Disclaimer: Don't own Degrassi. 'Nuff said.
Author's Note: Oh, wow. I got some negative reviews last chapter. I had a feeling chapter 34 was too rushed, but the way it played out in my head was the way it would've probably played out on the actual show. But I suppose it just didn't work. Oh well. On the other hand, there are those who feel like this story has dragged on for far too long.
Welp. I can't please everyone.
"Hey! Get your hands off me, you son of a bitch! I didn't do nothin'!" Phil McLean snarled, red in the face and thrashing violently as he was led over to the police cruiser parked outside their apartment.
Fitz followed silently while his step-father continued to rant and rave, yelling obscenities at the cop restraining him and at anyone — including innocent bystanders — who looked at him the wrong way.
"Listen, whatever that little punk told you, he's lying!"
"We'll see about that." The young officer holding him responded coolly. It was as if he'd heard it countless times before — and in retrospect, he probably had. Phil's shouting didn't faze him in the least. When Phil tried to speak up once more, the officer cut him off. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. Do you understand me?"
It was beyond satisfying, watching Phil be taken away in cuffs. After talking to Ms. Sauvé, she had convinced him to tell his mother — and so he did. He went straight home and found her sitting in the living room, still in her pajamas, and he told her. The next few hours were a complete blur to Fitz, with his mother crying and Phil coming back from the bar down the road. He remembered his mother screaming at Phil and throwing things at him, telling him to get out, just before the cops arrived to arrest him.
As Fitz watched the officer force Phil into the patrol car, he let out a breath of relief.
It felt as though a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
The man who had terrorized him for years was gone.
It was over.
A sense of bitter triumph washed over him, and he waited until the cruiser drove off before making his way back inside.
His mother was where he'd left her, sitting on the sofa. Her hair was matted to her face, which was blotchy and stained with tears. She sat with her shoulders slumped and her hands clasped, staring blankly at the coffee table, lost in her own thoughts. When Fitz closed the door behind him, she looked up — and he saw clearly the anguish and confusion in her eyes, and tore his gaze away guiltily.
Walking over, he sat down beside her.
He was at a loss for words.
"How…" his mother's voice was raspy from crying, "How long has he been hurting you, baby?"
Fitz could only shrug.
His body felt numb. He still hadn't wrapped his mind around what was happening. It couldn't be real. It had to be a dream. He kept expecting to wake up to Phil shouting at the TV or pounding on his bedroom door.
"Since I was seven." He confessed.
"Oh God…" His mother choked, holding a hand to her mouth and shaking her head in disbelief. "Oh God… why didn't you tell me, Mark? I would've protected you! I would've -"
"I didn't want him to hurt you too." Fitz told her.
"But I'm your mother! I'm supposed to protect you, not the other way around!" Abby cried.
"I know!" He clenched his fists. "I know… I'm sorry… I should've told you… but I was…" he swallowed the lump in his throat, fixing his gaze on their reflections on the TV screen. "I was scared." He said softly. "I was scared about what he would do to me if I told… but mostly I was scared about what he would do to you. I didn't want him to hurt you. I'm sorry, Mom." His voice cracked while his eyes burned with unshed tears. "I'm so sorry…"
His mother's thin arms enveloped him as he broke down, his entire body shaking.
"Don't cry, Mark… this isn't your fault." Abby whispered, rocking him back and forth. "It's mine. I should've known. I should've been there to protect you." She drew in a shuddery breath, trying to maintain her composure. "But I won't make that mistake again, you hear me?" She placed her hands on his shoulders, looking him straight in the eye. "I'll make sure that bastard pays for what he did to you, if it's the last thing I do."
One week later…
What the hell was she doing?
That was the only thing going through Bianca's mind as she scanned the crowded hallway. Lunch had just started and students were piling out of their classrooms and heading straight for the cafeteria. Normally, that's what she would be doing as well — but she was a woman with a mission that day.
Bianca DeSousa was on the hunt, lingering behind and waiting for someone. Sighing impatiently, she leaned back against a nearby locker and closed her eyes.
This was stupid, she mused.
Stupid and pointless.
