The Calm Before the Storm

    Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters in my fan fic!


    Chapter Eighteen

    “Oh my god!” Chloe exclaimed as she watched Hope Brady throw her glass of champagne in Stefano DiMera’s face. “Did you just see that?”

    Brady said as he put his arm comfortingly around her shoulders, “You couldn’t miss it. I wonder what DiMera said to upset her.”

    Marlena continued to watch the scene, along with John, Brady, and Chloe. She watched livid fury paint itself across Shawn’s face and saw the immediate concern on Belle’s. Hope just looked heartbroken and strong at the same time. “I don’t know, but it couldn’t have been good.”

    John made a move to head in Stefano’s direction but Marlena gripped his arm tightly. “Don’t, John!” she said tearfully, fluttering her eyes at him in dramatic fright, (as only Marlena can do). “You can’t antagonize him. We don’t know what he will do if you confront him. And, as much as I hate to say it, he has every right to be here, in Salem. He was completely cleared of all of those charges.”

    John’s first instinct was to drag DiMera out of here forcefully, question him about his return to Salem, and then toss him in jail, but he realized Marlena was right. “Dammit, why did he have to return?” John said as they watched DiMera leave Hope and warmly greet his daughter, Lexi, who embraced him.

    Brady stood near his father, wanting to present a united front to the menace in their lives. “It seems so weird,” he mused. “It’s almost like we conjured him up by discussing him tonight. And, now, he shows up in Salem, out of the blue, without any warning. I don’t like it.”

    John turned to Brady and arched his eyebrow. “You’re right, Brady. His return is very unexpected.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “But there has to be a reason for his return. Now it’s just a matter of discovering it.”

    Chloe trembled as she listened to the Black men discuss the infamous Stefano DiMera. Why would he target such a great family? she wondered as she watched John grip Marlena’s hand tightly in comfort. She could feel the fear vibrating off of Marlena, as well as the steely determination behind John’s icy glare. Chloe completely forgot that she could have met her father tonight at the ball in light of the tension created by this new arrival.

    “We’ll find out exactly what he wants,” Brady said strongly as John turned to look at him. “We won’t let him hurt our family anymore.”

    “I’m proud of you, son,” John began, not surprised that Brady would want to be included in the campaign against Stefano. “But, I have had a lot of experience with that bastard. I know how truly evil he can be. Let me deal with DiMera.”

    “I don’t think so,” Brady said emphatically. “I’ll do whatever I can to prevent him from targeting our family again.” His electric blue eyes revealed the strength and determination behind his statement.

    “Damn, you are just like me!” John said, smiling slightly for the first time since DiMera made his arrival. “O.k., o.k., I’ll let you in on any information I can find out.”

    Brady knew when to retreat, even though he expected to do a little researching on his own. “I’ll be here to help you, Dad. We could finally bring him down, together.”

    John clasped Brady’s hand in his. I won’t let you get into any danger, John thought. “I know you will be. We’ll figure out exactly what that son of a bitch wants in Salem now.”

    Marlena gazed at the two men in her family. She couldn’t help but feel apprehensive about this discussion. She didn’t want either one of them to take on DiMera. She just wanted DiMera out of their lives. She took both Brady’s and John’s hands in her own. “I don’t want either of you to get hurt,” she said sincerely. “I know I can’t talk you out of whatever you’re going to do, but you both need to be careful. Stefano’s very dangerous.” She glanced at Chloe, who stood slightly apart from them. “And there are many people who care about you.”

    Brady squeezed Marlena’s hand and then dropped it. He walked over to Chloe and put both hands on her shoulder. “You must think we’re crazy,” he said to her.

    Chloe shook her head. “No. You shared a lot of information about your family’s past with Stefano DiMera tonight. He sounds like a very frightening person.”

    “Oh, he is,” John said forcefully. “We’ve tried to take him down so many times, but have never been able to. He’s very sneaky and always seems to be one step ahead of us. We can never catch him or make a charge stick. He’s slippery.” John watched as Stefano embraced Lexi once more and then continued on his trek through the crowd. “I never thought I’d say it, but his daughter is exactly like him.”

    Marlena had also witnessed the warm greeting and cheerful farewell between father and daughter. “Blood is definitely thicker than water,” she said, referring to Lexi’s ability to hurt her best friend and husband deeply. Then, she turned to John and asked, “Do you think we should leave?”

