I think it's become very obvious by now how sporadic my updates are, and I'm honestly sorry about it, especially since I know all too well how annoying it is from the other side. I have been lately distracted by the Yuletide challenge and a Big Bang in another fandom, but now have more time to concentrate on this, so I very much hope to write more sooner rather than later.

To the people still reading this, if there are any and you have not all given up on this ages ago, I am extremely sorry, and I hope you enjoy this.

He's hardly in a position to criticize Peter's romantic choices, or expect him to have any control over them, but even so, Matt can't quite believe him. Or rather, the problem does not come with the prospect of trusting Peter (and Jason, reminds a horrible little voice at the back of his head), but rather of mistrusting Ivy.

He is painfully aware, of course, that Ivy is neither perfect nor perpetually truthful, far too used to her brushings off at parties, of constantly promised laters just before she disappeared for the night in another boy's arms. But there was a difference, surely, between saving Matt's heart through kindly-meant rejections, and trying to ruin Jason's life.

Not that Matt can muster much sympathy for him, because what does Jason McConnell not have that Matt's ever wanted; but he and Peter have always been the outsiders, never quite in tune with the crowd, and there's still some solidarity in that.

There is nothing, however, that could make the journey to Ivy's room any easier, despite how relieved she'd been at his presence last time. So he drags his feet there, simultaneously wishing to be both nearer and further, his heart practically in his throat, its thud annoyingly loud in his ears.

He takes a deep breath, several, and leans against the wall opposite the entrance, only straightening when a girl passing by gives him an odd look. Then he pulls himself up and forces himself to walk over to Ivy's door before he can chicken out again, and knocks firmly, already regretting it.

He just hopes Nadia won't be the one there. He used to like her, because she made him laugh and he could relax around her in a way he could never trust himself to around Ivy, but she's Jason's sister, and talking to Peter had been awkward enough.

The door opens to reveal Ivy, her hair loose and shirt half-unbuttoned. She brushes the hair out of her eyes and blinks blankly at him.

"Hi?" Matt ventures, and she steps aside to let him in, pushing the door shut practically the minute he's over the doorstep.

"Sit down," she says. "I'm getting changed."

"Wouldn't you rather I came back later?" he asks. "I mean – " He looks down, flushing, to stop staring at the lace on her bra, very light against her skin.

Ivy just frowns at him for a minute, before bursting out laughing. "It's just like wearing a bikini. You've been to a swimming pool before, surely."

Matt had, but it had never been a girl like Ivy, never someone he'd liked for so long, and even wanked to, for God's sake.

She does not let him reply, simply turns her back and steps to the wardrobe. He can see her arms move as she unbuttons her shirt, and then one smooth shoulder is gradually revealed. She has freckles there, tiny on her shoulder blades. Her bra is creamy, the fastenings less than opaque. She rummages through her wardrobe, throwing some items behind her as if forgetting his presence. Matt ducks when a dark sheer shirt flies towards him, and hears it hit the radiator behind him with a dull clang.

When he looks up again, Ivy has pulled on a tight blue blouse and her skirt is halfway down her legs. Matt looks away, cheeks burning.

Most of the guys would wolf-whistle. Maybe that's what Ivy's expecting, but Matt has never been able to even manage a normal whistle. Besides, he would hate for Ivy to think he was that kind of guy.

He feels rather than sees her sit down on the bed; St Cecilia's may be rather expensive but their beds are small and lumpy, and he can feel the mattress jump as Ivy sinks down on it.

"Hi," she says, and smiles. Her lipstick is a shade darker than the nuns would approve of, and her lips always seem fuller in person than in his mind.

"Peter's trying to convince me to switch sides," Matt stammers out, and hates himself for it, for running to her and just blurting everything out, because God, that wasn't even what he had wanted to say. He had meant to start off calmly, tell her she looked beautiful and ask about her day, though the first seemed a bit sleazy in light of the circumstances.

"Oh?" she says calmly. Her face barely moves, but somehow Matt can't rid himself of the impression that she's really raising her eyebrows at him. Playing him, to see how to play her game in return, he thinks for a minute, then catches himself because of course Ivy would never do that.

"I told him I believe you," he says.

Ivy just looks at him carefully, considering, and doesn't reply.

"I mean, I really don't think you'd lie about something like that. Or anything at all, really."

Ivy's gaze drops low, and Matt has the bizarre urge to cover himself up, though of course there's no chance she's actually looking at him like that. "I did the test again," she says quietly, reaching out for the duvet. She drags it up to cover her feet, and rests her hand on the edge, hand very light in contrast with the bright swirls of the material. The polish is starting to flake off her nails, leaving accidental patterns on the edges. "I felt like I had to prove to myself that it was real, that I wasn't going crazy."

Matt reaches out and lays his hand carefully on hers, squeezing lightly. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with you."

Ivy looks down at their joined hands, and bites her lip. "It came out negative this time."

Matt blinks. "So that means?"

She sighs heavily, and pulls away from him. "It means there's no pregnancy, Matt! It was a false alarm! And now everybody hates me."

"That's not true!" he protests. "I don't. I couldn't."

"Everyone else does," she snaps. "And if you couldn't, then you don't count."

Her hand is bunched tight around the duvet now, nails digging in. He doesn't quite dare reach out for her again.

Instead, he says the one thing which seems obvious. "Just tell them that. It's not as if – "

"As if I couldn't get pregnant, just because I like sex?" Ivy interrupts him, delicate mouth twisted into a snarl. "You know, I used to think you were different, that you actually liked me for who I am rather than what I look like, that maybe you actually understood that I'm not just easy. That sleeping around doesn't define me, doesn't make me who I am. But you're just like everyone else, aren't you?"

"That's not what I meant!" Matt tries to protest, but she just ignores him.

"You don't understand how judgemental people are. The only thing they've ever said about you is that you're attracted to the wrong girl, and things like that pass. It'll never be a label you're stuck with. Years from now, if we have any high school reunions, no one will care, and if they remember it'll be just an idle comment. But they'll always think of me as the whore, whether the one who tried to ruin their lives or the one so slutty and careless it was surely divine intervention she didn't actually get pregnant. That's what they'll all say, and barely behind my back at that!"

"And yet you're so judgemental about them being gay," he says, trying not to shout back at her so she'll understand.

She laughs mockingly, and waves her free hand flippantly. "Oh, I don't care about Peter," she says, and tilts her head to the side. "But Jason slept with me, and now he's trying to cover it up. It's just some stupid game to him, and I'm so sick of it."

Matt just looks at her, unsure of what to do or say. Finally, he ventures, "do you want me to tell them, then?"

Ivy sighes, and takes a deep breath, "You have no idea what I'm going through!"

"So that's a no?"

"Look, I don't want to have anything to do with this. Whatever I'll say they'll make me the devil in all this."

They might be right to do so, so Matt would never be able to say so. "I just think we should keep everyone on the same page. It would take so much stress off everyone, especially you. It's just an innocent mistake, they have to realise that."

"You can't really be that naïve, can you?" Ivy asks, but it lacks the previous bite. She wipes her eyes with her own palm, and looks at him.

He finds himself looking back, because she's never been anything except the brightest thing in the room, the candlelight to his moth.

"You can tell them," she says, "but only after graduation. I don't want the stares."

They'll stare anyway, he thinks, but doesn't say it. "Okay."