DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.
Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob
I think I liked this idea better in my head than it came out on paper, but oh well. The POV switches from Clare to Eli halfway through.
I'm going to be honest and tell you that writing Eclare fanfic has gotten harder while Now or Never is airing. There's so much negativity on Twitter and Tumblr and people are jumping ship for Cake (not as many for Emogen at least on my timeline). I still believe that Eclare will get back together someday, though I'm less certain that it will happen by the end of the summer. And honest, I'm not sure that my obsession can carry me that far. I've spent the past few months reassuring everyone that Eclare isn't over, and while I still believe it, it has really become difficult for me to be in the Degrassi fandom right now. It's honestly depressing to me, and I think I was a lot happier when I just watched Degrassi and didn't participate in fandom.
Why am I telling you this? I write fanfiction because I love Eclare, and I love Degrassi, and I think these two characters have so much potential. But if I'm going to keep writing, I need people to keep on supporting Eclare. I need you to leave me a review if you like my fics, and to read things I write that are more complicated that simple sex scenes. Your support has meant the world to me in the past 11 months of writing fanfic, but now more than ever, I really need to hear it.
Where is he?
I'd been sitting on the bench outside school for over half an hour waiting for Jake. We didn't have plans that afternoon; I always spent time with my mother on Thursdays after school, but she had texted me to apologize for being busy and asking me to find a ride home.
Jake hadn't mentioned any specific plans when we had lunch together earlier today – unless he had gotten detention and didn't want to tell me. He was always backtalking teachers and while his charm was usually enough to get him out of trouble, he spent plenty of afternoons in the detention room. I had already checked the soccer field and basketball courts, and he hadn't responded to my texts, so I figured I'd pop my head in and see if he was there.
When I turned around, I saw Eli standing in the front door of the school, gazing at me. He looked anxious, which unfortunately was a frequent look for him lately, and I had to look away. We'd made a temporary peace during the school play but now that the play was over, things had just gone back to being awkward between us. We didn't know how to act around each other as just friends. I knew deep down inside that part of it was that I still loved him and missed him and worried about him constantly.
I wasn't sure how he felt about me.
He strode over to me with purpose, his gait finally returning to normal after more than a month with the cane. "How are you?" he asked. It had been over a week since we'd spoken last and that was about the article; we hadn't made small talk like this since right after we broke up.
"I'm okay. Just waiting for a ride home."
"Is everything okay? It's not like your mom to be late," he said with concern, and I almost laughed. Leave it to Eli after all this time to remember my Thursday afternoon Mom dates.
"She said she couldn't get me today so I'm just waiting…" I paused for a second, not really wanting to say his name in front of Eli, but realizing it just made me sound like an idiot. "For Jake," I finished, wishing this awkward conversation would finally be over.
Eli cringed. He took a step toward me. "Clare," he said softly, and my heart dropped. Wherever he was going with this, I knew it wasn't good. "I really hate to be the one to tell you this, and I thought about pretending it didn't happen or having Adam tell you or something, but I knew if it was me I'd want to know, and seeing you standing here…"
"Cut to the chase, Eli." But as much as I wanted him to stop rambling, my mind was racing with all of the things he could be telling me. My head kept repeating the most painful theories: He slept with Imogen. He's in love with her. There's no chance you'll ever get back together.
Eli looked more uncomfortable than he had in a long time, and that was really saying something. "I went to Ms. Dawes's room after school to give her a new draft of my story."
"The teachers have a meeting after school today," I said, annoyed that he hadn't just gotten to the point and told me the horrible truth about him and Imogen.
"Yeah, well, I forgot. But someone else hadn't."
Oh God, he had sex with Imogen on Ms. Dawes's desk. He had once told me after a very intimate makeout session that sometimes in class he dreamed about doing that very same thing with me – and my only response was to blush and stutter that it was never going to happen even as the thought of it made my heart race – but of course Imogen would be totally into public sex. Everything was dramatic with her; she wouldn't be content with the soft, sexy kisses that Eli and I had shared together privately, our hands wandering just enough that we knew the curves and planes of each other's bodies but could stop before things got out of control.
Eli placed his hand on my arm as if to steady me, but I wrenched it away. "Just tell me," I begged, wanting to get this over with so I could go home and have myself a good cry and finally put these residual feelings I had for him aside.
"Jake was in there. He was making out with Alli." He cringed as he said the last word, as if he had no problems believing Jake would cheat on me, but that there was no worse crime than my best friend betraying me.
I narrowed my eyes at Eli, trying to figure out his intentions. There was no way Alli could do something like this to me. This wasn't like the time she kissed K.C. in Grade 9 knowing that I had a crush on him. She couldn't…
"Why are you trying to hurt me?" I cried. "Do you think I'll get back together with you if I think that Jake is cheating on me?"
