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a strange fate with wandering limbs (2/2)
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"



part i

(24)

Blair pulls him through the doors of the New York Public Library by the wrist.

"Come on," she says, nearly giddy. Dan always laughs at her when she’s like this, over-enthused and light in her stilettos, temporarily unconcerned with pretense. He lets her lead him; he’s been to the Library before, but it’s more fun with Blair directing him to the requests desk.

When they stop at the back of the line he says, "Waldorf, I didn’t even know you remembered Bryant Park existed when there was no fashion in it. Like a Brigadoon of New York."

"Disappearing into the fog for months on end until Chanel returns?" she says, not looking at him but rather standing on her toes to see above the line. "That does sound have the makings of a heart wrenching love story."

The line isn’t long, maybe ten people between four librarians, but Blair still spends the brief wait making impatient little noises. "I need this book," she says when they reach the desk, handing the librarian a slip of paper and not saying please. Dan says it for her, and the librarian gives a grimace of a smile as she disappears to get whatever Blair’s requested. Blair stands on her toes again to see into the stacks.

"You’re a crazy person," Dan notes. "I don’t think anyone’s told you lately and I think you should know."

Blair doesn’t look at him. "If you haven’t told me, no one has. Everyone else is far more respectful."

"Everyone else is just afraid of hurting your feelings."

Blair scoffs and keeps her eyes on the stacks. "Let’s not kid ourselves on that count, Humphrey." She takes his hand to shut him up and it works. Blair hasn’t held his hand in public before. He doesn’t even think Blair’s touched him in public since that night she turned up at the loft, and every time before that was some sort of pretext. Blair keeps watching the stacks and Dan stares at their hands until the librarian returns and Blair lets go of him to grab at the book. She doesn’t say thank you; Dan does and then looks at the book she’s holding. It’s his — Inside.

"Surprise," Blair says, stepping out of the line with the book resting face up on her palms. He takes it from her, running his thumb along the author line. Later editions of the book have his name on it, and so there it is, embossed: Daniel Humphrey. His picture is on the back flap. He doesn’t turn to look at it; as soon as he’d seen the prints he thought about how Blair would hate them. What he hadn’t thought about is how his book would be in the Library now, a place where he once used to hide out in the summers to stare at the books people would take out, imagining one day he’d write one of them. But he grew up and stopped coming up here and forgot about that dream entirely until right now.

"You’ve probably already thought to come here," Blair says, and if he didn’t know her better he’d think she sounded bashful. "But I thought it would be nice to see. Congrats, Dan. You’ve made it. And you wrote a book that didn’t entirely suck while you were at it."

His eyes snap up to hers. "You read it?"

"Yes," she says, looking him in the eye and twisting the rings on her left hand.

A crowd of pushy school kids walks past them; one actually runs into Dan but he doesn’t even notice. He knew, of course he knew, that publishing Inside meant Blair would know everything. He knew — or assumed, though up until now incorrectly — that she would read the entire story, and he also assumed it would be so obvious that he was in love with her that she’d march over to his loft and laugh in his face. But Blair read only bits and pieces and somehow never figured it out (specialty of hers, warped logic), but now she has read the whole thing and she’s definitely not laughing in his face. Blair isn’t saying anything; Blair is just looking at him and holding his fingers in her own.

"We should go outside," Dan says eventually because he can’t breathe in here right now with its high ceilings and too many dusty windows. Everyone is staring at the two of them stilled in the center of the room, which isn’t something Dan sees because he’s not looking away from Blair, he doesn’t dare to, but it’s something he can feel on the back of his neck. She gives a little nod, but he turns to the door first, watching her out of the corner of his eye the entire walk out. It is easier to breathe outside; the pale March sun stings his eyes just enough to snap him out of whatever had taken hold of him. Blair squints and then slips her sunglasses back on. He wishes she’d kept them off; he wants to be able to see all of her right now.

Dan shifts on the balls of his feet. "What did you think?"

"Of the book?" There’s a sound to the left, a car horn, a dog bark in response. Blair glances over and then back at him. "It was great. The praise was well-deserved. You’re — you’re very talented, Dan."

