A sudden knock on Gretchen's hotel room door caused her gaze to move from the television to the clock that sat on a nightstand in between the two beds. It was 1:30 in the morning. She'd only gotten back around half an hour ago, after a silent, tearless car ride with Colin. He had asked her to explain what was going on, but Gretchen simply gave him a deathly stare, looked out the car window, and choked back her tears until the moment she stepped through her hotel room door. Gretchen sighed to herself and picked up a clump of salty tissues off of her bed before groggily making her way towards the door. She dumped them into the small bin next to the doorway, and sighed, stretching and adjusting the tight tank top she was wearing. Her hand grasped the chrome handle and turned it slowly, pulling open the heavy door. Gretchen's eyes locked with the man standing there. They were full of a passionate fire and longing hunger that she hadn't seen in what felt like ages.
"Dawso--" She began, but before she could finish he stepped into the room and kissed her with a force that he never had before. She eased into the kiss, her arms wrapping around his neck tightly. Dawson closed the door with his foot, and pulled Gretchen's body tighter against his. As he watched Gretchen rush away from him earlier that night, it suddenly hit him which part of him would win the battle he'd been fighting. It was the part of him that was still in love with her, the part of him that wanted her now just as much as before, or thought he still loved her and wanted her.
They pulled away from the fiery kiss slowly and mutually. Their eyes locked in a heated, emotion filled stare; neither wanted to ruin the moment with words. As if on command, Dawson kissed her again, entangling his large hands in her soft hair. He moved her back towards the nearest bed, still kissing her with all he had. Gretchen's hands ran over his shoulders and down his arms, then back up over his neck and through his hair as Dawson slid his down her back and around to the front of her shirt, pulling away from the kiss to take it off over her head. She didn't protest as he laid her down on the bed nearest to the door, his lips sucking hungrily at her neck, his hands roaming over the smooth skin of her stomach to her breasts. Dawson wrapped one arm around her small waist as she arched her back at his touch, locking her in a passionate kiss while his other hand teased her chest. He broke the kiss, and his lips glided down the front of her neck, his eyes kept partly open, watching her taken in breaths of air and the excited expression on her face. Her eyes were shut tightly, almost like she was afraid that if she opened them she would realize it was all a dream. Dawson's lips found the spot towards the back of her neck that he knew drove Gretchen crazy, and he saw her smile as a chill ran up and down her spine. Gretchen ran her hands down his back and over his butt and top of his thighs. She brought them back up slowly, finding their way under the thin cotton of his shirt and onto the smooth skin of his lower back. They traveled to the front of his shirt, tracing the shape of his body with her fingertips. Desiring lips locked together, releasing emotions and telling secrets that had been kept for so long. He began to push her loose, pajama bottoms off of her hips and Gretchen tried to fight the throbbing cravings of her body as she abruptly broke their kiss, panting for air. "Wait..." She breathed.
Dawson looked at her, lifting his upper body off of hers and catching his breath as well. "Is something" his chest heaved up and down, "something wrong?"
"No," She winced in pleasure as Dawson slid a hand up her leg and inner thigh, "I mean...yes." She sat up, scooting out of Dawson's grasp. "Tell me what we're doing here."
"We're...well...I kissed you...and..."
"And why did you kiss me?" Gretchen grabbed a pillow to cover her bare chest self-consciously.
Dawson swallowed, "Because...I wanted to..." He realized how bad that must have sounded. "Because the part of me that won was the part that wanted to be with you...that part that wanted it to be you back in the club..." There was a short silence between them and Gretchen looked down at her legs. "You kissed me back though."
"I know." She looked at him.
"Why?" He threw her question back at her.
"You know, Dawson." Gretchen stared at him.
Dawson sighed and nodded. "Yeah...I do."
Another awkward silence filled the room, and Dawson stood up to grab Gretchen's shirt off of the floor. "Here." He said and handed her the tank top as he sat on the edge of the bed.
"Thanks." She smiled softly, turning around to pull the shirt on. She turned back to see Dawson smirking slightly to himself. "What?"
"Nothing," He shook his head.
Gretchen raised her eyebrows, "Come on, just tell me." She grinned at him, feeling that playfulness return between them.
"I just found it funny how you felt like you had to turn around to put your shirt back on...its not like I haven't seen your body before." Dawson's lips curled up, watching Gretchen's face for her reaction.
She let out a short, deep chuckle. "True...but who says I want to give you the pleasure of seeing it again?"
Dawson made a contemplative face, as if he was actually pondering Gretchen's question. "Hmmm..."
"Will you stop?" She squeaked, hitting the top of his arm playfully.
He put his hands up like he was surrendering. "If you want me to." A grin grew on Dawson's face.
