So first off, yes I know I suck for making you guys wait so damn long, shit be crazy right now…and always.
Anyways, this is NOT the final chapter like I've said before. Turns out this got hella long (surprise surprise) so I decided I would be nice and upload this part early. The conclusion will come later, you guys have been patient enough as it is so I figured why make you wait even more? You guys are awesome, the feedback on this has really been great, especially when we're getting the suckfest the show's been throwing at us.
Lemme know what you think, as always I don't own Degrassi or any other pop culture references.
It had only been six days since Eli and Clare had decided to keep their friendship strictly that and he felt more and more like the world's biggest moron as time went on.
He knew the idea of them being only friends was a good one, a great one even. They just didn't do well as a couple: all they seemed to do was hurt each other, but he had forgotten just how hard it was to be Clare's friend and only that.
Sure, these past few months they had been friends, probably the best they'd ever been, but neither could deny the flirty undertones they'd been ignoring all the while. Even before they dated their friendship was merely a waiting game until they became a couple, never a question of if. And when they broke up it was because Eli needed help, not because they didn't have feelings for one another.
If Eli was being honest with himself, the only time their friendship appeared to be just that had been the past six days since their talk outside the weight room.
To make matters worse, Clare was completely gung ho about their friendship not crossing any lines and being sure to let him know if he was overstepping one of the boundaries she had drawn up. Any move she deemed inappropriate and she would shut it down, "Friends don't sit that close, Eli." "Friends don't walk each other to class, Eli." "Friends don't send each other winky faces, Eli."
He'd heard them all.
She was rubbing this whole thing in his face and was enjoying every second of it. The worst part was he deserved every bit of it, the whole 'let's just be friends' scenario being his idea, but every time they hung out he was slowly forgetting why he made such a choice and it was killing him.
Sighing dejectedly, Eli ripped himself from his thoughts as he realized they had arrived at The Dot, their usual gang deciding to brave the cold weather for a quick study session and hot chocolate rather than the Taco Thursdays at the café.
Instinctively, Eli pulled open the door and moved aside as Fiona and Imogen quickly rushed inside the small bistro and out of the dreary weather, chattering their thanks you's as they passed.
Clare, right on their tail, stopped before the door, giving Eli a challenging look while crossing her arms, "Friends don't hold open doors for friends, Eli."
"Um actually they do," he countered, "literally just happened, Clare."
Not dignifying him with a response she simply raised a brow as a very cold and very impatient Adam pushed her aside mumbling something about the world's biggest, hottest latte.
"Come on Clare," Eli tried, eyeing the irritated customers inside clearly not pleased he was letting all the cold air in, "I'm just trying to be nice, no ulterior motives, scouts honor." He held up his fingers doing his best impression of a boy scout.
Clare eyed him momentarily before giving him a slight nod, "Fine. But only because I'm cold."
"Whatever you say."
Upon entering, Eli noticed the small café considerably fuller than usual; apparently they had the same idea as everyone else. He quickly got in line and ordered his drink before joining his friends at a small table in the back. Sitting down by Fiona, he noticed how ever since their talk Clare had taken to sitting next to everyone but him, a fact he wasn't too happy about. Today she picked Adam.
Getting comfortable, Eli's feet briefly brushed Clare's across from his, already a small glare appearing on her face at the action. "Accident, I swear," he defended, holding his hands up before she could scold him. Apparently she was getting tired of it too, as she merely nodded.
"I guess no one was in the mood for Taco Thursdays," Fiona joked, eyeing the familiar faces around them as she stirred her hot chocolate.
"I can guarantee you Drew is there," Adam promised, sliding off his coat. "He wouldn't miss Taco Thursday if the zombie apocalypse broke out; he takes his food very seriously."
"As do all of the Torres boys," Clare joked making everyone laugh.
They sat for a while, their studies long forgotten as they made jokes and discussed whatever came to mind, most notably the zombie apocalypse which Adam insisted was just around the corner and who, out of their group, could survive such an event. Adam, of course was the unanimous choice and Imogen and Eli. Adam felt confident enough that he could protect the quirky girl and felt Eli could get by just punching zombies. Everyone agreed Fiona wouldn't last, she admitted she wouldn't want to live in a world without shopping anyway, and Clare although Eli tried to make a case for her.
