© 2005-2011 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 99


"The settlement offer came a lot sooner than I expected," Skyler told Dan Frick, the head of the Sky High Los Angeles Legal Department. The fifty some-odd year old sandy haired chubby man had just told them that the attorneys representing the paparazzi had called with the offer earlier that morning.

"Well we knew they wouldn't let it get to court," said Dan. "That would have been a spectacle and they'd have likely lost. They did endanger the life of a child that day after all."

"Damned right they did," Jeff said forcefully. Skyler put his hand on his shoulder to calm him.

"How much is the offer?" Skyler asked.

"Forty million," Dan said. "They didn't start small."

That would be ten million for each of the children's trust funds. Skyler was inclined to take the settlement, but he knew that he'd have to sit and talk about it with Jeff before he accepted. Ashton was as much his son as he was Skyler's, and two of the children involved were his own children. He just hoped that if they did accept the forty million, the paparazzi would learn their lesson and leave him alone. He wasn't going to put too much hope in that, but it was a small hope anyway.

"We'll have to talk about this," said Jeff into the silence that had grown after Dan had told them the amount.

"Of course," Dan said, handing Jeff the papers that the other lawyer had left with him. "Take as much time as you need. You've got them over a barrel and they know it. Don't worry."

They left the offices and headed home with the paperwork. They didn't discuss the settlement in the SUV. Brent and some of the others had their own law suites filed against these same defendants and if they hadn't been contacted about settlements then Skyler didn't want to sit and talk about their own offer in front of them. Ten separate law suites had been filed over what had happened that day. Skyler had offered to let his security men join his lawsuit but Brent refused and then so did the rest of them. Brent explained that he didn't want to win because Skyler's name was on the lawsuit. He wanted to win because what they had done was wrong. Skyler had understood.

"So what's the news?" Jase asked when they got back to the house. He was sitting in the living room on the couch beside Ali. His arm was around her shoulders and she was leaning against him. It made Skyler smile.

"Forty million," he said. "They're trying to settle."

"Gonna accept?" asked his uncle.

"Not sure yet," he replied. "We're gonna talk it over and weigh all of the options."

"Sounds good," he said. "Hey, we won't be here for dinner tonight."

"Thanks for the heads up," said Skyler, smiling again. "You guys have a good night."

They went up to their room and stripped out of their clothes, wrapped towels around themselves and headed out to the balcony to get in the hot tub. Skyler admired Jeff's sculpted body as he sank into the tub, letting the hot water work on his tight muscles. Jeff had been spending a lot of time at the new athletic center with the athletes. He'd been working out a lot lately and it was really showing. His pecs were nice and firm and his washboard stomach was tighter again. They'd both put on a little weight during this forced down time, but Skyler's had melted off with dance rehearsals. Jeff didn't have rehearsals to count on with Nick off recording his solo project, so the workouts at the athletic center were important for him. He went to the school with Skyler every day and while Skyler was rehearsing with his dancers, Jeff was pumping iron with the athletes on the other side of the now massive building.

"Ah," moaned Jeff as he sank into the water beside him. "That feels amazing."

"Your workouts are paying off," Skyler said as he ran his hand over Jeff's chest. "I like."

"Glad you do," Jeff said with a smile. "Not lifting so much as toning now. We play b-ball a lot now, too."

"Having fun?"

"Definitely," said Jeff with another smile. "It's awesome that those guys even offered to play with me. They're much better than I am but I have a lot of fun."

"Good," sighed Skyler, lying back to let the hot water soak into him.

"So this settlement offer," Jeff said as he put his head back against the rim of the hot tub. "You wanna accept?"

"Forty million will do the kids a lot of good in the future," Skyler said. "Ten million each in an interest bearing account. If it's set in trusts for each child and we don't continue to pay in it, it'll grow over the years on its own. Most of the money we put in won't be taxable and they'll have a healthy base when they reach the age we set on the trust before they can open it."

"So the kids will be millionaires before they even grow up," sighed Jeff. "It sounds nice, but how will they learn to earn their money?"

"We'll make them learn," Skyler said. "We'll insist that they take on some sort of job when they're old enough, and they'll be paid for that job just like anyone else. Once that happens that paycheck will be their only source of income. We'll decide on an age that each of them have to reach before the money in the trust is theirs to do with as they see fit. If we teach them the value of a job before they get that money they should each be rounded enough to know that money doesn't come for nothing."

