"I'm glad that's over." Nancy slipped off the makeshift dais, handing
her guitar to the waiting Cynthia with a sigh. "I felt so creeped out playing
in front of all these people who I used to go to school with. More, in
front of some of them I really hated."
"You played good, though, and they appreciated it." Copper assured her. "I think whatever they thought of you before, they think only good of you now."
"Like I care." Nancy snorted. "Hey, you're in a better frame of mind...what did Aaron say to you?"
"Oh, just stuff." Copper smiled slightly. "He and I are gonna take off, Nance...talk things through, okay? If the others ask, you know I'm with him. He hasn't been drinking and nor have I - we're safe to drive."
"Okay." Nancy nodded. "I'm glad that you made up...I hope you made him grovel."
"Not yet." Copper admitted. "But I might yet." She winked. "See you later, huh?"
"Sure." Nancy agreed. "Later, Copper."
"Where's she off to?" Topaz asked, as Nancy rejoined the other two band members on the dance floor.
"Off someplace with Aaron, just the two of them." Nancy replied with a shrug. "I didn't ask questions. I think things are ok, though."
"As they should be, it's Christmas." Sylva dimpled. "And now I've done playing, I'm gonna go find myself some hot guy to dance with...later, girls!"
With that she was off into the crowd. Nancy rolled her eyes.
"Great." She remarked. "Syl's on the prowl."
"I thought Dean was coming by here?" Topaz asked. Nancy nodded, glancing at her watch and frowning.
"Yeah, he said so." She agreed. "Perhaps...perhaps his show overran? Or he got caught in traffic?"
"Don't worry. He'll come if he said he would." Topaz assured her. "You know that. Even if he only arrives at midnight...he'll be here."
"Guess so." A glimmer of a smile appeared on the younger girl's face. "Least, I hope so."
"What is it you hope?" Cynthia rejoined them at that moment, sending both girls a grin. "I saw Aaron and Copper leave together, by the way. I trust all is well there."
"It seems to be." Topaz nodded. "And Nancy was talking about Dean."
"Oh, I see." Cynthia's expression became one of comprehension. "He's late?"
"Well, no, just later than I thought he'd be." Nancy responded, looking slightly uncomfortable. "I'm getting flustery and panicked, aren't I? Man this was a bad idea...what if..."
"Shut up." Topaz ordered her, laughing. "Have some faith, and chill, huh? Maybe you need a drink."
"Oh great, yeah. Get me drunk, that'll impress him." Nancy's tone was laced with sarcasm. Topaz grinned.
"Who said I meant alcohol?" She replied teasingly. "Just something to settle your nerves, that's all."
"Don't tease me." Nancy ordered. "I feel odd enough about him coming here. About us being together in a public place where people will talk."
"Why does that make you nervous? I don't understand." Cynthia frowned. "You like this guy, yes?"
"Yes." Nancy sighed, gazing at her hands. "That is the problem, Cyn. I mean, I know he can do better. People are gonna say, what's he doing hanging out with that loser?"
"Why are they gonna say that?" Topaz demanded.
"Because everyone always thinks of me as Aaron's loser weirdo sister, that's why. This party confirms it." Nancy replied softly.
"That Clyde guy said you were a babe." Topaz objected.
"Hah." Nancy snorted. "Clyde. He used to call me the freak when we were in school. Whenever he'd come and hang out at home and play basketball with Aaron out back he used to say 'hi freak, how's it goin'? and laugh every time. I hated it. And now, suddenly because I'm dressed up he can talk to me like I'm a human being? What's that about?"
"You scored a point off him." Topaz told her. "You came in here looking as good as you do, the lead guitarist in a successful female rock group...he wasn't expecting that. And what's he? Same ol' same ol'. Right? The kind of guy who is way beneath your notice. Yes?"
"Of course. He always was."
"Well, he knows for sure now that he hasn't a hope in hell of scoring with you, and I bet he regrets it." Topaz's eyes twinkled. "The look he gave you when Mack reintroduced you..."
"He was undressing me with his eyes, I hated it." Nancy shivered. "He always was a sleaze."