He wants to make some joke, Don’t sound so surprised, but she doesn’t sound surprised and his tongue tastes like sandpaper. He doesn’t even know why; obviously, when he published the book he imagined this conversation would happen. But he tried not to think about that, and then it never happened, and so they’re having it now.

"I like the way you see me," she says, quieter than usual. His mouth lifts. She almost smiles back, but then she turns to look out toward the street. "I wish it were true."

He leans forward and takes her hand for just a second, thumb brushes against the pulse beneath her wrist. She turns back to him and he lets go. "I meant it," he says, and she nods. She knew that, of course. Dan imagines some things about him are pretty clear, looking back.

Blair smiles just slightly, turns away from the afternoon sun and pulls her sunglasses on top of her head. "What’s your second book about? You never said."

Dan is rather used to keeping his projects to himself until publication, really. Old habits, but he doesn’t mind telling Blair, of course. "Manhattan re-imagined as a monarchy."

She laughs. Dan grins in response, which is by now common enough to be a reflex. "Oh," she says. "so you mean like real life?"

He nods, and Blair laughs again. Then, she bites her lip and leans forward just a centimeter as though to share a secret. It’s a tiny movement; Dan doesn’t think she did it on purpose. "Is it about me too?" she asks, quiet and maybe a bit hopeful if he dares imagine her that way.

"Yes," he says. It’s a confession, wary, that sandpaper feeling back in his mouth again.

She laughs a little and then gives him a look he can’t quite place. She still smiles though, so he assumes it can’t be bad.

"What’s so funny?" he asks.

"Do you recognize what the term fiction means, Humphrey?" she asks, feigning concern and taking one step, then another step toward him.

Dan coughs. One of these days he really is going to have to get used to Blair looking at him like this, wanting and wanting and wanting. "Are you complaining?" he asks, trying to make a joke and probably failing.

Blair smiles wider. "Not at all," she says, and kisses him on the steps with the sun in his eyes.

(25)

As it turns out, of course, waiting for Blair’s annulment to come through is really fucking hard. No pun intended.

"I have an idea," Blair murmurs in his ear, her legs falling open. And Dan — say what one will about Dan, but he is very good at cues. Still, he does stare at her for a moment, the way she bites her lip, the way she looks like she wants to ask the question but doesn’t quite know how to ask the question. He wonders what she can read off him too, because right now Dan doesn’t care to pretend to be suave; he’s not. Blair Waldorf is in his bedroom with all the pins in her hair come loose from too much kissing and she is asking him, in not so many words, to go down on her and this is unbelievable.

He tries to make some loser joke out of it. "You have a very heteronormative notion of intercourse, you know," he says, pulling down her stockings anyway.

She wiggles her toes out, left foot then the right, and rolls her eyes. "Your Foucauldian concepts of sexuality aren’t the theme right now, Humphrey."

He actually stops for a moment, just a moment, and then laughs. "You know Foucault?"

Blair sighs, long and exaggerated as always. "I read. Now, focus."

But Dan is already attentive. He pushes her skirt up to her hips and pulls her underwear down. He’s starting to learn these things: if he kisses Blair’s hip, right above the bone, she’ll take in a sharp inhale he can only hear if he focuses on her breathing; if he puts his fingers inside her and twists them just this way the grip she has on his shoulder will tighten; if he kisses the inside of her right thigh, her hips will tilt up to his mouth, but if he kisses the left then she’ll give her first moan of the evening; if he tongues her cunt she’ll gasp out a please; if he finds her clit, she’ll hold onto whatever body parts of his she can grasp with one hand and the other hand will end up around her collarbone, trying to catch a breath he imagines she’d rather not catch at all; when she comes, she’s not as loud as Dan expects; after, she laughs. It borders on a giggle, actually, with air in her lungs so it sounds breathy and young and Blair. Dan likes this, loves this, the details of her that he gets to learn.

"Not bad, Humphrey," she says when he pokes his head out from between her legs to find her face just barely shimmering with sweat. "Not bad at all."

Dan stares. The dim lighting from his bedside table makes her skin shine.

"Don’t look so thunderstruck," Blair says, curling one leg under her and sitting up, her hand against the collar of his t-shirt. He’s going to have to learn to control his expressions better because this is just embarrassing. "You’ve made women orgasm before, I hope."

