DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.
Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob
This fic came up because I was annoyed with how Jesus Etc. ended. This is sort of my "old school" Degrassi response to that episode, because they used to resolve storylines all in one episode, and while I think the new approach is often more interesting, this is my final scene to end the Jesus Etc. saga.
This is dedicated to LiteraryLolita because it's her birthday and she's awesome. Also, I'd like to give a shout out to SimplyClare because she used a line I had written in here in her story last night and I don't want her to think I plagiarized her and because she's one of my favorite RPers.
It's all about you, Clare.
I tried to put it out of my mind as I drove down Broadview Avenue, trying to focus on the speedometer and the brakes and the mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and red lights, as Eli prattled on about what we could do to celebrate if we win the Gothic Tales contest and the $500 cash prize.
It was good to see him so happy, but at the same time, there was something that wasn't quite right about it. He was a little too happy, almost manic, in his glee over his story and that coupled with his increasingly possessive and odd behavior made me worry.
Eli had always been emotional, but he wasn't the kind of guy who yelled out he loved you in the hallway. And he wasn't the kind of guy who breaks down in tears when you say something insensitive too him either. Something wasn't right with him and knowing just how many things in his life were really troubling made me fear for him.
At the moment, he didn't seem to be too concerned.
"Maybe we could run away to Niagara Falls for a night," he suggested. "Get a hotel room. Drink a bottle of wine under the stars and watch the waves crash."
"Yeah, my parents will love that idea." Spending a night with Eli like that sounded way too good to me, and I secretly wished I didn't have to shoot it down.
He laughed. "Too bad. We'll have to go out for a nice dinner and spend the rest at a bookstore instead."
"Doesn't quite have the same ring to it," I joked. Eli leaned over and put his hand on my knee. "Not while I'm driving."
He took his hand away. "Sorry, didn't know I was so...distracting."
I pulled up to a red light and looked over as he wiggled his eyebrows at me. I blushed. Eli was definitely a distraction. But a very good one. I felt myself relax for the first time since our conversation in the hallway. He was just excited about our story. I was overreacting.
I was starting to feel more comfortable behind the wheel when I made a left onto Queen Street like a pro. There could be a lot of traffic in this area after school but I felt like I was doing a good job navigating the busy road.
"You're doing great, Clare. You're even doing the speed limit."
I wanted to stick my tongue out at him but I was afraid to take my eyes off the road. I pulled up to the red light at the intersection outside the Dot and looked at Eli.
But his eyes weren't on me. He was glaring out his window, watching Fitz, who was leaning against the brick wall that lead to Above the Dot, smoking a cigarette.
I pulled away, but our moment of levity was gone. I could practically feel Eli tense up next to me, and as much as I desperately wanted to reach out for his hand and calm him down, Morty's lack of power steering made that impossible.
"I don't want to drive anymore," I said softly and it seemed to break whatever spell of anxiety Eli had been under.
He slid a little closer to me on the bench seat and placed his hand gently on my thigh. "My parents are out. You could come over if you want."
He said it casually, and I was pretty shocked that he had gone from angry to horny in less than two minutes. He was a teenage boy, however, so maybe it wasn't so out of the ordinary.
I wasn't really in the mood to make out but I knew I had to talk to him about his behavior lately, so I turned down Eli's street. "I can only stay for a little while," I warned. "Mom gets home at six." I pulled into his driveway. Eli usually backed in, but there was no way I was attempting that.
"I don't think it will take that long," he smirked and leaned over for a kiss.
My face burned at his suggestiveness. I tossed him his keys and followed him up to his room.
We'd been spending a few hours each weekend working on his room for almost two months but it still shocked me just how much stuff we hadn't even attempted to go through yet, let alone the stuff he refused to throw out. I didn't think this was the best venue for our conversation, since I was sure his hoarding was probably going to come up.
Eli interrupted my thoughts by turning around and kissing me, cupping my cheek with one hand and grazing my neck with the other. I mewled in surprise and in pleasure as he drew me closer, pressing his body against mine.