"That's sweet Eli, but I'm just not built for that type of world," she stated, laughing at how riled up the boys were getting over a fictional situation. "I wouldn't even know what to do if a zombie was coming at me."
"If Adam can protect Imogen, we can protect you!" Eli insisted. "You wouldn't even have to kill any zombies, Adam and I could handle them, we'd take cover in a library or something, and you could read all day!"
"How cute, I'm gonna vomit," Fiona quipped, earning an eye roll from the dark haired boy beside her.
"Dude, no," Adam shook his head. "Clare, you know I love you, but you would so die, no offense."
She laughed, "None taken."
"We'd be in the library, looking for supplies and Clare would be too distracted by a damn book or something," Adam explained ignoring Eli shaking his head. "One would get her man, you know it."
"Oh, so Clare is doomed but Imogen would survive?" Eli scoffed.
"Hey!" Imogen protested.
"Come on Immy, you'd see one and just assume they were sick and needed a hug," Eli explained as Imogen was about to argue before shrugging and nodding along.
"Excuse me," Clare interrupted quietly, "I need to visit the washroom."
"Go do your business Clare, we don't need to hear about it," Adam teased, earing himself a smack to the head as she left the table.
"So," Adam started, readjusting his beanie as he turned towards Eli, "how's the friend zone?"
He rolled his eyes, knowing this conversation was coming; he'd already heard enough about his decision from the other two to last him the rest of his life, "Fine, everything is fine."
"Regret it yet?" Fiona asked with a knowing wink.
Eli glared back, "This will be good for us, it's for the best."
"Yeah, okay," Fiona replied snidely.
"This is the right call," he insisted again, starting to get annoyed that whenever Clare wasn't in the room all the other three wanted to discuss was his cursed friendship with the curly haired brunette.
"I know your intentions were good, but wouldn't it be better for true love to triumph, not swept under the rug because that's the easier choice?" Imogen pointed out, drawing little shapes in the whip cream of her cocoa.
"I'm not doing this because it's easier, it's not! This is what's best for the both of us in the long haul. I want her in my life and this is how it has to be," Eli explained, his head in his hands. "It's not easy though, you see how she is, 'friends don't do this Eli, and friends don't do that'."
"Well maybe if you didn't flirt with all your friends it wouldn't be so hard," Fiona retorted with a laugh. "This is probably the first time you weren't allowed to flirt with one of your friends."
Pulling a face, he caught her eye, "Flirt with all my friends?"
Fiona nodded, "It's kind of your thing, I'm a lesbian and you still flirt with me."
"I'm being friendly!" Eli persisted as the two girls shared a look.
"Whatever you say, Eli Goldsworthy," Imogen giggled, patting his head. "I just don't understand why you don't think you and Clare can be a part of each other's lives if you were together."
"That's just how Clare and I work," he mumbled sadly. "I don't know why, but no matter how bad we both want it to, it doesn't work."
"Why not?" the quirky girl challenged. "Find the problem and fix it, make it work!"
"If not for you do it for us, man," Adam added, half a brownie in his mouth, "We're getting fed up with your mopiness and the awkwardness."
Eli was just about to retort when he realized he was in fact moping at this exact moment, slumped over his coffee with a frown on his face. Maybe he was better off not saying anything.
"What did I miss?" Clare spoke from behind them as she approached their table, another tea in her hands.
"Nothing, just stupid stuff," Eli grumbled, letting his face slump into his hand.
"Yeah," Adam agreed giving Eli a look, "very stupid stuff."
Clare glanced around the table, clearly confused, "Okaaaay."
Eli peered around, ignoring her curious look and Adam's prominent glare as he focused on Imogen's whip cream designs as he tried to think of a different way to steer this conversation.
"So, Clare!" he announced, slapping the table loudly making Imogen jump, "have you read that new Mason Phillips novel?"
Clearly enjoying the change of topic, she leaned forward eagerly, matching his enthusiasm, "The one that came out last week?"
