Well son of an unholy hell! Almost 11 months without an update! I am honestly really sorry! I never intended to leave that cliffhanger unresolved for so long, especially after frequently updating during the summer of 2016. Really sorry about that, but hopefully this chapter makes up for my absence.

A tremendous thank you to the reviewers who posted heart-touching words last chapter. Another huge thank you to the people who left a review after finding this story and binge reading all 170 chapters thus far. Thank you to Grace for not only leaving one of the sweetest comments ever, but for posting it when I was at one of my lowest points. Thank you to Julia for kind words and support. Thank you to every person asking me if I was ever going to update again. Thank you to lalaLauren24 that put reviews on some earlier chapters. Thank you everyone who has shown even the tiniest amount of enthusiasm and/or support. You all are the best, so I am going to try and make this a good chapter for you all.

That's enough rambling for one day! Let's get this show back on the road! Without further ado, read, review, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I still don't own Degrassi, but I need to find the time to watch Next Class now that I joined the 21st century and got Netflix.

Chapter One Hundred Seventy-One

Not Broken Yet

Eli's words only had to leave his lips for Clare to be swallowed up by every thought that she had suppressed ever since she packed her room of all reminders of their romance. Despite weeks of not allowing herself to think about the fragments of her and Eli's relationship, her heart finally overruled her head's security. A love so strong was now a memory. It was because of that strong passion that she once believed that they were more than a high school romance, that they could last forever. Marriage did not seem like a fantasy for two kids in love to aim for, but a solid goal that she had put much of her faith in over the last year they were together.

Then she recalled the pain he caused her, the heartache she experienced. Their breakup seemed to have snapped her out of a trance she had been in throughout the course of their relationship. High school romances rarely lasted, and it was difficult to grasp that she once thought they were an exception with all the problems they had. While they did overcome many obstacles, they were too young and had too many of their own personal struggles to endure to consider a future together. Eli's emotions and her own future should have been all that mattered, as opposed to putting all their aspirations into a plan that was destined to fail.

Eli's question of "Do you want to go first or shall I?" lingered in her ears. It was due to this and her silence – which lasted longer in reality than in her mind – that he answered it for himself.

"Do you really have feelings for me?" he inquired, expecting her to be honest since she had little reason not to be. Despite not completely believing Caleb's words, it brought a small bubble of hope. However, that hint of optimism was suppressed by Clare's words of them having too many reasons to remain apart.

Clare's face reddened when she turned her head in his direction but kept her eyes down to the floor between their seats. He wished he could see her orbs in order to have a better idea of what was going through her mind. Hearing her take a deep breath put Eli's nerves on edge.

"It probably doesn't make sense, but . . . yes."

Acutely aware of the resolution that was in her mind, Clare understood that she was not being fair to Eli by telling him the truth. However, Adam's words from mere minutes ago were ringing in her mind.

"You're going to discuss your feelings no matter how awkward it may be."

There was no point in hiding her feelings, especially when Eli specifically asked. Continuing this newfound streak of honesty, more words flew from her lips as they formed in her heart.

"Whenever we've talked lately, I'm really happy. Whenever I'm at work, I'm always happy to see you come in. And when I do see you, I get that feeling I used to get when I first started liking you."

Eli's heart did not remain still. The wall of ice that had formed around it melted slightly at the mere conformation that the girl of his dreams still held some adoration for him. It was strange to hear, for he agreed that her remaining feelings were not logical. They barely saw each other and he put her through so much. He opted to not question Clare on the subject.

"Alright," he spoke, his voice less cold than before.

"That doesn't mean we're getting back together," she hurriedly added.

The tiny hope that existed was swiftly put out in Eli. He expected her to remain consistent in their agreement to remain only friends, but that did not block the sting these words brought. While he craved that she would go back on her word, reality and Clare had other plans.

