DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.
Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob
Just a small FYI: Things in my life are pretty difficult right now and I'm not going to have much time to write. I'm not quitting but it might be a while before my next story. Just wanted to give you some warning.
This story alternates between Clare and Eli's perspective. It ignores the utter travesty that was Don't Panic. It also does not follow any spoilers we may have gleaned from the promos about the prom shooting.
Thanks again for all of your support.
It was prom night, but I was sitting at home, more disappointed than I wanted to admit. I had assumed that Jake and I would attend together since we were dating – to the point where I had gone out and bought a new dress – but Jake never bothered to ask me and when I confronted him two weeks ago, he told me that prom was lame and he wanted to spend the weekend up at the lake.
Things had been strained with us lately for many reasons – hiding our relationship from our parents, our lack of common interests – but prom was sort of the last straw. I knew he was feeling the same way, since I had turned down his offer to join him at the lake. I didn't want to lie to my parents and I knew that if I spent the weekend alone with him, the conversation would turn to sex, as it seems most of our conversations did nowadays. Ever since I had admitted to him that I didn't feel as strongly about waiting until marriage as I had when I made my purity pledge, he'd been pushing, never crossing any boundaries but always trying to take things farther or making suggestive comments.
We were still together, but I knew the lighthearted rebound relationship I had intended to embark on – with the sole purpose of getting over Eli – was over.
Adam had asked me if I wanted to work at prom with him; the school had needed some students to act as waiters. I'd almost agreed until he mentioned that Eli would be working with him. Things had been so awkward between us after the play. He had met up with me at my locker after he returned to school to apologize to me and tell me he had been diagnosed as bipolar. I didn't know how to deal with that information. I had been so angry with him for so long for how the end of our relationship had gone, and him crashing Morty and putting himself at risk, and everything that had happened since them, that I didn't know how to feel now that I knew that some of his behavior must have been out of his control.
It was too much to handle so I'd declined Adam's offer. So instead, I was sitting in the living room, watching Eclipse for the hundredth time and feeling sorry for myself, when my phone rang. I fished it out of my pocket and saw it was Alli. I knew she was out on a date with Dave that night and I wondered if the two of them were fighting again. "Hello?"
"Clare, oh my God, there was a shooting at prom."
I covered my other ear, sure I hadn't heard her right. "What? Are you serious?"
Alli was crying. "Sav called me. He's okay but a couple of people were hurt and there are rumors that not all of them made it."
I felt a pang of despair in my stomach. Eli was at prom. Eli could be dead. "Does he know who?"
"I'm not sure. We're heading there now."
"Pick me up," I ordered.
I was sitting on the bench near the parking lot, trying to get my heart back under control. This school was cursed; I was cursed. The last three dances ended in epic tragedy, and I couldn't take comfort in the fact that this time I was an observer and not a participant. I kept flashing back to the screams, the flash of the metal, the kids falling down. I still couldn't wrap my mind around what happened.
I'd heard the whispers as they brought us out of the school – gang wars, revenge, love triangles, death. But none of it made sense to me. And so I sat, surrounded by police cars and flashing lights and scared, hugging teenagers. I knew the air must be filled with shrieks and sobs and sirens but I couldn't hear anything. Everything was still.
I heard her call my name before I could pick her out in the crowd. I turned and my focused sharpened just on her. She hadn't found me yet, but her expression was crazed, panicked.
"Clare!" I called and she turned to me.
We gazed at each other from across the parking lot for one heated moment and then she ran over to me, throwing her arms around me with so much force that I had to take a step back to keep us both on our feet.
"I thought you were dead," she sobbed, pressing her face into my chest as my arms came around to hold her to me. "I thought I'd never get to see you again."
"I'm here," I whispered, unable to believe that she was here, that she was looking for me. "I'm okay."
She pulled back just far enough to look at me. My white waiter's shirt was splattered with blood. "Are you hurt?"