"No, he wrote another book in a week," Adam mumbled sarcastically, shrugging off the glares he received from both Eli and Clare.
"No," she answered going back to Eli's question, "I haven't been able to get to a bookstore to pick it up yet. I tried to get Jake to lend me the truck, but he was being a real jerkface about it."
"Oooh, a jerkface? Kiss your mother with that mouth, Edwards?" Eli teased giving her is usual smirk as she rolled her eyes unamused.
"You slay me with your humor, Goldsworthy."
"And he acts like he's not a total flirt," Fiona mumbled to Imogen, not caring if her whisper was two octaves too loud.
Ignoring the two giggling girls, Eli turned back to Clare, "Well, what are you doing after school? We could go by and pick it up; the reviews for it have been great, apparently his best yet."
She smiled, "Yeah that could work. That sound alright with you guys?"
Eli tried to stop himself from frowning, he didn't mind the others coming, but books were kind of his and Clare's thing and he was looking forward to spending some time alone with her and the others didn't seem all that interested. He could almost hear her berating him in his head, "Friends only go book shopping in groups, Eli."
"I'm down," Adam said flashing a thumbs up as Imogen nodded, "my comic collection has seemed a little lonely lately."
"I think I'll pass on this one" Fiona replied. "A boring old bookstore and Fiona Coyne don't really go together, plus I have some last minute Frostival stuff I need to take care of."
Adam stuck his tongue out at Fiona, "We didn't want you to come anyway, but guys, one minor problem: how are we getting there? My mom has Hank all day."
"No way, I thought we all just walked here in the cold for the fun of it," Fiona mocked.
"Fiones," Imogen admonished.
"Immy," Fiona scolded right back.
Eli shook his head amused as he turned to Clare, "I have some subway tokens?"
Clare nodded, staring into his eyes, momentarily forgetting the bickering around them, "Okay."
"Sounds like a plan," Adam confirmed holding up his mug as if to validate a point. "We meet at 3:20 or get left behind."
If things between Eli and Clare weren't awkward enough to begin with, the subway ride downtown only made matters worse.
Without Fiona around to scold them, Adam and Imogen were acting extra cutesy: holding hands, giggling, tickling and kissing galore, it seemed the two had long forgotten they were with two other people.
Trying to ignore the hormonal couple across from them, the woman breastfeeding her baby to the right of Eli and a man screaming into his cell phone to the left of Clare, the two sat uncomfortably close due to the fullness of the car, apparently no one was willing to brave the cold today as they made forced small talk.
Only adding fuel to the fire, Clare was convinced Eli had on new cologne and it was driving her mad. It was hard enough having your best friend being as attractive as Eli, but now he smelled amazing too! Not that he stunk on any other occasion, except for any time after he went on one of his runs, but this, this was something particularly good. She found herself half listening to what he was saying about a film he watched recently as she tried to identify the new scent, something musty, but subtle. She wondered briefly if it would it be creepy of her to ask Cece to investigate for her before quickly realizing yes, yes that would be very creepy.
Further adding to the almost unbearably awkward ride was their proximity. Trying not to look at the exposed boobs from beside him, Eli kept shifting around, as if to show everyone in the car how uninterested his was in ogling the woman but rather kept elbowing Clare sharply in the side until she had to ask him to sit still. Their conversations were at a standstill as well. Clare couldn't think of anything interesting to talk about other than that damn cologne so she just nodded along to whatever Eli was rambling about. Even her trying to be courteous was causing problems for her, every time she would turn her head to look at him as he spoke they'd be entirely too close, the sort of closeness where all she could see was Eli's green eyes and feel his warm breath on her face. Clare only endured two incidents of this blissful torture before she decided to just be rude and stare at a stain on the floor instead.
Eventually they ended up playing a few rounds of Word Scramble Eli had downloaded an app for on his phone before they reached their stop, both of them having to pry Adam and Imogen apart so they wouldn't be left behind.
Upon entering the bookstore, the quirky pair instantly took off, presumably to the comic book selection or to make out on one of the couches in the back, Clare didn't know and she didn't want to.
