Chapter 6: How was school?
On the drivers car door, right under the key lock, was ugly, jagged letters scratched into his beautiful black Navigator.
He really shouldn't be surprised. Even without his Slushie stunt, the choirs retaliation, or Zack's protection, they would have done it anyways. Because that's just what happened to homosexuals in Ohio. It was something Skyler would be dealing with his whole life, no matter where he went.
Shaking his head, he texted Zack to tell him he was going to be delayed for a bit. Getting in the car, he drove down the familiar road towards the shop he spent a lot of his childhood in.
Day's Tire Swap was still up and running, despite his father being Congressman Senator Josh Day. He spent a lot of childhood days here with his dad, learning everything to know about being a mechanic while simultaneously designing his own fashion lines. If he wasn't so set on Broadway, he'd be a damn good mechanic. Or fashion designer. But no matter, let's just call them plan B and C.
He pulled into the back, unlocking the door with his key. He nodded to the workers who knew he was the boss's kid, reaching in the supply closet for a rag and black scratch buffer.
He froze, the bottle clutched in his hand in a death grip. He turned around slowly, plastering a fake smile on his face. "Dad!" he greeted too cheerfully. "What are you doing in the shop?"
Josh approached him suspiciously, wiping his greasy hands on his overalls. "This is still my shop," he responded. "It's good to get out of D.C. every now and then and remember what I'm fighting for." He looked at Skyler's back, where he was hiding the buffer. "The question is, why are you here, son?"
"Oh, no reason," Skyler lied smoothly. "Just missed the grease smell, you know?"
Josh raised an eyebrow, humming his call of bluff. Skyler sighed, remembering where he got his stubbornness from. "I have a scratch on my car," he admitted, showing the buffer. Josh looked relieved. "That's all? Skyler, you don't need to ruin your clothes. I'll do it."
Skyler blanched, shaking his head no. Frowning, Josh reached out and plucked the bottle from his son's hands, and headed for the car. Skyler trailed behind, dread building deep in his chest.
"Alright, show me where it is," Josh said, crossing his arms over his chest. Skyler raised his hand and pointed weakly to the drivers side.
"There," he muttered. Josh stared at the scratch, his expression unchanging. He poured some buffer on the rag and rubbed at the spot with vicious ferocity, the only sign of his anger. He polished more throughly then strictly necessary, until every trace of the offending word was gone.
"There you go, you're all set," he spoke, his voice tight with controlled anger. Skyler nodded mutely, shame shinning in his eyes. Josh sighed sadly, before taking his son into his arms, Skyler clutching back with fierce need.
"I'm sorry," Skyler broke out, pulling away from his father's embrace after a minute, looking away as his cheeks heated in embarrassment. "I just, I guess I really have been sheltered for too long, that it's just a bit of a stronger jab than it should be. But it'll get better, I promise, eventually it won't bother me at all."
Josh frowned. As cruel as it sounded, he wanted this stuff to bother his son. He didn't want him to have to go through crap like this so often he became numb to it. He wanted Skyler to take offense, because then he cared about who he was, was proud enough to be hurt about being spoken negatively about. But there was nothing he could do. This was the world they lived in; his son would have no choice but to be subjected to this shit until he was indifferent to it.
"Skyler..." he began slowly.
"No, Dad, it's okay," Skyler interrupted. "It's fine, really."
Josh gazed at his son for a moment longer before nodding his head, unconvinced. Embarrassed, Skyler left the shop quickly, his tires squealing loudly in protest and leaving skid marks in their wake.
Josh watched his son escape, his heart clenching sadly at the sight. He didn't want his son to be afraid of being himself around him; respect him, of course, acknowledge his authority, yes. But fear showing how he really felt? Never.
So, maybe he overreacted sophomore year by taking away Skyler's car when he found that box of tiaras. Maybe he was a bit weirded out to see his son in a leotard dancing to Beyoncé. And maybe he was a bit disappointed that Vogue fashion magazines were apparently more interesting than sports. But he never judged. He bought his son the fancy designer clothes he wanted, had tea parties with him as a kid, bought him those sensible heels for his third birthday like he wanted. Accepted him when he came out, and everything he was.
His sadness is overtaken by the fury he was concealing, remembering what it was he was accepting that no one else did. It never got easier for him; not when random people called him to say it, not when his house was spray painted it, and certainly not when his son' s car was keyed it.
Fag. Even thinking the word made him want to vomit. How dare they judge Skyler, judge his son by who he loves? Think of him as less of a man, as less of a human being for something that's a part of his DNA, something as uncontrollable as what color hair he was born with. Punish him for loving another boy. He hasn't even had a boyfriend yet, he's never acted on his sexuality to provoke these assholes! Just being gay was enough. The fact that when he does fall in love, the simple fact that the person will be another man, that's enough for them.
He sighed heavily. If only Mary were still here. She'd know what to do.