"I get that," Eli replied, trying not to sound bitter. It was difficult, since he was already dragged over here for this to be reconfirmed over and over. "But we need to talk. Clear the air."

"I don't want to get your hopes up."

"They're not," he lied, the tiniest spark being stepped out completely at her words. "I just don't want us to go in circles. I want us to figure out where we stand once and for all, and to understand where we can go from here since . . . there are feelings involved."

Clare, appreciative of Eli's adherence to her resolve, finally looked at him. His face was composed, not a trace of antipathy or hope present. It was simply the face of one who was ready to talk. Reassured that she and Eli were on the same page, she spoke.

"I want us to be friends, but I don't want it to be uncomfortable for us because there are feelings," she began. "I mean, we've been doing fine as friends so far even if we've had feelings for each other. We could just try seeing if we can get along without feelings getting in the way."

Eli remained still and silent, not agreeing or disagreeing with her proposal.

"We can do that, right?" she asked, wanting the discussion to close.

The wall Eli had put up finally collapsed at this question, as though the same thoughts of Adam that Clare had found their way into his head. If there was ever a time to speak, it was then and there. The question had been posed.

"Would it be such a bad idea if we tried again?"

With that sentence, Clare's security came crashing down. She had hoped for this conversation to be quick so she would not be tempted by the possibility of reuniting with Eli. Her heart craved it even if she was afraid, but it made more sense to remain separate. Fleeing the scene was in sight with the hope of moving forward, now Eli was pulling her back. She could not look at him as he continued speaking.

"The feelings are there and we've been getting along well enough."

"We can't –."

"If you don't want to, I get it," Eli said, the image of her face from that confounded Valentine's Day making a presence. "I just want to know why you're so against the idea that you won't even consider it."

"It's not that I don't want to, but there are so many reasons why we shouldn't be together that we shouldn't even consider it."

Eli had to force his hopes down when she started and was able to collect himself and pose a retort.

"Caleb sounded adamant about us working things out."

"Caleb also thinks I overcomplicate everything," she stated bitterly, recalling her friend's words.

"Well . . ." Eli said, understanding how Caleb could draw this conclusion. "Sometimes you do overthink, but that's because you want to see things from every angle and get all the details."

A surprised Clare looked back at him. He understood her thought process and why she made her decisions. She admitted that she could be over-analytical of situations, but it never hindered her life beyond repair. Knowing that Eli observed this without criticism made her feel less grim. She granted him a brief, appreciative grin.

"Whether you overthought them or not, you have your reasons as to why we can't be together," Eli steered the conversation. "Could we try talking about them and seeing if we can work them out?"

Clare then stared at the hands in her lap, not wanting to speak. It would put more tears in her heart to be reminded why she could not be with Eli. However, she knew had little choice but to talk since Caleb and Adam would not be satisfied until the two had spoken. Having a hunch that if she did not tell Eli anything that Caleb would, she proceeded.

"Some reasons are bigger than others."

"Do you want to tackle the big ones first or the little ones?"

The bigger ones were problems she made Eli aware of when they first broke up, thus she did not see them vital to speak of in that instant. Speaking of the lesser known issues – deemed by Caleb as the ones that Clare overcomplicated – would allow her to at least hear Eli's opinion. Part of her hoped he would find a way to talk about these problems until they were laid to rest since it would be impossible to do so with the ones that remained.

"We're not sure if we would click again or if it would be weird being back together. What if it is and we can't get passed that?"

"Clare, we're getting along fine as we are without anything getting weird."

"That's because we're friends right now."

"Right, and being friends with your ex is a lot harder than getting back together your ex. Remember how we went on a break and tried to just be friends after Kate kissed me?"

"Unfortunately, yes," she murmured, disgusted by the memory.

"That was a pretty difficult thing to shake but we were fine after a while. Everything got better afterwards. If I'm not mistaken, getting back together again helped with that."

