-1Summary: TV. Arguably AU. She hardly needed her older brother to take care of her anymore. Jenny could clean up her own messes. (Or so she thought.) Oneshot.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Bummer, I know.

A/N: My dear friend Roz prompted me about a month and a half ago when I asked my flist to give me drabble ideas with "Jenny, you're a big girl now." Immediately, I knew I couldn't simply write that as just a drabble. So it became this. Feedback would be greatly appreciated -- this is my first foray into Jenny's mind. Though I have to admit I'm rather proud of this little 'verse. Let me know what you think.

--

She felt like an idiot, and she only had herself to blame. Her mother was in the next room, packing the last of her things into an old bag that Jenny bought her when she was twelve, and this time, it was completely her fault. She could have kept living the lie, like Dan and her dad.

Jenny could have been plenty happy living with just her brother and her father, the perfect familial triangle, the pretenders, the liars, the artists. But she felt like it was all too unbalanced, so she went to Hudson and found her mom and brought her home and…

There was another man. And regardless of what her dad said, she knew for a fact that Lily van der Woodsen was of a much deeper significance than just Dan's girlfriend's mom.

With a sigh, Jenny flopped back on her bed and folded her hands on top of her stomach, staring deeply at the ceiling. She was itching to talk to Blair, or Nate, or Eric. Even Serena would make for a better companion than her ridiculous, fucked-up family. She didn't want to be in the apartment anymore.

A zipper sounded in her parents' bedroom and her entire body tensed. The noise was like a nuclear explosion in the silence and Jenny was Hiroshima. There was a pause, and then the distinct sound of sniffling, and then her mother's footsteps were echoing across the house, clearly heading for Jenny's bedroom.

Turning over on her stomach, she buried her face in her pillow and pretended to be asleep. She was sure Allison didn't believe that she was napping this early in the evening on Christmas, but she found that she honestly didn't care.

--

"Well, not to sound too cocky, but--" she smiled and rolled over on her stomach so that she could see him right side up "--I told you so."

"Is that any way to treat someone who's in such a fragile state of being?" Eric put a hand over his heart, staring at her with his mouth open and his eyes pleading. Jenny rolled her own and threw a pillow at him, laughing brightly when it hit him in the shoulder and he groaned in response to the attack. After a moment, he sighed and let his head fall back and hit the wall. "I can't believe Bart Bass is going to be my stepdad."

She scrunched up her nose. "Does he really have only one facial expression?"

"Yes," he replied, deadpan. He closed his eyes and she tilted her head to the side, observing him quietly. He had a tendency to twiddle his thumbs when he wasn't focused on anything, and she noticed that he sometimes pulled his sleeves down, though it appeared to be a subconscious act.

"Well, look on the bright side," she said, shrugging. "At least Dan and Serena won't be committing incest by staying together!"

"Please don't go there. That's even weirder than having Chuck as a brother."

At the mention of her potential rapist's name, she clenched her hands together and rested her chin on top of them, carefully keeping her fingers intertwined so that she didn't start ripping seams out of Erik's comforter. That night at the masquerade had been alright in the way of pranks, but she still felt the overwhelming urge to get revenge whenever anyone mentioned the youngest Bass man.

No. Boy. Chuck Bass, despite his supposed prowess in bed, definitely could not be considered a man. Jenny dug her nails into the palm of her hand, reveling in the pain that radiated outward from the point of contact, and just when the skin started to break, Eric caught her attention.

He was standing in front of her now, and her eyes were level with his stomach. She carefully raised them until her head was tilted all the way back and their gazes were locked, and she offered him an apologetic grin. "Sorry. Spacing out."

"I noticed," he returned her smile and sat down next to her, prompting her to roll into a sitting position as well. She folded her legs and faced him, resting her hands on her knees to resist the temptation to keep digging. Eric would understand, she was sure of that, but she didn't want to take him back to that point so soon in his recovery. "Is everything okay?" he asked, reaching toward her and then pulling his hand back at the last second.

