Author's Note: I am doing a one-shot Eclare challenge. I posted this onto tumblr and asked that people send me words or titles of songs to use for inspiration for these oneshots. I never ask for reviews, but if you feel inclined to review, please review with a word (or you can message me a word) that you want me to use as inspiration for more of these little one-shots. It'd be very much appreciated. Also, I do not own Degrassi, or its characters.
They Were Perfection Wrapped up in a Mess
They say ignorance is bliss. Well, that's bullshit. Eli Goldsworthy stuffed his hands, not caring that the black nail polish he had touched up was still a bit damp, into the pockets of his black leather jacket as he walked past them. The first bell hadn't even rung yet, and there they were. He had her pushed against his locker and was kissing her. Eli took sudden interest in the tile floor as he walked past before he realized she was probably too busy to notice him anyway.
It wasn't like she couldn't be with him – that plaid-wearing, chicken-eating, lumberjack. Sure she could be with whomever she wanted. But there were certain things Eli didn't need to see, or want to see for that matter. Adam had confided him that he had found Clare reading an article about call "How To Tel if You're Ready to do The Deed" or something along those lines. Knowing that Clare was reading something like that made his blood bubble, boil, and turn to soda within his veins.
To be frank, he didn't know what was worse. Eli wasn't sure if he wanted to know what they were doing, but not knowing was killing him. Also, up until that point, he had held onto this fantasy that maybe – just maybe – they weren't really over. Maybe they were just taking a break until he was mentally able to handle being in a relationship, and the scars on Clare's heart had healed. There had been that chance, but now – seeing her with Jake – Eli knew that that just wasn't possible.
It was better when he had that fantasy to hold on to, even though he knew he was just lying to himself. At least with that fantasy, he didn't have to face the reality. He didn't want to believe it was over, but it was. There was Jake, with his tongue down Clare's throat and maybe that wasn't even the worst of it. The very thought made Eli physically sick.
He headed to his locker, and tried to get the image out of his head. It was difficult though as he heard Clare's giggle. His face burned with a blush he didn't want to admit he was capable of having. After emptying his locker of the books he needed for the day, he slammed the door shut as hard as he could.
"Whoa, chill," Adam held up his hands, and Eli's brow furrowed as he wondered how Adam always had the capability of sneaking up on him like that, "What's going on?"
"Nothing," Eli hiked the backpack onto his shoulder, "Nothing at all. Everything is just dandy."
"Dandy? Now I know something is up," Adam raced to keep up with Eli's strides, "Come on, bud. Talk to me. What's going on? Is it…is it Clare again?"
"It's just…she and Jake are always together. It's kind of nauseating. I mean, it's like they don't even care about the PDA rules. I think it's very disrespectful to just practically be humping each other in the middle of the halls…"
"Dude," Adam cocked an eyebrow, "Seriously? This is coming from you? Look, she has a right to make out with him if she wants to. They have been dating for a few weeks now, after all."
"Thank you so much for reminding me, Adam."
"Well, it's true. I don't know what to tell you. I mean, it's not easy right now, but I am sure it'll get easier. You and Clare are over. You both have made that very clear. She's going to date other guys, Eli. You're going to date other girls. It's just what happens. Unless you plan to be a celibate monk the rest of your life."
"Celibate? Why did you have to go and use that word, of all words?"
"Don't tell me you're still sore about the article she was reading? Eli, I told you that probably was nothing. Lots of girls read those magazines. It's mostly for curiosity purposes than to actually get advice. I wouldn't stress about if I were you."
"Who said anything about stressing?"
"Seriously, dude?" Adam shook his head, "You're losing it over here. You just need to get your mind off of it and move on. This isn't healthy for you. I just don't want to see you hurting yourself over her."
"Adam, I'm fine."
"You're not. I just…I worry."
Eli knew Adam was only trying to be helpful, but right now he wasn't sure if he could hear this. As he walked with Adam to class, Clare and Jake were walking hand in hand. They paused right in front of each other, and none of the four really knew what to say. It was Adam who broke the silence.
"Hi, Adam," Clare smiled at her friend, "How are you?"
