© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 93


The store was almost completely empty. Only the store's staff, Skyler's security and Gavin and Clay were there with him and Deacon. Deacon was standing on a platform while a tailor worked on getting a suit ready for him. They'd already gotten fifteen white and fifteen black t-shirts that were tight enough to hug his muscular torso, fifteen pairs of Levi 501 jeans and six pairs of black leather boots. It was a gay cliché, but Skyler thought Deacon looked hot in what he'd tried on. If he followed Skyler's instructions to shrink the jeans to fit his body it would be awesome. They'd topped off the outfit by adding three black leather motorcycle jackets.

Now they were going for suits, one black Armani, on charcoal Dior and one midnight Versace. Tuxes could be rented when he needed them, but unless he attended the Oscars Skyler wasn't sure he'd need one. The suits would work for award shows, and the other clothing would work for every other personal appearance.

One of his first appearances would be at Skyler's release party in two days at The Viper Room. Deacon had been performing off and on for a while there, but he'd never seen it when it was set up for industry events and open only by invitation. Skyler thought it would be good for him to see it. It might get him ready for his own release party when he got that far. So far he'd not recorded anything. That was tomorrow's event.

Clay had found a group of musicians to play for his album, and they were all currently rehearsing at the studio. They'd record when Eddie felt they had it. That was the other thing that was happening behind the scenes. Clay was looking out for Deacon at the moment, but he was to be handed off to Eddie Casabian as soon as he started to record. Clay had said he had his hands full already, and he was trying to keep himself available for when Skyler went on tour.

"So, are you ready for the Christmas episode of the show?" Clay asked Skyler as Deacon was being fitted.

"As ready as I'm going to be," he replied. "I do like the fact that we're separating them into two groups now though."

Frank had left the show to join Carlos's dancer line up. Skyler had finally come to the decision to appoint four from his contracted dancer line up to act as judges for the show. Jason had readily agreed to take a spot, and Marcel and Yin jumped at the chance. Mark Allen told Skyler he thought it would be fun, so that made up the four. Skyler was confident that the four of them would make sure that he got good dancers. He hadn't told them, or anyone that Alex was his uncle. He wanted them to judge him fairly.

Of course Skyler still had to be there on Friday nights when the show was filmed live with the events shown on screens for all of them to watch. Then he had the unhappy job of telling the five who had to stand on the platforms which of them were going home and which were safe for yet another week. He hated it, but he went along with it. He'd never let them do anything like this to him again. Of that he was certain.

"Have you picked your twenty?" Clay asked.

"I have," sighed Skyler. "I don't like the fact that I had to choose, but I did try to be objective. The twenty that I chose seem to be doing better with my music than Brody's, but then we won't really know that until James starts rehearsals. Have you been looking into dates?"

"I have, but it's hard when you won't give me an answer on when you want to tour," said Clay, picking his words carefully.

"May would be a good time to head out," Skyler said after a minute. "Nothing before May first."

"That makes it easier," Clay said happily. "I'm assuming that Italy is out of the question once again."

"You're assuming correctly," replied Skyler. "I told you I'll never perform in Italy again."

"We've been getting some calls from Turin about wanting to book your show," Clay said. "I thought I'd ask."

"The answer is no," Skyler said flatly.

"All right," replied Clay. "I'll get on the dates. When did you want me to release the information?"

"Not for a while," Skyler said after a minute. "I want the fans to concentrate on other things in my career right now. There's a movie coming and all kinds of promotions. I don't want to have to answer a million questions about the tour when I'm sitting before a talk show host."

"All right," said Clay. "How about some time in February? That should give everyone enough time to focus on the things you have coming and then get excited about the tour. If we announce in February you'd be leaving on tour in less than two months."

"That sounds good," he said. "We can sit down and map it all out later. Right now let's focus on Deacon. Have you met his roommate?"

"Landon Fox? Yes I have," said Clay. "Very nice young man, and as I understand it, very gifted musically."

"Deacon says that Landon can play any instrument, and he does it by ear," said Skyler. "The kid doesn't read sheet music at all."

"A prodigy?"

"Sounds like it," said Skyler. "He's got a high IQ."

"Thinking of signing that one, too?" Clay asked.

"Maybe," replied Skyler. "I don't know if I need another musician though. Especially one who can't read music."

Skyler left them to the tailoring and returned to the house. He sat down in the middle of the living room floor with Jeff and the kids to play, making Preston laugh as he tickled him. The children began to chatter at him about all that they had done while he was gone and Jeff just smiled and let them have their chatter. Soon enough their tale of the day had wound down and they went back to their toys.

"So how's Sky High's newest crooner?" asked Jeff with his trademark lopsided grin.

"He was wrapped in a Dior suit when I left him," replied Skyler. "How has your day been?"

"Oh great," replied Jeff. "I got to listen to your dad scream at Jason for a bit until Jase came downstairs and ran him off."