Eli's face fell. "No…no," he said softly. "I don't want to hurt you at all. I'd rather you be with Jake if he's what makes you happy. But Clare, I'm not making this up. I've got nothing to gain here. I wish that I didn't have to tell you this; I wish it wasn't happening."
His green eyes were full of sincerity and also sadness. My heart jolted in my chest as I realized that he just might be telling me the truth. I sprinted through the doors, headed upstairs to the English wing. I could hear Eli's quiet footsteps walking behind me. I wasn't sure if he was giving me some space or if he wasn't able to keep up after his accident.
I looked through the window in the door of Ms. Dawes's classroom and saw that her desk was untouched. No Jake and Alli. I glanced back at Eli who had finally made his way up the stairs and he nodded at me, urging me to open the door.
It was probably because my mind was still full of disbelief that I opened the door slowly and quietly rather than throwing the door open and starting a self-righteous speech. But the illusion was quickly shattered, when I found Jake and Alli in a very heated embrace in the back corner of the room – the only part of the classroom not visible from either door. He had her pushed up against the wall, her legs wrapped around his hips, and while all of their clothes remained on, they were disheveled in a way that told me this was more than just a kiss.
And it certainly wasn't a first kiss.
I backed out of the room, closing the door just as quietly as I had come in, shutting my eyes to try to get the image of what I had seen out of my mind. I turned to Eli, expecting him to look smug but he was just giving me a look of concern.
"You're not going to stop them?" he asked in disbelief.
I shook my head, pushing back him to get outside into the fresh air. I took a few deep breaths to steady myself before Eli caught up to me. "Are you okay?" he asked.
I shook my head, unable to comprehend what had just happened. "I guess I'm going to have to take the bus home," I said finally and Eli let out a dull laugh.
"I would offer you a ride, but…you know."
The thought of sitting on that bus with all of those strangers watching me, knowing what had just happened to me, made me feel vaguely nauseous. "I don't want to be around people right now," I whispered.
Eli immediately took a step away from me. "I'm sorry. I'll go."
But as soon as he said the words, I knew I didn't want him to go. "I didn't mean you," I said.
I couldn't quite place the look he was giving me. Eli had always worn his heart on his sleeve, but right now, his feelings were completely inscrutable. "I could walk you home," he offered after a moment.
"I'd like that," I said, mustering up a small smile for him.
Clare was silent on the walk home, and I was feeling extra awkward. My leg had healed to the point where I didn't need the cast or the cane anymore, but it was hard work keeping up with her as she took her anger out by walking quickly.
I was so confused by what had transpired. I felt awful telling her about Jake and Alli, because I knew the news would devastate her. But she didn't seem that upset – shocked, certainly, and maybe a little hurt, but I expected tears or angry ranting, and instead was faced with Clare's stone cold expression.
It wasn't until we'd almost reached her house that she gasped and her eyes widened and I grabbed onto her arm to hold her steady as her knees buckled.
"What?" I asked, and she pointed at the pickup truck that was parked outside her house.
"Apparently," she spat, her voice sounding bitter for the first time, "my mother was too busy fucking Jake's Dad to pick me up from school."
I gaped at her, unable to believe that Clare had just dropped the F-bomb. I'd never even heard her say something as tame as damn. Before I could respond or even really process the rest of her sentence, she grabbed my arm and dragged me back up the street away from her house. She turned at the corner and I knew she was taking me to the park near her house. We'd spent a lot of time there when we were dating because her parents didn't want me in the house when they weren't home, so when we weren't sure what time they'd return, we'd hang out here.
She led me over to the tree we'd often sit under. It was a little bit out of the way and offered some privacy from the mass of children who'd descended on the playground on the beautiful June day. Usually we'd curl up under the tree together with my arms around her waist and her legs draped over mine. But I kept my distance, not really sure what my role was now.
I waited for her to speak, but she seemed content to sit silently and watch the trees rustle in the distance. But her emotionless demeanor just made me more anxious. I thought about walking over to the water fountain and taking an anxiety pill, but I didn't want to leave her.
Finally, I caved in and asked her the question that I hadn't been able to get out of my mind since her last outburst. "So, your mom is…dating," I said finally, deciding not to repeat her earlier phrasing, "your boyfriend's dad?"
Clare rolled her eyes and nodded. "Yeah. Though he's not my boyfriend."
I was glad to hear Clare wouldn't be staying with the cheating bastard. "Right, your soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend."
"No," she said, making a point to look away from me. "It wasn't really like that."
I narrowed my eyes, trying to understand what she was getting at. "Clare, I saw you guys together at school all the time. You don't have to pretend for my sake."
"I'm not," she insisted. "We weren't together, really. He wasn't looking for a relationship and neither was I. We were just…" she shrugged. "Friends with benefits."
