DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi. If I did...well...it's best not to go there right now.

Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob

This is a prequel to True Love Waits. You don't have to read that to enjoy this, but you should read it anyway because it's awesome. (Okay, that's not exactly modest, but whatever, it's a zillion times better than this.) I will be writing the epilogue to that fic but attempts thus far have just about killed me.

I got the idea for this fic right before DTW Part 2, and then obviously couldn't use it as is, but then found a way to sneak the idea into that fic. This doesn't exactly fit the Degrassi timeline except it's after Alli returns to Degrassi and Eli and Clare do not break up for years in my timeline.

"I am so excited about tonight," Alli said as she slipped into the seat across from me. It was the first day of spring with really warm weather and Eli, Adam and I had brought our lunches to one of the picnic tables outside of school. "I can't wait for school to be over."

"Me too," I said. Alli and I hadn't spent much time together when she was attending private school and this was the first chance we'd had to catch up.

"What's tonight?" Adam asked, his mouth half full of peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

"Clare and I are having a sleepover."

Adam laughed. "Sounds dirty."

"Adam!" I said and Alli slapped his shoulder. "We're going to study for Monday's chemistry test."

"Until my parents go to sleep. And then we're going to stay up all night talking about hot guys and watching chick flicks."

Adam rolled his eyes. "Sounds lame. You want to go see Tron with me tonight since your girlfriend is ditching you?"

Eli didn't look up from his history textbook. "Yeah, sure, whatever."

Adam waved his hand in front of Eli's face and got no reaction. "Eli, Clare's taking her shirt off."

"No she's not," Eli said, his head still buried in his book.

"You could unbutton a few buttons. See if that gets his attention," Alli teased.

I shot her a dirty look. "I expect that from Adam. You're supposed to be my friend."

"Sooorry," she said. She popped a french fry into her mouth and watched some of the guys who were playing basketball. "You don't think Dave and that Sadie girl are serious, do you?"

"I thought you didn't like him like that."

"I don't. He just hasn't really talked to me since I came back. I kind of miss him hanging all over me like a puppy dog. And it's not like there are any better guys at Degrassi."

I laughed and Eli finally looked up. "Do you think you can save the girl talk for the sleepover? I need to finish this."

"Maybe you should do your homework at home," Alli challenged.

Eli scowled. "I would have if Mr. Perino had reminded us. He assigned this two weeks ago and never gave a firm due date, and I would have forgotten completely if Marisol hadn't asked me if she could copy mine in French this morning."

"Poor baby," I teased as he scribbled frantically. I put my hand on his back, but he shrugged it off, clearly too involved in his work for physical affection at this point.

"So, I'll meet you at your locker after school and we can walk home together. My mom's so excited that you're sleeping over that she's planning on making us samosas for a snack. We might be able to skip family dinner if we come up with a good enough excuse, and maybe we could go to the Dot..." Adam shook his head frantically and Alli glanced at Eli who still wasn't paying much attention. "Or Rudy's maybe," she finished lamely.

We hadn't been spending much time at the Dot now that Fitz worked there. Rudy's was a diner type restaurant and they had pretty good hamburgers but they didn't serve lattes and they weren't as nice to teenagers who ordered snacks and sat talking for hours.

"Shit," Eli interrupted. He shook his pen and tried to get the ink flowing. "Can I borrow a pen?" He was already reaching for my backpack before I could respond.

"That sounds good, Alli. Although you know I don't mind having dinner with your family. Your mom's an amazing cook."

Alli didn't respond and I noticed she was giving Eli a confused look. He had my backpack on his lap and one of my pens in his hand but he was staring into the front pocket with a shocked expression. He looked at me, his eyes narrowing in confusion, and then turned his gaze back to my bag.

"Ummm, Clare?" he asked, his eyes sparkling. "When were you going to tell me about these?" He couldn't control his grin as he pulled a small plastic compact out of my backpack.

Alli gasped and I could tell my face was turning purple. "Give me those," I growled as I snatched them out of Eli's hand and zipped them back into my bag before anyone else could see them.

"What was that about?" Adam asked in confusion.

