Author's Note: Well. It's been a while, hasn't it? I'm currently working my way through about four stories right now, including one with all original characters I'm considering trying to e-publish when it's done. I'm nowhere near finished with any of them, but I'm trying. I write slowly anyway, and my brain jumping back and forth between multiple worlds only slows things down even more. I'm doing the best I can with a ridiculously busy schedule. My oldest daughter's health problems seem to be behind us, thankfully, and she's doing very well now. I'm still having some highs and lows with my own health, but we have to keep going, and I'm doing it with a happy heart. I hope everyone is doing well! I've missed all of you.
This little story was a complete surprise. It came out of nowhere and just would not leave me alone until I put it into pixels. I've decided to go along with it and see where it takes us. I hope it's a fun read. All grammatical errors in the dialogue are intentional, by the way. I write 'em like I hear 'em.
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!
Cast of Characters:
by Jo K.
You live your life, you go in shadow
You'll come apart and you'll go blind
Some kind of light into your darkness
Colors your eyes with what's not there
-Mazzy Star, "Fade into You"
Miley Cyrus was tired.
It had been a long, shitty week in Australia, and she was ready to be home. She had smiled and done the best she could around the family of Liam Hemsworth, her fiancee, but she always felt like they would never accept her. She couldn't put her finger on it, but it was a niggling feeling that refused to leave her alone. What made it really suck was the accompanying feeling that it was only going to get worse once they were actually married.
She sighed as she hit the button to open the garage door for this particular car, her green Honda Prius Hybrid. The motion sensitive light in the garage lit as soon as the door began to rise, and she smoothly pulled in with practiced ease. This particular house had been hers for three years now, shared with Liam when he was in the United States but currently empty except for her. Clicking the button to close the garage door, she opened the door and stepped out of the car.
Her mind was still buzzing with the thoughts she had tried to push away for weeks now. Liam was good to her; he'd only cheated on her once, and that was with Jennifer Lawrence. Miley could and had forgiven him for that, especially since she herself had been no angel over the three years they had been together. But doubts were increasingly creeping into her thoughts about the future, and she was more than a bit pissed off about it. As she unlocked the door from the garage into the rest of her home, she moved to the alarm keypad only to see it had already been deactivated. "Fuck!" she swore softly. "I told them to make sure they turned the alarm on when they left!" She began to fume as she closed and locked the garage door behind her, flicking the nearest light switch angrily to bring the rear foyer and kitchen lights humming into life.
She peered closely at the alarm system's condition monitor, making sure that there were no faults or events recorded, then she tossed her purse on the kitchen island while simultaneously retrieving her iPhone from its depths. She called up her lengthy contacts list as she walked through the dining room, curtains tightly drawn to prevent any paparazzi telephoto lens from catching a glimpse inside.
She had made it into her spacious den and nearly halfway across the large room when one of the lamps beside her leather couch clicked. Miley screamed and jumped at the startling noise, even before her eyes registered the light springing into existence beside the couch. She reflexively dropped her iPhone before her feet touched the wooden floor again; despite the ominous crack when it struck the ground, she crouched down to grab it and run for the front door when her eyes finally locked onto the figure sitting in the small island of soft light. Despite her sudden terror, the sheer incongruity of who sat on the couch rooted her small frame in place as surely as if her feet had been glued to the floor.
Sitting snugly on the black leather couch... was, well... her.
She was slightly younger than Miley, and her hair was long and curly, Miley's natural dark chestnut color. It was just as it had been nearly two years ago, long before she had gone blonde and cut it shockingly short. Her face was still recognizably hers, but it looked maybe three or four years younger; however, despite that youth Miley could see a maturity and experience in the other woman's face that far outstripped her own. Those blue eyes, however, were no different than the ones she saw in the mirror every day, save for the steely glare she could see in them, and she couldn't help but shudder slightly as she recognized the barely restrained fury smoldering behind them.
For long moments Miley's eyes were locked with this reflection of hers, and it was only then that she realized that her doppelganger was not alone on the couch. Her eyes haltingly darted to the right, as if they were somehow afraid that taking her gaze off other-Miley would cause her to vanish into the shadows. But once her vision settled upon on the second intruder, other-Miley could have vanished, and Miley never would have noticed.
