© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 67

"Definitely one of the all time worst shows ever!" screamed Skyler as he came off the stage. He was furious with Gus. The dancers had missed so many steps in so many different places that he was sure the press would have a field day. There were two rows of industry right in front of the stage and he could barely see twenty minutes into the show.

"Skyler, calm down," said Debbie as she chased after him.

"Don't tell me to calm down," he snapped, stopping so fast she almost ran into him. "You tell Gus Reynolds that if he ever pulls a stunt like today's again he's fucking fired!"

"Skyler, the show wasn't that bad," she said as she started to follow him again.

"Tell the staff that I'm ready to leave," he snapped, slamming his dressing room door.

He was out of his clothes and headed for the shower when Jeff let himself into the room. The two said nothing to each other. Skyler was too pissed off because of the performance and Jeff could see the pain in his lover's eyes. Now was not the time to argue with him. He wanted to get Skyler back to the hotel and in bed as soon as possible. He hated seeing him in pain.

It took two hours to clear the arena enough for Skyler to leave. He was furious about that as well. Gus was in hiding and Skyler was nearly dead on his feet. He didn't have the energy to scream at anyone, and his head hurt so badly that he fully expected his skull to split in two. Jeff was following after him ready to catch him if he fell over, which Jeff was almost sure he would before they reached the SUV.

"No dance rehearsals for the dancers tomorrow," Skyler said weakly as soon as the SUV was moving. "I don't want another night like this. I want the interviews for tomorrow canceled as well. I'm not coming out of my room until it's time to leave for the arena."

"Skyler do you think it's wise to . . . "

"You heard me, Debbie," he said, cutting her off. "If I get one call tomorrow I'll rip the fucking hair out of the head of the person that calls. Clear?" He wasn't even aware of the fact that his words were slurring.

An hour later Debbie sat with Laura and Clay in the common room at the hotel. She'd been telling Laura about his behavior at the arena. Clay wasn't saying a word. He'd been there the whole time and seen and heard Skyler, but he didn't know what to say to Debbie. She was clearly upset and anything he said in Skyler's defense was likely to set her to screaming.

"Something has to be done about this, Laura," Debbie said. "His words are slurring and I swear his eyes were out of focus the whole time he was screaming about Gus."

"Gus had no right to schedule a second dance rehearsal," said Laura. "The man is insane."

"I agree, but Skyler . . ."

"Skyler will be fine, Debbie," said Laura quickly. "Jeff will tell us if there is any reason to cancel tomorrow night's show. Don't worry so much. I'm well aware of his speech and his vision problems."

"He's pushing himself too hard," mumbled Debbie, but she knew it would do no good. Laura was on Skyler's side in this. She nearly laughed when she thought about sides. They were there for Skyler. The fact that he could barely stand up straight or talk right after the show wasn't something that should have caused a division in their ranks. They should have been pulling together to help him.

"He's asleep," said Jeff Timmons as he came into the common room. "I don't like how upset he was. Gus Reynolds is an ass."

"This isn't entirely Gus's fault, Jeff," Clay said, saying his first words since they'd sat down to discuss the night's events.

"I know that, Clay, but he won't stop," Jeff replied. "I can see it in his eyes every single day. I'm so worried about him I'm nearly sick every night, but I can't say anything to him about it. I refuse to upset him when he's already so upset and in so much pain."

"What about tomorrow's show?" Clay asked.

"If he stays in his room and everyone leaves him alone, tomorrow's show will be all right," he replied. "I just have to stress that there can't be even one phone call no matter who it is."

"I'll alert the desk shortly," said Clay. "You're sure that he can perform tomorrow night?"

"Yes," he sighed, wondering if he was making the right decision. Skyler needed to see his doctor but any mention of the doctor sent him into a tirade. Jeff would be so happy when the damned tour was over and they could all rest. He had to leave in a few more days, and he was so worried that he'd get back to Atlanta only to get a call telling him that Skyler was in the hospital.

The next day Skyler spent the majority of it with Preston. Jeff was in and out of the suite all day long, but Skyler didn't bother to ask him what he was up to. He knew full well that Debbie, Laura and Clay had him telling them everything Skyler did. He didn't mind that, because he knew that Jeff was only participating in the betrayal because he loved him. What was important was that Skyler knew what he was doing and the others only meant well.

All of Skyler's aggravation melted as he watched Preston take his first step that day in their hotel suite. He was so excited to have actually been there to see it that he showered the child with affection. He took him straight to his parents' rooms to show them, but Preston didn't walk anymore that day. Skyler couldn't stop talking about it though. He invited his family back to his suite to spend the rest of the day with him and Preston. An hour after they were there Preston again took a step. This time taking three to the delight of his father.

They were all talking excitedly when Jeff returned to the room. They didn't even notice that Madonna had arrived until she started cheering Preston on as he took four more steps. She grabbed the child and hugged him tight as she laughed. Skyler was happy to see her and kissed Jeff for going to pick her up.

"You look a lot better than I've been hearing, Skyler," said Madonna. "From the way Laura talked you were next to death."

