This began as a spin-off of 'Love is...' and grew from there, rather quickly, with the only hurdles coming when it came to write the counter-point of view on two/three ages. I finally got through it though, and here's the finished result.
I hope you enjoy...
Title: Pretending Was…
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters
A/N: This is a companion piece to 'Loving Is…' and for maximum 'impact' or story potential, or what-have-you you're probably best reading them both as some things are stretched into that little bit more detail or whatever in one over the other; though the general gist is present in each.
A/N/N: Each part should be read as 'Pretending was…' just to clear up some of the odd sentence beginnings or whatnot. It should read correctly if you insert the start line directly before it, even if it leads on from the sentence/part right before.
Summary: There are two sides to every story: this is his.
He's five, and acts as if her words don't have any impact on him. He's seventeen, and suddenly he understands exactly what his pretending was. It's trying to kid yourself into believing her comment about your scarf means nothing to you; and that it's not because you want to see if she notices and watch her eyes light up and for her to give you that smile of hers that you're wearing it the next day, or the next, or every next day for the following twelve years.
Love is a series of moments that they've shared; when they found each other in their ever-entangling lives, and marked a sequence of memories that would eventually lead them to this point.
It's taken him the better part of twelve years, and now he's there he's never letting it go; and ten years on, he knows he'll never have to.
Age 5 - Trying to kid yourself into believing her comment about your scarf means nothing to you; and that it's not because you want to see if she notices and watch her eyes light up and for her to give you that smile of hers, that you're wearing it the next day, or the next, or every next day for the following twelve years.
Age 6 - Convincing yourself that the reason you're leaving the Sharks, Mermaids and Rescuers game is because it is predictable and boring (Nate always got the girl, no matter what happened) and not because you can't seem to rid the image of her sitting alone at that table from your young mind – how are you supposed to save the damsel when she doesn't even want saved anyway?
Telling yourself you're speaking of Serena and not the serenely calm brunette at the back of the room: who is emitting an air of simple contentment and subtle nonchalance, which you can interpret even from where you're standing, causing you to stride across to where she is, reminding yourself that it's just common sense – for how are you supposed to concentrate on the game, if she's plaguing your thoughts – before plonking yourself in the seat next to her.
When she asks you what you're doing there, giving you her practiced prissy little princess routine that just rolls off your shoulders like water off a duck's back, you tell her honestly that it is because it's where she is.
The silent curses that you award yourself as soon as the words that leave your mouth dissipate when you watch a slow smile color her cheeks; and she invites you to create a new world with her: who needs a flailing princess when you've got the prettiest, most self-assured queen there is for an ally?
Age 7 - Retelling the story your way: that you did it to prove a point – obviously, because why else would you climb a stupid tree; and you ignore Nate's questions and odd looks and fob him off with an air of nonchalance and a simple, "Well, might as well get something for my trouble", but you hold onto the bear and its flight simulator that little bit tighter all the same.
When she comes to see you later that night, you watch through half-hooded eyes as she pauses by the door, biting her lip, and worrying her hands before she finally makes it to your bedside; where you tells yourself it's nothing to do with not being able to torture her any longer, it's the effort you have to expend to keep up the faux-sleeping façade that makes you finally look at her.
You smirking at her and producing the bear, and inwardly repeating the mantra that you didn't do it all for her, even as your lips betray you to tell her simply, "For you."
Her nearly breaking the ribs that were thankfully (Doctor's words, not yours) only bruised, as she leaps on you and throws her arms around you in a close embrace, and you trying to convince yourself the fractures and added pain would not be worth it, even when it loses its fervor as she draws back; holding Bear close and the string of the balloon wound tightly around her fingers and smiles at you in that utterly dazzling way of hers, before kissing you on the cheek.
Acting as if you did it all for the reward as you give her a look that clearly says you deserve more for the sort of effort you put in and the pain it put you in, and she ever so reluctantly draws closer to you once more; soft lips whispering a "Thank-you" against your own.
Remembering falling; and for the shortest of moments catching sight of the butterfly trying to break free of your grasp and wondering what would happen if you let it; momentarily pondering whether it would hurt as much as this if you did.
