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Shout*For: Act II

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<3 Olivia <3
hey bb, u there? got some news, dont want u 2 freak out

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
Well by saying that, you sure have ensured that I'm not pre-emptively freaking out at all!

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
Seriously, what's up?

<3 Olivia <3
apparently on thxgiving I got blackout drunk & told Sarah Beth where all my stashes are

<3 Olivia <3
so if I seem super stressed on Mon. now u know why

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
Oh babyyyyy. Are you stopping for good now?

<3 Olivia <3
idk, maybe?? do I have 2 go cold turkey? (haha, thxgiving pun.) will they make me go 2 meetings? Im really not into meetings :((

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
At least they would get you out of the house?

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
I'm bringing you leftover pie on Monday, btw!

<3 Olivia <3
ooh. what kind?

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
Was going to be a surprise, but I want you to have something to look forward to <3

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
Maple pecan. Homemade.

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
It's vegan!

<3 Olivia <3
oh sure but how many maple trees did u cruelly bleed out 4 this pie?

Kristen ಠ෴ಠ
Keep talking like that and I won't bring you any of the herbs we murdered to make natural headache-relief & anti-anxiety remedies.

 

~*~

Star Girl studio, morning.

Not only did Kristen bring the goods, she was waiting outside the studio with an armful of ribbon-wrapped boxes when Olivia's car dropped her off Monday morning.

"You are definitely not supposed to be here right now," said Olivia. She was mixed up about a lot of things right now, and the way her head was throbbing in defiance of a generous dose of aspirin didn't help, but she knew Kristen's work schedule by heart.

"Hello to you too," said Kristen with a fond grin. "I'm gonna catch a cart over to the animation building in a couple minutes." She handed Olivia the boxes. "This one's tea. Good for headaches, good for your liver. This here is a multivitamin, which is always a boost, and these pills are supposed to relieve stress. In this one is kudzu extract, which is supposed to help with cravings — I threw in a measuring spoon, so just follow the directions on the bottle. And the pie is for mood and energy, obviously."

There was one box she hadn't named, and she took this one back. "Hey!" exclaimed Olivia. "What's that one for?"

"Jon." When Olivia just looked blank, Kristen giggled. "For his birthday, silly! I told my mom most of these were for Jon when I was picking them out, so I figured I should get something he would actually like."

"You think of everything," sighed Olivia.

"Nah. Mostly just you," said Kristen. "Okay, I gotta go. Have a great morning!"

Olivia's headache felt like it was already lifting as she signed herself in.

The shine wore off a bit when Mac directed a strange woman in a grey security uniform to search all her packages, not to mention pockets. After everything passed the test, Olivia sent the woman down to the cafeteria with a teabag (plus orders to bring a fork). In the morning meeting, as Mac called up her schedule for the day, Olivia sipped a fresh cup of non-FDA-vetted headache-relief tea and dug into her maple-pecan slice of heaven.

To her credit, Mac apologized profusely for the fuss. "I know this can't be fun, Olivia, but we're going to try to make everything work as smoothly as possible. Quick checks in your dressing room and on your person, thorough but not too intrusive. We only want to do what's best for you."

"Are you gonna make me go to meetings?" blurted Olivia.

"I was thinking...perhaps one-on-one sessions with a counselor? Someone with whom you can unburden yourself, work out coping strategies to keep you from relapsing, and perhaps see if there are any prescriptions that can make things easier." She eyed Olivia's tea. "Although I'm sure your...St. John's wort, or whatever, is going to be a great help."

Olivia huddled defensively over the mug. "Ginkgo and peppermint. From Kristen."

"Yes, yes, of course." Her manager waved away the details. "Now, along with —"

She paused. It was a heavy sort of pause. The kind where you could hear mental wheels turning.

"Olivia?" Mac leaned slightly across the desk and lowered her voice, though of course they were the only ones in the office. "Do you happen to remember a conversation, some time ago, in which you told me that you were not a lesbian?"

"What does that have to do with the price of ginkgo in China?"

"I just had a thought. And please don't be offended," said Mac. "Are you by any chance bisexual?"

This would have been a great time to launch into Kristen's lecture about how the term "bisexual" upheld the oppressive notion of a gender binary. Unfortunately, Olivia couldn't remember any of it right now. "I...might be."

Mac's no-nonsense posture didn't change, but her expression softened. "I suppose this will have made things rather hard for you."

Olivia didn't answer. It was just the hot tea making her eyes water. Had to be.

"You realize, of course, that making your sexuality public would terminate your Disney contract."

