Author's Note: Written for my friend Dani. Hope you all enjoy it. I do not own Degrassi or the song "Danny's Song."
And in the morning when I rise, you bring a tear of joy to my eyes; and tell me everything is going to be alright.
Eli Goldsworthy was exhausted. It had been the final show of Romeo and Jules, and everything had gone smoothly. Actually, it had gone surprisingly better than just smoothly. The local Arts section of the paper had even turned out to interview the cast and get some photos. It had been pretty impressive. They had received yet another standing ovation. Everything about that night had been perfect, except for one thing. Clare hadn't been there. That puzzled Eli. She had promised that she would attend each show after having missed the first one. Clare wasn't one to back out on her promises – ever. Something had to be up. Eli had hoped she was okay, but she hadn't answered his phone calls or texts. It worried him.
I am sure she is fine, Adam had texted him when he had texted in a flurry of emotions. But if she was fine, why wasn't she replying? And why wasn't she there? Eli had wanted to go to her house and check on her, but the reporters and then afterwards there was a huge cast party…he just didn't get the chance to duck away. After everything, Bullfrog had pulled him away and brought him home, muttering something about how even the best directors need bedtimes.
Now, he was home and had changed into his usual pajamas – boxers and a grey or black v-neck. Tonight was black. Eli sat down on his bed, staring angrily at his phone as if it was the reason Clare hadn't responded. As he was glaring at muttering curses at the phone, the doorbell rang.
"Eli," Bullfrog called from the bedroom, "Your mom and I are...uh...otherwise engaged. How about getting that?"
Eli cringed. His parents would be 'otherwise engaged.' He supposed it was a good thing that they were still crazy for each other. Eli rolled his eyes, biting his tongue to keep from saying something inappropriate. He ran a hand through his hair and headed sleepily down the stairs. When he got to the front door, he peered through the peek-hole.
What he saw sent a shiver through his heart.
Clare was standing on the porch, holding herself and shaking. She was completely drenched from the downpour that had begun about two that afternoon, and hadn't let up. Eli's heartstrings instantly twanged. He swung the door open and stepped out onto the slick porch.
"Clare?" He pulled her towards him, "Clare what's the matter."
She didn't hug him back, but rather dropped her arms to the side and stood there as if she didn't quite know what she was supposed to do. Eli pulled back, holding her out at arms' length. He noticed the black streaks streaming from her eyes down her cheeks. Mascara tears.
"Clare, talk to me," Eli begged, giving her a small shake, "Please. You're scaring me. What happened?"
"Why don't you come inside and we get you warmed up. You'll catch pneumonia out here."
Clare didn't say anything, nor did she budge. Eli grabbed hold of her hand and practically had to drag her inside the house. She stood in the entry way, and Eli shut the door behind them. He could practically wring her out. She was a dripping, drenched mess. He was pretty sure she was soaked to the marrow.
"Hmm…" Eli didn't really know what to do. He had never had a drenched girl arrive at his doorstep at eleven at night before, "Do you want to come up to my bathroom?" He offered, "I can run a shower for you. A hot shower sound nice, Clare?" He was trying anything.
She nodded, but didn't move.
"Clare?" Eli tried again, "Clare, come on honey. Please. Let's get you upstairs. Come on, Clare. Please? Let's go. Clare?" She wasn't moving, just staring at him blankly and shivering. Eli really had no idea what to do at that point. He awkwardly ran a hand through his hair, trying to gather his thoughts. He needed to get her into a hot shower or else she would surely catch her death being that drenched and that cold.
"Well, if you aren't going to move on your own, I'm going to have to carry you," Eli tried to make it sound like a threat, which of course at that moment, he couldn't possibly do. Even if it was in a playful manner. Something had happened to his Clare that night. He needed to figure out what it was and fix it.
"Come on, Clare," Eli lifted her up in his arms and carried her, threshold-style, up the stairs to his bathroom. When they got to the bathroom, he shut the door behind him and sat her down on the toilet.
"Just sit for a minute alright?" Eli raised an eyebrow, "Let your body thaw out for a minute, alright? Now then, I'm going to get some hot water running for you. There's shampoo and soap on the rack there. You're welcome to use anything. Uh…that's a clean towel. Just wrap up in that when you're done. I'll get you a pair of my fleece pajama pants and a t-shirt for you to wear once you get out."
Clare nodded, and Eli turned the tap on to the hottest setting; explaining, "I'll turn it on really hot first to get the bathroom steamy. You just thaw out for a bit, alright? Then I'll turn the water down for you before you're ready to step in. After you get a shower, we'll talk about this, alright? You are going to talk to me Edwards. Don't think that I'm just going to forget while you're showering. Once you're out, warmed up, and dressed, I'll fix us some cocoa and we're going to talk."