That seemed to happen a lot, especially when they were alone. He would get this determined look on his face and reach out like he wanted to grasp her hand, and then he would abruptly pull back as soon as she started speaking.

She was getting more than a little frustrated with the lack of progress in their so-called I relationship /I . Of course, Serena insisted over and over again that Eric was just shy, but Jenny was exhausted with the excuse. She was shy, too.

Didn't stop her from talking to Nate Archibald all night when he was supposed to be at the love of his life's seventeenth birthday party, though, did it? She resisted the urge to roll her eyes and instead focused on the conversation they were supposed to be having, instead of the one they were having with their bodies.

That conversation would have to happen on another day. Today was supposed to be a day for talking. "Yeah," she nodded and smiled again. "I guess it's all just kind of… weird, you know? And Dan keeps asking me if I want to talk about it, but the thing is that I just… don't."

"I'm sorry. Was I pushing? I didn't mean to push," Eric promised, scooting a few inches away from her. She laughed softly and reached out, grabbing his hand and letting her face remain where it was, less than half a foot from his.

"You weren't," she said quietly. His adam's apple bobbed, and she bit the inside of her bottom lip as his eyes darted briefly to her mouth.

"Good," he replied, nodding. She leaned back, but left her hand resting on top of his, and after a considerable silence, he flipped his hand so that their palms were pressed together. A strange look crossed his face and she furrowed her brow in confusion. Eric pulled his hand back and then flipped hers over.

Jenny widened her eyes at the small, moon-shaped cut that resided on her life line. He locked eyes with her and held up his own hand, revealing the small droplet of blood that had gotten onto his skin. "Are you sure you don't need to talk?"

She fought not to let the scream that was building in her throat escape the prison cell of her mouth and fill the room with its shrillness.

--

Blair's voice carried down the hall like an omen, and she knew without having to ask that someone was getting burned at the stake today. She could practically feel the flames licking her face as she stood in the audience already.

At least she wasn't the one tied up in the ropes this time. Jenny hadn't done anything to deserve Blair's wrath in weeks, and she fully intended to keep it that way. Rounding the corner, she stopped abruptly and jerked back behind a row of lockers, out of sight. When her heart stopped pounding, she ducked around the corner and watched in horrified awe as Chuck Bass, self-proclaimed bad boy, shoved Blair Waldorf up against her locker and pressed his mouth against hers.

That wasn't nearly as surprising as the fact that Blair merely wrapped her arms around his neck, pushing forward so that her body was pressed completely against his. Jenny turned on her heel and stormed off down the hall, thankful that she was wearing flats today instead of the heels that she was tempted to slip on before Dan forced her out of the house so that she couldn't have another moment of indecision.

Silently, she thanked her brother and carefully picked her way through the long way around the school, showing up to algebra fifteen minutes late and accepting the black mark on her attendance sheet with as much grace as she could muster given the circumstances.

That afternoon, she ditched choir practice when she saw Nate leaving the main hall of the boys' branch of the school, unaccompanied. Clutching her bag and the poet's hat that Dan bought her for Christmas, she sprinted after him and shouted his name once she was within echoing distance. He turned on the spot and the smile that lit up his face when he saw her almost made her forget that she had her first official date with Eric that weekend.

"Hey, Jenny," he called, laughing and holding up his hands when she skidded to a stop in front of him. He rested his hands on her shoulders to steady her and she took a moment to catch her breath, trying to quell the shivers that were running down her spine from where he was touching her all the way to her toes, skipping every other vertebrae and heightening the sensation of warmth his fingers created.

"What are you doing right now?" she asked, the breathy quality of her voice surprising her. His eyes widened a little, though in the back of her mind she registered vaguely that the look was probably in response to her question, not her tone.

"I have a lit paper I need to finish…" Raising an eyebrow, he ran one hand down her arm and removed the other from her shoulder completely. "Why?"

Jenny swallowed thickly around the lump in her throat and lowered her head slightly, offering him a small, timid smile and a quick fluttering of her eyelashes. Just like her mom taught her. "Can we go get a cup of coffee and talk?"

