Title: That Kind of Love
Summary: It's last summer and Donna and Kelso are still in California. E/D, D/K friendship
Disclaimer: I'm poor. I wish I weren't, but I am. So please don't sue me.
Note: I never really meant to write an E/D story, but this one kind of wouldn't leave me alone. Over at F4F, there have been a couple of conversations on what changed so radically in Donna from The Promise Ring to Going to California and also about what Donna and Kelso did while they were away. This is my response to those things. I hope you enjoy.
Another Note: Okay, I like Kelso, and I especially liked him season four. The writers of the show gave him tremendous character growth then, but seemed to snatch most of it back for season five. So, I wanted to go with that idea of his growth, but I may have taken it a little far. I'll just go ahead and apologize now for the parts that he seems out of character.
Another 'nother Note: Big ol' thanks goes out to Dana a.k.a DonnaPinchMyButtie for reading this for me and big all supportive like. You're wonderful!
Feedback: I'd love you forever.
The sun had long since set over the horizon, leaving the shoreline cast in near darkness. A bonfire, probably illegal, raged on surrounded a growing number of vacationing high schoolers and college students. Someone had pulled a car up near the small party and the air was filled with whining guitar of Led Zeppelin. People shouted, they danced; they drank away the quiet summer night.
Donna sat off to the side, just far enough away to escape the casting shadow of the orange glow of fire. She lay stretched out in the sand, her mind a couple hundred miles to the northwest of the party.
The night was cool for mid-summer, and a sharp wind bit across her skin left bare save for the tube top and shorts that she wore, but she didn't mind. The cool took her away from her loneliness and away from the hell the last year had been.
She wanted to go back, back before it had all started, back to before it had all fallen apart.
She sank further into the sand, letting the soft, uneven ground shift to the cool, smooth surface of the Vista Cruiser. The barest of smiles brushed over her lips as she was taken back to a night so long ago.
She remembered lying next to him as he spoke of the wonders of defying his parents. She remembered the way he stumbled over thanking her for the night. And then, she remembered the feel of her lips pressing awkwardly against his.
That night melted into a hundred more memories, bringing a heavy weight to the pit of her stomach.
The wind swept her hair across her face like the caress of a lover's hand, Eric's hand. Long, tapered fingers stroked along the contours of her face, relearning every detail. Goose bumps sprinkled along her arms as that sweet touch smoothed over her jaw.
Her lips parted and she could taste the salt air on her tongue. Dampening her lips, she let the breeze brush over them, cooling the moisture. In her mind, she could see him, eyes as deep and green as the ocean spread out before her, as he drew closer.
Her back arched against the dream and her fingers dug into the sand, searching for something to anchor herself against. She could almost feel his weight settling over her, warming her, and her nipples hardened at the rush of heat that spiraled out from her belly.
Her eyes shot open then, and with a deep gasp, she realized that it was all just a dream. He wasn't there.
He wasn't there.
Her head turned to the side, and she could see that the party seemed to be growing. Someone had shown up with a keg, and so the numbers had multiplied accordingly.
The melodic tunes of Zeppelin had been switched to the pounding beat of Kiss, and she knew that now was probably the time to join them. The temperature just off the ocean was continuing to drop despite the fact that it was the middle of summer.
But she couldn't bring herself to join in. The cold felt too good to her just then.
She scanned the group, her eyes falling on Kelso. He had managed to corner a small blonde, and in a matter of moments, had her eating out of the palm of his hand. Donna watched as the girl flipped her hair over her shoulder and pushed her chest out. She watched as he flirted right back.
How did that work?
How could Kelso have been so in love with Jackie just weeks ago, and now, seemingly have no memory of her? How is it possible to move on after having loved so deeply?
Her gaze shifted away from the party and to the broad expanse of the sky. She could feel the burn of tears for the hundredth time since she'd been there. Closing her eyes tightly, she tried so hard to push them away.
Had Eric been able to move on just as easily? It had taken him barely any time at all after their break-up to pick up on another girl. Would it be as easy for him this time? Had he forgotten her already?
She didn't quite know how she could face him again. The embarrassment reddened her cheeks as she replayed the scene in her head.
She had wanted him.
He had said no.
And she couldn't forget. What if he could?
Her eyes fluttered open once again at the approaching thump of footsteps. A small smile curved her lips at Kelso as he dropped down onto the sand beside her and held out a beer.
She sat up, drawing her legs up to cross them Indian style before her. She held out her hand for the cup and took a small sip, relishing the sweet burn of alcohol down her throat.
