DISCLAIMER: I don't own Degrassi or anything else.

Twitter: themusiksnob / Tumblr: musiksnob

Well, we've finally reached the last chapter. I am sorry for the incredibly long delay, but real life is finally starting to get in the way of fanfic writers. Fortunately the incredibly long hiatus is coming to a close, so at least we'll have actual Degrassi soon and hopefully fandom will follow.

I've got a lot going on my life right now between being 7 months pregnant, having a month and a half left of work to get lots of loose ends tied, and trying to prepare for the baby. I'm not quitting writing, but I'd definitely expect oneshots over chapter stories and long, long breaks in between. I'm hoping this season will go the way I hope and that Cake will end for real ASAP, Emogen is brief and temporary, and that Eclare will end in a good place – whether they are aback together or not.

If anyone is going to the NJ screening on Saturday, I will be there. I'm probably pretty identifiable as the kind of old, pregnant lady, but I will be wearing a nametag of some sort. I am not super outgoing, but I like talking to people, so if you see me and read my fics or my rants, please stop and say hi.


Chapter 14

I knew Christmas was going to be different this year. When I was younger, we'd always spend the week between Christmas and New Years in Niagara Falls with Grandma as a family, and then Mom and Dad would go back to Toronto for work and leave Darcy and me for another week of vacation. After the divorce, I had to spend Christmas Eve with Dad, but Mom and I had kept up the tradition of spending a week at Grandma's house, bringing Jake and Glen along last year.

I had hoped that perhaps we could make one last trip down to Niagara Falls, even though I knew it wouldn't be the same without Grandma. But Grandma's house had sold about a month ago, and Aunt Judy had decided that she wasn't up for a traditional family holiday and had booked a cruise to Jamaica. My cousin Christine decided to fly to Vancouver and spend Christmas with her boyfriend's family. Even my Dad had left the city, tearing himself away from work for an uncharacteristic golf vacation in Florida at the request of his latest girlfriend.

So it was just me, Mom, Glen and Jake, spending a non-traditional, really awkward Christmas right here in our house. Except Jake had disappeared a few hours ago without a word – not that it mattered, since neither of us were speaking to each other. Mom was on the couch, her head buried in a book, and Glen was preoccupied with fixing a broken hinge on one of the kitchen cabinets. I'd spent most of the morning hiding out in my room, which still felt like the guest room to me, despite Mom's attempt to fix it up by buying me a double bed and some new curtains.

I felt like I was waiting for Christmas to start. We usually did presents Christmas morning, and I was worried that we weren't going to do anything for the holiday until then. Mom hadn't even mentioned going to the midnight service at our church tonight or the carol sing-a-long that preceded it. The tree was up but it was somewhat halfheartedly decorated; Mom had stuck with the glass balls in red and green and silver rather than our childish homemade ornaments.

Glen's cell phone rang and he answered with a concerned look on his face. But after a brief conversation that was mostly silence on his end, he hung up and shot Mom a thumbs up. "What's that about?" I asked her, but she just shrugged.

Great. It was so fun to be left out of things in your own home. I picked up the scarf I was crocheting as part of Eli's Christmas present and started working on it, knowing that unless I put in a lot of effort over the next two days, I wouldn't have it ready by the next time I saw him. He was always walking across campus without enough warm winter coverings on and it always made me crazy.

I knew it would only get worse next semester, since I had gotten word that the housing department had approved my transfer into Maureen's suite in place of her roommate who was studying abroad. Eli and I would no longer be across the hall from each other, but it was worth it to be done with Mikayla forever. I was pretty sure the move would be a good thing for us, since we spent way too much time together since I was always trying to avoid Mikayla. Now we wouldn't see each other every waking moment but we could make sure that the time we spent together was quality time.

And if it were really freezing out, we could always spend the night together and avoid the cold walk back. Although Maureen had warned us that her suitemates had strict rules about sex noises since one of their roommates last year had been really embarrassingly loud. She didn't seem pleased when Eli's response was, "So I guess Clare will be spending most of her nights in my room."

I couldn't believe that I'd only been home for two days and already I was really missing spending the night with him. I had a feeling once the holidays were over we'd be able to sneak in enough alone time to have sex, but I didn't think even my more tolerant mother was going to let me sleep over his house. I knew I was eighteen and I didn't have to get her permission but I was pretty happy with how close we were getting and I didn't want to rock the boat.

I heard a soft knock on the door and looked up in surprise. Mom poked me in the leg with her sock-covered foot. "Could you get that, Clare?"