"Okay then." Their eyes met, a sudden silence ringing through the air. Dawson wished he could read those big brown eyes of hers. They were pleading for something, but for what, exactly, he didn't know. That night he realized that there were still lingering feelings for her inside of him. Lingering wants and needs, like the force that drove him to her hotel room, the force that asked everyone who had been talking to Gretchen where she was staying, just so he could pull her close to him and kiss her. He was looking for some meaning in their short, yet passionate make-out session. As clear as he told himself his intentions were, deep down he was confused about what really drove him to kiss her that evening.
Gretchen watched Dawson's face carefully. He looked like he was searching for some meaning with her. When he kissed her, her body released so many emotions that had been bottling up for weeks. It released her passion for him, her lust, and her longing need to be close to him and to feel his hands and his lips on her skin. It released the frustration she had felt just a few minutes before and the things she had wanted to say to him but couldn't find the words for. His kiss felt so familiar and comforting, but at the same time new and inspiring. She knew she didn't want to stop him, her body and her heart were screaming for more, but her mind was telling her otherwise. Her mind was telling her to be careful, to not let Dawson run away with her vulnerability, and knew that as much as every other part of her ached for him, it would only complicate things further in the end. Inside she was pleading for some explanation, for some clarification on Dawson's feelings. And who could blame her? About an hour ago he was telling her she had to move on, then he was kissing her in her hotel room without even saying a word before hand.
They broke their stare quickly, the intensity in their eyes being too much to bear. Almost in unison, they sighed to themselves, causing them both to chuckle. The laugh promptly subsided though, and Gretchen swallowed the nervousness in her throat. "So..." She broke the silence, "now what?"
"I guess we should...try to...make sense of this." Dawson offered slowly.
Gretchen let out a deep, exasperated groan from the back of her throat and fell back on the bed. "I am so damn tired of 'making sense of things.' Can't we, for once, just let things be as they are?"
"Quit kidding yourself, Gretch." Dawson gave her a knowing look. "You know that never works."
"Yeah but can't we just...pretend or something?" She sounded like she was joking but after all the drama of the night, Gretchen could hardly think straight, and now especially with this whole new event that just went down, avoiding the issue seemed to be rather appealing.
A light sigh escaped Dawson's mouth and he looked at her sternly, his tone matching the look in his eyes, "Gretchen..."
She rolled her eyes, "Uuuhg...fine. Let's 'make sense of this.'" Gretchen sat up Indian style and looked at Dawson, waiting for him to start the conversation.
Dawson sat there a moment, contemplating what to say.
Gretchen nodded at Dawson, never breaking her stare. "See...you have no words. So what do you say we just-"
"I kissed you because I'm not over you." He interrupted her. Gretchen's face fell. "And back there in the club I was denying it to myself, and I'm sorry for that, Gretchen. Because I know it hurt you."
"But when it comes down to it, we're still in love with each other. That's the simplest way to say it." She sounded so confident.
"Yeah..." Dawson swallowed, "something like that."
Gretchen felt all of her insides fall to her feet, and her facial expression matched the initial reaction of her body. She turned her head away from Dawson, her lips parted slightly as she let out a low, disbelieving breath of air. Dawson's eyes were planted on her profile, and Gretchen could feel the emotion that lay with in them without even having to look at him. After a brief moment she looked back to him, "Something like that? You're," she took in a deep breath of air in order to stifle the choked up sound of her voice, "going to have to start making some sense here because right now all I want is a straight answer...and honestly I don't think I can deal with much more of this tonight."
Dawson dropped his gaze to the comforter of the bed. He really didn't feel like hurting Gretchen tonight. He was confused though. She had left him, so he didn't understand why she was still pining in the way that she was. "Gretchen, I...I don't know what to say to you anymore. I don't even know what you're asking me."
"I'm asking you for some sort of reason, Dawson." She sounded tired and distraught. "Some sort of answer to why you kissed me and what you're really feeling. You say you're not over me but then when I say we're still in love with each other you tell me it's 'something like that.' What is it Dawson?"
"I don't know, okay? I mean, I thought I was over you and then you show up here like this, and you tell me you've been thinking about me and us and what we had and that you're not over me and what am I supposed to do? Automatically I start questioning my feelings and reevaluating my thoughts...and they are all so overwhelming. So okay I say something that I think I'm feeling but not really sure about...it's just that this happened so fast and so randomly that it's hard to determine between what's real and what's not."
"I can guarantee you, Dawson," her voice sounded so sure of herself but also shaky as she held back her tears and pushed down the lump rising in her throat, "that everything I've said has been real."
"I can't." He knew saying that would hurt her, but honesty was always the center of their relationship, so lying to her never seemed right, even if the truth hurt her.
