Chapter Eleven: Binding

"Has anyone seen Marissa this morning?"

Madeleine pottered out of her friend's bedroom, stifling a yawn as she ran a brush through her thick curly hair. "She borrowed my boots yesterday, and she's not in her room...I was hoping to reclaim them, but the boots aren't there either and her bed doesn't look slept in. Anyone seen her?"

"It's not even nine, Maddy - where the hell is she going to be?" Stefana glanced up from the couch, pushing aside the magazine she had been reading. "Even Mari doesn't go out sight seeing that early...she must have gone down for breakfast or something."

"But there's plenty of food up here." Madeleine dropped down into the seat opposite, reaching over to grab an apple from the bowl on the table. "Someone call room service?"

"Me." Stefana shrugged. "I'm not eating in a restaurant full of gawking British people if I can eat in the security of my hotel room, thank you! The croissants are edible and since our trip to Wissex we've not been able to eat in a public place without someone asking us questions about it."

"No, that's true." Madeleine frowned, taking a bite out of her apple.

"What's true?" Luca poked his head out from his bedroom at that juncture. "Sophie here yet?"

"No...and nor is Mari." Madeleine told him. "Is Clay in the shower?"

"Haven't seen him." Luca shrugged. Stefana pulled a face.

"Ick." She said, grimacing. "No prizes for guessing what happened to them last night, then. Ick. When we're on tour, too!"

"Well, at least they didn't choose to do it round here." Luca looked amused. "We had last night off, Stef...if Clay wanted to take Mari out, that's their business. No doubt they'll be back soon. Sophie said she'd be here around nine to go through today's timetable, so..."

"So it's well past half eight now." Madeleine glanced up at the clock. "It's not like Marissa to miss a deadline."

"Yes, I'm sure that's top of her thoughts right at the moment." Stefana pulled another face. "Ew. Put me off my breakfast, now!"

Luca laughed.

"They're adults." He said good-naturedly. "Did anyone speak to Clay yesterday afternoon, by the way? I wanted to ask how his lunch with Mason went. He seemed...almost reconciled to talking it all out when last I spoke to him, but I wondered if there was anything more."

"Didn't see him at all yesterday, after we left the hotel." Stefana shrugged. "Mari and I went shopping, she came back here to look for him and I got a taxi into the city to buy some new fishnets. Maddy?"

"Not me." Madeleine shook her head. "I got caught by a hub of fans in the middle of the town centre and it took me ages to get away from them. They had plenty of questions, of course...for which I had very few answers to give them! By the time I got free of them, it was getting on towards tea and I didn't see Clay or Mari then."

"So then we're right, and they did go out together last night." Luca shrugged. "Mystery solved."

Before anyone else could speak, there was a short, sharp knock at the door, and Madeleine got to her feet, moving to let their business agent in. Sophie was, as ever, perfectly turned out and she offered Madeleine a slight smile, pushing the door shut behind her.

"Good morning." She said in her gently accented tones. "I'm glad to see you remembered I was coming."

"It's hard to forget." Stefana muttered. "What fun junk are we doing today then? Photoshoots, isn't it?"

"And an interview." Sophie nodded. "I...but where are Clay and Marissa? Are they still asleep?"

"No idea." Stefana said succinctly. "Since their beds ain't slept in, and none of us have seen them this morning, we kinda drew our own conclusions as to where they are...and that should tell you why there's no way in hell I'm calling Mari's cell to find out. They'll be here when they get here. Tell us what we need to know and we'll pass it on."

Disapproval flashed across Sophie's face.

"There has been a lot of this behaviour on this tour." She observed quietly. "It displeases me and it will displease Rory. You are not here on your time, but on ours."

"And you're lecturing the wrong people." Stefana retorted, before either of her companions could speak. "We're here. Take it up with Mari and Clay. We're not the ones gallivanting round this hedge-filled hell hole looking for kicks. Okay? Just tell us what you want us to know and we'll tell them when they get back."

