Clare could hear their voices through the wall of the bedroom. She winced, and couldn't help but let the tears spill forth like rivers. She bit down on her knuckle so they wouldn't hear her tears. She didn't want to interrupt. Adam was going through so much. It broke her heart to imagine how he must be feeling…and Eli…she knew she shouldn't have said what she did. It was careless. She just wanted everything to be okay. She had, for some reason, thought that when Adam woke up that everything would go back to being normal. She never expected all of this. She thought it was hard with him in a coma, but now watching him have to face all of this…it killed her.
She thought back to when they were teenagers. She remembered prying the hairclip out of his hand and throwing it down on the picnic table. It was so simple – a few kind words, a smile, take away the weapon, and walk him home. It seemed too simple in comparison to this. Clare didn't know how to fix this. All she knew was that she wanted Adam to be okay. She wanted him to remember and she wanted life to go back to normal.
As she adjusted herself on the pillow, Clare closed her eyes and tried to fall back asleep. She couldn't though. She couldn't bring herself to sleep when Adam had slept for months and woken up to find that his life had been turned into a nightmare.
Just as she was about to fall asleep she could hear a muffled voice through the wall. She craned her ears to listen, and what she heard yanked at her heartstrings.
"God…please. I haven't asked for anything since he was first in the hospital. Please…if you're there…help me this one last time. It's not really me I am asking for but…Adam. Please. I…I don't know what to do. You helped bring him back to us, now I am asking you to do this one more thing. I know you can't erase the pain he went through, but if you could help him…if you could help him overcome it, God. Please?"
Clare heard his voice crack and break, and she had to fight back more tears as the prayer continued.
"You know me. I am no good at this sort of thing. But Adam…for years I looked out for him. He's my bud, God. I just…I used to be able to have his back and help him out, but now…I don't know how to help him. I don't know how to help my best friend, and that…that kills me. And now I'm snapping at Clare…and I know she didn't mean to…I don't even know what she did exactly. I just…I lost it. I am losing it, God. Please…just this one last thing. Just help Adam. Help him…help him overcome this pain. Please, God."
Clare could hear him crying now, one of the worst sounds in the whole world, in her opinion. Eli was always so hard, so gruff around the edges. But when he cried…it was one of the saddest, most broken sounds she had ever heard. She couldn't take it. She put the pillow over her head, and fell asleep.
The next morning, she awoke to Adam sitting up at the table and Eli fixing eggs and bacon. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and padded out to the kitchen.
"Good morning," she said sleepily, "How are you guys this morning?"
"It was a late night," Eli yawned, spooning some eggs out on to a plate, "Do you want some? I figured we could do breakfast."
"I called Simpson. He was sympathetic and told us to take this next week to get Adam adjusted to living here. He said he understood. I made us breakfast. I still can't believe he's teaching there...anyways, he said it'll be fine. They have subs for us."
Clare sighed and nodded, agreeing to the plate he was offering her. She knew they needed to get back to work, but helping Adam was more vital. She knew none of this was going to get any easier anytime soon. She also accepted a cup of coffee from Eli, wondering how he could possibly be so awake and so…functional after everything that happened last night.
She took a seat across from Adam at the table and smiled a tight smile at him, trying to force herself to be as chipper as Eli seemed. She didn't get it. He was so broken last night. Why was he suddenly so strong again? She didn't understand.
"How'd you sleep?" Adam asked, picking at a piece of bacon.
"Alright," Clare lied, "What about you?"
"Alright," Adam nodded, nibbling the bacon he was playing with, "Eli thought maybe we could go for an outing today, if you're up for it. I feel up for it. He said he wanted to take us somewhere special."
"Okay," Clare nodded, taking a sip of the coffee, savoring the caffeine, "Yeah, that sounds good. What did you have in mind, Eli?"
"It's a surprise," Eli brought his plate over to the table and sat down next to Adam, "Do you need anything, bud?" He asked, "More eggs?"
"I'm good," Adam nodded, "Thanks though."
Clare continued to sip her coffee and eat her eggs and bacon in silence. She was exhausted, and honestly, she couldn't understand how Adam and Eli weren't as well. She didn't want to be exhausted. She didn't want it to seem like Adam was the reason she was so exhausted, but he was. She just couldn't do these late nights and missing works like this. She wished once again that things could go back to being normal. It wasn't fair.
She mentally slapped herself for thinking that. Where had that come from anyways? What did she mean it wasn't fair? It wasn't fair to her? Clare hated herself for thinking that. It was Adam who none of this was fair to. He had been beaten and raped and in a coma. He had had practically every bone broken. He had suffered through so much, and the battle was still going. It wasn't fair on him. How dare she think about herself. Suddenly she felt so incredibly selfish. Clare pushed her plate away, unable to even take another bite. She just couldn't bring herself to.
