A/N: I screwed with the webisodes time line a bit. I think I'm allowed considering how much the webisodes screw with canon. For the purposes of this story, OLAS part 1 and DYFM parts 1 and 2 happen near simultaneously. Written before OLAS part 2 so I suppose AU all around, eh? There have definitely been a few of these types of stories up since, but in my defense I wrote this in February, just forgot to post. Oh. And I wrote this for a friend because she asked for some fluff. I don't own the characters or the Degrassi franchise and if I did episodes would be sporadic at best, so let's all rejoice!
Don't you Forget about me, part 3 . . . Role reversal
He was almost outside of Toronto before he realized he couldn't do this. It would be easy to come back and not see her. But easy wasn't right. And Jay's words stayed with him.
Alls I know, as long as you got that tattoo, you won't be gone for long.
If only Jay knew.
He hopped off the bus at the last Toronto stop, some park of some kind. Sitting on a park bench he pulled his jacket off. How had it happened exactly that he had gotten the wrong girl's name on the front of his chest? When Jay had told him what he had done to try and get Alex back over the phone, it had suddenly seemed the perfect solution. Of course you weren't supposed to tattoo a drunk person. The alcohol thinned your blood and made you bleed more. It made the ink fade. But you weren't supposed to tattoo a minor either. Perhaps it was the alcohol that made the tattoo look like crap. Perhaps it was the high school drop out giving it to Sean in a back alley in Wasaga. All Sean knew is when he sobered up and removed the white gauze bandage hours later was that he permanently had a shitty monogrammed name. And it belonged to the wrong ex-girlfriend.
Maybe not wrong exactly. Sean thought again at he looked at the tall Toronto downtown that wasn't so far away. More like unexpected. Unanticipated. And totally not something he could ever admit to anyone. How exactly was he ever supposed to explain another girl's name to a future girlfriend or worse, a wife? And who the hell knew that tattoos were so damn expensive to remove? He had researched it immediately after discovering the double-l was a double-m.
Well after his grounding was over. It seemed a bit rich, the parents that were too drunk to raise him trying to punish him for taking the same path, but it was also true that for once in his life he needed them. Maybe boundaries, the one thing Sean Cameron had never had was the one thing he needed. More than anything else. So he had gone along with the whole "not staying out late" and "no phone calls" things. He acted like he was missing out, but truthfully it was a nice escape from the bad news friends that had picked him up shortly after his return to Wasaga.
After two weeks of no telephone calls they weren't all that friendly. And "my mother wouldn't let me" wasn't an excuse that carried much water. As a consolation prize, his father had offered to loan him the money to get the tattoo removed, that he could work off in household chores for his parents and neighbors. Sean knew how many months of bills that drunken mistake erasure could cover and declined, although he still helped out where he could. Maybe in some small part he wasn't heartbroken over the mix-up.
Because of Ellie of course. It was a reminder that he wasn't ready to go back to her. When he had straightened himself out, then and only then could he come back to her. When he had prospects beyond living in his parents trailer. When he could support her the way she deserved. When he could be her rock again. When he could finally get rid of the four letters tattooed above his heart.
So he worked and he saved up. He looked into taking the GED so he could skip his last year and be done the same year Ellie graduated. He talked to banks about loans and there he hit his roadblock. Turns out not many of his country's fine financial institutions were willing to lend the money to a young man that didn't have any collateral or even a high school diploma.
It had already been a year though. He doubted Ellie would be able to wait much longer. He had to go back now. So he made it up, the fancy paper and the envelope. Made a couple calls to see how to get a hold of Ellie. Surprised her, apologized and had his heart handed back to him, slightly more bruised than he had given it.
Ellie had moved on and found someone new. Once again, Sean Cameron wasn't good enough. And the letters on his chest burned just a little bit as if adding to his heart break.
Alls I know, as long as you got that tattoo, you won't be gone for long.
He had to see her. He wasn't in love with her any longer or anything like that. But there was something about a first love. They were just . . . connected. He was sure he was her first kiss and wouldn't admit that she was his first real date, first real girlfriend.
