Author's Note: Well, I never expected this story to have a two-year anniversary, but since it does, why not celebrate with a new chapter? :) I'd also like to give a shoutout to the wonderful Charlieinpcbfl1, who is diligently working on uploading new episodes to YouTube! Go subscribe to his channel and make your requests – he has the entire series on offer! :D

Enjoy!


.24.

"Someday We'll Be Together"

My love is yours, baby

Oh right from the start

You, you, you possess my soul now, honey

And I know, I know you own my heart

And I wanna say it

Someday, we'll be together

© 1961 Johnny Bristol, Jackey Beavers & Harvey Fuqua,

as covered in 1969 by Diana Ross and the Supremes

.xxxxx.

Renee sighed as she wandered through the apartment, feeling at a complete and utter loss. Her parents had retreated to the living area, while Stacy continued to keep herself sequestered in her room, and none of them were really in the mood for small talk, it seemed. Renee felt horrible for what had happened, and horribly hurt that Stacy hadn't accepted her apology, but what could she do?

Absently, she pulled open the door of the hall closet, her eyes running over its contents. She stopped abruptly when she spotted Stacy's white coat hastily wedged into the corner. She was surprised when she touched it, fingering the still-damp cloth, and for a moment, wondered what in the world could've happened for Stacy to actually forget about keeping it pristine.

Renee smiled wistfully as she removed it from the closet, straightening it on the hanger. It wasn't hard to guess – she remembered what it felt like, falling head over heels in love for the first time. Nothing else in the world was as important as that person – or at least, so it seemed. Renee was trying very hard to keep this in mind, to help mitigate some of the hurt she felt over Stacy's preoccupation with her boyfriend. She'd thought, perhaps foolishly, that her return home for Christmas would also mean a return to her place in Stacy's life: as her main confidante, best friend, and constant companion. She'd dismissed her sister's infatuation with Ryan as fleeting and silly – and, obviously, that was a judgment call she'd made at her own peril.

No, instead, Renee had returned home and found that her sister had changed, in ways that confused and frustrated her. She was used to sharing Stacy's affection – she and the Kid had played complementary roles in Stacy's life for as long as either could remember – but now it felt like Ryan had superseded them both. He was the one who made Stacy's face light up whenever he entered the room; he was the one she shared her secrets with now; he was the one she turned to first in her moments of crisis.

It sucked, and it hurt, and for once, Renee was at a loss of how to deal with it.

As long as Ryan held such a coveted position in Stacy's life, Renee was unsure of her own place in it – and that's why she disapproved of their relationship so adamantly.

Well, that, and she was thoroughly unconvinced that Ryan wouldn't end up breaking Stacy's heart in the end. He was a flirt and a charmer, and seemed to quickly grow bored with the girls he dated. A breakup would probably mean very little to him, whereas – as Renee was already witnessing – it would completely devastate Stacy.

Maybe, she considered, smoothing her hand over the front of her sister's coat, it's for the best if their relationship ends before they have the chance to get any closer. She frowned. Maybe…

She was jolted from her thoughts when the buzzer by the front door sounded. She hesitated, glancing back over her shoulder to see if anyone else was expecting something. When no one appeared in the hall behind her, she went over and pressed the button. "Yes?" she inquired crisply.

"It's me," came the soft, familiar reply.

Renee quirked a brow as she regarded the intercom. The voice sounded vaguely familiar, though she couldn't quite place it. A knot of trepidation formed in her stomach. "Ryan?" she finally asked, hoping she was wrong – but somehow knowing that she wasn't. What is he doing here?

"Oh – hi, Renee," he replied abruptly, his tone becoming all business-like. "Listen, are your parents around?"

"Yeah, they're here," Renee sputtered, casting a dubious glance over her shoulder toward the living area.

"Well, can I come up?" Ryan pressed. "I'd like to speak with them, if at all possible."

Renee pursed her lips as she debated how to put him off. "I – damn!" she swore under her breath, realizing she'd accidentally pressed the wrong button, the one that allowed him entrance into their building.

Now what am I going to do? she silently asked herself, feeling her heart flutter with panic. He's the last person my parents want to see right now. She took a calm, steadying breath, trying to work through her astonishment and aggravation to formulate a plan that would keep World War III from erupting right there in the foyer.

