© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
Skyler sighed as he sat back in the SUV. The reporters had been brutal in their questions about Laura. They'd wanted to know how far along in her recovery she was, if she still had cancer, was she even alive and why had she decided to retire from Sky High Entertainment. One reporter even asked if Laura had decided to retire because the company was failing. The company wasn't failing. Sky High Entertainment had signed on over four hundred new clients. They were about to start filming another movie. Mark had just finished shooting their most recent. Justin's album was about to be released, and Skyler's music was doing great.
He sighed again. There was nothing in his book for the rest of the month. He could relax with Jeff and the children for a while. Mark was still staying in the guest bedroom, but having him around was like having family home for a visit. He wished that he could help Mark, but he couldn't until Mark decided to talk about what he was feeling. The divorce papers had been sent to Shelly, and Skyler didn't know what to think about that. He still couldn't believe that she had been sleeping with Chris Kirkpatrick. It didn't make any sense to him, but then he wasn't her. He just wished that Mark could get over this soon. He hated to see his friend so shaken and depressed.
He was glad that Clay had decided to head back to his apartment and that Gavin wanted to spend a little time with Lilly. Skyler didn't really want to talk business for the rest of the day. He was feeling a bit burned out since he'd returned from Australia. Jeff's idea of just blowing everything off and spending some quality time together as a family for a while sure sounded good. What Skyler wouldn't have given for just a week with nothing to do. He had that now, more than a week. He was sure someone would do something to change his down time to work time before he even had a chance to settle in and relax.
Jase had promised not to even think of shooting the new movie until the second week of November. Chip and Christian hadn't arrived yet with Justin, and Ali Larter was still working on another project. That would keep him tied up for a bit. Without two of the stars of the movie he couldn't start filming. Skyler supposed that they could film the live shots, but he hadn't even recorded a single son for the movie as of yet. He wasn't ready to go into the recording studio so soon after finishing the album though. Jase would have to wait.
Both Gavin and Clay would be at the house the next day to talk about the new reality television show. Skyler still couldn't believe that he'd let them talk him into doing the show. For a while it wouldn't have much to do with him. It would center around his dancers as they prepared for the upcoming tour. The tour. Skyler wasn't planning to even start the tour until at least April of the next year. He supposed they'd get a lot of filming done with the dancers before that, but what would the show be about before dance rehearsals started? Skyler hadn't even decided on which songs he would sing on the tour.
They were calling the tour "Techno Cowboy". The very thought made Skyler chuckle. The idea of running around on stage dressed as any sort of cowboy just wasn't something that Skyler could begin to frame in his mind. He'd seen Darby's drawings of the costumes, but he couldn't imagine wearing any of them. She was good. He had to give her that. As soon as Gavin had given her a theme she'd gone to work to design the costumes. She'd come back three days later with sketches of what she thought would be good for a techno version of a cowboy. Skyler had to admit he liked the no shirt part, but he still couldn't see himself in a cowboy hat and chaps.
A reality show and cowboy clothes! He sighed again. It wasn't an entirely bad idea once he actually started to think about it seriously. After all it was only costumes. It didn't mean he had to change his image again. He decided to just wait and see what Darby came up with. She really was a talented woman. He'd seen almost all of her sketches, and Cassie was excited about having her design her wedding dress.
Jeff wasn't home when Skyler got there. That was expected though. He had three interviews that day. Jason was in the living room with a young man that Skyler didn't know. The boy's sandy hair was cut into what looked like an overgrown buzz cut. His hazel eyes widened when he saw Skyler, and a cute smile spread across his lips.
"Sky, this is Drew Spielberg," said Jason.
"Nice to meet you, Drew," Skyler said, walking over to shake the boy's hand as he stood. "Any relation to Steven?"
"He's my father," Drew said, smiling wider. "He's dying to work with you."
"Well tell him to call Gavin Hunter at Sky High Entertainment, and we'll set something up," said Skyler.
"That's not going to be too hard," laughed Drew. "Gavin is my agent."
"Oh!" gasped Skyler. "You're with Sky High then?"
"Just signed on after Gavin came to watch me film a commercial," said Drew.
"Well if Gavin signed you, you must be talented," Skyler said.
"Gavin told me that I'm going to have to work hard to get out from under my father's shadow," Drew admitted.
"Well that's not exactly true," said Skyler. "Your father is a director. You're an actor."