He moved his hands down my body as we kissed, brushing gently over the sides of my breasts on the way to wrapping his arms around my waist. He hadn't quite been so bold with me before and as he walked backward slowly and led me to the bed, there was nothing I wanted to more than to give in and let him kiss all of my negative thoughts away and let him touch me wherever he wanted.
But as he spun me around so that I landed on the bed with him leaning over me, I felt overwhelmed. And while this was the good kind of overwhelmed, I knew I wouldn't be able to let myself go and enjoy this until I was sure Eli was okay.
With a great deal of difficulty, I ripped my lips from his. He looked at me for a moment with darkened eyes and then descended on my neck. That wasn't exactly what I had in mind, and I was about to stop him when his lips trailed down my chest, following the path of the opening of my polo shirt, which Eli had unbuttoned. It wasn't deep enough for his lips to get too fresh, but he had never kissed down that far and his hand was starting to travel back up and I knew if I let this continue, we'd never have the conversation.
"Eli, stop," I said, not too forcefully because I didn't want to upset him. He pulled back and gave me a pleading look.
"I'm sorry. Did I take it too far?" He looked like he was going to dive back in once I told him it was okay, so I grabbed him by the shoulder.
"No, it was great, but..." I hesitated and Eli's face dropped. "We need to talk."
I expected Eli to make a joke or try to kiss me, but I didn't expect the look of terror on his face. He immediately sat up and moved away from me, moving toward the head of his bed and leaving me sitting at the foot.
"Just do it," he stuttered. "Just get it over with." His hands were shaking and he looked like he was about to cry.
I moved closer to him, wanting to hold him, to comfort him, but he shied away, curling into a tense ball.
"What do you think I'm going to do?" I asked, feeling the tears start to fill my eyes.
"Break up with me. Tell me you want to see other people. That things are too intense."
I gaped at him. "Eli, no! That's the last thing I want."
He uncurled enough that he could see my face. He didn't look relieved exactly, but he no longer looked completely terrified. "Then what is it?" he asked hoarsely.
"I'm just worried about you," I said softly.
His jaw tensed. "Well, it starts with worry and it ends with a break up. I know how this goes."
He didn't offer any more information, and I looked at him in confusion. He had only had two girlfriends, as far as I knew: Julia and me. I sucked in a deep breath as I realized what he was telling me.
"Is that what happened? Julia told you she wanted to see other people because things were too intense?"
He nodded grimly. "And then she got hit by a car and I never saw her again."
"Oh, Eli." It broke my heart to watch him cry. He allowed me to pull him into my arms, to hold him as he sobbed. I cradled his bowed head, kissing the back of his neck and rubbing his back.
It took a few minutes, but his tears subsided slightly and he looked at me in embarrassment. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry. It's good to let this out." He never talked to me about Julia; in the months since he'd become my friend and then my boyfriend, her name had only crossed his lips on about four occasions.
He still looked disturbed, and I knew I had to reassure him. "Eli, I promise you I'm not breaking up with you. Not tonight, and hopefully not ever."
He closed his eyes. "You will, though. You'll get sick of me just like she did."
"I won't," I said desperately. But I could tell he didn't believe me. "What happened?" I asked tentatively. "I mean, what happened between you that it got to that point?"
Eli closed his eyes, his expression full of pain. "Her stepmother used to hurt her. She was really crafty about it, and she'd only hit her in places that were covered by clothes so that her father wouldn't notice. Julia had bruises on her stomach and back all the time, even her legs, and we were dating, so…" He glanced at me. "I'd see them. I believed her the first time when she told me they were just ice skating injuries, but when they reappeared a week later, I got the whole story out of her."
He was sitting up now and I moved closer so I could lean against him. "Once I found out, I talked to my parents and they said she could move in with us. She was grateful at first, but… I knew she missed her father and I knew we were spending too much time together, that it wasn't healthy to be living together when you were just 15 years old. And things got intense so quickly and then we started sleeping together, and things weren't perfect between us but I was really, really happy that she was with me and that she was safe."
