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ALSO!  You'll probably hear mention of some famous people.  I would like to remind you that ALL that this is just fiction, and that any mention in this story to any person, famous or otherwise, is fictional.  FICTIONAL, FICTIONAL, FICTIONAL!!!
"Fame (Irene Cara)"

Ian da Silva was born in March of 1979, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was always a very happy child, preferring toys that made noise to those that didn't. His favorite toy, in fact, was a little piano with four baby-sized buttons. His mother noted at one point that he could play with that toy for what seemed like hours on end. To her, it was no surprise that, when he was five, he wanted to take piano lessons. His music teacher was impressed that he took to the piano like a fish to water. He wasn't a child prodigy or anything, but he was good. By the time he was 10, he was playing rather complex tunes from the masters of classical music. It was also at that early age that he wrote and composed his first song, which he performed at a recital at his music school.

For high school, he was accepted into the very posh School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. He concentrated on his music to the point that he decided that, upon graduating, he wanted to pursue a career in music. His parents were, at first, against it, but he was determined. They noticed his determination and thus made a deal with him. They would give him one year. If he didn't have a recording contract within that time, he was moving back to Birmingham to attend college where his mother was a professor of Spanish and Portuguese.

Just days after graduation, he packed up his car and headed north on I-65 from Birmingham toward Nashville, known the world around as "Music City USA". He stayed in a hotel for one night, landing an apartment and a job at a local restaurant on the second day he was there. He felt that it was a good sign of what was to come for him, in terms of his career.

For nine months, he worked at a local restaurant during the afternoons and evenings, working on his music until the wee hours of the morning, preparing demo tape after demo tape to send to the various labels he could find in Nashville. He played at open mic nights at various places as well, eventually landing a regular gig at a bar just a couple of blocks from where he worked and lived.

It was at that bar, called Roosters, that a lady by the name of Kelly Smith was there, drinking with colleagues one night. She worked for a small label affiliated with a much larger group of labels. She wasn't expecting to see anything spectacular, but she was very pleasantly surprised when Ian came to the stage. He, along with another regular performer, did a rocked-up version of "Mas que nada", the song made famous by Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. She watched as Ian sang flawlessly in Portuguese, which was one of his native languages. She gazed at him as he played the piano with his eyes closed so that he could hear everything completely, without his sight getting in the way. She loved the way he felt completely comfortable with the white and black keys beneath his fingers. He seemed to be at one with the keyboard. Then came his original music. His voice stood out. It was smooth and soothing, yet strong and powerful, all at the same time. It was naïve yet experienced; it was youthful and old.

She stepped outside during Ian's third song and made a phone call. She walked back in for a second and held the phone up so that the person she was talking to could hear Ian performing. The man was so impressed that he told the lady to get him in his office, with a demo tape, the very next morning.

After Ian was finished playing, she walked up to him and introduced herself. She offered to buy him a drink, which, even though he wasn't old enough to drink, he accepted. They went outside to the smoker's patio for a few minutes so that they could talk without all the noise. She explained to him all that had happened over the last few minutes. Ian was so terribly happy that he could barely stand to shake her hand when she was ready to leave. He immediately went inside to the bar's owner, a close friend named Melissa. They jumped up and down, but told no one what was going on. Ian was very superstitious and didn't want to tempt fate. He left a few minutes later, walking back to his apartment from the bar. He called his step-father, Dan, who was so happy for him that he packed a suitcase and drove to Nashville that night.

The next morning, he met with a panel of people from the record label, a company called Code United Music. He'd had the forethought to bring enough copies of his demo to give each of them their own personal copy. Kelly served almost as his advocate for them. She told them about her experience. She told them about how Ian seemed to ooze music from every pore of his being. They were all impressed enough with that that they put the tape into a system right in the room. They listened to less than a minute of the first song before shutting it off.

"Well, Mr. da Silva," the CEO, a tall and foreboding man named Steven Walker, said as he turned back to Ian. "I must say that I've never heard anything quite like it." For a second, Ian thought he'd come to their office for naught; the man saw his apprehension. "I speak for everyone here when I say we'd like to offer you a contract." Ian began to cry while Dan sat there with a very proud smile on his face. "So what do you say, kid?" he asked again.

"I would be stupid not to say yes, but my lawyer will need to look at the contract before I sign it."

"A wise thing. Well, here it is!" the man said, handing Ian a stack of papers. "We'll leave you guys alone for a little while. Just let Mara, the lady outside if you have any questions."

"Alright," Ian answered as the group left the conference room as Ian and Dan looked over the contract. "So what do you think?" Ian asked as Dan looked over it.

"It seems solid enough," Dan said. "You're protected; they're protected. My recommendation would be..."

"Yeah????" Ian asked excitedly.

"To sign it!" Dan said.

"THANK YOU, DAN!!!" Ian said as he hugged his step-father. "You know what I think I'm gonna do."

"What?" Dan asked.

"I think that I'm going to use a stage name."


"Yeah. Ian Scott. How does that sound?" Ian said.

"It sounds amazing. It sounds perfect," Dan, as the only father Ian had ever known, beamed with pride. "So let's get these people in here," he added after they embraced.

A bit later, they were leaving. The CEO, who was, himself, a veteran of the industry, told Ian to take a long, relaxing vacation before coming back to Nashville to start working on the CD. Ian knew exactly where he was going to go. He wanted to see Brazil one more time before he became Ian Scott to the rest of the world. That night, the owners of the restaurant where he worked shut the place down for a private party in honor of Ian. His mom, along with his little brother, Danny, drove up that evening to help them celebrate what had happened. All the people from Roosters were there as well, enjoying the top shelf liquor that the bartender was pulling down for them. Ian managed to get very, very drunk without his parents noticing. He explained that people just kept buying him drinks, and he couldn't refuse them.

His cousins in Brazil threw him another party once he was down there. He spent so much time enjoying himself and relaxing, but he was ready to hit the grind once he got back. Six months after his return, he his first CD was released in the United States. Like so few other musicians before him, Ian managed to get a number one right out of the gate. The CD, over the next year, produced three other number 1 songs. Rather than touring though, to promote the CD, Ian was hard at work on his second CD. Unlike the first one, though, this one was intended to celebrate the land of his birth. He released the Portuguese language CD in Portugal and Brazil at the same time. Many of the people who heard it for the first time were surprised that a kid raised in America would be able to reproduce the sounds and accents so very flawlessly. With the release of his second CD, a tour started that led him to sites all over the English and Portuguese speaking worlds.

In the next five years, Ian released two more CDs in English and one more in Portuguese. He completed two more world tours, starting in Rio and ending them in Birmingham, his adopted hometown. By the time that 2005 rolled around, Ian desperately needed a break from everything. His schedule, though, was kept so tight that he barely had the time to sleep, much less take the time to go on a trip, to see some parts of the world where'd he'd only done shows and left. For example, he wanted to go back to South Africa and see more than just the venue he'd seen in Cape Town.

One night, though, he was at a party that someone with the label was throwing. It was a huge ordeal to which everyone associated with the label was expected to appear. Ian met a load of people that he didn't know. One person, in particular, a guy named Liam, seemed to be different from most all of the others there. He was nice; he seemed honest and keep to make sure that Ian was comfortable at the party. They talked for a while that night, and Ian offered to get a taxi for both of them to take home. The plan, initially, was to drop Liam off at his apartment and then Ian would go to his house in the suburban Nashville neighborhood of Brentwood. Something about this guy, though, relaxed Ian. Maybe it was his very laid-back attitude; maybe it was the way the light flickered in his deep, dark eyes. That being said, the plans changed when Liam invited Ian up to the apartment he normally shared with two people, both of whom were at the party still.

As they climbed the stairs to the apartment, Ian was reminded of the days just a few short years before when he lived in an apartment not unlike the one toward which Liam was leading them. Once inside, Liam fixed them both another drink while Ian sat on the couch that didn't match anything else in the living room. In a flash, Liam was bringing them back a nice Cuba libre. Ian explained as they sipped their drinks that he rarely felt completely turned off, that he wasn't able to relax like he once had.

"Well," Liam offered upon hearing that. "I have something that will definitely help with that," he offered, getting up from the couch and going into his bedroom for a moment. He came back out with a few things in a black leather bag. He pulled out a razor and a small mirror before pulling out what Ian knew meant bad things. He scooped some of the white powder onto the mirror, cut it into lines with the razor, and then pulled out a straw. Liam took one hit of the powder before passing the straw to Ian.

"I don't think so, but thanks for the offer."

