Author's Note: I am so sorry I got caught up with other stories and let this one fall through the cracks. Please forgive me for that. I love this story and hate that it's been abandoned. Not any more though!
"Taste this," Clare shoved a spoonful of hot, bubbling lasagna into Adam's mouth.
"Hot!' Adam fanned his mouth, "But…damn, Clare. That's delicious!"
Clare blushed and deposited the spoon into the sink, "Thank you. Um…how do I look? I can't believe I am going to see Cece and Bullfrog again. I just hope I look alright…"
"Clare, you're fine," Adam rolled his eyes, "Chill. Geez. You're worse than Eli."
"How is he?" Clare winced, untying the apron from around her waist and laying it over the handle of the oven, "Still barricaded in the guest room pacing?"
"Yup," Adam rolled his eyes, "But I guess it is understandable. He and his parents haven't really been close since…since his drinking started getting worse. There were a lot of fights between them, I know that much."
"Yikes," Clare winced, "Help me set the table please?"
After the table was all set, Clare decided to go check on Eli. He had been locked in his room for the past two hours. It worried her how worried he was about seeing them again. She rapped on the door with her knuckle.
"Eli, it's just me."
"No, the Easter Bunny. Open the door, Eli."
There was some rattling around, and finally the door cracked open. Clare opened it further to find Eli pacing back and forth across the bedroom, running a hand through his hair.
"Eli," Clare put a hand on his shoulder, "It'll be alright. You talked to them on the phone yesterday and you said everything seemed okay between you guys."
"It did," Eli sunk down onto the bed, "But…I just can't. I don't know, Clare. I hurt them so much."
"We all hurt the ones we love sometimes," Clare squeezed his knee lovingly, "But that's the thing about loved ones…they always manage to forgive us somehow."
Eli smiled up at her as he grabbed a curl between his fingers and twisted it, "You're a miracle, you know that. You're my miracle."
"Aw, I don't think I really did much…"
"You brought me back to life," Eli nuzzled her neck with his nose, "How can I ever say thank you?"
"By being in my life again. Don't…don't leave again, Eli. Please. I couldn't bear to lose you again. Please…stay with me this time."
"I don't think that'll be much of a problem," Eli smirked that classic smirk of his that still managed to give Clare goose bumps, "What kind of fiancé would I be if I were to leave again?"
"Wait…what?" Clare's eyes widened into saucers. Eli smirked again and raised an eyebrow as if to say: you heard me, Edwards.
"Guys, stop sucking face and get out here!" Adam called from the hallway, "They're here!"
Eli winced and rolled his eyes before hollering back, "Subtle, Adam. Real subtle."
He held out a hand and helped Clare up off the bed before they headed out to the front part of the house.
"Where are they?" Eli asked, glancing around the vacant living room.
"On the porch. They rang the doorbell."
"You didn't let them in?"
"I thought you should," Adam shrugged.
"God, your social skills are severely lacking," Eli rolled his eyes before adjusting his hair and making his way to the door. Taking a deep breath, he swung it open to be greeted by a huge hug.
"Hey, Mom," Eli hugged her back, treasuring the sound of her voice and her touch – all of which were things he had thought to be long gone from his life, "I've missed you."
"We've missed you too," Cece let go of Eli and he turned and solemnly faced his dad.
"Come here," Bullfrog pulled Eli into a bear hug, "Now introduce to me to that girl of yours…" Bullfrog's eyes fell on Clare. Cece was staring at her too, with a hand resting on her lips.
"Baby girl…" her voice was a fragment of a whisper.
"Hi, Cece," Clare gave a soft wave, "It's good to see you again."
"It's good to see you again," Bullfrog snorted, "Listen to her! Clare-Bear, get over here, girl!" Bullfrog yanked her into a huge hug, "I should have known it was you. The way Eli talked…only one girl in the whole world can bring such joy to him."
"Baby girl," Cece hugged Clare, "I've missed you. It's so good to see you again. Just as beautiful as you were all those years ago. Isn't she, baby?"
"Cece," Eli blushed.
"And still making him blush! Good girl," Bullfrog nudged her with an elbow.
"I made homemade lasagna and garlic bread," Clare said, not really knowing what else to say. She was surprised she could even form the words – she was beaming so much her cheeks hurt, "I figured we could all have a nice dinner together."
"Sounds wonderful, Clare," Bullfrog grinned down at her.
"Everyone, go into the dining room and I'll bring the food out."
"Ow!" Eli turned and glared at Bullfrog who had just thumped him on the back of the head, "What the hell was that for?"
"Go help her in the kitchen," Bullfrog raised an eyebrow.
"Could you have said that without giving me brain damage?" Eli glared at his dad.
"Nope," Bullfrog grinned, pleased with himself.
Eli followed Clare into the kitchen and helped her pull the food out of the oven where it had been keeping warm.
"Eli," Clare turned to him, a dish of lasagna in her hand, "About what you said earlier…in the guest room…"
"Yeah?" Eli raised an eyebrow.
