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a strange fate with wandering limbs (1/2)
Gossip Girl. Dan. Dan/Blair. Rated R.
“You have a very heteronormative notion of intercourse, you know,” he says, pulling down her stockings anyway. | Miscommunications, make-outs, and the first thirty-three days of dating Blair Waldorf.
Notes: Post-5x17 with very, very loose speculation based on the promo for 5x18. Will inevitably be AU once the episode airs. This is also the most collaborative project to ever, and would have been absolutely impossible without the help of [livejournal.com profile] aragons, [livejournal.com profile] miss_mishi, and [livejournal.com profile] jeynebesterling. Title from Kimbra's "Wandering Limbs"



(1)

She’s back to "Humphrey" already.

Blair tries to get off the couch and Dan catches her wrist, pulling her back down onto his lap. It has been an hour since Blair arrived at the loft and a dull sting covers his mouth. If he licks his lips, he tastes spearmint and lipstick.

"Honestly, Humphrey," Blair laughs against his mouth. "I’m just going to fix my makeup. And the making out is going on hold; we have things to discuss."

Dan wraps an arm around her waist. "Talking is boring. And I don’t care about your makeup anyway."

Blair shakes her wrist out from his fingers and stands. "You love to talk, and either way I’m making you. Plus, I care about my makeup. Not everything is about you." Still, she leans down and kisses him again. With a hand on his cheek, she smiles at him, mouth closed. Then she stands upright, turns and disappears into the bathroom.

Which is precisely when the front door opens and Rufus tumbles in with two bags too many about to topple out of his arms.

Dan nearly leaps off the couch. "What are you doing here?" he asks his father, surely sounding far ruder than he meant to.

Rufus drops a Louis Vuitton overnight bag onto the nearest table. "Nice to see you too, son," he says.

Dan picks the bag up off the table and unsuccessfully tries to force it back into Rufus’ arms. "I am sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for you being here, but if you and Lily are in a fight I’m sure you’ll sort it out and you can’t be here."

Rufus laughs. "Lily’s just downstairs paying the cab driver. Why can’t I be here, exactly?"

"Because Blair is here," Dan says, and Rufus freezes.

"Blair is here," he repeats, and Dan nods with such force his neck cracks. He was at some odd angles for the last hour, it’s true.

"Here as in —"

"As in," Dan emphasizes. Rufus looks into the distance, thinking for a moment. Then, he picks the Louis Vuitton again. Dan exhales.

"I’ll take Lily to a hotel," Rufus says. "But this is a one-night only event. We’ll be here for a while."

"Sure, sure," Dan says, ushering him toward the door.

Rufus steps through the threshold and turns back. "Be sure to use protection —" he tries to say, and Dan slams the door in his face.

"Did I just hear your father?" Blair asks, walking into the room again and finding Dan still at the door, his back pressed against the handle.

He nods. "But he’s gone now. Don’t worry about it."

Blair purses her lips, but doesn’t say anything. Instead, she returns to sitting on the couch and after a moment Dan follows. She curls her knees in front of her so he has to sit a few feet back from her mouth, which is a shame, really, because now that Dan’s allowed to kiss her it is all he has any desire to do.

"We need rules," Blair says, rubbing her hands on her knees. Dan frowns despite himself; he’s over rules. Ever since Blair arrived, Dan feels greedier than he’s ever been. It has been a long time — if ever — that he has felt so overwhelmed by the mere act of wanting.

"I’m serious," Blair continues. "I’m a married woman."

"In name only," he points out, and then catches her split-second flinch before her expression returns to neutral — or neutral for Blair, which is anything but casual. He needs to watch what he says, he scolds himself. This isn’t about him, he remembers, and feels much of that greediness wash away. He still feels a little heady, but more like himself again, rational and calm and in love with Blair. Default states these days.

"All the same," Blair says, sitting up straight, "there’s an order." Then, she blinks. "I don’t want to mess this up," she says, quiet again and Dan leans forward and catches the fingers of her left hand.