"Dad refuses to cast me in anything," laughed Drew.
"That's probably a good idea," replied Skyler. "At least until you get a base under your feet."
"Well I'm about to start shooting my very first movie," he said. "I don't have a big role, but it's a start. Your uncle is directing it."
"You're going to be in Jase's new picture?" Skyler asked.
"Yeah," Drew said, smiling wide.
"Well that's my picture," laughed Skyler. "Looks like we'll be working together."
"This is going to be so cool," Drew said, his eyes wide with excitement.
"I'll talk to Jase about giving you a bigger part if you'd like," Skyler said, thinking about how fast his career had taken off. With a little help, Drew's career could be on the fast track.
"That's all right," said Drew. "I want to earn it. If I let you talk Jase into giving me a bigger part than he thinks I've earned it would be no different than using my father's name to get a role."
"That's a great attitude," said Skyler. "Where are you staying while we film?"
"Uh, Sky," Jason said quietly, his face flushing. "I was going to offer to let him stay with us, but Dad isn't back yet. Mom's with Cassie and Kaleb."
"Gavin said he'd set me up with a hotel room," Drew said quickly.
"None of that," Skyler said dismissively. "If Dad isn't comfortable letting you stay with them, you can always stay here."
"But Mark's in the guest room," Jason reminded.
"Calm down, Jason," laughed Skyler as Mark came into the living room. "I have two guest rooms, remember? Drew, you'll be taken care of. Don't worry."
"Something wrong?" Mark asked, looking from Jason to Skyler and back again.
"No," said Skyler. "Drew needs a place to stay while we film, and Gavin was going to put him in a hotel. I decided that he can either stay here with us or across the lawn at Dad's. Nothing to worry about."
"You're Mark Sanders," Drew said, smiling at Mark.
"That's what they tell me," replied Mark. His smile was slower to form.
"I'm Drew Spielberg," Drew said, thrusting out his hand.
"Nice to meet you, Drew," said Mark. "You're Steven's son, right?"
"That's me," laughed Drew.
"So you'll be filming with Skyler?" Mark asked.
"Yeah," he said. "It's a small part, but it's a start."
"Well small parts are where everyone usually starts," Mark said. "Don't worry. If you have even an ounce of talent, Gavin will have you starring in your own flick eventually."
"Did I hear my name?" Gavin asked as he and Ben came into the house.
"We were just telling Drew that you're a good agent," Skyler said, smiling. "I was also offering my second guest room to him while we film."
"That's already been taken care of," said Ben. "He'll be staying with us."
"Great!" Jason said with so much enthusiasm that they all turned to look at him as his face turned red.
"Looks like one of them is excited," laughed Ben. "Drew if you'll come with me I'll show you where you can put your bags."
"Thanks," said Drew, casting a glance at Jason as he followed Ben through the living room to the back of the house.
"Has Jase come back yet?" Gavin asked once they were out of the room.
"Not that I know of," said Skyler. "I thought you were with Lilly."
"Lilly is on set today," explained Gavin. "So I came here to check on Drew."
"Well Drew's in good hands for the moment," said Skyler.
"Well it seems that all of my clients are either busy or in good hands," laughed Gavin. "What's on your plate for the rest of the week?"
"Nothing," Skyler said quickly. "And I want it to stay that way. I have nothing booked until Justin's album is released. I'd like to keep that schedule."
"I don't see any reason that you can't," Gavin said. "There's nothing going on that needs your attention at the moment. I think Clay and Mitch have everything under control at Sky High. You can spend your down time with Jeff and the kids."
"You know me too well already," laughed Skyler. "I'm going to go up and play with the kids while Jeff's out doing interviews."
"Well then I guess I'll see you later," Gavin said with a smile. "Don't get too lazy."
"Sky? Lazy?" laughed Jason.
"Right," laughed Gavin. "I forgot who I was dealing with. That reminds me, you're going to have be on the set for the auditions on the first. We've got something like a hundred guys lined up."
"Great," sighed Skyler. "Remind me again why they've decided to film this and put it on television."
"Because it will be a hit show," said Gavin. "No one has done anything like this before. Even Madonna only let the cameras follow her tour. This show will be about selecting the two young men to fill the last two spots on your dancer line up as well as the four of Brody's dancers. None of them will be told which entertainer they'll be dancing for."
