Just A Dream...

Chapter Seven: Zach

"Misfit Music have scheduled a press conference for this afternoon."
Rory Llewelyn pushed open the door of the music studio, casting Sirena a suspicious look. "I suppose you had something to do with the press blitz on Topaz over the last twenty-four hours?"
"Maybe a little." Sirena smiled slightly. "It's put them into a flurry, anyway. Jewel have such a reputation for playing it fair, and it's sickening. If I can get their names a little dirty then fine, why not do it?"
"Well, be careful. We don't want a law suit against us." Rory warned her. "Misfit Music have clout, sadly, and I don't want a public wrangle with your mother."
"I'd rather think that would be unlikely." Sirena said silkily. "Mother knows that you and I both know her little secret. A law suit could result in all sorts of things coming out. In any case, I was careful, and discreet. I tipped off the papers anonymously...the leak can't be traced back to me."
"Good girl." Rory looked approving. "Though I've little doubt Topaz will deny every word of the story, it still casts a doubt on how good a public influence Jewel really are." He glanced around him. "Where's Blade?"
"God knows." Sirena shrugged. "I'm not his minder."
"Sometimes I wish you were." Rory groaned. "Troublesome as you are, I swear he's twice as impossible to handle."
"He's a creep." Sirena smirked. "Did you hear about his failed date, by the way?"
"Every man and his dog heard about it." Rory rolled his eyes. "Not good publicity...were you involved in that, too?"
"No...it was as big a surprise to me as it was to him." Sirena dimpled. "I know better than to sabotage people on my own team, Rory. In any case, I was too busy digging up dirt on Miss Stapleton."
"Have you tried getting in contact with your father over her?"
"Nope, and I have no intention of doing so." Sirena curled her lip in distaste. "He's a creep and I want nothing to do with him, period."
"Probably wise. Eric always was a slick customer." Rory considered this. "Okay then. To work. How far on with your new album are you? Minx said you gave her the last of the lyrics yesterday morning and she's managed to work out the rough scores for the rest of the tracks. She told me she'd have the finished articles ready by Thursday...in the meantime, perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to hold a press conference of our own to discuss your and Blade's new musical ventures. Blade's song is out today, after all, and it's already selling well."
"I told him it would. It has me on it." Sirena said with a grin. "I'm a big hit, Rory."
"Yeah, and unfortunately you know it." Rory rolled his eyes.
"Well, isn't that what you want for this company?" Sirena demanded. "Good selling musicians who the public love?"
"Yes...of course it is." Rory nodded. "Only ones who are a little easier to handle wouldn't go amiss."
"You mean, puppets like Jewel." Sirena snorted. "Not for me, thanks. You take me as I am or nothing at all." She smiled prettily. "And you know I'm the biggest hit to come out of Rebel Records in the whole of it's ten year history...so you better lump it, Rory. You can't do without me."
"You'd be surprised, so don't get too cocky." Rory told her firmly. "And if you want your album to be as big a hit as your singles, then you'd better get down to some work. I have phonecalls to make anyway, and I'll let you know the time of the press conference when I have it. If Blade comes in, send him to me, would you?"
"Yes, Dad." Sirena's tones were dripping with irony.
"Less of the lip, if you don't mind." Rory retorted. "I'll see you later, and I expect you to have something ready to record the next time I come in here."
"How can I sing without a backing track?" Sirena put her hands on her hips.
"Haven't you learnt to read music yet?" Rory was cutting. He fished in his pocket, producing a silver disc and holding it out to her. "Here. Your backing tracks are all recorded on here. Now get on with it!"
With that he was gone, and Sirena reached for her headphones, putting the disc into the machine and poking her tongue out at her manager. Even at twenty years old, she was not averse to being childish or petulant if the mood suited her. However, buoyed by the success of her smear campaign against Jewel, she obediently settled herself to some work, engrossing herself in her songs.
Across town, Jewel were nervously taking centre stage at the press conference. It would not be the first time they had spoken to the press like this, but it was the first time such a big issue had been at stake. Topaz in particular had not eaten much breakfast, and though her composure seemed absolute, her hand shook slightly as she took a sip of water and sat down.
Sylva cast her a questioning glance, but Topaz shrugged.
"It's okay. Better we get it over with." She murmured.
Phyllis, her expression unusually sombre greeted the press in a curt, brisk manner, then took a seat beside her protegees, determined to be active if the need arose in the conference itself. The first reporter, a writer from a well known sleazy tabloid sent Topaz a thoughtful glance, then,
"What I'm sure every one of us in this room wants to know is what the story is behind the latest press scandal." she said. "Topaz, can you tell us if there's any truth behind the allegations?"