I stared at her in disbelief, my eyebrows practically shooting off my forehead. I had accepted her dating Jake because I thought that's what she wanted even though seeing them together just about killed me. But Clare wasn't a friends with benefits kind of girl, and it made me furious that Jake had put her in that situation.
"What kind of benefits are we talking here?" I asked, my voice strangled. I knew I didn't have a right to be upset about this, but we'd dated for months and we'd taken things glacially slow and if he slept with her and he wasn't even her boyfriend, I was going to rip him limb from limb.
Clare's eyes widened. "No! Not what you're thinking. Not even close," she said firmly. She twisted her purity ring around her finger, a nervous tic that she'd been doing for as long as I knew her. I was glad to hear he hadn't persuaded her to do something she wasn't ready for but just the thought of them kissing made my lunch churn in my stomach.
"That's why I can't really be mad at him for what happened this afternoon," she explained. "We weren't exclusive. If he wanted to kiss another girl, he had ever right to do it."
"He was kissing your best friend," I said patiently. "I don't care how open your relationship was. That's a line you don't cross. You have every right to be mad at him."
Her face fell. "I'm more mad at her, honestly," she said softly. "She was the one who crossed a line."
I felt awful for Clare. Adam was the first best friend I'd ever had, and I knew I never had to worry about him kissing Clare whether she and I were together or not. "You guys have been through a lot together. I'm sure you'll be able to get past this sometime."
She shrugged. She played with the strap on her backpack for a minute, completely silent. "If you need to go, you don't have to stay. I just don't want to go home until I'm sure Glen has left."
"I don't have anywhere else to be," I said honestly. Now that the play was over, I had lost all direction. There was only about two weeks until the end of the school year, and Bullfrog had hooked me up with an internship at the radio station, not wanting me to have too much free time over the summer. But until then, it was just me alone with my thoughts. Adam had his radio show and Imogen and I had gotten into a fight when I finally asked her to back off and informed her I wasn't interested in her and I wasn't going to be. We were supposed to be friends, but she had stopped talking to me once the play was over. I was finding that I hadn't really missed her company much.
Clare still seemed lost in that peaceful quiet, and it bothered me. I didn't know what I was expecting, that she would break down and I could hold her in my arms and everything would be okay between us. But her lack of reaction was unnerving.
"Can I make an observation?" I asked, and she nodded, looking up at me for the first time. "Your…the guy you've been seeing was practically dry humping your best friend in a classroom and your mother is probably doing the same to his father and you don't even seem upset. I don't understand why you're okay with this."
Clare rolled her eyes. "Why should I be upset?" she asked. "I can't control what my mother does. And frankly, I don't really care what Jake does."
"Really?" I asked softly.
She bit her lip, avoiding my gaze once again. "I only agreed to his stupid friends with benefits suggestion because I still had feelings for you, and no matter how much I told myself I needed to move on, I couldn't. And he was there, and Alli was pushing me and I thought I'd give it a shot." Her lips turned into a rueful grin. "And now, we caught the two of them hooking up in a classroom and the only thing I can think of is that I'm glad I'm sitting here with you, under our tree."
As much as I was glad I was sitting here with her, her explanation didn't sit right with me. "Why didn't you say something? If you still had feelings, why didn't you talk to me? Why didn't you tell me you wanted to work things out rather than trying to get over me with another guy?"
"I wanted to," she said. "But then you told me you were over me. And you were spending all your time with Imogen. I thought…" For the first time, her voice broke. "I thought you had moved on."
"I never did," I admitted. "Not even a little bit. Imogen and I…we were just friends. It never went further than that. I kissed her but it was only for the play. I never felt like that toward her." I didn't want to admit to Clare just how much Imogen had messed with my head and manipulated me into thinking things about Clare that just weren't true. "When I told you I was over you, I was off my meds. I was out of my mind. I just wanted it to be true so badly that I thought if I kept saying it, I'd start to believe it."
Clare reached out and grabbed my hand. "So you still…have feelings for me?" she asked tentatively.
"I still love you, Clare. That's never gone away."
"I love you too."
She closed the gap between us, resting her head against my chest as my arms came around to hold her. It had been so long since I was able to touch her and the feeling of her pressed against me took my breath away.
"Does this mean we're back together?" she asked hopefully.
I was afraid to answer her question, not wanting her to pull away from me, but knowing I had to be honest. "We can't just go back to where we were. There was so much stuff we messed up that we need to deal with. I want to be with you, but it's going to take some time."
But she didn't move out of my arms. I felt her nod against my chest and I rested my cheek on top of her head, wanting to connect with her in as many different places as I could. "We've got all summer," she said. "We could take things slowly. Figure things out."
"I'd like that," I said and she smiled.
"I haven't really felt like myself lately," Clare said. "Not since before we broke up."
"I haven't felt like myself in a long time," I admitted. "But the meds are helping, and having you here...it makes me feel like I can get back there."
Her arms tightened around me, and I felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be.