"Blair," he starts, but Blair looks past him toward the kitchen, blinks twice, and pulls her hand away. By the time she looks back, her jaw is set again.

"Rule one," she says, "no sex until my marriage is over. However that happens."

Dan nods. Sure, he can wait. He’s done plenty of waiting already. It’s well practiced. Sure.

"Rule two," Blair continues, standing again and stepping in front of Dan. When he looks her in the eye, his throat seems to dry out completely. Dan has never seen lust on Blair before. It would knock him over if he weren’t already sitting down, but as it is? It makes him a little dizzy. No one’s ever looked at him quite like this before. Not even Serena had the sort of forward, happy sexiness that Blair brings with her as she moves forward to straddle him again. Blair kisses from his collarbone to his ear and Dan takes it all back; waiting to have sex with Blair is going to be absolutely impossible.

"Rule two," Blair whispers in his ear and there’s just no way to hide how hard he’s getting, especially not with her hands that close to the fastening of his pants. "Everything else is fair game."

(2)

She sleeps over. Fully clothed, he might add. The previous night was less x-rated than expected; sure, his fingers made it up her skirt a couple times and her hands spent some time in his pants, but it could have gone a lot further than that if they’d let it. Truth be told, Dan has been doing a terrible job of acting cool or collected or any of the other C’s he’s not. If Blair’s noticed, she hasn’t said. Dan spent the evening just trying to keep his breath even, trying to sleep and utterly failing because Blair was right next to him in his bed and that seems impossible, even by morning. He doesn’t mean to say, of course, that he’s unhappy about this. On the contrary, Dan’s ecstatic; Dan can barely keep himself still; Dan doesn’t need coffee today and he won’t need it tomorrow because he’s got the fact of Blair in his bed in his bloodstream and it’ll do just fine.

So, Dan didn’t get much sleep last night, but Dan does not give a fuck because Blair slept absolutely soundly and kept grabbing at his shirt in her sleep as though Dan were going somewhere. After however few hours of rest, he woke up just after sunrise and only then did he force himself out from under the covers and into the kitchen for coffee because okay, yes, that part was a lie; he might love Blair, but he’s addicted to coffee and that’s just the way it’s going to be.

He’s made it through half of the Times before Blair manages to make her way into the kitchen wearing a pair of Jenny’s sweatpants and some t-shirt he got at a concert. Her hair is still somehow perfect, though he imagines his is running in all directions. He runs a hand through and wonders if maybe Blair was right about needing it cut.

"Morning," Blair says, smiling a little and looking him in the eye for just a moment. Dan tries to catch his breath.

"You seemed like you slept well," he finally manages.

"On the contrary," she says, pulling the coffee from his hands and sitting at a stool by the counter. "Your sheets are awful, Humphrey. It’s like sleeping on that five o’clock shadow you’ve got going."

He grabs a new mug for himself. "The Humphrey home may not be a five-star hotel, but it does have a few other perks."

She scowls and takes another wincing sip of his coffee. Dan takes his coffee black, two sugars; Blair always ends up having a nearly equal coffee to milk ratio, but never any sugar. He hands her the milk, in case she thinks she can salvage her cup.

"And what would those perks be, Humphrey?" she asks, stirring in her milk and trying the coffee again. Too sweet, probably, but suitable; she takes a second sip and then a third. "The happy sound of jackhammers down the street or that stench that I didn’t realize could be this strong outside of a sewage plant?"

Dan shrugs. "The company’s not so bad."

Blair’s halfway to a retort before she realizes he’s not fighting her. A blush spreads on her face and without any makeup on Dan gets to see all of her unobscured. She tries to bite back a smile but has to resort to hiding it behind her coffee cup. "All the same," she says, then standing and rummaging through his fridge for something to eat, he presumes, "I’m still getting you new sheets. You’ll thank me later."

"I have no doubt," he says, walking around the counter to sit on one of the stools. "What are you looking for in there anyway?"