But they weren’t you, he doesn’t say. He doesn’t want to belittle; it’s not like he didn’t love Serena or Vanessa or — well, just really want to fuck Georgina, it’s just this is different. This has always been different.

"Dan," Blair says with her mouth an inch from his so she doesn’t quite look him in the eye and her consonants brush against his lips. "You need to work on that poker face."

He entertains the possibility of saying something intelligent or snippy or even just coherent in return, but she kisses him instead. He takes the out.

(28)

Dan wakes up with his arm looped around Blair’s waist, slipped under the t-shirt of his that she stole from him last night. It takes him a minute to recognize where he is, because this is the first time he ever slept at Blair’s. He can see how she would find his sheets uncomfortable being used to these, he will admit, but home is still home and he’s not getting satin sheets for his everyday. Still, here he pulls the blanket up over his shoulders and relaxes into it, his thumb drawing small circles on Blair’s hip.

"Do you understand the problem with your sheets now, Humphrey?" she asks, still mostly asleep.

He kisses the nape of her neck. With Serena in the Hamptons for the weekend dealing with Cece’s affairs and Dan a little too used to sleeping with Blair next to him, Blair had suggested he stay at her place for once so that "I can get a decent night’s sleep for once." Of course, Blair sleeps soundly through the night these days, which is something Dan knows wasn’t common in the weeks and months prior, but he allows her the jibes and parades. Dan certainly still has enough of his own.

"You’re just a prissy princess," he mumbles against her skin. Blair shrugs before he can flinch.

"Just because my favorite fairytale was the Princess and the Pea doesn’t bespeak a character flaw," she notes.

Dan laughs. "Maybe not a flaw, but it does seem alarmingly indicative."

Blair twists in the bed and turns to look at him with a sleepy grin. "I’m simply a woman of refined tastes," she says, and then she kisses him with her eyes closed. His mouth parts and she immediately pushes back.

"Brush your teeth, Humphrey," she tries to scold, but she’s laughing just a bit too much for him to take her seriously. "I haven’t reached morning breath kissing levels of liking you yet."

Dan rolls his eyes and sits up. "You have that level of liking people?" he asks, and Blair grabs his wrist just as he’s about to stand. Her grip tightens and she uses his body to pull herself up to sitting and leans over to kiss him again, mouth closed. When she moves away Dan waits for her to say something. When she does, it’s "Get a move on, Humphrey," and she pushes his arm to nudge him along. He complies, of course, heading to the bathroom and grabbing his toothbrush out of his overnight bag on the way.

"Am I going to be the only one practicing dental hygiene here?" he says as he begins to brush his teeth and from the bedroom Blair replies, "You disrupted my beauty sleep; I need five more minutes."

"Five minutes isn’t going to fix your problems," he tries to call back but it gets completely jumbled by the toothpaste in his mouth and comes out a long string of sounds.

"Did no one ever tell you to not speak with your mouth full?" Blair asks, and Dan rolls his eyes and turns to wash out his mouth. As he does, though, the other side of the bathroom door opens and there he finds Serena, still in her pajamas, hair still a mess, and hands on her hips.

Dan stares at her with his mouth full of water for a full two seconds before remembering he has to spit it out before he can talk. When he does, he apologizes, reaching for a hand towel and really wishing he were wearing the t-shirt Blair currently has on, leaving Dan in just his sweatpants.

"Hi," he manages. Serena doesn’t respond, and Dan doesn’t know if it’s because she just woke up or because he probably woke her up by yelling at Blair or because he’s standing in her bathroom shirtless and it’s not because of Serena this time or all of the above. He’s still trying to figure out a follow-up sentence that functions as damage control when Blair says from behind him, "I’m up," and steps into the bathroom.

Dan turns to look at her just as she steps into view. Blair sees Serena first, her eyes automatically widening as she takes a step forward.

"S," Blair says, a hand gripping the fabric of Dan’s shirt and pulling down just a bit, stretching out the collar. "You’re here."

Serena gives the slightest of nods. "I couldn’t quite bring myself to go. Too much reality."

Blair nods. "Do you want to talk about it? Fruit muesli for breakfast?"

Serena gives a bitter laugh, short and curt, eyes ticking to Dan and then back to Blair. "I think I’ll manage on my own," she says. Then, she steps back and closes the door to her bedroom. Blair glances at Dan for less than a second before following Serena into the neighboring room. Dan stays in the bathroom, his back pressed against the cool marble of the sink.

