Summary: Fitz is back at Degrassi and determined to turn over a new leaf, but will old habits prove too hard to kill? Or will his budding friendship with Clare be his saving grace?
Disclaimer: Don't own Degrassi. 'Nuff said.
Author's Note: Enjoy!
In retrospect, she should have expected nothing less. Somehow, word had gotten around that she was involved with the disaster that was Vegas Night, and by extension, partially responsible for the many changes that the school had undergone over the break - including, but not limited to, the new dress code. Needless to say, no one was particularly happy, and as Clare Edwards walked down the halls of Degrassi, it took most - if not all - of her willpower to hold her head up high as she faced the onslaught of glares, whispers and accusing fingers that followed her.
She could take it though, she decided, because it wasn't nearly as bad as what Adam was being forced to endure, or Eli.
Her thoughts drifted to her boyfriend.
Was he still her boyfriend? She hadn't spoken to him since the lockdown, after she'd given him an ultimatum, and that was almost three weeks ago. They'd already been back at school for one, but she hadn't found the courage to confront him yet. She had avoided him during the entire break, refusing to respond to his texts and e-mails and phone calls because darn it, she needed time to herself; time to reflect on everything that was going on, but especially what had happened during Vegas Night. She had never been so scared in her life -
Clare started, suddenly jarred from her reverie, and glanced over to see Adam kneeling on the floor, face contorted in pain as he clutched his left shoulder, while a group of upperclassmen disappeared down the hall yelling, "That's what you get for having such a bitch for a mom, Tranny!"
Frowning, Clare made her way over and crouched down to help her friend gather his books, which lay scattered all around.
"Are you okay?" She asked, handing him the last one.
"I'm fine," Adam mumbled, refusing to meet her gaze. He thanked her quietly, then sighed, running a hand through his hair awkwardly before finally looking at her. "They're right, you know."
"The uniforms were my mom's idea." He muttered, rolling his eyes and tugging at his purple polo in disgust.
Clare peered down at herself. It wasn't that she had a problem with the uniform; she used to willingly wear one to school even before it was required, until she and Alli decided to raid Darcy's wardrobe. But she could understand why the rest of the student body would be so adamant about it. They were itchy, and unflattering, and managed to strip away a kind of individuality.
Principal Simpson certainly hadn't been lying when he'd told them that they wouldn't recognize their school when they got back. It was like stepping into an entirely new world. Police now monitored the halls, metal detectors had been set up at every entrance, and locker checks were issued without warning.
New rules had also been implemented. For instance, anyone caught walking the halls while class was in session would serve a week's detention; public displays of affection, though frowned upon before, were now strictly prohibited - including kissing, hugging, and holding hands. Students could only eat in designated locations, such as the cafeteria, and all social networking sites had been banned and blocked off. They weren't even allowed to leave school grounds until the end of the day.
In this new Degrassi, freedom was but a memory, and no one knew how long it would last. But they knew who to blame.
A chill suddenly crawled down Clare's spine, around the same time that she saw Adam stiffen. Seconds later, a strict-looking hall monitor marched past them, casting a cold glare in their direction before rounding the corner. When he was out of sight, Adam let out a breath of relief and rose to his feet, with Clare following his lead.
"What's the point of even having cops when they're never around to actually catch anyone?"
Clare nodded in agreement.
"So, have you talked to Eli?" Adam asked, changing the subject.
Her gaze faltered. "No, not yet."
Adam shot her an exasperated look. "Well, maybe you should. It's been three weeks, Clare… you're gonna have to eventually." He said knowingly. Then he titled his head to the side and smiled mischievously. "Now might be a good time."
Before Clare could say anything, a familiar voice sounded from behind.
She narrowed her eyes at Adam, who merely shrugged nonchalantly in response, then threw his backpack over his shoulder and disappeared down the hall. Clare watched his retreating form until she sensed him approach, and groaned. She started walking, refusing to glance back even when she heard her name being called. She ignored it - ignored him - and quickened her pace. With any luck, she'd reach her math class before he caught up to her.
It was cowardly, but she didn't want to deal with him right now. She wasn't ready, and so when she heard his footsteps closing in, she broke into an almost-run and got about halfway to her destination before she realized it was too late. Her stomach dropped when she felt his fingers curl around her wrist, bringing her to an abrupt halt.
"Clare, stop." He begged, panting heavily behind her. He was so close. Too close. She could smell his cologne; it intoxicated her senses and made her dizzy, to the point where she almost wanted to lean into him. She managed to catch herself in time, shaking her head furiously. His breath caressed the back of her neck, "Talk to me, Clare."
'No!' Her mind screamed. 'No, no, no!'