Eli was correct. All insecurities and pains related to Kate Parker until that point dissolved when he came to her window one night to prove his trust and devotion to her. Clare remembered how rejuvenated and at peace she was with Eli after they resolved that ordeal, and briefly wondered if they could reclaim such feelings again before evicting them from her mind.

"As for us not being able to connect," Eli went on, "if we still feel a certain way for each other, I don't think that would be a problem."

Eli was not sure why he was compelled to say this. It was not going to magically make Clare reconsider. All he was certain of was that he wanted to put Clare's mind at ease. They still had miles to go, for Clare found them walking towards the more complex issues.

"We don't have a plan as individuals, so how can we make one as a couple?"

"Explain?" he requested, his brow furrowing.

Clare breathed, thinking about when they first talked about their breakup in the Goldsworthy's living room a couple of months ago.

"I'm not going to be here forever and who knows where your life will take you. I'm going to be at TU for a couple of years then I'm leaving."

A grin went onto Eli's face this time.

"I don't see myself leaving Toronto any time soon. That would give us at least a couple years to plan or work things out."

"And what if it ends with us having another long-distance relationship?"

Eli's face fell. The love they had for each other was stronger than stone before he left for Ottawa, yet it was conquered by negativity that was not helped by being hours and miles apart. He did not want to put Clare through that again, and he believed his emotional stability would not be able to survive it. The temptation to tell her that he would go wherever she went was there, but held it back since it would be too bold of a proposition while they were still apart.

"Fair enough," he accepted in defeat. "Anything else?"

Clare was silent, then cleared her throat, wanting to approach this subject with caution.

"You're still . . . going through a lot and I don't want a relationship to mess up anything."

Only the smallest part of Eli expected his depression to be mentioned. The fact that Clare was thinking of his wellbeing was oddly considerate, in his opinion. She had not lost her concerning, caring nature.

"Are you alright?" she then asked, looking up at him again. It was evident that she was concerned that she had crossed some sort of boundary or stepped a toe into sensitive territory that would worsen his state.

"Yeah," he answered.

Clare was not satisfied. It was his turn to tell her what was in his mind. There was plenty she was unsure of in terms of Eli's depression. If they were to discuss their relationship and she was to confess all her thoughts, she thought it only fair for Eli to do the same.

"I know we don't talk about it much, but I need to know something. You seem to be doing better when I see you. Is that genuine or is that you putting up a front?"

"Every time I've seen you, I have been fine," he answered without letting much time pass. As far as he was concerned, Clare could ask him anything.

"Do you still have hard days?"

"Yes," he said, trying not to dwell on how much he resented the days when he could not bring himself to face the world outside his room.

"How often?"

Eli shrugged.

"Not as often as I did while I was in Ottawa. By comparison, I have a lot less, but they still happen more often than I want them to."

The mention of Eli's former university cast a shadow over Clare's features, and she found her voice again.

"Before you went back to Ottawa last time, you said you wanted to finish the term. You came back early. Why?"

The melting wall of ice solidified around Eli's heart again. His reason haunted him every day. Sometimes it was a motivator and other times it was a reason to be filled with shame. He never wanted Clare to know of it. But they were putting all cards on the table. There was never going to be a good time to confess it to her, so this was probably the most appropriate opportunity. It was Eli's turn to look away. His cold heart was heavy and his voice was draped in misery. He could feel Clare's worried stare on his rigid body.

"I got really bad when I went back. I tried my hardest and changed what I could to help myself, but I was miserable all the time. Nothing made me feel better. I was so down that I honestly thought I would never be happy again. I was not even back a week when I believed that I could try my hardest to fix my life and it wouldn't change anything."

Eli took a rattling breath, fingernails digging into his palms. He feared Clare's reaction.

"One day I was just tired of trying. I felt alone, like it was me against the world and nothing was going to fix it."

Clare sat in silence, chills covering her arms.

"I wanted to die . . . and I considered making that happen."

