Title and Registration

Gavin Mason stared deeply into the fire. He was coming down from a rough high, one like that he hadn't experienced for a good week at least. He rubbed his eyes, which had been tearing from being so close to the flames. People were slowly leaving all around him, but he couldn't find the strength to move.

He picked up a half empty bottle of beer that someone had left next to him and began to drink it. It tasted funky, maybe because it was warm, but he hardly noticed. He didn't notice a lot of things these days.

He saw Emma Nelson out of the corner of his eye. He knew to keep a look out for her. He got up to leave, but she was fast, or maybe he was too stoned to move, and she caught him quickly. "Call her," Emma said, pushing Spinner back onto his place on the picnic table.

"I don't like being hung up on," Spinner mumbled.

Emma threw her arms in the air in an exasperated fashion. "Do you think she likes hanging up on you? Even you know better than that. You just got to wear her down."

"I don't have the time. Where's Jay?"

Emma looked over her shoulder. "Cleaning up."

Spinner shook his head in disgust. "Did he give you anything?"

Emma rolled her eyes. "He'll be two minutes, calm down. I just wanted to talk about her. She hasn't been the same. And I'm attempting this whole 'friend' thing for the first time in a long time, and I don't want you to screw it up."

"Why did you even get involved? You're messing things up worse than they were."

"I'm helping, admit it. I heard her talking about Chester, that's how low she's getting. Please, just call her. Here's my cell phone." Emma held out her cell phone.

"It's after midnight. She's asleep."

"You care about her," Emma said proudly while she put the phone back in her bag.

"God, what the hell's taking Hobart so long? Did he pick up another chick on the way back here?"

"Why are you being so fucking difficult, Spinner?"

He gave her a sharp glance. "Go back to your barbies. I'm sure Ken does what you say. But in real life, nobody has to listen to you. Get over it."

Emma stared at him. "Where is Jay?" She finally said, relenting to the cold that the fire barely penetrated.

"Right here," he said, appearing behind them both and making Emma jump. "Gavin Mason, I believe I owe you something," he said handing Spinner a small prescription bottle.

"I love you," Spinner said, his eyes glistening with happiness for the first time all night. "I fucking love you."

He jumped off the picnic table and made his way past the few stragglers lighting up the last remnants of their weed hit. He smiled at the bottle, knowing that its contents far surpassed any weed he'd ever have. "Call her!" Emma called from behind him. He ignored her and kept staring at the bottle. It's not like he could just pick up the phone and pretend like nothing had ever happened. He got kicked out of school. He couldn't remember a day he wasn't high. And she was still his innocent high school love. There's a reason people right songs lamenting about this shit. It was perfect. He did screw it up. What a tragedy.

He slammed his key into the ignition and sat still for a few minutes, feeling the vibrations of Fallout Boy from his stereo. He rested his hand on the gear shift, pulling it down slowly to drive, stopping on every gear before that out of exhaustion. He eased his foot off the brake when something thudded against his window, making his head snap up and his entire body tense.

He opened his door to find a bent over and winded Emma Nelson trying to choke out words. He looked at her expectantly. "Can I have a ride?" she finally managed as she leaned against the hood of his car.

He stared at her with raised eyebrows. She wasn't serious. He shook his head. Of course she was not serious. She just wanted to hound him about Manny some more. "No," he said simply before climbing behind the wheel of his car.

He put the car into drive, but before he could move anywhere, the passenger door open and the small frame of Emma Nelson slipped inside. She put on her seatbelt and stared at the windshield, waiting for him to start the drive. "Excuse me," he said after a minute of staring at her. "What are you doing?"

"Just take me home." She looked over and blinked the tears out of her eyes. "Please."

"The glove compartment is inaccurately named,
And everybody knows it.
So I'm proposing a swift orderly change."

"Don't touch anything," Spinner warned sternly as Emma's hand fluttered back from the door to the glove compartment.

"I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I was just looking for a piece of paper or a napkin to use as a tissue."

His eyes betrayed his gentle nature for a brief second. "There should be a napkin in there."