I'll tell him to just go away, she considered, pacing nervously back and forth. That I made a mistake, and that the parentals are out shopping or something. She chewed on her lower lip, wrapping her arms around Stacy's still-damp coat as she waited; staring at the door, she valiantly wished for a way to make him simply disappear.

She swallowed a yelp when she heard the sharp knock against solid wood, giving herself a moment to gather her wits before opening it. Before she could change her mind, she wrenched the door open, ready to tell this unexpected and unwanted visitor to go away, but felt the words evaporate as she laid eyes on him for the first time since summer.

Ryan greeted her with a disarming smile. "Hey, Renee," he said, giving her a casual nod. "Welcome back."

All she could do was stare in response. Stacy wasn't the only one who'd changed in her absence, it seemed. Renee barely recognized the boy who stood before her. He was a little bit taller, his features a bit sharper, his hair no longer in those obnoxious spikes – and he was wearing something other than head-to-toe black. Amazing, she thought with a wry shake of her head. I never thought I'd see the day when he actually looked like a normal human being, instead of some rock star wannabe.

Not that this apparent taming of his appearance changed her opinion about him as a person, or his singular ability to quite possibly ruin her sister's life.

"Can I come in?" he asked pointedly.

"No," Renee replied, blinking back her shock over seeing this – un-version of her former bandmate. "Listen, I made a mistake before," she apologized hastily, pushing him back into the hall. "I'm still feeling a little off from the whole jet-lag thing, and I'm not even completely sure that my folks are home right now." She put on her best sheepish, exhausted expression. "It may be better to come back later." Like, a million years from now, she added silently.

Ryan's expression turned sardonic. "Look, Renee, Stacy called and told me about the fight last night," he informed her, crossing his arms and rocking back on his heels. "And, well, I think your parents have the wrong idea about what happened yesterday."

I don't, Renee thought, feeling singularly unmoved to stand aside and let him in. She wondered if her parents knew about this radical change in his appearance – they didn't often attend the Kids' concerts, and Stacy obviously hadn't been bringing him around and showing him off. She realized, with a sinking feeling, that he looked as reasonable as he sounded – and that meant he had half a chance of convincing them that he wasn't a total player.

"So I'd like the chance to sit down with them," he was saying, oblivious to Renee's churning internal monologue. "The last thing I wanted to do was get Stacy into trouble for taking her out."

Renee swallowed hard. "I don't think this is a good idea," she started, only to find herself unexpectedly interrupted.

"Renee, honey?" her mother called, wandering out into the hall as she wiped her hands on a dish cloth. "Who's that at the door?"

Renee gave Ryan a hard, pleading look, but he stood firm, glancing over her shoulder and dropping his defensive stance as her mother appeared behind her.

Renee looked back, just in time to see her mother's lips thin into a grim line. "Hello, Ryan," she said coolly, clutching the dish cloth between her hands.

"Mrs. Brisbane," he acknowledged politely. "I'd like to speak with you and your husband, if you don't mind." He cleared his throat, offering her a hopeful smile. "About yesterday?"

Renee's mother narrowed her eyes as she regarded him. Renee hugged Stacy's coat to her chest as she glanced between the two of them, wondering if she was the only one who felt the sudden, suffocating tension that permeated the air around them.

"Please, come in," her mother finally said, her tone no warmer than before. She pulled the door open wider, allowing Ryan to sidestep Renee and grace their threshold.

"I believe Mr. Brisbane is in the living area," Renee's mother continued, gesturing down the hallway. "If you'll follow me?"

Ryan shot Renee a pointed look as he passed her, before dutifully falling into line behind her mother. Renee trailed after them, the knot in her stomach intensifying with each step. He's not stupid, she kept telling herself as she eyed the back of Ryan's head. Surely he knows that he's walking into the tempest?

She stopped short when, as her mother turned left into the living area, Ryan shot a covert look to his right, down the corridor that lead to the girls' bedrooms, before following her. Renee looked over as well, spotting Stacy standing in her doorway, watching the proceedings with an apprehensive expression. She continued to gaze at her sister as the doors to the living area clattered shut on her left, separating them from the others.