"I can tell you that I do not and never have used any form of drugs." Topaz replied quietly, her voice forcibly calm. "I don't even smoke...I'm well aware of the hazards of such things to both my voice and my health."
"Then where did the story come from?"
"Someone who's just jealous of Jewel's success." Sylva put in, her blue eyes angry. "We've lived with Topaz since she joined the group and we're together pretty much twenty-four seven. There's no way she's been using any kind of drugs!"
"So you're saying that someone made up this story to spite you?"
"We're not saying anything." Copper put in quickly, before Sylva could publically air her suspicions about the origin of the rumour. "Except that the papers reporting the story have been misled about Topaz. Like Sylva said, she's not used drugs of any kind since we've known her, and we all find it hard to believe that she ever could have."
"Topaz, what's the deal with this Cliff Bailey guy, who was jailed for drug dealing in Toronto some months ago?"
"I don't see what relevance his conviction has with me."
"So you're denying knowing him?"
"I'm denying any involvement in his crime." Topaz met the reporter's gaze stolidly. "Yes, I knew him, yes, I dated him. No I did not know he was dealing drugs till he was arrested, and no I was not involved, as the police in Toronto will gladly tell you themselves. I have no criminal record, no history of drug abuse and no wish to be harassed by people who clearly can't be bothered to find out the real facts of the matter. This chance to join Jewel was a dream come true for me, and I'm not letting you all destroy it for me."
"Topaz, cool it." Copper murmured. "You don't want to put their backs up too much."
"To hell with it." Topaz muttered back. "What business is it of theirs what my private life is like, anyway? I've done nothing wrong!"
"I know that, and you know that, but they're just doing their job." Copper replied softly. "Cut them some slack, they're earning their paycheques too, you know."
"Topaz, is it true that Cliff Bailey is not the only convicted drug user who you've been involved with?"
"So I have bad taste in men?" Topaz countered. "I'm not denying that some of my previous boyfriends have been less than brilliant. What I'm denying is the allegation that I'm using drugs, which is what this press conference was called about."
"You claim never to have tried drugs, but we only have your word for that."
"True." Topaz nodded. "But we've talked and I'm willing to undergo blood tests to prove once and for all that this is nonsense. I know I'm innocent and have nothing to hide, so I'm game for it to be as public an event as you wish it to be. I want this story both disproved and retracted, so directly after this press conference I'm going to have samples of my blood taken for independant analysis. Can I give you more proof than that?"
"That's enough questions." Phyllis stood at that moment, and even the most forward of reporters were dissuaded from continuing by the look in her green eyes. "Jewel have a busy schedule and we can't spend all day listening to you press talking nonsense." She turned to the group. "Come on, girls. Let's get this formality blood test done and then we can get back to some real work."
She turned, fixing the papers with a dark look.
"Any paper proven to be printing untrue stories about this group will hear from the company's legal advisers." She said quietly. Then she ushered her charges outside, closing the door firmly behind her and glancing at the four girls.
"You handled that pretty good." She acknowledged. "Topaz, you better come with me and get this over with."
"I'm coming with you, too." Sylva said firmly. "I promised I would."
"Okay. Nancy, Copper, you got free reign to do as you like for the time being." Phyllis told them. "Then we can get back to this album of yours...life's never dull in the music world!"
"Well, what do you suggest we do?" Nancy asked once they were gone. Copper frowned.
"I dunno. We could go get coffee." She suggested. "Aaron and Cynthia said they'd meet us in town after the conference, to find out how it went, but there's only the two of us. Think they'll mind?"
"Nope, I doubt it." Nancy replied. "Taxi, then?"
"Sure." Copper agreed. "Man, I'm glad that's over. Poor Topaz, it's hardly a good welcome into the group!"
"I know." Nancy replied. "But at least she can do something to disprove it. I gotta hand it to Syl, the blood test was a good idea."
"Definitely." Copper responded, as her companion hailed a taxi and they both got inside. "Hopefully it'll mean the whole thing will be buried and forgotten by the end of the week."
"We can but hope. It's not like we don't have enough other stuff to do." Nancy rolled her eyes. "Hey, whilst we're alone...I meant to ask you. Cynthia's been hanging around us all a lot lately - you really don't feel uncomfortable with the time she and Aaron spend together?"
