Eric probably thinks he is being very stealthy. He is attempting to wriggle out from beneath her arm without having to actually touch her arm—he's trying to escape his bed without waking her up. He doesn't seem aware that she's not even asleep, and that even if she had been, his plan would have failed miserably—his wiggling is shaking the entire bed. It feels like a freaking earthquake.
"What time is it?" Donna asks, mostly to get him to stop it. She can't help but feel a little bit victorious when he goes still and gapes at her, but she pities him and moves her arm, anyway.
He sits up and she can hear as he reaches out and grasps his clock radio. The plastic scrapes against the wood of his nightstand. His voice is a little rough when he answers, "It's late. 2:34."
Donna turns her head to the left and looks at him. He is sitting on the edge of the bed, his back to her. She wishes she could see his face, but she's not about to ask him to turn around. "Can't sleep?"
"Yeah, my internal clock is messed up from the time change." He pauses, and he glances at her over his shoulder. "How about you?"
The real answer is something like: well, I just slept with my ex-boyfriend after not seeing him for months and why oh yes because he went to Africa and dumped me, and I am pretty freaking confused about what this means, and I don't want to ask and scare him off, and god he's just going to go back and leave me again Red is right I am a total dumbass oh Eric what the hell, man…
Instead, she says, "Just not tired, I guess."
She rolls on her side and grabs her bra off the floor, sitting up to slip it on and fastening it around her back. She wiggles into her panties and then mimics his position, sitting with her back to him on the opposite side of the bed.
There's too much to say, and neither of them knows how to start.
Donna decides to try. She swallows thickly, asks, "So, how long are you here?"
"I don't know." He answers. There's something in his voice, something raw and real, and she wants to hope, but she doesn't let herself.
She flips around and stares at his back, willing him to face her. If this were a year ago, she could make some joke about using the force to make him look her in the eye—this is the girl you're looking for—but this isn't a year ago, and now she doesn't know if that'd be funny or weird or…
"You don't know?" she says instead, doing her best to add just the right bit of playful inflection. "I'm pretty sure that that kind of international travel should include some sort of, I don't know, forethought, or something."
She laughs, and it sounds a little forced, but only a little. It is abruptly cut off when Eric suddenly whips around, bringing one leg up on the bed so he can face her better. He reaches out and pushes a hand through her messy hair, fingers curling around the back of her neck. When he looks at her, Donna feels like she's burning up from the inside out.
"Donna," he says, "ask me to stay. Tell me to. I will if you say the word."
His brow is furrowed and his touch feels desperate and sad. Everything about him is begging her to do it, to bring him back to Point Place, and she thinks she should feel happy. This should be a dream come true; it's what she has hoped for every day for months. Even when she was with Randy, she was thinking about this moment.
All she is, though, is unbearably sad, and she's not quite sure why.
His mouth falls open and his eyes are hurt. The hand on her neck disappears, falls back to his bedspread. "What?"
Her throat is dry and tight. It's hard to get the words out. "I won't be the reason you don't go back. I don't want you to blame me—"
Eric looks alarmed. "—I wouldn't—"
"—no, shut up. Listen, okay?" She takes a deep breath in, lets it out slowly. "If you don't like it there, if it's not what you want, and if it makes you unhappy, then stay. But Eric—" she scoots closer to him on the bed and reaches out, grasping his hand in her own, "—I don't want you to miss out on something you love for me. I won't ask you to do that. I just won't."
"Donna," he says, his voice low as his thumb rubs a soothing half circle on the back of her hand, "I love it there. I love it so much."
She hates the tears that spring to her eyes; she doesn't want him to feel bad for wanting to be there. There's nothing wrong with that. Sure, she was pissed about the way he ended it between them, but still—Eric was her first everything. She loved him. She still does, really, and all she wants is for him to be happy.
Even if that means he's on another continent, several thousand miles away.
Her smile is watery. "Then go."
He drops her hand and opens his arms; she automatically moves into them, and they sit for a few moments in silence. He does not comment on the fact that she is crying, or that her tears have soaked through the shoulder of his shirt.
"I love it here, too, you know." He says, his voice muffled from speaking into the crook of her neck. "I just…"
As his voice trails off, she nods. "Eric, I was supposed to leave for school tonight." There is a long pause, and his question is implied, so she goes ahead and answers it. She pulls out of his arms, stares him straight in the eye. "I didn't go because I wanted to see you. I waited around for you."
His forehead creases. "Donna…"
"We're always doing this to each other. Ourselves. Waiting around, trying to sync up our lives." She sniffs. "It's not working. And…I don't want either of us to have to wait any longer. I'm glad you left for Africa. I'm glad you love it, and that you want to go back. And maybe when you come back for school, we can start over again, but…"
He gulps. "You're not going to wait around for me anymore."
She shakes her head, and the tears flow, hot and silent. "No, not anymore." She hiccups and adds, "I love you so much."
Eric leans in and presses a long, lingering kiss to her mouth, murmuring, "Thank you, Donna."
She blinks furiously. It doesn't help. Her voice shudders as she says, "I just want you to be happy. I want both of us to be happy."
He thumbs away a tear as it glides down her cheek. "That's all I want, too."
"Will you hold me?"
His skinny arms circle her waist and he pulls her down so that they're again lying on his bed, a tangle of limbs. He reaches up to her face and brushes a piece of blonde hair behind her ear as he says, "I love you, too, you know."
She leans her face into his hand. "I know."
Disclaimer: I do not own That 70's Show.