"You've really thought about this," Jeff said thoughtfully.

"Jeff, I've been thinking about it since we filed the law suite," Skyler said. "I want to provide for all of our children, but I want them to know that money isn't free as well. We can do it. I have no doubt about that. Neither of us grew up with money coming out our asses. We both had to work. We'll teach them about working and saving money for things that they want, and we can still reward them for good behavior and holidays as long as we make them understand that asking for money just to ask won't be acceptable. They'll scream about that from time to time, but if they really learn then they'll be happy for having learned when they're old enough. It'll also teach them that they shouldn't just run out and spend their trusts like it's water."

"But do we accept this offer or wait it out for a bigger one?" he asked.

"I think we should accept," Skyler said honestly. "Forty million is a lot of money. Ten million will be a lot of money when they reach the age we set, so they don't really need more. The trusts will draw interest and we'll just flood that money back into the trusts it came from. So yes, I think we should accept this offer."

"Okay then," Jeff said. "We'll accept. Thanks for talking it out with me."

"Of course I was going to talk it out with you, Jeff," he said. "They're our children not just mine or yours. They may not be legally ours, but they are to us and that's what's important."

"You know, I still get blown away by how smart you are," he said. "You talk with experience in your voice, an experience that usually comes with age. But you're still only twenty-three years old. It awes me."

"I'm only twenty-three," he agreed. "But I had to take care of a household when I was twelve. I do have experience in most of what I say, Jeff."

"Point taken," he said, reaching for Skyler's hand and squeezing it. "I love you."

"I love you, too," replied Skyler. "We'd better get out of this tub though. We'll have to love each other's wrinkled bodies if we sit here much longer."

They got out of the hot tub and dried themselves. Once dressed they checked in on the children who were in their lessons with the tutor. The lessons were breaking up so they took the kids down to the living room to sit with them. Skyler grabbed a book from the shelf as they left the room. They settled the kids on the couch between them and Skyler opened the book to where he'd left off the day before and began to read to them about brave rabbit and cowardly fox. They heard Darby answer the call from the gate but they ignored it as Skyler continued to read.

"Come inside," Darby said when the woman from social service arrived at the door. She was an older woman with gray strands in her wavy dark hair. She had honest and bright blue eyes and an infectious smile. She didn't look like a social worker dressed in her blue jeans, sandals and knit pink top.

"Thank you," she said. "I'm Doris Ball."

"Nice to meet you," Darby said, shaking the woman's hand. "I'm Darby Shaw."

"And what is your function here in the Thomas household?" asked Doris.

"Oh I don't have a function," she said, smiling. "Skyler has been nice enough to let me stay here. I'm his brother's fiance."

"Oh, congratulations," Doris said with an honest smile. "So tell me about how Skyler interacts with Ashton."

"Wouldn't you rather talk to Skyler?" Darby asked.

"Oh, no," she said, shaking her head. "This is an assessment, Dear. I want to get your opinion and then maybe observe. If it's possible I'd like for Skyler not to know who I am or where I've come from until after I make my observations."

"All right," Darby said, wondering if that was something Skyler would get angry about.

"So, let's talk about Skyler and Ashton," she said, smiling again. "Is there somewhere we can sit and chat?"

"Sure," said Darby, stepping aside to allow Doris to come in from the foyer. "Follow me. We'll just sit down in the dining room. Can I get you coffee or anything?"

"No, Dear," said Doris. "Thank you."

"What exactly would you like to know?" Darby asked when they were seated at the dining room table.

"How do Ashton and Skyler get along?" Doris asked.

"Perfectly," said Darby with a smile. "Ashton has become part of the family, that's for sure. He and Skyler have private time every evening so that Ashton can talk to him about anything he wants. We usually sit off to the side and let them have their chats. Sometimes Ashton will include us in whatever he's talking about with Skyler."

"And what about school?"

"Oh, Skyler pays a tutor to come each day for four hours to work with the children," Darby said. "They have lessons that are acceptable to the Los Angeles School Board."

"Very good," said Doris. "And what of extra curricular activities?"

"Well we have a large swimming pool," Darby said. "Skyler taught Ashton to swim last week and he and the other children swim in the pool with Skyler and his uncle just about every day when the weather permits."

"Very nice," said Doris. "What about traveling. Skyler is a celebrity, and I know they often travel to promote their work."

