DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.
Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob
This is a sequel to I Thought I Saw Your Face Today. If you haven't read it already, I would recommend reading it first, although there will probably be enough summary in this that you'll at least know what is going on. ITISYFT is probably the fic I am most proud of, so I'm sure you'll enjoy it if you give it a shot. This takes place the summer after Eli crashes Morty and is sent to the mental hospital. The scenes in this will build toward the events that happen in the epilogue of ITISYFT.
This is going to be less plot driven than ITISYFT and more vignette-like. It will be a collection of scenes, mostly – if not all – from Eli's POV as he deals with his anxiety issues, his prescription drug dependency, his hoarding, and the past abuse he suffered – oh yeah, and how he puts his relationship back together with Clare. I expect this will be around 10 chapters total, though that may change if I get more ideas or if certain things don't work out.
I am sorry for the extremely long wait for this chapter. I literally started it on April 22, and then after everything that happened in DTW, it was too hard to write. Although this is fairly angsty, there will be some nice, lighter moments in some of the future chapters and hopefully it won't be quite so difficult.
This story is dedicated to Sarenka222 who inspired me to write it after giving me a tiny bit of grief over skipping over the healing process that Eli and Clare go through to get to the epilogue in ITISYFT. She also helped me fix this chapter and gave me the encouragement I needed to get this done.
"You want one?" my roommate Brian asked me, holding out a pack of cigarettes. I was pacing in front of the bench he was sitting on near the entrance of the hospital. Clare was supposed to arrive twenty minutes ago so we could talk for a few minutes before our therapy session.
"Nah, thanks man." I had bummed a couple off him in the past few weeks when the cravings for my anxiety pills had gotten too bad, but I figured I didn't really need to add a nicotine addiction to my list of problems, and I knew smoking would really piss Clare off.
"She'll be here. Stop freaking out." Brian's parents had sent him in for drug rehab after they found pot in his room. I was pretty sure that wasn't the only drug he had been using, but he wouldn't admit to anything else in group. He had been pretty amused by my story of using Special K to self-medicate, but other than that, he was pretty laid-back, and we got along okay.
I saw Cece's car pull into the parking lot and breathed in a sigh of relief. She pulled up right in front of me and Clare burst out of the car. "Eli, I'm sooo sorry we're late. We had a flat tire and we had to wait for the tow truck to come and change it. I didn't miss it, did I?"
She threw her arms around me, and I almost had to take a step back from the force. I had seen her three times since the accident, but things were still a little awkward between us. After her first visit, where we had ended up making out for a few minutes before she went home, we had tried to keep a physical distance while we got comfortable with each other again. It was nice to hold her again, even if it were only for a second.
"It's fine, Clare. We've got ten minutes."
I glanced at Brian who was looking at us with an amused expression. "Clare, this is my roommate Brian. This is…" I paused, trying to figure out what to call her. She wasn't exactly my girlfriend right now, but friend seemed so inadequate. "Clare," I finished lamely.
Clare reached out to shake his hand and he let out a lungful of smoke. She wrinkled her nose in distaste as he switched his cigarette to from right to left, pulled her closer to him and brought her hand to his lips. "Eli never told me how beautiful you are," Brian smirked at me.
I tugged her hand from his. "Yes I have, and we need to go."
Brian waved in amusement as I dragged her into the hospital entrance. "He's um…interesting," Clare said with a laugh.
"He's been here even longer than me and hasn't had any visitors other than his parents. It's hard to resist a pretty girl under these conditions. He's been complaining he hasn't gotten laid in a while."
Clare blushed. "Well, clearly he's barking up the wrong tree there."
I smiled at her. I knew she was referring to her purity pledge, but part of me hoped that it was because she was still interested in being with me.
I signed her in and then we walked through the halls quietly. I could tell Clare was getting nervous. We reached Dr. Martin's therapy room and I saw the green light was on next to the door, so we could go in.
"Need a minute?" I asked her.
She looked frightened. "Do you have any tips? I've never done this before."
I squeezed her hand and she looked grateful. "Just be honest. Don't be afraid of hurting me. We can't…" My voice caught for a second. "We can't make this better if we don't talk things out."
She nodded, taking a deep breath. "Okay. I'm ready."
I dropped her hand and held the door open for her.
