DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, which makes me cranky of course, but what's a girl to do?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: So thanks to my favorite little femslash enabler, and you know who you are, I've become completely obsessed with the Palex relationship. Which is SO odd since up until the Lexicon episodes I had never once seen Degrassi. I'm a sucker, what can I say?
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Inside Your Heaven
By Casandra


"Remember to pick up your caps and gowns at the senior table out in front of the gym no later than next Thursday gang." Mr. Simpson hollered out to the class as we all made a beeline for the door, anxious to get a start on the long weekend.

Next week is graduation, and because of that, seniors get Monday and Tuesday off for our class trip. Three days in Niagara Falls sounded kinda cheesy to me six months ago when we had initial signups, but a lot has happened since then. And now I can't wait to get out of the city for a few days. It doesn't hurt that Niagara is considered one of the more romantic destinations in the North.

As all sorts of cuddle visions swim in my head, the reason for my excitement comes into view, casually leaning against my locker waiting for me. I can't stop the smile from forming on my lips, though I should be used to that reaction by now, it is after all an everyday occurrence for me lately.

"So you ready to bust out of here girlfriend?" Alex moves to the side as I get to my locker, having already spun the combination for me. I haphazardly toss the few things I still need for classes onto the top shelf before slamming it shut, my impatience to get a start on the weekend mirroring Alex's it would seem.

Looping my arm through hers I pull her towards the front doors. I can hear Alex chuckle a bit beside me as the afternoon sunshine hits my face. "You do remember that we don't leave until tomorrow morning, right?"

I raise my eyebrow. "So does that mean you WANT to stay at Degrassi longer than necessary?"

By this time we've reached my car, an early graduation present from my parents. Alex pulls me to a stop and backs me up against the driver's door, leaning into me and pressing a gentle kiss against my cheek, producing an involuntary groan of disapproval to pass through my lips. Instead of pulling away completely, she steps in closer to whisper in my ear. "You already know what I want. But we've got at least another twelve hours to kill."

I can feel the blush starting at my neck and quickly traveling up through my cheeks. We've been together almost six months now, and she can still fluster me like she did that first night at the movie premiere. I still think I should send Kevin a thank you note or a box of candy or something. But Alex has repeatedly told me that there's no reason to, even though I told her all about the sense he managed to knock into me. She insists that it was all my own doing. I wonder if maybe that just makes her feel better, like she thinks that Kevin talked me into something I didn't really want.

Which really wasn't the truth at all. If anything, he just made me see how much I really DID want to be with her. He removed the shallow glasses I had clung so preciously to for all those years before Alex. I was scared to be with her, but there was never a time when I was confused about wanting to go there. From the moment her lips touched mine I never had a doubt about what I was feeling for Alex. It was all about choosing whether I could actually allow myself to be with her or not. And Kevin helped me make that choice. Maybe if I sat her down and told her exactly where my head was at in those moments, she might actually chip in with me for those chocolates.

The soft nip to my earlobe reminds me that I haven't exactly answered Alex. Or wait, was there even a question?

Alex chuckles again, amused by the obvious effect she has on me. "So what are we doing tonight?" She pulls away, moving to the side to lean against the car next to me.

I drop my head onto her shoulder, gazing across the parking lot at all the other students hurrying out of school. It's hard to believe that in a week I'll probably never step foot in Degrassi again. Four years ago I never would have thought I'd be standing here, my head pillowed comfortably on my GIRLFRIEND'S shoulder. It's amazing how a person can change.

And I'm even more surprised by how I've managed to adjust to the change. Sure, the first couple of days were, well, interesting to say the least. I was used to being noticed in the halls, I had been a cheerleader for eons after all, and that seemed to be a prerequisite. But the first day I walked down the seniors hall, Alex's arm firmly slung over my shoulder, it was a different kind of stare. That lasted for a few days and then everyone seemed to just……forget. I still don't know how or why that even happened. From the little less than hostile vibe I felt to just normalcy in the space of a week seemed really odd.

I've always wondered just how Alex pulled that off. Because I know she did something to make it stop. Every time I would bring the subject up she immediately dodged around it or attached her lips to mine in an effort to distract me. Which never failed to work. She just has this uncanny ability to make me fixate on nothing but the sensations her lips zap through my body. Imagine that.

"Or we could just stand here vertically spooning all night, up to you babe." Ever the smartass, my girlfriend. Not entirely a bad idea really, but still. Heaven help me, I find her sarcasm cute 99 percent of the time.

I reluctantly pull out of her arms to get into my car, afraid I might start getting a bit nostalgic if I stand here any longer. Alex hops in next to me, tossing her denim jacket into the backseat haphazardly. I don't know why in the world she was wearing that thing most of the day. It's June, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. And hot. Besides, I can't help but want to see her tanned skin in those tiny little white tanks she loves so much.

We drive in silence, the comfortable and quiet kind that I've never had with anyone else before. The kind that only really comes with someone that just gets you, knows you so well that there isn't any need to fill up the space between heartfelt conversations with meaningless babble. There's no reason to drone on and on about something when you can just feel the person next to you, their heat, their spirit.

Alex taught me that.

She told me that when you spend endless nights curled up in the farthest corner of your room, a pillow pressed tightly to your ears, trying desperately to drown out the screaming match in the room next door, you learn to appreciate the silence when it comes. More than appreciate, savor it, embrace it, learn the intricacies of its blanket of comfort.

It amazes me how open she is with me. To the outside world she's little miss badass-nothing-gets-to-me Alex. But when we're alone, just the two of us, she's Lexi. Little Lexi whose mother cares more about what her boyfriend thinks than her own daughter. Lexi, who spent countless nights wondering where she was going to sleep the next day. Lexi, the most vulnerable angel I've ever known.

It's hard to remember which girl I initially fell in love with these days, the lines have totally blurred together to make the amazing package I'm lucky enough to call my girlfriend.

My protector, my slightly temperamental knight in really hot wife beaters, the girl who can make the entire school shut their collective traps without having to make sure I give her the credit she deserves for it.

Or the frozen body I've spent more than one night holding tightly to after she crawled into my bedroom window at 2am because her mother in a drunken stupor kicked her out of her own bed. The tentative smile as I boldly took her hand in my own walking into the trendy restaurant we went to on our first official date. The delicate hands tenderly caressing my face in the afterglow of our first time making love.

