I've been in a little bit of a funk, lately, and this is what came out of it. Never thought I would be writing Eclare, and yet here we come.
I'm sorry already.

CW for late-term miscarriage, please approach with care if the topic upsets you.


But now it's bigger than us
It's bigger than everything it decides to touch

(Biffy Clyro - As Dust Dances)

Clare lies asleep next to him, her body brushing against his with the rhythmic pattern of her breathing. The darkness of her bedroom envelopes them, its quiet warmth comforting.

They came straight here, to this room. Straight from the hospital, it seems, the car ride in between just a blurred memory. They felt a pull to be here — or at least he felt it. Right here, squeezed in Clare's tiny twin bed which is too small for two people with grown, adult bodies. Safe. Not even Helen said anything of it (which is something, if you know Helen at all). She didn't say much at all, really. She pulled her daughter in a soft embrace, kissed her forehead and brushed her hair away from her face. Glen, too, placed a hand on Clare's shoulder and gave her a quiet squeeze, and then they both stepped back, and let Eli take her upstairs.

It took Clare a while to fall asleep, but she finally did. And now, Eli feels like he shouldn't be moving, shouldn't be breathing, even, too afraid to wake her. She deserves some rest. Some peace. He could use some sleep, too, but he doubts he'll be that lucky. He doesn't have Clare's extreme physical exhaustion to knock him out, and the raging thoughts twirling in his head are unlikely to leave him alone anytime soon.

Maybe it's better this way. It feels right watching over Clare, like it's what he's supposed to be doing. Gives him purpose, makes him feel useful. It's a good feeling, after the utter sense of helplessness that permeated most of today.

So he waits, and he listens to the sound of her breathing. In, and out. In, and out.

Eli can still picture every minute detail of the day he met Clare, so shiny and vivid in his memory it could have happened yesterday. And it's weird, in a way, because so much of that time — those endless months after Julia's death — feels like a blur of neverending sorrow, day after day after day mixing into each other, smearing at the edges until there was no way of telling one from the next.

But then Clare appeared in his life, and Eli could still replay those first few moments in his head like a movie. The exact face she made as she dropped her glasses. The way the sun burned her eyes as he handed her back the broken frame, irreparably damaged by Morty. The precise curve of her lips as she smiled at him when he complimented her eyes.

Clare saved him, in more than one way. He doesn't say this out loud — not anymore, at least, because it would sound like one of those creepy delirious moments he used to have back then — but it doesn't make it less true. Never in his life at that point had he ever felt anything comparable to what Clare made him feel. For a long time, he hadn't felt anything period, safe for excruciating grief and sorrow. But then she came along, and gave him a reason to be. To exist, to keep breathing. To look forward to tomorrow.

It might not be a healthy way to think of a relationship, especially when you're as young as they were back when they met. Still, for Eli, it was better than the alternative.

It kept him alive, long enough to actually heal.

Clare stirs in her sleep, and Eli shifts slightly around her not to disturb her, molding his body to accommodate the movement in hers. The exact curve, and shape, and form, like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Eli and Clare.

The doctors wanted her to spend the night at the hospital, but she was adamant she needed to come home. It took a lot out of Eli for him to repress the nagging concerns for her health and back her decision. He knew in his heart she was right. It was hard to think of anything worse than spending one more minute than absolutely necessary in that aseptic room, after.

Here and now, he tilts his head ever so slightly to his left, and his cheek brushes against her hair, the warmth of her forehead, so close to him. He closes his eyes and breathes in her scent. It never fails to ground him, to calm him down.

For a very long time, after Julia died, Eli thought he was cursed. He wasn't, of course; he was a grieving 15-year-old who didn't know how to make sense of what had happened. It took him many, many hours of therapy to accept that, and to start healing. It took meeting Clare, and then almost losing her.

But he thought he was cursed. He thought Death was following him, and he thought the way to deal with it was to embrace that truth. Drive around in a hearse. Surround himself with macabre symbols as if to tell Her, You won't have me, I'm one step ahead. Hold onto every little thing that was ever a part of Julia's life in a vain attempt to keep a piece of her alive through the memories.

He's known for years now that there was no curse, that it was all in his head, and most importantly that he had the power to take himself out of that rut. That life could go on, and be good. Yet, life tested his beliefs, and his sanity, more than once. The day he found that poor kid's body in the greenhouse still haunts him to this day, and it took all Eli had in him not to fall back into familiar spirals of darkness. How oddly fitting that it was Eli who found him. He might not believe he's cursed, anymore, but sometimes he still strongly suspects the universe has a dark humour about it.

Yet once again, Eli pulled himself out of his pit and onto the other side, with Clare's help. Then the last year came around, testing him so much more thoroughly than ever before. In a way, Eli believes that if he hadn't gone through all that he did already, the past summer would have crushed him.