I opened the door to find Eli standing on our doorstep. "What are you doing here?" I asked, though I was pleased to see him.

"I'm here to celebrate my first Christmas," he said, wiping the snow off his boots on the mat. He was carrying a huge shopping bag that I could see was filled with gift wrapped presents.

I gaped at him in shock. I didn't even know if we were really doing Christmas today and I knew my mother was not going to be pleased with an unexpected visitor. He laughed at the expression on my face. "Your mom invited me," he explained. "Can I come in?"

"Sure," I said, feeling foolish.

I found Mom and Glen standing behind me. "Hello Eli," Mom said warmly. "It's good to see you."

I watched in confusion as she introduced Eli to Glen and they shook hands. Eli commented on the renovations Glen had done to the living room and kitchen back when he and Jake had first moved back to Toronto, and I realized this was the first time Eli had been in this house since we broke up. I grabbed my mother's arm and hissed. "You invited Eli? Why didn't you tell me?"

She peered at me. "I thought you'd be happy that Eli was here."

"I am…it's just…" I hadn't told her about how Jake had interfered with my relationship with Eli, though I was certain she'd noticed the tense silent treatment we'd been giving each other. "Does Jake know he's coming?"

"I mentioned in a few days ago." She didn't seem to be covering anything so I guessed he was okay with it. "Is there something wrong, honey?"

"I just wish you had told me," I said.

She laughed. "Clare, if I had told you to invite Eli in advance, you would have spent the last few weeks stressing out over it." She pinched my side. "Relax. It's Christmas."

I still hadn't gotten over the fact that my mother, who'd been completely uptight the entire time I'd known her, had seemed to turn over a new leaf since Glen had entered her life. Even though I was certain that she had some hesitance over my relationship with Eli deep down, and even though I had seen her standing in front of the tree, wiping a few tears from her eyes last night, she seemed to be pushing through and trying to get our family through the holidays. I decided to take a page from her book and joined Eli on the couch, sitting close to him and pulling his hand into mine.

He and Glen clammed up as soon as I sat down and I wondered what they had been whispering about. I was a little annoyed at all the secrecy this morning, especially since Eli seemed to know more about what was going on than I did.

Mom was quizzing Eli about the classes he'd taken this semester when I heard Jake's truck pull up outside. I tensed automatically, knowing that Jake lacked the same tact as our parents, and Eli rubbed my back reassuringly.

"We're home," Jake called as he opened the door. Before I could process the fact that "we" was a very strange pronoun for my eternally single stepbrother to use, a girl I hadn't seen in over four years walked through the door.

My sister, Darcy.

Suddenly it didn't matter that she had missed Grandma's funeral or Mom and Glen's wedding or my last four birthdays and high school graduation. Because she was here now. We all stood to greet her but I reached her first, throwing my arms around her in the sisterly hug I hadn't realized how much I'd missed. She spun me around a little and we were both laughing and crying and I knew Mom probably wanted to greet her long lost daughter but I really just didn't want to let her go.

Over Darcy's shoulder (which required standing on my tiptoes since I had never caught up to my lanky sister in height) I could see Mom beaming at us, a few tears trickling down her own face. I also saw Jake extend his hand to Eli, the two of them coming to some silent peace treaty.

Darcy finally pulled back, grabbing my hands. "Look at you," she gushed. "You're all grown up."

"You look exactly the same," I said. The only thing different about her was the baggy sweatshirt she'd clearly swiped from Jake since she probably didn't have any clothes in Kenya that were warm enough for a cold Toronto winter.

"You've got boobs now," she teased, causing me to turn purple. And if that weren't bad enough she turned to Mom and said, "Where did those come from?"

Mom laughed. "Blame Grandma Edwards. She sure didn't get them from me."

I realized that considering I'd shared a room with Darcy for fourteen years and dated both Eli and Jake, that Glen was the only person in the room who hadn't actually seen my boobs and that it made this an even more embarrassing topic of discussion. "Can we talk about something else?"

Darcy laughed and let me go so she could hug Mom. I sat back down next to Eli who was grinning at me. "Did you know about this?"

He nodded. "Originally they were going to have me pick her up from the airpot. But her flight got delayed and Jake could do it so your mom figured that might be a better plan considering she had actually met Jake before."

Seriously? "Conspiring with my family, Eli?" I shook my head.

He squeezed my shoulders. "I think the surprise was worth it."

"Yeah, it was," I admitted.