I guess the simple truth, my truth, is that I love all of her, every sharp jagged edge along with its twin soft gentle curve.

Now if I could just work up the courage to tell her that. Six months, and I still haven't said the L word to her. I honestly don't know for sure what's holding me back. It's certainly not the lack of feeling, I just can't seem to get those three little words passed the massive lump they get stuck in halfway down my throat. Maybe it's the fact that she hasn't said it to me yet either. There's always a niggling thought in the back of my head that the reason she's been silent is because she doesn't actually feel as strongly about our relationship as I do. Insecurity has always been one of my more well hidden personality ticks. But then again, no one likes the thought of a potential rejection.

I'm hoping this trip to Niagara is the perfect chance for us to cross that final barrier. We should have plenty of alone time thanks to our constant needling of Mr. Simpson about letting us room together. It took us a good two weeks of total ass kissing to get him to come around, but we make an awesome team when it comes to coercion it would seem.

I drag myself away from potentially stressing thoughts of total vulnerability as I pull into the parking lot behind The Dot. Alex rolls her eyes tolerantly as I yank the keys from the ignition, grabbing my purse in the backseat at the same time.

"What?" I ask innocently.

"Why do I even bother asking anymore?" I smile back at her, reaching for her hand to pull her along. The Dot has become a bit of an after school tradition for us. Just about everyday we stop in to grab an early dinner or just a much needed caffeine boost. Why change a good habit really?

The smell of rich French roast assaults my nose as we push our way through the crowded café, looking for a nice cozy table for two.

"Well if it isn't Degrassi's golden couple." I can feel Alex stiffen in my grasp, the sound of his voice always having that effect on her lately. I don't quite understand it considering that up until a few weeks ago she took total pleasure in telling him where he could shove it.

"Is there a reason you're polluting our air with you existence Jay?" I snark back at him, pulling Alex a little tighter to me.

Jay smirks a bit at me, casting an unpleasant look at Alex in the process. "Oh Lexi, your kitten here has claws." His leer transfers from my girlfriend to me. "But I bet you already knew that." I've totally had enough of this jackass.

Before I can open my mouth though, Alex beats me to it. "Come on Paige, lets just go." She starts tugging me towards the front door, my jaw sitting slack somewhere down around my knees. Now I know something is up. Alex is lots of things, but timid is definitely not one of them. I push past a satisfied looking Jay to chase after her. I manage to catch up halfway around the block, reaching forward and grasping her forearm to spin her around to face me.

"Ok, what the hell was that?" I'm truly baffled by her behavior around Jay, it's just so un-Alex-like.

She refuses to meet my gaze, which sets another warning bell off in my head. "That's Jay being Jay, you know that Paige."

I shake my head. "I wasn't talking about him, I was talking about you. I've never seen you back down from him like that." The night of the movie premiere springs into my head. Alex was so protective of me when Jay made that nasty skank crack.

Alex crawls onto the hood of my car, pulling her knees up and tucking them under her chin. "It just wasn't worth it. Please let it go Paige."

I haul myself up onto the still warm metal next to her, placing a hand over hers that are clutching tightly to her upraised knees. "I can't let it go, because something is obviously going on."

"Paige…." Alex sighs, desperate to avoid something.

"Baby, you know you can tell me anything. Jay's making you completely edgy and nervous, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. Just tell me, please. I want to help you, whatever it is." I'm rubbing gentle circles along her hand with my thumb, trying to gently coax the truth out of her.

"You won't after I tell you." I'm startled to hear her trying to choke back tears. Alex isn't exactly a crier. Which means this has to be pretty bad.

I move my fingers from her hand to gently stroke her now damp cheeks, trying to get her to look at me. "I promise you, whatever it is, we can work through it together. We've come this far, do you really think I'm going to let Jay of all people throw us off track?" Her silence is really starting to scare me.

Finally she turns her eyes up to meet my increasingly concerned gaze. "You remember that night you stayed over when you were touring McGill about a month ago?"

I nod my head blankly, not understanding what that has to do with anything.

"I was really missing you, so Ellie and Marco dragged me along to some big party they were having down at the ravine. I lost count of how many beers I downed, all I kept thinking about was how you were going to go away to college and leave me behind. I was so funked down babe, because I know you're going to do all these amazing things, and I'm totally holding you back. And normally I just push all that to the back of my mind and try not to worry about it. Because my present is usually so damn perfect with you. But that night, it seemed that was all I was thinking about."

I hate that she feels like she's worth less than me, just because of her upbringing. We're not any different, not really. I just managed to be dealt a better hand in who I was born to. It's just so unfair sometimes. She has to know that I'm not just going to take off after graduation and forget about everything we have. "Sweetie……"

"Please let me finish, if you don't I'll never be able to." She sucks in a deep breath to continue when I stop the protest forming on my lips.

"I was sitting on some random picnic bench, watching Marco hopelessly flirting with some obviously straight guy when Jay sidled up next to me, instantly starting in on why you weren't with me. If anything, he knows exactly where my buttons are to push. And believe me, he was stomping all over them. By the time I managed to get away from him and his smarmy smirk I was in an even worse state of mind. You know me Paige, I drink when I'm upset, I try to drown it away. So that's exactly what I did. At some point I completely blacked out. When I woke up I was---I was in Jay's apartment. In his bed, and he was sitting at the foot of it putting his pants on."

She whispers the last part, to the point where I almost can't hear it.


"Oh God."

I pull myself away from Alex, curling up into as tight of a ball as I can make out of my limbs, which have suddenly gone numb. The insinuation of her confession slowly seeping into my conscious. She slept with Jay. She cheated on me.

"You slept with him?" I whisper brokenly. I'm in disbelief. How we've gotten here, to this feeling, from where we were not even ten minutes ago, a complete mystery to me.

Alex turns to reach for me, but I shy away, curling in tighter on myself. She runs an aggravated hand through her dark hair. "I don't know!"

I blink at that, anger starting to work its way a bit past the incredible hurt her confession produced. "You don't know? How can you not know? Come on Alex, you're not stupid." I bite out.

She turns to me, tears cascading down her cheeks, frustration evident in her every move. "I just don't know! I was totally blacked out, from sitting propped up against a tree watching Ellie and Marco dancing. I don't remember anything after that. And I wasn't totally naked when I woke up, so I just-------I don't know!"