"And when we go to Brighton at the end of the week, am I to be chasing you all around Sussex just to pass on tour information?" Sophie demanded. "C'est tant pis! I won't have this going on. You are supposed to be a responsible, professional act and your tour is important! So is the impression you give to the public. Do you not understand that? It affects all of you, if some of you are not behaving properly. I will not have scandal and rumour while I am in charge of you all! I want to know where they are and I want them back here within the hour! If not..."

Before she could finish, however, the door of the hotel room swung open to reveal the missing musicians, Marissa's hand flying to her mouth as she registered Sophie.

"Oh God." She said, then glanced at Clay and burst into giggles. Clay offered her a wry smile, then,

"I guess my watch has stopped." he said to Sophie, causing Marissa to go off into more giggles. "Sorry, Sophie. Is it nine o' clock already?"

"I expect to find you here in the morning, not somewhere where I cannot reach you." Sophie told him frostily. "Clay, your behaviour on this tour has been troublesome from the start. Do you wish to be fined?"

"Right now, Sophie, you could dock me a whole year's pay and I wouldn't bat an eyelid." Clay said simply. "But I'm sorry we were late. We got caught in traffic and the cabbie insisted on hitting the slow lane all the way back from...all the way back to the hotel. But we're here now, right? No harm done? It's only just past nine o' clock, and we're all eager to hear what you've got planned for us next."

Sophie glowered at him.

"This will be mentioned to Rory." She said quietly. "In the meantime, I want you to guard your own conduct. When we go to Sussex at the end of the week, we will be staying in Brighton and that's a busy, bustling city. I do not want to lose you as easily as I seem to be able to in you understand me? I will expect you to be within my easy reach at all times, in case plans change."

"We'll keep it in mind." Clay nodded his head. Sophie pursed her lips, but made no further comment. Instead she opened the manila file she had with her, pulling out several sheets of paper.

"Your itinerary." She said frankly. "For the rest of the week. In two hours, a car will pick you up for the photoshoot. You will eat lunch at that venue, then be taken to the local radio station for an which I expect you to answer all questions thrown your way. After that, I shall expect you to be at the last concert venue at eight o' clock. There will be penalties for lateness."

"We won't be late, Sophie." Madeleine said softly, reaching over to take a sheet of paper. "I promise. We'll all be there."

"See that you are." Sophie said curtly. "I have plenty of things to do. Dress yourselves, and think about what I have said. I will not tolerate any more of this behaviour from any of you."

With that she was gone, banging the door behind her, and Luca let out a low whistle.

"You're pushing all her buttons this tour, Clay." He observed. "What the hell were you up to last night?"

"Or maybe we really don't want to know." Stefana said dryly. "We don't need a diagram, thank you."

"Actually, we didn't." Marissa said with a shrug. "Not what you're thinking, anyhow."

She reached down to unzip the boots, pulling them off and holding them out to Madeleine. "Here. Sorry, Mad. I forgot I had your boots on when we left yesterday...I had other things on my mind at the time."

"Thanks." Madeleine took them, nonplussed. "I wondered where they'd got to."

"So if you didn't seclude yourself in some lovenest somewhere, what did you do last night?" Stefana demanded. "Because none of us saw anything of you from yesterday afternoon till can't tell me you didn't stop in some hotel somewhere? Surely you can't tell me you took Marissa out clubbing and kept her out all night, Clay! Even I've never managed to do that."

"We've neither of us been to bed yet." Clay admitted. He met Marissa's gaze, and she burst into laughter once more.

"Trains aren't easy to sleep on." She added mischievously.

"Trains?" Luca stared. "Where did you get a train to?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Marissa bantered playfully.

"If you're going to be like that about it..." Luca shrugged, grinning at her. "It just seemed weird."

"Well, we took a trip yesterday." Clay said simply. "There's a train from London straight up to Edinburgh - did you know that?"

"Edinburgh?" Madeleine stared. "Scotland? You took her to Scotland last night?"

"Well, I thought it would be nice for Mari to see something of my homeland." Clay spread his hands. "It's only five hours from Euston, and London's only an hour or so's taxi drive from the hotel. We made good time, really."

"So...six hours there, six hours back..." Madeleine counted on her fingers. "Was it worth it? You couldn't have had more than a few hours there."

"We didn't need more than a few hours." Marissa's eyes shone. "We went to see an old friend of Clay's mother."