"Good, good. Just headed to class. Same ol' same ol'."
"Yeah, same here. Jake is walking me to class."
"Hi," Jake waved.
"You smell like fried chicken."
"Eli!" Adam hissed and elbowed his friend, "Forgive him. He doesn't have much of a filter. Uh…I'll see you later, Clare?"
"Yeah, see you."
Everyone turned to stare at Eli who was now reaching out and grabbing ahold of Clare's bicep.
"Hey," Jake placed a hand on Eli's shoulder.
"Jake, it's fine," Clare brushed Eli's hand off and said, "What's up, Eli?"
"Can we uh…can we talk just for a second?"
"I don't know…" Jake's brow furrowed as if he was sizing Eli up.
"Was I addressing you?" Eli raised an eyebrow at Jake.
"Jake, it's fine," Clare assured him, "I'll just be a moment."
"I'll return her to you unsacathed, you have my word," Eli dramatically bowed to Jake who was not at all pleased with the sarcastic gesture.
"Eli, what's going on?" Clare asked as he led her to the library. No one ever went to the library anyways, much less right before school started. They'd have some privacy.
"I just want to talk to you for a second, Edwards. Can you at least give me that much?"
"Fine," Clare gave in and entered into the library through the door Eli was holding open for her.
"I just…I want to know how serious this thing between you and Jake really is?"
"Eli…I-I don't believe that that's any of your business."
Eli ran a hand through his hair, knowing she was right, "I know, Clare. But I just want to know if this is…if this is something serious or if you're using him as a means to get past whatever we used to have?"
"Eli, I don't have to answer that."
"Okay, you're right," he took a deep breath and said, "To tell you the truth, about a week ago, Adam told me that he saw you reading a particular magazine…"
"What? Eli…oh god!" Clare's hand flew to her mouth as a blush spread over her cheeks, "No, that wasn't…that wasn't anything. And if it was, I can't believe he'd discuss something like that with you. It's my sex life, and it doesn't concern you."
"You're right," he sighed, "I shouldn't have asked. Sorry I wasted your time."
Clare was ready to turn to leave. She couldn't believe Eli of all people was asking her such personal questions. There were lines they had drawn, and he was currently crossing every single one of them. She knew she should have been insulted and angry with him for even so much as trying to dig into her sex life, but as she was turning to leave, something softened in her.
"Why…why did you want to know? Not that anything is going on, but if it was…why? Why would it matter to you so much?"
Eli sunk down into one of the empty chairs and again, ran a hand through his hair. He was trying to gather his thoughts the best he could, but he knew he was already in too deep with this one. There was no turning back. It'd be best to just be honest with her.
"I just…I know that sometimes when people experience a breakup, they'd do anything to forget and move on and sometimes that clouds their judgment. If anyone knows anything about clouded judgment, it's me, Edwards. I just…I want you to know that when you do decide you're ready, it's your choice and no one can make it for you. No one can tell you when you're ready and when you're not – including me. But…I just…"
"What is it, Eli?" Clare sat down next to him, all anger she had felt towards him had dissipated and what she saw in front of her was the Eli that had been her friend for so long, way back before…everything. And there he was with this look of compassion and that touched her.
"I just want you to be careful, Clare. I don't want you to just…to just sleep with someone without really thinking about it. I just want it to be what you want, Clare. I don't know Jake, and maybe that's why I am feeling a bit protective, but I just don't want you to be pressured, or…anything."
"Eli," Clare reached across the table and grabbed his hand in hers, "You seem surprised? Me too," she smiled a shy smile, "I should be slapping you for being so blunt with all of this. But I know you are only trying to look out for me and I do appreciate that. Jake is a great guy. And I am not pressured in any way. The thing is…ugh, I can't believe I am about to say this to anyone, much less you. However, I just think you should know, that I did feel a bit pressured but not by Jake."
"Myself," Clare blushed and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, "I-I don't think I can take losing another person right now. I mean, first it was my dad, and now you and I don't want to lose Jake either. I convinced myself that maybe if he and I were to…do it…he'd stick around. It'd be like, guaranteed."