"Donna, you have got to come and join this party." His eyes were wide and his smile broad as he spoke. "It's so kick ass!"
She let a short laugh escape her lips. "Yeah, I can see that you've already picked a little something out for yourself."
Kelso turned to wave over at the blonde. "I know. Look at those things. It's like it's my birthday or something."
Digging a small hole in the sand, Donna set down her cup. "I don't think they're real, Kelso."
He shrugged, holding one palm. "Who cares? She's wearing a bikini."
"Good point," she said with a roll of her eyes.
Rising up onto his knees, Kelso gestured back toward the party. "So, come on. Let's go!"
Donna gave a quick shake of her head. "Thanks, but you know, I think I'm alright here."
Kelso glanced longingly over his shoulder at the blond that had just started dancing along with the music. He debated back and forth for a moment before finally sighing heavily and dropping back down to sit cross-legged in front of her. "Okay, Donna. I am gonna do you a giant favor." He paused, looking at her expectantly. Waving her on with one hand, he continued. "I'm gonna let you in on a bit of the Kelso wisdom. Let's go, lady. Unload. I've got a pink bikini to get back to."
A genuine laugh bubbled up her in stomach. She reached forward to pat him on the knee. "That's okay, Kelso. I don't want to hold you up."
"Yeah, I know. That's why I'm only giving you five minutes." Reaching over to pluck her cup out of the sand, he took a big gulp. "You're on the clock here, Donna. Let's go."
Donna shook her head and grabbed the cup back from him. "You better not have back-washed in this."
Kelso huffed. "I know what this is about Donna. You're over here being all boring because of Eric."
"Am I that transparent?" she asked sarcastically.
"It's not about transparencies. I just have this natural talent when it comes to reading people." He stared back at her as Donna cocked an eyebrow. "You should know that by now."
"Right." Donna nodded. "I guess I just forgot."
"So, now here's the part when you start asking for the advice 'cause time, it's a ticking." Kelso tapped his wrist.
Shaking her hair away from her face, she decided that it probably wouldn't hurt to just go ahead and ask him. If nothing else, Kelso trying to be smart was always worth a good laugh. "Fine. Here it is." She paused, taking in a deep breath. "How… how is that you can be here, trying to get in some random girls bikini bottoms when like a month ago, you were totally in love with Jackie?"
Kelso froze, his mouth propped open like a fish. After a moment, his mouth snapped shut. "Donna, are you jealous that I picked up a new girl? Were you hoping that it was your turn? Because it can be your turn if you want it to be."
"No!" She slammed her fist across his knee.
"Damn, Donna!" He rubbed his hand over the tender spot. "I was just kidding!"
Shifting back on the sand to put more distance between them, Donna waved a dismissive hand. "You know what? Never mind, Kelso. You can go back to the party now."
"Look, Donna." Kelso scooted forward to close the space she had created. "Jackie and I aren't you and Eric. We never were." Donna's eyes narrowed at the line that had formed between his eyes. She didn't know that she had ever seen such a serious expression on his face. "Forman hasn't hooked up with some new chick in the last couple of weeks. In fact, he's probably cried about this whole thing more than you have."
"See, the thing with me and Jackie is that we're still in high school… and she wanted to get married… and we're still in high school!" His voice grew louder and deeper. "And she wanted to get married!"
"Okay, I get that." She held up a palm to stop him. "That's the problem I had with Eric in the first place. We're too young to be thinking about that."
"But now," She pulled her lower lip between her teeth. "Now, I don't know."
"Well, I do. We're still way too young," he said.
"But, it's like." Her expression twisted as she searched for a way to put into words what she felt. "It's like I've been away from him for so long that none of that other stuff that I wanted matters anymore. I just want him back."
Kelso stared at her blankly, and she felt frantically compelled to try to explain it to him.
"I have all of these dreams and these goals, and back when Eric and I were together, they were all I could think about. You know, I had this life that I had planned for me." Her gestures grew as she gained momentum. "And then, one day he was gone, and I didn't have him anymore. And now, I almost feel like none of that other stuff matters as much as having him back. I can still do all of that stuff, all of those things that I wanted before; I just feel like that won't mean as much if he's not with me."
Throughout her rant, Kelso's brows had drawn low over his eyes as he tried to keep up with what she was saying.
"And… and I'm just so scared now that I won't ever be able to have that with him again." She paused, her eyes searching his face for some kind of understanding. "If you love Jackie, doesn't the fact that you may never be with her again scare the crap out of you?"
