DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.
Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob
I'm sure some people are going to hate this, but I think Clare needs to realize how badly she has screwed things up.
This takes place at the end of this school year.
The bell rang and my eyes met Eli's across the room. He gave me the slightest nod, and I knew he wanted me to wait for him.
The room cleared out, with excited students wishing Ms. Dawes a happy summer before they made their way to the last class of their Grade Eleven – or in Adam's case, Grade Ten year. I pretended to flip through my notebook as I waited for Ms. Dawes to usher the last few students out and follow them into the hallway.
Eli gazed at me from across the room. I was reminded of a day so many months ago when he had leapt over desks to get closer to me, and giggled inwardly as I thought about giving that a try, despite my uniform skirt.
But this time, he took the long way around, taking purposeful steps toward my seat at the front of the room I had adopted after our break up. He leaned down and placed a peck on my lips. "Come over after school? We have a lot to celebrate."
I grinned and nodded quickly. It was more than the last day of school for us; it was a new beginning.
We'd rekindled our relationship more than a week ago, when we found ourselves alone backstage and had the first honest to goodness conversation we'd had in months, probably not since Fitz came back. We sat there talking, not just about our failed relationship, but just everything: Books we'd read in the past few months, and movies we'd seen. Stories about our parents and Adam and our classes. His therapy sessions and anxiety pills, and the depression I'd been battling in secret since the accident. We literally talked for hours until the janitor turned the lights off in the auditorium and we had to turn the stage lights on so that we could see.
He had given me a sad smile. "I guess that's our cue to say goodbye," he said, his voice husky with emotion. And though I had been trying to deny my feelings for him for two months, and trying move on, I couldn't do that.
I didn't want to say goodbye to him. Not then. Not ever.
I'd stepped closer to him, ready to kiss him, but he held me back by my shoulders. "Jake?" he asked softly.
I bit my lip. "We broke up last week."
A light came on in his eyes, but I just had to be sure that meant what I thought it did. "Imogen?"
"The week before that."
With nothing between us, we fell into each others arms, sharing the type of passionate, desperate kiss that I certainly hadn't shared with Jake and I suspected he hadn't with Imogen. It was full of lust, and a certain amount of impatience that it had taken so long, but mostly it was the kiss of two lovers reuniting.
We'd spent the last week or so talking whenever we could: hiding our phones in our laps to send text messages during class, phone conversations for hours, then secret IMs for when my mother came upstairs and told me it was bedtime. But we hadn't spent much time together. With exams there wasn't much time to spend outside of school, and when we were at Degrassi, we were trying to keep our distance, wanting to be sensitive to Imogen and Jake's feelings.
So given the amount of distance we'd kept between us, I was pleased when he leaned over to kiss me once again. "I'll meet you at your locker," I said. The brief kiss wasn't enough, so I leaned in again.
"I thought your final essay was excellent," we heard Ms. Dawes say as she walked back into the room, Jake trailing behind her. They watched us break apart with wide eyes and Eli and I took huge steps away from each other.
Ms. Dawes handed Jake his paper wordlessly, and he shook his head as he exited the room. She sat down at her desk and looked up at us. "Well, I can't say I'm surprised," she said. "But the school year is over in less than an hour. You don't want me to extend it with a detention, do you?"
Eli smirked. "No, Ms. Dawes." He grabbed my hand and led me out into the hallway. "I can't wait to see you later," he said, his words causing my cheeks to burn.
I didn't hear anything Mr. Perino said in my last class, and as soon as the bell rang, I ran to Eli's locker as quickly as I could. I had already cleared out mine the day before, but I had a feeling his was still an epic mess. He had told me he'd made some progress in his room over our time apart, and I couldn't wait to see what he had done.
He was shoving the contents of his locker into his backpack, so I had to wait a few minutes, but then he held out his hand to me. "Ready?"
Our hands swung between us. "Risking a last minute detention?"
He laughed. "The teachers want to leave just as much as we do."
But our exit was marred by an Imogen sighting, and I could see tears welling up behind her cat-eye glasses. I tried to drop Eli's hand, but he held on tightly as we went through the front doors.
"It's better that she knows," he said. "It'll help her move on to her next adventure."
With all the talking we'd done in the past week or so, we'd delicately avoided the topic of our respective exes. Jake and I had somewhat mutually parted ways. He realized I was uncomfortable with our casual relationship, but that I wasn't going to be able to commit to anything more serious while I still had feelings for Eli. We had pledged to stay friends and I hoped someday we'd be able to, but right now, things just felt awkward between us.