"Go away, Eli." She said stiffly, teeth clenched.
"Not until we talk." He countered, his grip tightening.
"There's nothing to talk about, Eli. Now let go of me!" Clare tried to pry her wrist away from him, but with little avail.
"Damn it, Clare!" Eli released her suddenly, only to spin her around and plant his hands firmly on her shoulders. "Would you just look at me?" He cried, desperation evident in his voice.
Clare lifted her head, glaring coldly at him all the while. She placed her hands over his.
"You could've died, Eli. Does that not register with you at all? You. Could. Have. DIED!" She hissed, letting her nails bite into his skin. She saw him wince, but he made no move to remove his hands. "And all because you were too stubborn to let things go!"
Eli's eyes flashed dangerously. "I told you -"
Clare cut him off.
"Look, Eli… I'm sorry that you were bullied. I've been there. I know what it's like to feel helpless and alone, and to have everyone just stand around and do nothing. But you… you can't just…" she blinked back the tears that were welling up, and took a deep breath, "Fitz was going to end the feud, Eli. All you had to do was apologize, and you didn't even have to mean it… but you and your stupid pride… I don't know what I would've done if he had really killed -" she broke off, a choked sob escaping her throat, unable to keep herself composed any longer.
Eli caught her just as her knees buckled and she buried her face in his chest. He fell back against a nearby locker and slid to the floor, taking her with him as she continued to cry.
"I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…" Clare heard him whisper into her hair like a sacred mantra. "I'll never do it again… just please… give me another chance, Clare… please… I lo -"
He was interrupted by the third period bell. Stragglers hurriedly raced to their classes hoping to avoid punishment, leaving the hallway practically empty save for the two teenagers on the floor, locked in an embrace. After a few minutes, Clare calmed down and leaned back, sniffling and wiping her tear-stained cheeks. Eli reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, smiling ruefully.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"Don't be." He told her, "I'm the one that's sorry. You were right. I should've listened to you. I'm an idiot."
"Yes, you are." Clare said.
"So… will you give this idiot a second chance?" He asked, holding her gaze, pleading.
Clare sighed. "Eli…"
"Clare, I messed up. Really messed up. I know that, and I thought about what you said before the break… and that's all I could think about. You deserve… so much better… but I'm selfish, and… I want to be with you. More than anything." Eli swallowed hard and took her by the hand, lacing their fingers together. "I can't make any promises, but… I'll try. I mean it. If it'll make you happy. So please… give me another chance."
Clare stared at him for a long time, deliberating. She didn't know what to do. The easy way out would be to break up with him, but she didn't know if she could go through with that. As upset as she was, she felt something for Eli. She wasn't going to deny that. Being with him was nothing short of exhilarating, but at the same time, she didn't know if she could handle any more incidents like what happened during Vegas Night. But if Eli was telling the truth, then…
"Okay," she nodded, watching his face practically light up. "One more chance. Don't let me down." She squeezed his hand reassuringly before rising to her feet.
Eli followed suit, and was about to open his mouth to say something when a stern voice interjected.
"I believe you two are supposed to be in class."
Clare inhaled sharply and whirled around, looking much like a deer caught in the headlights as her eyes landed on the Media Immersion teacher, Ms. Oh. The dark-haired woman crossed her arms expectantly.
"We were just… we were just…" Clare fumbled with her words, fidgeting uncontrollably before glancing at Eli, who was fairing a lot better than herself despite the circumstances.
"We were just on our way." He answered coolly.
"You're ten minutes late, Mr. Goldsworthy." Ms. Oh reminded him.
"We would've been on time, but… we… I mean, I… I lost my notes, and Eli was just… helping me find… them…" Clare bit her bottom lip, shrinking away from Ms. Oh's hardened stare.
"You may be a good student, Miss Edwards, but you're a terrible liar." She said, "Now, it is within my jurisdiction to give you both detentions for the next month… but I won't. Not today. If, however, I catch either of you two wandering these halls again while you're supposed to be in class, I won't go so easy on you. Do I make myself clear?"
Both teens nodded vigorously. "Yes, ma'am."
"It won't happen again." Clare added.
"It better not, or you'll be dealing with Principal Simpson next." Ms. Oh warned them, "Now get to class."
And that's the end of chapter one. Sorry, no Fitz yet, but he will make an appearance in either the second or third chapter, depending. After that, he'll be playing a more prominent role in the story. As for pairings… it will primarily be EClare, and perhaps one-sided Flare, though the main focus of the plot will be about Fitz and Clare's growing friendship. So yeah.
Please give feedback! I love reading what you guys think, and remember… constructive criticism is always welcome.