"So Brody is going to tour with me?" Skyler asked. None of that had been finalized as of the day before.
"We got confirmation this morning," said Gavin. "You and Clay were in your press conference."
"Great," said Skyler. "That part's settled. So I guess this reality show is really going to happen."
"Oh come on, Sky," laughed Gavin. "It's just like everything else. You'll be fine."
"How many episodes do I actually have to be in before the tour?" he asked.
"Well we thought you should be there for the first meeting with the contestants," said Gavin. "After that it'll be up to James and Mara."
"So Mara is working with Brody?" Skyler asked. None of this was known to him. All he knew was that they were supposed to be sending Cory out on the road with Carlos. He knew that Carlos had decided not to tour for a while, but he hadn't known that Mara was still going to work with Brody.
"She's signed the contract," said Gavin. "She wasn't happy to hear about the reality show though."
"Neither was James," laughed Skyler.
James Morris was a thirty-eight year old from New York. He ran a dance studio and taught dance in the city. Skyler had sat down with the man before heading off to Australia to talk about the choreography for Skyler's next tour. He'd liked the man on first meeting him, and his references were awesome. Skyler was thinking about asking him to be his official choreographer. He hadn't mentioned that to Clay yet though.
"Mara wants to sign an exclusivity contract with Sky High," said Gavin, flooring Skyler.
"After the way things went on Chad's tour I'm surprised she wants anything to do with Sky High," replied Skyler.
"She asked me about it," Gavin said slowly. "We didn't discuss Chad."
"Set up a meeting and call Clay," Skyler said. "He's the one she needs to talk to. Let him know what she wants though."
"Will do," said Gavin.
"I was thinking of asking James if he wanted a similar contract," Skyler said after a moment. "I'd want him to become my official choreographer."
"You've not even worked with him yet," laughed Gavin.
"His reputation precedes him," replied Skyler. "I'll wait until the tour to talk to him about it. I haven't said anything about this to Clay, so keep it between us."
"Sure thing," he said. "I should really get to the office."
Skyler went upstairs after Gavin left. He found Chad and Darby playing with the children when he got there. He smiled at them and just joined them on the floor. It was so good to see Chad out of his room. He wasn't going to question it for fear that he'd send his brother back into seclusion.
"How was your press conference?" Chad asked when Skyler sat down.
"Brutal," he replied, smiling. "Just what I expected."
"Such is the life of a mega million dollar celebrity," Chad said with a smile.
Skyler was happy to see the smile on his little brother's face after what he'd said. It had been his own success that had sparked the anger Chad had felt against him at the beginning of his downward spiral. Skyler hoped that it wasn't a true resentment. He couldn't help the differences in their fame. He just loved his brother and hoped that his brother loved him.
"Clay said that he's about ready for me to start designing a few options for your costumes to show to James," Darby said into the silence. "Any suggestions on what you want?"
"Something other than anything to do with cowboys," laughed Skyler. "I'm not going to get my way in that one though. My fault for leaving the concept up to James."
"You don't like the technicolor cowboy stuff?" Chad asked.
"It's Techno not technicolor," Darby laughed.
"Gavin, Clay and James came up with it," sighed Skyler. "I don't know about it though."
"Oh come on, Sky," Darby said with a smile. "You're going to look hot in the costumes I've designed."
"Yeah, Sky," Chad said, suppressing a giggle.
"You know, I seem to remember that I used to whip your ass," Skyler said, laughing.
"Those were the days, huh?" Chad said. "I ain't so little any more."
"Calm yourselves, men," Darby said, holding her hands up. "No rough stuff, please."
"For you," Chad said, winking at Skyler. "Seriously, Techno Cowboy sounds kind of cool. Besides you could pull anything off."
"Thanks, buddy," Skyler said, smiling.
"Hey, do you know what Dad and Jase were fighting about earlier?" Chad asked.
"I didn't know they were fighting," said Skyler. "I just talked to Dad, and he didn't say anything about fighting with Jase."
"They were yelling at each other about something when Darby and I got back from seeing the lawyer," Chad said. "They shut up when they saw us though."
"Well I guess we'll have to ask Dad," said Skyler, wondering what his father and uncle could be upset with each other over.
"What if Dad won't tell us?" Chad asked.
"Then I'll ask Jase," Skyler said, smiling. "He'll tell me."
