Author's Note: Welcome back! I'm so happy to have you back for the fifth story in my Lileyverse! This story begins almost exactly three and a half years after the end of my previous story, "This Is Our Life." It's now October 2013, and Miley and Lilly both have their 22nd birthdays coming up in November. They're growing up so fast, aren't they? Both girls are now seniors in college at USC, and both Hannah's and Lola's careers are still doing well. Expect to see all of our favorite supporting characters, and I promise that I'll have surprises in store for you along the way. Like my previous story, this one might verge into some solidly M-rated territory at times, so consider yourself warned. For those of you making this your first story of mine, I do recommend you go back and read my other stories in order starting with "You and Me, Together." It'll make it much easier to understand where this story is coming from, I promise.
Here are my standard disclaimers: I make no claims on any of Disney's, Miley Cyrus', Emily Osment's or Hannah Montana's trademarks or copyrights, and no infringement is intended. Be forewarned that this story most certainly will contain femslash. If love and affection between two consenting young adults of the same sex bothers you, I suggest you turn right around and find something else to read. Keep any flames to yourself and remember that what our world needs now is more love and acceptance, not more hate. Reviews are always welcomed and appreciated!
I want to dedicate this story to my friend and fellow author LaughLoveLive. Life has forced him to take some time off from writing, and I hope that he and his family have better times ahead of them very soon. We're going to miss you and your beautiful stories until you come back, 3L. Best wishes to you and your family, my friend.
We Got Nerve
by Jo P.
Chapter 1: Battle Lines
Just how deep do you believe
Will you bite the hand that feeds
Will you chew it 'til it bleeds
Can you get up off your knees
Are you brave enough to see
Do you want to change it?
--Nine Inch Nails, "The Hand That Feeds"
Miley ran through the light rain as she hurried across the parking lot of the Malibu Airport. It had been three days since she had seen or held Lilly, and she was well and truly in the throes of withdrawal. Lilly had been tied up in New York with Roxy due to several interviews that Lola had to do for the impending release of the first movie with her as the lead actress, and Miley was very much needing her wife, particularly with the turbulent mess her week had become.
Over the last two years Lola had taken small supporting roles in two different films, both times earning excellent reviews for her natural delivery and sharp sense of humor. Last year she had finally been asked about a lead role in a film in pre-production at a small independent studio called Blue-Gray Films. The studio had purchased a script about a young veteran of the second Gulf War who returns home, falls in love and starts a family only to lose her new husband. The young woman then has to abruptly become a mother to her stepchildren while dealing with all the horrors life has thrown at her. When Lola had auditioned for the part, the studio had immediately loved her, and she was offered the role on the spot.
Miley smiled as she slowed down to pass between the automatic doors of the airport terminal. No point in getting stopped by security because she was running when she should have been walking. As Miley checked the information board for Lilly's flight, she was happy to see that it was running on time. At least that was going right.
The past three months had been unusual for Miley, in that Hannah's record company was becoming more of a pain in the ass every week. Hannah's current contract with the record company was ending in three months, and negotiations had been anything but friendly. Poor health had forced Hal Bruton, the long-time CEO of the record company, to retire two months ago, much to Miley's regret. He had been present since Hannah's meteoric career first began, and Miley had always looked at him as more of a grandfather figure than an executive. He had extended trust to Hannah several times over her career, and she had always repaid him generously.
So Miley and Lilly were both at a loss as to why the new administration at Dyseni Records didn't seem that interested in re-signing Hannah to another contract. To make matters worse, Robbie Ray Stewart, Hannah and Lola Montana's long-time manager, had been in Misty Hollow, Tennessee, for the last three weeks. Miley's grandmother Ruthie Stewart had broken her tibia when a horse had kicked her on her farm. True to Ruthie's nature, she had managed to wrangle the horse back into the barn and then make her way back to her house on her broken leg before she called for her son Bobby Ray to take her to the hospital. Robbie Ray had flown out to Tennessee to run his mother's farm for the time being, as Bobby Ray had his own business and farm to manage; there had never been any question of hiring someone else to manage things, as the family farm had been and always would be managed by family.
As Miley finally reached the gate for Lilly's plane, she was relieved to see that there was a substantial crowd waiting. That meant that the plane hadn't started to unload yet, if it had even arrived by now. She found an unoccupied place along a wall that faced the door coming into the gate and leaned herself up against it, unwilling to sit down and risk someone blocking her view. As soon as Lilly came through that door, she was going to have an armful of Miley to greet her.
As Miley started to count the minutes, her attention drifted across the hall to a small gift shop. She smiled as she spotted a display with balloons and flowers. She glanced around, relieved to see that no one seemed eager to swoop in and claim her vantage point along the wall. Quickly she hurried over to the gift shop.
Miley smiled as she thought back to Lilly's first day on the set of her movie, nearly a year ago now. Several roles still needed to be filled, but Lilly had already read through the script three times, often discussing it with Miley. Technically that was a violation of the nondisclosure agreement, and the director wasn't happy when Lola had informed her that she had discussed the script with her wife. However, the director had calmed down when Lola had produced a second copy of the nondisclosure agreement signed by Hannah.
