Part Two: Heartstrong
Chapter Thirteen: Aftermath

"They found her!"
Cynthia hurried through the Starlight Mansion, pushing open the door of the lounge and greeting the gathered musicians with uncharacteristic excitement. "Copper! They found her!"
"They did? Is she safe? What happened?" Sadie was on her feet immediately. "Does Alex know?"
"I should think so." Cynthia nodded, taking a seat and casting a grin at her friends. "I hacked the FBI's radio line and I heard Agent Nicholson tell him himself. I believe there was some kind of an accident, but that Copper is alive and safe in a Las Vegas hospital. Nancy and Aaron are with her."
"Oh!" Relief flooded Sylva's expression. "But the guy? What kind of an accident?"
"This was where it became federal jargon." Cynthia grimaced. "I think there was some kind of pursuit and that the young man crashed his car into something - it was not clear what. Anyhow, he was killed outright in the collision. Agent Nicholson's exact terms were that something hard and heavy came through the windscreen and snapped his neck."
"Ew." Topaz shivered. "No more detail, Cynthia. Not in front of my baby."
"Sorry." Cynthia apologised. "For Copper's part, I believe they're treating her for shock, but I did not detect any undue concern about her condition -  Agent Nicholson is a strange man but I took it to mean that he did not fear Copper was critical."
"So with any luck she should be with us soon." Sadie surmised. "As soon as the hospital in Vegas gives her a clean bill of health."
"And it means Aaron and Nancy are safe too." Sylva added. "If you ask me, that guy deserves to be dead. You don't just abduct someone!"
"Let me put Hollie in her crib." Topaz stood, hoisting the baby up onto her shoulder. "If we're gonna discuss this, I don't want her hearing. It's enough with Cynthia's descriptions, without you deciding he deserved it, Syl."
"Whoops." Sylva looked sheepish. "Guess I didn't think."
"So what else is new?" Topaz asked her affectionately. "It's all right. I'll be right back - she's sleepy anyway."
"Do you think Jetta knows that Aaron and Nancy are okay?" Sadie wondered. Cynthia shrugged.
"I saw Mr Pelligrini head off in the direction of the airport when I left Misfit Music earlier. I thought perhaps he had gone after them himself." She replied. "Perhaps he has already spoken to her."
"Maybe, but we should call her office anyhow." Sylva decided. "She was pretty sharp about it earlier, considering, but we've known her long enough to know she was worried about them."
"Syl's right." Sadie nodded, getting to her feet. "I'll go call Misfit Music."
"How will you explain how I discovered this information?" Cynthia looked apprehensive. "I would rather she did not know that I had been tapping into secure lines."
"I'll tell her Alex told me." Sadie shrugged. "She won't care, anyhow. So long as it's the truth and she knows they're okay."
She winked. "And she'll assume that's how I know, anyway. She doesn't know we have a holographic mainframe living in our basement!"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
When Copper next opened her eyes, it was to the calm of a hospital sideroom, and for a moment she just lay there, gathering her thoughts and enjoying the peace and quiet after the craziness of the last few days. A movement caught her attention and she turned her head towards the window, seeing Aaron. A faint smile touched her lips and, without a word, she held out a hand to him. He smiled, coming to take it, and sitting down beside the bed, squeezing it gently.
"Hey." He murmured. "How are you?"
"It's nice here." Copper responded softly. "Quiet and peaceful and...and safe, Aaron. I am safe now, aren't I? It really is over? I don't know what's real and what I've dreamed..."
"Yes, you're safe." Aaron assured her. "You were in a hell of a crash, Copper, but they did X-rays and stuff and you haven't any serious injuries. You were suffering from delayed shock, that's why you're on the drip, and for a while they had to keep you real quiet. But you've been sleeping most of the day. They told me not to wake you until you were ready."
"I was so tired." Copper remembered. "He didn't let me sleep...after I called home, he said we had to leave and it's hard to sleep in a car. Especially..." She faltered, swallowing hard. "Aaron, tell me something. Is he really dead, or did I imagine that?"
"He didn't make it." Aaron responded carefully. "He was killed in the car crash. They think it happened on impact...nobody could have helped him."
Copper closed her eyes briefly.
"Then it is over." She whispered. "But I didn't want it to end with someone dying. Not even...not even him."
"I can't pretend not to be relieved to see the end of him." Aaron admitted. "He took you from me, Copper, and I didn't know what he'd do to you. It's a weight off my mind to know it won't happen again." He eyed her hesitantly, then, "Did he hurt you? I mean..."