"Spare me the lecture, Eli," Clare shook her head, "I know it was stupid. I wasn't thinking right."
"You're right. Clare, if he is going to leave you just because you won't sleep with him…he's not worthy of your time. Or your…"
"Okay!" Clare stood from the chair and held out her hand for Eli to shake, "Well, I appreciate you looking out for me, but I can handle myself, Eli."
"I know you can, Clare," Eli shoved her hand gently back to her side, "but that still isn't going to just make me stop caring for you, or wanting to look out for your best interest. I will try to back off of the lumberjack though. For your sake."
"I appreciate that. Really."
"If your promise me you will just be careful. Your first time needs to be special."
"No, I don't think you do know. When I was with Julia," Eli winced and admitted, "I can't believe I am going to tell you this right here, and right now of all places and times, but Julia wasn't my first. There was another girl before Julia. I was thirteen and young and stupid and I thought it'd be so grown up to have sex with her. So we did it. And it was awkward and kind of painful and just a mess. When I met Julia, she was so special to me. I wish…I wish now, when I look back on it, that she had been my first. But she wasn't, and I can't take that back."
"Okay, no more painfully humiliating confessions today."
"Deal," she nodded before adding, "I am sorry that happened to you."
"Eh, live and learn. I never told you about her because…well, because she just isn't important. Not like Julia, and not like you. If Jake is going to be your first, he better be important enough. He better be special enough to deserve you, Clare. Because, god damn it, sometimes I worry you don't know how special you are."
"Eli," Clare felt her stomach fill with butterflies as a blush stained her cheeks, "I don't know what to say."
"Don't. Go back to Jake and go to class, Edwards. But just keep in mind what I said."
"I…I will. Eli, thank you. I…I appreciate that."
"Sure. You know us better than to think I can just not care. You're Clare, and I'm Eli and I am hardwired to worry and care about you, even if sometimes I don't always want to. I don't want to know what's going on in your bedroom, and I don't want to see you and Jake making out. They say ignorance is bliss, but I…I don't want to be ignorant to what's going on in your life. I…I don't want to be uninvolved."
"I-I think I have a solution," Clare took a deep breath and offered, "I still have your number, and you still have mine. I'm always here for you, and I think you are willing to always be there for me. Right?" She paused and Eli nodded, "I'm not going to tell you everything. It's not your place to know everything that goes on in my life – not anymore. But when I need a friend, someone to talk to or go to for advice, I want to know if I can turn to you."
"Of course. And…and the same goes for you. I…I appreciate this."
"Sure," Clare nodded, "When I need you, I'll come to you. When you need me, you can come to me. Any time, day or night, alright? Will that put your mind to ease about some things?"
"Yeah," Eli smirked, "I just want to make sure you're keeping out of trouble."
"Of course," Clare nibbled on her lower lip, "And I you."
The bell rang and she adjusted her backpack on her shoulder, "I guess we should get to class."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"We don't have to care about each other anymore, but we chose to. To me, that means a lot."
Eli nodded and walked with her to her first class where he knew Jake would be waiting. After dropping her off at her classroom door where Jake was leaning, waiting, Eli turned to go.
"Wait," Jake grabbed his arm, "Eli, right?"
"You know who I am, Colonel Sanders."
"Look, I think our problem is I don't really know you, and you don't really know me. The only connection we have is Clare. So this is me, trying to introduce myself to you. Hi. I'm Jake," Jake held out his hand.
"Hi Jake, I'm Eli. It's nice to finally meet you," Eli shook Jake's hand.
"To tell you the truth," Jake grinned a lopsided grin, "I didn't want to really acknowledge you. I used to think ignorance was bliss in regards to your relationship to Clare, but I see now how special you two were to each other, and maybe still are. I can't keep pretending that you never existed. You were a big part in her life, and I don't want to be oblivious anymore. I-If you were so special to Clare, that means something. I'm not saying we have to be friends, but I just think we shouldn't be living in this fantasy that the other one doesn't exist."
"Right," Eli nodded, understanding completely, "Besides, I always say those stupid phrases, like 'ignorance is bliss' are nothing but bullshit anyways."