I wasn't really sure what happened between Eli and Imogen. I knew I had seen them together in the weeks between their breakup and our reunion, so I guessed they were trying to be friends as well, but their relationship had always been confusing to me.
It was a hot day, and as Eli and I walked toward his house, the sun was burning our skin. "Sorry we have to walk," he said. "I was just starting to get used to it."
"I've been walking home a lot too, lately," I said, though we both knew that was only after my breakup with Jake. His red pickup truck had been more comfortable than Morty but it lacked character and spirit. I wasn't really into cars, and whenever Jake brought up horsepower, I longed for the days of sitting in Morty's front seat, talking about Kurt Vonnegut.
We arrived at Eli's house and discovered both of his parents' cars were missing. "We have the house all to ourselves," Eli said suggestively.
I rolled my eyes. "Like your parents being home has ever stopped us from kissing before."
He smirked and dragged me up the stairs to his room. He had removed the combination lock back when we were still dating, but I was shocked at how much stuff he had gotten rid of. His room was far from empty or organized, but he had made a lot more progress than I would have expected. I wondered if Imogen had helped him clean. I wondered if she was more helpful to him than I was.
But Eli's attention wasn't on his room. He wrapped his arms around my waist from behind and started walking me toward his bed while he pressed kisses into my neck. I sighed in pleasure and wrapped my hands around his, holding him against me.
When we reached the bed, he gently nudged me forward, and I lay back against his skull pillow. He paused for a second, gazing at me with a hungry look before he moved his body over mine and captured my lips with a kiss.
We'd had plenty of intense makeout sessions before, but it had been so long since we'd been alone together like this that things immediately kicked up a notch. I tangled my fingers in his hair to draw him closer to me, and his hands were clawing at my waist. I shifted a little bit too get more comfortable and he must have taken that as a sign I wanted more because he started grinding against me. I moved my hands down to still his hips, feeling like that was a little fast since we had just started kissing. It was hard enough to keep myself from wanting to sleep with him; I didn't need us to start mimicking the act of sex in the first two minutes of kissing.
Eli paused his thrusts but his hands kept moving. He kept them fairly innocent at first, focusing on my neck and my stomach through my shirt, but more quickly than I would have expected, he was skimming over my breasts and gripping my thigh through my skirt. It felt really good – I had no complaints – but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking things felt different between us.
His lips left mine and trailed down my neck. I was so distracted by the sensation that I almost missed his hands pushing my shirt up. He smoothed over the cup of my bra and my body arched of its own accord. He kissed me again, drowning out my murmurs, and he unhooked my bra. It was a skill I had experienced before, but again, it usually took us longer to get to this point.
His thumb grazed the skin on my breast and I moaned in earnest this time. Eli pulled back to give me a smirk, before his mouth started moving down my neck once again. I realized where he was going with this – a place we hadn't quite gotten to before, and while I really wanted to feel his tongue wrapping around my nipple, a scary thought came over me – the reason why Eli was so comfortable moving more quickly than we had in the past. I pushed back on his shoulders and he sat up, his knees straddling my legs.
"What's wrong?" he asked, as I pulled my shirt back down.
"You did this with her," I accused. It wasn't a question.
Eli groaned and moved so that he was sitting next to me. "Do we really have to have this conversation now?"
I sat up, putting a little more distance between us. "Yes, we do."
Eli looked down at his hands. "Clare, we were broken up. And don't even try to tell me you didn't do this with Jake. I had to witness you getting almost this far with him and that was in public."
"It wasn't that bad," I muttered softly. Jake was much more into PDA than Eli and I had been, and I knew that part of me encouraged it because I was so mad at Eli for moving on that I had wanted to hurt him.
And Eli was right, I had let it get this far with Jake. My mom wasn't quite as helicopter-y as usual and Jake and I did have a lot of opportunities to fool around. But unlike with Eli, I had only let it get this far because Jake pushed for it, and not because I really felt comfortable with him. Kissing Eli was incredible, but kissing Jake was stressful because I knew every private encounter would end with him trying to unbutton my pants and me having to stop him. I never had to do that with Eli; every step we had taken in our relationship involved him asking to make sure it was okay and respecting me completely when I had turned him down.
With Jake, I had caved in on the things that Eli and I had already done, but it was important to me not to let things get farther than that because I knew I didn't love him. No matter how much he begged or pleaded, there was no way I was giving up my purity pledge or even any of the other firsts I had yet to experience.