Eli walked off, saying something about meeting up with her later, she wasn't too sure, the cologne was bothering her again and the way he held her gaze as he walked away sent a chill down her spine that if he had stayed she would've scolded him for, "Friends don't give friends the chills, Eli."
Clare went her usual route to the young adult section, figuring she might as well take advantage of their stop; she'd long exhausted her collection of vampire novels. She had gathered a small assortment, taking her time flipping through each one, she had a theory you could judge how good a book would be by the first paragraph alone.
The first book she put back almost immediately after opening it, she was only ten words in and it was already atrociously cheesy and the fact that the description of the lead reminded her a little too much of Declan Coyne, bringing back her old glory days of fanfiction and all the embarrassment that came with it.
She was in the middle of the second chapter of her third book (the opening paragraph was really good), when her cell phone began to ring, the volume startling her so bad she dropped the entire stack of novels, the action catching the attention of a few annoyed ladies in the cookbook section nearby.
Hastily, Clare dropped to her knees, gathering the books with one hand and snatching her phone from her pocket, the Nicki Minaj song Alli insisted be her ringtone finally coming an end. "Yes?" she answered shooting an apologetic look to the shoppers she interrupted.
"Well hello to you too, rude," Alli replied, her never-ending sassiness rearing its head.
"What's with the whispering? Are you doing something you shouldn't be?" Alli asked, her excitement showing in her last question.
"I'm in a bookstore," Clare answered. "I must have forgotten to put my phone on silent, I'm so embarrassed, and I feel like everyone's looking at me now."
"Wow, you rebel," Alli teased. "I thought you were doing something I'd actually care to hear about, like cutting holes in Jake's underwear or I don't know, getting frisky with Eli."
"Is there a reason you called?" Clare asked impatiently, a little fed up with her friend's attitude.
"Yes, actually, I was hoping for a progress report."
"On what? Oh my God, do we have an assignment due?!" Clare demanded causing several people to sush her.
"No, Clare, relax. Jeez," Alli laughed. "A progress report on you and Eli, duh! And don't forget you still owe me the deets about what happened between you and that dickhead."
"First off," Clare started, "why do you need a progress report? We're friends, the end. And secondly, I already told you what happened."
"Yeah, but in your lame Clare version," Alli interrupted, "you cut all the juicy stuff out, you're like the family channel when it comes to gossip."
"And three," Clare continued, ignoring Alli's remark, "I'd really appreciate it if you didn't call him that."
"Call him what? A dickhead?"
"Yes!" Clare confirmed putting a hand to the mouthpiece hoping no one around her could hear their conversation. She could already imagine the manager coming to escort her away, "Miss, we've had several complaints about your noise level and now you seem to be talking about dickheads...get out."
"But he is a dickhead," Alli emphasized, snapping her back to reality.
"No, he is not."
"The dude flirts with you, tries to kiss you and then just bails? Classic dickhead and trust me Clare, I would know."
Sighing, Clare decided she was not going to win this one and settled for defeat, "Why do you need a progress report on us?"
"Clare, Clare, Clare," Alli tsked. "Everyone knows your and Eli's little 'friendship' thing isn't going to last, you guys can't keep your hands off each other!"
"Your point?" Clare asked not bothering to keep the irritation out of her voice.
"My point is sooner or later you two are going to be back together and I better be the first one to know, " Alli explained. "..That and I may have a little wager going on between Dave, Adam, and Miss Dawes."
"WHAT? Did you say Miss Dawes?" Clare demanded alarmed, no longer caring about the volume of her voice.
"What?" Alli faltered, "Um…no? Definitely not."
"Alli!" Clare whined.
"What? She overheard us, we couldn't just not include her at that point, rude," Alli pointed out.
"God, I don't even want to know," Clare mumbled pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Oh really?" Alli asked, "I think you do, Dave has $50 saying you two won't get back on that horse until after high school, Adam said by the end of this week and I have next week."
"And Miss Dawes?" Clare asked knowing she'd never be able to look her favorite teacher in the eye ever again.