But… it was something that needed to be done. She knew that if she didn't, she would eventually drive herself insane. Somehow she had grown a conscience, and for the past couple of months, it had been nagging at her — an annoying voice in the back of her mind that wouldn't go away regardless of how hard or how much she tried to suppress it.
It was worse at night, when she went to sleep. Then it took on forms — and horrible scenarios that haunted her even after waking up.
The sound of sneakers squishing against the floor snapped Bianca out of her reverie, growing louder and louder until it finally halted with a squeak.
When Bianca opened her eyes, she was gazing at Adam Torres' stunned face.
Wide blue eyes locked on hers, staring disbelievingly — and with a hint of fear. His jaw went slack and he tried to speak, but all that came out was incoherent sputtering.
Bianca's lips curled and she crossed her arms, arching a brow and waiting for him to compose himself.
After a few minutes, he managed to do just that, and soon he was eyeing her with contempt and suspicion, his body rigid. Bianca clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, feigning boredom, but not entirely sure what to say.
At last, Adam spoke.
"What do you want?" He asked coldly.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end at the tone of his voice. She narrowed her eyes, about to snap at him — "Tranny" was just on the tip of her tongue — but she quickly reminded herself of the reason she was there in the first place, and swallowed the slur.
Adam stared at her expectantly. She could tell that his patience was thinning, and licked her lips nervously.
"I'm sorry." She blurted.
Adam reeled back in surprise. "E-excuse me?"
Bianca went tense, sucking in a sharp breath. Then, with a defeated sigh, she continued.
"I'm sorry for what I did… for how I reacted…" she said honestly, glancing away. "I… I was wrong and I'm… I'm sorry."
She couldn't bring herself to look at him, but she could still feel his penetrating gaze on her.
Her head snapped up and she threw him an incredulous glance. "Okay? That's it?"
Adam blinked. "Yeah."
Bianca furrowed her brow.
"What? You're not going to make me beg for forgiveness, or be your slave for a year?"
Adam let out a laugh, which surprised both of them. "You bring up an interesting point…"
"What? No… don't you dare. Don't!" She cried, feeling the color drain from her face when she noticed the devious glint in his eyes.
"I dunno…" he drawled teasingly, tapping his finger against his chin as though considering it. "Sounds like a great idea to me…"
He laughed again. "Hey, you came up with it!"
Bianca huffed, flipping her hair over her shoulder and planting her hands on her hips.
"But…" Adam went on with a smile. "I'm a stand-up kind of guy. So… just this once, I'll be generous."
"Thank you." She said gratefully.
Adam grinned lopsidedly, before peering down at the floor as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.
"So… uh…" He cleared his throat awkwardly, his face flushing with embarrassment. "What now?"
Bianca shrugged. "Walk me to lunch?"
Adam looked up, visibly shocked.
"You actually want to be seen with me?" He said cautiously. "This isn't a trick or a mean prank?"
"No joke." Bianca replied simply. "I mean it. I really, really like you, Adam." God, how lame. She sounded so pathetic — like a twelve-year-old girl attending her first Justin Bieber concert. "I have since we danced together. Even after… well, you remember."
How could he forget? She had humiliated him in front of the entire hallway, and then in class. She had made him miserable and had her friends harass him, and why? Because she'd been angry — angry at being deceived, and lashing out at him was the only way she knew how to respond. Bianca glanced away from him, guilt coiling around her as she thought about that day and cringed, disgusted with herself.
She almost jumped out of her skin when she felt a gentle hand rest on her arm. She stiffened, lifting her gaze slowly and staring at him. When Adam merely smiled at her, she felt her insides turn to jelly and her cheeks tingle.
Adam nodded and Bianca smiled, looping her arm through his.
"You're buying, right?" She teased.
"Aw, come on… I don't remember agreeing to that!" He whined.
Bianca smirked, before sticking out her bottom lip and batting her eyelashes flirtatiously. "Pretty please? With a cherry on top?"
Adam scrunched up his nose. "Don't do that. You look weird."
"Hey! I take offense to that! I'm the hottest thing that's ever walked through these halls — don't deny it!"
They started down the hall, towards the cafeteria.
