A/N: I know, I've been neglecting my other stories but this popped into my head while I was running errands today, and I just had to write it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Degrassi
A Pretty Expensive Shackle
"Oh you have got to be kidding me," Clare Edwards stared down at the playbill in her hands.
"What is it, honey?" Her fiancé, Nathaniel Lawthorn asked, "Is something the matter?"
"N-no," Clare's response was hurried and her face was flushed, "It's just…well the writer and director of this play used to go to my old high school…"
"Really?" Nathan's voice was bemused, "Well, sweetie, it's a good thing we are attending the benefit tomorrow night, then you can say hi."
"Oh, he probably wouldn't even remember me," Clare twisted the two-carat shackle on her finger.
"Of course he will," Nathan kissed her temple, "How could anyone forget you?"
Clare leaned into the kiss, and tried to forget about the name she had seen in the playbill. She closed the program, and stared blankly at the stage.
They were in New York City on business. Nathan had to meet with some big-up in the real estate business, and Clare had to meet with her publisher. They had decided to see the off-Broadway production on a whim. Nathan was a big patron of the theater, and had donated money to an organization supporting off-Broadway productions, their actors, directors, and writers. Clare thought the benefit tomorrow night would be dull, and wished she could just stay in the hotel. After seeing the name in the playbill, she would give anything to not have to go.
The lights were dimmed, the curtains went up, the orchestra played something very dramatic and dark, and Clare tried to turn her focus onto the stage and off of the name in the playbill.
The play was about a young man struggling with bipolar disorder. He had abused prescription pills when he was in high school, and after losing his girlfriend in a car crash on the night of graduation, he began using harder drugs. Street drugs. The play was properly titled, "Like a Needle to the Vein."
The play concluded when the boy overdosing and dying in a gutter on the streets of alphabet city. Clare couldn't help but feel guilty as she clapped at the end. This play screamed the name she was trying to forget. She wondered how many people, blindly clapping along in the audience, knew that the writer, director struggled with bipolar disorder himself? She wondered if any of them knew that he had lost his girlfriend in a car accident and had struggled with drug abuse when he was in high school.
"What did you think?" Nathan asked as they stood from their red pleather seats.
"It was…intense," Clare answered honestly, not really knowing what to think.
"Did it remind you of your old friend?"
"It seems like something he'd have put together," Clare nodded truthfully.
As they were turning to head up the steps and exit the theater, Clare scanned the audience. Was Eli sitting somewhere (maybe front and center) taking everything in and marveling at his work. Maybe he sat there, somewhere, with a smug smirk on his face, watching the crowds leave. Maybe he was yelling at a critic or reporter who had disliked his work. Maybe he hadn't shown up at all…
Clare felt Nathan's hand at the small of her back, pulling her out of her thoughts.
"Let's go get dessert," he suggested.
The next evening, Clare was getting ready for the benefit. Everyone who had anything to do with off-Broadway shows would be there tonight, including him. She felt herself grow dizzy, and thought perhaps she had put on a bit too much perfume.
"You look gorgeous," Nathan kissed her as she stepped out of the luxurious hotel bathroom.
"Thank you," Clare blushed, and hoped he was right.
The benefit was held in the ballroom of the Marriot Marquis in Times Square. Everything was stunning – the dresses, the suits, the food, the chandeliers, the people.
Nathan was talking with about four other men, and Clare tried not to be bored. How could one possibly be bored in the ballroom of the Marriot Marquis?
Clare meandered over to one of the buffet tables for her third chocolate fondue strawberry, and felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and saw him standing before her.
"You," he said with a bemused smirk, "I'd recognize those blue eyes anywhere."
"Hello, Eli," Clare smiled, all thoughts of her chocolate covered strawberry vanished.
"What are you doing here, Edwards?"
"I was in New York for business," Clare explained, "I saw your play last night."
Eli's cocky smirk suddenly vanished, and Clare thought she saw a streak of fright in his eyes, "Really?" He asked, then regained his debonair with one flick of his hand through his messy brown hair, "I mean, what'd you think?"
"It was intense."
"Yeah," Eli nodded, "My stuff's like that. I like to shock people," he grinned and raised an eyebrow before patting her on the arm, "But don't worry, it's not autobiographical…well, not completely."