Alli laughed, "She thinks you guys have been back together for at least two months now. She was going on and on about how you two act in the hallway, even asking other teachers' opinions, she sounded pretty convinced…it's not true is it?" she asked, her voice sounding a lot more threatening than someone her size should be allowed.
"No, of course not!" Clare answered, dropping her face into her hands.
"Well great. So…think you can hold out for at least two more weeks?" Alli asked and Clare swore she could actually hear the girl batting her eyelashes. "I might even split the money with you...but probably not, that's half a pair of shoes!"
"Considering it's not going to be happening at all, yeah I think I can make it through two weeks," Clare drawled sarcastically. God, did Eli know about this? She could already picture the smug look on his face…that damn attractive face.
"Perfect," Alli answered. "So really, how are things with you two?"
"Friendly," Clare replied shortly.
"Funny," Alli answered even though by her tone it would appear it was anything but. "But for real, I know you were pretty upset at first, is it getting any better?"
Clare sighed, leaning against one of the bookshelves, "Yeah, I just have to get used to it. Things with us have always been so flirty, it's hard cracking down on it, especially when…never mind."
"No, no never mind, don't do that. Especially when what?" Alli demanded, suddenly very interested in the conversation.
Clare hesitated, already feeling the blush color her cheeks,"…Especially on days like today."
"Oh don't you pull that vague nonsense with me," Alli barked. "What's different about today?"
"Why do you care so much? You just called him a dickhead!" Clare exclaimed, biting her lip as a man who had just wandered into her aisle quickly retreated upon her outburst.
Apparently he didn't come to the bookstore to hear about who was or was not a dickhead.
"Hey now, chill out a bit, would you?" Alli ordered. "I care because you're my best friend and we discuss all the juicy business of our lives especially if it includes hot, broody boys…even if they are dickheads from time to time.
I know he makes you happy in some weird way and that's all I want for you…well as long as I get to be your Maid of Honor, suck it, Darcy!" she laughed briefly before continuing her speech, "If Eli makes you happy, then by all means, go get it girl…but maybe wait two more weeks? Because that would really make me happy and then we'd all be happy, see? Everyone's happy."
"Alright, I'm sorry," Clare said, feeling abashed at her outburst. "You see what he's doing to me; I'm all out of sorts."
"I know, you just said 'dickhead' in a bookstore, someone inform the church elders!" Alli mocked.
"I have no idea what you're talking about" Clare pressed, hearing her friend's laughter on the other end.
"Back on track," Alli started, clearing her throat, "now where were we? Ah yes, what's so different about today that's got you all out of sorts?"
"I don't know, it's like," she struggled, "it's like he's tempting me." Clare paused momentarily to wait for Alli's laughter to die down before continuing, "He has new cologne on and it's really bothering me and he looks even cuter today, like maybe he got a haircut or something, I just, I don't know."
"Or something," Alli repeated, amused by her friend's rambling. "Are his jeans extra tight today? Does his butt look oh so fine?" she laughed causing Clare to join in with her.
Before she could reply, suddenly Clare felt a pair of lips pressed against her ear as someone came up behind her. "I should've known I'd find you here," a deep voice murmured sending her into a panic.
"Jesus!" Clare screamed, dropping her phone in her fright, turning to find a very amused Eli waiting for her and several irritated passerbys, clearly having had enough frenzy in what was typically a quiet bookstore.
"Jumpy much?" he teased, that damn smirk of his reappearing.
Clare nodded hastily, bending down to retrieve her phone, Alli's shrill voice still loud even from its spot on the floor. "Alli? Can I call you back later, Eli's here." She quickly ended the call but not before a loud chorus of "oh la la's" could be heard briefly, making her even more flustered in his presence.
"How much of that did you hear exactly?" she demanded, her cheeks darkening as she thought back on her conversation with Alli.
Eli laughed, "Clearly not enough based on your reaction. Care to spill?" He quirked an eyebrow at her, almost challenging her to say what they both knew she wouldn't.
"N-nothing important," she mumbled, avoiding his piercing gaze.
"Oh no?" he questioned smugly as his lips pulled back into a smirk as he casually leaned against the shelf.
