Eli is nine years old, in fourth grade. He doesn't have many friends; he's more of a loner, and he doesn't care. Julia, she's probably the only person in the world who he can really call his friend, and she's a girl. The other boys always make fun of him, because he's smaller than them, because he keeps to himself, because he's just plain weird. Weirdness is horrible, a plague spreading through the world. Even the teachers look at him and smile, but in their minds, they're thinking that as smart as that little boy is, he'll never amount to anything. Look at his parents; his mother didn't make it pass the first semester of college, and his father didn't even get farther than his junior year of high school. His family doesn't have much money, and everyone knows it.

He never lets the teasing, the name calling get to him. He never lets them make him feel bad; he likes himself, and he doesn't care if anyone else does. Julia's the one that gets angry; Julia's the one that screams back at them, the one who slaps them and kicks them and pulls their hair and yells at them to never be mean to him again until they run away crying. Then they're back the next day, with black eyes and split lips and angry parents, mocking him because a girl defended him. And then Julia beats them up all over again.

But Julia's good, because her parents have money. He's the bad influence on her. He's making her do those things, even though he never does anything against them. Julia's just a sweet, pretty little girl to them, and Eli's the bad seed, the one who's corrupting her.

That's the way the world works.

Nine-year-old Julia thinks that it's stupid, too. She runs away the night her parents tell her she's not allowed to be friends with Eli anymore; they panic and then go as far as to slap Eli when they find out that she's sleeping over at his house that night. Eli's confusion must have shown, because that night, his father sits him down and gives him the talk.

Oh, how wonderful.

And then there's Mike.

For the first half of the year, Mike leaves Eli alone. Well, not exactly; he's always in that crowd of boys who laugh at him, but he's never done anything other than that, and Mike laughs at everyone. He's the kid who goes around stealing lunch money, the kid who trips people in the hallways. He's in the fifth grade, he's the biggest bully in the school, but he's never singled Eli out.

Until one day.

Eli isn't sure why. Maybe Mike was tired of stopping at just the names, or maybe he just figured, what the hell, let's beat the crap out of this weird kid today. For whatever reason, he follows Eli on the playground one day until they were out of sight of the teachers, with Eli oblivious and just wandering around, his head in the clouds. Mike pins him down and hits him until he cries, and then a few more times after that, and Eli's terrified and he has no idea why this kid who he's never done anything to just hurt him so badly.

But Eli's weird. He's different. He's not like everyone else, so that makes it okay.

The teachers pretend not to see Eli's black eye, his bloody nose, the way he's limping, his tearstained cheeks. They pretend not to see Mike's scuffed and bruised knuckles or hear the words he boasts loudly to the people he calls his friends. They pretend not to put the pieces together. They whisper to each other that Eli must have started a fight, that he's never going to be anybody, that he's going to be locked up by the time he's fourteen, and on and on.

When Eli's parents ask him what happened, Eli says, nothing. He says, I fell down some stairs at school. He smiles innocently at them and tries to ignore the fact that he's just lied to his parents.

They ask why no one at school called them, and Eli says that he asked them not to, that he didn't want them to worry.

They smile and hug him and tell him to be more careful, and his mother gives him something for his headache and they watch a movie together that night, as a family, and everything's okay.

Julia's mad, and she doesn't buy Eli's story for a second. She's a lot of things, but she's not stupid. The day after, she walks straight up to Mike and punches him in the stomach harder than most seventh-grade guys could. Mike's eyes sort of bug out of his head and he falls over, gasping for breath, and Eli can't help but laugh.

Oops.

From that day on, Mike makes his life hell. No matter how fast Eli runs, Mike's always faster. He lies to his parents, and when they confront the teachers, the principals about their son's injuries, the adults shrug and say that he must be getting into fights, that he has a temper and that they're considering expelling him if he doesn't get his act together.

He's a bad person because he's different. Because his parents aren't rich. Because he keeps to himself. Because there's just something about him that people don't like.

No one ever says that life is fair.

Eli tells Julia to go away, that he doesn't like her anymore, that it's all her fault that Mike won't leave him alone. She stands there, staring at him, her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide and filling with tears, and then she whispers, "I was only trying to help."