His peripheral vision showed Clare clasping a hand over her mouth as she gasped. Not bearing to see more, he closed his eyes.

"You . . . you thought about killing yourself?" Clare asked through a tight throat.

Eli nodded.

"At the time, being dead sounded a lot better than living day to day wanting life to get better with nothing to show for it."

"Did you . . . what did you do? I mean, how were you . . .?" she asked with a tragic curiosity.

"I never got that far. I just thought I should do it. Cathy was there. She talked me out of it before anything happened."

He opened his eyes and his vision had become misty. Still not looking at Clare, he found the will to keep talking.

"That was when I knew I needed to come home for good. I scared myself and I wasn't going to get better up there."

"Did leaving help?" she asked, her voice more audible now that she lowered her hand.

Eli nodded, silently admitting that he would have gone through with a suicide attempt if he had one more day like that one in Ottawa.

"I haven't considered it since. I'm working really hard at therapy to be sure I don't again in the future."

Tears brimmed in Clare's eyes. For a few weeks after their breakup, she told herself she would never speak to Eli again. If she kept to that and Cathy did not stop him, she could not even fathom the pain she would have undergone. Eli was a special part of her. Any indication that he had left this world – by his own doing or not – devastated her. It was the mixture of relief that he was recovering from that thought of ending his life plus the need to be reminded that Eli was still alive that made Clare reach over to him. She secured her arms around his upper body, an action that startled him for he jumped and lowly gasped. Eli relaxed in her arms then allowed himself to reciprocate. He listened to Clare as she tried to keep herself from crying, and he was filled with regret once again.

"I don't know why I thought it would be the answer."

"You're still here and you're helping yourself. That's what matters now."

Feeling undeserving of Clare's compassion, Eli leaned out of her arms. Their bodies continued to face each other. Eyes and faces were meeting. Clare was still clearly shaken.

"Eli," she started hoarsely, "if I said or did anything that made you think you would be better off dead –."

"Clare, no," he interrupted. Reflexively, his hand reached for hers as it rested on her lap. He was not completely aware of what he had done until his hand was surrounding hers, but was relieved that she did not pull away. "When I thought that, you and I had talked everything out. I wasn't happy that we were the way we were, but it was not the reason I considered . . ."

Eli swallowed his pain to reflect in greater detail about that wretched afternoon.

"I was overwhelmed because everything seemed to have gotten harder to handle at Ottawa. I was still stressed all the time even though I quit my job, I was sad for no reason, and I was always angry. One day I just couldn't take it anymore."

Clare listened carefully, comforted by his words and hand that made her believe him.

"So, to answer your concern," Eli digressed, not wanting to revisit his memories of Ottawa for longer than necessary. "I don't think I would know if I was ready for a relationship until I was in one. But I've been feeling like myself again lately. I'm taking that as a good omen."

Clare did not give any indication to Eli about what she thought of his answer. They looked at their hands and, simultaneously reminded of their status, released them then returned them to their persons. Now free of his touch, she could return to the conversation they were supposed to be having . . . at the same time, she missed the feeling of his skin the moment it was away from hers.

"I'm glad you're getting better. If you need anything, I'll be here."

"Thanks," he smiled. This was the first time she extended a hand in giving him support since their breakup. Clare provided the best comfort and moral support he ever received. Having her on his side of this uphill battle made him less afraid of any potential obstacles.

"Do you understand why I'm scared about us trying again?"

Eli nodded once again, his smile lessening.

"And I guess me hurting you as badly as I did and the possibility of it happen again are still issues?" he said, recalling the conversation in his living room.

Clare nodded, wishing she could will away her fears.

"I'm not mad at you or have any hard feelings about what happened, but history could repeat itself and it worries me. We could be setting ourselves up for disaster if we date again."

"Alright," said Eli, recalling all the times they repeated mistakes and went in circles. With their bad habits coupled with Clare's fears, Valentine's Day repeating itself was not out of the realm of possibility. "And I know you're not mad anymore, but . . ."