"Come on, dude. It won't hurt anything," Liam added. "It will do nothing other than help you to relax. Nothing more."

After a few more minutes, Ian, not knowing really why, gave in to the temptation offered him by the man he barely knew. He took a single line of coke and sat back on the couch. It took a moment for him to begin feeling the euphoric effects. Liam had been right, though. It had helped him relax; it had helped him feel as though he could continue with the hectic pace he always seemed to find himself on.

Over the next year, though, Ian became more addicted to the cocaine than he'd been to the success of his early career. With the cocaine, also came an addiction for the sex that he seemed to be able to find anywhere he wanted, whether it be with a guy or a girl. He began losing weight. He looked boney and emaciated after just a few months of being on the drug. He stopped eating as healthily as he once had. He became the poster child for what drugs can do to a person. It all came to a head one night while he was doing a show in Brazil.

Earlier on that evening in, Ian was on the phone with his mom, who was visiting family in Rio. Ian himself was in São Paulo for the show. While on the drug, he'd become more and more irritable. It seemed as though anything that was said to him sparked a fire deep within him that he couldn't control. On that evening in particular, Olga said something that most people would consider insignificant or trivial. Ian laid into her. Being the Latina that she was, though, she wasn't going to sit back and take it, especially not from her child. She yelled back at Ian, finally asking the question that he'd been dreading to hear from her and that she'd been dreading to ask. "Do you have a drug problem?" He answered with a smart-ass comment, as had become his usual. The argument continued for a few more minutes before Ian had enough and closed the phone he was using.

Olga tried to call back, but Ian had no intention of answering. Instead, he sat in his greenroom as the opening band warmed up the crowd for Ian. He did more coke that evening than he had at any one point before. For a while, he felt fine, but as the other band was finishing their show and the stage crew was getting ready for his, Ian stood at the side of the stage. His very nature allowed him to focus in on one of the people at the front of the crowd, picking their voice from the rest. On that evening, he found that he couldn't. He shook it off, telling himself that he would be fine before he knew it.

As he walked out on stage, a wave of heat from the crowd hit him. He felt dizzy for a second, but he knew that the show must go on. He looked out over the arena where he was performing. It was the largest crowd he'd ever sung in front of. He opened with one his songs in English. Halfway through, though, he forgot the words. It was a song he'd performed at least thousands of times, and he stood there, unable to remember the words. He adlibbed part of it; he held the mic out for the audience to sing another part. Finally, though, it ended. Ian was relieved until he realized that he couldn't remember any of the words of the next song he was to sing. By that time, though, he'd started feeling dizzy. It was only a second when he felt his heart beating wildly hard in his chest. After another moment, his heartbeat began to drown out all of the other sounds around him. Then, it happened. His world turned black, and in a flash, he fell to the wooden stage erected below him. The crowd began to make sounds as flashbulbs went off all around the stadium. One of his cousins that was working for him while he was in Brazil had the curtains closed immediately and pulled him off stage. He tried to revive Ian for a moment, using English and Portuguese phrases, but it was no use. Then he realized that it must have been the cocaine that he'd found for Ian earlier in the day. He started feeling really guilty and picked up his boney body and carried to wear the ambulance that was en route would pick him up.

In a very short time, Ian was at the hospital. During the whole ambulance ride to the hospital, his cousin, Matias had been trying to get in touch with Ian's mother. He ended up calling the phone at their grandmother's house. Olga and Matias' mother, Gloria rushed from Rio to São Paulo. It was a very long drive in which Olga couldn't help but recall the fight. Had she provoked the conversation without knowing? What had she done to cause him to start using drugs in the first place?

She stayed in his hotel room for two days. She'd been on the phone practically the whole time with Dan, who'd stayed in the US with their two other sons, one of which had been born after Ian hit it big. In fact, she was giving him an update when Ian woke up. She told him that she would call him back and rushed to the side of the bed.

"Olá meninho," she said in Portuguese.

"Mami...I am so sorry," he managed to say.

"Shh...Don't worry about it. Don't worry one bit," she said. "Just as long as you're OK."

"I need help..." Ian managed to say.

"We'll get it for you."

"Is Dan here?"

"No. He's still in Alabama with Danny and Pete."

"OK," Ian said. "Do they know?"

"They know you fell at a show, but Dan and I agreed that it would be best if you told them exactly what happened," Olga answered.

"It's going to devastate them."

"But it will be a valuable lesson for them, especially Danny."

Ian started to cry. Olga sat beside him and wiped the tears from his face. She tried to assure him that all would be OK.

For thirteen days, Ian languished there, with all the reactions associated with detoxification. By the time he left the hospital, it was the kind of news that keeps tabloids alive. Ian, as he flew back to the US, felt almost ashamed by what had happened, by how far he'd let himself get into drugs. When he and his mother arrived back in Birmingham, Dan, Danny, and Pete were there to meet them. Dan hugged Ian as if it had been his sperm that created Ian's very being. Danny stood back, holding onto Pete's hand as they heard Dan begin to cry for the very first time. When they pulled apart, Danny and Pete walked up. Ian hugged the older of his two brothers first. He then bent down and hugged Pete. With Pete, things were different than with Danny. He loved Pete; Pete loved him. The thing was, though, that Pete was born after Ian skyrocketed to fame. The whole time, Ian was away. Ian cherished this moment with him, though, and promised that there would be many, many more like it.

The five of them went to Ian's favorite restaurant in Birmingham, Fabiano's. They made a quick stop at the house Ian had lived in for most of his life to drop off Danny and Pete before they drove through the country to the town of Brent, Alabama, where Ian would register himself into rehab at the Jason Anderson Clinic, a secure place in the country, far away from the cameras and flashbulbs of Birmingham and Nashville.


Chapter 1
"Safe Place to Hide (Melissa O'Neil)"

Ian stepped out into a cool breeze, despite the fact that it was a Thursday afternoon in late August. It seemed to carry with it a crispness that Ian could appreciate, cool to the touch and tinged with the aroma of the cedars that lined the mile-long drive up to the main building of the facility. He closed his eyes for a moment and tried with everything in him to appreciate all of it. Sure, while he'd been there, he'd been outside, but then, in that moment, he was free. He was free of the rules of the facility; he was free of the drug that had overpowered him; he was free of everything. As he waited on the person that was to pick him up, he thought out of everything that had happened in those three months.

He thought about the continued detox. It had been a very rough time for him as he constantly found himself either itching, with a headache, or crying because he felt like his world was going to end. He gained weight like no one's business, but his failure to work out caused it, for the most part, to turn into a flabby mass in his arms, butt, and midsection.

He thought about all the counseling. He'd been through group sessions with people in a similar position to him; he'd been through private sessions, where he worked one on one with a counselor to truly overcome his problems and shoo out the demons that possessed him. He thought, though, that the best sessions, though, were when he simply went outside to work in the small garden he'd kept up on the property of the facility. He thought about those times when Dan would come to visit, on Tuesday. The whole family would come on Thursday, and Danny would always make a special trip, unbeknownst to the rest of the family, on the weekends. On several occasions, he'd made Danny go out to the garden with him and work through the dirt with him.

He thought about how, despite the safe and secure environment

As he stood there and thought about things, the front gate to the facility was opening. Coming in was a black, late model, Audi TT, being driven by Ian's teenaged brother, Danny. As it moved closer, Ian smiled. He couldn't see it until it was coming into the main part of the facility, but he knew it was Danny from the sound of the radio blaring the Brazilian equivalent of reggaeton. He slowed the car as he came into the circular shaped drive that was directly in front of the facility. He pulled right around to the front steps, stopping to pick up Ian. He climbed out of the car to prove that the summer had been much kinder to him and his youthful physique than Ian's.

"Hey," the guy said as he walked around the back of the car to where Ian was standing.

"Hey, Dan-Dan," Ian said, almost proudly, as his little brother walked up and hugged him.

"So this place gives me the creeps a little bit," Danny said.

"Yeah. You weren't the one here for three months!" Ian shot back.

"So let's go home," Danny said.

"Gladly," Ian responded, grabbing his suitcase and putting it in the very small trunk of Danny's car.

As they pulled out of the facility, Ian looked into the rear view mirror. While objects might seem further than they actually are in those little mirrors, Ian felt that, as the building grew smaller, so did the past that he was leaving within those sterile walls. Before Ian knew it, Danny had driven off the property and toward their home in the tiny town of Montevallo, just outside Birmingham. They talked, listened to music, and enjoyed the company among each other. As they came into Montevallo, and as Danny drove through the streets of the town, Ian seemed amazed by just how much the town had changed since he was there last. It was just a moment, though, as Danny pulled into the drive.