"I didn’t know you were going to be here," Blair says, trying to keep her voice steady. Dan winces; he’s long since learned what Blair sounds like when she’s about to cry.

"I know that," Serena says, her voice already beginning to rise. Dan keeps his hands pressed palm down against the corner of the sink. If he interferes in this it’ll make things worse. "That’s not the problem."

"I know," Blair says, still trying to keep her voice level, though now it sounds more like to try and keep from yelling, which Dan prefers. "And I’m sorry that you ran into him —"

"Dan isn’t the problem here," Serena says. "It’s you."

Dan grips the ledge. He’ll be of no help, of course, but he just wants to get Blair out of there. But she doesn’t need him to save her, so he is going to stay exactly where he is.

"Me?" Blair asks, surprised and quiet enough that Dan just barely hears her. He leans closer to the door. "What did I do?"

"Look at you," Serena says. "Sleeping in your boyfriend’s t-shirt? Blair Waldorf wears silk and lace in bed."

Blair doesn’t say anything for a moment. Dan imagines her staring at Serena for a moment, her fingers once again twisting around the hem of his shirt.

"So, maybe I’m changing," she says, finally. "Maybe I like it."

Serena scoffs. "We’ll see how long that lasts." Dan shuts his eyes.

"What’s that supposed to mean?" Blair asks, her voice rising again. The sound travels into the bathroom and seems to echo off the walls. Dan looks up at the ceiling. Part of him really thinks he should walk away from this conversation. It’s not a matter of being polite; to be honest, Dan doesn’t much care about that at this juncture. But he has a feeling this is heading in directions he’d rather not overhear. Still, he stays pressed against the marble.

"It means," Serena yells back, with her voice now echoing into the bathroom, "that you’re not yourself at all lately."

"Why?" Blair yells. "Because I’m happy? Why is that so difficult for you to deal with?"

"Because it’s just another act! You’ll just end up back where you started like always and Dan is going to be left doing damage control."

Dan tries to keep control of his breathing, his hands still gripping tightly to the edge of the sink. He doesn’t like his fears about all this out in the open from someone else’s mouth. It makes him think he’s not hiding them very well and, worse, that everyone else knows something he doesn’t.

"No," Blair says, straining her voice back to level. "You don’t know what you’re talking about."

Serena laughs again, short and loud and bitter. "I know you, Blair. So I know exactly what I’m talking about."

After another pause, Blair storms into the bathroom and slams Serena’s door behind her, locking it shut. She needn’t have; Serena doesn’t try to follow. Blair presses her back against the door and shuts her eyes. What Serena said stops being important as soon as Dan sees Blair’s face, a few thin tears already beginning to trace down her cheeks. In some strange way, he can’t help but feel just a little responsible. While he might know that’s not true on a logical level, he also knows that this is the first time Blair has cried because of anything related to her relationship with him. It’s a new twist on an old knife in his gut.

Dan takes her hand, pulling her off the door and into a hug. Her hands rest on his back and he holds her closer still, arms wrapped around her just tightly enough, he hopes, to create refuge without constriction.

"It shouldn’t be this difficult," Blair whispers, and a few more tears fall on his shoulder. "I just want to have this. God," she sniffles, "I sound so petulant."

Dan shakes his head, rustling her hair. "You don’t. It shouldn’t be this hard. But you do have this, Blair. You have me." For as long as you want me, he doesn’t add.

"Yeah," Blair says with her head resting against his chest. "I suppose I do."

(31)

Dan keeps his head down while he walks past George at the entrance to Blair’s building. Of course, as Dan has never been good at subtlety, George stops him almost as soon as he spots him.

"Are you feeling okay, Dan?" George asks. "You look a little sick."

Dan mumbles something about "Just feeling a bit under the weather" and George nods sympathetically. "I think Miss Waldorf has come down with a bug too. She didn’t look very well when I saw her earlier."

Great, Dan thinks, but he just sort of gives George a quick nod and walks to the elevator. It takes him a few seconds to convince himself to push the button. When he does, he holds his breath as the elevator ticks down to the ground floor, Nate’s advice on loop in his head.

