Chapter Eleven: Demons...and Angels

The next day dawned bright and sunny in Los Angeles, and it was with some amount of relief that Marissa found herself finally discharged from Baptist Hospital's tender care. It had been, she mused, two or three days since she had seen Stefana last, and although Clay and Maddy had both assured her that her friend was 'all right', she was anxious to see the girl for herself.
Clay had come to collect her - a new, strangely more forthcoming Clay, who had greeted her with a smile and a hug and who had threatened to carry her out to his car, rather than wait for a wheelchair. Marissa had rebelled against both of these, for she felt much better in herself and had been perfectly able to walk the short distance to the hospital parking lot, but Clay's playful affection both startled and warmed her.
Things would be different between them now, she reflected. And maybe, in an odd sort of way, she had Stefana's temper to thank for it.
"You're thoughtful."
The driver's voice broke through her thoughts at that moment, and Marissa shot him a wry smile, nodding her head.
"Very much so." She admitted. "There's a lot to think about, Clay. Don't you reckon?"
"Well, depends how you look at it." Clay shrugged. "Stef is getting more...well, she's pulled herself away from Maddy's comforting and Luca's fussing, so she seems to be on the mend. She's very quiet, but more like herself now."
"I'm looking forward to talking to her." Marissa admitted. "I know you say she's okay, but I want to know for myself. I've been away for too long, after all."
She shot him a sidelong glance, then,
"And then there's the other thing, isn't there?"
"Well, since you rejected my help leaving the hospital..." Clay pretended to be hurt, and Marissa laughed.
"I didn't need you to carry me, and I'm probably heavier than you imagine I am." She scolded him. Clay grinned.
"Maybe, but still." He remarked. "How do you reckon things are gonna be now, Mari? Different, of course. But how different?"
"How much have you said to the others?"
"In truth, nothing." Clay pursed his lips. "I wasn't sure how it would be received, with Stef still so...rocky, really. She's so jealously possessive of you and of Luca, that I was half afraid she might go for me in my sleep if I told her."
"You said she was better." Marissa reproached him. "And that she wasn't lashing out at people."
"No, but in all truth she creeps me out." Clay shrugged, flicking the indicator on and turning left onto the road where the Diablo estate was situated. "She barely speaks, just...stares into space, or at you, without even registering you. I can't explain it, but I'd almost rather she was spitting fire than just sitting there, like some wasted zombie."
"Things have been hard on her." Marissa sighed. "But she's going to have to get used to the idea that you and I are gonna be more than friends now, isn't she?"
"Yes." Clay nodded. "Because now we've talked about it, I'm not letting things go back to how they were before. Too much caution for too long,'s about bloody time we got it together."
"Then you can start by taking my case, since I'm not supposed to do anything too strenuous for a day or two yet." Marissa's blue eyes danced impishly, as Clay pulled the car to a stop. He eyed her thoughtfully, then, without warning, he kissed her, taking her off guard.
"There's more where that came from if you don't quit being cheeky." He warned her playfully. "But this once I'll get your case. Just don't think I'm making a habit of it, all right?"
"Okay." Marissa's eyes shone as she watched him pull the case from the boot of the car, then came around to open the passenger door in a mock chauffeur fashion. Marissa giggled, stepping out onto the tarmac and gazing up at the estate.
"It's good to be back." She murmured.
"Mari!" One of the front windows opened, and Madeleine stuck her head out. "You made good time - the door's open, okay?"
"Hi, Maddy." Marissa grinned. "Okay. Is Stef home?"
"Yeah - she was upstairs, sleeping." Madeleine agreed. "I looked in on her ten minutes ago to tell her you were on your way home, but she was lost to the world so I let her rest. If you want to go up there, though, I'm sure she'd be happy to see you."
"How is she?" Marissa paused. Madeleine pursed her lips.
"Quiet." She admitted. "She isn't eating much, and she isn't talking much. She says she's okay, though, and she hasn't done anything over the last few days to suggest she's still thinking about hurting herself. I've even been allowed in her room and her cabinets to clear them out of drugs - she let me do it, said she couldn't do it herself. I think she's just finding it a struggle to fight back right at the moment."
"Well, I'll go up and see her." Marissa decided. She turned.
"Clay? I'm heading up to see Stef, so if you could ditch my case in the hall, that'd be fine." She called. Clay shook his head.
"So you can lift it upstairs later? No way. I know what the doctor said, and I'm taking this to your room. You run along and see Stef...I'll see to this thing."