Nate stared at her seriously and then nodded. "Do you mind walking?"

She shook her head vehemently, and it was only then that he returned her smile. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her pea coat and sped up her gait to keep up with his long, firm strides, and they were more than two blocks away from the circle of hell that she was forced to spend eight hours of every day in by the time she broke the disturbingly comfortable silence.

"How's Blair?" she asked, resisting the urge to grin when her voice came off sounding completely oblivious to the scene her eyes witnessed in the hallway this morning. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and she stared at the cement that was passing between her feet, consciously stepping on each individual crack.

The old teasing played on repeat in her mind, and she wished in tandem with the taunts that she didn't have any reason to be angry with her mother right now. Even if it was her fault that the entire situation blew up so spectacularly.

"I wouldn't know. We haven't talked since that stupid pool party," he admitted. Jenny immediately turned to look at him, stopping dead on the sidewalk and nearly getting trampled in the process. She welcomed the jostling, but she welcomed his arms even more when he pulled her out of the crowd and into the small, underrated café that he had told her about on Blair's birthday. She felt flustered when she jerked away from him, and she was decidedly unhappy about the warm, flushed feeling in her stomach when his hand lingered on her waist.

"Did something happen? I thought that--" she paused to collect her thoughts "--I mean, at cotillion--"

This time, she was cut off. "We were okay. And then we… weren't."

"Oh," she murmured, feeling completely inadequate. Then that I thing /I didn't have anything to do with it, did he? She took off her hat and got in line behind an older couple, tapping her fingers idly on her thigh. There was a long, awkward silence as Nate looked around the café, and then she sighed heavily and let her eyes roll back in her head. "Why do you keep giving her so many chances?"

"I guess I'm just used to it by now," he replied, without hesitation. Jenny folded her hat in her hands and bit the corner of her bottom lip, tugging at the skin until the top layer peeled away just a bit. Idly, she wondered if she had a tube of ChapStick anywhere in her bag.

"Used to it?" she asked, acutely aware of how naïve she sounded.

"Being fucked over."

His tone wasn't nearly as bitter as it should have been, she noted.

--

Mustering up more maturity than she surely possessed, she knocked twice on the door and kept her shoulders back, her spine straight, and her expression stoic. She couldn't afford to express the emotional outpouring that was just begging to be released from her spleen. Not right now, anyway.

Eric's promise from the night before suddenly became the only thought at the forefront of her mind and she coughed, choking on the earnest words he had whispered before he kissed her. She managed to wipe the smile off her face before the door flew open.

"Jenny!" Blair greeted, smiling brightly. Something in the way her hair was too mussed and her clothing too off-kilter told Jenny that she was interrupting something. Good, she thought. Without a word, she pushed past her friend into the apartment, briefly glancing around the living room for her favorite enemy. "Can I help you with something?"

Her tone was less friendly now. Spinning around, Jenny was careful to make sure that her hair had just the right amount of flip to it before she bothered to speak. "Nate doesn't know about Chuck," she said. Blair's eyes widened and Jenny held up a hand. "Don't start. Nate doesn't know, but I do. And I'm telling you right now that you need to be careful. He isn't the nice guy you think he is, Blair."

The brunette smirked and folded her arms across her chest, resting all of her weight on one leg and popping her hip out. The pose was all attitude and Jenny resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the clearly-rehearsed stance of intimidation.

"I don't believe I ever said anything about Chuck being a nice guy," she said calmly. "Though I don't believe I ever said anything at all to you, or anyone else, for that matter, about Chuck in the first place." Blair laughed shortly, though it sounded far more like a cackle. "Have you been spying on me?"

"Hardly," Jenny retorted, mimicking Blair's stance. "When you're trying to get to class and the resident bitch is making out with the resident jackass, it's kind of hard to miss. Especially since she's supposed to be in love with another guy."

"You shouldn't meddle in things that aren't any of your business," Blair said breezily, smiling coldly as she brushed past Jenny and started ascending the stairs to her bedroom. "Though if you're in the mood to cause trouble, I'm sure Nate would love to hear from his favorite mystery blonde."