They concentrated on playing with the children after that. Preston crawled all over Chad while Skyler helped Jeff JR with his toys. Alyssa was trying to take Darby's angel pin off her jacket and laughing each time Darby tried to stop her. They were still playing when Jeff got there. He stood in the doorway to watch them with a small smile on his face.
"I see you," Skyler said, looking at Jeff out of the corner of his eye. The children hadn't noticed him yet.
"Boo," Jeff said softly and all three of the children stopped what they were doing and looked right at him. "Hey babies!"
"Daddy!" cried Alyssa while Preston and Jeff JR did their best to help her call out his moniker.
Jeff got down on the floor and joined them. All three of the children tried to climb all over him while Skyler and Chad laughed. Darby just put her hands out to try and catch the younger two if they fell. Jeff had a goofy grin on his face as he sat there with a body full of toddlers.
"You've got auditions tomorrow right?" Jeff asked Skyler as they were getting the children ready for dinner.
"Unfortunately," sighed Skyler. "I have to be at the studio at six."
"Do you know where they're going to film all of this?"
"They've rented an empty school to put the contestants in," said Skyler. "Mara says it looks good. I haven't been over there yet."
"When are you going over to see the place?" Jeff asked.
"I'm not sure," he replied. "The auditions are being held at the stadium so I'll be there for most of the day. Brody will be with me."
"Mind if I come along?"
"Sure," said Skyler, smiling. "I'd love to have you there. I don't know about what the director will say about it though."
"Fuck the director," laughed Jeff. "It's your show."
"It is my show," nodded Skyler. "You come with me tomorrow."
"I love it when you get all determined," laughed Jeff as they sat in their seats at the table.
Skyler noticed that his father and uncle weren't even looking at each other. He remembered that he wanted to ask them both what they were fighting about. It would have to wait until after dinner though. The last thing they needed was a scene in front of the children. He made up his mind that he'd track one or both of them down later in the evening and get to the bottom of whatever it was that was between them.
But he didn't get that chance. Shortly after dinner Peter Shaw, the family attorney came to discuss Chad's case. Ben went into the study with Chad and Peter and closed the door. When Skyler went off to find Jase the man was nowhere to be found. It was Cassie who told him that Jase had gone to look over the movie set.
Then Clay called and talked Skyler's ear off about the men who were going to audition for the show the next morning. He told Skyler that he thought they were in for a real treat in the morning. Skyler sighed as he thought about it. He wasn't looking forward to sitting through hours of auditions. He was happy that he wasn't judging this part of the show. It would be his decision who stayed on the show and who left the show each week. That was bad enough.
And it was just as bad as he'd thought it would be. By the time he and Jeff left the stadium they were both ready for anything else but more men dancing. Skyler had seen a few that he thought were really great only to find out that they hadn't even made the cut. He'd given up on paying attention after the fifth time that happened.
They got more male dancing a few days later when they attended the release party for Justin Timberlake's solo album. Skyler congratulated his friend and even danced with Justin for a song or two. He sat with Jeff and Kaleb to watch as Justin performed the first single from the album. By the time they were in the SUV to go back to the house Skyler was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open.
Then he was on the set with Ali Larter. Filming for the movie had began with very little problem. They filmed four scenes that day and Skyler was thrilled to meet Ali for the first time. He'd seen her work and was happy to hear that they'd be working together on this film. After shooting was over for the day Skyler invited Ali and Drew to dinner at Genevieve. He called Jeff to tell him to grab Chad and Darby and meet them at the restaurant.
"This place is great," Drew said as they were seated at the restaurant. "I eat here with my dad every month."
"We like it a lot, too," said Skyler. "I'm glad to be working with both of you."
"Oh I can't tell you how happy I was to hear that I'd be working with you," Ali said with a bright smile. Her blond hair was still laying in curls down her back the way it had been styled for the final scene of the day, and her Blue eyes were sparkling as she looked at him.
"The pleasure is mine," he said. "I was hoping that Christian and Justin would be here today though."
"Jase said something about that," said Drew. "Justin's first scene won't be filmed until next week. He said that Christian's first will be in two days so they should be here soon."
"I'll call Chris tonight," Skyler said as Jeff, Chad and Darby were brought to the table.
"Guys," Skyler said, smiling at the new arrivals. "Ali Larter and Drew Spielberg."