"Skyler's only left the city twice since Ashton came to stay," she said. "Those were engagements that were set up before Ashton came here, and Skyler couldn't cancel them. He's canceled everything else until Ashton can travel with him."

"Does he take his son, Preston along with him when he travels?" Doris asked.

"He certainly does," replied Darby. "To Skyler, family is very important. They spend quite a bit of time together."

"That's wonderful," said Doris. "What are they doing now? I noticed that they were all lined up on the couch in the living room."

"This is the reading hour," Darby explained. "Skyler read to the kids for an hour each day. Usually it's from three to four. Then he gets them ready for dinner."

"That's just great," she said. "Have there been any other activities that I should know about?"

"Well you might not know that Ashton has showed quite a talent with painting," she said. "Skyler hired a special tutor to work with Ashton on art in many forms, not just painting. I think this week their doing pottery."

"Wonderful," Doris said. "I always like to come to houses where there are no obvious problems."

"Well I would say there aren't any problems here," Darby said honestly. "Skyler may be a celebrity, but family comes first to him. Ashton is loved, Doris. He's loved very much."

"That's great," she said. "Do you think it would disturb them if we went into the living room to watch?"

"No," Darby said, smiling. "They'll just keep going as if we never walked in."

"Perfect," she said. "Shall we?"

Doris Ball had worked for social services for the last twenty years. She'd taken classes on child development as well as childhood psychology. She'd studied Ashton's case file and noticed that the director had taken a hand in assuring that he could stay with Skyler Thomas. She didn't want him or anyone in his home to know that she was a fan of his work. Being a fan didn't mean that she wouldn't act if she thought it was needed. Her husband was a producer at New Line Cinema, so she understood the life of a celebrity if only by association. The fact that Skyler had canceled most of his engagements to be there for Ashton spoke volumes for him.

She sat on a comfortable chair in the living room to listen as Skyler read the book to the children. She loved that he let them stop him with questions and that he answered each one patiently and gave them correct information but kept it at a level they could each understand at their stages of development. When he was finished reading for the day he asked Ashton if he needed help with spelling after dinner and the boy thanked him for asking and admitted that he might.

"Well I tell you what," said Skyler. "When dinner's over, we'll go up to your room where it's quiet and we'll sound those words out and see if we can't spell them all."

"Okay," the boy said and then hugged him.

"All right," Skyler said, hugging him back. "Why don't you head off to wash up while we help the little ones get ready?"

"Okay," Ashton said and then trotted out of the room.

"Darby, who's your guest?" Skyler asked, smiling at Doris.

"Skyler, this is Doris Ball from social service," Darby said.

"Very nice to meet you," Skyler said, walking over to shake her hand. "Observing?"

"Sure have been," Doris said with a smile. "I'm very impressed."

"Well thanks, but this is just a typical day," he said.

"Oh I believe that," she said. "You had no idea I was coming, and that scene looked like it was a common one."

"I read to them for an hour just about every day depending on what's going on for them on weekends and such," he said. "Would you stay for dinner?"

"Oh, no," she said, smiling again as he stood up. "I really must get back and file my report. Thank you so much for offering."

"No thanks necessary," he said, smiling back.

"Well," she said. "I shouldn't tell you this, but my report will be favorable. It's clear that Ashton loves you and you seem to love him, too. That's important, and exactly what my superiors and the judge wanted to know. You may be young, but I'm sure the adoption will go through."

"Thank you," he said as he walked her to the door. Brent was waiting to escort her to the gate.

"So that was the lady they said would come from time to time?" Jeff asked as they got the kids washed up.

"Yeah," chuckled Skyler. "First time I've seen her, and I think it'll be the last. She said she's filing her report."

"Cool," said Jeff. "We're too busy to mess around with that stuff."

"We sure are," Skyler said, drying Preston's hands and hoisting him in the air.

Dinner was quiet that night with Jase, Ali and Mike off on their own and Jason staying at the school with the rest of the dancers. It was only Skyler, Jeff, Darby and the kids. Darby had cooked them an excellent meal as usual. She'd prepared Chicken Parmesan with a light spinach salad to go with it and fresh baked garlic bread. The pasta was cooked to perfection and the chicken was moist and tender. For the kids she'd prepared personal pizzas with sausage for Alyssa, cheese for JR, ham for Preston and pepperoni for Ashton with little serving bowls of green beans for each one.

"This looks great," Jeff said as she put plates in front of them.

"It sure does," Skyler said, looking everything over. "What's on the salad?"

