|Sticks and Stones
Author: vogue idea PM
He looks down at her, and all she wants to do is cry. Any walls she may have built up have crumbled in a matter of seconds. Set after 1.13, Nate/Blair.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Words: 2,912 - Reviews: 31 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 22 - Published: 03-06-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4114844
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Hi again! I'm trying my hand at something new. It's not going to be a chapter story, but not a oneshot either. It'll be something in the middle of the two, probably three or four chapters. The format and styling of this story is different than my previous, and I'm a little nervous about it, especially since I'm trying to get into the character's heads. So please be kind! Happy reading.
Disclaimer: The only thing I own are my ideas, the characters and Gossip Girl are not mine.
Part I : In the morning I got in a fight with myself, I got the bruises to prove it.
Her days still blend together, months later. It's all the same really – sitting in different classrooms five days a week, focusing all her attention on her perfect notes in front of her still determined to graduate at the top of her class, searching for a familiar tall blonde every day during lunch.
She tries to ignore the stares and whispers that follow her wherever she goes. It gets much easier as she convinces herself she's better off to be emotionally numb. She doesn't need those people, she never did.
As the weeks pass, she finds that she begins to blend in. It's not something she's used to, but she tells herself that she would much rather have this until she can figure out how to reclaim her dignity and spot on the social ladder. Serena tries her best to make her laugh, and sometimes it works. Most of the time she does it to humor her and to keep her prying eyes away.
It's almost as if she's become half a person. She gets up an extra half hour earlier than she used to. Her appearance is still important to her, even more so now than it was before. She buys a heavier concealer to hide the dark circles under her eyes that have seemed to become a permanent fixture on her face.
Every hair on her head is where it should be, her nails are never without a color, and her lips change color day to day. She spends hours each day after school in her bathroom, inspecting every pore and making sure her eyebrows are perfectly sculpted. She thinks her beauty is the one thing they can't take away from her.
Serena glances at her during lunch one afternoon in June.
"You look lifeless."
Blair rolls her eyes and nibbles on a piece of apple that is her lunch.
"I'm just stressed. End of the year stuff, it's nothing."
The blonde continues to stare at her best friend, completely aware of the fact that she's lying to her. As she begins to open her mouth again, Blair stands up grabbing her things.
"I've got a history quiz in twenty minutes; I need to do some last minute cramming."
She's gone before Serena has the chance to ask her if she wants to get dinner that night.
Her social life is almost non-existent these days. Most of the events she goes to are parties that her mother throws. Serena doesn't go out much anymore – Dan likes to stay in and Serena doesn't mind.
She thinks about deleting almost everyone from her phone one day, but when she goes to do it, she knows it would be giving in and tosses it across the room instead praying that it will break. It doesn't.
She thinks it's a sign.
Her mother tells her she's never looked more beautiful.
After two months in France with her father, Blair couldn't agree more. The day school was let out for the summer she jetted off to Europe to spend the majority of the summer with her father and Roman. While he may know her better than her mother does, he's far less perceptive these days.
He doesn't notice when she sips off to the bathroom after almost every meal or when she barely touches the extravagant dinner that's been made for her. She's thankful for this, and even more thankful that her therapist and Serena are thousands of miles away, it makes her feel less guilty whenever she reaches up to grasp the handle to flush away her shame.
Senior year starts and it's different than last year. Most people seemed to have gotten over last year's scandal, smiling hesitantly as she walks by them. Her classes won't be difficult, and she's all but into Yale. Soon she'll be able to start over completely and none of this will matter.
The first week flies by and some girl she's seen around invites her to a party that one of the St. Jude's boys is throwing. She politely says that she'll think about it, wanting to make sure Serena will go with her. It's the first time she's even thought of going out in months, the first time she's almost felt normal. That feeling quickly fades.
Blair makes her way down the familiar steps to meet Serena so they can go shoe shopping. She catches a recognizable set of blue eyes staring at her from across the way. Her stomach drops.