We gathered in the living room, Eli and I curling up together at the end of the couch. Darcy caught us up on the details of her four day's journey back to Toronto. Mom and Glen peppered with her questions about her living situation and the work she'd been doing. I felt really terrible that I had let my bitterness at Darcy for leaving and never coming back get in the way of our relationship; we had emailed quite a bit for the first year after she was gone but when things went south with our parents I had pulled back from her and never quite caught up in the following years.

Darcy's stories went on for quite a while and I could feel Eli getting restless. "You okay?" I whispered.

"Yeah," he said. "I was just wondering when we get to open presents."

I giggled. Eli looked so excited about the prospect that I hated to burst his bubble. "We usually do presents Christmas morning," I explained. "But you and I could exchange them later if you want – in private."

Apparently our conversation had caught the attention of the rest of the family. "What exactly did you get Eli that you can't give him in front of us?" Jake asked, his voice teasing rather than overprotective.

"Nothing," I said, my cheeks flushing. "I just didn't want you guys to feel left out."

"I've got presents for everybody," Eli said cheerfully. "No reason not to open them now."

"Eli, you didn't have to do that," Mom said generously.

"Yeah, you really didn't," I said. But the look on his face told me he wasn't budging. "Let me go get yours."

I ran up to my room to get the other half of Eli's present, which I had fortunately wrapped last night with the rest of the presents for my family. I returned to the living room to find Darcy planting a Santa hat on Eli's head as he passed out presents.

"Who goes first?" he asked eagerly.

I was about to respond, but Mom cut in. "Well, tomorrow youngest goes first, so I think tonight we should do oldest to youngest." She shook the large package on her lap as if she was trying to guess what was inside.

"That's a joint present," Eli explained. "For you and Mr. Martin."

"Call me, Glen," he said, as Mom ripped open the package.

It was a large wicker picnic basket. "This is lovely, Eli."

He beamed. "Clare told me how much you guys like to spend weekends at your lakehouse and my family and I always used to go on picnics near our cottage, when the weather was nice. There are some cookies inside that Cece baked that you might not want to save for spring, but the wine will still be good."

"The wine'll be gone before the cookies," Glen joked.

"Thank you, Eli," Mom said, rolling her eyes at her husband.

Darcy started ripping open the package that was nearly the same size as Mom's picnic basket. "A case of mac and cheese?" she said, her eyes widening.

"I had a cousin in the VSO who spent two years in Tanzania. The only thing he wanted to eat when he got home was mac and cheese."

Darcy looked like she was going to rip the case open immediately. "What time is dinner?" Mom reassured her that it would be soon.

Jake held up the ring sized box that Eli had given him. "Are you sure this one isn't for Clare?"

"No man, it's all you."

It didn't surprise me that Eli was trying to butter up my mother and my sister, but I couldn't believe after everything that had happened that he had bought a Christmas present for Jake.

Jake unrolled a small scrap of paper from inside the box. "Britney. And a phone number?"

"She's in one of my classes. She builds sets for the school plays. I think you two would hit it off." Eli scrolled through a few photos on his phone and held it up to Jake.

"Sweet," he said, looking impressed for the first time. "I just might have to call her."

Eli looked at me expectantly and I handed him my gift. "You're older."

I watched nervously as he opened it. I was started to feel a little inadequate. He had somehow managed to find the perfect presents for my family whom he barely knew, and I wasn't sure how my gift would measure up.

"Cool," he said, reading the back cover of the new Paolo Baciagalupi novel I had gotten him. "I forgot this was coming out."

"Open it up," I offered, not wanting him to think that was his only present.

He cracked open the cover and found the ticket to the Foo Fighters concert I had gotten him for the last weekend of our winter break. His eyes lit up. "Oh my God, Clare, this is awesome." He threw his arms around me. "Only one ticket though; does that mean you're not coming with me?"

"The other one's Adam's present. I figured the two of you would have a better time without me."

"Never," he said, looking at the tickets again. "He's going to be so psyched. Thanks."

Eli handed me a small, flat package that weighed almost nothing. I opened it gingerly, preferring to undo the tape rather than rip the paper open. I found a piece of printer paper inside and unfolded it to discover a plane reservation from Toronto Pearson to JFK that was scheduled to leave in just a few days. I blinked at the unexpected gift, trying to process exactly what this was for.

"Fiona invited us to spend New Years in New York City…if you want to go," Eli rushed to add. "I got refundable tickets though, so if you want to go but not this week or if you'd rather go somewhere else, or I can just get my money back and I can get you something else, like a necklace or something. Whatever you want."

