© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 41

"Merciful God," sighed Laura when Skyler gave her and Clay the news. Chad and Cassie sat side by side across the table from him with Ben on one side of them and Tabitha on the other. Jason was off with Brian Krause to keep him away from the house while the discussion was going on.

"We have to decide what you'll say to the press," said Clay after a moment. "I don't know what your plans are about this, but we can at least decide what to say to the press."

"How about 'no comment'?" Chad asked, and Skyler could see the anger in his younger brother's eyes. "This is family business. The world can just butt out."

"We've been watching the television closely," said Tabitha. "No one has said a word about any of this on any news program or tabloid show. Maybe they don't know about it, yet."

"I suppose the prison would try very hard to keep this quiet," agreed Clay. "However, they won't be able to keep a lid on it long. The very fact that she got pregnant while in prison will become public knowledge as soon as the father is found out."

"When is Barbara supposed to call?" Laura asked, twisting the napkin in front of her until it is almost ready to rip.

"She didn't say when she would call," Skyler explained for the third time. "She's waiting to hear from the DA and the Warden of the prison. She'll call after she's talked to both of them."

"What happens if the father doesn't come forward?" Cassie asked. "I mean if Mother doesn't reveal who he is, and he doesn't come forward, then what?"

"The baby will most likely be placed in foster care or adopted," replied Clay.

"I don't want that to happen," Cassie said, and though Skyler could see the fire in her eyes she remained calm.

"I don't want it to happen, either," agreed Chad, and he barely sounded calm.

"We aren't going to let it happen," stated Skyler, making Clay and Laura look at him hard. "This is our flesh and blood, and we will take care of him or her." He saw Clay was about to speak, so he held up his hand. "I won't argue about this, Clay. This is family. You all know what that means."

"Skyler, you're a nineteen year old boy," said Laura. "The state of Michigan is not likely to let you take custody of the child."

"Then we'll talk to the press as much as we can if they turn me down, Laura," he said forcefully. "How long do you think they'll hold that position if the entire country starts screaming about it?"

"You can't be sure that your fans will agree with this decision, Skyler," warned Clay. "To them it might sound like something that would keep you off the road and out of the studio."

"Don't be stupid," snapped Skyler. "I will take custody of this baby if the father doesn't come forward, Clay. One way or another, that baby will be raised by family."

Every person at the table had something to say, and they all said it at the same time. Chaos was the result, and Skyler finally sighed and let them all yell. He'd made up his mind. It had taken a nearly sleepless night with what little sleep he did manage to get being plagued by dreams of the baby growing up to be just like Chuck. He knew it was nonsense, but in the times between nightmares he thought about what it would mean to take on the baby. He knew it would be hard, but life was hard. Nothing in life came completely free and easy, and raising the child would mean that he could have a hand in how that child grew up. He could promise that the child would grow up in a loving home with everything it could ever need. The yelling ceased when the telephone began to beep at them. Skyler picked up the extension and was both relieved and terrified when Barbara identified herself.

"She wants to talk to you in person, Skyler," said Barbara. "She said you, and only you. She won't reveal the name of the father, and no one has come forward. The warden is beside himself. The DA can't bring charges, because there's no one to charge."

"But she said she'll talk to me?" Skyler asked. The very idea turned his stomach and stunned him at the same time.

"She's demanding to talk to you," replied Barbara. "No lawyers, no other family members and no press. The prison is trying to keep a tight lid on this. They don't want word to get out that it happened under their noses, not to mention that they can't identify the father. Everyone is assuming its one of the guards."

"When?" he asked, turning to look at his family. He wondered just what they'd say about this.

"She wants you to come today, but I don't . . ."

"I'll call the airport, and I'll be in the air as soon as possible," he replied. "I'll call you back when I know when my plane will land."

"We're going to Detroit?" Cassie asked when he hung up the phone.

"No," he said, looking at her hard. "I am going to Detroit. She said I had to come to see her by myself."

"That doesn't mean that we can't go to Detroit with you," said Chad.

"I think it would be best if the two of you stayed here," said Ben, shocking Skyler, but he was happy that they were in agreement. He suspected it was for different reasons, but he'd deal with that later.