I cringe at the naked comment, really not needing to know how much clothing she was wearing with Jay apparently pants-less two feet away. It just tosses a handful of salt into the wound. I'm trying really hard to not concentrate on the image. Another thought strikes me as I'm desperately trying to banish the vision of Alex half naked in her ex boyfriend's bed.

"Why did you wait until now to tell me? If you weren't sure, why not tell me right away?"

She turns her eyes up to meet my gaze and for a moment I'm surprised at how dull----broken, they look. "Because I was happy. We were happy. I didn't want to let one stupid night ruin us."

The anger is starting to come back again. "So you never planned on telling me?"

Alex drops her gaze, refusing to meet my stare. "No."

I jump down off of my car, I need to walk, I need to just not be here right now.

"Paige!" Alex calls after me.

I turn around to look at her, wondering if I still even recognize the girl now standing in front of my car. She's never lied to me, honesty has always been one of the strongest things in our relationship. "I can't be here right now Alex. I just can't." Not waiting for her to protest I turn my back to her and walk out onto the sidewalk, not sure where I'm heading, and not really caring.

The five hundred dollars I would have been out for canceling at the last minute was really not something I was all that worried about as I sat staring out of the half misted over glass window of the tour bus. My parents were completely baffled at my mood when I got up this morning, having no intention of going on the class trip I had spent the better part of a month gushing about. I wasn't about to go into details with them either. While they were surprisingly supportive when I told them about my relationship with Alex, I think the last thing they wanted was it to cost them that much money.

I managed to roam around half of Toronto last night, before finally going back to the deserted parking lot to retrieve my car at 1am. The image of Alex and Jay together, sharing the same thing we've shared together countless times now, it just seemed to play on a constant loop in my head all night long. The fact that Alex wasn't even sure it happened not really entering into my mind at all. She still lied to me, and I think that's what hurt the most. Maybe if she had come to me right away and told me about what happened, or what she thought had happened, we might be ok right now.

As it is I'm sitting as far pressed up against the window as I can. Yay for alphabetical seating. Why did our class have to be so damn small anyway?

"Paige, would you please just talk to me?" Alex tries again, for what seems to be the tenth time already, and we've only been on the road a half hour.

I continue to ignore her, knowing that I'm being rather immature, but really not caring at the moment. I'm hurt, I think that gives me the right to sulk for a while.


"Don't. Just don't." I stop her, the sound of that word, of her voice caressing over me as she says it, totally starting to weaken my resolve. I will not give in, not right now. How can she expect me to get over her lying and cheating in less than 24 hours?

I glance up when I feel her move away from me, grateful and disappointed all at the same time. The disappointment I chalk up to a natural reaction that my body seems to have to her after spending the last six months practically glued together.

I watch her climb over to where Marco and Ellie are sitting, whispering something in his ear for a moment before he gets up, rubbing her shoulder and then moving over to take the seat next to me.

"So how are you dealing?" I look at him incredulously.

"You knew?!" I can't believe this. Marco is my best friend, how could he have known and not told me.

He lowers his gaze for a moment. "It wasn't my place to tell you."

"The hell it wasn't!"

"I knew Alex was going to tell you eventually." Yeah right, because she admitted that very thing last night. Goes to show how well Marco knows her.

"The only reason she told me at all is because I confronted her about it. She's been acting completely strange around Jay for weeks now." Oh joy, here comes the anger again, I'm really starting to get weary of it. "Did you both think I wouldn't notice it? I'm not THAT blonde!"

"Is there a problem Miss Michalchuk?" I hadn't realized my voice had been steadily gaining volume until Miss Hatzilakos peered over the top of the seat in front of me curiously.

"No, no problem. Sorry." I glance over to see Alex watching us intently, the worry lines wrinkling her forehead apparent.

"Paige, she wasn't intentionally lying to you. I was with her that morning. She called me, totally freaking out. You know Alex, she never does that, like ever. I was scared for her Paige, I really was." Marco is sitting close, his voice fiercely trying to get me to listen to him.

Seeing that I wasn't going to interrupt, at least for the moment, he continued. "She couldn't remember anything from the night before. She's been so scared for the last month, thinking at any moment you were going to find out from someone else and break up with her. Jay's been going after her every chance he gets, threatening to tell you."

"So again, why didn't she just tell me herself?" Not that I'm comfortable with the cheating, but if she didn't consciously do it, there's room for acceptance I think. It still goes right back to the lying factor.

Marco gives me a knowing look. "Come on Paige, you know you would have broken up with her on the spot. Lash out first, think about it rationally later." He was probably right. I tend to let my emotions guide my actions without really thinking things through.

I stare out the window for uncounted moments, Marco sitting quietly beside me, just letting me think about everything. "She lied to me Marco, how am I supposed to be ok with that?" I turn back around to him, unaware of the tear starting to track down my cheek.

He reaches over and squeezes my hand gently. "You don't have to be ok with it. Just give her a chance. God Paige, she was so upset that day, you have no idea." He squeezes again. "She loves you so much, it's so obvious. Just talk to her when we get to Niagara. Is all of this really worth throwing away your entire relationship?"

Is it? No, I don't even have to chew the question over. I'm hurt, and if I really want to admit to it, slightly jealous as well. Ok, not so slightly. I've never been comfortable with Alex's past with Jay, and this is precisely the reason why. His presence, their history, scares me. Because I know it's still a part of Alex, as much as both of us seem to hate it.

She'll always have that connection to him, of her life before she decided to get rid of his negative influence. Those dark memories are part of what makes Alex who she is today. But it's always in the back of my mind, the question of what is really keeping her from falling back into the darkness with him. And even though she didn't choose to do it, Jay has a grasp on her again, however faint it may be.

I glance away from the window, past a now dozing Marco to look at Alex, curled up in the seat next to Ellie, her chin propped up on her knees, her eyes open, staring a hole into the back of the seat in front of her. She looks so young, so fragile, broken almost. And the part of me, the huge part of me, that loves her unconditionally, wants nothing more than to get up out of my own uncomfortable, badly upholstered seat, and pull her into my arms.

But I don't, my hurt still holding me back. So I sit here, watching her. The seconds, minutes, tick away, and I'm completely unaware of how much time has passed, both of us barely blinking, our focus never wavering. I think I could spend a lifetime just watching her and I'd be happy.