"Nope," she squeaked out, "so where is everyone else anyway?"
Eli laughed, her little attempt at a distraction not going unnoticed, but he decided to go easy on her. "Last I saw Imogen had a stack of books bigger than her by the couches and Adam was in the sexuality section giggling like a schoolgirl at all the smut books."
"They're called romance," Clare corrected annoyed.
Eli smiled, taking a step closer to her, her back almost pressed directly against the shelves, "You would know, Madame Degrassi."
"Shut up" she playfully smacked his arm with the book she was holding, forever regretting the time she had told him about her fanfiction days and although he'd been more respectful than she had imagined, even letting him read some, she still felt a little silly about it.
"Hey, abuse!" he cried impishly, taking the book from her hands. He glanced briefly at the cover before looking Clare in the eye once more, a shimmer of amusement in his gaze as he shook his head slowly, "Really Clare? More vampires?"
She laughed in reply, giving a little shrug, "They're addicting."
"Meth is addicting," he countered, "liking awful books is simply poor judgment."
"Hey now, there is nothing wrong with my judgment," she defended, her hands moving to her hips, Eli's eyes quickly following suit.
He grimaced, "Didn't you date your brother once?"
Glaring back, she teased, "Maybe you're right. You know I also dated a guy who used to drive a hearse, what was I thinking?"
"No, no, I think you made the right call there," Eli insisted. "Something tells me he was drop dead gorgeous, probably super funny too."
"No, I think that was the worst of the bunch," Clare admitted slyly, "if I could go back I'd just stick with the brother."
"Ouch," Eli placed his hand over his heart, "hitting me where I live, woman." He shook his head defeated and Clare gave him a smirk that could rival his own in return. "But in all honesty Edwards," he continued, holding up her book he'd taken from her, "how can I be seen in public with you when you carry garbage like this around? You've read good books!"
"Well you know," Clare feigned thinking hard, "you could just leave." The corner of her mouth turned upwards as she watched Elis' eyes narrow at her remark. No matter how many times they would bicker back and forth there were very few things she enjoyed more than beating him at his own game.
Eli's smirk grew as he took yet another step closer, his eyes never leaving hers as she could feel her back come in contact with the shelf behind her, "You're lucky I like you so much."
Clare could feel her eyes grow wide, not sure how to respond to him without creating more awkwardness. "I…well, um," she sputtered before switching gears, "wh-what do you have there?"
She didn't miss Eli's chuckle, no doubt knowing all too well the effect he had on her and he eyed the books she was pointing to. "Well, like I was saying, you seem to have a weakness for awful books…"
"Hey!" she cried scandalized, now fully into the conversation.
"Don't hate, Edwards, this is for your own good. Lucky for you, I have the solution," he held up the small stack of books he was carrying," good books!"
"I've read good books," Clare grumbled.
Ignoring her, Eli held up the first book, "The first of course, Mason Phillips, the whole point of this little adventure."
She nodded approvingly as he set the book behind her on the shelf. "Next?"
"Next is one on my list, God Hates Us All."
"Sounds charming," Clare mused with a roll of her eyes that Eli didn't miss.
"Hey, give it a shot. I don't insult your vampire books."
"Yes, you do, all the time!" Clare argued passionately.
Eli shot her a wicked grin, "Yeah, I know," he gave a little shrug. "Anyways, I figured you could read the Mason Phillips' novel first, I'll take God Hates Us All and when we're done we switch?"
Clare nodded, loving that she had a least one friend who she could discuss literature with, whether they agreed or not, one of her favorite things to do with Eli was discussing books. They would talk about their favorite characters and moments and even how awful some of the passages were, he always had an interesting perspective that she hadn't ever considered before. "I'm in. What's the last book there?"
Clare watched his eyes dip down and his expression changed briefly to one she couldn't read before he smiled back at her once more, holding up his final book: Fight Club.
She quirked a brow at him confused, "Um, Eli? You know we both already have this, right?"
He made a face, "Well yeah. I'm not saying we buy it, but I saw it when I was walking over here. It felt wrong to talk about books with you and not bring it up." He shrugged, eyeing his sneakers, "It's special, you know?"
