DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.

Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob

As soon as I realized Eli and Clare were not going on the road trip to the convention, it was all I wanted to write about. In this fic, Julia died two years ago. I don't care if they said it was one year on the show. It doesn't make any sense if it's one year, for reasons well beyond the date.

I'm going to be working on two chapter fics, a sequel to I Thought I Saw Your Face Today and a future fic that I'm really excited about. I am going on vacation this week though, so updates will either be more or less frequent.

(Oh, and as an experiment, I've decided to turn on anonymous reviews. Please be nice or that option will go away. Constructive criticism is always welcome.)


I was pacing back and forth, glancing out the front window every ten seconds to see if Eli had arrived. He was ten minutes late, and he was usually pretty punctual. I nearly tripped over the small duffel bag I left by the door, and my mom looked over at me from her place on the couch as if I had lost my mind.

"Clare, why are you freaking out? He's only a few minutes late. He probably forgot his cell phone charger or something."

"You're right," I said, but it didn't calm my nerves.

"Clare, sit," mom ordered. I sat down next to her on the couch and see looked over at me. "Is everything okay?" her voice softened.

I looked down at my hands. "Things are a little weird between me and Eli right now. I feel like there's a lot of pressure on this trip for us to fix things between us."

My mom looked alarmed. "You aren't planning on sleeping with him, are you? I knew this trip was a bad idea. I should have listened to my gut instinct and not let you go."

"Mom!" I grabbed her hand. "I'm not sleeping with Eli. I'm going to share a room with his mother, but even if we were in the same room, we wouldn't do that. We just need to take the time to talk things out and make sure we're on the same page about our relationship."

She looked relieved. "Well, you'll have plenty of time on your trip. Almost six hours each way in that ridiculous hearse." She pushed my hair back from my forehead. "I know I didn't give Eli much of a chance in the beginning. But I had to admire him coming here with his dad to ask if you could go away with him. That really took guts. I can see he really cares about you."

"I really care about him too," I said softly. I could feel some tears prickling my eyes and blinked to try to keep them at bay.

"Well, I hope you're able to work things out. He usually makes you so happy." She hesitated. "Do you want to tell me what's gone wrong?"

I opened my mouth, but I wasn't quite sure how to respond. But before I could formulate my confused thoughts into words, we heard Eli pulling up outside.

"Call me when you get there," Mom said, giving me a hug. "And if you need me, I'll drive all the way to Bloomington if I have to."

"Thanks, Mom."

When I got into the car, Eli grunted a quick hello and started driving. Great. He's already in a bad mood. He drove in silence, but it wasn't the comfortable silence I was used to sharing with him.

Fortunately about twenty minutes later, we popped into a Tim Hortons for coffee and that seemed to perk Eli up a little bit. He started telling me about some of the conference sessions he'd been reading about on the website and we exchanged guesses of who the surprise keynote speaker could be.

I flipped through his CD case and noted that he had brought along all of the CDs he owned that we both liked (which wasn't really that many), including a mix CD we had put together. I popped it into the CD player and we sang along. It was starting to feel like it usually did between Eli and me and for the first time, I was happy that I had agreed to come on the trip, despite my initial misgivings.

As the hours wore on though, we got quiet again, and it did feel a little awkward. Despite my mom's advice, I thought it would be better to wait until we were out of the car to have the big emotional talk I knew was coming. I watched the scenery pass as we drove, trying to figure out what I needed to stay to Eli to get him to see my point of view without hurting him.

I squinted ahead in the distance. There was a couple riding ahead of us on a motorcycle and they looked awfully familiar. "Isn't that Cece and Bullfrog?" I asked.

Eli laughed. "Yeah it is. I can't believe we caught up to them. They left more than an hour before I did." He honked as he pulled up next to them, not like they wouldn't notice the giant hearse. Bullfrog sped up and pulled in front of us, but he put on his flashing light at the next rest stop and we followed them off the highway.

I noticed my purse had fallen over while we were driving so I tried to pick up a few pens and a lipstick that had fallen out and Eli came over and opened my door. Once I was ready, he grabbed my hand and led me over to his parents. It felt a little unnecessary and I pulled my hand away roughly.

"Hey guys," Cece smiled. "I need to take a pit stop. Clare, do you want to come with me?"

I didn't have to pee that badly but it would give me a few minutes away from Eli. There was only one stall free so I offered it to Cece and checked my phone for any texts while I waited. When I got out of the stall and washed my hands, Cece was digging through her purse.