"No, it's…it's not mine."
Her eyes widened and she gasped. "Adam?"
I shook my head. "Adam's okay. It's Drew…" I said helplessly. It was mostly Drew's blood spattered on my shirt as I'd been about to hand him a drink when the gunman walked in. He'd gotten off about four shots, and one had hit Drew in the stomach. I didn't know the other two kids who'd been shot; they were both seniors and I hadn't had any classes with them, but I'd kept Adam standing as the paramedics worked on his brother before loading him onto the stretcher.
Clare started sobbing in earnest and I wrapped my arm around her to keep her steady. I gently led her to the bench I'd been sitting on and pulled her onto my lap.
"I'm such a bad person," she cried. "I didn't even think of Adam…and Drew – he's Adam's brother. What if he doesn't make it?"
"You're not a bad person," I said, pushing her bangs out of her eyes. "And Drew's strong. He'll make it. Ms. Torres will kick his ass if he doesn't," I added to lighten the mood but Clare didn't even crack a smile.
"All I could think about was that you might die without knowing how I feel about you."
I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and with all the adrenaline from tonight, I wasn't sure I could take it. "Clare, I'm not dead. We don't need to talk about this now."
"Yes, we do," she said firmly. She placed her hand on my face and I was surprised to realize that my cheeks too were streaked with tears. "Eli, I love you. And I'm so sorry for everything I put you through this semester. I thought that I could get over you and that we'd both be better off, but I only made myself miserable and left you all alone. I should have been there for you when you needed me – as a friend at the very least, though I love you too much to just be your friend."
I stared at her. These were the words I'd longed to hear her say for so long, and now that she was saying them, I didn't know what to do. In my dreams, I'd imagined kissing her with everything I had, peeling her clothes off and making love to her. But this wasn't the time or the place and I knew there was something more important that our relationship to deal with right now.
"Thank you," I said softly. "You have no idea how much that means to me. And this is a conversation that we really need to have. But I think it's going to have to wait."
She frowned, but nodded in understanding. "Adams needs us," she said, emphasizing the last word and taking my hand. "I'm surprised you're still here and not at the hospital."
"I've got Bullfrog's car, but I'm too messed up to drive." I couldn't even begin to describe the terror to her; this was Vegas Night times a million.
"I can do it." She held out her other hand for the keys.
We'd gotten to the hospital long enough after the shooting that Eli and I were forced to cram into a corner on the floor, as every chair and most of the standing room was filled with people. Adam and his family had been taken to a more private waiting room so we hadn't even seen him but we both knew it was important for us to be here. It wasn't the time to talk about our issues, but we were curled up next to each other on the floor, sitting hand in hand, my head resting on his shoulder.
Adam came downstairs an hour later later, his eyes bloodshot. "Drew's still in surgery," he announced. "We're not going to know for a few more hours. The hospital wanted me to ask you all to go home. Once we know something we'll text or something, and I'm sure you'll all find out from someone you know."
He turned to leave but Eli and I ran up to him, throwing our arms around him in our first group hug in months. Adam started to shudder a little bit, his forced casual demeanor crumbling in the face of his two best friends.
"We're here," Eli reassured him. "We're not going anywhere."
Adam gave us a soft grin. "Of all the days you two pick to make up…this is the one where I need you most."
"Can we get you anything?" I asked, wanting to be helpful.
"No," he said, waving in the general direction of the door he'd just walked through. "I'm just gonna get back to my…" His voice dropped and I realized he'd just noticed Eli's blood stained shirt. His own was also bloody, particularly at the bottom of his sleeves, but I had a feeling those marks had come post shooting as Adam had run to his brother's side.
I tugged on Eli's arm, pulling him behind me a little. "Go be with your family. We're here if you need anything."
Adam gave us a tight smile and disappeared. The crowd hadn't thinned out even a little at Adam's announcement and Eli and I took our place back on the floor.