"I don’t know," she says, her body now obscured by the door to the fridge. "A yogurt. A croissant. Cold cuts. Anything that isn’t way too many days old takeout — do you eat breakfast?"

He gestures toward the cereal above the fridge, though of course she can’t see him. "Cereal counts," he offers.

"Boring," she says, stepping back and pressing the fridge door closed. She turns to him with her hands on her hips. "Don’t you owe me brunch anyway?"

"That I do," he says, watching as she saunters — saunters — to him with her hands still on her hips, leaning against his knees as he turns from the counter to face her. Her arms loop over his shoulders and he thinks again, an old, static record on loop, how this is his life now.

"Get dressed, Humphrey," she says, leaning forward to kiss him. She smells like Blair and also like home, like his bed, like morning in the loft — which does not smell of sewage, actually, but rather of old books and laundry detergent. When she pulls back, brushes past him and calls, "No back alley hipster diners; I don’t want this to be my last meal," Dan doesn’t move for a long thirty seconds. It’s not that Blair’s completely nonchalant about this; he knows her well enough to know that’s not true. He notices the tiny tics in her expression that he’s not supposed to see, all the split seconds of panic and happiness and fear and the whole laundry list of emotions that Dan is sure are inscribed all over him every second. It’s just that Blair’s a far better actress than he could ever be. At the very least, that means she gets to pretend to be a normal, functional human being while he’s left with a rapidly cooling cup of coffee and shaky knees, like he’s sixteen again and spotting Serena in Grand Central Station.

"Dan," Blair calls from the bedroom. "I’m starving."

Dan nods and stands. There’s a place down the street he’s been meaning to take Blair to for months, actually, with unlimited mimosas on weekdays and pancakes twice the size of her face. He has a feeling she’ll love it, and Dan does tend to be right about these things. When he walks back into the bedroom, Blair is already mostly dressed, wearing the same dress as the night before and makeup reapplied, her hair down and wavy around her shoulders. He can’t help but stop and stare at her from the doorway, zipper of her dress still undone. He’s going to have to stop doing this. Pull it together, Humphrey, he hears in her voice in his head.

"Zip me up?" Blair says and Dan nods, swallows, and steps forward. Maybe he’s imagining the goose bumps on her skin when he touches her, but he’d like to pretend they’re real.

(5)

Blair calls. When he picks up, she’s already mid-sentence.

"You know you’re supposed to wait for the other person to pick up before ranting, right?" he asks. She’s not in Brooklyn today because "I have official Waldorf business to take care of," so Dan hasn’t seen her since yesterday at 8:42 PM and no, he doesn’t miss her.

"This is not a rant," she exclaims. "This is my explanation of events you might actually be interested in if you’d pay attention."

He rolls his eyes. "What’s up, Blair?" he asks, turning to get some water from the sink.

"The Grimaldis are going to let me out of my prenup," she says, and it comes out as one long word. Dan doesn’t even realize he’s stopped moving until the water overfills his glass and spills onto his hand.

"That’s — Blair, that’s —"

"I know," she says, and he imagines her face: the widest grin she’s worn in weeks, eyes shut in relief, one hand against her cheek.

"But why?" Dan asks before he can stop himself from ruining the moment.

"I’ll explain when I get there," she says, but Dan interrupts. Lily and Rufus have temporarily moved back into the loft and Dan, having honestly forgotten what it was like to share a space with other people, has spent most of his time avoiding them since they’ve arrived. He nods quietly when Lily calls him Daniel and grabs his morning coffee as quickly as possible while Lily returns to yelling on her cell phone about the apartment in Manhattan. They don’t know the details with Blair. Rufus has made some inquiries and Lily sort of watches, narrow-eyed, whenever Blair comes over, but Dan is choosing to sidestep those questions until he figures out how to talk about this — and he doesn’t know if Blair can or wants to be a public Thing yet, so —

"How about I meet you at your place instead?" he asks.