Basically, it’s been a long day. He thought his first time having sex with Blair would have gone better. This morning, the annulment came through. When Blair told Dan, he barely had time to breathe it in before she took off her coat and pressed her body against his. "Ready to go?" she asked in a low voice that didn't sound like Blair at all. Dan simultaneously felt like he was touching a woman completely unlike Blair and yet was still shaped just like Blair, which made him uneasy and terrified all at once.

So needless to say, the sex was a mess. He felt reduced to his unpracticed high school self, the boy who still kissed like the way he saw girls liked it in movies. For her part, Blair was simply too much; too much because it's Blair and Dan is always overwhelmed by her even when she is just sitting across the room, but also because Blair put herself in a show he never asked her to put on. Dan didn't know why, at the time. But this is several hours and many conversations with Nate later, and Dan thinks he has some clarity as he arrives at Blair's a bit past eight in the evening.

Blair walks down the stairs when he arrives unannounced.

"Dan?" she asks when he steps out of the elevator, her hand at her collarbone and drawing lines with her index finger.

"Hey," he says, hands in his pockets.

She just looks at him for a minute before turning back toward the stairs and waving for him to follow. Dan pauses at the bottom of the stairs to watch her for a moment. She doesn't notice until she gets to the second floor and turns to find him still at the bottom.

"Serena’s at dinner," she says, thinking this explains his hesitation. Dan doesn’t correct her, and climbs up the stairs. Blair lets him follow her into her bedroom and sits cross-legged in the chair at her dresser so Dan has to sit across from her on the bed.

Blair clasps her hands in her lap. Even from a distance, Dan can see her knuckles go white. "So, what brings you all the way up here at this hour?"

He blinks. "It’s eight o’clock."

"It’s the middle of the night somewhere," she manages, her voice higher than normal.

"Blair," he says. "Can we not?"

She blinks twice. Then, she sighs, the upright pull of her shoulders falling forward. One leg crosses over the other. "Okay. You can start."

Dan shifts in his seat. He really does not want to have this conversation. He knows he has to, but that doesn’t mean he likes it. "So I went and talked to Nate —"

"You talked to Nate about our sex problems?" Blair gasps, and Dan is so glad to know he’s already starting off on such good footing.

"He’s my best friend, Blair," he points out, and she shakes her head.

"You men can’t keep anything to yourselves."

He raises his eyebrows. "Are you going to tell me that you didn’t talk to anyone about this?"

Blair opens her mouth to protest and then clamps her jaw shut again. "Fine," she confesses after a moment. "I talked to Dorota. Who I pay to keep silent, unlike your choice in confidantes."

"Not the point," he says. "And stop evading."

She crosses her arms. "I’m not evading. Keep going."

"I feel," Dan begins, remembering Nate’s advice, I statements and remedial mediation bullshit he learned in some elective that Dan doesn’t trust, "that we both need to address the, uh, complications in our sexual activity so as to improve our future enjoyment."

"You sound like a textbook, Humphrey," she says, standing from her chair and walking to her desk to do nothing. "And besides, I am good at sex. I doubt I’m responsible."

"Well, so am I," he points out, watching her continue to flit around the room so she doesn’t have to actually look at him. "No complaints before this."

"Maybe it’s just that Serena didn’t have the heart to see your sad junior year puppy face."

"I doubt it," he says, smirking despite himself and then shaking it off. "Either way, this isn’t a you or me thing. This is an us thing, and you know that."

Blair sits back down in front of him, arms and legs crossed immediately. "Fine. I take it we’re doing I statements? I knew that class of Nate’s would go to his head. One B+ and the man thinks he’s qualified to counsel people on their problems, which is pretty hilarious given, you know, Nate Archibald."

"Blair," Dan says, again rolling his eyes.

She frowns, pulling her arms closer to her chest. "Sorry. Fine. I feel like you were touching me like I’m dainty. I’m a person, not a doily. I’m not going to wither if you graduate a bit above vanilla. Happy?"

Dan winces. So much for sugarcoating. "Okay. I feel like you felt like you had to put on a — I don’t know, a performance. And I don’t need the shows, Blair."

"Maybe I like the performance," Blair says, her voice creeping louder. "Why are you always asking me to be someone I’m not?"

