Chapter Two: Stefana and Aaron

 Meanwhile, oblivious to the chaos that was erupting across Los Angeles, Aaron had settled himself in the local coffee house for a drink, turning over the keys in his hand as he remembered the meeting with the agent. It had all been short notice, he mused, but at least everything was settled and finalised now. He had sent Copper a text to let her know what had happened, and she had called him back telling him to go for it, so the deed was done. And the big, spacious house on the outskirts of Los Angeles was now officially Pelligrini property.
"Copper will be a proper Pelligrini soon enough, too." He told himself. "Elizabeth and Aaron Pelligrini...Mr and Mrs. It sounds cool. Grown up, but cool. And heck, we're both twenty four this summer. What's wrong with grown up? Has to come sometime."
He set the keys down on the table once more, taking a sip of his coffee. Copper was busy with Gaynor, working on the top secret wedding dress, so he had handled the business technicalities alone. It had seemed strange, he mused, to think that, after renting an apartment for so long, he was going to have a property all his own. One day, maybe, he and his new bride would raise children in that house, creating new memories to go with the happy ones he remembered growing up.
"Mom's taking the whole wedding idea pretty well, too. Even though it means another fancy suit and another ceremony to sit through." He remembered, smiling as he remembered the expression on her face when he'd first told her that Copper had finally accepted his proposal. It had been more resignation than anything, he recalled - and she had even wished him luck.
It was a big step to take, but after all they had been through together, Aaron knew he was ready.
"Hey there."
A voice startled him, and he glanced up, a smile crossing his features as he recognised the speaker.
"Hi, Stef." He said warmly. "Sit down, huh? I haven't seen you in a few days - everything working out okay at home now?"
"Sort of." Stefana obediently took a seat. "Thanks for letting me crash at yours, by the way. I didn't say thank you...I should have." She looked abashed. "Things have been on my mind."
"Marissa is all right?"
"Oh yeah. Out of hospital and back in the world of the living." Stefana nodded her head. "And I worked things out with Luca, sort of. He's just been keeping close tabs on me since I walked out the other night. Mari and I were at the beach earlier, but she's still tired and she took a nap after lunch. I decided it was time I got some headspace on my own, and went over everything that's gone on. I needed to just get out of the house a little."
"Diablo are staying together, then?"
"Hopefully." Stefana offered a slight smile. "Pretty much all I have going for me at the moment, so it had better."
"Don't be like that." Aaron scolded her playfully. "I'm just glad things are better at home. You were really upset that night - it worried me."
"Really?" Stefana looked startled, then, "Aaron, do me a favour?"
"Forget that night." Stefana examined her fingernails, embarrassed. "Noone gets to see me cry...I'd appreciate it if you didn't remember you had, if you get my drift."
"It's forgotten." Aaron assured her. "My sister is the same - no tears unless there's noone there to see it. I understand."
"I didn't think Nancy and I could have anything in common." Stefana pursed her lips. "Oh well."
Her eyes fell on the keys and she scooped them up, eying them curiously.
"What gives?" She asked. "New house keys?"
"Yep, absolutely." Aaron grinned. "I got called to see the agent this morning, to finalise the details completely. The keys to the house are mine - Copper and I have a place to live when we get back from the honeymoon! I was going to go head out there this afternoon, check the place over. We can start moving furniture and all of that right away, so I figure I'd better check out the electrics and all of those things before we do. I know that it's pretty much okay, but I wanted to add a few things here and there, for computers and the like."
"Your own house, huh?" Stefana looked wistful, setting down the keys. "Sometimes wish I had my own home."
"You don't like living with Diablo?"
"No, that's not it." Stefana sighed. "How to put it...well, I guess I like my space." She grimaced. "When you've a big brother who acts like a Dad and then Maddy trying to play doesn't help much when things are grim. Marissa is the only sane company I can find at present - Clay isn't even speaking to me. I guess it wouldn't be a bad thing if I had my own place, but I don't have a dime to put as a down payment on anything at the moment."
"How come?" Aaron looked startled. "I wouldve thought Diablo are making enough now."
"Yeah, well." Stefana grimaced. "Big credit card bill. Luca paid it off for me, but I owe him from now till the end of time. No extra cash."
"I see." Aaron grinned. "Credit cards are damn dangerous things if you get carried away."
"Yes." Stefana nodded. "They have a bad habit of wanting repayment, those companies - and they add interest, too. The damn thing was a nightmare waiting to happen."
"I can imagine." Aaron looked rueful. "I didn't have a credit card till I was earning. My mother put the fear of God into me about them when I was growing up - debt and bailiffs and all that."
"I was almost there." Stefana shivered. "But I guess brothers have their uses."
"Guess so." Aaron laughed. He finished his coffee, scooping up the keys. "Hey, you got plans for the rest of the day?"
"Nope." Stefana eyed him quizzically. "Why? You got plans for me?"
"Well, I need to go see the house." Aaron shrugged. "You wanna tag along? Copper's busy with something or other - wedding dress, something like that, and I'd appreciate a female point of view."
"Wedding dress?" Stefana looked startled. "But I thought..." She blushed, shaking her head. "Nothing. Sure, Aaron, I'll come with you."