Clare gulped and nodded. Eli teased a curl between his fingers and gave it a small squeeze, watching the rain wring out and splash against the tile floor, "My little drowned rat," he said lovingly, "Alright, the bathroom's getting steamy. I'll turn the water down. Uh…I'm going to turn around now, Clare. I want you to undress and hand me your wet clothes. I'll put them in the wash for you so they'll be clean for you to go home in, alright?"
Clare didn't say anything, and Eli repeated, "I'm turning around now. Just hand me your clothes when you're done. I won't look, Clare."
He turned and faced the bathroom door and heard her peel out of her wet clothes. Something tightened in his throat, and Eli bothered his lower lip between his teeth. He tried not to think about Clare Edwards standing naked just a few feet behind him. Now wasn't the time or the place. Get your shit together, Goldsworthy.
Eli felt her nudge him, and he twisted his arm around to take her clothes. They were so cold and so wet. His heart broke thinking that his Clare had been wearing those just a minute ago.
"I'll start this load for you," Eli explained, "And get you some of my clothes. I'll just wait outside the door until you're ready…" as Eli was turning to leave, he felt Clare's cold arms wrap around his waist. He couldn't help but lean backwards into her touch.
He felt her around him. He felt her cold arms squeezing him as if he was a teddy bear she was clutching during a nightmare. Eli was taken by surprise but softened as he felt her nose nuzzle against his neck. She knew that was dangerous. Eli stiffened slightly as she began to kiss his neck, down to his shoulder. He could feel her pressing against him, clutching him desperately.
"Cl-Clare?" Eli tried to keep his voice level, but it felt like it was cracking.
"Don't go," Clare said in a voice that broke his heart into thousands of pieces, "Please. Don't go."
"Clare?" Eli asked again, not sure what she meant.
"Stay with me," she pleaded, and then in a voice so soft it seemed to be an echo of a whisper, "Wash me."
Eli felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, and for a moment he was unsure if he had heard her correctly. Clare could feel his uncertainty.
"Eli…please," she begged again. Eli hated hearing her beg like this. Sure, they'd play games in which they'd force the other to beg for kisses, but this was different. This wasn't playful. She needed him to do this.
Eli swallowed the lump in his throat. For months he had imagined what Clare would look like naked. It had made him angry, knowing he had pictured her naked without her permission. Now, if he turned around, he would see. There was a quote Eli remembered from childhood – from Winnie the Pooh. It was about the moment right before you get a new jar of honey, waiting and anticipating it, and how that moment is sometimes better than the honey itself.
Eli wasn't sure if he wanted to turn around. Was he ready to see Clare so vulnerable? Was he prepared for that? Eli's stomach did a flip flop and he felt his palms grow sweaty. Clare was naked, holding him, and asking him to wash her. More times than he had wanted to admit, he had thought about moments like this. Moments in which he would finally see all of Clare. Now that that moment was approaching, Eli was a mess of nerves. He would finally see Clare – all of Clare. His heart was beating so hard that he was certain Clare would hear it. She kissed the pulse-point of his neck and Eli felt himself grow dizzy. Damn, woman…
"Alright," Eli blinked, still staring straight ahead at the bathroom door, "I'm turning around now."
"Okay," Clare's voice was shaky, and he could tell she was nervous too.
"Ready?" Eli asked.
"Are you?" She said, but not in a coy manner at all.
"I don't know," a small, honest smile crossed Eli's face.
"Please, Eli?" Clare pleaded again.
Eli closed his eyes and worked up his courage and turned around. As soon as he faced her, he opened his eyes. Her skin was the same creamy complexion he had imagined, but dotted with thousands of goose bumps. Her nose was red from crying or from the cold, Eli wasn't sure which. His eyes wandered starting at her glass-blue eyes down to her collarbone, down to her chest, down to her two perfectly supple breasts, down to her stomach which she always thought was too pudgy, which Eli thought to be absolutely perfectly. His eyes continued downwards to small tuft of hair at the spot between her legs, and down her legs to her feet with pink polished toes.
Seeing Clare like this wasn't how he had imagined. He had imagined something sexual. But this was different. Seeing Clare like this was like staring at the most perfectly painted sunset spreading and streaking across the sky. Seeing Clare like this was like seeing the most perfect thing in the whole world, and he was scared that if he were to touch her, he would shatter her.
She looked shyly down at the tile floor, then back at him, peering through some strands of matted, wet, sopping mops of her curls. Eli smiled a shy smile at her, and she matched it – a blush forming on her cheeks.
Eli gulped nervously, "Come on Clare," he said, working up all his courage, "Let's get you cleaned off."
"You…you can't get a shower in your clothes," Clare explained, timidly.
"No, I guess I can't."
