Disclaimer: I don�t own them. No profit; entertainment purposes only.
Rating: PG-13 for mild intimations and not-so-mild language.
Summary: The first morning of the new year. Summer hurts, Anna wonders, and Seth misses his chance.
Spoilers: Through "The Countdown." (s01e13 -- I think).
Her head hurts. It is all she can think as she peels herself off the couch in her living room. After drinking way too many of those lime things at the party, she was too tired even to climb upstairs last night.
Last night �
Don�t think about last night. It�s over, it�s the new year. You�re moving on, remember?
She moans. Her head hurts like fuck. Slowly her steps carry her towards the kitchen, where she knows there are coffee grounds and a pot if she could only get herself that far. Another moan, and she hears her stepmother�s voice. �Sum? You there?�
The (fake) blonde head pokes out from the doorway to the kitchen. �Why did you sleep downstairs?�
Perky smile. Even that hurts. �Felt like watching TV before going to sleep.�
�Oh.� The plucked eyebrows draw together in a fairly good imitation of actual concern. �You sick?�
�Nope. I�m fine. �Coffee?�
�You don�t drink coffee.�
Bitch. �Sometimes I do.�
The phone rings as she sits down at the table, and she can�t help but cringe, because someone turned up the volume on that goddamn ring. The woman standing at the sink, popping pills to kill her own headache, notices this; Summer is too hungover to care. Anyway she�s too busy pretending not to notice how often Dad lies to her to worry that much about her stepdaughter taking a couple drinks.
�It�s Marissa,� she says, and the phone appears in front of Summer�s bleary vision.
�Coop?� she says.
�Hey, are you okay? You sound funny,� she says.
�Yeah, whatever,� she says, grouchy.
�I couldn�t find you last night,� she says. �I really wanted to talk to you, but I couldn�t find you after the countdown. What happened?�
What did happen? She can�t quite remember. She was kissing some guy � a cute guy � but he wasn�t him, the unnameable, the unforgettable � and then what? �I don�t know,� she says, her voice cracking. �I don�t remember anything.�
�Oh.� Marissa�s a coward, always has been; likes to pedal backwards if Summer has a problem, backwards into her own life, her own narcissism. �So, guess what?�
�Ryan said it back. He came to the party and he said it back.�
�That�s great, Coop,� she says, trying to be happy, or at least to sound happy. Marissa needs her. (As usual, her sarcastic side adds.)
Marissa�s oblivious to the strain in her voice. Everyone is so fucking oblivious it drives her crazy. �It was amazing, Summer. He showed up at the very last second, and then he kissed me so hard and then he just said it, with this adorable smile.�
�Look, Coop, I�m really happy for you but my mom needs the phone. I�ll talk to you later, �kay?�
She hangs up and buries her head on her folded arms. Let the breaking of the New Year�s resolution commence. She�d known she�d never be able to keep it.
She opens her eyes to a landscape of skin bare and limbs entangled and sheets twisted. Before even realizing where she is, she registers euphoria.
Then she thinks, Seth, and she thinks she�ll burst with the sound of that name and she thinks if she were prone to hyperbole she�d say she was in love.
It started with the garbage, with the simple realization as she left the party that she didn�t want to ring in the new year by herself. She�d intended to take him up on his friendship offer. It might at least take the hurt away from missing him so much, although she knew what she really wanted was much more than she�d offered. Besides � yeah, Summer was right. He was her type. He was more her type than anyone she�d met before. (Great, hyperbolizing again. Seth Cohen was fucking with her self-restraint.)
Well, she�d intended friendship, but also to let him know how she felt. So they were sitting and watching the Times Square crowd, nothing exciting, not yet the countdown; he had stolen a big bar of Toblerone from Ryan�s Christmas stocking �because he�ll never remember to eat it anyway� and he was sharing it with Anna.
�Nah,� she said, unconsciously looking down at her tummy (maybe she�d spent too much time with Summer, her stomach had become an object of her gaze frequently in the last few days).
He saw the look. �Dude, that�s stupid. You know you want it.�
�Okay, okay,� she said.
Breaking off a generous piece, he instructed her, �Open your mouth. I don�t trust you to eat it yourself.�
His fingers brushed her lips as he fed her the enormous piece of chocolate. She felt both stupid and comforted, trying to chew such a big hunk of food; but he was nothing but approval. �Thanks,� she murmured through the mouthful.
�Chocolate bars are like video games. You can never have too many,� he epigrammized.
She smiled, and he winked, boyishly, sexily. Then he tilted her chin towards him with two cool fingers and touched his lips to hers.
