Title: Morning Musings
Author: UConn Fan (LoveUConnBasketball@yahoo.com)
Authors Note: This probably has spoilers . . but I'm kind of behind in my episode watching, but if it helps, this was written after I watched "The Awful Truth", but after I had seen the episode where Eli misses the play . . so I guess it's set whenever you see it set! like I said, PLEASE review - I'm a writer by profession, I live
off of it. Oh, and I set O&A in Downers Grove, IL, for anything that I'd need for things in the general
vicinity, since I knew it was based in a Chicago suburb . . .
Oh . . and Meg . . this one is sooo obviously for you :)

Eli sat at the kitchen table and watched Grace talk animatedly on the phone to someone . . probably Mr. Dimitri, he thought with a disgusted shudder. Eli knew he was no brain surgeon - he'd be the first to admit that he had very little interest in anything other then music . . and well, Grace. Regardless, even Eli knew that something was . . off with Mr. Dimitri and the thought of any of that touching Grace made him sick.
Not like you're good enough for her, an inner voice reminded him as he sighed and took another bite of his breakfast. He knew he probably wasn't good enough for Grace - she was smart, heck she had even tutored him. That didn't stop him from wanting her - and not just wanting her for a few dates, something casual . . he wanted to have her forever.
Of course he knew that was probably impossible too . . he was eighteen for Chrissakes, and she was only sixteen . . if that wasn't bad enough, they were stepsiblings. He really liked Lily - she had stuck up for him and helped him more then he really ever thought she would. She saw potential in him, and he liked that - but he imagined that she probably wouldn't be happy if he dated her daughter. Not that I blame her, Eli thought with another disgusted sigh.
Grace used to like him, that much he knew. She still might - he wasn't certain about that. However Eli had hesitantly admited to himself that over the course of them living together, his feelings towards Grace had turned from just accepting her presence - in the house and around his then girlfriend - to yearning for her company. He envied her, he looked up to her - he wanted to be the kind of person she was, that way he thought he could be the kind of man that she'd want to be with.
Eli had no idea how close he was to achieving his goal . . most of the time he felt as if he just kept getting farther away from the type of person he wanted to be. Old habits died hard, but he would continue to struggle until he succeeded. Grace meant that much to him - afterall, as much as really didn't like to think about it, he was sure he was madpassionatecrazy in love with her.
He wanted her to feel that way about him . . he wanted her face to soften and her smile to brighten when she saw him. Eli wanted to be the type of man who Jake and Lily would approve of . . . of course, that was not taking into regard the fact that Lily was his stepmother. In many ways, their parents relationship was the least of his problems. He needed to prove that he could be a good person . . . that he could be the kind of person that she deserved to be with.
He felt Jessie's glare on him as he watched Grace. Jessie assumed that the two of them were already 'together' and hiding it - and she made it known to him that she was none too happy with being kept in the dark. However he hadn't lied when he said there was nothing going on between them. At the same time he was horrified that his feelings had become so obvious to his sister and wondered how long it would be until his Mother or Father caught on.
At the table Zoe and Jessie started to bicker about cereal as Grace hung up the phone and sat down next to him, giving him a tiny smile as she poured her own bowl of cereal. Her smile did things to him that it shouldn't, but it gave him feelings he liked as well. He'd always heard forbidden love was sweetest - things like Romeo and Juliet popped into his mind - and he wondered if this was what everyone meant by that. If it was, he could actually understand it.
Grace studied her cereal bowl as her sister and stepsister continued their bickering. Eli nudged her and she looked over to see him rolling her eyes at her and indicating to their sisters. Holding back a giggle, she nodded and returned to her food. Things between her and Eli were weird - at times it felt to her as though she was his best friend and vice versa, and at the same time they couldn't even be in a room together without anyone else. He had let her down and lied to her and at the same time she loved being with him. They bantered and he made her laugh, and it didn't hurt matters that he was absolutely adorable. Well, that, and him saying her name made her quiver.
Eli was probably the last boy on earth she should want to be with - afterall it matched all those lame cliches, she thought in disgust. Bad boy meets good girl and falls in love . . wait, she stopped herself, love?!?! who was bringing that into the equation, things were way too complicated already. Anyway, she knew his relationship history - to put it mildly, it stunk. She didn't want to get hurt anymore, and she knew if they did ever get together she didn't want it to just be some casual thing. Grace wanted it to be exclusive.
Plus, deep down she knew Eli scared her. A relationship between them wasn't really wrong - although she imagined it would give both her Mom and Rick heart attacks - they weren't biologically siblings or anything. However around Eli she was a different person, and while he had once told her that he wanted to be more like her, she wanted to be more like him. Eli was passionate and at times reckless, but he also lived life on his own terms. Grace desperately longed for something like that in her life, no matter how big or small.
"So, what is everyone doing today?" Lily asked brightly, walking into the kitchen as Rick followed behind her, obviously less enthused by the coming of the morning.