"You aren't hungry?" Adam's brow furrowed, "You should eat."
"Listen to you," a small, sad smile crossed her face, "You're worried about me?"
"Of course I am worried about you," Adam shoved the plate back towards her, "Eat."
Clare rolled her eyes and gave in. It was amazing. After everything he had been put through here he was concerned about her not eating. She didn't want to eat, she was sick at herself, but because of him, she took another bite.
After eating, Eli took the dishes, plopped them in a sink full of soapy water, and wheeled Adam back to his bedroom in order to get him changed into something else to go on their outing. Clare snuck off to the bedroom and got dressed herself. She felt overwhelmed and was embarrassed at herself for feeling that way. Eli wasn't overwhelmed and he was up all night crying and praying. What excuse did she have?
They loaded Adam up into the car and put the wheelchair in the trunk before heading off down the highway. Eli turned popped a CD into the radio and Alexisonfire filled the car. He glanced at Adam in the rearview mirror and smiled as he saw a small smile cross his face.
"I see your item," he began to sing, "And I can match it. Just trace the lines on your paisley jacket."
"Whoa," Eli turned down the volume and turned and stared at Adam as he pulled to the red light, "You remember this song?"
"I know the words," Adam's brow furrowed, "I don't know how, but I know the words. A ticking time bomb out of touch with reality…"
Eli shot Clare a look and smiled, "It's a start," he mouthed to her.
Together they drove further, singing the lyrics to the song they all knew. Suddenly the car stopped somewhere familiar, and Clare's eyes widened when she recognized where they were.
"It's good for him to be here," Eli turned off the car, "Adam, does any of this look familiar?"
Adam bothered his lower lip between his teeth and shook his head, "It looks like something from a dream…but I can't place it exactly."
"Come on," Eli hopped out of the car, went around to the trunk, set up the wheelchair, and helped Adam into it, "This is some place special."
He wheeled the wheelchair over to the grown-over dirt path, "This used to be a church, once upon a time," he smiled a sad smile, "Now it's just a pile of ruins. We used to come here to hang out sometimes. When you were struggling with your transition, we all came out here and helped you burn some of Gracie's things. When you had your first real crush, you planned a whole party to be hosted here to impress her. When I had a meltdown…I had it here. This was our place – the three of us."
Clare felt the tears stinging her eyes as she remembered shyly following Adam and Eli through these woods in order to film Romeo and Juliet. She remembered the butterflies in her stomach and how she desperately wanted to tell Eli how she felt about him, but was just waiting for the right moment. She remembered how giddy she had felt, and how Eli's eyes lit up as he volunteered to be her Romeo, "I will!"
She remembered how Adam had teased them, knowing full-well of her crush on him. Did he know Eli liked her at the time? Adam always was pretty neutral in when it came to them. He would be there for Eli, and he would be there for Clare, but he was good about not telling each other the other's business. He was good like that. A sad smile crossed her face and she leaned over and wrapped her arms around Adam's neck in a backwards hug.
"What's this for?" Adam asked, twisting his head around to see her.
"The memories. Thanks for the memories."
"Even if they weren't so sweet," Adam smiled a faraway smile, "What band is that, Eli?"
"Fall Out Boy," Eli said with a head nod, "Good job. So you remember lyrics. That's something."
"If I could just remember the memories," Adam sighed, patting Clare's arm before she released him, "Thanks for bringing me here. I like this place. It's peaceful."
"Mmhmm," Eli nodded, sitting down on some of the church ruins, "We all had good times here, and not so good times. But this was our place regardless."
"I like having a place."
"Me too," Clare sat down next to the wheelchair and tucked her feet up underneath her, "It's quiet here. But…if you listen…the wind whistling through the trees almost sounds like…"
"…Laughter," Eli finished for her, and they shared a smile.
"It does, doesn't it," Adam nodded, listening, "Thank you for bringing me here. I like this place."
They sat in silence, listening to the wind blowing through the trees. Eli closed his eyes, titled his head back, and imagined that it was the laughter of three high school kids without a clue, just trying to survive life. They had survived. That was a blessing in and of itself. Adam had survived being bullied. Eli had survived Julia's death and the effect it had on his feelings for Clare. Clare had survived her parents' divorce. Eli had survived Fitz and a total mental break. Adam had survived the vicious crime…now he would survive getting through this hard time as well.
They all would.