Author's Note: The setting for this one is sometime after college. Eli and Clare are not together in this one-shot, but bear with it. I'll be using some of the lyrics as inspiration, and out of order from the way they are in the song.
3. Give Me Love by Ed Sheeran
Maybe tonight I'll call ya,
After my blood turns into alcohol
Eli flipped the phone in the air and caught it in the palm of his hand. He did this for a few minutes before finally giving in and deciding to dial the number. He poured himself another glass of Scotch, the molten citrine filling the glass, causing the ice cubes to clank. The phone rang a grand total of five times before someone finally answered.
"I am going to do it."
"You're drinking again."
"I hear the ice clanking in the glass, dumbass."
"Well, what if I am?"
"You aren't thinking straight. Each time you drink, you get it into your head that you are going to call her and try to get her to take you back, but Eli, it's not going to work. Even if you did call her, what do you expect for her to say? I mean, she's engaged now. We both know that this is over between you two and you drinking and getting it into your head that it is, is far from healthy."
"I know," Eli sat the glass down on the coffee table and leaned back on the couch, "So, when is the big day? When does she become Mrs. Alexander Bartholomew Pearson?"
"In a month and a half. I uh…I got the invitation a few days ago."
"Eli, you know the answer to that."
"Yeah. I mean, you should. There's no reason you shouldn't go. The two of you still are good friends. Yeah. Go."
"I um…I wasn't exactly going to ask your permission."
"I know," Eli sighed and ran a hand through his hair, "But what if she is making some sort of huge mistake, Adam? What if she's waiting for me to call her and try to save her from…"
"From what? From a wonderful fiancé who happens to be the editor in chief of the New York Times? Eli, she's happy. You should just let her be, alright. She's happy and you should be too. There is no reason you should sit around and mope about it. It's been six years, don't you remember?"
"How can I not remember?"
"Then let it go. How about tomorrow I take you out for beers at O'Malley's. That usually does the trick. And if you want, I can play wing man. I wouldn't mind."
"Sure. Yeah, sounds good."
"Okay, well I have to get some rest so…"
"Night, Eli. Try not to do anything too stupid."
As soon as Adam had hung up, Eli took another sip of scotch and ran his teeth along his bottom lip. Maybe Adam had a point. Maybe he should just forget it and move on. Clare was clearly happy, and it wouldn't do him any good to try and convince himself otherwise. Eli decided he had had enough scotch, put the bottle away, and made his way towards the bed. All he needed was a good night's sleep. In the morning, he'd feel better and Clare would be out of his head.
Give me love like her,
'cause lately I've been waking up alone
He couldn't sleep. Of course, he hadn't really expected he'd be able to. Instead, he was staring at the nightstand by his bed where his phone lay. What could one phone call hurt? It would just be one phone call. And maybe the sound of her voice would finally be able to put him to sleep. It had been far too long – six years, to be exact – since he had had a decent night's rest. Eli picked up the phone and dialed the number. It was late, but he prayed to a god he didn't know that she would answer.
"Hello?" A sleepy voice resonated in the phone's speaker.
"Who uh…who is this?"
Eli ran a hand through his hair. Okay, so maybe he hadn't thought this thing through. His mind blanked and he had no idea what to say to her.
"Look, it's late and…"
"Don't hang up."
"What are you doing, Eli? Why are you calling me?"
"Eli, I don't appreciate this. It's almost two in the morning and I have work tomorrow. Please. I don't know what you think you'd achieve from calling, but it's very inappropriate. You know it's over, Eli. We were young and we made some mistakes. We're adults now, Eli. Teenage-us has been left in the past…"
"Who the hell is that?"
"Um…it's uh…Eli," Clare's voice shook a little too much for Eli's comfort and he knew better to think it had faltered due to lack of sleep.
"Gimme the damn phone!"
"It's fine. I can handle this. Let me just speak to him out in the living room. I'll clear up this whole mess. Just go back to bed, darling."
Eli winced at the word darling.
"Darling? Really, Clare?"
"Eli," she hissed into the phone, and Eli could hear her stirring, apparently heading to the living room to finish their conversation, "I am engaged. It is not appropriate for you to call here, and you know that. Look," her voice dropped just a tad, "is everything alright?"
"You know I would be lying if I tried to tell you yes."
"Eli," he could practically see her shaking her head, "You know better than this."
"Adam tells me the wedding is soon."
A sharp intake of breath, "Yes. Very soon."
"So…are you excited."
"Good night, Eli."
"No, please don't hang up!"
"Eli, this is completely…"
"Are you excited, Clare? Are you happy? It's so easy to just answer. Tell me."
"You know I am, Elijah."
"Whoa, full name?"
"I am going back to bed now."
"Look," a frustrated sigh, "Would it make you feel better if we met up tomorrow or something? I think what you need is closure. This isn't mentally healthy for you, Eli. I think if we were to just see each other and say a proper goodbye to one another…"
"Really, Clare? You want to meet just to say goodbye?"
"I'll come see you tomorrow, alright. We can just…talk and hopefully put some of this past us, alright?"
