She felt like maybe if she said it enough times it would be true.
I don't need you. I don't need you. I don't need you.
It was a constant ringing in her ears; even as she let her eyes follow his movements across the crowded room.
He didn't turn to look at her, but she knew that he knew she was watching.
How do you know?
Serena startled her out of her thoughts, asking something about the upcoming party they were planning for Kati's birthday. She nodded at the appropriate intervals, leading her best friend to believe she was actually paying attention.
Why wouldn't he look at her?
She forced her eyes back to Serena, making an excuse about needing to go to the bathroom.
Serena gave her the look, the one she had seen so many times before, and she realised what her best friend thought she was going to do. Was it wrong that she'd prefer Serena to think she was about to make herself throw up, then know then real reason she needed to get out of here?
But she assured her best friend she just needed some air and made a hasty retreat before she could be followed.
It didn't take him long to find her, standing outside the Palace. He wasn't chivalrous by nature, but his suit jacket was around her shoulders before she even saw him. Maybe the fact that she was shaking and without a jacket had forced some kindness out of him.
He turned her slowly, pulling the jacket around her more securely, and she let her arms slip into it. He rubbed along her arms, heating up her frozen skin. He didn't say anything and neither did she. She allowed him to hold her, until her body was feeling tingly despite the cold.
His arms came around her tiny waist and his forehead rested against hers. They stood like that for a few moments, not thinking about who or where they were.
"I don't need you," she mumbled, the thoughts from her mind reaching her lips.
He laughed, but didn't move away from her. "Planning to die of hypothermia were you?"
"No," she glared at him.
"Without me, you would have."
"Without you my life would make sense," she told him.
"Where's the fun in that?" he asked her. "Life is supposed to be messy, Waldorf."
"Not my life," she said, finally pulling away from his embrace.
When she got back to the hall, she didn't even realise she was still wearing his jacket. She also didn't realise the confusion on her ex boyfriend's face when he spotted his best friend walk in without a jacket.
It was only two weeks after she started dating Nate for the first time that she started planning their future together. She just knew, he was the one for her. She was a dreamer, and dreamers rarely realised that people grow up and change. She pictured her and Nate trapped - no enclosed, that was a better word - in a bubble of perfection that would continue forever.
And the funny thing was her life had remained that way, perfect, for a long time. But then Serena left, and the cracks started to appear, and suddenly things wouldn't mould back into that picture of perfection.
Blair needed control, but growing up didn't allow for it. People who she had imagined would stay the same forever, decided to change or worse… leave her. People who she had never given much thought to in her plan started pleading for bigger roles. It was all wrong.
Why couldn't everyone just stay the same?
She didn't realise she said it aloud until Serena answered her. If everything always stayed the same, you wouldn't discover all the amazing things life still had to show you, she told her.
Blair thought she had found everything she would want from life when she found Nate and didn't want to discover anything – or anyone – else.
He approached her by the buffet table while she was carefully selecting the right foods to eat under the scrutiny of her mother. He made pleasantries like he hadn't been the boy who held her heart for more than a decade.
She thought it would hurt, but it didn't. It had been four months since they finally decided that holding on was taking more effort than letting go. But it wasn't before she finally gave herself to him, the thought of which just made her feel guilty – she didn't know why, it's not like she owed him anything.
This was the first time he was talking to her in a long time, and it actually felt kind of nice. Her heart wasn't pounding in her chest, she wasn't hanging onto his every word, she was just listening to him tell her about his plans for the summer and how his dad was much better now.
But then he mentioned the other boy and she felt herself sinking back into her mind.
I don't need him. I don't need him. I don't need him.
"…Maybe you could talk to him," she heard him say after missing the start of what he was saying. "He just seems different, you know? He's acting exactly the same, but something just feels off."
He was worried for his friend and thought she could help. Did he not realise she had been avoiding him for the better part of four months?
"Blair?" He finally realised she wasn't listening to him.