"I see y'all brought my car down," Ian commented as he looked at his SUV parked beside the house.

"Yeah. There was NO WAY you were driving my car!" Danny joked.


"Bitch!" Danny added as he turned the car off in the driveway, behind Ian's SUV.

The two of them walked into the house after just a moment. As the door opened, Ian felt as though it were a completely new place. Despite all its familiarity, the things seemed to have new life, at least in his mind. Ian took his bag immediately to the second floor of the three-story home. He opened the door to his bedroom, the room he'd slept in for as long as he could remember. His mother, in preparation for his return, had obviously redecorated. Records adorned one complete wall; awards from his childhood and adolescence hung on another, scattered among pictures of his family. He was moved by a photo of him, his brothers, and their grandfather, a man Pete would never know like him. Ian closed his eyes and remembered the last day of that trip, when their grandfather was telling Ian that he should cool down his hectic pace and take the time to teach his brothers to speak Portuguese as well as he did. Danny could make a few sentences; Pete knew a few words, but hadn't ever used it. That task became one of his goals for the coming months.

The door bell broke him from his concentration, but he made no real effort to get the door. Danny was, after all, on the first level of the house getting something to eat.

"EEN!!!" he yelled, using a childhood nickname for his brother. "It's for you."

"Be down in a second," Ian said as he gently touched the photo of his grandfather, a man who'd been very important in the first few years of his life. He exited the room and walked back downstairs. In the living room Danny was standing with Kelly, the lady from his label.

"How are you?" she said as they hugged.

"I'm doing OK."

"I'm glad to hear that," she said. "Is there a place where we can talk privately?"

"Sure," Ian responded. "Danny. Don't you have to pick up Pete from School?"

"Oh...yeah...I almost forgot!"

"I'm not gonna mention that to Mom and Dad," Ian said.

"Thanks!" Danny responded as he rushed his nineteen-year-old self out the door.

"So would you like something to drink?" Ian asked, not really sure why Kelly had made a trip, in person, to his parents' home.

"What do you have?"

"To be honest, I'm not sure, but I'm sure my mom at least has some Brazilian sodas," Ian answered as the two walked into the kitchen.

"That would be interesting. I'm not sure I've ever had one before."

"They're good," Ian said as he handed her a can of Guaraná soda.

"Ian. I'll get right down to why I came down personally," she said as she opened the can of soda.

"I was about to ask," Ian said as he leaned up against the counter.

"Do you remember when we met?"

"It was the happiest day of my life."

"Well, it was one of the best of mine as well. You're a great guy; you're an extremely talented musician; you seem to light up the world around you."

"Why do I feel like you're trying to break up with me or something?" Ian said, jokingly at first. When he noticed her expression, he pulled the can of soda from his mouth. "That's why you're here."

"Ian. I want to promise you that I did everything in my power, but there are some in the company that see the recent negative publicity as draining on the label itself. Steven and the administration have decided that they can no longer support you as your label."

Ian stood there, in disbelief. On the very day he felt like his life was on the right track, he felt defeated by her words. He seemed to know, in his heart of hearts, that she wasn't the reason for it. She was, after all, just the messenger. He stared off into space for a moment as Kelly watched him.

"Um..." he muttered emotionally. "So what happens next?"

"Well. Your father and your agent will receive a letter, stating that the label is exercising its option not to renew your contract. In that notice, they will list a settlement amount based on what you would be projected to earn on the remaining albums in your contract."


"Ian. I am so sorry, but I couldn't let you just receive the letter."

Ian tried to smile at her and to look directly into her eyes. "I appreciate it."

Kelly walked over to him. She placed her hand on his left shoulder in an attempt to comfort him. "Ian. If it's any consolation, I know some people at a few other labels. If you'd like, I can tell them that you're shopping."

"I appreciate that, Kelly, but before I start shopping for a new label, there are some things I need to take care of. I will ask you this question, though."

"Shoot," she said in her very Southern accent.

"When this hits the press, please, please, please tell those bloodhounds that I will not be available for comment," Ian said, trying miserably to keep his composure.

"I will see to it myself," she answered. After another moment, she pulled her hand from his shoulder and took something from her pocket. "Here is my card," she said, turning it over and scribbling something on the back with a pencil she found attached to Olga's fridge. "And on the back is my home and personal cell numbers. When you're ready..."

"You will be the first person that I call," Ian responded as he took the card from her offering hand.

"And keep in touch..." she said, as if she were forced to do so.

"Alright," Ian answered her, calmly.

The conversation had ended almost as quickly as it had begun . Ian showed her to the door, calmly and in a comfortable silence. As any good Southerner would do (even an adoptive one), he stood on the porch and made sure that she got to her car safely and that she pulled out of the drive with no problem. She waved at him as she went onto the street. Somberly, with his arms crossed around his chest as if he were attempting to close himself off from the world, he walked back into the house. The silence was deafening as Ian tried to lose himself in his own thoughts. He stood in the living room for a second, looking around. He moved into the dining room, not really knowing where he was going or why. He walked into the kitchen and began looking through one of the drawers for something.

"Shit!" he yelled when he couldn't find it. He grabbed the cordless from the counter beside the fridge and began to feverishly press buttons.

"Department of Foreign Languages," the voice on the other end of the phone answered.

"Preciso falar com a doutora..." he started. "Shit. Sorry. Can I speak to Doctor Scott?" Ian asked, realizing that not everyone in the world spoke Portuguese.

"Sure. Hold on one second," the voice on the other end, obviously a student worker said.

"This is Doctor Scott," Olga answered after a very brief silence.

"Mãe. Onde estão as chaves ao ATV?" Ian asked in Portuguese broken only by the raw emotion in his voice.

"Ian. What's wrong?" she stated, in English. He spoke Portuguese fluently, but she often that speaking to him in English helped him calm down a little bit.

"Mom. Não quero falar disso agora; solo preciso saver onde estão as chaves." (I don't want to talk about it right now; I just need to know where the keys are.)

"They're in the drawer by the fridge," she answered.

"No. They're not here."

"Maybe Danny left them in the ATV, then."


"Ian," she said, trying to get him to focus.

"Mom. Not now."

"Where's Danny?" the conversation continued.

"He's gone to get Pete from school."

"So you're there by yourself?"

"Yes ma'am."

"OK. Don't leave that house. I'll be there in ten minutes," she said.

"Mom. Don't worry about it. I just want to take the ATV out to my spot for a few minutes. I need to think about something."


"Mom! By the time you get here, I'll be up there anyway. I'll see you when you get home."

"Ian. You're scaring me," she said.

"Mom. Some shit happened just now. I don't want to talk about it. I just need to think."

"You didn't just do any cocaine did you?"

"No, but I promise you that if I had some, I'd be high right now," Ian answered honestly.

"I'm on my way home," she said. Ian could hear her gathering her things and getting ready to walk out the door.

"Mom. Seriously. I need to be by myself," Ian said, knowing that she would be on her way home momentarily, regardless of how much he insisted on being by himself.

"See you in a minute," she stated as though she were not going to argue anymore, but that she was going to get her way.

"Bye," Ian said.

"Bye," she responded.

Ian hung up the phone and put it back on its base. He searched in the drawer once more but couldn't find the key. In his mind, he was so resolute on getting away from that house that he'd longed for three long months to see again, that he decided that he would walk to `his place' if he had to. He yelled a few expletives to no one in particular when he couldn't find the key. Emotionally, he'd already started running the gambit of the grief process, grieving for his lost career, which he equated with his life itself. He hurriedly wrote a note for Danny and Pete and walked downstairs into the basement. Just as his mother had said, Danny left the keys in the ATV's ignition. He opened the garage door, checked to make sure it had enough gas, and started it up. Since the basement where his parents' cars were normally parked was free, he zoomed out of the basement without wearing a helmet or any other protective gears. He rode along trails that he himself had forged in their vast acreage in his youth. The wind blew through his hair and into his face as he tried with great abandon to get to his most serene sanctuary among the trees. After a few minutes, he reached a clearing in the forest. The opening seemed to reach all the way to the heavens as the trees were tall enough to shield Ian's being from the outside world.

Just after he left, Danny and Pete arrived at the house. Seeing the basement door open, Danny assumed that he must have taken the ATV out onto the trails something. He also didn't see the lady's car, but he didn't think anything of it. He and Pete went upstairs, and as was their usual tradition, Danny set about fixing Ian an afternoon snack, just as Ian had done for him when he was Pete's age.