Miley selected a simple heart-shaped balloon, red of course, and a dozen red roses. She considered for a moment, then she replaced the dozen roses and instead selected a single red rose. Holding a dozen roses would make it difficult to hold Lilly, but a single stem could easily be held to the side. She carefully carried her items to the cashier. She tried not to laugh as she remembered exactly how long it had taken Lilly before she made her director mad enough to quit a second time: two hours. And eleven minutes, Lilly would have added proudly. That was how long they had talked about the script before Lilly had stated adamantly that she wasn't comfortable doing a steamy love scene.
"The only person I let touch me like that is my wife, and you better believe that I'm sure as heck not putting my hands where the script says!" Lilly said loudly, leaning across the small table where she, the director and the two scriptwriters sat.
"I will NOT put up with this prima donna bullshit!" screamed Gail Young, the director of the still-untitled project. She had stormed away from the table, slamming the door behind her as she began screaming for someone to get the producer down to the studio to put the movie's star in her place. Less than twenty minutes later the producer and one of the studio's owners had arrived, and the haggling began in earnest.
"Look, I'm not comfortable letting someone I don't even know paw me up like it's written in the script!" Lilly said emphatically. "Geez, I've never even fooled around with anybody except my wife!"
"So why did you even agree to do the movie?" countered the director. "Did you read the script?" That was a thinly disguised slam at Lilly, because she knew damn well that Lilly had read the script.
"Yes, of course I did! And I made all sorts of little notes—" Lilly had yelled, waving the pages of the script in the air for emphasis— "about how I thought we could change the scene around so that I wouldn't have some sweaty guy's hands all over me!"
The next few minutes hadn't seen much progress, and by now Miley, dressed as Hannah, had arrived on the set. She had been called immediately after the producer, and that move had turned out to be divinely inspired. Miley walked into the conference room as Lilly and the director were just about to start throwing punches at each other, and as soon as she walked in Lilly had pointed at her and shouted, "The only way you're getting me in that bed fooling around with someone is if it's with my wife!"
As soon as the words left her lips, everyone in the room froze. Then slowly smiles began to break out.
"We could bill her as a cameo," one of the writers had said. "Or even a guest star."
"And I don't think audiences today would have a problem with it being a lesbian romance," the second writer had added. "Especially with it being a well-known couple that everybody already loves."
"Real-life couples are either box office gold or pure poison, though," said Writer #1.
"Yeah, but it's worth a chance. And Hannah Montana would just increase the draw. We'd have to be really careful to make sure to limit her screen time, though. This is Lola's movie, and we don't want anything to detract from her screen presence."
"No no, it won't! The two of them are crazy cute together, and it'll be a natural for the audience to believe they're in love. Hell, they already are!"
As the writers, director and producer hurriedly talked, Lilly and Miley had met each other's gaze across the room. Lilly smiled and ran across the room to throw herself into Miley's arms, sniffing deeply to pull as much of her wife's scent into her lungs. Today it was oranges, with a hint of fresh linen, the subtle powdery smell of the Hannah wig and that intoxicating smell underneath everything else, Miley's personal scent, that Lilly had grown dependent on. Once she was satisfied, Lilly had leaned her head back and softly said, "Will you do it for me?"
Miley smiled and gently ran her fingers across Lilly's cheek, sending shivers of pleasure down her wife's neck. "Sweetheart, I'll do anything for you," she had said, loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. Miley glanced up to see the writers silently high-fiving each other, grins on their faces. "Heck, I'll even do a couple songs for the soundtrack if you want," she added, looking at the director. And so the movie's other romantic lead, already a cameo part, was cast.
As Miley paid for her purchases, she hurried back across the walkway to her lookout post along the wall. Through the large window she could an airplane slowly approaching the gate. She smiled as she was already thinking about holding Lilly in her arms again. The last few nights had been intensely lonely, even with talking to Lilly on the phone until she was nearly asleep. Their friends Gina Giles and Jamie Escante had spent the night at Miley's and Lilly's house the first night Lilly was gone, but instead of making Miley feel better they had inadvertently made her feel worse. She would never tell them that, but watching them interact with each other had only reminded Miley of how her other half wasn't there. Miley had spent the next two nights alone, but she had also gone through the laundry that hadn't been washed yet and dug out the pajamas that Lilly had worn a few nights earlier. Miley still wasn't sure why Lilly had worn them, but she was glad her wife had; the next two nights Miley had wrapped the pajamas over a pillow and held it while she slept, breathing in the lingering traces of Lilly's unique scent while she slept. And honestly, it did seem to help her rest.
The arrival of someone from the airline at the gate's door drew Miley's attention. Obviously the plane was about to disembark passengers, so Miley stepped slightly forward. She stood on her tiptoes, peering through the crowd that had surged in close. Miley wanted Lilly to be able to see her as soon as she came through that door, and she wasn't going to let some crowd stand in her way. But just as Miley started forward, the door opened up, and less than five seconds later the first of the passengers came through the doorway. Even through the throng of people, blue eyes met blue eyes, and Miley felt her heart swell as Lilly ran toward her, squeezing past those who were too slow to move out of her way.
As Lilly broke free of the crowd, she grinned as she practically skipped across the last fifteen feet between her and her wife, throwing herself into Miley's open arms and hugging the woman she loved as tightly as she possibly could.
"Oh my gosh, I've missed you so much!" Lilly said as she released Miley long enough to grab her by the head and pull her forward for a long, lingering kiss that sent Miley's heart rate through the roof.