For a moment, Renee was frozen in place; when she came to her senses, she took off down the hall, skidding to a stop in front of Stacy's door before her younger sister could shut her out. "Stacy, what's going on?" she asked urgently. "Why is he here?"

Stacy's features hardened into a scowl as she pressed past her sister without a word, striding purposefully down the hall, into the foyer, and out of the apartment, closing the door resolutely behind her.

"Great," Renee muttered under her breath. "Just – great." With a sigh, she entered her sister's bedroom, crossing the small space to hang the still-damp coat on the closet door. She smoothed her hand over the front of it, feeling a slight twinge of envy. She didn't agree with all of Stacy's fashion choices, but her sister had a knack for picking classic, timeless pieces – things Renee loved, but would never know how to find. This coat was one of them. Two days ago, she wouldn't have even hesitated to ask if she could borrow it…but now, she felt like an unwelcome intruder – not only in her sister's closet, but in her life.

Renee took a step back, glancing around the small space with wistful eyes. She'd helped Stacy decorate it last spring, getting rid of the babyish pink wallpaper and ruffles. Now the walls were a tasteful, neutral cream, with splashes of color here and there, thanks to new furniture and accessories. She really is growing up, Renee had to admit to herself, wandering over to the bureau and running her hand over the clutter of makeup tins and hair baubles that resided there. She found it a little disconcerting to see Stacy's stuffed rabbit collection displayed proudly next to posters of Duran Duran and Michael Jackson, along with candid snapshots from their shared time in Kids Inc, but that was her sister – not yet ready to let go of her childish comforts, but not yet willing to totally disavow them, either.

Renee smiled softly as she moved closer to these framed photographs of their friends, enjoying the memories recalled – meeting a real, live princess at the P*lace; her celebratory lunch from Café Paris for winning a poetry contest; giggling over Riley's latest wacky invention; a group shot with Gloria, who beamed brilliantly as she clutched her high school diploma. Stacy had even managed to snag one of their old promotional posters, bought and paid for by Richie's brilliant scheme of auctioning off a date with Renee…

Her expression turned sad. Never before had there been such a disconnect between her and her sister. It made her feel sad and hopeless inside. Sure, they'd had their fair share of fights over the years, but it had never been like this. Of course, it was difficult to actively fight with someone who managed to elevate the silent treatment to an art form.

Renee was startled from her morose thoughts when she heard the doors to the living area open. She'd lingered longer than she'd meant to in her sister's room; she peeked out into the hall to see if the coast was clear to make her escape.

Her parents stood just beyond the living area with Ryan, their expressions cordial, if solemn. Her father clasped Ryan's hand. "Thank you for stopping by," he said somberly. "We really do appreciate you shedding more light on the situation."

"My pleasure," Ryan returned, giving her father's hand a firm shake. "Thanks again for giving me the chance to speak with you."

"Of course, dear," her mother added, offering Ryan a warm, if tight-lipped, smile as she touched her husband's arm.

Ryan turned away from them, as if to leave. "I can show myself out," he noted, pointing his thumb in the direction of their front door. "Thanks again."

The trio parted ways; as soon as her parents returned to the living area, however, Ryan doubled back, turning the corner towards the girls' bedrooms and moving quickly, if quietly, down the hall. Renee swiftly ducked back into her sister's room, closing the door as silently as she dared and hoping that none of them had noticed her eavesdropping. She wasn't quite fast enough, however; a soft knock sounded just behind her head before she could ease the door back into its frame.

"Stace?" Ryan called softly, pushing into the room. He seemed surprised when he found Renee there instead, a slight flush rising to color his cheeks. "Oh, sorry – I was just looking for Stacy. Is she around?"

Renee swallowed hard as she stared at him. What the hell did he think he was doing? Did he really have the gall to go behind her parents' backs after what she could only assume was an absolute inquisition? Even if it did end with a subdued handshake…

She narrowed her eyes. You have a hell of a lot of nerve, she wanted to say, but when she opened her mouth, even she was surprised by what actually came out. "I think she's outside somewhere," she told him, her tone soft and bordering on the apologetic.

