A/N: This is a story I wrote for Eva. Well, I wrote the first story for Eva and then she begged sequel and then I couldn't get this out of my head. I don't own anything except my sanity regained after I put this idea down in words. And yes, I posted on DB ages ago and forgot to put it here.
To anyone else it was just a cupcake, but to Emma it was a step forward. 175 calories in a cake so small it barely deserved the title.
"Do you know how many miles I have to run to burn of the calories in that cupcake?" she asked him, trying to turn off yet again the internal calculator that she couldn't remember creating. The clinic had said it was important not to think about the numbers. One more thing that was easier said than done.
"I've got some other activities in mind, if you'd like to burn those calories after," he suggested.
Once upon a time, even only a few months ago, she would have stiffened at his words. Even now, she checked his face quickly to make sure that it was only a suggestion and not a declaration of impatience or something more serious.
He seemed to know what her gazed asked immediately and his smile faltered."Em, I didn't mean," he started.
"Shhhh . . ." she whispered. "Don't."
She turned back to the task at hand. It was just a little bit of flour and sugar and eggs, mixed together and baked. So why couldn't she take the first bite? The first step.
Because she already had taken the first step, not that she had had a choice in the matter.
It had been a night like any other, well, as much like any other in the period of time she'd like to think existed.
She had complained of a headache to avoid dinner with her parents to avoid going to sleep. She had told Manny she was going out for a pizza with some friends, trying to quell her growing suspicions that she had not in fact changed her dietary habits. She couldn't. Not yet. She wasn't perfect yet. She couldn't stop Snake from cheating or make her mom take him back. She couldn't make Manny hate Peter less or give Peter the relationship he wanted and deserved. But losing a little weight? That she could do. That she would do.
When she had climbed into Peter's car she was more than a little panicked to hear he had changed the earlier movie plans into a late dinner. She had planned to say she had already eaten, but her stomach growled in spite of her and Peter had just raised one questioning eyebrow. So she'd had to do this the hard way.
Smile. Order. Eat. Purge. It was simple and she had been too busy congratulating herself on successful completion of the plan until she ran right into him.
She had imagined him coming back a million times in her head. Not that she obsessed, but it was just an idle daydream type imagining. Emma didn't like to dwell in the world of what-ifs, but for some reason if she was visiting, he was sure to be the reason.
It wasn't any of the things she thought it would be though. After the initial panic that she was found out subsided, she couldn't help the hurt and defensive words than flew out of her mouth. She hadn't realized how hurt she was by his abandonment. She had buried the feelings so deeply she had truly thought she was over it until confronted by him again. He had left before Rick's funeral. He hadn't come back when she was known as Ravine Girl, hadn't cared. Even now he was here for Ellie.
Emma had wondered briefly if he knew about Jay and her . . . encounter, but the confusion in his stare when the name came up confirmed that he just didn't know. It didn't help. She was tired of surprises, tired of feeling, tired of everything.
So when she slipped and he knew - with just that one word "Why" she knew that he knew - she had let it all out.
She was tired of lying to everyone and after all, hadn't his past behavior proven, it was safe to tell Sean. He'd run away like he always did.
Emma had taken only a few minutes to put the incident out of her mind. It wasn't worth it. He wasn't worth it. It only strengthened her opinion that the outside world was outside of any semblance of order and she needed to keep the internal stuff together.
She had returned to her table and had a pleasant, completely unmemorable conversation with Peter, before asking to be taken home again.
When Emma had returned home from her date, breathless after running from the corner where she had made Peter park to not be found out, she had been surprised to see all the lights on her house. But not as surprised as she had been when she found the window to her room locked and a note on it asking her to use the door.
Busted. Ah, well. This at least was innocent. Her family had wanted her to eat more and she had gone out to dinner. As long as no one knew who else had been there. Do you mean Peter? She had asked herself. Or what you told Sean? Both she had decided, taking a breath and turning her key in the lock.
