This fic is based off of the promos for Season 12. I wasn't planning on writing it, but the plot frankly wouldn't leave my head. Before I knew it, the whole thing was outlined and the first chapter written. This fic is dedicated to musiksnob for always listening to my crazy ideas.
Warning: This story WILL have its happy moments, but also deals with very mature themes. The rating will change.
Disclaimer: I do not own Degrassi or any other pop culture references.
"If our world falls down tomorrow, you be sure I'll be there with a net to catch the pieces falling."-Bayside, "Landing Feet First"
I wait patiently for Eli on the steps of Degrassi, shivering slightly in the winter air. School let out five minutes ago, and Eli and I are supposed to walk to his house to study.
It's been a month since we got back together, and every day I'm amazed at how different things are this time around, amazed at how much BETTER they are.
We go on dates most weekends and talk on the phone every night, but between his play and my busy schedule due to various extra-curricular activities, we haven't had much time to just "hang out". In fact, this afternoon will be the first time I step foot in his house in nearly a year. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about seeing his parents. They used to like me; I fear that may no longer be the case.
Before my stomach can twist into a ball of nerves, I hear Eli's voice behind me.
"Clare! I'm sorry." He scurries down the steps and I notice he looks stressed. "Have you been waiting long?"
"No, just a few minutes." I tighten my scarf around my neck and offer him my hand. Even through my gloved fingers, I can feel the heat of his skin. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," he mutters, "I'm just annoyed." We start walking toward his house just as the sky opens up a bit and allows a few snowflakes to fall. "I was late getting out because Simpson called me into his office at the end of last period."
My last class of the day is my worst subject: math. I have to concentrate quite hard, so I'm not surprised I didn't hear the announcement over the PA. "Oh? What for?"
He lets out a frustrated growl; one that I've noticed only forms at the thought or mention of Becky Baker.
"Becky wants back on the play," he sighs.
"Ah." I turn my head to offer a sympathetic look, but he's looking straight ahead with his jaw set in a firm line. "Did Simpson say why?"
"No, but SHE did. She was his office with an ANNOYINGLY bright grin on her face." Eli contorts his mouth into something that makes him resemble a deranged clown. "Oh, HI Eli!" He squeaks in a high voice. "I just wanted to say how sorry I am for what I said before! I've decided I want to participate in the play after all!" His voice returns to its normal octave. "I don't get it. She quit. She was honestly appalled by my vision for the play."
"Maybe she had a change of heart," I gently suggest.
"No, Clare, that's not it." He runs a hand through his hair, a nervous habit he's had for as long as I've known him. "You didn't see her face; it was filled with disgust at the idea of two guys loving each other. And now she's suddenly okay with it? I'm not buying it."
"Eli, just give her a chance," I try. "From what you've told me, you weren't exactly the nicest person to her at the beginning of your collaboration."
He sighs. "I know I can be a dick, Clare." His steps quicken as we turn onto his street. "But I genuinely think this play is important."
"I know, Eli," I respond. "It's going to help you get into NYU."
Eli stops in his tracks, effectively stopping me in mine. We're in front of his house, but he shows no interest of going in. "It's not just about that, Clare. Becky didn't want to include Tristan in the play AT ALL, and her only reason for that was what she called his 'confusion'. She wanted to exclude a fourteen-year-old kid, a SERIOUSLY talented kid at that, solely because he's gay. It's fucked up. It's WRONG."
I feel my face soften. Like Eli admits, he CAN be a dick, but sometimes he's the most compassionate person I've ever met. "I know it is, Eli." I place my hand on his cheek and despite the chill he leans into my touch. "Maybe her being a part of the process will make her reevaluate her thoughts." He shoots me a skeptical look. "Eli, you're a brilliant storyteller. And I know this play is going to be amazing because of you."
He closes his eyes and covers my hand that's on his face with his own. "You think far too highly of me, Clare."
I stand on my tiptoes and kiss his lips softly. "I know," I tease. "Come on, let's go inside. It's cold, and I want to get this over with."
His eyes crinkle in confusion. "Get what over with?"
I feel blood rush to my cheeks. "It's just…I haven't seen your parents in so long. Do they totally hate me?"
Eli laughs. "No, Clare. They're just…mildly concerned about our relationship." I frown, and he continues. "…Or rather about what I might do if it doesn't work out this time."
I drop my hand from Eli's face. I don't want to think about losing him again; it hurt enough to do it once.