His eyes widen. "When have I ever done that?" he asks, trying to remember some misinterpreted comment or unintended remark before he recalls: "Is this about what Serena said?"

Blair stares at him for a moment and then turns her head away. "It’s about a lot of things."

He leans forward onto his knees. "Do you want to talk about it?"

She turns back to him with a small scowl. "No. And besides, why are we only talking about me here? You were a mess too. Honestly, Humphrey, you need to brush up on your female anatomy, and that was not a euphemism."

Dan pushes against his palms to sit up straight again. "I was nervous," he says, and it bothers him to use a sentence so short for a panic so enormous. Dan doesn’t want to exaggerate, which he’s definitely prone to, but there have been fewer times that he’s been more nervous than earlier today.

Blair laughs a little. It’s not malicious, and her arms uncross and rest at her sides. He gives a sheepish sort of shrug in response. He knows it sounds silly and juvenile and she’s used to people who can play at keeping it together, but Dan’s not like that and that’s always been his problem. He can teeter on the edges of the Upper East Side all he wants, but the people who grew up in it just play the game better than he can, and that includes being able to fake collected.

"I’m really not that scary," Blair says, her tone softer than it’s been since he arrived. Then it’s Dan’s turn to laugh.

"You kind of are," he points out. "Not normally to me, but you are sort of terrifying when you want to be. And sometimes when you don’t want to be."

"Fair," she concedes, nodding her head. "But not normally to you. So —"

So why, then? The question lingers for a moment before Dan figures out how to respond. He had planned for the question on the walk over, prepared the requisite explanation that was kind but not overly emotional. But Dan can’t remember it now, looking at Blair, and he thinks whatever he’d prepared was fairly paltry.

"It’s just this is different," is what he offers in the end. Also paltry.

Still, the corner of Blair’s mouth lifts just a bit. It’s fractional, really, but he can see it across the few feet between them. "I assume that’s a good thing?"

Dan almost laughs. Here’s what different is: different is that he hears her voice in his head when he decides which new tie to buy; different is the mere act of putting Blair Waldorf as number four on his speed dial; different is scrubbing out the last remnants of Serena, which Dan had previously thought were in some way or another a permanent condition; different is how she makes him feel dizzy and grounded all at once; different is how he holds her hand as they fall asleep just because he gets to touch her.

But Dan can’t say any of that, not yet. He thinks Blair knows he loves her, if only because it’s incredibly obvious and he wrote a book about it. Still, it’s early yet and he assumes that it’s best not to share that sort of thing in a conversation about if he and his girlfriend are sexually compatible. So Dan just sort of shrugs and hopes it’s convincing. "It’s not so bad."

Blair pauses and then stands from her chair, coming and sitting next to him on the bed. He looks at her and she stays staring straight ahead at their reflection in the mirror. Their thighs brush together and even after all this time it still feels like a light hum under his skin. He doesn’t imagine he’ll ever quite get used to it, and he doesn’t want to.

"We’ll try again," Blair says, taking his hand from his knee and wrapping it between both of hers. "No nerves for either of us. You don’t treat me like I’ll break and no shows for me."

"Easier said than done," he points out, and Blair nods.

"I am a woman of many innovative ideas," she says, rising to her feet but keeping his hand in hers. "Just leave it to me. Either way, it’s been a long day and Serena is going to be home soon. We don’t need a repeat performance."

"No," Dan says, standing as well. "Definitely not."

She shows him out, dropping his hand somewhere around the top of the stairs. When they get to the elevator, she reaches around and pushes the button for him.

"I’ll see you at your place tomorrow," she says as they wait. "And if it is at all possible for Lily to not be there, please make that happen."

Dan laughs. "I’ll see what I can do."

"Thanks," she says, and then the elevator dings open. As Dan steps inside, Blair catches his hand again, her free hand holding the elevator open.

"It’s different for me too," she says, watching him as the door closes before Dan can process what she’s referring to and formulate a question. Still, he walks to the subway and thinks about the scaffolding of the rewritten world she might be living in. He wants to see maps and pictures, to know how she walks through it, if she too looks back on her history and laughs because this shouldn’t have happened. Loving Blair is a different gear in an engine; it roars in his ears. But Blair would never make a car reference. Maybe violins, then, but Dan has never been one for orchestra.