He wove his fingers together, wondering if there was a way to turn back time. If he had such power, he would prevent losing Clare yet be sure that they still found paths that would improve their individual lives.

"I really am sorry for everything I said that night. I wish could erase it all."

"I know, and –."

"Clare, I need you to understand this," Eli interrupted, collecting all the nerve he had left. He met her eyes and was determined to not backdown. "Not a single day has gone by that I have not missed you or wished that I did not break up with you. What we had was not just special to me; it was everything to me. I cannot imagine being with anyone else but you and I don't want to try. I learned a lot about myself these last few months while we were apart. Among all that, I found out that I don't need my life to revolve around you and that you should not be my reason to live or my only source of happiness. But at the end of the day, I missed the person who made me smile and who I can talk to about anything. You're the most incredible person I know. I was an idiot for letting you go and breaking your heart. And I know me saying this doesn't change anything; it's just how I feel. And I am extremely, extremely sorry for hurting you and for putting you through everything. You never deserved that."

Clare's heart began to race faster than she knew it was capable of. Eli's eyes were glowing with sincerity. While she saw traces of such a gaze before, the honesty shone through brighter than she had ever seen. Yet, beneath that, she saw the person she had fallen for; he was there, and he was telling her the words that gave her hope and comfort. The words were rushing in her mind so quickly that she could only bring herself to comprehend and respond to his apology.

"Thank you . . . and I forgive you."

The breath was taken from Eli as his entire body turned warm. It began in his heart and spread to the tips of his fingers and toes. For months, he had craved to hear her say those three small words that carried so much weight. To know that she did not think him cruel caused a smile to come to his lip. He looked at Clare with more gratitude than he knew he was capable of feeling.

"Thank you. Honestly, thank you so much, Clare."

She grinned and nodded to say, "you're welcome." Eli could tell behind her eyes that she was processing his monologue. He waited for her to speak. She did so, hoping for her thoughts to become coherent enough for her to understand them.

"Do you have anything else to say?"

Eli wanted to tell Clare that they should try again instead of walking away because they were scared. He wanted to tell her that they could face down anything that would threaten them. Above all, he wanted to tell her that he would do anything if it meant being with her or that they could give their romance one final try, with this time lasting forever. Alas, there was not any proof or gesture that he could present to her to reinforce his feelings. They were mere words. Words that had been spewed – and believed – over and over only for them to be broken, leaving nothing but damage and heartbreak in their wake.

"No," he answered Clare.

"So, what happens next?"

Eli knew, and he had a hunch that Clare did as well but did not want to be the one to speak it. Yet Eli had to be the person to reconfirm and set the course, for he had been the one who was at the center of every hurdle they endured for months. He had to be the one to declare this passage sealed.

"We carry on as friends and do what we have to do for ourselves. You focus on your life and education, I'll focus on getting better and going back to school later."

"And then . . .?" she coaxed, surprising herself with how disappointed she felt with his response.

Eli looked at the floor and shrugged a single shoulder.

"I don't know," he said, also disheartened with his proposal while aware it was the correct action to take. "We just follow our own paths, I suppose."

Clare heard how fast her heart was beating when she struggled to suck in air. She began to shake. This was the end of their story. Throughout this entire conversation – for the months since the Dot the day after their breakup – she had wanted Eli to accept that he had to let go of their relationship and be okay with moving on. Seeing it happen with him returning to Toronto was one thing; hearing him say that they had to go separate ways was another.

He was finally letting her go. There was no happily ever after for them. Only the end.

No, her heart was screaming. This cannot be the end.

"I should get back," Eli sighed, rising to his feet. He knew that the band was probably getting on fine without him, but he yearned for escape so he could rebuild again.

"Y-Yeah," Clare said, remaining seated.

She spoke this word, but all of her was begging her voice to say, "No, please stay with me." Her body felt the emotionally equivalent of being stabbed by ice. The thought of Eli – her Eli – leaving her side broke her heart.