    John shook his head. “I wouldn’t miss this for the world. We might get a clue about why Stefano has decided to return to Salem.”

    Many people were collecting their coats and departing the ball. Most of the heart of Salem were remaining, probably sharing the same belief with John. Chloe noticed Craig assisting Nancy with her coat by the doorway. She was surprised that Nancy didn’t want to stay and witness the juicy gossip that DiMera’s arrival would instigate. Then Chloe realized that Nancy looked upset about something. Chloe followed her gaze. She wasn’t staring at Stefano DiMera, like nearly all of the guests were. Instead, she was looking in surprise at the doctor Chloe had met earlier in the evening, Dr. Bill Horton. Nancy whispered something to Craig, and the two of them left quickly. That’s weird, Chloe thought as she watched the doors close behind them.

    “Oh!” Marlena said in surprise. Chloe quickly looked at her. “Look!” She pointed across the room. “He’s talking with Princess Greta now! And Colin Murphy has left her alone to deal with him.”

    John watched Greta with growing concern. When she turned her pleading eyes towards him, John read the appeal in them. “I’m going over there,” he announced to his family. “Greta looks very uncomfortable. I can’t believe that Colin Murphy left her completely vulnerable to that man!”

    “I’m going with you,” Brady said forcefully in response to his father’s statement. He was not going to allow his father to face that evil man alone. After what happened in Puerto Rico, Brady believed even more strongly that him and his father made an invincible team.

    John turned back to glare at Brady. “No. Stay here with Marlena and Chloe.” He didn’t wait for Brady’s response but started a meaningful stride toward Greta.

    Brady waited until his father was halfway to his destination. Then, he said to Chloe and Marlena, “I’m going to find out what is going on. I can’t leave my father alone with him.”

    Marlena wanted to object but she knew the stubbornness of the Black men extremely well. “Go, Brady,” she said understandingly. “Chloe and I will be fine.”

    Brady looked at Chloe, who nodded at him in agreement. He kissed her swiftly on the lips and started after his father. Brady was completely unprepared for the information he would learn very soon.

    Chapter Nineteen

    “Princess Greta,” Stefano said warmly as he walked up to her and her companion. “What a pleasure to see you again.”

    Greta was very unsure about Stefano DiMera’s sudden appearance in Salem, especially since he had sought her out. Of course, Greta knew the identity of her father but she hadn’t come face-to-face with him after she had acquired that knowledge. “Thank you,” she replied, at a complete loss for words. Her eyes unconsciously sought John Black’s. John read the entreaty in her eyes and turned to Marlena. Greta knew John would be over to help her out any minute now.

    “And who is this with you?” Stefano turned to Greta’s companion, who was glaring daggers at him.

    Colin restrained himself as he wanted to physically throw Stefano out of the window. Calm down, he thought, and glared at Stefano. “None of your damn business,” Colin said and walked away angrily from the two.

    Stefano couldn’t help but smile. He knew all about Dr. Murphy but…all in good time. “Your, ah, companion seems very, well, charming,” Stefano said sarcastically to Greta.

    Greta watched Colin walk away without a word to her. Hmm, she thought, what was that about? She pursed her lips together and turned back to Stefano. “Yes, he usually is.”

    “He must have taken a dislike to me,” Stefano said as he lifted a glass of champagne off of a table. “Funny. A lot of people seem to do that. I can’t imagine why,” and Stefano shrugged his shoulders.

    “It’s because you are an evil, vindictive bastard,” John replied from behind Stefano. Brady had disobeyed orders and was two steps behind his father. “What the hell are you doing back in Salem?”

    “Ah, John Black,” Stefano said as he ignored the question for the moment. “Such a surprise to see you here. And you brought the little Black, too.” He acknowledged Brady with a nod. Brady replied with a stony stare that blatantly said, Don’t mess with my dad or me.

    John took a second to turn around and stare angrily at his son for not following his instructions to stay put with Chloe and Marlena. “It appears so.”

    Stefano waved his champagne flute in the air as he answered John’s demanding question, “It’s a free world, John Black. I am able to come and go as I please. Besides, I have family here.”