(32)

Blair shows up at 9:30 with two bottles of very expensive champagne and an overnight bag. She doesn’t say hello as she walks into the loft, and Dan is already doing a bad job of trying not to be nervous. Pull it together, Humphrey, he hears in her voice in his head, but it doesn’t work very well.

"Is Lily here?" Blair asks, looking toward the back of the loft where Rufus and Lily’s makeshift room is.

"Nope," Dan says. "I convinced my dad to take her on a romantic getaway upstate."

Blair turns to him and scowls. "So you told him that we’re going to sleep together."

"Yes," he says. No point in denying. Blair sighs and rolls her eyes, but she puts the shopping bag of alcohol down on the kitchen table and doesn’t say anything else about it.

She sets the bottles down on the table. "I’m not quite sure what one drinks in this situation, but you can’t go wrong with Veuve Clicquot."

"I’m not sure either. What exactly are your intentions?"

Blair reaches around him for the champagne. "I thought it was fairly obvious. Liquid courage, Humphrey. We’ll just have a few drinks and everything will be smooth sailing."

He raises his eyebrows. "I feel like this could go awry easily."

"You know your limits, don’t you?" she asks, poking around in his cabinets. "Do you seriously not have champagne flutes? I guess there’s not much to celebrate in Brooklyn."

"You’ll have to make do with wine glasses," he says, but Blair is already pulling them out from the back of the cupboard.

"Anyway," she continues, "limits are limits. Just don’t cross them. No one likes a sloppy drunk."

And so, about an hour later, Blair drapes her arms around his shoulders as he sits on a stool in the kitchen. "Do you feel relaxed, Humphrey?"

Dan laughs and shakes his head. "Not in the slightest, Waldorf."

She pouts. They’re both well into tipsy by now, it’s just not doing much to make Dan calm. Everything is a little too make or break about this. She never had these problems with Chuck.

"You don’t need to be so nervous, you know," she says, nudging his knees apart to stand between them. "I’m here because I like you."

Dan smiles. "Always nice to hear, Blair, but I don’t think my brain is registering that very well."

Her eyes tick up to his forehead. "You probably just have too much going on up there," she says, and then she kisses him. It does have the intended effect; for a moment, Dan stops thinking anything at all. When she pulls back, she keeps her arms tight around his shoulders so he has to lean into her.

"I’ve noticed some things about you, Dan Humphrey," she whispers in his ear before pulling back a bit to look at him. "One, I make you a little crazy. When I kiss you it looks like you’ve been drugged."

"That’s fair," he tries to say. He’s right; it’s difficult to think, let alone speak, with this much Blair and alcohol around.

"I’m not finished," she says with a laugh. "Two, you keep looking at me like I’m about to disappear."

"You do that to me too," he points out, and she gives a begrudging nod.

"I do," she admits. "Which brings me to three: I really like you. It’s different than with — with other people. I don’t feel like I have to lose anything to be standing here in this kitchen with you. It’s lighter, like you don’t run the risk of tying yourself to my ankle and drowning me in the Hudson."

Dan swallows. "That one wasn’t really stuff you noticed about me."

Blair rolls her eyes. "Not everything is about you, Humphrey. Four: you wrote a novel about me. And then you wrote another novel about me. So — and I just realized this on the drive over here — I don’t think you’re going anywhere, because if you did you’d probably just fall into the creativity vacuum you were in before I made the mistake of going to see Nanette with you."

His chin lifts in mock indignation. "Mistake?"

She just laughs. "A terrible, terrible mistake I just can’t manage to take back. So stop worrying so much."

"When did you get so reflective anyway?" he asks, twirling the hem of her shirt between his fingers.

"About two glasses of champagne ago," she grins. "Now, Dan. Will you please have sex with me?"

"So pushy," he says, but he stands anyway, taking her hand and leading her into the bedroom, Blair giggling behind him all the way.

"Now," Blair says, basically pushing Dan back on the bed. "Let’s remember the rules."

Dan grabs her ass just a bit more firmly than he’d like to. Blair gasps and then laughs again. "Such a quick study," she says.