"What was Dad screaming at Jason about?" asked Skyler, though he really didn't want to know. His father had become such a lost cause in his eyes that hearing of his antics did nothing but depress him.

"Alex was here at the time," explained Jeff. "He'd come to talk to you about the Christmas episode of the show, and he and Jason were talking when Ben came in."

"Where is Jason now?" asked Skyler with a sigh.

"He's at the school," replied Jeff. "They're doing some kind of event and filming it. I guess you'll find out later."

"What about Drew?" Skyler asked, deciding to just ignore the event he was alluding to.

"He's on the set with Jase," Jeff informed. "When do you go back to the set?"

"I don't," replied Skyler. "All of my scenes are shot. All I have left is the video shoot, which will be shot on the set."

"Another live one?" asked Jeff.

"Yeah," replied Skyler. "Listen, if Dad can't control himself when he's here, then I want him to stay out of the house. This isn't going to be a place where people scream all the time. It isn't good for the kids."

"You don't need my permission for that," Jeff said slowly, "but are you sure you want to alienate your father completely?"

"Why not?" Skyler sighed. "He's already told Clay he won't be touring with us."

"What?" Jeff asked in shock.

"That's right," replied Skyler. "He told Clay that he wants nothing to do with the tour and that he's putting a bid in on a local job. He and his crew will be staying in LA. I'm thinking that you, me and the kids should probably return to Orlando after the tour is over."

"That'd probably be a good idea if your dad's going to be like that," Jeff said, looking at the kids. "I don't want the children affected by any of this. They'll miss their grandparents, but that's better than having them traumatized by them."

"I agree," said Skyler. "In fact, if it weren't for Chad, I'd say we should just pack up and go now. I miss the house anyway."

"I'm sorry, Blondie," Jeff said softly, putting his head on Skyler's shoulder.

"It just never gets any easier around here, does it?" Skyler sighed.

"Nope," Jeff replied with an answering sigh. "Are we still going to The Forum tonight to watch Carlos and Cory rehearse?"

"I promised," said Skyler. "I was thinking of inviting Deacon and Landon along so that Deacon can see what's going on. Landon is really awesome with his ability to play any instrument by ear, and I'd like to give the kid a break. I just don't know how to fit him in if he can't read music."

"He could learn," suggested Jeff. "If he's good, Sky, you should at least try to give him a shot."

"I'll talk to him about it after we leave The Forum," said Skyler. "I thought we'd invite them back here for a casual chat. It's time to put those confidentiality contracts they both signed to use."

"I thought Gavin said that Deacon and Landon were lovers," said Jeff after a minute.

"Gavin thinks they are," replied Skyler. "But I get the distinct impression that Deacon is straight. We'll find out later to night though, I'm sure."

"What time do rehearsals start?" Jeff asked, noticing that the kids were all getting tired.

"Cory will be starting at seven," replied Skyler. "He's only going to do three or four songs. Carlos is doing five after that."

"So we'll be out until around midnight or so?" Jeff asked.

"That sounds about right," replied Skyler. "Think that's too late to invite Deacon and Landon back here?"

"Maybe," said Jeff. "Why don't we invite them over here tomorrow afternoon? You don't have anything tomorrow right?"

"Nothing," replied Skyler. "The whole day is free."

"What are you doing the day after before the party?" he asked.

"Rehearsing some time," said Skyler. "I'm sure Gavin and Clay will have all sorts of things for me to do after and before rehearsals though."

"Yeah," said Jeff. "Then tomorrow would be good to have them over. Jason will be at the school again I'm sure, and Drew will be on the set. You know Drew is talking about going back to his dad's penthouse for the rest of the shoot?"

"I didn't know that," Skyler replied. "Something happen between him and Jason?"

"I think so," said Jeff. "Drew only told me that it was too crowded here, and he wanted space. Jason just stared at his plate while Drew was talking. They didn't say anything to each other when Jase took Drew to the set either."

"Well it sounds like it's time to have a talk with Jason," sighed Skyler. "Poor kid."

"I hope Drew was nice about it at least," replied Jeff.

They took the children upstairs and put them down for their naps, letting Amy, the Los Angeles nanny, know that they would be going out after dinner and that she'd need to watch over the children. They took a quick shower and dressed for the evening before heading back downstairs to find Jason and Jase in the living room.

"Hi, guys," Skyler said as he walked into the room. "How was filming?"

"Pretty good," said Jase. "We're all set for your video shoot, too."

"That's good to hear," said Skyler. "Jason, how was the filming for the show?"

"It was actually really fun," replied Jason. "We've got all of the scores for Monday. They'll film a lot of things for look backs until then. They're all wondering why there's no live show Friday."

"Did you tell them that Monday's live show will be like Friday's?" he asked.