She had never thought that she would see the second woman again. She had also thought it even less likely she would ever again have to face the feelings she had long ago buried deep in her heart, feelings dark and rich with guilt and regret. The emotions coursing through her body were so raw and startling that they would have taken her breath, had Miley been breathing normally. But she wasn't.
"Em?" Miley finally managed to croak out, wincing beneath the icy twin stares directed her way. "Emily, is that you?" Miley's voice was plaintive, halting, but how else to address someone whose heart you had not just broken but shattered into a million pieces? The silence was thundering, awesome and painful in its stillness. Miley wished she could say something else, but what else was there to say? She wished she could run, but where would she run? And if she did run, whom exactly was she really running from?
At last the uncanny still life was broken, as other-Miley turned to look at the blonde woman sitting beside her on the leather sofa. "Who's Emily?" she asked, her voice awkward for Miley to hear simply because it was identical to her own.
The blonde woman who looked so much like a slightly younger Emily Osment turned to face other-Miley, and now the anger that had been so evident in her expression just seconds ago softened into something entirely different. "I told you," she said, and a slight smile stole across her lips for the barest second. "Emily is this world's Lilly."
"Right, gotcha," other-Miley replied with several small nods, and now a matching smile crept across her own face. "Thanks, Lilly Bear."
"Lilly?" Miley practically yelled, now even more unsure if this was a prank, a nightmare or if she was simply going insane. "Seriously? LILLY?" She threw her hands in the air, her iPhone now forgotten. "If this is someone's idea of a joke, I'm really not—"
"SHUT UP!" other-Miley and other-Emily—well, Lilly, apparently—yelled in unison.
Miley shut up.
"You've really made a mess of your life, haven't you?" other-Miley asked quietly. "And you're still so young..." There was still displeasure in her voice, but now Miley could detect something else. Sadness, maybe, or disappointment. She wasn't sure. But if it had been herself talking, it would have indicated a little of both. "Do you have any idea what kind of an example you've become for your fans at this point?"
"What?" Miley asked, thoroughly confused. "My fans?" Her mind registered that her double was wearing a wedding band on her left ring finger, next to an engagement ring that looked altogether different from her own, but it was impossible to give that realization more that a cursory thought at the moment.
"Yeah, your fans. At least, the girls and boys who used to be your fans, before you decided to become queen of the Dyseni tramps."
"It's not Dyseni here either, baby."
Other-Miley looked at Lilly and smiled before giving her a soft kiss on the lips. "Thank you, lover," she said, and the tenderness with which she spoke those words made Miley's heart break even more than it already had over the last three years.
"What the FUCK is going on?!" Miley screamed, gripping her head in her hands and roughly falling to the floor into a seated position, staring at the hardwood floor as tears began to cloud her vision. "Look, I know I've pissed a lot of people off since I was Hannah fucking Montana, but that's my own damn choice! I can live my life the way I want, I can date whoever I want, and I can dress, talk, sing and act however the holy fuck I want!" She looked up, and for the first time since the bizarre conversation began, the other two women looked surprised. "I'm a goddamn ADULT!" she screamed. "It's my fucking life, and I can ruin it however the hell I want!"
Lilly shot to her feet, taking a step toward Miley before other-Miley grabbed her right arm. Her upper body twisted slightly from the sudden stop, but her left arm still shot forward, her index finger jabbing fiercely at where Miley sat on the hard floor. "IT'S NOT JUST YOUR FUCKING LIFE YOU'VE RUINED!" she screamed, her voice and the fury barely contained within it striking Miley with the stunning force of a tidal wave.
"Lil," spoke other-Miley softly, carefully. It wasn't often that Lilly truly lost her temper, but this was one of those times, and it was taking her Miley much of her strength to hold her wife back. "Lilly," she said, a bit more firmly this time. "Kicking her ass isn't going to help."
Lilly turned to look at her partner. Her face was flushed, her sapphire eyes were dancing, she was breathing quickly... and she looked radiant.
"She has no idea what she's missing," other-Miley whispered to her wife. "She's still so young, Lil. We have to make her understand, for both their sakes, before it's too late." A bead of sweat trickling down Lilly's neck distracted Miley for a moment. "And you look ridiculously hot when you're fired up like this."
