Title: i could be the lesson that you learn
Info: Degrassi, Snake/Darcy/Emma, R. For takemeback. Thanks to Ben for talking me back from the edge.
She stays behind, Emma does, and he doesn’t understand quite why. How could he, even if he asked – and he does – she softens her face, touches his with her soft fingers and smiles, “I meant what I said, I’m not leaving you to get through this alone.” And yes, that explains something, but it doesn’t quite cut it. But he can’t press her, he won’t press her, because she’s Emma – the recovering anorexic and he’s Archie Simpson – her stepfather, and things are tenuous already.
And he hates to admit it, but she’s right. He doesn’t think that he’d do it – go back through those doors every day – without her face, her presence at his side. Not when he knows that Spike doesn’t trust him, doesn’t think him worth the wait.
The other kids are great too, most of them anyways. Dropping off cards, a few taking care to talk to Daphne to report anyone spreading negative rumors – this he hears about second hand, and Daphne assures him that she’s on his side, but of course she respects free speech as long as no one’s being hurt. He just smiles, a little tight around the edges, and doesn’t say that someone is.
The nights are best though. Away from the eyes and the deliberate awkwardness of those who aren’t looking, he finds it surprisingly easy to collapse on the sofa next to Emma and pop in a DVD. She doesn’t mind that he drinks as long as he keeps it to a minimum and lets her have a sip. He doesn’t mind that she rents “Serenade” because she ends up getting frustrated with the “ridiculous male lead” and turning if off half way through anyway.
Instead, she turns to him, tucking her bare legs – bare up to the tiny terrycloth pajama shorts – beneath her, and flings her arm across the back of the couch.
“Darcy Edwards told me she lied, that you didn’t touch her.”
He stiffens, swallowing, putting down his beer can in measured movements. “You needed her to tell you that?” He’s still on the offensive, he can’t help it – he jumps there.
Emma smirks a noise of disdain. “No, Snake, of course not. I’m just saying that… And don’t jump on me here, I’m not Mom – Just because you didn’t touch her, doesn’t mean you didn’t want to.” He can see her, frozen, poised, waiting for his response.
“Where would you get an idea like that, Emma?” His voice is quiet, not forceful. He thinks, swallowing again, that she’d know if he were lying anyway. She is, after all, his stepdaughter. She knows the signs. “I’m no pedophile,” he adds, knowing that, at this point he’s all but digging his grave. Still, he has to say it. His reputation is banked on it.
Emma pulls her legs up, knees to her chest. He tries not to look. “We’re hardly children – Darcy’s not a child. In fact, in the legal sense–”
He cuts her off, standing up, “No, Emma. Don’t. You don’t know what you’re saying–”
“But I do know what I’m saying. You’re the one who isn’t thinking things through.”
“Emma, it’s late. Go… go to bed.”
She stands and it’s worse, but she nods and turns down the hallway. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
He’s been fighting it for a long time, because what else can he do, but fight it? The minute he gives in, everything they’re saying about him becomes true and he becomes the person he hates, the one they all loathe, and for good reason. He knows his eyes have committed sins, but his hands haven’t ventured.
A finger taps on the glass outside his classroom and he looks up, shaking papers from his lap. Darcy, smiling. Her fingers dance in a little wave. He feels his throat tighten, a twitching of the corners of his mouth, and he lifts his own hand in recognition. She’s already a victim, he thinks. Vulnerable. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.
Emma’s supposed to come to his classroom after school to ride home, but an hour late and she hasn’t made an appearance and her cell phone goes to voice mail. He’s trying not to panic, but it’s not going well. Quick steps down hallways, nodding at fellow teachers, peering into classrooms. Music from the gym, and he knows he shouldn’t but he peeks in anyway, eyes sweeping the moving forms, catching on Darcy – her too-thin body half a beat too slow, hands on her hips. She chances a look his way and they lock eyes, her smiling again, and again he finds it impossible to breathe.
Shaking free, he scans the rest of the room, and shakes his head. Emma with a notebook in her lap, sprawled on the bleachers. Harsh words are on the tip of his tongue, but she doesn’t need them any more than he needs to say them. He decides it’s best to just wait at his desk, though, once he gets there, he doesn’t get any work done.
The seed has been planted, so he supposes Lucas Valieri would be happy. He searches himself almost daily now, like a drug he knows will leave him with a bad taste in his mouth – or worse, unconscious in a hospital, being pumped with charcoal. Still, he does it. Just to see his name pop up on the MyRoomPage blogs of students he thought he trusted, just to see creative Photoshop work blending yearbook photos with “PERV TEACHER.” Maybe he should start giving bonus points.
He shuts the computer down as he hears footsteps approaching, not wanting Emma to know what he does to himself, not wanting her to know that he knows.
“Darcy’s spending the night,” Emma says, rounding the corner, dragging the girl in question by the hand.
