A/N: When I thought Christmas Break would give me time to write...I was delusional! I'm sorry this has taken so long, but I hope this chapter answers most of the questions some of you have about this story. Thank you so much to Kelsey Innocent, who motivated me to make time to write this. Thank you to anyone else still reading for hanging in there with me! I really appreciate it.

"What do you want, Trent?" she growled, putting every bit of hate she felt into those words. Her hands curled into fists, but she knew that she could never take on someone like Trent Hamilton. He was too strong, she was too outnumbered, and even if Jay could get to her in time, Trent might pull a knife and someone could get hurt.

Someone else.

Trent grinned down at her, his smile every bit as leering as she remembered. "Now, really, is that any way to treat an old friend, Darcy Baby?"

Clare sneered at him over the music. "Don't call me that," she snapped, raising her voice above the vibrations of the music. If Trent couldn't hear her, all of her spite would go unnoticed and then she might really be in trouble.

"You used to like it," he said, and she could tell by the way his face contorted that he was shouting over the music too. He tried to move closer, and Clare took a step back, only to be stopped by one of Trent's buddies pushing her forward again.

"Well, I don't anymore," she hissed, feeling momentary panic bubble up within her. "I've moved on, Trent, and you need to as well."

Trent grinned for a minute, and then his hand shot out and closed around Clare's arm, squeezing painfully to the point where tears pricked at her eyelids unbidden. "You'd better watch it," he growled, "or you might find yourself losing more than your hearing this time."

Out of the corner of her eye, Clare noticed Eli for the first time since she had started towards him. He was quickly getting angry and was beginning to make his way over to them. She couldn't let him get hurt! With a quick movement, her eyes met his and she gave an infinitesimal shake of her head. She saw the confusion on his face, but he wisely stayed where he was and watched the exchange with darkening eyes.

"Just remember," Trent continued, "who works for whom. You wouldn't want anyone else to get hurt, would you?"

Clare's stomach roiled, and she seriously considered allowing the bile that was rising in her throat its freedom all over Trent's shirt. How dare his insinuate…! But unfortunately, she got the message and fixed her angry eyes on his long enough to nod curtly. He let go of her arm, which was now throbbing, and took a step away from her.

"Excellent. See ya 'round, Darcy Baby."

With that, he and his group were gone and Clare was left quivering where she stood. Now that they were gone, she couldn't find the courage that had just been there a moment ago, and all of that adrenaline was now channeling itself into shivers that wracked her frame. A gentle hand touched her shoulder and Clare jumped back, her other hand coming up in a defensive fist, only to be met with Eli Goldsworthy staring down at her. "Wanna tell me what the hell that was about?" he asked, and she could tell that he was angry, but she had a feeling that it wasn't all directed at her.

"Not really," she said, and tried to move away, all good intentions of apologizing to him for her hasty exit earlier abandoned.

He grabbed her wrist, but Clare noted that he left her plenty of room to pull out of his loose enclosure, and waited until she turned around so that he could say, "Too bad. We're going to talk about it. Either here or on the road. You're choice."

"Who said I was going home?" Clare snapped, angry that he had anticipated exactly what she was planning to do.

"I did."

She glared for a moment, but bit out, "Let's go." She wound her way through the gyrating crowd to say her goodbyes to Jay and her bandmates, promising that she wouldn't disappear again like last time, and then stomped by Eli on her way out the door.

When a day goes wrong, the whole thing just blows up in your face.

Eli settled her in the passenger seat and glanced around the parking lot, obviously looking for reoccurring threats, and then started the car. He drove for almost ten minutes before he found the most opportune spot to talk: a secluded park lit only by a few streetlights. He cut the engine and settled back into his seat for a moment, and Clare thought that he was going to make her talk, but instead, he sighed and stepped out of the car. Clare watched as he strode to the front of the vehicle before he turned, gave her one long look, and sat down on the hood, facing away from her.

He stayed that way for the entire two minutes and twenty-seven seconds it took for Clare's curiosity to get the better of her. She pushed her own door open and stepped out, putting one foot in front of the other as she made her way towards him, her fingers trailing awkwardly over the smooth glass of Morty's headlight. Once Eli finally managed to drag his gaze away from the backdrop of dark trees and vacant park toys in the distance, she held her hands out, palms up, and moved them from side to side. What?

I don't know. Why don't you talk? Eli signed back.

"Maybe I don't want to," Clare snapped angrily.

"Then you've wasted both our times," Eli responded, and Clare could tell by the way his face twisted that he had responded with just as much malice as she had.

They stared at each other, neither one moving from their spot.

Ashamed, Clare ducked her head. I'm sorry, she signed. You're just trying to help.

Eli just shrugged, but Clare could tell by his face that her reluctance to talk to him hurt more than he was willing to let on.

"You have to understand," she said softly, "I just met you, I thought you hated me, and then you kissed me and showed up at the one place that I never told anyone else about." She tried to smile as she teased, "You're a difficult man to understand, Eli Goldsworthy."

