|Til the Morning Light
Author: singsongsung PM
N/S with hints of C/B. An exploration of what they could have had based on events that actually happened. He asked if he could stay; she said yes.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Words: 4,808 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 43 - Follows: 4 - Published: 03-01-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4896472
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Two things inspired this story, the first being the serious lack of NS on the show as of late. The second is that I just got addicted to Taylor Swift's music. I didn't want to, but I gave in yesterday. The first time I heard "Mary's Song (Oh, My, My, My)" I thought of NS. That song, to me, is their what-could-have-been. I hope you enjoy it. And please; if you read, review.
i. she said, I was seven and you were nine.
I looked at you like the stars that shined
up in the sky, the pretty lights.
His voice is a whisper and it stays that way in the darkness. She smiles automatically at that very fact. Most people, herself included, sound obnoxious and obtrusive when they speak into the night, however quietly.
"What're you doing?" he asks, his voice still high-pitched with innocent youth.
"Watching the stars."
"You can't watch them. They're not doing anything," he points out, adding, "You're not allowed on the roof. Not by yourself."
She rolls her navy blue eyes, watery from the glare and the beauty of tiny, twinkling stars. He's been spending far too much time with Blair lately. She tells him one of the few solid facts she's based her short life on: "I can do anything I want to."
He grins at her audacity, but his smile softens quickly, melting into a concerned frown. "Where's your mom?" he asks quietly.
Shrugging, she continues to blame the stars for the tears bubbling in her eyes and gluing her eyelashes together. "I don't know."
He shifts his weight from foot to foot, shuffling awkwardly in shoes too fancy for a little kid.
"Why don't you watch the stars from your bedroom?"
"I can't see them from there. All I can see is the city. It's better up here. It's…free-er."
Knowingly, almost understandingly, he nods. "Can I stay and watch the stars, too?"
She wants to say no. It's late at night. They have school tomorrow. He has two parents who will actually wonder where he is. She turns her head, meaning to tell him all of this, but the words get stuck in her throat. The stars are reflected in his perfect eyes, so similar to hers, shimmering with sympathy. The lights of New York are caught in his orbs as well, but they look friendly, kind and embracing and almost welcoming there.
She scooches over on her expensive sheets, thrown over the gravel base of the roof, and says yes.
ii. and our daddies used to joke about the two of us
growing up and falling in love
and our mommas smiled and rolled their eyes
and said 'oh my, my, my.'
Blair's cheeks are red when, at Sunday morning brunch with the Basses, she revels secretively that he bought her a lollipop shaped like a heart. She's dying to smile but trying hard to hide it. Serena listens because she's obligated to, trying not to really hear what Blair says.
"Look at those two." Annette's laugh is dainty. "Such precious little girls."
Lily chuckles as she sips her champagne. "Precious is not always the word I use to describe Serena."
Annette titters away as the Captain, her husband, leans in to join the conversation. "Looks like a love triangle in the making."
Her laughter is breathless as Lily says, "I pity the boy Serena sets her sights on."
Eleanor joins the conversation, fitting in seamlessly as she divulges, "I've always found that Serena has a soft spot for Nathaniel. She really is good to Blair, Lily. To them both."
Lily inclines her glass in acknowledgement of the point, but says nothing more than, "I'm glad" as a flash of pain flickers through her eyes. She knows very little about her already-independent daughter.
"Serena has a way of capturing attention," Harold Waldorf agrees readily, leaning in next to his wife. "But Blair tends to get what she wants."
They all laugh, knowing that this is true, but the Captain has the last word: "Blair is certainly determined, Harold, but I'd say that Serena has a fair chance in this game."
Lily shakes her head as Annette laughs.
"Oh, my," Eleanor says demurely. "Oh, my."
The adult conversation drifts to uninteresting topics, stock markets and new fashion trends; those who have died and those who've moved away. Blair and Chuck are arguing about something that matters only to them.
Nate sits down next to her in his perfectly ironed shirt and slacks. Under the table, he hands her a heart-shaped lollipop. "Here," he says simply, as though it explains itself.
She holds onto it, the most precious gift she's ever received, checking over her shoulder to make sure Blair's not watching. She exchanges a shy smile with Nate and thinks, oh my.
iii. take me back to the house in the backyard trees
said you would beat me up, you were bigger than me
you never did, you never did
"It's a tree house!" she squeals, losing all of the decorum her elementary school has attempted to drill into her when the Captain unveils it to the kids in the backyard of the Archibald house in the Hamptons.