    Neither John or Brady caught the significance of this remark, but Greta did. Greta looked closely at Stefano as he interacted with John and Brady. Did Stefano know that she was his daughter? Or was he referring to Lexi? She wondered as she inched slightly closer to John and Brady. I don’t know who will help me if he reveals his connection to me! Her eyes began to reflect the worry that was swirling around inside her.

    Greta heaved an inward sigh of relief now that John was here. Part of her had hoped and prayed that he would be her father. But, alas, that was not meant to be. She was destined to carry the blood of Stefano DiMera. Greta had nearly two years to reconcile herself to her parentage, but she still couldn’t quite do it. She didn’t believe that having Stefano DiMera as a father was anywhere close to being a positive aspect in her life, which is why she had kept the secret from everyone in Salem. Especially when she cared deeply for many of the people her father had targeted for pain and mayhem.

    Meanwhile, Chloe and Marlena observed the exchange between John, Brady, and Stefano DiMera from across the room. “That’s it,” Chloe said as she slapped the table by her side with her hands, “I refuse to stand by and watch any longer! Dr. Evans, I’m going over there!”

    “We can’t. John said…” Marlena started to say in protest, even though she wanted to find out exactly what was going on, too. And John sometimes had a habit of not telling her all the new information when Stefano DiMera was concerned.

    Chloe raised her eyebrows at Marlena in disbelief. “I know you want to be there, too, Dr. Evans. Let’s go.” And Chloe held onto Marlena’s hand as they started to walk towards the men they loved.

    Marlena realized it was useless to protest because Chloe was right. “John and Brady are going to be angry with us,” Marlena cautioned Chloe while they hurried over.

    Chloe smiled genuinely at Dr. Evans. “I don’t mind dealing with Brady when he’s angry. It’s kinda fun.”

    Marlena couldn’t help it. She chuckled as they neared the group. “That is not an adjective I would use to describe Brady when he is angry!” The smile dropped off her face as she murmured to Chloe, “I want to know what they are saying. John wants to protect me and our family. Sometimes he doesn’t tell me everything where Stefano is concerned. That’s the reason why he wanted the three of us to stay behind when Greta implored him with her eyes to come over.”

    “I’m concerned about Brady and his family,” Chloe replied. “Besides, it’s not dangerous now. We are in a public place, and there are still a lot of people here. What could Stefano DiMera do to any of you right now?”

    Marlena whispered in Chloe’s ears as they came within listening distance of the quartet, “That will be our defense when John and Brady blow up at us.”

    “Sounds like a deal,” Chloe said to Marlena. Brady noticed them enter their sphere and glared angrily at Chloe and Marlena. Chloe and Marlena smiled serenely back at him.

    Brady slid over to Chloe and whispered lowly and fiercely, so only she could hear, “What the hell are you doing here?”

    Chloe replied, totally ignoring his anger, “You need my support.” She paused and then continued, “And I wanted to find out what was happening over here.”

    Stefano noticed that Marlena and Chloe had joined them, so he decided to greet them. “Marlena, what a surprise to have you join us! I am truly touched that you decided to greet me on my return to Salem.”

    “You are quite wrong,” Marlena snapped in response. “I am NOT here to greet you.”

    Stefano waved his hand in the air. “Be that as it may,” he said dismissively. “I am still ecstatic to see you at my first official Salem outing.” Then, he continued, “And Chloe Lane, the opera singer! I am also pleased that you wanted to be part of our little circle, too.”

    Chloe was shocked that he had remembered her and her love of opera. They had only met that one time before Princess Greta’s coronation. She didn’t know how to respond to the infamous man, so she simply didn’t say a thing. She felt Brady move closer to her as she had become the center of Stefano DiMera’s attention for the moment.

    John felt a tremor of apprehension as he wondered why Stefano DiMera knew Chloe’s name and her passion for opera. There is something here, he mused thoughtfully. Hopefully DiMera didn’t have any “plans” for Chloe or Brady. Over my dead body, he thought dramatically.

    Chapter Twenty

    This is going much better than planned, Stefano thought as he glanced at the cast of characters around him. Princess Greta, who knew he was her father but was not sure if he, Stefano, realized the truth. Chloe Lane, who didn’t have a clue yet about his identity in her life. John Black, his pawn from the past. Marlena Evans, his queen of the night. And Brady Black and Colin Murphy (although he was not in the immediate sphere); two men who were NOT going to like tonight’s revelations. Stefano felt gleeful as he planned quickly how, exactly, he wanted to expose his true identity to two of the lovely ladies around him.

