His tattoo was itching again. He'd had the thing for a year and a half and it had healed very well. Except that sometimes for some reason it would itch. Sometimes it was just a mild irritation, like now. Other times the thing felt like it was on fire. Well, that had only happened once a few months ago. The searing pain that lasted for twenty minutes and then a constant burn for a week after had made him want to get the damn thing lasered off. But he couldn't do it. He wasn't ready to let that part of his life go.
"Just my luck," Sean thought as he absently itched his tattoo. There was Liberty standing on the front steps of the school. He liked Liberty but she would probably want to rope him into a conversation about why he was back at Degrassi. Just behind Liberty was Emma and she looked to be arguing with the blonde kid standing next to her.
His tattoo itched a little more as Emma said something to the kid and then stormed away. She looked pretty pissed. Now probably wasn't the best time to introduce his presence. He wasn't really sure who would be happy to see him anyway. He probably made a few people angry after his disappearing act after the shooting. And many of his old friends had graduated anyway. Like Ellie and Alex. Jay was probably still there harassing underclassmen for sport.
The coast looked clear. Sean got out his car and quickly headed up the steps but didn't get more than a few feet before he heard someone call his name.
Sean slowly turned around, dreading whom he might see. His dread quickly turned to surprise when he saw Jimmy in a wheelchair.
"Jimmy, wow, it's… it's been awhile."
"Yeah, you haven't seen me since the shooting."
"Yeah, it's kinda strange seeing you in that thing," Sean said, indicating the wheelchair.
"Tell me about it. It's much more strange to be in it. So are you back at Degrassi?" Jimmy asked as he wheeled toward the wheelchair ramp.
"Yeah, I mean, I guess. You didn't graduate?"
"Nah, too much time out. It sucks but I couldn't change it so I'm just dealing."
"Good thing he's in good company," Spinner said, coming up from behind him. "We're old men in this school now. I'm just waiting for a freshman to give me money to buy beer."
"And then you're going to steal his money for yourself," Sean said as he gave Spin a nudge with his shoulder.
"Nah, man," Jimmy said with a laugh. "Spinner is a reformed man. He's going to give the kid back his money and then lecture him on the error of his ways."
"Well, I might still take his money but I'll donate it to charity or something."
"Fair enough," said Sean. "I need to get to the office. See you guys later."
Sean had been back in town for a couple of weeks. Earlier in the summer he had decided he wanted to graduate from Degrassi. So he'd arranged to go back on student welfare, got an apartment, and enrolled back in school. All he needed to do was pick up his schedule and he would be ready to officially start school.
Emma sat in the back of Snake's classroom hunched over and angrily tapping her fingers on the table. After her fight with Peter this morning she was hardly in the mood to talk to anyone. This year Degrassi had the brilliant idea of mixing up the different grades in the homerooms. It was supposed to encourage "friendship and community." All it really did was make a lot of people angry that they weren't in the same homeroom as their friends. It also meant that most of the people in Emma's homeroom were underclassmen and none of them were her friends.
"Good morning, class. Welcome to Degrassi Community School. Or welcome back as the case may be for some of you." Snake said with a smile.
Emma didn't listen as Snake rattled happily on. She'd had his homeroom enough years to know the speech he made at the beginning of every school year. She instead reflected on the fight she'd had with Peter that morning. He'd been giving her the third degree about what she'd been eating and Emma had gotten sick of it. She was tired of everyone watching everything she'd put in her mouth. She was working on getting better but she was frustrated and tired of being bothered. Emma heard it from her parents and from Manny, she didn't need it from her boyfriend, too.
"Sorry I'm late, Mr. Simpson."
Emma glanced up at the sound of a familiar voice and her eyes widened in surprise as Sean entered the room.
"Ah, Mr. Cameron, welcome back to Degrassi. Take a seat anywhere."
"Thanks, Mr. Simpson," Sean said with a grateful smile as he headed towards the back of the room.
Emma's head popped up to get a better look. Sean spotted Emma and smiled at the look on her face. He quickly made his way back to the empty spot beside her.
