I decided to re-release my Eli/ Clare stories in light of the recent events featured on Degrassi. I think things got a little hairy there for a while so I figured all you Eclare fans might want access to a happier ending between the two of them.

This story is inspired by the song 'Next to Me' by Civil Twilight, as featured in Degrassi: Try Honesty (1). This story is an indepth look at Eli's character and how Clare will help pull him out of the darkness that consumes him, though it will not be easy. It begins at their first meeting so please be patient as I re-write that encounter. There will be a lot more material 'in between' the episodes we have already seen so I hope it makes up for it. Note that this story will be very slow and very developed as I feel both characters deserve.


Loneliness

It was my lifelong friend and constant companion- it would never abandon me and I could never escape it. Long hours had passed since it broke into my world, smothering me with its heavy hand. It had taken oonly a moment for my life to spiral into nothingness, for me to lose the thing that had mattered most. Indeed, loss controlled me at every turn- loss of love, loss of meaning, loss of self. The pain that had once cut so deep was now a dull ache in my shrouded heart. I was numb- completely devoid of feeling- and I drifted through life, dimly aware that my once vibrant clothing had become impossibly black, that I drove a vehicle that caused people to shudder. I didn't care. It matched my mood, matched who I had become.

Nobody.

It was true. I was no one, nothing, and I knew that moving to another town and attending another school would not change that. My father had relocated our small family- that is, he and I- to Toronto and it was just as I expected it to be- terribly analogous. As soon as I saw the school I'd be going to, I knew. This was going to be exactly the same as it had been in the last town. I'd be the invisible ghost- the object of rumors bred by fear and social inequality. I would have maybe one friend, a fellow outcast like myself, and we would brood together in your typical, anti-social fashion.

Gee, was I ecstatic about that…

Pulling my shirt over my head, I peeked into the mirror and frowned. My green eyes were blood shot from a fitful sleep and my skin looked paler than usual. I splashed cold water over my face, attempting to make myself look halfway decent. Dresisng quickly, I made my way over to my desk and scooped up my keys. School had started hours ago and I'd slept in- a routine move on my part. It wasn't that I didn't like school, I actually enjoyed learning, but I couldn't stand all the curious eyes. The way they would move over my attire in revulsion, never taking the time to understand why I chose to be different. Of course, it was possible that people might think I just had a thing for skulls and gothic apparel but the moment they saw my car, they always thought I was nuts. But I wasn't nuts…I just liked being myself. It was better than conforming to some ridiculous quota that didn't even really exist, at least not in the real world.

I thought about that as I drove to school. None of the kids had any idea how cruel the world could be, how it could rip something precious away from you in a matter of seconds, how it severed any shred of communication you might have had with your father. The world was hard and callous and I had not been spared from its vicious claws. Lost in my personal hell, I turned into the school parking lot, barely aware of what went on around me. My music was amped and I tapped the steering wheel with my palm. Eyes sweeping the throng of students milling around outside, I turned my head in time to see something small and metallic fly out in front of my car.

CRUNCH

Blowing out a heavy sigh, I pulled to a stop. Great, I'm here for two point five seconds and someone's already tossing shit at Morty.

Irritated, I threw open my door and stepped outside. Strutting over to my back tire I noticed a pair of smashed, rather expensive looking glasses crumpled under the balding rubber. I had destroyed something that meant a great deal to someone. A smirk tugged at my lips. In retrospect, I really shouldn't have been happy about that...but I couldn't help it. Maybe now, this person might understand how unfair life could be. It was a lesson learned and I was a willing instructor. Bending down, I snatched them off the ground and turned to face a pair of shocked looking girls.

"I think they're dead," I drawled. My eyes moved from the little, Indian girl with large, expressive eyes to her friend or, more accurately, a living nightmare.

My living nightmare.

She gaped at me, her bright blue doe eyes fixed on my lingering form, her face a mixture of shock and intrigue. The girl was slight, a tiny little thing with a coif of ash colored curls and soft, white skin. Her body was rounded, unlike most of the sickly looking girls that graced the cover of magazines, and she wore pretty, feminine clothing that further solidified her natural beauty. And boy, was she my definition of beauty. I had always had a thing for the innocent type and this girl had nailed every physical quality in one. For a moment, I wondered what she was like- if there might be passion lurking beneath all that sweet perfection.

Her soft lips curved into an uncertain smile and she looked down at the pavement in diffidence. "It's…um," she blew out a breath, "okay…got laser surgery."

