Hidden Beneath the Mask

Disclaimer: Well two shows I do not own: "Good Luck Charlie" and "How to Rock", so try not to give me grief, as I'm not claiming them.


Chapter 29 (PJ's Cloud of Confusion)

PJ awoke bright and early the next morning, and shielded his eyes from the blinding sun coming through the window. The stubble on his face was a clear indicator that he'd not shaved in the past couple days. Though that was the only hygienic thing he'd neglected. "Too damn early," he muttered. Last night he'd been sitting on what his sister told him about Skyler, and what her advice was. Not only was he unsure when he fell asleep, he'd been waking up every hour on the hour.

They were still going through the last of the initial auditions, since one hundred people was a lot to go through, but they didn't have many left. Probably by the end of the week, they would finish. Then the finals would go on, and they'd make their selection. Yet, Zander was still one of the best guitarists that they'd heard. He wasn't going to be unfair to the others though, he would hear them all. Even though Emmett did say that PJ ought to have a right to say whether or not he wants to make a pick early on. Quite frankly the singers had more to them than the guitarists did. At least Zander was a jack of the trades, he could likely even provide backup vocals if needed.

"Skyler." He rubbed his hands through his hair and groaned. He slowly sat up from the bed and looked towards the window, adjusting his eyes to the light. Whatever book Teddy had been reading, he needed to find. Apparently it was so good that it was enabling Teddy to give such advice that she did. Or perhaps, there were some similarities to his situation, but he didn't wish to think he'd be subjected to a romance novel. Hell, if a novelist took one look at him, they'd be running away.

He heard a sharp knock on the door, startling him and looking back over his shoulder as Emmett's voice drifted in. "PJ man, come on, you have got to get up! We got work to do." He rubbed his face and moaned. Hearing this, Emmett opened the door and looked in with a deep frown. "What's going on bro?" He looked up as Emmett sat on the edge of the bed and gave him a friendly pat on the back. "You do look tired, I guess you didn't get any sleep last night? What's on your mind?"

"I couldn't sleep, was tossing and turning the whole night." He opened his mouth into a loud yawn. The heel of his hand lifted up and scraped along his forehead. He curled his fingers in on his hair and felt his body shake a couple times. He wasn't a crier, but he was coming close to letting out those frustrated tears. He locked his jaw tight and shut his eyes. "Man…I was talking to my sister last night."

"Is Teddy all right?"

"She's probably really annoyed with me, actually." He chuckled and smoothed his hand through his hair once more. Emmett raised an eyebrow as PJ started to rise to his feet. His heart was pumping as fast as it could, and his brain felt like it was spinning just to keep him up. Why he still felt like shit, he didn't know. He'd been making stupid decisions all his life, but never before were they something that couldn't be fixed. Never before were they something that could potentially destroy the very fabric of his being. "I shouldn't have just walked out on Skyler like that. I don't know how to come back from this."

"You find her, and you talk to her." He moved to the window and glanced back, still an uncertain spell settled over him. How was he supposed to do that, when he hadn't been able to do that after all this time? "So maybe she's turned into this popular 'Molly' chick, so maybe she's someone she's not, all that matters is that you love her. Am I right?"

"You know me better than anyone else, Emmett. Well, not quite as well as my sister does, but you get the idea. You know how I feel about Skyler." Emmett slowly moved to him and set a hand upon his shoulder, gazing outside with him. PJ had tried to get Skyler out of his mind several times over the years, but it never worked. There was one time he threw himself completely into his work just to get out of the muck he'd been in when she left, but it was doing so much damage to his life around him, that Emmett, Ivy, and Teddy had to find a way to pull him out of that heavy focus. Then there were the girls he dated, none of them worked out, but he didn't care. They weren't Skyler. "Apparently, Teddy says Skyler's been torturing herself or something. This 'Molly' is just a figure, an image that she created. I'm the one that foolishly ran out without talking to her…"

"Yeah you tend to react without thinking. It's really a big problem for you, bro." PJ rolled his eyes and leaned forward, gripping the windowsill firmly as he watched the cars speeding down the road. This was at least the third day since he ran into her, and he'd held himself up in his room for most of the time. "You can't just lock yourself up, you have to get out and work. We have auditions to focus on right now…"

"We could make it big, Emmett. We could be famous or we could be a one hit wonder, but what difference would it make?" While he wanted to perform music, to be a rock star sure, he didn't want to live the life of the typical rock star. "The dream is for me, the life isn't. Girls, sex, drugs, partying…no, that's not what I want out of this. That, to me, is a very lonely life."

"I wouldn't want you to get saddled down with that." Emmett folded his arms over and leaned his shoulder up against the wall beside the window, gazing sideways at the panes. His lips thinned and his shoulders bounced in place. "I've always pictured you as the type to settle down and get married, have a family. Produce kids like your dad does." PJ raised an eyebrow and glanced to his friend, resisting the urge to smack the smirk from his face. He didn't want a large family, if that could be avoided. "But I understand what you're getting at, I think. I mean the entire time you were here, the minute you heard her voice…it stopped being about the dream, it became about her."