Skyler arrived home a little late, walking inside just in time to help Lucy set the table. Josh questioned where he was, annoyed Skyler waved it off with a vague 'studying with a friend'. They ate in awkward silence, Josh remembering the offending scratch, and Nick fuming from Zack's confident advances on his brother. Skyler was embarrassed and annoyed with both, ignoring Lucy's confused and concerned glances.
"So, Skyler, how was your first day of public highschool?" Lucy asked eventually, attempting to level out the tension hanging in the air.
"Fine," Skyler muttered quickly, ducking his face to hide the blush coloring his cheeks. This did not go unnoticed by the other occupants of the room, who all reacted differently. Josh was concerned, Nick was angry, and Lucy looked hopeful.
"No one tried to mess with you, did they? 'Cause no one pushes the Day's around, Skyler," Josh inquired gruffly, puffing his chest out protectively. Skyler shook his head quickly, not wanting his father to know about the 'welcome party' he had received.
Nick, however, didn't catch that. "What are you talking about, Skyler? The jocks tried to turn you into a rainbow the second you stepped into the building!" he cried.
Skyler flinched as Lucy gasped and Josh turned crimson. "A what?" he said, voice tight with anger. Skyler sighed in resignation. "Slushies, Dad. They all threw Slushies at me."
Lucy looked her stepson over, trying to find a trace of color on his black-and-white outfit, finding it void of any. She raised an eyebrow in question. "Am I to assume they were unsuccessful?"
He nodded, his face breaking into a smug grin. "Unfurled an umbrella at the last second. Neanderthals never saw it coming."
Josh smirked, his face returning to normal color a bit. "And you're alright? No one tried anything else?"
Skyler shook his head, and Nick frowned again. Josh caught it, turning to him with a stern look. "Nick," he drawled, tone firm and demanding. Skyler flinched again, glaring at Nick with his best bitch look, daring him to tell him. Nick, for once, was unfazed by the glare and met Josh's eyes.
"Seems Skyler and Zack Brian took quite a liking to each other, that's all," he said, meeting Skyler's eyes in a defiant manner. Skyler saw red, his grip on his silverware turning into a deadly grip. Josh watched the exchange in confusion, not knowing what the problem was.
"And this is an issue because...?"
"It's really not," Skyler got out through his gritted teeth. "Nick just seems to not approve of me liking someone, but hey, not like that's new or anything, right?"
Nick blanched, looking hurt. "You know I don't care that you're gay, Skyler!" he shouted. "I just wish you wouldn't jump the first gay guy you meet, and with Zack of all guys! He's too short tempered, one little thing you do might 'insult' him and he'd snap on you! I'm not letting you get hurt, it's my job to protect you!"
Skyler raised from his chair, his face twisted in fury and hurt. "I'm not some delicate porcelain doll!" he screamed. "Yes I'm openly gay, so I will be bullied for this. I'll be bullied for my voice, and my clothes, and being in the choir. I'll be bullied for liking Zack and for liking that his affections seem to be returned. Yes, I just spent the last three years highly sheltered, yes, I've never actually had a boyfriend before, and yes, I just so happened to take an interest in the first gay guy I met. But make no mistake, Nick, that I am weak because of any of this! I'm sick of being mollycoddled, I don't need your protection and I don't want it!"
He stared at the silent, gaping faces of his family, biting back the tears at the sadness in their eyes. He turned towards the door. "I've lost my appetite. When you're ready to have a respectable conversation with me, and have improved your ridiculous opinion of my life, I'll be in my room." With that he turned on his heel and stormed out, Nick's cheeks flushed, ashamed Skyler felt that way.
Skyler closed his door quietly, refusing to be a complete Drama Queen and slam it. He leaned his head against the wood gently and closed his eyes, sighing quietly as all his anger gathered into a single tear and escaped, traveling a slow pace down his cheek.
Soft, gentle chirping caught his attention. Smiling gently, he turned towards the cage on his nightstand, approaching the blue Magnum inside it.
"Hey, little Blue," he addressed the bird, genuinely happy to see his old friend. He was the only one to watch the bird when he came to Magnum, since he was the only new member while he was there. Blue had been a descendant of the first one Skyler had, and when he died was given Blue. Eventually Blue had his own descendant, and the Magnums felt taking the bird back after three years would be a bit cruel. So Skyler official adopted the canary during the summer, enjoying their shared love of song and the creature's optimism.
Blue sung happily as he hopped around his cage, prompting Skyler to whistle along with him. Pulling out his laptop, he unconsciously continued his schedule of logging into YouTube to watch videos from Goodguybadboy's channel.
Realizing what he was doing, Skyler paused for a second. He scrolled through the videos, seeing titles like "It's time," "Raise Your Glass," "Hungry like the wolf/Rio," "Somebody I Used to Know," "Misery," "Cough Syrup," "Silly Love Songs," "Hey Soul Sister," "Raise Your Glass," "Billsx3," "What Kind of Fool," "It's not right, but it's okay," and many others. With a start he realized he had no memory of any of these videos, despite the like button already being tinted green as proof he's witnessed them all.