The surprises just kept coming for Emma as waiting up for her was not only her mother as she had suspected, but her step-father, her best friend/pseudo-sister . . . and none other than Sean Cameron himself. It looked like instead of both, she would get neither.
"Peter? Really, Em?" Manny had hissed, before Spike put a calming hand on her shoulder. Manny had slumped and let it go.
Emma quelled the feelings of guilt at Manny's hurt and decided righteous would be the easiest way to avoid questions. "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?"
Too late, Emma realized bringing up Jay was a mistake from the hardening in Sean's eyes to the tightening of both her parents' mouths. Right. So Sean wasn't the only one spilling her secrets tonight. She should have been relieved that he really did care, but all she could think about was them trying to take this away from her. Eating or not eating seemed like the only choice that was hers and this too they were trying to take away. Didn't they understand it was all she had?
"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 was reaching now and she knew she was but she couldn't stop. She was fine. It was everyone else that had a problem.
"Emma, honey," Spike started and this time Manny squeezed her arm.
"Emma, we're here to help you," Snake started.
"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, slipping in her resolve to keep the feelings of betrayal buried where they belonged.
"I'm here now," he insisted.
"For Ellie." Once they were let out, she couldn't seem to stop them, either. One more thing that she thought she had fixed, but hadn't.
"Then why do I have this?" Sean backed up to remove his shirt and the surprise at this action was enough to break her out of her defensive reflexes.
But it was nothing compared to her surprise to find her own name crudely drawn on his chest. Emma.
All attempts at rational thought went out the window. He had her name over his heart. 'He left you, you can't trust him,'a small voice whispered cruelly. But there it was. And it wasn't going anywhere.
The letters started to blur as tears sprung into her eyes. Even when we weren't together she had always felt like she would understand him, but this – it didn't make sense. He stepped closer and she looked up, trying to read the answer in his eyes. If this was a joke, it was unbelievably cruel.
"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." Sean's words spoke of a connection Emma had tried to ignore. One she had thought was only one-sided.
"Jay is still an ass," She laughed although it came out as a hiccup when mixed with tears. Emma tried to make sense of it. When had Sean gotten this? Had Jay known when she? When he? When they had?
"Oh, I know. And I'll repay him that favor," he whispered.
Emma knew she should have been upset at his posturing, but all that seemed to matter was that he cared enough to do something. He cared.
"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 had forgotten why he was here, so taken aback by the letters of his chest. No. Her head whispered. nonononoNoNoNoNONONONO. She shook her head violently, straining against his arms. His arms. He was there. Maybe the unexpected wasn't such a bad thing. Maybe just once she should let go. Maybe it would be alright. After all, he was there.
"Okay," she whispered so softly she wasn't sure he had heard her.
That had been the first step, the one that led her to here and now. Small yellow cake, fluffy pink icing. Just eat it.
It wasn't that simple of course. For every one step forward there had been two steps back. So if admitting there was a problem was step one and checking into the clinic had been step 2, Sean's return to Wasaga had felt like a mile backwards.
"You're leaving?" Emma had asked hesitantly looking at his face for some sign that it was a joke.
"Not for long. Em, I can't lose another year and if I transferred back to Degrassi now that's exactly what I'd do," he sounded stuck, but to her she only heard that he was running away again. Logically his decision made sense, but logic didn't stand much of a chance next to Emma's feeling of betrayal. He had promised he would be here.
"You promised," she whispered softly to herself staring out the window of her all too sterile room.
"I'll be back. Every weekend that I can and then some," he was getting frustrated, she could tell.
Emma knew what he wanted to hear and so she gave it to him, just like she always did. 'We count on you, Em,' her mother had told her only days before. She saw the desperation in Sean's eyes and knew he needed her to make this okay for him. And she would even if it killed her.
"Go, then," she told him, straightening stiffly.
"Em, come on, now. I don't have to be here to be here for you," he pleaded.
His voice sounded so pathetic she almost gave in. Almost until an orderly appeared at the door. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's a Peter Stone to visit Miss Nelson and she's only allowed one visitor at a time."
"He can wait," Sean answered gruffly, angry at the interruption.