Maybe that's the real answer to Marco's question.

I hate how stubborn she is. I hate when she just shuts down on me, choosing instead to ignore my presence entirely. It makes me feel like we're back where we started, all those months ago. Not friends, not entirely enemies either, just…..nothing. Thinly veiled annoyance on her part, begrudging tolerance on mine. I hated those days, before it all began, before she melted my anger and seeming indifference, before I broke through to the real Paige, not the mask she had worn for so long.

I hate what's happened to us.

Because I love her.

In fact I think she's the only person in this whole world that I do love. She's pretty much everything, ironically enough. And now I'm losing her because of my own insecurity.

How pathetic am I that I couldn't go one damn night without seeing her. I had to go out, had to try and drink away the sadness I was feeling without her. It was a mistake I'd made many times in my life, always using a bottle of Labatt's instead of actually trying to use human emotions to cope. I thought I had grown out of it, I thought Paige had pulled me out of it. Maybe a person can't change that much after all.

As guilty as I am for lying to her, I can't help but feel slightly justified in doing so. I know her, better than I think she gives me credit for. She would have reacted just as badly if I had told her weeks ago when it all happened. Time is not the enemy here, my stupidity is. And maybe my own uncertainty at what actually did happen. I really didn't expect her to take 'I think I slept with my ex boyfriend, but I'm not totally sure', all that well.

At this point I don't even know if it really matters whether I did or not, at least to her. But the thought that I was intimate with Jay again, after so many months spent in Paige's arms, sickens me like nothing else. And the bastard won't give me a straight answer, choosing instead to leer at me every chance he gets. A constant reminder of my betrayal.

"Alex, don't worry, she'll come around." Ellie's gentle voice tries to comfort me.

I shake my head sadly, knowing Paige far better than Ellie does. "I'm not so sure. She's hurt, and her pride is wounded too. She's always been leery of my past with Jay. This just gives her a reason to believe the worst in me again."

"She loves you, if anything that means she'll overlook Jay entirely."

"You don't know that." How can she really? I don't even know if Paige loves me, we've never said it to one another after all. I shift my attention away from Ellie, not wanting her comfort. I got myself into this situation, I shouldn't be consoled for my own stupid mistakes. And I really don't want to get my hopes up, let my heart feel what Ellie and Marco are telling me. It's not in my nature to allow myself to open up to people. Paige is the one and only exception, and that also means she's the only one who can break me. And right now, I feel entirely broken.

I don't know how much time has passed, but apparently at least a good hour, since the bus has stopped and I'm hazily aware of the rest of the senior class anxiously clamoring off to stretch their cramped up limbs. Ellie has somehow managed to squeeze around me without my notice, because both her and Marco have disappeared. I glance back around to see Paige still ensconced in her seat, forehead pressed against the window.

My body follows its natural tendency of late, I get up and quietly move over to her side of the aisle, squatting down in the small space to just watch her for a moment. To anyone else, she'd appear completely at peace. But I've spent so many hours just studying her, every plane of her face, every twitch of her muscles. I can tell that she's anything but relaxed. The corners of her eyes are wrinkled up a bit, her mouth set into a firm thin line. She's curled up in on herself, her head tucked tightly into the crook of her shoulder.

"Do you think I can't tell you're staring at me?" I'm startled out of my PaigeGazing, not realizing she was aware of my presence. I'm surprised she let me just watch her for as long as I was.

I can't help but smile, the smirk twitching at her lips beyond adorable. "I couldn't really help myself." I'm not lying, but it doesn't hurt to try and smooth things over at any chance I get.

Her eyes open, and for a moment, everything is right again. We're not fighting, I haven't made any stupid mistakes. We're just Paige and Alex, together. I can't help but want to freeze that moment, live in it, breathe it. I don't want things to never be like that again, the thought alone shatters me even more.

"Are we already here?" Paige breaks eye contact, shifting her gaze to the window.

I stand back up from my kneeling position, the moment gone now. "Yeah, you must have fallen asleep."

She gives me one of her infamous 'duh' looks before climbing up out of her chair and gesturing for me to start moving towards the front of the bus.

"Girls! Come on, we don't have all day, we have to get you all checked in before we can go to dinner." Ms. Hatzilakos hollers back to us as I help Paige grab her massive luggage bag out from the cargo rack under the bus.

An hour later and we're all hiking the short trip from the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel to the restaurant we're apparently eating dinner at. Our chaperones insisted that we all spend the first night together, just to get a feel for the area before we all went off on our own the rest of the weekend. I can just imagine what the locals think, seeing a pack of 40 teenagers marching along the sidewalk.

I've been hanging in the back, watching the cracks underneath my feet pass by, my gaze plastered firmly to the ground. "Come on Alex, hurry it up!" I glance up at Marco's teasing voice, taking in the place we're apparently having dinner at. No wonder this trip cost so much. The massive structure must be at least five hundred feet in the air. It looks a lot like the Space Needle in Seattle actually. Tall thin body, with a disc like head. The sign at the entrance reads Skylon Tower. I've heard of this place. Apparently the dining room spins while you eat. That really can't be good for one's digestion.

Twenty minutes later and we're all standing in the foyer, waiting to be seated. I glance around, not seeing any other people in the dining area. Apparently we've rented out the place for the night.

"Ok you guys, we're gonna put you four over here." Mr. Simpson hollers to us from across the room. Ellie grabs my hand and I'm vaguely aware of being pulled along to our table.

The view is absolutely incredible. Dusk is just settling across the Falls, the last rays of the early summer sun casting a luminescent glow across the water. The reflections are sending an amazing mix of color dancing in the mist. I drag my gaze away, suddenly pulled to an even more gorgeous sight. Paige apparently is as enraptured with the scenery as I was a moment ago. With the backdrop of the American Falls behind her, I don't think I've ever seen something more beautiful in my entire life. She must be able to feel my stare again, because she turns away from the window, meeting my eyes. Once again we're locked in a precious moment, the world around us dying away.

Two hours later and I'm completely stuffed. I've never had lobster in my life, and while I really enjoyed the change from the normal burger and fries I can't imagine eating something like this more than once or twice in a great while.