But I knew that for Eli, those experiences weren't firsts.
"Did you sleep with her?" I asked, my eyes widening in shock. I couldn't believe I hadn't even considered this. Eli and Imogen were weird together; I had seen them kiss once or twice but it had always seems like a show for my benefit. But knowing he had gotten at least this far with her, and knowing that he didn't have the same kind of resolve I did about going farther, terrified me.
"No, Clare," he said, sighing as if he were disappointed that I had to ask him that. But the expression on his face looked nervous and I knew there was something he wasn't telling me.
"What did you do?"
"You don't want to hear this."
Oh my God, he lied to me. He slept with her. They were dating for like a month and he slept with her. "Just tell me."
He wouldn't meet my eyes. "She…she went down on me. It only happened once," he added quickly. "I didn't…I mean, I had to reciprocate somehow but I didn't…I just…" He made a vague gesture with his hands. "With my fingers," he finished.
I couldn't stop myself. "How could you?" I jumped off the bed and backed up a few feet, not wanting to be anywhere near him.
"We were broken up," he said, his voice starting to rise.
"For like a month. A month! I can't believe you would do something like that with someone you'd barely been dating. Why didn't you have sex with her? You might as well have gone all the way since this stuff doesn't seem all that important to you." I knew I was being petty and unfair, but I was really hurt.
Eli stood up as well, his hands forming balls of tension at his side. "No. No," he repeated, clenching his jaw. "You do not get to do that. You do not get the judge me for things I did with my girlfriend after you broke up with me."
I pushed past him and sat back down on the bed. Tears were flowing out of my eyes in earnest now, but I didn't even bother to wipe them away. I didn't even know what to say to him. I kept picturing Imogen with her floppy pigtails and thinking of the two of them being together in a way that we hadn't and it just killed me.
Eli sat down next to me and put his arm around my waist. I wanted to push him away but I was feeling so awful that I needed the comfort. "Look," he said gently. "I thought you and I were over. I thought that's what you wanted. I was trying to move on."
"Move on to another girl's mouth?" I asked sarcastically and he removed his arm from me and scooted back to put a lot more room between us.
"That's completely unfair and you know it," he said bitterly. "You're acting like I'm some kind of monster, when all I did was fool around with the girl I was dating. I didn't cheat on you; you dumped me. And stop looking at me like that, because she was the one who offered. I didn't ask her to do it. She wanted to, and you had dumped me, and I wasn't going to turn her down."
We sat in stony, uncomfortable silence for a few minutes while I tried to think of a response that was reasonable. I had spent the past two months analyzing our relationship and our breakup, but I had never quite considered the repercussions of our separation. It wasn't fair of me to be mad at Eli for doing that with Imogen, but it didn't make it hurt any less. I knew what I was looking for was an apology, but I knew it wasn't fair of me to expect one.
"Do you regret it?" I finally asked, my tone soft and curious rather than accusatory.
He bit his lip, thinking for a moment. "I do, but not because of this."
My eyes narrowed. "Why then?"
He looked at me sadly. "As much as I hate disappointing you, it's not your hurt feelings that make me regret it. It just wasn't fair to her, to do something like that when I knew I was still in love with you."
I couldn't understand how he could let that happen, but I could definitely understand how he felt. There were so many moments when I was kissing Jake and thinking of Eli.
"Are we going to be okay?" he asked, reaching toward my hand.
I clasped my fingers in his. "I guess it's just something I'll have to accept."
He leaned closer and pushed my curls back behind my ear. "Clare, I'd rather be here with you than anywhere else in the world. I need you to know that."
His thumb brushed my remaining tears off my cheek. "Can I kiss you?" he whispered.
"You don't have to ask," I said, my voice equally soft.
This time, his kiss was gentle. Instead of straddling my waist, he just sat next to me, lighting stroking my waist, but not trying to take things further. It reminded me of all the times we'd kissed before our break up, and all of the times we missed out on because of me.
But as much as I wanted to get lost in his kisses, my mind kept spinning. I loved Eli and he clearly wanted…that…and maybe I was the one who was wrong. It wasn't like I hadn't thought about doing more with him; I mean, I had thoughts like that about Jake as well. But Eli made me feel so comfortable and happy and maybe it was time to stop holding back.
I slipped my hand down his chest, continuing over his stomach which contracted against much touch. I found the button on his khakis and attempted to undo it when Eli pulled my hand away.
"What are you doing?" he asked, a little out of breath.
