Chapter Seven: Home Truths

"Well, good morning."
Marissa's eyes fluttered open, and she met her visitor's soft dark eyes with a smile.
"Hi, Clay." She murmured. "What brings you here? It must be early...I didn't expect anyone to come visiting till later."
"Well, they let me in, and I didn't feel safe stopping at home." The drummer sat down beside the bed, casting her a rueful grimace. "It's not that early - only nine. I'm sorry I woke you."
"I was only dozing." Marissa assured him. "The doctor was just with me, so I didn't have a chance to go back to sleep."
"Good news?"
"So far, so good." Marissa agreed. "He hopes I might be home by the end of the week."
She eyed her companion keenly. "Why aren't you safe at home? What's happened now?"
"Nothing major." Clay spread his hands. "Luca went to talk to Stef and convinced her to come home. I'm steering clear of the girl in case I lose my temper with her again. I had a drilling from Maddy about controlling my tongue - but how was I supposed to know she was suicidal? She never seems to feel anything we throw at her. I wouldn't have lashed into her if I'd known how close to the edge she was, but she didn't seem that upset." He frowned. "So I figure it's safer I don't speak to her until things are a little more normal."
"Stef's closer to the edge than any of us realised." Marissa pursed her lips. Clay nodded.
"Luca's been watching over her like a hawk since he brought her home, but in truth she just seems quiet and listless rather than about to jump over the proverbial cliff." He admitted. "But then again, I haven't spoken with her since she came back."
"You shouldn't have yelled at her."
"No, maybe not, but I was angry." Clay said quietly. "And with good reason. You were pretty sick, Mari, and Stef never takes responsibility for her actions. I thought it was about damn time she did. I still feel that way - that she should never have pushed you, whatever you said to her."
"She didn't push me, Clay. The drugs did." Marissa chided him gently. "Stefana would never hurt me so long as she was in control of what she was doing. The trouble is that she's been less and less that way recently. They have more hold over her than I realised."
She glanced down.
"I brought it on myself, in a way. If I'd spoken out before...maybe she would have hated me forever, but maybe things would have been stopped before they got this far."
"I cant argue with that." Clay observed. "Why didn't you tell us, Mari? You knew she was screwed up on these things for a while, didn't you? You never said a thing...why protect her?"
"Because she was my friend, and I gave her my word." Marissa looked guilty. "I never thought it was as serious as it turned out to be, though. She took them occasionally back in Connecticut, but she told me then she'd stopped taking them. Turned out when we got here that she hadn't...and it's spiralled since there. I don't know very much about drugs, not really...I didn't realise how hooked she was becoming until it was too late to reason with her about it."
"I suppose there isn't much point in worrying about what should have been done when it can't be changed." Clay acknowledged. "Not much to be done about it now. Luca's mad keen on helping the kid through it, and thinks we should all be helping too. In truth, I don't know if I can work with the girl again, after the chaos of the last week, but in principle he is right. If we don't help her, who else will? None of us want Stef blitzing herself. If nothing else, she's a damn good guitarist...and we don't need that on our consciences."
"I told Stef, and I'll tell you, that if there is no her in Diablo, there is no me, either." Marissa said quietly. "I mean it, Clay. Stefana is my friend - and that means I stick by her. Whatever."
"I don't understand why you give a damn, after what she's done to you." Clay eyed her in confusion. "What gives, Mari?"
"Stefana taught me a lot about life." Marissa shrugged. "We grew up together, and she's not the demon you think she is, Clay. She's unhappy, yes...and it's partly my fault, for letting her get this unhappy. I want to help her, and I know Luca does too, if he talked her back home. Maddy's been sweet to her - she told me that herself. Are you going to be the only one who stands apart?"
Clay fixed his companion with a strange look, then,
"If you had died, I would never have forgiven her." He said quietly. "I didn't like how helpless I felt that night, Mari. You were so still, I didn't know whether they'd be able to help you. It's something that will stay with me forever."