"Clare, before you guys take off, I wanted to give you these." She handed me a box of three condoms.

I could see my face turn about six shades of purple in the mirror. "Cece, we aren't…"

"I know you aren't having sex, and that's okay, but just in case anything changes, you should have something on hand. Sometimes these things kind of sneak up on you, and spending the night alone in a hotel room has the potential to do that to you." She laughed. "Trust me, I know. Eli wasn't exactly planned."

Oh my God. Cece laughed at the look on my face. "Bullfrog and I were married and a lot older than you two. He just came a little sooner than we were expecting. But I don't expect to have any grandchildren for a very long time, so if the need arises, please use these."

I was too embarrassed to protest. "Okay," I said and slipped the box into my purse. She squeezed my shoulder and left the bathroom while I took a minute to collect myself.

I don't know what made me more annoyed. The fact that Cece thought I would likely have sex on this trip or the fact that Eli's proposal to my mother that I would share a room with his mother was so clearly a ruse that I didn't even have a say in it. I knew I could share a room with Eli and it could be completely innocent, and under normal circumstances, I would really like to. But I didn't like that I had to, especially considering how awkward things were between us.

When I made it back out to Eli, he asked, "What? Did you fall in?" which didn't exactly help me feel better and we made the rest of the trip in silence. My thoughts kept turning to Eli and me in bed together, and it made me even more annoyed that my hormones were betraying me at a time like this.

My mood didn't improve as the day went on. Everything annoyed me - from Bullfrog handing me the key to the hotel room at check in and informing us that he and Cece were all the way on the other side of the building so they wouldn't disturb us, to Eli insisting on attending all of the same conference sessions as I did, even when there was a concurrent session that would be much more interesting to him. When Eli decided he'd skip a panel discussion featuring one of his favorite authors to come to a presentation on how to get a literary agent with me, I'd finally had enough.

I feigned a headache and despite my protests, he insisted on bringing me back up to the hotel room. "Do you need any advil? I'm sure Cece packed some. I can get you some ice from the machine or a ginger ale."

His fussing set me over the edge. "I need you to leave me alone. I just need some time to be on my own and think and not have you hovering over me."

"Clare," he said softly, taking a step back from the bed.

"Eli, I'm sorry, but this was supposed to be a fun trip for us, a chance to reconnect, but all I'm feeling is pressure. Pressure from my mom not to sleep with you, pressure from your mother to share a room with you, pressure from you to not take a step away from your side. I have a headache, and I just want to lie down, and please, just go back to the conference and leave me alone!" My voice raised at the end, and Eli backed toward the door.

"Whatever you want, Clare," he said icily.

I curled up onto my side and I cried myself to sleep.


"Clare," Eli said softly. He shook my shoulder gently, and I blinked as I opened my eyes. "I'm sorry to wake you up but it's 9 o'clock and you haven't eaten all day."

I sat up and looked at the clock in confusion. I'd been napping for more than four hours. "I'm sorry," I said.

He sat down in the chair across the room. "It's okay. Are you hungry? My parents said we could order room service if you're not feeling up to going out."

"That sounds great." My stomach was rumbling and I knew we couldn't put off this conversation much longer.

He handed me the menu before sitting back down across the room. I felt terrible that he felt he couldn't be near me. I didn't want him to go away permanently; I just wanted a little bit of time to myself.

It was a short menu but I couldn't focus. "I don't know what to get."

"I'm just going to get a cheeseburger and fries."

"That sounds good. I'll have the same."

Eli called to place the order, making sure to ask for extra pickles on mine, just the way I liked it. I smiled at the sweet gesture, and was especially please when he sat down on the bed once he hung up. He gave me a little more space than he normally would, but it didn't feel right for him to be sitting all the way across the room.

"Why did you agree to come to this, Clare?"

I blinked in surprise. It wasn't exactly the question I expected him to lead with. "Because I knew it meant a lot to you."

He looked down at the bedspread, running his finger along the geometric pattern. "Not because you wanted to spend time with me?"

I hesitated. That was a harder question to answer. "Eli, I like spending time with you. But ever since Fitz, your expectations of what that entails haven't been realistic. Every day for the past month, you've made plans for us. And it's not that I don't like getting lunch at the Dot or going to movies or working on your room. But it can't be all I do. The day I helped Alli find a dress for the dance was the first time I had seen her in months outside of school, and even Adam hasn't been around."