He kissed with the kind of innocent lust only found in teenage boys, and his hands were messy and his mouth tasted of chocolate and he was still learning, but already perfect. She liked him so much, likes him so much, that it hurt when they stopped to breathe.
She knows that if Summer had beaten her here, it would be Summer lying next to him right now, Summer�s arm flung over his chest. She knows this but it�s so hard to care. He�s gorgeous like this, body wantonly relaxed beside her, a tiny sprinkling of chest hair that cushions her hand, his shoulder firm and strong underneath her head.
His mouth is slightly open, and he makes a soft breathy sound when she runs her hand over his chest.
�Seth,� she whispers, kissing his ear softly. She can�t help it, he�s so sweet.
He smiles at the kiss, but his smile disappears when he opens his eyes. She wants to cry, or throw things, or maybe just kill Summer with her bare hands, because she knows that he was thinking of the other girl when he woke up.
She can�t stand to feel his body against hers anymore, or to think about last night. She should have done what she told herself she�d do, stay away, keep her dignity, keep from getting hurt like this because even being lonely for the rest of her high school career is better than being the wrong one.
How could she even have thought this would work? How could she have thought that her short blonde hair and thin body and weird personality would stand a chance? Summer is pretty in the way that makes men salivate. She knows how to dress so that all you can look at is her chest, she knows how to be just the right kind of mean that it�s sexy and not bitchy.
Anna�s never been beautiful, cute maybe but she�s happy with that, happy being smart and cool and odd instead of gorgeous, but guys see her like a fucking consolation prize. Summer didn�t show, so Anna was a good chance for a fuck.
He still wants Summer. She�s sure of it, and she�s beginning to care so much it hurts.
When he first wakes up he thinks it is Summer�s arm draped across his body, Summer�s lips warm and soft on the lobe of his ear. He smiles a drunk happy smile, and then he remembers everything and opens his eyes.
She uncurls her slender hand from his sprinkling of chest hair and her eyes darken when she sees that momentary shock.
�Morning,� she says, her mouth tightening in a question.
�Morning Anna,� he says.
He whispers �Anna� again to himself, tasting the name. Annaanna(summer). Anna.
�Yeah, that�s right,� she says, flopping on her back and staring at the ceiling. �That�s me.�
Seth isn�t sure why she looks so sad and he hopes she doesn�t know how glowing he feels right now, and that she couldn�t tell last night was his first time. (Oh, of course she knows, his underdeveloped sense of reality sasses. You�re the biggest geek in the O.C. Guys in sweater-vests just don�t get a big share of the ladies� attention.)
He lifts himself up on his side and traces the lines of her body, her face, her lips, with reverent hands. He never noticed her like this before, really, not till last night. It�s all new and magical, not just the sex � which is also new, also magical � but her, Anna, the way her skin grows feverish at the mere brush of his hands, the way his goes on fire with the nearness of her. Anna closes her eyes and sighs softly for a second, giving in to the magic of a morning-after, the first morning-after. Then, returning to herself, she flinches from the fingertips at her mouth and sits up.
�I�ve got to go,� she says, her voice soft and wispy-high.
She turns to him and searches his eyes. �I had a good time last night,� she says, so direct and honest that he shivers. �A really good time. Did you? Did you really?�
He�s puzzled � why is she saying this? � and what is �really?� � but he says, �Yeah. I did.�
Her eyes go all shiny, not in the happy way. Maybe that one second�s hesitation sunk him. She grabs her clothes from the floor and dresses in a furious, silent haste. �Anna, why? You can�t possibly have anything to do today. You could stay for breakfast, we could have pancakes or something, or, like, cereal if you�re a healthy eater, which you probably are, but my mom makes really good pancakes with that wheat germ stuff, if that�s what floats your boat. Wheat germ is really good for you. It�s full of fiber and vitamin� E, or something.�
�Seth, shut up.� He likes the way she says his first name. He doesn�t like the way her voice trembles; he feels like he�s hurt her, and he�s right.
She hunches away from his vision, as if she�s modest or embarrassed. Strange, after last night, when she kissed him with an eerie, wild kind of hunger, when everything was easy and good between them. It�s the first time he�s seen Anna shy.
He doesn�t know how to keep her here. She�s bent on leaving, determined to get away before they can sort this thing out.
She stands only when she�s gotten all her clothes on. As her lithe, graceful steps carry her in haste to the door, he lies lazily back in the bed and thinks to himself that he could watch her forever, because she�s beautiful.