A/N: So, since this is the final chapter of this story - both Emma and I wanted to have our own little final authors notes for everyone, so here we go.
Emma: okay guys this is Emma and it's gonna get corny. I just want to say thank you to each and every one of you. You have no idea how much your support has meant to me. I'm so glad we got to bring my idea to life and it wouldn't have been the same without you lovely specimens backing us up. And to Becca, I have to say that I'm equally grateful. This fic wouldn't have happened if you hadn't suggested we write it together, and now I can proudly say I've finally finished my first multi-chapter fic. Thank you thank you thank you all for being so wonderful. stay rad \m/
Becca: GUYS WoW ANOTHER FIC FINISHED. I'm so excited and honored and proud of this story and thank you to everyone who stuck around and read every chapter and loved and supported it as much as Emma and I did. You're all fantastic and adorable and you guys are what made this story possible! Everyone needs to make sure that they go check out and read and review and fawn all over Emma's work because as you can tell from this fic, her writing is truly amazing and she's absolutely fantastic! Wow I'm actually getting a lot of feelings over the ending of this story. I love you all, thank you for being a part of this.
Rating: This fic is rated M for swearing and suicidal references, and just because we think it belongs in the M tag.
Disclaimer: We don't own Degrassi or the song Sight Of The Sun by FUN.
Summary: As the days go by, Eli Goldsworthy continues to relive his past, the flashbacks of what used to be following him wherever he goes. As he begins his new life, it's only a matter of time before the old one comes back to haunt him.
"For once, there is nothing up my sleeve. Just some scars from a life that used to trouble me. I used to run at first sight of the sun; now I lay here waiting for you to wake up." Sight Of The Sun | FUN.
He'd been waiting a while now to tell Clare, but mostly because he wasn't really sure about how to respond to the letter that he kept folded up in his pillow case. He was nervous that one day when the two of them would be kissing in his bed, that he'd roll over onto it and it might crinkle and she'd wonder what he was keeping from her. It honestly could have been anything, but it really wasn't much. Well, that was a lie. It just didn't seem like much to him, considering the only thing that his future really needed anymore was Clare Edwards.
Eli often read it over several times, getting the words printed in his brain in a fine ink that couldn't be erased. After a careful consideration, our board has decided that we would like to invite you to… He'd never been accepted into a club before, so something so life-changing was far greater than a little club. College. Acceptance. A future?
He'd invited Clare over, one afternoon. It was July and getting far more hot outside than it had ever been in Ottawa during the summer. The scars on his arms were mostly healed by now, aside from the stitches marks and stray cuts and bruises. He was nearly almost comfortable wearing short sleeved shirts around the house. Eli wouldn't admit it, but he had thought about it, and decided that it was Clare that had opened him up to the shorter sleeves. Whenever the two went topless, he honestly felt stronger – courageous. It had caught on.
But anyway – July afternoon.
Clare had been talking non-stop about an internship program she had been offered to begin at the beginning of the school year. A journalists assistant at the Toronto Interpreter, in which she'd be editing papers and doing coffee runs and taking notes on meetings. It seemed gruesomely boring to Eli, but to Clare it was the opportunity of a lifetime. She used big hand motions, exclaiming how an internship like this would send her straight into Columbia if she got a good recommendation from her boss, who she had yet to meet.
He was itching to show her the letter hidden, folded up as tight as he could get it. They were sitting on his bed, both criss-cross facing each other, which was their usual position if they weren't lying against the pillows with his arm around her waist. Clare was grinning up a storm, and he was smiling just because he was near her – because she made him smile.
"Thinking about my future is so exciting – moving to New York and studying journalism and maybe even one day writing for the New York Times…" She let out a dramatic sigh, eyes twinkling like she could see it all right ahead of her. Eli wished he could think like that, know what he wanted to do completely and be able to set out his future in a heartbeat.
He knew what he wanted to do, mostly.
Write and write and write and write.
"You could come with me," Clare kept going, squeezing his hands that she had been holding. "We could get a cute little apartment in the city, and take taxi's to school and work every day. And we could eat dinner on the floor and leave each other sticky notes on the mirrors in the morning." She paused, not knowing if where she was going with all of this was going to be too much or not. But at this point, she didn't care too much – she was excited, and the idea of spending forever with Eli gave her unmentioned butterflies. "And once we finish school, we can move into a real house… get married, have kids. Name them Andy and Amelia. I always liked those names."
