This Brilliant Dance

A/N: Just let me finish this out. The sequel is already in the works. I feel like I left Marco and Dylan on a really bad note and didn't do justice to what I was really trying to get across. (Hint: Dylan's not a good guy . . . the scene I wrote in Chapter 10 was meant to be almost a rape scene before Dylan got a hold of himself and let Marco go. If you didn't see this, rewind yourself to chapter 10 and find that part and re-read it.) I think this is going to be the final chapter of This Brilliant Dance. Look forward to a sequel. I am going on vacation for a week, but by the time I get back, I should have plenty of fresh ideas that I can't wait to pour out. Get ready and get set and keep checking out my stories. R/R.

Disclaimer: 'Alive' belongs to SR-71. 'Degrassi: The Next Generation' belongs to CTV and Epitome Pictures. Greatest love to everyone involved.

Chapter 11: Alive

I can't say exactly what drew me back to Dylan. It must be old memories; the thought that the Dylan that showed himself at his house that day couldn't possibly be the Dylan Michalchuk I know. However, I know this is a lie. I want Dylan, need Dylan, and there's no way I can keep living without him.

So I block out the fights. I hide the bruises, and I tune out any conversations about Rick and Terri. That was different. Rick is psychotic. He has so many neuroses. Dylan Michalchuk is a Degrassi God. His homosexuality is his only flaw to his followers, and I am his trophy wife. We are the poster gay couple. There's nothing wrong with that, except behind the scenes, we're anything but perfect.

Yes, he's hit me. Yes, I've cried. Yes, he even raped me once or twice. It's nothing he can control. His temper grabs a hold of the controls. I can't stop him; my love can't stop him. Eventually, he'll become himself again, and we'll smile and giggle; the real world not even coming close to penetrating our bubble.

I needed a way out. The cheating was it. I cheated, he cheated, and all around, it was a total basis for a horrible break-up. And then I saw him in the store, and I crumbled. Our love is too strong. Our love can overcome anything. It won't always be like this. He tells me. He's never lied before. I love him, and he loves me. We've both made mistakes because we're not perfect. It's easy to hide our fights from the world. It's easy to be the poster gay couple. We play the role to a 'T.'

So I hide. I hide with him. I hide under his covers in a game of hide-and-go-seek. The game turns rough and physical, but I'm so used to this, that I don't even think of it as wrong anymore. "Marco, I love you," he breathes.

I have nothing to say, so I don't say a word. Love is a concept thought up for a child. Love is what you have for your family. Love is not what Dylan and I have. I used to be a hopeless romantic. Now, I'm just a bitter realist with a burning hatred for all the happy people. Happiness is an illusion. Everyone wants to seem happy while they destroy themselves. I'm one of these people. I'm one of the fuck ups.

I crawl out of the bed later feeling dirty. I want to be with Sean, but I force the thought to the back of my head. "Only you and me baby," he says, kissing my hand gently. How can this gentle creature hurt me like he does? Obviously, he can't. Why do I keep thinking that this, my Dylan, is the one that hits me? It can't be.

I try to leave, but a hand grabs on to my arm and won't let go. "Please Dylan, stop Dylan, please," I whimper. It's all useless; I know it already. As I'm sucked back under the sheets, my tears tell me all I need to know: I need to get out.

"All he's asking is for a little more time,
to walk away from his anger,
and leave the bruises far behind."

"There's no way you can do this," I say, my voice radiating throughout the whole room.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I'm sorry."

"Please don't go. You're my everything. I have nothing to live for if you aren't in my life. Don't you see? Don't you see it?" I cry softly.

"I have to go now. Sean's waiting."

The truth is I know all of this. I know Ashley's been with Sean, and the fact that this started while we were still dating isn't exactly the shock of the century. I can't move from the bed, but I try. "You can't go. You can't leave me here with nothing."

"JT, please," I see the tears she's trying to hide. "This is so hard for me. Do you think I have a choice?"

"Yes, Ash, I do. We can all choose what we want to happen in our own lives."