The room was then full of applause, for Opposing Gravity had just finished a set and announced that they were going to take a break. The sound of live music was then replaced with a generic high-school dance slow song from the speakers. Clare felt her heart twinge, the urge to take Eli by the hand and dance with him unbearably strong.

"Are we good?" Eli asked.

Eli was about to leave her . . . and she could not bear the thought. Even though he would only be on the opposite side of ballroom, she experienced the similar agony she felt every time he left for Ottawa. She refused to go through that again, no matter how far he was going.

"One more dance, for old time's sake?" she offered, her voice strangled as she got onto her feet. Ignoring the taken aback expression on Eli's face, she gathered the remains of her courage. She grabbed his hand and led him to the dancefloor. It did not matter to her that people were staring, for the couple was mismatched in their attire. Eli was in a dark green shirt, jeans, and the black cloth visible to cover his scars on his left arm while Clare wore her dark purple dress. After finding a vacant spot the floor, she faced Eli, who was still surprised. "If you'd rather get back to the band –."

"Definitely not," Eli said, not wanting to surpass the opportunity to have a final dance with Clare no matter how taken aback he was by it.

Each was hesitant to lay a hand on another at first. They caught the other's eye, and lightly chuckled at their momentary awkwardness. Clare then rested her hands on Eli's shoulders while he gingerly laid his hands on her waist. They moved in time with the song, being sent back to last year's prom when they shared plenty of slow dances. The past seemed to blend with the present, as though the simpler times of the year before could blossom again in this moment.

"Can I ask you something?" Clare asked, staring directly at his eyes.


"If none of this happened – us breaking up – do you think we would have made it? Or do you think we were always heading for disaster and we were kidding ourselves with us planning to get married?"

The question rudely reminded Eli that he was dancing with Clare as a friend and not his love. His throat tightened as his heart sank. He knew his answer immediately, for he had asked this same question millions of times since that damned night. There was never a doubt in his mind that if he had followed her advice from when she first saw his cuts and gotten help, this night would have been drastically different . . . their future would have been drastically different.

"No, I don't think we were," he answered her final question. "I believed that if we got through long-distance, we could've gotten through anything. If that was never an issue, we would have gotten married and . . ."

Eli trailed off, unable to imagine the future that might have been.

"How about you?" he asked to focus on something else, but regretted it instantly. He wondered if she was asking these questions as a means of hope for the future to be regained or simply to know if their relationship was based on fleeting feelings without any probable endgame. Dreading either answer, Eli watch Clare's lips to brace himself for her words.

"I wanted us to last. I loved you so much and I was unbelievably happy. Until we broke up, I saw us getting married and making all of our dreams come true."

Eli bit his tongue to keep himself from cursing. Once again, he was reminded that he was the only one who broke every promise and shattered every dream for him and Clare.

"Why did you want to know?" he asked.

Clare shrugged and glanced downward.

"I just wondered if any of your feelings about us changed."

"They haven't."

There was a silence that was only broken by the music. Clare kept her eyes to the floor, attempting to make sense of the thoughts that were racing through her head. Eli had said so much to her with so much determination that it was obvious that he meant every single word. He had a confidence and certainty in their past that they could have made it to their wedding date if Valentine's Day did not occur. Then he spoke adamantly about how he cared for her, not insisting that her fears were wrong or overthought. He offered guidance, but did not push her into a corner. She allowed everything he said to replay in her head, and all her fears seemed to decrease. Finding a smile come to her lips, she met Eli's eyes. She saw the emerald eyes that no longer scared her, only the ones that she would gladly lose herself in forever. Butterflies broke free, her heart mended, and the fog lifted.

"You're not going anywhere for a while?" she recalled.

"Right," Eli answered, not returning her smile.

"And you're feeling like yourself again?"