"I uh…sure," she mumbled, not knowing what she was agreeing to exactly. "Excuse me." She walked away leaving him to watch her retreating form in confusion.
Despite the fact that she was constantly talking to herself when he was around, she didn't really think there was anything wrong with her. She was exactly the way she had always been; an honour student, chair of the social committee, Queen B of the Upper East Side. It wasn't until her best friend told her she thought something was wrong with her did she even think maybe she was right.
"Are you sure you're not…" Serena trailed off
Making yourself sick, she finished in her mind.
"I'm not," she answered quickly. But her friend's worried look made her soften. "I'm really not, S."
"Then what is it?" Serena asked.
It's him. I don't need him. I don't need him. I don't need him.
"Nothing," she shrugged.
She was in her room trying to master the art of Math for her final next week when he appeared. It was just like him to just appear when she least expected it, not even allowing Dorota to give her at least a minute of warning.
"Nate asked me if I was in love with you," he said. He never was one for pleasantries.
She tried really hard to hide the shock his words brought. "What did you say?" she asked.
"Does it matter?"
He was looking at her like he was reading her answer before she could speak it. "No," she said finally, but she wasn't sure if that's what her face was saying. "Why did he…?"
"I guess we're not as discreet as we think we are," he laughed, bitterness lacing his tone.
"But we aren't…" she trailed off, confused.
"I guess we're sneakier when we're actually sneaking around."
He left just as suddenly as he came, and she told herself it really didn't matter what the answer to Nate's question was.
"Do you think it would be normal for me to not care if you and Nate got together?" she asked her best friend.
Serena looked confused and started talking really fast about how much she loved Dan, and hadn't been near Nate or thought of him that way in ages.
She cut her off quickly, knowing that drawing parallels between their messed up best friend-boyfriend triangles didn't really work.
"Why would you ask that?" Serena wanted to know.
"It doesn't matter."
She was planning to spend the entire summer in France. Away from reformed best friends who were purer than her – when had that happened? Away from ex boyfriends who looked at her like they knew what you were denying yourself. And mostly away from boys who never looked at her, but were always watching.
"It won't help, you know," he whispered, as he passed her in the courtyard.
She wasn't sure if he really said it because he walked straight passed her without turning around and Kati and Isabel didn't even seem to notice.
She had two ways of coping with chaos in her life. Either she pretended it wasn't really happening, or she turned nasty and forced the person causing the chaos out of her life.
It depended on the situation and her mood, which way she decided to go.
The pretending usually only worked if the other person – and there was usually someone else – was willing to go along with it. That's why it had worked so well with Nate. He hated conflict more than anything and so ignoring the cracks in their relationship had been easy.
She hadn't expected it to be easy with him. She expected him to put up a fight and she had been ready for it. But somewhere between the debutante ball and Monaco he had decided she just wasn't worth the effort of the famous Bass spirit.
She should have felt hurt at that, but mostly she just felt relieved. If there was one person that wouldn't go down without pulling her with him, it was him.
He decided to find his fight eventually. And she wanted to be strong, but somehow she knew it was only a matter of time before she would surrender.
"Why the whole summer?" he asked her.
"Because the longer I'm away from cretins like you, the better," she shot back smirking. Oh, it felt good. She missed this.
"Because French men are so well behaved," he muttered sarcastically.
"I guess I'll have to find out for myself." The look of panic on his face came and went quickly but she saw it. "In fact, three months unwinding with a sexy French model may be just what I need," she told him, laughter on her lips. She didn't know why she felt so happy suddenly.
He's fighting for you. He's jealous.
"Blair." Her name on his lips with the silent pleading became too much for her though. She looked away and started to walk past him. He grabbed her hand as she passed and she turned back to him. "Don't go."
"Why?" she asked, serious now.
He looked into her eyes, and she wanted to look away, but she couldn't. His hand was still holding hers. "You know why."
"I told you," she said. "It doesn't matter."
She pulled her hand away from his and walked away.
"Maybe it matters to me."