"Perfectly fine with me, Humphrey," she says. "It can’t be healthy breathing that much Brooklyn air."

Dan rolls his eyes, grabs his coat, and is sure to say goodbye before he hangs up the phone. He’s at her apartment within the hour. The doorman is long since used to him by now, but George looks him up and down when he arrives.

"You seem in a good mood today," he notes, and Dan probably blushes, embarrassingly enough. He’s not wearing anything out of the ordinary, and it’s not like he walks around the city whistling to himself, but he has a feeling he’s doing something transparent and out of character. He pauses, then shrugs at George and keeps going. If George were to assume anything, it would be that Dan got back together with Serena. Dan shifts on his feet as he waits for the elevator, breathes in when the doors open, exhales when they shut. Tries to regulate his breathing all the way up to the penthouse and Keep it together, Humphrey, he thinks, but he thinks it in her voice and it’s not helping.

When he steps out of the elevator, Blair is already standing in the foyer and every plan Dan had to act like a normal person goes out the window as soon as she sees her. If Dan has spent the day — dare he use the term — glowing, then Blair looks like a fire. He actually stops in place by the elevator and just stares at her, which is something he’s been doing a lot of lately now that he’s allowed to be open about it. If Blair notices, she makes no indication of it. Instead, she says nothing, walks up to him, throws her arms around his neck and kisses him, her mouth parted and smiling against his. Dan wraps his arms around her lower back and pulls her closer, leaning forward just slightly so her back curves under his palms. He doesn’t know how long they stay there; if he’s learned one thing about kissing Blair it’s that his brain sort of sputters out.

"Hi," he says when she pulls back a little and he learns how to use words again. Blair’s palms rest flat on his chest. She looks at her hands against his shirt and smiles the widest he’s seen from her in months — years, maybe. Relieved Blair. He’s trying to catalogue everything.

"Dan," she says, and Dan’s chest does that tightening thing it’s taken to doing whenever she says his name. She doesn’t seem to have an end to the sentence; she says his name and stops. Then, Blair exhales and takes two steps back, sliding her hand down his arm as she does. She leads him into the living room, grasping his fingertips between hers. When they sit next to each other on the couch, her knee leans against his.

Blair sits up straight. "It has been discovered that Esty and Louis have been having an affair."

"What?"

Blair shakes her head. "Georgina’s concoction, I’m sure. Either way, they’ve been caught in a — compromising position, and the Grimaldis are granting my amicable annulment in order to avoid the embarrassment."

Dan twists his torso toward her even further. "Blair, that’s —"

"Amazing," she finishes, and then she repeats the word under her breath like he’s not supposed to hear her. Not for the first time, Dan realizes that he doesn’t know how she was coping with the marriage. He means that in the literal sense: he doesn’t know how she made it through her days. It’s happened before, of course, that Blair’s felt choked by the things meant to be hers: her mother, her apartment, most of the people meant to love her. But all that is different. It’s not spending each day counting down.

"We still need to wait," Blair is saying too slowly, bending her head to try and catch his eye. "It’ll still be a few weeks before everything’s settled and I don’t want to risk anything."

Dan almost asks what she’s talking about before catching himself mid-question. "Of course," he says, making sure his grip on her hand remains in equilibrium. "Don’t worry about it."

But Blair gives that smile like she’s already been worrying about it. "I feel like you’ve been doing a lot of waiting these days."

Dan shrugs. "You don’t get to my station in life without a little patience."

Blair laughs, her first of the afternoon. "What, a loft all to yourself? And even that’s gone now. Your father and Lily are really inconsiderate of my needs, by the way."

"Excuse me," he says, dropping her hand. It bounces on the edge of the couch, palm up. "I am a best-selling author, Blair Waldorf. Highly anticipated second novel forthcoming. I’ve got to get one of these penthouse suites just to give my ego some breathing space."

Her eyebrows shoot up. "And fill it with what? Flannel shirts and vintage records you don’t even know how to play?"