"I have to go do some stuff." Eli said casually as everyone looked at him with curious eyes. Well, everyone except Grace, who seemed distracted that morning.
"What stuff, Eli?" his Father asked, suddenly wide awake and eager to poke his nose into his sons business. Not that I've earned any trust, Eli reminded himself, but a little bit would still be nice.
"Just . . stuff." he said, purposely not letting out any information as he shrugged his shoulders.
"Does this stuff require you taking the car?" Rick questioned as Eli nodded.
"I swear I'll bring it back in good condition." he vowed, feeling silly for even having to make such a promise.
"You better, E, or it's your rear." Rick warned.
"Mom, you're driving me to Brittany's, right? I'm supposed to spend the night." Zoe reminded her Mother as Lily nodded, taking a sip of her morning coffee.
"I remember sweetie. We'll leave after lunch, so make sure your stuff is ready." she reminded the young girl, who nodded and took another bite of her breakfast. "What about you Jessie? are you spending the night your Moms?"
"Yeah. We're going to go to the movies this afternoon."
"That's good, sounds like fun." Lily commented with a smile. "Gracie, sweetie, are you okay?" she asked, noticing that over the past few minutes Grace's face suddenly looked pale.
"I'm fine Mom. Just tired. You know . . stressed about the play and all." she explained quickly as Eli felt a sharp pain go through his heart. He had let her down, and he had hated to do that . . but Grace had forgiven him, and obviously wanted to move past it, so that's what he was trying to do.
"Well what are your plans for the day honey?"
"Nothing," she admited with a sigh. She had homework to do, she knew that . . . and she had been invited to go to the movies and the mall with some friends, but she had very little energy, despite what she was letting on.
"Rick and I are going to go out, after we drop Zoe off and after Karen picks up Jessie, will you be alright by yourself?" Lily questioned with concern as Grace wanted to scream at her, hating the feeling of being treated like a child.
"I'll be fine." she insisted as Zoe declared she was going to go get her stuff ready, leaving the table as Jessie followed a few moments later. "I'm going to go to my room," she said as way of excusing herself as she stood, bring her bowl to the sink and walking out of the room.
Lily and Rick exchanged looks before deciding to focus their attentions on Eli. "So, E, what are your plans for today?" Rick asked casually as Eli looked at them, frustrated.
"I told you already, stuff." he said, standing and walking out of the kitchen.
"Oh, I do love our family bonding moments . . " Lily murmured as Rick let out a sigh.

By that night Grace felt horrible, her body feeling like it weighed a million pounds. The house was abandoned and she was resting on the couch in the living room, a box of tissues laying on the floor next to her as a glass of orange juice was on the table and a bad movie played on the television. Jessie and Zoe were spending the night elsewhere, and Rick and her Mom were out for the night and Eli . . well, he was wherever he was, she thought to herself as she coughed and took another sip of her orange juice. It was offical, she felt horrible.
She had accomplished nothing that day . . unless you count spending way too long thinking about your stepbrother in an un-family like way accomplishing something. Eli had been the first one to leave the house, refusing to tell anyone what he was doing or where he was going, despite Rick's badgering. Her Mother had stepped in, and Eli had given Lily a grateful smile before making his way out of the house.
Grace had been relieved when Jessie, Zoe, her Mom and Rick had left in the early afternoon. She was happy to have the house to herself, to be free from her Mother's constant worrying and nosiness and away from Zoe and Jessie's bickering. Instead she had camped out on the sofa with a nice, warm afghan, a box of tissues, a glass of orange juice and a stack of grade B movies. It had either been the grade B movies or the romantic comedies, and she was far too depressed to watch a chick flick.
It was nearly ten at night when she was stirred awake by the sound of keys turning in the front door. Sighing, she started to sit up to gather her things to leave when, to her surprise and relief, Eli walked in. She let out a breathe she didn't know she was holding, glad that it wasn't someone who was going to make her move, and wondering why Eli was coming in the front door instead of his own door into the garage.
"Hey Grace," he said, smiling at her as he walked into the living room and sat on the edge of the sofa. "You feeling any better?" he asked with concern.
Eli was relieved to be home, but happy to think about all he had accomplished. In one day he had managed to take care of things that his parents had been bothering him about for months. He had no idea where he'd suddenly found the drive to get out there and do this stuff, he he was glad he had. He was also delighted that the one person he was really doing it all for - Grace - was the first person he saw when he walked in the house, since she was really the only one he wanted to see anyway.
"Honestly?" she asked, briefly contemplating lying to him so he'd leave her alone. The tension in the air when they were alone together was palapable. They were fine together, as long as someone else was in the room, but by themselves things seemed to get messy.
"Please?" he asked with a gentle smile as she had to smile back. Deep down she knew she could never lie to him, no matter how bad she wanted to, just to get back at him. It wasn't who she was to him, and she was always willing to bend to be whatever he needed her to be.