"Those are nice names," Eli agreed, looking down at their hands. "Speaking of futures, I've kind of been keeping something from you for a few weeks now." He admitted, earning a very confused look from Clare for a few seconds. It was definitely not something completely relationship changing, she was sure. "I got this about a week after school ended," he started, reaching behind him into his pillow case, pulling out the folded up letter. "I didn't know how to answer it – so I just… I didn't."
Clare was careful to unfold it, her eyes starting to get big when she read each word slowly and precisely. She didn't read out loud, but Eli watched as her lips mouthed each word so they could sink in.
She looked back up at him, surprised and equally as excited for him.
"You got accepted into Columbia!?" She squealed. "Am I the only one who knows?"
Eli nodded, trying not to blush at how enthralled she appeared to be for him. "I didn't know how to tell anyone… I didn't even know how to respond since I don't even know if I should go."
Her enthusiastic expression quickly fell. "What do you mean you don't know if you should go?"
"Well, you won't be there for a year. I'd rather wait until we were both there, together. You know, with our apartment and the mirror sticky notes." He wondered if it was a disappointment to her, that he'd put off college for an entire year just so the two of them could be together. "I could go to U of T for a year, and then once you're finished – we could go together. I don't know. I just don't think I'd be able to last without you around for such a long period of time."
Clare understood, knowing that if it was the other way around, she would probably feel the same way. They had been spending the entire summer together, and if Eli had just spontaneously gone off to Columbia, not only would she be slightly jealous, she'd be missing him like crazy.
"I like the idea," She started, changing her position so that she was no longer facing him, but sitting beside him. "But I don't want you to push off your future because of me –"
"Clare, you are my future."
She gave him a small, thoughtful smile, pushing a curl behind her ear and hopping off the bed with an unmatched sort of grace. "And you're mine, but Eli, you don't have to wait around for me. You can learn the ropes first, and then when I show up, you can be like my mentor." She turned around, her knees against the mattress and her arms wrapping around him to hook her hands at the back of his neck. "My handsome mentor." Clare added cunningly, bumping her nose against his own. Eli let out a gentle laugh along with her, hanging his head to stare at the empty space between them. It hurt Clare, to think that he'd be so far away, all alone in a dorm room, having to resort to late night Skype calls and flirty texts throughout the day.
It wouldn't be enough, but they could make it out alive.
"I just started getting better, what if everything gets bad again when you're not around?" His voice was low and vulnerable, breaking at the thought that he might not be able to go on without her. Without his rock.
"Eli, everything that you overcame, the battles you've fought, those are the things keeping you healthy. Not me."
He supposed he knew that, deep down, he probably understood that he was stronger now and he could face any challenge thrown his way. But it was the idea of it all. The idea of his one good thing being further than walking distance away. Then again, he was healthy now. He could deal with his issues as they came, and he hadn't even thought of self-harming, except for the instances in which he'd catch a glance of his scars in the mirror and he had no choice but to remember.
"So…I should do this?" He asked, his voice hopeful, taking both of her hands in his own.
"You spent so many years in pain, Eli. It's time for you to take a big step. You should do this."
What did he ever do without her?
They'd spent the next thirty minutes or so getting caught up in a kiss, and before long, she was straddling him, and his hands were weaved through her hair, they hadn't intended to get so carried away, but neither teen could complain. Eli laughed as Clare squealed, jumping off of him with sheer embarrassment as Adam's voice boomed from downstairs. "Okay you two, time to stop sucking face, we're about to cut the cake!"
The family had decided that to throw a bit of a party for Cece's 45th birthday, despite her protests, and constant reassurances that she'd be just fine dealing with her old age all on her own. But after days of pleading, she'd finally agreed to let her son get away with a small family get together, Clare included.
Eli and Clare found themselves cuddled up on the family room couch, murmuring sweet nothings into each other's ears, laughing softly when the other's breath tickled their skin.
"Well aren't you two looking more adorable than ever." Adam called out, plopping down on the chair next to them. The older boy shot his cousin a death glare, but it went unnoticed, seeing as how his eyes were fixed on the piece of cake centered on his festive paper plate. "So, power couple, got any crazy plans for the remainder of the summer?" He asked mindlessly, digging his fork into the vanilla dessert, hardly paying attention to anything else at all. They responded half-heartedly, spouting off ideas for the three of them, and when they were finished, the trio fell silent.
Clare gave him a look, urging him to tell his cousin what he'd told her upstairs. She cleared her throat, asking for the attention of her best friend, and the freckled teen looked up accordingly. "He didn't propose, did he?" Adam asked, frosting coating his lower lip. Eli only rolled his eyes, leaning in a little bit to make sure no one else would hear and create a scene.