By the time they ended the deep kiss, Miley didn't notice or care how many sets of eyes were locked on them. She smiled shyly as she offered the heart-shaped balloon and the single red rose to Lilly. "I missed you so much that I don't ever want you to do any more press again. Not unless I come with you."
Lilly smiled as she took the rose and held it up to her nose, sniffing happily. "It's beautiful," she said, "just like you." She slid even closer, and now Miley was able to wrap her arms around Lilly and hug her warmly. "But you're a heck of a lot sexier than any old flower," Lilly said softly, her lips brushing against Miley's neck. "Let's go get my suitcases, so you can take me home and make love to me."
Miley shivered as she felt her body responding to Lilly powerfully. She kissed Lilly again, a bit quicker this time, then she said, "I've been waiting three days to hear that," smiling as she looked into Lilly's sparkling blue eyes. She took her wife's hand and led her toward the baggage claim. "So did things go—" She found herself silenced by Lilly's fingertips on her lips, making her smile beneath them.
Lilly gently removed her fingers from Miley's lips. "Uh uh. No business talk. Not until we're back home and you've made love to me." Lilly looked thoughtful for a second, then she added, "With each of us getting off at least twice."
Miley laughed as they bumped hips while walking. "Sweetheart, I have missed you so much!"
A little over two hours later found the two of them lying naked on the couch downstairs, a pink silk sheet spread across the couch and a second wrapped around them as they watched television. Miley had seen Lilly's two orgasms each and raised her a third, and the hot touch of skin on skin was making a fourth a distinct possibility before the evening was over.
"So how did the contract talks go?" Lilly asked offhandedly as she clutched Miley's hand to her bare stomach.
Miley sighed loudly as she held Lilly. "More of the same," she said dejectedly. "I just can't believe they're being such jerks about things."
Lilly couldn't believe it either. It was almost like the record company had been waiting for something like Hannah's manager having to go out of town for an extended period to start causing trouble. "How's Mamaw doing?" Lilly asked, hoping to change the subject.
"She's doing okay," Miley said with noticeably more cheer in her voice. "Daddy says she's doin' really well with her therapy, but there's still a lot of swelling in her leg and she's not real stable when she's tryin' to walk."
"They need to send that horse to the glue factory," Lilly mumbled under her breath, but as she heard Miley snicker she realized she had been a bit louder than she had planned. "Sorry." Lilly suddenly remembered a good piece of news that she had for her wife. "Oh! I found us a new manager!" she said excitedly, spinning around so that she was facing Miley but still lying atop her lover. "You know, until your dad comes back out here."
"Really?" Miley asked, smiling. "Oh, you are the BEST, girlfriend!" She gave Lilly a warm kiss, and she could feel Lilly slide her body up Miley's slightly, sending surges of excitement through both young women.
"Yeah, I know," Lilly said as she lightly placed a kiss on the tip of Miley's nose. "That's why you married me, remember?"
"Among other things," Miley added, raising an eyebrow suggestively at Lilly. "When do I get to meet him or her?"
"She's going to be in Los Angeles for your meeting with the record company Thursday. I had our attorney send her copies of your current contract, plus I told the record company to send her what they were offering. As sorry an offer as it is."
"I just don't know why the company is so negative about this!" Miley said with a sigh. "I mean, I've been the most successful artist they've ever had! Ever!"
Lilly looked down and snuggled a bit more closely to Miley. She hated to say this, but someone had to. "It's probably because of me, Miles. Because of us."
"Super sexy wife of mine say what?" Miley sputtered.
"Why else would the new president of the record company be so hot to get rid of you?"
"He could just not like pop or rock music, Lilly," Miley said, running her fingers through Lilly's blonde hair, not as silky as normal due to it being wet with sweat. "I mean, the first two new acts that the company signed after he came in were a rap act and a country band."
Lilly still wasn't entirely convinced. "I don't know, Miles..."
Miley kissed Lilly on the head, then lightly tickled her ribs.
"Hey!" Lilly shrieked, squirming around for a few seconds before she realized Miley had stopped tickling her.
Miley looked Lilly in the eyes as she said, "I'm not letting some dork at the record company ruin our first night together in four days, and neither are you. Got me, Truscott?"
Lilly grinned. "Yeah, I got you, Truscott," she said, kissing Miley briefly. "We still going ahead with the press conference Thursday after the meeting?"
Miley nodded. "Oh yeah. Even if nothing positive happens at the meeting." She watched a rather spectacular car chase on the television for a moment, then she looked at Lilly again. "So what's this new manager like?"
The twinkle in Lilly's eye wasn't lost on Miley. "Well, she graduated with her MBA from Stanford a few months ago, and she just finished up an internship in New York somewhere. She told me, but I kinda forgot already. But anyway, I talked to her on the phone and told her what we had agreed on as a starting offer, and she agreed to it."
"Wow," Miley said. "She didn't try to negotiate up?"
Lilly laughed, then she said, "No, she said that she wanted to get off on the right foot with us, and that she'd save the bitch part for the record company."
Miley laughed too, and as Lilly laughed again with her, things felt right for the first time all week for both Miley and Lilly. "I think I like her," Miley said.
"Yeah, so do I," said Lilly. "How about our costumes for the Halloween party? Did they come in yet?"
"No, they're supposed to be here by next week sometime," Miley answered.