Before Eli can say anything, she slaps him across the face. She tells him that he deserves everything Mike does to him, and then she runs away crying.

The next day, Eli runs, too.

But, as always, Mike is faster.

000

Eli's fourteen, in ninth grade.

Mike's moved on to others, but Eli will never forget what happened.

Sometimes, he wonders what bullies must think about what they do. How do they justify it, in their own twisted minds? Do they think that it's okay, because Eli's weird, because Eli's different, because Eli's not obsessed with cars and hot girls and sex that they wished they were having like everyone else? Because Eli's mind doesn't work the same way as everyone else's, it's okay?

Maybe Mike congratulates himself. Maybe he feels good, beating the shit out of someone younger and weaker, someone who can't fight back.

But Eli can fight back now.

Oh, yeah. He can fight now.

Not with his fists, of course, because he know that he'll never be as strong as the bullies. But he's a hell of a lot smarter, and he's going to prove it.

Eli changes his appearance, his clothes, his attitude. He wears black, he's dark and mysterious. The girls just eat that up, but to be honest, he doesn't exactly care, because he has bigger things to worry about than if a couple brainwashed, ditzy cheerleaders think he's hot.

And it works. People start staying away from him. He says a few certain things, screws over a few specific people, and abracadabra, he's got a reputation. They can laugh at him behind his back as much as they want; he still doesn't care about what people think of him. As long as they don't bother him, as long as they don't mess with him, no one gets hurt.

There's only one person whose opinion matters to him. Julia. They made up in seventh grade; yes, it did take them three years, because both of them are too stubborn and too prideful to admit that they were wrong and apologize, but hey, it happened eventually. Once Eli realized that Julia was always there for him, he decided that they were both being idiots.

So he and Julia make up, and then fourteen-year-old Eli realizes that the pretty, tough little girl he knew as a nine-year-old is now a beautiful, tougher, not-so-little girl who is well on her way to becoming a woman.

They're friends again, the gorgeous, mysterious Julia and the dark, equally mysterious Eli, and they understand each other. They're there for each other again, that ninth grade year. They talk and laugh and open up to each other and she's pissed at someone else and he hates everyone except for her and they're just perfect, or as close to perfect as anyone can get, in each others' eyes.

And so he falls in love with her.

It doesn't happen all at once. They're friends, and then they're more than friends. And then they're more than more than friends. And then he loves her.

Just like that.

And she's not Julie or Jules anymore. She's Julia, and they're both all grown up at the age of fourteen and fifteen and then they fight and fight and fight, almost every day, and he loves her and hates her and loves her again and then she's gone.

She's gone.

000

Eli's sixteen, starting his junior year at some place called Degrassi, and he's trying his best to start over. He's trying to make a new life, a new Eli. He's trying to be the Eli who wasn't beat up every day until eighth grade, the Eli who didn't get in a fight with his girlfriend and kick her out in the middle of the night. A new year, a new Eli.

But old habits die hard.

The second he runs over that pretty girl's glasses in the parking lot, he knows that he's in way over his head. He came to Degrassi for a chance of a normal life; he should know that that's too much to ask. He's Elijah Goldsworthy, after all. Nothing is ever easy or normal for him.

So he meets Clare Edwards and Adam Torres, the good little Christian girl with a rebellious streak hidden behind those innocent blue eyes and the kind of girly-looking guy who has his own demons to face.

Clare accepts Eli, dead girlfriend and all. She's amazing. Everything about her is amazing.

Eli doesn't care that Adam has the body of a girl, and Adam doesn't care that Eli's really, really fucked up.

They're the misfits, no doubt about it. There is no place for them in the world, but they're hanging around anyways, just because they can.

And then there's Fitz.

It starts with a car. Not just any car, a badass vintage hearse with a skull ornament on the hood, and this Fitz dude with the spiky hair and squinty eyes just rips the skull right off the car and then it really starts all over again.

Because Eli can't let it go.

That's his fatal flaw. He's so stubborn, so pigheaded, and he can hold a grudge forever. This, though, is way more than a grudge.