"That's bull shit, JT, and you know it," she snaps.

"Tell me why you can't stay."

"If I don't move out, they'll send me to rehab. I can't go there. You know I'm not crazy, don't you? Well, yea, that's where they want me. However, since my mom is a lot better than I thought she would be, they're giving me the option of moving out. So, I'm moving in with Sean. I'm sorry, but I have nowhere else to go. It's either this or rehab."

"I can't believe you. You need help. You know that! You need help; you don't need to be messing around with someone like Sean Cameron. Sean Cameron doesn't give a rat's tail about anyone but his own self. Ashley, come on, be reasonable. He doesn't love you like I do. He never will."

"You don't know me at all. Everyone thinks I'm just some damn sensitive baby. I'm not crazy. I'm not. Sean knows I'm not. It seems like sometimes, he's the only one. I can't be with someone who thinks I'm crazy. I'm leaving JT."

My heart stops as I see her open the door to my hospital room. "Please don't go. You're not crazy." But it's too late. She's too far gone.

"She won't talk about it;
She's made up her mind.
When the front door shuts behind her,
she whispers 'give me a sign…'"

I can't believe I'm doing this. My parent's car, the open road, a bottle of vodka… It's probably not the best combination in the world, I will admit. There's nothing left in Degrassi for me anymore. I had one love. One love that so obviously didn't love me back. I have no one anymore. My best friend, my Emma, stole my one love away from me. And I didn't care.

The fact that I didn't care is the scary part. I watched it unfold underneath my nose, and I didn't care. I could've stopped it so many times, but I didn't. Maybe it would've happened anyway. But, maybe not.

I hit the gas, and the car makes it to 80. I don't dare go faster; I can't get caught. I stare at my cell phone, willing it to ring. No one cares enough to call. Who do I want to call? Do I want Craig to call, so I can suddenly have all these feelings for him? Do I want Emma to call, so I can have a much deserved apology? Do I want my parents to call, so I can at least know someone has noticed a missing girl? I doubt they'd even care about me as much as they care about the car gone missing. I sigh and realize I've accelerated to 90. I slow down a little and am thankful that no cops are around.

After four hours, I decide to stop in a motel parking lot. The motel is seedy, but I probably don't have enough money for a room. I crawl into the backseat and curl up under a blanket. I wake again at sun up, and I'm on the road again by 7.

I start to seriously worry as I near the U.S. border that I've been trying to avoid. I stare at my cell phone again disbelievingly. No one has called in over a day. No one's even called to say hi. It's so disappointing. Does no one in the world care about Manuela Santos? Is she a ghost to everyone?

Suddenly, I hear my new Beyonce ring tone, and my ears perk up. I pick up my phone and check the caller ID. I'm in such disbelief that I almost wreck. I balance my car again and put my phone to my ear.

It's Spinner Mason.

"She feels the power of the engine,
As she climbs to 65.
And every piston sounds like freedom.
And every white line says goodbye."

I sit by Ellie's gravestone, squeezing the life out of it. Praying that somehow I'd be able to find the answers here. Praying that someday I may be able to live my life without the constant thoughts of what could've been. But I know why she left.

I made her leave. I lied to her, and there was a horrible incident in which I cut her worse than she ever could cut herself. I have tried to bury the flashback to the deep abyss of my head, but it never seems to work. Her tears and look of utter confusion pierce through me like a sharpened blade through her perfect skin. "Why Sean? Why?" It's a horrible question. I have no idea what came over me.

She found out. She saw me looking at a guy in a way that I shouldn't. I don't know if she knew, but there was definitely the seed of the thought. So, it made me angry. And I was drunk. Not quite the best combination for me.

Deep down, there was still some love or sympathy. I could be in juve right now serving a pretty hefty term if she had wanted to prosecute. I even heard she lied to protect me.

I feel footsteps behind me and turn around, half expecting to see Ashley. "Ellie?" I ask to the approaching figure. She sits cross-legged directly in front of me. "You can't be here. You're dead. Don't you know you're supposed to be dead?"