"Light olive oil," she replied. "It's awesome. Trust me."

"Italiano," Jeff said, taking a bite of his chicken. "Perfect."

"Glad you like it," Darby said with a pleased smile as she sat down and helped JR with his pizza.

"Oh, Darby," Skyler said as he swallowed his bite of chicken. "You keep feeding me like this and I'll have to take up running after every meal!"

"Thanks for the compliments, guys," she said. "But really, my sister is the cook in the family."

"Could've fooled me," Jeff said. "Your food is great."

"If you think this is good you should eat in my sister's restaurant," she said. "She'll blow your mind."

"We'll have to do that some time," Skyler said, smiling at her. Then he decided to be serious. "How was Chad when you saw him today?"

"He's a little down about Justin leaving tomorrow," she said. "Did you know that Justin was going to see him every day?"

"I didn't know it was every day, but I knew that he was visiting often," Skyler replied. "We'll have to figure out something to take the place of Justin's visits."

"You know, he'd really like to get to know Alex better," she said after a silent moment. "He said that he didn't get the chance to spend much time with him, and when he did he was kind of out of it."

"I'll speak to Alex about it tomorrow," Skyler promised. "He could go after rehearsals with me or something."

"Justin is usually there in the morning," she said. "Right after morning group."

"Well I'll see what I can do," he said.

After dinner he and Jeff sat in the living room for a while. Amy came and got the children after dinner and took them upstairs for activities. Skyler snuggled close to Jeff and sighed. He loved it when it was just the two of them and he could cuddle like this. There usually weren't many opportunities. He was usually so busy that the most he and Jeff could hope for during the day was a quick kiss in passing. He hated it, but that's what life was for so long. One good thing about Clay and Gavin avoiding him was that they weren't constantly tugging him off to something. He spent the quiet time with Jeff and they were savoring every minute of it.

"You're being awful quiet, Blondie," Jeff said as he squeezed Skyler closer to him.

"Just thinking," sighed Skyler. "It's just so nice to be able to just sit here without worrying about where I have to be in an hour or that Clay and Gavin will have some big news they just have to interrupt what I'm doing to tell me."

"It has been nice," Jeff agreed. "Won't last though."

"Of course not," said Skyler. "But wouldn't it be wonderful if it did?"

"Now, none of that," sighed Jeff. "You're not ready for retirement. You're too famous and too young."

"Oh yeah," Skyler replied, holding him tighter. "Good thing you love me."

"Oh, Baby," Jeff said, kissing the top of his head. "I love you so much it should be criminal."

"Always and forever?" Skyler asked, tilting his head back so he could look up at him.

"Just try and stop me," Jeff said, leaning forward and kissing his forehead. "I'll love you for the rest of my life, Sky."

"That sounds about right," Skyler replied.

"Well what are we doing for the next few days?" Jeff asked, hating himself for breaking the mood.

"Nothing much," replied Skyler. "We're accepting the settlement offer officially tomorrow and then I think, other than dance rehearsals and the stupid show we're pretty much free. You got anything goin' on?"

"Nope," replied Jeff. "Smooth sailin' for me, Babe."

It hadn't escaped Skyler's attention that Jeff had all but sacrificed his career to be with him. He still felt guilty when he thought about it even though Jeff had assured him over and over again that this was what he wanted to do. He'd told him that his career was likely safe. He was only taking a little more than a year off, and he pointed out that Madonna had taken longer than that once and she was probably more famous now than before. Skyler just knew that he loved him so much for doing what he'd done to be with him. He just hoped that it didn't backfire in their faces.

By the time Skyler finished helping Aston with his spelling and they got the kids bathed and in bed and went to bed themselves, Skyler was just basking in the time he had with Jeff that was uninterrupted and easy. He thought about how much they complimented each other in just about every way. Sure there was an age gap between them, and Skyler was well aware that some people believed he was too young to be so serious about this relationship. Those people just didn't know him. He'd lived a roller coaster life since he was a young boy and he knew he was ready for this relationship before it even began. He loved Jeff so much that just thinking of life without him was painful. He thought about how much he loved Jeff as he snuggled into his strong arms in the bed.

"I love you," he said as he stroked the arm that Jeff had around his hips.

"Oh, Baby," Jeff said, nuzzling into the back of his neck. "I love you, too."