She's successfully avoided him for the most part for the last half of a year. But he's heading toward her and she can't move quickly enough to escape. Before she can turn around and walk the other way, he catches up to her.
She can't look him in the eyes, not anymore, not after everything. He looks down at her, and she wants to cry. Any walls she may have built up have crumbled in a matter of seconds.
"Hey, how was your summer?"
It's such a simple question but she can't seem to find any words to answer it at first.
"It was relaxing."
The words struggle to come out, not breathy and carefree like she had wanted them to.
"I heard you spent it in France? How's your dad?"
She barely hears him because her mind is too busy racing.
"I did. He's wonderful, France really agrees with him."
Her eyes look everywhere but his face, and she soon devises a plan to get away. Before he can ask anymore questions, she looks at her phone and pretends to be surprised by the time.
"I have to run; I'm supposed to be meeting Serena right now."
As she turns away, he grabs her wrist.
His hand looks even larger around her wrist now, and she struggles to get free. She can feel him staring at her, taking her appearance in.
"I really have to go."
She practically runs off, her small frame crashing into Jenny Humphrey's. Blair meets her surprised look with a cold gaze – she had refused to ever surrender to someone like her. Jenny looks at her and then to Nate before looking back at Blair. But Nate won't meet Jenny's stare, he's too busy watching his ex-girlfriend flee the scene.
Chuck tries to talk to him, but he can't even open his mouth to tell him to fuck off. He's afraid he'll sound more weak than anything, and Archibalds can't be weak.
He wills himself to be pissed off – at Blair for screwing his best friend behind his back when she sat there and preached to him about starting over, and at Chuck for taking away the one other thing in his life besides himself that was a constant.
This works for longer than he expected it to. But his mother makes him visit his father in rehab far too much and although he thinks the Captain is a self-absorbed prick, he's an observant one at that. Nate blames the fact that his father can pick up on the fact that his son is one miserable son of a bitch on the pills they're giving him to get out of his own head and live in the real world for once.
His father tells his mother about this, she's too busy keeping up appearances to notice that her son spends most of his free time wallowing. She makes him see a therapist but he stops going after the first week because he hates the idea of telling a complete stranger about how he never expected to feel like the only adult in his family at the age of 17.
It comes to him one night when he can't sleep, again. He thinks about the events leading up to that one fateful afternoon that seemed to rip his world apart. He laughs bitterly when he realizes he too is a self-absorbed asshole. Like father like son, he almost says out loud. His father managed to screw up the only real thing in his life, and he had somehow done that too.
It's too much for him to take in, so he ignores it.
Nate dates Jenny Humphrey because she's the opposite of Blair – no matter how hard she tries to mold herself after her. She's clumsy and she stumbles over her words around him, it's cute to him. At first.
He feels her palms sweat when he holds her hand after school and she smiles up at him. It's probably the most genuine thing he's seen on this girl that's trying so hard to fit in. Later he wonders why he can't return that same kind of smile to her.
When she meets his father for the first time in rehab, it was her idea to go, he feels the Captains eyes look her up and down. He can tell she's nervous when he speaks, and he curses her for being so damn awkward around his father, or just all the time, really. He can't help but compare her to Blair – and apparently neither can his father.
Before he leaves, his father asks him to stay back a bit. Jenny lingers in the doorway before finding her voice,
"I'll go sign us out."
He nods silently not even bothering to turn around to look at her.
The Captain doesn't get up from his chair when he speaks to Nate.
"You cannot be serious, Nathaniel."
He shrugs, not even sure what to say.
"If you think I'm going to let you gallivant around New York City with that girl, you have another thing coming."
Nate wants to defend what he's doing, he really does.
"So what if she's different, Dad? You saw how well things worked out when I let you control my life."
He didn't even believe the words that left his mouth.