The expression on his face told me I wasn't going to like what I was about to hear, and I shrunk back from him, putting some space between us. "This one time, about a month before she died, we were in my room, fooling around and I was trying to get her shirt off and she kept stopping me." His look was full of shame. "I don't want you to think I'm a total asshole, but she had never stopped me for that, so I kept pushing. And I saw this bruise on her stomach. It looked like someone had hit her with a baseball bat."
I cringed and he shook his head. "She had gone home one day after school. She told me she was hanging out with a friend of ours but she went home to see her dad, and her stepmother was the only one home and she hurt her. And I got really pissed out and yelled at Julia and told her she wasn't allowed to go to her dad's house ever again unless she was with me."
He laughed wryly. "Of course if you knew Julia, you'd know ultimatums were exactly the type of thing that made her want to do something even more. And then the night that she died, she showed up on my doorstep with a black eye, after disappearing for hours. She didn't have a cell phone and I didn't know where she was and when she showed up hurt, I went off on her."
The tears were pouring down again and I slipped my arms around him once more. "She told me that I was being unfair and possessive and that things were too intense and that she'd rather move home and get beat up than stay with me any longer."
"Oh, God, Eli," I said, unable to contain my sympathy any longer.
He looked me in the eye, making sure I didn't miss what he said next. "The worst part is that I know if she had lived that night, if she had gone home to her stepmother, she would have ended up dead anyway. So it didn't matter that it was a freak accident and that it was out of my control. I killed her. She wouldn't have left that night if I hadn't treated her so badly, and she wouldn't have wanted to go back to her abusive stepmother instead of being with me."
He lay down, sobs wracking his body, and I spooned up against him. I pressed my cheek against his back and listened to the air rasping through his lungs as he cried.
I waited until his hysterics had passed through a few tears still trickled down his face before I pulled him onto his back and lay down on my stomach next to him so he could see my face. "I'm sorry that you went through that. I'm sorry that Julia was hurt and I'm sorry that she died. But, Eli…you can't carry the burden of her death forever. You have to forgive yourself. You made some mistakes and it sounds like she did too. But you only wanted what was best for her and you couldn't have prevented what happened to her."
"I don't know if I'll ever be able to believe that."
I hesitated. I wasn't sure how he was going to react to what I had to say. "That's why I think you need to talk to someone." He closed his eyes. "You said Cece talked about taking you to a therapist. Whatever happened with that?"
"She never did anything about it and I never brought it up again."
"But why?" I pressed. "It seemed like you were starting to feel ready to address some of this issues that have been haunting you all this time." As much as I loved Cece and Bullfrog, I was disappointed that they had neglected Eli after Julia's death; he should have been in therapy right after her death.
"I don't need a therapist to tell me I'm crazy. I already know I am."
"You're not crazy. You've had horrible things happen to you, things that people twice our age wouldn't be able to handle. And you've had to cope with them all on your own and while most of the time I look at you and you're happy and wonderful, and some days you're so full of anxiety and depression that I'm afraid for you. And getting help is the only way you're ever going to get better."
He looked like he was considering what I was saying for a moment, but then his eyes narrowed and he gave me an accusing look. "This isn't what you came here to tell me."
"You couldn't have known about Julia. How we broke up. This is about something else."
I reached for his hand but he pulled away sharply. "Well, no, that wasn't specifically what I wanted to talk to you about, but it's related. I'm worried about how you're coping with Fitz being back."
"I told you, Clare. I'm fine. I just don't want to have anything to do with him."
"And I'm not going to make the same mistake again and tell you what to do, but I really wish you would do the same thing."
Did Eli think I was going to try to be friends with Fitz? After all that happened? "What are you talking about?"
He looked at me in disbelief. "He was at your house, Clare. You let him in and your mother wasn't even home. He could have done anything to you."
"It was a mistake letting him in. It was pouring and I felt bad for him and I felt worse for him once he told me about his family life. But after everything, I can't be there for him. When I see him, I see a knife glinting in his hands and coming toward you and even though I don't believe he ever meant to hurt you or that he would ever hurt me, I don't want to be around him. He needs help right now, but I can't be the one to give it to him."