"But I'm fine, Clay." Marissa reached out to squeeze his hand. "It was a horrible accident, nothing more. Stef didn't mean it, and I've forgiven her. If I can, you must too. There's no harm done."
"I wish I could forget as easily as that." Clay admitted. "But I will try, Mari. Luca's my best friend, and I won't stand against him or what he wants to do. If Stef really shows she wants to change - make good, keep sober...then okay. I'll go with it. At the moment it's hard to know exactly what she's thinking about things. She's closed up."
"Stef likes to handle things herself, if she can." Marissa said softly. "Is she at least sober?"
"I'm not sure. I think she is, though." Clay shrugged. "She's not gone psycho at anyone, so I guess she must be. That's progress, I suppose."
"Definitely." Marissa paused, then, "Please, Clay, let it go. You don't need to worry about me. Stef is the one who needs that."
"I'd rather worry about you." Clay's expression was unreadable, but there was a flicker of emotion in his eyes that betrayed the true depth of his feelings. "Kinda easy to take for granted that someone's gonna always be there. It shook me up, Mari, more than I like to admit. We spend so much time writing and bantering together...then something like this happens and bam, you could've been gone for good. I don't know how to equate what it made me feel with anything - it's never happened like that before."
"I'm a diabetic. Hospital visits are an occupational hazard." Marissa reminded him. Clay nodded.
"Yes, I know, and I've seen you deal with those before." He agreed. "But they never made me feel like...well, like I did the other night, Mari. I was so angry...angry at Stef, angry at myself for not being able to do more to help you. I didn't like it."
A smile touched Marissa's lips.
"My guardian angel, are you now?" She teased softly.
Clay rolled his eyes.
"Don't play games with me." He scolded. "Your life was in the balance."
"That's what makes living so much fun, though." Marissa shrugged her shoulders. "I know that it could be taken away from me at any moment. I don't like to take it for granted...or let things pass me by."
She gripped his hand tighter.
"I almost did, this time." She whispered. "But this has reminded me how important it is to live for the present. I've had a crush on you forever, Clayton Blake, but I was too scared to tell you in case you laughed at me. But now, well, I'm not scared to tell you any more. If you laugh, well, you do. I still want you to know."
"Laugh?" Clay stared at her. "Why would I laugh at you, Mari? I think the world of you."
He looked rueful.
"Though I do wish you'd mentioned this before. I've been keeping a firm hand over my feelings because you never gave me any indication that you wanted anything more than a writing buddy."
"We're both stupid." Marissa laughed. "Stef didn't tell you? She was always threatening that she would."
"Nope. She never did." Clay shook his head. "Stef doesn't talk to me more than she has to, even when things are normal. She doesn't think much of me - never has." He shrugged. "One of the downfalls of being Luca's friend, that."
"Well, I'm glad you came to see me this morning." Marissa observed. "I never thought I'd tell you, but I'm glad it's out in the open now."
"So am I, though I wish I'd had the courage to be the first one to mention it." Clay looked sheepish. He kissed her gently on the cheek.
"That's all you get, till you get out of here." He teased, his eyes twinkling in amusement. "Okay?"
"Talk about an incentive to get well." Marissa giggled. "Oh well, if you insist. Fine. I'll be out of here before the end of the week, anyway. I feel a lot better and I'm determined to be home soon. Hospitals aren't much fun and I want to do my bit for Stef." She winked at him. "And then maybe you can take me out someplace, if I mean that much to you."
"Cheeky wretch." Clay grimaced at her. "Oh, I dare say we can arrange something. Just you make sure you are out of here by the end of the week, okay?"
"But then where will you run and hide when things get crazy at home?"
"Rebel Records, to write music." Clay said ruefully. "Oh, it'll be all right, Mari. I dare say that I'll cool off towards Steffi and she'll work her problems out. I don't want to give up on Diablo yet, and we do have that chemistry as a group, built out of hard work and long grafting in Connecticut. It would be a shame to bring in a stranger, and Stef is good at what she does."