"We did," Jason said with a smile. "We told them that it was a special show and that there won't be another live show for two weeks."

"So you know who's going and who's staying?" Skyler asked.

"I do, but I'm not supposed to tell you until Monday," laughed Jason. "Those are the rules. Gavin made me swear."

"I'm sure he did," replied Skyler. "Let's go eat."

"We're eating early today?" Jason asked as he followed Skyler and Jeff into the dining room. Chad and Darby were already at the table.

"Yeah," said Skyler. "I'm going to watch Carlos and Cory rehearse tonight. I'm taking Deacon and his roommate along so that Deacon can get an idea of what he's facing."

"You're going to be exposing Deacon to a lot of different things while you have a chance, aren't you?" Jase asked as they sat down at the table.

"Yeah," replied Skyler. He smiled at Darby. "The food looks great, Darby."

"Thanks," she said with a big smile. "Chad helped."

"And it won't kill you," Chad said with a smirk. Skyler was happy to see him in a good mood. There hadn't been many lately.

"I'm sure we'll survive," said Jeff, smiling at Chad.

"There's something that you need to know, Sky," said Jase as he handed Mike a plate. "I wanted to talk to you about it alone, but everyone at the table needs to know about it."

"Is this about Dad screaming at Jason for talking to Alex today?" Skyler asked.

"Yeah," said Jase. "I told him not to come back over here if all he was going to do was scream all the time. He said he isn't coming back to this house."

"Well I was going to tell him he isn't welcome if he's going to just scream at everyone," Skyler said. "I just hadn't gotten to it yet."

"He told me that I'm not welcome across the yard now," Jason said softly.

"Sorry, Kiddo," said Skyler. "You know it won't matter much longer anyway. We'll be going on tour in May."

"You decided?" Jason asked, smiling.

"I did," laughed Skyler. "Clay and I discussed it this morning. I told him to start booking dates after May first."

"The MTV guys were asking me about that today," said Jason.

"Don't tell them anything," laughed Skyler. "I don't want the dates released until February. Clay hasn't even booked any yet."

"My lips are sealed," Jason promised.

"Where's Drew?" asked Darby, looking from Skyler to Jason and back again.

"He went to his dad's penthouse," Jason replied. "He said that things are a bit to hectic here, and I think he wanted to get away from me to be honest."

"What happened?" Skyler asked.

"Well I told him that I liked him, and he got a little uptight," sighed Jason. "He told me he's straight and that he isn't interested in anything like that. I told him it wasn't a problem, but he got all quiet. So I guess it's a good thing that he moved back to his dad's."

"Sorry, Jason," said Skyler.

"No problem," Jason assured him. "I just like the guy, Sky. I'm not in love. My heart's not broken."

"Well that's good," Skyler said seriously. "I'm sorry that he got strange about it though."

"It's all right," said Jason. "Plenty of fish in the sea, and all of that, right?"

"Right," said Skyler, smiling.

As soon as Jeff and Skyler were finished eating they excused themselves to brush their teeth and get ready to leave. Skyler called Deacon's hotel room and told him that they would be there to get him and Landon soon. They checked on the kids one last time and then gathered security and left for the hotel.

Deacon and Landon were waiting for them in front of the hotel. Skyler smiled when he saw that Deacon was dressed in a black t-shirt and a pair of Levis. They were both excited when they climbed into the SUV. Deacon told them that he couldn't wait to see Cory and Carlos. Landon said that he was a big fan of both guys' work. Skyler was happy to hear that. He liked it when Sky High artists were favorites.

When they got to The Forum, Skyler was happy to see that Cory and Carlos's names were already on the board. Deacon asked Skyler what it was like to perform in a place as big as The Forum, and Skyler laughed. He told him his day would come as they made their way through the security checkpoint and inside. They were just coming into the green room when Carlos came off the stage.

"Sky!" he cried excitedly. "Can you hear Cory? The kid sounds amazing. Come see!"

They followed Carlos out of the room, down the steps and to the front row. Cory was on the stage with the band, trying to tell them what he wanted. Skyler could barely hear him talking, so he knew that his mic wasn't live. Carlos was still rattling off excitedly about how good Cory's new stuff sounded.

"If you stop for a second I'll introduce you to Deacon Ola and Landon Fox," laughed Skyler. "Deacon will be recording tomorrow with Gavin and Eddie."

"Outstanding," said Carlos, getting up to shake Deacon's hand. "Welcome aboard."

"Thanks," Deacon said with a grin. Skyler was happy to see that though they both had said that they were fans of both Carlos and Cory neither of them were too awestruck by meeting Carlos. "This is my friend, Landon."

"Nice to meet you, Landon," Carlos said, shaking the younger man's hand.

Landon Fox was just barely eighteen years old with golden brown hair that was cut short and blue eyes. He had a baby face that was adorable. Carlos smiled brighter when he looked at him, and Skyler had to laugh. Carlos's relationship with Lance Bass had ended not long ago, and it appeared that he was looking again.