Both girls had been looking to the Halloween party at Oliver and Ashley's house for months now, ever since the first one last year. The sight of Sarah Sweet chasing Cassie Hughes around the pool with a small jack-o-lantern was still etched in their minds. No one had ever known that for some peculiar reason, Cassie was terrified of jack-o-lanterns, and as soon as Sarah had picked up on that fact, she had immediately used it to her advantage. The chase had ended when Sarah had accidentally dropped the miniature pumpkin into the pool; she had followed the tiny pumpkin of terror into the heated water immediately afterwards when Cassie had thrown her in.
"That party is going to rock," Lilly said with a smile. "And you're going to have the hottest costume there, girlfriend."
"Mmmm, I think you might have me beat, Lil," Miley said. "Are you gonna model yours for me when it gets here?"
Lilly grinned. "Why, Miley Truscott, if I didn't know better I'd think you were getting turned on by the thought of me in a Supergirl costume," she said teasingly.
Miley blushed, but she knew better than to try and deny the truth. She was getting turned on by the thought of Lilly in a Supergirl costume, with her tight abdomen and strong legs on display. She cleared her throat, then she said, "You, uh, didn't answer my question..."
Lilly rested her head against Miley's collarbone as she gently kissed her wife's neck. "Of course I'll give you a private show when my costume gets here, lover," she said softly. Lilly stretched her neck forward just enough to reach Miley's lips, capturing them with her own as she shifted her body until she was straddling her best friend.
Miley gasped as she felt Lilly glide across her stomach, hot and slick and thrilling. "I love you so much, Lilly," Miley said as she gripped her wife's hips and pulled her down, increasing the delicious contact between the two of them. However, before things could go any further, the ringing of the doorbell resounded through the house, startling both young women. "Sweet niblets!" Miley said angrily. She leaned her head back and yelled, "Who is it?!"
"It's your mother- and father-in-law!" called a muffled woman's voice from the other side of the door. "We brought dinner like we had planned!"
"Crap!" said Lilly. "I totally forgot about my parents wanting to come over for dinner!"
Miley pushed Lilly to her feet before she stood herself. "Um, okay, give us just a minute, okay?" she yelled as she tossed the sheer blanket over the couch toward the closet. "Go, Lilly!" she hissed, motioning for Lilly to go upstairs. "I'll get the door!" Miley padded quickly to the door. "Okay, I'm unlocking the door, but wait fifteen seconds before you come in, okay?" she yelled through the door.
After a pause, Meredith Truscott's voice replied, "Alright, Miley. Fifteen seconds."
"Thanks!" Miley yelled back, then she unlocked the door. She spun and started to run to the stairs, but she skidded to a halt when she saw Lilly frantically picking up clothes that had been strewn around the living room. "Lilly!" Miley hissed. "Upstairs!"
"Okay!" Lilly hissed back, pointing a light gray bra at Miley. "I'd already be up there if you hadn't thrown my bra across the room!"
"I was in a hurry!" Miley replied. "Now we've got about five seconds before your parents come through that door!"
"Eeeep!" Lilly said, then she turned and ran for the stairs, Miley hot on her heels. They raced up the stairs, making it to the top as they heard the front door open and then close. Lilly stopped and yelled back down the stairs, "We'll be right down!"
Meredith and Phil Truscott closed the front door once they were both inside. "I made you two some roast and potatoes!" Meredith called out as she carried the covered bowl over to the kitchen. "It should still be warm!"
Lilly's father settled himself into the large overstuffed chair beside the couch, sighing contentedly as he sat down. But before he could turn his attention to the television, Miley and Lilly came bustling down the stairs. They were each wearing a tank top, pink for Miley and yellow for Lilly, with soft navy blue shorts for each of them. "Hey Mom! Hey Dad!" Lilly said happily as she hugged her dad first while Miley went to her mother-in-law.
"Hey Mrs. Truscott," Miley said with a smile. "We're so glad you two could come over for a while!" As Lilly came over to hug her mother, Miley traded and went to her father-in-law. "Feel free to watch whatever you want on the TV, Mr. Truscott," Miley said.
"Miley," Phil replied, "don't you think it's time you started calling us Phil and Merry? I mean, you've been married to our daughter for almost six years now!"
Meredith said loudly, "And if you won't call us by our first names, then for Heaven's sakes give us some grandchildren while we're still young enough to enjoy them!"
"Mom!" said Lilly, poking her mother in the chest. "Be nice!" Lilly had a sneaky smile creep across her face as a positively naughty idea to get her mother back dawned on her. "Miley's trying as hard as she can to get me pregnant, you know," Lilly said, causing her mother's head to whirl around, much like an owl. "I mean, we're trying at least once a day, usually two or three times a d—" Lilly's voice was muffled by a pot holder being firmly clamped over her mouth by her mother, but the shine in her eyes reflected how well her tactic had worked.
"Yes, well, enough of that, Lilly," Meredith said, trying to regain her composure and fan the redness out of her face at the same time. "Some things a mother just doesn't need to know about her daughter."
"That's for sure," muttered Phil. "Miley, do you have the remote? I really was wanting to watch the History Channel. They're having a special on the accountants of ancient Rome and Greece tonight."
Miley was trying not to laugh as she watched Lilly and her mother banter from her vantage point on the couch, just barely registering her father-in-law's request for the remote. "Sure," she politely said as she dug between the cushions for the remote. "Nice one, sweetheart," Miley said a bit more loudly to Lilly, who turned and flashed her wife a thumbs-up as Meredith turned and walked back over to the stove to retrieve two bowls from the cabinets.
