Part One: Lovesick

Chapter Seven: Test of a Friendship

Rory glanced up at the big diamante clock that hung on the far wall of his office, pursing his lips as he pushed his paperwork aside. There was a knock at the door, just as the clock began to ring out the hour, and he smiled.
"Punctual as ever, my dear." He observed, as his visitor entered the office. "Well, Rapture? What have you to tell me?"
"Plenty, if you want to listen." Phoebe offered him a wide smile. "Stefana is everything you said she would be. I have found her diligent in her tasks so long as cash is forthcoming, and there is no reason to doubt that, now is there, Riot?"
"Not so long as those Jewel brats' publicity is upset in the process." Rory shook his head. "You can't put a price on negative press, Rapture. Well? Fill me in. I am curious to know what you have in store...though off the record, of course."
"Of course." Phoebe agreed comfortably, taking a seat and setting her bag down on the floor. "Though I should warn you, Rory, as far as the girl is concerned - you must mention nothing of our meeting like this to her. As far as she knows, this is a private revenge arrangement between herself and me. You are not in the picture and I think her cooperation is better served that way." She cast her friend a meaningful look. "She seems upset with you, though I can't imagine why."
"Stefana is upset with the world. My heart bleeds." Rory said dryly. "Very well. Though she will question your use of my office sooner or later, you know."
"That's why I intend on arranging to meet her at the hotel more often." Phoebe examined her nails for paint chips. She fixed Rory with a sharp look. "Though I will need one more loan of this place - preferably on a day when there are as few staff and security people around as possible."
"Now you do have me intrigued!" Rory observed. "You can be certain of my cooperation, but I would like to know exactly what you are up to."
Briefly Phoebe outlined events so far.
"It seemed to me that if Copper has an admirer -and, from what I've heard, he's one with a few screws loose - we should utilise that to our best advantage." She concluded. "I have already had Stefana write back to him, giving him my PO box to write to. That way we have control of his correspondance. It seems prudent to arrange for a little meeting between loverboy and our Jewel starlet at some point."
"How will you engineer that? I can't see you getting Copper's cooperation."
"Copper won't know a thing about it." Phoebe shook her head. "I'm still hazy on the details yet, but I intend Stefana to intercept him in some way before Copper arrives. Feed him some excuse - some line about Copper being waylaid by the Pelligrini boy and that she's sent Stefana by way of messenger. I'll have her bring him back here. Claim to be Copper's business agent or something like that. Like I said, I'm hazy on the finalities of that part yet."
"But if he's as obsessive about Copper as you say, won't he know that he's being brought to the wrong music company?" Rory pointed out. "Fans know irritating details like that, and especially if he is a Los Angeles man - won't he be suspicious if you use my office and not Phyllis Gabor's at Misfit Music?"
"Yes, that had occured to me." Phoebe inclined her head in agreement. "And it is unfortunate, but to try and gatecrash that bitch's music company would be foolish and wouldn't accomplish much. No, we must bring him here. I will think of something. Perhaps...ah, perhaps I can portray myself as business agent for both Stefana and Copper and that I am attending a meeting at Rebel Records. That might work. If the fool is as lovesick as his letters, he won't really care much who I am. If I can guarantee him spending some time with his darling..."
She shrugged.
"He will eat out of my hand."
"So what then?"
Phoebe grinned, an impish glint entering her blue eyes.
"Well, they say you should never encourage obsessive fans." She purred. "Who knows where it might lead?"
*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
Luca banged on his sister's bedroom door. "Stef, are you coming out of there today or not! We have a session, if you'd forgotten! We do have concerts to play next weekend and we'd like to be ready for them!"
"What's all the noise, Luca?" Madeleine pushed open her own door, casting the singer a confused look. "I thought everyone was up - is Stef still in bed?"
"I don't know but I haven't seen her this morning." Luca responded, turning the handle and opening his sister's door. "I think that...hey! She isn't here!"
"I said I thought we were all up." Madeleine responded. "I thought I heard her moving around earlier - the kid doesn't seem to sleep that much these days anyway."
"Well, I wish I knew what she was doing sometimes." Luca grimaced. "She hares off at all hours and we're supposed to be a group, Maddy. I don't want us to come over as unreliable, but half the time I can't track her down."
"Marissa might know more." Madeleine said with a grin. "But Luca, I've been telling you for years that Stef never listens to a word any of us say. This just proves it."
She glanced at the bed. "It has been slept in, at least - or tossed and turned in, anyway - so she did spend the night here. Maybe by some fluke she's already at the music company."
"Well, I guess we'll find out when we get there." Luca sighed, running his fingers through his thick dark hair in his agitation. "I'll page her phone downstairs - Clay's done coffee anyhow. I hope that is where she is, Maddy. I know she can be trouble but I don't want her getting into a fight with Rory over being late or unreliable or both. She is my sister."
"She doesn't deserve you to be so concerned." Madeleine said acidly. "Come on. Leave her for now. She's a grown woman and you can't chase her round always. She has to grow up eventually, Luca, and leave the spoiled brat routine behind her."