"I got into Columbia." He half-whispered, and the brunette boy was taken aback by the news. He knew Eli was smart, hell, he was probably the smartest guy he knew, but even so, he couldn't quite fathom that this boy, this now constant figure in his life, would soon be away at college.
"That is…amazing, man. That's fantastic." He responded lowly, being sure to appease Eli and keep his voice down.
Eli couldn't quite wipe the smile from his face as Clare leaned in to press a proud kiss on his cheek, and his face only reddened further when his mother came gallivanting over, snapping a picture just as her lips touched his skin. Adam had, of course, taken the liberty of photo-bombing, and there had never been a more accurate photo to describe the friendship they all shared.
It felt almost as though an era was coming to an end, as if a camera was panning out, and the image of the Torres household was slowly starting to become smaller and smaller. But he wasn't scared anymore, no, he couldn't possibly be scared anymore. Not in the bad way, at least.
"I love you," he whispered to the girl next to him amidst the laughter and conversation around them.
"And I love you." She said in return, nuzzling her head under the nape of his neck, eliminating any free space between them.
"Well, this is it." He stated, voice etched with melancholy.
He'd asked Clare to come with him back to Ottawa one day. He'd suggested that he could show her all of his favorite sights to see, and show her where he used to live. But mostly it was because that day marked the third year's anniversary of her death, and he really couldn't bear to go back and visit her grave alone. Eli had promised himself that today would be his last year visiting Julia's grave. That this would be his chance to say goodbye to her and everything that came with. He had no reason to be attached to something that had been dragging him down for so long, anymore.
"Julia Ariana Turner, age fifteen." He stopped reading the headstone, having to turn away for a moment to keep him from spitting at her grave in anger. After the discussion he'd had with Dr. Bennett, and some deep thinking about their entire relationship, it was finally hitting him how much pain and sorrow she'd caused him. He was so close to lashing out, yelling and cursing at her tombstone for haunting him for so many years after his death, like she was entitled to continue toying him around even from the afterlife – but Clare tugged on his arm, bringing him back to reality. So he just stared. Stared at the gruesomely depressing headstone and the small bouquet of blue hydrangeas that had been left their earlier by who Eli assumed to be her parents.
She always loved hydrangeas. And the color blue.
He was glad he hadn't run into her folks.
"I –" he started, swallowing a gulp in the back of his throat. "I don't know what else to say."
"I can go, if you want. I can leave you alone to say a few words to her. I know you wanted to say goodbye." Clare told him, looking up at him with caring eyes. She was so good to him. She didn't wait for much of a response, sliding her arm out from underneath his and pointing to a big tree a little ways away from the two of them. "I'll go wait over there, all right? Take your time, Eli. We have plenty of time."
She left him, not even looking back over her shoulder to check on him. Honestly, she probably trusted him more than he trusted himself in this matter.
Eli sat down, cross-legged in front of the headstone, his fists balled in his lap like he wanted to punch someone out for whispering the wrong thing.
"Three years ago today – no, no, tonight – is the anniversary of you leaving. And it sucks, to know that it took me three years to finally believe that your death wasn't my fault. I still don't know if it was suicide or not, because I couldn't handle… us, anymore. But we were fifteen and we thought we were in love. And I think about it now… we didn't even know what love was back then. But we were both unhappy teenagers, making each other more miserable and we felt worthless. Or, at least, I felt worthless. I can't speak for you, but I know that's how you made me feel."
Eli took a deep breath, picking at the grass beside him.
"This is me finally saying goodbye. My therapist is helping me get past what I've been continuing to grieve about when it comes to you. And my girlfriend is helping me realize what real love is. I don't have to hold onto you anymore, Julia. Because you're not here. But there are other people here, people that want me to get better and move past you and other things holding me back. People that I love and care about and are healthy for me." He stood to his feet again, looking off into the distance at Clare waiting patiently for him at that big tree, just like she said she would be. "So whatever this is that I'm holding onto when it comes to you, Julia – I let it go. I'm letting it all go. Goodbye, Julia."
He and Clare reunited, her holding onto him once again and telling him that she was proud of him.
"One more grave we need to visit before we can go, okay?"
Clare nodded, not having to be told who it was.
She'd never met the man, but from how Eli talked about him, (even though it was scarce) he was an amazing man and father. Caring and compassionate, and both funny and serious when needed to be. If she had met him, she would have been able to pinpoint exact things she could recognize in both Eli and his father. How they were the same, deep down.