"Um." Stefana shot her friend a funny look. "Huh?"

Clay and Marissa exchanged another look, then Marissa relented.

"Clay and I went to Scotland last night because Clay knew this guy could help us at short notice. He's done it before." She said softly. "In fact, when Clay's Mom met Gary, he took care of everything for them, too. Guys, Clay and I went to Scotland because...well, yesterday he asked me to marry him. And...well...I said yes."

"What?" Stefana looked floored. "You eloped? And you didn't tell me?"

"Holy..." Madeleine stared. "You're serious?"

"Totally." Clay nodded his head. "You are looking at Mr and Mrs Blake."

He grinned.

"No rings yet, because it was all such short notice. But yes. Aren't you going to congratulate us?"

"Wow." Luca shook his head slowly. "I'm waiting for the punchline...Clay, I always knew you were insane, but...?"

"It's not insane." Marissa defended her husband. "We both feel the same about it, and we both made the decision to do it last night. When we get back to America, we're going to have a proper shindig to celebrate, but we wanted to do it. and now. mattered to do it now."

"I don't follow." Madeleine frowned. "Why? Why not just wait till you got home? Why run off to a guy in Scotland when you could have a big ceremony back in the States with all your friends?"

"Because Mason Hawthorne seems to think he can tell me who to see and who to marry." Clay said firmly. "And if there's any remote chance of me getting involved with this Wissex business to any degree...well, I want to make sure everything else is firmly settled where he can't intervene."

He bit his lip.

"Mari and I both know that, if I do decide to take this on, there's a chance it may force me out of Diablo. Either in the short or the long term." He added. "I don't want it and neither does she. I love playing with this group. But in a sense, I also can't turn my back and walk away from a situation which could cause people to get hurt. People who had nothing to do with my mother or how Mason treated her. That's kinda beyond me. It sounds dumb, but in that sense, I guess I do have a duty to do the right thing. I'm not decided yet, but...well, if it did come to it..."

"We wanted Mason to be left in no doubt as to Clay's marital situation." Marissa finished softly. "And if it did mean him staying here...whether now or in the future, I wanted there to be no doubt that I'd be with him - regardless. That's why it was important we do it here and now."

"So you're basically saying that, if you become Earl, Diablo goes down the tubes and you take my best friend away from me to some dive in England?" Stefana demanded.

"We're hoping not." Clay shook his head. "Neither of us want to lose Diablo."

"Well, I still think you're both mad." Madeleine decided. "As if Mason can force you to marry someone else, Clay. I just hope you haven't jumped into something too quickly and for the wrong can you know for sure that this isn't just a reaction to his demands?"

"We can't." Marissa said calmly. "But then again, how can you be sure that it isn't? Maddy, I love Clay. He loves me. Aren't you even a little bit happy for us? Any of you?"

"Of course we are." Luca said hastily. "We're just, well, shell shocked. It's a lot to take in first thing in the morning, before I've even had my coffee. But if you guys are really sure about it, and well, you know it's the right thing then sure. Congratulations. I can't think of a couple who better deserve to be happy than you two."

"Thanks, Luca." Gratitude flickered in Clay's expression. "And yeah, I know it seems mad right at the moment. runs deeper than it might seem. I mean, all Mason did was open my eyes to what I really wanted, that's all. It didn't put ideas into my head. It just woke me up to what was already there."

"Well, I wish we'd never come to England." Stefana said darkly. "Then we would never have met Mason stupid Hawthorne and you wouldn't be talking about taking Mari half a world away and ditching our band."

"That's worst case scenario." Marissa said softly. "But Clay and I are going to go speak to Mason ourselves, after the interview this afternoon. Make it clear what our situation is and tell him our feelings on the subject. With any luck, he'll back off Clay and find someone else to be his heir. Maybe he'll even disinherit him, if he's mad enough about our elopement. That's sort of what we hope, anyhow."

"Then we can all go back to America and back to sanity." Clay agreed. "Honestly, it's where I'd much rather be."

"Farah will kill you, you know." Stefana pointed out. Marissa nodded.

"I know." She said resignedly. "But hopefully she'll be too excited for gossip to be mad at me for long."