Kelso glanced down at his watch and Donna could tell that her five minutes were up. Turning to look over his shoulder, he waved at the blond, sighing again when she motioned him to come back. He waved at her and held up one finger to let her know that he would just be a minute more.
He shifted his gaze back to her face, the usual playfulness fading into the casting shadows of the bonfire. "Look, Donna," he started, his voice low and devoid of it's normal bounce. "Yes, I miss Jackie, and there is a part of me that wants to be back in Point Place with her… but I wasn't ready for marriage. I still have so much that I want in life." He ticked the list out on his fingers. "My modeling career still has so far to go, I'm going to be an astronaut, an actor, a rock star, and then, I still have to open my special store. My life is just beginning."
Donna tore her eyes from his and looked down at her hands, clenched together in her lap. Her breathing labored slightly as all of the feelings of claustrophobia came pouring back into her, pulsing through her veins to every cell in her body.
That was it. That was the reason it had all ended in the first place.
It had ended because she had known, and she was sure, that there was so much more to her life than a high school romance. There was still so much that she hadn't done, and looking up at Kelso, she could see that same desire for something more etched across his features.
And for the first time since the big breakup, she could feel the burn of that promise ring and all that it stood for scorching across her finger. But this time, she couldn't tell if it was because she longed for that life or because she was happy to have escaped it.
"And I can't really tell you what will happen with me and Jackie when we get back home," Kelso continued, breaking into her thoughts. "Because I don't know what's going to happen. But I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Eric just a few weeks ago. What you and he had was real, and you can't give up on that, Donna."
"You see, everybody falls in love. Me and Jackie, we were in love, but that was a high school love. And yeah, the sex was great, but who really knows if it could have been more than that, or if it ever will be more than that." He stopped for a moment, and Donna could see that despite all the moving on that he had done, there was a part of him that still seemed stuck on what he had and what he had given up. "But that's not what you and Eric had… have. You guys have that kind of love; the kind that doesn't get stuck up on the small stuff. Yours is that kind of love that can make it through an argument, or through a breakup, or through college, or through dead cats, or through him stealing your last lady shaver."
Donna quirked an eyebrow, but despite her near emotionless expression, everything inside of her seemed to be racing. That kind of love. That kind of love.
"And yeah, okay, so most of the time, we all thought you two were totally boring." Kelso waved a hand, drawing her eyes back to his face. "But that's not what mattered. You guys were happy. We always knew that you were happy, even when you had like totally blown-up at Eric for some crazy small reason and we had to sit there and listen to him complain and complain and complain for hours about your guys' problems…" His voice trailed off at her warning glance.
She watched the chagrin wipe over his features as he fell quiet. Finding that she couldn't hold his gaze any longer, Donna dropped her eyes down to the glass of beer in her hands. The condensation on the cup had dampened her hands and she let the smooth ocean breeze chill her skin. She shivered.
And it all came down to that same decision that she had been forced to make all of those miserable months ago. A future with Eric or a future of her own. The man she loved or the dreams that had carried her through childhood and into this unsteady grace of being a woman.
Her eyes drifted shut, and in her mind, the world spun out of control.
Kelso had said that they were happy. And he was right. She was happy with Eric; she was miserable without him. But was that enough of a reason to give up everything that she had longed for for so long?
She didn't have the faith that it was.
Kelso's hand on her knee brought her back into the now, and she suddenly felt so aware: aware of the contrast of the cool wind and the heat of his hand on her skin, aware of the near darkness they sat in as compared to the blazing fire not a hundred feet off, aware of pricks of sand settling underneath her legs, sticking to her skin. And when her eyes finally lifted to meet his, she was aware of the tears that blurred his form and dampened her cheeks.
"Donna," he whispered. His hand traveled up the length of her thigh to stop and grasp her hip lightly. He leaned forward, and for the barest fraction of a second, he pressed his lips to hers. Then, he pulled away, taking his hand off of her hip and folding it in his lap. "There's nothing that says that you can't have it all, not if it's that important to you, not if it's what you really want."
Donna cocked her head, staring at him for just a moment, realizing suddenly why it was that Kelso was such a good friend. He cared. He may have been stupid, and often times, he may have been selfish, but he still cared.
"Thank you." Her voice was soft and slightly cracked as she reached up to wipe away her tears. Her fingers, still damp from her glass, pushed away the moisture in her eyes until she could see clearly again. A quiet chuckle escaped her lips. "You do know that if you ever try that again, I'm going to have to break your legs, right?"
"Yeah." That wide grin stretched across his face. "I knew that this would pretty much be my only opportunity, so, since I'm telling you to go out there and seize the day, it would have been stupid of me not to."
