyler wondered why Zack only had two suitcases. Zack explained that most of his possessions were in a storage shed in New York, and he would get everything sorted out when they came back. He had a friend who was taking care of making sure that everything stayed in the shed and the bill was paid for the next six months.

They sat in the living room and Skyler explained exactly what Zack's role would be while they were in Australia. Zack had many questions and reminded Skyler that he didn't know much about being the type of assistant that Skyler was talking about. That's when Lance and JC came in, and Lance started to explain how to get certain things done and all about the dreaded appointment calendar that Zack would be in charge of keeping updated and letting Skyler know about events that he needed to be at, personal appearances and the like.

By the time Skyler needed to start getting ready for his dinner party, Zack assured him that he had the basics in understanding. Skyler and JC excused themselves to get ready while Lance talked more with Zack about what he would have to do once they were in Australia. Skyler wanted to make sure that he and JC had a special evening. He would be flying to Australia just minutes after his parents' plane lifted off for New York with his brothers and sister. JC and his "family" would be headed for Orlando later in the day, and Skyler didn't know exactly when he and JC would be able to see each other again.

"You're being quiet, Sky," said JC after they'd both began to change clothes and Skyler had remained silent. "What are you thinking about?"

"You," replied Skyler after a second.

The next chapter will be posted soon.