It's completely dark now, the moon casting an ethereal glow over the water below us. Most of our class is either milling about in the dining room or dancing in the small area right inside the entrance. I look over at Paige, watching her gaze out the window again. I can tell she's lost in her thoughts, a small smile just playing slightly at the edge of her lips. Turning back one more time to the makeshift dance floor and then back to her, I make up my mind.

I get up, moving around to where Paige is standing, coming up behind her and settling a soft hand on her shoulder, making sure not to startle her. Leaning down a bit, taking advantage of the extra inch or so in height I have on her, I lean in to whisper in her ear. "Dance with me."

For a moment she's completely still, and I'm afraid she's going to refuse me. Then I feel her hand glide softly over mine, still resting on her shoulder. She turns around, the gentle smile gracing her lips giving me the first hope I've had since yesterday. We wordlessly move together to the other side of the room, mingling in with the other couples already swaying to the tempo of the music.

I pull Paige into my body, her arms naturally going around my shoulders and clasping together at the nape of my neck. My hands find my way to her waist, tugging her in closer to me.

This time, This place
Misused, Mistakes
Too long, Too late
Who was I to make you wait
Just one chance
Just one breath
Just in case there's just one left
'Cause you know, you know, you know

Paige's fingers start to tease at the hair on my neck, my head starting to lower towards her shoulder of its own accord.

That I love you
I have loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing if
I don't see you anymore

My lips find their way to the base of her neck, kissing a slow trail up her jaw. The sound of Nickelback playing over us making me bolder than I probably should be.

On my knees, I'll ask
Last chance for one last dance
'Cause with you, I'd withstand
All of hell to hold your hand
I'd give it all
I'd give for us
Give anything but I won't give up
'Cause you know,
you know, you know

So far away
Been far away for far too long
So far away
Been far away for far too long
But you know, you know, you know

I hate that I've hurt her. It's like I can't breathe, my lungs just not capable of taking in the oxygen they desperately need. The last person in this world that I ever wanted to betray, and yet I've gone and done that exact thing. I'm completely ashamed of myself.

I wanted
I wanted you to stay
'Cause I needed
I need to hear you say
That I love you
I have loved you all along
And I forgive you
For being away for far too long
So keep breathing
'Cause I'm not leaving you anymore
Believe it
Hold on to me and, never let me go
Keep breathing
'Cause I'm not leaving you anymore
Believe it
Hold on to me and, never let me go
Keep breathing
Hold on to me and, never let me go
Keep breathing
Hold on to me and, never let me go

I hadn't even realized I was crying until Paige pulled my face up to meet her gaze. I stare into those blue oceans, getting lost in the depths for what feels like the thousandth time since we've been together. She holds our gaze, her eyes not seeping of betrayal and hurt, but of love and forgiveness. I really don't deserve it, but I'll accept it just the same. It washes over me, like a soothing balm on winter cracked skin.

"Alex?" Her breath whispers across my cheek, the music faded away, everything else with it. It's just the two of us.

"What?" I whisper just as gently, not wanting anything to break this moment.


"When what?"

"When did you know?"

I quirk my eyebrow for a moment, trying to figure out just exactly what she means. The look in her eyes tells me everything though.

I smirk a bit, surprised she really needs me to answer that. How can she not know?

"You really don't know?"

She shakes her head, blonde tresses tossing lightly across her shoulders, answering me wordlessly.

I think back to the moment I knew that Paige Michalchuk was about to turn my world upside down. Change it irreparably, turning me into a whole new person, someone that even I at some of my lighter moments, can feel happy with. I laugh a bit at the curious expression on Paige's face. "You really couldn't tell how jealous I was when you started gushing about Matt?" I can see comprehension flash across her eyes, darkening the normal light blue into a sapphire richness.

"You didn't say anything."

I scoff at that. "What exactly was I supposed to say? Gee Paige, I'm glad you're excited about your very male boyfriend coming back. Maybe after he dumps you like the ass he is, you might want to check out a movie with me?"

She makes her classic Paige eye roll at my overdramatics. I continue though, trying to make her understand. "I wanted you to be happy, I really did. But after you two broke up, I just couldn't get you out of my head. It's why I got so upset when you were gonna take Hazel to the premiere. You know me, I shrug everything off. Have you ever seen me get that hurt?"

Paige reaches up and cups my cheek, stroking the skin under her fingers gently. "I'm always hurting you. Saying stupid things before I think about it."

I shake my head in protest, Paige definitely not the one in need of forgiveness in our relationship. I won't let her go down that path. "Let me finish, you need to hear this." She nods her ascent, her hand never leaving its perch on my cheek though, and I take strength from our physical connection to continue. "It's odd. I mean we're totally opposite on the outside. Light and dark. And I think in the beginning we only allowed ourselves to see what everyone else did. But somewhere along the line it just changed for me. It was like we were put in our own universe, where I wasn't this bad kid from the wrong side of the tracks. You became accessible to me, and from that moment on, I never wanted to step back through that door that opened up to you." I reach up and cover her hand with mine, feeling the gentle bone structure under my touch, as familiar with it as I am my own body.

"Alex….." She's crying now. I never meant to make her cry. I guess I even screwed this up.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have---" I try to pull away, no longer keeping eye contact with her.

"No, don't. I'm not letting you run away from me. That's what got us into trouble to begin with. We need to be totally honest with each other." She tightens the hold she has on my hand, and I'm becoming slightly aware of the feeling of stares on us. I'm determined to not look, I don't want to know just how many of our classmates are intruding in on one of the most intense conversations we've ever shared.

Glancing up into Paige's incredible eyes, I can't hide the truth anymore. I don't even want to, I never really have. But she has this amazing power to rip me into a thousand pieces, the only person in the world that's ever been able to do that. And by being totally honest, I hand that power over to her on a platinum platter, to do with what she likes. But I just don't care anymore, I'm tired of protecting my heart to just lose her anyway.

"Paige, I knew when you kissed me in the laneway that I was already totally in love with you. Nothing has changed that." I whisper out, pulling her closer to me as I do, making sure she hears it.

"You…." She seems to be having a bit of trouble focusing, her eyes darting to the floor and then back up to meet mine, blue misted over like the crashing falls below us. I lean in closer, my lips just a breath away from hers.

"I love you."