"I’m sure you’d have some decorating tips," he suggests, and Blair laughs again.

"Could you handle me? Evil dictator of taste?"

And Dan almost asks how she remembers that comment but then the image pops into his head of Blair marching around some apartment he doesn’t yet own barking orders at moving crews and tossing aforementioned vintage records in the trash. Those are priceless, he would exclaim, and she’d roll her eyes. Priceless doesn’t mean things no one would ever deign to purchase.

But Dan just shrugs. "I think I could take you."

(9)

They’re watching The Thin Man in his bedroom, because it turns out that Lily and Rufus in the next room is a far better option that Serena upstairs. She’d caught them once sitting on the couch, Blair’s fingers in his hair and grumbling, "I’m not going to be seen in public with this." And though it was an everyday scene from his life, Serena looked at them and turned away, walking up the stairs with her head just slightly bowed. Blair’s hands moved back to her sides. She didn’t touch him for an hour, which is a lot for them these days. For him. He keeps finding excuses to touch her, though only tiny little things: brushing his hand against hers, his knees against hers, a hand on her waist while he reaches for a pen. He’s been collecting. What for — Dan doesn’t like to ask questions he knows the answers to.

So back to Brooklyn it was, where Lily always gives Blair a curt hello because her loyalties lie with Serena and Chuck, and Blair listens at Dan’s bedroom door for noise in the kitchen before running to get a glass of water. Blair decides she’s thirsty around fifteen minutes in and pauses the movie, only to spend the next five minutes with her ear pressed to the door.

"It’s not like she’s going to stab you with a carving knife," Dan says from the bed, one arm behind his head and leaning against a pile of pillows.

Blair doesn’t turn away from the door. "Lily van der Woodsen would never murder someone with anything so bourgeois as a carving knife."

He smirks. "What then, a revolver?"

"Most definitely. Vintage. Or a cashmere scarf, if it was more readily available."

Dan shuffles himself up to sitting a bit more and thinks that maybe they shouldn’t be watching this movie, that maybe it’s giving Blair ideas about murder mysteries already. "Either way, it’s Lily Humphrey now."

Blair does lift her head from the door at that, and rolls her eyes. "No need to remind me. Your stepmother, Serena’s mother, and then there’s me, who made the unfortunate decision to wear a cream sweater that blood will never come out of. For the record, it’s the daggers from her eyes that’ll get me."

"You know those are metaphorical daggers, right?"

Blair frowns and presses her ear to the door again. "Never underestimate a Rhodes woman, Humphrey. It’s gotten your kind into trouble before."

Dan is about to respond with some retort that’s most definitely not Serena but is actually about Serena because Blair won’t talk about it when she picks her head up and loudly whispers, "I think she’s gone," opening the door and rushing out of the room before Dan can say anything at all.

She returns a minute later with a glass of water in one hand and a bag of kettle corn in the other. "Supplies," she says, tossing him the bag. "You never know when an opportunity like that will strike again."

"Opportunity to go into my kitchen unobserved by the hit man in the next room over?" he asks as Blair climbs back onto the bed and next to him, lying down and resting her head on his chest. His arm drapes over her shoulder and Dan wonders if she can hear the thunderstorm under his ribs.

If Blair notices the abnormal pace of his heart under her ear, she says nothing. She just rests her palm against him and says, "Exactly, Humphrey. Nice to see you keeping up."

"I thought we’d moved on to Dan," he asks, trying to be nonchalant as he reaches for the remote on the bedside table. He has to turn his head to do so and immediately wishes he hadn’t; any visual response Blair had to the question — if she even flinched at all — has been packed away by the time he looks back.

Still, she does seem to smile just a little. Dan thinks it looks a little sad, but maybe he’s imagining. He’d like to think that one day he’ll understand every facial expression in Blair’s infinite catalogue. Until then, he’s left studying the angles of her jaw or the degree of the lift in her mouth. No matter how well he understands her or at least thinks he understands her, she’s still Blair, and that means she’s profoundly capable of being absolutely present one second and miles away the next.