"Oh! He's ready again," Carlos said suddenly and took his seat to watch Cory.

"I see you, Skyler!" Cory said, grinning as he looked out at the front row.

"Lookin' good, Cory!" cried Skyler, smiling.

Cory was dressed in a silver three-piece suite with a matching bowler hat. The suit and hat were shinny and Skyler wondered what number he was rehearsing. He hadn't thought that it was a dressed rehearsal, but then he only knew how he rehearsed. He did notice that all six of Cory's dancers were sitting around the stage to watch.

"Okay," said Cory. "Let's do it."

He nodded at Martin Sway at the piano as the drummer began to lightly tap out a jazz beat. The piano music began and Cory turned on his headset as he turned to look at them again. He smiled and winked at Skyler before he started to sing.

"When your heart's in someone else's hands, monkey see and monkey do, their wish is your command. You're not to blame. Everyone's the same," he sang, moving around the stage like a fifties velvet tongued crooner.

"All you do is love and love is all you do. I should know by now, the way I fought for you. You're not to blame. Everyone's the same," he sang and twisted his hat on his head.

"I know you think that you're safe, mister. Harmless deception that keeps love at bay. It's the ones who resist that we most want to kiss, wouldn't you say? Cowboys and angels, they all have the time for you. Why should I imagine that I'd be a find for you? Why should I imagine that I'd have something to say?

"But that scar on your face. That beautiful face of yours. In your heart there's a trace of someone . . . before," he sang, twisting his body as he moved across the stage to stand in front of the piano again.

"When your heart's in someone else's plans things you say and things you do, they don't understand. It's such a shame, always ends the same.

"You can call it love, but I don't think it's true. You should know by now I'm not the boy for you. You're not to blame. Always ends the same.

"I know you think that you're safe . . . sister. Harmless affection that keeps things this way. It's the one who persists for the sake of a kiss. Who will pay?" he sang, moving back across the stage, tipping his hat and running his fingers around the brim.

"Cowboys and angels, they all take a shine to you. Why should I imagine that I was designed for you? Why should I believe that you would stay?

"But that scar on your face. That beautiful face of yours. Don't you think that I know they've hurt you before?

"Take this man to your bed. Maybe his hands will help you to forget. Please be stronger than your past. The future may still give you a chance," he sang in that soft, velvet voice.

He stopped moving around to watch the band play. Skyler supposed this would be when he would be playing it up for the audience as the musical interlude played on. He loved the song. Cory had told him that he'd had so much trouble writing it, but Skyler was happy to find that he'd finished it. It was one of the best songs on his new album.

"When your hearts in someone else's hands, monkey see and monkey do, their wish is your command. You're not to blame. Everyone's the same. No you're not to blame. I'm just the same," he sang and the music stopped.

"Sounded great, Cory!" Skyler cried up to him. "Loved it!"

"Thanks, Sky!" Cory beamed. "This is where I tell the crowd goodnight for the last time and get my tail off the stage so Martin can introduce Carlos. I'll be down in a minute, Sky."

"Take your time," laughed Skyler.

"Get your butt up here, Carlos," he said as he took his headset off.

"I'm comin', boy, damn!" cried Carlos as he turned to Skyler. "Don't run off now. I wanna talk to you a bit before you hit the road."

"Promise," said Skyler. "Now go sing."

"Yes, sir," he laughed and took off for the steps.

It took a little while for Carlos and his dancers to get situated on the stage. Skyler knew that the song he was about to sing would be the opening of the show. He couldn't wait to hear it live. He'd heard him recording it, and it had sounded good then. Now he would hear it live with the background vocals at the same time. On the album Carlos did his own background vocals.

Cory came running down the steps dressed in a pair of faded jeans and a loose t-shirt. His shoes were untied and his hair was messed up. Skyler laughed at him when he saw him. The boy was just too hyper and excited. He was a far cry from the shy creature Skyler had first met at Barry Graham's house long ago.

"What'd you think?" he cried, smiling wide. "Did it sound all right?"

"It was great, Cory," replied Skyler. "I loved the sound."

"Thanks," he said.

"Cory, this is Deacon Ola," said Skyler, putting his hand on Deacon's shoulder. "He'll be recording with Clay and Eddie tomorrow."

"Nice," Cory breathed, shaking Deacon's hand. "Can't wait to hear your stuff."

"Thanks," Deacon replied. "I like your stuff."

"Thanks," Cory beamed.

"This is my best friend, Landon Fox," Deacon said, introducing Cory to Landon.

"You a singer?" Cory asked as he shook Landon's hand.

"I sing a bit," replied Landon. "Not as much as Deacon, but I do all right when I need to."

"All right," laughed Cory.