Still smiling at her wife, Miley finally felt the remote. She yanked it out from between the cushions and started to hand it to Phil, who was now captured in the grip of a commercial of some sort. However, the look of horror that appeared on Lilly's face made her freeze. Miley looked down at the remote, only to see a rather sultry looking set of red satin panties with the words "Miley's Li'l Devil" printed on the butt dangling from the end of the remote. Miley instantly snatched the panties off of the remote and tossed them over her shoulder, behind the couch.
Lilly scooted across the living room as Phil turned to face Miley. "Oh, you found the remote! Thank you, Miley," he said happily as he took the remote. Miley just grinned her default grin when she didn't trust herself to speak without digging herself or her wife into a deeper hole. Lilly snatched up the panties and put them behind her back just as Meredith turned to carry the two bowls of roast and potatoes to the kitchen table.
"Here's the food!" said Meredith happily.
"Thanks Mom!" said Lilly as she walked across the living room and gave her mother a one-armed hug, surreptitiously tossing the panties into the laundry room with her other arm. "Smells great!"
Before Lilly could pull out her chair, Miley had already done so for her. As she scooted her wife into the table, Miley leaned down and whispered, "You have no idea."
Lilly's sudden coughing fit drew everyone's attention, with Miley gently patting her wife on the back as Meredith got her a glass of peach tea. After a long sip of the sweet tea, Lilly was able to get her coughing under control. She glared across the table at her wife, who was trying her best not to break out laughing. Lilly scooped a piece of potato onto her fork and aimed it at Miley, but when Miley batted her eyelashes and blew Lilly a kiss, her desire for revenge wilted. Instead Lilly reached across the table and took Miley's hand, giving her best friend a loving smile. At the sight of that smile so loving and pure, Miley felt her heart melt all over again for the young woman she knew she would spend the rest of time with. "Sorry if I embarrassed you," Miley said quietly.
"It's okay," Lilly said. "Keeps me on my toes. Now start eating, because I want to catch up on what my brother's been doing at his new job."
Miley smiled and dutifully started eating.
The next two days passed quickly. Miley and Lilly were each taking a light course load this semester, since they had already planned on taking five years to finish college. With Hannah and Lola's careers as well as college, they were both concerned about becoming overwhelmed, so they had planned from the beginning on taking their time. They were paying for their own education, as neither of them had applied for financial aid of any sort. Both Robbie Ray and Lilly's parents had disagreed with that decision, but Miley had stood firm when she declared that neither she nor Lilly were going to take money away from another student who would need it more than them. Paying for five years of college for the two of them was no more a problem than paying for four, given their savings from Hannah's and Lola's careers.
When Thursday rolled around, Miley raced out of her last class of the day and hurried to the School of Cinematic Arts building, where Lilly's last class of the day was. As usual, she spotted Lilly talking with some of her classmates as she approached the SCA building. Before Miley was close enough to yell, Lilly looked up and smiled as she waved to Miley. She excused herself from her friends and powerwalked to meet her wife with a lingering kiss. "How was your class?" Lilly asked, smiling as she took Miley's hand.
"Boring," Miley said with a grin. "Yours?"
"Pretty fun, actually. It'd be more fun if I could tell my teacher exactly what my acting experience really is, though. Watching him choke on his own tongue would be really awesome."
Miley grinned. "Kinda hard acting like you still have stuff to learn, huh?" She laughed as she pondered what she had just said. "Hey, that's funny, you having to act like you don't know how to act already, huh?"
Lilly gave Miley a knowing look out of the corner of her eye. "Nervous about the record company meeting, huh?" she asked. "Because, you know, you always get bogged down on goofy stuff when you get worried about something coming up."
Miley's smile faded. Lilly knew her completely, and she was right. "Yeah, I'm nervous."
They slowly walked toward the parking garage where they had parked their car that day, happy for there to be no one around them at this point. Lilly stayed quiet, holding Miley's hand for support but waiting for her wife to let out some of the worry that had been accumulating the past week.
Finally Miley said, "I just don't get it. I mean, I've sold more albums that anyone else ever in that record company's history, and they're acting like they don't care if I re-sign with them or not."
"So what would happen if you don't re-sign with them?" Lilly asked. "I mean, there's got to be at least a half-dozen companies that'd fall all over themselves to sign you."
Miley nodded. "Yeah, that's probably true. And if no one did want to sign me for some reason—"
"Like if you started spewing toxic waste out of your ears?" Lilly asked teasingly.
"—then I could always just distribute my album myself," Miley finished, pointedly ignoring Lilly's jab. "I mean, Daddy knows a ton of people that'd be willing to produce my album, or I could even do it myself, I guess."
"And that way you could do the album you've been wanting to release for over a year now."
As they had gotten older, Miley found herself writing quite a few songs more oriented toward older teens and young adults. She still wrote songs for all ages and sang songs from throughout Hannah's career during concerts, but she was growing more and more eager to put out a more mature album. "Yeah," Miley said thoughtfully. "I guess. But I really don't want to turn off Hannah's younger fans."
"Then don't," Lilly said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. "Mark the album as for teens and older and put it in the advertising for it, so there's no confusion."
"And what about a concert for that album? Do I just put up a big sign that says, 'No kids under thirteen allowed' or what? That'd be spitting in the faces of Hannah's younger fans, and I can't do that!"
