Author's note: So this is basically the end I guess. Wow, that sounded really anticlimactic. Anyways, my apologies for taking so long. I'm still not sure if I like how the big confrontation dialogue went but it felt right at the time…
Eli probably should have gone completely more insanely mental, but I couldn't bear to write him like that right at the end. As much as its against my totally unwritten policy to go a bit out of character, canon be damned (at the moment). Its fanfiction, isn't it?
Try as I might, this was the only ending that came. Although I maaay possibly try to do an epilogue. Depends on your thoughts I suppose :)
Enjoy, pretty please.
No, I can't take one more step towards you
Clare's hands shook with each passing second. Silence encompassed the room, weighing down on her heart. A single glance in Eli's direction granted her a vision of his jaw set in a hard line. She could feel his anger, but most prominently, his fear.
"What is he doing here?"
Clare barely even knew where to begin.
Eli's eyes rebounded from hers to Fitz's and back again. She felt as if each bone in her body were crumbling, shattering as the revelation came to her that Eli, her best friend, thought she had actually called Mark—the druggie, psychotic ex-boyfriend who pulled a knife on him at the school dance—and happily, freely, brought him into her home. Premeditative. Perfidious.
With beseeching eyes, Clare tried her hardest to plead with Eli, her cheeks still stained with old tears, but the words wouldn't come. They stayed stuck in her throat. He had to know she hadn't done this willingly. He just had to. How could she have known Mark would show up like this? Yes, she had indeed let him inside out of the rain, but…
Clare shook herself. Too much. This was all too much.
All that's waiting is regret
"I can't believe this," his voice but a strained, hoarse whisper.
"Eli—" Clare began, only for her throat to tighten. How else could she end that sentence? 'This isn't what it looks like?' 'It's not what you think?' Eli deserved more than the trite, worn-out clichés she could only hope to offer him in that moment.
He wouldn't look at her. That seemed to be the thing which hurt the most. Not even the old, hateful memories that came piling in just earlier at the door hurt as much as this. Eli's eyes never stayed trained on any one spot in the oppressive room for long. Shaking his head, fingers clenching, pulling at his hair atop his head, he muttered over and over and over: "I can't. I can't believe this."
Finally, Fitz spoke up. "Eli, I only came to—"
"To what?" Eli bellowed. Perhaps it was because Mark just merely stood there with an almost sad expression on his face, or perhaps it was only a matter of time, for Eli's fear, it seemed, had given way completely to his incredulous rage.
Clare fell into herself but still Eli continued pacing, his hands compressed into fists at his side. "You come here out of the blue when Clare here is finally—" He gestured toward her, his hand all encompassing her existing deplorable state "-fucking finally over your worthless, sorry ass expecting…what exactly?" He couldn't help but ask rhetorically.
Clare winced at his emotion, raw, hung out there for everyone to see, remembering she herself had done the same thing when she realized who it was at her door. Feeling helpless and small, not for the first time this evening, she bit her lip.
"Cheap approval?" Eli ventured a guess, his usual pleasantly sarcastic tenor turned instead to a now bitter snarl. "Some twisted, contemptible form of redemption? Or—" Eli's presumptions seemed never ending. "More likely, one last good fuck?"
At the final, Clare flinched. Eli, however, glared down Fitz. In his eyes, Mark's motives remained unclear, shadowy as the dead of night.
"No." Clare found her voice, though it broke at just the single syllable. She pushed on, forcing herself to make him see whatever…this was that was happening. "Eli, it's not like that."
Finally his eyes shifted to her. "Then what's it like?" His voice low, weary sounding.
Instead of answering, she gave him another question to consider. She angled her body toward his, away from Fitz, making her voice a whisper. Pleading. "Don't you think we all need a little closure in this?"
Again, silence encompassed the room. Eli heaved a sigh, the breath rattling him as he exhaled apprehensively, the line between so-called 'good' and 'bad' decisions grayer than ever.
"Yeah," he murmured in an undertone. "Yes. I guess we do."
I've learned to live, half alive
His words poured out, quickly, apologetically, ruefully. Never once was he interrupted out loud. His words swimming streams down through, inundating the room.
"I never meant for anyone to get hurt," Fitz spoke as Clare moved to Eli's side. She could practically feel her best friend's screaming thoughts to her in response to Mark's statement.
But we did.
Still Fitz ran on. "I only meant to scare you…with that knife…"
And you did.
"I don't know what I was thinking…"
Yes. You do.
"I just wanted things to go back to the way they were. Getting Clare back, pushing you out of the picture…"
"You have to know I regret everything. It wasn't supposed to happen…"
But it did.
"Every day, I wish I could change it…the night before the dance, the day of, that night…everything."
"I-" Pause. Mark did his best to look Eli in the eye. The latter wasn't exactly obliging. "I don't expect forgiveness…Believe me, I know I don't deserve it…I just came here to apologize. I should have done it a long time ago…and I'm sorry."
Clare reached out, clutching Eli's hand. Only then did she notice the tears streaking his face, mirroring her own. Seconds past, as noiseless as the last, until—
Fitz actually took a step back. "Sorry?" He hesitated; disbelief coloring his tone over the word he thought came from Eli's direction.
Eli squeezed Clare's hand, his eyes never wavering from Fitz's incredulous state. "Okay."
Fitz nodded. "Thank you," he spoke earnestly.
But Eli's face remained stoic through it all, appearing not to have any more words besides that one to say. Either way, it was more than Mark could have hoped for. All three knew that.
He made his way to the door, turning as he reached it, taking in one final glance at Clare and Eli. Nodding to himself, he stepped back out, into the rain.
I have grown too strong
to ever fall back in your arms