Skyler filed that information away for later. He thought he'd have to find out from Deacon the next time Landon was going to sing. If the boy was any good there might be a spot from him at Sky High after all. That would make him happy. If Landon and Deacon were actually lovers it would make things smoother, thought Skyler still believed that Deacon, at least, was straight. He turned his attention to the stage again as the lights changed and the music started.

Carlos's dancers were lined up in three groups of four. They all had black t-shirts and black jeans on. They looked like an army. Then the music stopped again and they started to sing at the same time.

"No-no-notorious! No-no-notorious!" they sang loudly, and then the music started again as Carlos made his way through them to the front of the stage.

"I can't read about it, burns the skin from your eyes. I'll do fine without it, here's one you don't compromise. Lies come hardly disguised, betting me to fight it out not wild about it. Spare your seedy judgments. Who says they're part of our lives?

"You own the money. You control the witness. I'll leave you lonely! Don't monkey with my business. You've paid the profits to justify your reasons. I've heard you promise, but I don't believe it. That's why I done it again. No-no-notorious!" he sang as he danced in formation with his dancers.

"Girls will keep the secrets so alone the boys making noise. Fools run rings to break up something they'll never destroy. Grand notorious slam BAM! And who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit? Don't ask me to bleed about it. I need this blood to survive.

"You own the money. You control the witness. I'll leave you lonely. Don't monkey with my business. You've paid the profits to justify your reasons. I've heard you promise, but I don't believe it. That's why I done it again. No-no-notorious! Notorious! Notorious!" he sang and then the dancers began to lunge at each other as the music picked up.

"You own the money. You control the witness. I'll leave you lonely! Don't monkey with my business. You've paid the profits to justify your reasons. I've heard you promise, but I don't believe it. You own the money. You control the witness. I'll leave you lonely. Don't monkey with my business. You've paid the profits to justify your reasons. I've heard you promise, but I don't believe it. I don't believe it! That's why I done it again. No, no, no that's why I done it again no-notorious! Notorious! Notorious!

"Yeah, that's why I done it again! No-notorious! No, no! Yeah, that's why I done it again. Notorious. No-notorious! No-no-notorious!" he sang and the music stopped as the lights went out.

They launched right into the second song. This one faster than the last. Skyler knew the song well. He'd written it for Carlos when he'd first gone solo. "Send Me A Lover" was a huge hit for Carlos. Skyler tapped his foot to the beat and smiled when he saw Jeff doing the same. Deacon and Landon watched with rapt attention. Skyler caught Landon singing along quietly to "Piano Man" when Carlos sat on his stool to sing it. Then he got back to a dance track with "Dance With Me". It was a great rehearsal. Skyler knew that the fans were in for great shows on this tour. He congratulated Cory while they waited for Carlos to join them.

"Hey, hey!" cried Carlos when he came running down the stairs fifteen minutes later, showered and dressed in his blue jeans and red shirt. "How'd it sound?"

"Great," replied Skyler. "I'm going to have to catch a show before I head out on tour myself."

"So you know when you're leavin'?" Carlos asked as he sat on the floor in front of them.

"May," replied Skyler. "I told Clay nothing before May first. Now I just have to figure out what to sing and let James know so he can start putting together some ideas for the dance moves."

"Techno Cowboy," Carlos said, tilting his head to the side and waiting for Skyler to respond.

"Not my idea," Skyler said with a groan. "Darby's come up with really hot costumes though. She's supposed to put together a few so I can try mine on and let Jason and Marcel try theirs on."

"The reality show?" Carlos prodded.

"Again, not my idea," laughed Skyler. "I hate that show."

"Yeah, that had Gavin written all over it," laughed Carlos.

"How are you and Cory doing with Josh and Peter?" Skyler asked. He'd not met the young manager named Peter Dumas, but Clay said he was very competent. Josh Ericson was also very young, but Skyler knew the guy and had seen how good he was as an agent.

"So far so good," Carlos replied. "I don't know either of them well enough to comment on right now. Peter did a great job lining up the dates for this tour though."

"How many cities?" Skyler asked.

"Sixteen," replied Carlos. "We're trying to run ourselves to death like the Fame Grabber."

"Shut up," laughed Skyler.

"Yeah, listen," said Carlos. "Damon called the other day."

"How did that go?" Skyler asked slowly.

"It was all good," said Carlos. "He wants to start a solo career. I told him to talk to you. I was just wondering if he'd contacted you."

"Not yet," replied Skyler. "He'd need to talk to Clay or Gavin though."

"I'll pass that along," Carlos said. "Cory and I will be at your release party."

"Gavin mentioned that," Skyler replied. "Deacon and Landon will be there, too."

"Good deal," said Carlos, looking at Deacon. "Saturating you, huh?"

"That's what Gavin tells me," laughed Deacon. "I can't wait, though. Seriously, this is all like a dream for me."

