Jay Gatsby drew in a breath, released, drew another- his lids fluttered and he opened his eyes. The fire in the grate had died and there was a chill in the air comparable to the lingering tendrils of a nightmare recently dispelled. Either unaware of the cold or uncaring Gatsby threw back the covers, trembling as the cool air brushed against his sweat-bathed body.

A feeling of displacement and despair had seized his sleeping mind and was reluctant to release him even now. He stood, waiting for his momentary disorientation to pass. The wicker cabinet beside his bed was whispering sweet temptations once again. He struggled to walk calmly towards it, withdrawing a snifter of brandy and splashing a generous portion in the dry glass next to his bed. He tossed it back and gasped at the burning, abrasive sensation sliding down his throat, wiping the tears that gathered in his eyes and telling himself it was only the sting of the brandy. He knew better.

Gatsby strode to the window, catching the elusive sound of music rising from the lawn, a relieved sigh escaped his lips as he gazed down at the pleasure-seekers so lost in their own pursuits and drowning in a haze of drunken indifference that they hadn't the time to gaze up and notice the one who looked down upon their revels with equal measures of longing and disgust. To be that removed, that free again! And how empty must such an existence be, forever flitting from one pointless celebration to the next, always hurrying and forever uncertain of their destination but determined to enjoy the journey. Gatsby wondered if it filled that emptiness inside them, if, when the music died and the wine no longer flowed they could feel it creeping inside them, ever present. Perhaps the excess of jazz, alcohol and 'good times' had permanently dulled their senses, so that they lived in a never-ending state of bitter contentment with little more than an inkling of something greater, something beyond their feeble reality, something from the realm of dreams long since forsaken.

He knew that feeling well, that gnawing feeling of utter wrongness and disorientation that came of drowning conviction in transitory pleasure, and he had no desire to continue in such a desperately hopeless state- because unlike those fools carousing their good years away, Gatsby knew what happiness felt like and the consequences born of sacrificing it at the altar of necessity.

He stepped away from the window, lifted the snifter and hesitated for a moment, watching the pattern of moonlight dancing on the liquid amber. He smiled vaguely at his whimsy and set the brandy down once again with a decisive click. He was no better than those pitiable creatures on the front lawn. They, at least, had some form of occupation, no matter that it was meaningless; he had a goal, a seemingly unattainable goal, but he had weathered worse odds and emerged the victor.

Gatsby moved slowly to the wardrobe at the end of the room, opening the doors softly to muffle the sound. He smiled again, wondering at his need for silence when it seemed as though all the noise in the world had permanently taken up residence on the east lawn. He brushed his fingers over butter-soft leather and freshly starched linen until his fingers encountered the feel of warm terry cloth.

Gatsby slipped into his dressing gown and drew it about his shoulders against that bone-deep chill and sighed in contentment to find the familiar scent of pipe smoke and the vague tartness of ginger. He glanced over his shoulder to take in the effect and frowned at the image that confronted him: a man aged beyond his years, trying to reclaim some semblance of the childhood he had once gratefully abandoned. All the other painful reminders of his past life had been long since removed, but pathetic as it was he still possessed the worn robe he'd snatched from his father's effects before going off to make his fortune.

Gatsby winced and unconsciously drew the robe still closer, burying his head in his hands and taking a breath. Never had a more foolish plan been devised with such wonderfully disastrous results. Soon it would all be worth it, if he could but turn his mind to a solution. He crossed swiftly to the window, once more in possession of himself, to gaze at the cottage next door with a puzzled air. He had been so certain that the lights and music would draw his reclusive neighbor here, for curiosity's sake if nothing else. Clearly a more direct route was needed. Gatsby strode to the escritoire and withdrew a parchment, nearly spattering it with ink in his haste. He then sat to compose what might well be the most important letter of his life.

To Nicholas Carraway.