Bright and early the next day they were back in the offices of the legal department of Sky High Los Angeles with Dan Frick and the lawyer who was representing the paparazzi. First Skyler and then Jeff signed the agreement after it had been completely rewritten to exclude the clause that said they were not to talk about the settlement or the terms by which it was written at any time. Skyler had out right refused to sign it the way it was and when Jeff added his voice to his, Dan told the lawyer that if they didn't rewrite the agreement to exclude that clause they would march all the way to court. That had caused the fifty some odd year old, stuffy looking dark haired man to frown as if he'd tasted something bad. He'd spent nearly two hours sequestered in the outer office on the telephone with God knew who.

Then they'd had to wait for another hour while he supervised the rewriting of the agreement. Skyler was astounded that he'd allowed a Sky High clerk to type it up. By the time they'd signed the agreement and the notary had signed and stamped it Skyler was ready to go home again. He had no such luck however. Dan begged him to understand that a press conference was necessary. Skyler sat beside Jeff with both Clay and Gavin taking up the ends of the long table and Dan Frick on Skyler's other side as reporters calmly and collectedly asked their questions. Dan answered most of them and they got through it. Skyler did tell the gathered members of the press that he was no longer interested in their questions at the end. He told them that as far as he was concerned they were the enemy.

"I've had enough of all of this," Skyler said, glaring at their photographers. "First members of the press in Detroit tried to pry my son out of my arms so they could get a picture. They surrounded me as I tried to take him home from the hospital, a completely ordinary event. Then I was nearly killed by an over zealous photographer in Orlando. And then I had to fear for the safety of a child in my care as well as my own safety when so many members of the press broke windows in the automobile that was sent to once again take a child home from the hospital. The vehicle was shaken, the child was traumatized and for what? This agreement doesn't change the fact that members of the press, both legitimate and seedy traumatized a child that day. It doesn't change the fact that dangerous actions were perpetrated by those members of the press. So I've had enough of this. This agreement doesn't mean that we'll cave if it ever happens again. If anything like this ever happens again we'll fight back with everything we've got."

He stood up and turned to Jeff as he said, "Now I'm not answering any more questions, and I don't want to sit here and look at these people anymore. I'm leaving."

Clay looked startled as he looked up at Skyler, but he didn't say anything. Dan Frick had an uncomfortable look on his face as Jeff stood to join Skyler. They said nothing more as they walked out of the board room. They didn't wait for anyone or anything. The money had already been transferred into their accounts. Twenty million to Jeff and the same to Skyler. They could set up the trusts and go home now. So they got into the SUV and waited while the procession prepared to leave the parking garage. They went straight to the bank to set up the trusts and sign all of the paperwork. It went smoothly and by the time they were in the SUV once again to head back to the house, all four of the children had brand new ten million dollar trust funds.

When they got back to the house they found Jase and Ben sitting in the living room, watching the coverage of the press conference. Ben told them that it was on MTV, VH1, MuchMusic and MusicNow. They were running the footage of Skyler getting up to leave every hour. Skyler sighed as he sank down onto the couch beside his father to watch. He'd known it would be covered by the press, and he expected to feel like an idiot for doing it. He didn't, though. That was the thing. He wasn't upset with himself at all. They deserved a tantrum at the very least.

Doris Ball called just before they were all going to sit down to dinner. She asked Skyler how things were going and actually commended him for what he'd said to the press. Then she told him the greatest news he could hear.

"Skyler, you and Ashton will have to appear before Judge Amy Dawson Wednesday, the third of April," she said. "My report has been filed and Mary is prepared to tell Judge Dawson that she supports your application for adoption."

"That's awesome, Sky!" Jeff cried, throwing his arms around him when he'd told him what Doris had said. "He's ours now!"

"He sure is," Skyler said, holding him tight. "Oh, Jeff it's just amazing."

"I know!" he cried. "We have a son!"

"Well not yet we don't," replied Skyler. "We have to go to court and the judge has to . . . "

"She will!" cried Jeff, cutting him off as he grabbed him and holding him tight again. "She will!"

Darby cooked a special dinner that night, and Ben and Tabitha joined them for the meal. Even Alex and Jason came to the house to celebrate the almost official addition of Ashton to the Thomas family. Cassie and Kaleb were all smiles as they talked excitedly to Jase and Ali about how absolutely awesome they thought it was that Ashton was about to be an official nephew of theirs. Skyler couldn't stop smiling and when they told Ashton what would be happening soon the boy hugged him so tight and cried.

