Chapter Twenty-Two

"I love this scene," Eli pointed to the television screen, "See how The Joker is a reflection of…and you're not interested," he winced and glanced down at the girl in his arms.

"I am," Clare snuggled closer to him, "I love this movie."

"Why?" Eli raised an eyebrow, knowing her answer.

"Because you love it."

Eli smiled, and kissed her forehead, "Clare…" he grabbed the remote and paused the movie, "Can I say something?"

"Sure."

"I am so glad my dad asked me to invite you along with us last month. After you kissed me…well, let's just say I probably wouldn't have handled the whole getting-back-together thing quite as well as I did with you being there with me for Christmas. I just…after that kiss…I had so many thoughts going through my head…and I am so glad we had that vacation to just…"

"Sort everything out?"

"Yeah," Eli wrapped his arms tighter around her, "I don't know how I ever lived without you in my arms."

"I don't know either," Clare grinned, nuzzling against him, "I missed you so much, Eli."

"I missed you too, Clare. I-I don't want to lose you again."

"Who says you will?" Clare recoiled, and looked at Eli as if he had just sprouted purple polka dots, "Eli?"

"I just…whenever something good happens to me, it gets ruined. I'm scared I'll ruin this."

"Eli…"

"I'm sorry," he stood from the bed, and walked over to the TV on his dresser, and clicked it off, "Um…would you hate me if I bailed and went for a walk? I need to clear my head…"

"Eli, what is going on?" Clare kicked off the skull blankets and followed him towards his door, "Eli…did I say something? What's going on?"

"You didn't do anything," Eli lightly touched one of her auburn curls, "I just need to think."

"You can think here!"

"Clare," Eli's voice was gentle, "Please understand. I'm not mad, and it's nothing you did. I just need to get out for a second and go for a walk…be alone with my thoughts."

Clare looked worried, and Eli again tried to reassure her, "You can head home if you want…or you could stay here. I won't be gone long."

Clare nodded and retreated back towards the bed, "Have a good…walk."

"See you soon," Eli smiled a sad smile before shutting the door behind him. As he headed down the steps, a voice from the living room stopped him.

"Clare, before you leave, Cece and I were wondering if you'd stay for din…oh, hey Eli. I thought you were about to drive Clare home. What's up, kiddo? Why do you have a jacket on?"

"I'm going for a walk," Eli answered, matter-of-factly.

"Ookay," Bullfrog kicked the recliner back to its upright position, and met Eli in the foyer, "And where is Clarabelle?"

"Upstairs."

"Ookay, let's try this again," Eli could hear the slight annoyance seasoning his father's voice, "I'm just tryin' to understand here…so be patient with your ol' man, but why exactly are you going for a walk and leaving Clare?"

"I just need to clear my head," Eli moved towards the door, but Bullfrog moved a tad faster, blocking his way, "Bullfrog…" Eli jerked his head towards the door, "Walk. I'm going on one."

"Did you have a fight with Clare?" Bullfrog leaned against the front door, "Did something happen? Is this an episode?"

"Nothing happened," Eli folded his arms over his chest, and rolled his eyes, "I just need to clear my head."

"No, you need to talk. What's going on here, kid? When you and Clare got home from school, you practically booked it upstairs. Your mother was about to head up with a box of condoms."

"Oh, God!" Eli winced, "Dad, stop. Nothing happened. I just need time to think."

"You need time to stop being such a dumbass, and learn to answer your father when he's talking to you."

"I don't believe I ignored you."

"Don't get smart."

"You raised me to be."

Bullfrog's jaw clenched, and Eli's chin jutted out, "Okay," Bullfrog sighed, trying to keep his cool, "Before I kick your ass back into next week, what the hell is going on here, kid?"

Eli sat down on the step, and put his head in his palms. He did feel guilty – about everything. He felt guilty for walking out on Clare like that, and he felt guilty for how he had just spoken to his father.

"Geeze, kid," Bullfrog knelt down in front of him, and tried to meet his son's eyes, "Talk to me."

"Everything I touch dies."

"What?" Bullfrog was not expecting that kind of response.

"I dated Julia, and she was killed. I dated Clare, and we all know how that worked out. It's just a matter of time before I ruin it again. This past month with her has been…amazing, Dad. I just…I don't want to lose her again. I don't want to do anything that'll risk this."

"And where exactly did walking out fit in with not ruining this?" Bullfrog raised an eyebrow and Eli glared daggers at him, "Alright," his dad backed off, "But just a thought, kid…if you keep thinking about losing Clare instead of just enjoying this second chance you've been given with her…you will regret it later on."

"I just don't want to screw this up. I love her, Dad. I love her so much."

"Then get up there and tell her that. I raised you better than this, Eli. You never run away just because you're scared. You stand up to your fears, and you face them. Who's to say you and Clare aren't supposed to be together forever, and who's to say you are? You have her in your life now. Enjoy that, and treasure that."

Eli chewed on his bottom lip, thinking his dad's words over in his head for a bit before nodding, and saying, "For an old guy, you give pretty good advice."

"Hey," Bullfrog teasingly smacked him on the head.

"You're obnoxious."

"You must get it from me," Bullfrog sat up, and held out his hand, helping Eli up from the step, "Go upstairs and tell Clare she can stay for dinner, alright? And son?"

"Yeah?"

"Don't walk away from her like that again. When there's a problem, you talk with her about it; you don't just walk out the door and try to deal with it alone."

"I know," Eli turned to head back up to his room.

"And Eli?"

"Yeah, Dad?"

"Walk out on her again, and I'll make sure you won't be walking for a long time."

