Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters in this story, they belong to Posie Graeme-Evans and Nine Network. The story apart from some snippets taken from the show is my property and shall not be taken nor posted somewhere else without my permission.

This story is mainly going to be Stevie/Alex with some appearances of other characters. It starts at the end of the last episode of season 5, though continues differently than it does on the show.

ENJOY!

Time Changes Everything – Chapter 1

"Tess? Tess?" Tess woke up with a start … "Sorry to wake you mate." he apologized and sat down next to her hugging the six pack of beer close to his chest.

"What's up?"

"Stevie…" he stared in front of him. "Can you spare her for an hour?"

"Sure."

"Cool… Thanks." he nodded towards Tess and got up, while Tess watched him walk wondering what that was all about.

Stevie picked up some wire from the shed shouldering it.

"Hey cowgirl!"

"Whoa." Stevie turned around startled.

"You need a hand?" Alex offered smiling coming closer.

"Ah, no, I'm alright." Stevie told him picking up the toolbox.

"I don't mind, hey?"

"Oh no, it's under control. I just got a few running repairs to do." she told him walking towards her ute, while Alex tagged along next to her.

"Listen, can I tempt you to a good old Harry slugging match?"

"Did you have a fight with him?"

"Yeah, one of our best. Come on, we'll have a drink, talk about it."

Stevie thought about it for a second "Ahh, no, maybe later, hey?" she declined and quickly walked away leaving Alex behind.

"Okay." he simply replied looking after her disappearing figure.

Alex made a start towards his car but then decided against it and walked back towards the homestead. Tess still sat on the porch, obviously deep in thoughts. She cast her thoughts back to the present reality though when she saw Alex coming closer, out of the corner of her eye.

"Did you find Stevie?"

"Uhm, yeah, but she had too much to do", Alex told her still thinking of Stevie's reaction to his beer proposal a couple of minutes ago.

Tess watched his absent-minded look for a few seconds, "Everything alright?"

Alex focused back on his sister-in-law. "Yeah, sure", he told her, trying to disguise his restlessness.

"That doesn't sound very convincing…" Tess sat up and patted the seat next to her.

"Nah, it's nothing. I just had a fight with Harry, but that's no news, hey? I'm just gonna…" Alex pointed in the direction of his car, already making a move to leave.

"You know, you can talk to me as well. Might not be the same as with Stevie, but I'm a pretty good listener, too."

Alex shook his head. "No, really. I don't wanna bother you with my stupid Harry problems."

Tess now stood up and walked towards him. "I'm sure they're not stupid, otherwise you wouldn't be looking for someone to kill these with," Tess pointed to the six pack of beers he was still holding close to his chest. "Come on, I'll make us a cuppa and you can tell me what's going on", she took him by the arm and led him inside, giving him a look that was caring but also told him to stop arguing.

Alex sat down at the head of the kitchen table, his back facing the refrigerator. Tess put a cup on the table for each of them and went to get some biscuits out of the pantry before she sat down as well.

"Soo... what did you wanna talk about to Stevie? You said you had a fight with Harry?"

Alex took a sip of his tea and just nodded in agreement to her question.

"What was the fight about?" she asked him when he didn't say anything else.

"Tess, I... I really don't wanna bothe...."

"Don't finish that sentence Alex. I'm not made of porcelain.

"I know it's just that..."

Suddenly it dawned to Tess why he was being so hesitant.

"Was it something about Nick?"

Alex's silence was more than enough of an answer for her.

"Tess took a deep breath. She leaned forward a bit and softly put her hand over his.

"It's okay, I can take it."

Alex, who had been staring at his cup in front of him, looked up into her gentle eyes. Taking an encouraging breath he squeezed her hand and started to talk. "A couple of days ago, at the... at Nick's... you know..." he didn't remember what Tess had titled the gathering, and didn't want to hurt her feelings by saying the wrong thing.

Tess nodded, indicating that she knew what he meant.

"Well, I was gonna go have a beer with the old man and so I followed him into the house where he was putting Harrison down for a nap... I heard him say something to Harrison."

Tess just waited for him to continue, giving him the time needed to get whatever was bothering him off his chest. She knew that Alex and Harry had always had a difficult relationship and now that they didn't have Nick as the peacekeeper between them, things tended to get out of hand between them more quickly than they had before.

Alex didn't know how to put it, because he didn't want to hurt Tess's feelings. "He, uhm, he said that he and Harrison, uhm, were the only ones left to carry on the Ryan name, now that Nick is gone." The hurt about Harry's words was clearly audible in Alex's voice and also Tess had to swallow after hearing this from Alex.

"Alex, you know that's not true... you know how Harry is sometimes." Tess tried to console him. "Believe me, he meant it, Tess. I might have the same name but he doesn't see me as his son."

"You know he does...deep down", Tess comfortingly squeezed his arm.

Alex took another sip of his tea. "It's okay. I don't need him. If he doesn't want me there I surely won't force myself into his life."

"Maybe the two of you just need some time apart from each other", Tess suggested to him. "You're always welcome to stay here, for as long as you want." Tess offered him sincerely.

"Thanks, Tess, but I think I'm gonna head to the city for a while", Alex told her.

"For how long?" Tess asked him surprised, she didn't think it was that serious between him and Harry.

"Don't know. A week, maybe a couple. I mean, I don't wanna leave you guys here, with all the... you know..." Alex looked at her belly that was showing the signs of her pregnancy more and more with every passing day.

Tess smiled at him, gently putting a protective hand over her protruding belly. "You wouldn't. You have to promise me something, though".

"Yeah, sure," Alex leaned forward, resting his arms on the kitchen table.

"Don't just disappear. Call in from time to time."

Alex gently touched her arm, giving it a light squeeze. "Of course I will. After all, I need to make sure that you're taking good care of yourself and my future niece of nephew."

Tess let out a deep sigh, "Don't worry, I will."

Alex got up and pulled Tess into a big hug. "Call me if you need me. I'll be back in a flash."

"I will, but don't worry about us. You make sure you clear your head. "I will. Take care of yourself and the bub."

"Sure," she smiled up at him.

"Will you say goodbye to Stevie for me?" he asked her halfway through the kitchen door.

Tess stayed quiet for a few seconds. "I think you should tell her yourself."

Alex shook his head no. "Nah, she doesn't wanna talk to me."

Tess took a step towards him. "Believe me, she'll want to hear it from you." Tess didn't exactly know what was going on with Stevie, but she had a feeling that it had something to do with Alex and knew that she would be devastated if Alex would just leave without saying goodbye to her in person. "Please, just do it for me."

Alex looked a bit confused at his sister-in-law, but didn't say anything else.

He found Stevie by the stables where she had just put Banjo back into his box. Stevie didn't notice Alex coming up behind her and jumped a little, turning around quickly when she heard his voice behind her. "Hey."

"Geez, Alex! You scared me," she scolded him, her hand placed over her quickly beating heart.

"Sorry, mate, didn't mean to... Still busy?" he asked her while walking next to her towards the shed.

To be continued...