"You're really my dad now," he said as he held on to Skyler.

Skyler and Jeff spent the entire evening in the play room with all of the children, laughing and smiling. Sometimes, to the aggravation of the children they just grabbed one and hugged and kissed until the child squirmed too much. Both of them had goofy, happy grins on their faces as they tickled and played with the kids. This was family. This is what it was all about for both of them. Laughing children and happiness. Skyler was never happier in his life.

Ben and Jase stood in the doorway, watching the scene with smiles on their faces. Ben thought about how hard Skyler's life had been after the divorce and was happier for him now than he'd ever been before as he watched the pure joy on his son's face as he played with his children. It was high time something wonderful happened to them, and Ben couldn't pick a more wonderful thing than what was apparently going to happen on April third.

"You and Tabitha all packed and ready to go?" Jase asked as they watched.

"Yeah," Ben said with a sigh. He was regretting his attitude about Alex when he'd first arrived in LA. He was also regretting his decision to tour with Jackson Levitt. He'd thought he still had two months but then Eddie had called and said that they were leaving in two days because of special shows and a few festivals that Jackson was to perform in.

"You don't sound happy about it," Jase said.

"I'm not really," Ben admitted. "But I was an ass and let guilt and anger talk me into a decision I can't back away from now. I'm just thankful that the kids have all forgiven me for my attitude."

"They love you, Ben," he said.

"Sometimes I wonder why they love me," he said. He walked away from the door to the playroom as Mike came down the hall.

"Hey, Uncle Ben," Mike said as he passed him and hugged his father.

"Hey, Buddy," Jase said as he squeezed his son. "How was your visit with your grandparents?"

"They want me to come and stay with them for a while," he said, looking down at the floor.

"That's great, isn't it?" Jase asked. He'd promised his late wife's parents that he would never keep Mike from them, but he'd also made them understand that anything having to do with Mike had to be his decision. He wouldn't force him into anything. After having lived in Paris for five years, Mike didn't really know his grandparents very well.

"I guess," he said. "I don't want to go to Miami though. I want to stay here with you."

"I'll talk to them," promised Jase. "You go brush your teeth and get your bath. Sky and Jeff'll have these guys in bed before too much longer."

"Night, Dad," said Mike. "I love you."

"I love you too, Buddy," Jase said, leaning down to hug his son once more.

An hour later, after all of the children were safely tucked into their beds, Skyler and Jeff sat in the living room with Jase, Ali and Darby. Jase told them all about Ben being down about going on tour with Jackson instead of Skyler. Jackson Levitt was one of Sky High's newest entertainers. His show was traveling the world and would be gone for two and half months, returning to the States for the final ten shows in New York City in July. Skyler would still be on tour in July. His last scheduled date on the tour was August thirty-first in Nice, France.

"There's nothing that can be done about it now," Skyler said.

"He knows that," Jase replied. "That's why he's so upset with himself. He knows that it's his own fault."

"I'm a little worried about what'll happen with Chad when all of us are gone," Skyler said.

"Not all of us will be gone," Jase reminded. "I'm filming here in LA, and Cassie is just a few miles away."

"True," Skyler said.

"And I'll be here," Darby said. "I can't wait for him to come home."

"That makes two of us," Skyler said, smiling at her. "I just hope the judge lets him come home before I leave."

"The judge said April fifteenth," Darby said. "Surely he means to let him out then."

"We can hope," sighed Skyler.

"Well we should hit the sack," Jase said. "I have the unhappy job of informing Carmen and Alvaro that Mike doesn't want to visit them in Miami for the summer, and if I don't call them early then I'll never catch them."

"You know you guys and Chad and Darby will be the only ones here this summer," Skyler said. "Why don't Carmen and Alvaro just come here to spend time with Mike?"

"Oh, but don't you know?" Jase said, smirking at him. "Mike wants to go on tour with Uncle Skyler. He said he's seen movie sets tons of times, but he's never seen a concert."

"Ouch," Skyler replied. "You know I'd take him with me."

"You just might get to," Jase said. "It'd be good for him to be with his cousins."

"What about Carmen and Alvaro?" Skyler asked.

"They don't like Ali," said Jase, looking angry as he spoke. Ali patted him on the back of his shoulder.

"That sucks," Jeff said. "I can relate though. My parents aren't at all comfortable with my sexuality, so of course they don't like Skyler."

"I'm sorry to hear that," said Jase. "Parents should accept their children no matter what."