I leaned closer to him and put my hand on his knee. "I love you, Eli. But lately, you've been so clingy. Sometimes I feel suffocated. And I don't want to resent you for it, and I don't want to break up. I want to figure out why things have been like this for us, and what we can do to fix it."

I knew Eli was going to be upset by my words, but I never expected the look of anger that crossed his face. "Well, I'm sorry I wanted to do something special for you. I'm sorry I wanted to get away and do something that we're both interested in. I'm sorry I wanted to spend the night with you and not have to worry about parents or curfews." The anger dropped out of his voice and was replaced by sadness. "All I wanted was a nice trip together and for us to fall asleep in each other's arms."

"It's not that I don't want that too," I rushed to explain. "If we hadn't spent every waking moment together, I would have been really excited about this trip, Eli. But I didn't like the fact that you didn't even ask me if I wanted to go, that you just expected I'd be happy."

"But why wouldn't you?" his eyes flashed. "This was a once in a lifetime opportunity."

I knew I wasn't going to be able to sell him on the trip. He was right; it was a pretty awesome thing for him to do. It was only when you added it to all of our other issues that it really became a problem.

"It's less about the trip and more about the day to day pressures. When I'm with you so much, it feels like I lose a bit of myself, and I don't want that. I want to look forward to spending time with you."

"I always do."

"But you can't if we're always together."

"But we're not, Clare," he exploded. "We have six classes apart and after school you're always running off to yearbook or student council meetings, and then dinner with your family and youth group. I miss you all the time."

"I miss you when I'm not with you. But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy yearbook and church and hanging out with my parents – at least most of the time." I couldn't understand why he was being so unreasonable. "Eli, we've been together for months and up until recently, things have been amazing. What changed? Why does being apart for a brief amount of time hurt you so much?"

Eli's hands were shaking. "I don't know."

"Does it have to do with Fitz?"

Eli sighed. "I don't know."

"You know I haven't talked to him since that day at my house. I haven't even been back to the Dot and you know how much I love their milkshakes." His mood didn't lighten even a little. "You don't have to worry about Fitz. He's going to leave us alone."

Eli didn't say anything but he didn't look convinced.

"Does it have to do with Julia?"

Eli looked at me. We hadn't talked about her in a few months; he didn't like to bring her up and it was awkward for me to do it. Occasionally when I helped him go through his room there was an item he refused to part with but he never explained why, even though I knew it had something to do with her.

"I know it's been two years since her death and I know it's still hard for you. Do you think that you're afraid of losing me like you lost her? If you can keep me with you all the time, do you think that will keep me safe?"

A single tear trickled down Eli's face. "Maybe a little," he admitted.

"You know that's not how it works," I said gently. "Her death was a tragedy, but it was an accident. You couldn't have prevented it. And you can't keep me safe with your presence, Eli. All you can do is have faith that I'll be okay…that we'll be okay."

He laughed wryly. "We both know having faith isn't exactly a strong suit of mine."

I took both of his hands in mine and looked deep into his eyes. "I have enough faith for the both of us. I just need to you have faith in me. That I'm here. That I love you."

"I don't know how to give you what you want," he said softly, his voice raspy.

"I think we need to spend less time together." Eli's face fell. "But I think we should really put in an effort to make the time we do spend together special."

"Special how?" Eli looked doubtful.

"Instead of going out every day after school, let's make Fridays our date night. And every Friday we'll go out and do something fun. We can alternate who gets to choose what we do so one of us can surprise the other."

"That sounds nice," he said. "Except for the fact that the thought of only seeing you once a week absolutely kills me."

"We eat lunch together every day at school," I reminded him. "Not to mention English class."

"It's not the same."

"It's just a starting point," I said. "To be honest, it doesn't sound like enough to me either. And I can just tell that on Thursday night, I'm going to call you just because I miss you so much."

"We can talk every day?"

"Yeah, as long as we keep it to maybe one or two calls a day."

Eli laughed. "You know how much I hate talking on the phone."

"It'll take some getting used to. But I know that if we can work this out and find ways to be together without constantly being together, that we're just going to get stronger as a couple."

Eli held out his arms and I crawled into them. He kissed me temple and gazed at me with his gorgeous green eyes. "Sometimes I just need to hear your voice so I know you're okay."

"I am okay," I promised. "And if I'm ever not okay, you'll be the first person I call."

I rested my head against his chest and we were quiet for a few minutes, but it felt peaceful, like we had put some of our troubles to rest.

I looked up and saw a hint of a smirk on Eli's face. "Are we allowed to Skype sometimes?"