"Thanks." He nodded abruptly and disappeared into the hall once more. After a moment's hesitation, Renee followed him, watching him finally walk out the front door of the apartment – only to be immediately tackled by her sister, who wrapped her arms around him so fiercely she wasn't sure he'd ever be able to extract himself from her embrace. Their intimacy was immediate, obvious, and intense, instantly making Renee feel uncomfortable, even from a distance.

With a quick look around to make sure the foyer was empty, she crept closer to the door, gently closing it from the inside. As she grappled with her own conflicting emotions over the situation, she figured the least she could do was give them their privacy to sort things out.

It wasn't much, but it was a start.

.xxxxx.

Stacy huddled in the hallway just beyond the front door of her family's apartment. Ryan had been inside for what seemed like forever; she wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. It was a desperate, last-ditch gamble to save this relationship, but even as she stood there, her stomach twisting into knots and her heart throbbing painfully in her chest, she didn't regret it. Calling him had been the right thing to do – even if, in doing it, she had to go against her parents' word.

After all, he had the right to know what was going on – even if he, too, proved powerless to stop it.

Stacy sank down to the floor as she waited, wrapping her arms around her knees. She tried to concentrate on her breathing – in and out, in a deep, steady, calming rhythm – but it was nearly impossible to not think about what was going on inside. It had been a calculated risk, not coming out of her room when he arrived; she hadn't wanted to enflame her parents' ire any further by being visible when he finally showed his calm, mature, and sensible self.

But she hadn't counted on Renee barging in and questioning his very presence.

Her features shifted into a scowl as she thought about her sister. She couldn't even stand the idea of being around her right now, much less actually talking to her, but Renee was nothing if not persistent. Stacy could only hope that she would take the hint from the cold shoulder she'd received whenever she attempted an approach.

Stacy wasn't quite ready to forgive and forget, no matter how much Renee pleaded and cajoled. She wasn't sure what it would take to repair her friendship with her sister, but considering the bitter, ill-fitting hurt her betrayal still inspired?

She knew it was going to take some time.

After what seemed like an eternity, the door to the apartment finally opened, a pair of very familiar Converse filling her field of vision. Stacy bolted to her feet, throwing herself into her boyfriend's arms, pressing herself against him as her hands found the smooth planes of his back. He was wearing the same white cable knit sweater from yesterday, and she found it particularly comforting now, so soft and warm against her cheek as she buried her face in his shoulder.

"Hey," he whispered softly, returning her embrace with equal fervor, one arm secure around her waist as the other crossed over her back, his hand rising to her shoulder in a reassuring hold.

Stacy squeezed her eyes shut, drawing her lower lip between her teeth and biting down so hard she was afraid she'd draw blood. She didn't know what to make of his breathless, one-word greeting, and she was too afraid to look at him, fearful she'd find only disappointment and defeat lurking in his features. A fresh round of tears welled behind her eyes, and frantically, she began trying to memorize everything – the way they were standing, the softness of his sweater against her cheek, the heat that burned between them, aching and intense and raw.

Her hands closed into fists against his back. She loved this, and wanted this, and maybe she even needed it. One thing was for sure – there was no way she would give it up willingly.

He must've sensed her growing distress, for he tightened the brace of his arms around her, gently rocking back and forth in a calm, soothing manner. "Everything's going to be okay, sweetness," he murmured, pressing a kiss to her temple.

Stacy sniffled. "I find that hard to believe," she replied morosely, unable to hide the accompanying tremor in her voice.

The hand at her shoulder drifted into her hair, his fingers combing through the honey-colored locks. "It's not the end of the world," he said softly.

"It only feels like it," she sighed, shifting slightly and curling into the warm caress. "Two months of being grounded, I could deal with – but I won't give you up. I can't."

He pressed another warm, soft kiss to her brow. "And you won't have to," he assured her, "not completely."

Stacy felt her heart skip a beat at his words; she didn't entirely trust that she's heard him correctly. "What?" she whispered, pulling away just enough so that she could look into his eyes. "But – how…?"

Ryan's smile was as soft as his tone. "Let's just say I had a little luck negotiating with your parents."

Stacy did her level best to quell the hope that flared in her chest at that. "What did you say to them?"

