Disclaimer – I don't own any of these characters.

Note -- This is my first fan fic, so please bear with me. This first chapter is a bit long,
but it basically lays the ground work for what will happen later in the story. I'd love to
know what you think!

Falling Back by SnownIce

When she walked through the halls of school these days, Emma Nelson felt like a
stranger, an alien from some faraway galaxy.

All around her, people seemed to have their lives. They were so many happy couples –
Paige and Spinner who always seemed to be baby-talking to one another, Toby and
Kendra who were so compatible that it could make a person sick, Sean and Ellie who just
seemed so comfortable with one another (in a way that Emma thought she and Sean
never seemed to be), Jimmy and Hazel who had just gotten together but seemed totally in

Chris was supposedly her boyfriend these days, and he was amazing and smart and
cool, but even with him, she didn't feel like herself. She felt like she was only acting out
some part. Sometimes, she watched Chris while he was spinning, and he looked so
happy, like there was nothing that could possibly compare with the beat of the music and
all those bodies dancing. There was nothing in her life right now that made her feel that
way. Nothing.

Even Manny, who'd been through such a rough time with Craig, seemed to be having
fun. At the pep rally last week, Emma had watched Manny as she performed with the
spirit squad, and it was obvious how happy she was to be out there, to be a part of that

Happiness was a foreign concept to Emma these days. All she really felt was tired.

When she passed friends, she'd smiled just like she always used to, and she'd still gossip
sometimes in the bathroom with Liberty. But none of it felt right. It didn't feel good,
that was for sure. It was almost like she felt nothing at all.

Maybe Emma didn't allow herself to feel, because if she did, then she'd have to
remember every single horrible detail of her life, and then all she'd feel is the pain.

She'd have to deal with the fact that her father was sick, really sick, and the chemo that
was supposed to be making him better only seemed to be wearing him down more. She'd
have to deal with the fact that her mother, already overwhelmed with a new baby, had to
live with the knowledge that she might lose her husband. She'd have to deal with the fact
that Manny, her oldest friend in the world, wasn't speaking to her these days, that most of
the time, they couldn't even look one another in the eye.

She'd have to deal with the fact that the only boy she'd ever loved had smashed her heart
in a million pieces, and hadn't even seemed to feel bad about it; it almost seemed like he
enjoyed it. She'd have to deal with the fact that even though she'd moved on from Sean
to Chris, she still hadn't really invested herself in that relationship. Maybe because she
realized that it was only a matter of time before it felt apart like everything else in her

Why would Emma want to deal with any of that? It was better to just be numb. Better
not to feel anything at all.

As she walked to English, where a test on MacBeth was waiting for her, she realized that
things really couldn't get much worse. At least she could take comfort in that.

In the crowded hallway, she thought she heard someone call her name but she couldn't be
bothered to turn around and check.

"Hey Emma! Wait up!" Someone called from behind her. She was sure that she heard it
this time, but she still wanted to pretend that she hadn't, so she would be left alone.

Finally she turned, and found Craig jogging up to her. He looked worried and maybe a
little bit afraid.

"Emma, hey," he said quietly. He walked beside her, matching his pace to hers, and
leaned in close, so he could whisper to her. "Joey told me that your dad isn't doing too
well these days. I mean, I can see that myself actually, so I just wanted to make sure you
were doing okay. See if you wanted to talk or whatever."

There was a time when Craig's concern would have made her feel better, and Emma
would have taken him up on his offer to talk. But so much had changed recently, and her
friendship with him was as empty as everything else in her life. After what he'd done to
Ashley and Manny, Emma just didn't feel like she could trust him. It made her feel like
she'd never really known him in the first place.

"I'm fine, Craig," she said. There was no emotion in her voice. "I gotta go or I'll be late
for class."

Emma turned the corner without looking back. She started to walk faster, just wanting to
get to class without having to talk to another person. When she stopped at the water
fountain to get a sip of water, she felt a headache coming on. She stood up slowly,
closing her eyes, and took a deep breath. She could get through the day, the week, all of
it, if she just kept it together.

Suddenly, she could tell that someone had come up behind her, standing close enough
that she could feel the sleeve of a shirt brushing against her bare arm. A hand appeared
over her shoulder, holding out a purple and blue pen. Emma recognized the pen as her
own, and she recognized the hand too. She felt like she might throw up, and her heart
beat wildly in her chest. The day had suddenly gotten much, much worse.

The absolute last person on earth that she wanted to talk to was Sean Cameron. She'd
rather chew glass than have to look at his face.