"Death is trivial," she says flippantly. "I see everything."

"Everything?" I say, choking on the word.

"I don't watch the private stuff. It doesn't really interest me anymore."

"This is crazy. I'm hallucinating."

"Why, yes, Sean, that's exactly what you're doing. But I'm sure it would help you to talk to me. You never know if I'm real or not."

"Alright. So, why did you lie for me? I could've killed you."

She laughs. "Sean, I'm dead now anyways, a few months and the means of passing don't really matter anyway, right?"

"I couldn't be more responsible if I had put the exhaust in your car myself."

"You're talking crazy. I was demented. I couldn't be saved. Ashley can."

"What?"

"Ashley. She's doing rather badly. JT's got her pretty shook up. Don't let it get to her. This omnipotent power of being dead is really helpful sometimes. That kid had in coming. His drunken parents, his screwed up social skills; almost anyone could've predicted it. Ashley only delayed the inevitable."

"Sometimes it seems like JT saved her, and then I came to reclaim an easier version of her. I don't want that guilt."

"Sean, it's not. After what I put her through, which I've had a ton of time to think about, she's worse off than she was before JT. She needs you now. Don't let her go."

"So, wait, you're alright with us?"

"You need each other. Someone else may claim they need you, and they may have good reason, but remember Ashley. Remember what she gave up for you. You can give it up for her, too. Please, remember."

"I will, El. I love you."

"I love you too, Sean. Good night."

Her footsteps trail silently off. The alarm wakes me up, and I look over and see Ashley stirring a little. I lean down and kiss her forehead. "Good morning, baby," she says.

"Good morning, Ash," I answer. I tilt my head back so I'm staring at the ceiling. She's always so right.

"But she finds strength in her anger,
And the truth in his lies.
When the last scar finally fades,
She'll have a new life."

Memories of all of my past relationships haunt me. My first love, Jimmy Brooks. What went wrong? At what point were silly kisses and puppy dog affection not good enough? Jimmy broke me. He shattered me, to be completely correct. I watched it happen, and I allowed it to happen. I don't blame him anymore; in fact Jimmy and I are completely civil. But what would have happened if the old Ashley Kerwin had denied Jimmy Brooks access to her heart? Would she have been transformed either way?

Then, there's Craig. The boy who I once did everything in my power to destroy. At the time, I didn't see it. I didn't see how he could possibly do it. But, in the end, life is nothing but decisions that are made for us. It's all been pre-determined. To imagine that we have control is to dream. So, Craig cannot be blamed. It was a sorry set of events, but now I understand why they happened.

Lastly, there's JT. And there's JT. Once more, with feeling, there's JT. My JT. My savior. Could it be, maybe, even my everything? Until there was Sean Cameron. There is the JT Yorke that I broke. There is the persisting memory of a JT Yorke that I once loved. And there are nagging memories of a JT Yorke with no social skills who once checked out porn on my computer. There are a million different Ashley Kerwins, and a million different JT Yorkes. One of me and one of him fit perfectly together at one random moment in time. Sometimes, people are able to adapt their changing selves to another constantly changing person.

And sometimes they're not.

So, I'm turning my back on three different Mr. Rights. Some may even say I'm going blindly into the most serious relationship of my life with Mr. Wrong. Maybe they don't understand. Maybe they can't understand that I don't need a safe relationship. I'm not a safe girl. I'm crazy, and everyone will find this out in due time.

But, first, they'll find out about the horrible actions of the bitch, Ashley Kerwin. They'll talk. They'll whisper, but I'm sure some will scream. When will they realize that they can't change me? I am Ashley Kerwin. I have tamed your Degrassi gods. I have had my heart poured out for you year after year. You have watched my misery. You have rejoiced in it. You cannot rejoice anymore. You can only watch me. You can watch me live my life with my Mr. Wrong.

"Say goodbye,
To Mr. Right,
Lock the door, turn out the light."

"You talk to Paige, right?" I hear him ask. I'm totally not in the mood for Spinner/Paige bullshit.

"A little. Why?" I answer.