"Thanks for making the effort, at least." Marissa told him gently. "And I agree with you. We'll work things out as a group - somehow. Diablo are too strong to let something break up everything we've worked for. So long as we stick together, well, we'll be just fine."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

 "Well, here goes nothing."
Luca gazed up at the big, imposing Rebel Records building, casting his companion an apprehensive smile. "Wish me luck, Em. The future of my group rests on what I'm about to do."
"I'm damn glad you have the bottle to do it." Emily told him with a smile. "It doesn't surprise me one bit what Rory's been using Stefana to do - he tried manipulating me enough when I worked for him, and I did enough stuff to cause Jewel trouble, too. He's a slippery customer - knows how to get a hold of someone and get them doing his dirty work. With me, it was my hate for Mom...and with Stef..."
"Her need for money." Luca sighed. "And let's be honest here - her difficult personality. She's never accepted that we're not number one in this state, after all the hard work we've put in. It doesn't matter that Jewel - or you, for that matter - have put in just as much work and have been recording longer than we have, with proper pro backing. She reckons Diablo should be right up there, after all we've been through together, and she's always been the kind of girl who'd do whatever it took to get where she wanted to be. The drugs and Rory haven't helped, that's all."
"Well, sounds to me like you've got her on the right road where the drugs are concerned." Emily lounged against the black glass wall. "And Rory isn't so hard to take down. Trust me, Luca. You're doing the right thing, and it'll be fine. You just have to play him at his own game." 
She winked.
"I'll be waiting, when you're done, to give you a pep talk and pick up the pieces." She promised. "Then we go get Mike, and take him to the beach, okay? It's his birthday tomorrow, and you did promise him a trip to the sea."
"I know, and I haven't forgotten." Luca kissed her gently. "It'll be a welcome distraction from everything else that's been happening, in truth. Mike's an absorbing young man and he has a good way of getting your mind off other things."
"He's a Gabor. He likes the attention." Emily laughed. "Well, go on then. You better go. I'm the enemy here, remember?"
"I'm going." Luca steeled himself, pushing open the big double doors. "Bye, Em. See you soon."
"Sooner than you think." Emily mused to herself, as she watched her boyfriend cross the lobby, heading into the lift. As the lift doors closed behind him, she pushed open the door herself, sauntering into the lobby.
"Excuse me, Miss? Do you have authorisation to be here?" A weasly looking security guard approached her.
"As much authority as anyone else." Emily shrugged her shoulders. "My name is Emily Gabor. I'm here to see Mr Llewelyn."
"Is he expecting you?"
"I do hope not." Emily looked amused. "That would ruin the purpose of my visit completely."
"I hope you're not going to tell me that you want me to leave." Danger glinted in the green eyes. "My mother and Mr Llewelyn are old business associates, and she would be most insulted if she knew I'd been here and had been treated with such...disrespect. I'm a former employee of Mr Llewelyn's...short memories you all have."
"I've been here a year, Miss Gabor." The man kept a brave hold of his composure. "I don't believe we've met."
"I told you my name." Emily said sweetly. "So you do know who I am."
She flashed her driver's licence at him. "And now you know that I'm telling you the truth. I won't cause any trouble - unless you try and stop me getting to see Mr Llewelyn. I'm afraid I have a rather nasty temper if I'm upset - you wouldn't want to upset me, now would you?"
Despite himself, the guard was intimidated by this self-composed young woman, with her piercing, forbidding green eyes and her determined smile. Without a word he stepped back, allowing her to pass him and disappear into the stairwell before he could change his mind. Once alone, she allowed herself to laugh, amused by his behaviour.
"Well, Rory could do with better guards. He was no challenge." She murmured. "He's probably too cheap to hire decent security. Jerk."
She headed up the steps two at a time, pausing as she reached the top floor to catch her breath.
"Luca might not need me at all, but I said I owed Stefana, and I'm damn well going to repay that debt before it sinks in with me and starts making me feel pity for the girl." She muttered, pushing open the doors and creeping along the corridor to where Rory's office was situated. "Besides, taking Rory Llewelyn apart is always fun. I still owe him plenty for how he treated Mike and me. If I can help Luca, well, I damn well will."
