A/N: Here's a short one. Thanks to balseirocharmed for the inspiration! I hope I did your idea justice!
Clare looked at herself in the full-length mirror and sighed, going to her closet. She pulled out another shirt and took off the one she wore, exchanging them. When she went to the mirror again, she smiled as she examined herself. Her eyes stopped at the cross around her neck and she frowned. She touched it gently with her fingertips, then wrapped her hand around it. She tensed her arm, ready to pull it from her neck, when she heard dogs barking down the street. She pulled back the sheer curtains that covered her window and saw Eli walking towards her house, no longer in school uniform.
The cross on her neck forgotten, Clare moved from the window, checking her appearance in the mirror once more, before going down the stairs to the front door.
When she opened it, Eli's fist was up in the air, poised to knock on the door. He dropped it and half-smiled at her, repositioning the bookbag on his shoulder. Clare looked into his green eyes and found it hard to remember why he wasn't automatically pulling her into an embrace.
"Are you going to let me in, Edwards?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.
Clare blinked a few times before nodding. "Yeah, of course. Come in." She moved aside so that he could come in and she shut the door behind him.
"Are your parents home?" he asked, his voice dangerously low.
She turned to look at him. "Mom!" she called out. "Eli and I will be upstairs studying."
"Okay," she heard her mother call back. "Keep your door open."
Don't worry, Mom, she thought. Nothing's going to happen anyway.
Clare remembered, now, why she wasn't in Eli's arms—he was an idiot. After what happened the night of the Vegas dance, Clare went to her grandmother's house and didn't speak to Eli. Adam told her that he would be suspended for his involvement with Fitz and Clare was glad. Their time apart gave her a lot of time to think. She really liked Eli, but she wasn't sure he was right for her. She had enough drama in her life. She didn't need to worry about having a boyfriend that was constantly looking for trouble.
She didn't want to be alone with him, but she promised that she would help him get caught up on the school work that he missed while he was suspended. She knew that he would be fine, that he was super smart and didn't need her help, but when he asked, she couldn't refuse. Her one stipulation was that Adam would be there, too, but Adam called her after school that afternoon to say that his mother was making him stay home. Clare couldn't tell if he was being truthful or not, but she let it go anyway.
Clare looked at Eli and his eyebrows were still raised. She could feel a blush creep onto her cheeks and she led the way up to her bedroom silently. When they entered, she left the door open and sat down at her desk. She heard him sit down on the floor.
"Is this okay?" he asked, his voice softer than usual. Clare turned to look at him and her heart melted a bit at the sight. His knees were pulled up to his chest, his green eyes full of apology. She nodded and resisted the urge to go to him and hug him, saying that all was forgiven.
"It's fine," she said softly and turned back towards her desk.
"Can I have something to write on?" His voice was still pitiful.
She rolled her eyes and reached towards the bookcase beside her, pulling out a thick yearbook.
"Here you go." She handed it to him, without looking into his eyes this time. She opened her bag and pulled out her homework, going to work. She could hear him moving around behind her on the floor as he got his homework out as well. Clare frowned when she heard him sigh softly, but she didn't turn around.
The pair worked for an hour before Clare felt like she couldn't stand the silence anymore. She looked at the math homework in front of her and realized she had solved two problems. Sighing heavily, she got up from her desk and went towards her bedroom door, feeling Eli's eyes on her.
"I'll be right back," she muttered as she left the room and turned the corner, going into the bathroom. She shut the door and put her hands on the sink to steady herself.
Pull yourself together, Clare, she thought. He's just a boy. Just an incredibly cute, ridiculously smart, and very sexy boy. Who is a trouble-maker. Even though you sort of like that about him. Even though liking that gets you into trouble. Am I seriously arguing with myself about this?
Clare laughed out loud involuntarily and blushed when she realized how loud it was. She shook her head and sighed.
When she left the bathroom, she felt like things were unresolved with herself. She didn't know how to feel about Eli. She knew that she really liked him, but she didn't know if she liked him enough. She went back into her bedroom and stopped in the doorway as she looked at Eli. He was still sitting on the floor, but his homework was no longer in front of him. He had the yearbook she gave him open on his lap and he was looking at a page full of photos.
"Eli," she said, a bit of warning in her voice, even though she knew it was too late.
Eli looked up at her with a wide smile on his face. "I never would have recognized you."
Clare frowned and went to him, sitting on the floor and putting her back against the bed. She reluctantly looked over at the open page and her eyes were immediately drawn to the photo of her from her freshman year at Degrassi. She recognized the girl, even though Eli said she couldn't—long, straight hair and glasses, still in her old school uniform, a dorky expression on her face.
"You were cute," he commented. Clare looked at him with daggers in her eyes. "What?" he asked, looking surprised. "You were! I like your look better now, though."
She looked back and forth between his green eyes, her face feeling flush from his intense stare. She looked down at her knees and shrugged.
"I was a different girl back then."
Eli closed the yearbook and turned his body so that he was facing her. "What do you mean?"
She shrugged again. "My beliefs were different; my life was different. Darcy had just gone to Kenya and my parents became more open about their…disagreements. I had my first boyfriend." She stopped and looked at Eli, realizing that statement made him a little uncomfortable. She smiled inside. "I had my first kiss…" Eli licked his lips now and looked down at his hands. "I had my heart broken and I needed a change. So I cut my hair and got laser eye surgery. I'm glad I'm not that girl anymore."
Eli looked up at her, into her eyes, and she felt breathless for a moment. She saw him struggle slightly to say something and she found it endearing and a little powerful. She liked having that effect on him.
Finally, he spoke, his voice soft and low. "Would the old you have forgiven me for being such an idiot?"
Clare took her lower lip into her mouth and chewed it softly.
"No, I don't think she would have."
Eli blinked a few times and looked down again.
"But I will," she said, smiling. He looked up at her and smiled back.
"Do you promise to never fight with a bully again?" she asked.
Clare widened her eyes. "Wh—Eli…Do you even want to change?"
He sighed heavily now. "Of course I do! But I can't promise that I won't do something ever again. And asking me to is unfair."
She nodded, realizing he was right.
"But," he continued. "I do promise to protect you. And to try to change. I want to make this work, Clare. I really like you. A lot."
Eli's green eyes looked at her intensely and she had no choice but to give in—she realized she liked him way too much to give up. When she didn't say anything, he reached up and cupped her cheek softly with his hand before leaning in and kissing her lips chastely. Clare felt the butterflies move wildly through her stomach again and she was glad to have them back. Eli tilted his head and kissed her again, pressing his lips to hers as if he couldn't get enough of them. She felt Eli open his mouth and she tensed, suddenly entering unknown territory. She felt him reach out and touch her bottom lip with his tongue gently. Instinctually, she opened her mouth, wanting to touch her tongue to his. She did and felt herself get breathless at the sensation it caused throughout her body.
Clare pulled back, her face flushed, breathing heavily. "I've…never done that…before…"
Eli smiled and lowered a hand to her hip. "You were good at it."
She blushed a fiercer red and looked down.
"So, I'm forgiven?" he asked.
Clare looked back up at him and smiled before leaning in to kiss him again, hoping that would be answer enough.
Thanks for reading! Reviews are always appreciated.
Is it October 8th, yet?