Take Me to Timbuktu

Summary: Its graduation day, and Clare has to come to grips with saying goodbye to Degrassi forever as she plans to head off to New York. But her goodbyes are interrupted by a certain someone who has a certain surprise up his sleeve.

Author's Note: I do not own Degrassi. This is slightly or maybe more than slightly AU. Enjoy!

Clare Edwards clutched the diploma in her hands as she glanced at the gymnasium one last time. This school had been her life for the past four years. She had seen death, sadness, heartache, joy, birth, gladness, abuse, laughter, tears, the whole world, within the walls of Degrassi. Her whole world anyway. Now, it was time to get out there and see what the real whole world had to offer, and leave this town and this school and these memories behind.

She decided to walk the halls one last time before saying goodbye. After all, what else did she have to do? She and Ali still weren't speaking to one another, and she hadn't spoken to Eli since their last big fight, the fight that permanently ended anything that ever might have had a chance. Adam had waved to her earlier that day, but that was it. She had no one.

Her parents hadn't even come to the ceremony. Her dad had booked it to Los Angeles after the divorce papers had gone through, and her mother was too busy at the bottom of a bottle of Patron to really even care, or notice.

Clare didn't have any big after-grad parties to go to like everyone else. She didn't have family flown in from out of town. She didn't have any of that. It was just her, and her diploma, as she walked through the halls one last time.

She came across her old locker and stopped at touched the padlock one last time. This locker had housed textbooks, notebooks, pens, papers, pencils, love notes, poems, cards, photographs, a stuffed animal, her Bible – it had been her in a nutshell. And now, she would never again be able to unlock it and open its secrets.

"What are you still doing here?"

The voice startled her. Clare glanced up and saw Eli standing at the end of the hallway. He was holding his diploma too, and – as she had – abandoned the gaudy graduation gown. He was wearing black pants, a green dress shirt, and a black tie. His hair was shaggier than she thought she remembered, but those green eyes were still the same. Those green eyes that made her forget how to breathe, forget out to blink, forget how to speak.

"I just wanted to see everything one more time," Clare admitted honestly, "It's weird, being in the same place for four years and suddenly having to abandon it. This school…is all I have ever really known."

"Yeah," he nodded, walking towards her, "It'll be weird not being here every day – not having to stress about Smith's essays or Walker's lab assignments."

Clare blushed, and nodded. She didn't really know what to say. Oddly enough, this was their first real conversation in quite a long time. She didn't really know what to do or what to say or how to act. This was Eli! For so long he had been her closest confidant. Now, she had no idea how to even speak to him without causing her heart to break once more.

"Where are you off to now since all of this is over?" Eli asked.

"I have an internship this summer with a publisher in New York. If everything works out, I hope to get a job there. If not, I will go to University. But this publishing internship might just be my big break. It'll look spectacular on a resume, of course. And, at least it's a foot in the door."

"Wow," Eli ran a hand through his hair, "Wow!"

"What? I'm sure you have something equally exciting lined up for your life?"

"I don't make life plans, Clare. You know that. Everything's too…unpredictable. But I am might go to work at the local theater over the summer. I don't know yet. College is still up in the air. It's not really affordable for me right now."

"I get it," Clare nodded, "But the theater stuff is really cool. You love theater."

Eli shrugged, "Going to New York is cooler. You'll actually get to see Broadway plays – on Broadway!"

Clare laughed, "Typically people in New York see Broadway plays on Broadway."

"Shut it, Edwards," Eli smirked, "you know what I meant. Hey, maybe if I get some money saved up, I can come out to New York and maybe you can take me to a play or something."

"Me, take you to a play?"

"Well yeah, it's only what a good hostess would do for her visitor. So, where are your parents? I didn't see them this morning?"

"They didn't make it," Clare blushed, instantly becoming transfixed on one of the scuffs in the linoleum flooring.

"Oh. Mine either," Eli sighed, "Parents, huh – what are we gonna do with 'em?"

Clare couldn't help but smile. He always made her smile.

"There it is."

"What?"