Eli was talking so fast and rushing to placate me, and I realized that this was probably his way of making up for the last time he'd tried to surprise me with a trip to the gothic fiction convention. But this time we were in a really good place in our relationship and the surprise was a very welcome one.

There was only one problem… "Darce," I asked hesitantly. "When are you leaving?"

She laughed. "I'm scheduled to take the GED on January 20th and my return flight isn't for two weeks after that. We'll have plenty of time to hang out once you get back."

I turned to Eli and threw my arms around him, much like he'd done to me moments before. "We won't have to spend New Years freezing our buns off in Times Square, will we?"

He laughed. "If I know Fiona, the Coynes will be throwing an epic, climate-controlled celebration, the likes of which we'll never experience again."

I couldn't help but grin and lean in for a kiss despite the audience. But when I pulled back, I saw my mother's wary look and realized that maybe I should double check about this impromptu plans. "It's okay that I go, right?"

Glen patted Mom's knee and she let out a sigh. "Of course, Clare. You're eighteen and in university and I couldn't stop you even if I wanted to." She gave me a half-hearted smile. "It sounds like a nice trip though. Remind me to dig out your passport tomorrow; I think it's in the filing cabinet that we moved to the basement when we cleared out your room."

"Thanks, Mom," I said. "And thank you, Eli, for all these lovely presents."

The whole family echoed my sentiments. Mom got up to start cooking dinner and Darcy joined her, chattering about all of the food she wanted to make sure she got to eat while she was back in Toronto. Jake turned on the TV and started flipping through channels, finally settling on a classic hockey game.

I turned to Eli, not sure what he'd want to do. He leaned in and kissed my check. "Go catch up with your sister."

"You sure?"

He rolled his eyes. "I can handle watching hockey for a little while."

"Ookay," I said.

I went into the kitchen and bumped Darcy on the shoulder before I grabbed a large bowl to start making a salad. "I was just telling Mom that I can't believe how cute Jake Martin ended up being," she said.

"Just remember he's your stepbrother," I cautioned and Mom grimaced at me.

"Ewww, I'm not interested in him. For a whole lot of reasons," she said emphatically.

"Reasons like Michael?" Mom teased.

I looked at Darcy wide-eyed. "Who's Michael?"

She looked embarrassed. "This guy I'm…I don't know what with."

"Oh really?" I said. I wondered why Mom had more knowledge of him than I did.

"It's nothing serious…but I think it could be." Darcy's smile grew. "We're going to try to Skype a bunch while I'm out here. Hopefully he'll have power and his connection won't drop. I'm excited to be here, but I am really going to miss him."

"That's great, Darce." In the first year after she'd gone away, back when we still kept in good contact, she'd been so traumatized by her past that she was afraid to get close to any guys. It was nice to see she'd started to open herself up to a relationship again.

"You and Eli seem to be doing well," she commented. I glanced into the living room but all three guys were glued to the TV. "And he's cuter than I'd thought he'd be."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked.

"Just from everything I've heard about him, he never quite seemed like your type. But now that I've seen you together, I can see why you like him so much."

I surmised everything she'd heard about him had pretty much come from my mother, probably the first time he and I had dated. "Don't believe everything you hear," I said.

Mom turned around to pop the lasagna into the oven and Darcy grabbed my left hand. "Oh my God," she breathed, trying to keep her voice down despite her excitement. "Are you two…?" she gestured between us while grabbing the empty finger where my purity ring once sat.

I glanced over at Mom and realized that though she was trying to look busy while putting away the oven mitts that she knew exactly what we were talking about. But after the conversation we'd had on the way back from Niagara and the times we'd spent together since then, I knew I didn't have to hide the truth from her.

"We are," I confirmed, and Darcy's resulting squeal attracted the attention of the male contingent in the living room.

"Sorry!" she said, and they went back to their game. "I want details," she hissed in my ear. "I may be waiting for marriage before I…you know…again but if my baby sister is doing it, you need to tell me everything."

Mom cleared her throat and Darcy's face fell. "All we need to know is that Clare is being safe and that she's happy."

"And I am…on both accounts." Darcy looked disappointed, so I mouthed the word "Later" to her.

Mom brushed her hands on her apron. "I forgot the pie recipe on the printer. Let me run up and get it."

"Sorry," Darcy whispered. "I didn't mean to out your sex life to Mom."

I shrugged. "She pretty much knew anyway. Surprisingly, she's been pretty cool about it."