"I know!" snapped Olivia. "You think I don't get that?"

"Give me a moment and let me play this out," said Mac gently. "You would lose your contract, and a good portion of your current target audience...but in a way that is greatly sympathetic to an ever-growing subset of Americans. Now, it would still be quite a shock to you, and you might take a few months out of the public eye to regroup. When you felt ready to step back into the spotlight, I have no doubt I could get you your pick of sufficiently prestigious roles."

All of this took a moment to percolate through Olivia's withdrawal-stricken brain. "You're offering me an out."

"Am I?" asked Mac, brimming with innocence. "I suppose that's one way to put it."

She could probably get Olivia a hefty set of ongoing royalties out of the shattered pieces of her contract, too. You wouldn't know it to look at her, especially on a day like today when she was wearing two different shoes, but take-no-prisoners negotiation was Mackenzie McHale's specialty.

On the other hand...was that what Olivia wanted?

Kristen's voice flashed through her mind: This is not the plan! The plan was to play this gig through to the end. To leverage everything she could out of the market saturation...the sway over her target demographic...all the shampoo and wall decals with her face on them. To wear a stupid superhero costume and rescue her girlfriend from rubber-masked monsters for as long as they would let her.

But Kristen wouldn't want her to keep on the way she had until she ran herself into the ground, either.

"Can you get me out of my mom's house?" she burst out.

"I can certainly try," said Mac. "Did you have an idea of where you wanted to go?"

Olivia hadn't even thought about it. "My grandparents live in the area," she said, voice shaking. "We could...ask them?"

"I'll start there. Are there other things you need?"

"You — you can't make me date any more boys." That could have gone on the top of her list. "Not even Stephen again, when we're doing publicity for the Princess and the Pop Star sequel."

"No more fake relationships. I promise," Mac assured her. "But, Olivia...there's not going to be a sequel."

"What?" That didn't make sense. The pre-release buzz was enormous. And now that her "mismatched stepsisters bond on a road trip" movie was in the can, what was she going to do next? "No, you were talking about that. I swear you were."

"Well, yes. At one point, we were." Mac covered one of Olivia's hands (the non-fork-holding one) with her own. "I've been postponing things or pulling them off your schedule entirely for several months now."

Oh. Of course. Just because Olivia had only said yeah, all right, this is out of control a few days ago didn't mean Mac's plans hadn't been accounting for it for ages. She swallowed hard, eyes burning. "I wanna fix it. Work back up to normal...well, maybe not all the way back up, but somewhere close. Can we do that?"

Her manager smiled, shoulders relaxing like a long-time weight had been lifted from them. "Absolutely."

 

~*~

Jon's place, that evening.

After a rowdy and appreciative birthday dinner, starring all Jon's L.A. friends (even Olivia made it) plus the occasional restaurant-goer who came over looking for a picture, he ended up in his own room with a pile of presents...and Stephen to help him open them. Jimmy had taken the dog for the night. It was just the two of them.

"More Batman stuff," sighed Jon, tossing a yet another Batarang-wielding action figure onto the stack of its fellows. "Never should've let Anthony tweet about that shampoo." The gifts collected at the concert had been seriously repetitive: half Anthony-inspired, the other half from people who must have heard about the Dory plushie he'd left behind at the boardwalk, and decided he must be really into Finding Nemo.

"Another marriage proposal in the card!" reported Stephen. (These had all been screened by Shout*For's security, checking for anthrax or something, so all he had to do was pull them out of the pre-opened envelopes.) "Ooh, and it has a little drawing of you! How cute!"

"You know, I was thinking about tweeting a photo of myself surrounded by all the fan gifts," said Jon. "But now I'm just afraid it'll make people feel bad."

"Draw yourself surrounded by the cards? Not a lot of repeats there." Stephen held up the next one. "Look, this one's handmade!"

"Good idea." Jon looked over the remaining pile of boxes with some despair. "Okay, ten-year-old me would be horrified to hear this, but I'm burned out on presents for a while."

"Totally understandable," said Stephen. "Want to unwrap something more exciting?"

"Uh, maybe. What is it?"

Stephen waggled his eyebrows. "Something...exciting."

"Yeah, but what...oh! Oh, did you mean you?"

"Look, if you're not interested, I've got a long list of people here who would love to take over the role," said Stephen, tapping the stack of cards.

Jon shoved them aside in a flurry of cardstock and kissed him.