"I'm so scared," I whispered.
"Me too," he replied. "I'm such an idiot. I should have gone home and gotten a new shirt. I didn't mean to upset him. Do you think I should go now?"
"You're not leaving me," I said. "And I'm not leaving until we find out if Drew is okay."
I spent the time we waited praying for Drew and Adam and thinking about all that had transpired tonight. I felt like a horrible person, being happy that Eli and I had finally reconnected when Drew was in surgery and his fate was undetermined. The mood in the room dropped considerably when it was announced that one of the senior boys who had been shot had died from his wounds, though the other was expected to make a full recovery.
It was well past three in the morning when Adam burst through the doors again. "He's going to make it!" he shouted, looking directly at me and Eli. "They repaired the damage and he's got a long recovery but he's going to make it."
Our group hug this time was decidedly less tense, and the mood in the room had shifted tremendously. "Go home," Adam said to both of us. "Get some sleep. I'm gonna need you to bring me some Tim Hortons in the morning."
Eli and I exchanged a smile. "Absolutely," I said.
Adam went back to his family and the waiting room was starting to empty out, so we went back to the car. Eli's nerves were clearly back under control so he took the wheel and drove me back toward my house.
"I guess I can pick you up tomorrow. Bring Adam his doughnuts."
"That sounds good," I said, but I knew it needed to be more than that. "Maybe we could talk after."
Eli smiled. "I'd like that."
But as pleasant as things were between us right now, I couldn't help but remember the events of tonight. "I can't believe a kid died tonight."
Eli trembled. I put my hand on his knee to steady him as he continued to drive. I knew it must be harder on him than me since he was there to witness the shooting.
He pulled up outside my house and I realized that it was pitch black and my mother's car wasn't there. Jake had made a comment that on nights when my dad was staying at my house and my mother was at the condo, his father rarely made it home before morning. Mom and Glen must have decided to take advantage of Jake's trip to the lakehouse for some alone time.
Except that meant I was the one who ended up alone.
Eli seemed to read the expression on my face. "I'd offer to stay but if your mom came home and found me on your couch, I'm pretty sure she'd kill me."
"I don't want to be alone," I admitted.
He gave me a look I couldn't quite read. "Leave her a note. You can crash at my place. My parents are there; she can't get too mad." He reached over and squeezed my hand. "I'm surprised she didn't hear about the shooting. I would have thought she'd be frantically calling since you're about six hours late for your curfew."
"Well I guess she and Glen have been keeping themselves busy," I said sarcastically, and Eli's eyebrows raised in surprise. I realized there was a lot he didn't know. "Give me a minute to write her a note, and I'll explain everything."
I sat in stunned silence on the ride to my house as Clare filled me in on the exciting – and if her tone was any indication, unwelcome – changes in her life. Her mother was dating – although there were probably more appropriate words for that – Jake's father. It was clear from the way she described the problem that my earlier hopes weren't quite true and that she and Jake were still together.
I don't know why I was surprised. I mean, she really only told me that she didn't want me to die. There were a lot of people I didn't want to die, but that didn't mean I wanted to get back together with them. The fact that she had told me she loved me threw me for a loop though. But maybe it was just a heat of the moment turn of phrase. I'd said those words to Adam earlier as I gripped his shoulders while they loaded his brother into an ambulance, and though it was something I certainly felt, that was a fact I typically didn't express under less than extraordinary circumstances.
I pulled my hand away from hers but she didn't seem to notice as she chattered on about her father and his infidelity. She sounded really upset but I was feeling too disappointed to console her. When we arrived at the house, I went up to my room and Clare followed me. I grabbed a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt out of my drawer, wanting to take my bloody clothes off, and took a blanket out of my closet since it was always cold downstairs.
"I'm gonna crash on the couch," I said. "Feel free to borrow some clothes if you don't want to sleep in your jeans. I'll see you in the morning."