She smiled. "Yeah, she and I have been emailing a lot. Ever since Grandma…" her voice trailed off. "I felt awful I couldn't make it home. That's why I made sure I could be here for Christmas – and with the stupid travel delays, I almost missed that too."

"You're here. That's all that matters."

"Mom seems really happy. I think Glen's good for her."

I glanced over at my stepdad. "He really is. Have you talked to Dad at all?"

She groaned. "Not really. That'll be fun to deal with once he gets back."

I squeezed her shoulder. "As long as you realize that we're all better off now, it'll be okay. I don't really blame him for what happened. The divorce sucked, but it was a long time ago, and you missed the worst of it. Just be glad that he's still in our lives."

Darcy hugged me. "I've missed you, Clare."

Mom reentered the kitchen brandishing her printout. "Stop it, you two. This is supposed to be a happy holiday."

"Sorry, Mom," we both said at the same time and then broke into giggles.

"So Darcy, how successful do you think your group has been in terms of conversions?" Mom asked, and I knew that was my cue to exit. I'd always been supportive of Darcy's work in helping build schools or wells, but I was a strong believer that faith was personal and while it was okay to share it with people who were curious or interested, it was of questionable morality to impose your views on others, particularly when you held a lot of power in terms of desperately needed aid. I went back into the living room and plopped myself onto Eli's lap.

"Hey," he grinned, pulling me closer.

I could see Jake giving us a wary look, and I wondered if he was going to give us a hard time, but he turned back to the TV and ignored us. We continued to watch the game – well, I pretended to watch while secretly relishing the feeling of Eli caressing my hand – until Mom called us in to dinner.

Eli took the seat next to me as we started passing the dishes around, taking helping servings of the steaming food. "So Eli," Mom asked. "What are your parents doing for the holiday?"

He shrugged. "Chinese food and a movie. Same as any other year."

"That's an interesting tradition," she commented, as she spooned lasagna onto Jake's plate.

Eli laughed. "Not for Jews."

Mom looked momentarily surprised and for a second, I wondered if having a culturally Jewish boyfriend was actually worse in her mind than dating an atheist, but she recovered quickly. "Who'd like to say grace?"

Darcy volunteered to start and we all held hands, even Eli and Jake which almost made me giggle. Her prayer was brief and focused on the fact that she was happy to reunite with her family. Eli squeezed my hand, and I realized that this was really different than the last time Eli had shared an awkward meal with my nearly divorced parents. This wasn't just a casual high school relationship; he was part of the family now.

Dinner was a rousing success as Darcy mostly entertained us with stories about language barriers and really inept volunteers. Glen and Mom gave Eli and I a list of things we should do while we were in New York, since they had spent a week there the year before. The food was delicious – especially when compared to dorm food – and Eli kept squeezing my knee under the table. He seemed totally comfortable talking to my family, and I was ecstatic that things were going so well. My mother had been right – if I'd known Eli was coming, I would have worried about this dinner for days. But everything really seemed to be working out.

By the end of the night, Darcy had passed out on the couch as the rest of us ate as much of the dessert as our stuffed bodies could take.

Glen poked Jake. "Darcy looks like she's out for the night, but tomorrow you're giving her your room."

"I've got a queen sized bed," Jake said. "She could stay with me."

Eli gave him a weird look. "Your attraction to your stepsisters is really unhealthy."

Jake laughed. "Hey, Clare and I broke up like a year before they got married. Totally not weird at all."

"But just weird enough that you'll be sleeping on the couch for the next month," Glen said firmly.

Jake groaned. "She can't share with Clare?"

"Learn to be a gentleman, Jake. The girl has spent half of her time in Kenya living in mud huts. You can suffer on the couch for a month," Glen said.

Jake rolled his eyes but didn't protest.

"More eggnog, Eli?" Mom offered.

"Oh no, Mrs. Martin," he said, despite the fact that Mom had asked him to call her Helen at least twice. "If I'm going to drive home sometime tonight, I should switch to coffee."

"You can stay here if you need to," Mom said.

Eli opened his mouth to decline but Jake interrupted. "The couch is already taken."

"Clare has a double bed," Mom said, shocking all of us.

"Seriously?" Jake cried. "Clare gets to have Eli stay over? If I wanted to bring a girl home for the night, there's no way you guys would go for that."

"That's because Clare knows Eli's last name," Glen deadpanned.

Jake muttered something that sounded a lot like "Bullshit." But neither of our parents changed their position and I noticed Eli poured himself another glass of eggnog out of the doctored pitcher. I was really pleased that I'd get a chance to spend Christmas night in his arms.