"No, actually, Sean was just leaving," her eyes challenged him to say he was staying, but he couldn't and she knew he couldn't. Not the way she wanted him to mean it. As he left, she couldn't help but throw in one parting shot. "You can tell my boyfriend I'd love to see him."
Emma knew Sean had heard her last words by the telltale pound against her wall. His frustration didn't make her feel satisfied though. Merely sad. She had thought they were going to do this together.
As Peter rushed over to her bedside, awkwardly embracing her she realized that even in his arms, she felt suddenly alone.
"Well," he asked. "As fun as this is . . ." He stood beside her, putting his arms on either side of her body facing the cupcake.
"You're tired of waiting for me, I know, I know. I get it. I'm sorry," She leaned back into him, just enjoying the strength of his chest supporting her.
"Emma, this isn't about me. It's about you. You waited for me to get back. I'll wait for you as long as it takes," he reassured her.
But she hadn't waited, not really . . .
Emma stepped nervously back into the halls of Degrassi. "I can't do this, I can't."
"Yes, you can." Peter took one of her hands in his.
"We're here," Manny reassured her linking arms on Emma's other side. It meant more than Emma could ever tell her that Manny had gotten over her dislike of Peter to help her through this. One more thing to add to a guilty conscience.
The two of them had walked her to her locker, past the curious stares and whispers. Eventually Emma realized their odd "Off to see the Wizard!" look was drawing more stares not fewer and sent Manny off to class.
Peter soon followed, but not before engaging in one last kiss.
Emma tried to put as much of herself into it as she could. He cared. He deserved better. And yet her thoughts were miles away.
He had visited every other weekend, despite the fact that she refused to see him each and every time. He showed up like clockwork, with little things that meant the world to Emma even as she refused them. He had kept his promise to the best of his ability and she was too stubborn to admit that. She couldn't let him in again. Because if he left, it would destroy more than her fragile body image.
"So I guess that's true, what they say. If she cheats with you, she'll cheat on you. Too bad I got to be the 'you' in the first part and Cameron the 'you' in the next part," the voice was silky and pure evil. "I take that back. I think I got the best of both worlds."
"What are you doing here, Jay? I thought you were expelled?" Emma asked ignoring his words.
"Yeah, so was Spin, and he's wandering these hallowed halls these days. Funny thing happened to me this weekend." His voice turned suddenly hard and Emma looked up at him.
She gasped as she took in the purple bruises surrounding his eye. Sean had come to visit bringing a daffodil. She had sent him away, the note telling him she was tired of being manipulated by losers out for one thing. She had tears in her eyes as she wrote the words, knowing they were untrue, but knowing they would hit Sean right where it hurt. Where she needed it to so that he didn't come back. She'd be out of the clinic next week and wouldn't have the luxury of a security desk to keep him away.
"Yeah, see, here's the thing. If Cameron has dubbed himself your protector to the point that he was willing to cut ties with his best friend, why are you sucking face in the halls with the principal's own demon spawn?" Jay tried to sound tough, but Emma could tell he was really troubled by Sean's reaction.
"Jay, I didn't tell Sean that the go- that the rav- that last year was your fault. I haven't talked to him at all, since . . ." Emma tried to explain.
"Save it," Jay either didn't want to believe Sean had jumped to that conclusion on his own or was too angry to care. "All I know is he told me to stay away from you, or else. That I had no reason to come near you as I wasn't even in school anymore." Jay held up a set of papers in his right hand. "You think you're better than me? Well, guess what? After I complete my summer coursework, we'll be classmates again. And you better watch your back."
Jay strode angrily down the hall and I slumped against my locker. I had been prepared for rumors and speculations on where I had been and why. My favorite being that I had worn baggy clothes to cover up my pregnancy and had gone away to have Jay's baby. What I hadn't been prepared for was that confrontation.
Why had Sean told him to stay away from me? Jay and I had gone to our separate corners after he was expelled and apart from the occasional meeting at the Dot hadn't ever spoken of it again.