"Don't let it get too serious. Have your fun now, but you can't let her get attached. She'll get these pretty little ideas in her head and we don't want that."
Nate cringes at the use of 'we' coming from his father and leaves the room without another word
He likes that his father doesn't approve of Jenny, it makes him feel like he's rebellious and in control of his own life for once. He stays with her for another month before he realizes that he's dating her for all the wrong reasons, and none of them are enough to make him stay.
He breaks up with her before school lets out for the summer and she doesn't even put up a fight. She knows that even if he did have a million reasons why they should be together, there would always be one that would ultimately turn him way. She was, and never would be, Blair.
He's been watching her for longer than he'd like to admit. He's not stupid enough to ever say anything, but he still has her schedule memorized and always finds a way to see her at least once a day.
She looks worse than he does. The thing is, he know she's not feeling sorry for herself like he is. She's too focused and driven to let something like this, as big as it was, sidetrack her for too long.
Nate calls Serena during the summer. They make small talk for a couple of minutes before she grows impatient with him.
"Why are you calling?"
He knows he can't dance around the issue anymore.
"I want to know how Blair is doing."
She laughs resentfully and it takes him by surprise.
"What?" He asks.
"You were never this attentive when you were dating her. It's just ironic, that's all."
He rolls a joint between his fingers on the other side of the line and doesn't have a response. Serena tells him that she's in France for the summer and that he shouldn't try and contact her.
"Just let her have her summer, Nate."
He nods but realizes she can't see that through the phone, but before he can agree she hangs up.
It's August and he finds himself at The Palace bar. He doesn't know why, he's avoided this place like the plague for the last several months.
A familiar voice a few seats down orders a scotch and Nate feels like bolting, but he feels the body move closer, almost trapping him before he can exit the building.
His best friend, or former best friend – he's not sure what to call him anymore, sits a seat away from him, trademark drink in his hand, it's already half gone.
Nate sips on the vodka and tonic he ordered a few minutes ago and Chuck watches him. They sit in silence for what seems like forever before one of them is brave enough to say something.
"We were best friends. She was my girlfriend. No, she was more than that. You knew better."
He can see Chuck cringe out of the corner of his eye.
"You fucked everything up, do you know that?"
"I know that."
Nate takes a long sip before speaking again.
"But you didn't do it by yourself. And I know that. It's sick and twisted but no one is innocent in this."
Chuck nods and orders the two of them another round of drinks. It's the first time the two have talked in months, and as uncomfortable as it is, they both know it won't be the last either.
He doesn't know her schedule anymore so it's harder to sneak glances at her as she races through the courtyard. He waits one day after school, seeing her for the first time in months.
She looks hollow. Her face doesn't have the same amount of life that it used to, and she's thinner. Her hair is longer and her skin is darker, and she has a slight smile planted on her face, but these changes aren't enough to mask the fact that she's unhappy.
Nate watches her for the rest of the week before he decides, on Friday, that he's going to try and talk to her. He would bounce the idea off of Chuck, but the topic of Blair is something that they've all but banned from conversation.
He knows that she seems him and he quickly moves from his location over to her before she can run away. When he looks at her she notices how breakable she looks now, he wonders how she's been. Instead of asking her that, he asks about her summer.
He can't help but notice how hastily she answers his questions, never looking directly at him. He tries to catch her gaze, but is unsuccessful. She's better at this game than he is, which isn't a surprise to him.
Blair tries to leave and he grabs her tiny wrist. It's smaller than it was before, if that's even possible. But she breaks free before he can get anything but her name out.
It hurts him how different she is, and he's lost in thought, still watching her when she crashes in Jenny. He freezes, waiting for some sort of catfight to break out, but Blair hurries away. He thinks Jenny is looking at him but he doesn't know for sure because his eyes never leave the petite brunette who he once knew.
He thinks she's still in there somewhere, buried deep. When he goes to bed that night, Nate curses himself for all the things he thinks he's taken away from her.