"No. Even if I did, we're not dating, so I've hardly any right to complain." Copper replied. "But no. I like Cynthia, she's quirky. Why, don't you like her?"
"I do." Nancy nodded. "She's a bit unusual, sure, but what she did with Blade...she barely knew me and yet she went to all that trouble to redress the balance. Yes, I like her a lot, and I don't think she wants to date Aaron either. But I was just curious about how you felt about it."
"I don't think about it if I can help it." Copper admitted. "If I knew how he felt about me it might make it easier...but I daren't ask him that kind of question." She cast Nancy a beseeching look, and Nancy blushed.
"Don't." She begged. "I can't play piggy in the middle, I'm too close to you both. You know full well that I'd love you to get together, but I daren't really get involved."
"Okay, guess that's fair enough." Copper sighed. "And here we are...I can see Cynnie from here."
"She's distinctive enough to spot a mile away." Nancy giggled, as they paid the driver and headed across the street to greet their friends. "Hi Aaron, hi, Cynnie."
"Hi." Aaron glanced from one to the other, then, "You've lost half your group!"
"Topaz is taking a bloodtest to disprove the story." Copper explained. "And Syl went with her for moral support. I think Topaz is still a bit shook up by it all."
"I suppose it's a lesson in how particularly you must choose your friends if you are to be in the public eye." Cynthia looked grave. Nancy nodded.
"Definitely." she agreed. She smiled dryly. "That's never bothered me. I didn't have any friends growing up."
"Hey, you had me!" Aaron protested. Nancy grinned.
"Okay. Apart from my bodyguard here." She amended.
"Well, you have now." Copper told her, linking arms with her. "Those kids just didn't understand you, that's all."
"How about we get coffee?" Aaron suggested. He glanced at Cynthia, "or..."
"Coffee is fine, Aaron." Cynthia winked at him. "In fact, I think it a very good plan. A...friend of mine works in a coffee shop not far from here, what do you think, should we go there? He is a big fan of you girls, you know..."
"Well, why not." Nancy dimpled. "We could do with a fan or two after the morning we've had!"
"Coffee it is, then." Aaron grinned. "Lead on, Cyn!"
With a dimpled smile, Cynthia obeyed, pausing at the door of the shop.
"Here is the place." She said. "You go seat yourselves, I shall meet you inside in a minute. I wish to run round the back and speak to my friend first."
"Go on, then." Copper, assuming that Cynthia was covering for her own inability to consume liquids nodded, pushing open the door. "We'll see you inside."
"Oh yes, you will." Cynthia grinned, then disappeared around the back of the shop.
"I didn't know Cynthia had friends in town." Aaron mused as they sat down. "With her...um...ill health I didn't think she'd gotten out that much."
"She's lived here her whole life, perhaps she went to school with them." Nancy suggested. "Twenty-five years is a long time to be a hermit, Aaron."
"True." Aaron admitted. "Oh! Here she comes."
"And that must be her friend with her." Nancy's brain suddenly remembered the conversation with the other girl about Copper and Aaron, and a look of comprehension flitted into her dark eyes. "He's hot, don't you think, Copper?"
"Well, he's kinda cute, I guess." Copper looked surprised. "Why?"
"He's looking your way." Nancy dimpled. "Maybe you have an admirer, huh?"
"Nah." Copper dismissed it with a wave of her hand. "More likely he's trying to work out where he's seen us before. It happens all the time."
"Everyone, I'd like you to meet my friend, Zachary." Cynthia spoke in amused tones, meeting Nancy's gaze and winking. "He's a big fan of Jewel...aren't you, Zach?"
"Very much so." Zach spoke with a gentle southern drawl, and he offered Copper a smile. "What can I get for you?"
"Just coffee, thanks." Aaron said, a little abruptly. "We don't need anything else."
"No problem." Zach grinned at him. "I'll be right with you."
With that he turned, heading across the coffee shop floor. None of the group bar Cynthia herself saw the young waiter pause at the counter, relay the order and then disappear from view into thin air as the hologram adjusted her own projection back to hardlight.
"I hope I wasn't wrong to introduce you, but he's been begging me for a while, since he knew I was working with you." She said, pulling back the fourth chair and sitting down. "He has rather a crush on you, Copper...but I'm sure he won't make you uncomfortable about it, so I thought it would be okay for you to meet him."
"He seems sweet enough." Copper acknowledged. "I'm not really looking for a date right now though, Cynnie."
"I know." Cynthia grinned. "But there's nothing wrong with friends, is there?"