"Hi," he whispered.
"Hi. What are you doing here?" Emma whispered in reply.
"I moved back to town. I wanted to graduate with my friends. We can talk during lunch," Sean said as he noticed Mr. Simpson giving them the evil eye.
"Sure," Emma agreed but was quickly filled with dread. Everyone would be there watching her eat. Peter would probably want to re-hash the argument from this morning and then Sean would find out about her eating disorder.
"Manny told me to tell you that something came up with the Spirit Squad and she needed to deal with that," Toby informed her at lunch. Toby and JT were there but neither Sean nor Peter had made an appearance yet.
"That's not important, Toby. The big news is that Sean Cameron is back at Degrassi. In fact he's in this room right now heading straight towards us. What do we do?" Asked JT in a panicked voice.
"Saying hello is usually the proper way to greet someone," Sean said as he came up on the tail end of JT's announcement.
"Right. I mean hello."
"Good to see you haven't changed," Sean said with a grin. "Toby, how's it going?"
"Not bad. Welcome back."
"Thanks," Sean said as he sat down in the free seat next to Emma.
"Sorry I'm late," Peter said as he came running up. "My mom wanted to talk to me."
Peter looked and saw there was a guy sitting next to Emma. Confusion immediately streaked across his face. "Uh, hi, I'm Peter," he said to Sean.
"Sean Cameron," Sean replied as he stood and reached his hand out.
"Oh, you're that Sean." Peter said as he shook Sean's hand.
"Umm, maybe." Sean said. He wasn't sure if Peter was referring to the shooting or to the fact that he was Emma's ex-boyfriend.
"Peter is Ms. Hatzilakos's son," Emma quickly said.
"And Emma's boyfriend."
It was the latter Sean quickly surmised from Peter's comment. "Okay, nice to meet you."
"Yeah. So Emma do you want to go for a drive in my new car after school?"
"Hey, when are the rest of us going to get a ride in the new car?" JT interjected.
"What kind of car is it?" Sean asked.
Emma tuned out as the boys got into a long discussion about cars.
"So do you want to come, Emma?"
"Finish your lunch," Peter told her as he looked at her half-eaten sandwich.
Emma looked at him angrily before taking a bite of her sandwich.
Sean absently scratched his tattoo as he listened the exchange between Peter and Emma.
"Thank you. Now, do you want to come with me this afternoon? Sean knows a guy who can put some modifications on my car. It's going to be a street racer."
"Street racing? Peter, is this a good idea?"
"It's harmless. Just come with me, it'll be fun."
"Sure, I guess."
The bell rang and everyone quickly scattered to their respective classes.
Sean had managed to escape any unwelcome attention the rest of the day. He really just wanted to make it through his senior year without any major problems so that he could graduate. He was at his locker putting his books away when a familiar voice reached his ears.
"Oh my gosh! Sean, is it really you?"
Sean turned around to see the smiling face of Manny Santos.
"Yep, it's me," he replied with a self-conscious grin.
"Wow. I mean I knew you were back but I just haven't had a chance to talk to you yet. So how are you? When did you get back? Are you staying in Degrassi? Have you talked to Emma?
"Umm, good. A couple of weeks ago. Yes. And yes. We ate lunch together. Now I'm going to meet Emma and Peter. We're going to get some modifications installed on his car."
"Modifications? Sean, what you doing?"
"Manny, relax, everything is cool."
"Emma's had a tough year. She doesn't need anything else to happen."
"What do you mean?"
"I really shouldn't say anything," Manny trailed off.
"You're not going to tell me?" Sean asked as he wondered what had been happening with Emma.
"I can't. But you should realize that Emma's happy now. Don't mess with that."
"I'm not going to do anything to hurt Emma."
"I hope that's true. I need to get to practice. I'll see you later." Manny rushed down the hallway and Sean headed out to his car to meet Emma and Peter.
"So this is the place," Peter said as they pulled up outside an old building. "Do you want to come in?"