She sent Stefana a beseeching look.

"Please don't hate me for this, Stef." She said. "I know it all happened out of the blue, but it doesn't mean you've lost me as a friend, or ever will. You should know me better than that."

Stefana sighed.

"I do." She acknowledged. "But it won't be the same."

"Sure it will." Marissa reached out to squeeze her hand. "I'd never ditch you. That's a matter how many Earls in Waiting I elope with."

Clay raised his eyebrow, and she laughed.

"Well, you know what I mean." She amended. She stifled a yawn. "And, if I don't fall asleep first...I'm going to go shower and get changed into something fresh. Lord knows we'd better not upset Sophie any more by being late again!"

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

"It's a veritable treasure trove in 'ere, you know."

Laura pushed open the door of the dining room, pausing as she registered her friend's presence. "Those your old Dad's medals? There sure are a lot of them."

"I'm sorry. They're kinda in the way, ain't they." Jetta looked rueful, turning to face her friend. "Yes. They are. I'm tryin' to work out the best way to get them back to Wissex, but the more I think about it, Laura, the more I realise I need to take them an' give them the warnin' about Trevor. I don't know if it's possible to do that without revealin' to them who I am or what I know...but I know if I were in their shoes, I'd appreciate bein' warned."

"I don't know if you should go back there." Laura looked doubtful. "You were upset enough by the last visit, Sheila - do you think it's a good idea?"

"What other skeletons are there to face?" Jetta shrugged her shoulders. "It won't come as a shock to me, seein' that portrait over again now I know what to expect. An' I'm resigned to it, Laura. I've 'ad enough sleepless nights. I 'ate it, but I can shut the door on it once I've returned these to their mothership. They're the last piece, in a way, of that past that's weighin' me down."

"Well, if that's how you feel..." Laura pursed her lips. "Do you want me to come with you? I 'ave to visit Tesco sometime this afternoon, but I can put it off till later if you want some company. Or is Justin comin' with you?"

"No...I sent Justin off with 'is camera." Jetta shook her head. "He was talkin' about gettin' some pictures of the area before we left an' I figured that 'e's been 'ere at me beck an' call most of the time - there's no 'arm in 'im getting some shots in before we go back 'ome. He's more than earnt it."

She picked up the nearest medal, glancing at it, then brushing a speck of dust off the ribbon.

"I appreciate the offer, but it's okay. I need to do this on my own, Laura. It's my skeleton, an' I 'ave to bury it meself."

"If that's how you feel." Laura nodded her head. "But you're welcome to use my car, if you want. I can always wait till Keith gets 'ome an' take 'is - or I'll go upstairs an' fight with Kyle's computer, order the grub online. Your need is greater."

"Thanks." Jetta looked amused. "I can try an' pick up a few things on my way back, if you've got a list."

"Oh, sure." Laura grinned, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a folded sheet of paper. "If you don't mind. I'll give you some cash...that would 'elp tons. I still 'ave a bunch of hooverin' to do."

"I'll settle for it." Jetta took the list, shaking her head. "Justin an' me 'ave eaten your food all week...least I can do is 'elp replenish your cupboards. It's no big deal...I'll see what I can find. Been a while since I went into a British supermarket...but I'm sure I can remember 'ow they work."

"I'm sure you can." Laura laughed. "All right. But don't be too late back, if you can help it? I've enough for dinner tonight, but I'd rather not cook twice."

"Don't worry. If for any reason I'm delayed, I'll grab me own dinner." Jetta assured her. "I'm a big girl now,' I'm a better cook than I was when we lived together. Livin' with Justin's done that for me if nothin' else - he's so damn good at it it spurred me into learnin', so 'e didn't show me up."

Carefully she began to re-wrap the medals in the faded old tissue paper, placing them back into the ice cream tub. "I wonder what Grandpa would 'ave thought of all this, you findin' out all of the family secrets this way, with noone 'ere to fill in the blanks."

"I think he wanted to keep you well away from them, and with good reason." Laura looked pensive. "I've not seen you so unsettled in a long time, if you want the truth. But I'm glad you've found peace with it - however you've done it. You ain't what your bloodlines tell you, after all. You're who you make yourself. An' you've worked damn 'ard at that side of it."