She knew that when he wanted something, he stopped at nothing to get it. He would be underhanded and manipulative and conspire until that thing was his. Usually she would help him. But it was difficult when the thing he wanted was her and she wanted nothing more than to run the other way.
His latest trick involved her best friend. Normally she wouldn't be worried. Serena hated Chuck more than anyone in their little circle – she knew it was only because he was the strongest reminder of a past she would rather forget.
But Serena had a way of making her open up in the scariest ways. As long as Serena didn't know what questions to ask, she could avoid the truth, but once she had an idea, there was nowhere to run.
"Why didn't you tell me there was more?" Serena asked.
"You hate him," she said by way of an explanation.
"But you don't," she said it, as if only just realising the truth of it.
She didn't want to say anything more. Because talking about it would mean admitting all those things she had been ignoring for the past few months. If the conversations were only in your head, they didn't really count. It was easy to pretend when you only had to convince your own mind.
When it was your best friend on the receiving end of those thoughts, it was much harder not to realise that no matter how many times you repeat it, it's still a lie.
"Why now?" she asked him when he cornered her outside school.
"Because you can't run away from it. I tried that, remember? Monaco. France. It doesn't matter where you go."
"It seemed to work for you," she told him.
"Seemed," he repeated. "Appearances can be deceiving, you should know."
"What about Nate?" she asked.
"He's a pretty boy, but not really my type," he smirked.
"You'll lose him," she told him.
"Are you making excuses for me or you?" he asked.
"You love him," she said again.
He winced at her use of the word 'love', because even though it was true, they weren't supposed to acknowledge it.
"I think the question is do you love him?"
They both knew the answer to that question. It was still weird though. She had loved him for most of her life. To acknowledge that she didn't anymore was a strange thought.
"No," she said finally, saying it out loud for the first time.
"Do you love me?"
She looked away. "I have to go."
And then she was gone. But he knew it was only a matter of days now.
Nate was the next pawn in his plan. "Why do you keep pushing him away?" he asked as he sat down next to her.
She didn't think it had been quite enough time for him to be pushing her towards another boy, let alone his best friend. And she told him so.
He sighed. "It's not like I want to push you together. In fact it's a bit too strange if I think about it long enough. But watching this game of cat and mouse that you're playing is getting old."
"Don't you care at all?" she asked. "Don't you hate us?"
"I think I love you both too much to ever hate you."
"Don't," she said.
"What?" he asked, not sure what she was asking him not to do.
"Give me one less reason to push him away."
He laughed, taking her hand in his in a friendly gesture. "Sorry, Blair, I'm not going to be that guy for you."
"What if I want you to be," she pleaded.
"You don't," he told her.
The first time she thought about them together, she realised it would never work because he would never fit into her perfect fairytale existence. He would never be that guy.
But the fairytale had been rewritten a long time ago, and her Prince had long since moved on. She stopped writing herself happy endings in her head because she no longer knew what would come before Happily Ever After.
He was imperfection and chaos and uncontrollable and it scared her more than anything. She needed control in her life. It was the only way she kept herself sane.
But chaos seemed to find her however much she tried to avoid it. Life had a way of being uncontrollable even at the best of times. And imperfection gnawed at her insides, even as she covered them up on the outside.
She was tired of running from something that would always find her anyway. Sometimes butterflies just could not be murdered.
"We're famous," she told him as she leaned in to kiss him. He was sitting on the edge of his bed.
"We've always been famous," he told her. He pulled her closer, his hands slipping under her shirt to caress her back.
"Well now we're famous together," she mumbled, against his mouth.
He didn't seem to care what she was talking about as he pulled her down on top of him. And when he kissed her she forgot anyway.
Later, when she was in the shower he picked up her discarded phone and smirked at what she had been reading.
Spotted: B and C attached at the lips… again. This would have been surprising if it didn't make so much sense. Still, it pains me to have not seen this one coming. The bets of how long this will last have already started to come in, but I have to disagree with most of you on this one – my money's on the long haul.