"It’s been said," Dan says, but then Blair pulls her top over her head and unclips her blue lace bra herself and Dan has other things to concern himself with. Of course he saw Blair completely naked yesterday, but that was rushed, panicked, not knowing where or how to touch her. Now, he reaches for her slowly, keeping one hand on her lower back and cupping her breast with the other. She shivers; his hands are cold.

"Sorry," he whispers, but she shakes her head.

"It’s okay," she breathes. "It’s okay."

They slip each other’s clothes off with his desk lamp still on and neither of them moves to turn it off. From there, he lets Blair direct. She guides his hand between her legs, biting her lip when he finds the right spot, the right speed. He bites when he kisses, small catches of her mouth in his teeth, hands tight on her body and thinks Like this? "Yes," Blair says, as though she could hear him, and maybe she can, maybe the question is written all over his face and skin and bones. He slides into her and she gasps. "Dan," she whispers, her mouth close to his, and he leans up to catch her mouth. When she comes, she says his name again, says it as she climaxes and as she comes down from it with her palms on his shoulders. He follows not long after, his mouth breaking away from her skin catch his breath.

After, she laughs. "Okay, then," she says, moving to lie beside him with one leg still strewn across his.

He raises his eyebrows. "Just okay?"

She props herself up on her forearms to kiss him. "Good job, Humphrey. But don’t let it go to your head."

(33)

Blair wakes up before him. She wakes him up, actually, with light kisses along his jaw until he stirs. "Let’s go, sleepy head," she whispers in his ear. "I want coffee."

He turns to look at her. "You wouldn’t need coffee if you slept more."

She shakes her head. "Doesn’t work that way. I’m up, I want caffeine and you’re coming with me. The last thing I need is to get lost in Brooklyn. I’d be eaten alive down here. Women would kill for my flats."

He rolls his eyes. "You do know how to get to that coffee shop I took you to. It’s literally three blocks from here. We’ve been there at least four times."

Blair shakes her head, her loose hair bouncing off her cheeks as she grins. "I can’t seem to recall. Up you go, Humphrey."

Dan turns his back on her, shutting his eyes and trying to block out the incoming sun. Blair drapes her arms and torso across his upper body and rests her forehead on his temple. "Dan," she murmurs, "please?"

And so of course Dan groans and sits up as Blair grins at him, keeping her arms locked around his shoulders.

"There you go," she says. "That wasn’t so hard now was it?"

"Easy for you to say," he grumbles. "You have the pleasure of waking up next to me in the morning."

Blair might snort. "Unfortunately, Humphrey, we are still judged by the company we keep. And unfortunately that means the only pleasure I have is being judged by the presence of your particular — brand of company, shall we say?"

Dan pretends to scowl. "You really are a mean one, Blair Waldorf."

Her hands cover her mouth in a mock gasp. "You shouldn’t say such terrible things."

"I don’t know if you deserve the niceties," he says with his lips hovering just above her mouth.

Blair breathes into a smile. "What do you think I deserve, Dan?"

He looks at her. Really looks at her, the details of Blair, the toss of her hair, the lightly smudged eyeliner she forgot to wash away the night before, the naked skin of her shoulders, how she stares at his lips the way he knows he stares at hers, her thumb brushing against the corner of his mouth. So, what does Blair deserve?

"I love you," he says. Blair tenses immediately, though she doesn’t pull back. Her body doesn’t shift at all, actually; the only movement at all is her eyes ticking up toward his. Then, she laughs, quiet and light.

"What?" Dan asks, the corners of his mouth lifting.

Blair shrugs, blushing now and looking away for a moment. "I forgot people could say it so easily," she confesses, and then turns away, keeping that smile that strongly resembles the one she wore when she came to the loft last month and changed everything. Dan thinks it’s a look he should name, catalogue, put in a book. After all, Dan writes about Blair because he’s trying to express her. Maybe he’s trying to preserve her, or maybe he wants everyone to see her. Most of all, though, he’s disentangling his sights, sounds and feelings of her, trying to put it all down on paper so he can read it back in a language he understands. So, really, it’s not that saying he loves Blair is easy. It’s that he’s built novels of her and, in the end, that’s just how it translates.

"Stop daydreaming, Humphrey," Blair says, her dress for the day already on and her hair pulled back into a ponytail. "We’re on a mission."

"So pushy," Dan says, and reaches for a shirt.
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