He raises his eyebrows and reaches for the papers he needs to bring home. “Not on a school night, she’s not.” Makes things easier that way, how one simple phrase can just lay down everything. No questions.
Darcy looks uncomfortable. “Um,” she looks at Emma. “I can just… I can find someplace else.”
“You won’t.” Emma leans against the desk, staring him down. “Her parents are going out of town, Snake. I offered. It was the right thing to do.”
He sets his jaw, sighs and stands. He’d shake his head but he doesn’t want to make either girl feel bad about the situation. Still, he doesn’t even know why he tries sometimes. It’s obvious that Emma’s the one in charge. It’s almost funny.
“Alright, then. But I’m driving.”
The girls disappear upstairs and he looks after their retreating feet thinking oh hell, and heads to the kitchen to find a beer. There’s one that definitely has his name on it. He doesn’t even try to imagine what’s going on upstairs – instead, finds the remote and flicks on the television. Ah, news. The time honored tradition of finding distraction in the daily quotidian of wars, murder and weather forecasts.
He’s just slipping into the rhythm of “Back to you, Jan,” when female feet tumble down the stairs, carrying female legs. Both of them – Darcy and Emma – in Emma’s pajamas, and Snake nearly chokes on his beer because damn it, Emma can’t possibly own any cotton shorts shorter than the ones they’re wearing.
He must be staring because Emma waves a hand in front of his face, grinning. “Uh, Dad? We were wondering if we could order some pizza… unless you were planning on cooking?”
All he can do is shake his head vaguely, eyebrows raised, and try not to sweep his gaze over forms in looks he knows will be less than holy. “Pizza. Great.” And he must have lost himself for a moment, because when he blinks awake again, Emma’s in the other room – calling for pizza, right – and Darcy is standing closer than she’s stood in weeks, while wearing less, and in his house.
“I know it’s probably none of my business… are you aright, Mr. Simpson? I mean, living on your own and all.” She looks down, twisting her fingers in the fabric of her shorts. He tries not to look. It doesn’t work. “Cause, I didn’t mean for it to happen, but I’ve been talking to Emma, and I’m not… I’m not sorry that it did.” She presses her lips together, releasing a breath through her nose, nostrils flaring.
He stares at her for several moments, unable to process what just happened, or what she just said. “What do you mean, Darcy?”
“Well, if your wife were here, I would feel… well. I wouldn’t feel right about kissing you.” She swallows, looks up.
He can feel his blood pressure spiking, and his hands clench. “Darcy…”
She just bites her lip, her eyes clear.
And then, thank God, Emma rounds the corner, “So I’m pretty sure that an hour estimated arrival time for one large veggie doesn’t warrant a tip…” her voice softening into a slow smile. “Starting without me, I see.” She smirks.
For a moment, all he can do is blink. “Wait. What?” He thinks he feels his heart stop. There certainly isn’t enough blood getting around. He’s pretty sure that he missed something. That he’s about a commercial break behind everyone else in this scene.
“It’s like I was saying last night, Dad, legally, it’s almost not even an issue. And Darcy and I, we’ve talked about this. You don’t have to worry about it.” Emma leans against Darcy, slipping one arm around the other girl’s shoulder.
Snake sputters a moment, shaking his head and backing up until he comes against the recliner chair. “Oh no, Emma Nelson. I do have to worry about it, because there’s no way you know what you’re doing. And there’s no way that I’m allowing this – whatever this is – to happen.” He keeps shoving words out of his mouth, because words just might keep him from doing something irrevocably stupid.
He realizes that Darcy is reaching towards him and shudders, but she only takes his beer can from his tightened hand. “You wouldn’t want to spill,” she says quietly, seeming unphased by his words, or maybe strengthened by them.
“No,” he breathes out. “Wouldn’t want that.” He finds support in the chair, though it wobbles a little with him leaning against it. He figures its about as sturdy as he’ll get at the moment.
Emma leans into Darcy and tugs at the bottom of her shirt a little. “Guess it wouldn’t be right to force him,” and he can see something stiffen in Darcy’s body, but she leans back into Emma and sighs.
“You’re right.” He watches her take a breath, her chest lift. “He can’t possibly object, however, if we express ourselves. Nothing wrong with that.” Darcy brushes her fingers against Emma’s cheek, her face kind, her eyes flicking to catch his. Something stops in his throat.
Emma smiles. “No, I think he would encourage it. Creativity and all that.” She pulls Darcy’s top off in one swift movement and Snake all but loses his balance. His step-daughter grins and looks his way. “Not bad, hmm? Though, I would like to see your technique.” She shrugs and holds out one hand, palm up. Darcy’s eyes are on him too, hot, bright. One arm around her waist and the other holding Emma’s – she doesn’t try to cover up.
He should leave. Right now. Before it’s too late.
But he knows its already too late.
It’s been too late for weeks now.
“Actually,” he says, clearing his throat, “I think you might be able to teach me a thing or two.”