Maybe that’s why he’s always writing about her. Maybe he writes stories about Blair because Blair can’t be encapsulated, but Dan understands the world in punctuation and similes and he tries to express her the only way he knows how. Maybe he wants to share her with the world too, just because he thinks she’s a person worth seeing. They’ve never talked about Inside. She doesn’t know about his second book proposal, inspired by her as well. He doesn’t say how she was right when she said Serena took over the part of him that let him write things down, and he definitely doesn’t say that Blair’s the thing that jump-started that in him again. Rules are rules, Humphrey, and it’s too early.

"Focus, Humphrey," she says, sitting up and snapping a finger in front of his face, her hair tossed over her shoulder. "Movie."

"Sorry," he says, pressing play, and Blair returns to lying against him.

"I’ll get around to the Dan thing," she says after a moment, even though people on screen are talking. His breath pauses before he hums an affirmation he’s listening. "Old habits," is her explanation.

He doesn’t say anything and she curls closer into him. Dan doesn’t really care about the names anyway; he just wants to know why. Dan wants to know everything. Something happens in the movie that he doesn’t catch and Blair laughs against his chest. It reverberates into his bones and right then Dan doesn’t give a shit what she calls him, to be honest.

"You've got types?"
"Only you, darling. Lanky brunettes with wicked jaws."


(12)

"Favorite city?" he asks. They’re eating pizza. Blair is too Upper East Side even for this, and eats with a knife and fork.

"New York," she says as though it were obvious, dabbing at the corner of her mouth with a napkin. Serena is at some party for the evening and Dan and Blair are sitting on the floor of her room eating pizza with outdated Vogue magazines covering the carpet because she’s not going to be responsible for any messes that result from his uncouth ways and would he please agree to eating at the dining table and just pretend to be a civilized person? But she’d said all of that while arranging the magazines so that the most outdated were in the direct line of fire from any spillover because who cares about March 2007 anyway, she supposes, and Dan won the argument.

"You seem surprised," she says, glancing up from her slippery attempts to cut her pizza.

He shrugs, the left shoulder reaching toward his ear. "I thought you’d pick somewhere, you know, else. Paris, maybe."

Blair shrugs, her legs tucked under her. "That’s my favorite city to visit. But in the end, I belong here."

"I’ve never been to Paris," Dan says without thinking about it, but when he looks up Blair has frozen with a cut-up piece of pizza halfway to her mouth. She puts her fork back on her plate.

"Unbelievable, Humphrey," she says, shaking her head. "We’ll go for your birthday. I hear you’re a best selling author these days, so no protestations that you can’t afford it."

Dan blinks as Blair goes back to eating her pizza, and then he grins.

"What?" Blair asks from behind her napkin.

"My birthday is in ten months," he points out.

Blair frowns. "So? Are you going somewhere?"

"No," he sputters out. Which is kind of the point.

Blair takes a sip of water. "Well, I don’t have any plans. Except that I’m not taking you to Paris with anything resembling that current haircut. It’s painful enough to be seen in public with you now."

Dan grins. "Well, if you’d rather just stay inside I’m sure I could come up with a few activities."

She throws her napkin at him. It bounces off his shoulder and lands on August 2008.

(17)

Chuck calls.

"Who is it?" Blair asks as she walks into his bedroom from the living room, a DVD box in hand. Lily and Rufus are out of town for the weekend and they are spending the day on his bed watching movies and talking and kissing a lot. She’s still doing that thing where she sighs into his mouth like it’s the first time he’s kissing her all over again, but this time he’s allowed to put his hand up her skirt without question. On a certain level it’s all so very high school, except that by default nothing about him and Blair will ever be very high school.

