Disclaimer: I don't own Degrassi. The title of this fic belongs to Ben Harper. This fic is inspired by the Ryden fic, The Years Won't See It (The Way I Want Them To), which was written by arctic_grey at livejournal.
Author's note: Last part. Thanks for reviewing and commenting on this fic. It means a lot. It's not supposed to be the happiest of fics, but I just started believing in love again, and hopefully that message will come across somehow in this story. Thank you.
+ Won't you tell me , tell me please… how many miles must we march?+
"I have never seen this place!"
Eli looks around in wondered, gasping at the sight of the beautiful, abandoned church. It's getting cloudy, and Elliot draws out an umbrella from his duffle bag.
"Why are we here?" asks Eli, frowning.
"Come here," says Elliot, marching along. He sits on some dirty, crumbling steps, and he pats the spot next to him. Eli sits cautiously, and both of them sit there in silence, listening to the distant thunder.
"We exchanged our first 'I love yous' in here," says Elliot reminiscently. "I was nervous as fuck, and she smiled at me. That smile of hers, you know? It turns your world upside down, and you can't fucking breathe. Everything seems beautiful and all you want to do is kiss her. Kiss her until your lips fall apart."
Elliot stops talking, and starts coughing instead. He coughs uncontrollably for what seems an eternity, his frail body almost breaking with every cough. Eli places a hand on Elliot's back, trying to be somewhat comforting.
"Thanks," gasps Elliot.
"No problem," responds Eli. "Um…"
Elliot is wiping his lips with the back of his hand, and he stares at the sky, squinting as he does.
"I have questions," blurts Eli.
"I have answers," smirks Elliot, his eyes still fixed on the sky.
"How old are you?"
"Um, do you keep in touch with CeCe and Bullfrog?"
"Why do you live with Fiona?"
"Are you single?"
"Um… where did I go to school?"
"NYU, full scholarship, thanks to a story you got published on Gothic Tales."
Elliot coughs again, and he shakes his head. "No, Eli. Not awesome."
"Why do you go by Elliot now?"
Elliot seems to consider his answer, licking his lips as he finally decides to look at Eli. His green eyes are filled with utter sadness, with hopelessness, and the wind starts blowing, messing their hair.
"I hate Eli Goldsworthy. Everything that name represents, I hate it. I wanted to be someone new."
"Ah." Eli looks at his hands awkwardly, feeling a knot forming in his throat.
"The day of your graduation, Clare asked you to meet with her at The Dot," says Elliot suddenly, wrapping his arms around himself for warmth. "You were excited, you thought that maybe it meant that she had finally dumped Jake."
Eli finds the name "Jake" so foreign, so unfamiliar… but he doesn't say a word.
"She came with a box instead, giving you back all the poems you wrote her, the books you let her borrow," continues Elliot. "And on top of the pile, your headphones."
Elliot's last words make Eli's heart ache terribly, because even if he hasn't gone through what his future self has been through, he knows the significance of that.
"She smiled at you as she handed you the box," shrugs Elliot. "And with that smile, your heart turned into stone. All the progress you had made-"
"Progress?" frowns Eli.
"Another story for another day," interjects Elliot, echoing his words at the diner. "But anyway, yeah, that messed you up. You became this cold, distant person. You watched her be happy from afar. And every smile, every email, every Facerange update broke you."
Elliot takes a deep breath, and Eli is shivering. Not because of the cold, not because of the impending rain, but because everything seems so fucked up and inevitable.
"But it sounds to me like… you let Clare affect you this much," says Eli pragmatically. "It's not really her fault."
"Maybe not… but she's your one regret," says Elliot simply. "You could have been a happier person if you hadn't dated her."
"How do you know?" insists Eli.
"I just do, okay?" snaps Elliot. "And I want you to change my future. That's why I'm here. I don't want to be this person anymore."
"Fuck you," says Eli angrily, standing up.
Elliot has another coughing fit, but this time it takes him longer to recover. He's wheezing, gasping for air, and his cheeks are slightly blue. Eli kneels next to him, trying to do something, anything, but Elliot shoves him away.
"Leave…" gasps Elliot. "Just…"
Elliot heaves, placing a hand on his chest, and he tries to regain his composure. There are tears running down his cheeks, but he doesn't wipe them away. He just sits there, seemingly broken, and then he starts laughing.
"Sorry," he says, chuckling.
"You're crazy," says Eli in horror.
"I thought we had already settled that." Elliot picks at the needle mark on his arm, and Eli stares unapologetically.
"I'm dying," deadpans Elliot.
"When you're depressed, cells reproduce faster," says Elliot as they watch the raindrops hit Morty's windshield. "It's a fact. I was already feeling sick, but I was too busy hating life to do something about it. The moment I went to the doctor… yeah."
It's pouring, and Eli wipes his eyes as they continue to listen to the rain. They're barely paying attention to the radio, and Elliot swallows two more pills.
"Clare didn't cause our cancer," says Eli serenely.
"I know that," says Elliot. "I know, I know."
Elliot turns the radio off, and he pats Eli on the shoulder.