    John knew that something was definitely wrong here. “I know you well, Stefano,” he said, “ and I know that you have some type of a plan. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have made such a dramatic entrance tonight.”

    “Dramatic entrance?” Stefano said the words dripping with sarcasm. “John, you give me too much credit! I am simply interested in renewing the acquaintance of my family.” And Stefano met the gazes of Greta and Chloe quickly before seeking out Lexi, who was witnessing the scene and standing nearby.

    “Well, I’m certain you should be proud of yourself tonight. You have managed to ruin the annual ball, and upset Hope Brady.” John was not going to let Stefano go until he had some idea about what he was up to.

    “Oh, Hope merely resented a truth I shared with her,” Stefano said dismissively, enjoying this moment immensely. “And she could hardly deny it. Her son had a hard time with it, too. The truth is always tough to deny, in any case.”

    Greta’s eyes opened wide as Stefano said that statement while looking directly at her. He means it for me! Oh, no, she thought wildly, he knows I’m his daughter! She felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. Will he reveal the truth, tonight? she wondered.

    Marlena said bravely, “You never have a hard time dealing with the truth. You bend it and twist it so that the truth is barely recognizable and fits your needs. Believe me, John and I know this. We have been your victims, Stefano, and we won’t be again!” She finished vehemently.

    Brady looked at Marlena with newfound admiration. He was seriously impressed that she had stood up to big, bad Stefano DiMera. Now if only Chloe would leave this debacle of a scene…, Brady thought. He caught her gaze and motioned for her to leave. Instead, Chloe simply stepped closer to him, as if they could gain strength from each other.

    Chloe could feel shivers of apprehension traveling down her spine but she didn’t know why. After everything Brady, Dr. Evans, and Mr. Black had discussed this evening about Stefano DiMera, she was surprised to find him here, calmly conversing with his enemies. He has a lot of nerve, Chloe thought as she fingered her special necklace from Brady for strength. I can’t believe he is blatantly ignoring the hostility radiating around him!

    “So, I take it you’re taking up residence again at the DiMera mansion,” John inquired, unsatisfied with the amount of information he had been able to get out of Stefano.

    Stefano rolled his eyes at the deliberate ploy to dig information. “Of course, John. That is my home.” Any minute now, Stefano thought, relishing the bombshell he would drop on the group in front of him. Chloe and Greta may resent me at first, but I will make them come around to my side. And he smiled inwardly.

    John was beginning to lose his cool exterior with Stefano. Don’t let him win now, he thought. Stay calm. “I find it amazing that all charges against you, and Lexi, were so dropped. It seemed so convenient that the mysterious man from out of town was responsible for Marlo’s death, as well as the baby switch.”

    Stefano acknowledged the direct probe. He had been expecting it since John had confronted him and he knew how to counteract it. “Poor Vladimir,” Stefano said as he shook his head in faux sympathy. (Vladimir is the name I’ve decided to give to the nameless henchman who took the fall for killing Marlo and switching the babies.) “Such a tragic ending.”

    “Could this be a case of manipulating the truth you so recently talked about?” Marlena couldn’t resist asking in barely concealed angry.

    Thank you for the opening, Stefano thought. “The truth is simply the truth. It can never be manipulated. Misconstrued, maybe, if it is not understood well. But that fault would lie in the human mind, not in the truth of the situation. Let’s take the issue of parentage, for instance.” He pretended to ponder as he said, “We all know accept it as truth that little Black here is the son of John and Isabella. The truth has not been manipulated.”

    Brady’s eyes blazed again at being called “little” Black. John put a restraining hand on him before he could physically or verbally attack DiMera.

    “We also accept it as truth that you, John, and Hope are the father of that delightful son of hers. It came as quite a surprise, but Salem knows it now to be the truth.”

    This time, Brady put a restraining arm on John, who was tired of DiMera’s word games. “Get to the point, DiMera,” he snarled at him.