One thing was certain. The note hadn't worked. Despite my every effort to the contrary, Sean Cameron still cared.
"Why a cupcake?" Emma asked suddenly.
"Because it's small and cute and pink, just like you," he said teasing.
She wrinkled her nose. "You make me sound like a baby."
"You are a big baby at times. Like now, Em, what's this about?" he turned her around so that her back was to the dreaded cupcake. She faced him reluctantly scared to look into his eyes.
"Well, it's hard to go from 175 calories a day to 175 calories in one small snack food," Emma protested.
"I'm not saying it's not, but I feel like you're hiding something. You're distant," he responded.
"Like you're one to talk!" she scoffed.
He sighed, exasperated. "And now you're trying to pick a fight. We haven't fought in a while . . . which is strange actually."
She remembered that fight all too well. But as horrible as it was, some good had come out of it.
"You're going to have to let me in Emma, because its summer time and I don't have a reason to go back to Wasaga anymore. So if you want to ever come out of this room again, you're going to have to talk to me."
He had been at the door to the basement steps cajoling, pleading and threatening for the past half hour. Long enough for Emma to hear him tell her parents he planned on being back for good. Long enough for Emma to hear those same traitorous parents that he was welcome to stay at their house until he got on his feet in Toronto, effectively trapping her in this room for the rest of her natural life.
Unless . . .
She wondered why she hadn't thought of it before. She grabbed her phone and jacket – no need for keys, she wasn't going to be using a door.
She pulled herself out the window and up on one knee to brush the dirt off, when she saw the feet. The dirty sneakers.
Impossible! Sean was inside, she could hear him still talking past the door. So she was completely bewildered to look up and find Jay.
"What are you doing here?" Emma tried not to sound worried, but the instinctive step back she took ruined the effect.
"Relax, Emma," he sighed. "You can't make anything easy can you?"
"Easy? The last time you spoke to me you told me to watch my back and since then you've tried to make my life anything but easy," Emma found her confidence returning as she stood confidently.
"Yeah, look, I'm . . . well, I'm . . ." Jay seemed to have trouble getting the word out. "Sorry, okay. I'm sorry."
Whatever Emma had expected it was not this. "You're . . . sorry?"
"Listen, do you have to make it into a big deal? I'm sorry. I'm sorry if you felt taken advantage of last year –" Here, Emma tried to interrupt to explain that she was responsible for her own choices, but Jay stopped her. "No, no. You were vulnerable and I knew it. And the choices were your own, but you wouldn't have had them to choose from if I hadn't manipulated the situation. Now will you just shut up? This is hard enough."
Jay took a deep breath. "I'm sorry for making your life miserable since coming back, because you did me a favor. Well, Sean did really, but it was because of you inadvertently or not. I was a loser, Em. Now I'm back in school, I've got a future again. Not much of a future. But more than I had."
Emma didn't know what to say to that. So she just looked down at the dirt in front of her. She realized the noises from within the house had stopped and suddenly realized why she was out here.
"Look . . . you're um, welcome? But I gotta go, Sean's inside and –" she made a move to get past him, bewildered when he stopped her, grabbing her forearm.
"Yeah, I know. He thought you might try and sneak out," Jay said, raising his voice to shout "Yo, Cameron! She's out here!"
Emma didn't think about what she did next. She was trapped, Jay's grip was firm and she would do anything to escape the confrontation with Sean. Anything.
So she reached up and pulled Jay's head down for a long hard kiss, just as the front door to her house opened and Sean stepped out.
Jay for his part although surprised, didn't seem to be complaining much. Not until the angry growl next to him alerted him that he and Emma had an audience. Jay pushed her away at that moment seeming to realize what had just happened. "Oh . . . you're good," he whispered at her, looking at Emma with something approaching mutual respect for the first time that she could remember.
"WHAT were you doing?" Sean shouted at the two of them.
"You know, it's kind of cold out here and I just got out of the hospital not too long ago, so I think I'm going to go back inside. I'm sure you boys can work this out on your own," Emma said pulling her jacket tight around her walking past the boys. She was both relieved and disappointed that Sean didn't try to stop her. Finally she had found a way to get rid of him that worked. So why was she crying?