I lock my gaze onto her surprised face, taking in every memorized curve, every muscle twitch. She wasn't expecting me to say it first, it shows clearly in her expression. Hell, I wasn't expecting me to say it first, why should she. But I think I needed to make that leap, I needed to just let go and trust her to catch me. A very strange feeling for me. I grew up shielding myself from relying on anyone or anything but myself. Giving Paige this power is like stepping off the highest cliff in the world.

And strangely I'm not even scared. I should be, I really should be I think. But one look into Paige's endless eyes and I'm totally and completely calm.

She's starting to look slightly unsure now, as though she can't quite bring herself to believe me, believe my truth. Can't be having that now.

I pull her immeasurably closer, raising my hand up to her cheek, mirroring the position she had been holding on me since the music faded away endless moments ago. "I love you Paige." And to prove it, I lean in to steal a sweet sip from her slightly trembling lips. I'm infinitely gentle, a vow sealed between us in our thirsty embrace. Paige whimpers a bit against me, and I'm surprised to feel wetness against my fingertips that are still cupping her face. "Aww baby, don't cry, I didn't mean to make you cry." That's the last thing I wanted. And once again I've managed to screw the best thing in my life up.

Paige pulls away from and I think I can literally feel my soul turning black. She must see the devastation sweeping across my face because before I can even think to protest she's pulling me back into her arms.

She's practically clinging to me now, her body pressed as tightly as possible to mine, her hands buried in my hair almost painfully. Her lips a breath away from my ear, the gentlest of tortures.

"I love you too."

Nothing more than a whisper, but it echoes in my head like she shouted it from the highest mountaintop.

And I believe her. I don't second guess, I don't doubt the truth of it, for even a moment. I let it wash over me, the pleasant euphoria it brings putting to shame any kind of possible narcotic high.

Our lips come together again, harder this time, our need for one another overriding good sense. We are after all being totally stared at by the majority of the Degrassi senior class. I can just picture the shit eating grin on Marco's face, the sweet, accepting smile on Ellie's, the deep rooted blush traveling up Mr. Simpson's neck to his cheeks. And Ms Hatzilakos rolling her eyes but still keeping an amused half smile plastered across her perfectly painted face.

I am vaguely aware of a few wolf whistles only stopping to take notice when I can feel the heat from Paige's blush transferring to me. I try to pull away to ease some of the tension that I can sense is building. But Paige refuses to loosen her grip.

"No, I don't care. Not anymore Alex." Works for me, I've never really worried about them anyway. I've always just let Paige lead the way, and even though we've never hidden our relationship.

"You apparently move on quick." I know that voice. How do I know that voice?

Paige pulls away from me quickly and I can feel the loss of her body heat immediately. I really don't like this. "Matt?"


"So when did you start batting for the other team?" I step up behind Paige, putting the palm of my hand on the small of her back. I'm not entirely sure why. Though Matt is sending off really bad vibes. Sure, I never really met him or anything, but I really didn't realize how much of an ass he could be. Then again, he DID break up with Paige. The guy MUST have a dumbass gene in there somewhere.

"Hi, I don't think we've been introduced. I'm Alex. Paige's girlfriend." I make sure to stress the word 'girlfriend', leaning even closer over Paige's shoulder to extend my hand to him.

"Alex!" Paige hisses through clenched teeth, obviously irritated by my show of possession. Which bothers me even more now. Since when has she decided to hide our relationship? Sure, we've never exactly flaunted it, not like I'm doing now. But she sounds almost..…..ashamed.

As much as I've mellowed, I can still have a temper, and I can feel it starting to flare in the pit of my stomach "What? Aren't I?" I challenge her to deny it. All the while the anger is slowly fading into a tight knot of fear.

Paige just rolls her eyes, but she thankfully doesn't pull away from my grasp either. "Matt, what are you doing here?" She turns back around to face him, the Paige Michalchuk mask of indifference firmly slipping into place as she does so.

He never did shake my hand. Little prick. I don't have any idea what Paige saw in this guy. Then again, I never got her attraction to the Furby either.

"I could ask you the same thing. Though the show you just put on made it pretty obvious." He looks over Paige's shoulder back up to me, a nasty smirk on his face. "They do say Niagara is for lovers. Tell me Alex, is she any good? She never let me get past second base." The smirk turns to a scowl.

Before Paige has a chance to hold me back I'm flying at him, fists wrapped tightly in his collar and slamming him up against the paned window. "You shut the hell up you sick son of a bitch!"

"I guess that's a no. Frustrated much?" He chokes out, the smirk returning now.

"You really expect me to answer that?" I tighten my hold on him, dimly aware of Ellie yelling for me to let him go. Paige has been suspiciously quiet.

"You don't have to, your face says it all."

"Alex, come on. He's not worth it." Marco has a hand on my arm, trying to get me to ease my grip.

"Matt, you have NO idea. No idea or else you wouldn't be spewing the shit coming from your mouth." I shove him harder against the glass, rattling his head, before finally letting Marco tug me back. A glance at Paige and the rage from a moment ago melts away. She has that look. The haunted one that I so despise.


And that ass just had to go there. He has to know why Paige is so reluctant to be intimate with someone.

"Baby, it's ok." I slowly step back towards her, trying to help calm her obviously rattled nerves. Reaching out I hesitantly touch her arm, just a bit surprised when she jumps back as if she's been scalded. Most times she's completely comfortable with my touch. It's only been on the very rare occasion that she's ever shied away from me.

One time I reached out to touch her hand as we drove past the university campus. I didn't think twice about it, I just had a sudden urge to feel her skin under my fingertips. But she jumped then too, though not quite as violently as just now. It wasn't until later that night after I had dropped her off home that I stopped to think about it. Then I understood why.

"Paige, it's just me. It's Alex." I try again, encouraged by the small glimmer of recognition flashing in her clouded cerulean eyes.

"Lexi?" He voice sounds so soft, barely more than a whisper.

"Come on baby, come back to me." I take a chance and reach, out, gently cupping her cheek in my palm. Relief washes over me in tangible waves when I feel her lean into my touch. "That's my girl." I pull her into me, assured now that she's herself again, back from the dark place that Dean's memory takes her. She snuggles into my chest, her hands grabbing fistfuls of my shirt in the process.

"Did you punch him?" She chuckles a bit, her voice muffled against me. The sound of her laughter, even with it disguising unshed tears, helps to release the knot that had been gnawing in my stomach.