    Stefano focused on the table to the side of him, appearing to be completely absorbed in the task of arranging the silverware on it to his satisfaction. Gladly, he thought inwardly. “The point I am making is that the truth cannot be changed, no matter how much you would wish it to be different. Truth is something to be valued, honored, and accepted above all else.”

    Greta paled at Stefano’s words. She believed that they were meant completely and totally for her. He wants me to face the truth that he is my father! she thought in growing horror.

    Chloe was starting to feel like Alice after she went through the rabbit hole. Where was this conversation leading? she wondered in nervousness as she observed the solemn faces around her. Stefano DiMera was the only one who looked animated as he offered the group his opinions.

    John couldn’t help but laugh at Stefano’s words. “I find your definition of “truth” hard to believe, DiMera. I know you very well, and I know that you do not value, honor, or accept truth unless you have made it for yourself!”

    Bingo, Stefano thought. John, you have walked blindly into my trap. “That is where your hypothesis is wrong, John. I believe in acknowledging the truth in private and in public.” He raised his eyebrows as he glanced around him. “You were interested in my desire to return to Salem, right?”

    “Get to the damn point,” John said impatiently. He was getting frustrated while conversing with this man. He couldn’t shake the feeling that, somehow, Stefano had been toying with all of them through this entire fantastic conversation.

    “Oh, please, no,” Greta whispered quietly. She thought she knew where this was heading. Marlena fluttered her eyes at Greta in confusion when she overheard Greta’s statement.

    “Yes, I believe I will share with you the real reason why I have returned to Salem,” Stefano said in response to John’s outburst. “I have come for my daughters.” And then Stefano calmly sipped from his champagne glass, acting oblivious to the confusion around him.

    Final Chapter

    Greta’s gasp of horror was covered up by John’s exclamation of disbelief. “Your daughters?” The confrontation was also being witnessed by the remaining party guests. They were listening with growing fascination at the scene that was unfolding in front of them.

    Marlena looked puzzled as she glanced quickly at Greta. “Lexi is the only daughter you have in Salem right now.” Marlena was genuinely confused, so she did her famous eye-fluttering trick again.

    Stefano smiled triumphantly, clearly enjoying this moment with two of his enemies. “There is no need for me to come for Alexandra. She is aware of her importance to me. No, I have returned to Salem to pursue a relationship with my other daughters. I am aware of their position in my life, and I would like to claim my daughters before all of Salem. It is time for their heritage to be acknowledged and for them to come together as sisters and as DiMeras.”

    Brady, who had remained quiet through most of the conversation, was frustrated with this whole episode and asked sarcastically as Marlena and John remained quiet in disbelief, “All right, all right, I’ll bite. Who are your “secret” daughters?”

    “I am delighted that you asked that, little Black,” Stefano said with a malevolent grin at Brady’s sarcasm. “The truth, as many people say, shall set you free. In this case, the truth will allow my daughters to realize and accept their newfound family.”

    Greta wanted to flee as far away from this sight as she could, but her feet remained rooted to the floor. There is nothing I can do, there is nothing I can do, was the refrain that kept running through her mind as she waited for her worst nightmare to be confirmed in front of the very people she never wanted to find out.

    Chloe felt an alarm go off in her head at Stefano DiMera’s words. Could he…she thought and then immediately dismissed the thought. Never. She looked at Greta, who was looking decidedly pale. Oh, my, she thought in sudden concern, she must be one of them!

    “Yes,” he confirmed, “I have two other daughters. They happen to be full sisters because they share the same mother and father. I know,” Stefano chuckled in an aside note to his surprising companions, “that seems to be a rarity in Salem. Most families are so complicated in this charming town, but I digress.”

    “Oh, where was I? That’s right. I want to share with you important background information on my daughters. My daughters could not live with me or their mother because a dangerous enemy would have threatened their very lives. That enemy has finally been taken care of. They did not live together either. Instead, a colleague hid them well for their own safety. I was not even aware of their location. One daughter was hidden too well. It has taken me a long time to discover her whereabouts.” Stefano met the disbelieving glances of the people in front of him in obvious enjoyment as he continued, “One daughter will be surprised when I reveal her true identity. I know both are aware of each other’s existence but not of the very special bond that exists between them.”

    “DiMera, we are all hanging on your every word,” John interrupted impatiently.