Eli quirked an eyebrow at me but there was no way I was responding. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me because there was no way I'd be able to face any of them again.

Especially Eli.

"Oh my God, Claaarre," Alli squealed. "You're on the pill! Does that mean you two...?" She gestured between me and Eli.

I thought that this moment couldn't get any worse. But I made the mistake of looking at Eli.

He looked really, really happy.

I grabbed my bag and ran away from the table as quickly as I could.

I was expecting Alli to bug me about what happened earlier but she opened up her chemistry textbook to start copying down notes onto flashcards as soon as we arrived at her house. Her mom was hovering nearby, so I figured that was the only reason for my reprieve. We studied for a few hours before her mother interrupted to ask if we were staying for dinner. I cut off Alli and accepted and Alli raised her eyebrow at me but didn't say anything.

Alli complained about her parents all the time, but honestly, I loved the Bhandaris. Family dinner reminded me of what things used to be like for my family, before my parents separated, before Darcy left for Kenya. She and Sav argued over who got the last piece of naan, and Mrs. Bhandari asked me about school and Friendship club.

After dinner we studied for an hour and a half before we popped The Roommate into the DVD player. I wasn't a big fan of horror movies but this one wasn't that scary. I thought it was kind of stupid but Alli seemed to like it. I felt my phone buzz a few times with texts from Eli but I didn't read them. I was too afraid of what he had to say.

Partway through the movie, the alarm on my phone went off and I realized I needed to take my pill. I grabbed my bag and the glass of water I'd been drinking and brought them into the bathroom so I could take it without Alli seeing. She gave me a suspicious look but didn't comment.

By the time the movie was over her parents had gone up to bed, and Alli didn't even wait for the end of the credits before she asked, "Okay, I've waited long enough. What happened at lunch today?"

I sighed. "Do we have to talk about this?"

"Clare, I'm your best friend." She hesitated for a moment. "And I've been there. You don't have to go through this alone. I'm not going to judge you."

Her words made me pause, fully knowing I hadn't given her the same consideration when she slept with Johnny. "I'm not going through anything. It's not what you're thinking."

"Then what is it?"

"I'm not sleeping with Eli," I mumbled.

"Are you thinking about it?" she asked delicately.

I laughed wryly. I thought about it more than I ever could have imagined. "I'm not…" I began, and tried to collect my thoughts. "I love him and I love being with him. But I still want to wait until I'm married to have sex."

Alli didn't seem surprised at my declaration but I could tell she was a little confused. "Then why are you on the pill?"

"My period's been really bad lately. I missed a few days of school because of it and my mom took me to the doctor and that's what he recommended." The look of horror on my mother's face was priceless and she spent the entire car ride home lecturing me on how just because I was going to be on the pill didn't mean I had license to sleep around. I almost told her I only wanted to sleep with Eli just to get her to stop but I was afraid she'd never let me see him again. "Things were a lot better this past month, so I think they're working."

Alli laughed. "Why didn't you just say that? Eli's your boyfriend; you can talk to him about this stuff. And Adam would understand better than any other guy in the school. We would have just laughed and put the whole thing behind us if you hadn't run away."

"Did you see the look on Eli's face?" Alli shook her head. "He looked really, really excited." I cringed a little as I pictured him looking like I would be jumping his bones any moment. "I hate that I'm always disappointing him."

"Clare. You're not disappointing him." I raised my eyebrows at her. "I know he wants to sleep with you but he knew what he was getting into when you started dating. It's not like you've been banging him for months and then decided to become a born again virgin."

"He's had sex before," I reminded her. "He knows what he's missing out on."

"Yeah, well I've had sex before too. And I could tell you exactly what you're not missing out on if you do it before you're ready." Alli hadn't brought this up in a long time, and I wanted to give her hug and let her know I was there for her in a way I hadn't been the year before, but she waved her hand at me, letting me know she was fine.

She continued, "If Eli only wanted sex, he'd date a different girl. He loves you. And once you explain the situation, he's only going to be worried about you. Is he going to be a little disappointed? Sure. But I'm sure he'll be happy with whatever it is you two do together, even if it isn't sex."