"That's all right," Ali said, smiling at Skyler. "Skyler and I can just be the 'dirty mistresses'."

"We sure can," laughed Skyler. "But can we do that in the morning? I really need sleep."

They all said their good nights and headed up to bed. Skyler and Jeff stopped outside each of their children's rooms to check on them before heading into their own to strip and climb into bed. They talked very little as they snuggled together and got comfortable. Skyler was asleep a few seconds after the lights were off and Jeff lay there thinking about how happy he was. Skyler was adopting Ashton but the boy really would be their son. He wished he could call his family and tell them about Ashton. He wished that his family could be happy for him and Skyler the way they were happy for his brother and his fiancé. It hurt to know that his family would rather have nothing to do with him than be faced with his sexuality, and they wouldn't even entertain the thought that he and Skyler could really love each other.

The next morning Skyler and Jeff stuck to the kids like glue. They sat around the breakfast table with everyone and both were all smiles. Anyone who looked at them smiled, and the kids were all smiling as well. It was a happy day for them and Skyler intended to spend the entire day with Jeff and the kids. He was a little irritated when Gavin arrived just after breakfast, but the excited light in the man's eyes pushed away his irritation for a bit.

"What's got you so excited?" Skyler asked as they sat down in the office.

"I just got off the phone with Bill Frick from Boeing," said Gavin with a huge grin.

"Boeing?" Skyler asked. "The aircraft manufacturers?"

"Yes," replied Gavin. "Skyler they want you to be their celebrity spokesman."

"What does that mean?" he asked.

"It means that they'll lease you one of the new 777 Freighters if you film commercials and issue press releases that are favorable for Boeing," he said. "I told them that I'd discuss it with you as soon as possible."

"What's the lease price on this jet?" Skyler asked.

"That's negotiable," Gavin said dismissively. "The point is your current jet only holds you and a few others comfortably. This one will hold a lot more people. They're designed to carry heavy cargo. You'd have the jet at the ready any time you wanted to use it."

"Well it sounds like a good deal," Skyler said thoughtfully. "What kind of endorsements other than press releases and a few commercials are they asking for?"

"They want to be the official sponsor of the tour," he said. "They'll also allow Sky High to buy 747 jets for each location to ferry clients from all over the world."

"We already have a list of tour sponsors," Skyler said.

"Yes, but none of them are the official sponsor," he said, grinning again. "Boeing can be and it won't anger any of the others. Skyler, this is a deal of the century here."

"I know," he said, smiling. "Look, I'm interested. Set up a meeting with this Bill Frick. Make sure that at least five from the legal department are in attendance, and I'd want a contract."

"Of course," said Gavin. "I'll set it all up. Don't worry, I'll make sure it's after the hearing."

"Good idea," he said. "Just get back to me or call Andrew and let him know. He'll keep me posted."

"Sure thing," said Gavin. "I have to get back to the school to talk with James for a bit."

"What are you talking to James about?" Skyler asked, hoping for his own sake that he wasn't trying to make any changes to the tour.

"I don't know," Gavin replied. "He called me and asked me to stop by."

"Well if you're still there when I get there I'll see you then," Skyler said.

"I probably will be," said Gavin, smiling. "I want to check out the new rink."

"That's right," Skyler said, smiling back. "They finally finished the ice rink. Now our athletes can practice on our own ice."

"Exactly," said Gavin. "So I'll see you later."

"Count on it," Skyler said.

He went upstairs after Gavin left to change into his work out clothes. He packed fresh clothes as well as a towel and his shaving kit into his duffle and headed back down the stairs. Jeff was waiting. They thanked Darby for watching the children once more before they headed out to the waiting SUV and parade of security. They made quite a procession and it ensured that everyone around knew that something big was going on. The SUVs all had tinted windows to protect Skyler and his family from photographers and to stop mobs of fans from following the precession, and Skyler wasn't the only hyper conscious star when it came to the press now. That meant that this procession could be a number of different people from celebrities to politicians.

Skyler got a big surprise when they pulled into the parking lot of the school. It seemed that it was no longer a school. He'd known that they were going to put the Sky High name on it, but the huge electronic sign announced that this was the Sky High Sports Complex. He was impressed by this but wondered how they could call it a sports complex. Sure there were now two gymnasiums, a football field and a baseball field. They'd turned what had once been the cafeteria and auditorium along with several classrooms into the ice rink. The locker rooms were all brand new as well. He'd seen some of the construction. He'd talked with Clay and Gavin about doing the same thing that they'd done here in all of the cities with a headquarters building. He just hadn't known they were going to do all of this. It made him happy though.