"Sure," I said.

"Can we video chat on nights you're wearing sexy pajamas?" he teased.

I blushed. "Who says I have sexy pajamas?"

"Everything looks sexy on you."

I rolled my eyes, but his words pleased me. "Then it shouldn't matter what I'm wearing."

"Are we allowed to…talk dirty to each other during these phone calls?" he asked boldly.

Wow. "You mean, like phone sex?" It was a testament to how much I'd grown up over the past few months of dating Eli that I was actually able to say those words to him.

He grinned. "Maybe not phone sex, but phone foreplay?"

There was no way in a million years I'd ever be able to do that, even though the thought of Eli whispering dirty thoughts into my ear was a huge turn on. "I don't think so."

He didn't look surprised but he looked a little disappointed. "Are we allowed to kiss on these date nights?"

I moved my hand until it cupped his neck. "We're not only allowed; we're encouraged."

I leaned in to kiss him but he pulled back. "It's not Friday."

"I think we can make an exception."

Eli gave me a very gentle kiss and I was about to kick the intensity up a notch, when we heard a knock at the door. He backed up and grinned at me. "Dinner time."

We curled up on the bed with our hamburgers and turned the TV on. We spent the next hour giggling and mocking a bad comedy movie that I don't even know the name of. Eli smeared ketchup on my cheek and attempted to lick it off while I raced around the room to try to get to the bathroom to wash it off. I managed to get the bathroom door shut and locked it, and Eli collapsed against the door in a fit of hysterical laughter.

I couldn't contain my grin as I washed my face. It was moments like these that reminded me of how much fun Eli and I had together. After worrying so much for the past few weeks, it was a relief to be with him and to be happy at the same time.

I went back in the room to see that Eli had cleared our empty plates from the bed and was lying down. He'd turned the TV off, and he held out his arms to me. I curled up next to him. "Getting sleepy?" I asked.

"Nah. Just wanted to hold you for a moment."

I rested my cheek against his chest and he stroked my back lightly. I shivered a little bit at how nice it felt, particularly since my shirt had ridden up a little and his fingers occasionally skimmed my skin.

I looked up at him and noticed that he didn't look quite as content as I felt. "You know, even though I can't be in your arms all the time, it's still my favorite place to be."

The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. "Mine too."

I leaned up on my elbow so I could look into his eyes. "Are you okay?"

He nodded, though it didn't really look that convincing. "Are you?"

I placed my palm against his chest and he watched my fingers move over him. "I'm pretty good," I said. "But there's something that could make this better."

I leaned down to him but he only returned a quick, chaste kiss. "Eli," I whispered, and tried to capture his lips again. He turned his face away, and I narrowed my eyes.

"What? Why won't you kiss me?"

"It's just not a good idea."

"Why not?" A part of me was starting to panic. I thought we had made some progress but apparently all I had done was hurt Eli and make him not want to kiss me.

"Because I love you, and things are weird between us, and I don't want to do something wrong."

"It's not wrong, Eli. I love you too."

He still hesitated, and I was starting to get frustrated. "Please kiss me," I whispered, practically begging him, and Eli looked amused.

"Well, if you insist."

I was expecting another sweet kiss, but Eli took my breath away. His body came over mine and he slipped one of his legs between my knees. I kissed him back with all of the passion I possessed, trying to show him just how much I wanted him. He trailed a finger from my neck to my waist, passing through my cleavage and making me wish he'd dare to take my shirt off, even though we'd never quite done that before. His fingers danced over the waistband of my jeans, daring to find my skin before he abruptly pulled back and lay down against his pillow.

"God, Clare. If you only knew the things I want to do to you someday."

My eyes widened as I realized just how much I wanted to do those same things with him. It wasn't the first time I had that thought, but this was the first time I really wanted to say yes. I didn't want to wait for someday; I wanted him right now.

I'd always been curious about taking things farther with Eli but knowing that we had all night to be alone together, that there wasn't a curfew or a parent in the room next door made me feel brave.

I threw myself back into his arms and kissed him, but Eli held my jaw with his hands and slowed things down. His mouth opened against mine, but he was soft, gentle. It was still breathtaking, and if he were trying to quell the desires we were feeling by slowing the pace down, he was only making things worse. My lips tingled, my skin burned and my fingertips longed for Eli's skin.

I could see why Eli was hesitant. Because kissing him, all alone in this hotel room…it felt different. It was more than a few stolen kisses at school or even a steamy goodnight kiss in the front seat of Morty. It was more desperate than our study dates in his bedroom and more passionate than our picnic at the abandoned church.

