Welcome to the sixth and final chapter of Thanksgiving. Sorry for the wait, guys. The holidays were crazy, not to mention I've had this crazy fan girl taking up all my time ;)
Thanks for all the feedback! Your reviews have been very much appreciated! Enjoy :)
Claire propelled herself off of Gretchen so quickly she fell to the floor beside the bed. Fuck, fuck, fuck, she cursed herself as she searched desperately for her shirt.
Gretchen quickly grabbed her shirt and covered her chest as she sat up, meeting Mr. Bennet's shocked and somewhat enraged expression, "Mr. Bennet… hiii…" she said, overly enthusiastic. She plastered a smile on her face as she tried to cover up her nervousness… it didn't work, "How are you?... You're not…" gulp "armed… are you?"
Giving up trying to find her shirt, Claire peaked over the side of the bed, "Dad, I can explain…"
Noah's now cold and hard eyes shifted to his daughter who was still on the floor. He wanted to yank her out of the room immediately, but seeing as she was still indecent he decided to give them a moment to get dressed.
"Both of you downstairs… NOW," he said, his voice booming as he turned to slam the door shut again.
Renee heard the commotion upstairs… followed by Noah's threatening words resonating through the entire house. A door slammed and he could hear the man stomping back down the stairs.
Oh dear, he thought. He immediately realized what must have happened. Pulling out his cell phone, he quickly dialed a number. It rang a few times before the woman answered.
"You better get over here… quickly."
"That did not just happen…"
Gretchen looked over to Claire when she heard the girl speak. The blonde's eyes weren't focused on anything, and her eyebrows were raised in shock… Gretchen quickly pulled her shirt on and went to help her up. "It's gonna be fine, Claire… we'll figure something out," she said softly. Her words were intended to calm the other girl, but the uncontrollable shivers she felt were blatant in her voice. She didn't believe the words herself.
Claire just stood there like a zombie while Gretchen searched around the room for her shirt. Once she spotted it, she snatched it up and walked back to Claire to tug it over her head. Claire finally snapped out of it and pulled the shirt down to cover herself up. She finally met Gretchen's gaze; the tall girl's brow was twisted with worry, and the corners of her mouth were pulled down in a frown. Pull it together, Claire, she told herself, She needs you. She swallowed, "You're right… he can't do anything to us." Reaching up she pulled the other girl into a warm embrace. She buried her face in waves of brown hair, "I won't let him…"
Gretchen gulped, but returned the hug. They held on to each other for a moment while the tremors subsided. Claire pulled away first, pressing a kiss to Gretchen's cheek. She still looks worried, Claire thought. She reached up and dug her fingers into the mess of brown hair, brushing it out of the other girl's face. "We'll make it through this," she said, more certain this time, "I promise." She pushed up to give Gretchen a reassuring kiss before turning towards the door and dragging her out into the hallway.
They walked downstairs quietly. Once they entered the kitchen, Claire immediately sat down at the counter that her father stood across from, placing herself directly between him and Gretchen. Both the girls shifted their gazes uncomfortably; they had trouble meeting his stern stare.
"Gretchen," he said, grabbing their attention. His tone was alarmingly calm, "I called you a cab… You're leaving. Go get your belongings and wait outside."
Claire jumped off her stool at this, "What?! No, you can't do that!"
"I can and I will," her father said defiantly, staring her down. "Keep quiet, Claire, this has nothing to do with you." He turned his glare back to Gretchen.
"It has everything to do with me!" Oh God, I knew this was going to happen. "She's my girlfriend!" She racked her brain, trying to find the words she wanted "… I'm in love with her!"
Gretchen's heart skipped a beat, her eyes suddenly locking on the furious young woman in front of her. She loves me?
Noah turned to his daughter, rage building behind his eyes. "Claire, you don't know what you're talking about… You're 18, how could you possibly know what love is?" He heard a car door slam outside, and absently noted Renee heading towards the front door, opening it expectantly.
"Oh, that's rich. You're how old now, dad?" Claire spat back at him, "And you can't even keep your own family together? You are not equipped to give me advice on love!"
Noah heard someone else enter the house. He ignored his daughter and walked around the counter, closing in on Gretchen. Latching onto the lanky girl's arm, he began to drag her to the front of the house. "Sounds like your ride is here, Gretchen. Time to say goodbye, Claire."
Claire's heart thudded when she realized what was happening right before her eyes. She made a move to forcibly stop him when someone interrupted.
"Noah Bennet, don't you dare!!!" a familiar voice shot through the room to them. Noah looked up to see Sandra standing in the doorway leading to the foyer. Quickly turning his gaze to Renee, the Haitian only shrugged his shoulders in a silent apology.
Claire stood there absently staring at the woman in front of her. Mom? She thought, confused.
Noah kept his grip firmly in place on Gretchen's arm. "What are you doing here?"