"Hey," he says, squeezing the hand that hasn't left his the entire walk home. "They're just being protective. But I'm in a good place now. I can keep a handle on things."
I know he's telling the truth, but I still can't calm the nerves in my stomach. "Lead the way then." I muster up a small smile to accompany my words. Eli pecks my cheek before we mosey up his driveway and through his front door.
"Cece, Clare and I are home!" He yells, shrugging off his coat and dumping his backpack unceremoniously onto the floor. I follow suite, and Cece comes into the living room.
"Hi, Eli!" She rushes over to him and places a kiss on his cheek. I smile at the embarrassed look on Eli's face. "And hello to you, too, Clare. It's nice to see you again!" She pulls me into an embrace so warm I just might cry because I've missed her so much. The hug ends quickly, and Eli takes my coat to hang up with his in the hallway closet.
"Where's Bullfrog?" Eli asks. He places his hand on the small of my back. My face flushes what has to be a shade of tomato red, both because of how the action makes me feel and the fact that his mother is two feet away from us.
"He picked up an extra shift at the station. Come, on, I've got snacks!" She turns around and I look at Eli nervously.
"You're fine," he mouths silently before steering me into the kitchen. Cece is placing cheesecake on plates; my mouth waters at the sight. Her cheesecake is without a doubt the best desert I've ever tasted. Eli pulls out a stool at the counter for me then gestures at it dramatically. "Milady," he says with a fake English accent.
I roll my eyes. "You're a dork."
"Yeah," he smirks, "but you like it."
We both laugh and I notice Cece looking at us intently, her eyes dashing between the both of us. Suddenly, a beeping sound goes off.
"Is that your alarm?" Cece asks Eli as she glances at the clock. "Wow, it's 3:30 already."
Eli dashes into the living room and comes back with his school bag. He roots through it, placing various items on the counter: his copy of Brave New World we're reading for English, a mixed CD in a clear case, a moleskin notebook. Finally, he finds what he's to be looking for: his pill container. He pops it open, dumps two pills into his hand, and quickly dry-swallows both of them. This isn't the first time I've seen Eli take his pills. On our late night dates his phone alarm goes off at 10:30, reminding him to take the medication. My heart aches for him every time I see the routine. It's a reminder that Eli will always have to cope with his bi-polar disorder.
I feel Cece's eyes on me, and turn to look at her. I can't read her expression. Just as I open my mouth to say something, Eli's phone goes off again, this time with his ringtone ("Paisley Jacket" is on what has to be its tenth time in the rotation of the role). "Ugh," Eli says upon looking at the phone. He punches the answer button and brings it to his ear. "What?" he asks, clearly irritated.
"Elijah," Cece scolds, "don't be rude."
Eli covers the mouthpiece with his hand. "It's Becky," he whispers, sounding annoyed. To indicate he needs a moment, he holds up his pointer finger and walks out of the room. "Yes, Becky, I know you're producing the play again, I was in Simpson's office twenty minutes ago when you announced it…"
"That bible-thumping zealot is working with Eli again?" Cece asks sounding mildly exasperated. "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry Clare." Her face wears a look of embarrassment. "I know you're a Christian…" her voice trails off.
"It's okay," I assure her. "Yes, I'm a Christian, but I'm nothing like her." It's true. Some people at my church have the same close-minded views on homosexuality as Becky, but I'm not one of them. I somehow doubt Jesus would walk around judging people based on whom they love.
Cece's face softens. "I know you're not, sweetie." She pushes a plate of cheesecake in front of me and hands me a fork. It saddens me when we fall into an uncomfortable silence. Conversation has never been a problem between Cece and me.
Then again, the last time we talked was before I broke her son's heart.
"Clare, I just want-"
"NO, Becky, we are not doing a goddamn TAPDANCE number. Singing is bad enough." The sound of Eli's loud outburst permeates through the walls. Cece and I promptly dissolve into giggles. Some of the tension is broken, and I notice a light shining in her eyes.
She's just as happy to have Eli back as I am.
I can't imagine what it must've been like for her to care for Eli nearly 24/7. I wasn't around, and while I know that's what was best for both Eli and me at the time, it still pains me to think about Eli's parents (and Adam) dealing with Eli all alone. Cece didn't lose Eli the way I did; she still saw him every day. But she still lost him. She had to see him in various stages of mania, depression, and when he was on anti-anxiety medication, emptiness.
"I'm sorry," I suddenly say. Cece stops laughing and looks confused.