That was it. Gretchen couldn't even look at him anymore. She stood up, walking unstably to the glass balcony door and stopped there. A hand rose to her forehead and as she shut her eyes two tears rolled down her cheeks. Men would always do this to her, they'd say things they didn't really mean in order to get something they wanted, usually sex. Dawson was different though, or at least he used to be different. She felt her heart shatter all over again and took deep breaths to control herself. Dawson once told her he would never intentionally do anything to hurt her, and he had lived up to that. He never meant to hurt her, he was just telling her the truth. She wanted to know why he said those things if he didn't mean them though. That was the one thing she didn't understand.
Dawson watched Gretchen, wondering what she was feeling right then. He felt so horrible for doing this to her; he knew she didn't deserve any of it. One thing he couldn't do was lie to her though. The things he said earlier in the evening weren't lies, per se, but more like unsure statements. In all honesty his mind was buzzing with so many different thoughts and emotions that he really didn't know what he was thinking; it wasn't just a way to get out of telling Gretchen how he felt.
She turned to him suddenly and Dawson's head shot up at her quivering voice. "Then tell me something real."
He opened his mouth like he was going to say something but then closed it as he dropped his gaze away from Gretchen. She watched him nervously, her heart pounding and eyes stinging. "I think..." Dawson began, looking straight at Gretchen's water hazed eyes, then pausing a moment to gather his courage, "I think that we're both looking for some kind of answer, a reason, we could call it, for all of this. We're searching and searching for something to say, for the reason that we stumbled across each other, but it's not there, Gretchen. We can't give each other anything anymore. I...I can't tell you why I kissed you or if I'm truly over you or not." Gretchen sat down on the other bed slowly as she listened to Dawson. The things he was saying rang so true. Finally, she felt like she was actually getting somewhere. "I can tell you this though; I can tell you that you are the kind of woman I will never forget. We had the kind of relationship that will impact all of my future relationships because of what you taught me. You awakened passions inside of me that had been suppressed for so long, and that is something I will always cherish about you. But if you're still itching to know why I decided to find you here and kiss you, I guess it's because I was looking for a reason as well."
"I think that's the best thing you've said all night." She said lightly and let out a short laugh, interrupting the path of a few tears that were falling from her eyes.
"Me too." His sincere gaze locked with hers, and Gretchen smiled, suddenly feeling like the emotional baggage she was carrying around had been unpacked.
Gretchen groaned at the loud, discordant buzzing of the digital alarm clock on the nightstand. The mid-morning sun shone through the glass doors to the balcony, spreading the light into beams around the room. Dust particles danced in the light beams. Gretchen groped blindly for the clock with one hand as the other pushed her up into a sitting position on the bed. Finally, she managed to cease the antagonizing buzz and placed the clock in its original position. Her eyes moved to the two packed bags sitting on the other bed, then to the half empty bottle of California Chablis that still sat in the ice bucket where she had placed it two days before. There was no more ice in the bucket though, only water. Cool droplets condensed on the sides of the glass bottle.
She put her bare feet onto the soft carpet, stood up, and stretched, with one hand reaching behind her head to her opposite shoulder, and the other pushing up the hem of her cotton tank top to right above her belly button and pulling it down again. Gretchen made her way into the bathroom and using her foot, she pushed a damp towel lying on the cold, white ceramic tiles out of her path. Luke warm water fell into her cupped hands, and then rolled down her forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, lips and chin before dripping into the round sink. She grabbed next to her for a towel, blinking away some of the water on her eyelashes prior to patting the pure white, thick, textured cotton on her skin. Two fingers removed the sleep from her eyes. She now reached for the amber colored toothbrush that sat next to some plastic-wrapped plastic cups and Holiday Inn shampoo and conditioner. It suddenly occurred to her that she never bought herself a new toothbrush. As Gretchen met her own eyes in the mirror though, she realized she didn't care.
After dressing in dark, tight jeans that revealed all the curvatures of her lower body and a form fitting, crew neck, white muscle tank with the words "I've got what boys want" written in navy blue block lettering across the top of her chest, Gretchen poured the remaining wine into the sink. It went "glub, glub, glub" as it drained from the bottle.
Her eyes moved around the hotel room from the doorway, searching for any items she may have left. One medium sized bag hung from her right shoulder, a smaller, lighter duffel held in her hand. On her other shoulder she carried her purse. Gretchen sighed as she turned away from the room and adjusted the strap of the heavy bag on her shoulder. The door shut quietly behind her, and locked.
Downstairs in the lobby, Colin typed away behind a computer at the main desk. Gretchen stood behind a young couple on the check out line. She watched Colin, contemplating what she was going to say to him. Apologizing seemed just, she thought, and moved forward as the couple picked up their bags and left the hotel. Colin looked up at Gretchen, his face falling. "Leaving so soon?" He asked in emotionless tones.
"Yeah..." Gretchen replied softly, "The way things are now...I thought it was a good time to leave."
"Oh so when things don't work out the way you want...you just pack up and go? Is that it?" His voice turned harsh and accusing.