"Renee called me," she said. She strode forward, dropping her purse in a nearby chair. She went to pull Gretchen out of his grasp. "I knew you were going to react like this, Noah, I just knew it… Throwing a temper tantrum because something didn't go according to plan." She managed to pull Gretchen's arm free. "But seriously, Noah? You were just going to throw Gretchen out of the house?" She stepped in between him and the silent brunette; Claire took the opportunity to return to Gretchen's side, and she grabbed the girl's hand reassuringly.
Sandra turned to Renee. "How much danger are the girls actually in… right now?" She looked over to Noah, "I mean you captured this Becky girl, didn't you?"
"That's not the point, Sandr-"
"Then what is it? …Is she just one of many? Is there a gang of flame throwers and electrical sociopaths just waiting outside the safety of this cottage to get their hands on her?" She asked incredulously.
Renee bowed his head to hide his amusement. Noah shifted his gaze uncomfortably between him and his ex-wife. He cleared his throat, "Well no… at least not that we're aware of at this present time."
She shook her head then turned to face the anxious and very confused girls behind her. "The cab pulled up behind me. I told the driver the two of you would be out in a few minutes. Go upstairs and collect your things… you're going back to school."
Gretchen half turned to give Claire a look of shock… which she returned. Is she serious? Gretchen thought. Neither one of them wanted to wait around to find out, though. They both turned to exit the kitchen quickly. "Oh, and hey," she called out to them. They stiffened and turned back to face her. She looked at her watch. "You should be back in plenty time to rest and get ready for class," she said, warningly. Both of the girls nodded absently then dashed up the stairs.
"What are you doing?!" Noah hissed at her, keeping his voice down. "You have no idea what I caught them doing upstairs! Gretchen… Claire…" he struggled with the wording, "… they-"
Sandra cut him off with a shake of her head. "I know, Noah…" Renee took that as his cue and backed out of the conversation quietly.
Noah's face fell; his enraged expression being replaced by one of shock. "You knew?" He suddenly looked hurt, "Did Claire trust you with this and not me?"
Sandra sighed, pausing to decide whether or not to answer the question, "No, she didn't tell me… but she didn't have to, Noah. God, do you even look at her?" she demanded, her tone filled with disgust. "She's happy, Noah. The happiest I've ever seen her. How could you not see it? They were so bashful around each other at Thanksgiving it was downright adorable. Even Renee picked up on it!" She placed her hands on her hips, "And Claire's not his daughter, Noah… She's yours."
The former company man shook his head, defeated. "I just wish she would have told me… Why didn't she tell me?"
Sandra's temper flared up again. Talking to her ex-husband did this to her. If only he would stop for just two seconds and look to see what was happening around him.
"She shouldn't have to… This is so typical of you, Noah. Don't you see?" she gestured her hands wildly. "This is exactly what happened with us." There was disappointment in her eyes, "You are so concerned about doing your best to protect this family that you're not even here to enjoy what's left of it! ...Even if you do spend quality time with your daughter, you're not really there…" She paused. "… Obviously," she added, "… Or else you would have seen this coming." She shook her head again, "Maybe you should be a little less concerned about sheltering her from the world and a little more accepting of her experiencing it for herself… You can't protect her from everything."
She sighed, "And I know you don't like it… and seeing them upstairs together probably didn't make this any easier… But just a word of caution." She spoke softly again, seeing Claire and Gretchen sneak out the front door behind Noah's back, "You need to accept her relationship with Gretchen… or risk losing her forever."
She walked over to gather up her purse again before turning back to Noah, "Gretchen makes her happy… " she shrugged, smiling, "and she's a good kid… So, I really don't see any problem with it. Gretchen will take care of her…" she stared off into space, smiling softly before rephrasing, "… they'll take care of each other." She met Noah's gaze again, "So, get over yourself and be the father you should be." With that she turned and walked back out the way she came, leaving Noah to his thoughts.
[some time later at Arlington University]
Claire stared down at the paper on her desk. She was back in her dorm room… classes were finished for the day. The hallways of their dormitory were unusually quiet… but she still couldn't concentrate.
Mom knew about us… she thought, trying to make sense of it …But how? She should know better than to underestimate her mom. Even though her dad had lied to her for years and was undoubtedly the reason for their divorce… she still held together well. She's made of stronger stuff, she smiled to herself, Maybe I take after her… Blood doesn't count for much when it comes to family… real family.
No matter how her mom found out, it made her feel better knowing that she was on her side. She'll talk some sense into Dad, she hoped. She was pulled from her thoughts by the sound of the door opening.