"That smile," Eli grinned. Clare hardly ever saw him truly smile – smirks, yeah, plenty of smirks, but not too many genuine smile, "I haven't seen that smile in way too long, Edwards."

Clare blushed.

"And that blush."

"Don't tease me," Clare halfheartedly pleaded. Truth was, she enjoyed the attention he was giving her. It was almost like old times.

"But you make it so easy."

"Shut up."

"Make me, Blue Eyes."

Clare looked up at him with those big blue eyes of hers, and took a step towards him. He, in turn, took a step towards her, erasing any space between them. They were so close, their noses were practically touching.

"Please," Clare scoffed, "I totally know how to make you shut that big mouth of yours."

"Is that so?"

"Just because it's been awhile doesn't mean that I've forgotten."

"I'd like to see you try," he dared, coking an eyebrow as if begging her to do it.

Clare gulped, stood up on her tiptoes, and kissed him. He slipped his arms around her and her hand found itself entwined in his hair. Their tongues wrestled with one another, fighting for control. But then, as quickly as the kiss had begun, it ended. Clare blushed a deep shade of crimson and took sudden interest in the ends of her hair. Eli stepped backwards and ran his tongue across his bottom lip.

"Clare…"

"You asked for it," she said defensively, "You were practically begging me to kiss you."

"Oh yeah?" Eli smirked, "and those big blue eyes of yours weren't totally pleading with me to grab and kiss you like the world was ending?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. The only reason I kissed you was to prove a point and to make you shut up for a few seconds."

"Oh please," Eli laughed, "Like I don't know your 'kiss me, Eli – kiss me, kiss me!' look."

"Shut up."

"If I don't, will you kiss me again? Because that was kind of hot…"

"Eli," Clare whined, "Stop it. We can't be doing this and you know it."

"Why not? No one is around. We're graduated. We can't get busted for breaking any lame PDA rules anymore, so why not?"

"Because Eli, you know why not. We're done. We've been done for a long time now. Don't make this any harder by picking at any scabbed-over wounds."

"I don't even remember the real reason why we broke up," Eli admitted.

"It was a bunch of different stuff," Clare shrugged casually.

"Whatever it was," Eli shuffled his feet, "it nearly killed me. I started taking drugs again, Clare. For my depression. But the drug use kind of got out of hand."

"Eli…I had no idea…"

"Not something I broadcasted. But anyways, I'm better now. But losing you…it really kicked my butt, Clare. And you know how I am about that whole emotional garbage. I don't show it often."

"Shouldn't you be going to Fiona's party or something?" Clare tried to change the subject.

"The only thing I have to be doing is standing here talking to this Blue Eyes girl who can be a real pain in the ass sometimes," Eli smirked, again running his hand through his hair.

"Why talk to her if she's such a pain?"

"Because not talking to her is even worse."

"Can I say something totally insane?"

"Everything that comes out of your mouth is insane, but sure. Go for it."

Clare shot him a look, "I was going to say that you might want to check into some of the theater workshops offered during the summers in New York. I did for fun the other night and there are so many opportunities. You'd have a blast."

"Wow."

"Wow what?"

"Sounds like someone might just miss me once she moves all the way to New York."

"Oh please…"

"I get it," Eli smirked, "Really. How can you not miss someone as irresistible as me?"

"Can it, Eli."

"Or what?"

"If this is just some attempt to get me to kiss you again in order to shut you up…"

"I don't need some attempt to get you to kiss me. I'm a big boy, Clare. If I wanted to kiss you, I would just…"

Eli grabbed her, pinned her against her locker, and kissed her. His tongue was violent as it fought against hers. Their lips crashed together. Their tongues wrestled again for power. He caught her bottom lip between his and sucked hard with his teeth. She moaned and he grinned against the kiss. That was one trick up he had up his sleeve that he knew she wasn't going to be expecting. Yes, Blue Eyes, I remember your weaknesses. The kiss continued, and Eli eased up a bit as the kiss suddenly took on a gentler tone. It was as if at first, they were both so desperate for that kiss and once they finally had it, they wanted to savor it and never let it go.