"Chuck," Dan says, and can’t imagine his voice is level. He holds the phone toward her, but Blair’s frozen in the doorway, staring at the phone like it could give her boils if she touches it. Neither of them says anything and the phone just keeps on ringing. It seems to go on forever, or at least far longer than a ringtone should, echoing in a room that shouldn’t have the acoustics to do that.

The phone finally stops. Blair grabs it from him and turns it off before Chuck can call back or leave a voicemail or wreak whatever havoc Chuck Bass can with a cell phone which, Dan knows, is probably quite a lot. All Chuck has done so far is call Blair and he feels twenty feet further away from her.

"Are you worried about him?" Dan asks after too many moments because someone has to speak first.

Blair scoffs. "You mean do I think he’s about to propel himself off the roof of the Empire? Hardly. If there’s anything to be worried about it’s that he’ll pull another award-winning stunt."

"That’s what I meant," Dan clarifies and Blair plops down on the edge of the bed with her back to him. He doesn’t know if she heard him. Her hands press flat against the covers, staring off to someplace Dan can’t see. If she asked, which she won’t, Dan would be honest: he’s beyond worried about what Chuck will do; he is borderline terrified. It keeps him up too late a couple nights, thinking how Chuck will ruin his life or his relationship with Blair or more likely both. And it makes him sick, it makes his hands shake, it makes him some crazy inversion of himself that thinks about calling her at three in the morning to beg her not to leave him for Chuck because he knows how people can circle around each other and what if she’s just so used to the pattern and he knows it’s crazy, it’s crazy and it’s stupid and horrible, but he can’t turn his brain off; not even Augustine would be capable of this much faith. Faith in them, he means, of course. It’s not Blair he’s worried about. He’s worried about everything else.

"I don’t know why he called," Blair says and it sounds like an explanation.

"I know that."

"I don’t care." He’s not sure if he believes that, but she sounds like she does.

"It’s okay if you do," he offers. It is. Their lives are complicated, and Blair’s most of all. He’s more than willing to wait it out with her. He’ll put up the storm shutters.

Blair twists around to look at him. "Are you worried?"

"About Chuck? A little." He’ll admit to it. He hasn’t made it through this many years with these people without understanding just how powerful they really are. And there’s also, "I’m worried —"

She turns her whole body around now, pulling her legs back up onto the bed with her. They sit on opposite corners of the bed, legs crossed, hands at their sides, on their knees, fidgeting. Dan knew going into this that Chuck was going to be the poltergeist in the halls, but he never thought about how to deal with it.

"I’m worried about patterns," he confesses, not looking at her. He’s ashamed of it, ashamed to even think it, but he does. More often than he’d like.

"Me and Chuck?" Blair asks, and there’s that hurt in her voice and Dan winces. He wants to take it back, to swallow the entire conversation from the start, lie about who called if he had to or say the right thing as soon as she asked or pick up the phone and tell Chuck to fuck off. "Do you not trust me?"

Dan shakes his head. "I trust you. It’s him I don’t. And, I don’t know, I just worry and I know it’s stupid, but I can’t help it and I’m sorry, Blair, I shouldn’t —"

But by then she’s already stood and walked over to his corner of the bed, sitting next to him and grabbing one of the hands he has been flailing around as he speaks. "Shut up, Humphrey," she says, and he does.

"Two things," she says, keeping hold of his hand. "First of all, you think too much for your own good and it’s going to get you into trouble one day. Second, you’re an idiot. An idiot I picked of my own incredibly discerning volition, so don’t mess it up by letting that Basshole mess with your head with a simple phone call, because we both know far worse things are coming."

Dan almost laughs. "It’s always easier to forget then when we’re just holed up in one of our bedrooms."

She smiles just a little too sadly and drops her head against his shoulder. "I know what you mean."

It’s mid-day, but the blinds have long since been pulled shut. This is the way they have always been: shuttered away, kept secret, plausibly deniable. He imagines they’re both a little nervous about what comes after. Will they walk down the street holding hands?

"I like Brooklyn," she confesses then, though he doesn’t imagine she means that in the literal sense. "I like being off the grid." That would be literal. He thinks.