"Drew's gonna flip, you know." Adam said after a moment.
"Probably." Bianca replied nonchalantly.
"Eli too… and Clare." He warned.
"Doctor Doom can think what he wants. And Clare won't do anything. We're tight." She answered fondly.
There was another pause before Adam piped up once more.
"… and my mom."
Bianca fell silent, prompting Adam to laugh. She rolled her eyes, hooking her fingers in the collar of his shirt and pulling him along.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there." She said. "Now come on, Torres. I'm hungry."
We need to talk. Meet me at the Dot in ten.
Clare skimmed through the text again, before glancing at her watch. She was sitting at a table by the window, tapping her foot to the music playing on the radio as she anxiously waited for Eli to show up.
It had been a week since her altercation with Owen, and her subsequent breakdown in front of her parents. She had come clean to her parents about everything that had happened in the last couple of months — from sneaking out with Eli, to going to the Ravine, to throwing herself at a boy she'd unconsciously strung along while in a drunken stupor. After she had managed to calm down, and her parents assured her that they still loved her regardless of the choices she'd made recently, they grounded her.
She wouldn't be able to see any of her friends outside of school for three weeks.
It put a damper on her mood, to say the least, but she knew it could be a lot worse. They could've sent her to a boarding school in England.
Things still weren't perfect at home. Fortunately, her parents had managed to go an entire week without biting each other's heads off, but they were still far from being the perfect family that they once were. It was only a matter of time before they would be fighting again, but at least they were trying and really, that was all she could ask for.
The door chimed, signalling someone's entrance, and Clare glanced up just as Eli walked in. Their eyes met and he walked over, pulling up a chair across from her.
"Hey." She greeted softly.
"Hey." He replied.
Her gaze dropped to her lap, where her hands rested and where she toyed with the silver band around her finger. She had stumbled across her purity ring a day ago, buried deep within her laundry basket.
"What… what did you want to talk about?" She asked.
Eli sighed. "I don't know. Us, I guess."
Clare bit her lip.
"Is there still an 'us'?"
There was a pause before Eli answered. "No."
Tears began to well up in her eyes, but she held them back, twisting her purity ring furiously. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at him.
"Eli… I'm sorry. I never meant to hurt you, I swear -"
"I know." Eli cut her off.
Clare furrowed her brow in confusion. "What?"
"Fitz told me." He explained. "About you tutoring him… and about how he was the one who kissed you. And that you stopped him."
"It doesn't matter if he kissed me. I still lied to you." Clare mumbled sadly. "But… Eli… I didn't want to keep it from you. I was going to tell you eventually, but whenever an opportunity came up I… I got scared. I was afraid how you'd react… that you'd hate me." She laughed bitterly. "Guess it doesn't matter, though. Because I still lost you."
Eli remained silent as she spoke, listening attentively. His expression was unreadable — she couldn't tell what he was thinking.
She went on, "I love you, Eli. I love you more than anyone else in the world. I'm never going to feel this way about anyone else — not KC, not Fitz, not anyone — and… I know I messed up, but I just… I need you to know that I love you." She blinked back the tears that were threatening to spill, and kept her eyes on his. "I want to be with you. Please… give me another chance, Eli… I know it's a lot to ask but… please…"
Eli shook his head.
"I'm sorry, Clare. I don't think I can."
"O-oh." She choked, feeling her throat tighten. She stood up quickly, suddenly unable to breathe. "Okay… that's… that's fine. I just… I wanted to try, you know? I…" Air. She needed air. Without another word, she rushed out of the Dot. Standing on the sidewalk, she took deep breaths, trying to compose herself but with little avail.
She spun around to find Eli emerging from the Dot, his hands stuffed into his pockets.
"Why not?" She croaked. "Why won't you give me another chance?"
"It's not that easy, Clare." He said calmly. "It took me a long time to open up to you… to trust you… and you broke that trust."
"I'm sorry!" She cried. "I didn't mean to! If I could take it back, I would!"
A frustrated noise escaped her lips, and she combed her fingers through her curls.
"Damn it, Eli, what was the point of asking me to come here?" She asked.
"To start over."