And they were connected by more than that. By a terrifying incident neither could forget but whose sanity couldn't afford them to remember often. Sean had often wondered how Emma was dealing. He had heard rumors at first that she was withdrawn. But then the rumors stopped replaced only by silence on that subject. Sean wasn't sure which was a worse scenario, that she had fallen too far to tell him for fear of a guilt complex or that she was just fine while he, Jimmy, Jay and just about everyone else involved was still pulling themselves together. He chose to believe the latter; this was after all, Emma Nelson. And besides, what right had he to care?
But he suddenly felt the urge to look. He had made the trip, what was one more stop?
The cell phone felt slippery in his hand and it took him a minute to realize it wasn't the phone, but his sweaty palms. The numbers were familiar even if he hadn't dialed them in a long time.
He wasn't sure if he wanted the phone to pick up or keep ringing forever.
"Cameron." Apparently Jay had caller ID. "Now what? You drop out of my life and then talk to me twice today? Well, I suppose I should feel lucky or something?"
"Jay." Sean searched for a way to say he needed Jay's help without needing his help. It had to be Jay's idea. "I was wrong to come back just for Ellie. I mean, I did and look how that worked? Bros before hos right? So I thought you and me could hang. Catch some beers down at Bennett Park – or is there a new party spot lately?"
Jay paused for longer than Sean thought possible without losing his connection and when he finally spoke his voice was nearly a croak. "Bennett Park. The ravine, eh? Yeah. There's still a party to be found."
"Well, then get your ass over to . . ." Sean looked over to the sign at the edge of the park, "Graydon Hall park ASAP and pick me up from the dump the bus left me off at."
"What the hell you doing there?" Jay barked, back to his aggressive attitude.
"Do you wanna party or not?" Sean bit back.
There was another pause that made Sean think Jay was seriously responding with 'not.' Now he knew something was up. Whatever it was would have to wait. For now he needed Jay. And he didn't think that Jay would be too thrilled with making a pit stop at the Nelson-Simpson household.
"Give me 20 minutes," Jay clicked.
It was closer to an hour later when Jay finally arrived and his bloodshot eyes assured Sean that he had indeed not been lying when he said all his friends were drug dealers.
"What the hell have you been smoking?" Sean asked as Jay's civic jerked to a stop.
"Smoking's nothin' man. Everyone's doing it. Alex, Paige, hell James Tiberius is a fuckin' dealer."
Sean stared at Jay but there was nothing to indicate that he was lying. What the hell had happened the past year? It was Degrassi, after all, when would Sean cease to be shocked by the goings on?
"I'm driving," Sean said, finally deciding on 'ignore' as the best response. Jay didn't do anything uncalculated, even while high and Sean's best strategy was to keep him off guard. He didn't argue but moved over to the passenger side seat passively. Some things apparently had changed.
It took a lot less time to return to familiar roads and haunts in Jay's souped up civic than it had in a giant rumbling bus, even when obeying all traffic lights. However it was still dark by the time Sean pulled up in front of the all-too-familiar brick house. 53 Degrassi Street.
"Who built up the ravine?" Jay asked, stirring from the snooze he had fallen into.
"Detour," Sean muttered, moving to get out of the car.
Jay seemed to sober up as he recognized the house. "Oh, hell, no Cameron. There isn't any party here." Jay muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like anymore.
"What?" Sean asked sharply turning toward Jay.
"I spoke too soon, Cameron." Jay pointed to the side of Emma's house where a familiar blonde was climbing out of a low window. "I suppose some things never do change, would you believe that?"
Sean fought the urge to bite. Jay was calculating and while Sean desperately wanted to know what exactly Jay was alluding to, he wanted to do it on his terms. He also hadn't come all the way back into the city not to talk to Emma. There was something about her movements, an awkwardness that he hadn't seen since she was a gangly twelve year old; it alarmed him slightly.
"Let's go," Sean said.
"Giving up so easily, Cameron?" Jay's voice was mocking and more than a little sober. "I wouldn't."
The urge to find out the reason Jay was so smug was getting stronger every moment, but Sean had already seen the wisp of a girl duck into a car that was pulling away.
"Who said I was giving up?"