Breaking your left leg in three places, and getting seven stitches in your forehead and having more than a simple dent and a chunk taken out of your right wrist: you decide there and then that'll be the last time you do anything athletic, for anyone.
Age 8 – Being physically coerced into playing that ridiculous game of tag with the rest of the class, and intentionally getting tagged just to prove a point: because you're supposed to get to sit out for the rest of the time, where you could watch in boredom (veiled amusement/interest) as the others all run around like her maid after she'd just given you a desert showered in a coating of bread crumbs and you told her you had celiac's; and not get turned into a tagger yourself – you curse the woman for the move, doesn't she know you're still nursing a serious leg injury?
Shrugging off her look when she realizes it's you who's tagged her, as if it is nothing: she's the one who just happens to be there all the time.
Telling yourself the secret smile on your lips when you say, "You're it," is just another one of these spur of the moment things that you seem to be prone to when she's around.
Age 9 - Acting like there's no risk at all involved in your momentary decision to ditch last period and sneak into her apartment, her room; even though you don't think you've ever had chickenpox before and you can't get her mother's stern warning against visiting out of your head, nor the ever watchful eye of her maid: Doris – Dottie – an exotic version of the name, at any rate.
Showing how much of a fuss you're going to, to watch movie-after-movie of the Old Classics in which, undoubtedly, her dear Audrey is the lead: her warm breath on your neck is tickling and your neck is hot with her head snuggled into it like that, your shoulder practically on fire as she inclines even further against it; it's doing nothing to ease your suffering, obviously, only prolonging the torture.
Convincing yourself that the line, "I'm Chuck Bass," is resistance enough against that stupid disease she's suffering from; and it is, until a week later when you start to come out in red itchy spots yourself: the fact that she comes by with 'The Usual Suspects', 'The Godfather', 'Mrs. Doubtfire', 'The Little Rascals' and 'Toy Story' in hand, and a barely contained coy, but silly grin splayed across her face almost makes it worth it.
Age 10 - Feigning nonchalance when your mother tells you she'll be accompanying you and your parents on your trip to Britain, as if a month alone with her doesn't faze you in the slightest.
Beginning in Scotland, you go to a street festival; watching the parade and walking between the throng of street entertainers and street sellers, and telling yourself you are only enjoying yourself because it makes your mother happy to see you so, and not because the atmosphere is so unique and brilliant and she's standing next to you with the most vibrant smile on her face.
Your eyes catch onto the delicate piece of jewelry, and before you know what's happening; you're paying the woman behind the stall, all the while ignoring the knowing look in her eyes, and her hand in yours as you place the bracelet over her wrist.
It's because of the atmosphere, obviously, that you do this and more; catching the look that passes over her face, and the gentle smile ghosting behind those lips, and dipping your head to whisper words of associated beauty.
Silently repeating the mantra that it is all to please your mother that you are dancing with her before yet another jazz musician of the night, who could do with slowing his tunes just that little bit, not that it really concerns you either way.
Saying excitement caused your inability to put your words into a coherent order on your return from your day out with your father: it was all in the ridiculous phrasing and sounding of the Scottish words that was putting him off; because Chuck Bass didn't stutter, and certainly not over a girl; even is she was devastatingly pretty and possibly the best thing you'd ever laid your ten-year-old eyes on.
Blaming your mother again, as was the fashion of the moment while you hopped it across the border south, for carrying that ridiculously large leaning tower of hatboxes, only to have it collapse on the floor as soon as you set eyes on her; her laughter continues to ring in your ears for the rest of the day, simply because it just so happens to be more appealing than anything else you're hearing.
Reasoning with yourself that her choice of horse was a safer bet than your own, for nothing if not for the fact she was a control-freak of a strategist: that and the fact, when she set her eyes on something, it was hers for the taking; needless to say you were quietly content that your rationale was confirmed when her preference took the lead in the last few moments and swept her away with the winnings.
Saying it wasn't your fault the tennis was boring you; how was anyone supposed to concentrate on anything when she was sitting next to them wrapping those ruby red lips around each strawberry in turn, making an agonizing show of dipping them into the cream, flicking her tongue out every so often to capture a stray drip; completely oblivious to the effect she so clearly wasn't having on him: the fact that it may have been the ladies doubles final they were supposed to be watching had no bearing whatsoever in the matter – naturally.