I knew we had a lot of work to do, that one conversation wasn't going solve all of our problems. But I just wanted one night of happiness with him, one night of loving physical bliss. Because I had faith in us, and I knew this wouldn't be our last night together, because we loved each other enough to do whatever it took to fix our relationship.

So with a little bit of reluctance, I pulled back from his embrace. My chest was heaving, trying to suck in all the oxygen it had been deprived of for the past few minutes. I felt dizzy and lustful and judging from the look in his eyes, he felt the same way. I tried to figure out how to tell him I was ready, even though I hadn't quite figured out what exactly I was ready for. More than kissing. Less than sex. I could determine what my limits were as we explored them together.

He moved over to his pillow and grabbed my hand, and I realized he was taking my brief pause as a signal to turn the night from sexy to sweet and that was the last thing I wanted. I thought about climbing on top of him, straddling his waist to make it clear what I wanted, but I still had my jeans on from earlier in the day. Hmm…that could work.

"Do you want to get changed for bed?" I asked and Eli nodded.

"You can take the bathroom first," he said. I turned around and dug around in my bag for my pajamas. I had brought two sets, not sure what the temperature in the room would be or whether I'd really be sharing with Cece instead. I grabbed the tank top and shorts, which weren't sexy by any means, but would show off a lot more skin than my long sleeved t-shirt and pajama pants.

I turned around to find Eli climbing back into bed, under the covers this time, his jeans discarded on the floor along with his shirt. "Are you cold?" I asked, wondering why he had gotten under the covers so quickly.

Eli blushed. "No, I'm just…hard," he said finally, and I knew my face was even redder than his. "My boxers don't really hide it and I didn't want to make you uncomfortable."

Oh my. I wasn't totally naïve; I had felt him pressing into me when we kissed before. But faced with the proof that my sexy boyfriend wanted me and was waiting under the covers for me…Wow. I could feel my body responding to his words, and with a courage I didn't know I had, I said breezily, "I'm not uncomfortable. I think it's…" His eyes widened as I tried to come up with the right word.

"Hot."

Eli tried to suppress his shock at first, but he openly gaped at me as I threw my pajamas onto the bed, and unzipped my jeans and stepped out of them. "What are you doing?"

"Getting ready for bed." I couldn't decide whether to put the shorts on or not. By a nice coincidence, I had on black, lacy boy shorts and I decided that was good enough. I took a deep breath and pulled my shirt over my head. The light pink bra I hadn't didn't exactly match, but Eli didn't seem to mind.

"You are so beautiful, Clare." His intense gaze made me nervous and I turned around, knowing I wouldn't be able to take my bra off with him watching me.

"Wait," he said, and I stopped, not sure what he wanted. I could hear him come off the bed and he stood behind me, wrapping one hand around my waist and bringing the other up to the hook on my bra. "Could I do this for you?" His mouth was so close to me that I could feel his breath on my ear.

I shivered and he must have taken that as a yes, because he slipped a finger under the hooks and released my bra, slipping the straps down my shoulders until it hit the floor. He slid one finger down the length of my spine before putting both arms around my waist and pulling me back to him. His bare chest against my back felt incredible, and there was no mistaking his erection pressing against my butt. He held me to him, not attempting to anything more and I relaxed. He kissed me down my neck, and my head fell back in pleasure.

"What do you want to do?" he whispered as his tongue caressed my earlobe right over my piercing.

"I don't know," I said, too embarrassed to tell him the truth.

"I don't want to screw this up," he said softly. "We've never done anything like this before and we're still trying to fix things and you are so beautiful, Clare. I don't want to do the wrong thing."

It was ironic that Eli had been so pushy and insistent with me over the past few weeks but unlike most guys, once sex was the topic at hand, he completely backed off and left the decisions up to me. I loved him for respecting me so deeply that he could have his hands on my nearly naked body without taking things the wrong way.

"I want you to touch me," I admitted, and I could feel him grinning against my neck.

"Where?" he persisted, still not making a move.

"Everywhere," I said and I turned around in his arms.

His eyes fell on me and he groaned. "You're…you're…"

"And you're the published writer?" I teased, trying to distract him from ogling my body.

"There are no words for how perfect you are." He managed to tear his eyes from my breasts and meet my gaze. I'd known that Eli cared about me for a long time, even before we starting saying 'I love you' to each other. But the look in his eyes told me more than any profession of romance could.