Jenny's blood froze in her veins and she closed her eyes. There was no way Gossip Girl had finally figured out who Nate's 'beneficial coffee buddy' was. She hadn't seen her name on the site at all. "What are you--"

"Don't play games with me, Humphrey. I was promoted to puppet master years ago," Blair cut her off her weak attempt at innocence and, to a degree, Jenny was thankful. She turned her head and locked eyes with the pretty brunette, who wasn't smiling anymore. In fact, her face held no traces of anything but genuine anger. It wasn't a flattering expression. "Now why don't you run off and play with your little suicide lover?"

She managed not to cry until the elevator doors had shut behind her. Considering how quickly the sobs started wracking her body once she was out of sight, she chalked that up to being quite an accomplishment.

And she didn't even have to run to get to the elevator in time for her breakdown.

--

"Wait, Blair said what?"

Jenny whipped around, nearly dropping the phone in her haste. Dan was staring at her incredulously, standing awkwardly in the doorway, and she was inexplicably angry with him for choosing this moment to finally start knocking instead of just lifting up the garage door that separated their bedrooms to talk to her.

"Eric, I'll call you back," she murmured, snapping her phone shut and rounding on her brother with a vengeance. "What is your problem?"

"Up until two minutes ago, I didn't have one," he replied. "Now what's got you so worked up that you can't even look at me when I'm talking to you?"

She deliberately raised her eyes to his, carefully arching her eyebrows. "Better?" she asked calmly, though to her, it felt like her voice was completely detached from the rest of her body. Dan stared at her for a moment and then sighed, lowering his head and rubbing the back of his neck, a sure sign that he didn't know how to proceed.

"You know, if you need me to talk to Blair for you--"

"No!" she protested, a bit too quickly. He pursed his mouth and she tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, lowering her gaze to the floor. "It's not a big deal, really. I can handle it."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." She nodded, resolute. There was a pause, and then Dan pushed away from the doorway and crossed the room, pulling her into a tight hug that was just as comforting as it always was. Jenny wrapped her arms around his back with a sigh, resting her cheek against his shoulder and inhaling his scent.

She hardly needed her older brother to take care of her anymore. But that didn't mean she didn't appreciate the compassion, now that everything was going to hell and it was completely her fault that her world was going up in flames.

Well, maybe not completely her fault. But she still felt responsible for the abrupt deterioration of her family. She could have kept living the lie. She could have kept holding up her corner of the triangle, taking the brunt of the teasing because she was the only girl.

Could have, would have, should have.

Suddenly, regret was becoming Jenny's new favorite description of her life.

--

"We've been talking for months," she whispered, stroking her thumb across the scar on his left wrist. Eric tensed slightly at the contact and she kissed him softly, carefully intertwining their fingers and squeezing his hand to reassure him.

She wasn't touching him to hurt him. She was touching him to understand him. They really weren't as different as everyone assumed, simply because their financial situation wasn't the same and their basic interests differed at writing and singing and continued splitting from there. Jenny was just as much of a masochist as her boyfriend was, and she realized that with startling clarity when he bit her bottom lip and the sensation caused her to moan quietly into his mouth.

The mess she had made of her pseudo-friendship with Blair fled from her mind when he let go of her hand to wrap his arms around her waist and she sighed, smiling slightly when he kissed the corner of her jaw and then slid his mouth down to her neck.

Her arms wrapped around his neck and folded into his hair with ease. The nervous shaking and awkward movements of last week were gone now, replaced with a firmness and confidence that didn't exist in any other area of her life right now.

Not even Nate could make her feel this safe in her own sexuality.

With a laugh that didn't sound entirely like her own, she breathed into his mouth and pulled him back to her for another kiss, pressing back against her locker and ignoring the screamer in her mind that was accusing her of being too obsessed with parallelism for her own good.

Jenny was a big girl now. And she didn't need anyone's approval to make out with her boyfriend, even if it was in the middle of the hallway before choir, an interest that had permeated her entire childhood and extended all the way through high school.

Kind of like trouble-making.