"Cool!" ten-year-old Nate enthuses beside her, reverting back to complete and utter childishness as well, just like it should be.
Chuck looks a bit bored. He's spent the past three weeks with his father at Scottish castles; he's unimpressed. Blair, standing at Serena's side, glances down at her pristine white dress with its perfect, pale pink sash and grimaces. Erik looks terrified by the height of it.
"No, thanks," all three of them say in unison, polite in the way the rest of the world would approve of. They disappear off to more mature and uninteresting pursuits.
They take over the tree house like it's their very own castle. Nate's king and Serena's queen and they share power evenly almost all summer long. Every day they both show up early in the morning, and by the evening their expensive clothes are smeared and grungy. Her cheeks get red and her eyes get glassy; his cheeks are ruddy and his forehead gleams with sweat. But when they lock eyes, two shades of ocean blue, the world is theirs and everything is beautiful, including each other.
There's only one day through the entire summer that they fight. It's humid. Serena's cranky because Lily's ignoring her and Nate's cranky because Blair keeps saying that he's ignoring her. They both get territorial and angry with each other; it escalates into two kids standing on opposite sides of the expansive, impeccably landscaped lawn, screaming at each other.
Tired of her and their argument and its continuous circle, he threatens her physically. He's a boy. He's stronger than her. He's claiming his turf. He's too young to know what love is.
She doesn't say anything after that. She just waits to see if he'll make good on his promise.
They have smaller fights throughout the rest of the heavily humid weeks, but he never once does. She knows that he never would. She figures that she always knew.
iv. take me back to when our world was one block wide
I dared you to kiss me and ran when you tried
just two kids, you and I, oh my, my, my
She's thirteen years old and she's travelled a lot. Sometimes she wants to go. She's been to Egypt and gazed at the pyramids in awe, wished and wished that she'd lived in a time that had produced something so epic, such tributes to something so big and powerful and heart-wrenching that she can't put a name to because she has yet to experience it. Sometimes she follows Lily, trudging dutifully down the Champs-Elysees as Lily attempts to raise her as a proper lady. Other times she tags along as her mother explores for her own enjoyment; there are trips for which she joins Blair and Mr. Waldorf.
She's worldly. She likes to think of it that way; it makes her feel like she could build a pyramid of her own one day.
Despite this, her world still seems very contained to the Upper East Side. Some days, full of early teen angst and bitterness against the world she's been raised in, she hates every bit of it. But the reality is that it is home. Her school and friends and her family base; all of that is here, contained in the space of approximately a single block. And while there are days when she skips off school because she knows she'll scream if she walks through Constance Billard's doors, she also feels safe and secure and perfectly in place when she sits on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum.
Her world is very small, but all she needs is there. She can expand any of her horizons from right here at home. She has everything and everyone she needs.
She's eating yoghurt on the steps by herself very early one morning when she spots Nate heading home to change for school after morning soccer practice in the park. She throws out her yoghurt and skips down the stops. "Natie!" she calls.
His blue t-shirt makes his eyes stand out. They light up when they see her. He says hi, and then her name. It makes her shiver but she pretends it doesn't.
"Truth or dare," she challenges him.
He grins, game for anything. He's used to her impulsiveness. He likes it. "You know me, Serena," he teases.
She takes an extra, hurried step and twists to stand directly in front of him. She stares into his eyes purposefully as she says: "I dare you to kiss me." The moment she finishes the sentence her gaze drops to his lips. She wonders what Nate tastes like, Chapstick or toothpaste or strawberries from his breakfast.
His eyes flicker in surprise, but he won't turn her down. If she wants to play a game with him, he'll do all he can to stay involved. He never quits on her.
He steps very, very close to her. His hand finds hers, tangling their fingers together. No other parts of their bodies touch, but she realizes that they're perfectly matched. If she was to lean into him, each of their respective body parts would fit together. It makes her a little bit breathless and she realizes that she's nervous.
His eyes search hers for a moment before they close and he's closer still, lips less than an inch from hers.