"No, course not." Nancy put in, catching on. "I mean, Syl and Aaron are friends. Aren't you, Aaron?"
"Sure." Aaron agreed, though he seemed a little uncomfortable.
"Something wrong, Aaron?" Cynthia looked surprised.
"No...nothing's wrong." Aaron said firmly. "This place just...has a funny smell, that's all."
"Well, smells of coffee to me." Nancy smiled.
"Will you excuse me?" Cynthia got to her feet. "I must go to the ladies room, I won't be a moment."
"Sure, go ahead Cyn." Copper nodded, wondering absently what a hologram might want with a ladies room, but putting it down to some adjustment in her projection. She had her back to the door of the restroom, and so she did not see Cynthia slip out the side door, slipping back in under the guise of 'Zach' and collecting the coffees from the unit with a friendly thank you.
"Thanks, Zach." Nancy took her coffee, casting the waiter a smile. "Mm. Good coffee. We're coming here again."
"Glad you like it." 'Zach' returned the smile, glancing at the watch on his wrist. "You know, it sure is quiet in here today. Usually we're run off our feet."
"Well, guess they heard us coming and scarpered." Copper grinned. "We're bad news press at the moment."
"Noone really believes all that baloney in the tabloids." 'Zach' assured her. "Say, Cynthia was right...you are real pretty up close."
Copper blushed, and 'Zach' frowned.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
"It's okay. Copper's too modest for her own good sometimes." Nancy said. Then, "Ow! Aaron, what was that for!" As her brother landed a blow on her ankle.
"What was what for?" Aaron stared at her.
"You kicked me!"
"I did not!"
"Yes you did!"
"Oh, stop arguing, you two!" Copper laughed. "Zach, this is Aaron, Nancy's brother...Cynthia's probably mentioned him to you."
"Yes, she sure has." 'Zach' eyed Aaron keenly. "Young man she works with these days, I understand, quite a whiz with the technical side of things."
"I do my bit." Aaron said, much of the usual geniality gone from his voice. 'Zach' merely smiled his lazy smile once more.
"Sure." He agreed. "Well, I got me work to do...guess I'll see y'all around, huh? Nice meeting you all...specially you, Copper."
With that he was gone, and Aaron let out a sigh of relief.
"I thought he'd never go."
"Didn't you like him?" Copper looked surprised.
"Are you for real? What a total sleaze!"
"I thought he was kinda sweet." Nancy said thoughtfully, as Cynthia retook her seat. "Cyn, you know Zach best...Aaron reckons he's a sleaze. What do you think?"
"There is no sleaze about him." Cynthia replied with a smile. "He is as genuine as he appears, Aaron. I am sorry you do not like him."
"Throwing himself all over Copper like some mad groupie." Aaron pulled a face. "I'm sorry, but he came across as sleazy to me."
"Well, I liked him." Copper replied. "He seems nice enough to me." She smiled. "I wouldn't mind getting to know him better, actually."
"You fancy that creep?"
"He's not a creep!" Copper responded. "And it's not really your business if I do or not, is it? I just think he's sweet and I'd like to be friends with him, that's all. What's wrong with you, Aaron? You've never acted like this before!"
"Oh, leave it out." Aaron snapped. He got to his feet, dumping his coffee mug down on the table. "If you like him so much, go talk to him. I'm going home."
And with that he walked out of the coffee shop, leaving the three girls staring after him.
"What was that about?" Copper looked distressed. "I didn't think Zach was all that bad!"
Cynthia and Nancy exchanged looks.
"Perhaps Aaron has some thinking to do." Cynthia suggested. "How about we go and see a film, let him cool off?"
"Sounds like a good idea to me." Nancy nodded her head. "Copper, you coming?"
"Okay, I'm coming." Copper sighed. "Though I'm not sure I can concentrate. It's so crazy! I mean, I don't fancy Zach, I just want to be friends with him...what is Aaron's deal? Can't he see I'm mad in love with him and I don't care about any other guy in that way? Why are men so dense?" She frowned. "And I didn't think he'd be all possessive over who I was friends with, either. I'm not his friend exclusively, you know."
"A good movie will cheer you up." Cynthia said wisely. "Let's go."

Chapter One: Aaron's Experiment
Chapter Two: Cynthia
Chapter Three: Back To Work
Chapter Four: On Set
Chapter Five: Mind Games
Chapter Six: Sirena's Scandal
Chapter Seven: Zach
Chapter Eight: A Happy Ending

Copper, Nancy, Sylvie, Anna, Blade, 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.