Clare nodded, taking the book from him as she ran her fingers over the cover, remembering a night that seemed so long ago, full of contraband kissing and spur of the moment piercings.
"I still have mine," Eli said quietly, seeming to read her mind.
"You do?" she asked a little upset her own hole had filled in after she'd taken the piercing out during her and Jake's relationship. She tried a few months before to put the hoop back in but to no avail, she at least still had the hoop in her jewelry box back home but it wasn't quite the same.
Eli nodded, moving closer, "If it means something, keep it," he echoed her words from long ago as he brushed his hair back to reveal the silver hoop.
Maybe it was the memories of their past, the intimacy between the shelves, or perhaps the fact that Eli was way too close, his cologne filing her up, but suddenly Clare was tired of these stupid rules they had set up for each other, what was the point?
Eli, seemingly in the same mindset, stepped even closer, pushing her entirely up against the bookshelf as Fight Club fell from her hands. Clare faltered momentarily, her breath catching at his proximity. He was just everywhere all at once, his scent, whatever that damn cologne is, surrounding her, the dark greens of his eyes seeming to take up her entire vision, even his breath hot on her face, she felt like he was invading her senses, knowing that if he were to kiss her now his lips would most certainly have that same taste of bitter coffee they usually did.
"Clare," he breathed, moving closer still, reaching up to place the book he had taken from her on the shelf behind her head, his arm not moving even after he set it down, trapping her in like a predator to his prey would but there was nothing predatory about his expression, his eyes dark but soft, fanning over her features, as he lightly placed his forehead against her own.
Suddenly she was hot, everything around her was burning, she could feel her palms moisten as she tugged helplessly on her shirt, hoping, trying anything to cool down. Everything was intense, her stomach in knots. She felt too big for her clothes, and it didn't help that Eli looked just as hot as she felt, his hair swept across his forehead, falling slightly in his eyes, those long eyelashes, that jawline, it was all just too much.
Before she knew how it had happened, Clare realized she had a handful of Eli's shirt in her palm as she pulled him even closer, momentarily registering his hand on her hip as his nose brushed against her own making him hum appreciatively. She could've laughed, leave it to them to get riled up in a bookstore; she could actually hear Allis' eyes rolling across town.
Clare felt torn, half of her wanted to grab him by the lapels of his leather jacket and bring her lips to his in a manner that would make her mother blush while the other wanted to slap him across the face for trying to test her like this.
It seemed like she wasn't going to have to decide, as Eli leaned in, placing a light kiss to her cheek. She briefly closed her eyes as she leaned into his touch, embracing the moment she had been waiting for for so long, "This isn't how friends act," she reminded him, her grip on his jacket tightening.
He laughed, his lips sliding from her cheek back to her ear, "Is it bad I don't mind?"
She felt Eli nuzzle into her hair fleetingly before placing another small kiss to the side of her neck, the action making her shiver while his hand on her hip traveled to the small of her back, pulling her in closer, "Considering this whole thing was your idea? Yes."
He pulled back, "I didn't think it would be this hard." The brutal honesty in his tone and the look in his eyes only further pushing Clare over the edge as he held her gaze, the ball was in her court now.
This whole thing was stupid, who cares if they said they should just be friends? If stuff like this kept happening maybe it was a sign, maybe they made the wrong call. Eli obviously wanted this just as much as she did, so what was stopping them?
Unable to come up with an excuse, Clare leaned in.
"Eli Goldsworthy, there you are!"
Startled by the intrusion, they quickly jumped apart, Eli hitting the shelf opposite the one they had just been pressed up against, a few books falling off amidst the chaos.
"I…s-sorry," Clare muttered, both to their intruder and Eli whom she had practically thrown off her, her face bright red as she looked up to find none other than Adam and Imogen, looking just as guilty as she felt.
"What's going on here?" Adam asked, his eyes going back and forth accusingly from Clare to Eli who had busied himself by picking up the books that had fallen from his impact.
"Are we interrupting something?" Imogen added, clearly knowing the answer and a slight smile played at her lips while she and Adam exchanged amused looks.