A sudden commotion from across the hall attracted their attention and, as she turned to see what was going on, Nancy was aware of some excited whispers. Curious, she moved closer to the cafuffle to see what all the fuss was about.
She soon realised it.
"Dean." She murmured, pushing through the crowd as a mix of relief and anxiety swirled around inside of her. "I should have realised he'd be recognised here...guess I wasn't thinking. Since Mack's from out of state these days I didn't think that it'd mean anything to have Dean Stacey at her party, since his show broadcasts in Cali and Cali alone at the moment. I guess I didn't bank on her friends from here."
She slipped between two starstruck girls, reaching out to put a hand on his arm.
"Nancy." Dean looked relieved. "I couldn't see you...can we go someplace less busy? I think I caused a bit of a stir."
He glanced around himself, evidently embarrassed by the amount of people looking his way. Nancy blushed.
"I'm sorry, I didn't think." She admitted. Dean smiled.
"It's okay. I guess it comes with the job." he responded. "But I came tonight to spend time with you, not half of California."
"Come with me." Nancy instructed. "Maybe we can get lost in the crowd."
"Let's hope so." Dean obediently followed her into the swirl of people. "You look stunning, by the way. Am I allowed to tell you that?"
"I guess so." Nancy looked self-conscious. "Copper did my hair - you like it?"
"I do." Dean nodded. "If Jewel ever splits, Copper should go into a salon for sure!"
"I think she's been there, done that." Nancy said dryly, touching her curls absently. "Here...it's more private over this way. I'm sorry again. I totally didn't expect a stir like that."
"It freaked me a little." Dean admitted. "But it's okay. And I promised you to come...so here I am." He eyed her expectantly. "What's next on the agenda?"
Nancy looked sheepish.
"I don't know." She admitted. "Helpful, aren't I?"
"Very." He observed dryly. "But you'll do. You on your own tonight?"
"No...Copper took off somewhere with Aaron, but Topaz and Cynthia are about and Syl's off to hook herself a stud for the night." Nancy responded.
"I just wondered if I had you to myself." Dean's dark eyes twinkled, and Nancy blushed again.
"I seem to spend my whole life going red and feeling coy at the moment." She acknowledged sheepishly, when he asked her if he had embarrassed her. "Don't mind me. I guess I'm not used to all of this. But Dean, I am trying...you do know that, right? I mean, I don't want you to think I don't...what I'm trying to say is that you mustn't...oh hell, I can't do this!"
Despite himself, Dean grinned.
"Don't get tonguetied on my account." He chided her gently. Nancy sighed.
"I feel awkward." She admitted. "I know what I want to say, but I can't make myself say it."
"Oh? Can you give me a clue?"
"I know we kinda agreed to go slow with things and see where they lead, right? Back in Fall." Nancy began, twisting her hands together. Dean nodded.
"Yes, I remember. So?"
"Well, I...know it's been three months and we've not gone anywhere...or changed anything and...I don't want you to get fed up and give up on me, I guess. I...I like you a whole lot."
She dropped her gaze. "There, I said it."
"Well, I like you a whole lot too, Nance." Dean told her simply.
"Would I be here tonight if I didn't?"
Nancy raised her eyes to his, thinking this over.
"I guess...I guess not." She murmured.
"Well then, what are you worrying about?" Dean took her by the hand. "Listen. I'm a patient person and I know that the best things in life are sometimes things you have to wait for. I'm not the kind of man Blade was, who'd take any woman going then move on to the next. I'm not like that, Nancy. I'm not interested in chasing after some other woman, public image or not. I know I want you...I'm hoping one day you'll want me in return."
Nancy bit her lip.
"I do want you." She whispered. "I just don't know how to begin things."
"Can I make a suggestion?" Dean asked softly. Nancy looked startled.
Dean eyed her carefully for a moment. Then, very gently he kissed her.
"There." He murmured.
Nancy stared at him, a mix of emotions in her brown eyes. Then,
"That's your suggestion?" She managed.
"Well, I thought it worth a shot." Dean responded. "What do you think?"