"The only time he really got violent with me was when he caught me phoning the Starlight." Copper said softly. "I know what you're afraid of, Aaron, and you needn't be. He never touched me that way. I think...I think he was waiting till we'd got to Vegas and were married. He...he did tie me, and when he caught me calling he slapped me across the cheek, but...but that's all."
"All? It sounds plenty enough to me." Aaron said darkly. "But I'm glad that it didn't go any further."
He bent to kiss her. "I was afraid of it, you know. You never know, with those kinda guys, and, well, I didn't want to think that he might violate you in that way."
"Well, he didn't." Copper responded. She sighed. "In a way, now it's over, I feel sorry for him."
"How so?" Aaron raised an eyebrow. "I don't understand."
"I think he just wanted someone to love him." Copper pursed her lips. "And because he had noone, he fixated on me. He convinced himself that I was in love with him and that we were going to have some happy ever after together in Mexico. At the time it terrified me. But it's past, I feel sorry for him. He needed help. Now he'll never get it."
"You know you weren't his first victim."
"I know, but Aaron, he never killed anyone."
"You don't know that." Aaron shrugged. "And even if he didn't, he did enough. Besides, if he was as messed up as all that, Copper, he's better off this way."
"I won't change your mind, will I?" A faint smile touched Copper's lips. "I suppose I should be glad that I have my knight in armour here to defend me, even though I gave Sadie strict instructions not to let you do anything crazy."
"Well, I didn't listen to her." Aaron admitted. "When I knew how her call to you had ended, I had to come here. I had to do something! Nancy came with me to stop me doing anything mad, but we got wound up in it anyhow. Agent Nicholson was taking us back to the airport when the car was spotted, which is how we got mixed up in the chase. When your car hit that casino wall my heart stopped. I was so afraid that you'd been killed."
"I'm nowhere near it. Just battered, bruised and a bit shook up." Copper struggled into a sitting position. "There. That's better. I look less the invalid if I'm sitting up."
She looked wistful. "I suppose they'll keep me here in Vegas overnight?"
"They said so." Aaron agreed. "But tomorrow, if you're doing okay, they're going to transfer you to a Los Angeles hospital. I spoke to the doctors myself, and apparently the LA Federal Bureau are putting pressure on the local police to have you home as soon as possible so they can wrap up their investigations. The police will probably be in to speak to you later, and Agent Nicholson too."
"I don't mind that. I don't know if I can tell them anything they don't know though." Copper admitted. "And he's dead, so he can't tell them anything."
"They raided his house, back in LA." Aaron remembered. "Found letters that were supposedly from you, only we know they weren't. They were typed. Stefana said she knew Rapture had been involved in faking letters out to you and we all think that wretched Stinger is wrapped up in all of this - Stef isn't the only Rebel Records employee who's said something about it. Did he say anything to you?"
"He did mention Phoebe." Copper looked thoughtful. "Was Stefana helping you?"
"Yes, she told me a lot." Aaron agreed. Then he cursed. "Oh, dammit! I promised her I wouldn't tell anyone where that information came from! She doesn't want to take on Rory Llewelyn and his friends in a court of law because of her job and I promised not to put her in that position."
"Well, if you can't trust me, who can you trust?" Copper smiled. "But if she won't talk and I...well, he only mentioned the name Phoebe, and never her surname or where she worked or anything. Sometimes I wondered if what he told me was real or fantasy, to be honest. He said a friend of mine had helped him, which I know is impossible. And that Phoebe was my business agent - but your Mom and Phyllis are my business reps. I don't know how reliable his side of things was, and it isn't much to go on. They can't trace the letters?"
"Nope. Not so far." Aaron shook his head. "And without pretty good evidence against Rory Llewelyn, they can't take apart Rebel Records and go through his computers." He frowned. "So that's that at a dead end."
"I don't care." Copper admitted. "Jason is dead, and he won't be able to come after me again. If Phoebe Asche was involved, well, she's got away with it, but she's not the one who trotted me off to Las Vegas, and she'll probably make herself scarce. I'd rather as little fuss as possible, to be honest."
"Then we'll leave it there, I guess." Aaron said gently. "After you've spoken to the police and given Alex your statement back in LA."
"Is this a private moment or can I interrupt?"
At that moment Nancy poked her head around the door, casting the couple a grin. "I just called home to let them know what was going on - Copper, everyone sends their love. And Aaron, Dad's here. Apparently Mom sent him haring out here when she found out what we'd done and he's talking about dragging us back home. I gather she's in a bit of a state about it."
"Mom, in a state?" Aaron raised an eyebrow.