"Laura exaggerates," he replied, hugging her as Jeff took Preston from her arms.

"I'm sure she does," said Madonna with a knowing look. "But you look fine today. I trust that Gus is still in hiding after Tabitha's run in with him this morning?"

"You had a run in with Gus this morning?" Skyler asked his step-mother with wide eyes.

"He was attempting to wake up the dancers, and I got a little loud with him," she said. "I let him wake Dale and take him down to the arena, but the others stayed here."

"Thank you, Mom," Skyler said softly, smiling at her.

"He'd better learn to start following orders," Tabitha said. "I nearly told him he was fired this morning."

"What time was this?" Jeff asked as he sat down next to Skyler on the sofa. Preston crawled out of his arms and all over his father's lap.

"Around six," she said. "That's why I got loud with him. I know that Skyler said there was to be no rehearsals today, but he was trying to make sure he got one in before Skyler woke up as if the dancers wouldn't tell him later."

"Thanks again, Mom," Skyler said with a smile. "He's just testing the limits of my patience. He'll learn. Don't worry."

"I'm not worried," she said. "After last night I think everyone will be acting a bit different around you."

"I was that bad?" he asked.

"You were that bad," Tabitha replied with a nod.

"I'll apologize later," he said sheepishly.

"I wouldn't," said Jeff. "They were pushing too hard, Sky."

"But that's what they're supposed to do," he replied.

Jeff let it drop and then Madonna started asking about different shows in different cities. She wanted all of the information she could get about the tour and she was really excited when Skyler told her about the re-issue of "Hearts In Armor". They were about to release the tour edition that would be sold in a polished titanium case with the title of the tour engraved in the center. He was happy with the idea.

They had lunch on the terrace and everyone was laughing and having a great time. Cassie called Jason half way through the meal and Skyler almost asked him to hand over the phone. He missed the twins like crazy and he wanted to know what was going on in their lives. There was no time to be angry with them anymore. He wanted his family back together as soon as possible.

"So your head's hurting?" Madonna asked once his family was out of the suite and it was just the three of them and Preston.

"My head hurts all the time, M," he said.

"Toy, don't push yourself too hard," she cautioned. "I'm worried about you."

"I'll be fine," he said. "I promise. If it gets too bad I'll cancel a show or two."

"Swear?" she asked, looking at him hard.

"Swear," he replied, and she smiled at him.

"I just worry about you," she said.

"I know you do," he said softly. "Don't ever stop."

"Not on your young life," she replied, smiling widely.

"So you'll be here for the show?" he asked as Preston crawled around his feet, playing with this shoe laces.

"I'll be here until you leave for Canada," she replied. "And I'm going to have a word with Gus myself."

"Should I warn him to leave town?" Jeff asked, making Skyler laugh.

"If you warn him I'll come in here when you're sleeping and put pink paint in your hair and make sure there are cameras flashing when you try to leave the suite," she threatened.

"Interesting visual," laughed Skyler as Jeff swore he wouldn't warn Gus.

After leaving Preston in Tabitha's care, the three of them left the hotel to do some shopping. Almost all of Skyler's security staff accompanied them through the stores they visited. Skyler got lots of new outfits for Preston and a few for himself. He and Jeff bought matching bracelets and laughed about it when they stopped for a bite in a deli.

"This is fun for me," Skyler sighed as they were headed back to the SUV to return to the hotel. "I never get much fun when I'm on tour."

"You're almost to the half way point, Sky," said Madonna as the SUV began to merge with traffic. She remembered the schedule very well from her own "Blond Ambition" tour in 1990.

"Yeah," he sighed. "I can't wait till it's over though."

"Written any new music?" she asked, changing the subject so she didn't have to say she'd told him so.

"Two ballads," he sighed. "I don't want to promote them though."

"Then don't," she laughed. "Shoot videos and release singles, but refuse to promote them. You're popular enough that you don't actually have to turn around and return to the road."

"There's an idea," he replied. "Clay said something about a greatest hits kind of release so I wouldn't have to return to the studio for a full album so soon. I like the idea actually."

"Sounds good," she said. "Those are great sellers too."

"That's what Clay said," he laughed.

They were just in time to sit down with the family for dinner when they got back to the hotel. Tabitha was excited about the clothes that Skyler had purchased for Preston and Jason sniggered at the bracelets on Skyler's and Jeff's wrists. They were half way through the meal when his father dropped a big bit of news in his lap.

"I got a call from my little brother, Skyler," Ben said, stifling the conversation around the table.

"Uncle Jase?" Skyler asked, remembering that he'd seen a picture of the man when he was in his late teens. His father had told him that the two hadn't spoken since Ben left the family home at eighteen to join the Marines.

"Yeah," he said. "He's going to meet up with us in Michigan. He wants to talk to you about a job."

"The tour has no openings, Dad," Skyler said after a moment.

"Not with the tour, Kid," laughed Ben. "Jase is a director. He wants to work with Sky High."

"Well that's different," said Skyler. "He'd have to talk to me, Clay and Laura for that though. Have I seen any of his movies?"

"I'm not sure," he said. "There's a list of them in my room though."