Eli started with removing his shirt, figuring that was the safest thing. Clare stopped him, and gabbed the hem in her hands, "Let me," she said. Eli gulped again, and nodded. She gently lifted the shirt over his head, revealing his defined chest and bare stomach. Clare's eyes wandered down towards the boxers. Shit…Eli felt himself suddenly growing self-conscious.
"I love you," was the only thing he could manage to say.
"I love you too," Clare said quietly, "I'll let you handle those."
"Thank you," Eli hadn't known before that moment, but he was just as unprepared for anything relating to sex with Clare Edwards than she was herself. He gently and shyly pulled down the boxers so that they were around his ankles, and then stepped out of them. Clare's eyes grazed his body, and he felt a hot blush form on his cheeks. It's just hot in here. From the steam.
Clare smiled shyly again, meeting Eli's eyes. He returned the shy smile.
He gestured to the shower, and she gently stepped inside. Eli was fascinated by her body. Oh sure, he was turned on (he was a seventeen year old boy after all) but it was so much more than that. He was so fascinated by her body. He wanted to memorize each scar, each freckle. He wanted to know each story behind each scar. The way her body turned and moved…it was like some beautiful ballet.
He let Clare revel in the shower first. As soon as the hot stream hit her, Clare seemed to defrost and lightly she turned her body around, trying to cover herself in the warmth. She closed her eyes and a huge smile crossed her face as the water ran through her hair. Eli gently pulled the curtain back and stepped inside the shower. He decided to let Clare have this, and didn't ask to get under the hot water – not once. Instead, he grabbed his Old Spice body wash, and squirted some out into the palm of his hand.
"Let me wash you," Eli said softly.
Clare turned around and faced him. She blushed but nodded. Eli lathered the soap into his hand before slowly and gently rubbing it into her shoulders and down her arms. He paused at her breasts, but Clare nodded, and he continued. She felt so soft underneath his touch, and Eli tried to be as gentle as he could. He worked the soap down her stomach, and then down her legs. He got down on his knees and washed her legs. Clare blushed, and so did he as he worked on her inner thighs. Eli gently stood up and said into her ear, "Turn around."
Clare did as she was asked and Eli rubbed the soap into the backs of her shoulders and down her back. She melted under his touch, and Eli couldn't help but smile at the effect this was having on her. Maybe now she would open up and tell him what had happened that night.
After he helped her rinse off, running his hands along her body as the water splashed away the soap, Eli poured some shampoo into his hand. He commanded Clare to turn around again, and gently massaged the shampoo into her hair. She let out a soft moan as his fingertips massaged her scalp. Eli smiled to himself as he worked the lather through her hair. She was so perfect, so beautiful.
"Wash off, Clare," his voice was like honey, dripping. Clare nodded and leaned back into the water. She smiled as the warm water washed over her. Once she was done, Eli explained that he was going to grab them a towel. Clare nodded.
Eli stepped out of the shower and grabbed the towel off of the counter. He unfolded it and held it out to Clare, wrapping her up in it. He held her from behind and kissed her shoulders.
"I need to start that laundry now," he explained, "But head into my room. There's fleece pajama pants in the bottom drawer, and t-shirts in the middle drawer of my dresser."
"…are in bed for the night," Eli gently tugged at a curl, "Dry off."
Clare did as she was told, and Eli shook himself off, trying to get what water was on him dried off before putting his t-shirt and boxers back on. He grabbed Clare's wet clothes off the floor, and carefully opened the bathroom door before heading down to the wash room. Clare shut the door behind him. Once she had worked up some courage, she padded down the hall to Eli's bedroom.
It wasn't long before he rapped at the door with a knuckle and said, "It's just me."
Clare opened the door, dressed in his pajama pants and black v-neck. Eli smiled down at her, and caught her lips in a chaste kiss.
"Let me fix us some cocoa. Want to come downstairs and talk to me about what happened?"
Clare bit her lip, but nodded.
"Okay," Eli led her downstairs.
She sat on the couch, with her feet tucked up underneath her as Eli fixed them the hot cocoa. When he appeared with two mugs of the steaming chocolate, Clare scooted over, giving him room to sit next to her.
"What happened tonight, Clare?"
"I-I am so sorry!" The tears started up again and Eli felt as though a knife was shoved into his heart.
"What for, Clare? What happened?"
"I missed your last performance."
"Oh hush," Eli rolled his eyes, "That was nothing. Tell me what happened to you. I don't care that you missed the performance, other than it worried me. What happened to you tonight, Clare?"
Clare gulped and said, "Eli…"
"Clare, it's me. Tell me what's going on. Tell me what's hurt you so much."
Clare shied away, "Tonight…tonight I found out that…that Darcy…"
Eli paused, waiting for Clare to continue. He knew this wasn't going anywhere good.
"Darcy was taking one of those little jumper planes to a different location in Africa – a different refugee camp. But the plane…the plane crashed."