Lilly turned to look at Miley, who had reflexively scooted away from the blonde ball of fire who had just lunged off the couch at her. She then turned back again to her own Miley, who looked infinitely more beautiful and happy than the dark reflection cowering on the floor. "Well, it might not help much," she finally agreed. "You know, kicking her ass." She turned to regard the Miley on the floor again, and now her wife released her right arm, trusting Lilly to keep herself under control now.
Miley looked up into Lilly's eyes, and she could see nearly all of Emily Osment reflected back at her. The one thing that was missing from Lilly's sparkling blue eyes was what Miley herself had put into Emily's: heartbreak. Now that she was staring directly into the eyes so much like the ones she had stared into for the happiest years of her life, Miley couldn't look away. It had been so long since she had woken up to the sight of those eyes looking back at her, she had forgotten just how captivating they had been. "Who are you?" she asked, desperately needing to know yet frightened to hear the answer.
"She's Lilly, like I said," came the voice of the other Miley as she stood, moving to stand beside Lilly. "And I'm Miley. But you probably figured that one out already."
As the other Miley extended a hand to help her up, Miley hesitated, unsure if the universe would somehow explode were the two of them to touch. But other-Miley leaned forward and grabbed Miley's hand, helping her to her feet with a steady strength. She grinned at Miley's expression of disbelief.
"This isn't some joke? You're really me?" Miley asked, suddenly releasing the other woman's hand as if it had caught on fire.
Other-Miley nodded. "Yup. And you're really me. For this world."
"This world? You mean there-"
"Look, we really can't go into all the details," Lilly interjected. "Mainly because we don't know all of them, and most of the ones we do know, you're going to have to learn those for yourself. But one thing we can tell you is that you and Emily were supposed to be together."
Lilly and her Miley nodded evenly.
"You mean, like, together together?"
"Yeah, like together together," replied other-Miley. "As in, in love, married, having kids and being mommies, spending the rest of your lives together, all that."
"And you royally screwed that up." Lilly crossed her arms in front of her, and once again her eyes hinted at an anger barely restrained. "And while it hurt you pretty badly, it crushed Emily."
Miley closed her eyes and blindly looked down at the floor. "Yeah, I know," she said in a voice just barely audible. "She had the guts to be honest with me and tell me how she felt, and she didn't care what anyone would have said. I didn't think I did, either, but I... I wasn't sure. I went along with it for a few weeks, and I don't think I ever saw her happier. And then after people started to talk about how we acted on Tyra's TV show, I panicked."
"And you told her you couldn't do it," finished other-Miley. "We know. And that's why she left. She left you, she left Los Angeles, she left acting, she left all of it. And now she's lost, trying to forget the huge hole in her heart that you put there."
"How do you know all this?" Miley asked again, looking back into her counterpart's matching eyes.
Other-Miley smiled. "We're older than we look," she said quietly.
"How are you sleeping?" Lilly asked suddenly, her face now more confident than angry.
Miley turned to look at her and thought briefly before she answered. "With sleeping pills," she admitted. "If I don't take something, it's like sleep doesn't help me at all. I don't remember my dreams much, but I have nightmares sometimes, and that just makes it worse."
"We've been there," Lilly said, offering Miley a friendly, if faint, smile. "The nightmares will go away once you two are together."
Other-Miley nodded. "Yep. That was what it took for mine to go away. Same for Lil. We just had to be together."
Miley put her hand to her hand. The room had suddenly started spinning, so she quickly stepped over to a white leather love seat and plopped down into it. "This is insane," she said, trying without much success to grasp what was happening. "So you two are real, somehow, and where you're from, the show Hannah Montana is real?"
"We don't know," said Lilly as she put her arm around her Miley and leaned her head onto her wife's shoulder. "I mean, it's not a television show, it's our lives. Hannah's been on some shows, sure—"
"That's where I proposed to you!" Miley interjected, drawing a playful shove from Lilly.
"Yes, that is where you proposed to me and where Hannah proposed to Lola," Lilly agreed, and the slight eye roll was offset by the happy grin on her face. "But Hannah's never had her own show, she's only been a guest or guest star on other shows." She turned to regard the Miley of this strange world again. "So that's definitely a big difference between your world and ours. But one thing that's the same is how Miley and I feel about each other. It's no different than how you and Emily feel. You just ran away from it."
