Disclaimer: I do not own Degrassi. The title of this fic belongs to Panic! at the Disco. Oh yeah.
Author's note: This is a draft I had, decided to get back to it. It was originally meant to be a Ryden (another fandom I write for) one-shot but it kept coming back to Eclare. Not a "comeback" of any sorts, but I thought it would be nice to post it. Hopefully it won't suck.
+In love I've always been a mercenary. +
Eli clears his throat, fixing his messy bangs as he looks at his reflection in the mirror, and pain flares through his shoulder when Adam punches him.
"Fuck, Torres, why did you do that?" winces Eli, tears stinging his eyes.
"You're acting like a moron," chuckles Adam, wiping his wet hands on Eli's blue polo. Eli sighs sadly, glancing at his reflection on the mirror yet again, a lovelorn look sketched on his features.
"She's single again," says Eli quietly.
"I know," says Adam, fixing Eli's collar. "But you need to work on being friends again. So keep your hormones to a minimum and worst case scenario, porn is always available."
"Adam, you're a true philosopher and wise man," says Eli sardonically as they leave the bathroom.
"I try," shrugs Adam, winking playfully. "They call me the cool version of Socrates."
"You do know Socrates was sentenced to death, right?" says Eli pragmatically, his hand holding on to the strap of his backpack.
"But here we are, still talking about him," responds Adam happily as they arrive to their lockers. "I will be legendary! Maybe I should start my own advice blog. First post: How to help your two best friends get over the most awkward situations, just so you can hang out again."
"Long title." Eli and Adam turn around and Clare is standing there, her red polo causing her face to look even brighter. Eli thinks that it brings out her eyes even more for some reason, and the light blush on her cheeks is more pronounced. His breathing hitches, and he just gulps stupidly, offering Clare a weak smirk.
"Hey, Edwards!" says Adam elatedly, putting an arm around Clare's shoulder. "Nice to see you're joining the misfits again. Quite sad that it took my near-death to achieve this glorious moment. Alas, I'm not complaining."
"That wasn't dramatic at all," says Eli, rolling his eyes.
"I'm sorry," mutters Clare sincerely. "I didn't mean to drift apart, but what happened between-" Clare stops, biting her tongue as she glances at Eli, and to say that things are awkward would be a gross understatement.
"Starting fresh," says Eli, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "Things will be different this year, I'm sure."
Clare looks at him curiously, like he doesn't believe him, but she merely smiles. She smiles differently now, and Eli feels confused when he can't recognize the expression on Clare's face.
It's as if they're strangers now.
Eli sits at his desk, yawning over and over as the minutes drag by. He sneaks a few glances at Clare, who is busy writing on her notepad. Eli looks at his notebook, his scribbled thoughts making sense to no one but him.
"Don't bother editing, this has to be raw, natural, uncensored," says Miss Dawes as she walks by them. Eli yawns again, looking at the dreaded word that is written on the board.
Eli saw the slight twinkle on Miss Dawes' eyes when she looked his direction, defiant, but thoughtful. He wonders if she picked that word on purpose, and knowing the wise teacher, she probably did.
Eli looks one more time at his notes, and yeah, the epitome of insanity is right there. A sketched rant on battered-looking paper, splotches of ink all over the pages, the mirror of his never-ending internal struggle.
Sure, he feels better now. And yes, the pills and the therapy are helping. But his issues will always be in the back of his head, haunting him, reminding him of darker times.
He's stronger now, but the fear will never truly go away.
"Time!" barks Miss Dawes, and pencils and pens are noisily dropped on wooden desks.
"That was tough," breathes Clare next to him, and he looks at her. She looks flustered; almost frustrated… she doesn't look like Clare, Clare. At least not like the Clare he fell in love with.
Eli frowns, noticing the tired lines around Clare's mouth, the bags under her blue eyes. Something's decidedly not right.
"Clare, is everything-" starts Eli, but Miss Dawes claps excitedly as she glances around the room.
"Any volunteers? Come on, express yourselves!" chimes Miss Dawes, causing Eli to snort.
"I will," says Clare angrily, standing up at once. Eli is surprised by this boldness, and he stares in awe as Clare walks to the front of the room. Clare stands, her head held up high as she faces their classmates, and she starts to read.
"Insanity is… putting someone you love in an uncomfortable situation," says Clare bitterly. "Ruining their lives for your own selfish purposes. Ruining potential relationships because you didn't bother to ask. Making me live in the same household with someone who used to be mine. Insanity is, becoming someone your own daughter can't recognize! Insanity is what you're doing to me!"