"Hi, Clare, I'm Dr. Martin." She extended her hand and Clare shook it tentatively. "Eli tells me this is your first therapy session."
"Yeah," she said softly.
She gestured for us to sit. There were a few single chairs scattered throughout the room, but Clare followed me onto a couch, though she sat a few feet away from me.
"Basically what we want to do today is to get you two talking again in a constructive manner about your relationship and some of the issues that Eli has been struggling with and how they affect you, Clare. Since you aren't my patient, and especially since this is your first time here, if there's something that comes up that you are uncomfortable talking about, you can let me know. There's no pressure to come up with the right answers. We just want to start a dialogue between the two of you. Just be honest with each other, and I think we'll be able to start making some progress."
Clare still looked nervous and nodded stiffly. Dr. Martin glanced at me, and I shrugged. I didn't know how to make Clare more comfortable.
"Well, I always like to start out each session by talking about something positive. So from my point of view, the most positive thing we have is that you're both here and I believe you're both interested in dealing with some of the problems in your relationship. Eli, would you like to tell us something positive about your relationship with Clare? Either something from the past or something from right now?"
I wished I didn't have to go first. "Um, well..." I glanced at Clare, who was looking down at her hands, biting her lip. "Well, right now I'm just happy she's here. That she hasn't given up on me. I know that doesn't mean we're back together or that we're going to get back together, but she means a lot to me, and I really appreciate it."
"Clare, is there something you'd like to add?"
She hesitated. "I don't know if I have anything positive to say about our current situation." My heart felt a little bit broken at her words, and I tightened my grip on the arm of the couch. "Before...before what happened, my favorite thing about Eli was how passionate he is – in everything he does. From his writing, to his interest in music, to his car." Clare's voice broke a little bit, and I cringed. Morty was destroyed in my accident, and I had lost my license for driving under the influence, so even if he had made it, it was another reminder of how much I screwed everything up. But then Clare continued, "And especially his relationship with me."
She gave me a shy smile. I wanted to reach over and grab her hand but I didn't want to press my luck. I wanted to know what kind of passionate memory she was thinking of. There were so many for me: our urban adventures, the night I slept over at her house, the time we painted scenery and laughed so hard that Zane had to come backstage and yell at us because he couldn't hear the actors.
God, things were so good between us. And I fucked it all up.
"Clare, since I've already spoke with Eli at length these past few weeks, I'd like to start with you, though Eli, of course you are welcome to jump in at any time. I just ask that you each wait until the other has completed speaking before interrupting."
Clare nodded, and Dr. Martin continued. "Why don't you tell me a little bit about your relationship with Eli? Particularly the beginning. How you met...How the relationship began. Any details you'd like to share."
She bit her lip nervously. "Well we met in English class," she began.
I felt obligated to point out that wasn't true. "After I ran over your glasses."
Clare shot me a look and continued her earlier thought. "Our teacher assigned us to be writing partners, so we edit each other's work."
Dr. Martin covered her amused expression. "How has the partnership has worked out for you?"
"Pretty well," Clare said. "Eli has really pushed me to become a better writer and not be afraid to put emotions onto the page and I've helped him cut back since he has a tendency to be a little wordy."
"Me?" I teased. "Never." A tiny smile appeared on Clare's lips but it dropped off quickly.
"So once you became English partners did you become friends? Or did your relationship turn romantic right away?"
Clare shook her head. "We were friends, first. We started spending more time together – at first working on school work, but soon we'd go to movies with our friend Adam or get coffee after school." Clare blushed. "But even when we were friends, there was always something more between us. We were really flirty together and Eli was really sweet to me. I had a crush on him from almost the very beginning."
It was interesting for me to hear her talk about this part of our relationship since she and I had never really discussed it in so many words. "Since when exactly?" I asked her. I felt awkward for asking right away, but I was surprised to learn I really wanted to know.
She wouldn't meet my eye. "Since that time we cut class and you embarrassed me in public."
"And you pushed me up against the telephone pole and we were really close to kissing," I recalled. She nodded, her cheeks flushing an even deeper red. "That was the moment for me, too. When I knew I liked you."
Dr. Martin had always been really nice to me but she watched us with a soft expression on her face that I hadn't seen before. "What happened then that made you take the leap from friends to a couple?"
