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21 July 2009 @ 06:48 pm
Live & On Stage: 4X Everything  
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4X Everything

It was very, very early in the morning and it was summer vacation and Payton had no idea why her phone was ringing. Loudly. And repeatedly. She groped her hand around the dresser until she found the offending item.

“Hello?” she croaked.

“Payton?” Braylin said, and then burst into tears.

“Braylin?” Payton asked, sitting up. “What’s wrong?”

“Ohmygod, it’s on TV,” Braylin said. “On a news show.”
Payton fumbled around in her bed for her remote and switched on the television. Agent Oso was on.
“What’s on TV?” Payton asked. “Where?”

Braylin sniffled. “They just showed it before the commercial, it’ll be on in a minute. On that morning show with the old guy my mom thinks is cute,” she said.
In the background, Payton heard Braylin’s mother say, “Matt Lauer is not old!” so she switched to The Today Show. It was just coming back from commercial. Sara Haines smiled at the camera.
“Today’s big entertainment news: Sources have confirmed the Disney boy band Five Times Everything will be breaking up at the end of their summer tour. EOnline is reporting that the band is having an amiable breakup so that members can move on to other projects. The five-member pop sensation came onto the music scene in early 2005 and had their first No. 1 single, Dead in the Water, by that summer. The group had nine No. 1 hits and released three platinum albums. No news yet on what each of the boys will be doing, but we’ll keep you posted.”
“NOOOOOO!!!!!” Payton shrieked, jumping out of bed.
Feet pounded down the hallway and her father banged open the door.
“What is it?” he gasped. “Are you hurt?”
“Five Times Everything is breaking up!” Payton wailed.
“Well,” her father said. “I’ll call 9-1-1,” and he shut the door.

It was very, very early in the morning and he did not have early rehearsal or departure and Jared had no idea why his phone was playing SexyBack. Loudly. And repeatedly.

He was really, really going to kill Chad for changing Jensen’s ringtone and then putting some kind of techno mojo on it so no matter what he did he couldn’t change it. He groped his hand around the floor until he found it.

“Hi,” he croaked.
“Hey,” Jensen said, quickly and softly. “Sorry to wake you up but I wanted to catch you before you turned on the TV.” In the background, Jared could hear numerous voices.
“Jensen, it’s really early,” Jared mumbled. “Is everything all right?”
“Yeah, yeah, everything’s fine,” Jensen said. “Look, I’ve just got a minute and then I’ve gotta go but I wanted you to hear this from me.”
“What?” Jared said, sitting up and starting to get the idea that something important was happening. Jensen didn’t speak for a minute, so Jared prompted, “Jensen? You sure everything’s okay?”
“Yeah,” Jensen said. “Listen, I’m just gonna say it. We’re breaking up.”
“Huh?” Jared said, and Jensen cut in quickly, “Not you and I, we’re not breaking up. I mean the band. Five Times Everything is splitting up at the end of the summer.”
“Oh,” Jared said blankly. “Are you okay?”
Jensen huffed on the other end of the phone. “Yeah,” he said. “It’s all cool. We all have other things we want to do and Tom wants to get married something fierce and is tired of fighting with Disney about Jamie and – it’s just time.”
“Okay,” Jared said. “And you had to tell me before dawn because?”
“It’s been leaked,” Jensen said, and Jared could hear the stress in his voice. “I was going to tell you soon, but we’ve been trying to keep it under industrial-strength wraps until the tour was over, but best laid plans and all that. Anyway, it’s going to be everywhere today so we’re going to go with it and we’ve got Samantha and publicists and the whole bit here right now and it’s about to be a madhouse, so I just wanted to tell you myself. I just, I didn’t want you to turn on the television and see it or hear it from another Clubber or see it online.”
“Yeah,” Jared said. “That would have been freaky. Thanks.” He ran a hand through his hair. “You sure you’re all right?”
“No,” Jensen said, and laughed shortly. “This is going to be a media circus. In fact, they’re moving us to another hotel in a couple of minutes here, so I gotta go. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you next, but . . . call me, okay? Leave me a message or text me if I don’t pick up.”
“Okay,” Jared said. “Don’t get all stressed out about the media, all right?”
Jensen let out a long breath. “Yeah. Just gotta get through the end of the tour, right?” he asked.
“Right,” Jared said firmly. “You’ll do great.”
“Thanks,” Jensen said, and then paused like he was going to say something else, but then Jared heard Chris drawling, “Security’s here to smuggle us out.”
“Go,” Jared said. “I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Soon,” Jensen said, and hung up.
It wasn’t until he was snapping his phone shut that Jared realized he hadn’t asked Jensen what he was going to do once 5X Everything was over.