Chad didn't argue, but Cassie glared at Skyler. He hated that he'd upset them like that, but he didn't want to discuss what was happening while he was in Detroit with them until he knew for sure what was going to happen. He didn't know how to make them understand that, either. They would just have to be angry with him. He could only hope that they would either forgive him or come to understand.

He called Barbara back when he had his flight information. The twins had gone to their rooms while he packed his bag and headed for the car. Ben drove him and Brent to the airport and waited with them until the flight was called. Skyler was a nervous wreck, and he couldn't stop thinking about the fact that he was leaving the twins while they were angry with him.

"They'll understand when they calm down, Sky," said his father as if he'd read Skyler's mind. They'd been sitting there in silence since.

"I know they will," he replied with a sigh. "I just hate leaving them when they're angry with me."

"I think I understand about that, but I'll explain it to them and make them understand," said Ben. "You should know that I'm proud of you, Skyler."

"Proud of me?" Skyler turned to face his father and found him looking right into his eyes.

"Yes, proud of you," insisted Ben. "You wanting to raise this child shows me that you've grown into the kind of man I'd hoped you would be. Oh, I already knew you were that man. This just confirmed it for me."

"Don't be so proud of me," warned Skyler. "This scares me to death."

"Its supposed to scare you, Skyler," replied Ben, smiling at him. "You're going to be a father. I know that child will biologically be your sibling, but for all practical purposes you will be a father to that child. You'll be the only parent that child knows for however long Claire is in jail, and there's nothing saying that they will let her claim custody once she's released. She may not even want to."

"I just don't want that baby to grow up the way I did," breathed Skyler. "I want that child to grow up knowing love and all of the wonderful things that a child is supposed to be surrounded by. I want that child to have someone in their life that will always be there for them when they're scared or sad. Dad I want to that child to have the life I dreamed of."

"I know, Son," replied Ben, putting his hand on Skyler's shoulder.

Skyler could see the pain in his father's eyes, and he wanted so badly to say again how much he knew it wasn't his fault. All of the things that had happened to him in his childhood could be put at his mother's feet. She'd made sure that his father could never come to his rescue. She'd almost succeeded in making Skyler hate his father. For that, and so many other reasons, he hated her. But he would set that hatred aside long enough to be there when she brought his new baby brother or sister into the world.

"You call us after you talk to your mother, Sky," said his father when the flight was called.

"I will," replied Sky, hugging his father tight. "I love you, Dad."

"I love you, too, Son," said Ben, returning the hug. "Go."

Skyler and Brent took their seats on the plane, and Skyler closed his eyes. He wasn't exactly thrilled to be flying to Detroit to see his mother under any circumstances, but he was even more worried about what it was she wanted to say to him. He really hoped that she wasn't going to try to apologize to him for the past. It would do nothing but piss him off, and he suspected that he would need to keep his temper under control during this visit.

"This is a really great thing you're wanting to do, Skyler," said Brent once the plane was in the air. "I mean, I've worked for a few celebrities, and I have to say that you are by far the best of the bunch."

"Thanks," replied Skyler. "I don't feel like such a great person right now."

"You're still worried about the twins, I know," said Brent. "Don't be, though. Those two will understand. After all you've been through they won't give up on you so easily."

"If I get what I want I'll have a baby to take care of," he said. "I don't know the first thing about babies, Brent. What if I do something wrong?"

"You probably will," said Brent seriously. "Every new parent has to learn how to be a parent, Skyler. You won't be any different than any of the others before you. Every parent makes mistakes, but they learn from those mistakes and it makes them better parents. You'll learn better than any of them do, because that's who you are. You always learn from your mistakes quickly and make sure that you do it right the next time."

"I may not even get custody of the baby, Brent, but thank you," replied Skyler. It never failed to amaze him that Brent always knew just what to say to him to make him feel better and stop beating himself up about whatever was on his mind.

It was nearly eight PM when they landed in Detroit. There was no way that Skyler would be able to visit his mother that night. They checked into the hotel, and Skyler called JC. JC was in Orlando, working on the new Nsync album now, so he didn't really expect to get through. He was happy when JC answered his cell phone, though.