"Maybe." Luca looked troubled, allowing himself to be led down the stairs to the spacious kitchen, where the aroma of coffee pervaded every corner. Clay and Marissa were seated at the table, discussing a passage in one of their new songs, but at Luca's expression Marissa frowned, pausing in what she had been saying.
"Luca, is something wrong?" She asked softly.
"Stef's not in her room. I thought she must still be in bed, but she isn't."
"Did we make the mistake of telling the brat we had work this morning again?" Clay grimaced. "Luca, I've told you about doing that."
"Mari, did she say something to you about going out early this morning?" Madeleine asked, pouring herself a mug of coffee. Marissa shook her head, her blue eyes clouded.
"No. She doesn't talk to me all that much these days. Not about anything."
"Have you two had a fight?" Madeleine looked concerned. Marissa shrugged.
"We have a lot of them at the moment." She admitted. "I don't know what to do about it but I don't like it. I think she feels we're all mothering her too much and she wants to be her own woman. But she has a habit of getting herself in with the wrong kind of people and I do worry about her."
She sighed, taking a sip of her own milk.
"Maybe she's right. Maybe I do fuss too much over her."
"Mari, if you and Luca left Stef to her own devices she'd probably be doing time by now." Clay said bluntly. "We all know she got off with a warning once since we've been in Cali, and I know that Suzanne intervened a couple of times with the cops in Connecticut when fights Stef got into turned nasty. She's a felony waiting to happen and to be brutal about it, I'd rather it happened when none of the rest of us were likely to get dragged in with her."
"Clay, that doesn't help." Marissa scolded. "I know you've never had much time for her, but she's my best friend, and Luca's sister. It's different for us."
"Luca's stuck with her." Clay responded. "You're not, Mari, and you're far too good to her as it is. She doesn't deserve a friend like you and that's a fact."
Marissa shook her head, frustration clear in her expression.
"Maybe I'm not as good a friend as you think I am." She said softly. "If I was..."
"If you were...what?" Madeleine pressed. Marissa shook her head.
"Nothing." She said sadly. "I wish I could tell you where she was this morning, but I can't. All I know is that she's been spending a lot of time lately with that Asche woman we met the other morning. She seems to like her and got mad at me when I suggested she might be trouble."
"Any friend of Rory's is trouble." Clay said dryly. "Just because nobody has locked her up doesn't mean all that conartistry stuff isn't true. I'd lay odds that it is."
"Do you think she'll get Stef into trouble?" Luca looked worried.
"If Stef is going to get into trouble, she'll do it on her own." Madeleine said wisely. "I doubt that this Phoebe Asche has much time to spare on a spoiled brat who throws a tantrum if she doesn't get her own way."
She glanced at her watch.
"And we'll be late if we don't head off. It isn't our fault if Stef isn't with us. We're not her minders."
"You better damn well believe it."
A fresh voice startled them and as one the group of musicians turned to face their missing bandmember. Stefana stood in the doorway, her arms folded across her chest.
"Well? Do you think I don't know you bitch about me behind my back?"
"Stef, where in hell have you been?"
"Running an errand." Stefana said shortly. "I had a letter to write and I wanted to mail it in the city, since Aaron said some weird creep has been invading the mailbox at Jewel's place. You never know when the trend might spread to ours, and I didn't want anyone rifling through stuff I put there to send out. Obsessive fans are not my thing."
"A letter?" Marissa looked doubtful. "Who were you writing to?"
"Is it any of your goddamn business?" Stefana retorted. "Noone you know."
She grabbed a mug from off the drainer, pouring herself coffee and taking a sip, perching herself on a nearby bar stool. "Well? I thought we had a session this morning?"
"We do. We were waiting for you." Madeleine said quietly. "It would have been nice if you'd left us a note. Luca didn't know if something had happened to you."
"Luca worries far too much. You all do." Stefana said dismissively. "I got up early, I walked into the city and I mailed my letter. That's all. Okay?"
"Hang on a minute - you walked?" Clay eyed her suspiciously. "You? Voluntarily exercised?"
"I didn't want my car engine to wake anyone. I knew I'd get the twenty questions routine because it's all I damn well get round here these days." There was pure venom in the look that Stefana flung in the drummer's direction. "It's not far."
"Yeah, and the path goes right past the Starlight Mansion." Clay nodded. "I wonder if you know so much about people rifling mailboxes because you've been indulging in it yourself, huh?"
"Clay!" Marissa's eyes opened wide with surprise. "That's not fair!"
"Mari, shut up. I can fight my own fights." Stefana's eyes flashed fire and she tossed her coffee mug into the sink, shattering the vessel and sending spatters of coffee across the unit. "And for your information, Mr Blake, I did no such thing. Ask Aaron if you don't believe me - Jewel have had intrusive mail from a fan and I didn't want us to go the same way. He told me about it, when I asked him to cover for our show last night. That's all and that's the damn truth - believe me or don't. But fling accusations at me again and I'll rip your goddamn tongue out!"