"Okay, if you insist." Marissa dimpled, hurrying into the house and up the stairs. At the top she paused, remembering the events of the fall.
"Everything's changed since then, in some way or another." She mused. "I hope Steffi's able to change, too. I want my best friend back."
Gently she knocked on the door.
"Stef? It's Mari."
There was a thud, and then the door swung open. Marissa found herself face to face with her best friend, and instinctively she hugged her.
"Maddy said you were asleep." She murmured. "Did I wake you?"
"No. I was pretending, because I didn't want to talk to her." Stefana shrugged. "I didn't realise you were home. When did you get back?"
"Clay just collected me. I was discharged this morning." Marissa responded. She indicated her head. "See? No bandage."
"Just a scar." Stefana bit her lip, then, "I'm glad you're home."
"Did you miss me?"
"Yes, though if you ask me that in public I'll deny it."
"I'm glad to see you too." Marissa responded, coming into the bedroom and sitting down on the end of her friend's bed. "How are things, Stef? You know I'm going to ask you, so you might as well get it over with."
Stefana sighed.
"I'm okay." She murmured. "I'm better still when people leave me alone and don't ask silly questions. Right at the moment I can't exactly say I'm fine, can I? But I can handle it. I'm strong, remember?" A ghost of a smile touched her lips. "I'm clean."
"I know. Maddy said so, and so did Clay." Marissa nodded. "I'm proud of you, Stef."
"I'm too tired to be proud. I'm not even sure how I'm doing it." Stefana admitted. "The less I think about it, the easier it is, so can we stop talking about this now?"
"Okay, if that's how you feel." Marissa settled herself more comfortably on the bedcovers. "You and Luca are friends again, I gather?"
"Yeah, I suppose so." Stefana nodded. "He's off someplace with Emily this morning."
Another ghostly smile touched her lips. "You know, he punched Rory out."
"What?" Marissa stared. "You're kidding, he never!"
"I swear." Stefana nodded. "He told me himself. I didn't believe him, except his knuckles were all bruised. Apparently he got real mad over Rory's attitude towards me and towards that Sirena bitch of his. Took offence and whacked him one. Just wish I could have seen it."
"He probably deserved it." Marissa reflected. "But where does that leave Diablo?"
Stefana snorted.
"Power shift." She said with a careless shrug of her shoulders. "Rory hasn't done a thing about it, not even fined Luca or anything like that. It's like it never happened. If you ask me Rory realises he can't afford to not have Diablo on his books, so until he finds something better, Luca can pretty much do as he likes."
"Wow." Marissa pursed her lips. "I doubt Rory will forget in a hurry."
"Me either." Stefana admitted. "But it made me smile, anyway. Made my week, in truth. I hate Rory."
"What brought it on? What did Rory say to make Luca so upset?"
"I don't know." Stefana shrugged. "Not exactly. Just Luca didn't like it, and that was that. Guess we're more alike than you realised, huh?"
"Perhaps." Marissa nodded. "Well, Rebel Records paid for my medical cover, so I guess Rory can't be too mad at Diablo."
"Like I said, he needs us." Stefana responded. "If there even is an 'us'. Clay and I aren't speaking at present."
"Clay has said that he regrets yelling at you how he did." Marissa said softly. "And that it would be a shame to have to try and find a new guitarist. I told him what I said to you, about it being both of us or neither of us, and I think he accepted it. We are still Diablo, Stef. As soon as you're better, we'll..."
"I'm better enough now." Stefana shook her head. "I can play, Mari, and it sure beats sitting around in my room doing nothing but think about this damn thing."
She pulled a piece of paper down off her shelf, tossing it at her friend, who scooped it up.
"A wedding invite?"
"Aaron and Copper's wedding, to be exact." Stefana muttered. "Just where I want to be going right now."
"So don't go. Aaron would understand." Marissa handed it back.
"Would he?" Stefana shook her head. "I haven't a single good excuse to give him. I don't want to see him marry Copper - but I can't damn well tell him the truth, can I? If you wanna know, Mari, this damn invite is causing me more hassle at the moment than anything else going on! I'm running out of time to do something about it!"
"Something? Like what?" Marissa looked suspicious.
"Like stop it, that would be good."
"Stef, you can't!" Marissa protested. Stefana raised an eyebrow.