He put his head in his hands in embarrassment. Did he really used to ogle Zack that bad? How did he not recognize him sooner? How did he sit through all those choir competitions and not connect this Zack to the Zack in the New Directions? Heck, how did he even miss his name? Had he seriously somehow avoided the boy for two entire years? It boggled his mind.
Determined to set things right, he went to his playlist titled "Dream Crush" and hit play, settling back in his bed, fully prepared to watch every video Zack ever posted, school night be damned. He was already addicted to that voice, and like a drug he needed more.
Elsewhere, Skyler was unaware that Zack was currently in the same position, having gone through the same experience with his own parents. He was buried under the covers, eyes wide as he watched every video in his "Porcelain God" playlist. He was stunned, having already gone through Skyler's "4 Minutes," "La Jazz Hot," "Bring him Home," "Mr. Cellophane," "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," "Never Said Goodbye," "Being Alive," "A House is not a Home," and "Happy Days" videos.
The more he watched, the more aggravated with himself he became. How had he gone to all those choir competitions, ogling the attractive guys in the Magnums, and not recognized Skyler? How had he not known who he was the second he saw him, the second Nick said his name? Had he seriously somehow been in a different place as Skyler every time the choir had a party, or Nick invited him over? He's been Nick's brother for two years, how had he not seen a picture, heard his voice down the hall, connected his name to UniqueBeauty? He seriously couldn't believe the universe had gone through so much trouble to make them complete strangers to each other.
His parents hadn't helped his mood either. They were both home for once, asking how his grades were doing and how many detentions he had this week, completely forgetting today was only the first day. So he sat as silent as always, only speaking to thank their cook, Lia, for a great meal again.
Then his mom asked her usual question about Zack's love life. "Any cute boys caught your eye yet?" she had asked, not looking up from her plate, not expecting an answer. For that Zack had been thankful, for at the moment his cheeks exploded in color and he glanced at his Father fearfully. They may accept his sexuality, but he can tell his old man didn't understand it very well. The last thing he needed was them to know the answer had changed for once.
Much to his charaign, Julie happened to be refilling his parents' wine glasses at that time, and she noticed all too well the tall-tale signs of a crush. She smiled happily, an excited squeal escaping her throat as she brought her hands to her face to clap enthusiastically. She had always cared for Zack like a sister, since his sexuality ruled out any possibilities of it ever being more, and it saddened her to see the tough boy so lonely. The Brians looked at her in shock, following her gaze to their son.
Mr. Briam raised his eyebrow at his son, smirking playfully. "Is that a blush I see, Zack?" Zack glared at them, the red of his cheeks glowing more noticeably as he was caught. His father chuckled, smiling knowingly at him. "It's Skyler, isn't it?"
Zack turned his head away, astonished he could feel the blush spreading to his ears. Mrs. Brian gave her own excited squeal, clasping Julie's hands as they shared happy smiles. "Oh, Zack! Who's this Skyler boy, why haven't I heard of him before? It's not fair, everyone seems to know who he is but me, even Julie looks like she knows this mysterious man!"
Zack shook his head quickly. "He's no one Mom, just a friend," he said, his tone completely unconvincing.
Julie grinned slyly at him. "Do you almost kiss all your friends, Zack?" she asked innocently, inwardly wincing at the heat behind the glare thrown her way. His mother gasped delightedly, and his father gave him a thumbs up.
Zack ground his teeth together in annoyance. "No, I don't," he gritted out, stabbing his liver with more force than necessary. He so did not want to be having this discussion right now. He didn't even know anything about the boy yet, except that he was gorgeous and shared his career dreams.
"Well, you must tell us about him! What's he like? Is he a new student?" his mother continued, their meals completely forgotten, Julie even pulling out a chair for herself to sit down in and stare at Zack eagerly.
"There's nothing to tell," Zack burst out, annoyed they were so eager about this. He didn't acknowledge their shocked expressions morph into confusion and hurt, shoving away from the table to storm up into his room. He, unlike Skyler, had no problem slamming the door as hard as possible.
And so we find Zack in his current position, gripping his laptop like his life depended on it. He couldn't deny he was interested in the boy, wanted to know everything about him. He just wasn't the kind of guy to gush to his parents about boys.
Cautiously, Julie cracked open the door, poking her head in shyly. She took in the Zack-sized lump on his bed, the glow coming from his laptop. A new video had just started, and she heard the voice from earlier today announce himself as "Skyler Day". Sighing in relief, she closed the door silently, tip-toeing out of the hallway before flailing her arms and releasing a fangirl scream.
Oh, she was going to have so much fun being their biggest fan. She had already started working on their couple name, and she was looking quite forward to the day she could use it.