Olga, upon arriving at the house quickly pulled into the basement, closing the door behind her, and walked upstairs. She found Danny and Pete in the kitchen, with Pete eating slices from a Granny Smith apple.

"Petey?" she said as she came in, throwing her purse onto the counter where she normally left it.

"Yes ma'am?" Pete answered.

"Go upstairs and see if your brother is upstairs," she said.

"OK," Pete said, jumping from the stool he was sitting on and running out of the room. Olga didn't take the time to correct him for running in the house.

"Danny. Go upstairs and check to see that your father's pistol is in it's case."

"Mom. I don't know where Dad keeps it," Danny said, a sound in his voice that tried to cover up that he'd taken it out to go shooting in the woods, as all teenaged rednecks, even the half-Brazilian ones, tend to do.

"Danny. I know that you've taken it out. Your father knows that you've taken it out. We will forget about punishing you for it if you will just go and make sure that it's still there. Don't bring it down or anything, just make sure that it's still there."

"OK?" Danny responded to her.

"Go!" Olga barked at her second child.

Within a couple of minutes, both of the two younger children were back in the kitchen. Pete responded negatively to her request; Danny made up something so that Pete might not figure out what was going on. She was relieved to hear that the pistol, kept for protection, was still in its place.

"OK. Do you have any idea where he might be?"

"I guess he just took the ATV out on the trails or something," Danny said nonchalantly.

"OK. Let me go change my shoes, and then I'm going to find him."

"What's wrong, Mom?" Danny asked, growing concerned at his mother's insistence to find his brother.

"I don't know. Ian called wanting to know where the keys to the ATV were, but he was very upset by something."

"He seemed fine when I left. I mean, somebody from his label was here. Kelly, I think."

Olga stopped and looked at Danny. "That's what it is, then. Something's happened with the label."

"They seemed fine when I left," Danny reiterated.

"Well. Something she said to him upset him."

"What's wrong with Een?" Pete asked as he continued munching on his apple pieces and sipping some juice.

"I don't know, Petey," Danny answered.

"Is he on drugs again?" Pete asked, again with a certain innocence in his voice.

"Let's hope not!" Danny and Olga both answered, each with different, varying tones in their voices.

"Mom," Danny started. "I'll go find him. He couldn't have gone far. The ATV has been doing funny things."

"OK. Go."

"Can I go, too?" Pete asked.

"No, Petey. Stay here with Mom. OK?" Danny asked.

"DANDAN!" Pete whined.

"Petey. Ian's upset about something. It would be better if I went to find him and bring him back to you," Danny said, bending over the bar to look Pete directly in the eye.

"OK. Just make sure that he's OK," Pete said. "I just got him back, after all!"

Danny smiled as he ruffed Pete's hair. "Be back in a bit, Mom," Danny said as he ran out the back door of the house, toward the trails.

He ran for a minute; he jogged for a few more minutes; he eventually started walking as the terrain began to fluctuate. He didn't bother stopping long enough to enjoy the scenery; he was focused, on a mission.

"Go away, Danny," Ian said as he sat atop a giant boulder in the clearing. His eyes were closed, but even if they had been open, he would still have known from the person's approach that it was Danny.

"How'd you know it was me?"

"Instinct," Ian answered, a tear running down his face.

"Damn. You're good then," Danny answered as he came into view. Ian opened his eyes and looked in the direction of his brother. "So. An hour ago, you were all smiles. Now you're sitting in the woods crying. What gives?"

"Don't worry about it, Danny. It's not anything I can't get through," Ian answered as he scooted over to let Danny sit next to him. Ian sat with his legs crossed atop the giant rock. Danny let his legs dangle over the side.

"Ian. Can I be honest?"

"That's a retarded question. Of course you can."

"A few months ago, when you blacked out, I realized that I was not cut out to be the only big brother. I told myself that if I ever thought you might need help, I was going to pester you until you let me. So do yourself a favor, and just let me help you with whatever it is that's going on in your mind." Ian took a deep breath and looked toward the heavens. "What'd that lady say to you?"

Ian took another deep breath as Danny waited on his response. "The last eight months have been a shithole of a time for me," Ian finally said after a minute or so of silence.


"First there was Grampa dying. Then there was the whole blacking out on stage fiasco. Then there was rehab, and now...now...today...on what was supposed to be a very good day, I find out that my label is dropping me because of all the bad publicity."

"I thought any publicity was good publicity. I mean, Brittney..."

"'Nuff said," Ian responded before Danny couldn't complete the sentence. There was another moment of silence between them. "It just seems like I can't do anything right these days."


"Danny. I mean. I've disappointed my fans. I've disappointed Mom and Dad. What kind of example am I setting for you and Pete?" Ian asked, turning to look his brother directly into his baby blue eyes.

"Shit. The best example that you could have set for the two of us was checking yourself into rehab."

"The whole drug thing in the first place should never have happened."

"You're right, but I can speak for Pete and me both when I say that we're so glad that you're still here. I mean, Pete misses you. I miss you."

"But I've let you down. I've not lived up to what I think that a big brother should live up to."

"That's bullshit. I mean, what was it that you ALWAYS told me when everyone else said that I couldn't play football professionally?"

"I told you that all things are possible, if you set your mind to it."

"Right. And when you went to Nashville, you were following your dream. You were doing what you wanted to do; you were living your life on your terms. You did what you had to do to make yourself healthy again. So all this bullshit about disappointing me and Pete, that's shit."

"Yeah...But what about the label? Obviously they think that I'm a has-been now."

"They don't fucking know what they're talking about, Ian," Danny commented.

"And when Mom and Dad find out that I'm gay, they're..."

"Wait," Danny interrupted. "You're gay?"

"Oh shit," Ian said, looking at Danny again, but with fear in his eyes. It was the kind of fear only provoked by things like venomous snakes and Republicans. "Oh fuck!" he said again, looking away from Danny.

"Dude. My best friend is a fudge packin', rump ranger. Do you think I give a shit if you're gay or not?"


"I have a question, though."

"Why do I feel like this is going to be one of THOSE questions?"

"Because it is!" Danny answered, smiling, trying to lighten Ian's mood. "But does it hurt when you get it up the butt?"

"It's one of those things you'll just have to experience!" Ian commented in a tone resembling one of smart-assed cockiness that he often shared with his brother.

"No thank you! DanDan's man-cooch is exit only!" Danny said, jokingly. Ian laughed. "HA! Made you laugh!"

"My whole point with starting that line was to say that I can't seem NOT to disappoint people this year," Ian said.

"Yeah. So saying that. Mom and Dad aren't going to care that you're a butt pirate. They just want you to be happy."

"Yeah, but your situation is different. Dan is your natural father. With me, he didn't have to do anything for me, but he did. This is going to devastate him. And Mom! She's going to flip and yell in Portuguese for two hours."

"So let me address the easy one first. Yeah, Mom probably is gonna yell for a little bit. She'll probably cry; she'll probably throw things and cuss in Portuguese, but as soon as she realizes that you're the same ole Ian da Silva...or Scott...whatever you want to be called today...she'll be fine and fix you food until you forgive her for yelling." Ian smiled. "And Dad. You know, for a fact, that Dad loves you just like he loves me and Pete. In his eyes, there is absolutely no difference between the three of us. You just have darker skin and darker hair and darker eyes."

"No. Pete's got the Latin black eyes thing going on."

"True. So your eyes are lighter than his. It doesn't matter. I mean, when you did your last show in Birmingham, HE was the one yelling at everybody to hurry their slow asses up." Ian smiled again.

"You know. I remember when I first met him, I was like `Who is the crazy white guy buying me shit?'," Ian commented. "And now, I'm asking myself what my life would have been like if he hadn't been there, pushed me, told me about sex, made me feel like I was deserving of TWO loving parents."

"Exactly my point. I know you didn't come out here cause you're gay, but that's a no-biggie thing, right there."

There was another moment between them when they both looked up at the stars. "Do you remember when you were about five and I was 14, and I sneaked out of the house and got grounded for a month?"

"How could I forget? You whined the whole time. I was ready to cut out your tongue myself," Danny answered.

"Well. They thought I snuck off with some girl, but, actually, I came out here to this place. It's always been my safe place to hide from the world," Ian said, honestly. "I can be myself, totally, without reservation."

"Ian. In the future, if you need a safe place to hide, come and find me. That is, after all, what brothers are for," Danny said, sweetly. Ian wrapped his left arm around Danny's shoulder and pulled him into a masculine, sideways hug.

"Thanks, kid."