I looked down at my hands. "We don't really do much."

"Even if it's just kissing, I'm sure he's fine with it for now. You just have to go at whatever pace you're comfortable with."

"Did you…?" God, Alli was my best friend in the world but it was so hard to talk to her about this stuff. "I know you only slept with Johnny once, but did you do other things? Or with Drew?"

Alli nodded. "Not that much with Drew, just a little bit of groping under my shirt." Alli blushed, and I was surprised because she never seemed embarrassed about anything like this. "With Johnny it went a little farther than that."

"Was it good?" I asked. I knew my fact must be just as red as Alli's.

She nodded. "Really, really good. And really intimate." She laughed. "It's like the closeness of sex without all the other baggage that comes along with it."

Wow. I thought about all of the times I'd been with Eli and wished he'd take things a little farther, wanting to feel his hands all over my skin, rather than his few brief passes at my breasts through my shirt. "Was it hard to stop?"

"Well, this was after the ravine, so it was really easy since that wasn't exactly the greatest experience. But even for him, as much as he wanted to do more, he was pretty satisfied with what we were doing."

"Did you initiate it? Or did he?"

"He did. But I wanted to just as much."

And that was my problem. "Eli is such a gentlemen. And I really appreciate that he doesn't pressure me for anything. But I don't think he's figured out that just because I'm not going to sleep with him doesn't mean I don't want to do other things."

"Talk to him. Trust me, if you tell him that, you're not going to have to worry about disappointing him ever again."

"It's not that simple. I can't just tell him what I want."

"Why not? He's your boyfriend and you love him and you trust him."

It sounded so simple when Alli said it. I wish I was half as brave as she was when it came to guys. "I know but…there are just some things we can't talk about. He doesn't talk to me about Julia because it's too hard for him, and I don't talk to him about sex because it's so awkward for me."

Alli raised her eyebrows skeptically. "Would you even want to talk to him about Julia?"

I nodded. "I know it's awkward, but she was SO important to him. And he never really talks about his past because of it. I feel like there's so much I don't know about him, and I love him so much. I just want to know him completely."

"You know, he probably feels the same way about you. That he wants to know what you're feeling about him. And sex is so important to a relationship. You shouldn't hold back and be afraid to tell him what you want." Alli smirked. "And if you can't talk about it, just wait until the next time you're hooking up and start touching his…"

"Alli!" I interrupted.

"I think he'd get the picture," she winked.

My phone buzzed again and I didn't even bother to check it. "You know you're going to have to talk to him about the pills, though. When you left us at lunch, he just stared after you, looking really confused. He wouldn't have let you go if he didn't have that assignment to finish."

"Did he say anything? After I left?"

"Adam tried to high five him, but he just ignored him. He knows something is wrong, and it seems like he wants to fix it." She gestured at my phone.

"I'll call him tomorrow," I promised.

But it turned out that I didn't need to call him because when I walked home from Alli's house the next morning, refusing Sav's offer of a ride home because I wanted to clear my head before calling Eli, I found him sitting on my porch. My mom's car wasn't in the driveway and I wondered how long he'd been waiting for me.

"You could have called me," he said. "I would have given you a ride home."

"I wanted to walk," I said softly. I unlocked my door and he followed me inside. I checked the kitchen counter and found a note from my mother saying that she had gone to church for a meeting and had some errands to run but that she would be home to make dinner.

I headed up to my room and Eli followed me. I was still wearing my pajama pants and t-shirt from last night and felt kind of awkward about it, but I didn't want to ask him to leave the room so I could change. I sat down on my bed and he did the same, turning his body to face mine.

"I called you like ten times last night," he said, his voice full of concern. "Did you read my texts?"

I shook my head. "I was with Alli. We were studying. I didn't want to get distracted."

Eli didn't look convinced. "Clare, I know there's something wrong. Can we talk about this?"

I took a deep breath, summoning all of my courage. "I'm not going to have sex with you."

Eli's brow wrinkled as he gave a short laugh. "I know."

"You do?"