An hour later, Sean knew a few things: one – he hated this blond kid who seemed more concerned with looking good than entertaining Emma. Two – whatever was missing from Emma's movements had also changed her eyes. She didn't seem to be quite there. Something that Sean couldn't exactly put his finger on. She still seemed to have fire, but there was something strange going on. And Three - Sean was pretty damn sick of Jay Hogart. Not just the whining about his lot in life, although, if he didn't know better he might think the Alex on Jay's chest was Spinner's real name and not Gavin. The hints about whatever Jay knew that he didn't, the tips about avoiding a stalking conviction, the jabs at Sean's lack of memory regarding which E.N. he wanted all added up into annoyance beyond anything Sean had experienced since leaving Wasaga.
"'Let's party,' he says. 'Bros before hos,' he says. 'Bullshit,' I says."
"Jay will you shut up." Sean had seen Emma make a move to stand up from the table moving towards the washrooms at the front of the restaurant. The place where he and Jay stood for an extremely long time "looking at the menu" before placing a to-go order for "whatever would take the longest."
Now was his chance.
Surprisingly Jay listened and didn't try to stop Sean from following Emma down the washroom corridor.
Sean took a deep breath outside the ladies' room door and was just about to knock when he heard the unmistakable sound of someone puking their guts out. No one who had partied the way he had could fail to recognize it even with the door closed.
Sean felt his fears settle somewhat. Emma was sick. That was the reason for the lack of focus. And that jackass she was with was too self-absorbed to notice. It was comforting enough that he turned to leave, to do this another time, a better place, when the doors abruptly opened and he was face to face with Emma Nelson.
Her eyes widened in shock for only a second before settling back to a dull stare.
"Sean." She said it matter of factly. What more did he want? It was his name.
"Emma." He responded in kind. Hmmm, well this was going well.
"I don't have a problem. I stopped. Really. That was a one-time thing. I can't believe she told you!" Emma splurted out in a rush of words that had sense on their own but together had no meaning. "I mean to pull you out of the blue on me." She suddenly seemed aware that she was rambling and made as if to pass by him. "I have to go, Peter's waiting."
"Emma!" Sean grabbed her arm to stop her and was more than a little shocked to find how thin and frail her arm was. "I come back from Wasaga for the first time and you blow me off?" He looked down the hall to make sure no one was looking before pushing them both into the ladies room and locking the door behind him. "Peter can wait."
To his surprise she neither shrieked nor protested, but merely slumped against the wall.
"Go ahead and say it. I know Manny told you. Did she tell you about Jay too?" Emma read the confusion in his eyes and changed the subject. "Never mind then. Say what you need to say and then I can go back to my dinner."
"Manny didn't call me. I came back to Toronto to see Ellie." Oops. Sean inwardly winced. That probably wasn't the best way to open this conversation.
"And wound up here instead? Ellie/Emma, I suppose it could happen to anyone. For your information I'd check Craig's garage. Oh wait, she drove him away already." The bitterness was something I wasn't used to hearing and I was sure it had to come from another source . . . perhaps Manny? Emma started to stand, but midway through seemed to think better of it and slumped back down.
"I came to see you, too." It sounded lame even to him.
Emma lifted one eyebrow in disbelief and for a moment, Sean saw the Emma he knew among the shadows of the face of the Emma in front of him.
"So . . . how are you?"
"I'm worse than I could be and better than I was, so I'd say fine," she answered cryptically.
"That's good. I'm good too."
"Sean, this could have happened over a phone call. What's this about? I doubt you randomly came in here for a bite to eat, happened to walk to the ladies room by mistake and just 'ran into me.' So unless you really are pathetic enough to be crashing my date for small talk, can we get onto it?"
'Because at my least conscious moment you were the name I tattooed on my heart,' somehow didn't seem to fit. So Sean went with the next best thing. "Why would Manny have called me?"
Emma stiffened and this time despite her stumble reached for the door. "Why don't you ask her? Everyone else seems to know what's best for me lately. I eat what I want"
Suddenly it clicked together – that a-ha moment where a formerly puzzling situation snaps into focus. Emma wasn't sick, she was making herself sick. Manny was trying to help her and for whatever reason Emma didn't want or accept her help.
Sean blocked her path to the door and uttered one word. "Why?"