He wanted me.

Cece's warnings about taking things too far popped into my head and I remembered the condoms in my purse. But I knew no matter how much I wanted to, that was a boundary we could not cross tonight. Eli watched the expression on my face change as I considered my next move.

"Are you sure this is okay, Clare?"

In a move so bold that I immediately I regretted it, I grabbed him by the waistband of his boxers, and pulled him toward the bed. I got a sneak peak of what his boxers were just barely hiding and I blushed furiously, as I knelt on the bed. Eli was looking at me in shock before he joined me, kneeling as he pressed his body against mine.

"Tell me when you want me to stop." His voice felt like it was dripping with sex, and I moaned as his tongue met mine. His hands found my hips before sliding underneath my underwear and cupping my butt.

"Have I ever told you that you have a great ass?"

"Stop talking."

His hands were everywhere as he crushed our mouths back together. He gripped my thighs, nipped my neck and kissed down my body until he took my breast into his mouth. I felt so lightheaded that I was afraid I was going to fall over, but he held me to him. I pressed my stomach right into him and he let out a sexy moan. His hand smoothed up my inner thigh and I sucked in a breath as I realized what he was about to do. He pressed against me for a moment and when I spread my legs a little farther to make room, he slipped a finger into my underwear.

"Ohh, Eli," I moaned. Why did I wait so long to try this? I couldn't imagine anything feeling better than this. Between his kisses and his fingers, I felt like I was floating. My legs were shaking and the noises that were coming out of my mouth were fortunately muffled by his kisses because I was pretty sure that the whole hotel would know how close I was if his mouth wasn't tangled in mine.

And then he stopped.

"What are you doing?" I practically shrieked, already missing the feelings he had stirred inside of me.

"Lie down," he commanded. I followed his order and looked at him in shock as he knelt between my legs and started to pull my underwear off my body. He scooted his body further down the bed and I realized what he was about to do.

"Eli, you don't have to…"

He slipped a finger inside me. "I want to. I want to so much, Clare. I've been dreaming about this since the first day I met you."

Eli started sucking on my clit with fervor. I had always known he was a passionate person, but I didn't realize just how intense we would be in trying to bring my pleasure. His tongue swiped me all over as his finger stroked me. My moans grew louder, turning from little puffs of breath to full on cries of passion. I screamed as I experienced my first orgasm with Eli, shocked when he continued to lick me until I reached the same heights not once, but twice more.

He finally sat back, clearly pleased with himself but looking a little nervous. "Come here." I held out my hand to him, sad that he was so far away. "What's wrong?"

"I shouldn't have done that," he said and I felt my stomach drop. "I pushed you and I shouldn't have. I'm sorry I took it too far."

"Eli." I felt like my heart was breaking. "I wanted to. Please don't feel bad about it, because I feel amazing."

He looked a little bit relieved and I tugged on his hand until he lay down next to me. "Can I show you just how much I want you?" I asked, summoning my courage as I brought my hand down his chest.

He stopped me, entwining his fingers in mine and bringing them up to his mouth, to press a kiss into my hand. "I want to prove myself to you. I want to show you that we can make this work before I take that step with you."

"I don't need you to do that. I know that we can make things work."

But Eli was resolute. "Getting this intimate with you just proves to me exactly how much is at stake here. I need to do this, for me, before I can really be with you." I was about to clarify that I still wasn't ready for next when I noticed an impish look on his face. "If we fix things, if I can make you happy again…you are more than welcome to give me a hand job any time you like."

"Eli!"

He grinned at me. "I love how you're still so embarrassed about this, even though you're lying in bed with me naked after screaming out my name." He wiggled his eyebrows. "Three different times, I might add."

"Don't let it get to your head." I stuck my tongue out at him and he gave me a quick kiss.

"I love you, Clare," he said, his voice serious.

"I love you too."

We climbed under the covers and snuggled together. I could feel Eli's breathing increase and I looked at him to make sure he was alright.

"I don't want you to regret anything that happens between us," he said softly. "If we can't make this work."

"Don't think that way. We're going to make this work. And I have no regrets, Eli. None."

He kissed my temple before rolling over onto his side, still staying close enough that his spine pressed against my body. "Goodnight, Clare."

I hated that he was still nervous about us. And even though my head still had some doubts about whether our plan would work, my heart was certain. I loved this boy, and I would love him for the rest of my life.

"Goodnight, Eli," I said, and I wrapped my arms around his waist, holding him to me tightly.