Her laugh was genuine then, and she leaned forward, placing her arms around his shoulders to pull him into a hug. His embrace was warm and strong, and she felt as though she were able to draw strength from that.
"So, Big D," he said, giving her one last tight squeeze before letting her go. "Are you ready to get your party on?" He sprang to his feet and held out a hand to help her up.
"You know what?" She grasped his hand, giving it a little shake. "I think I'm just going to sit out here a little bit longer."
He sighed heavily before backing away. "Fine, but don't be too long. This is a killer party, and as a part of this whole seizing the day thing, I really think you should go with the whole expanding your horizons and exploring new avenues." He pointed back at the bonfire to a small redhead that was sitting beside his blond. "A little red on red action, huh?"
"What? I'm pretty sure Eric wouldn't mind." His laugh was deep and carefree. "In fact, I'm pretty sure he'd cheer you on!"
Her foot swept across the sand to send a spray of the tiny grains in his direction. She watched as he stuck his tongue out playfully at her and turned to sprint back to the party and his pretty new blond. The group soon enveloped him, and she lost him to the crowd of people and the glare of the fire.
She turned back to the ocean, flat and never-ending before her. Pulling her knees up to her chest, she hugged her legs and rested her forehead against the cool pillow of her thighs. The tears had dried on her face and she could feel the soft stains they left on her skin. Kelso's words replayed in her mind; repeating over and over.
There's nothing that says that you can't have it all, not if it's that important to you, not if it's what you really want.
The weight of those words spilled a deep throbbing across her temples, making her head ache, and she suddenly wished that Kelso would have stuck around just a little bit longer. He was her home in this foreign place; her one link to Eric and a symbol of all that she had chosen to leave behind. And she knew that the only way to relieve this pain in her skull and this pit in her stomach was to get that home back.
Kelso had said that she and Eric had that kind of love, that kind that never dies, and she knew it was true. Even after their breakup, she knew that she would never love someone like she loved Eric. She knew that she could never find that best friend and that lover that would take his place, and she finally understood what he had meant when he said that the idea of a future without her would break his heart.
But she had left him behind anyway.
Donna shook her head, sending her hair swishing across the bare skin of her back. This all just brought her back to square one. She loved Eric, she wanted to be with Eric, and she wanted to pretend like all of that other stuff didn't matter. But it did matter.
He wanted a future. He wanted to be her first choice. He deserved to be her first choice, but now, was she willing to make him her first choice?
She lifted her head and turned her gaze upwards. The sky was wide and dark and overpowering.
The answer was yes. She was willing to make that choice. She had already made that choice.
Leaning back on her hands, Donna stretched her legs out in front of her and craned her neck back so that she was staring straight at the sky and her hair was falling freely down her back.
She knew now what it was like to be without him. She had seen life without her best friend, and it wasn't what she needed. It wasn't what she wanted.
Donna knew that in committing her life to being with Eric, maybe she wouldn't be able to go to Paris for college and maybe she wouldn't be able to travel like she wanted to. But that was a compromise that she was willing to make if it meant that wherever she did go, he would be with her.
Eric would be with her.
She let a soft smile float across her lips as she slid back to lie down in the sand, her arms stretched out toward her sides. They would be together.
She wasn't going to fool herself into believing that things would all be happiness and light now just because she had made her decision. There were still obstacles to cross; there were still hurts to overcome. She would have to face him again, and she wasn't entirely sure that she was ready for that, but she would try.
Because, for the first time she was going to listen to her heart, and her heart told her that she could have it all. She could have her future and she could have her now, and she could be happy. She was willing to fight for it. Eric was worth it.
That kind of love was worth it.
That Kind of Love by Allison Krauss
Who would sell their soul for love?
Or waste one tear on compromise
Should be easy enough
To know a heartache in disguise
But the heart rules the mind
And the going gets rough
Pride takes the fall
When you find that kind of love
I can't help feeling like a fool
Since I lost that place inside
Where my heart knew its way
And my soul was ever wise
Once innocence was lost
There was not faith enough
Still my heart held on
When it found that kind of love
Though beauty is rare enough
Still we trust
Somehow we'll find it there
With no guarantee
It seems to me
At least it should be fair
But if it's only tears and pain
Isn't it still worth the cost
Like some sweet saving grace
Or a river we must cross
If we don't understand
What this life is made of
We learn the truth
When we find that kind of love
Cause when innocence is lost
There is not faith enough
We learn the truth
When we find that kind of love