"Well we'll have to see if we can rent some of them while we're between here and Michigan then," Skyler thought aloud. "Kind of strange that you heard from him now after all this time."

"Not really," said Ben. "His wife died recently, so he and his five year old son are moving back to the States."

"Oh," Skyler said softly. Hearing of the man's tragedy made his heart heavy and he didn't even know him.

They talked about Jase for a few more minutes and then the talk turned to the pending show. Skyler told them that he would be going to the arena shortly after dinner for sound check and to make sure that Gus wasn't bothering the dancers who had decided to rehearse without him. Madonna expressed her admiration for that move, and Skyler admitted that he was happy with their decision but he wasn't going to tell them that.

Madonna rode with him and Jeff to the arena and sat with Jason to listen to the sound check. Skyler sang "Precious", "Come What May", "The Image" and "It's Not Your Business" and then pronounced the sound equipment ready. He was leaving the stage as Carlos and his band arrived. Skyler watched the two bands greet each other while they waited for Carlos to begin his sound check.

"You sound great," said Madonna when he made it to sit beside her.

"Thanks," he said. "I feel good tonight."

"That's because you did nothing stressful today," she pointed out.

"Yeah," he replied with a small smile. "I blame Preston."

They were laughing over that when Skyler saw Christian come out of the tech booth with Chip and his son, Justin. The trio took off toward the banquet table in the party room, and Skyler wondered when Christian and Chip had become friends. With both of them on the same bus it was no wonder they were now friends. Christian was fitting in with everyone very well, and Ryan had applied and been given a job on the assistant staff. That put him on the bus with Dianne, Kurt and Alec. So far he was doing a great job.

"I like the way he moves," Madonna said, eyeing Carlos and bringing Skyler out of his thoughts about the Kane brothers. "He's got that Latin salsa down."

"Latin salsa, huh?" laughed Skyler. "I don't think Carlos would like that, but he is sexy when he moves."

"When he moves?" she laughed. "Carlos is sexy when he's sleeping!"

"You've got me there," agreed Skyler and the two were laughing.

"Should I be worried?" asked Jeff, making them laugh harder. Carlos shook his finger at them, making them cackle.

"I'm going to scream at the top of my lungs during your next sound check, Skyler Thomas," Carlos said, stopping his "Bring Me A Lover".

"I'm sorry, Carlos," laughed Skyler, pointing at Madonna. "It's her fault."

"Now, Madonna," Carlos said into his microphone.

"Oh come on," she said. "Live a little, Carlos. We were gawking at your ass!"

"Oh!" he said, turning around and wiggling his ass at them. Even Jeff joined in the wolf whistles. "May I continue now?"

"By all means," laughed Madonna. "I think we'd better get backstage, guys."

They filed into the party room still laughing as Carlos began to sing "Broken Hearted". They stopped laughing when they heard Tabitha screaming at Gus. They all got quiet and listened as she threatened to fire him if he pulled a stunt like that again. Skyler wondered just what he'd pulled, but he wasn't interrupting his step-mother to find out. It would likely piss him off anyway.

He put it out of his mind and an hour later his head felt fine as he started his show. The dancers were in top form, and everything was going smoothly as they went from song to song. Skyler was in a great mood, and the crowd was screaming their heads off at him whenever he gave them a chance. He noticed that the two front row sections directly in front of the stage were not filled with industry this time. The people in the pit were dancing along with them and singing as well.

Everything went off without a hitch. As he followed the dancers off the stage after "I Want Your Sex" he walked right into the arms of Cassie. He was so happy to see her that he hugged her tight, lifted her off her feet and spun her around. He couldn't believe she was there. He'd been thinking about her and Chad off and on throughout the show.

"What are you doing here?" he asked when he set her down.

"We came earlier today and wanted to surprise you," she said. "Chad's here, too. Madonna has him over by the banquet table."

"Cassie, I'm so sorry for fighting with you," he said. "I just wanted to get out on tour and show the world that I was alive."

"Skyler, you don't have to apologize," she said. "I'm sorry for . . ."

She was cut off as he took her in his arms again and squeezed her tight. He was so happy that she was there. He wasn't about to let her apologize for loving him enough to try and stop him from hurting himself. He promised himself there and then that he would never fight with her again no matter what happened.

"Great show, Sky," said Chad as he came over to them.

Skyler let go of Cassie only to grab Chad and hold him tight. He'd missed them both so much that his heart ached. To see them now was like salve on a desperate wound. He was so happy he was crying. He couldn't believe he'd let so much time pass and not contacted them. They were his world and he'd almost lost them. He was sure of it.

"I love you guys so much," he said when he let go of Chad.

"We love you too, Sky," said Chad, and then they were all three crying. Madonna smiled at them and then turned to talk to Tabitha.

They stayed at the arena until nearly two in the morning, talking and laughing about this and that. Chad commented on different parts of the show while Cassie talked about how sexy Kaleb was in his speedo. That got all three of her brothers to laugh. Skyler was so happy that he almost didn't want to return to the hotel.

The next chapter will be posted soon.