"No, you can't," Lilly agreed. "Okay, we need to think on this one, huh?" she asked, looking at Miley with that eager face that Miley adored. Bright blue eyes, wide smile, stunning cheeks, hair as golden as an angel...
Miley stopped in her tracks as she locked in on Lilly's face.
"What?" Lilly asked. "Do I have some mustard on my face or something?" She began wiping at her lips, muttering something about hot dogs, when Miley gently took her hand away.
"No," Miley said as she leaned down slightly and pulled Lilly into a deep, intoxicating kiss. After nearly a minute they pulled apart, with the world spinning around them. "Just a lot of beautiful," she said, smiling at how Lilly's eyes brightened at the compliment.
They held hands as they continued their walk to their car. "Those record company people better not be ugly to you tonight, honey," said Lilly. "Because I'm gonna be in there with you this time."
Miley tried not to laugh, because she had expected Lilly would be making up for not being there at the last meeting by being extra-protective this time. "Just try not to get any blood on our clothes, okay Lil?" she said with a giggle.
Lilly gave Miley a quixotic look and replied, "Oh, they don't stand a chance, Miles. Trust me."
And Miley did. With her life, with her career, with her children, and with her future.
Two hours later they were on their way into the record company in Miley's electric blue Roadster. They had slipped on their wigs once they were out of their neighborhood, and idly Miley noted a news van parked outside the record company's headquarters as they pulled around to the parking garage. "Those goobers are a bit early," she said to Lilly as she continued to watch them in the side mirror as they drove past them. She smiled as she said, "Those suits are going to be so ticked off, you know. About the press conference."
"Tough for them," Lilly said as she slid her passcard into the security gate and waved at the security guard. He smiled as he cleared them and raised the access gate to allow them to enter. "They started it when they got ugly with you. If they don't want Hannah Montana and her eight multiplatinum albums, her nine Grammys, and her umpteen Peoples' Choice, Teen Choice, and Kids' Choice awards, then they're just stupid and they don't deserve you." She pulled into their reserved parking place near the elevator and turned to look at Miley as she turned off the engine. "And if you do walk, then you can finally put out the album you want to release, not what they want to release. And do the concerts any way you want to."
Miley looked unsure, and she looked away from Lilly to examine the upholstery for a minute. "I just... I just don't know if I'm ready to do all that, sweetheart. I mean, I'm only twenty-one. Am I really ready to cut loose and go out alone?"
Lilly took Miley's hands and brought them to her lips, kissing both of them softly before she looked into Miley's bright blue eyes. The hint of moisture was evident in those beautiful cobalt eyes, and Lilly could almost see her bottom lip tremble, like it would be doing in a few seconds. "Miley," she said tenderly, "you're never alone. And if anyone in this whole industry is ready for a step like this, it's you. You've been doing this almost half your life, and you've learned more than I'll ever know about this industry. Your dad has been a terrific manager, and even he said that you were ready to take charge of your career."
"But do you think this is the right decision?" Miley asked, her voice pleading as they walked to the elevator.
Lilly put her keycard in the elevator lock, sending it on its way to get them. She then looked into Miley's eyes, glowing beneath Hannah's blonde bangs. "I think that whatever you decide will be the right decision, Hannah." Lilly saw Miley sigh with frustration, so she quickly said, "Honey, I can't make this decision for you. Nobody can except you. What I can do is love you and support you no matter what you choose, and you better believe I'm gonna do that."
The chime of the elevator drew their attention away, and they stepped into the elevator car as soon as the doors were open enough to do so. Miley pressed the button for the administration floor, then she turned and found herself in Lilly's loving embrace.
"Miley," Lilly whispered into her ear, "you could quit this industry right now, and we'd still be able to live comfortably for the rest of our lives. Our kids too. You do what you feel is right, and I'll be there with you."
As those words slipped into Miley's ear, the phrase our kids too echoed inside Miley' mind. Our kids. I have to do what's right for our kids and their future. She saw Lilly pull back, then move in for a kiss which Miley was ready to give her. Lilly will understand. I know she will.
Seven years ago, facing a similar showdown here, it was Miley who stepped off the elevator and Hannah Montana who walked into the boardroom of Dyseni Records. But today saw Miley and Lilly Truscott step off the same elevator and then stride purposefully down the hallway as Hannah and Lola Montana, walking hand in hand as equal partners. Both of them noticed quite clearly the framed pictures of Hannah Montana that dominated the other artists lining the walls of the executive hallway; today both Miley and Lilly drew strength from the silent display of Hannah's power here.
As they reached the boardroom, Miley hesitated just a moment before she grasped the doorknob. This would be the first time she had been to a meeting this important without her father present, and that knowledge fell upon her like a pall. It was at this point where he would put his arm around her, give her a smile, and tell her that things were going to be okay.
Miley frowned until she felt gentle arms wrap around her waist, with fingers delicately grazing over her stomach until they laced together in front. She could feel Lilly's body step against her, her warm breath tickling Miley's right ear as she leaned over her shoulders—standing on tiptoes, no doubt—to whisper a single word: "Together."
Miley smiled and closed her eyes, drawing strength from her wife's embrace for a few seconds. She then looked up at the door and reached for the knob. As she did so, Lilly slipped her arms from around Miley and instead reached to open the door before Miley could do so. "After you," Lilly said, taking her time to let Miley make her entrance.