"Can't I?" She demanded. "Mari, I have never been like this over a guy before. Not ever, okay? It can't be right that I feel all of this crazy nonsense and yet he's off there marrying some other woman! It's got to be wrong somehow, hasn't it? I can't have done that damn much evil in my life to deserve to just sit here and let it happen, like some godawful torture device! I don't want Aaron to marry Copper, and that's that! She can't love him as much as I do...noone could."
Tears touched the green eyes at this, and Marissa hugged her friend tightly.
"Let him go." She begged. "You've got too much to handle already, Stef - let him go. Aaron cares about you very much, else he would not have invited you - but he loves Copper. There's nothing you could do to change that. Even if Copper were not in the picture any more for some reason, it wouldn't mean that he'd stop loving her. Remember when they broke up? No matter how much time you spent with him, he still kept thinking about her, and did everything he could to get back with her. If you really love Aaron, you have to let him go. Let him be happy."
"But what about me?" Stefana whispered. "Don't I deserve to be happy?"
"Of course you do." Marissa held her friend at arm's length, compassion in her blue eyes. "But you wouldn't be this way, Stef. You've done enough silly things, you know that as well as I do. Aaron is your friend and if you broke up his wedding he'd never forgive you. You can't hurt those you care about - else you're more likely to lose them altogether."
"I thought I'd lost you." Stefana conceded. "But this is different, Mari. It makes me helpless...I don't like being in love." She grimaced. "And if I tell the truth, it's only been since I quit taking the damn pills that my head's straightened up enough to see exactly where I've been going. If I hadn't been so messed up with chemicals I would've stopped it before it began, but I didn't see what was happening till now, and now it's too late. I don't want to feel this way - I hate it more than anything. But I've never had a guy who cared about me, and Aaron does."
"Yes, he does." Marissa agreed. "But that doesn't mean you can meddle in his happiness."
"We'll see." Stefana murmured. "I haven't decided yet, anyway."
Marissa frowned, but let the topic go, not willing to fight with her friend further. Stefana's emotions were still fragile, she realised, and it would not do any good to push them to their limits.
"Clay's spent a lot of time at the hospital." It was Stefana who changed the subject, and despite herself, a faint blush touched Marissa's cheeks.
"He's been sweet to come so often." She said quietly. "Hospitals get lonely."
"I woulda come, only he was there and he hates me right now." Stefana said flatly. "And to be honest I didn't feel like going out all that much."
"It's all right. I'm home now, and I know you hate hospitals." Marissa assured her. "I know they make you think of your Dad."
"We don't talk about Dad." Stefana held up her hand. "So what exactly did these little visits of Clay's mean, huh?"
"Mean?" Marissa stared at her friend, who laughed hollowly.
"I thought so." She muttered. "Maddy said she thought he had feelings for you, and I damn well knew you've been mooning over him for long enough. I thought that he might have asked you out...did he?"
"Yes." Marissa met her friend's gaze steadily. "We talked for a while, and settled a lot of things, Stef. I like Clay a lot - you've always known that - and he likes me too."
"I knew it." Stefana frowned. "So who's side does that make you on, now?"
"There are no sides. Diablo's side." Marissa said simply. "But I'm always your best friend, Stef. I've stuck up for you with Clay this last week and I'll keep doing so. That won't change, just like Luca seeing Emily hasn't changed how much he cares about you."
"It's so damn unfair." Stefana raised her eyes heavenwards. "Everyone else gets things so damn easily. What's wrong with me that I can't, huh?"
"Maybe you're looking in the wrong places." Marissa said gently. "You need to get yourself better first, before you can worry about finding someone else. Don't fret, huh? Look, I have to take it easy for a couple of days, but noone said I couldn't go spend some convalescence time at the beach, so you fancy getting out of these four walls for a bit? You'd have to drive - I'm not allowed to yet - but at least you'd get some space, and the beach is always fun."
"I suppose so." Stefana nodded grudgingly, reaching for her car keys. "Okay, come on. Gotta be better than moping around here, after all."
"That's the spirit...I think." Marissa smiled. "Quick, before Clay realises I'm breaking bounds." She winked. "I'm supposed to stay home, but I feel like sneaking out a little."
"Like old times, huh?" Stefana raised an eyebrow. Marissa nodded.
"Definitely." She responded. "Let's go."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"Welcome back to Los Angeles!"
Sylva pushed open the front door of the Starlight Mansion, casting their guests a warm grin. "Come on in - we've coffee ready! We weren't sure when you'd all arrive, but your timing is just perfect!"