He shrugged, brushing her hair from her brow. "I just told them what happened yesterday," he replied. "Well, the PG version, at least."

She couldn't help but smile at that.

"I assured them that we didn't go anywhere dangerous, or do anything illegal," he continued, his eyes sparkling as he gave her a very meaningful look. "We were just two kids enjoying each other's company."

"You're amazing," she breathed, leaning into him, feeling the burden of her sorrow beginning to ease its hold on her heart.

"I have my moments," he conceded with a careless shrug. "Anyway, your parents agreed to reduce your sentence – "

"How much?" she cut in.

His expression turned wry. "To one month of grounding, starting after the holidays."

She stared at him incredulously. "How did you manage that?"

"By agreeing to two conditions," he replied. "First of all, that I help you repay your mother for the incredibly generous gift you gave me – which, you know, I promised to do anyway."

Stacy nodded, remembering the whispered vow that she'd so easily dismissed in the Prada boutique. That doesn't seem so bad, she reasoned, though it irked her that he would have to pay for something she bought him. "And what else?"

Ryan's expression faltered for the first time. "Well," he sighed, smoothing his hands across her shoulders, "your father made it clear to me, in no uncertain terms, that if I laid a hand on you before you turned fifteen, he'd break me in half."

"What?" Stacy cried, redoubling her grip on him, crisscrossing her arms over his back as she pressed her head to his chest. "No way. I'd rather be grounded for life than to be kept away from you."

"It sucks," he agreed, drawing her close, "but it's only for a little while. Your birthday's in February, right?"

She nodded wordlessly, gathering fistfuls of his sweater between her clenched hands.

"Two months is better than two years," he reminded her, sweeping his fingers through her hair.

"I know," she murmured in reply.

"We'll make it, Stace," he said softly, reassuringly, sounding far more confident than she felt. "Nothing has to change, not really. We'll still see each other at school, at rehearsals…"

"That's not enough for me anymore," she whispered fiercely, tightening her hold on him.

"I know," he sighed. "Me, either – but we'll have to make due." He drew away from her slightly, his gaze resolute as his emerald eyes met hers. "You're incredibly important to me, Stacy," he told her, brushing his thumb over the crest of her cheek, the light touch sending a shiver of desire reverberating down her spine. "Don't ever forget that."

I love you, she thought, choking back the words – and the fear and temptation that always accompanied them. She simply nodded instead, a curl of heat igniting in her torso as he leaned into her, his arms warm and solid around her as his mouth captured hers in an electrifying kiss, one she felt right down to her toes. She clung to him, pressing forward, beyond, knowing that this moment had to last her until her birthday.

He pulled away before she was ready for it to end, nipping at her lower lip as he withdrew, and heaved a shuttering sigh. "Damn," he swore, resting his forehead against hers for a moment, "how am I going to live without that for two months?"

She curled her hands into his hair, her eyes glittering as they met his. "We'll find a way," she promised.

.xxxxx.

The sun sank below the horizon before Stacy returned home; she lingered on the front stoop of her building with Ryan, cuddled up in his sweater as they sat together, talking and kissing and simply holding each other, drawing out this last bit of alone time together as much as they dared. She'd been reluctant to let him go, but eventually he had to, leaving her with a light kiss and the reassuring promise that this wasn't the end – of their relationship, or of the world.

When she finally returned to her apartment, she felt cautiously optimistic that things would work out. Ryan had given her a brilliant rundown of the conversation he'd had with her parents, and with it, granted her the hope that maybe they'd come around, eventually. He also gently pointed out that maybe she'd handled the situation badly, from the original cover lie all the way to their blowout fight, and suggested that her parents weren't so much angry with her as simply concerned about her.

"That's just the way parents are," he reminded her.

She slipped into the foyer on quiet feet, carefully closing the front door behind herself. The apartment was quiet, save for the faint sounds of the television set emanating from the living area. Stacy hesitated for a long moment, drawing up every last shred of resolve, before pressing forward, following the canned laugh track and hoping to find her parents on the other end of it.