"Not a problem, Een," he commented, genuinely enjoying having his brother back and happy that he could be the one helping him, emotionally, rather than the other way round. "So I'm hungry."

"Me too," Ian said. "I would love to go to Brazil and just eat Gramá's food until I exploded."

"You and me both. I'd have to come back and work out for like four days to recover from it, though."


"Speaking of. You should go to the gym with me tomorrow."

"I'll think about it."

"You're getting kinda pudgy," Danny commented, jokingly.

"Are you calling me a fat ass?" Ian asked, recognizing the joke.

"I'M not the one who said it!" Danny laughed, jumping off the rock and to the ground and running away from Danny. Ian jumped down as well, laughing, but rather than running after him, he hopped on the ATV and revved the engine a couple of times as he went back toward the house.

They made it back to the house after just a second. Ian's eyes were puffy, but he seemed to have a more pleasant demeanor than when Olga talked to him on the phone a bit before.

"Ian da Silva!" she said as the two came into the house.

"Yes ma'am?" Ian answered.

"Where have you been? What is going on? You had me worried shitless!" she said to him. Her tone was halfway between that of a shout and concern.

"Mom," Danny interjected. "Chill. It's OK, now."


"Yeah. It's fine. Can we wait until Dan gets home before I explain it all, just so I don't have to twice?"

"As long as you promise me that you're OK and that you didn't do any coke."

"Oh!" Danny interjected again. "If he'd been out there doing coke, I would have beat his ass."

"You couldn't beat my ass if you tried?" Ian said.

"HEY!" Pete yelled. "I could kick both of y'all's asses with one hand tied behind my back. Now, shut up and let me do my homework!"

"Language, Petey," Danny said.

"Sorry, Petey," Ian said.

"That's better!" Pete said, flashing his pencil as he'd seen Olga do as she sat at the kitchen table grading papers.

"Looks like you two have been told!" Olga chimed in, giving them her patented `Latin mom' gaze.

"Right!" they both said.

"So what's for dinner, Mom?" Danny asked.

"Whatever you and your brother are cooking?"


"Refined palate there, Petey," Danny joked.

"Seriously. You know the rule. Ask me what's for dinner and you fix it yourself."

"See. I'm five, and I know that!" Pete said. Ian giggled.

"You better watch yourself, Petenho!" Danny said, using a Portuguese diminutive of his English nickname.

"So why don't we have steak and baked potatoes?" Danny suggested.

"Sure," Ian said.

"You'll have to go to the store. We're out of bacon bits, and you know how I like my bacon bits. And we don't have any steaks in the freezer," Olga said.

"That's fine," Ian answered. "Danny. Come on. We're going to Lucky's," he added, referring to a local grocery store.

"Ooh. OK. The last time we went to Lucky's together, I met this girl that I hooked up with..." Danny stated before realizing that his Mom was in the room and that she'd started glaring at him. "Maybe we should go on, then," Danny said as Olga began to barely smile from the side of her mouth.

"Yeah..." Ian said. "Where are the keys to the truck?" he asked.

"Here," Danny said, pulling the key from his pocket.

"K..." Ian said as he took it from Danny's hand and the pair whisked themselves out of the door. In just a moment, they were climbing into Ian's SUV, a black, late-model Land Rover that Ian had hand picked at a dealership in Nashville. Ian started it up and backed out of the drive. As he'd done when they were younger, Danny turned on the radio and began to find something to listen to. Ian smiled, but there were still thoughts weighing on his mind as they drove down Main Street to the local grocery store. "You want to run in and get the stuff. I can wait on you."


"I just don't feel like being around many people right now," Ian answered, honestly.

"Ian. I can't say that I understand, but I can say that I may need a wingman, so you have to come!" Danny said. Ian knew it was a joke, and he wondered, in that moment, how Danny had gotten so grown up so quickly. "Alright. I guess I get all the good ones for myself!" Danny said as he climbed out of the car.

"Do you need some money?" Ian asked.

"Yeah. If you're giving it up!" Danny said, holding out his hand and smiling at Ian.

Ian smiled and handed him a $100 bill that he kept in his wallet. He handed it to Danny, who smiled and ran off. Ian watched as he ran into the store. He closed his eyes for a second, enjoying the solitude that he had finally found. He felt as though his world was crumbing beneath him, despite the fact that Danny was trying, with earnest to support him as best he could. He knew that his mother and Dan wanted to help, but he seemed unable to allow her inside his world far enough to do something. The emotion became too much for him, and he began peacefully crying at the situation before him.

When Danny returned a few minutes later with bags in his hand, he found Ian sitting there, in the peace and quiet of the moment. He set the bags in the back before climbing into the front of the vehicle.


"Yeah?" Ian responded.

"It may not seem like it right now, but things will get better."

"I know. I just need to wallow in the self-pity for a little bit."

"Now. That's not the Ian that I've always known," Danny commented.

"Sometimes I think that THAT Ian is a thing of the past," he responded, somewhat cynically.

"Nah. He's still there. You just have to find him again."

"When did you get so wise?"

"I think it was three days after I lost my virginity," Danny joked. The way that his voice sounded made Ian smile a bit more as he started the car again and went back toward their childhood home.

By the time they got back to the house, Dan and his best friend, Danny and Pete's godfather, Chuck were at the house, along with Chuck's wife and their daughter, Briana, who'd always had a crush on Ian. "Did we get enough for everyone?" Ian asked.

"Um...We might have to change things up. We could do something else, though. Maybe since we have company, Mom will help!" Danny said.

"Probably," Ian said as he parked the car so that Chuck and his family could get out of the drive without problem. Danny grabbed the bags as the two of them walked toward the front door.

"DANNY!" Pete yelled as they walked in. "Uncle Chuck gave me $5."

"Wow. Where's mine?" Danny said as he walked into the kitchen, with Pete in his shadows just as he'd been in Ian's at one point.

"Well. When you are as cute a kid as Pete, I'll put out the money."

"Nah ni nah ni nah nah!!!" Pete said, making a face at Danny.

"See what you've been missing!" Danny said as he turned to Ian.

For the next few minutes, Ian sat back and watched as his family interacted with one another. It was obvious that Dan hadn't gotten the letter from the label yet, otherwise he would have mentioned something that important to Ian, at least on the side, away from everyone else.

For the rest of the evening, Ian watched as his family enjoyed themselves. He tried to join them, but no matter what he did, it seemed that he was distracted. At around 8, Chuck and his family left. Pete went to bed shortly thereafter. Dan and Olga went to bed around 10, followed by Danny, who had class the next morning. Ian went outside for a bit, to enjoy the stars on the clear night. While sitting there, he saw three shooting stars. He'd never been a very superstitious person, but he seemed to count that, those `stars' flying across the sky as a symbol that things would be OK. He closed his eyes for a moment, but he ended up falling asleep on one of the long chairs that sat atop the highly built deck behind the house.


Chapter 2
"Conexion (Cartel de Santa f/ Tego Calderon)"

Ian drove through the country roads just around his hometown. After spending two weeks at home with his family, he realized that he'd not only lost a connection with those people while on drugs. He'd also lost that connection with where he came from. Montevallo, for those who've never been there, is a small town, but it seems chocked full of character. He drove through the university first, watching as students walked from their apartments around the town toward the sprawling, century-old campus. He drove past the library, where, when he was in high school, he would sneak during seventh period and study the scenery more than anything contained its volumes of books. He drove past Jeter Hall, which had served as part of a hospital during the Civil War. He drove down Main Street, where he realized for the first time that the old Lucky's Building had been torn down and replaced by a strip mall that contained, of all things, a CVS and a movie store. For Ian, it seemed weird to be driving past there, where an old, decrepit building should be standing.

At around lunch time, while he was still driving around town, he pulled out his cell phone and called the office at the university where his mother worked. "Department of Foreign Languages," the student worker answered.

"Hi. Is Doctor Scott in?" Ian asked.

"Yes sir. Can I tell her who's calling?" the young woman asked.

"Ian da Silva," Ian answered.

"Ah! OK. Hold on just a second." Ian held for just a second. "Ian?" the girl asked when she came back.

"Yes ma'am?"

"She wants to know if you can come by her office for a minute."

"Tell her that I can, and that I will bring some pizzas by."

"OK. I will let her know!" the girl said.

After they said their goodbyes and such, Ian pulled into a space just in front of his favorite pizza establishment, a store owned by one of his dearest friends from high school. With a certain confidence he walked into the restaurant and toward the counter, past a few people sitting around tables enjoying a slice of pie. As he walked toward the counter, Ian took off his sunglasses. The person standing behind the counter, a girl in her early twenties, at best, looked up at him.