But Emma turned slowly, almost like she couldn't stop herself. When she looked into
Sean's eyes, she didn't see what she expected in them. She didn't see the anger, hatred,
and disgust that he'd been shooting her way for months now. It was almost like there
was no emotion in his eyes, like he felt nothing at all for her. Somehow that was worse
than hatred. Emma wanted to cry – the first real feeling she'd had in weeks – and hated
herself for it. It was beyond stupid to care at all what Sean Cameron thought of her.

"Here," he said, shaking the pen at her. "You dropped this."

Emma didn't say a word, just took the pen and nodded quickly. Sean sighed, and
disappeared into the crowded hallway.

Those were the first words he'd spoken to her in months that weren't full of anger and
rage, but even after he was gone, Emma's heart pounded, and her stomach ached. She
leaned back against the wall, and closed her eyes.

What is wrong with me, Emma wondered. The problem was there were no easy answers.


You just know your day is going to suck when you realize you have an English test in
two minutes, and you can't even remember what book you were supposed to read. That's
the way that Sean's day was shaping up. Way to go, he thought to himself. Another F to
add to the collection.

But he had bigger things on his mind now. For some reason, he couldn't stop thinking
about his run-in with Emma. Run-in? It barely lasted fifteen seconds, and consisted of
about three words. Emma hadn't even spoken to him. She could barely look him in the

For so long, Sean had been more angry with her than anything else. He couldn't look at
her without wanting to put his fist through a wall. He'd hated her because she wasn't
what he wanted her to be, because she was so damn sure of who she was, because she
never let him forget what he could be if he only tried and made an effort. He'd hated her
because she always seemed to make him feel not good enough, not smart enough, not
everything enough, for her.

Then, he'd started to hate her because every time he looked at her, he could feel the guilt
deep inside him, growing bigger and bigger every minute. The way he'd treated her, the
things he'd said to her, the way he'd broken every promise that he'd ever made to her. It
made him feel terrible, and that wasn't anything he wanted to feel. It was so much easier
to hate Emma, so much easier to pretend that it was all her fault.

Sean had been with Ellie for a while now, and she made him feel like everything might
actually turn out all right in the end. Yeah, Ellie was amazing, but he'd still look at
Emma, and feel like a screw-up. She didn't even have to say anything, and he felt like a
loser. He'd watch her out of the corner of his eye, taking a test, taping up posters for her
stupid environmental club, laughing with that loser of a boyfriend she had these days, and
Sean just felt like crap. It never got any better.

Then, one night, Ellie had been talking to him about how sometimes it was best to just let
go of the guilt, that you couldn't torture yourself over and over again with every bad
mistake you'd ever made. She was talking about a character in a movie they were
watching, but she may as well have slipped his and Emma's names into the conversation.
Sean got the message. Finally.

When he went to school the next day, and really looked at Emma again, he saw
something that all the anger and guilt hadn't allowed him to see.

Emma was just not herself these days. She seemed like she was lost or something. She
did all the same things that she'd always done, but there wasn't that look in her eyes, that
bright spark of passion and excitement. When he looked at her closer, he started to
realize that no one else around her seemed to notice. They all carried on like nothing was
wrong, treated her like good, old dependable Emma, who never needed anyone's help.

The really scary part was that Sean thought he knew exactly what Emma was feeling.

The dead, bored look in her eyes reminded him of exactly how he'd started to feel
months ago, the way he still felt most of the time. It was the dark feeling that hanging
out with Jay and the guys had driven off for a while, but hadn't completely gotten rid of.
It was the feeling that Ellie seemed to be able to keep in check, though even she couldn't
do it all the time.

It was the sickening feeling that there was just nothing good left in life, that no one could
change that, that nothing would ever get better.

Now Sean saw all that in Emma, but he didn't know what to do. They weren't even close
to being friends. Deep down, though he didn't want to admit it, he knew that she hated
him, and that she had every reason for that. It wasn't like he could go up to her and have
a heart-to-heart. Say, "Hey, Emma, I know what you're going through, and it really,
really sucks." He didn't really want to do that anyway.

Sean couldn't help himself – how was he supposed to help Emma, a person he only
seemed capable of hurting.

When she dropped her pen, it was like some outside force had made him pick it up. He
hadn't thought about it, just did before he could reconsider. Look how well that had
turned out.

Maybe he just should face it – he was a screw-up.


He heard his name called again, and then Ellie came up behind him, smiling softly. Sean
smiled back, but he didn't really feel it.

"What's wrong?" Ellie asked him, looking at him carefully.


"You sure? You looked … spooked or something."