"So do you think you'll be okay if you . . . tried dating again?"

Eli felt his heart flip, his spirits stirring in their ashes.

"What are you saying?" he asked, completely surprised by the turnaround.

Clare took a breath, continuing to smile.

"I'm still scared about us getting back together, and I think we do need to focus on our own lives. And I don't ever want to be in a long-distance relationship again."

"Okay . . ."

"But . . . because there are still feelings and because we've been through so much, maybe we could test the waters; see if we can work. I don't want us to say we're getting married or even get back together, but maybe we should at least try going out and see if there is still something there. I know we both have a lot going in our lives and a lot to figure out so getting back together would be too much, but we don't have to close the door completely."

Happiness erupted within Eli. In that moment, he had forgotten that he was capable of sadness and fear. His heart exploded with a joy that could not be described by the world's greatest poets. After months of hell, he had been accepted into his personal heaven.

"So, you want us to take it slow?" he clarified.

"Yeah," she smiled. "But if you don't want to or if you think it won't help your progress or anything –."

"Clare," Eli cut her off. "I'm all for it."

The two exchanged smiles . . . smiles that reminded them of the highest points of their relationship . . . smiles that would once again become endless . . . smiles that made them believe that they could pick up the pieces together . . .

The slow song was replaced with a fast one, but the two remained in their spot with hands still resting in their place.

"How slow do you want to take this?" he asked.

"Slow," she emphasized.

"Okay," he agreed, not needing her to explain her reasoning. Gradually easing in seemed to be the best course of action. "Would taking you on a coffee date at the Dot on Monday fall into the category of 'slow'?"

Clare smiled, pleased and relieved that he had suggested the Dot as opposed to something grander.

"Perfect," she declared.

Eli smiled and fought back every temptation to kiss her. It was there, and it was strong. But Clare was, once again, making his dreams come true. Everything he believed was dead, buried, never to see the light of day again was being resurrected. Taking any kind of leap that could risk fracturing that was out of the question. If they were to follow this path and rebuild what was destroyed, there would be plenty of time for kisses, hugs, slow dances, and more. For the present, all he wanted was to do this right.

"I'll pick you up Monday around three then."

"Looking forward to it."

They smiled at each other, equally surprised and relieved at how far they had come since the beginning of this conversation. They were both aware that reconciliation was not guaranteed, for they believed that Clare's fears were warranted and that Eli needed to focus on his emotional stability. However, the idea of giving them one final chance seemed too appealing to fight. Each of them were incapable of forming words, resulting to communicate via chuckles and grins.

"Um . . ." Eli said light, trying to speak. "We should go tell Adam and Caleb we talked this all out."

"We should," Clare echoed. Neither her nor Eli had kept track of time since they had been left alone, but she was sure that their friends would be wondering about them if so much time had elapsed.

They finally lowered their hands from each other before Eli's left found Clare's right. He wove his fingers through hers, and was relieved to see her grinning and squeezing his hand in reassurance. He returned her smile before the two of them began to walk around the crowd towards the stage, hoping to find Caleb and Adam there.

"With every ending

We can find a beginning

Start it over again"

~"Not Broken Yet" by Juliet Simms featuring Andy Biersack

Whenever I have long gaps between updates, I review my outline and notes then usually become unhappy with the original outcome or else think the story will benefit more by removing and/or adding other points. Last year, I had a very clear direction of where I wanted this fic to go (with many sticky notes and key plot points written out). Now, because I think it makes more sense after rereading the last 20 chapters to refresh myself, I have (once again) rearranged the plot. It is also because of this that the section I unofficially dubbed "the prom trilogy" will be a quadrilogy and that this chapter has gone through many rewrites with drastic ending changes. Don't worry, I have the next chapter planned so I promise it will not be another year before I update again. I cannot predict when I'll update, but I usually post progress on twitter (or in vlogs if I feel like rambling on). Hope you guys like this. Thanks for reading!