"Nice to meet you," Chad said, shaking hands with Ali and putting a hand on Darby's shoulder. "This is Darby Shaw. She's punishing herself by dating me."
"I'm sure you both know who Jeff is," Skyler said, smiling at Jeff.
"This is going to be a bad question," Ali said, smiling at Skyler. "But with the confidentiality agreement firmly in place, which I was shocked to have to sign by the way, is there any truth to the tabloid talk about you and Jeff?"
"The only thing the rags have gotten right about us is that we're together," Jeff said, squeezing Skyler's hand. "We're not really ready to come out to the world, though. Hence the gag contracts."
"Well I think it's wonderful," she said, smiling at them. "I wish that no one had to hide who they loved."
"Thank you for the sentiment," Skyler said, smiling back. "The circle of friends that know about us is getting larger. Jeff's right though. We're not ready to come out to the world. We're working toward being ready for that though."
"Well I should tell you that you have almost the entire celebrity world guessing," she laughed. "Every time the tabloids run anything about your sexuality you seem to show up surrounded by women. The fact that you get yourself into compromising situations with both men and women does wonders for the guessing game."
"Most of the time those situations are on purpose," laughed Skyler.
"Sometimes we all have accidents," Jeff added. "A lot of times the tabloids will choose a very innocent event and turn it into something dirty too."
"Oh, believe me I know all about that," she said.
"We're being open and honest with you and Drew because you're both going to be around the family for the foreseeable future," said Skyler. "You're shooting a Thomas movie, and that means that you'll be in contact with the entire family quite often. Drew can attest to that already."
"I'm staying with Skyler and Chad's parents while we film," said Drew. "I could have stayed at home, but this is sort of my way of asserting my independence."
"Sounds good," said Ali, smiling at him. "We all need to be independent from time to time."
They discussed the movie and what it was like for each of them to work with Jase. Jeff, Chad and Darby just smiled at the three of them as they talked. Chad worried about his upcoming court appearance while Darby believed that he'd be fine. He wasn't so sure. As he sat silently thinking he noticed a dark haired young man watching them from across the dining room. From that distance Chad could barely make out features, but something about the guy was familiar. He reminded Chad of Jase a bit. He was going to tell Skyler to take a look at him but when he turned his head for a second and looked back the guy was gone.
He was going to tell Skyler about it when they got back to the house, but shouting made him forget about the young man for a bit. They got inside and found their father and uncle screaming at each other in the living room. Tabitha and Cassie were nowhere to be found.
"I can't believe you did this!" cried Ben, glaring at his younger brother. "I told you I didn't want him around my children and you went and made sure that he'd be involved in Skyler's life completely!"
"Ben, calm down," Jase said loudly.
"I will not calm down, Jase," Ben snapped. "How could you? You know what he is."
"What's going on?" Skyler asked as the four of them came into the room.
"Don't, Jase," warned Ben, glaring at him again.
"Ben, they have to know sooner or later," Jase said.
"Well later would have been better," said Ben. "But you just couldn't leave it alone."
"Ben . . . "
"No," Ben said, cutting his brother off. "You did this. You and your dreams of a united family. I won't forget it, and I won't forgive you for it."
"Well after this film you won't have to worry about what I do any longer, Benjamin," said Jase. "I'll take my son and go back to Paris."
"Oh that's just like you, isn't it?" Ben snapped. "Make a fine mess and then cut and run? Well thank you so much for visiting!"
"Fuck you, Ben," Jase hissed before walking out of the room.
Skyler and Chad were stunned. They'd never heard their father and uncle talk to each other that way before. Skyler had heard of sibling rivalry, and he'd experienced a bit of it with Chad, but he'd never seen anything like this before. He didn't know whether to talk to his father or go after his uncle.
"I'm sorry you had to see that," Ben said, visibly calming himself. "I'm going home. I don't feel like discussing this. Skyler, you'll find out what this was about soon enough. I can only hope that the damage doesn't spread further than that."
The fighting between Ben and Jase went on for days with all of the Thomas children staying out of it completely. It still wasn't known what it was that the brothers were fighting over. Skyler took the day off from shooting to be in court with Chad. That had gone badly. The judge hearing the case was not fond of drug users, and he told them that he planned to make an example of Chad. However the case was continued for a month and they went home with Chad still free.