Eli reached over and took my hand. "Just because you're on the pill doesn't mean we're going to have sex. I mean, they take a while to work, right? And it's not like we're going to go from kissing to sex overnight. We can take things slowly, just like we haven been. And then someday when you're really sure you're ready, we'll try it. You can spend the night with me and I'll ask my parents to stay somewhere else so we have some privacy and it'll be really, really incredible."

My face fell as I realized that even though what he just said was so sweet and romantic, he had totally misread the situation. "No, Eli," I said softly, my heart thumping in my chest. "That isn't why I'm on the pill. I'm…I'm still going to wait for marriage."

"Oh," he said in a tone I couldn't quite read. He stared at a point across the room, deep in thought, before turning back to me. "I'm sorry," he said, his voice husky. "I didn't mean to push you."

He sounded so deeply worried that he had hurt me that I immediately moved closer to him and wrapped my arms around him. "I'm sorry," I told him sincerely. "I should have told you right away, so there wouldn't be any confusion."

He pulled back to look at me, still keeping his arms wrapped around my waist. "Why are you on the pill then?"

I bit my lip. "Do you remember how I missed school a couple of times? And didn't really give you a good explanation?" He nodded. "My period's been all messed up for the past few months. It comes too early and my cramps are so bad I can't even get out of bed. The pill is supposed to alleviate the symptoms."

He looked at me so tenderly that my heart fluttered. "Do they help?"

I nodded. "This past month was much less painful, and I didn't miss school, so I think so, yeah."

"That's good." He caressed my cheekbone with his thumb. "Why didn't you tell me this yesterday? Or before when you weren't feeling well? Or when the doctor put you on the pill?"

"I didn't want you to get your hopes up. Especially after yesterday. You looked so excited that I wanted to sleep with you, and even this morning, what you said. I know it's hard for you that we're not having sex and I know that it's not exactly fair of me to ask you to wait. I just hate that I'm always disappointing you."

"Clare," he said forcefully. "You could never disappoint me. Never."

"I know you're just trying to make me feel better, but I saw how happy you were. You can't deny that you don't wish things were different."

I couldn't look at him anymore, so I lay down against my pillow curled up on my side facing away from him. But he didn't let me get away, moving closer to me, and resting his hand on my hip.

"Of course I would be happy if you wanted to sleep with me. But that doesn't mean I'm unhappy or disappointed that you don't."

"I want to," I said softly. "I just can't."

There was a sadness in Eli's voice that he couldn't contain. "I've told you so many times that I'm okay with that. I respect you and your decision on this completely. I'm not sure what else I can do to make you believe me."

I rolled onto my back so I could see his face. I didn't know what it was so hard for be to believe him. Not many guys in the world would be willing to wait years for sex, especially since we were so young the chances of us ending up married were probably pretty slim no matter how we felt about each other. But I knew Eli and I knew he was telling me the truth.

"I believe you," I whispered and he gave me a soft smile.

He lay down next to me, holding his head up with his hand so he could look at me. His other hand skimmed my stomach, moving the hem of my shirt up slightly as he circled over my body gently.

"You know, Julia used to get really bad cramps," he said after a few minutes, and I blinked at him in surprise. He hardly ever talked about her without prompting. "Cece was trying to convince her to go on the pill for more than one reason, but she was too afraid because she couldn't swallow pills."

"But they are so tiny," I teased and he smiled.

"She was kind of a baby about stuff like that." His hand had slipped underneath my t-shirt as he continued to caress my stomach. "She wouldn't take anything for the pain, so I used to rub her lower back or her stomach when she was feeling bad. She said it really helped." He moved just a little bit under the elastic waist of my pajama pants, smoothing his hand over my previously untouched skin. I knew that if I were having cramps right now, his touch would provide some relief, but just the feeling of his hand against me felt heavenly. "If you ever wanted me to come give you a massage, you could let me know."

"It feels really good," I breathed, a little embarrassed that a touch so innocent could be so arousing. My back was practically arching off the bed, and I could feel the wetness pooling between my legs.