"You're too good, Clare," he said, in a way that felt more sad than impressed. "You get taken in by people who don't deserve you."
I felt a little annoyed. "I'm not being taken in by anyone."
We sat up as our voices started to rise. "You're being naïve, Clare. Fitz comes to you and tells you he loves God and he needs your help and you say you're not going to, but I know you, Clare. The next thing I know he's going to be crashing in Darcy's bed on nights when it gets bad at home and sitting next to you in Bible Study and soon your mom is going to try to convince you to go on a date with that nice boy from church, and someday you'll realize that you want a good Christian boy who shares your values and Fitz will have one. He'll have succeeded in taking everything from me. First my sanity, then my girlfriend."
"Except you're forgetting one thing…" I said bitterly.
"What's that?" he challenged.
"That I love you, you idiot."
We stared each other down for a minute, the anger still coursing. Then Eli grinned and I burst into laughter.
Once I calmed down I put my hand in his. "I'm not going to leave you for Fitz. I want you, Eli. I love you."
Even after my angry outburst, it still felt a little weird to say that to him. We had said it for the first time the weekend before Fitz returned, when we had brought a picnic to the park where we filmed our Romeo and Juliet party, and spent an hour after dark making out on that very same picnic table. I was glad the first time had been so sweet and special, because the repeat appearances involved Eli crying in Morty and his earlier flamboyant hallway performance.
"I love you too," he said, and each time I heard it I grew a little more confident in our feelings for each other.
"But just because you and I are happy together, doesn't mean everything's okay. Ever since he came back you haven't been yourself, Eli."
"I'm just worried about you."
"But you don't need to be. He's not going to hurt me."
"You can't know that for sure."
I wasn't sure if it was better to reveal this or not. "He…um…he has feelings for me."
Eli eyed me warily. "And that means it'll just make him mad that he can't have you. Or that he'll come after me. Or that he'll just try to take from you what you're not willing to give."
"Eli! Stop!" I grabbed him by the shoulders. "This is why you need to talk to someone about this. Because you're making yourself crazy by worrying about Fitz when the only person you need to worry about is yourself."
He remained silent, so I continued. "You need to figure out how to cope with him being back because we can find another coffee shop but you never know if you'll run into him. And you can't spend every moment with me to protect me from him and you can't run through scenarios in your mind where I leave you for Fitz."
"I don't know," he said softly, and I pulled him closer, holding onto him for dear life as I held his gaze.
"Between all of your pain from Julia's death, and all of the stuff you've accumulated to keep yourself from forgetting her, and the trauma of Vegas Night, and how desperately you feel like you need to protect me, you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. And if you don't let some of that go, it's going to crush you. You need to talk to Cece. I'm here for you but I can't help you on my own."
"You're right," he finally admitted. He grinned. "I hate it when you're right."
"And you need to stop writing stories where the protagonist kills his girlfriend," I teased, trying to lighten the mood. "Especially if they're based on true life events."
Eli laughed. "You can't seriously think…"
I guess the look on my face betrayed my feelings and he looked at me like I was crazy. "Clare, he drinks her blood. It's a horror story. It's not about us. Here, read it." He grabbed his copy from his backpack and flipped to the second to last page. "Start here. I didn't change anything before this."
I read his vivid description of how Malcolm slit Rachel's neck and drank the blood. But somehow, on the page, couched in Eli's beautiful prose, the image remained as it was intended: a gruesome image meant for a horror story, a symbol of the story's themes of redemption and eternal love. It wasn't threatening and it wasn't all about me. It was a moment between two characters in a story and it was incredible.
Eli was pacing the small cleared area near his door as I read, wringing his hands with nerves. "It's perfect," I said, and Eli looked pleased.
"You know I'd never hurt you, Clare." His voice was soft, sincere. These were words you'd hear from someone who had abusive tendencies, but there wasn't a trace of manipulation or menace in his voice. It was just Eli.
"There isn't a doubt in my mind."