"She's not happy." Justin himself entered the ward at that moment. "Though I've found you both with all of your extremeties, so I'm sure she'll soon calm down. You should know better than to rush off like that, Aaron. You could have been hurt and you could have hurt Copper's situation more."
"Justin, you won't make him leave me, will you?" Copper's brown eyes became beseeching. "I'll make sure he behaves. I just...I want him with me. I've missed him so much, and..."
"Oh, you needn't worry about that." Justin's stern expression melted at this and he sent her a grin. "I'll take Nancy back to California with me to placate my wife, and leave my son in your capable hands. After all, he's a grown man now. He should be able to take care of himself, now he hasn't got madmen to chase across Nevada."
Aaron blushed.
"I was worried!" He defended himself. "Are you telling me you wouldn't have done the same if it had been Mom?"
"The same and some." Justin agreed ruefully. "You inherited that gene from me all right. But I'm glad it's all ended well."
He glanced at Copper. "You look remarkably well for a young lady who's recently been in a car wreck."
"I'm not really hurt. It's just superficial." Copper assured him. "Has someone let Mama and my family know I'm safe, by the way? I don't want her to worry..."
"Yes, she knows, and she said she'd be on the first plane she could get out of Detroit to see you." Nancy nodded. "I told her to come to LA because they were gonna transfer you as soon as possible. She's been trying like the devil to get there since you went missing, but her filming meant she was tied to a location and the director wouldn't let her do anything. Now she's done, she wants to come out here to see you."
"Good." Copper smiled. "I want to see her too."
Justin sent his daughter a grin.
"Well, you and I better be making tracks." He said playfully. "I trust Aaron can find a motel for the night on his own."
"I'll find somewhere, Dad. And I promise not to do anything stupid or rash." Aaron looked rueful. "Tell Mom I'm sorry if I worried her...but that all's okay now."
"Will do." Justin nodded. "Though you'll have to explain yourself to her in person when you get home. Just because you're pushing twenty four doesn't mean you've escaped her clutches just yet, you know."
"Seems funny to think of Jetta as the flustered mother." Copper giggled. Nancy laughed.
"She'd deny it." She responded. "But Mom fusses about Aaron and me as much as any Mom. Always has."
She grabbed her father's arm. "Okay, Dad, let's go. Leave these two lovebirds to themselves, huh?" 
She winked at Copper. "See you in Los Angeles!"
Once they were gone, Copper met Aaron's gaze with a thoughtful one of her own.
"Aaron?" She murmured.
"Mm?" Aaron sent her an enquiring look. "Is something wrong?"
"" Copper shook her head. "But...I know we've been saying that we're going to marry in March or April if March doesn't work out...and dallying about the house papers and settling anything...all of this has made me realise what I want with startling clarity. I want us to set a date, to finalise the house and to be a real married couple, instead of one building up to it. Don't you?"
"More than anything." Aaron kissed her gently. "As soon as you're done with the police, and back in Los Angeles, we'll set a date and get to work."
"And if your Mom and Phyllis object?"
"They'll have to live with it." Aaron shrugged. "For once music's gonna have to take a back seat. You and me is more important."
"I agree." Copper nodded. "You know, there were moments when I was with Jason that I wished I'd never been a star, or come to Los Angeles and joined Jewel at all. But if I hadn't come to California I wouldn't have met you. If I hadn't been a Jewel, you and I wouldn't have got to be so close. We wouldn't have shared Cynthia's secret, or seen enough of each other to form a relationship or anything. And when I think of that, I guess it's worth it, even with the negative things."
"You're gonna be a beautiful bride, you know." Aaron smiled at her affectionately. "You're beautiful now, even with scratches on your forehead and bruises on your cheek. I gotta be one of the luckiest guys in America."
Copper laughed, embarrassed.
"I reckon I'm pretty lucky too." She murmured, reaching up to put her arms around his neck. "And so long as we're together, that's what matters. I can't wait till the morning that I can wake up and realise that I really am Elizabeth Pelligrini, after all this time!"

Chapter One: Where Is Copper?
Chapter Two: Nancy Finds A Clue
Chapter Three: Marissa
Chapter Four: A Faint Lead
Chapter Five: Undercover
Chapter Six: A Reluctant Witness
Chapter Seven: Cynthia Takes A Gamble
Chapter Eight: A Play For Freedom
Chapter Nine: Aaron Decides
Chapter Ten: Midnight Flight
Chapter Eleven: The Race Is On

Chapter Twelve: Nemesis
Chapter Thirteen: Aftermath

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!