Chapter Ten: A Blow For Steffi

It was late in the evening before Stefana returned to the Diablo estate. Her head buzzing with amphetamine and her temper still resentful about the way she felt she had been treated, she slipped in through the back entrance and up the stairs, hoping that her bandmates were either out or already in bed.
She was out of luck. Marissa was waiting for her at the top of the stairs, and, from the sombre look in her friend's blue eyes, Stefana knew the other girl meant business. She groaned, rolling her eyes.
"What do you want, Mari?" She demanded. "I've had a long night and I'm not in the mood for one of your little chats, all right? I want to go to my room."
"Not yet, Steffi. I want to talk to you a moment first." Marissa shook her head, barring the way. "It's kinda important."
"What?" Stefana glared at her. "I just told you..."
"I found this in your room." Marissa held out the magazine clipping, her expression troubled. "I was looking for your missing manuscript and this fell out...this needs to stop."
"Noone told you you could go through my stuff!" Stefana snatched the clipping away from her friend, her expression one of indignant fury. "I don't go through your room when you're out!"
"Yes you do. You go through my diary." Marissa stood her ground. "Besides, I found the manuscript that you claimed you'd never seen, so we can get that song sorted out tomorrow. In the meantime..." She indicated the clipping. "What in hell is that about?"
"It's not any of your business." Stefana's eyes flashed angrily. "Let me through to my room, will you? I've had enough of this!"
"You're not going anywhere until we talk about this." Marissa shook her head. "Stef, this fixation with Aaron has to stop! Copper's a sweet girl and he really loves her!"
"Copper's a sweet girl." Stefana mimicked her friend. "Bah. She's a bitch and she thinks she's so perfect. She's no way good enough for him, and besides, it's a free country. If I want to slash pictures from a magazine I bought with my own money..."
"Yes, that's something else." Marissa nodded. "I found at least three credit card bills in your room - reminders for non-payment. When were you going to tell me about them?"
"I wasn't. They're none of your business."
"Stef, you could go to jail!" Marissa exclaimed. "You have to pay them off!"
"With what? Buttons?" Stefana snapped. "I don't have any money!"
"Then how did you find the cash to pay for that new top you're wearing?" Marissa's expression became more troubled as she registered her friend's clothing. "You told me you didn't have enough money for anything but cigarettes..."
"I borrowed it." Stefana told her coldly. "From Luca."
"And does he know you borrowed it? Or did you just help yourself?" Marissa's eyes filled with incredulation. "Stef, this has to stop! I don't know who you are any more - you lie, you steal, you take slash pictures of innocent celebrities just because they happen to be marrying the guy you're stuck yell, you scream and you walk out on our practices...what the hell has gotten into you?"
"I don't need this." Stefana's green eyes sparked with something that Marissa had never seen there before, and the guitarist grabbed her friend by the arms, pushing her out of her way. "I told you, I want to go to my room, all right? And keep your goddamn voice down. I should've known I couldn't confide anything in you - you just fuss and whimper and run round after me like a scared sheep. Well, I'm done with it, all right? I'm done with your fussing! It's a free country and I can do what I like - you're not my mother!"
"Steffi..." Marissa reached out a hand to her friend, her blue eyes anxious.
"No! I'm done with you!" Stefana's eyes glinted dangerously and she shoved the keyboardist hard. Tired though her body was, the drugs had given her an almost deranged strength and despite her best efforts Marissa lost her footing. With a screech she grabbed out for the banister, but it was no good, and she fell headlong down the first flight of stairs, hitting her head with a sickening crack on the newel post at the bottom.
For a moment, everything was still, as Stefana, still half stoned stared in horror at what she had done. Remorse mingled with fear and anger rushed through her body and she turned tail, fleeing for the sanctuary of her room as she heard voices from the corridor below. Afraid to be found at the scene of the crime, she banged her bedroom door shut, dropping down onto her bed and burying her head in the covers. She was shaking, she realised, with fear as much as anything. Sure that she'd killed her friend, the tears began to spill down her cheeks, and she dashed them away.