"Well I want to get back to the apartment and get some sleep," said Carlos. "Got interviews and stuff tomorrow. What are you up to tomorrow, Sky?"

"I thought I'd hang out with Deacon and Landon at the house," said Skyler. "You know, get to know the new kid and his friend for a bit. Nothing major. Probably hang out by the pool, grill some steaks."

"And I can't come," pouted Carlos. "Oh well, I'm supposed to be eating super healthy anyway."

"Tour time," laughed Skyler.

"You know it," said Carlos. "Thanks for coming to see us, Sky. Jeff, it was good to see you."

"Good to see you too, Carlos," said Jeff, hugging him. "Great sounds."

"Thanks," Carlos said with a grin. "Deacon, have a ball while you can. Trust me, this is all hard work."

"I believe it," replied Deacon. "Great to meet you."

"Same here," said Carlos, shaking his hand again. "Landon, it was good to meet you, too."

"Same here," said Landon. "Maybe I can get a ticket to one of the shows here and see you again."

"I'm sure Skyler can arrange that for you," said Carlos.

"Guys," Cory said, coming to stand in front of Deacon and Landon. "Great to meet you. Deacon, you stick with Sky and you'll go far. Trust me."

"Plan on it," said Deacon. "Great to meet you, too."

"Yeah," said Landon with a big grin.

Skyler explained to them on the way back to the hotel that he'd be sending a car for them at eleven the next morning. He told them that they were just going to hang out around the house and relax. Both guys seemed very excited about the idea. Skyler chuckled at their excitement as soon as they were safely out of the SUV and headed for the hotel entrance.

"Those guys are in celebrity heaven right now," he said as they pulled away and headed home.

"Yeah," agreed Jeff. "Just wait till the reality really hits Deacon, though."

"Tell me about it," said Skyler. "He'll be all right though. I liked the way neither of them got too excited over meeting Cory and Carlos."

"That was nice," said Jeff. "Usually people go nuts when they meet celebrities, but you said Deacon was really cool about meeting you for the first time, too."

"He was," replied Skyler. "I think he was more shocked than anything though."

"Probably," said Jeff.

The house was quiet when the got there. They made their way quietly up the stairs to check on the children and found Amy asleep in the recliner in Preston's room. Skyler knew what that meant. The boy had trouble getting to sleep. That was happening a lot lately. Skyler was sure it was all the screaming that had been going on. He hoped all of that was over now.

"Come on, Blondie," whispered Jeff. "I'm tired."

They went into their room, stripped to their boxers and climbed into bed. Skyler set the alarm clock on his side of the bed while Jeff put his watch and wallet in the drawer on his side of the bed. They met in the middle and tangled themselves together. Several kisses and touches later they fell asleep in each other's arms.

The next morning, Skyler got Preston and JR ready as soon as he was showered. He walked down the stairs, holding each boy by the hand as Jeff made his way across the hall to get Alyssa out of bed and ready for the day. Jase and Chad were already at the table when Skyler got there, and Jason made his way in a few minutes later. Skyler was surprised to see Ali at the table as well.

"Morning everyone," he said as he got the kids into their high chairs. "Where's Darby this morning?"

"She was up late working on costumes, so I let her sleep," Chad replied. "How was the rehearsal?"

"Really good," he said, sitting in his own chair. "Deacon and Landon enjoyed themselves. They'll be coming over today to hang out. I thought we'd hang by the pool and grill steaks again."

"Sounds good," said Chad, tuning to Jase. "You gonna be home?"

"Nope," sighed Jase. "We're headed for the home stretch with this movie, so I need to get as much shot as I can today. We've got quite a few scenes that need to be re shoot before Skyler's video shoot."

"You're still using parts of that shoot in the movie, right?" Skyler asked.

"Oh yeah," Jase said, smiling. "Benefit of you filming a live video."

Once the kids were cleaned up, Skyler changed them into their swim suits. He was coming down the stairs in his own suit with both boys as Deacon and Landon were shown in. He smiled at them, noticing that they were both dressed in shorts and t-shirts with sandals.

"Hey, guys," he said. "We're going to just head on out to the pool."

"Sounds good," said Deacon. "Cute kids."

"Thanks," replied Skyler with a smile. "They're a handful."

"Need help?" Landon asked.

"Sure," said Skyler, letting go of Preston's hand when Landon was ready to take it. "PJ, this is Landon. He's Daddy's friend. You go with him to the pool."

"Landy," Preston said with a grin as he looked up at Landon. Then he talked non stop all the way through the house.

Skyler smiled at Preston's easy acceptance of Landon and followed behind them with Junior. They set up at the large patio table before slipping into the water. Landon helped get the arm floaties on the kids before they got in the pool. Then they were just helping the kids float and talking.

"Somehow this wasn't what I was expecting," Deacon said after watching Skyler with Junior for a bit.