They wandered around, looking for where his father had been buried. Eli had remembered it was next to his great uncle and grandfather, because the Goldsworthy's had a whole plot of land set out for their family line in the cemetery. It was a little far off from Julia's, but the walk was worth it. Because Clare was close to him and she made everything feel lighter.
The cemetery, though, did bring back some other unfortunate memories. Ones of when Eli and Julia were young and stuck in a gothic phase where picnics in a graveyard were somehow appealing. Now, however, the very idea of doing something so deadly was completely unappealing to him anymore. Besides, he knew that wasn't something Clare would want to do – and he always wanted to do things to make her smile.
Approaching his headstone, Clare could feel Eli's hand shaking in her grasp. This had been the first time since his father's funeral that he had visited the cemetery, and with them moving, he honestly had kind of hoped it would have been the last as well. But here he and Clare were, holding onto each other tight.
"Do you want me to wait again?" Clare suggested, earning an immediate head shake from her boyfriend.
"No, no, please stay." He croaked. "I need you here, okay?"
She smiled. "Okay."
They stood silently for a little while, Eli trying to combine words in his head into sentences that he would eventually say out loud. Clare leaned her head on his shoulder. They were a very odd pair, and Eli had thought about it a few times, but it was more prominent now; if his father had been alive, he would have loved Clare.
"You would have loved Clare." That's how he opened, his voice shaking only slightly. "She would have made you smile. You would have had hope that I could get over Julia if you had met Clare. You would have told me what you always did while I was growing up: If you're ever lucky enough to find yourself a woman, make sure you never let her go. You and mom would have made a lot of sex jokes and it would have made Clare uncomfortable. You would have purposefully walked in on us kissing just so that you could make a comment like: woah, sorry for interrupting, because while you were a great dad, you were also an asshole too." Eli laughed slightly, looking down at the ground so that memories of his father wouldn't catch up too quickly and overwhelm him.
They'd only been there for a few minutes, and he already felt like crying.
"I loved you, dad. I still do, and I never even got to tell you. I mean, I did – but I was younger and back then it felt like I had to say it, because I was little and love was something everyone gave you and something you could toss around. But through my angsty, teenage years, I never said it. I never told you that I was grateful you were around, and how you loved mom was something I wished I could experience one day." And then came the tears. Warm and wet and they felt good. Because he could finally cry. "I'm sorry I hardly came to visit you. I kept telling myself that if I pretended it wasn't happening, it would all go away. You'd get better and everything would go back to normal. Well, whatever normal was at the time. I was still messed up."
It seemed like he was going to break down now, tears all over the place and his breathing became labored. Clare held on like if she let go, he'd float away in a river of his own tears.
"I still kind of think you're going to come back. Like you're not really gone. Even though I watched you being buried, right here. But it still feels like one day you're just going to walk through the door and laugh and tell me to go help CeCe in the kitchen… Everyone misses you. And I've got to finally understand that you're gone for good. It's the only way for me to keep getting better. Because I want to get better. I have to let this go, this never-to-be-fulfilled dream that one day you're just going to pop back into my life." He closed his eyes, readying himself for what was to come.
"You were, and continue to be the greatest man I've ever known. I have to say goodbye. I need to say it because you're gone…and I know that now. You're gone, and I'm going to move on, I have to, dad. I have to. I love you, I always did and I always will. Goodbye, dad."
Eli took a step back from his father's grave, biting down on his lower lip to stop himself from breaking out into tears that he wasn't sure he'd be able to stop.
This was his final bit of closure. This is where he would leave the guilt and the nightmares, the cuts on his arms and the nights spent lying awake. He'd leave it here in this moment. He didn't have to destroy himself anymore. He had something better to fall back on.
Clare wrapped her arms around him from his side, leaving a short kiss on his shoulder. "I'm so proud of you, Eli." Her voice was soft and not the slightest bit strained; he closed his eyes, reaching up to touch her arm draped across his chest, trailing his fingertips to find hers, and he laced them together. He was ready now, and there was no need to linger, not anymore.
He flinched at the bright flash stinging his eyes, and his mouth felt sore from all the forced smiling he'd been doing all day. Cece fought back another round of tears as she snapped another photo of her son, disregarding any complaint from the dark haired boy.
Eli removed his arm from around his cousin's shoulder, locking eyes with Clare who was just a few feet away. So close, and yet when he boarded that plane, she'd be gone. God, was it really worth it?
They'd thought it through, they'd gone over the numbers hundreds of times, and they'd checked their calendars time and time again to make sure "just one more time" that they were seeing each other during every available moment. But this was it. This was what it all came down to.