"Yes." Jetta nodded her head. "I'm comin' round to that way of thinkin'. I don't know if I'd rather 'ave known nothin' of this at all, in truth...if I'd rather Dad 'ad just died an' taken it all with 'im. If it would 'ave been so bad, thinkin' meself a Burns for all eternity. It's not a pretty pedigree, but at least it was one I understood. In a world I understood."

She sighed, pushing the lid on the ice cream carton.

"This is another world." She owned. "Full of murder an' intrigue an' babies stashed in wooden boxes. It makes me realise 'ow close I probably came to bein' killed. When you add to the picture the shots Jeremy took at me..."

She shook her head.

"At least now I can pity 'im instead of 'ate him, the poor sod." She added. "Psycho or not, 'e 'ad the family curse an' there was nothin' 'e could do about it. He didn't choose to be a monster. 'Is blood decided it for 'im."

"Yes, there is that." Laura agreed. "Do you worry, then, about it appearin' in one of your brats?"

"No...I know them both too well to even think about it." Jetta shook her head. "But their kids? Maybe. Maybe it's a damn good thing that Nancy ain't interested in' that Aaron's wife may not be able to conceive. It might be safer for all concerned if they adopted, an' didn't carry this cursed bloodline on any further."

"But then, not all Hawthorne babies are cursed." Laura said gently. "Look at you. Nancy. Aaron. Taylor. You ain't monsters. An' any mother's son or daughter can be lost in the wits, regardless of whether they're 'Awthorne or otherwise. You know that. Jeremy's madness may 'ave come from 'is genes...but it doesn't mean 'is kids or grandkids - or your own - will be touched by it."

"I know that." Jetta nodded. "But then, there's always the risk now, isn't there?"

She sighed.

"I wish I knew if I should tell Aaron an' Nancy about this." She added. "Or if I should let things go an' just tell them the important bits. I don't know if it's important...or if it'd just scare them."

"What about Taylor?"

"I 'ave no intention of tellin' Taylor." Jetta shook her head. "Jeremy was 'is father an' I've no plans to break to 'im the news 'is Pa's lunacy might well be inherited. His kids are more at risk than mine in that sense...I won't 'ave him scared out of 'is wits over somethin' 'e can't prevent. I'll just 'ope for the best."

"I think that's wise." Laura nodded. "He'd take it to heart, Taylor. An' he's already 'ad a miserable enough time of it, in terms of 'is background an' childhood. He's finally happy an' settled with a family of 'is own. No, Sheila, I think you're right. He doesn't need to know what he can't change...and I think the risk is a small one."

"Yeah, let's all hope so." Jetta said grimly. "And with that said, I suppose I better be headin' off to Wissex. If I'm goin' to face off with the blasted Earl an' get your shoppin' before Keith gets in, I'd best motor!"

Prologue: London, England
Chapter One: England's Rose
Chapter Two: Delving
Chapter Three: Wissex
Chapter Four: Grace
Chapter Five: Revelations
Chapter Six: Facing Shadows
Chapter Seven: A Change In Plans
Chapter Eight: County Show
Chapter Nine: Trevor Hawthorne
Chapter Ten: A Sea Chest
Chapter Eleven: Binding
Chapter Twelve: Homecoming
Chapter Thirteen: Hawthorne Blood
Chapter Fourteen: Mayfair

The copyright for the original Jem characters featured in this and other stories by me belongs entirely to Hasbro and their interpretations to Christy Marx and the other writers of the Sunbow Jem series. Their future selves are based on concepts that are entirely my own and are not to be repeated elsewhere without due permission.
All other characters, including their likenesses, are copyrighted to myself as webmistress of Jewel's World from 2001 to the present day and are not to be reproduced elsewhere without permission.
The Teenangel Outsiders, Jesta, Flame, Ryan Montgomery and the future interpretations of Aja, Danse and certain of the other original characters are all or in part the concept of Gemma Dawn whose teenangel outsider fiction world is twinned with Jewel's World. You can visit her site at!
All events in the stories on this site are based on original ideas and are not rooted in any existing Jem fiction nor in any real life event or person.