"No, I feel horrible." she admited, coughing as she grabbed a tissue. Eli leaned over and handed her the orange juice, holding it while she took a sip of it. "Sorry," she said with a flustered smile as he put her glass down and she laid back.
"I'm sorry your not feeling good," he said, giving her a sad puppy dog face and sounding sincere.
"It's okay. What did you do today?" she asked curiously, her curiousity getting the best of her.
"A lot, actually." he said, obviously proud of himself as Grace sat up more, eager to listen to him. "I, um, I got a job." he said sheepishly as a smile immediately fluttered across her face.
"Really?? Congratulations!! Where?" she asked, fighting the urge to lean over and hug him. She was suddenly so proud of him, hoping that this time he'd be able to keep the job.
"A music store over in Naperville. A lot of shelfing . . but you know, it's a job." Eli said with a smile. "It's only sixteen hours a week, but it's a start, and it is a job. It was either that or being Chuck E Cheese at Chuck E Cheese." he said as they both laughed at the image.
"That is really wonderful, your Mom and Dad are going to be so proud of you." she said honestly as he smiled and nodded, happy to finally be basking in some positive attention for once.
"That . . that's actually not all I did." he said, starting to dig in his pocket for the piece of paper he knew was there.
"Really? what else did you do?" she asked skeptically, part of her wondering briefly if he was going to take a bag of marajuana out of his coat pocket.
"Here, check it out." he said, finally bringing out a folded piece of white paper and handing it to her. She looked at him oddly before taking the crinkled white paper and starting to read it.
It took her a few times reading it to process what it was, since it was the last thing she had been expecting. However upon her third read she did realize that it was indeed a class schedule - five classes, classes in English, History, Math and then three in Music. She also realized that he'd have to get up early and keep a balancing act if he was going to carry fifteen credits and a sixteen hour job.
"A class schedule." she said with wide eyes and a smile as Eli smiled back at her. "I thought you hadn't gotten accepted . ." she said gently.
"I, uh, didn't. It's a junior college in Juliet, but it's still college, and all of the credits I earn are transferable to any college in Illinois." he said, hoping he didn't look or sound to hopeful, but was thrilled to see a smile of pride appear on Grace's pretty features. "That's great! You're going to be really busy. You know everyone's going to be totally amazed by all of this. Why are you doing this all of a sudden?" she asked, handing him back the schedule that he stuffed into his pocket.
Eli glanced at her, smiling, hoping maybe she'd find some way to read his mind. "I was inspired." he said softly, smiling at her as she smiled back at him. Unfortunetely, their moment was quickly broken as Grace began another round of coughing. "Hey, are you okay? do you need more orange juice? Or some better movies?" he teased, glancing over at the pile of movies that rested on the television.
"Some juice would be nice." she admitted as she regained her bearings. He nodded, smiling at her as he grabbed her glass. "I'm going to get you juice and then go get changed . . would you mind if I came back? you know, watch some bad movies with you?" he asked hopefully as she looked at him, not quite believing her ears. It was a brief but awkward silence that followed before Grace smiled and nodded. "Okay, great." he said, smiling at her and walking out of the living room.
Even though Grace was feeling awful, she had to admit that the evening that she spent with Eli was one of the nicest she'd ever spent with anyone. After he'd come back from his apartment/garage, he'd arranged himself at the end of the couch with Grace's feet in his lap. They had a nice time together, talking about his music and her schoolwork - he was particularly happy to hear her not-so-nice comments regarding the freakish Mr. Dimitri. He made them popcorn and made sure Grace never ran low on orange juice. It was an entirely new side of him that Grace could never remember seeing, one that she was happy to spend time with. However, she knew she was happy to spend time with Eli whenever, regardless of his mood or hers.
The two of them were just starting to head to their respective rooms when Lily and Rick walked in the door shortly after one thirty in the morning. Despite her earlier exhaustion, Grace hadn't been at all tired during her time with Eli, resting her feet in his lap and watching an old, bad movie with him. A few times he had absentmindedly rubbeed her feet, and she had to bite back a few very inappropriate moans, wondering if he was doing this to purposely torture her or not.
Eli was glad that he had been the first one home that night and had been able to spend the time with Grace. The look of pride on her face had made all of his day's difficulties worth it. He had hated to find her sick when he had walked in the door, but he was surprised when she let him help her, something she was usually so stubborn about. He was closer to being a better person though, and he knew most of that was because of what he wanted to be for her.
"Good night E," Grace called, smiling at him as she started to trod up the stairs to her bedroom, her throw wrapped around her shoulders.
"Night Grace, feel better." he called out, smiling at her one more time as she smiled back, slowly making her way up to her room. He stood there, listening until he heard the soft thud of her door shutting, before he nodded goodnight to his Father and Lily, making his way to his room. It wasn't until he was into his bed for the night that he realized he hadn't even mentioned his days accompliments to his Father, but it mattered very little to him, the one person he was doing it for knew about it, and that was really all that mattered.