"Yeah," laughed Skyler. "Celebrities have normal lives, too. Stick around and you'll see just how normal."

"To be honest I'm happy to see it," Deacon said. "I was worried that my life would never be normal again."

"Your life will be as normal as you choose to make it," said Skyler. "There's always going to be something going on in your career, but you take the days off and do what everyone else does. For Jeff and me, it's always about the kids."

"So you and Jeff are really a couple?" Deacon asked. There was no disgust in his voice or on his face. There was only curiosity. Skyler smiled.

"We are," he replied. "Just keep that to yourselves, please."

"Oh I wouldn't say anything," said Deacon quickly.

"He'll keep it secret," said Landon. "He's never told anyone about me."

"So you guys aren't together?" Jeff asked.

"Deacon's straight," replied Landon. "He's a good guy though. I love him to death. It's jut not like that."

"Awe, come on, Lan," said Deacon. "You know I love you. I'm just not gay."

"I know," Landon said, smiling. "I keep telling him I'm not in love with him, but I don't think he believes me."

They had fun in the pool until their bellies started to growl. Then they got the kids out of the water, to much protest, and dried off. Jeff and Chad went after steaks and Skyler manned the grill while talking to Deacon and Landon as the kids played with their toys. It was turning out to be a great day.

"They'll get you in the studio over the next few days, Deacon," Skyler told him. "I guess the band was having a little difficulty with getting the right sound. Eddie's a perfectionist. Have you met him yet?"

"No," said Deacon. "He called this morning to tell me that he hopes to have me in the studio by next week, but I haven't seen him yet."

"Oh, you will," laughed Skyler. "Trust me. You'll get so sick of seeing him before too long. Has Gavin told you who your agent is going to be?"

"He said he'd introduce me to Andrew Justice next week," said Deacon.

"That's likely to be your agent," replied Skyler. "I don't know that much about what's going to happen with you yet, but they'll keep Gavin and Clay up to speed. Through those two I'll know it all."

"You own the company, right?" Deacon asked.

"Well as of recently, Clay and I are partners," he said. "Laura Ullman was once my agent, and she was the third partner, but she's retired now. She signed her shares of the company over to me."

"I read about her retiring in 'Reality Magazine'," said Deacon.

"Yeah," Skyler said sadly. "I miss her like crazy. She was like another mother to me."

Once the steaks were done they sat around the table. The children had hot dogs again, and Jeff and Skyler cut up Junior's and Preston's before digging in to there steaks. Conversation turned to the reality show and what Jason had going on that front. He told them about the competitions that were set for the weekend.

"They have to dance on the logs," he said. "The first to fall off the log is automatically up for review. The one who stays on the log the longest is immune."

"We watch the show every week," said Landon. "It's a lot of fun."

"Yeah," sighed Skyler. "So much fun that I'll never let them do it to me again."

"Oh, come on, Sky," laughed Jason. "We're having the time of our lives over there. Even Alex is having a ball."

"Traitors," he laughed. "All of you."

"Where is Jase?" Jason asked, looking around the table from Skyler to Jeff and then to Chad.

"Filming," replied Skyler. "They have re shoots today, remember?"

"Then why aren't you there?" Jason asked.

"Because I'm a good actor," laughed Skyler. "I got all my scenes the first time."

"Oh, right," laughed Jason. "Seriously, when are they ever going to be done with this movie?"

"Oh, I figure they'll be ready to release it when Preston graduates from college," said Skyler sarcastically. "It's seriously ridiculous now. We were done."

"That happen a lot with movies?" Landon asked. "That you're done and they make you go back and redo it?"

"Sometimes," replied Skyler. "But this is just my uncle being an aggravating perfectionist."

"Don't let him hear you say that," said Chad. "I asked him why he was so picky and I thought he was going to slug me."

"Yeah, he's a bit sensitive about his work," laughed Skyler. "I hope I'm not like that when I start directing."

"You want to direct?" Jason asked.

"Sure," said Skyler with a lopsided grin. "Traffic."

"Boo!" cried Chad as the others started laughing.

"Oh, boo yourself," laughed Skyler, looking at the children's faces. "Well I'm thinking it's time to clean the tots up and get them inside."

"What do you guys have planned tonight?" Chad asked, looking from Skyler to Jeff and back.

"Nothing much," said Skyler. "I was thinking about playing around in the studio for a bit, actually."

"You want to record?" Jason asked. "I thought we weren't working today."

"No I don't want to record," he replied. "I want to run a track and see if I can tweak it for the tour. I won't be in there long."

"Want some help?" Landon asked. "I know a bit about track work."

"Do you now?" said Skyler. He thought about it for a second and decided that if he was ever going to give the kid a shot this would be it. "All right. We'll see what you got. Couldn't hurt."

"Cool," he said. "I think I might like to show you something actually."

"Landon!" Deacon groaned. "You promised."