Cassie shocked Skyler with the release of her very own single. The song was called "Love Story" and Cassie had written it while she and Kaleb were in Greece. The video debuted at number one on MTV's TRL, and VH1 was running it at the top of every hour. In the video Cassie was dressed as a princess while Kaleb looked like a peasant. The song was a spin on Romeo and Juliet.
Skyler was sad to find that his friendship with Chip Dodds was still strained. Christian and Justin were on the set every day, but Chip never came with them. In fact Skyler hadn't seen Chip since the family had arrived in Los Angeles for filming. Christian declined every invitation to come to the house or to even grab a bite with Skyler. He told his friend that Chip wouldn't like it.
By the time Skyler went into the studio to begin recording sessions for the soundtrack, the movie was half filmed. Tension was high in the family and Skyler didn't know what to think. Cassie and Kaleb spent most of their time either on the road promoting Cassie's forthcoming album or in Kaleb's apartment. Cassie told Skyler it was the fighting that kept them away.
Then it was time for the filming of the first episode of the reality show. Skyler hated it the entire time. He watched videos of the men dancing to his music and tried to keep up with who made how many mistakes. Then there were events that the "teams" of men had to get through. It reminded him of so many other reality shows and he was planning to have it out with Clay and Gavin soon. Ten men were sent home that day, and none of them were happy. Skyler was ready to tell Gavin and Clay that he wanted nothing to do with the show by the time they finished filming the first episode. It aired the following Monday at ten PM on MTV.
As he'd feared it was the most watched show on entertainment television that night. Gavin and Clay were both so excited that Skyler didn't have the heart to tell them he hated it. Then before he knew it he was filming the second episode. This time he got to pick a representative to be there instead of him. He chose Frank Cole. Frank had been with Skyler since the first tour and a few videos before that tour. He was capable of knowing what would please Skyler and what wouldn't.
"This is amazing," Jeff gasped as he and Skyler walked through the Boeing 737 Jetliner that Gavin had found for Skyler to look at.
There was a cabin in the back of the jet with bed bunks that could be lowered from the walls. Behind that was another cabin with queen sized bed, shower and toilet cubicle of its very own. The forward compartment had reclining seats that were against the walls instead of in rows of three. Each seat looked like it belonged in a sitting room. They were plush and upholstered with beige leather. The floor all over the plain was covered in paisley carpet.
"How much is this?" Skyler asked Gavin when they were back in the hanger.
"Six point eight," said Gavin. "You said not to go any higher than seven million. It's a 1986, but it's in great shape."
"Oh I saw that it's in great shape, Gavin," he said, smiling. "I want it."
"Let's go talk to the owner," laughed Gavin. "You'll need a flight crew as well."
"Already working on that," he replied.
They left the airport with the receipt and pictures of the jet. The transaction had been made and in a few weeks he'd actually own the jetliner. No more commercial flights for him. He chuckled as they left the airport. Madonna would flip when she saw it. That thought had him laughing all the way home.
Then they were at the Crystal Room being photographed by reporters as Cassie and Kaleb danced and sang on the stage. Cassie's second single, "Just Dance" had been released along with her album. The song was a dance track, of course, and he loved it. He was so proud of his little sister.
She was a bundle of energy for the rest of the night. When it was time to kiss and hug her before she left to promote the album with Kaleb she promised to be back the following week for his release party. Skyler was sad to see her leave. Things at home were getting worse, but he knew what it meant to be a new artist with two hot singles playing on video channels and the radio.
While all of this was happening, Skyler found himself agreeing to select two dancers from the show to dance with him at the release party for his new album. He rehearsed Mara's dance moves for the single with the entire dance cast of the show and finally selected Alex Thomas and Evan Bradford to dance with him at the party.
"Your last name is Thomas?" Skyler asked as he stood with the pair he'd selected.
Alex Thomas was the same height as Skyler. His body was muscular but not over done. He had dark hair and what looked like a chronic five o'clock shadow. His blue-gray eyes were framed by dark lashes. There was something familiar about the guy, but Skyler couldn't put his finger on what it was.
"Sure is," replied Alex. "Thanks for choosing me."
"You're good," Skyler said, shrugging.
"Well I wasn't sure you'd even let me have anything to do with the show at first," said Alex.
"Why wouldn't I?" Skyler asked. "I don't even know you. You had just as much right to be a contestant as the others."