Emma looked at the dingy building and quickly decided she wasn't going to step one foot in that place. "It's a nice day, I think I'll just stay out here."
Emma pulled her knitting out of her bag as Sean and Peter entered the building. She'd taken up knitting this past summer. Her father seemed to find it soothing so Emma tried it. It worked. Emma got it out whenever she felt bored or stressed. So far she'd only managed a scarf and a small blanket for Jack but she was getting better.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Emma smiled at the questioning look on Sean's face. "I'm knitting. It's very relaxing."
"Are you stressed out?"
Emma sighed. She didn't want Sean to know about her eating disorder but he was going to find out anyway. It would be better if he heard it from her instead of from some gossip-monger. "I have anorexia. This helps keep my mind off of food. Or rather my obsession with not eating it."
"A lot has changed since you've been gone."
"Are you okay?"
"I'm getting better."
"Good." Sean stared at Emma, trying to reconcile the young woman before him who had been through so much with the sweet girl who had stolen his heart.
"Thanks for not asking questions."
"If you want to talk about it then I'm here but if you don't then I won't pry."
"What are you staring at?"
"Sorry. I was just remembering you when you were younger."
Emma cringed as an image of she and Sean at her mother's wedding. "Please stop. I keep seeing you and I at my mother's wedding. My hair was a wreck."
"You were cute. And you kissed me." Sean said with a wink.
"I did not," Emma protested with a laugh. "You kissed me!"
"Okay, maybe I did. What happened to us? We went from a great couple to almost hating each other."
"I didn't hate you. Well, maybe a little. But I was young and you were my first boyfriend. Breaking up sucked. But now we're older and we can be friends."
"So we are friends?"
"Good. I mean I wasn't sure. I know that we were in a good place when I stayed in Wasaga but we weren't really friends before that."
"But you saved my life," Emma reminded him. "Rick pointed that gun and was going to shoot me and you stopped him."
"I had to. I mean, you're Emma."
Emma felt heat rush into her face at the way Sean said her name. She looked down so that Sean wouldn't see the heat rising to her face.
"Emma, look at me," Sean demanded as he reached out to touch her face.
"The car's done!"
Sean dropped his hand and quickly turned around to see Peter coming out of the shop.
"Great, let's go." Emma said as she stepped around Sean.
"Sure. So I'll see you tomorrow, Sean?
"Tomorrow?" Emma questioned.
"Yeah, there's a street race." Peter said excitedly
"Is that really a good idea?"
"It's cool, no worries Emma. Right, Sean?"
"Yeah, it'll be fine," Sean said as he reached up to scratch his damn tattoo.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Emma asked the next day at the meeting spot for the street race.
"It's really not a big deal. The road is straight, it's no problem."
"You're not trying to talk him into chickening out, are you Greenpeace?" Jay asked as he and Sean walked up.
Emma rolled her eyes and crossed her arms at the appearance of Jay but said nothing.
"Good. Now why don't you stay back here where you can be safe and sound. Let's go, Loser."
Sean stayed with Emma as Peter and Jay made their way back to their cars. "I'm surprised you came."
"Peter asked me to come."
"This isn't your scene."
"Peter's my boyfriend. I'm trying to be supportive."
"You wouldn't have done this if we were still going out."
"Well we're not still going out," Emma said before walking away to put some distance between the two.
"Emma," Sean started before being drowned out by squealing tires. The race had started.
Emma watched anxiously as the cars went speeding down the street. Peter's had just edged out Jay's when the sound of sirens were heard.
"Come on!" Sean yelled as he grabbed Emma's hand and pulled her towards his car.
"What about Peter?"
"He'll be fine. Get in."
Sean drove away quickly at first but then slowed down to a normal speed as they got farther from the race site.
"I'm sorry about this Emma. I didn't mean for anything to happen," Sean said as they pulled up at Emma's house behind Peter's empty car.
"It wasn't your fault. Peter makes his own decisions."
"It's just I feel like you have this great life and every time I come around I mess things up."