"Oh my God!" she declared as she looked into Ian's deep, brown eyes. "O...M...G!" she stated again as Ian got up there.

"Hi. Could I have two cheese and two pepperoni pizzas, along with two three-liter cokes and a diet coke, please?" he asked.

"Uh...huh...OH! Yes!" she said as she jotted down the note, hoping not to appear too much like the fan that she was. After all, he was in his hometown, and in your hometown, you're never famous. "Can I get you anything else?" she asked.

"Nope. That will be all," Ian answered.

Nervously, she typed away at the cash register, realizing half way through her first attempt at entering the order that she had, in fact, entered all the information in wrong. She laughed at herself and voided the transaction before starting over again. "I'm sorry. It's just not every day that you meet a famous person," she said, with a smile on her face, as she reentered the information.

Ian smiled. "It's fine. I'm just glad that know that I still have a fan outside of my family somewhere in the world."

"Well. You still have a lot of fans. We're all anxiously waiting to hear what your next CD sounds like."

Ian smiled again, with pride in himself and his career. It had been a while, a long while, since he felt that way. In fact, Ian blushed a little bit at her confidence that his career was still as high as it once had been. Ian waited about a half hour on the pizza order to be finished, the girl who worked there helped him by carrying the sodas in plastic bags to his SUV while he carried the pizzas.

"Ian. Can I ask a favor?" she asked as Ian shut the door and she stood on the sidewalk.


"Could I have your autograph?" she asked innocently.

"Since you've been so nice, sure!" he said, obliging her as he'd done so few people in the past few years. She took a sheet of paper out of her pocket along with a marker. He leaned over onto the hood of his car and began to write it out. "What's your name?"


"Cool," Ian said as he turned back to start writing. "To Jill – Thanks for being a fan. It is appreciated more than you will know! –Ian" he read aloud as he wrote. He capped the sharpie once again and turned back to her. "There ya go," he said as he handed both things back to her. She smiled, sincerely.

"Thank you," she added. "Alright. Now that my day has gotten a bit brighter, time to go back to work!"

"Alright. Hope the afternoon goes well for you," Ian said as he walked around the front of the car to the driver's side.

"Thanks! Bye!" she declared as he climbed in and she walked back toward the pizza shop.

He waved and then pulled from the diagonal space, backing carefully onto Main Street. As he'd done so many times before, he turned down the street, headed toward the Richard Whatley Thames Foreign Language Building. Once there, he popped in a hangtag that he had to park in the faculty parking lot. His mother had gotten it for him the week before, so that he could come and visit her at work without having to worry with stopping at the police station every time to get a temporary permit. He turned the car off, climbed out, and walked toward the passenger side of the car. Vicariously, he managed to get the pizzas and sodas out. He tried his best not to drop anything, but felt like he would in just a second.

"Hey man. Do you need some help?" a voice asked as he walked up to Ian.

"If you don't mind," Ian commented as he turned to look at the person. Ian almost dropped the pizzas and sodas in amazement at this guy alone. He was tall, dark, and handsome, with wavy black hair and deep brown eyes. He smiled at Ian as he took the pizzas out of Ian's hand. In his mind, Ian commented that he was in love with this guy. "Thank you so much," he said.

"Not a problem," the man said as he and Ian walked toward the foreign language office.

"Now let's just see if I can remember where my mom's office is!" Ian commented as he opened the door for the guy carrying the pizzas.

"So your Mom works here too?"

"Yep. Olga Scott."

"Oh! Doctor Scott! She's awesome. So you must be Ian?" he asked.

"Yeah. How did you know?"
"Well. I've met Danny and Pete a couple of times."

"Are you a student here?" Ian asked as they walked down the hall.

"Nope. My Mom is the new linguistics professor, Gilda Ruiz," the guy said.

"Oh! I've heard about her. Mom said that she seemed to be an amazing professor and a wonderful person, in general."

"Yeah. We like her!" the guy said with a smile. "So I'm Joey."
"I was about to ask," Ian said, hoping that he didn't sound like a complete idiot around this gorgeous guy. "Nice to meet you."

"Likewise!" Joey responded.

"Ian!" Olga said as the two walked into the office.

"Hi Mom!" Ian said as they hugged and Joey held the pizzas.

"And Joey! How are you, sweetie?" she asked in her very Latin motherly tone.

"I'm great, Dr. Scott. Is my Mom around?"

"I think she's in class right now, but, if you want, you can hang out here and have a piece of pizza or something."

"Well, thank you!" Joey responded.

"How much do I owe you?" Olga asked Ian.

"Mama. Nada!" he answered in Portuguese.

"We'll discuss this later," Olga said as she took the pizzas from Joey. She took them back into a small lounge set up in the department.

After a second, Olga was reaching into a cabinet with her back facing the guys as they sat on the table. She started talking to Joey about how he should come by more often, that his mother misses him, and all that. Ian gently reached over and touched his muscular forearm to get his attention. He mouthed a quick `sorry' as Olga continued to talk. Joey smiled and winked at Ian, as if to say that it was all OK. As she turned back around, still talking to Joey, she added, "I mean. At least you get to see her more than I get to see my Ian! He's been home for two weeks, and I've been doting on him so much. He very seldom comes home, you know!"

"Mama!" Ian said as Joey smiled at the two of them.

"What? I can't miss my oldest!" she commented as she shrugged her shoulder. "You know I love you..."

"More than your luggage," Ian said, using a line from the movie Steel Magnolias.

"Exactly!" Olga, with her graying hair and brown skin, said to him with a smile.

She fixed the three of them a class of ice before sitting down at the table. Ian poured diet coke into two of the glasses for himself and for her, while Joey poured himself a glass of the regular coke. They each ate a single slice of pizza as Olga guilted both of them about how much more they should come by and visit. It was a half-jokingly, half-seriously contemplated tone that was in her voice.

"Hola, mijo," Gilda said as she came into the lounge after he class had ended.

"Hola, Mami," Joey said as he turned his head and kissed her cheek. "Qué tal la clase?" he asked in Spanish. (How was class?)

"Muy bien. Y la vuelta aquí?" she responded. (Good. And the drive here?)

"It was good enough. It was boring."

"Where do you live?" Ian asked, not meaning to sound that nosey.


"Ah!" Ian said as he nodded, knowing several ways to get there that he'd mapped out and driven late at night when he was younger.

"And you?" Joey asked as Gilda fixed herself a glass of coke.

"Technically, I live in Nashville, but I've been down here for a little bit."

"Makes sense, with you being a singer and all."

Gilda and Olga went off into their own conversation in Spanish. Ian and Joey conversed for a little while. Ian was a bit nervous about talking to this guy. Over the few minutes they'd known each other, I had found out that, in addition to being beautiful, he was also smart and hilariously funny. He'd never a guy quite like Joey, but he assumed that Joey was straight. In Ian's mind, it had become second nature to assume that all men were straight. After all, it had been a gay man that got him hooked to drugs.

Over the course of the two hours that Ian and Joey sat there hanging out, Gilda and Olga had both left to teach other classes. Several other professors, including some people that he'd known most of his life, came into the lounge and spoke to them. At the end of the afternoon, after Gilda and Joey had talked for a little while in the lounge and Ian had talked to Olga in her office, the two of them left. As they walked down the hall, they both began to realize the dry humor of the other. Ian, of course, checked out, one last time, the rock hard physique of this guy while Joey did the same thing, only less obviously.

Just before parting ways, they exchanged numbers. It wasn't that they were planning to hook up, they just found that they had the potential to be good friends, something that both of them had needed of late.

Ian pulled out of the space he'd parked in and headed back toward the road, noticing that Joey was walking down a hill toward the larger, student parking lot.

"Need a ride?" Ian asked as he pulled up beside Joey walking down the hill.

"Yeah. Sure. I'm just right down there," Joey said.

"Ah!" Ian said as Joey climbed in.

"So how did you get the hangtag?" Joey asked.

"Well. My mom knows everyone on campus and probably weaseled it off someone," Ian answered with a grin on his face.

"That's one thing that's cool about your Mom. She's resourceful."

"Yep. She's an awesome lady."

Ian drove where Joey told him too, dropping him off in front of a red car with the custom license plate that said "PRHOTT" on it. Ian didn't question the tag at that point, feeling that he would have a later opportunity to do that. They said one last goodbye just before Ian pulled away and Joey climbed into his car.

"Wow," they both said to themselves as they sat in the driver's seat of their respective cars. As they both drove, neither could really express the thoughts running through their minds, nor could they shake the thought of the other.