"Clare, wow," gasps Miss Dawes, but Clare is already walking out of the room, the piece of paper crumpled in her fist. She doesn't bother to take her bag with her, and Eli stares after her in concern. He turns around, his eyes meeting Miss Dawes', and she nods briefly.
It takes him only three seconds to collect his stuff and Clare's, and he's out the door.
"What are you doing in the girls' restroom anyway? You'll get in trouble."
"Clare, I'm out on the halls without a pass. I'm already in trouble."
The door to the stall opens slowly, creaking as it does. Clare is standing there, her eyes red and puffy as she wipes her nose with her sleeve.
"You must think I'm pathetic," she sniffs, and Eli hands Clare her backpack.
"I do," deadpans Eli, making Clare giggle softly. "No, Edwards, I understand. That was quite a display of emotional disarray. Have you considered drama?"
"Not my thing," smiles Clare, sniffling again. "Don't get any ideas… You already have your leading ladies."
"One of them is truly odd and the other one has a huge crush on Tegan Quin," mocks Eli. "Leading ladies, alright."
Clare laughs, her voice sounding a little raspy, and she gives Eli a sad little look. Eli brushes the back of his hand against Clare's wet cheek, the skin contact sending shivers down his spine. Surprisingly enough, Clare rests her cheek against his hand, closing her eyes when she does so.
It's a moment that lasts less than a quick heartbeat, but it's enough.
"We're so getting in trouble, Elijah Goldsworthy!"
Eli and Clare hold hands as they run, their backpacks hitting their backs as the wind hits their faces. Eli lets out a hearty, sincere laugh as they go around the corner, and this feels great. He hasn't felt this alive in a while.
"Come on, live dangerously!" winks Eli as they finally come to a stop, both of them trying to regain their breath.
"I can't… believe… we got out…" gasps Clare, letting go of Eli's hand and pressing her hand on her forehead.
"The advantages of knowing the auditorium like the palm of your hand," says Eli smugly, leaning against the fence. He breathes deeply, staring into the sun, and the heat prickles his skin.
"What are we doing?" asks Clare after a while, and Eli blinks as he turns to look at her.
"I don't know. What do you want to do?" asks Eli, digging his hands deep into his pockets.
"You were the one who suggested this!" protests Clare.
"It's not the first time we've skipped school," says Eli, reminiscing about the early stages of their relationship. "We should be better at this."
They stare at each other for a moment, the longing growing in Eli's heart, but he can't break eye contact. Clare huffs and stands next to Eli, setting her backpack on the ground.
"This was a mistake," she says fearfully.
"What is?" asks Eli, hurt. "Being here with me?"
"Everything," says Clare, and she slides down to the ground. Eli slowly sits next to her, and they watch the cars driving by. Eli thinks that it was easier when they were just friends; the anticipation, the flirting, the banter. He would give everything to have that back, but it's too late.
They have to rebuild a perishable friendship out of convoluted debris, and he doesn't know if they will be able to. Too much has happened. And they hurt each other too much in the process of finding themselves.
"That thing you wrote for Miss Dawes' class," says Eli, breaking the uncomfortable silence. "That was… intense."
"I made a fool out of myself, yet again," scoffs Clare. "When did I become this volatile, emotional mess?"
"I blame myself for that," blurts Eli, and he fixes his eyes on his hands, feeling how Clare is looking straight at him.
"Why?" asks Clare.
"Maybe if you had had a more stable boyfriend… maybe…" Eli swallows hard, the words dying in his mouth. All the regrets are coming back, and it seems as if all the progress he has made is gone.
"Eli, this is not your fault," says Clare, and her hand tentatively closes around his. "My messed-up life is not your fault. My mother is acting like a selfish teenager, and I have to live with Jake and-"
"How's that going?" asks Eli, not sure if he wants to know.
"It's very awkward," admits Clare, and Eli looks at her as he raises his eyebrows. "Imagine having to live with… I don't know…"
"Imogen?" guesses Eli, and Clare nods.
"It's weird," sighs Clare, and her hand is still on Eli's.
"You know you can always talk to me, regardless," offers Eli, and Clare squeezes his hand.
Clare's eyes have never looked so blue, and he has never felt so nervous. But this is progress, and he'll take everything and anything.
"Social Distortion is an amazing band, take it back."
"But you just called Liz Phair an angry chick!"