She'd been crying on the car ride over, subtly wiping her tears on the sleeves of the black hoodie Eli had given her. Every now and again he'd notice her nuzzle her nose against the collar, and he felt a little less ridiculous for spraying it with his cologne just once more before he'd handed it over.
Their summer had been a jumble of love letters, secret sleepovers, kissing and scrabble games. They promised each other that they wouldn't let him leaving affect the remainder of their time together, and by looking back at it, he knew it hadn't.
There was a couple of times, however, where the room would get quiet during one of their sleepovers, they'd be together on her bed, him on his back, her on her side with a hand on his chest. She'd hear his heavy breaths and she knew he was thinking about it. "Write me letters when you're gone…good ones," she'd whispered out of nowhere and into the dark room, making Eli smile to himself, "is there any other kind?"
But that night was long gone, and now they were here, standing in the airport waiting for him to board. Cece wrapped him up in a hug, shaking him from his daze, and he responded quickly, laughing quietly to himself as he put his arms around the crying woman. "I'm going to miss you so much, mom. Please don't cry. Please stop crying." He told her softly, meaning every word he said.
It pained him to see her like this, so distraught, and for a moment it made him wonder if she'd fall back into her old habits with her only son away but with a small smile she assured him that she would be just fine.
While attempting to finish up his goodbyes, Eli came to a stop at the sound of an overly enthusiastic woman speaking over the intercom.
"Everyone on flight 3465 flying to New York City will be boarding in 15 minutes."
Lifting up his bags, he took a moment to look at these people, these people who've turned everything around for him, and he could hardly imagine a life without them. He couldn't fathom how he'd get through the dark days without playing Adam in a mind numbing video game. He didn't see how he'd ever be able to pull himself out of bed without Clare tackling him and bribing him with kisses.
"Thank you all so much…for all that you've done for me. I know it hasn't been easy, I know I haven't been easy, but you'll never know how grateful I am that you guys have stuck around."
As if there was no way to avoid it, the entire family had succumbed into a group hug around Eli, all of them spouting out their own little goodbyes as they tried to replace the sadness with nostalgia, fighting tears with chuckles while the memories were still fresh in their minds. They remained this way for only a moment, slowly backing away when the moment felt. He looked to Clare again, and he knew there was no more delaying it.
He passed through his family, and wasted no time in wrapping her up in a hug, the two bodies swaying side to side just barely as they held on tight. They were close now, but not close enough. No, never close enough. "I don't want you to go," she muttered against him, and he came close to throwing his boarding pass to the ground at the very sound of her voice. "But I'll kill you if you don't" Clare added playfully, squeezing him just a little tighter.
"C'mon Clare, he's my cousin don't I get a goodbye?" Adam spoke up, tapping his foot impatiently as the two broke apart.
The younger boy put his hands onto his cousin's shoulders, clearing his throat once while he gathered his thoughts. "I want you to keep my posted while you're gone, alright? Make sure you're giving me details about this place, and lots of them!"
"Details. Got it."
"Oh, and Eli…don't forget about us misfits while you're out there being a famous author, okay?"
"I wouldn't dream of it."
The two hugged briefly, and through a short exchange of whispers, Eli made Adam promise he'd watch out for Clare while he was away. Looking behind him, Eli sighed at the realization that he'd need to leave within the next few minutes. Just a couple more moments here and then he'd be gone and far away, no longer within shouting distance from the people he needed most. It hurt, but it was what he'd need.
And with his short time quickly disappearing, Eli let his things fall to the floor beside him, walking toward Clare and grabbing either side of her face with a controlled force. She let out a high pitched squeak, obviously shocked, and when his lips touched hers, he felt her hands wrap around his shoulders and intertwine against the back of his neck.
"I love you," he breathed against her lips, pulling away to rest his forehead on hers.
"An airport kiss…here I was thinking that writers wanted to avoid clichés." She quipped, the corners of her mouth pulling into a smirk that she'd picked up from being with him. "I do love you, Eli Goldsworthy, write something beautiful over there."
He smiled again, unable to hold back his look of awe for the impeccable girl in front of him. The goodbye wasn't sad anymore, it was just real. It was simply life in its natural form, constantly changing, always existing, and never quite stopping.
He took these last few seconds, these precious blips of time to study every bit of her, the way her eyes were glossed with hidden tears, her porcelain cheeks harboring no flaw, he looked at all of these things, studying her every feature one last time, and when he caught onto his breath he knew exactly what he'd be writing about.
The anchors that hold us down, and the ones that help us cut the rope.