"Nobody in the future knows I'm sick," says Elliot. "Except Fiona. She's pretty good at taking care of me."
"Why haven't you told people?" asks Eli in disbelief.
"You know how we are," winks Elliot. "We keep stuff to ourselves."
Elliot starts humming, tapping his fingers on the dashboard, and the sigh that escapes his lips is one of defeat.
"Clare caused all this sorrow," says Elliot. "I don't want it anymore. But it's too late to let go now."
"This is selfish," says Eli deprecatingly.
"But it could save our life," asserts Elliot. "And for the first time in your life, I want you to do something selfish. It won't hurt anybody. It will hurt at first, of course, but nothing like it would hurt if you date her. She will hurt too, but she will be okay. You will both move on."
"But I love her," mutters Eli.
"You don't love her yet," scoffs Elliot. "You just think you do. Trust me… I know. This is still possible, and… please. Please, Eli."
Eli feels the despair in his blood, the ache for Clare's kisses, the pain of not being able to be with her. It's already hurting him, killing him, destroying him. And they're not even dating yet.
"Don't go looking for her at the library on Monday," pleads Elliot. "That's all I ask. Go take your French exam and meet her afterwards. Tell her that you're failing, and that you need to focus on school. That you can't hang out anymore."
Eli sits back, staring at the cracks on Morty's ceiling, feeling how the leather shifts underneath his weight. Eli sighs, his lips trembling every time he attempts to speak, and his future is literally waiting.
"We will be okay," says Elliot reassuringly.
"Okay…" Eli nods. "Okay."
"Will I ever see you again?" asks Eli as they stand in the middle of the railroad tracks. The rain is falling on them, drenching their clothes and hair, and Elliot's gray t-shirt is clinging on to his skinny frame.
"Hopefully not," smiles Elliot sadly, covering his mouth with a handkerchief as he coughs yet again. "This version of me will disappear on Monday."
"Yeah," says Eli, lowering his head.
"Hey," says Elliot softly. "This is for the best."
Elliot tentatively puts his arms around Eli, and the younger boy hugs him back, the whole experience feeling tremendously weird. Elliot feels strangely warm, and Eli closes his eyes as he pulls the man closer to him.
"You need to go now," chuckles Elliot, and Eli lets go.
Eli steps off the tracks, and Elliot holds on to his duffle bag, waving at him. A train is heard in the distance, and Eli squints in the rain as he tries to see in which direction the train is coming.
"Eli!" yells Elliot as the train gets closer.
"Yes?" shouts Eli, the whistle growing louder.
"Thanks!" grins Elliot. "Now close your eyes!"
The train is getting closer, closer, and it's going to hit Elliot any second. Eli covers his face with his hands, waiting for the sound of metal hitting skin, of Elliot screaming, of brakes being applied.
But the train goes on, and there is no sight of Elliot.
He feels empty.
Ever since Elliot left, his life seems vacant, without purpose. But he grits his teeth as he enters the school, his phone feeling hot and heavy in his pocket.
Eli has ignored Clare's texts, calls, everything. There is a dull pain present in his heart, but Elliot said this sensation would be normal. Eli's just sixteen after all, so yes, he'll move on.
He walks by the library, and he sees Clare looking at some books.
And Eli's heart is beating like crazy, a stupid smile appearing on his lips at the sight of the beautiful blue-eyed girl. Clare seems jumpy about something, and she keeps looking everywhere, fear in her delicate features.
But Eli can't stay and watch, he needs to go.
He walks away, breathing deeply, trying to erase any thoughts of Clare. He needs to focus on his French exam, he needs to focus on school… he needs to focus on not dying.
"We exchanged our first "I love yous" in here," says Elliot reminiscently. "I was nervous as fuck, and she smiled at me. That smile of hers, you know? It turns your world upside down, and you can't fucking breathe. Everything seems beautiful and all you want to do is kiss her. Kiss her until your lips fall apart."
And Eli realizes something.
He wants to feel that way about Clare. He wants to fall in love with her; he wants to feel all those emotions Elliot felt so resentful about. He wants his heart to break, he wants his heart to feel. He wants to love until it hurts, he wants to love even if it kills him.
That's what is important about living; not having second thoughts, having no regrets.
He turns around and walks to the library, decided and stubborn, and Clare looks away from the bookshelves to lock eyes with him.
"You're alive," says Clare, sounding hurt, but she has no time to say anything else. Eli wraps his arms around her, and Clare holds her breath as Eli leans in to kiss her.
Clare's lips are soft and full of life, the kiss sends electric currents through Eli's skin, and he pulls her closer to him. It's a frenzied clash of lips; it's a kiss full of forbidden, naive lust and want. He wants her more than anything, and he will not give her up, ever.
Eli pulls away slowly; his breath still mixed with Clare's, and the girl looks like she was just hit by a truck.
"I have to go," says Eli, pressing his forehead against Clare's. "I have a French exam."
"I think you just passed it," says Clare breathlessly.
Eli smirks at her before giving her another quick kiss, and he leaves, happiness radiating from him. He doesn't regret breaking his promise to Elliot; being with Clare is worth it.
And maybe this time things will be different.