His circles grew larger, and soon he was bumping up against the waistband of my underwear. I held my breath as his pinky made the journey underneath the taut fabric, daring to dip down to the very top of my curls. I let out a moan at the sensation and Eli's eyes widened. His hand moved immediately to neutral territory on my stomach and I whimpered at the loss.

He buried his face in my neck, pushing a few tendrils of hair out of the way. "Clare if you want something, you're going to have to ask for it," he said so quietly I wasn't sure if I heard him right.

I thought back to my conversation with Alli, how she encouraged me to tell Eli what I wanted. But I couldn't come out and say the words. "Please, Eli," I whispered. I pulled his face toward mine and kissed him intensely, my mouth working out my frustration on his.

He pulled back a few minutes later, out of breath. "What do you want?" he asked again, his desperation readily apparent.

I pushed his hair out of his eyes. "I want you to stop being afraid that you're going to offend me every time you touch me."

He averted his eyes shyly. "That's a fair point. But it would make it a lot easier if you could just tell me."

We were stuck at this impasse of frustration and if Eli didn't kiss me in the next two minutes, I was going to lose my mind. "How about I tell you where you'll have to stop?"

His expression perked up. "That could work."

I took a deep breath. "I'm not going to have sex with you."

Eli waited a moment to see if I was going to add any other conditions to the list, but when I didn't, his face broke out into a huge grin. "That is the greatest thing I have ever heard."

He leaned over me and his mouth captured mine so quickly I squealed. While his kiss remained aggressive, his hands moved over me, gently but without hesitation. He smoothed over my hips before dipping under my shirt and into my bra, leaving his first impression on my skin there. I was too nervous to tell him he could take off my shirt, but he was too impatient to bother, tugging on my nipples and gliding over my cleavage before his hand moved back to my stomach. He followed the path he took before, circling my overheated skin before he tangled his fingers in my curls, hesitating only momentarily before parting my folds and stroking me the way I had only experienced in my dreams.

It felt so good, and Eli pulled back to grin at the expression on my face as I moaned in delight. "You're so fucking sexy," he smirked. "I love that you're enjoying this so much."

"Don't get too full of yourself," I grunted before his fingers slid into me and I gasped at the sensation. His grin only widened and I wanted to distract him from his smugness and make him feel just as good as he was making me feel.

I placed my hand on him through his jeans, and he groaned, closing his eyes. "I want to touch you," I whispered, able to tell him what was on my mind for the first time since his hands started traveling my body.

His fingers slipped out of me and I pouted until I realized what he was trying to do. He unzipped his jeans and helped me wrap my hand around him underneath his boxer shorts. I stroked him gently, not really sure how this worked, but the look on his face told me this was just right.

"Do you want to take our clothes off?" he asked, but I shook my head, not wanting to distract ourselves from what we were doing as much as I was curious about seeing what I was touching. His fingers had made their way back into my underwear and I was getting really close.

The air was filled with moans and breaths and whimpers, and I wrapped my free hand around Eli's neck and pulled him toward me. "Kiss me," I begged, and he fulfilled his promise. His fingers worked faster and I grasped him with a firmer hand, as his tongue tangled with mine. I was shaking and gasping and my heart stopped and I came for the very first time and his mouth swallowed my scream. He released in my hand just a moment later and we both panted at the intensity of the situation.

I felt a little awkward, unsure of what the etiquette of the situation was, but Eli reached for the tissue box on my nightstand and handed a few to me. I wiped off my hand and he looked down at his boxers before shrugging and zipping his jeans back up. "I'll just shower when I get home."

He gave me the softest, gentlest kiss he'd ever given me. "How was that?"

"Incredible," I said, borrowing his word from before. He smiled. "How are you feeling?" I asked.

"Happy," he said, kissing my cheek. "Satisfied." He kissed my nose. "Content."

"Me too."

We snuggled up together, arms and legs wrapped tightly. "Don't be afraid of telling me anything ever again. You could never disappoint me, Clare. I love you too much."

I squeezed him more tightly. I hated that I had to make him wait, but I really hoped that I would get to have sex with Eli on my wedding day whether we were able to wait that long or not.