Miley lowered her head into her hands as the tears started. She had spent so much time, so much money and so much effort trying to forget how much she had loved Emily that it had actually worked most of the time, at least on some level. But she had never gotten over the guilt of breaking her best friend's heart, and now she knew she never would.
Not without doing something drastic.
She sat up straight, wiping the tears off her face as she looked around the room. "I need a phone," she said, zeroing in one of the house phones.
Across the country, Emily Osment sat in her motel room, alone except for the rain drops smacking against the window. It was 3:00 a.m., and she had written sleep off for yet another night. She had tried to write some songs, figuring that the dark, cold, wet night should at least provide some inspiration, but no words would come. At least not that she would write down. She had written dozens of songs about Miley, but she had never put any of them to paper, and she never would. She still cared about Miley far too much to hurt her that way. God knows she had done her best to put her former best friend behind her and out of her life entirely, but she knew she would never be rid of those memories of the two of them together. Honestly, she didn't want to be rid of those memories. She had been happy with Miley as her best friend since they were eleven, even blissfully happy for those magical weeks they had secretly been a couple, and she refused to let her heartbreak completely tarnish those good times.
A knocking at her door made her jump nearly off the bed. "What the hell?" she said, louder than she had intended. "Who's there?" she asked loudly, not sure if her voice would carry through the motel door and over the storm outside. When no reply came, she moved closer to the door before repeating, "Who's there?" loudly.
"Please open the door, Em," answered a voice, muffled by the door and the blowing rain.
Normally Emily would never have done something as risky as opening her motel door for a stranger at this time of the morning, but something about that voice, even muffled as it was, pulled her like a siren's song. She was reaching for the chain and the deadbolt even before she knew what she was doing. It was like being in a dream, watching her fingers automatically fumble to release the chain and retract the door's bolt. She swung the door open, with the angry storm spitting rain into the room at her, but the small figure standing in the doorway blocked most of the cold droplets.
"Hey Em," said Miley Cyrus, her bare head drenched with her hair mostly plastered to her scalp from the downpour. Its short length surprised Emily, and despite it being soaked, it looked much lighter than the long brown curls Lilly still remembered so clearly.
It was as if Miley had run out of ways to internally cut their time together out of her life and had started trying to physically do the same, and the thought of that hit Emily like a sledgehammer to her chest. She swallowed and managed to say, "Why are you here?"
"I thought it'd be easier for us both if I just left!" Emily said, reflexively placing her right hand over her heart as if she were afraid Miley might try to snatch it out of her chest. "Isn't that what you wanted?!"
Miley wanted to answer her. She really did. But all the lines she had practiced on the plane, all the witty greetings and charming confessions of her true feelings, had evaporated as soon as she laid eyes on the woman she loved. There was no doubt now, not after the way the sight of Emily in a threadbare t-shirt and cheap shorts, her hair fitful and disheveled, her face lacking any makeup and thoroughly angry but startlingly beautiful nonetheless, took Miley's breath and her rational thought away.
"What do you want, Miley?" Emily yelled, angry and bitter and yearning and confused. But despite the biting cold of the rain hitting her bare skin and the wind shrieking into the motel room, seeing Miley made her ache to hold her, to kiss her just one more time. But one more time would turn into two, and then into three, and then... She couldn't survive having her heart broken again. It had been better for her to go away, to focus on a career in music with no connection to Miley or any of their old friends. That way at least one of them could have been happy. But now Miley was standing here in front of her, and for the first time in as long as she could remember, Emily Osment had absolutely no idea what to do.
Miley shot forward and clasped Emily's head between her hands as she leaned forward and kissed her. She felt Emily's arms wrap around her chest, pulling them as close together as possible while they both deepened the kiss. Miley swung her left leg to the side, kicking the door closed behind them; Emily was too important to let go, not for anything, not ever again. "I love you," Miley said, her lips still pressed Emily's. "I never stopped loving you, and now I know we're supposed to be together."
Emily opened her eyes, blinking tears out of the way as she looked into Miley's blue eyes, equally rimmed with tears. "I've loved you since I was twelve," she whispered, "but I can't do this, Miley."
