Vanessa

Disclaimer: I do not own Gossip Girl or any of its characters.

Thanks to Tati!


He blinked, straightened his posture, and tried to breathe.

Nope. No better. He still felt uncomfortable. No matter how many smiles he smiled or deep breathes he inhaled, the tightening in his chest remained the same.

He didn't understand it. His mind was blank, certainly not filled with memories of recent events or his many screw ups.

That was why he was here, to clear his head (and find a place to live).

He wasn't focusing on anything, because then he wouldn't focus on her, and then his shoulders wouldn't sink further down, to match his stomach dropping further into his abdomen.

Why didn't I go after her? The look on her face. . .

He ran his fingers through his hair and took a shaky breath of salty air.

She didn't talk to me about Catherine. I don't owe her anything.

He blanched at the salty smell surrounding him. It was November, almost Thanksgiving, long past beach time.

But I didn't tell her about Catherine in the first place, and she did forgive me.

He walked slowly past a bunch of ten year olds, who giggled as he passed. He was too lost to notice.

I'm such an ass. I need to fix things with Vanessa.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Her phone buzzed for the third time in the last ten minutes. She saw the I.D and deleted the message.

By the 7th time, Vanessa was so pissed off, she considered just throwing her phone away. She didn't use it that much, anyway.

She answered on the 15th time.

"First you don't talk to me, and now all of the sudden you're flooding my inbox? Stop calling me!"

She thought she heard him desperately plea, "Vanessa," as she slammed the phone shut.

She told herself it didn't matter anyway.

2 hours later, at dinner, her sister Ruby asked her what was going on in her head that was more important than their conversation. She had said it was something at work.

She didn't say it was a certain phone call from a certain boy, whom she shouldn't even be thinking about. Not after everything he'd done.

Maybe he said her name, maybe he didn't.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

He strode into the gallery, all bright eyes and sweaty palms.

She considered throwing the coffee pot at his head. He couldn't just show up into her life whenever it was convenient for him.

He got the message when she hit him with the newspaper and shouted those words to his face.

He told her he had come from the Hamptons. He just had to see her. He put those bright blue eyes on her, and she wanted to melt, just like she did all those other times.

"I get off work at 5:00."

"I'll be there."

And he was there, almost an hour early. He couldn't afford to be late; he wouldn't get anymore chances.

He waited outside, pacing sometimes, slumping himself against the wall.

Rufus passed by and gave Nate his 'I can't believe you had the nerve to kiss my daughter' look. Nate just stared back, looking awkward and sorry.

"Why are you here, son?"

"Vanessa," he muttered. This garnered Nate a 'You better not hurt her again because she is as good as family' glare as Rufus made his was inside the gallery.

Nate was beginning to feel like he was the most hated person in Brooklyn.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

She looked at her phone. 5 minutes.

She glanced at the door for 30 seconds, expecting (definitely not wanting) to see his blonde head poke through the door.

He had two minutes left, and that was when he walked in, lacking the bluster he'd possessed that morning. He looked at her, and she tilted her head towards an empty table. He smartly complied.

The last customer of the day left, and it was just Vanessa and Nate.

Someone had to say something.

But Vanessa didn't know what to say, or why he was there, so she just continued to clean the counter.

She heard his voice from behind her, and she got chills on her neck.

"Vanessa."

"What?"

"I'm sorry." His voice was as small as she felt.

Silence.

"I know I've messed up a lot. I've been a je-"

"A complete and utter ass?" She suggested, her blue eyes narrowed, focused on cleaning the counter.

Nate nodded his head in agreement. "Yeah."

"We weren't together, so you could do whatever you want." She tried to shrug it off.

"I know I hurt you, though, and I need you to know that I never wanted that."

She sighed and finally gave up cleaning. The counter had been perfectly clean before this conversation had even begun, anyway.

"Why her?" Vanessa whispered. "Did you really hate me that much?"

His heart sunk, because she sounded so fractured, devoid of the usual strength he loved about her.

She cursed herself for letting him make her so vulnerable again.

"I don't hate you, Vanessa." How she could ever think that . . .

"You didn't answer my question from before, though. Why?"

"Because. . . "

"Because?" She laughed darkly, even though there really wasn't anything funny about it.

"That's all I came up with when she asked. There wasn't really a reason. She was there."

Vanessa turned around in frustration, "If that's all you have to say, you can leave."

She was taken aback by the red around the rims of his piercing eyes.

Her pain was really doing a number on him. She thought he must have gotten dust in his eye.

"I don't have a good reason for what I did." He spoke softly, with an air of importance lingering on every syllable. "But I do have a lot of reasons for why I'm sorry I did it."

"Let's hear 'em then," Vanessa said under her breath.

"Dan and Rufus, they trusted me and gave me a place to stay, and I betrayed them. They were nothing but good to me, and I took it all for granted. Mostly, I took you for granted, and that's why I'm here." He paused and met her gaze. "You don't deserve it, Vanessa." He needed her to understand that. She was worth it, even if he was just now beginning to recognize that. "I don't, I've never, hated you. But you can hate me if you want. I do deserve that."

Silence.

Vanessa broke the stillness this time. "We needed this. To talk, that is."

"Yeah, too much was left unsaid before."

"We can't have that." He saw just the hint of the usual shine slink back into her eyes.

"No, we can't." His eyes flickered from her face to his hands and back. "I should get going, I guess."

"It's getting late," she agreed. He turned to get up, but Vanessa had one more thing to say. "You can call, if you need to talk. I'm good at listening, or so I've been told."

He stared back at her. His eyes widened, and he asked in awe, "How do you do that?"

"Do what?" She breathed.

"Forgive me."

"There's no weakness in forgiveness, Nate. Anger takes up too much space in your heart, anyway."

His world was filled with anger and grudges and anger did seem to take up a lot of space. It weighed him down, as if gravity was trying to pull him to the center of the earth.

Her words played through his mind all the way back to Manhattan. He was walking around aimlessly when he finally pulled out his phone and dialed a once familiar number.

"Hey, man. It's me."

"Nathaniel, to whom do I owe this great rarity?"

Vanessa.

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