    “Anyway, my sole purpose for coming to Salem this time is to inform them of their correct parentage and to welcome them into my family. Would you care to know their identities?” Stefano inquired inquisitively.

    Marlena and John eyed each other. Both knew that Stefano was completing the first phase in some sort of scheme, a scheme that would affect many lives in Salem permanently. They were beginning to experience a large amount of trepidation about Stefano’s revelations. Where would it lead? Who were his daughters? And why was he revealing the identities in front of them? (On the show, dark music would be playing right now to set the mood as the remaining party guests continued to eavesdrop!)

    “You will tell us whether we want to know or not,” Marlena said as she held tightly to John’s hand. “They are the reason you came back to Salem.”

    Stefano nodded as he responded, “I will take that as an agreement.” He then proceeded to prolong the moment by taking another sip of champagne. “I have been anticipating this moment for years, the moment when I can finally claim my long-lost daughters.”

    Greta whimpered slightly as she braced herself for the unveiling. Chloe heard her this time and gently held her hand in support. It would be devastating to have this man as a father, Chloe thought as she lightly squeezed Greta’s hand.

    “My daughters share the same mother. You knew her very well, John, once upon a time,” and Stefano eyed him meaningfully.

    John caught the hint as he met Stefano’s triumphant gaze. “Princess Gina,” he said in sorrow. All eyes turned to Greta, who closed her eyes in resignation. Marlena felt sympathy well up in her for Greta, even though part of her was the tiniest bit glad that John was not Greta’s father!

    “Yes, Greta is the older of my two daughters in question,” Stefano clarified. He could tell that Greta was not overjoyed to have her identity revealed. “But Greta already knew.”

    Greta nodded her head in confirmation as she whispered lowly and in total resignation, “Yes.”

    “My other daughter does not know the identity of her father. She has never known, and has wondered about it for a long time. Of course, she believes that the wrong woman is her mother. She is the one who was hidden too well,” Stefano clarified, and then continued the riddles to the identity of his other daughter. “I have spent a long time looking for her, and have recently received unerring proof of her relation to me. She was adopted and, later, raised in an orphanage, which I deeply regret. The adoption agency has offered me all of the proof I need to claim her. She never knew the comforts of a happy home.”

    Chloe felt shivers race up her spine as her face went pale. She dropped Greta’s hand and took a step back from the group as the puzzle pieces were becoming horrifyingly clear to her. The roses, the e-mails, this disturbing conversation…she thought as she listened to Stefano DiMera continue in growing fright, “She was “rescued” from the orphanage by the woman she believes to be her real mother. Of course, I can prove that she is wrong. She is beautiful, smart, and intelligent, just like her older sister, Greta. We also have something important in common, a unique bond that pleases me immensely. My other daughter and I both share a profound love…” Stefano paused dramatically. No one else had picked up on the pieces yet, but he could tell that Chloe had. “…of opera.”

    “No!” Chloe exclaimed as she heatedly denied what everyone else was starting to piece together. Her eyes immediately flew to Brady as she watched the dawning horror take shape on Brady’s face as he realized the importance of the shocking information Stefano DiMera dealt them.

    Stefano stepped closer to Greta and Chloe. Chloe continued to look at him in disbelief. “Greta already knew who her parents were, but you did not, Chloe.” He attempted to brush his hand across her cheek but Chloe stepped back, away from his contact. “You are not Nancy Wesley’s daughter. I have recently discovered that her daughter died of natural causes two days after she was born. You simply took that baby’s place when you were hidden away by a colleague to keep you out of harms way. I have the papers from the adoption agency as proof of your true identity.”

    Chloe listened in disbelief as she dropped her eyes to the floor from Stefano’s face. She couldn’t bring herself to meet the faces of the people she cared about around her. She didn’t want to see the disbelief, disgust, horror, or shock that would be reflected in the eyes of everyone around her. She stepped back one more time and looked Stefano, her father, squarely in the eyes, and simply said, “No.” Chloe then turned and fled from the ball.

    Greta watched the Blacks as they gazed in shock at each other. Brady looked paralyzed with it. She then thought about Chloe and the pain and disbelief she must be going through. “I’ll take care of her,” she whispered to no one in particular, and followed Chloe’s path out the door.

    This is the end of The Calm Before The Storm!

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