He held my gaze and then something shifted in the air between us. There was this connection – electrical, magnetic, something – that was pulling us together and Eli strode to the bed with three purposeful steps and then his mouth was on mine.
His arms came around me, holding my head through my curls and pressing against the small of my back, but all I could feel were his lips, his tongue. His kiss was all-consuming but it didn't feel like he was trying to take me; it felt like we were sharing something magical. His kiss was passionate, desperate. I had never felt anything like it before and I never wanted it to stop.
His hand skimmed my waist and I could feel his fingers on the skin of my stomach where my uniform shirt had ridden up. I didn't know a touch that was so cool could set my body on fire like that, and as his hands grew more confident, cradling my back fully under the material, I made a decision. I was ready to show him that I was his, that I wasn't hiding any bruises or scars from our relationship. That I loved and trusted him and that I wasn't going anywhere.
I maneuvered us until I was on top of him, tangling my legs in his. He thrust against me a little and I could feel him, hard against my thigh. I reminded myself that I didn't want this to go too far, that I only wanted to give him a little taste of what our future held. I mustered all the courage I had and sat up on his lap. He gazed at me, both shocked and lustfully, as I pulled my shirt over my head. His look was encouraging enough that despite my nerves, I reached back and unhooked my bra, throwing it onto a pile of Eli's stuff in my haste to remove it before I changed my mind.
"Clare," he said in wonder, and to my surprise, his head fell back against the pillow and he shut his eyes. "I don't want to do anything you're not ready for. Things aren't great between us and I just…"
"Eli, look at me," I said and his eyes met my breasts before they made it back up to my face. "Do you promise me you're going to get some help and that you're going to talk to me when you're upset and not bottle everything up?"
He nodded, his eyes still jumping over my body.
"Then things are great between us and they're only going to get better and I…I want to be with you."
His eyes widened and I hurried to correct myself. "Not like that. Just like this," I said, taking his hand and placing it on my breast, hoping he didn't notice just how fast my heart was beating.
He didn't need any more encouragement and he flipped us over and captured my lips once more. I found the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head but as soon as it was removed he kissed me again as our bodies pressed together.
It was too much and not enough all at once, and as his hand moved down my body and rested on my hips, I thought about letting him do more. He clearly had the same idea as his hands trailed down my thighs. "I wish you were wearing a skirt," he whispered into my neck.
"Eli, we can't…" I said, trying not to moan as his lips moved down my neck.
"I don't want to take it too far. I just want to touch all of your beautiful skin. I want to kiss you from head to toe." His words made me blush. "Could I take your pants off?" he asked gently.
My body, arching into him of its own accord, was begging me to say yes, but I knew I'd never be able to stop him if I let him get that far. I wouldn't want to, and that was too dangerous for me at this point in time. "No," I said softly. "I want you to, but I'm not ready."
He smiled. "Just knowing you want me to is enough for me."
His kisses slowed, knowing we were coming to a stopping point, but still somehow as sexy as the intense kisses we shared before. It wasn't long before we stopped, snuggled together, our caresses sweet and loving rather than sexual.
We heard a car pull up outside and Cece called from downstairs, "Eli, I'm home. I've got pizza."
We reluctantly untangled ourselves and I reached for our shirts as Eli climbed over a pile of stuff to retrieve my bra. "Any chance I could hang onto this as a souvenir?" he teased and I ripped it out of his hands.
"Not even a little bit." I dressed myself and we walked to the door of his room.
"Can I drive you home?" he asked.
"You should stay and talk to Cece about finding a therapist."
His face fell. "After the conversation we had, I really don't want you to walk home by yourself. I know I can't protect you all the time, but please, just for today, humor me."
"Okay," I agreed. I didn't really want our time to be cut short today either. I checked my cell phone and it was already 5:30. "If you want, I can call my mom and tell her I'll be late. I can stay with you while you talk to your mom."
He looked relieved and then smiled. "That sounds great. I'll even let you eat some of my pizza."
"Well, that's a big sacrifice," I joked.
He leaned down to give me a kiss. "For you, I'll do anything."