"My life isn't always great. And you don't mess things up. I'm glad you're back and I'm glad we're friends," Emma said as she reached out to grab Sean's hand.
Sean looked down at the hand that Emma was holding and then back up at her face. A red flush had spread across her cheeks. She quickly looked down and tried to pry her hand from Sean's.
"Don't," Sean whispered as he gripped her hand tighter. "Look at me Emma."
Emma lifted her head and Sean quickly leaned his head in to kiss her lips. Emma immediately responded. The kiss lasted for several moments until the ringing of Emma's cell phone brought them back to reality.
"It's Peter," Emma said as she pulled the phone from her purse.
"What are you going to do?"
Emma looked at Sean before pressing the power button and throwing the phone back into her purse. She grabbed Sean's face and brought his lips back to hers.
Emma pulled back after a few moments. "We can't do this. I have a boyfriend and I'm not that kind of girl."
Emma quickly jumped out of the car and ran into her house.
"Hey! Where were you? Is Sean outside? Is he coming in?" Peter asked as soon as Emma entered the house.
"Sean stopped by Jay's to make sure he got away okay," Emma said, the lie rolling easily from her mouth. "But he couldn't stay."
"That sucks. Man, did you see that race? It was awesome…"
Emma sat down next to Peter and worked on trying to focus on what he was saying. But all she could think about was the kiss in the car. It felt like Sean had wanted to devour her. And Emma wanted him to. She wanted to get lost in the kiss forever. But she had a boyfriend. Peter wasn't perfect but he'd been very good to her. She couldn't just dump him over one kiss from her ex. Even if the kiss was very hot and much better than anything she'd ever experienced with Peter.
The next day at school Emma hurriedly put her things in her locker. She had yet to see Sean but she didn't know how to react when she did. Should she be casual and just say the kiss was no big deal? Or should she be honest and let him know how much the kiss affected her but that she was still with Peter?
Emma was so lost in thought that she didn't notice that Sean was standing in front of her until she ran into him. Without saying a word, he dragged her into an empty classroom.
"Sean, what are you doing? We're going to be l-"
Sean closed his mouth over Emma's and effectively silenced her.
"Sorry," he said after the all too brief kiss. "But I needed to do that. I have to make up for lost time."
"Sean," Emma started.
"I have something for you," he interrupted and pulled out a jewelry box. "Here."
"What's this?" Emma asked as she opened the box. Inside were emerald and gold earrings. "They're beautiful but I can't accept them. What would Peter say?"
Sean looked down in disappointment. "Right, it's just that I was hoping that wouldn't be an issue." Sean looked Emma in the eyes. "I know what I want. I'm hoping that you want the same thing."
The bell rang before Emma could answer. "We need to get to class."
Emma managed to avoid Sean and Peter the rest of the day by eating lunch with Snake and hiding in the girl's restroom. Unfortunately Manny did manage to catch her while she was hiding.
"Since you've been hiding all day I thought I would let you know the weather. It's cloudy with a one hundred percent chance of you making out with your ex-boyfriend!"
"I saw you yesterday with Sean. Emma, what are you doing?"
"It's nothing. Sean is just a friend."
"Yeah, you always make out with your friends. You're with Peter now. You're happy."
"I'm just trying to work things out."
"I'm just want you to be okay."
"I am okay and I will be okay."
Emma decided to walk home after school. She needed the space to think about all the things going on in her head.
Emma turned to see Peter driving along beside her in his car.
"Why didn't you meet me after school?"
"I just needed some time to figure things out, Peter."
"Peter, I just need some space."
"You're breaking up with me!"
"I didn't say that! I'm saying that I need a break!"
"This is about Sean, isn't it? You still have a thing for him!"
"This is about us, Peter! I need some time by myself without you. It has nothing to do with Sean."
"Yeah right. You do whatever the hell you want because I'm done with you!"
Peter's tires squealed as he drove away. Emma didn't want to break up with Peter but he needed to realize that she needed to take a step back from their relationship in order to figure out what she wanted. If he couldn't give her that space then maybe it just wasn't meant to be for the two of them anyway.