"Well, she is!"
Clare shoves him playfully as they look through the racks of CDs, and Eli briefly places his hand on the small of her back. Clare blushes, and Eli is pretty sure his face is mirroring hers.
"Compromise," says Eli, holding a case in front of Clare. "The Subways. They have a chick in their band, and they're pretty cool. Give it a try?"
"Fine, if you listen to The Forecast," says Clare, handing a CD to Eli. "They also have a girl in the band, and their songs are beautifully crafted."
"You just sounded like a music critic," says Eli happily, taking the CD from Clare's hands. Their fingers touch, their eyes meet, and they both laugh like idiots as they exchange glances. Clare gnaws on her lower lip as her eyelashes flutter, and Eli's lips form a pleased smirk.
"I like music," says Clare simply, some of her old stubbornness coming back. "And I am tired of listening to Nickelback all day."
"Nickelback? Why would you listen to Nickelback?" asks Eli, half-disgusted, half-amused.
"Jake," states Clare, and Eli can't control himself. He starts chuckling uncontrollably, and Clare crosses her arms, but she starts laughing too.
"I mean… fuck," gasps Eli, his ribs hurting from laughing.
"I know their lyrics by heart now, isn't it sad?" giggles Clare, and soon enough the sales associate gives them a stern look.
But they can't stop laughing, they can't stop smiling, and nothing really matters anymore.
Eli shivers when Clare's finger touches his ear; her fingertip feels soft and warm, but holy shit, she is touching him.
"Still there," smiles Clare, running her finger over the earring-less piercing. "Mine hasn't healed either."
"Ah, the metaphor," teases Eli before finishing his ice cream.
They're sitting on a bench, their bench, and the sun is already a mere glimpse in the horizon. Eli has been ignoring his phone, Clare has been ignoring hers, and they're probably in a lot of trouble.
Whatever, this was worth it.
"I'm so sorry… for hurting you," says Clare, and her tone has changed. "I got scared."
"I know," says Eli, his eyes meeting hers. "I would be scared too. I was scary. Everything was."
"I should have been more understanding," chokes Clare, and a few tears run down her cheeks. "So many things we could have done different, you know?"
"But we didn't, and here we are," grins Eli, and he wipes Clare's tears away with his hand. "We're trying to be friends again. It will work out, you'll see."
"I've missed you." Clare says this softly, almost inaudibly, but she says it. Eli leans in, brushing the tip of his nose against Clare's forehead. Clare wraps her arms around Eli's neck and they stay like that for a while, the sounds of light traffic acting as background music, their breathing forming a bittersweet melody.
Eli moves, his lips grazing Clare's cheek, and he listens to her wavering breath. A strange sound escapes Clare, as if she's trying to hold something back, something similar to a whimper.
"I've missed you too," confesses Eli quietly, and Clare's fingers dig into the back of his neck.
"Remind me why we broke up," whispers Clare. "Remind me why we aren't meant to be together. Remind me why this isn't right."
"Because we are… us," says Eli lamely, his eyes closed as he takes in Clare's warm proximity.
"You're not helping," mumbles Clare, and Eli groans when Clare's breathe starts teasing his lips. "You're not helping at all. You and your dumb idea to skip class."
"My ideas are always great, Edwards," chuckles Eli hoarsely. "Okay, maybe not always."
"Most of the time," mocks Clare, and her lips are simply too close.
"Make me stop," pleads Eli, moving closer.
But Clare stays silent, and Eli lets go. He kisses her gently, his lips barely touching hers, but he has never felt like this. His hands are trembling, his body is shaking, and he can barely breathe.
He has missed Clare's lips so much. They taste like ice cream, like happiness, like relief. She moves slow and cautiously, but full of trust, and fuck, he really has missed this.
Eli keeps waiting for his alarm clock to go off, he's sure he's waking up any moment now, and he waits… and waits…
Clare pulls away, her lips bright red and slightly swollen, and she gives Eli a shy smile. Eli smiles back, his lips feeling bruised although their kiss was far from passionate. Everything feels daring and new, even though they've done this before.
"What now?" asks Clare, the bus approaching them in the distance. Eli looks into her eyes, mockingly pensive, and he laughs, happier than ever.
"I don't know, Edwards. Your call."
And he can see the hesitation in her eyes, the fear, and he feels the same. But when Clare smiles back at him, Eli knows the answer. He doesn't wait for her to say a word; he just kisses her.
Maybe this is not perfect, but it's a start.