When she walked into the room, she found her entire family there – her father, watching TV; her mother, sitting beside him on the sofa with a book, and Renee, laying across the overstuffed armchair, her eyes trained forward but not really looking at anything. Well, at least I'll only have to say this once, Stacy thought to herself, pointedly turning away from her sister.

"Mom, Dad," she announced, drawing their attention away from their passive entertainment. "I just wanted to say – I'm sorry about last night." She looked down at her hands, curling her fingers together and flattening them against her palms. "I didn't mean to make you worry, and I shouldn't have lied about where I was, or who I was with." She shrugged helplessly. "It's just…"

Her parents exchanged a glance as her voice trailed off, her father picking up the remote and turning the TV off. After a moment, her mother beckoned her youngest daughter to her side, patting the free cushion next to her. "I'm sorry, too, dear," she replied, curling her arm around Stacy as she sank down beside her. "I shouldn't have lost my temper." She sighed wistfully, taking her husband's hand. "I remember what it was like to be young, after all."

Stacy chanced a glance at her parents. "So you're not upset with me?" she prodded.

"Well," he father mused, "I wouldn't say that." He took in his daughter's crestfallen expression. "But I'm sure you realize that all is not lost," he added with a wry look. "Given your mysterious disappearance this afternoon, I'd guess it's safe to assume that Ryan has filled you in on the particulars of our conversation?"

Stacy flushed, averting her eyes to her lap. It was so easy to become swept up in him whenever they were together…even if staying outside on the front stoop in the freezing cold had started out as a conscious, defiant decision.

Her father nodded indulgently. "He's a very thoughtful young man," he observed. "And it was quite considerate of him to come over and sit down with us, to shed more light on the situation."

Heat rushed to Stacy's cheeks, and she became aware of the weight of her mother's arm across her shoulders. She pointedly ignored Renee's eye-rolling response to this shower of compliments for her boyfriend.

"But don't think that we've confused his sense of maturity and responsibly with yours," her mother said softly, giving her daughter a squeeze. "And don't think that you can call him to come over and bail you out every time we have a disagreement, either."

Stacy smiled weakly, her eyes rising to meet her mother's. "Right," she agreed, swallowing hard.

"Now," her father cut in with a business-like tone, commanding Stacy's attention once more, "after taking into consideration a few things we've learned from this young man, your mother and I did decide to make a few small changes in your punishment. You're still grounded, of course – "

" – and that's only fair," Stacy interrupted, feeling magnanimous. "Thank you."

Her father arched an amused brow. "But more importantly, I suppose, is that we have agreed to let you begin dating at fifteen instead of sixteen. Not a minute sooner," he warned, "and when you do start to date, there will be some conditions."

"Think of it as probation," her mother suggested.

Stacy glanced uneasily from one parent to the other. "Oh?"

Her father shifted forward in his seat. "When you turn fifteen, you'll be allowed to start seeing Ryan again, but only if you tell us – in advance – what sort of plans you'll be making, and agree to call us if those plans change."

"Okay." Stacy nodded tentatively. "I guess that's fair."

"You'll also need our permission before accepting a date," her mother added, "with him or with anybody else."

That one was a bit harder to swallow, but, with reluctance, Stacy agreed to it as well. It won't be so bad, she thought. Being with him will be worth any strings my parents decide to attach…

"Now, we're aware that you have two weeks of rehearsals coming up with the band over break," her father announced, drawing Stacy from her thoughts. "And, though your sentence has been technically delayed until after the holidays, we're not quite letting you off scot-free." He paused. "We think it'd be a good idea if Renee accompanied you to those rehearsals – and to the concert – as a sort of chaperone."

"What?" Renee screeched in dismay, bolting upright from her spot in the armchair.

"I don't need a baby-sitter," Stacy argued, feeling just as distressed as Renee looked as she pulled away from her mother's embrace. "Can't you trust me on this?"

"It's not that we don't trust you," her mother replied, while her father added, "It's the principle of the matter." They exchanged a look. "Either you go with Renee, or you go with one of us."

Stacy sighed in defeat. "Fine," she acquiesced, crossing her arms over her chest. She sent an icy glare in Renee's direction. "I suppose they're your friends, too."

Renee sank back into her seat. "Well," she sighed, her tone unenthusiastic. "Won't this be fun?"