"Hi to you too, Sylva." One of the group, a tall, flamehaired individual cast the synth player a dry smile. "You're calm and relaxed as ever, I see."
"Well, one of my best friends is about to get married, Amber. Don't tell me you didn't get excited when Vi tied the knot?" Sylva scolded. She frowned. "Where is Vi, anyway?"
"Nursing her hungover husband." A redhaired girl rolled her eyes expressively. "Something about a bachelor party last night - Men."
"Ooh, I see." Sylva grinned. "Yeah, we met a casualty of that in town earlier."
She ushered the group into the living room. "I'll go pour coffee."
"Hey, the Teenangels are here!" Copper cast the quintette of girls a grin. "Minus one, anyway."
"I'm not sure if you should call us that at the moment." A girl with a soft Australian accent shrugged her shoulders, sitting down in a free seat. "With everything at the music company back home..."
"We came to LA to get away from all of that, Jade." The redhaired girl scolded her. "Things will work out somehow. You know that."
"I hope so." Jade sighed. "I don't know what we're going to do otherwise."
"What's this?" Nancy cast the girls a curious look. "Still problems at DarkAngel Disks?"
"Just don't ask." The redhead grimaced. "We're here for Copper's wedding, let's forget nasty stuff back in England, okay?"
"Rose is right." Lauren "Opel" Martin nodded her head, settling herself on the floor in front of the window. "It's just nice to kick back in the Californa sunshine and pretend everything's calm and peaceful on the horizon."
"Well, I hope it works out for you girls." Copper said softly. "And I'm glad my wedding's providing something of a distraction for you. Only where is Vi? She was invited too."
"Taylor's hungover as hell." The final member of the group of visitors, Samantha Phillips said quietly. "So she voted to stop behind and take care of him. She didn't think you'd mind, when you understood the situation."
"Bachelor party." Understanding flooded Copper's features. "I haven't even had communication with my fiance this morning either, so I s'pose it's logical." She grinned. "Men, huh?"
"That's what I said." Rose said with a grin. "So where are the rest of you, then? Syl's in the kitchen and you guys are in here, but where's Sadie and Topaz? We haven't seen Topaz since she left the group - it's true she's back with you guys now, right?"
"Yes, very much so." Copper agreed. "They went to check on the bridesmaid dresses for me with Gaynor. She's been turning hems and that kind of stuff. Topaz wanted to give Hollie some fresh air and sunshine, and Sadie voted to go along and help."
"We've yet to meet the mysterious Hollie, too." Amber observed idly, making herself comfortable on the sofa as Sylva brought in a tray of hot coffees, setting them down on the table. "Cheers, Syl."
"Does she actually exist?" Rose wondered. "I mean it's been a buzzing rumour in England for long enough that she left Jewel to start a family, but noone seems to ever see the kid."
"Hollie? Oh, she's real all right." Nancy smiled wryly, reaching over and picking up a handful of building blocks from the corner of the room. "Unless this is Syl's new hobby."
"Well, like to keep my brain in gear." Sylva laughed. "No, Hollie is very much a real person, I promise you. She's a lively, noisy and cheeky little brat, with a vocabulary of a two year old and the appetite of a young elephant."
"Could be describing yourself, Syl." Nancy grinned. Sylva poked out her tongue.
"Ha ha ha." She retorted. "You're so funny."
"Well, that sounded like Topaz's car, so I'm guessing they're back from Gaynor's."
Copper got to her feet, moving to the window. She pushed it open, waving to her two missing bandmates.
"Hey, guys! The Teenangels are here!"
"Already? Dammit, we thought we'd be back in time to greet them." Topaz grimaced, getting out of the car and unstrapping her daughter from the infant seat. Sadie clambered out of the back seat.
"Gaynor's done with the dresses." She reported. "But she thinks she's better off keeping them with your dress till the big day. And we didn't get even a peek at that, incidentally - which was very unfair."
"Well, stop complaining and come inside to be sociable." Copper instructed with a grin. "We've visitors!"
Within a short space of time, the final two Jewels were seated in the big front lounge of the Starlight Mansion. Hollie stared at the visitors with some surprise and interest, sucking on her fingers as she examined each new face, one by one.
"So this is the mysterious Hollie Stapleton." Jade remarked.
"I told you she existed." Sylva grinned.
"She looks awful familiar somehow." Amber frowned, pursing her lips. "Can't think why, though."
"Well, don't." Topaz said quietly. "Hollie is my daughter - that's as far as it goes."