He kisses the top of her head. "I’ll take you to Tribeca."

"How exotic," she deadpans. "The film festival is coming up." Which he knows, of course. He’s gone every year since high school. Last year, he nearly asked her to go with him until he chickened out, and so spent most of the festival searching for her in movie theaters and ticket lines rather than planning his schedule. She was probably there and he just missed her.

"Request to alternate one English-language film for every one of your French art films."

She gives that exasperated sigh he’s so used to, standing and getting whatever DVD she’d left the room to get. He doesn’t know what it is, but he suspects Lauren Bacall because Blair’s been in a phase lately. "You’re so picky," she says, slipping the DVD into the television.

"Discerning," he notes, sitting back, legs straight out, one ankle crossed over the other.

"Whatever," she says, climbing over him and onto the bed, pretending to ignore the way Dan just stops breathing for a moment there. "Besides, you love French cinema and don’t pretend you don’t. I remember Nanette. You cried."

"I didn’t cry," he insists, but Blair just grabs the remote out of his hands and pushes play. "You were sitting two seats over, anyway; you probably just saw a trick of the light."

"The lady doth protest too much," she says, and then she stops, looks at him for a moment too long, and kisses him on the cheek. It lasts less than a second and then she rests her head against his chest again, but he thinks he caught her blush.

(20)

Dan’s phone buzzes in his pocket. He’s been in enough meetings with Alessandra to know that no one particularly cares about texting during meetings, and he’s mostly just sitting there while Alessandra and Jonathan talk about press releases and minute details that really aren’t his responsibility. Dan takes his phone out and doesn’t attempt to be subtle, though he does try to look attentive, watching Alessandra debate the strengths of an October release date. He’s not surprised when the text is from Blair; to be honest, he only hears from her or Nate these days.

He does pause when he opens the message, though. What are you wearing?

Dan looks up from his phone. Neither Alessandra or Jonathan are paying him any mind, but he still shields the phone from them anyway. Not that he should assume that Blair is up to what he thinks she’s up to. Maybe she’s just concerned about his choices in ties. Maybe she now remembers he left the loft this morning wearing mismatched socks.

You saw me leave for my meeting, so I think you know, he types as quickly as possible, reminding her of the meeting just in case she forgot. Which Blair never would.

His phone buzzes again. Dan ignores it, but then it reminds him again and he makes the mistake of opening it. Maybe he’s just easily tempted. Maybe that explains so many of his failings.

Because I was thinking about that shirt you’re wearing, and then I thought about what you’d look like with it off.

Dan swallows, looks up again at Alessandro and Jonathan who now might as well be speaking Latin because he doesn’t understand anything. Still staring at Blair’s text, he gets another one, and again opens it despite his better judgment.

And so now here I am, in your bed and thinking about how you’re not in it with me.

He’s going to kill her. Dan crosses his legs and this time really does attempt to be subtle. This really isn’t the time, Blair, he sends back.

Tell me about it, she replies. Here I am all alone wearing absolutely nothing and you’re nowhere to be found. But I’ve started thinking about what we should do when you get back.

"Are you okay, Dan?" Alessandra asks, and Dan looks up from his phone. "You look a little ill."

Dan shakes his head. Blair Waldorf is not messing with his meeting, no matter what the incoming picture message is about to reveal. "I’m fine," Dan stutters. "Too much coffee."

Alessandra smiles. "Too much of a good thing," she points out and Dan gives a strangled nod. She keeps talking to Jonathan and Dan opens the picture message and thinks about what self-restraint means and if he can buy some as a belated birthday present to himself.

But the picture is just Blair, fully clothed, and holding up a ratty old t-shirt with a disturbed look on her face. At the bottom, the text reads Spring cleaning. And a cold shower for you, Humphrey.

He adds Kill Blair in whatever bourgeois fashion I see fit to the To Do list in his Filofax.

Part Two

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