"She shouldn't have got me riled up." She whispered. "But I didn't mean to hurt her!"
Clay was the first person to reach the stricken musician, crouching down at her side and putting a gentle finger to his bandmate's throat in search of a pulse. At first, none was forthcoming, but finally he found it, faint but reassuringly there.
"What in hell happened?" Madeleine and Luca joined him now, as the drummer carefully examined the still girl, noticing the bruising across her brow, and the blood that had begun to clot around the wound.
"Looks like she fell and hit her head." He said at length. "Someone get a goddamn ambulance - now!"
"I'm on it." Luca was gone in an instance, and Madeleine got down on her knees beside the drummer, casting Marissa a worried look.
"She's so pale." She murmured. "I heard a scream, and then a crunch - do you think she lost her footing?"
"No, I don't." Clay said darkly. "I heard her and Stef yelling at each other...I don't think this was just an unfortunate loss of balance."
"You think Stef pushed her?" Madeleine's eyes became big with shock. "I know she can be crazy, Clay, but Mari is the one person I would have thought Stef would never lay a finger on...surely you're kidding?"
"Joke about something as serious as this?" Clay retorted. "I'm dead serious, Maddy. I heard Mari call Stef's name, and then Stef yelled at her to get out of her way. Then there was the scream, and here we are."
"Where is Stef, anyway?" Madeleine looked around her. 
"Who cares?" Clay asked grimly. "Far as I'm concerned, Maddy, the girl couldn't be far enough away from me at the moment. I've never hit a girl and I never want to, but if she did what I think she did to Mari, she'd better damn well have a death wish."
"More violence won't solve anything." Madeleine reproached him gently, as Luca returned to the group. "Well, Luca? Ambulance on it's way?"
"Yes. They told me not to move her." Luca nodded. He cast the still girl a glance. "She okay?"
"Well, she's breathing and her pulse is steady, but she's not doing brilliantly." Clay said shortly. "She must've given her head a nasty crack - look how it's bruising up, and it's gonna need stitches."
"Poor Mari." Luca frowned. "She did say her blood sugar had been somewhat off - do you think she came over dizzy and fell?"
"Clay thinks it was more a fight with Stefana that sent her downstairs." Madeleine looked grave. "But Stef isn't anywhere around to ask, so we really don't know what happened."
"I know what happened." Clay's expression was grim. "Stef threw one of her tantrums and Mari is paying the price."
"Shut up, Clay. You don't understand anything."
A fourth voice joined the huddle and the three musicians turned to see their missing bandmate standing at the top of the stairs. She was ghostly pale, her eyes red with tears. In that instant, she looked more hopeless than any of them had ever seen her before.
"Stef, what happened?" Luca asked. "Did you see Mari fall? Were you...?"
"She got in my way." Stefana whispered. "I didn't mean for...for her to fall."
"If you had damn control of your temper, Stefana, none of this would have happened." Clay looked ready to throttle the girl there and then, but Madeleine placed a gentle hand on his arm, shaking her head.
"It was an accident." Stefana protested. "Is she...?"
"She's alive, but out cold." Madeleine spoke quietly. "I don't think you should stay here right now, Stef. I'm not sure any of us have anything to say to you."
"Too bloody true." Clay muttered. Stefana stared at their solemn faces for a moment then, with a stifled sob, she turned on her heel, disappearing back along the corridor to her room. There was the sound of a door banging, and then silence.
"What will we tell the ambulance people, when they arrive?" Madeleine asked.
"Say that she fell." Luca looked troubled. "I'm gonna go speak to my sister...someone put a call through to Suzanne and let her know her daughter's had an accident, huh? Should probably tell Rory too...but please, don't mention Steffi for the moment. I...I need to talk to her. I need to find out what happened."
He got to his feet, heading slowly up the stairs to his sister's room. After knocking once on the door, and getting no reply, he pushed it open, slipping inside and startling the guitarist in the process.
"Why are you here?" She asked him flatly. "Shouldn't you be helping Mari?"
"I want to know what happened." Luca said quietly.
"You know what happened." Stefana muttered. "She got in my way."