"Woah, girl." Luca put a hand on his sister's arm. "Clay, that was outta line. If Stef says she walked into the city to mail her letter then we gotta believe her. And we're already late."
"Who's going to clean the remains of that mug out of the sink, by the way?" Madeleine got to her feet, glancing at the mess. "Stef, if you're gonna throw a tantrum, at least avoid breaking something in the process! Those mugs were new last weekend and now we're down one on the set."
"There are only five of us. It doesn't matter." Stefana shot back. "You clean it up. I'm not. Clay was damn lucky it wasn't aimed at his head."
She scowled.
"Are we going?"
"We're going." Luca nodded. "Come on, we can worry about the mug later. It won't do to get this day off to a worse start than the one we already seem to have made."
As they reached Luca's car, Marissa paused, touching her friend hesitantly on the arm.
"What?" Stefana bristled, glaring at the younger girl. "Are you going to play nanny to me again? Or are you going to ask me another whole bunch of questions, huh? Because I don't need it!"
"I..." Marissa bit her lip. "I wanted to say I was sorry if I upset you yesterday. That's all. Your friendship is important to me and so is your welfare. That's all."
Stefana snorted.
"You needn't worry yourself about my welfare." She said with a shrug. "I'm stronger than you think I am. Not everyone has the health problems you do to deal with, Mari. We don't all need to monitor what we eat or how much exercise we do."
"I know that. But I wouldn't be a good friend if I didn't worry."
"I don't need a friend who's constantly on my back." Stefana responded. "You never used to be a drag - I don't want to be friends with a drag."
Tears began to spill down Marissa's cheeks at this.
"I'm sorry." She whispered. "But since Farah went to Japan with Aunt Kaori you and I have almost been like sisters. And...well...I know Mom would want me to keep an eye on you, too. I'm only trying to help."
Stefana cursed.
"Oh, dammit, don't cry at me!" She exclaimed. "Look...look, I'm sorry, okay? You're not a drag. Just quit it with the weepies! It ain't like you and I hate tears!"
"Are you two coming?" Madeleine called from the passenger seat of the car. "We do need to be there today!"
"I have to grab my scripts from my room." Marissa called back. "I'll bring my car. I promise I'm right behind you!"
"Okay! Steffi, you hitching a ride with us?"
"I'll wait for Mari. I'm not getting in a car with you and Clay in it if there's an alternative!" Stefana shot back. Madeleine rolled her eyes, pulling the door shut and Stefana leant against the wall, watching the vehicle disappear down the driveway. She glanced at Marissa.
"Are you gonna quit crying?" She said at length.
"I'm trying." Marissa retorted. "But listen to me, Steffi. You mean a lot to me and it hurts when you yell at me. You do it a whole lot these days and I don't like it. We've been through a lot of things together and you used to at least talk to me if something was on your mind. These days you just call me names and push me away. It hurts."
Stefana was silent for a moment, a mixture of emotions crossing her face. At length she reached out a hand, taking Marissa's and squeezing it awkwardly.
"We're friends." She said brusquely. "And I'll try not to yell. But living here does my head in. Luca fusses, Maddy is snide and did you hear what that ape Clay said this morning? I should tear his damn head off!"
"He was way outta line." Marissa admitted. "And I'm sorry for prying about the letter. I mean, I suppose it isn't any of our business -we all have our private stuff."
"So long as you realise that."
Stefana hesitated again, then reached in her pocket, pulling out a tissue. "Here. I'm not going anywhere with you looking like that, and you better get your damn music, else we'll be yelled at again."
"It's already at Rebel Records." Marissa shook her head. "But I didn't want to get in the car and have them asking me what was wrong. I didn't want another fight - they give me a headache and I don't need it."
"Then let's go." Stefana grabbed her friend's arm, pulling her towards the songwriter's vehicle. "And listen. You and I, we're friends and that's that, okay? But I don't take kindly to people messing in my business if they ain't welcome, so remember it. Even friends. All right? I make an exception for you because we've known each other forever and your Mom took me in when my bitch Mom kicked me out of home. Sometimes you are more a damn sister to me than anything. But I am not like you. You have to be careful, but that doesn't mean I can't live for the moment and I damn well intend to do it. Life is too short and that's the end of it!"
Marissa cast her friend a troubled look, but she said nothing, merely climbing in the driver's side of the car and putting it in gear. At least they were not fighting any more, she mused.
"But how long will it be before the next time?" She wondered, as she watched her friend climb in beside her. "Stef...are you really as in control of things as you say you are?"


Prologue: Downtown Los Angeles
Chapter One: A Special Task
Chapter Two: A Bitter Heart
Chapter Three: A Fan Letter
Chapter Four: A Valentine Surprise
Chapter Five: Cynthia's Advice
Chapter Six: Interception
Chapter Seven: Test Of A Friendship
Chapter Eight: Rendezvous
Chapter Nine: Cat Burglar
Chapter Ten: Phoebe's Plan
Chapter Eleven: Copper!

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!