I couldn't help but smirk. I was making her nervous! I wasn't sure if it was because of me or my 'look' but, either way, it didn't matter. I was done in, she had piqued my curiosity and, seeing as I hadn't found much interest in anything lately, I decided she was worth further investigation.

I leaned forward just a bit and she blinked up at me in surprise. "You have pretty eyes," I said, smirk still plastered on my face. I was a little blown that I sounded so confident when my heart was literally in my throat. This girl had somehow managed to spark an internal reaction- after everything I had been through, all the pain and emotional avoidance, she actually made me feel something. It was…startling.

Coloring, she glanced down at the ground, a coy smile playing on her lips. "Thanks," she muttered and peeked up at me from beneath her lashes. "I'll...see you around?"

I raised my brows, amused by her question. She seemed to be hoping for some confirming reply. I liked that- a lot. It was a split second response on my part, one fueled by attraction and, naturally, fear of rejection.

"Guess you will," I said. Spinning around, I got back into my car and drove away. I willed my heart to stop pounding and my hands to stop sweating, lest I lose my grip on the wheel and crash into a busload of jocks.

Not that that would really be so terrible.

Pulling a deep breath, I parked the hearse and ran a hand through my hair. It had been a long time since I had felt such raw emotion and my body was jittery. This was not good. How could I possibly survive at this school with this girl flitting about- this girl who had managed to crack my exterior with her sweet innocence and lack of judgment? I thought back to the way her eyes had taken me in. When she looked at me, it was like she didn't even see the gothic edge. She saw me. That girl had looked past all the heartache and emotional refuse, right down into me.

I leaned forward, glancing into my rearview mirror. Green eyes peered back at me in cold judgment. "Don't even think about it Eli…" I said, "…you will never have a chance with her so there's no sense getting your hopes up."

Swallowing hard, I grabbed my bag and slid out of the hearse. People were looking at me but I was in a state of total shock, torn between head and heart. I was floored by the reaction that girl had stirred in me- uually, it took major risk for me to have any semblance of feeling. Indeed, danger was something I'd become well acquainted with. The rush that accompanied risk was incomparable and it helped me tap into that part of myself I had buried along with my past.

I loped into the school, well aware of prying eyes. Holding my head high, I looked around, unfazed by the horror of misunderstanding, of misjudgment. I donned a sly, knowing grin- if people only knew there was nothing to fear…that I was just another kid, wrapped in pitch and dealing with life's bullshit.

But they'd never get it.

The day passed in a blur of stares and whispers. By my last class, I had grown quite tired of all the wide eyes and was ready for school to be over. As I made my way down the hall, a small, confused looking girl wandered into my path and all but squeaked when she saw me. I figured she was a freshman and had never seen a freak like me before. Rolling my eyes, I swept past her and into the classroom. My teacher looked like a hippie- she was wrapped in a large, brown sweater and wore a cluster of love beads around her neck. Sipping from a mug- probably organic tea- she bent over her lesson plan, glasses perched on her nose and a knowing expression on her face.

"Uh, hi…" I said, approaching her desk.

"Hello," she replied, giving me a once over, "let me guess…Elijah Goldsworthy?"

"Eli," I corrected.

She tilted her head in thought. "Right then," she pointed to the classroom, "sit anywhere you like, we have open seating in this class."

I looked up. Most of the seats were already occupied but there were two left open. One towards the back and the other in the middle…directly in front of my living nightmare. Lips twitching, I surveyed the girl who'd lingered in the back of my mind for most of the day. Twirling a lock of hair around her finger, she nibbled the full pad of her lower lip and turned the page of a novel she was reading.

Interesting... She seemed quite taken with her book and it caught my attention. Most girls were preoccupied with trying to catch boys or gain popularity but she seemed oblivious to it all. It was comical, really- the entire room was abuzz, girls and guys trying to flirt with one another, and she sat in the middle of it all, consumed by a book.

I waltzed over to the desk in front of her and she looked up. Shifting back in her seat, her mouth fell open and she gaped at me in astonishment. I raised a brow and she blushed, cheeks blossoming a soft pink color. Casting her eyes downward, she toyed with cover of her novel. I sat down, looked up at the blackboard, and tried not to laugh. The girl was amusing...and damn cute. But I still couldn't decide whether her reaction was one of fear or curiosity. I wondered if I might be too much for her- she seemed quite shy.

But you can never judge a book by its cover.

Crossing my legs at the ankles, I cracked a crooked smile. I had mastered the art of hiding my feelings and I wondered if Little Miss Innocent might be doing the very same. I had a feeling that there was something more to this girl, something beneath that coy, gorgeous exterior just waiting to be unearthed.

And I was more than willing to take on the excavation.