By the time that Ian got back to his house, Danny was already home from school. There was another car in the drive as well, one he didn't recognize. He pulled behind Danny's car, not really caring to whom the car belonged.

After a moment, he was entering the three-story home just in Montevallo. He could hear his brother in the kitchen making jokes about some book. Then he heard the giggle of a girl followed by the sound of Danny's continued effort to put the moves on this poor, innocent creature coming from the dining area attached to the kitchen. Ian smiled as he walked through the living room toward where the voices were coming from.

"Hey, DanDan!" Ian said as he walked into the room.

"EEN!" Danny said, just as he'd always done, with a certain excitement in his voice. "When we got here, I was fully expecting you to be sitting in front of the TV, watching cartoons!"

"Yeah. I decided that I had to go somewhere today. I had to get out the house."

"Well...that's great!" Danny said.

"So," Ian started, turning to the girl sitting with Danny, "I'm Ian."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Jen," she responded. Something about this girl looked familiar, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it at that point.

"Likewise," Ian said, shaking her hand as he walked up to the table, littered with notes and books from their studying. "So what are y'all studying? I mean...I know what Danny's studying, but..."

"English," Jen answered with a smile.

"We have an exam on Monday," Danny said, trying to give Ian `the look' without Jen noticing. The look was always what he gave to Ian to let him know that he was trying to work his magic, covertly.

"Ah! College. Fun times, I'm sure," Ian commented as he turned toward the fridge to grab a soda. He snapped open the top of the can and began to take a drink as Danny was turning back to Jen.

"So after we've studied all we can for the evening, would you like to go get something to eat...or something?" Danny said to Jen. Ian smiled as the can was still turned up to this mouth.

"Sure," Jen said. Ian could almost imagine Jen smiling.

"Where's Pete?" Ian asked after a second.

"Oh! He went over to one of his friend's houses to swim in their pool," Danny said.

"OK. I was gonna go hang out with him, since you're busy. But since he's not here, I'll just go watch cartoons or something," Ian said as he took his soda out of the kitchen to give the two `studying' lovebirds a few more moments to themselves.

For minutes later, Ian flipped through the large number of TV stations that were on their satellite system. There was nothing on, and the cartoons that he'd been able to find either didn't seem all that interesting or were ones that he'd seen a thousand times over those two weeks he'd been home.

At around 5, though, Dan came home. He had a very blank look on his face, as if the week had been harder on him than anyone else.

"Hey Dan," Ian said as Dan walked into the living room. Dan set his briefcase onto the loveseat and threw his coat over the back of it. Ian realized, at that point, that there was something in his other hand, along with his keys. It was an envelope, opened roughly at the top. The markings on the front seem to let Ian know what it was that Dan was holding.

"Hey, Ian," he said finally as he came to sit next to his step-son on the sofa. "How was your day?"

"It was OK. I could complain, but it would do no good," Ian commented, looking away from the TV and toward the man his mother was still madly in love with.

"Well. I'm about to make it a lot worse, I'm sure."

Ian smiled. "Actually. I know what's in that letter that you're holding," he said as Dan fidgeted with the envelope and the document inside.

Dan took a deep breath. "As your attorney, I still have to inform you of what it said. Otherwise, you COULD sue me for legal malpractice." They looked at each other and then started laughing.

"Even if I did want to sue you, Dan, I couldn't. Mom would fly straight off the handle and try to murder us both! Me for suing you, you for giving me reason to sue you."

"Exactly!" Dan responded. "Well. They're paying you enough money to live on, comfortably, for the rest of your life."

"I figured they would," Ian said.

"Is this what that lady came by a couple of weeks ago to tell you?"


"Which is why you went into total depression?" Dan asked, not as an attorney but as Ian's de facto father.

"Yeah," Ian said. "Can I ask you a question?"

"I don't know. Can you?" Dan responded. Ian smiled.

"What do you think I should do with that money?" Ian asked. "I mean, I can invest it and live comfortably. I could buy houses all over the world and be an international playboy."

"Or...you could use part of it to record your next CD and then send it to as many labels as possible," Dan suggested.

"I know, but part of me wonders if I will ever be able to do as well as I've done in the past."

"Ian. I've known you since you were a little over a year old. In that time, you've been the most stubborn, pig-headed, arrogant, opinionated, passionate asshole that I can imagine, but all of things, oddly enough, I respect about you. When you moved to Nashville, I was so worried about you. I was probably more worried than your mother, but when your first CD came out, I was so excited that I went and bought everyone I know a copy of it," Dan said. "And not just because you are my step-son. I did it because you are good! Now. You can sit around and get fat and enjoy yourself, or you can get off your ass and do what I know you can do." Ian looked at him. In his characteristic tone, Dan continued, "The choice...is yours."

"Thanks, Dan," Ian said, pulling his right arm up and patting Dan's shoulder.

"Not a problem..." Dan said as Danny came into the room.

"Dad. I'm gonna take Jen out to dinner tonight for helping me study for the English exam I have on Monday," he called as he walked in front of where Dan and Ian were sitting.

"OK," Dan said.

"Hey Jen!" Ian yelled.

"Yeah?" she said as she came into the room. It was almost as if she were comfortable in their house already, as if she knew that that's where she belonged or something.

"You know that Danny's not taking you out cause you helped him study, right?" Ian asked as Dan chuckled and Danny looked at him as if he were selling state secrets to the Soviets or something.

"Yeah. I know," Jen said, looking at Danny. "I've been wishing since the first of the semester that he would ask me out!"

Ian and Dan laughed as Danny chimed in. "Why didn't you just ask me, then?" Danny asked Jen.

"Can I explain it later?" Jen asked.

"Sure," he said.

"Well. I'm gonna go get a shower and get ready. Want to meet me at 7:30?" Jen asked.

"Sure," Danny said as Jen pulled her backpack onto her shoulder.

"Awesome. Well...walk me out?" she asked Danny.

"I think I can manage that," Danny said as he positioned his arm to escort her out.

"See. He got my skills with the ladies," Dan said after the front door shut behind Danny and Jen.

"Yeah," Ian commented.

"Yeah. I remember when I met your mother. I begged her to tutor me in an Introduction to Portuguese class."

"Uh huh..." Ian started.

"The only thing was, I wasn't in a Portuguese class. I just saw her in the library, with you, actually, and I knew that I had to meet her."

"So you just went up to talk to her?" Ian asked.

"No. I went upstairs and got a Portuguese book off the shelf, and then I went back downstairs, where she was studying and begged her for help. She laughed when she realized that I'd gotten some really advanced book. She was like `Are you just trying to flirt with me?' So I was like `Yes. Is it working?' She was like `Here. Hold Ian while I go get the book you really need.' I was so nervous. It was the first time I'd ever held a baby before, but you were so sweet and so brown!"


"Well. When she got back, she had a book that was for an introductory Portuguese class. She told me that when I could handle the stuff in the first chapter, she would go out with me."

"So how long did it take?"

"Three days," Dan said. "Three days, and then I met her again at the library. She told me that I should never speak Portuguese again, especially on our first date." Dan smiled as he fondly remembered the moment.

"So when did you know that she was the one you were going to marry?"

"The moment that she told me that I had to study that book. I'd never been rejected before, and so it was so incredibly sexy when she did."

"And what about her having a kid? Was that weird?"

"Not at all. You were an awesome kid," Dan answered. He turned and patted Ian's knee. "So other than the contract, what's been going on with you lately?"

"Maybe later, Dan," Ian said, looking at Dan. He wanted to tell him what was going on, but he couldn't. He couldn't seem to muster the courage to tell this man before him who he really was.

"Well. You know I'm here for you."

"Yeah. You always have been!" Ian said to Dan.

Olga arrived at home around 6:30 with Pete. Dan and Ian had gone into the kitchen to get dinner started as Danny got ready for dinner with Jen. At around 7, Danny came into the kitchen where the rest of them were eating steak and potatoes.

"Alright. I'm gone, y'all."

"Have fun!" Olga said.

"Danny. You do know to be careful, right," Dan said.

"That's a given, Dad," Danny responded.

"Exactly!" Olga said.

"Why are y'all talking in code? Are y'all talking about what would happen if Danny doesn't wear a condom?" Pete innocently asked as he played with the potato.

Everyone was taken aback by the comment. Danny and Ian wanted to laugh, but the glares from their mother stifled their cackling. "Pete. We'll talk about that later," Dan said.

"Dad. They didn't tell me about it. I learned all of what I know from two sources: school and the Discovery Channel," Pete said. Ian and Danny couldn't contain themselves any longer. Even Olga, who was trying to keep her composure, felt a fit of laughter coming over her.