"Did you say what I think you said?"
Eli smirked, "Edwards, you're not deaf. I think you heard me just fine."
"I don't want to lose you again, Blue Eyes. You saved my life. You literally brought me back to life, Clare – in more ways than one. Because of you, I am alive again. Because of you, I am never going to drink again. You saved me, Edwards. You…you always save me."
Clare blushed as Eli placed a gentle hand on her nape of her neck, "Eli, I don't know what to say…"
"Well a 'yes' would be appropriate."
Clare couldn't help but laugh, "Yes, Eli. Yes, a thousand times, yes!"
"I'm hungry!" Bullfrog shouted from the dining room, "Stop mackin' and get in here with the food."
Eli rolled his eyes, "I swear, between him and Adam, it's a wonder I still have what's left of my sanity."
He helped Clare carry in the dishes and everyone enjoyed the hot meal she had spent all day preparing. Clare couldn't help but smile as she listened to the conversation and the laughter. It felt like family. It was family. Her family.
Bullfrog and Adam had a belching conversation, Cece commented on how she and Clare needed to do lunch sometime and catch up, Eli and Bullfrog threw bits of garlic bread at each other from across the table, and then there was the marinara sauce incident.
Clare was sitting in between Adam and Eli when they caught each other's eye from over the top of her head. She knew they were up to something, but decided not to dwell on it too much.
"Hey, Clare," Eli called her attention, and as she turned and stared at him, Adam smeared marinara sauce on her cheek.
"Adam," she squealed, "Eli! Both of you…"
"It's not a proper dinner unless someone winds up with sauce on their face," Bullfrog grinned and did the same thing to Cece.
"Oh, you're just asking to sleep on the couch tonight, aren't you?"
After dinner and dessert, everyone hugged and said goodnight. Before they left, Bullfrog pulled Eli to the side and said –
"I'm happy for you, kid. I'm really happy for you."
"Thanks, Bullfrog. I really think I am going to be okay."
"Of course you are. You've got that girl of yours back in your life. You're going to be just fine. Don't screw this up, Eli. If you screw this up, don't doubt that in my 'old age' I still can't and won't kick your ass."
"So you admit you're old?" Eli raised an eyebrow.
"You're asking for it."
"Asking for what, old man?"
Bullfrog pulled Eli into a headlock and gave him a noogie.
"Bullfrog," Cece pulled her husband off of her son, "I swear. It's like you're fourteen."
"I am fourteen."
"No, you're impossible. That's what you are," Cece shook her head lovingly, "It was wonderful to see you again, Clare. We are definitely doing lunch next week. And Adam, it's always good to see you again too."
"Drive safe," Adam waved as Cece headed out the door.
"Bye," Eli waved to his dad.
"Be good," Bullfrog pointed a finger at his son, "Got it?"
"Bullfrog, I'll be fine," Eli promised.
"Good. Because if you break your old man's heart like that…"
"I know," Eli nodded, "Don't worry. Drive safe."
After they left, Clare, Eli, and Adam decided they would do the dishes together. After about an hour, the dishes were done and they were all drenched from a soap and water fight.
"You know," Adam said, handing Clare a plate to dry, "I am going to miss you two."
"Where are going?" Eli's brow furrowed.
"Well…you still have your old place. I figured you two would move…"
"And not be able to drive you crazy by doing things like this?" Eli grabbed Clare and dipped her into a huge kiss.
"Oh my God," Adam rolled his eyes, "Sick. You guys make me sick!"
"Yeah, I don't think so. We're staying right here – if that's alright with you?" He turned to Clare.
"It's fine with me," Clare smiled and set the plate on the counter, "I know its cheesy, but I love this – all of us together again. It's nice."
"It is," Adam nodded, "Like…no time has really passed."
"And I don't have to save your ass from the school bullies," Eli grinned.
"Oh, one time Eli. One time," Adam wagged a finger at him.
"More than that if I remember correctly," Eli smirked, "But Blue Eyes has a point. This is nice. I am sorry. I am sorry for fucking everything up. I am sorry for ruining what we all used to have…"
"Shut up," Adam tossed a dish towel at him, "It's fine now, and that's all that matters."
After finishing the dishes, Clare and Eli retired to the guest bedroom. After they were both snuggled in bed, Clare laid her head upon Eli's chest.
"I love you," she said, her voice a soft whisper.
"I love you to, Clare. You're my savior."
Clare snuggled closer to him, "Eli…I don't know what I'd do without you. You saved me too. You saved me from making a huge mistake in marrying that…that man. I don't even know what to call him. You saved me too."
"We save each other," Eli kissed her chastely, "You brought me back to life. You gave me life again, Clare. You're my miracle. I love you. I love you so much."
Author's Note: I am not too happy with the ending, but I do still love this story very much. Thank you all for all of your support and wonderful reviews. I wish I could have given you guys a better ending though. Hope you all are doing well and will continue to read my other stories. You are truly the best. I appreciate each and every one of you!