Eli didn't know what to say. He didn't want to live through another breakup, and that's what it was sounding like; then again, he wanted nothing more than to see her again. So, he agreed and they scheduled that she would come over around three the next afternoon.
Paint splattered teardrops on my shirt
He barely made it through the day, waiting for Clare to come. After spending more than too much time cleaning his little apartment, finally Eli decided it was clean enough for her to see it. It was five 'til three when the doorbell rang and Eli flattened down his hair with his palms. He also made sure that his shirt was smoothed out and that the magazines on the coffee table were straightened before going to answer the door.
What he saw surprised him more than words. There was Clare, an older version of the Clare he had envisioned all those years, and she had a cut above an eye that was outlined in bluish gray.
"Hi, Eli," she smiled and walked over the threshold. His brow furrowed, knowing that this whole happy thing was nothing more than a charade.
"What happened to your eye?"
"Oh, it's nothing," she blushed, "I just…I haven't been sleeping well and I have these gosh-awful bags. I have some cream for them, but it's not really working and…"
"Clare, that's a black eye."
"Don't be ridiculous," she took off her coat and sat down on the couch, "I'm fine."
"Liar. Did he do this to you?" Eli was quickly at her side, brushing the bangs from her eyes so he could get a better look. She batted his hand away and pulled away from his touch.
"Clare, he hit you, didn't he?"
Eli wanted to shake her, "It most certainly is something! No one has the right to do this to you, Clare. How long has this been going on?"
"Come on, Clare. Spill."
"I came by so we could have some closure, not be interrogated."
"Just talk to me about this, okay?" Eli was persistent, "This is unacceptable. No one can do this to you."
"He's my boss, Eli. If I were to leave him, he'd fire me."
"That's not right, Clare."
"I know. But he will. Do you know how hard I fought to get this job? I-I can't…I have to stick with it no matter what?"
"Even if he hurts you? Clare, he's taking advantage of you. I would have thought you'd have known better. You of all people."
"What does that mean?"
"You know what I mean. Ash…oh god, Clare," Eli realized her eyes had flooded as soon as he said it, and he quickly regretted those words, "I am so sorry. I shouldn't have said that. It was out of line. Don't cry. Please, Clare. I can't stand when you cry."
"I know," Clare tried to wipe furiously at her eyes, but Eli pulled her into a hug and took care of that task for her, "I just am so scared, Eli. And look at me, I'm a mess. I got mascara all over your shirt."
"Don't worry about that. It's just a shirt, Clare. I'm worried about you."
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call
"I-I should go," she stood up quickly from the couch, breaking their embrace.
"I'm fine, Eli. Really. I can handle myself. I know how to take care of myself."
"Are you sure about that?"
It bothered Eli that she didn't answer. Instead, she slipped her coat on and headed towards the door. It didn't take him more than a few seconds to stand from the couch and call out to her.
"Clare, please don't go."
"Eli, what do you expect me to do? Leave my fiancé, throw away my future? He'll destroy me, Eli. He's very powerful. He will see to it than I never get hired again. We all have to make sacrifices. I am making a sacrifice for my career."
"That's bullshit, and you know it, Edwards."
Clare paused at the familiar sound of her last name falling form his lips, "Eli…what do you want from me? You want me to leave him and quit my job and do what? Move in here with you? Start over from scratch?"
"Not from scratch. Clare, I'm here alright? You know I am here for you. You can do anything, and I will be here supporting you along the way. I'm not saying it'll be a cake walk, but you can do this. And I'm going to be there for you through this. Just…don't walk out that door. Don't go back to him."
"We didn't work out because I was selfish and stupid, Clare. I made some mistakes, and I live with those every day and it's pretty damn painful. I don't want you to have those same regrets. You can leave him, Clare. You are not a slave to anyone. Leave him."
"I-I don't even know where I'd begin," Clare sighed exasperatedly, "Eli, what would I even do?"
He could sense she was caving. She knew what he was saying was true. She needed to leave her fiancé for her own safety. No job was worth living with that monster.
"Well, for starters you're going to go out for drinks with Adam and me tonight. Then you are going to crash here. I'll even let you take the bed. I can set up on the couch. Then tomorrow, we'll figure it out from there. Alright?"
"This…this is so much to process. Eli, I haven't seen you in years and…and all of this is just happening so fast. I mean, I don't know what to do. I-I have family and great friends. I see them every day. I haven't seen you in so many years, and instantly you know something is wrong. You didn't fall for my lies about the lack of sleep causing bags under my eyes. You…you knew right away."
"Of course, Edwards. I know you better than you think."
"That…that really means a lot to me. I don't know what's going to happen Eli, but I am willing to start with drinks tonight and then…then we can go from there."
"That's all I am asking, Clare. Just this one night, and together we can figure this out. You're not alone, and you certainly are not trapped. We'll figure this out, alright? If all those years together taught you anything, it should be that together we can take on anything. What do you say? Are you in?"
She paused for a second and stared at the hand Eli was offering her. Taking a deep breath, she reached out and he grasped her hand in his, "Yes, Eli. I'm…I'm all in."