She doesn't give it a chance to happen. She pulls back, tugs her hand away, and rushes off. He calls her name after her in confusion, still with the kind of intonation that makes her shiver. She turns around even as she moves further away to grin at him, to let him know they're still good.
Maybe she's worldly, but she has yet to discover her own world. She knows what Nate must taste like now, like Chapstick and strawberries and even more, sort of like everything she wants.
v. well, I was sixteen when suddenly
I wasn't that little girl you used to see
but your eyes still shined, like pretty lights
She sits crossed-legged on a stone wall late at night. Her shoes are on the floor in front of her and New York bustles on in the background. Her poufy dress, layers tulle and crinoline, covers her folded legs easily. Her dress only has thin, diamond-beaded straps, but she's not cold. Her hair is pulled up into a ponytail because she wouldn't bother with more effort. She doesn't care. She enjoys the feeling of the night air on her skin.
His voice alone seems to relax her. She doesn't bother sitting up straight or moving her legs so that they hang down straight and crossing her ankles like she's supposed to. She doesn't release her hair from her ponytail. She doesn't feel like she needs to impress him. He's already hers. "Hey," she says back easily.
He perches on the wall next to her. For a long time, they're quiet. Serena tilts her head back and tries to find the stars.
All the time she's watching the sky, he's watching her.
She finds herself breathing shallowly when she finally turns to look at him. She asks him what? with her eyes.
"No stars?" he asks instead of answering. He smiles knowingly like he's already found what she's looking for. Like he's found it by looking right next to him, right at her. Right at what he should have always known.
She just smiles.
His knee presses against hers as if he can't not touch her, and her breath catches in her throat. She sees the city lights twinkling in his eyes in that perfect way.
"You always have been," she whispers.
vi. and our daddies used to joke about the two of us
they never believed we'd really fall in love
and our mommas smiled and rolled their eyes
and said 'oh my, my, my.'
The first time they sleep together is after a wedding. They're drunk. It wasn't planned. There is no music, there are no roses. No satin sheets, no declarations of love. There's champagne and expensive barstools with cool marble-like surfaces and his arms catching her like she belongs there.
It's other-worldly in its imperfect perfection, and when she wakes up in her own bed the next morning she's not hungover at all. Her own world is this. She has clarification. Her heat beats so fast and furiously that it hurts. She understands what it's like to feel powerful enough to build a pyramid, to leave an impact on the world, on someone else's heart.
They sit next to each other at breakfast the next morning, wearing impeccably designed clothing and innocent smiles.
None of the adults no what has transpired between them. No one in the world does. But everyone can sense the difference.
"She's in love with him," Captain Archibald observes. He chuckles even though he's not joking.
Lily gulps down champagne and insists, "It's just a crush."
Annette laughs and rolls her eyes. "Oh, my."
Under the table, Nate hands her a heart-shaped red lollipop and the way her heart palpitates makes her realize that this is more than infatuation, more than simple attachment, more than passion built up over the years. She's falling and she thinks oh my.
vii. take me back to the creek beds we turned up
two a.m. riding in your truck
and all I need is you next to me
They sneak up to the rooftop of her building at three in the morning in the late days of autumn. She wears nothing but his bathrobe over a short nightgown, and she cuddles into his arms for warmth.
"Let's watch the stars," he says teasingly, and she kisses him on the pretence of shutting him up.
They stay there until the sun rises. It's beautiful, lighting the sky up in gentle pinks. She feels the heat on her skin and that's what wakes her up. She nudges his shoulder with her own.
"Let's go somewhere."
They scorn limos and drivers. They sneak off together; for them, the Subway is a different universe, a whole new adventure for them to brave with each other. They find a car dealership after hours of searching and manage to bribe them into allowing minors to rent a car. They pick the thing most foreign: a pickup truck.
He's full of questions, all of which she answers with an unconcerned shrug. Where will they go? What will they do? Where will they stay? When will they come back? Are they going to come back?
Playfully exasperated, he demands to know, at the very least, what she thinks they should bring.
She shrugs once more, and it's not just to annoy him. She really does feel like she has everything she needs.
viii. took me back to the time we had our very first fight
the slamming of doors instead of kissing goodnight
you stayed outside 'til the morning light
oh, my, my, my, my
"You are a…" She trails off. She doesn't even have a term in her vocabulary that will work in this situation. She's seething, angered even further by the fact that she honestly can't remember what started this fight. But it was something big, something bed, she knows that. They squabbled often as little kids, particularly in the more awkward pre-teen phase, but never have they gone through anything like this.
