Author's Note: Takes place the day after last night's episode. I haven't had time to write much lately (I have five short stories due for classes this month and my family has been under a lot of stress) but I felt like this needed to be written. I do not own Degrassi.
"I...I just came to get my things," Clare Edwards muttered, eyes lowered to the scuffed linoleum flooring."
"Okay," Eli moved aside from his opened locker allowing her room to stand in front of it. She lowered the backpack from her shoulder and unzipped it. As she thoughtfully began to put her books inside of it, Eli leaned against to the locker next to his. He stared off across the hall at a motivational poster encouraging students not to do drugs. He rolled his eyes at the irony of everything.
"Thank you for letting me use your locker for a while," Clare quavered.
"Yeah, no problem," Eli crossed his arms over his chest, refusing to look her way. He knew if he did, he would regret it. There was so much he knew he needed to say to her, but no idea how to even begin.
"Well...that's everything," Clare zipped her backpack back up and shifted her weight. She didn't want to just walk away; this might be the last time she could really speak to Eli, and she wanted to take advantage of that. She didn't want to because at the moment he made her stomach churn, but just the same the thought of not speaking to him frightened her even more.
"At least you got practice sharing for when you give some girl a drawer at NYU," it was more spiteful and acrid than Clare had intended it to sound.
"Hey," Eli finally turned to her, "Don't say that."
"And why not? You are leaving soon and this is it."
"This isn't it," Eli's brow furrowed with concern, "Far from it."
"Then what is this, Eli? Because if I remember correctly, we broke up."
"We did not and you know it," Eli rolled his eyes, "We're taking a break, Clare."
"A break. Eli, I know what a break means."
"Whatever," Clare sighed, giving up on the conversation.
"Wait," Eli stopped her as she was about to walk away, "Clare...I said some things yesterday that I didn't mean. Well, I meant them, but I just didn't say them in the right way."
"No, I need to apologize to you, Clare. I was cruel in the way I went about it. You have to understand though that I am not in a good place right now. I am trying to be better but it's...difficult."
Eli sighed and continued, "I needed my girlfriend, Clare - my best friend, my supporter, my encourager, my cheerleader, my world. I already have a therapist. But you...you were seeing me as my illness and not the person suffering through the illness."
"You meant well, and I know that and appreciate that. But Clare, I realized something. I realized that I can't be a good boyfriend to you until I take a moment to take care of myself. I can't be everything I need to be to you right now when I am as messed up as I am. I am sorry, but I just can't. I need to take a break from being with you because I need to work on making myself a priority. If I make myself a priority while being in a relationship, it is unfair to you."
Clare's brows knitted together and ELi continued, "I don't want us to be over, Clare. We have something so special. I just need to work on getting better, and to do that, I need to focus on myself. If I tried to do that with you, you wouldn't be my top priority and I am not going to be your boyfriend unless you are my first and foremost priority."
Clare bit her lower lip, letting the words soak in, "Eli...I understand. I really do. I can't understand what you're going through, but I understand where you are coming from. I've never really given you time to work on yourself on your own. We are always together and we rely too much on each other at times. We both have things we need to work on...apart from each other."
Eli nodded sharply, "I am glad you understand. I wish I could have explained it that way yesterday."
"Me too," Clare smiled a sad smile and Eli reached out to touch a cinnamon curl framing her face, "Will we be okay?" Clare asked.
"Of course," Eli nodded assuredly, "I fought too hard for you Clare, I am not going to lose you again."
Clare blushed and Eli's hand move from her curl to her cheek as he grazed her cheek with his index finger, "It's just a break. Give me some time to just work on me, Clare."
"I just don't want this to end."
"What to end? Our love for each other? You know better than to think that."
"I know," Clare blushed again, "I just worry that...that if we take a break that that's it."
"Far from it, Clare. I need to work on getting better. If I don't, how can I ever be the person you deserve to spend the rest of your life with?"
"I don't know...wait - what?"
"You heard me. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Edwards. And I hope you want the same. But in order for me to be everything you deserve, I have some changes to make. I need to make my mental state a priority. Then, once I do that and once I do get a handle on all of this, I plan to make you my top priority again - for the rest of my life."
"What do you say, Clare? Will you wait for me?"
A huge smile spread across her face, "Of course, Eli!"
Eli mirrored her smile, "Good. I promise, I won't make you wait long."
"I love you."
"I love you too."