He knew as soon as she began digging in there, she would find some things he'd rather her never see. He didn't care if she found his pills, or his condoms, but the one piece of sentimental value that he held onto was teetering on the edge of the napkins. With one misguided grasp, she held it up to the passing street lights outside of her window. Without another word, she replaced it in the compartment and smiled deceitfully to herself. He looked over and sighed. "What?"

"Nothing," she answered quickly. The smile on her face grew. "I just didn't know Spinner Mason had a heart."

"He doesn't. You want to walk home?"

"It's cold, so I'm going to have to answer in the negative."

The silence settled over them, and Spinner turned up the radio to dissipate it. Eventually, he found this too boring and turned it back done. "Fine, why are you here, and why are you crying?"

"Ahh it's nothing," she said, swatting at air. She ran a hand through her untidy blonde mane. "A whole lot of nothing. But that's what you get in a relationship with Jay. You get stoned a lot, and you get a whole lot of nothing."

Spinner nodded. "But the same with me, and you still want me to be with Manny. See, look what you want to put your friends through."

Emma sat back in her seat and laughed. "I don't want you to be with Manny. Au contraire, I want Manny to be with you. She can save you, Spin. How I couldn't, or wouldn't, save Jay. I got out of the saving bad boys business a long time ago."

"She's not a fucking angel, Emma."

"I'd like to respectfully disagree. Manny is an angel. Your angel. And you're taking complete and utter disadvantage of the situation. Call her."

"Would it be a surprise to hear that this is exactly the reason I didn't want to take you home tonight?" he asked, gripping the wheel a little tighter than necessary.

"Maybe, someday you'll call her just to get me off your back. And, really, that's all I'm asking for, Spin."

"That and a ride home." He stopped in front of her house.

She unfastened her seatbelt. "Well, that too. Okay, thanks for the ride. I'll tell Manny you said hi but were too chicken to call."

"Don't you-" Spinner was cut off by the slamming of his passenger door. Well, that went exactly as expected.

He picked up the photograph that Emma had just been holding and scanned over it for himself. For the first time in days, he felt something other than a high. He felt grief and the pain he had tried to drink away. He rested his hand on the gear shift, pulling it down slowly to drive, stopping on every gear before that out of exhaustion.

"Cause behind its door there's nothing to keep my fingers warm,
And all I find are souvenirs from better times.
Before the gleam of your taillights fading east,
To find yourself a better life."

The phone rang loudly in Spinner's ear, and he grunted as he reached for it. "Hello?" he managed painfully.

"Gavin, are you just waking up?" the voice questioned immediately.

He checked the clock. Damn, when did it become 3 already? "No, of course not. I was just, putting on my shoes. I'm going to go get Kendra now."

His mom laughed on the other end. "Well, I was calling to tell you to pick up your transcripts when you go. You're going to need them. We're going to get you in another school by the end of the week."

Spinner stifled a groan. "Alright, so just walk in and ask Ms. H for my papers?" he confirmed.

"Whoever's in the office should have them. I've already called."

"Okay mom. I'll get them. I love you. Bye." He hung up the phone and fell back on his bed. With a final grunt, he managed to push himself onto the floor. He picked up a few discarded pieces of clothing and threw them on his shivering body. He grabbed his keys on the way out the door and slid them into his pocket.

He went downstairs and grabbed a cold pop tart from the box in the cupboard. Okay, he grabbed two. He made his way to his car and immediately turned on the heat. He yawned as he made the way down his neighborhood. It didn't take him long at all to get to the school, hell, Kendra could definitely walk home. She stood up as she saw his car nearing, but slowly sat back down when he pulled into the parking lot.

He walked hurriedly past the students standing around who's heads turned as soon as they caught sight of him. People's excited screams turned quickly into hushed whispers. Way to make it obvious, guys.

Craig stepped between him and the doors, so he was forced to look at him. Marco stood uneasily a few steps away, more unsure of this bullying thing. "What are you doing here, Spin?" Craig asked in a demanding whisper.