When she looks out at the scenery and gasps, saying the view's absolutely breathtaking, and you look across at her and agree with a soft smile; but you so obviously weren't referring to her when you uttered those words.
Recovering, just so, to tell her that if that's the case, you'll have to take her to Ireland; and then spending the rest of the day with your arms wrapped around her, because if she was ever going to learn, someone had to teach her how to play the game; it was only natural that it should be you.
Age 11 - Barely being able to keep your eyes on the figure that was practically floating across the stage, while she sits next to you, and blaming it on the fact that the blonde is so erratic and flighty that you lost interest in trying to tie her down almost immediately.
Acting like your attention is currently held elsewhere when she utters those inevitable words, "I could do that," then playing along with your expected role with a cocked brow and wide smirk, your face a mark of playfulness; a challenge in itself, and telling yourself it's because that's who you are, not because you know that's what she wants from you.
Joining with her downplaying when you hear her laugh at your silent proposition, because really, if it's worthy of mentioning it's supposed to be worthy of testing her in some way – not because you've always known that one thing that should never be tried out is pitting her against her best friend.
Convincing yourself that telling her someone of her… presence wouldn't need to parade on stage anyway, the challenge like a waste of breath on your tongue, was more to benefit you by saying it, than her by hearing it.
Telling yourself you only half mean it when you say that you still expect a private show, for reasons other than the obvious, adding the dancing spark in your eyes and that irresistible smirk of yours to set it off.
Age 12 – Kidding yourself into believing that your mom doesn't see straight through you when you casually mention that maybe she could accompany you on your trip to Ireland.
Taking her to the top of Blarney Castle and having to readjust your vision as you stand behind her looking out across the landscape; reasoning that it was just the sudden cold wind that had knocked you for a moment and not the fact that you can't separate the two sights before you amid the overwhelming beauty that surrounds you.
Fobbing off the notion of how truly exhilarating it is for these moments; as she lies backwards and head first over the castle wall to kiss the Blarney Stone (a challenge she hadn't been able to refuse), to feel like she's putting her life in your hands alone.
Ignoring the look on your mother's face as she stands watching you when you tell her you're taking her to view the Book of Kells, denying there's any reason for her to hold such a look because you're only going to Trinity College because it's one of the must-sees, and not because you secretly know she'll love it and you want to see her eyes light up on sight of it, and that glazed mesmerized look appear there when she sets her sights on something and the passion takes over.
Making the excuse that the Guinness Storehouse is another must-see 'attraction', hence the visit, and not because you know there are complimentary pints on the top floor at the end of the tour, which you plan on sneaking for yourself and her, and you actually wanted to see just how far she would go with you.
Age 13 - Trying your damndest to block out the memory of that last day of term, the summer before you were to begin St. Jude's as a junior; when you gave her that passion red headband, with the bow, and told her it was an early present for starting at Constance.
Surveying her as she places it on top of those perfect brown curls of hers, and then telling her it looked good on her; the little tidbit that you just knew it would compliment her wonderfully as soon as you set eyes on it stored safely inside, with its only projection in the form of the enigmatic smile you give her.
Having to suppress a smile when you see her walk up the steps of Constance-Billard on the first day, head held high with tiara on top; and watching her take the place by storm, trademark already established.
Age 13 - Acting like she was never with you the day your mother told you she was going to die, and that she knew nothing of what was really going on in your life.
Kidding yourself that you didn't recognize that she was watching when you suddenly became everything your mother hoped you never would; and ignoring the fact that you somehow knew she was your only lifeline out of this world that sucked you in whole before you even had a chance to realize that whatever it was you wanted, this wasn't actually it.
Age 14 - Convincing yourself you weren't conscious of her eyes on you throughout the whole funeral service and then after; fooling yourself into thinking that she'd just be one of the many who probably wouldn't notice your absence as you disappeared out of the room, somehow achieving something you've never been able to do in your life: blending into the background.