"Thanks," Miley said, smiling back at her wife as she stepped into the boardroom where a half-dozen people waited. Almost all of them were male, with a single woman present. Judging from where she sat at the very end of the group, Miley assumed she was low on the pecking order. As she looked at the six people sitting across the table from where she and Lilly stood, they slowly stood, fake smiles leaping into place right on cue.
"Hannah!" said a man in the center of the corporate pack, his voice overly friendly and his smile wide but superficial.
Miley guessed that he would be the one in charge here, so she said, "Hi everybody," then she moved to sit directly across from the woman, whom she gave a friendly smile to. As Lilly took a seat beside her best friend, Miley watched with amusement how the entire group immediately shifted, gathering up papers and briefcases that had been laid out on the table to move three seats down the large table, putting the one Miley was already thinking of Mr. Suit In Charge directly across the table from her. It was all she and Lilly could do not to laugh as one of the other men dropped a sheaf of papers as he tripped over a chair in his haste to relocate seats.
Once the corporate delegation had retaken their seats, the same man looked at Miley again, and this time his smile definitely seemed a bit forced. "Hannah, we haven't met yet, I'm afraid. I'm Lonnie Walters, Assistant Vice-President of Artist Relations."
Miley raised an eyebrow at his title. "So I'm getting an assistant vice-president sent to talk to this record company's biggest selling artist ever?" she asked, projecting a rather obvious tone of annoyance into her voice. She was about to ask if the insult was deliberate or accidental when the doors to the boardroom opened to admit a face that took Miley all of two seconds to recognize.
The young woman with short-cut blonde hair was wearing a slate-gray suit jacket with a soft pink blouse just barely visible underneath, paired with a matching slate-gray miniskirt that revealed quite a bit of her strong, tanned legs. She cast a steely gaze around the room, then she purposefully walked over to stand beside Miley and Lilly, standing on Miley's left side to offset Lilly, sitting at Miley's right.
Miley didn't even realize her mouth was slightly open as she grinned at Lilly's choice for their new manager. She leaned over toward her best friend as she could hear the snaps of their manager's briefcase clasps open. "Best. Manager. Choice. Ever," she whispered into Lilly's ear Lilly grinned back and nodded once to accept Miley's compliment.
The young blonde woman still hadn't taken a seat yet as she continued to glare across the table at the corporate men and woman, all of whom seemed to be a bit less comfortable at that moment. Her gaze finally settled on the man all the others seemed to be glancing at; she abruptly said, "And who are you?" with a voice that didn't seem like it could get any colder.
The man cleared his throat and extended a hand as he said, "Lonnie Walters, Assistant Vice-President of Artist Relations." Now his smile seemed even more forced than it had been, and it was all Miley and Lilly could do not to snicker.
After a pause, the blonde woman said, "Jen Kittrell, manager for Hannah and Lola Montana." Rather than shake Walters' hand, Lilly's former soccer teammate sat down, sliding her briefcase to the side. "Is it your company's intention to piss off my clients with that contract you offered them?" she asked angrily.
One of the other men in the delegation slid a copy of a contract across the table to Jen, but she made no move to pick it up. Instead she looked at it for a moment, then she looked up and asked, "Is that the same contract?"
"Yes, we highlighted a few points that we felt needed further clarification—"
Jen smacked the contract down the length of the table away from all of them. "As far as I'm concerned, the only thing that contract's good for is wiping my ass with it!" she said hotly. "If that's the best this company can do for its best-selling artist of all time, then it's no surprise they sent an assistant vice-president down here to waste our time."
Now the smile on Mr. Walters' face went away, and his cheeks began to turn slightly red. "The music industry has changed over the last ten years, Ms. Kittrell, and you and your clients should be smart enough to realize that. Pop music is declining. It's on its way out. Rock's most recent revival is fading away too, and where does that leave your client?"
Jen met his gaze as she stood, leaning across the table. Her voice was low but threatening as she growled, "Ninety-one million. That's the number of albums Hannah Montana has sold according to the Recording Industry Association of America. So far." She paused to let that number settle before she added, "That's more than the Rolling Stones, more than Madonna, more than U2, more than Bruce Springsteen, more than Michael Jackson, and one hell of a lot more than anyone else at this label!" She straightened back up but continued to stand as she said, "Her most recent album is still in the Top 5, and it'll probably go back up to Number One once she starts doing her new concerts. She'll easily make the one hundred million mark in a few years, guaranteed. How many millions of dollars have all those records of hers made for this company? And you offer her a piece of shit contract like THAT?"
"Well, that contract reflects a contracting market that—"
"The only thing contracting here is the noose around your fucking NECK is you don't get Hannah Montana to re-sign with this company!" Jen said, slapping the table to emphasize her point and getting more than one person to jump at her action. "Just how long do you think you'll have a job here when Hannah walks out?"
Sweat was beading on Mr. Walters' forehead as he chose his words carefully. Obviously, he hadn't been prepared for such a hostile reception; instead, he had most likely assumed he'd be negotiating with Hannah and Lola, both known to be kind and considerate almost all of the time. Having to face a very angry new manager had completely disrupted his game plan. "Well, I suppose we could rework part of the contract. There would probably be room to come back up some on the artist's share for album revenue, and we might be able to drop the number of albums optioned, but I don't see any way to continue such extravagant expenditures like the corporate jet at a time when the industry is still retooling itself for the future."