Kendra, watching the scene from her seat on the steps, immediately came to the side of her brother. "I came to pick up my transcripts," he said dully. "I'm not Rick. I know when I'm not wanted somewhere."

Craig searched his eyes for any hint of a lie. Feeling satisfied, he took a step away from Spinner. Spin fished the keys out of his pocket and tossed them at his sister. "Go wait in the car. I'll only be a minute."

Even after only a week, the empty hallways felt foreign to him. He tried to take in the subtle beauty of it all, knowing this would be one of the last times he would walk down this comfortable hallway. He held his hand up to knock on the office door but decided against it and simply pushed his way inside.

"Gavin Mason, how are you?" the secretary asked. Her tone disarmed him.

"I'm here to pick up my transcripts. My mom called."

She handed him a manilla folder, and he took it and left. He opened the door to the hallway and stood there idiotically for a few seconds. She was walking away from him, but he knew instantly it was her. He followed a good bit behind until she turned the opposite corner. He held his head up with pride. He wasn't going after her. He was better than those childish games. He needed her, sure, but she was doing so much better without him. He knew better than to ruin that.

But, maybe Emma was right. Maybe she did want to talk to him again. Maybe she did need him. He started laughing at his own stupidity. Where did he come off actually believing the lies Emma told him? She just wanted to bring everyone else down. And he couldn't stop laughing. He walked past all of the Degrassi kids, and every one stopped and stared at the maniacal, twisted, laughing Gavin Mason. Is he on drugs or something?

"I was searching for some legal document,
As the rain beat down on the hood.
When I stumbled upon pictures I tried to forget,
And that's how this idea was drilled into my head."

Spinner knocked at the door and waited patiently. After the distinct sound of footsteps, he counted to thirty eight before the door swung open and the blonde stood in front of him with one hand firmly attached to her hip. "What are you doing here?" she asked bitterly.

He held out the flowers in offering. "I brought you flowers."

She stared at them as if they were as diseased as he was thought to be. "I'm not blind, Spin. I can see that. What are you doing here?"

"Don't be like them, Paige," he pleaded. He covered his eyes with his hand and turned around to compose himself. When he turned to face her again, she grabbed the flowers greedily out of his hands.

"Well, God, come inside while I put them in water or something. Don't just stand there. It's snowing."

He followed her into the house. He sat uncomfortably on her white leather couch as she rummaged around her kitchen for a vase. She came into her living room with a delicate glass vase and set the flowers in the middle of her window bench. He watched her every movement until she awkwardly found a place on the couch not far from him. "Do you like roses?" he asked. "I was going to get white ones, because I remembered how much you loved them, but the lady, she said that red goes really well with the Christmas season. And that they didn't have any white. So I just got-"

"They're very pretty, Spin," she interrupted. "Very in season." She began to slowly click her nails against the side table in frustration. "God, I promised that I wouldn't do this. They all said it would be me, too. They said I'd be the one to break. I promised it wouldn't be me, but here I am. I did."

"They don't have to know," he assured. "I mean, it's not like I'm going back."

She gave him a small, sympathetic smile. "I'm sorry. I'd be lying if I said that I don't think you completely deserve it, but it's going to be hard. On everyone, they just don't realize it yet. They're still pretty pissed."

"I know. I was there today, picking up some papers. Craig wasn't happy to see me, to say the least."

"He's never going to walk again, Spinner. They have to blame someone. Rick's dead. As much blame as you deserve, you don't deserve as much as you're getting. But whatever. They're not going to stop."

"I know. I've given up any hope of getting any of my friends back."

"Then why are you here?" she blurted out. As soon as she had, she looked down ashamed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say it like that."

"No, that's fine. I'd wonder, too. The truth is, no offense or anything, but I kind of hoped that you'd be the soft one. I was really betting a lot on it, actually. And I need help. The kind of help that only you can really give me."

"So you came to ask me for a favor?"

"It's Manny," he said.

Paige's mouth closed quickly. "Oh," she finally managed. Spinner nodded in defeat. "You need help with Manny."