"Eli, wait," she said and I stopped in my tracks, as she took a few steps closer to me. "I don't want to be alone," she whispered, repeating her earlier words.
I glanced between her and the bed several times, trying to figure out what she was trying to tell me. Sure I could be the nice guy and lie down next to her while she cried and grieved and struggled to fall asleep. But she'd wake up in the morning and she'd be gone and the next time I saw her she'd be with Jake. I told her months ago that I'd liked her too much to just be her friend but now I loved her and it was even harder.
"I can't," I said finally. "If you really don't want to be alone, you can crash on the loveseat in the TV room. But I can't share a bed with you." Her eyes widened, and I rushed to explain. "It's not like I'd expect to have sex if we were in the same bed, but I couldn't be that close to you and not reach out and hold you."
"That's what I want," she said, reaching her hand out to touch my face. I stilled her wrist before she could get there.
"You're still with Jake."
Clare looked down at the ground. "I haven't…I haven't been happy with him for a while. I wanted to find a way to get over you and he was there and nice to me, but it never went beyond that. We're just not right for each other, and that's besides my feelings for you." She met my gaze, her blue eyes piercing mine. "If you can give me tonight, I'll end things with him tomorrow. I'd call him right now if that didn't seem exceptionally cruel."
I hesitated, wanting to believe her, but afraid of giving her my heart again. She stepped closer again, succeeding in taking my face into her hands. "I don't love Jake, Eli. I love you." Her lips were moving closer to mine, just inches away from us kissing. "I don't want him either. I only want you."
"We should wait," I protested. "Make sure we're both on the same track this time. You can end things with Jake if you want to, and we can talk things out and if we can figure out how to fix all the things that went wrong with us, and if my pills and therapy keep working, maybe we can find a way to get back together."
"Eli," Clare said softly, a tear trickling down her cheek. "Drew almost died tonight. Another boy did die. I don't want to wait for everything to be right for us to be together. I don't want to waste another moment. I love you, Eli. Do you believe me? I love you."
"I love you too," I said, giving into her sincere pleas. There was no doubt in my mind that this was crazy, that we were rushing to get back together under the most unbelievable circumstances ever, that we should really have the conversation that we'd desperately needed to have for months. But Clare looking at me with all of the love in the world, reminding me – as I'd learned from Julia – that time was precious: that was all I needed for tonight. We'd have months, years if I could help it, to figure everything out.
Tonight I just wanted to fall asleep with her in my arms.
Tonight I just wanted one kiss.
I leaned down just as she stood on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around me. I was expecting the kiss, sweet and soft, but I didn't expect that her next move would be to unbutton my blood stained shirt and push it from my shoulders. I really didn't expect her eyes to widen both at the sight of my chest and the marks on my skin from where the blood had seeped through.
I decided to stop being surprised by anything Clare did to me when she pulled me into the bathroom and wet a washcloth to clean my skin. Her touch was gentle and loving but it set my body on fire. Clare and I had never quite gotten to the point where we'd removed each other's clothes; it was only toward the end of our relationship that we'd allowed ourselves a few quick passes underneath our shirts. I had held back, afraid of offending her, and I was pretty sure her inexperience was what kept her from taking things farther.
In the back of my mind I worried that Clare's newfound confidence meant that she and Jake had taken things further than expected, but I pushed that out of my mind as she left a trail of kisses over my newly washed skin. Although I knew her intent was fairly innocent, it was impossible not to let out a groan at the sight of Clare Edwards sinking to her knees in front of me, her mouth getting closer to the button on my dress pants.
I tugged on her shoulder so that she rose to my level and surprised her by grabbing her waist and her leg and hoisting her up onto the sink. She let out a squeak that was a little too loud for 5 in the morning so I silenced her with a firm kiss. Her legs wrapped around my hips and pulled me close to her, and there was no hiding my hard cock pressing against her. Her hips moved against mine intentionally as we kissed more aggressively. My hands moved all over her body, daring to touch her breast through her shirt with more assertiveness than usual. She was rubbing herself against me and moaning and things between us had never been this heated before, and damn I wanted to fuck her, right here and right now.