"Nah. It's just that I have this test and I'm pretty much screwed for it, so…"

Ellie nodded, and patted his arm.

"Just relax. You'll be fine." She leaned in to kiss his cheek, and that small gesture made
him feel a little bit better.

"I'll see you at lunch," Sean told her, heading toward his English room.

When he got to class, everyone seemed stupidly hyper, going over the test material one
last time, frantically asking one another questions, and just generally freaking out.

At her desk, Emma sat motionless, staring off into space. She held the pen that he'd
returned to her in a tight fist.

Sean took his own seat, and tried to remember what book he was about to be tested on.
That was easier than thinking about how he and Emma both seemed screwed-up these

- x –

If I had a dollar for every dirty look I've gotten today, Craig thought to himself as he
headed for the soda machine, I'd practically have enough to buy a new guitar.

He'd already had to deal with Ashley glaring at him in History, Paige making snide
comments to Spinner about Craig's love life in gym, and Manny watching him with her big,
sad eyes while he got his books from his locker. It was too much for anyone to deal with.

These days, Craig felt like he had a big red C stitched across his chest – C for cheater
because that's the way every girl at school seemed to see him now. Even before, when
he'd tried to talk to Emma about the rough stuff she was going through, she'd seemed
like she couldn't bear to talk to him, like she just didn't trust him anymore. Craig had
only wanted to help her out, and she'd like she was contaminated just from being near

Yeah, he was public enemy number 1 with the female population at Degrassi these days.
Most of the guys looked at him like he was kind of hero, patting him on the back and
smirking at him like they shared a secret or something. That only made him feel worse.

God, he just felt so tired lately. Dealing with all the Ashley/Manny fallout was the most
exhausting, but he had an English paper due tomorrow that he hadn't even started and a
Calculus test to study for and Joey had a list of chores as long as his arm for Craig to do
this week.

Things can't get much worse, he thought to himself as he took change out of his pocket
for the soda machine. He needed caffeine if he was ever going to get through the day.

Craig slipped his money into the machine, and pressed the button for Coke. He waited,
but the machine didn't do anything. He pressed the button again and waited, but still
nothing happened. When he pounded on the coin return button, the machine still didn't
respond. The frustration built, and Craig started to pound on the machine like a madman.

"Why do these things keep happening to me?" he whined aloud. He banged his head
against the machine slowly.

"Maybe because you're a lying, cheating jerk?" a female voice behind him offered.

When Craig turned, Ellie was standing behind him, holding a handful of change herself.
She used her shoulder to rudely push him out of the way, so she could stand in front of
the soda machine herself.

"You know, maybe Sean likes this rough stuff, but I don't, all right?" Craig said snidely.

"I save all my violent impulses for dogs like you. Don't you feel special?" Ellie smiled
sweetly, but he could see the venom in her eyes. She put her money in the machine, and
considered her choices.

"I made a mistake, all right?" Craig said finally. "A pretty awful, terrible mistake, but I
didn't kill anybody's puppy or anything."

"Knowingly stomping all over someone's heart is more than a mistake," Ellie told him.
Craig watched as her can of orange soda fell from the machine easily, without problem.
It was official – his life totally sucked. "And in your case, it was two hearts, wasn't it?"

"I'm sorry for what I did, Ellie. Am I gonna have to pay for it for the rest of my life?"

"Your entire life? Probably not. The rest of your high school life, yes."

Craig threw his head back, and sighed.

"Look, could you tell Ash one more time that I'm sorry? That I really didn't mean to
hurt her or anything?"

"She's not going to listen. You're barely on her radar these days." Ellie picked up her
soda, and started to walk away. She stopped for a moment, though, and looked at Craig
intensely. "And for the record, I think Ash let you off easy. If it had been me, you'd be
lucky to still have all your vital organs in tact."

"Nice," Craig muttered to himself as he watched Ellie walk away.

He wasn't entirely sure if he wanted Ashley back, but he knew that he didn't want to live
like this anymore. He just couldn't take Ashley and Manny and Emma and Paige and
Ellie all hating his guts, acting like he was gum stuck to the bottom of their shoes.

Craig just wanted to get his old life back. Too bad he didn't have a clue how to do it.

Suddenly a thought hit him. Ellie was a little more enthusiastic in her hatred of him than
the rest of Ash's friends. It seemed to come a little too naturally for her. If Craig could
just win Ellie over, make her realize that he wasn't a total jerk, then Ash and the rest
would be a piece of cake.

There was only one problem. How was he going to get Ellie Nash to stop thinking of
him as the world's biggest jerk?