"Serena, please." He's breathless as he pleads with her. She jabs angrily at the elevator button again, hating that she's been forced to stand here and listen to him while he uses that voice that has the power to melt her.
"I don't want you near me right now," she growls. Whirling around, she glares at anyone who's watching their argument and heads for the stairwell.
They march up the staircases. They seem to go on for infinity; especially as the couple stops periodically to spar over the most touchy points of their fight. He's mostly apologetic, but occasionally he gets defensive and it infuriates her further.
They've been in such a state of untouchable bliss lately that this comes as a shock to them both. Even as they scream, even as she pulls off her shoe just to throw it at him, even as he bellows so that the volume of his words covers hers, they're both a little shocked by it. When they reach the doorway of her apartment, they're stuck in limbo. This is the moment they usually kiss. Instead, she slams the door in his face. He pounds on it until she opens it again and they hiss out assertions to each other across the small space until she finally slams it again. She storms into her room and flings herself onto the bed. Her fists unclench and she curls up into a ball, hugging her pillow.
She barely sleeps. She spends most of the night staring miserably at her alarm clock and the photo she keeps on her nightstand. It's of her, with her boy, sitting in the back of that rented pickup truck. Tears sting her eyes even though she knows it's stupid – their fight won't last forever. She misses him, though. She misses her goodnight kiss.
At six in the morning she pads out to her door in PJ pants and a t-shirt of his, wearing no shoes or slippers. She unlocks it and cracks it open. He's sitting outside, leaning back against the wall. He looks how she feels.
A little bit chagrined, she closes her door and steps to the side so that she can slide down against the wall to sit next to him. Their knees bump and their eyes meet.
She sighs, leaning in to kiss him. He responds after only a second, pulling her into his arms. She cuddles into his chest and finds a peaceful state for the first time in hours.
"You're up early," he murmurs into her hair.
"You stayed," she whispers back.
And that's how they forgive each other.
ix. a few years had gone and come around
we were sitting at our favourite spot in town
and you looked at me, got down on one knee
She plants her hands on her hips as she squints in the sunshine, staring out at New York, at the place she grew up. Her small world. The wind teases her hair and swipes at the hem of her pale green dress; she lets it. It feels like a playful welcome home.
She whirls around and smiles her sunniest grin. "Natie!" she squeals, overjoyed, and launches herself into his arms without hesitation. "It's so good to see you."
"You, too," he says warmly. He so rarely uses terms of endearment with her, but she doesn't find. She can hear all of that in the words he speaks alone, in just the way he says them.
"We're both home now," she says happily. She never thought she'd be this glad about it. "And you found me here," she says with a fond grin.
He returns her smile at one hundred watts. "Of course I did."
"Look you a while."
"Ah, I ran into Blair. She would not stop talking about Yale."
Serena giggles, "Oh, and her boyfriend, the Lord."
He grimaces. "I still say it's less than a year until she and Chuck give in and do each other already."
"I still say a year or more," she replies confidently, lifting her chin. She grins again and presses her lips firmly against his. He still tastes like everything she could ever want.
His expression is more contemplative than she's used to. "Do you think they do this?"
"Kiss on rooftops? No, baby, that's our thing." She's giddy and silly and she loves him.
Rolling his eyes, he clarifies, "I mean, make bets on us and our relationship. On when things will happen."
She frowns, a bit confused. "Things like what?"
He chooses to show her rather than answering. Taking a deep breath, he reaches into his pocket and kneels down. She stops breathing as he cracks open a small, black velvet box.
Barely inhaling, she gazes at the ring and then quickly looks at him, at the small smile he wears as he looks right into her eyes, at the way his matching eyes sparkling, reflecting off of the diamond, shining in the sun.
She whispers yes before he can even speak. She jumps into her arm and lets him spin her around. She kisses him fiercely with the sun beating down on her back and her ring sitting securely on her finger. She pulls back only for oxygen, and takes the opportunity to admire the stars in his eyes.
x. took me back to the time when we walked down the aisle
our whole town came and our mommas cried
you said I do and I did, too
Everyone who's anyone in society shows up. The Captain declares that he knew it all along and Blair sighs, grudgingly willing to lose this one contest. Chuck appears at her side before she can think too much about it.