In spite of the mess on the floor, the bed was still clear. Slowly, delicately, Jon stripped off Stephen's turtleneck, to reveal the friendship necklace with its new addition where it hung just below his collarbones. Jon ducked down to press a few kisses around there too. "God, you smell good."

"New Prescott fragrance," panted Stephen. "I got you a bottle! I'm sure you'll find that box eventually."

They shed clothes piece by piece, until they were down to boxers: black for Jon, green with Christmas trees for Stephen. Jon teased him for jumping the gun on the season; Stephen rolled his eyes and made sure their "friendship" pendants were interlocked where they sat on the bookshelf.

Rolling around on the covers with Stephen's skin all over his was Jon's idea of perfection. Stephen, though, he wasn't losing himself to the moment, and in a lull when he was on top of Jon he got serious. "Sing me something?" he asked.

"Sure, babe," said Jon. "Any requests?"

Settling onto the mattress next to him, Stephen said, "Long Time Comin'?" Then, softly, as if Jon couldn't guess: "Second verse."

Ah. Well. Not exactly a grinding song, that one. But right now, Jon thought maybe he could handle it.

He settled onto the mattress next to Stephen, rested a hand on his boyfriend's waist, and sang. "Well, my daddy, he was just a stranger / Lived in a hotel downtown / Well when I was a kid he was just somebody / Somebody I'd see around / Somebody I'd see around...."

Stephen's eyes fluttered closed.

"Well now down below and pullin' on my shirt / Yeah I got some kids of my own / If I had one wish for you in this god forsaken world, kid / It'd be that your mistakes will be your own / That your sins will be your own... / It's been a long time comin' my dear / It's been a long time comin', but now it's here...."

As the lyrics petered out, Stephen kissed his throat. "Thanks," he whispered. "My turn?"

"Go for it."

The song Stephen launched into was slower, but much better at settling them into the mood. "I've been watching you a long time / Tryin' to figure out where and when," he crooned. "We've been moving down that same line / Time is now, maybe we could get skin to skin...."

Jon started rocking his hips to the lazy rhythm. Stephen, whose breath control was basically superhuman, didn't miss a beat. His fingers trailed through the fur down Jon's chest.

"Don't know when this chance might come again / Good times got a way of comin' to an end / Don't know when this chance might come again / Good times got a way of slippin' away / Baby, let's be frie~ends...."

That touch was going awfully low....

All of a sudden Stephen's hand was between them, and Jon's cock leaped up to throb almost painfully hard against his boyfriend's palm. "Oh my god. Oh, fuck, Stephen —"

"I'm not high," whispered Stephen, curling his fingers loosely around Jon through the dark fabric. "I haven't taken anything. I just — I want to, Jon. Can I?"

Now, Jon didn't know whether Stephen was trying to break free of his parents' standards, racing against some more general fear of their future, or whether this was just a divine miracle — but he was seriously considering thanking Jesus just to make sure he had all his bases covered. "Yes, yes, Stephen, babe, don't even ask, just — oh, god, yes."

 

~*~

 

There was nothing wrong with Stephen.

He wasn't bad. He wasn't unnatural. He wasn't dirty or broken or ruined, he had nothing to be ashamed of, and if he wanted to jerk off his boyfriend, he was damn well going to go for it.

Stephen's hands made swift work of Jon's boxers, stretching the elastic over his hard-on and rolling the fabric down his legs. At a gesture Jon rolled onto his back, spreading his legs to let Stephen kneel between them, and then there it was: just the normal equipment, maybe a little smaller than Stephen's but who was counting, flushed dark and warm to the touch as Stephen palmed it.

"You like it?" panted Jon, blushing and grinning. "'Cause it sure likes you."

"It has good taste," said Stephen fiercely, and flexed his wrist.

He was exploring at first, experimenting — and reveling in every detail that made Jon different from Ned. They added up thick and fast, from the leanness and muscle that dancing had given Jon's legs to the baby-deer flailing those legs did whenever Stephen tried something unexpected, from the blue streak of curses tumbling out of his mouth to the way he held his fist in front of it as if to hide the evidence that he was anything less than perfectly composed.

As he dissolved into incoherence, Stephen had to coax directions out of him: faster or slower, rougher or lighter, was this touch good, should he do that again, was he doing good? Every stuttered yes, Stephen, so good lit Stephen up under the skin like a Vegas billboard. He curled his body over Jon's and sucked on the fingers of his free hand — and either Jon had already been close to the edge or the sight shoved him up to it, because before Stephen could try any more slick caresses Jon thrust up hard into his fist and came like a shot all over his chest.