"I'm glad," Clare tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, "I wouldn't want you dead in a gutter."
"I'm glad," Eli nodded, then lightened the mood by lightly kicking her foot, "Aren't those heels killer?"
Clare smiled, "They're appropriate for the event. Aren't you," she tugged at the black t-shirt, "a little underdressed?"
"When you write and direct your own plays and thousands of people come to see them, you can dress however you want. I think little Miss Edwards wishes she was in a t-shirt and jeans. Come on, Clare. You've got to be kidding me. An evening gown? Seriously?"
"And what is wrong with my evening gown?" Clare spun around showing off the green satin and rhinestone gown, "I happen to think it's beautiful."
"I didn't say it wasn't," Eli shoved his hands into his jeans pockets, "It just doesn't seem like…well…you."
"Eli, forgive me, but you haven't seen me in ten years…"
"People don't change that much. And Clare Edwards," Eli grabbed her wrist, "What the hell is that on your hand, missy?"
"A ring," Clare smirked, "Two carats."
"Wow. Expensive shackle."
Eli had used the same expression she had coined for her engagement ring.
"Yeah," Clare tried to sound cheerful, "He's a wonderful man. He's here tonight…" Clare scanned the sea of people, "…somewhere."
"Any guy who lets you out of his sight is far from wonderful."
Clare cocked her head to the side, wondering where in the world that little comment had come from.
"Would your fiancé be angry if I were to invite you over to my apartment for a drink and to catch up?" Eli asked, giving her his infamous puppy-dog eyes.
Clare blushed, "Maybe."
"Do you care?" Eli asked, his eyes falling on the 'shackle.'
Clare bit her lower lip trying desperately to suppress the smile that threatened to cross her lips.
"I'll take that as a no," Eli grinned.
Before Clare knew it, she was sitting in the back of a taxi, with Eli Goldsworthy next to her.
"So tell me, what are you doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"What are you doing with a fiancé you don't seem to care much for?"
Clare suddenly became intently interested in her cuticles, "Um…well…he's a nice guy – he really is! It's just…he's like vanilla ice cream – good but bland. There's no excitement. We spend our evenings watching the news and sometimes I just want to do something fun."
"Like tonight," Eli smirked.
The taxi pulled in front of an apartment complex, and Eli opened Clare's door for her, "Home sweet home."
They took the elevator up to his floor, and Eli led her to one of the apartments, "Apartment 303B," he inserted the key and held the door open for her, "It's nothing special."
Inside, there were playbills framed on the walls, alongside dark paintings and photographs.
Eli flipped on the lights, "Like I said, nothing special."
"I like it," Clare said truthfully, glancing around.
"Would you like something to drink?" Eli offered, "I am afraid all I have is hard stuff."
"Hard stuff is good," Clare said, earning herself a surprised glance from Eli before he retreated to get her her drink.
"So this is where you live," Clare made her way to the kitchen where Eli was pouring her drink, "I really like it, Eli. It's…you."
Eli slid the glass across the counter, and Clare caught it and took a sip. He was right, it was strong. She tried to act like she drank hard liquor all the time, but Eli laughed.
"You look like you're going to puke, Edwards."
"I-I like it," Clare made a feeble attempt at defense, but Eli took the glass from her hands.
"Maybe I should have fixed you a ginger ale."
Clare glared at him, and he chuckled, "So how have you been?"
"Good," Clare sat down at one of the bar stools, "I am working on getting a book published, actually. I met with my publisher yesterday."
Eli rested his elbows on the granite counter and raised an eyebrow, "That so?"
"Yeah," Clare blushed, "It's nothing spectacular. Just teenage vamp-fiction."
Eli gagged and Clare reached over and smacked him, "It's my guilty pleasure!"
"I know," Eli chuckled again, "So when is the big date?" Clare looked confused so Eli said, "The wedding, butthead!"
"Oh!" Clare blushed, "Next summer."
"And how did you meet him? Come on, Blue-Eyes, I want all the juicy details."
Clare rolled her eyes, "Spare me."
"Come on," Eli urged, "Spill."