Gretchen sighed. "Usually, yes." She told him, "but now I'm leaving because things are perfect, I don't want anything to get ruined."
"Well I'm glad things are 'perfect' then." He practically snatched the hotel room key out of Gretchen's hand as she placed it on the light beige wood.
"Hey...Colin...come on. Please don't be angry with me."
"Me, angry? No...I'm not angry at all. Hurt? That would be more like it." He glanced at Gretchen then swiped her credit card through the computer.
"I'm sorry I hurt you." She gazed at him.
Colin brought his eyes up to meet hers. He looked into them for a few moments; a surprised expression suddenly appeared on his face.
Gretchen raised her eyebrows in confusion and smiled slightly, "What?"
"Your eyes..." He articulated softly, "they don't look sad anymore."
All she did was smile at him, silently telling him that she knew that too. "Hey...c'mere" She said after a brief pause. Colin did what she said. They smiled at each other, and Gretchen hugged him. Colin's arms wrapped around her small waist tightly, and he lifted her slightly off of the ground, causing her to laugh. "Promise me we'll keep in touch." She said and stepped back from the hug.
"I promise." Colin grinned.
"Now get back to work." She pushed his stomach playfully.
"Yes, ma'am." He saluted her.
Gretchen let out a short laugh and picked up her bags, repositioning them on her body. She turned to Colin and smiled. "Bye."
"Bye, Gretchen." He smiled and watched her walk out of the lobby into the hot, LA morning sun.
Gretchen pulled into a parking space on the USC campus. She stepped out of her car, taking in a deep breath of air and pulling down the hem of her shirt. Her legs were hot inside of her dark jeans; the sun beat down on her as she walked across the campus. Dark sunglasses shielded her eyes from the brightness of the day.
A blonde, young man sat on the steps of his dorm, standing when he saw Gretchen. She looked at him and smiled. They walked towards each other, making the distance between them shorter. "So, this is where you live." Gretchen smiled and lifted the sunglasses onto the top of her head.
Dawson looked back at the building, then at her. "Yup. Home sweet home." One corner of his mouth curled up. "I'd invite you in but I know you want to get going."
"Yeah. I've got a long trip ahead of me. Three thousand beautiful miles."
"I'll walk you back to your car." He told her.
"Okay." She nodded slightly and began to walk slowly with Dawson.
"You've got what boys want, huh?" He grinned, referring to Gretchen's shirt.
She chuckled. "Oh yeah." Gretchen looked to him and smiled, "You told me to get this shirt. Remember?"
Dawson nodded, a grin forming on his face as he remembered the day in the mall. "Ooh yes...that was the day you bought yourself some very sexy lingerie."
"Of course that's the only part you remember." Gretchen smirked, glancing at Dawson out of the corner of her eye.
"Nah...I remember seeing you in it too." He raised a flirty eyebrow.
"Okay, that's enough!" She laughed and began to walk ahead of him.
Dawson caught up with her briskly. "You know, I think all that drama last night was worth it if things turned out like this."
"Yeah..." Gretchen let out in a breathy voice, "I think I missed our friendship most of all."
"Me too." Dawson stopped on the curb of the parking lot, scanning the asphalt desert for Gretchen's red and white truck.
"What is it about the Leerys and the Witters?" Gretchen asked as they crossed towards her car.
"What do you mean?" Dawson replied.
"They always become the best of friends." She looked at him and leaned on the back door of her car.
Dawson glanced down at the asphalt. "I don't know," he shrugged and his eyes met with Gretchen's, "they just have this weird connection. They know each other without even having to say a word."
Gretchen nodded and sighed, looking to her side. "So..."
"So I guess..."
"Yeah...I better get going."
They looked at each other, and both smiled softly. "I'll see you at Christmas?" Dawson asked, but it was more like a statement then a question.
"You can count on it." Gretchen told him. "But we'll definitely speak before that. I promise to call you more often."
"And I'll call you back."
"And if I don't? What will you do?" He challenged.
"I'll tell Pacey to beat you up." She joked.
"Ah I could take him down."
"Yeah, just don't break his nose again."
Dawson chuckled. "He told you about that?"
"Oooh yeah." Gretchen nodded.
He smiled at her. "Be safe, Gretch. Don't drink and drive, and don't talk to strangers."
"Yes, father." She laughed.
"Aw come here." Dawson grinned and swept her off the ground into a tight hug. Gretchen laughed and Dawson set her down gently. "Okay now get in the car before I really say something embarrassing and stupid."
Gretchen grinned at him and unlocked her car door, looking back at him as she ducked inside. "Bye." She said softly and shut the door, put on her seatbelt and turned on the car.
Dawson smiled at her through the window as she pulled out of the space. She waved and then turned her attention back to the road, pulling her sunglasses back onto her eyes. Dawson stood there a few moments, until Gretchen's car disappeared into the horizon.