Because when Fitz even looks at him, Eli remembers when he was nine years old and Mike was punching the shit out of him on the playground and no one did a damned thing about it except for one person, and Eli killed her.

And Eli will never let himself be that helpless again.

So he has to fight back, because he can't let Fitz win. He can't be a damned victim to some bully again; he has to fight back. He has to fight back.

He sets Fitz up to be arrested, some genius plan with a fake ID and then comes the hard part, letting Fitz beat the shit out of him like Mike did all those years ago. Eli knows that Fitz can probably knock him out even if Eli fights back, but he just lies there and lets Fitz punch him and hit him and then Eli throws a few trash cans down in his way, grabbing onto his leg as soon as he hears sirens.

He's won the battle, but it's only the beginning of the war.

It just goes on and on and on until Fitz says he's going to fuck Clare, and Eli just explodes, because by now he's fallen for Clare like he fell for Julia, and the thought of that Neanderthal anywhere near her just makes him crazy with rage.

So he slips ipecac into Fitz's drink.

And Clare says, "Whatever Fitz does to you now, you deserve it."

It's just like what Julia told him, all those years ago.

It's happening again.

And then Eli's in that dark hallway, staring at the knife in Fitz's hand and praying to the god he doesn't believe in that Clare doesn't get hurt, and he thinks that he's going to die.

He's going to die.

He's going to die.

And then the knife hits the wall instead of his side and Eli just slides to the floor, and he's in shock, and he's trembling all over, and he's just scared shitless.

And Fitz wins.

It doesn't matter that Fitz's ass is being hauled off in a police car; it doesn't matter that he's going to be locked up like all those people said Eli was going to.

Because Fitz wins.

And Eli loses. Again.

Because all he'll ever be is a pathetic victim.

He feels like he's nine again, lying there on the playground, blood leaking from his nose and lip with all those bruises, everywhere.

He feels like the teacher came to find him again and drags him roughly to his feet and tells him, "Get up, Mr. Goldsworthy."

He feels like he's whispering, "I want to go home."

He feels like the teacher is telling him, "Get back to class, Mr. Goldsworthy, before you get detention."

He feels like he's limping through the hallway again, his arm pressed against his stomach to try to stop the pain, and everyone's laughing at him, and Mike's bragging about beating up some kid who's half his size and whole grade younger, and no one does a fucking thing about it.

He feels like nothing.

He feels like he wants to die.

And he tells Clare. Not everything, of course. No one, not even Julia, knew the truth of the hell that Mike put him through. But Eli tells Clare that when he was nine, he was bullied by Mike. He tells Clare that no matter how fast he ran, Mike was always faster.

Clare says that he's not nine anymore.

And Eli doesn't know what to do.

"I don't have the answers for you. But if it's this, then I can't be with you."

Those words are like knives through his heart.

And then he realizes that he's in love with Clare Edwards.

000

And then he's psycho, insane, intense, suffocating, crashing his car.

He's in the hospital, he's begging her to stay, he's freaking out, he's screwed, he's dying piece by piece.

He's on his pills, he's expressionless, emotionless, empty, he still loves her.

He's off his pills, he's erratic, crazy, off his rocker, completely out of his mind.

He's back on his pills, he's trying to help her and Jake, even though it hurts.

He's Elijah Goldsworthy.

He was bullied in fourth grade. He was in love with Julia. He was grieving over Julia. He was in love with Clare. He is in love with Clare.

And he's getting better.

There's no denying what happened. There's no changing the past.

There's no looking back.

It's a new day, a new Eli.

He's starting over again, and this time, for the first time since he was nine, he's proud of himself.

It's not going to be easy, but it's going to be worth it.

And this time, he's not going through it alone.

He has the entire world on his side.

000

A/N: People are crazy.

I have no idea what this is, but for some reason, I wanted to write a happy ending.

And then… this happened.

Psychosomatic: of or pertaining to a physical disorder that is caused or noticeably influenced by emotional factors; pertaining to or involving both the mind and the body (as defined by .com)

It's my favorite word, by the way.

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I do not own Degrassi.