"Sky its good to hear your voice," said JC. "I've been thinking about you all day long."

"Hey, sexy man," replied Skyler. "I tried to call."

"I know, I got your message," said JC. "So what are you up to tonight?"

"Well, you won't believe this one," said Skyler, and he told JC what was going on. JC listened silently as Skyler went through all of his conversation with Barbara, who he'd forgotten to call once he was checked in. When he was finished telling the whole story, he sighed.

"Do you need me to come to Detroit, Sky?" JC asked.

"No, there really isn't anything you can do, Josh," he replied. "Don't upset the guys by running off over this."

"I can be there in no time, Sky," protested JC. "The guys will understand. If you need me to be there, they'll understand."

"Just don't come if you have to break any . . ."

"Skyler, you need me there with you," JC said, cutting him off. "We promised each other that if we needed each other we'd be with each other. Now don't argue with me. I'm coming. I'll call you when my plane lands."

As soon as Skyler got off the phone with JC, he called home. He let his father know which hotel he was staying in and his room number. Then he promised to call again as soon as he got back from talking to his mother the next morning. He asked about the twins, and then he talked to them both on speaker. They weren't mad at him anymore, and they wished him luck and asked that he please call them and let them know what was happening.

Then he called Barbara to let her know that he was safely in the hotel. She told him that she'd talked to his mother and told her that he'd landed at the airport but that visiting hours at the prison were over, and she'd have to wait to talk to him till morning. She said she'd come to the hotel first thing in the morning. Then he called Madonna.

"Oh my God, Skyler," cried Madonna when he'd told her what was going on and where he was. "Why didn't you call me last night?"

"I was in shock, I guess," he replied. "I had just found out, and then the implications of what it meant sunk in. Then we started to talk about who would raise the baby, and . . ."

"Calm down," she said, cutting him off. "I'm not mad at you. I'm going to call the airport. I can leave tonight and be there in the morning. Just sit tight. Tell Barbara I'm on my way."

"Thanks, M," he sighed into the phone.

"Its going to be all right, Toy," she replied.

"See you in the morning," he said as someone began to knock on the door to his suite. He thought it must be Brent, but he was shocked to find Jeff Timmons standing there when he opened the door.

"Surprise," said Jeff, smiling at him. "I called your house, and they told me you were here."

"Jeff," he said, stepping aside to let him in. He'd completely forgot that Jeff was flying to Detroit the day before for his interview. "I forgot that you were here."

"You forgot?" laughed Jeff. "Sky, I just left you yesterday afternoon."

"I know, but a lot has happened," he replied. "That's why I'm here. I have to see my mother in the morning."

"Your mother?" Jeff asked in confusion. "Skyler what's going on?"

He led Jeff to the sofa and sat down before explaining everything that had gone on since he'd said goodbye to him the day before. Jeff listened until he had told him everything and then was silent for a moment as he looked him in the eye. Skyler wondered what was going through Jeff's mind until he spoke.

"Skyler, you're going to raise the baby?" he asked, and Skyler nodded. "That's awesome!"

"Well I don't know if they'll let me," he said slowly.

"Of course they will," said Jeff. "You're family. They have to let you. Its not like you can't afford to raise the baby, and I think you'd make a great daddy."

"You don't even know me that well," he laughed. Jeff had done what no one else could do. He'd actually made him laugh.

"I don't have to know you that well to know how great you were with your brother and sister," said Jeff. "Sky, Everyone who knows you talks about how great you are with those two."

"But they're teenagers, Jeff," he protested. "I don't know the first thing about babies."

"Oh that'll come to you," Jeff insisted. "You'll be a natural. Just wait and see, and they'll give you the baby, Sky. If the don't you can scream your head off to every reporter from Detroit to Moscow."

"And that's just what I'll do," replied Skyler.

They talked for nearly two hours, and then there was another knock on the door. Skyler thought that it had to be Madonna, but he was shocked again when he saw JC standing on the other side of the doorway. He didn't mistake the look of anger in JC's hazel eyes when his gaze traveled around Skyler and fell on Jeff sitting on the couch.

The next chapter will be posted soon.