"Would you love me if I wasn't Britney Spears?" Britney says it into her pillow, eyes closed, hair hiding her face, so Mandy thinks she hears her wrong and brushes brittle yellow hair away from pale skin.

"What did you say?" Britney mumbles and buries her face further into the pillow, so Mandy laughs and rolls her over. "No, really. What?"

Britney rolls over with a sheepish little grin on her face, and as always, Mandy is amazed at how beautiful this girl is. Even without makeup, she has this glow--not the glow of a superstar, but the glow of a happy sweet girl with soft skin and beautiful eyes. Eyes currently rolled to hidden behind a dramatically-placed hand. "Its stupid."

"If you're asking, its not stupid."

The hand comes down, and Britney's eyes are a little bit brighter than they should be, because she still doesn't really believe that she isn't stupid. Mandy wants to smack the hell out of her managers. And her mama. And everybody who for some reason or another made Britney feel like she's less than she truly is.

Britney sighs, an exhalation of air from pink lips twisted into a frown, and looks directly into Mandy's eyes. "Would you still love me if I wasn't Britney Spears?"

Mandy pauses a second, then says, "Explain."

Britney sits up and scrubs once at her eyes, still slightly teary. "Would you love me if I wasn't the bigger than life, selling millions of records, always showing her navel Britney Spears? Would you love me if I was just me? Just Britney?"

Mandy sits up too, and takes Britney's hand in hers. "Britney. You are just Britney. You just happen to have a lot of stupid baggage that goes along with being an international sex symbol, like makeup that tastes bad and a girlfriend who can't kiss you in public."

That makes Britney crack a little smile, and Mandy grins, relieved. Britney is one of the happiest people she knows, except when she's not. And when Britney's not happy, it seems like the world is lacking a sun. "I know. I know you don't think of me that way, but...what if I decided to stop?"

"To stop what?"

"To stop being Britney Spears." Britney drops her head and laughs slightly. "Sometimes I wish I'd never been Britney Spears."

"Britney." Mandy touches her fingers to Britney's jaw and raises her head until they're looking eye to eye. "If you'd never done everything that you've done up until now, we never would have met."

Britney says, "Yeah," in a soft little voice and raises her head slightly until she touches Mandy's lips to hers. "And I don't regret that at all. But..."

"You do regret other things." Brtitney nods, forehead against Mandy's forehead, and Mandy sighs. "Britney. Do you want to quit?"

"I think so." Its quiet, but not shaky, so Mandy knows she means it.

"Oh." Mandy draws back so she can look Britney in the eye. "So quit."

"You won't care?"

Mandy smiles. "I'll care. Of course I'll care, you're my girlfriend," and that brilliant smile comes over Britney's face again, "but...you shouldn't care what I think. Its your life, Britney. You need to do what makes you happy."

"You make me happy."

"I know. Me too." And she does. Mandy knows it like she knows herself: they make each other happy. "But if your life isn't making you happy, you need to change it. If being international superstar Britney Spears isn't doing that, then be Britney Spears, something else."

"I don't want to be Britney Spears at all," Britney says.

"But thats who you are, Brit. Just because somebody attached some stupid label onto your name doesn't mean you can't change that." Mandy hugs her. "Britney Spears and Britney here in bed with me are the same person. I think you need to reconcile that."

Britney hugs back, and says quietly into Mandy's shoulder, "I don't think I know how to." Her tears are hot on Mandy's skin. "Mandy...what if I can't fix it? What if I can't make me onstage and me in real life the same person?"

"You can, baby. You've just had so many people telling you that Britney Spears is a star and Britney Spears is a sex symbol and Britney Spears is whatever the fuck they think you are that you had to seperate. But you don't have to seperate. You don't have to stop doing what you love just because some people told you that it made you something you aren't." Mandy kisses Britney on the cheek, arms still around the other girl. "Maybe you just need a break from performing. From other people telling you what you are, until you can decide for yourself."

"Maybe," Britney says, and Mandy can tell she's not sure.

"Look, why don't we go to sleep. You don't have to decide now. You don't even have to decide tommorrow. You're only twenty years old, Brit."

"And you're only eighteen. So how is it that you're so much wiser than me?" Britney says, a smile tilting the edges of her mouth.

Mandy kisses her, kisses that tilted mouth. "Because I never had people telling me that I had to be someone else. And if they did, I didn't listen to them." Britney's face falls, and Mandy quickly adds, "Because I had you there, telling me not to listen."

Britney smiles again, and Mandy feels like the room is full of sunlight. "I love you."

"I love you too." Mandy smiles, but she wants to cry. To think that this girl doesn't realize just how fucking wonderful she is... "Now, come on." She lays down, Britney following her into the mountain of pillows. "Lets just go to sleep.

Britney falls asleep curled against Mandy's body, and her face is soft and unsure, not at all the face of the confident girl she is onstage, of Britney Spears. Before she falls alseep, Mandy thinks that what she wants most in the world is to make this girl whole.


For Tiffany.