"I can't believe you'd do something like this." Luca looked troubled. "Stef, Mari's been your best friend since I can remember, pretty much, and you've never hurt her like this before. What's gotten into you? Who knows how badly the girl is hurt - you could have killed her!"
"I know that." Stefana swallowed hard. "I didn't mean her to fall, it just happened. I was angry, Luca. I couldn't stop myself. I wasn't...wasn't in control."
"It's time you did get to grips with your temper." Luca scolded her quietly. "I'm worried about Mari, Stef, and I'm not going to lie to you. If she's badly hurt - or if she doesn't make it through this - you will be to blame. People will want to know what happened. I know you can be fiery and temperamental, but I never dreamed you'd lash out at anyone like this. Particularly not at Mari. She's not been feeling so well herself lately, with all the fighting going on - who knows how this will affect her."
"Just shut up, will you?" Stefana exclaimed. "I don't need the guilt trip, Luca, I know, okay? And I'm sorry she got hurt, I really am, but I'm sick and tired of people hassling me and fussing over me and trying to live my life for me. If she'd just let me alone..."
"This wasn't her fault." Luca shook his head gravely. "I hear sirens - sooner she gets to the hospital the better. I only hope Mari isn't going to pay for your fit of pique, that's all."
Stefana swallowed hard, trying her best to get to grips with her emotions. As she did so, Luca caught the strange look in her eyes and, frowning, he put a gentle hand under her chin, lifting her gaze to his.
As he did so, everything suddenly became clear. Stefana's pupils were strange and he knew only too well that there was only one thing which could have caused such an odd expression, for he had encountered plenty such looks before, at late night college parties. A frown crossed his face.
"What in hell have you taken?" He demanded, an edge to his voice.
"I don't know what you mean." Stefana lowered her gaze, and her tone held a note of apprehension. "Just go away, will you, and leave me alone?"
"Dammit, Steffi, what have you taken!" Luca exclaimed, grabbing his sister firmly by the shoulders. "Look at me, will you? And tell me the damn truth!"
Stefana made no reply, and Luca resisted the urge to shake the girl, though he had never felt such a rush of anger or terror over his sister's reckless lifestyle before.
"Tell me!"
"S...speed." Stefana, cowed by her brother's uncharacteristic rage, raised scared eyes to his green ones. "Amphetamine...that's all."
"That's all? Dammit, is that why you pushed Mari? You were too damn stoned out of your head to think straight?"
"No, don't Luca me. I want to know the damn truth!"
"I didn't mean it."
"Is that why you've been acting so crazy lately? Is this why you throw a fit at us for the least reason and stop out till all hours? Hell, Stef, how long has this been going on?"
"I can handle it." A brief flash of defiance entered Stefana's green eyes. "It's my life, I can do what I want."
"Including hurting your best friend?" Luca's tone was scathing. "Dammit, Stef, and I've stuck up for you so many times - this is how you repay me? I've done my best to look out for you, and now I find you've been dabbling in God knows what behind my back? Stop messing about and answer my question, will you? How long has this been going on?"
"A...a while." Stefana bit her lip. "Luca..."
"How long is a while?"
"Since...since I left school."
"Four years?" Incredulation filled Luca's green eyes. "You've been messed up with these things for four years? Dammit, no wonder you've been such a brat to live with! How many other people are you going to hurt before you realise just how stupid you're being, huh?"
"Let me go!"
"Not a chance." Luca shook his head. "You're gonna stop it, do you hear me? No more. I'm not having my sister screwed up on drugs, and I'm not going to have you going round acting the delinquent. Mari is hurt because of you and your stupid habit - I'm not going to let that happen again. You got it?"
"You can't tell me what to do! If that's how you feel, you can damn well keep your group - I'm leaving!"
Stefana wrenched herself free of his grip, pushing past him and out of the bedroom door. Luca got up to follow her, but she was fast, and her car had pulled away into the night before he had reached the front door. Marissa was long gone in the ambulance, with Clay having accompanied her to the hospital, and, defeated, the older Ranieri headed into the lounge, dropping down onto the sofa and burying his head in his hands.