"Ah-hem," the duo broke apart to see Adam standing there, "Dude…what the heck?"

"Sorry," Eli found that it was his turn to blush, "I was just…"

"You said you'd come to lunch with Mom and me."

"I got…"

"Distracted?" Adam rolled his eyes, "Whatever. You two lovebirds get a room!"

"Adam…"

"Eli," Clare giggled, "I didn't know you were one to blush."

"I'm not…"

Clare giggled again as Eli waggled a finger towards her, "You're blushing more than I do!"

"Clare…" Eli said warningly.

"Alright, alright, I'll stop teasing you," Clare gained her composure, "I promise. It's just…you look so cute when you get all flustered and…"

Eli grabbed her, dipped her, and kissed her again. He let her go and it was her turn to blush as she brought her fingertips to her lips.

"Who's flustered now, Blue Eyes," Eli teased.

"Y-you better go to lunch with Adam and his mom."

"They'll understand."

"Understand what?"

"That I'm busy making out with my girlfriend."

"G-girl…girlfriend?" Clare stammered.

"Unless you're denying my request, Ms. Edwards, and if that is the case, well then I might just have to do a bit more persuading," Eli grinned.

"Eli! We…I don't know…I don't know what to…we can't keep kissing here!"

Eli gestured towards the door, "Your carriage awaits."

"Morty?" Clare giggled, "Eli we can't…I mean we're broken up…"

"Are we?"

"We…we are no good together…"

"You sure about that?"

"And I am leaving in a few weeks…"

"And who's to say I'm not coming with you?"

"Eli…"

"Do I need to do some more convincing?" Eli asked as he held the door open for her.

"It's just…we can't just go from being…well to being…we can't just…"

"Can't just what?" Eli asked, walking her towards the familiar hearse.

Clare felt as though her heart was beating a thousand miles a minute. She couldn't stand it. Her stomach was flip-floppy and her heart was racing. She felt flustered and dizzy and he totally was taking advantage of that.

Eli unlocked the car and he crawled inside, "Care to join me?"

"I-I can't just get in your car with you and…"

"And why not?"

"Because we are broken up…we aren't…we can't…"

"I will give you three seconds to get in this car or else I come over there and drag you and throw you in the backseat and become more persuasive than you've ever seen me."

"Is that a threat?"

"A promise."

"Eli…"

"One."

"I can't just…"

"Two."

"Eli this isn't…"

"Three. Time's up."

Clare squealed as Eli got out of the driver's seat, walked over to her, opened the passenger door, picked her up, and tossed her inside.

"Now we have two options. One: We can either go for a drive or, Two: go to the back and I'll spend a good while trying to convince you as to why you can't live without me."

"Eli," Clare blushed.

"Take your pick."

"Drive," Clare squealed.

"What was that?" Eli teased.

"Drive!"

"I didn't hear you…"

"Drive you big idiot!" Clare giggled.

"Fine, geeze. Okay, crazy woman, no need to yell."

Eli put the key in the ignition and turned the car on before peeling out of the school parking lot.

"So long, Degrassi!" Clare waved goodbye.

"So where are we driving to?" Eli asked.

"Anywhere," Clare put her feet up on the dash like she always used to.

"Timbuktu?"

"Or Atlantis."

"Maybe Constantinople."

The duo laughed as Eli cranked up the radio, "I've missed you."

"I've missed you too. You know, you don't have to convince me as to why I can't live without you," Clare sighed, "I already know I can't."

"A month ago I applied for a theater workshop in New York after I heard Adam mention something about you going there for the summer. Am I a total creeper?"

"You what?" Clare gasped.

"Yup, major creeper status, huh?"

"No…not at all…Eli! Did you hear back?"

"Yes, and it looks like I'm going to New York!"

"Sounds like you're the one who can't live without me," Clare giggled.

"Oh shut up, Blue Eyes, and just tell me you love me. I know you've been wanting to tell me that for months."

"I love you," Clare said genuinely.

"I love you too, Crazy Girl. Now, then – off to Timbuktu!"