"Did you want me to punch him?" I really almost did. But Paige tends to hate violence, especially mine. It took every ounce of my self control to keep my fist from reaching back and breaking his nose. And probably a few of my knuckles with it. But it would have been SO worth it.

Paige is more than worth it.

I can feel her nod into my shoulder. I gotta admit, that surprises me a bit. He really must have gotten to her. Ok, hello to broken hand I guess. I go to pull away, fully intending to deck him, but Paige just tightens her hold on me. "Lexi, no. I know how much you want to." She raises her head up to set her blue orbs on me. "And you have no idea how………..safe that makes me feel." A tender smile appears on her lips, causing my tightened fist to unclench at my side, coming up to cup her cheek. Once again she leans into my palm.

"You know I'd do anything to take that memory away." It's the first time I've ever overtly mentioned her rape. But God wouldn't I. I'd have traded places with her in a heartbeat. She has no idea how much I can understand how she felt, what she went through. Losing your virginity to a cold, violent monster, it's something we share. Maybe one of these days I'll tell her, share my own experience. But not right now, now it's about her.

She's everything.

And the last thing I want is for her to focus on worrying about me and the secrets I've kept. She needs to be able to totally trust me.

Paige nods in acceptance. "I know baby." She leans up, placing a ghost of a kiss on my lips before turning back around to Matt. And the rest of our class, who apparently have been watching in rapt attention. "Matt, I don't know why you're here. But just leave."

The smirk has once again returned to his face. Apparently he feels confident in the fact that Paige won't let me hit him. I've got news, I'm not THAT whipped. "Can't do that Paigey. I work here. I haven't been here that long, but damn, last time I saw a show like that was back in college!"

What a pig.

I mean really. He reminds me so much like Jay. Either he's changed that much or my vibe was totally off when he was dating Paige. Granted I was all kinds of jealous when she was with him, but that's besides the point.

"God, when did you turn into such an ass Matt?" I can hear the disgust in Paige's voice.

"Maybe when you cost me my career you little bitch." His face is turning red, his fists clenching rhythmically at his sides. He better not even think about it………..

"There were two of us in the relationship. I lied for you. I can't help it you have a guilty conscious." Paige fires back. That's my girl.

"Who doesn't want a hot young piece of ass?" He barely has a chance to finish spewing his filth before I can feel the bones in his nose snap underneath my knuckles. White hot searing pain is the first indication I broke something myself.

"Alex!" Paige and Mr. Simpson yell in unison. It's kinda hard to hear over the sound of applause though. Score one for me I guess.

"You fucking bitch!" Matt is slumped over one of the nearby tables, blood dripping through his fingers. Oops.

"What is going on here?!" Apparently the manager has decided to finally make an appearance. Great timing. Knowing my luck I'll get hauled off for assault.

"Your employee here was harassing two of my students." Mr. Simpson pipes up before anyone else can say a word.

"That's bullshit! She fucking hit me!"

"Matt! That's enough. We don't condone that type of language in front of the customers!" His manager scolds him and I can already feel the satisfied smirk crossing my lips.

"But she punched me for no reason!"

"Actually Mr. Farrell, that's not true." Surprisingly it's Ms. Hatzilakos who chimes in this time. "He was making very crude comments to Miss Nunez's girlfriend, Miss Michalchuk. Alex and Paige both repeatedly asked him to stop. When he kept on Alex just found a way to shut him up." I'm even more surprised by the hints of a smile tugging at the corners of the principal's face. Huh, who knew she was cool.

"Just what kind of crude comments?" This must be really thick.

"Alex is my GIRLfriend. And Matt is my ex. Connect the dots." Paige pipes in, her hand holding onto my arm. I think she's worried I'll deck him again. I do still have one good hand left.

"Oh. Ohhhhhh!" It's almost cartoonish, the look on his face as the light bulb finally pops on. "Well then…." He seemed to be thinking, which given the looks of him, probably isn't a good thing.

"Maybe we should discuss settling the bill instead?" Lets see…….." Mr. Simpson cuts in, pretending to take a quick head count. He's so damn sneaky. He would have thought a big computer geek could be cool? "I think we have 52, including Ms. Hatzilakos and myself. Right?"

"Certainly. Certainly! Follow me Mr. Simpson, we'll take care of you right away." He bows, looking every bit the pompous idiot I imagine he is. As he leads the way towards what I presume to be the cash office he tosses nonchalantly over his shoulder. "You're fired Matt. Make sure to have your belongings out of your locker by the end of the night."

I really want to laugh. But I can be the better person here.

Really, I can.

One of the nearby waiters, who had been watching the whole spectacle apparently, takes Matt by the arm and escorts him towards the back hallway leading into the kitchen. The handkerchief he was using to control the bleeding in his nose is already soaked through. Well if his face feels anything like my hand does…………

"Lexi, let me see." I feel Paige's fingers delicately combing over the tops of my knuckles, being careful not to cause anymore pain than what I'm already experiencing. "Baby, why did you do that?" I'm pretty sure it was a rhetorical question, she knows me well enough to understand.

I roll my eyes, reaching up to run my free hand through her golden locks. "There's no denying that you're hot Paige." She looks up briefly from her inspection of my bruised hands to smirk at me playfully. "But no one talks to you like he did. No one. And if a few broken knuckles is the price I have to pay to make sure of that, then so be it." She glances up at me again, her expression changing from one of amusement to complete affection. Our eyes stay locked together for a moment before she pulls my hand up and brushes a few gentle kisses across my swollen knuckles.

"Lets go back to the hotel." My brow wrinkles a bit at the change of subject, but I'm not going to question it. Besides, I really could use some ice on my hand.

As the rest of our class is slowly meandering their way towards the elevators to return to our rooms, Mr. Simpson appears from the maitre de's office. "Alex, can I speak to you for a second." When Paige doesn't move away from me, he adds. "Alone."

Paige gives me a worried look, but I rub her back reassuringly. "It's ok babe, I'll be right back. Wait for me downstairs, ok?" She nods hesitantly, then backs away to join the rest of our class at the elevator bays. I turn around to give Mr. Simpson my full attention. I'm just hoping he doesn't expel me or something. Especially this close to graduation.