"What do you want, Clare?" I whispered into her ear, my voice husky. I was hoping she'd let me take her shirt off since I'd been dying to see her breasts since way back when I'd heard the boob job rumors fully knowing that the beautiful curves under her top could only be one hundred percent real.
She leaned in and gave me the slowest, sexiest kiss imaginable before whispering, "I want everything."
"Clare," I said, leaning my head against her forehead and trying to get my thoughts under control.
"Do you still have those condoms?" she asked, referring to the box she had bought after she'd thrown herself at me and I'd turned her down. We'd decided to wait until we were both ready, but she wanted us to be prepared just in case we changed our mind on the spur of the moment.
"We can't. You're going to regret this."
"Eli," she said, her voice confident. "You could wake up tomorrow and tell me that you'd decided you can't forgive me for wrecking our relationship, and I still wouldn't regret this."
I was certain that wasn't true, but I could tell that in this moment, she believed it. "I wouldn't do that. I'd never sleep with you if I wasn't ready to be with you. And for everything you did to wreck our relationship, I'm every bit as guilty."
"So…?" she asked, jumping off the sink, and pulling on my hand to lead me back to my bed.
I wanted to say yes. And it wasn't just my hormones doing the thinking. I loved her and I wanted to share this with her. But there was one last thing I needed to know, even though I was pretty sure it wouldn't affect my decision.
"Did you sleep with Jake?"
"No," she said simply. "He wasn't you."
I pulled her into a hug and buried my face in her neck, not wanting her to see my look of relief. Her skin was soft against my lips, and I knew that despite my good intentions, this was a risk I was willing to take.
"Let's take things slowly," I whispered in her ear and she shuddered a little in response. "We'll go back to my bedroom and I'll take off your clothes and make you feel good, and if you're really and truly ready, we'll take that step. But if you're not or if I'm not, we can stop it at any time."
Her response was another mindblowing kiss, and I started to lead her back to my room, my hands already creeping up the back of her shirt. When we landed on the bed together, my body pressing against hers, she tore her mouth from mine with a gasp. "I want you, Eli. Please…don't…stop."
I was too wired after sleeping with Eli to get to sleep. He had curled up next to me but his sweet whispers faded after a few minutes, too exhausted by the emotional night and late hour to keep himself awake.
I kept replaying the experience over and over in my head. As confident as I had tried to be for Eli beforehand, I had really been terrified. I knew it was impulsive and I knew there was a chance that I'd regret it. But afterwards, I found myself nothing but content.
I'd had all these expectations about sex. That it was only appropriate in the confines of marriage, that it would be painful – the first time in particular. And it did hurt a little at first, but no one ever mentioned all the incredible things that came before it in polite conversation. I knew Alli's first time was rushed and uncomfortable, but Eli was so sweet and so gentle. He caressed every inch of skin as he uncovered it, gazing at my body like it was the most incredible thing he'd ever seen. He did everything he could to make me comfortable and once he was certain, he used his hands and mouth to bring me to a level of ecstasy that I hadn't know was possible.
I hadn't had enough experience to know just how good it felt to give your partner that much pleasure either. Eli had helped me wrap my hand around him and stroke him until he cried out as well, letting me know that this would help him last longer once he was inside of me. And aside from that first thrust, he kept things soft and gentle while my body molded itself to him. It was starting to feel pretty good by the time it was over – not just sweet and intimate, but actual physically pleasurable – and I knew Eli was disappointed that I hadn't "enjoyed" myself as much as he had. But it was incredible for a first time and I told him that I'd loved every minute of it.