"Fine," Clare gave in, knowing how relentless he could be, "He was in my government class our junior year of college."
"Boring," Eli faked a yawn.
"What? What'd you want me to say? That he rescued me from a burning building."
Eli rolled his eyes, "I just thought it'd be something more spectacular."
"Well it's not. What about you?" Clare turned the tables, "Do you have some leggy super model tucked away somewhere?"
Eli laughed, "No, I wish. I haven't dated much. The bipolar gets in the way sometimes. I scare people."
"You don't scare me," Clare reached over and grabbed the glass Eli had taken from her, and took a sip.
"You're not?" Eli raised an eyebrow, "We are completely alone. I could do whatever I wanted to you. Does that scare you?"
"No," Clare took another sip of the drink to calm her nerves.
Eli squinted at her before chuckling and shaking his head.
"Should I be?" Clare raised an eyebrow.
"Yes," Eli said, without missing a beat.
Clare shook her head, "Well I'm not."
Eli grabbed the drink from her and took a sip, "You should be."
"And why is that?" Clare pressed.
"Because," another sip, "You are in the company of a very dangerous person, Clare Elizabeth Edwards."
"Dangerous?" Clare raised an eyebrow, "You?"
Eli teased her by making a face and saying, "But of course. For instance, I could take you into that bedroom and ravish you until you don't even remember ol' whatshisname's name."
"Nathan," Clare reached for the drink, "And is that a threat?"
Clare opened her mouth to say something, but didn't even have the chance. Eli hopped over the counter top and devoured her with a kiss.
Their kiss was everything Clare imagined kissing Eli again would be. It was messy and overwhelming and a complete and utter competition for dominance and power. There were bites and swollen lips and teasing teeth, and Clare's head begin to feel like and foggy.
Eli pulled away, his lips hovering above hers, "What are you doin' Blue Eyes?"
Clare felt like a balloon that had been suddenly deflated, much to its chagrin, "I-I don't know what you mean…"
"I mean, what are you doing, Clare?"
Clare didn't know where the words came from – they sort of just spilled out of her like a sink without a plug, "Falling in love with you again."
"Did you ever stop?" Eli asked, not the least bit surprised by what she had just said.
"I-I don't think so…"
Eli kissed her again, but this time it was sweet – not greedy or power-hungry.
"What are we waiting for?"
"I-I don't know…"
Eli grabbed her hand and pulled her up from the stool and led her to the bedroom.
"Blue Eyes, if you're gonna go and try and get all logical on me, just don't. This is not the time for logic. This is time for doing. Oh God," Eli made a sour face, "I did not mean it like THAT! Okay well maybe I did, but…"
"Eli," Clare stopped, "I'm engaged."
"And here comes the logical crap."
"I can't just run away from my fiancé and sleep with you!"
"And why not?" Eli raised an eyebrow, "No one is stopping you."
"I am stopping me though," Clare bit her lower lip, "I can't…"
Eli crossed his arms over his chest, ""If you deny my request, Ms. Edwards, well then I might just have to do a bit more persuading," Eli grinned.
"Clare Edwards, I will give you precisely five seconds to get from here to that bed before I pick you up and throw you on there myself."
"I am engaged!"
"To someone you don't even like…two…"
"I like him…enough."
"This is crazy…I can't just randomly run into you in New York City and pick right up where we left off all those years ago…"
"Because…it's crazy! It's insane!"
"You're forgetting I have bipolar," Eli smirked, "A mental disorder. I am crazy, Edwards. Five."
Eli grabbed her and tossed her onto the bed as she shrieked a protest.
"Tell me one good reason why we can't do this."
"Because," Clare protested, and held up her right hand, "Engaged! What part of that don't you get."
"Fine," Eli held up his hands in surrender, "Just tell me you don't want this. Tell me and I will call you a taxi and see to it that you are safely returned to Ethan."
"All I have to do is tell you I don't want this?"
"And you are freed from my clutches, m'lady," Eli bowed towards her, causing Clare to roll her eyes.
"All I have to do is say it?"
"Yup," Eli nodded, "And you can leave."
Clare opened her mouth, but no words came.
"That's what I thought," Eli smirked, before ravishing her in kisses.