Stephen clambered forward, throwing a leg over Jon's so he could rock against Jon's thigh. Glazed blue eyes struggled to focus on him; the whole solid form beneath him was limp except for little aftershocks. "God, Stephen, so hot — did I...? Sorry —"

"Don't care," said Stephen, and meant it. Another difference: Jon hadn't ruined any of his clothes. "It'll wash, Jon, Jon, touch me —"

Jon didn't even try to get Stephen's boxers off, just fumbled open the button and took him firmly in hand. The first touch short-circuited something in Stephen's brain. The second...faltered. "Oh —"

"What d'you mean, 'oh'?" panted Stephen. That was not the reaction you were supposed to have the first time you saw your boyfriend's dick!

"Nothing, nothin' important," said Jon, hand sliding upward to cup Stephen's balls. When Stephen managed an incoherent hiss of disapproval (hips rolling against Jon's touch to emphasize that it wasn't disapproval over that), he stammered, "I was — it's stupid — I didn't realize you were cut, and I was curious about — you know."

Well, excuse me for not having the exotic gentile body of your fantasies, thought Stephen, and then Foreskin is overrated, and then Jon was working him over with slow, confident pulls, and all that came out was "Oh my fuck —"

Jon stroked him and soothed him all at once, swearing that he wasn't missing out on a thing, that Stephen was gorgeous, that his cock was gorgeous, that it handled so well and was flushed such a sexy color and the way it curved was fucking calligraphic. Stephen was weak to the flattery, weaker still to the rhythm Jon somehow found without even having to ask, and came so hard his vision whited out.

 

~*~

 

Still half in a post-orgasmic haze himself, Jon guided Stephen down onto the covers beside him.

They were both sticky messes by now. They'd need to jump in the shower or something. Just...not yet. Not before he'd had his fill of cuddling with his Stephen.

Best birthday ever.

 

~*~

 

Blissed-out and barely verbal, Stephen was too overwhelmed for a while to do anything but cling to Jon and breathe.

Presently Jon whispered into his good ear, "You liked that, huh?"

Stephen nodded hard against the pillow.

He had loved it. And that was okay! Wanting it was okay, doing it with Jon was okay, if he felt like being Jon's that was his right as an American —

— and I'm one step closer to having a screaming breakdown the next time Ned touches me.

In the quiet, Jon added, "You wanna maybe...shower together?"

Yes. Desperately so. But right now, even more, Stephen needed a stretch of time alone to do something he so rarely did: think beforehand about how to put his words together. "Me first."

 

~*~

 

When Jon got out of the shower, towel around his waist and the vague scent of lavender hanging around in the air, he found his dark blue pajamas with the pinstripes laid out on the bed and his Stephen sitting on a windowsill.

More than a few items of Stephen's clothing had migrated into Jon's closet over the last half-a-year, and he was wearing a couple of these now: a short robe, or maybe technically a smoking jacket, belted over soft cotton pants in a matching dark grey. He looked strangely adult as he gazed up at the stars, with a silhouette like a businessman in a suit. (The fact that all the blonde had grown out of his hair probably helped.)

"So, it's still early," said Jon as he pulled on the pajamas, topping it off with his new pendant. "We could do somethin' else? There's always more presents. Or TV. Or whatever you want."

"It looks nice out," said Stephen, face still turned to the window. "Can we go outside?"

"What, like, run around in the back yard? Sure."

"Maybe on the balcony?"

There were a couple of different balconies along the sides of this house, but Jon had a feeling he knew which one Stephen meant. "Sure."

The hallways were quiet; Jon's aunt was either watching TV in her room, or already asleep. He led Stephen down to the balcony where he'd been standing, six-ish months ago, texting with Jimmy about his embarrassing secret attraction and waiting for Stephen to arrive in the driveway. L.A. seasons being as identical as they were, the view was exactly the same: same green lawn, same potted plants lining the front walk, same iridescent blue in the next-door neighbors' pool.

Well, some of it was different. Jon's car was in the driveway, for one. There was a loud party in the house across the street, and a quiet darkness down the block where one family had moved out. Also, most importantly: this time Stephen was already up here with him.

These were the mellow, sentimental, romantic thoughts he was getting ready to voice when Stephen blurted, "Jon, I need to tell you something."

"Yeah, all right," said Jon, paying attention to him but not worrying, not yet.

"And I'm nervous, and scared, and I don't know how to say it," added Stephen. "So do you mind if I sing it, instead?"

Fully expecting a love song, Jon said, "Go right ahead."