"Well, we kissed." Clare laughed. "It was for a school project; we were pretending to be Romeo and Juliet." Dr. Martin laughed but Clare grew serious. "And I thought that meant that we were going to get together, but Eli kept pushing me away. I was really upset, but then he finally told me about Julia." Clare broke off. "Has he told you about Julia?" Dr. Martin nodded. "Of course he has, right..."
Her voice fell and I looked her in confusion. I knew it had taken me too long to tell her the truth about Julia, but I did tell her. She had seemed to accept it right away and was really supportive in giving me time and letting me figure out how to approach dating again.
"I'm sensing that talking about Eli's relationship with Julia isn't an easy topic for you, and I know that it isn't for Eli. Is there anything you'd like to share on that?"
I shook my head, hoping to change the direction of the conversation. This seriously could not get any worse. Weren't we here to focus on me and Clare? Whenever the topic of Julia came up in therapy, I got really upset, and I didn't want Clare to think that meant I was still hung up on Julia. I wasn't. I loved her, and I knew that part of me would always blame myself for her death. But I was in love with Clare and she was the girl sitting too far from me on the couch looking really uncomfortable.
"Actually, I don't think that's fair," Clare said. "I'm not saying I haven't had my moments where I've been jealous of Eli's relationship with Julia and how serious it was but overall, I think I've been very supportive, and it bothers me that he feels he needs to hide her away from me. I don't have a problem with talking about her; it's Eli that has the problem." She turned toward me and her voice softened. "I get that she was important to you, and I know that doesn't just go away. You don't have to tiptoe around me. I can hear her name and not think that your feelings for me aren't serious. When we work on your room and you get anxious when you find something that reminds you of her, you don't have to bottle it up. You can tell me."
"Okay," I said softly. I gave Dr. Martin a pleading look to change the subject, and to my surprise she did.
"Eli has told me the story of what happened on Vegas Night; I don't think we need go belabor that here. But he indicated that your relationship became romantic at that time and that everything was great for a while. Would you agree with that assessment, Clare?"
She nodded. "We had a few small roadblocks, but we were really happy together."
"When did that start to change?"
"Everything was great until Fitz came back, and then everything just got worse. Eli got really possessive. He was so obsessed with the idea that Fitz was going to hurt me that he barely let me out of his sight. Instead of spending time with me because he wanted to, he started following me around school, driving me home every afternoon. He joined the drama club even though he wasn't even interested in it, and got our friend Adam to act as a bodyguard to keep me away from Fitz whenever he wasn't around. Even on weekends, he always had an excuse to get together so that he knew where I was at all times." Clare sighed, "It didn't feel like he was my boyfriend anymore; it felt like he was my protector. And I didn't want that."
I couldn't help but be defensive. "You're acting like it was totally unwarranted. Fitz pulled a knife on me, Clare. You were there. I thought I was going to bleed out in a school corridor while Fitz turned his violence on you," I said bitterly.
"I can understand why you were upset, but Eli, come on. Fitz didn't even talk to me for over a month after he got back to school. He wasn't getting into fights with anyone. All he wanted was to graduate and get out of Degrassi. I can understand the need to be cautious but you took it too far."
"He took it too far when he tried to stab me," I roared. Dr. Martin shot me a look of caution and I sat back against the couch cushion trying to slow my breathing. I really didn't want to have a panic attack in front of Clare.
Clare seemed to need a minute to get herself back together. "By the end, I felt like our perfect relationship had totally fallen apart. I already felt like you didn't trust me, that you thought I was an object that needed to be protected rather than a person who could make her own, smart decisions. And then after the accident, when I found out about the anxiety pills, and the drugs, what happened with Mike…everything that you kept from me, I just felt like…" She let out a sob. "I was your girlfriend, Eli. I loved you. And I don't understand why you didn't come to me. I would have been there for you. Why didn't you trust me?"
"I trust you, Clare. But there are things you just can't tell people."
"Right, well, next time I'll be sure to follow up 'You have pretty eyes' with 'By the way, I've been molested.'"
The feeling of panic was creeping back into my throat, and I was glad that Dr. Martin intervened. "Clare, I can understand why you'd feel that way, but I don't think you should take Eli's silence on that topic as a sign that he doesn't trust you. It's something that's not easy for anyone to talk about, and most abuse victims try to block out those memories."