Sammi let out an exclamation.
"She's Cameron's baby!" She realised. "You know, guys? Cameron Milligan, Taylor's friend!"
"Well, that's logical. Topaz and Cameron dated." Rose reasoned. "Aw, but she is a darling, Topaz. Does Cameron know what a beautiful little girl he has?"
"No, and he isn't going to, either." Topaz sent her a meaningful look. "Seriously, all of you. I'm letting you meet Hollie because I can't keep the kid locked up whenever people come to the house. But there are good reasons why Cameron doesn't know - and can't ever know - so please don't interfere. It's for the best this way, and Hollie is well provided for. Trust me."
"It's not our business." Amber said, holding up her hand as she saw Rose was about to object. "Red, it isn't down to us to interfere." A slight smile touched her lips. "After all, fathers aren't everything."
Rose frowned, but fell silent, and Topaz sent the ginger haired girl a grateful look.
"Thanks, Amber. It's...complicated." She said at length.
"She is adorable, though." Jade got down on her knees, coming to join the singer. "Hi, Hollie! Did Syl say she could talk?"
"She can talk a little." Topaz agreed. "Babies usually start around fourteen, fifteen months, according to Dr Finnan, but Hollie began at ten months - he thinks it's because she's surrounded by so many people. I won't baby her, either. If I talk to her, I talk to her like I'd talk to anyone else - no coochicoo and nonsense talk. It seems to be doing the trick."
"She's gone shy." Sylva observed. "She's not usually this quiet."
"Well, I s'pose even you'd shut up if a bunch of new people came into your house, talking in weird new accents." Sammi pointed out. Sylva tossed a cushion at her cousin.
"Shut up." She scolded. "You're enough to scare anyone on your own, Samantha!"
Hollie giggled, appreciating the cushion joke. Carefully and painstakingly she removed the tiny pale blue socks on her feet, tossing them into Jade's thick long hair. This amused the baby even further and she clapped her hands in delight. Topaz groaned, as Jade removed the socks from her hair.
"I'm sorry, Jade. This is her latest trick." She apologised sheepishly.
"Aw, but its sweet." Jade grinned, tickling the infant's tiny pink feet and causing more giggles. "Reminds me of my little sister."
"Is she coming to the wedding?"
"No. Cameron is, so Hollie isn't." Topaz shook her head. "Kimber's going to take her for the day. She already said as much."
"Pity. She's such a cutie." Rose sighed. "I need to persuade Vi that it's high time she and Taylor began a family."
"At the moment?" Amber raised an eyebrow. "I don't think now is the best time in the world for Vi to drop that particular bombshell on any of us!"
"No, I suppose not." Rose looked pensive. "But I still think everything will work out somehow."
"Maybe we can help somehow." Copper suggested. Amber shrugged.
"Doubt it." She admitted. "It runs kinda deep."
"Thanks for the offer, though." Opel smiled. "You're helping more than you know by having a big social event for us to attend. Getting clear of the British press at the moment could not be more opportune!"
"I'm glad you could all come." Copper assured them. "Vi's wedding was such a special day - I'm just praying mine will be as good! The weather hasn't been so sunny lately - I'm terrified it'll rain."
"Well, you can get married in the rain..." Sadie suggested.
"Only a Brit could suggest that!" Sylva giggled. Sadie laughed.
"Well, what's wrong with it?" She demanded. "Could even be romantic..."
"Yeah, if you like the drowned rat look." Opel looked amused. "I'm not sure that's quite Copper, somehow."
"Nope. I'm all for bright sunshine and cloud free skies." Copper agreed. "So I hope the weather will hold for us. I want to remember it as the happiest day of my life...forever. Aaron means such a lot to me."
"Well, it will be." Nancy told her with a smile. "Your sister and I will see to that."
"I hope so." Copper frowned. "Ros has spent more time out than in this last couple of days."
"Well, let's just say she's running errands." Nancy laughed. "Don't fret, Copper. Your wedding is going to be just fine. Trust me."

Chapter One: Madeleine

Chapter Two: Remeniscences
Chapter Three: A Shock For Topaz
Chapter Four: Marissa
Chapter Five: Dilemmas
Chapter Six: Ranieri vs Ranieri
Chapter Seven: Home Truths
Chapter Eight: The Bridesmaids
Chapter Nine: An Olive Branch
Chapter Ten: Stag Night
Chapter Eleven: Demons...and Angels

Chapter Twelve: A Broken Secret

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!