The front door however had other plans. It had latched behind Sean and she had left her keys inside. She stopped jiggling the handle and rested her forehead against the cool wood. Could this day get any worse?
"You could always use the bell you know?" Apparently it could. "Or Mr. Simpson gave me a key?"
She turned to see him dangling the spare in front of her face and reached for it angrily. He pulled it just out of her reach and her eyes widened.
"Let me in!" she shouted at him.
"And do this whole obstacle course all over again? I think not," he said, motioning to the bench on her front porch.
She stomped over to it and sat down, arms across her chest.
Sean seemed unsure of what to do now that he had her face to face. Emma sort of felt bad for him, but realized she couldn't let pity come into play here. "You and Jay handled that quickly," she remarked, watching the shadow briefly cross his face.
Bingo! That façade of limitless patience was only that . . . a façade. The right buttons and she would be back inside and Sean would be back in Wasaga. 'And that's what you want?' a voice questioned her once more. She ignored it. Whether she wanted it or not, she knew it was what was best for both of them.
"He really is a good kisser you know," Emma watched Sean's face out of the corner of her eye as she picked at some lint on her coat, seemingly unaffected. She was hoping to soon see steam coming out of his ears like in the cartoons. "Just the right amount of pressure. Peter is good, but you know, in some areas, Jay is better. He doesn't use enough tongue for my liking, but that can be taugh-"
Emma's words word cut off as Sean reached down to claim her lips. Sean was a boy that knew how to use his tongue and almost against her will Emma opened her mouth slightly. She had forgotten what it felt like to kiss Sean Cameron. It had been two years and memory could not give justice to the sensations he induced. It was rougher than she remembered and slightly more needy, but when he backed away for air the ache that his absence left was still the same. The ache she knew all too well. The very feeling she had been trying to avoid.
"You've proven your point," she said coldly, turning away. "You can go now at anytime."
"Emma, damn it, why are you doing this?" He knelt in front of her. "Don't you get that I'm not going anywhere?"
Emma fought the urge to look up at him. He would run away. He always did when the going got tough. When her family needed her because of Snake's cancer and she had needed him to understand he had run to Jay. When she had needed someone who had stood in that hallway with her and knew what that moment felt like, when she needed him to explain why he had done it, he had run to his parents. She wasn't going to fall for it again.
"You can refuse to see me. You can send a thousand hurtful notes. You can kiss Jay and keep Peter and any other guy you want. But I told you, I'm not going anywhere. And that promise is right here," he placed his hand over his chest, indicating the words she now knew were below his clothing.
Emma thought carefully over her next words. "Why? Why is my name there? You came back for Ellie. I'm not an afterthought. I can't be a consolation prize," she whispered.
"You were never a consolation prize. You were the prize I felt I didn't deserve," he responded just as quietly.
She looked up at him, finally whispering after a pause, "Would you like to come inside?"
"I know. I know," she whispered crying now. "You've been so incredibly kind and supportive and this is it. It's my six month anniversary out of that horrible place. But I can't help but think . . ."
He waited for her to finish.
"The past six months have been perfect. Easier than any other time in any other relationship I've had. And I'm afraid," Emma took a deep breath before finishing. "I'm afraid that when this crisis is over that everything will fall apart."
"Emma," he sighed pulling her close to him. "This isn't about making you well." She could feel him chuckle before she heard it, tight against his chest. "Well, okay, maybe this cupcake is. But this relationship is about me not wanting to live without you. And hopefully vice versa? So eat the damn cupcake. I'm not going anywhere."
He placed one of her hands on his left chest. "Remember, what that friend told me? Alls I know, as long as you got that tattoo, you won't be gone for long. He had it wrong. As long as I have your name right here," he patted her hand again. "As long as it's there? I won't be gone at all."
Emma turned around to face the cupcake once more. "Hey, Sean?" Emma said, smiling. "How about we split it?"