"You okay?" Madeleine asked him softly. Luca shook his head.
"No." He replied. "I've never had a fight like that with Stef before."
"I heard her car - where do you suppose she's gone?"
"Who knows?" Luca sighed. "The kid is screwed up, Maddy. She's been doing drugs - amphetamines - and I didn't even notice. What kind of a brother am I, huh, if I let my sister get messed up in all kinds of crazy stuff?"
"Clay told me as much." Madeleine nodded. "Apparently he heard some of Stef and Mari's argument, and Mari mentioned it. I think that's part of why he's so mad at Stef."
"How is Mari?"
"I dunno. Clay's gonna call from the hospital when he knows more." Madeleine frowned. "I called Suzanne and I told Rory. He was surprisingly helpful, considering what a jerk he can be...he told me that her medical insurance will take care of all the costs and that he hopes to see one of us at Rebel Records tomorrow. I said I'd go, tell him what I could."
"Will you tell him what happened?"
"I don't know." Madeleine looked troubled. "It shouldn't be a shock to any of us, thinking things over, that Stef's been using drugs. Tonight's been a mess of a night for all of us, in truth - strangely enough I don't feel like telling Rory everything. I don't trust him."
"Me either." Luca looked relieved. "I'm madder than I've ever been at her before, you know. Livid. I had to control myself, else I would have shaken the living daylights out of her. But I guess I'm mad at myself too, you know? I should have seen what was going on. Mari might not have been hurt if I'd been more observant." He shrugged. "She worked it out, if Clay overheard right. Why didn't I?"
"It's not your fault, Luca." Madeleine told him gently. "Stef has always been a loose cannon."
"I wonder if she'll come home."
"Not tonight, I shouldn't imagine." Madeleine shook her head. "She knows we're all worried about Marissa and in none too good a mood with her, so I suspect she'll lie low someplace for a while."
"She told me we could keep our band, and that she was leaving." Luca looked troubled. "I don't like being at odds with her."
"Most of the world is at odds with Steffi at some time or another." Madeleine said wisely. "For now, let's just hope that Marissa makes a good recovery, and that we can keep the ins and outs of this out of the press. Whatever else, it's not good for Diablo's image for the public to think we're attacking each other and doing drugs behind closed doors."
"True." Luca nodded. He rubbed his temples. "It's been one hell of a night."
"It has indeed." Madeleine agreed gravely. "I only hope when Clay calls he has better news for us. Mari never lets her health interfere with her music, but she's not as robust as the rest of us, and she did say earlier that she was feeling the strain of all the recent arguments. I hope she can pull through, Luca."
"So do I." Luca admitted. "Else what happens to Steffi if she doesn't?"

Across town, well away now from the safety of her room and the big Diablo house, Stefana had pulled her car into a layby. Still very much in shock from the accident, the amphetamine kick had long since begun to wear off and she felt, dizzy, tired and miserable. For a moment she just sat there, watching without taking in the traffic as it zoomed by her. Absently she wished that she was someone else, not Stefana Ranieri, not Diablo's devil-may-care guitarist.
And more than anything she wished that she had not hurt Marissa.
"But I can't take it back." She told herself numbly. "Luca knows everything now - I can't go back. He won't want me now. And if Mari dies...what then? Am I going to be hauled up for murder? Will I be charged for assault regardless? Hell, I never meant to hurt her! She's pretty much the only proper friend I have - why do I always shoot myself in the foot? What is wrong with me?"
She glanced out of the other window, starting with surprise as she recognised the neighbourhood in which she had parked. Instinct had brought her here above all else, she realised, as she gazed up at the big apartment building where Aaron made his home. Hesitating for a moment, she made up her mind.
"I've nowhere else." She whispered. "Noone else. Maybe...maybe he'll help me."
To think was to act and she got out of the car, realising as she did so how little stuff she had with her. She headed up the drive and into the apartment building, pushing the button for the lift and waiting impatiently for the car to reach the bottom floor. Finally it did, and before she knew it she was standing outside Aaron's front door, debating whether to knock.