Sitting with your back against the wall, your mother's scent surrounding you, and momentarily wondering how it is that you can become invisible so easily when you've tried your whole life to stand out.
Looking up at that exact moment and telling yourself her eyes weren't trying to search yours out: realizing it all falls down to who takes the moment to notice.
Her sitting with you, holding tightly onto your hand; somehow seeming to know, without words, that she's the lifeline you need, even if you don't.
When she doesn't say a word, or move, at all, the entire time: just sits there sharing in your silence; and hours later your fathers appear to find you like that, together even in your dreams.
Age 14 - Acting as if her knowledge surrounding your absence during the last week of summer doesn't faze you in the least.
Barely recovering from the slightly unnerving thoughts that overcome you when Nathaniel informs you that she was the one to tell them about all his prior plans in time to joke back with your best friend about telling his girlfriend over him: "What can I say, Nate my man, she's a little more likely to remember than you; what with you procuring an odd-smelling cloud above that pretty little head of yours whenever we're together more than ten minutes."
His laughter ensures you that your secret is safe, and you push all thoughts of what she thinks she knows to the back of your mind; you know no matter what happens she'll still be there.
Age 15 - Feigning composure when Harold Waldorf calls you and tells you she's locked herself in her room and he can't get through to her; asking you to come over.
You arriving and immediately climbing the stairs two at a time to where she is; ignoring the strange looks you receive on how quick you got there, as if they are completely unwarranted, and picking the lock on her door with a haste and determination even you don't realize you could effectively pull off as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Steadying your gait and pausing a moment to still your shaking hands, which is due to exertion not worry, and proceeding into the room alone; going instantly to the locked door of her bathroom because you are following instinct, not because you subconsciously know she's in there and the real reason why.
Hiding your surprise at not needing to repeat the earlier performance, simply turning the knob leaving the door to swing open: revealing her crumpled figure on the floor by the toilet, mascara tears running down her cheeks and eyes that look so lost you're suddenly grateful for small mercies when a flicker of recognition flashes across them.
No one ever saying a fall from grace was pretty.
Being by her side in two strides, and telling yourself your heart cannot break with such a void, even though you think you might be beginning to doubt yourself when she starts to cry against your chest and you can't hear it hammering against your ribcage; then again, maybe it's just her grief masking it.
Age 15 - Your phone ringing, lighting up with her name, and you telling yourself her tear-stained words don't really affect you, that they don't hit closer to home than you dare admit; and that the only reason you're not hanging up on her is because her bff is holed up in boarding school unreachable since she fled and her boyfriend is being irritatingly distant and inanely weird, and it's unbecoming to have a girl crying over you, especially a Waldorf; and that being her shoulder to cry on just this once, will not undoubtedly be your downfall.
Age 16 - Laughing when your best friend appears in your suite and starts raving on about speed-dial and her and the fact that it's you who's her number one; and passing it off as simply one of her quirks – alphabetizing it like that, because it's not as if you have any other reason to believe otherwise: even if you do call each other at least two or three times a day, more than you dial the numbers' of your respective bff's, and know that you're both firm believers in committing to things by way of convenience.
Age 16 - Kidding yourself that being the one to deflower her doesn't mean as much to you as it does, and that you've always been insatiable when it comes to that sort of thing; it has nothing to do with her or how she felt when she was beneath you, or on top of you, or… it's just how you are; and you don't miss it, her, you really and truly, and absolutely don't, not even a little.
Age 17 - Telling yourself that because you hadn't necessarily voiced it specifically, just danced around it and looked in her direction, it isn't quite the declaration that others are making it out to be; and that it isn't exactly your fault that you're spinning her round the dance floor for all the world to see so soon after: she just happens to be there, in front of you, and fits so well in your arms that it makes it fairly difficult to let go.
Age 17 – Make-believing that the reason you've ditched the skinny blonde in your hotel suite is because while you usually enjoy nothing more than screwing up what you've put so much effort into maintaining or producing, this one is affiliated with Lily, who is now joined to Daddy Bart more tightly than ever before and you don't really feel like testing his new-found contentment and amiable-approachability: and not because you have this penchant for late-entrances and almost, but not quite, near-misses; and you've always, sort of, had this thing for a certain brunette.
