Contains spoilers for episode 2.21.
Seth is not an Atwood, much as he considers himself a brother to Ryan. He doesn't have that gene that enables him to transform into a superhero and save the day for Marissa Cooper. Despite childhood dreams of being the one who rescues the damsels in distress – while managing to look good in lycra – he's more likely to stand by and watch and maybe make a few witty comments while he's at it. That's assuming he's not the one in distress, of course.
He can deal with that. Seth is dealing. Watch him deal. He can deal with a lot of things, like Summer having kissed Zach and the weird tension between his mom and dad and being beaten up while having Biblical quotes thrown at him (what is it about persecution of Jews, anyway? he wonders) and even if his way of dealing involves an overdose of what Summer calls "whiny emo crap" (on her good days), he is. Dealing.
All that is nothing compared to the sense of helplessness when Marissa Cooper turns to him. Not Ryan, not Trey, not Sandy, not any of the many superhero-esque men in her life that she could choose, but him. Seth Cohen. The guy without the saving-Marissa gene.
She explains the situation, about Trey and drinking with him and him coming on to her and her not wanting to, and all the time Seth is just standing there in shock. Shock that Trey would do that to Ryan, shock that he would do that to Marissa, and, still, shock that Marissa is telling him about it.
He asks about how far it went and she says she got away from him, and he says that that's good, then, and she nods and then breaks down in tears, and he knows he's said the wrong thing, because what he means is that he couldn't stand to see her more hurt than she already is, and she thinks he's not taking her seriously or something, and he stands there, so fucking helpless and hating himself for it, and then he takes her in his arms, because he can figure out that much, at least, and holds her as tight as he can. He knows Ryan's probably better at the whole holding thing, with his big strong arms, but he hopes he'll do for now.
She doesn't want to talk to Ryan, not yet. Not when it's his brother. She doesn't want to deal with the repercussions of it all. Seth gets that, kinda. Once Ryan's in action it's hard to stop him. He gives her his bed for the night and sleeps on the floor.
She doesn't tell Ryan the next day or the next day or the next. She makes excuses not to see Trey, and she makes excuses not to spend the night with Ryan. And when Ryan tries to talk to Seth about it, Seth makes excuses and avoids the topic completely, because everyone knows he's the world's worst secret-keeper, and the last thing he wants to do is let it slip that Marissa Cooper is spending her nights in his bed, as innocent as it is.
The fifth night, he wakes up to hear her crying, and crawls into bed with her, puts his arms around her, and kisses her on the forehead, like his mom used to kiss him when he was a kid and he had nightmares. Actually, up until he was fourteen, but he will not admit that to anyone, not even Summer. Not that he's really speaking to Summer at the moment. Not that he's really speaking to anyone these days apart from Marissa, and then only at night. She's still going to school, but somehow things like what happened with Trey and what's not happening with her and Ryan don't feel like appropriate subjects for the daytime.
The sixth night, they both sleep in his bed, him with his arms around her again, and she sleeps soundly.
The seventh night, she tells Ryan about Trey, and lets him go and deal with it. Ryan's way of dealing with it is, of course, to go and beat up Trey. Because that's what heroes do. They're strong and they're tough and they defeat the bad guys.
He's explaining this to Marissa, and she points out that while Ryan's being a hero, Seth's the one who's here. With her. He's the one who has been here for her, has kept quiet for her, has held her and reassured her and protected her.
She kisses him tentatively on the cheek, and then hugs him, and he thinks that maybe, despite the lack of a rescuing-gene, he's saved her, after all.
- end -