"That makes sense, but what about everything else? He was abusing his anxiety pills, but I didn't even know he was taking them. He told me everything was fine, but he was clearly suffering. He went to a drug dealer and bought Special K rather than telling me he didn't want to go to a dance because it was on the day Julia died. He got high and and crashed his car and almost killed himself, and he practically broke Fitz's jaw, and I don't know how I'm supposed to deal with this." Clare took a deep breath. "How am I supposed to trust him after this?"
I knew I'd screwed up our relationship. Nothing Clare was saying surprised me. But her bringing up me hitting Fitz just reminded me of where everything had really gone downhill.
"You know, maybe I screwed up. Maybe I should have talked to you about my problems. But the truth of the matter is that when it comes down to it, I was right. Because the second I let you out of my sight, Fitz kissed you. So if you want to talk about trust, maybe you should remember that you haven't exactly been honest with me either."
Clare had largely kept it together, but I could see her chest heaving as the tears poured down her face. "I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't," Clare sobbed. "I was afraid you'd go after him or that you'd break up with me."
"Plus it must have been hard to talk with my cock in your mouth," I snapped.
Clare's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. "I can't believe you just said that."
I couldn't believe it either. Her cheeks were flaming and I knew she was just as upset at me revealing something that personal to Dr. Martin as the cruelness of my tone.
I turned to Dr. Martin, trying to find words to explain the situation that weren't quite so cutting. "Clare wears a purity ring. She took a vow of abstinence. And we'd been taking things really slowly and I felt like we were happy and on the same page about at least our physical relationship. And she showed up on my doorstep and dragged me up to my bedroom, and she took things a step farther. And I thought we were sharing this beautiful, intimate moment that we were both ready for, and it turned out that she was just feeling guilty about kissing my mortal enemy."
"It wasn't just about that," Clare protested.
"No? Then why did you ask me to sleep with you? Why did you beg me, even though I was trying to do the right thing and turn you down? Why were we just a few inches away from sharing something that should have been just about the two of us, while you were thinking about him?"
"I'm so sorry." Her voice broke as she tried to continue. "I knew it was wrong and that's why I stopped it."
"You shouldn't have started it." My jaw clenched.
"I know," she said softly.
The room went silent. I didn't think there was anything more to say.
Dr. Martin peered over her glasses at us. "Well, I think we've gotten to the bottom of your issue today. If you want to continue to be in a relationship and make it work, you're going to have to figure out how to trust each other." She hesitated for a moment, "If I can be frank for a moment...?"
I glanced at Clare and she looked just as confused as I was. Dr. Martin didn't usually hesitate to share her thoughts when I was just me. "What is it?" I asked.
"I've counseled hundreds of teenagers. I've seen girls who cling to abusive boys who treat them horribly and boys with low self-esteem who use girls because they are desperate for attention. But you two...I'd suspected it from the way that Eli spoke about you, Clare and now seeing the two of you together, I can see that my thoughts were correct."
I was about to get really nervous when she broke out into a smile. "You are really good kids and you have a really strong relationship, one of the best I've ever seen, particularly at your age. And I don't say that to make light of your issues; Eli had told me your parents' divorce has been tough on you, Clare, and obviously Eli is struggling with some very difficult issues of his own right now. But the two of you are both bright, ambitious students who have the support of your families and friends, and though you clearly have some problems with communication and trust in your relationship, I think that what you have is really special. I sometimes feel like I spend these counseling sessions trying to help my patients end their dysfunctional relationships, but this one...I really hope that you are able to mend some of these wounds."
Her words eased some of the tension in the room, but I still didn't know what to say. I wanted to repair my relationship with Clare, but I just had no idea how to begin.
Dr. Martin stood and shook each of our hands. "I'll give you a moment. There's about ten minutes before my next appointment, so please, take your time. Thank you for coming in, Clare."
She stepped into her office and closed the door behind her. I stared at my hands, unable to look at Clare. I attempted to do my flexing exercises to release the tension but it seemed to be working slower than usual.
The silence was killing me, so I thought I'd say the thought that had been flickering through my mind throughout the whole session. "I didn't realize this was going to be so hard."
It took Clare a minute to respond. "Yeah. But I think what we have is worth it."
She slipped her hand into mine and for the first time in weeks, I felt like we had made some progress.