"You know something about this secret dress of hers?" Aaron asked as they headed out to his car. "She won't tell me a damn thing about it, and Nancy says she hasn't even seen it."
"I thought it had gotten damaged. A rumour I heard." Stefana glanced at her hands. "That's all."
"Well, guess not. Copper's not mentioned anything like that to me." Aaron unlocked his vehicle. "Must have been press speculation."
"Must have." Stefana murmured, getting into the passenger side. Aaron cast her a thoughtful look, but made no further comment, and they drove in relative silence out to the house which, in a matter of weeks, would be Aaron's home. Stefana got out of the car, pausing to assess the building.
"What do you think?" Aaron grinned.
"It's nice." Stefana responded, staring up at the trailing roses. "Too many flowers for my liking, but...but nice. Guess I'm gonna have to update your address in my book, huh?"
"Guess so." Aaron agreed, coming to join her. "Work to be done on the gardens too - but I'm going to get someone in to do that. I don't have the time and nor does Copper - or rather, neither of us really want to find the time to weed extensively."
"Who would." Stefana grimaced. "Well? Are you gonna let me inside?"
"Sure." Aaron nodded. "Though I warn you that there isn't much in the way of furniture at the moment. Whatever the old owners left has been junked - basically because it was old and ugly - and we're gonna furnish it ourselves. Copper has some things she's bringing from the Starlight, and I'm bringing whatever I want to keep from my place...then we've down payments on a few things in town, like a decent three piece suite, and a proper double bed." He winked. "That's something important...the one in my apartment is pretty much falling apart."
"I won't ask." Stefana rolled her eyes, but her heart ached at his innuendos. Busy unlocking the front door, Aaron did not see the troubled look in her green eyes. Instead he pushed open the big white door, gesturing to her to follow him inside. The guitarist did so, finding that the house opened up onto a spacious hallway with several oaken doors leading off from it, and stairs leading up to floors above. Aaron pulled back the curtains, allowing sunlight to stream into the hallway. He grinned.
"Needs repapering." He said, eying her expression with some amusement. "But that's all right. Copper and I knew this already - I was on the phone to the people who did Mom and Dad's front room - they're gonna give us a quote soon as possible. I don't really want to be decorating the whole place, not while I'm working a full time job, and Copper's busier even than I am."
"You might never see each other." Stefana touched the faded flowery border, casting him a strange look. Aaron nodded.
"I know, but I'm used to her being out of state a lot." He responded. "And we're bound to see more of each other if we live under the same roof." He grinned. "I'm pretty easy going on all of that. I mean, I trust her. If she's out late or sleeping over someplace else, it's because of work and not because there's someone else in the picture. That's the best part about all of this - we trust each other. And each other's judgement." He indicated the hall carpet. "Because that is going...preferably yesterday. Copper gave me free reign to choose the replacement, so it's going to be dark red."
"Better than snotty beige." Stefana decided absently. "So what are the other rooms, then?"
"Well, this one is the front room." Aaron pushed open a door, leading the way inside. "Decor is better in here. The old owners had it redone a year ago and Copper and I aren't too fussed about changing it. Copper always said she wanted her front room lemon, anyway - so here we go. Lemon and white it is. Obviously it needs chairs..."
"And a television." Stefana moved across to the window. "These drapes remind me of the ones they had at my high school, too. Don't tell me you're serious about leaving them?"
"Dunno." Aaron admitted. "Copper kinda liked them, so possibly. I'm not fussed either way. Come on. Kitchen is through here."
"Copper would. Girl has no taste." Stefana muttered, trudging after her friend into the spacious kitchen, with it's big glass doors leading out onto a pale cement patio. In the centre of the greenery was evidence of a swimming pool, and Aaron grinned.
"See, there is a pool. It just needs, er, de-weeding." He said, amused. "Be a while before that's up and running. And we need to fence it, too. If Topaz brings Hollie here, it has to be safe - and well, one day we might have kids of our own to look out for."
"I thought Copper couldn't?" Stefana stared. Aaron shrugged.
"It's not definite. Just a strong possibility." He responded. "But there are ways around it, Stef. When you really love someone, you have to look for other ways if the easy route is blocked. Both of us want to have a family, so we talked it through and we decided that we'll try anything going. If Copper can't conceive naturally - and we both doubt that she can - there are various fertility treatments, IVF, even adoption. We'll work something out." He grinned. "Besides, I don't think either of us see that as imminent. We want to enjoy married life a little first - we're not that old, and there's plenty of time for children yet."
He gestured towards the hall. "The other rooms down here are full of junk still that needs clearing, so I won't show you that - you wanna see upstairs?"
