A/N: It feels strange to be at the end of this story. In all honesty, the story developed on its own and I just tried to keep up with it. It has also ended sooner than I expected but, God, what a journey. I feel like I've lived this with them! I'm so thankful that you as readers have kept coming back to this little corner of the GG universe. I know so many people thought it should have been Nate and Serena in the end, and maybe I did at one point too. But I will never deviate from the idea that Nate and Jenny were written for each other from the start. Never. I will always love them together, and I just hope I've done their wonderful story justice with my own. For now, goodbye NJers and, again, thank you. I love you guys!
It's short and sweet and just right, I hope. xoxo
A Soft Epilogue
Jenny was released from the hospital on condition that she check in with a psychiatrist within the next week. Physically, she was healing. The cut on her arm from the water pipe had required stitches, and she had a concussion. Aside from those things, and her dislocated shoulder - now repaired and in a sling - she was good to go. On the outside.
Inside, things were messy. She'd been restless since they'd found her, afraid of falling asleep and waking up to find Agnes at the end of her bed, pointing the gun that had been meant to kill her. Instead, it almost killed Carter and sometimes Jenny dreamt that it had; that she'd spent the rest of her life mourning someone she'd loved but couldn't save. It was getting better. She would talk to the psychiatrist about what it was she was most afraid of, or what she pictured when she closed her eyes.
As far as she knew, Agnes was under psychiatric evaluation in a hospital somewhere out of state. It wasn't far enough for Jenny, but she'd make do.
As she made her way downtown on foot - she didn't trust cabs much at the moment, and didn't have her cell to call a car from Waldorf - she found she was enjoying the weather. It wasn't too warm for a July day. Considering how hot the city could get in the summer, it was mild really. But Jenny liked it that way. It reminded her in some ways of London in August, when the sun was out and the sleeves were off. It didn't get sweltering there often.
She smiled fondly at the memory of the city she knew she would never live in again, but would visit one day.
When she'd left Carter at the hospital, when she'd finally let him go and he told her to move on and be happy, he'd mentioned about going back overseas and she thought it was a good idea. He could never truly be happy in a world that, however much he tried, didn't want him. Even if Jenny wanted him in it, and even Nate had warned to him enough that he hadn't wanted him dead, Carter knew deep down he'd never belonged there and he'd explained as much.
So they booked lunch, and they'd have lunch when they could, when she was over there or he was in New York - if he ever would be again. J would go on as it was, a thriving business downtown and he made sure she knew she'd eat free there for the rest of her life. But she didn't see Nate entirely keen on going there, and seeing as she intended on having him in the rest of her life, she wasn't sure she could make it work. Perhaps one day, she mused, when they had children of their own and Carter was living a dream life with another woman, they could all meet and talk like old friends.
Jenny was drawing closer to the park. The vibrant green of the trees and the blue of the sky lifted her heart in a way nothing had in a while. It was this feeling lightness, this idea that the troubling times were behind her and a new start was on the horizon. One she planned to enjoy for as long as possible, as much as possible. She felt an urge to reach into her pocket for her phone, only to remember that she still needed to buy a new one. If she had it, she'd be texting Serena for a last minute pep talk that only Serena's energy would have helped with.
God, Jenny couldn't wait for that baby to grow up as beautiful and as kind as her sister-in-law.
And she couldn't wait for that baby to have another cousin. Or two or three or four… there would be Henry of course, but the idea of a miniature Nate was too much to pass-up. His goodness and his loyalty and his eyes. God, his eyes. For a little while, a few days earlier, she wondered if they were going to be the last thing she ever saw.
Now she knew they were only thing she'd ever want to wake up to.
And so she'd asked Serena to take a quick break from wedding planning and track him down for her, then set off for the park where he was taking his usual morning run. Even on a Sunday, Nate apparently didn't like to break tradition. And Jenny was not going to complain about seeing his lovely legs in shorts.
As it happened, ten minutes later she spotted him with his back to her. He was standing on the edge of one of the ponds, watching the people on the other side. There was a family. Parents roughly Nate's age with two children; dark skin and dark hair and just perfect. Jenny walked over, threading her arm through his and taking his hand.
'We could have that, you know.'
Nate had gone still at her touch, and he didn't squeeze her hand back like she'd assumed he would.
'Hi,' was all he said, but he didn't sound mad. He sounded… defeated in a way that wasn't sad. Just defeated.
Jenny let go of his hands and moved to stand in front of him. She took her sunglasses off, perching them on her head, and stared up at him. He didn't meet her gaze, instead chose that moment to look up at the sky and inspect the number of birds flying overhead, apparently.
'What's wrong?' She asked him, voice quiet.
This was not how she'd expected things to go, and yet here they were. As far apart emotionally as they had been before. He took a moment too long in answering, and Jenny's heart began to sink. She'd been so sure. So sure that they would be together. His next words would have put her mind at ease, had his tone not been so sad.
'What's wrong is that I love you, Jenny,' he said, still unable to look at her. He turned his gaze downward to the ground. Jenny reached for his hand, but he balled it into a fist to keep her away.
'Why is that bad?' She felt her voice quiver.
'Because I saw you kiss Carter at the hospital,' he admitted, and he let out a long sigh with his. A shoulders falling, eyes closing kind of sigh.
Jenny laughed. She laughed, and he finally looked her in the eye. His were narrowed, confused, baffled even by her response but she didn't let it dissuade her from what she did next. Ignoring the gripe in her shoulder when she took off the sling, she then placed two hands either side of his face, reached up on her tiptoes and she kissed him. It was light and easy and just a small peck, but it was enough for his hands to come up to the small of her back and hold her there. They breathed mingled air then, their eyes closed just long enough to relish the moment and the taste of one another. She entwined her fingers at the nape of his neck to keep him from pulling away at her next words.
'I was saying goodbye. Carter will always be special,' she whispered, and as she'd suspected his hands slid from her waist and he tried to back away. She refused him this, looked deep in his eyes and implored him to stay.
'But he was never the one.'
Nate stopped trying to move away, stood still in her arms and looked, really looked at her then.
'It's only ever been you, Nate. I love you.'
Nate's smile began to bloom.
'I want you, always. For the rest of my life. I want to share my life with you, have babies with you, have all of it with you.'
His smile was in full force.
'Are you sure?' He pressed.
Jenny moved their lips closer.
And she would have gone on and on about how much she loved him, how she'd known it would always be him from the very first moment they'd touched at the masquerade ball so long ago. How her idea of love had been defined by him since he'd mistakenly kissed her, and how the rhythm of her heart had only ever really beat to the tune of Nate Archibald.
And always would.
She would have told him all of that, had he not kissed her then and left her unable.
His arms snaked back around her waist, holding her tighter than she'd expected and suddenly her feet left the ground and they were spinning, turning, kissing each other like they'd been in love for a thousand years and apart for nine hundred of them.
When he set her back down, he kept their mouths closed and their foreheads pressed against one another. Breathing heavy, he smiled and brushed their noses.
'How pissed do you think Dan and Serena would be if we beat them down the aisle?' Nate asked.
Jenny laughed and kissed him again.
Kissing Nate Archibald was like tasting forever, and she knew that forever was only just starting.