They release the album in October as Here I Am Again. Sales go through the roof, and suddenly Leon is in demand everywhere.
Entertainment Tonight praises the record as “the rebirth of a star,” “trendsetting,” and “eminently danceable.” David Letterman invites him to Late Night, where he shows off a few dance moves and talks about the “creative process” of updating his sound.
“We’ll you’ve certainly hit on something,” Letterman says. “The new album is completely taking over the airwaves. So tell me: is there more to come after this?”
“There is, David.” He flashes his famous smile for the camera. “I’m collaborating on a project with a few other artists.” Rain has asked him not to single him out too much. “I’m really interested in some of the New Romantic sound coming from across the pond, and of course putting our own spin on it.”
“Tell me a little more about that.”
“Think Roxy Music, Culture Club, Duran Duran.”
His eyebrows shoot up. “You’re working with Duran Duran? That sounds like a big departure from your past sound.”
Leon tosses his head back and laughs. “No… they haven’t responded yet, I’m afraid.” He winks, and the host chuckles. “But yes, it is a bit of a departure, and I’m looking to work with a variety of up-and-coming artists. For example, have you heard of Urban Renaissance?”
“No, not yet,” Letterman says. “But it sounds like I will before too long.”
“Oh, count on it. We’re creating something totally new, a sound nobody has dreamed of yet.”
Letterman leans conspiratorially into his forearm on the desk. “You know, I have to ask: what’s it like being a famously out gay celebrity?”
Leon gives him his most flirtatious grin and matches the host’s forward cant. “Well, David,” he says, “do you want me to show you some time?”
He and Rain find a compromise. Publicly he’s seen with other men, and Rain goes to social events alongside him so long as Leon has another date. It’s exhilarating in a way: furtive glances across a crowded room; fingers secretly brushing when they join a group photo; putting a hand on the small of Rain’s back when he introduces him – “one of the singers I’m collaborating with, you should talk” – and letting the touch linger an extra moment.
A former dancer from American Bandstand comes out as gay, claiming he was fired when Dick Clark found out. Leon has his publicist contact him, and soon they are seen at nightclubs and hotspots all over town. He takes Chain out as well, and occasionally picks up men from Studio 54, maintaining his public image as a tomcat.
Rain explains the arrangement to Sorrento, who tells Diego, who one night leaves a hesitant message with his father’s answering service: “I was thinking maybe, we could… if you’re free… maybe some time we could have dinner.”
“I am completely fucking exhausted.” Leon collapses on the sofa and rolls onto his back without bothering to turn on the lights.
Rain comes in from the kitchen and switches on a table lamp. Now that he has his own elevator card, it’s no surprise for him to already be there by the time Leon gets home. “Yeah, I can see where all that fame must be tiring.”
Leon has one arm slung over his face, shielding his eyes from the light. “It is, actually. I taped four interviews today, I’ve been in and out of cars and traffic, I have Sorrento bugging me to get over to the club so we can talk about some new plan he has, I’m trying to find a time I can see my son now that he’s offered an olive branch, and on top of all that I have to make sure enough people see me out with Tommy and Chain and whoever else that they don’t get suspicious when they see me talking to you.” He shifts his arm and scrubs his face with both hands. “And I haven’t had time to eat since this morning, so maybe spare me the sarcasm.”
There’s the sound of movement, and then gentle fingers comb through his hair. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m… a little jealous.”
He keeps his eyes closed, enjoying the sensation. “That came out a little harsh,” he admits. “I know how hard you’re working too.” He moves his hand to stroke Rain’s arm, then tugs him over to kneel next to the sofa. “Sometimes it feels like we hardly see each other anymore.”
When he opens his eyes he sees that Rain is in his stage costume. “Did you have a show tonight?”
“We played Gramercy.”
Leon sits up abruptly. “Wait, Gramercy? Gramercy Theatre?”
Rain nods, and a beaming smile breaks over his face.
Leon throws his arms around Rain’s waist and hauls him atop himself on the sofa. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I knew you were too busy to make it. It was tonight or nothing.”
“I would have…” Leon brushes Rain’s hair from his face where it’s become discombobulated. “I… fuck. No, I couldn’t have.”
Rain settles down, laying his cheek on Leon’s collarbone, one hand curled under his own chin and the other toying with Leon’s hair.
“Hang on. You played Gramercy Theatre and you’re still jealous?”
“Of your time. I want us… I want us to get back to our project.” He opens the hand tucked under his chin and lays it on Leon’s chest, over his heart. “I’m starting to miss you. Fame has made you so, so… so busy.”
Before he can answer, Leon’s stomach growls impressively. “Dammit. I’m starving, and there’s nothing here.”
“Actually,” Rain says, “I ordered lo mein. It’s in the fridge.” He yelps as Leon sits up, tumbling Rain to the floor. “Hey!”
“There’s food and you didn’t tell me?” He’s already halfway to the kitchen.
Rain follows after him, reaches into a cabinet while Leon opens the fridge. “You want to put that in a bowl?”
Leon turns around with the cardboard carton in his hand. “Fuck that. Grab some forks.” He grins and waggles his eyebrows at Rain. “You ever eat noodles in bed?”