"I just thought…" I said softly, embarrassed that he was rejecting me, yet again.
"Clare," he said a little exasperatedly. "We're not going to do this right now."
"So you'd rather get a blow job from Imogen than from me?" I asked angrily.
Eli's mouth opened and shut in disbelief. I practically couldn't believe I'd said that myself. I was pretty sure that was a phrase I had never actually uttered before.
"Of course not," he said. "But I'm not going to do that with you for the wrong reason."
Eli was so freaking…sensible. It was a refreshing change from Jake who was always a little pushy, but right now, it was just making me more annoyed. "I just hate that you've done that with her and not with me."
Eli put on a look that could only be described as patient. "Clare, we'll get there someday. When you're really ready, and not trying to prove a point, we'll get there. I love you, and I'm not going to take any chances that you'll regret it. I don't want you to regret anything we do together."
I had to stop myself from snorting out loud. There were so many thoughts in my head right now, and all of them were regrets.
"Is there something else wrong?" Eli asked. "I mean, you obviously knew I had done stuff with Julia and it never inspired you to get…competitive."
With Julia, it was different. I didn't love the fact that Eli had slept with her, or been in love with her, or that her death meant that he never fully had closure on their relationship. But it was in the past. I couldn't control what had happened, so the only thing I could do was accept his feelings and support him in his grief.
But with Imogen…not only did I break up with Eli but I did everything but push him into her arms.
"I'm mad at myself," I finally admitted. "I hate that you did that with her, but mostly I hate myself for giving you the opportunity. I should have been there for you when you needed me but I ran away. And even if we couldn't have stayed together at that point, I shouldn't have gotten involved with Jake; it was such a rebound and such a bad idea. I should have been a friend to you – no, I should have been your girlfriend, and it's because of me that you dated her. You even said, you never would have done that if you thought I still loved you, but I did, Eli." I was crying again and his arms tightened around my waist. "I loved you every moment and I'm so sorry I treated you so horribly. I'm sitting here wishing you would apologize for being with her, but I'm the one who ruined everything between us."
He rested his head against my shoulder. "Clare, I love you. And as much as I appreciate hearing that you're sorry, the truth is that I was messed up. And I don't think that if we had stayed together, if I hadn't hit rock bottom, that I would have done what I needed to do and gone to therapy and gotten on the meds. I'm a lot better now, and that's the only reason we can be better together."
He pulled back just far enough to look into my eyes. "I hate that it had to happen this way, and I really hate that we lost two months we could have shared with each other, but there's no going back. I just want to move forward with you."
He lay down against his pillow and pulled me into his arms. I rested my head against his chest and listened to his heartbeat. His fingers slipped under the hem of my shirt, but his touch wasn't sexual. It was soft and comforting and promising. Eli had said that he wanted to be with me right here, more than anything, and I knew that the same was true for me – lying on his bed in his strong, but gentle embrace.
I felt him shaking a little and I held my head up to look at him. "What's wrong?"
"Did you…did you anything else with Jake?"
I smiled a little, against my own will. It was nice to know that Eli did harbor a jealous bone in his body. "Nothing that I haven't done with you."
He relaxed a little. "That's what I thought, but when you tried to take off my pants…" he trailed off. "I guess I know how you feel right now. I really am sorry that I didn't have more faith that we'd find our way back to each other."
"I'm sorry I didn't give you more reasons to believe."
He stroked my cheek. "No more apologies, Edwards. It's time to move on."
But of course my brain was still going over our conversation in my head. I overanalyzed everything in my life; there was no way this could be any different. But I found myself curious about a detail that I never would have expected and tried to get up the nerve to ask him about it.
"Question?" I asked finally, and he gazed at me curiously. "You said that you…well…reciprocated, but it…uh….wasn't exactly an even trade." His eyebrows raised as I sputtered. "Does that mean you don't…do that…to girls?"
His smirk almost killed me. "I do that to girls that I love," he said, moving his mouth close to my ear. "And I love doing it, so anytime you're ready, Edwards, you just let me know."
I felt like I was melting into a puddle of hormones as I sucked in a deep breath at his very enticing offer. "Maybe someday," I said. He smiled and I knew he was thinking back to the conversation we had about waiting for sex – and probably not until marriage. "Someday soon," I added bravely.
Eli gave me a look of complete happiness. "Oh, Clare, you are driving me crazy." He laughed and swooped in for a kiss. "But this is the great kind of crazy."
I kissed him once more. "I'm right there with you."