Age 17 - Saying you're simply admiring her assets in the light of day, and not being caught like a deer-in-headlights because of said light currently trying to blind you as it bounces off the hundred-or-so diamonds adorning her chest to reflect back in your eyes.
Fingering her slim digit, as your hands entwine, your skin meeting hers without hesitation as if the original presence of a certain ruby promise ring went unnoticed by you, never mind its absence now.
Acting like you don't notice when she fingers the treasure you presented to her on her 17th birthday whenever she's silently worrying or fondly reminiscing; you've just always been able to read her.
Age 17 - Make-believing that the gesture alone would be enough, and there isn't really need for all the extras; thought the telescope does look pretty impressive on the balcony there, and the view is fairly spectacular, and it is the only way to do it.
Telling yourself that the cheesy lines are only because you'd rather not be pushed over the balcony for ruining the mood; even if it does sort of make your night the way she looks at you, with that bright smile and those shining eyes; not to mention the fact you've rendered her speechless.
Feigning that laughter is leaving you no room at the moment to fully appreciate what she's done, for you, no less: all the while your stomachs practically doing back-flips at the prospect.
Trying to mask the surprise that hits you as your heels hit tile, your back against stone, and you suddenly feel yourself unbalance, before you freefall over the edge, and hit something below, hard: no need to even attempt comprehending the fact that her face is the only thing you can see anymore, it just is.
Acting as if the feeling and words of: so this is what home feels like, don't suddenly come to mind when you blink and don't even need to focus to realize it's her sitting by your side, hand in yours, faint kisses tracing your skin.
Complaining about that stupid shaved patch you now have at the base of you skull and how ridiculous it is, not to mention the annoyance of those stitches that you have there: until she tells you that it wouldn't kill you to be reminded you're only human, scars are sexy, and if it's really bothering you that much you can cover it up with your scarf: sometimes, you think it eats a bit of your soul every time she reads you like that, other times you think it adds that little bit extra onto shaping your heart to fit hers.
Watching her, silently, and seeing her duck her head slightly, throwing off the idea that you were trying to imprint the image of her even further into your brain (just in case), before she meet your eyes with a glare at your smirking words: "How about you show me that tattoo of yours again?" and answering it with her own, "How about I push you off the balcony this time?" only to catch herself almost immediately, falling into your arms, dropping I'm so sorry's and spilling I love you's; while you hold her close, kiss her head, and smile softly: there's more than one reason you keep her around.
Age 27 - Denying your heart's pounding as hard as the wings of the creatures fluttering around you both, and that you're terrified beyond belief that the words that she says next won't be the ones you're desperately waiting to hear.
The pain that was already starting to course through your knee was because the stone floor steadying your weight is so obviously unsuitable for this sort of pursuit and not because your whole body in itself is practically aching with anticipation.
Acting like her inane need to banter with you then of all times isn't slowly tearing you apart: "Is that a question or a statement?"
"Would I ever assume anything that concerns you, my dear?"
"I'd go with the classic: that would make an ass out of you and me, but I know you'd just come up with something to say about my ass, and I also already know how you feel about my ass."
"Delectable. Just like you."
"And indecent. Just like you."
"You were going to say full of shit, weren't you?"
"Way to lower the tone, Bass. What sort of a marriage proposal is this?"
Telling yourself it's relief that you can finally breathe (easy) once more and that your pulse has returned to its previous steady beat; and not her words of: "It's those damn butterflies isn't it? They've still got you too," and that bright smile that she is wearing and the way she's nodding her head and repeating Yes, Yes, Yes and pulling you towards her and capturing you in the single most amazing embrace you've ever shared; that has you grinning like nothing on earth and kissing her with more fervor than ever before, and silently basking in the moment that she agreed to spend the rest of her life by your side.
Pretending was saying it was all about love.
He doesn't call it love; he calls her Blair Waldorf.
Thanks for reading, and pleas let me know what you think.
P.S. I'm considering doing a continuation of this and 'Love Is…'
It would extend on each part of this, with each age/memory having it's own chapter, but it depends if it takes off with my muse. Please feel free to check it out if I do and let me know what you think of that too.