kisses are shared in one of two ways. the first; small hershey chocolates, maybe even containing an even sweeter filling. smooth and sweet candies wrapped in shiny aluminum.

the second; a press of puckered lips against someone or something. a simple action that conveys a multitude of emotion.

the latter is often desired or undesired. sometimes neutral.

· · ·

"do intend on sharing those?" eli asks, his eyes fixed on the petite girl while she unwrapped another chocolate, her nimble fingers bringing it to her lips as she shook her head softly, eyes wide and smirk evident.

the two were seated across from one another on a picnic table, a familiar meeting place since the summer prior. they had first met there, and it only seemed just that their weekly rendezvous started off at this very table.

there wasn't anything significantly spectacular about that table. it was small and dark brown, shaded by an enormous tree that provided a comfortable isolation from the rest of the world. they met there every sunday. sometimes, on particularly hot days, one of them would suggest they buy frozen yogurt or dart through the sprinkles, but most of the time they cherished the moments they spent huddled together under the tree.

"charity is a virtue, edwards," eli persists, leaning across the table to steal a confection. clare giggles softly, slapping his hand away defiantly. he pouts, and she smiles, but her defiance is unwavering. eli rolls his eyes playfully, sitting down and ultimately admitting defeat.

"i finished that book you gave me," eli comments, focusing his vision on his hands as clare wraps her lips around the candy, sucking gently.

sometimes eli wonders if she's purposely taunting him.

she doesn't respond, her eyes watching him with a look so delicately benign that his breath hitches. he swallows and takes a deep breath, "the protagonist was interesting. and i saw myself in him. i'm not sure how much that says about me though," eli continues and he ignores the way his stomach drops because he feels like he's just revealed a piece of himself to a girl he barely knows.

she smiles at him, and it's sad but benevolent. just like her.

"i understood why people compared him to vonnegut. they have similar prose. albeit different enough that it felt like i was experiencing something new while reading," he continues, his eyes boring into hers, slightly pleading.

clare notes the desperate look, and she clamps her mouth shut to suppress a sigh. her eyes focus on the kisses in her small ziploc bag. she nods her head slowly, tucking a loose curl behind her ear. she feels her throat closing up on her, and she blinks furiously, refusing to let tears escape like they so desperately want to.

"clare," eli says, but it's a whisper. so quiet that if they weren't in such a secluded area she's sure she wouldn't have heard him.

clare pauses and takes a deep breath as inconspicuously as she could. she directs her attention to him, her eyes still glazed and a lump in her throat. she's sorry. so, so sorry. and she tries to tell him this, but nothing will come out.

eli reaches across the table, grasping her hand between his. he squeezes gently and she knows it's his way of assuring her that it's okay, she's okay.

and most importantly, they're okay.

A/N: i know that this makes practically no sense whatsoever, and that was completely intentional. if you want, consider this a prologue. back stories and explanations will come as the story proceeds. hope you enjoy. reviews are much obliged.