"You know we broke up?"

"No, I didn't. I'm sorry to hear that, Spin, but…"

"Well, Manny," he interrupts. "See, here's the thing. I'm worried about her. I can't really just pop up and ask how she's doing, and I'll tell you why. Number One – I don't want her getting the wrong idea, like I want her back or anything. I don't. Number Two – she wouldn't answer me truthfully anyway. She would either claim she's alright, or turn on the waterworks and try to guilt me back into a relationship. I need some way in and Hazel's out of the question. She has more loyalty to Paige than anyone else in this world. What I'm saying, is that I need you, Manny."

Someone needs me. It's a good feeling, but it soon fades. The fact that he needs me is not really a true fact. He needs someone, anyone. I'm just a good candidate for the job. "Well, Spin, I'll ask her about it."

"Can you ask her now?"

"I can call her," I offer rather generously.

"No. I want you to go over. I want you to tell me how she looks, Manny. I want to know if there's anything remotely wrong."

"I can tell you I'm sure she's hurting. It's hard to get out of any relationship that lasted as long as yours did, even if there were no feelings towards the end."

It does hurt. It hurts to know that you won't see the same familiar face kissing you anymore. That you won't have anywhere to go at 4 in the morning when all you need is a friend. It hurts that you won't have any sense of comfort. So many people start treating you like a ghost of your old self, that you start to feel like one.

"Can't you just help me out?" he asks. I want to know why he thinks I should help him out. What has he ever done for me? Make me cry?

"No, Spin, I can't just go over. I'm about five hours away from Degrassi right now."

"Oh, really? I didn't know you were on vacation."

"I stole my parents' car, Spin. I ran away."

"What?"

"No one needs me in Degrassi."

"That's not true."

"I don't even want to get into how true it is. Listen, Spin, I'll call you when I get back; we can discuss this some more."

"So, you're coming back?"

I sigh. "As far as you know," I say and hang up the phone. I stare at it, hoping he'll call back. He never does, but I do turn the car around.

"Run away, don't look back.
See another day in each new sun,
Your life has just begun..."

"I love you. Do you love me?" he asks with a goofy grin plastered on his face.

No. No! NO!! There has been no love for the longest time. There's just total dependency. "I love the way you kiss me."

"Then come here and let me do it some more," he coos.

"I can't. Mama will start to worry and call around if I'm not home soon."

"Marco, 15 minutes won't matter."

"I've been here all day, Dylan," I say, trying to reason with him.

"If you don't want to be here, fine. Just leave. Leave now. Get out. I don't want you here anymore."

I don't need to be asked twice, but as I walk home, I realize how much I hate our petty little fights. Sure, I wish he wouldn't… wouldn't do the things he does. I've learned to live with them, though. A lot of people have to deal with this. It's not the end all and be all of a relationship.

Not if you're in love.

"He can still feel the touch of his hands,
Not just the violence, but the warmth
Of his man..."

"He doesn't love me anymore, Haze. I'm not sure how long he's absolutely hated me. Maybe he's been cheating on me. Did we seem any different to you that night that we went to the concert? He said he just didn't feel the love anymore. We had love. We had more love than anyone else at Degrassi. How can he even pretend that we didn't have love? God. Haze, are you listening? Hazel?" I spoke rapidly, not bothering to take too many breaths.

"I'm here," she says weakly. I hear the faint tapping of keys in the background of the phone.

"How's Jimmy?" I ask sarcastically.

"Fine, fine."

"Could you maybe pay attention to me for like half a second? I'm broken hearted and suicidal."

"You're not suicidal, Paige."

"You don't know that!" I scream. God, when did Hazel turn into such a bitch?

"Calm down. You're just going through a tough time. We've all been there sweetie. You know Spinner wasn't right for you anyway. You can do so much better."

"I know I can. He should at least call or something. Attempt to be civil about it."

"Paige, give it up. Forget about Spinner. Let's go shopping tomorrow. It will get your mind off it a little. Maybe you can even give that cute guy at the pretzel stand your number. It will make you feel a lot better, I promise."