"Sure." Stefana nodded. She followed him out of the kitchen and up the stairs, but her heart was heavy. Aaron's speech about Copper's fertility problems had only confirmed what Marissa had told her, and it ate away at her. This would be Copper's home, she knew that, where her hated foe would live, breathe, eat and sleep in Aaron's company. They'd share stories, jokes, even the fight for a family. In that instance, Stefana knew that she was more lonely now than she had ever been in her life before. She had always shunned the serious company of men, preferring to play with them and use them to her own ends, but this was different. In her troubled, frightened world, she needed someone to lean on, and she was all too aware that, in a matter of weeks, her rock would no longer be there.
"He'll be a married man, with other things on his mind. He won't have time for me, and Copper will make sure I don't get to see him." She murmured, reaching the top of the stairs and pausing to look down over the bannister. "She might even tell him...tell him that I like him, what I've done to Jewel - everything. They might sit up here, laughing at me."
She swallowed hard, grabbing onto the bannister more tightly as the sheer drop began to make her vision swim.
"It's a long way down."
"Stef, you coming?" Aaron re-emerged from the bedroom at that moment, casting her a curious look. "You're off with the fairies!"
"I'm with you." Stefana started, looking embarrassed. "I was just..uh...admiring the view."
"Oh. Okay." Clearly Aaron was nonplussed by her explanation, but he let it drop. "Well, this is the main bedroom - it's nice and big, and it has a great view. I think I can even live with lilac on the walls - well, for now, anyway." He winked. "Not my favourite colour in the world."
"Purple means status." Stefana idly fingered the purple-dyed streaks in her hair.
"Maybe, but it's not the most manly colour ever." Aaron grimaced. "Built in wardrobes and stuff - that helps. And an en suite with a shower. The bathroom is across the hall, too - and there are three bedrooms down that way too. Then, if you go up the stairs again, we've two attic rooms."
"I...I'll take your word for it." Stefana remembered the dizzy feeling on the stairs, and shook her head.
"Something up?" Aaron eyed her keenly.
"No. Just...just tired. Very tired." Stefana sighed. "Maybe I should go home, Aaron. You have a lot to do, and..."
She put her hand to her head, swaying slightly, but Aaron was quick, taking hold of her in his strong arms and ushering her down onto the window seat.
"You should have told me you felt faint." He scolded. "Are you all right? Is your heart having a turn?"
"My heart?" Stefana stared at him. Then she remembered the lie she had told him some months earlier, when her heart had reacted badly to a hit of speed. She had told him that she had a heart condition, and that it was well under control. She bit her lip, shaking her head.
"No...I just didn't eat much at lunch, and I skipped breakfast." She murmured. "I'm not real hungry at the moment - it must be the heat."
"I'll grab you some water. The pipes are turned off here, but I've some evian in the trunk of my car." Aaron told her. "Stay put, okay? I'll be right back."
Before she could answer he was gone, and, glancing out of the window, she saw him heading out to his vehicle, searching the boot for the mineral water. She sighed, resting her head up against the cool glass.
"Why is it you can't see that it isn't water I want?" She whispered, struggling with her tears. "Water can't make me feel...well, whatever it is you feel when someone actually gives a damn and returns your affections. Water can't stop me being alone, or scared, or damn well desperate. I know you're my friend, Aaron, but it isn't enough. Why don't you see that? It will never be enough. This'll be yours, yours and hers..." She sighed, biting back her emotions. "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I did do something bad enough to deserve all of this. Maybe trying to blitz Cynthia and...and slashing Copper's dress has given me enough bad karma."
"Here you go." Aaron returned at that moment, holding out the bottle of Evian, and Stefana took it, taking a tentative sip.
"Feeling better?"
"I guess so." Stefana sighed. "Sorry."
"It's all right." Aaron assured her. "Just sit there for a while, get your head straight. I'll give you a ride home - did you drive into LA?"
"Yes, but I can't see straight to drive at the moment." Stefana admitted.
"Maybe you're coming down with something." Aaron looked concerned, putting his hand to her brow. "Nope, no fever. Maybe it is heatstroke, but it isn't like it's July out there. You should probably see a doctor."
"No...I'm all right." Stefana assured him. "It's just been a long, hard week, Aaron."
A ghost of a smile touched her lips, and she handed him back the water.
"I'm okay now."
"I'll give you a lift home, then." Aaron told her, holding his hand out to her, and helping her to her feet. "A good night's sleep will probably do you good."
"I wish." Stefana murmured. "You're probably right. I'll give it a go."
"Okay." Aaron smiled. "Just make sure you're all better in time for the twenty eighth, okay? Can't have you sick on my wedding day!"
Stefana did not reply, and they made their way to the car in silence. Though Aaron had put her preoccupation down to her dizzy spell, Stefana's mind was whirling. The mention of the wedding had brought back her panic, and she took a deep breath, determined not to let him see her cry again.
"He doesn't know, and he can't know." She told herself, as she allowed him to help her into his car. "But dammit, what am I going to do about this wedding?"

Chapter One: A Father Should Be

Chapter Two: Stefana and Aaron
Chapter Three: Sylva Intervenes
Chapter Four: Stefana's Battle
Chapter Five: Common Ground
Chapter Six: A Special Meeting
Chapter Seven: La Familia Santiago
Chapter Eight: Hen Party
Chapter Nine: Rory's Scheme
Chapter Ten: Stefana's Dilemma
Chapter Eleven: A Friend Indeed

Chapter Twelve: Sadie Gets Involved
Chapter Thirteen: The Night Before

Chapter Fourteen: Closure

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!