Miley felt her own heart stop. "What?" she whispered, her mind reeling. "No, wait," she said, closing her eyes. "I hurt you. I know that, and I've regretted it every day since I told you I couldn't do this." She kissed Emily again, tasting the salt of their intermingled tears on their lips. "I'm sorry, Emily. I'm so, so sorry. If I could turn back time and take everything back, I'd do it. But I can't. All I can do is tell you that I screwed up and that I'll never hurt you like that again."
Emily shook her head, not caring that Miley's drenched clothing had soaked her own thin t-shirt. She wasn't entirely sure if the shivers zipping through her body were from the cold of the rain or the heat of her blood, anyway. "No, Miley, that's not what I mean," shaking her head. "I mean, I can't do this again if it's only going to be for tonight. Or for next week, or for next month, or until your next movie." She stared into Miley's eyes deeply, afraid of what she was saying but knowing it had to be said, for both their sakes. "I can only do this if it's for forever."
Miley's face grew serious, and Emily felt her heart sink. Miley nodded, her short hair flinging drops onto Emily's face, but neither woman noticed. "I know," Miley said. "That's why I came here, tonight. Because it couldn't wait."
"I love you, Emily Osment. I love you, and I now realize that my life without you has been one massive fuck-up after another. You were the best thing in my life, and pretty much everything went to shit when I started trying to leave my past with Hannah Montana and you behind." She smiled, feeling much of the despair her heart had accumulated over the last few years finally fall away.
"As crazy as it sounds, I'm your Miley," she said, placing a soft kiss on Emily's nose. "And you're my Lilly," she added with another kiss. "And we're supposed to be together, whether it's on Hannah Montana or in real life. I know that now, and I'm not afraid to admit it." She looked into Emily's watery sapphire eyes, and the intense joy she could see in them reinforced everything she had realized tonight. "I want it, Em. I want to be with you forever." She kissed Emily, and as she did so she felt a joy and happiness unlike anything she had ever experienced in her young life.
Emily kissed back, scarcely believing that this was real, that it all felt too good to be true, but she could no more pull away from Miley's kiss than make gravity relinquish its hold on her body. She didn't stop kissing Miley until she felt the edge of the bed bump against the backs of her legs, and truthfully she didn't know which of them had been guiding the other in that direction. And to be blunt about it, she didn't really care.
Over an hour later, as Miley lay snugly in Emily's arms, her head resting on her friend's chest, Emily couldn't wait any longer. "Hey, Miley?"
"Was that mmmm, like, 'What?" or mmmm like, 'I'm comfy and don't really want to be disturbed'?"
Miley grinned and lifted her head, repositioning it next to Emily's on the pillows. "What is it, babe?"
Emily twitched her nose slightly, which she knew Miley found adorable, then asked, "What made you change your mind? About us, I mean."
"Not complaining, are you?"
"Oh, God no! And I love that you can still do that raising your eyebrow thing. It still makes me weak in the knees."
"Yeah, I know."
"And you never answered my question."
Miley sighed as she tried to decide how to put her experience of the last few hours. She finally decided that simple and honest was the best approach. "I'm not really sure if I was hallucinating earlier tonight—well, last night, I mean. It might have been a dream."
"Had you been smoking pot again?"
"No, baby. I only do that when I'm really down, anyway, or if I've got a bad headache."
"Well, you need to stop. I don't need you getting thrown in jail, not now that I've got you back."
"Good answer. Back to the point."
Miley swung her right leg across Emily's hips as she straddled her girlfriend. She leaned down until her face was just inches away from Emily's, then she grinned. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," she whispered.
Emily smiled back. "Miley, I never stopped believing. And I never will."
Author's Afterword: Hope you enjoyed it! No idea what I'll finish next, but I'm thinking it'll be one of my superhero stories, probably the one with the Runaways, Avengers Academy and Power Pack. That's the one that has fought its way to the top of my brain for now, and it'll probably be a longer one. I'm guessing around ten or twelve chapters, but that's always open to change. I am working on another Lileyverse story, but your guess is as good as mine as to when it'll let me finish it. Hopefully soon, because I do love sharing these stories with everyone. Have a good Thanksgiving, and I hope everyone is happy and healthy!