"It went down, killing everyone on board. Darcy…Darcy is dead, Eli…"
"Come here," Eli pulled her into his arms, "Clare…I don't know what to say."
"Then don't," Clare sniffled, wiping her nose with the back of her hand, "Just…hold me."
"Of course," Eli swallowed the lump in his throat.
They sat on the couch like that for about an hour, just holding each other in the silence – their mugs of hot chocolate long forgotten.
"Clare," Eli stirred, "Clare, it's late. How about you stay here tonight. Let your parents know…"
"They're too busy crying right now. They didn't even notice me leave. Dad came over as soon as we heard the news. He and Glen and Mom have been crying. Jake bolted to go to Katie's, and I didn't know what else to do so I came here."
"You're always welcome here, you know that, right?" Eli asked, lifting her chin up so that her eyes met his, "Come on. You're sleeping over."
Clare nodded and he grabbed her hand and pulled her up off of the couch. He led her upstairs to his bedroom and turned down the sheets, "I'll crash on the couch if you want…"
"No," Clare shook her head, "Please…please stay with me."
"Is that what you want?" Eli asked, and Clare nodded, "Alright. Come here."
Clare snuggled under the sheets, and Eli lay down next to her. He pulled the blankets up over them and dropped his forehead to hers.
"Try to get some sleep, beautiful girl. I'll be here when you wake up, alright? You don't have to go through any of this alone."
"Thank you, Eli," her voice was light, "I-I love you."
"I love you too," Eli kissed her forehead, "Get some sleep, Clare."
They fell asleep in each other's arms. Eli listened her soft breathing as if it were a lullaby. She was so beautiful as she slept, and Eli hoped that for that moment at least, she was finding some sense of peace.
The next morning, the light streamed through his blinds. Eli glanced at the clock on his night stand. It was almost noon. He stirred awake, and Clare shifted next to him.
"It's noon, Clare. I'm going to talk to my parents and then we'll take you home if you want to go home."
Clare nodded and rolled back over, treasuring the few moments of calm she found in the sleep.
Eli gently rolled out of bed and headed downstairs. His parents were watching a movie on Netflix.
"Clare-Bear spend the night?" Bullfrog raised an eyebrow.
"Darcy, her sister Darcy, uh…she was in a plane crash."
"Oh God," Cece's hand flew to her lips, "Baby boy…"
"She was killed. Clare…Clare is pretty shaken up about it. I let her crash here."
"Of course," Cece nodded.
"I'd kick your ass if you didn't," Bullfrog wagged a finger at his son before softening, "Are you okay?"
"I think so," Eli nodded, running a hand through his bedhead, "I just didn't know what to do."
"You do what you did," Bullfrog patted the couch next to him and Eli sat down. His dad put an arm around his son and pulled him close to him, "You be there for that girl, soldier. You be there for her, alright?"
Eli nodded, feeling his eyes fill with tears, "It seems like yesterday…"
"...that you were in her shoes?" Bullfrog ruffled Eli's hair, "It does, doesn't it. But you'll help her get through. You've been there, bud. You know what it's like to lose someone that close and that special to you. You pulled through with a few battle scars. Be there for her, and help her heal her wounds."
Eli nodded and Bullfrog planted a small, rare kiss on his son's head, "Let her sleep a bit. When she wakes up, we can fix her whatever sounds good to eat. Remember how you stopped eating? That's not gonna happen again. We'll fix her whatever she wants."
Cece nodded, "She's welcome to stay here as long as she wants. Does Helen know she's here? I should call her…"
"Could you?" Eli winced, "The last thing I need is Helen with a vendetta against me."
Cece smiled a small smile and pushed herself up off the couch, "I'll be right back. Do you want anything, honey? We have some pizza in the fridge."
"Pizza would be good," Eli nodded, resting his head on his dad's shoulder. After Cece retreated to the kitchen, Eli said, "I'm scared…Dad."
"You're my...my soldier," Bullfrog tried to sound gruff, but his voice cracked and Eli heard it, "You're tough, bud. You'll get through this and so will she."
"I hope so."
Bullfrog ruffled his hair and Eli turned his attention towards the television. They were watching Dark Knight.
After Cece called Helen and explained the situation to her, she warmed up some cold pizza and brought it out to Eli on a paper plate. He munched on his pizza, and watched the movie with his parents. None of it really registered. It was a movie he could quote line-for-line, but this time Eli felt hallow.
After finishing off the pizza, he excused himself and headed back upstairs. Clare was stirring awake and Eli placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Eli?" She asked, her voice molassesey with sleep.
"It's me, Clare. I'm right here."
She opened her eyes and turned over. Eli saw her eyes brim with tears, but a different kind of tears than had been shed the night before.
"I love you," she said.
"I love you too, Clare."
"I'm going to be okay." Eli titled his head to the side and Clare explained, "Because of you. Because you're here, I'm going to be okay."