He leaned against the balcony railing to listen.

And Stephen sang, in a clear, measured voice, "There's a part I can't tell / About the dark I know well...."

Jon recognized the title, but wasn't sure of the rest. If it had come up in a musical-off, he wouldn't have gotten it.

"You say, Time for bed now child," crooned Stephen, low and slow, watching the stars. "Mom just smiles that smile / Just like she never saw me / Just like she never saw me... / So I leave, wanting just to hide / Knowing deep inside / You are coming to me / You are coming to me...."

This was going nowhere good.

With a rush of force Stephen plunged into the chorus. "You say all you want is just a kiss goodnight / Then you hold me and you whisper, Child, the Lord won't mind! / It's just you and me~ / Child, you're a beauty~!"

Clenching his fists, he tore into the lines, a vicious deconstruction of the affected sweetness the character would have heard them in —

"God, it's good – the lovin' – ain't it good tonight? / You ain't seen nothing yet – gonna treat you right / It's just you and me~ / Child, you're a beauty~!"

Jon was having a hard time breathing. "Stephen —"

His boyfriend turned away, robe flying with the twirl as he stepped out of reach, voice dropping again. "I don't scream, though I know it's wrong / I just play along / I lie there and breathe / Lie there and breathe...." Hands gripped the railing for support. "I wanna be strong / I want the world to find out / That you're dreamin' on me / Me and my 'beauty' / Me and my 'beauty'...."

Slowly Jon approached, and now Stephen let him — or maybe didn't even notice him —

"God, it's good – the lovin' – ain't it good tonight? / You ain't seen nothing yet – gonna teach you right / It's just you and me / Child, you're a beauty~!"

— and then he was looking Jon in the face, wild-eyed and strained and clearly in no shape to get through the final refrains, so Jon didn't wait for him to try. "Who? When —?" (The song was specifically about incest, god, would Stephen's father have —)

"Ned," whispered Stephen, and Jon should have fucking known, the man had always been low-grade creepy and it had finally escalated, except that the next thing Stephen said was, "Since Vancouver."

Sharp thoughts tore through Jon's mind in waves (that would only have been a few days after Stephen had first kissed him) (all this time and he hadn't noticed) (and nobody had noticed?) (god, that one time Stephen had blown up at Ned for touching Jimmy, and Jon had said he was overreacting) (he must have felt scared and alone already and they'd made it worse) (god, Jon had lectured Stephen on the problems of purity culture with the blind assumption that Stephen had never even thought about rape survivors, let alone —), leaving him with a strange, blank clarity:

"I'll kill him."

"Jon, no."

"Yes! Goddamn pedophile —"

"Ephebophile —"

"— child molester thinks he can — for six months! What's he — how bad is —?"

"It's never been sex," said Stephen, pale as a sheet and leaning heavily on the railing. "I mean, not by the Red Cross definition. But — but other than that — he kisses me and he touches me and he makes me touch him and he ruined my favorite cardigan by coming all over it —"

There was a rushing in Jon's ears, blood pounding in his skull, and his vision literally went crimson. "— and he is fucking dead."

"Stop it! Killing villains isn't the Disney way!"

"Fuck the Disney way. I'm gonna take a leaf out of Broadway and have him run into my knife ten times! He has it coming!"

"Jon, you are not helping!" screamed Stephen.

The ear-splitting pain in his voice hit where nothing else had. Jon made himself shut up and breathe; the blood-red filter faded from his vision, making him realize that Stephen was genuinely flushed and had tears running down his cheeks. No, Jon wasn't helping. Unadulterated rage might be easy and straightforward and feel way better than the powerlessness it was covering, but it wasn't going anywhere realistic, and it was shredding Stephen in the process.

"Okay," he said, soft and hoarse. "I'm sorry. No murder. I swear."

Stephen choked back a sob and nodded.

"But we've got to get you away from that man." And he was not ruling out self-defensive violence as a very last resort.

"I — I don't know how."

Jon bit down on a dozen obvious-seeming answers. He didn't know what Stephen had tried already, or if there were things Stephen had good reason to avoid, and he wasn't going to be any use at all unless he stopped jumping to conclusions and listened.

"We'll figure it out," he said instead, cupping Stephen's cheek, waiting to make sure his touch was appreciated before thumbing away the tears. The last thing he wanted to do was make things worse. How could anyone want to touch Stephen if they knew it would hurt him? "I'll help you. Talk to me. I swear to you, we'll find a way to make it so he can't — so he's never allowed to — so he won't even get near you. Never again."