He looked very broken on her couch, she noticed. She had never seen him such a wreck. He cracked his knuckles because he couldn't take the silence. "Paige," he said, pulling her out of her thoughts. "Can you help me?"

"Cause it's too important,
To stay the way it's been."

Paige Michalchuk had many unusual talents. Around age 8, she realized she had the uncanny knack to remember the most mundane things from her conversations with friends. She walked around to the side of Emma Nelson's house, drawing on a past conversation with Manny Santos. 'And then Craig and I snuck through Emma's basement window...' 'Whoa, hun, so she has her own window to come and go as she pleases?' 'Her parents are very trusting.'

Paige found the window easily and got down on her knees to examine it. As she bent to peer in, it suddenly opened and she jumped back in surprise. Emma came out, and Paige grabbed her heart. "Jesus hun, you almost gave me a heart attack."

Emma crawled closer to Paige. "Sorry, but you know, I can usually leave my house without encountering anyone trying to break and enter."

Paige rolled her eyes. "I can explain it all. But first, let's go inside. It's freezing out here."

Emma looked over Paige's outfit of a flimsy long sleeve t-shirt and jeans. "Maybe you should've worn a coat. It is December, and it is Canada."

"Whatever, shut up. Let's just go inside, and not criticize my choice in clothes, because I haven't said anything about those disgusting cargos yet, have I?"

"I can't," Emma said. "Jay's coming. He'll be here any minute."

Paige's face went back in slight shock. "Well, call him and tell him to wait a few minutes. I assume he has a cell phone?"

"I can't just tell him not to come," Emma said simply.

Paige looked around, waiting for Emma to say something else. "Why not? That's so... revolting to choice Jay Hobart over a friend in need."

"You can come with us," Emma offered.

"To the ravine? Emma, get real. You know, ever since that shooting, you've really been sucking at life. Hun, let's go inside. I'm sure there's still hope for you somehow."

Emma finally relented and let Paige into her room. Paige grabbed a blanket off of one of Emma's chairs and wrapped it around her shoulders. "I hate Canada," she said smiling at Emma.

Emma glared back at her. "Now, why is it that you're stalking me?"

Paige snorted. "Me? Stalking you? Clever. No, okay, but Spinner said you could help me help him."

"Spinner? You talked to Spinner?" Emma folded one leg under her as she sat on her bed.

"That doesn't leave this room."

"Do you still love him or something?"

"No," Paige said slowly. "I haven't been in love with him for a long time. But I still care about him. So, come on, we need to get him back together with Manny. She's been the utmost in shitty cheerleading since he confessed his little part in the whole Jimmy-being-confined-to-a-wheelchair mess."

"Well, if you didn't already know, I've been trying to do that all the while you were banging the student teacher in the janitor's closet."

Paige rolled her eyes. "Whatever. At least I don't get STDs from guys in vans. I mean, gross me green."

They stared at each other with sober faces for five seconds before Emma started to crack up, Paige soon joining her. "Gross me green? The last time you said that, it was an 80's dance, and it was still really, really weird."

"Yea, but what about you? The janitor's closet?"

"Okay, okay, we're both complete morons. Now, how are we going to get Manny to be in the same place as Spinner?"

"Bribe her?" Paige offered.

Emma glared at her. "Come on, we need real ideas."

"You're the idea thinker, cause girl."

"You're really starting to piss me off, Paige."

"Oh boo hoo."

The two girls glared at each other. "Alright," Emma said, her face still contorted into a sneer. "But you have better be willing to get dirty for it."

"There's no blame for how our love did slowly fade,
And now that it's gone it's like it wasn't there at all."

Sometimes, Gavin Mason wasn't sure where his amazing sense of humor came from. Neither of his parents were very funny, and his extended family was even more sober than them. He usually gave himself all of the credit, knowing that actually being funny was one step in the right direction to being a genuinely likeable guy.

He sat down on the bench nearest to the fire and slapped Jay on the back. "You know what's fucking cold?" Spinner asked, taking another hit off of the joint he had gotten a minute ago.