Gretchen slumped in, throwing the door shut behind her as she dropped her books on her desk. "You know," she sounded irritated, "I think being abducted and nearly killed by an invisible ex-sorority girl is enough of an excuse to sleep through your classes… but no…" She ranted as she flopped back onto her bed. "Professor Thompson didn't think so… and he told me to lay off the caffeine." Claire let out a snort of a laugh as Gretchen continued, "Wake me in a week."
Claire smiled softly as she watched her roommate close her eyes and attempt to get some rest. She got up and moved over to the girl's bed, crawling in next to her and snuggling against her side. Gretchen moved to accommodate the new position; she wrapped an arm around Claire as the blonde rested her head on her shoulder. Claire slid her hand across Gretchen's stomach and gripped her side, holding her close. Gretchen sighed contentedly.
Claire watched the other girl's chest rise and fall with each delicate breath. They were both exhausted, but there was something Claire had been meaning to ask her since they got back to school.
"Gretch?" she spoke softly.
"Hmm?" the taller girl responded without opening her eyes.
"I was wondering…" her voice trailed off as she suddenly found it hard to breathe. She took a calming breath, "I was just wondering if you umm…" she moved her hand back to the girl's stomach and started tracing imaginary images, "Do you think you might… I don't know…" She started over, "After we get some sleep, of course… Would you… maybe… want to go to a movie or something later? Or maybe go out to eat…?"
Gretchen opened her eyes, feeling a smile stretch across her face, "Claire Bennet, are you asking me out on a date?"
She chewed on her lip, eyes cast down, "Yeah… I guess. I mean, I thought it would be nice, you know…" she tilted her head up trying to read the other girl's expression, "… to go on an actual date."
Gretchen's smile widened and she turned her head to face her adorable girlfriend. She glanced down at her lips before returning her eyes to meet her gaze, "I would love to go on a date with you, Claire."
The petite blonde returned the smile, "Okay… it's a date then." Gretchen laughed and moved to press their lips together. The kiss was soft and innocent; their lips lazily grazing over each other as they gave in to exhaustion. Claire cuddled up to Gretchen, nuzzling her neck while Gretchen rubbed her back, lulling her to sleep.
"Sweet dreams, Claire," she pressed a kiss to her forehead.
[later that evening]
Noah paced up and down the small corridor, ignoring the odd, questionable glances he kept receiving from the younger girls walking by. He was only a short ways away from his daughter's dorm room, but he wasn't quite sure what he needed to say.
He was not happy about what he witnessed in the dark bedroom that morning, but after being thoroughly chided by his ex-wife, he knew she was right. He didn't have to like the unexpected turn of events… but his daughter was happy.
He was an idiot for not seeing it before. Now that he looked back on it, all the signs were there… he had just dismissed them. The way she took to Gretchen so quickly… how hurt she was when the brunette disappeared… and how happy it made his Claire Bear when her former roommate returned again. Everything made sense… he should have seen it coming. But he was so blinded by his own duties he didn't pick up on the one thing that was going on right under his nose the whole time.
His brow creased and he shook his head. She may hate me by this point… he thought, but the least I can do is apologize.
He sighed and started towards his daughter's hallway, stopping just short of the door. When he reached up to knock, out of the corner of his eye he saw a girl round the corner and stop dead in her tracks. Noah looked over and saw Gretchen standing there, looking horrified. He chuckled softly to himself. Lowering his hand, he turned to face the girl.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Gretchen."
She let out a choked laugh, trying to cover up her fear. "Heh, of course not…" she tried to smile, "Why would I think that?" She still kept her distance.
Noah gestured for her to come closer. She gulped and started towards him. As she walked closer, Noah took in her appearance. She was dressed up. Black pants, high heeled shoes, and a white button down shirt. She carried her toothbrush and toothpaste in her hand.
She stopped just a few feet away, and he decided he owed her an apology as well. "I'm sorry, Gretchen… for the way I behaved earlier." The tall girl only watched him suspiciously, he continued, "I'm just… not used to seeing my Claire Bear that way. But… she's grown up now." He gave her a soft small, "And I know now that there are going to be other people in her life… Boyfriends…" he sighed, "… girlfriends… And honestly…" He met the tall girl's gaze sincerely, "Well, I'm sure she could do a lot worse than you."
"Umm… thanks?" Gretchen wasn't sure if she should take that as a compliment.
He glanced to the closed door, "Is she around? I was hoping to talk to her…" his jaw clenched, "Or is that not… a good idea? I bet she's pretty upset with me."
She fumbled, "Well, I uhh…" she looks towards the door, "I don't know. I guess? … I mean, yeah she was pretty upset with you earlier, but if you're here to apologize-"
Her sentence was cut off by the opening of the door, "Gretchen?" Claire peeked out when she heard her girlfriend's voice somewhere outside… but she stopped cold when she saw her father there instead. Her brow furrowed as she glanced at Gretchen, checking to make sure she was alright, before returning her gaze to her dad.