She shot him a quizzical look. "What?"
Eli stepped closer.
"It'd be impossible to pick up where we left off, after everything that's happened." He said. "But… that doesn't mean we can't start from the beginning."
"What are you talking about, Eli?" She asked, her mind reeling with confusion.
He took another step towards her. Clare's breath hitched when she noticed their close proximities — his lips were inches away from hers and she could feel the heat radiating from his body. Slowly, she lifted her gaze.
"You have pretty eyes." He murmured, just like he'd done so long ago.
Clare's heart skipped a beat. "Thanks, um… I'll see you around?"
"Guess you will."
With that, Eli drew back. Clare let go of the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, while he turned around and made his way over to Morty — but not before casting a knowing look over his shoulder. She watched him climb inside and shut the door. Loud music began to blare, practically drowning out the sound of afternoon traffic, and before she knew it, he was gone.
Even though Eli's answer wasn't absolute, her chest felt lighter.
A sense of hope embraced her, and she smiled.
From his spot behind the counter, he watched her grin from ear-to-ear.
"Ah, unrequited love. Sucks, doesn't it?"
Spinner's voice jarred Fitz from his thoughts. He glanced at his co-worker and grimaced.
"Something like that."
"Don't worry, man. There are plenty of fish in the sea." Spinner assured him, clapping him on the back.
Fitz raised a questioning brow, then sighed. "I guess."
"Seriously, dude. I must've been in love like… seven times in high school. You'll move on — trust me."
"Whatever you say…" Fitz muttered.
"You know what they say about listening to your elders? Yeah, this is one of those times." Spinner insisted. "Degrassi might be a magnet for troubled youth such as us, but… while it does screw with us, it also makes us learn, and if we somehow manage to survive… we become better people. Wiser people."
"You? Wise?" Fitz joked, earning a punch to the shoulder. "Ow… what was that for?"
"For being a smartass." Spinner replied. "Also, customer."
With that, he walked off and Fitz turned around just as a girl approached the counter. She had long dark hair and braces, and wore a Degrassi sweater over a yellow polo.
"Uh… hi." She greeted, "Can I… can I get a mint cappuccino?"
"Sure." Fitz replied with a nod.
While she dug around her purse for money, he got started on her order. When he returned with her drink, she flashed him an awkward smile.
"Do you go to Degrassi?" She asked.
"Yeah. Junior." Fitz replied. "You?"
"Niner." She said with a small laugh. "I'm Jess, by the way."
She smiled again, before pulling out a handful of change to give to him. He shook his head.
"Don't worry about it." He said. "It's on me."
Jess's eyes lit up. "Really? Thanks!"
"No problem." He handed her her mint cappuccino. "See you around, Niner."
"You too." She responded, giving him one last smile before making her way out the door.
An exasperated sigh sounded from behind him.
"Did you just give that girl a free cappuccino?"
"That is so coming out of your pay check, dude."
… and it's done. It's finally done.
I feel kind of sad now. I've been working on this for almost a year. I started back in September, just after the Boiling Point ended.
A HUGE thank you to everyone who read it. Thank you for being patient and for providing me with wonderful feedback! I really, really hope you guys enjoyed.
Moving on… I really tried to close up any loose ends and plot holes. Not sure if I succeeded, but… I did try.
Also… CRACK PAIRING! Jess and Fitz. Jitz? Fess? I imagine the Flare shippers hate me right now, but… I had never planned for this to end with them. Sorry guys. But to make up for it, I'm going to write a happy Flare oneshot that, for once, is not one-sided. Also, I left Eclare open-ended on purpose. Originally they were going to get back together and everything would be sunshine and rainbows, but… given the circumstances, I didn't think it would be realistic.
Oh, and the Bianca and Adam scene? At first, she was going to plant one on him… but then that didn't happen. Oh well. I'll have to write a steamy Badam make out sesh some other time. Also, was her "Walk me to lunch?" remark too… Fiona? Because I heard Annie Clark's voice in my head when I was writing it.
Anyway… I think I'm starting to ramble, so I'll shut up now.
Once again, thank you to EVERYONE who stuck by this fic and I hope everyone enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.