"If that bitch of his is there, I don't want her to see me all messed over like this." She muttered. "But I have noone else. What else am I supposed to do?"
She knocked hesitantly on the door, and before too long it swung open, revealing Aaron in teeshirt and jogging bottoms. He cast her a look of surprise, which soon became concern as he registered her tearstained face and woeful expression.
"What's happened?" He asked gently, ushering her inside and coaxing her to sit down on the couch, dropping down beside her. "What is it, Steffi? What's wrong?"
"Luca and I had a fight." Stefana said brokenly. "He's mad at me and...and I can't go home. It was horrible, Aaron. I had nowhere else to go." She glanced around her. "Are...are you alone?"
"Yes, of course." Aaron nodded. "A fight with Luca? Must have been a biggie."
" was." Stefana admitted. "Aaron, have you ever been so mad that hurt someone by accident?"
"How do you mean?" Aaron looked surprised.
"Marissa and I had a big argument, and she fell down the stairs." Stefana admitted. "It was an accident, Aaron, I didn't...didn't want her hurt, but now Luca's angry and I...I don't know if Mari will be okay - she was so still, they took her to hospital but I'm afraid..."
"Shh." Aaron hugged his friend tightly, as the tears, so foreign to the fiery guitarist began to fall once more. "I can tell you're upset, Stef, but it was an accident. I know you wouldn't hurt anyone on purpose, and Marissa is your best friend. I'm sure Luca will realise that. He's probably worried about Marissa."
"I'm worried about her." Stefana looked haunted. "I never meant to hurt her."
She glanced up at him.
"Can I...stay here?" She asked haltingly. "At least for a while? I can't go home."
"Of course you can." Aaron told her gently. "So stop crying, huh? It was just a big misunderstanding, and it'll all be worked out. I'm sure Marissa will be fine and everything will be okay before you know it, so calm down, huh? I'll get you something to drink."
Despite her fear, Stefana managed a small smile.
"Thank you." She whispered. "I feel like I've lost everything tonight."
"You've not lost me." Aaron told her firmly. "Whatever happens, Stef, I'm still your friend - and I always will be. No matter what."
"You promise?" Stefana looked doubtful. Aaron nodded, hugging her tightly.
"I promise." He agreed.


Prologue: Steffi's Vice
Chapter One: The Bride To Be

Chapter Two: A Little Piece Of Hell
Chapter Three: Jewel
Chapter Four: Shopping Trip
Chapter Five: Copper's Dress
Chapter Six: A Devil Strikes
Chapter Seven: Gaynor To The Rescue
Chapter Eight: A Shock For Marissa
Chapter Nine: Wedding Plans
Chapter Ten: A Blow For Steffi
Chapter Eleven: Logan

Chapter Twelve: The Final Straw

Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Anna, Blade, Raesha, Sirena, Topaz, Aaron, Sophie, Justin, Elliot, Rosita, Luis and any other characters in this fiction which do not appear in the animated Jem series are copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley) as of January 2002 <unless otherwise specified> and are not to be reproduced without permission ANYWHERE. Jetta, Pizzazz, Stormer, Roxy, Raya and all other original Jem characters are the copyright of Hasbro Inc, Sunbow, Christy Marx and the other writers of the Jem series. The future world of Pizzazz, Raya, Jetta, Roxy, Stormer, Clash, Synergy, the fate of Jem and her memorial are all copyrighted to me. The future world of Kimber and Shana is copyrighted jointly to myself and Gemma Dawn.
The concept of 'Jewel' is entirely my own, and any apparent link with any fictional or actual person or persons of this name is entirely coincidental. Equally the characters in this fiction are not based on any real life individual.
The concept behind the future world of Danse, Aja and Craig, the idea behind Jerrica's futureworld and the split of the Holograms is copyrighted to Gemma Dawn, whose Teenangel Outsiders fiction is directly twinned with Just a Dream. The character Sammi and any of the other Teenangel Outsider characters mentioned in this fiction are entirely copyright to Gemma Dawn and appear here only with her permission.
Pay her page a visit!