Jared thought he knew about media circuses, but what descended upon the tour after the breakup news was leaked went far beyond his experience. It was more like a media hurricane. In addition to that, hundreds of fans showed up everywhere they went, and the concerts were overrun by thousands of ticket-less 5X Everything fans, seeking one last performance before the curtain went down.
Miley usually stayed at a separate hotel, and now the boys were staying yet someplace else, and none of the buses traveled together anymore. Despite his adult status, Jared found his freedoms revoked – Clubbers traveled only to approved destinations and only with security. All sense of fun was gone from the tour – everyone was anxious and tense, and verbal fights broke out almost daily.
Jared kept his head down and missed Jensen fiercely. He only saw him twice after that early morning phone call, both times briefly in the Green Room, a throng of people around them. Their phone calls were likewise public – there was a constant murmur of voices behind Jensen, who sounded frayed and distracted.
In interviews, the guys were all giving vague answers about time off and exploring possibilities about their future plans, but Jensen did tell Jared on the phone that he had more concrete ideas about what he was going to do, though he was starting off with some time off. Jared thought Jensen more than deserved it.
Being on lockdown and apart from Jensen did give Jared plenty of time to prepare for his audition, and before he knew it August break had arrived and he was back in LA. He expected to spend some time, finally, with Jensen, but except for an early phone call the day of his audition to wish him luck, his phone was silent, and Jared found himself kicking around home rather lonely. Chad also seemed to be MIA most of the time, and sounded harried when Jared talked to him.
He was, however, nearly through Fear 2, and a master to be feared by all things virtual. He was wrecking havoc upon the Aramacham Technology Corporation, determined to carry out Alma’s revenge before he had to return to tour, when Chad came wandering into the living room.
“We have a doorbell,” Jared said, annoyed.
Chad flopped onto the couch and stared blankly at the television. “Your mom let me in,” he said, and indeed, Jared’s mother appeared a minute later with a soda and freaking cookies for Chad.
“Don’t feed him, Mom, or he’ll keep coming back,” Jared said sourly, and she redeemed herself by setting another soda and a plate of cookies beside Jared.
“Where have you been?” Jared demanded.
“What crawled up your butt and died?” Chad countered.
Jared paused the game to better consume his food at the fastest rate possible. “I haven’t even seen you except at our audition, I’ve only talked to Jensen once, and Alexis is super-glued to her boyfriend,” he said. “Break sucks. Tour sucks.”
“Cookies good,” Chad said, and Jared munched in agreement.
“Oh, audition,” Chad said once his plate was empty. “I didn’t get it.”
Jared winced. “Sorry,” he said, then added, “They want me to come back and read again.”
“Good luck,” Chad said. “One of us should get to hang up our Mickey ears.” He gulped down the last of his soda, belched, and then stretched out on the couch.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Jared said wryly. Chad, eyes already shut, shot him the finger without looking, and was asleep three minutes later.
Jared turned the volume way down and went back to his game, so engrossed he barely registered the doorbell ringing. He jumped when a hand touched his shoulder.
“Jensen!” Fear 2, the audition, the Club lockdown, the media hurricane, were all abandoned and before he knew it Jared was wrapping Jensen in a giant hug that he didn’t think he could ever break.
“Hey,” Jensen said, and burrowed into Jared’s chest. He gave a such a long, sad sigh that Jared decided he had to break the hug after all, if only to look at Jensen’s face.
“You look like crap,” he said, and Jensen smiled wearily.
“Not much of a break,” he admitted. “Sorry to just barge in, but you said come by anytime and I was close so I had Samantha drop me.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Jared said. “I’ve missed you,” and he kissed Jensen lightly on the lips.
Jensen reached up to run his fingers through Jared’s hair. “I’ve missed you tons,” he said. “It’s been –” and he let go of Jared to twirl one finger in the air.
“No kidding,” Jared said, but Jensen was looking around the room and frowning. He pointed at Chad on the couch and Jared laughed. “Ignore him. He’s only friends with me for my mom’s cookies.”
“Why does that sound dirty?” Jensen mused, and Jared had to laugh again.
“Because it involves Chad,” he said.
Jensen sank into the armchair. “Cookies, huh?” he asked, then scrubbed a hand over his face. “I wanted to finally get a chance to talk to you alone about everything that’s going on.”
“Dude, we could drop a bomb and Chad wouldn’t wake up,” Jared said. “I don’t know what he’s been up to but he’s been conspicuously hard to find, which is usually bad news, and it’s clearly taking its toll.”
Jensen smiled. “I’m not sure if I can’t wait to find out or if I don’t want to know,” he said.
“The essence of being Chad’s friend,” Jared said seriously.
“Cookies?” Jensen said again, making Jared laugh then lean down to kiss him again.
“Be right back,” he promised, but by the time he got back to the living room, soda and fresh plate in hand, Jensen’s head was back and his eyes shut, his breathing slow and regular.
Apparently, his home was too relaxing and soothing, Jared decided, but they both looked so comfortable, he couldn’t really be mad. Instead he leaned back against Jensen’s legs, ate Jensen’s cookies and resumed his game. He had just infiltrated company headquarters when a phone started playing Lawyers, Guns & Money. He quickly discovered that Jensen had dropped his phone on the coffee table and answered it before it could wake anyone up.
“Um, hello?” the voice at the other end said suspiciously.
“Hey, Michael,” Jared answered. “It’s Jared. Jensen’s over here.”
“Good, I’ll come pick him up,” Michael answered. “Put him on for a minute.”
“He’s sleeping,” Jared protested. “I’ll run him home, or wherever you want him, later.”
“Sorry, buddy,” Michael said. “We’ve got an interview. Give me directions and I’ll swing by, I’m already in the car.”
Jared reluctantly told Michael where to find them, adding, “He seems really tired.”
Michael snorted. “Who isn’t?” he said. “We just gotta get through a few more weeks and this is all over. We’ll be forgotten by Christmas with any luck.” He hesitated, then added, “Jared, listen, I know you want your boyfriend back and all, but he’s really stressed out right now, so just . . . just don’t add any pressure to him, all right?”
 “Pressure about what?” Jared asked, irritated. “Not running himself ragged and worrying himself into an ulcer?”
“All right, all right,” Michael said, unrepentant. “Just wake him up, I’ll be there in 10.”
Jared hung up without saying good-bye, scowling, and before he knew it he was kissing Jensen at the door.
In the living room, Chad was sitting up and rubbing blearily at his eyes. “You guys all right?” Chad asked thickly, then yawned.
“Yes. No,” Jared said crossly. “It’s almost over, right?”
“Not soon enough,” Chad groaned, then demanded Resident Evil IV as the cure to all their woes.