"This is great!" Jeff breathed as they pulled up to the front of the building. "When did they do this?"

"Well evidently the sign was put up over the last few days," Skyler said. "You know about all of the construction. It was driving James and Mara to distraction. The dancers all thought it was awesome to watch the men work. Bruce out did himself from what Jason told me on the phone last night."

"So you're going to do this in New York, Orlando and Sydney?" Jeff asked.

"Yes," Skyler replied. "They're also looking at Dallas, Chicago, Toronto, London and Paris."

"Sky High is going global," Jeff laughed.

"It is, actually," Skyler said, nodding.

"Well, haven't we arrived," chuckled Jeff as they got out of the SUV and fell into the middle of the group of men from security.

Dance rehearsals went smoothly. Skyler and the dancers had the routines down to the last step. James was happy about that. He and Skyler talked for a few minutes before Skyler headed into the school's original locker room to shower and change. James told him that he'd called Gavin in to talk about his role in the new sports complex. Dancing wasn't exactly a sport, but Gavin had assured him that he and Mara would be connected to the complex and that all dancers would train and rehears there.

When Skyler was dressed again he and Jeff followed Gavin over to the ice rink. They slipped on black satin jackets with the tour logo on them before they headed into the stands to sit. There was a figure skater practicing on the ice. His coach was calling out to him from center ice. Skyler wondered who the skater was. He didn't know even a third of the athletes contracted to SKy High. He thought about that as he watched this guy sail across the ice and then leap into the air to spin around three times before touching back down. He'd always thought that figure skating was beautiful, and he'd marveled over the jumps. He had no idea what kind of jump the skater had just completed, but he heard the coach say something about a triple loop.

He learned a little later that the five foot - nine slim and toned blond haired skater was Adam Winslow, the Male Figure Skating National Champion. He'd taken first place at the US Nationals in January. Skyler had seen the video of his performance shortly after the event had taken place. Clay had demanded that he watch because Adam had only recently been signed by Sky High. Skyler had been happy to see that the athletes they'd signed were doing well. He remembered that the routine that Adam had skated at Nationals had been absolutely amazing. He went down to shake the man's hand.

"You're Skyler Thomas," Adam said, grinning from ear to ear. His blue eyes sparkling.

"And you're Adam Winslow," replied Skyler with a smile of his own. "You're an awesome skater."

"Thanks," he said, blushing. Skyler liked him immediately.

"We've got to get going," Skyler said. "I just wanted to congratulate you on your victory. I know it was almost three months ago, but I was a little busy at the time."

"Thank you," said Adam. "I like the album very much. I'm planning to skate to your music soon."

"Keep me informed," Skyler said. "I'll come watch."

The next day the company released "Lights, Camera, Action" and announced that Skyler had produced the single. He didn't go to the party, but he did call the three members of The Hardy Boys to congratulate them. He visited Chad every day and was happy to find that Alex was visiting in the empty time slot that Justin's departure had left. Chad seemed happy but anxious for his court date. Skyler understood how he felt and couldn't wait to have Chad home again.

The day they'd all been waiting for arrived with sunshine and perfect temperatures. Skyler dressed in his newest Armani suit and helped Ashton into a suit of his own. Everyone would be going along to the court house. Kristy had agreed to sit at the house with the other children while the family went to court for Ashton's adoption. They sat in the jury room together to wait. The press was thick outside, but Skyler was very pleased to see that they were kept in check and stopped five feet away from them at all times.

Mary arrived and talked with them for a few minutes. She informed Skyler that the judge was going to sign the adoption papers and make it official that very morning. Skyler was happier than he'd been in a long time. He hugged Ashton and whispered in his ear that he was about to officially be his son. The boy had a huge smile on his face when they parted.

Judge Amy Dawson asked very few questions. She served Ashton with his own adoption papers and then everything was signed and it was official. Skyler had all of the forms to get Ashton's new Social Security card and to send off for the new official birth certificate. They celebrated at home with an ice cream cake that Ashton picked out and lots of presents for the boy. Skyler couldn't stop hugging him the entire time. He kept looking from Preston to Ashton and thanking God for his two beautiful sons.


The next chapter will be posted soon.


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