"Alright, I guess we can," I say. I don't want to go shopping. I don't want to flirt with the cute guy at the pretzel stand. I just want to die.

"Well, Jimmy needs to tell me something super important, so I have to call him now. Do you want me to call you back?" she asks.

"Nah," I say. "I think I'll go to sleep now. Call me in the AM and give me plans."

"Sure will," she says, and the phone clicks off.

My hand begins to automatically dial the Mason's phone number out of sheer habit. I stop myself before I get to the fourth number. "It's over, Paige," I remind myself out loud. Who knew break-ups were so hard?

"Say goodbye to Mr. right;
Lock the door, turn out the light.
Pack your bags, leave this trap;
Run away, don't look back."

I yawn and stretch out my body on the soggy and weighted bed sheets. Mental note: buy new bed sheets. I look into the huge eyes of Sean Cameron, who seems to be staring intently on the ceiling. We exchange morning pleasantries.

I stand up and try to find some clothes to wear. I feel totally exposed being this naked in front of Sean, but I don't think he even notices. That's when I realize how different we are.

I am a teenage girl standing in front of a teenage boy. I am completely naked. He doesn't realize it. He is not ogling. We are not the norm.

In the kitchen, I make bacon and eggs for breakfast. By making bacon and eggs, I mean microwaving a few strips of bacon and barely frying a few eggs. Of course, like all my other cooking, it's horrendous. Sean, who aimlessly walked into the kitchen as soon as the aroma of bacon reached his nose, picks at it but doesn't complain. He even manages "it's good, Ash," at some point.

This is my life. This is my house. This is my boyfriend. This is all I can offer him.

The thoughts come rapidly, but I don't bother with them. I knew, at some point, I would want to get out of this. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Yet, compared with my other option, this is bacon grease heaven.

And I can't be happier.

"See another day in each new sun,
Cause your life has just begun..."

"I want to run away with you, Em," I whisper into her blonde hair that falls into my face.

"I love you Craig."

I can remember everything about her. I can remember the way she smells like apples. I can remember the way her skin feels underneath my wandering hands. I can remember the way her kiss tastes like rain.

I can love her.

It's a reputation you form after going through so many serious relationships with so many girls. Ashley. Manny. My sweet, wonderful, precious Emma. I even make myself sick, sometimes, with my cheesiness. But damned if I can help it.

So I tell her, point blank, that I want to marry her. I want her to mother my children. I want her to be a part of my life, always. She shudders inwardly and tells me that families aren't her strong suit.

"You just have had rough experiences, like, with your dad and stuff. What if we got away from all of this? Just you and me, baby. We could do it, you know that. You have the motherly instinct down pat, and I've never wanted anything but a child to call my own. Manny's abortion was the most devastating thing that's ever happened to me."

Her body grimaces at the mention. "Same here." I know that's not true, but I don't press it. We sit in silence, and I hope she's contemplating my offer. "That's the first time you've ever brought up Manny's abortion. Why is that?"

"I don't like to talk about it much." Manny made me want to hurl when she did that. It was completely the worst thing any person has ever done to me. But I foolishly believed I loved her. Love. Love is Emma. There was no love before Emma. There was respect and admiration and similar interests and convenience in Ashley. There was guilt and hope and loneliness in Manny. There was never true love. There will never be again. "I really wanted it. I would've done anything for a family. I respected Manny's decision, still do, I guess, but it doesn't make the pain go away. I imagine her in that clinic. I imagine how she must have felt raped, violated of her body. I can't even imagine. We created a beautiful thing. I guess we just felt like destroying something beautiful."

Emma had been drifting for awhile, so I hope she doesn't notice my corny line quoting from Fight Club. In fact, I push her hair back to reveal closed eyes. I smile and cover her up to the neck in blankets. Love. Love is Emma.

I see a smile dancing at her dreaming lips. I've finally found home.

"It was the night she never felt so alive.
Tonight she never felt so alive.
It was the night she never felt so alive.
And it's the first time I've ever seen her smile..."