I sat up a little to look at Eli's clock and saw that it was 9 a.m. We'd gotten in so late and had stayed up so much longer that I knew Eli wouldn't be getting up anytime soon; he was a late sleeper even under normal circumstances. But as room filled with sunlight I knew there was something I couldn't put off much longer. I gave Eli a kiss on the forehead and slipped out from under his arm. He didn't stir, so I grabbed a t-shirt of Eli's and some sweats and took my cell phone out of my jeans pocket.
I didn't want to wake him up and I had no idea of Cece or Bullfrog were around, so I crept out to his front steps, delighted to make it through the house without running into either of them. I knew Jake would be awake; he usually got up early, particularly when he was at the lake, so he could get some fishing in.
The phone rang as I tried to figure out how to tell him. Part of me felt awful for cheating on him, but I knew the second I hugged Eli at the school last night that things were over between me and Jake and the only thing keeping us together was the fact that we hadn't had this conversation yet.
It turned out that Jake knew more than I thought I did. Instead of a greeting, he answered his phone with, "So how was your sleepover with Eli?"
He caught me off guard and I didn't know how to respond. "How do you…?"
"Your mom called the lakehouse about two hours ago. Apparently she found your note that there was a shooting at school and that you were crashing at Eli's house so unbelievable that she thought it was a cover for us going up to the lake to have sex." He laughed bitterly. "I guess we weren't as good at sneaking around as we thought we were. But I guess that really doesn't matter anymore anyway."
I felt awful that he had found out this way. "Jake, I'm so sorry."
But he cut me off again. "Clare, I'm not an idiot. I knew you were still in love with Eli. I thought maybe if things got serious between us you'd finally be able to get over him, but obviously I was wrong."
As straightforward as his words were, they were tinged with just enough hurt that I felt even worse about this. He was a nice guy and I shouldn't have dragged him into a relationship, knowing how I still felt about Eli. I'd tried to spend this last semester in denial and all I had done was hurt people: first Eli, then Jake.
"I didn't mean to hurt you," I said. "I know you must hate me. But I really do care for – just not...
"Just not like you do for Eli."
I heard the door open behind me and Eli came out, looking relieved to see me sitting there. He plopped down next to me on the stairs but kept silent. I really wanted to end this conversation but I couldn't think of anything to say that would make this better.
"I hope we can find a way to be friends someday," I said finally.
"Yeah, maybe," Jake said, sounding annoyed but giving me just enough hope to make me feel a little better. "I'll see you in the fall at Degrassi. Something tells me I'll be able to forgive you by then."
"I hope so," I said. "Goodbye, Jake."
He hung up, and I turned to Eli. "It's over," I said, knowing he'd understand what I meant.
"Are you okay?" he asked, and I was reminded yet again of what a great guy he was, that he could understand that even though breaking up with Jake was the right thing to do for both of us that it still might not be easy.
I nodded. "Yeah. I just wish I didn't have to hurt him. He's a good guy. He deserves better that what I could have given him." I leaned into Eli's shoulder. "But he's not the guy I want."
Eli gave me a tiny smirk and put his arm around my shoulder. "I wonder who that would be."
I stuck my tongue out at him. "I'm surprised you're awake this early."
"Well it's hard to sleep when you wake up to find that your bed is half empty." He shrugged, trying to play his feelings off as casual. "I was afraid you might have left."
"I'd never leave without saying goodbye," I said, leaning into him. "If I had my way, I'd never leave."
He smiled. "Well, we're both leaving now. Off to Tim Horton's to bring Adam some doughnuts and coffee."
"And we'll have a long conversation after," I said, more of a promise than a question.
"And we'll work everything out," he said. "And then maybe I can get you out of those clothes."
He wiggled his eyebrows at me and I blushed, feeling much less overtly flirty now that it was morning and we were no longer in the private world of his bedroom. "Maybe," I said, kind of hoping we would end our day together much like we'd ended last night.
"Hey, if we don't, that's okay." Eli grinned. "I love the way you look in my clothes."