That invoked a reaction out of him. Eli fixed her with a very calm stare and replied, "I know I was hard on you in the beginning, but you've already forgiven me, right?" Clare nodded. "And I never hated you. I was just scared that I would like you to much and then you would run away." This again, Clare knew was true. "When I kissed you…" here he trailed off with a lazy smile, causing Clare to blush deeply as she remembered the kiss, "I knew even then that it was a little rushed and would probably freak you out, but before I could think, I was already doing it."

Clare shrugged, "You're right," she told him, but then hurried to explain, "It did freak me out, but I-I also-" she mumbled something under her breath and blushed to the roots of her hair.

Eli raised an eyebrow and leaned forward a little. "What?" he asked. Again?

For a moment, Clare couldn't take her eyes off of those long fingers, remembering the way that they had caressed her face and her hips and her….

"Clare?" Only when Eli moved those fingers in a little wave under her nose did she realize that she was supposed to be saying something. Wait, what was- oh right. That. "It's nothing," she said quickly.

"Then you won't mind telling me, right?" Great. He was smirking. Did he not realize that his smirk was like a thousand panty-dropping smiles all compressed together until they threated to combust? Did he not understand that, already, she was powerless to that smirk?

Damn right, he did.

"Fine," she grumbled, turning away from him so that she couldn't hear his peal of laughter and focusing on her reflection in Morty's dark windshield. "I said I liked it."

She snuck a peek at Eli's figure in the glass and couldn't see any sort of movement that hinted at laughter. Instead, he seemed to be moving closer….

His arms spun her around and Eli's body trapped her against the hood of the car. Any other boy, and she would have been frightened, struggling for a way out, but with Eli, all Clare felt was excitement, and the delicious way that the metal was digging into her bottom. She chanced a glance up at his face, only to find him smiling down at her. "I liked it too," he said softly, and the lowered his lips to hers.

He paused right before they connected, watching Clare closely and giving her time to back out, but as she watched his eyes darken against the soft glow of the streetlights, Clare knew that in that moment, there was nothing she wanted more than to feel his lips on hers. And so, using all of the strength she had left, Clare tilted her head up and brought her lips flush with his.

Eli took it from there. The kiss began slowly, just the slightest pressing of lips against lips, but soon Eli was pressing just a little harder, and Clare's lips were parting to allow his tongue to sweep over hers. She sighed, her entire body clenching delightfully as his tongue swept over hers again and again. Eli's hands ran up her ribs, carefully tracing his way up each bone until he reached the underside of her breasts.

Clare twisted to the side, gasping for air, and Eli pressed his lips to her pulse point, alternating between sucking and nipping. At the first sharp bite, Clare's eyes flew open and she gasped, her hands flying up to catch hold of Eli's biceps as she arched into his body into his. She felt his smile against her neck right before his tongue laved over the spot, which would surely start to bruise.

"E-Eli," Clare moaned.

"Hmm?" she felt his hum against her throat.

"As much fun as this is," she whispered, "we came to t-talk."

Eli groaned and pressed his forehead against Clare's, trying to slow his breathing down. "Do you always do this to guys who kiss you?" he teased breathlessly.

Clare blushed deeply, but smiled a small smile and shook her head. "Only to the ones I really care for."

There were so many things he could have said, so many that came to mind, and a few "That's what she said's" that could be fun as well, but even as he opened his mouth, Eli realized just how important her statement was. With difficulty, he pried himself away from her and settled down on the hood next to her, trying to subtly shift the bulge in his jeans. "Alright. I'm all ears."

Clare bit down on her slightly swollen lips, and then signed, Where do I start?

Eli wisely stayed silent, realizing that she was signing more as a way of giving herself something to do than actually asking his opinion.

"My sister, Darcy, and I were identical twins," she finally said. "We were born seven minutes apart, and Darcy was the oldest." A shadow passed over Clare's face as her thoughts turned towards her sister. "She was better at everything, and we were inseparable until junior high when she met Trent Hamilton." Clare cast a glance at Eli and added, "He was the one with me tonight. If Jay would have seen him, he wouldn't have gotten into the club."

"Lovely guy," Eli murmured.

"Oh, it gets better," Clare promised. "Trent's part of a gang from the city across town where we used to live. Darcy was always the more outgoing, the more flirty, the more everything. When an older bad boy like Trent, who has all of his daddy's money behind him, took an interest in her, she became unbearable. She started drinking and partying, staying out at all hours, and I know she was involved in some of the gang's crimes. Our parents lost control of her, and I took up the guitar as a way of escape."

"And you became a rebel like your sister?" Eli asked.

Clare shook her head. "Not exactly. At least, I don't look at it that way. See, I was the scholar, the bookworm girl. I met Jay's younger brother when I tutored him in English. He found out that I was a pretty quick learner and had gotten pretty good at the guitar in the last year and a half, so he introduced me to Jay. Jay hooked me up with the bandmates you saw tonight, and I began to play on the weekends. The crowds helped my confidence, gave me my own little edge, and I started standing up to Darcy."