The summer tour finished off Labor Day weekend, first with a pre-weekend concert in Jacksonville, and then the big finale in Orlando, the only dates left once break was over. The buses were parked for the summer and Disney shoehorned the Clubbers into one of its jets for the final leg of the tour.

Chad had texted him that morning that he was flying out separate, to Jared’s annoyance, and Alexis promptly strapped herself in and went to sleep. Jared plugged himself into his iPod and quickly joined her.
He was still rubbing sleep out of his eyes while he fumbled with a keycard and his hotel door, so he was taken completely off-guard when AnnaLynne and Shenae stomped up to him, crossing their arms over their chests and assuming identical poses of disgust.
“Where. Is. He?” AnnaLynne demanded.
“Huh?” Jared said intelligently.
“Your little friend,” Shenae spat out. “Your back-stabbing –”
“Lying,” AnnaLynne interjected.
“Of a best friend,” Shenae concluded.
“Chad flew out early,” Jared said flatly. “Don’t worry, if I come across him, I will sacrifice him to you promptly.”
“Good,” AnnaLynne said.
“You’d better,” Shenae added, and they turned on their heels in unison and stormed off.
Jared waited until the elevator doors had shut behind them before saying loudly, “Could you let me in now?”
Chad poked his head out. “Are you really going to sacrifice me to them?” he asked.
“Maybe,” Jared said. “Definitely, if you don’t let me into my room.”
Chad had at least enough shame to look embarrassed as he let Jared in. “See, this is what happened,” he started, but Jared held out a palm.
“I think I know what happened,” he said. “You can hide here, just spare me the details. And don’t leer like that when you think about the details. That’s what got you here in the first place.”
“I know.” Chad tossed himself onto Jared’s bed in despair. “I’m a moron.”
“Moron doesn’t even begin to cover it,” Jared retorted.

5X Everything