Just as Sean knew what had happened, looking into his eyes, Emma knew she had been caught and so she opened up to him, in a way she hadn't to anyone else. Where was the danger when he would be gone in a few moments back to Ellie or Wasaga or anywhere but here? "Why? Because my boyfriend videotaped my best friends breasts and put them on the internet, because it happened before he was my boyfriend and I'm lying to her, because Manny moved in and became the daughter I could never be, because I caught an STD at the ravine, because the only father I know cheated on my mother, because she threw him out and we're broken, because I killed a boy who was trying to kill me and ruined your life in the process – I don't know Sean why?"
She took a deep shuddering breath and wrapping her arms around herself whispered in a voice so quite he wasn't sure if she was still speaking or if it was the ghosts of his other failed relationship, "Because it is the only pain I can control."
And just like that, she pushed past him out of the ladies room and into the handicapped bathroom. He wasn't there when she emerged a few minutes later but he knew she would look flawless. Maybe more make up had gone into the effect, but she still appeared to the world strong, capable Emma Nelson. On the inside however, she had broken.
Jay was holding a bag of overcooked hamburgers when Sean returned, looking slightly dazed. There was so much to process in what Emma had revealed and Sean wasn't sure which would take second place. An STD? Snake a cheater? Manny in essentially a porno? That Peter guy the one to do it? There was no doubt however, which problem would need to be tackled first.
"Because it is the only pain I can control."
And from the blond boy's clueless looks, he wouldn't be the one to do it.
"Alls I know, as long as you got that tattoo, you won't be gone for long."
"$30 bucks for two burgers? You owe me big time, dude. I could have gotten this free at the Dot."
Sean pulled out a couple of bills and started to throw them at Jay. He paused suddenly and looked right at him. "When you were teasing in the car, all that bullshit about Emma and stalking and what not – did you know?"
Jay's face went from confused to alarmed in about .2 seconds. "Did I know what man?"
"That Emma was . . ." Sean couldn't bring himself to say it, waiting until they were safely outside the restaurant to complete his sentence, "That she was bulimic?"
Jay stopped for a moment. Whatever he had thought Sean would reveal, it wasn't this. It didn't take him long to recover however, as he started to laugh. "So Green Peace has decided to scarf and barf, huh? That's fitting somehow. The only girl who doesn't need to shed some pounds is the one who cares most about her image."
"You're such an ass." Sean shook his head in disbelief before finally shoving the money in Jay's hand and walking away.
"Never bothered you before!" Jay shouted at Sean's retreating form. "I thought we were going to party man! You never know who might turn up."
Sean knew exactly who he was referring to. And just as it had in the bathroom, Jay's behavior and Emma's revelation snapped into place. But that would have to wait. At least Sean knew exactly how he would greet his ex-best friend the next time he arrived in Toronto.
Other thoughts occupied his mind currently however, leaving no room for Jay and his all about me attitude. More than any event that had happened while he was gone, what had gone on to change those he had left behind?
Emma had always been the girl who made him feel like he could be a better person. But Ellie had been the girl to make him feel best just the way he was. So why now was he trying to change himself for Ellie? The fake loan papers, the appearance of success?
Emma meanwhile needed him. Well, maybe not. But she needed someone. Someone who wouldn't flinch or coddle. Someone who would help her realize that this wasn't something she would get over easily. Someone to be there every step of the way. He was more than willing to volunteer. It didn't look like anyone else in her life wanted to or was able.
Why was Ellie suddenly the one he had to change for and Emma the one who needed him just the way he was? In short when had Emma become his Ellie and Ellie become his Emma?
He was immersed in thoughts about the girl he came back for and the girl whose name was tattooed on his chest. But the one thought that stood out was What if they were indeed one and the same?
Even on foot he beat Emma and her date back to the Nelson-Simpson household. It seems a reunion was in the air as Snake and Spike were both present. Christine Nelson just about suffocated him with a hug, not having seen him since he had virtually saved her daughter's life, while Snake welcomed him back with a firm handshake.
Only Manny seemed a little bit hesitant in her greeting. She knew and she somehow knew he knew and the little lies she had been telling herself were about to fall apart.
"I'm here to talk to you about Emma," He said when they had all exchanged pleasantries.
"I'm sorry, Emma's already asleep for the night," Spike smiled. "Something about not feeling well. But I'm sure she'll want to see you, Manny why don't you go see if Emma's up for company."
Manny didn't move.
"Emma's not here." Sean and Manny said it at the same time, leaving the adults to glance between the two of them, unsure of where to focus.