As soon as he heard the news of Clare's cancer, he knew he had to drop everything and come back to Toronto to be by her side. Clare was strong, and she fought like a warrior, but the mere idea he could lose her forever was terrifying. Eli couldn't be anywhere else than right next to her. That's how love works. That's how they work. But the universe had a different plan for them, and Eli hadn't finished thanking the gods for Clare's remission that they were grieving again.

Adam's sudden departure was a tragedy that hit them all like a ton of bricks, and Eli sure felt it. Adam was his best friend, a brother to him. And now, he was the second person that Eli had dearly loved, and tragically lost. To a road accident — the irony.

Eli likes to think he's grown in the past few years, yet that same thought — I'm cursed — crept its way into his head that day. And then once again, months later. The day he learned they were going to lose their baby, too.

Eli really loved this unborn baby. Didn't exactly want him, if he was honest, but loved him nevertheless. His child. His and Clare's child.

From the moment he learned Clare was pregnant he started picturing the two of them as a family. That's a lie, he had started way before that. He can't really pinpoint the exact moment, but he's known for years now that he'll spend the rest of his days with her. It might take them a few bumps in the road, but they always find their way back to each other. It's just a fact of life, at this point.

So, when Clare told him the baby was not his, he'd felt shattered. The strange thing is, thinking about it, that since he met Clare he hasn't wanted anyone else, not really. Yes, he's made a drunken mistake with Lenore (who was there, with him, very real and warm and present when Clare was so far away) but he had immediately regretted it, and stopped himself before they went too far. The same is not true for Clare, and he's not trying to be bitter — it just isn't. Even before Drew, Clare had loved and wanted others, in the breaks between their story. Drew was different, though. They were older, now, and there was more at stake. And yes, Eli had hurt her first, and yes, they were broken up. But to learn she'd been with someone else, five minutes after leaving him — it hurt, a lot. And when Eli is hurt, he knows how to be cruel.

Eli knows this about himself. He's not proud of it, far from it, but he's honest, and he knows it's true. There are many things he regrets saying or doing, over the years. Things that hurt Clare because he wanted her to hurt. He's not sure whether those things make him a bad person. Sometimes — on the bad days — he thinks they do; other days, when he's kinder to himself, he's not sure. He doesn't know whether Clare should have forgiven him for all of it, but there's one thing he knows for certain: somehow, she did.

Bullfrog was such a great dad, for all his faults. And Eli was not an easy child to raise, by any means. From that time when he decided to call them CeCe and Bullfrog instead of Mum and Dad when he was seven, to the way he sprung on them a troubled teenager in need of a temporary home, to the multiple times he scared the living shit out of them with one of his antics, or his manic episodes, or just some regular teenage carelessness.

Parents are not perfect, but they try. Some of them, at least. His parents tried, always. They woke up every day and were there for him, best they could. They gave him food and shelter and emotional support and advice of varying degrees of success. Sometimes the food was burnt, or the advice was crap, or they let him stray away too far or stopped him too soon — but they were always there for him, through good and bad.

Eli likes to think he'll make a good dad, one day.

Today has been a long, strenuous day, full of grief and anger and mourning and love and confusion. It was barely morning when they left for Clare's appointment, and very late when they finally made it back home. So many things happened, in between those two car rides, and yet so little. Their entire world has been turned upside down, and yet they have very little to show for it. Only memories — sweet, and sad, and painful, and heartwrenching at the same time.

The memories of their son. Taken away from them before they ever had a chance to meet him.

Seeing his tiny, perfect body. Eli wasn't sure he would have wanted to, before it happened, wasn't sure how he would have felt, what the baby would have looked like. He was perfect, his son. Tiny, so incredibly small, but perfect, ten fingers and ten toes, and a perfect little head the size of a tennis ball. So much and so little, in the span of a day. Love so bright it could light up a whole world, and an ocean of tears that felt like they'd never stop coming.

It's the next day, now, and yet it doesn't feel like it. No matter what the number on the alarm clock says, Eli feels trapped into a neverending, thirty-hour long now that won't let him escape. It won't be tomorrow until Eli can fall asleep, and he won't be able to sleep until all the thoughts in his head find some semblance of order, of meaning.

He pulls Clare closer in his arms, delicately, just enough to feel her heartbeat against his own skin. She's the strongest woman he knows, Clare. He already used to think so before, but now, after today? She went through more than any human should ever be asked to, and came out on the other side. Not happy, not even entirely whole, but still here. Alive.

If that's not what strength looks like, Eli doesn't know what is.

He leans in to kiss Clare's forehead and snuggles a bit closer to her. She will have his children, one day, Eli is sure of it. No matter where life will take them next, how many more curveballs will be thrown at them, Eli knows they'll always be there for each other.

Eli doesn't exactly believe in God, or in Heaven, or in reincarnation or anything. He's not even sure what he believes, nor if he believes in anything at all. But he likes to think that one day, when they're ready, their lost baby will find his way back to them, somehow.

And they'll finally meet him.