Nancy hesitated, then she nodded.
"It's better than anything I had in mind." She murmured. "I guess...I guess you can try your idea again."
"All right." Dean's eyes twinkled. Carefully he kissed her once more, and this time Nancy found herself responding to it. For the first time that evening she forgot that she was surrounded by people, many of whom had caused her humiliation in the past. For an instant there was just her and Dean, and that was all that mattered.
Across the floor, Topaz gave Cynthia a nudge.
"Way to go, Nancy." She murmured. Cynthia smiled, nodding.
"I love a happy ending." She agreed. "Especially at Christmas-time."
"You feeling a little more certain about things now?" Oblivious to the attention the kiss had generated, Dean gently pulled Nancy to her feet, and she nodded, taking his arm as she did so.
"I think so." She agreed. She laughed. "You know, it's dumb. I was so nervous about kissing you, I was sure I'd screw it up so badly and you'd hate me...but it all felt so natural!"
"What do you mean? Why would you mess up?" Dean looked confused.
"It...was kinda the first time I ever kissed a guy." Nancy admitted, her expression one of sheepish embarrassment. "Well...I mean, apart from...apart from Blade, and...well, that doesn't count. He...doesn't mean to me what you do."
Dean let out a low whistle.
"Really? I had no idea." He responded. "Well, for a rookie, girl, you're a natural!"
"You think so?" Nancy asked. "I mean, really think so?"
"Trust me." Dean winked at her. "So what do you reckon? Now we've taken that step, are you ready to progress our friendship into something a little more special?"
"I...guess I am." Nancy nodded. "If you're sure you want me."
"Silly." Dean laughed. "Of course I do."
"Holy..." From the doorway, Clyde shot Mackenzie an incredulous glance. "I don't damn well believe it. Nancy Pelligrini and Dean Stacey? Tell me I'm imagining it!"
"Tell me what the deal is with this Dean guy and I'll tell you." Mackenzie replied.
"He's a television presenter, presents on a local channel." Clyde responded. "Half the girls at work are crazy over him, he seems to have some kind of hidden thrall for 'em that I just can't work out. Man, and Nancy's such a weird little thing, even if she has grown up damn pretty. What's the deal?"
"Guess he likes her." Mackenzie shrugged. "Not much more I can tell you. This guy's a big deal in California?"
"Mm. Guess so." Clyde agreed. "Judging by what the girls at work say. Man, you'd think they were all sleepin' with him, the way they carry on!"
"Maybe they all are." Mackenzie said dryly. "Let it go, Clyde. So Nancy grew up good...what's the problem? She was never in your league, was she?"
"No way." Clyde took a sip of his beer.
"I dunno." Clyde admitted. "Just unnerves me some, that's all."
"You ain't jealous, are you?" Mackenzie teased. Clyde shook his head.
"Of course not, dammit!" He exclaimed. "Just ain't normal, that's all, for a girl as wacked as Nancy Pelligrini to land California's biggest showbiz stud." He shook his head slowly. "The world's screwed up, I swear."
In the midst of the crowd, unobserved by the speakers, Sylva had absorbed all this information with wide eyed interest. Though she and Nancy were not always openly the best of friends, secretly they had an amount of respect for each other, and gossip was gossip, after all. Neatly she stored the data away for later, imagining with a smile the reaction it would bring.
"But for now, I've a party to rock." she mused. "So Nancy and her beaus can wait!"
Christmas In California
Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Topaz, Anna, Blade, Sirena, Aaron, Cameron,
Taylor, Gaynor, Sadie, Cynthia, Alan, Stefana, Luca, Maddie, Marissa, Clay,
Sophie, Justin, Zoe, 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. Sammi, Rose and
any of the other Teenangel Outsiders characters are copyrighted to Gemma
Dawn and appear here only with her permission. 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 names of the bands, the characters and the concepts in the stories are entirely fictional and any similarity to any genuine musical act, situation, person or concept is entirely coincidental. Jewel, Diablo, Sirena and the other characters are NOT based on real individuals, either in the press or in everyday life.