Glen held up his glass. "I propose a toast. To our reunited family…"

Mom raised her glass as well. "To a healthy and happy new year."

Jake rolled his eyes. "To lots and lots of eggnog."

I grinned. "To Eli's first Christmas."

He locked eyes with me. "The first of many."

We clinked glasses. "So does this mean I get to have my first Hanukkah next year?" I asked.

Eli laughed. "We're not that big on the celebrating, but I'm pretty sure Cece'll make you some latkes if you ask nicely."

Mom yawned and stretched her arms over her head. "It's been a really long day. I don't think I can make it to midnight service. What do you say we call it an early night? Get up early tomorrow, do presents and breakfast and make it to the 10 a.m. service tomorrow."

Jake didn't look thrilled about going to church tomorrow but I readily agreed. There was no way I was dragging Eli to service and I didn't really want to leave him tonight.

Mom and Glen said their goodnights and Eli excused himself to call Cece and let her know he was spending the night. I looked at Jake, wondering what he thought of all this.

I was surprised to see him looking so serious and even more surprised when he led off with an apology. "I'm sorry I tried to interfere with you and Eli. He's not the crazy guy I thought he was in high school. As long as you're happy with him, I'm okay with it."

"Thanks Jake," I said, standing on my tip toes to give him a hug.

He squeezed me a little tighter. "And if he hurts you again, I'm gonna kick his ass."

I shook my head. "I don't think that will be necessary."

"You know, you should really thank your mom. Helen was the one who tried to get me on board with Eli." I looked at him in surprise. "I don't know what's up with her lately, but she's been pretty cool."

It took me a second but I realized what had most likely happened. "Her mom died. That kind of puts things in perspective." He nodded and I knew he was thinking of his own mother, who'd left after the divorce and never tried to be a part of his life. "Plus your dad is a good influence on her."

Eli came back into the room. "I'm all set. Ready for bed?"

Jake grimaced for a second, but recovered quickly. "You need to borrow something to sleep in or anything?"

It took a moment but we all laughed at the absurdity of my super tall stepbrother offering to share clothes with Eli who was only a few centimetres taller than I was. "I've got a pair of pajama pants I stole from your dorm," I admitted.

Jake didn't look all that thrilled about that either. "Well good. Just don't sleep naked. That's my little sister after all."

I socked Jake in the arm. "Dumbass." I grabbed Eli by the hand and led him upstairs.

Of course once we made it into my room and I shut the door Eli immediately started kissing me. "Stop," I protested, though I really wish I didn't have to. "My parents are home."

"Aww, come on Clare," he teased. "Haven't you ever dreamed about fucking me in your childhood bed?"

My eyes fluttered shut at that image, but I knew I couldn't give in. "First of all, this isn't even my childhood bedroom. And the bed is brand new. And that fact that you're even allowed in here at all, let alone for a sleepover, is still mind-boggling to me, so let's not do something that's going to make them not trust us."

Eli pouted but I could tell it was just a show. I handed him the pants I had stolen and he put them on without a word, and managed to let me change without commenting or trying to grope me.

We lay down next to each other on the bed and Eli curled up into my body. "So you're really excited about the New York trip?" he asked a little nervously.

"Really, really excited," I said. "I'm not sure I have a dress fancy enough for a Coyne New Years Party though."

He laughed. "Oh don't worry. Fiona loves shopping. She'll find you something."

I tried to focus on our impending trip, but my mind kept going back through today's events. "Thanks for spending Christmas with my family. I'm really glad my mom invited you."

"Me too," he said. "I'm glad I could be here for you."

I snuggled deeper into Eli's arms and realized just how lucky I was. We'd gotten to the point where I knew we'd be there for each other; it wasn't even a question.

"Are you sure you don't want to have a quickie?" he teased. "We can be very, very quiet."

I rolled my eyes. "You know how hard that is for me."

"That's what she said."

I giggled and rolled on top of him, tickling him on his sides to punish him for his joke. He tried to fight back and the bed made a huge squeaking noise that probably could have woken up the whole block. We pulled back from each other and lay down quietly, hoping that my mother wouldn't come in brandishing a broom.

After a few minutes when we were certainly the coast was clear, Eli leaned toward me. "You know, the guestroom at Fiona's is in a whole other wing from where she and her family stay. It's practically in another zip code."

"Sounds…nice," I said, leaning over and giving him a quick peck on the lips.

"Sounds perfect," he whispered, and then he let his kisses take over.


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