Now it was Miley who stood up quickly. "You know, I think I've heard enough." She reached down and took Lilly's hand, drawing strength from the energy that surged between them. "I've delivered the five albums my current contract specified, I've done all the concerts required of me plus more, and I've held back on several songs that I've really wanted to release over the years because this company didn't think it was 'the right time' to release them. Now you want to treat me like somebody that didn't have a hand in building this company into what it is today." Miley sighed before she continued. "I try not to act like some rock diva, but let me tell ya, I'm actin' like one today!" she said angrily. "Consider this my thirty day notice. I'm done here."
As Miley finished, Lilly immediately stood, followed by Jen. The three of them walked to the door, only to stop as they heard Mr. Walters say, "Hannah, we'll get back to you as quickly as we can with a new contract offer!"
Miley stopped but didn't turn around as she said over her shoulder, "Don't hold your breath for my reply."
"We also expect you keep this out of the press, Hannah, because stirring up the media would only it harder for all of us," he called out as the three young women left the boardroom.
"Good luck with that!" Miley yelled in reply, already walking down the hallway.
None of them spoke as they walked to the elevator. As the doors opened, Miley stepped in first, with Lilly and then Jen stepping into the elevator cab. Miley quickly punched the button for the first floor, not the private garage.
As the elevator began its descent, Miley looked at Jen, who didn't seem to have a clue that Hannah Montana was really her old classmate Miley Stewart. "Nice job up there," Miley said, smiling a bright smile at her new manager. She was surprised when Jen smiled back, an honest smile that Miley hadn't seen in a long time, not since all of them were at Seaview High School. "I think my wife did good by hiring you."
"You two get my full attention," Jen said. "That was part of the contract, that I'd be exclusive to the two of you. So you get me all to yourselves. My husband was pretty happy about the contract too, so thank you both. It's a hell of a lot more money than I was expecting to be making at this point in my career."
"Ms. Kittrell has her MBA plus specialized training in contract law," Lilly added helpfully. "And after I talked to her on the phone, I knew that the recommendation we got about her was right on the money." Lilly stuck out her hand and said, "And I'm Lola," smiling as Jen shook her hand. "Nice to meet you face to face."
"Same here," said Jen. She turned to Miley and shook her hand as well. "Mrs. Montana, it's an honor to represent you."
"It's Hannah," Miley said, "and I think this business relationship is going to be good for all of us."
The elevator slowed as it reached the first floor, chiming softly as the doors opened. As the three of them walked to the main entrance of Dyseni Records, a medium-sized mob of reporters was waiting in the small plaza just outside the main doors. "So just who recommended me to you?" asked Jen, curiosity in her voice.
Lilly smiled as she said, "Two friends of ours from Malibu. Lilly and Miley Truscott."
Jen smiled again. "So they got married, huh?" she asked.
"Yeah," said Miley, smiling back. Further conversation was cut off by them going out the doors, which triggered a storm of camera flashes and shouted questions. Miley quickly stepped up to the stand made of multiple microphones lashed together, representing all of the local media networks and quite a few national networks. Lilly took her place beside her wife, her arm around Miley's waist. Years ago she was uncomfortable being at the center of this much attention, but now she accepted it was part of Lola's life to stand beside the woman she loved regardless of the frenzy of attention that went with it. However, she still preferred the peace of just being Lilly and Miley, just like she knew her wife did.
"Thanks for comin' out," Miley said into the microphones, quietening the crowd of reporters instantly. "This'll be a short press conference, I promise." Miley paused a moment, then she said, "First, I just gave Dyseni Records thirty day notice that I'm ending my contract with them."
A flurry of questions were shouted at Hannah, but Miley waved her arms, signaling for everyone to quieten down. "I'm not answering any questions about that today, sorry. I will say that the past CEO of this record company, Mr. Hal Bruton, was a wonderful man who I thought of like a grandfather. He was there with me from the start of my career, and I'm really sad to see him retire. I think that if he were still here, things might not have come to this point."
Miley paused for a minute. She hadn't expected herself to get quite so emotional about this turn of events, but it did hurt. She had spent her entire career as Hannah Montana here, and now that was coming to an end. The future could always be frightening, but this was doubly so, since she had no real idea of where Hannah was going just yet. She looked up and saw that the sun, though low in the sky, was still bright enough to shine. She smiled and then said with a confident voice, "But just because I'm leavin' this company doesn't mean I'm done. I still have lots more songs to sing and concerts to do, and I'm gonna be singin' for my fans for a long, long time!"
As applause picked up around the plaza from onlookers and some of the media crews, Miley took a moment to give Lilly a kiss on her cheek before she turned back to the microphone. "And now for the big news!" she said, drawing a few chuckles from the crowd, obviously wondering what could be bigger news than they had already heard.
Miley grinned as she shared a knowing look with Lilly, then she turned back to the cameras and happily shouted, "I'm nine weeks pregnant with this woman's baby!"
Author's Afterword: For those of you hoping for Jen's return, your wish is granted! Expect to see more of her in this story. You can also plan on us checking in with all our favorites, including Oliver, Ashley, Luanne, Ron, Cassie, Sarah, Jackson, Kaela, and several more as we go. I hope all of you enjoy this story, because it's just beginning and we have a long ride ahead of us. Yes, Miley makes a few grammatical mistakes when she talks at times, but that's just because she gets excited. Same for Lilly, so do try to understand if they slip at times. See you soon!
-- Jo --