Luca, meanwhile, had made it as far as Rory's office, and at the sight of the executive's calm, unruffled smile, a flash of anger welled up inside of him.
"Yes, Luca? What is it?"
"I wanted a word with you." Luca controlled his rage as best he could, banging his hands down on the desk and looking his boss in the eye. "About my sister."
"Stefana?" Rory looked mildly surprised. "I was under the impression that it was Marissa who was in poor health. Is there a Diablo epidemic?"
"That's not what I'm talking about." Luca's eyes narrowed. "So cut the sarcasm crap, Rory. I know what you've been using her to do, and I want it to stop."
"I'm not sure I understand you." Rory's smile became ever more false, and his eyes hardened. "Stefana is my employee in the same manner as the rest of you. Is that all?"
"Stefana told me otherwise." Luca said darkly. "She told me that you've paid her extra money - cash in hand - to carry out illicit sabotages and other stuff behind our back. You've let her put her neck on the line to try and get your sorry excuse for a company ahead of Misfit Music, and I'm not having it any more."
"I don't know what you mean."
"I think you do." Luca glared at him. "I'm not a fool, Rory. I know how you work. I know how you treated Emily, and I know my sister is telling me the truth. She needed the money and you took advantage of her - enough so that she could have wound up in prison for doing your bidding! I'm not having it any more!"
"Stefana is responsible for her own actions." Rory told him calmly. "I may have made...suggestions to her, but she carried them out of her own free will. And Luca, I think you'll find that, if you press your darling sister further, she'll admit to you that most of her little extracurricular activities have been all her own idea. If she is useful to me, I will pay her. But I do not send the girl out like some deranged missionary to cause trouble wherever I see fit. What kind of businessman do you believe I am?"
"One who can't be trusted." Luca said coldly. "I know Stefana better than you do, Rory. I know she's not innocent in this, but I know you've encouraged her. My sister has enough problems without your help - I want it to stop. Do you understand me?"
"I understand that you're my employee, and I can easily strike you from my books if this ridiculous and offensive discussion continues." Rory told him levelly. "Slander is a crime, you know, and I have very good legal advisors."
"Not as good as Luca has."
A fresh voice from the doorway startled both parties, and Rory's eyes narrowed at the sight of the young singer.
"Who let you in here?" He demanded, getting to his feet. "Get out!"
"Not a chance, Rory." Emily shook her head. "Not this time. Luca is with me...if you fire him, then I'll get Grandfather's lawyers on your case. They'll soon find out exactly what you've been using Stefana to do, and then your precious music company will be in the dust. Do you follow?"
"This is no business of yours!"
"No, but I have a long memory." Emily snapped. "Of a cold hearted man who terminated my contract because I was pregnant, and of a jerk who badmouthed my young son in the presence of witnesses - in a public place! I have never forgiven you for either one, Rory, but I'm not helpless little Emily-Jayne Raymond now. You paid me off then, and I took it, because I wasn't well and I didn't need the legal hassles. But I'm not scared of you, and nothing would make me happier than to see you and your pathetic company crumble into dust."
"That would do Diablo no good at all." Rory sneered.
"Why not? Didn't do me any harm to leave your employ." Emily shot back. "Luca's made a very reasonable request, I think. Stop messing in his sister's life, and stop enticing her into schemes she can't afford not to take up. If Diablo are valuable to you, maybe you should start treating them with the respect they deserve. After couldn't afford to lose a third act, now could you?"
Luca stared at his girlfriend in disbelief, as Rory glared at her venomously from behind his desk.
"You always were a liability to me." He muttered. "Get out, you worthless slut. It's no business of yours what goes on here, and I'll treat my employees how I choose, whatever you threaten me with. I..."
Rory stopped in mid-flow, staggering back and putting a hand to his jaw. Luca stood there, his eyes blazing with fury.