"What? No," Clare laughed awkwardly, glancing at Eli for help as he rubbed the back of his neck, a trait he'd been known to do whenever he was uncomfortable. "We were just…Eli was showing me…." She trailed off lamely, unsure of what to say.
"The shelf?" Adam supplied with a laugh. "Making sure it's nice and sturdy? How'd that go, does it pass your test?"
"Yeah…um…very good shelf," she mumbled, reaching behind her to grab both her vampire book and the Mason Phillips novel, announcing, "I'm just gonna go pay and then we can leave, okay? Okay."
Clare, not wanting to stick around for the awkward confrontation that was sure to come, simply nodded and briskly walked towards the registers.
Eli slowly followed her lead after collecting his own books, still not looking either Adam or Imogen in the eye, hoping they'd take the hint and ignore what just happened…no such luck.
"Dude," Adam sighed, giving a low whistle.
"Seriously Adam, just…don't," Eli growled. "I don't even know what just happened."
"Really? Cause we could totally fill you in," Adam laughed nudging his girlfriend in the side.
"Fuck off," he mumbled, clearly not in the mood as he caught up to Clare in line, Adam and Imogen's laughter still evident from behind them.
"I'm sorry," Eli whispered, joining Clare in line, the tension between them back once more.
"Let's just not mention it, okay?" she replied, still in shock over what just occurred between them as Eli nodded, rubbing his neck once again. Neither of them saying a word until it was her turn to pay.
"Here, let me get it," Eli offered motioning to her books, "It was my idea to come here."
"Eli…" Clare sighed, closing her eyes, in no mood to argue.
"What? Consider it a thank you present for all the shit you've had to put up with thanks to me."
"That's okay, really," she replied, stepping up to the next register.
"Clare, come on," he tried again.
"No, Eli, I'm trying to make this work," she insisted, digging through her purse.
He laughed, "Me buying you something isn't going to jeopardize our friendship."
"I know," she sighed thinking of something else that could jeopardize their friendship like, I don't know, getting busy at the bookstore, "it's fine. You've done enough."
Quickly before Clare could fish her wallet out, Eli added his copy of God Hates Us All to Clare's stack along with a few bills to the cashier, his smug smirk returning.
"Eli!" Clare scolded.
"Friends can buy each other books, Clare," he teased. "Just…don't fight me on this one, please? I want to do something nice for you, I know this past week hasn't been easy…hell I don't think anything involving us has ever been easy."
She glared momentarily, "Fine…thank you, but no more. We're even now," she proclaimed ignoring his scoff.
Eli smiled, taking the bag from the cashier, fishing out his own book before handing the rest to Clare, "I really am sorry, about the…you know…" he struggled, the weirdness coming back as she held out a hand to stop him.
"It's fine, Eli. I mean it's not, but it is. Nothing happened, we just got caught up in the moment is all," Clare explained, her cheeks getting hot as Adam and Imogen rejoined them, both armed with a new set of comics.
Eli nodded again, glaring at Adam as the younger boy wiggled his eyebrows behind Clare.
After a few more stops, mostly due to Adam and Imogen's insistence they were on the subway headed home, somehow the ride back was more awkward than the first as Eli opted to stand while Clare sat beside the other two, unable not to notice they were in the middle of a texting frenzy, by the looks of with by how often he kept pulling out his phone, Eli.
The boy in question glared once more at his phone as he received three more text messages, rolling his eyes at the couple as he read.
Adam – Why didn't you just kiss her man?
Imogen – YES, HELLO, we all know u want 2, LET LOVE TRIUMPH.
Adam – Those were some pretty sturdy shelves, don'ta think? ;)
Adam – Don't ignore me, Elijah
Fiona – IMOGEN TOLD ME U & CLARE HOOKED UP?
Fiona – WELL?
By the time they arrived at their stop, Eli's phone was off, Adam was irritated, Imogen was already deep into her new comics and Clare was 4 chapters into her vampire novel, the lead suspiciously reminding her of a certain green eyed boy that she couldn't get out of her mind.