"Good point," Alex said, smiling. Skyler thought he was attractive, and he loved the guy's smile.
"Well that's it for today," he said, tearing his gaze away from Alex to address the rest of the dancers. "Alex and Evan will be rehearsing with me every day this week. I guess I'll see the rest of you on Friday."
He watched the others walk out of the gymnasium and sighed. He couldn't let them all dance with him at the party. They had to understand. This was exactly why he hated this little show. He hated to make the guys feel like they weren't good enough. Once again he thought about telling Gavin and Clay just how angry the show made him.
Skyler found it strange that both his father and his uncle sat in on the rehearsals every night. His father glared at them as they danced, and Skyler thought he was actually angry with him. Neither of the men said anything, but Alex talked to Jase a few times. Skyler saw Jase shaking his head a few times while they were talking and wondered just what was going on. He didn't have time for more drama though. He had a party to prepare for.
"Dad doesn't like Alex Thomas," Jason told him later that night. It was the first time that Jason had crossed the yard between the two houses since their father and uncle started fighting.
"Why not?" Skyler asked. "He doesn't even know him."
"I don't know," he said. "But I heard him and Uncle Jase arguing over the fact that you chose him to dance with you at the release party."
"When was this?" Skyler asked.
"This morning," said Jason. "Dad said that Jase would pay for this one way or another."
"I wish one of them would just tell us what is going on," sighed Skyler. "I'm not changing my mind about who will dance with me at the party, but I don't like making Dad angry."
"I don't think he's angry at you exactly," said Jason. "That's one of the things he was yelling at Jase about."
"What do you mean?"
"Well he said something about you getting in over your head with this guy and not even knowing it," Jason said. "It was strange."
"Over my head?" Skyler sighed. "I've only talked to the guy that one time. Mara doesn't exactly give us much time to talk to each other when we rehearse. When we finish he's usually either talking to Evan or they're getting ready to hit the showers."
"I don't know," said Jason, shaking his head slightly. "I do know that I'd better get back across the yard. I'll talk to you later, Sky."
"Later, kiddo," Skyler said. He was still sitting there thinking about what Jason had said when Jeff found him.
"What's with the look on your face, Blondie?" Jeff asked, sitting down beside him.
"Dad's mad about my choice of dancers for the party," he sighed. "He doesn't like Alex for some reason."
"What's he said?"
"That's just it," said Skyler. "Dad hasn't said one word to me all week long. Jase is always too busy. He never comes home from the set before I go to bed."
"Well you'll get to the bottom of it at the party," said Jeff. "I know that both your father and your uncle are planning to be there."
"Great," sighed Skyler. "More glaring and stalking off."
"This is getting a bit ridiculous," agreed Jeff.
They went upstairs and climbed into bed. Skyler wrapped his arms around Jeff and silently prayed that his father and uncle would finally tell him what was going on before they had to dance and sing at the party. His last thought before drifting off to sleep was that Cassie would be there in the morning. He hoped she wasn't coming home to a fight.
"So they're still fighting?" she asked when he and Jeff picked them up at the airport.
"It looks like it," sighed Skyler as he hugged her. "I haven't seen Dad today, and Jase left with Ali before we came to get you. He won't talk about what's going on."
"Well we have to get to the bottom of it," she said. "I don't like being snapped at when I call to check on how things are going."
"Dad snaps at you?" Skyler asked with wide eyes.
"Twice," she said. Kaleb nodded. "And it's going to stop."
They didn't see Jase or Ben for most of the day. They went straight to the converted school from the airport. Skyler had last minute rehearsals before he went home to change and get ready for the release party. Then they were in the SUV with Chad and Darby, but their father had decided to drive his own car. Jase called them to tell them that he and Ali were already at the club.
"Dad's sitting at a table at the back of the room with Mom," said Jason when Skyler came into the dressing room. "Jase is up front with Ali and Drew."
"Well we'll get to the bottom of this one way or another tonight," Skyler vowed. "Where are Gavin and Clay?"
"They're circulating," said Jason. "Gavin said to tell you to come out there and answer questions before the number."
"Thanks, kid," he said, smiling at Jason as Alex and Evan came into the room.
"We're ready," Evan said, smiling. He was dressed just like Alex in a pair of white leather chaps over black jeans and no shirt. They each had cowboy hats on. Evan's was pushed back a bit, showing his blond hair. Mara was spraying their torsos with glitter.