"What's that?" Jay asked.

"Snow. Fucking snow, man." Spinner started to laugh hysterically, and Jay looked at him like he was out of his mind.

"That's great, Spin," Jay said, rolling his eyes and looking to the entrance of the ravine.

"Waiting for someone?" Spinner asked, making another one of his brilliant observations.

"Emma didn't come with me. She said she'd be here, and she's not. Which makes me really fucking nervous, and I don't know why."

"Because you love her," Spinner said, leaning over his friend again until he caught his balance and straightened up.

Jay glared at him. "I do not love her, moron."

"I do," Spinner said, his eyes glossing over as if he was in a dreamy state.

"No you don't."

"Fuck you, you don't know that."

"Do you love her?" Jay asked, raising his eyebrows with a twinge of interest.

"Nah, she kinda sucks."

Jay nodded his head. "I'm sure she'll be heartbroken to hear that."

Spinner laughed. "I hope so."

Jay balanced his palms on the table and stood up. "I'm going to go try to call her, or find someone else. Who knows? Do you need anything else?"

"Nah dude," Spinner said holding up the dying remnants of his joint. "I'm good."

He stared into the cackling fire, amazed by its beauty and warmth. He felt a spark fly up and dissipate just past his hand. He looked back at the fire, and all of the sudden, he felt it beckoning to dance with him. He stood up awkwardly, tripping a few times but managed to steady himself.

He started to walk around the fire quickly, moving his arm in non-repetitive movements that seemed forced and unnatural. After awhile, however, he began to spin and move cleaner, and he felt free and alive with the fire. A few onlookers urged him on and still some others clapped lightly, but he didn't hear them. He was definitely in his own world, the only other beings this fire of a million colors and Manuela Santos, his one and only.

"And here I rest where,
disappointment and regret collide,
Lying awake at night."

"Spinner, what are you doing?" She said in a light tone of voice, the giggles escaping her throat every few seconds. She turned around as if to make back for one of the friends that brought her here, but they were already gone.

He dropped his hands to his sides. "Hey Manny. You're... here."

She laughed at him again. "That I am. And you look ridiculous."

"Well," he said looking over his shoulder at the fire, "I was dancing." She covered her face with her hands and laughed again. "I'm glad you can find this whole thing so funny," he said bitterly.

She took a step closer to him. "Spin, look at you. You're shit faced and stoned and dancing with fire."

"It's fun," he said defensively.

"A lot of things are fun, Spin," she said, taking another step closer to him. They were only a few feet apart now. The fire warmed and illuminated their faces with every spark it sent into the air. "But that doesn't mean you have to do them all."

He seemed to ignore her well. "I tried to call."

She didn't ignore him, however. She had been ready for this. "I know. It was too hard. I'm sorry." She managed a smile with tears in her eyes. "I didn't learn, Spin. I didn't learn that I can't run away. I try, really hard, to run away."

"I'm no good for you."

"Why do you say that? Because that's what Craig would say, or Marco, or Hazel, or Ashley? Spinner, let me make my own mistakes. You're wonderful for me. You're perfect for me." She turned her head slightly and used her hand to catch her tears. "I told myself not to cry."

"You're beautiful when you cry." With that, he managed awkwardly to feel the back of her neck with his fingers and pull her closer to him. He gently brushed his lips against her's, sending a tingling feeling down his spine.

They then became aware of their audience. Almost everyone there at the ravine had been waiting for this since the crazy stoner kid had started dancing around the fire. Emma, Jay, and Paige emerged from behind a group of kids, leading the applause. Spinner took a small step towards them but kept his hand intertwined with Manny's. "I can't believe you," he called to them. "You did it."

Jay slipped his arm around Paige's waist as they continued to cheer. Spinner basked in the glory of this moment. He had found home. He had found his terribly fucked up family.

And then the alarm sounded.

"There's no blame for how our love did slowly fade,
And now that it's gone it's like it wasn't there at all.
And here I rest where disappointment and regret collide,
Lying awake at night (up all night),
When I'm lying awake at night."