"You know, I could suspend you for what you just did. In fact, you're very lucky that charges weren't pressed." I have the decency to look chastised, even if I don't feel even remotely sorry for punching Matt. Mr. Simpson's expression softens though. "But I understand why you did it. He was being a complete jerk. And for a moment I thought he might actually hit Paige."

I nod my head in agreement. "Yes sir, I wasn't about to let him do that."

He smiles gently at me. "I know that Alex." He looks thoughtful for a moment before continuing. "You know, Paige has been really good for you. Violent outbursts aside." His smile widens. "You've become so much more grounded. And you've also been a wonderful influence on her. It's really amazing how well you click, how fantastic you are together." He gestures towards the elevator, putting a hand on my shoulder. We press the down button, waiting for the familiar ding of the returning car. "I'm proud of you both Alex."

My head snaps around to goggle at him. "You're proud of me decking someone?"

The doors open and we step inside, his laughter echoing in the empty car. "I didn't say that. But you were protecting Paige. That's definitely a good thing. Especially after what happened. It's something she's needed. It's what she deserves."

"Should I be afraid to ask how long the suspension is going to be?" Paige tosses over her shoulder as we step inside our hotel suite.

I laugh a little, pulling her back into my arms and guiding her out towards the balcony doors. I must admit, the school really did go all out. I wonder who the trip coordinator is? "No, no suspension at all."

The night echoes with the sound of the falls a few blocks away, the thunder of the millions of gallons of water piling their way over the mountainside surprising soothing. Paige reclines back into my embrace, pillowing her head on my shoulder. "How'd you manage that?" Her fingers are dancing gently against my bruised knuckles once again, the action like a healing balm on the tender skin.

"Don't really know. But not even a detention. Guess Mr. Simpson has a soft spot for me." I tease, leaning down to place a soft kiss on her cheek.

"He's not the only one." We stand there for uncounted moments, just enjoying the view, the night, and each other. I'm lulled into the strongest feeling of contentment I've ever experienced, only to be broken out of it by the sensation of Paige pulling out of my arms to turn around and face me. "Alex, about what he said……"

I know where this is going before it even has the chance to come out of her mouth. And I'm determined to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible. I reach up, my thumb ghosting across her lips, effectively silencing her. "I don't care what he said." I stop for a minute, thinking back to everything that spewed from that jackass. "No, that's not entirely true. I wouldn't have broken his nose otherwise." I can feel the smile creasing her mouth under my fingertips. "But the rest of it, I don't care. I get it Paige, I've always gotten it, it's why I haven't pushed."

"And I love you for that, you'll never know how much." She purses her lips to delicately kiss the pad of my thumb. "And because of that, it's why I'm ready."

Ok, she's lost me a bit. "Ready?"

She pulls away to take my hand and lead me back inside. "Lexi, it's never been about sex. It's been about trust, about the level of intimacy that I had always wanted my first time to be like." We stop at the foot of the bed, her arms reaching up and locking themselves around my neck, her crystal gaze settling intently on me. "Dean ripped that away from me. He took it, violently, harshly. And that dream, that wish, disappeared with it. Until now. Until you. Spinner and Matt, neither of them knew how to give that back to me. But you, you just stand there, and you look at me the way you are now, and it's all I've ever wanted. It's EXACTLY the way I always envisioned it. I'm safe with you, I know that, in fact I've known that from the beginning."

Paige leans up, placing a feather's soft kiss on my eager lips. I sigh into the touch, her breath mingling with mine, the sweetness making me feel lightheaded. Much too soon, she's pulling away again. "Give me a new first time Lexi."

"Paige….." I whisper, already aching to crush my lips against hers once more, but knowing that she might be rushing into something just because of the drama with Matt tonight. And the very last thing I want is for her to make this kind of mistake, for the both of us to make it.

"No, don't do that. Don't second guess me, and don't doubt yourself." She tucks a strand of ebony hair behind my ear, the affectionate smile creasing her lips making my heart ache with desire. "I won't regret this, I never could, not with you." She lowers herself down onto the satin sheets of the bed, pulling me along with her. "Make love to me baby."

I realized a long time ago that what Paige wants, Paige gets. And it's not like she's forcing me into something at all. I love her, she's the first, the only person in this world that I've ever felt this way about. I decide to let the worries go, to place my trust with her the way she's placed hers in me. If we're going to work, we need to just let go.

She looks like a goddess, golden hair splayed across black satin, cerulean eyes glowing up at me, love and trust so clearly reflected in them. A gentle kiss on expectant lips turns to two, to ten. Shirts are delicately unbuttoned and tossed to the floor, wanting fingers ghost over enflamed skin. Gentle turns to thirsty. And passion explodes behind my eyes as Paige's mouth finds its way from my neck to someplace even more sensitive. Her hand grasps tightly in my hair, holding me to her as the feel of her sweat slickened body harmonizes with my own. It's the most exquisite of tortures, watching her as she rises farther and farther towards her climax.

The first thing I'm aware of is the feeling of someone watching over me. Not staring at me, but looking after me. The sensations are infinitely different. Turning in the circle of Paige's arms, where I had snuggled into sometime close to dawn, I see the glimmer of a lone tear shining in the corner of her eyes. "Baby, what is it?" I immediately become alarmed, already fearing the worst.

She tightens her hold on me though, not letting me pull away from her embrace. "God, you're beautiful." I can't hold back the sigh of relief from escaping my lips. She reaches down and places the sweetest of kisses on my worried brow. "I told you Lexi, no second guessing." Now her expression turns to one of anxiety. "Unless of course you……"

"I love you." And to prove it I lean up and seal the vow with a passionate kiss, designed to toss whatever bad thoughts she was having, right over that balcony outside our window.

I pull away after I feel myself starting to hyperventilate from the lack of oxygen to see a content smile on my lover's face, her eyes still closed, as if in a dream. "Mmmm, I love you too."

I snuggle back down into her arms, "So now that we've avoided the awkward morning after conversation, can we try and get some sleep?" I tease.

She leans in to nibble on an already over sensitive earlobe. "I suppose. Since we certainly didn't get any last night." I try desperately to suppress the moan, without much luck.

"You're going to be insatiable, aren't you?" I mock pout, the idea actually giving me quite the second wind. Or would that be the fourth or fifth wind………..

"Lexi, baby, have you SEEN your body?"

"So is that a yes?"

"That's a shut up and kiss me."

The End

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