"Have fun, Danny!" Dan said and Olga concurred with potato in her mouth.

"See y'all around 2..." Danny started.


"Dad. Please. It's Friday."




"Deal," Danny said as they quickly haggled over the time. "See y'all!" he said as he went out the door.

"It must be fun to have a social life!" Pete said to giggles and stifled laughter from those sitting around him.

"That's what I'm saying, Kid," Ian said as he sat across the table from his youngest brother.

"So Een," Pete started innocently enough, "Can I ask you a question?"

"Certainly," Ian remarked.

"My friend Kyle's older brother said that you were a fag. What does that mean?" he asked.

"Oh the questions children will ask," Olga said as she looked at Dan. Ian, on the other hand, looked like a deer caught in headlights.

"First off," Ian started, "that's a bad word. You shouldn't say it. It's a word that some people call guys that like other guys, like Danny likes girls."

"What should I say then?" Pete asked, still sitting at the dinner table.

"You should call a guy like that a gay guy," Ian answered, trying to figure out a way to direct the conversation to another topic.

"So are you a gay guy, then?" Pete asked, looking him dead in the eyes. There was no beating around the bush with this kid; questioning people seemed to be in his blood, especially since his father was an attorney and his mother was a university professor.

Ian played with his food for a second, looking away from Pete who was asking innocently enough. He had to answer the question; he was just trying to come up with a way that he could say it with the least impact on his mother and his step-father. Olga and Dan looked at each other and communicated with their eyes. It was as if they knew the answer already, but didn't want to say anything until Ian was ready to talk. It just took Pete to weasel him into doing it. Olga and Dan smiled at one another as Ian took a very deep breath, hoping that it showed Ian's resolve to answer the questions and deal with all the demons in his head.

"So?" Pete asked, looking at Ian. "Why do you seem nervous?"

"Yeah," Olga said as she put her hand on Ian's wrist. "Why are you so nervous?"

Ian looked up at her, seeing in her expression only the motherly love that he'd always seen, even from the earliest memories. "Pete," Ian said. "Yes. I like boys, like Danny likes girls." He looked at Olga again, who was still smiling, proving to him that the emotion that he'd worked up inside him was all for naught. He looked at Dan, who was smiling as well.

"OK," Pete said, returning to his food. "Hey! You want to watch SpongeBob after we finish eating."

"Sure. I've got to get the dishes done first, though. You want to help me with them and then we can watch SpongeBob."

"OK. I can do that. You rinse; I'll put them in the dishwasher."

"K..." Ian remarked, with a little smile on his face. Now, he thought, his family knew. They knew who he was and what had been causing him so much grief of late.

After dinner, Pete and Ian did the dishes while Olga and Dan talked about things completely unrelated to Ian's sexuality. They didn't care who he was with, along as he was happy, healthy, and safe. When the dishes were finished, Ian and Pete joined them in the living room to watch a hearty dose of cartoons. Dan and Olga were on the big couch while Ian climbed onto the love seat. Pete, who normally would have gone to sit with his parents climbed up next to Ian, snuggling in with him as he would do with Danny from time to time. Ian played with his hair until Pete fell asleep, at around eight or so.

Shortly thereafter, Dan and Olga noticed that Ian was also dozing. Together, though, the two brothers fell asleep on the small sofa in the living room of the home that both of them had grown up in.

When Danny got home at 11, everyone was surprised. He had a big smile on his face as he walked into the living room. Dan and Olga quickly told him not to be too loud, as Ian and Pete were both still asleep in the living room. Danny smiled. It was so seldom that the three of them were together, and seeing that Pete was beginning to think of Ian as he always had, it warmed him a bit inside. Olga moved over and motioned for Danny to sit between his parents, to tell them about his evening.

"So you're home early," Olga whispered.

"Yeah," Dan agreed.

"Yeah. It was such a wonderful evening, though," Danny said.

"Oh! Tell us about it!" Olga went on.

"Now...Olga...don't crowd the boy," Dan said, secretly wanting to know details as well but understanding that a teenaged boy didn't often talk to his mother about his dating life.

"Oh! It's cool, Dad," Danny said. "We went to Fabiano's for dinner. I had a fish dish, and she had something with chicken. We got our food and everything and then just ate and chat until about 30 minutes ago."

"And then you took her home and everything."

"Yeah. Dr. Ruiz wouldn't let her stay out too late, so that's why I'm home early. She's an amazing girl, though. In addition to being one of the hottest women I ever saw in my life, she's really smart and so sweet. She even told me that I was cute!" Danny said.

"Uh huh!" Olga interjected.

"Well. Is there going to be a second date or did you scare her off?" Dan asked.

"Dan!" Olga playfully scolded him.

"Actually. Yes. There will be, but I've got to get in bed if I'm gonna be there on time."

"What do you mean?" Olga asked.

"I'm picking her up for breakfast in the morning," Danny said with a grin on his face.

"Wow...two dates in 24 hours," Dan joked.

"And it's with the same girl!" Danny added. "How often does THAT happen!?" Danny commented as Olga and Dan giggled. "I was actually hoping Een was still awake. I wanted to tell him about it!"

"Ah. Well. We were going to take Pete to bed in just a few minutes, when this movie goes off. You can wake him up and tell him all about it," Olga said just as the attention of the three of them turned to the loveseat, where Pete was stirring a little bit. When he woke up and saw Danny sitting there, he got excited. Danny was quick to put his finger over his mouth, though, so that Pete wouldn't make too much noise and wake Ian. Pete climbed down and walked over to Pete, a smile on his face and sleep in his eyes. He climbed up onto the other brother.

"So did you have a good time with Een?" Danny asked. Pete nodded. "What did y'all do?"

"We ate, then he and I did the dishes, then we watched cartoons and cuddled."

"That sounds fun!" Danny said.

"Yeah. He's more cuddly than you are, though," Pete said as he rested his head on Danny's firm, muscular chest.

"Ah!" Danny said. "I can tell that I'm not loved," he added as he sat back on the couch, content to let his little brother fall back asleep.

"Danny. That doesn't mean that I don't love you. I just have the two coolest older brothers in the world!" he said through his sleepy haze.

"Hey! You want me to teach you something?" Danny asked.

"Sure," Pete answered.

"Do you know what a wet willy is?"

"No," Pete said.

"Well," Danny said as he licked his index finger, "you lick your finger, and then you put it in someone's ear." He demonstrated on Pete, who giggled almost uncontrollably. "Now. Go do that to Een," Danny instructed. Always doing what Danny instructed without question, Pete climbed down, licking his finger when his feet were firmly planted on the floor. Olga looked at Dan, who was smiling, having taught Ian how to do that to Danny many, many years before.

Pete stealthily walked over to where Ian was still sleeping, with his mouth wide open. He licked his fingers once more and then quietly stuck them in Ian's left ear.

"Holy shit!" Ian said as he popped up, wiping the spit from his ear. He looked around to find the whole family giggling. Pete was laughing and holding his hands over his mouth as he giggled. Danny was rolling, laughing on the couch. "YOU will pay!" Ian said, pointing at Danny.

"Like your gay ass could do it!" Danny said, just before giving Ian a look that seemed to beg forgiveness. Danny looked at Dan and Olga.

"Well," Ian said as he scratched his head, "I'm glad I came out at dinner!" Ian chuckled and smiled at his younger brother, who seemed to be letting himself be overtaken by a sense of relief.

"Yeah. So now that everybody knows, I know somebody that I can hook you up with," Danny said as he winked at his sleepy brother. Ian smiled.

"Thanks, DanDan," Ian said, scratching his head and yawning.

"Well," Danny started, "I should get in bed. I have another date in the morning. You gonna be around about noon?" Danny asked Ian.

"I should be," Ian answered.

"K. Don't make any plans. I have a breakfast date with Jen, and then you and I are going to do some stuff."

"Alright," Ian said, smiling at Danny's instructions.

It seemed like no time before the family was off to bed. Olga took Pete shortly after the `wet willy' incident; Dan went up when called by his wife. Ian and Danny went up after talking for a few minutes about Danny's date. Ian was happy that it had gone so well, especially since Jen seemed like the kind of girl that would be good for Danny. She seemed smart; she was beautiful; she was very nice and polite; however, perhaps most importantly, she made Danny smile like no one before her. His little brother, who he'd tried his best to caudle and protect when he was younger was growing up. Ian only hoped, in that second, that Danny's life wouldn't follow the same road as his, mostly with regard to drugs.