"And let me guess, she fought you?"

Clare nodded. "It was like we weren't even sisters anymore. She made fun of me, let Trent and his friends push me around, and tried to get me in trouble with our parents. It got completely out of hand when Darcy found out about Jay's club and blackmailed me into covering for her one night. She went off with Trent and hit the grocery store down the street." She closed her eyes for a moment, eyebrows furrowed. "Two people died that night from gunshot wounds."

He had never been one for touchy-feely advances, but Eli heard what she couldn't: her voice was starting to break. He reached out and gently touched Clare's hand, entwining their fingers together.

"I knew that I had to stop her before someone else died, so I waited until Darcy was out, took some of her clothes and did my makeup. I confronted the gang in an alley, acting like Darcy, and told Trent that I wanted out, that I couldn't handle disappointing my family anymore." Clare unconsciously squeezed Eli's hand. "I just didn't realize that Darcy was heading home from the choir practices mom still made her attend…"

Eli tilted his head back in frustration. "And she looked like you, right?"

Clare nodded. "Darcy looked exactly like me, and she flew off the handle. However, Trent thought that she was me, snooping around again and trying to bust my sister, so he pulled a gun and shot her." Clare's fingers idly traced over a small scar behind her left ear, barely visible to anyone not looking for it. "I tried to fight Trent, but he and the rest of his gang knocked me around until I was barely conscious. At some point, Trent boxed my ears so hard that my eardrums ruptured and the doctors told me that I was pistol-whipped at some point. He thought Darcy had betrayed him for Clare."

It was Eli's turn to squeeze Clare's hand.

"By the time I woke up, I couldn't hear a thing. Darcy was dead, and my family was broken apart. Trent can do no wrong in his parents' eyes, so they bought the police department's compliance and confidentiality. It was written off as an accident. My parents moved the rest of us to this town and I began a few years of speech and lip reading therapy." Clare made a face. "Worst three years of my life."

Eli couldn't help but smile at that. "And then you came to Degrassi."

"My parents thought that I was good enough to fit back into a normal education, and they were tired of having me stay home all day by myself. Mom wanted to send me away, but my dad fought her and wanted to keep me here, so they paid Mr. Simpson to create a whole 'program' for me to keep occupied and out of their way. But, I told you that already."

Eli nodded, remembering one of their first conversations.

For a moment, they were both silent, and then Clare actually smiled. "And then I met this guy. He's moody and wears all black, but I don't know…he's kinda cute." She smirked at Eli and felt a thrill when he smirked back.

He disentangled their fingers, putting his arm around her shoulders instead and drawing her towards him. "Say what you want," he teased back, "but you know you want me."

Her silent blush affirmed that all too easily.

"Honestly," Eli added, "I'm sorry about your family. It hurts like hell to lose someone that close to you, but you lost your whole family." He shrugged. "It doesn't make it hurt any less, but I can say that whatever happened to bring you to me, I-I'm glad you're here." He glanced cautiously down at Clare. "Does that make sense?"

Clare nodded. "Yeah."

They stayed like that for a few moments before Eli touched her shoulder and signed, I should get you home.

Clare raised an eyebrow and asked softly, "Aren't you going to tell me your story?"

Thoughts of Julia skittered across Eli's mind, but he pushed them away, shaking his head. "I think we've had enough sharing for one night."

Clare silently agreed and allowed him to get her settled back into Morty. She gave Eli directions to her house and felt reluctant to leave him once he pulled up to the curb. "Believe it or not, I had fun today," she told him, smiling softly. "At least some parts of it were fun."

Eli smirked back at her and pushed some stray strands of hair behind her ear, running his fingertips across her scar. "Make sure you take care of those bruises," he told her. "Between Fitz, Owen, and Trent, you're going to have a few of them."

"Will you kiss them and make them better?" Clare asked boldly, and then blushed at her boldness.

Eli grinned. "Every single one of them," he promised, and began to lean towards her. Clare mirrored him, her eyes starting to close just as he drew near. At the last moment, Eli caught her chin between his thumb and first finger, and added, "Tomorrow."

He chuckled at Clare's disappointed look, but only gave her the lightest brushes of his lips to tide her over. When she stepped out of Morty, he thought of one last question, something that he hadn't thought of before. "Clare? What does Trent want? And what did he mean by 'who works for whom.'?"

She closed her eyes, wishing that Eli hadn't been smart enough to recall that part of the conversation. "He wants Darcy back," she told him. "Darcy was quite helpful in some of their gang crimes." She pressed her lips together and fixed Eli with a haunting, hopeless stare.

"And I can't do a thing about it, because my dad works for Trent's dad."

A/N: Okay, there you go! I hope you enjoyed it (especially the kiss!), and everything I've written can, and has happened in the past, so it's authentic. ;) FYI