Serena wears a white dress that Lily approves of, but, much to the horror of her mother and her stylists, she pulls her hair into an messy-but-elegant ponytail. It reminds of her of the way she wore her hair when she was sixteen years old and he realized what she'd known all along. It's her turn to be a part of something he's had planned for a while.
The mothers don't giggle this time. There are no sarcastic comments. Lily, Annette, and Eleanor all cry. Blair pretends not to.
Standing at the altar, New York fades away and she fines her own personal, perfect world again. In his eyes she sees herself from his perspective, shining like the sun, the largest star of all, and she knows she's never been more beautiful.
They repeat vows. They exchange rings. He says "I do" and she echoes him seconds later. They kiss until the mothers look away and the fathers clear their throats, until Chuck yells out something lewd that they can't hear and Blair covers her eyes. Her eyes open and lock with his instantly, and it feels like the continuation of always.
xi. took me home where we met so many years before
we'll rock our babies on that very front porch
after all this time, you and I
"Like it?" He looks so adorably eager as he turns to her, and she remembers what he was like as a little boy. The thought has her heart fluttering as she imagines the future.
She shakes her head as she paces across the room. Its high ceilings allow for even more light from the entire wall of windows to flood in. She steps through the glass door and onto the balcony, gazing down at her world. Taxi cabs rush by as a young girl carrying garment bags rushes across the street.
It's perfect. Nate's selling points were a little ridiculous. He first pointed out that moving here would allow them some space away from Chuck and Blair, new into their relationship and all each other. She'd rolled her eyes, but she has to give him credit. She loves her friends, and she's glad that Blair's found someone who's not Nate, but she's tired of walking in on things she'd rather not see.
He understands what's truly important to her. He kisses her shoulder, exposed by strapless dress, as he joins her on the balcony. He looks upward, at the clear view. No skyscrapers blocking the path straight up. "Think you can watch the stars from here?"
She grins as she nods. The sun is setting, letting night make its quick descent, and she can't wait to find out for sure.
Nate's hesitant as his thumb rubs idly against the skin of her arm. "Are you sure about this? Living in the city? I didn't think you'd want this."
"Neither did I," she agrees. "But I've always been unpredictable, right?" she asks hopefully. She knows that he loves that about her.
"We could go somewhere else," he suggests, and he proceeds to list all their options in detail. He's researched their options. The Hamptons in the summer if she wants to keep in touch with friends and family. For the rest of the year, they can go somewhere else. They can go to Dubai and absorb lots of heat, live somewhere in the countryside and see millions of stars, set up their lives somewhere, anywhere in Europe and still appreciate the sky. She weighs his words thoughtfully, appreciating how considerate he is, but she's not taking him seriously. She agrees with his pros and cons and his well-planned arguments, but she commits to nothing.
By the time he's done, the city is flooded with twinkling lights. She looks out on them with a bittersweet smile. "Yeah," she says, agreeing with all of his reasoning, "but this is home."
They tilt their chins at the exact same moment, looking upward, and sure enough, the stars are there, clear in the sky, creating a mesmerizing pattern that goes on forever.
She lowers her head and looks at him, her heart rate picking up its pace. "Nate," she says.
"Yeah?" she says as their eyes meet.
He can still speak well in darkness. There is nothing rough or intrusive about his perfect voice, the one that makes her shiver and melts her heart. On this particular night it sounds like a lullaby.
"I'm pregnant," she says, sounding as confident as she always does, but she's nervous. This is their mark on the word, the product of something epic and powerful and heart-wrenching, something that she now knows is love.
The stars in his eyes seem to pulsate, their brightness increasing tenfold. He pulls her whole body close to his, so that every part of them matches up perfectly. One of his hands finds its way to her abdomen and she closes her palm over his. She grins and his lips tug upward as well.
xii. I'll be eight-seven; you'll be eighty-nine
I'll still look at you like the stars
that shine in the sky
Everything they've had and everything they're going to have flashes before her eyes as he leans in, his breath mingling with hers. His lips brush hers and everything about him is familiar, everything about him is right, everything about him points toward forever.
And when he kisses her full on the lips, the stars overhead explode.
oh my, my, my