"I'm sorry for what you had to go through with Eli. I can't imagine how hard it was for you and Bullfrog." I sigh. "I'm sorry I couldn't help him."
Cece sighs. "Clare, the truth is that Eli's father and I should have gotten him help years ago. Even before Julia's death, he had mood swings. Nothing like last year, but…"
I try to fight off the tears forming in my eyes. Eli is okay now. I will figure out a way to deal with it if he relapses. "I don't plan on hurting him again Cece."
"Oh, sweetie," Cece comes around the counter and pulls me into a hug. "You never meant to. I know that. So does Bullfrog." She rubs my back and I squeeze her tight. After a few moments she pulls away and tucks my hair behind my ear. A serious look crosses her face. "He's better now, but I just want you to know that there is a good chance he will have another episode someday. It's practically guaranteed. You realize that, right?"
"Yes," I say immediately. "I told Eli I was all in, and I meant it. The truth is that I had to work out some things on my own too. My family went through some radical changes very quickly…I didn't feel like myself for a while, but I do now."
Cece nods. "Eli told me a little bit about your family, but we should get lunch some Saturday afternoon. You can fill me in yourself."
"I'd like that."
"NO, Becky, for the love of God, we are NOT asking Tristan to dress in drag. The love story is between two guys, you knew that when you signed back on, and it's not going to change! I will see you at rehearsal tomorrow." He hangs up and lets out another "I hate Becky" growl. His eyes flicker to me, and his expression immediately changes. "Sorry about that."
I laugh. "It's okay." Eli sits down and grabs his share of cheesecake.
"I have some errands to run. I'll leave you two lovebirds alone," Cece says. "Oh, and Clare, let me know about lunch." She winks at me as she leaves.
Eli looks at me, both horrified and confused. "Lunch?"
"Don't you worry about it." I laugh at the look on his face and head into the living room to fetch my book bag. "Get your stuff out. It's time to study.
We've just finished our homework when Eli slams his history book shut. "Ugh, my brain hurts."
I giggle and massage his head with my fingers. "Want me to head home so you can take a nap?" My tone is teasing, but I know sometimes Eli gets headaches as a side effect from his medication. The only remedy that eases them is sleep.
"What?" He immediately sits up. "No, I do not want you to go!" He starts tickling my sides and I nearly fall off my stool in hysterics.
"Stop!" I squeal. "This-isn't-fair!" His hands cease their teasing, but his laughter does not. "Eli, that's not fair, and you know it! You're not ticklish, so I can't fight back!"
"But you're just so cute when you squeal!" I glare at him playfully. "Seriously, though, it's only five o'clock, and it's the first afternoon we've both been free since…hell, probably since we got back together." He stands and rubs the back of his neck, sporting a mildly nervous expression. "Do you want to come upstairs?"
I hesitate for only a moment before nodding. I follow him to the stairs that he proceeds to ascend two at a time. I scurry after him, and the next thing I know we're in his room.
What I see takes my breath away. The last time I was in here, it was an absolute, filthy mess. Eli and I worked on it often, and while I convinced him to get rid of everything that could easily be found in the dumpster behind a supermarket, he couldn't bear to part from non-trash items.
"Eli…" Words, as they so rarely do, fail me.
He looks down, and if I didn't know any better, I'd think he's blushing. "Yeah?"
"Your room…" I spin around, taking it all in. "It's clean." Sure, there's a jacket on the floor, and a corner seems to be dedicated to a mess of stacked books, but the same could be said for Jake's room (except the books would be DVDs or the Playboys I know he swipes from Glenn).
He raises his head and offers me a half-smile. "Yeah, uh, well…when we broke up," he swallows, clearly not wanting to dwell on the memory any more than I do, "…I sort of went on a cleaning spree. I don't know what happened. I mean, an entire third of our garage houses plastic totes full of my shit. I'll go through them someday and get rid of more stuff, but-"
I cut him off with a kiss. Surprised, he takes a moment to respond, but when he does his hands encircle my waist and he gently pries my mouth open with his tongue. I softly nibble on his lower lip and place my hands on his face, stroking the sides of it with my thumbs. When holds me tighter a ball of warmth forms in my heart before spreading it's way to the end of each of my limbs. I break the kiss in order to catch my breath but don't remove my hands from his face.
I stare into his eyes; they are full so many things: passion, kindness, adoration, and a little bit of fear. "Eli, I am so proud of you."
A look of joy crosses his face, and before I can voice anything else his lips prevent mine from speaking.