"It was already in my pocket, Deacon," said Landon. "I wasn't going to say anything about it. Skyler's the one who mentioned the studio."

"What's up, guys?" Skyler asked as he wiped Preston's face and hands.

"Landon wants you to hear his music," said Deacon. "I'm sorry about this."

"Sorry?" Skyler asked. "You told me he's good."

"He is," said Deacon. "But he promised not to bug you about it today."

"I'm not bugging him, Deacon," sighed Landon. "If it means that much to you I'll just keep the damned tape in my pocket."

"No," said Skyler. "Now you have me interested. Come on, Jeff, lets get the kids in the house so I can go play with Landon."

They took the kids in the house and asked Amy to watch over them. Jeff wanted to go to the studio with them, and then Chad said he wanted to hear as well. Deacon didn't look happy, but Skyler was curious about Landon's music. If the guy was good, then maybe he could find a place for him at Sky High. It would be nice if the could give the kid a shot. At the very least he'd have fun.

They filed into the studio behind the house and Skyler loaded the tape that Landon gave him. The music started instantly. It was a dance beat that sounded great. He wondered how he'd gotten all of this. Deacon had told him that Landon could play any instrument, but this was more than one. There were drums and keyboards, guitars and bass. It was awesome.

"You did this all by yourself?" he asked Landon.

"Yeah," replied Landon with a big grin. "I programmed my computer to record the sounds and then sampled each recording and put them together. This is what I got. I even have a few words for it. I'm not sure about them, though."

"Get your butt in there and sing for me," said Skyler, smiling at him.

"You mean it?" Landon asked with big eyes.

"I meant it," said Skyler. "March!"

Landon nearly exploded off the couch. He was through the door and into the recording booth before Skyler could say anything more. He asked that the tape be restarted and then asked for Skyler to be patient while he waited for where the words sounded best with the music. Skyler waited, hoping beyond hope that the kid had a voice. Then he started to sing.

"Got my adrenalin pumpin', I wanna be in the lights, camera, action. Lights, camera, action. The crowd is screamin' and jumpin', they wanna be in the lights, camera, action. Lights, camera, action. I'll make it to the top, and I ain't gonna stop. I'm lovin' the lights, camera, action. Lights, camera, action. I'll show them what we got. No we ain't gonna stop. We're lovin' the lights, camera, action. Lights, camera, action," he sang.

He waited for a bit and then sang the whole thing over again. When the music stopped, Skyler's mind was in overdrive. Not only could the boy sing, he sounded amazing. Skyler thought he'd sound even better with a couple of other voices thrown in, but he could work on that. He'd found what he was looking for. He could sign Landon as soon as he got Gavin and Clay to listen to what he'd just secretly recorded.

"Come on back in here for a minute, Landon," Skyler said into the mic on the board.

"Did I sound all right?" he asked as he came back into the control room.

"You sounded fine," replied Skyler. "I wanted to try something. What I want you to do is go back in there and just sing like a back up. Think you can do that? Or do you want me or Jeff to do it?"

"What about both of you?" he asked, looking back and forth between them.

"We could do that," said Skyler, looking at Jeff. "Jeff?"

"Yeah," he said, smiling. "Sounds good. What are we going to sing?"

"Well for starters I wanted to sing the second lights, camera, action both times," said Skyler. "I guess what we'll do is, you sing the same words that he sang and I'll sing the harmony."

"Sounds good," said Jeff. "Let's do this."

They did exactly what Skyler said and then came back to listen to the playback. Landon was grinning from ear to ear as they listened. Skyler thought it sounded amazing. He knew now that Landon sounded great with back up. That back up just couldn't be him or Jeff. For one thing, Jeff wasn't on their label.

"See what I mean about more voices?" Skyler asked Landon. "It sounded good before we got in there, but now it sounds better. I think that if we can find you the right partners, we could turn you into a group. I like the words that you wrote. I want you to finish the song for me. Write the rest of it, and then I'll bring you back in here. Hopefully I'll have at least two guys who can sing the song with you. I'll produce it and we'll see what happens when we release it."

"Release it?" asked Landon with huge eyes. "You mean you want to make it into a single?"

"Well, yeah, isn't that what you want?" Skyler asked confused.

"Of course that's what I want, but I thought we were just playing around today," he said.

"We were," laughed Skyler. "But when you have a great sound, you don't just play around with it."

He gave the tape to Gavin the next morning after telling the man that he planned to produce and release the song as a single as soon as two singers could be found to join Landon on the recording other than himself and Jeff Timmons. Gavin loved what he'd heard but agreed that the song would need at least two other voices to sound even close to what he'd heard. Skyler told him that he'd instructed Landon to finish writing the song.


Cowboys And Angels is a song by George Michael. Notorious is a song by Duran Duran. Lights Camera Action is a song by V Factory.

The next chapter will be posted soon.


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