"Well I have to go and answer questions," Skyler said, smiling at them. "I'll be back to change in about a half hour."
"Are we allowed to circulate after the number?" Alex asked.
"Of course," Skyler said. "I wouldn't dream of keeping you cooped up back here."
He stuck to Carson Daly for the entire half hour, casting glances at both his father's table and Jase's from time to time. What he wanted was to talk to Jase. He was sure that Jase would tell him everything if he could just sit down and talk to him. There wasn't time though. Carson told him that it was time to get back to the dressing room to get ready, and Jase only gave him a thumbs up as he passed him.
"What's with the look on your face?" Mara asked when he came out of his dressing room in his black leather chaps and white jeans.
"My father and uncle are fighting," he sighed, wincing as she started to spray him with glitter.
"They're fighting about me," Alex said, handing Skyler his cowboy hat.
"But why?" Skyler asked.
"No time," said Mara. "You have to get out there."
They took their places in the dark and waited for the band to start to play. He listened as Carson announced him and then the room erupted in cheers. Finally the spotlight found him and the music started. He tried to put thoughts of his father and uncle out of his head and concentrate on the routine.
"Anytime I need to see your face I just close my eyes, and I am taken to a place where your crystal mind and magenta feelings take up shelter in the base of my spine sweet like a chic a cherry cola," he sang, dancing between Alex and Evan as he watched his father's face darken even more.
"I don't need to try and explain, I just hold on tight, and if it happens again I might move so slightly to the arms and the lips and the face of the human cannonball that I need to, I want to," he sang, moving into formation with the dancers and finally looking away from his father. The crowd was dancing with them.
"Come stand a little bit closer. Breathe in and get a bit higher. You'll never know what hit you when I get to you.
"Ooh I want you. I don't know if I need you, but ooh I'd die to find out. Ooh I want you. I don't know if I need you, but ooh I'd die to find out," they sang together, and Skyler was happy with the way they sounded. They moved around each other and got back into formation once again.
"I'm the kind of person who endorses a deep commitment, getting comfy, getting perfect is what I live for. But a look then a smell of perfume then it's like I'm down on the floor and I don't know what I'm in for," he sang, dancing around. The cameras were all pointed at them. He smiled at the MTV camera.
"Conversation has a time and place in the interaction of a lover and a mate, but the time of talking, using symbols, using words can be likened to a deep sea diver who is swimming with a raincoat," he sang as they came together again.
"Come stand a little bit closer. Breathe in and get a bit higher. You'll never know what hit you when I get to you.
"Ooh I want you. I don't know if I need you, but ooh I'd die to find out. Ooh I want you. I don't know if I need you, but ooh I'd die to find out," they sang together and kept dancing.
"Anytime I need to see your face I just close my eyes, and I am taken to a place where your crystal mind and magenta feelings take up shelter in the base of my spine sweet like a chic a cherry cola. I don't need to try and explain, I just hold on tight, and if it happens again I might move so slightly to the arms and the lips and the face of the human cannonball that I need to, I want to," he sang, stepping between the two dancers.
"Ooh I want you. I don't know if I need you, but ooh I'd die to find out. Ooh I want you. I don't know if I need you, but ooh I'd die to find out," they sang together and then stopped dancing.
"So can we find out?" he breathed as the lights went out.
"That was awesome!" cried Alex as they made their way back to the dressing rooms. Skyler was shocked to find his father and his uncle waiting for them.
"Now that it's over I want you to go back to Ohio," snapped his father as he stared venomously at Alex. "You're not wanted here, Alex."
"Look, Ben," sighed Alex, confusing Skyler by his informal way of addressing his father. "I didn't come here to piss you off. I came here because Jase called me and told me about the show. I wanted to dance with my nephew."
"Nephew?" Skyler asked, looking from Ben to Alex and back.
"Skyler is not your nephew!" spat Ben.
"That's rich," said Alex. "You still refuse to accept that I'm your brother."
"Brother?" Skyler asked, looking at his father. "What's he talking about?"
"Alex is our baby brother, Skyler," said Jase. "Our father divorced our mother and married his mother. That's why Ben hates Alex so much."
"What?" Skyler asked, looking from Jase to his father and back. "Is this true?"
"He's our father's son," admitted Ben. "But he is not my brother."
The next chapter will be posted soon.