"I'm sorry, what?" Snake finally got out.
"Snake . . . remember last year?" Spike whispered worriedly.
"She's not at the ravine," Sean spoke quickly. Now all three pairs of the eyes were glued on him. How could Sean know all this had he not in fact seen Emma. "She's on a date. With . . ." here he paused remembering too late Emma's warning that her date was in fact a secret from her best friend. "With, ummm, a guy named Peter."
Sure enough Manny gasped, quickly covering her mouth and running for the door.
"Wait! Please! That's not why I'm here, Manny, and you know it." Manny stopped and turned toward him slowly.
"Em told me she stopped." Manny whispered.
"She didn't. I found out at the rest- umm, long story." Sean took a deep breath. "Emma needs us. She needs us all."
It was awkward sitting their in near silence on the couch. The strangely connected foursome had talked for a long time and then once they had decided on an action the words dried up. Gone was the lighthearted banter he had been greeted with when he first arrived replaced with nervous silence.
So it was a relief to hear footsteps running from the corner, to hear Emma try the side window only to find it locked and the note that Miss Nelson had placed there. Sean could almost imagine Emma's thoughts. She knew she had been busted, but would undoubtedly start to damage control.
Sean heard a key turn in the lock and stiffened, tensing to what reaction he would get from Emma.
Sure enough the fake look of surprised concern she had affected upon entering the room soon faded as she looked at the assembly waiting for her in the living room.
"Peter? Really, Em?" Manny hissed, before Spike put a calming hand on her shoulder. Manny slumped and let it go.
Emma's defeated look was quickly replaced with a little bit of fire and Sean was almost relieved to see it. She was still Emma, mostly. "What is this all about? You told them I was dating Peter, Sean? That is low. Your best friend is a total ass, so you want to take mine away from me, too?"
Sean tried to fight the anger at the thought of what exactly had gone on between Jay and Emma. Most of it he had suspected, but unfortunately his conversation with Miss Nelson and Mr. Simpson had dispelled him of any hope that it was untrue.
Emma seemed to grow more panicked as she lashed out. "If you all want to beat down on me, I'm sure there's a few more people you could add to the list, right? Where's Chris? What about my teachers or Alex or hell any number of other people?"
"Emma, honey," Spike started and this time Manny squeezed her arm.
"Emma, we're here to help you," Snake started. We had decided that he was the one whose voice carried the most authority, despite his recent indiscretions.
"I don't need help." The response was almost knee jerk and fell flat in the tense air. "And if I did, it wouldn't be from you. You left. And so did you," Emma said, pointing at Sean. The accusation hurt, more so because it was absolutely true.
"I'm here now," he insisted, trying to get her to see that for once in his life he was going to keep his commitment, he was not going to run away.
"For Ellie," her voice was bitter, giving lie to all the things she had said at the restaurant about being over him, being over them.
"Then why do I have this?" In hindsight perhaps removing his shirt in Emma's living room was not the best plan of events, but Sean didn't really have a manual on how to help your first and possibly forever love stop starving herself to death. So he supposed this would have to do.
Emma. The tattoo was ugly; make no mistake about it. Crudely done and not his proudest moment. But it was undeniably Emma's name.
Alls I know, as long as you got that tattoo, you won't be gone for long.
Forgetting about his audience, he stepped closer to her. She was still staring at his chest until he was so close she had to no choice but to look up, confused and beginning to cry. "And someone told me they knew that as long as I had this I wouldn't be able to leave Degrassi for long. Well, he was right."
"Jay is still an ass," Emma hiccupped. It figured that Emma could connect his dots as well as he could connect hers.
Sean hoped she would connect his next words. "Oh, I know. And I'll repay him that favor."
Emma smiled slightly and for the first time he felt a little bit of hope that maybe this was the right thing. Maybe everything would work out.
"But for now, we need to get you help. Your parents are here, Manny is here and if you want me, I will be here. But you need professional help."
Emma started to deny it, shaking her head, but the denial slowly turned into a nod. "Okay," she whispered so softly he wasn't sure he wasn't hearing things.
The first time she had thought she was too good for him. The second time he had thought she was too good for him. This time they realized what each other's subconscious already knew – as evidenced by one drunken tattoo. They were perfect for each other. Still broken, but willing to heal together.