"Don't you ever call her that again, else you'll be the one in the hospital bed." He seethed. "That was for my sister, and for what you did to my girlfriend, too. You listen to me, Rory, and listen damn good. Diablo aren't nobodies. You either treat us right, and leave Stefana alone, or we'll find someone else to represent us. And don't go snivelling to me about your lawyers. We're not helpless in this world and we're not fools. You're not legit, and we know enough to have you shut down for life. So tread carefully, huh?"
He put an arm around Emily's shoulders, turning to leave, but as he reached the door, he paused.
"Oh yes. And learn to treat people with the respect they deserve. It will take you far."
With that he was gone, banging the door, and leaving Rory staring after him.
"Wow." Emily's eyes were big with shock. " hit him! Sheesh, Luca! I didn't expect you to go for him!"
"Well, he insulted you." Luca's eyes were still blazing with anger. "I'm not having that, not even if he is my boss. I meant what I said, Em. If he kicks us out, well, we'll find something else. I'm not having him treat us like his belongings any more, and I won't have him messing Stef's head up. I want her to get better, and I don't want him causing trouble for her."
He paused, meeting her gaze.
"And I love you." He said finally. "I'm not going to let any man badmouth you. Not ever. You mean too much to me for that."
He smiled slightly.
"Thank you for coming to help. I didn't expect it."
"I owed it. Stefana and I are even." Emily shrugged, linking her arm in his more tightly. "And as for you, you can punch out Rory on my behalf any time. You were amazing, Luca...I've never seen you such a spitfire before."
"Well, it's in the Ranieri blood. You do know my sister." Luca's anger was cooling now, and he looked sheepish. "But he asked for it. Now come on - let's go get Mike. I think I need to be as far away from Rebel Records as possible while the dust settles and Rory works out what he's going to do."
"I think Rory will prove how intelligent a man he really is, and he'll realise he can't afford to lose Diablo." Emily said wisely. "He lost me and he lost Blade. He won't lose you. However much he's seething, Luca, I don't think his precious company could afford it."
"I'm rather counting on that being the case." Luca looked rueful. Emily laughed.
"Don't worry." She told him. "And whatever the outcome, you did a damn good thing today - for Stef and for me. That can't be bad, right?"
"I suppose not." Gently Luca kissed her. "You both mean more to me than him and his stupid company do, anyway."
"I'm glad to hear it." Emily's eyes sparkled. "But don't go telling my son this story, huh? Even though you defended Mommy's honour, I'm doing my best not to bring him up a hooligan."
"Message noted." Luca winked. "I'm not usually a hooligan myself, but he upset me."
He shrugged. "But it's over now. Come on. Time to hit the beach."

Chapter One: Madeleine

Chapter Two: Remeniscences
Chapter Three: A Shock For Topaz
Chapter Four: Marissa
Chapter Five: Dilemmas
Chapter Six: Ranieri vs Ranieri
Chapter Seven: Home Truths
Chapter Eight: The Bridesmaids
Chapter Nine: An Olive Branch
Chapter Ten: Stag Night
Chapter Eleven: Demons...and Angels

Chapter Twelve: A Broken Secret

Copper, Nancy, Sylva, Anna, Blade, Raesha, 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. The future world of Pizzazz, Raya, Jetta, Roxy, Stormer, Clash, Synergy, the fate of Jem and her memorial are all copyrighted to me. The future world of Kimber and Shana is copyrighted jointly to myself and Gemma Dawn.
The concept of 'Jewel' is entirely my own, and any apparent link with any fictional or actual person or persons of this name is entirely coincidental. Equally the characters in this fiction are not based on any real life individual.
The concept behind the future world of Danse, Aja and Craig, the idea behind Jerrica's futureworld and the split of the Holograms is copyrighted to Gemma Dawn, whose Teenangel Outsiders fiction is directly twinned with Just a Dream. The character Sammi and any of the other Teenangel Outsider characters mentioned in this fiction are entirely copyright to Gemma Dawn and appear here only with her permission.
Pay her page a visit!