Eli smiled, and nodded, letting his dad know that he understood loud and clear. He headed back upstairs to his bedroom. Clare was sitting, cross-legged on the comforter, picking at a loose thread.

"Hey," Eli shut the door behind him, "So…I'm an idiot."

Clare glanced up, and when she didn't say anything, Eli continued, "I got freaked out, alright? I love having you back in my life, Clare. I love spending time with you, and being able to hold you and kiss you again. But I got worried because…well, whenever something good comes along in my life, it usually gets taken away, and its usually on account of something I did. I just…I don't want to lose you, Clare. I don't want to do anything that would hurt this or ruin this."

"Eli," Clare patted the bed, motioning for him to sit next to her, "You're not going to lose me, alright? I'm all in, okay? I don't know what the future holds for us, or where we'll be in a few years, but all I know is that I want you in my life always. I don't want to go a day without being able to tell you how much I love you."

Eli grabbed her and pulled her into a huge hug, "I love you so much, Clare Diane Edwards. I am sorry I got worried. I'm sorry."

"Shh," Clare nuzzled against him, "Has anyone ever told you that you talk too much."

Eli recoiled, and noticed a teasing glint in her eyes, "Is that so?"

"Mmhmm."

"And what do you propose I do instead of talking so much?"

"I can think of a few things," Clare captured his lips in a kiss. It didn't take long for Eli to gently push so she was lying down on the bed, and he was straddling her, kissing her. He snatched her lower lip between his teeth, smirking as the action enticed a small moan to release in the back of her throat.

"I love how I can make you do that," Eli's smirk broke out into a grin before he engulfed her in another kiss. As things were getting heated, there was a knock on the door.

"Shit," Eli hissed, "My mom. Uh…just a minute!"

"Eli?" Cece opened the door a crack and saw the position her son and Clare were currently in, "Oh," she blushed, "I'm sorry…I didn't mean to barge in like that."

"Cece…" Eli growled at her, adjusting himself off of Clare.

"I just wanted to come see if Clare would be staying for dinner or not."

"I'd love to," Clare blushed furiously.

"Oh good," Cece smiled, "We love having you. Dinner will be ready in a few. Maybe after dinner you and Eli can finish up dessert?" Cece raised a suggestive eyebrow.

"Mother!" Eli gasped, as Clare's blush deepened, "Get out of here!"

"Don't forget, Baby Boy, there's protection under the bathroom sink!"

"Mother! You're leaving…now!"

"Alright, alright," Cece shut the door. Eli opened his mouth to apologize to Clare, when the door opened again, "Just wanted to remind you that their on the left side of the counter…"

"Cece!"

"Alright, alright!" Cece backed away, leaving Eli and Clare finally alone.

"I am so sorry," it was Eli's turn to blush fifty shades of red, "Really…"

"It's fine," Clare smiled sweetly.

"No it's not," Eli rolled his eyes, "I can't believe that. Don't worry, Clare. We won't be needing those condoms under the sink. I know that your virginity is important to you and…"

"Eli," Clare raised an eyebrow, "Don't you know better than to deny a girl dessert."

Eli's jaw fell lax, and Clare's sweet smile broke out into a grin, "Come on, let's see if we can help set the table or something."

"Wait…did you just…"

"Come on, Eli," Clare hopped off the bed and opened the door, "Let's go help."

"Did you…are we…what just happened?"

Clare ignored him and skipped down the stairs taking two at a time.


"Eli…Eli! Hey, kid!" Bullfrog nudged his son.

"Huh, what?" Eli snapped back into reality to notice his father shoving him with a bowl of salad.

"I asked you if you wanted some salad with your spaghetti. You seem kind of out of it…are you okay? You're practically drooling and I know that your mother's cookin' isn't that great."

"Hey!" Cece kicked him under the table, "You can make your own dinner from now on," she rolled her eyes.

"Just uh…saving room for dessert."

Clare practically choked on the water she had just taken a sip of.

"Dessert?" Bullfrog raised an eyebrow.

"Dessert?" Cece's eyes widened in excitement.

"I didn't know we had dessert," Bullfrog glanced to his wife, "What'd you make?"

"You don't get dessert," Cece shoveled some pasta onto her plate, "Not after that comment about my cooking. But Eli and Clare are more than welcome to have some dessert if they are safe about it."

"Safe about it?" Bullfrog clearly wasn't following along.

"Ma, please," Eli rolled his eyes as Clare shyly nibbled at her garlic bread.

"This dessert is very delicate," Cece explained, "Not the kind of thing that should just be taken advantage of. It's something beautiful that should be treasured…"

"No fair," Bullfrog whined, "Stop rubbing it in my face how awesome this dessert you made is when you won't even let me have any."

"Maybe later tonight," Cece winked at her husband.

"Oh God!" Eli winced, "Mom!"

"What? When he pesters like this, I tend to cave."

"Damn it!" Eli gagged.

"What?" Bullfrog asked innocently, "I don't get what all the fuss is about. It's dessert."

Cece rolled her eyes, "Just shut up and eat your dinner, sweetie."

After dinner, Clare and Eli headed back upstairs to "finish their movie." Bullfrog was helping Cece clear the table when he paused at the refrigerator and glanced inside.

"I don't see any dessert in here!"

"Oh, Bullfrog," Cece patted him sweetly on the shoulder, "You're impossible."

Fin

Author's Note: Slightly OOC, but to be honest, I really have been in a funk over this story and didn't really know how to end it. I hope you guys don't mind. I am working on some other awesome ones that I've been throwing myself into, so if you want to check those out, you are more than welcome!