"Mind you, I want this just as badly as you do." He wasn't giving up on his dream, not for a million years. He might be tempted to give it up for Skyler, but if she were truly the person she was when they were together, then he knew she wouldn't let him do such a thing. "You're right though, all I've wanted is to find her. I can't picture not being with her."

"You know, it takes a lot of love and patience to be with a rock star who is always on tour and whatnot. She could handle it, probably, but right now she's also going to require a lot of your time." PJ slowly nodded and pulled his lips back into a thin line. He had to admire Emmett's wisdom at times. Skyler had been through a lot of shit, and most likely if Spencer's been messing with her, that's only going to make matters worse on her. "If I recall, Skyler was always tough, but had a fragile heart too. She'd be easy to break apart if you're not careful."

"I know, I know." Her heart was the most precious and fragile thing about her, this was even the case when they were together. Many nights he would hold her, she'd be upset over Brock's old manipulation or Spencer's affair. She made it through each time, but with a little help. He was the one that kept her there, the one that calmed her and held down the fort when she was so upset that she just simply couldn't move.

Was it stressful? Sure. Did he care? Not really, he loved her and still loved her to this day. Nothing could take that away, not even 'Molly' could tear that away from him. "You know what? We're in LA, we've been working so hard on all these auditions, it would hurt if you wanted to take a break. Just don't do it in this room."

"Easy for you to say, Emmett. You're not the one that might have just thrown the love of your life into a mental breakdown." Emmett laughed and turned his head to the door.

"What? Ivy has breakdowns all the time, but they're just in the form of rage." PJ laughed and pat his friend's shoulder. He wasn't sure whether he felt sorry for Emmett, or if he should be happy that he and Ivy actually had been dating for a couple months now. "Relationships take work, PJ. You can't just dive into them thinking everything is going to be hunky-dory, it won't."

"I know that."

"Well this is you and Skyler after about two, almost three years of not seeing each other." PJ dipped his eyes towards the windowsill, thinking hard on the point that Emmett was trying to make. "You two are going to have to talk, start over almost, and work on your relationship. Apparently she's been through hell and back, so you need to be there for her most of all, she's number one in your life and nothing else. You know I talk to Ivy every single day, right? We put aside five to ten minutes before getting to bed to call one another up, ask how the other person's day went, and then go to bed. Relationships always take work."

"I don't know where she is though, she doesn't usually hang out with Gravity 5, I don't think…" So where would he find her? How would he find her? "I can't disrupt the school, so I can't just go waltzing into one of her classrooms…although I could." Emmett laughed and shook his head. The ideas didn't stop there, PJ was ready to climb up to the tallest building and shout off with a bullhorn that he wanted to see her.

His phone started to go off and PJ slowly walked over to answer, not sure who would be calling him so early in the morning. Much to his disdain, he was vexed to hear Kacey's voice on the other line. "Mr. Duncan, it's Kacey! We need to talk, it's about Skyler. Look, I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't have tricked you guys like that, I just…I didn't know until it was too late, and…don't take it out on her. She's not Molly Garfunkel, as much as she wants to use her as some sort of cover, she's not. She's the same girl you've known, but she's hurting…"

"Do you know how early it is?"

"Yes, but-"

"Listen, it's not that you were wrong to try to get us together in the same room, it's how you did it. Setting everything up…" He had a pretty good feeling Kacey was behind the whole thing, and that just wasn't right. "You didn't know, that's true…"

"Look, I'm truly sorry, I really am. It's just that…Skyler loves you, and she's afraid that now that you've seen her at her worst, you're going to hate her."


"She's broken, she hasn't even left her apartment in days! I swear she's been locked up there for the past couple of weeks. Grace and Stevie had been taking her homework to her all this time."

"She shouldn't be nixing school like that, she knows better…" It was his fault, wasn't it? He was the reason she was giving up on school! Skyler never wanted to do that, she wanted to be a doctor in the future, so how would she do that if she gave up on school? "I need to talk to her. I have to see her." He started to ask where he could find Skyler at, but stopped once he heard a teacher in the background complain about Kacey making a phone call in the middle of class. "You're kidding me…"

The call ended seconds later, and PJ slowly looked to Emmett. "I think I need to go for a drive, and just think for a while." Emmett pat his shoulder and walked by him, sighing heavily.

"Do what you have to do, PJ. Just remember what we talked about, and come get some breakfast when you wake up."

"Yeah…I was thinking of going out for breakfast, actually. Just driving around, then maybe stopping off at an IHOP or something…"

"That's cool. I just hope you start feeling better soon."

"So do I…" Once his friend departed from the room, PJ sank down on the edge of his bed and hunched over, groaning as he rubbed his hands against his face. No one ever said this was going to be easy, but damn, everything going on was just harder than he would have liked. "I guess nothing in life really goes as planned…"

No PJ, it doesn't. So what did you guys think? Tell me your thoughts and opinions, I'd love to hear