She took a step out into the hallway while she crossed her arms over her chest, preparing for the onslaught of a verbal war. "What are you doing here?"
Noah started to say something, but was distracted when he saw what his daughter was wearing. It was the black and white cocktail dress her mother broke down and bought her after she begged for it for months. But then when she got it, she hardly ever wore it… "It's only for special occasions," she had said. But she's wearing it now, he thought. He suddenly remembered that Gretchen seemed dressed up as well. He glanced back at the lanky girl, taking in her appearance. "Are you two going somewhere tonight?"
Gretchen looked nervous again and she immediately dropped her eyes. Looking over to Claire, she shifted her weight uncomfortably. Noah turned to look at his daughter as well. But she was watching Gretchen worriedly; they seemed to be sharing a telepathic conversation. After a moment she set her mouth in a thin, stern line as she looked back up to her father. "We're going on a date," she said flat out, challenging him.
Noah felt his jaw lock up, but he took a deep breath. You knew about them already, get over it. He gave them a small tight smile. "Oh," he muttered. After a moment he nodded, relenting. "Right… of course."
Claire just raised her eyebrows and waited expectantly.
Noah finally released a frustrated sigh, "Look Claire, I came here to apologize… The way I behaved earlier… It was out of line, I'm sorry." He glanced over at Gretchen momentarily before returning his gaze to his daughter, "And I wanted you to know if… you're happy, then… I'm happy… for you… For both of you," he made sure to include.
Claire stared up at him dumbfounded, not believing what she was hearing. "Do you mean that?"
Noah set his mouth in a thin, small smile before nodding. "Yeah…" his smile broadened a bit, "Yeah, I mean that."
Claire's face broke out into a smile and she finally stepped forward to embrace her father, squeezing him in a bear hug. "Thanks, Dad."
He smiled again as he returned the embrace, kissing his daughter's hair. "Anything for you, Claire B-," he stopped short and rephrased as he pulled back to look at his daughter in a new light, "Anything for you, Claire." He smiled again as his daughter's eyes lit up.
Gretchen cleared her throat softly to get her girlfriend's attention. Claire looked over at her. "We should probably get going," she said, looking between the blonde and her dad, "We don't want to be late."
Claire nodded and pulled back from her father's grasp as both the girls retreated back into their room momentarily. Gretchen put up her bathroom stuff and Claire looked in the mirror again quickly before grabbing her purse and her girlfriend and heading back out into the hallway. Noah smiled again, giving them both a quick hug as he let them go. He held onto Claire for a moment longer and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Bye Dad," she said. "Yeah, see you around, Mr. Bennet," Gretchen included as they walked away.
"Gretchen," he called out to the girl. Both the girls turned to look at him. He smiled softly, "Treat her well."
The brunette smiled. "I will," she said as her girlfriend took her hand and started dragging her down the hallway again.
Noah smiled again, to himself this time, as the girls left for their first date.
[the parking lot]
Claire had been dragging her girlfriend at a break neck speed all the way down to the parking lot. She let her go once they arrived at Gretchen's truck and waited for the brunette to unlock the door. Gretchen pulled out her keys and pushed the button, which earned her a small beep from the vehicle. She went to open Claire's door for her, but stopped short with her hand resting on the handle.
"Gretchen?" Claire prodded when she noted the absent stare in her girlfriend's eyes.
Gretchen turned around and leaned on the door, meeting Claire's questioning gaze. She just studied her for a moment before finally asking, "Did you mean what you said this morning?"
Claire eyebrows scrunched together, "Which thing I said this morning?" She chuckled softly, "I said a lot."
Gretchen smiled softly. "At the safe house…" she started, "when… you thought your dad was gonna take me from you." She shrugged, suddenly fascinated in her shoes, "You just said some stuff."
After a moment Claire nodded, a knowing smile spreading across her face as she stepped closer to her girlfriend. "You mean… when I said I love you?"
She heard Gretchen's breath catch and her smile deepened. She stepped in between the girl's long legs and reached up to place a delicate finger under her chin, lifting her head. Gretchen finally met her gaze, her eyes searching the shorter girl's face. Claire gave her a loving smile, "Yeah… I did." Her smile broadened, "I do." Gretchen returned her smile. "I love you, Gretchen."
Gretchen's smile took over her face making it hard for her to respond, "I love you, too."
Claire grinned back at her as she pushed up on her toes, letting their lips collide. They kissed for a moment, there… leaned back against Gretchen's truck for everyone to see… They saw several people stop and stare out of the corner of their eyes. Several guys hollered, verbalizing their approval as the other girls stopped to gossip… and Claire didn't care. She smiled against her girlfriend's lips as she kissed her again, wrapping her arms around the taller girl's neck to pull her in closer.
Let them see.
Thanks guys for making this writing experience so enjoyable :). I hope y'all liked it!