Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Cold Clarity

Nate Archibald was feeling pretty good about himself right about now. The cool Manhattan night air felt crisp in his lungs and the beer bottle at his lips made him feel like life was pretty much complete. He'd chosen a girl, his relationship with his best friend was repaired, his family drama was over. Life was pretty much -

Ow!

He turned around, hand gripping the back of his head. Apparently, he still needed to disarm his ex-girlfriend who spontaneously attacked with deceptively small, but heavy clutches (and yes, he could tell the difference between a clutch and a regular purse because Blair used him as a labor mule for her shopping trips at Bendel's). "Nothing you say right now, Blair, can ruin my-"

"You're a dumbass!"

"aaaand you're a bitch." He tipped his bottle to her in salute of her bitchiness before taking another swig.

"Well, aren't you a creative bastard?"

"Look, Blair, is there an actual point to this latest round of torture?" He watched her look at the step beside him in disgust and he sighed, because whether it was out of habit or annoyance, his body automatically stripped him of his jacket and placed it on the ground.

Pleased, she sat on his Armani and began to arrange her skirts at her feet. Without looking up at him, she murmured. "Haven't you had enough, Archibald?" She turned to face him, obviously expecting an answer to the barely audible comment.

"Of you? Yes." Since they'd stopped dating, these little cutting remarks came so much easier to him. He wasn't sure how he felt about that.

"I'm talking about your whoring." He reeled back. Had his arrangement with Catherine finally gone to Gossip Girl? "Because really, now you're just over-compensating."

"Blair-"

"Now, I don't exactly feel any love for Jenny, Vanessa, or any other Brooklynite you choose to slum with -" he scoffed. That was expected. "-but the way you're going, you're just screwing everyone over."

"You would know all about screwing people over."

"Oh, not like you. I've got nothing on you." Her gaze never wavered from his face and at that moment, the first in a long time, he noticed how truly stunning she was. "When I plot, I know what I'm doing. I'm in control. You, on the other hand, are like a confused elephant in Tiffany's. You have no idea what you're doing and even afterwards, you don't know the effects of what you've done." Why was it that they could never be this brutally honest with each other when they were actually together? When they needed it?

"I don't-"

"Just do me a favor and take a minute to think before you do anything - or anyone."

"I'm not y-"

"Me. Serena. Me again. Vanessa. Catherine. Vanessa again. Some nameless ho from Yale. Jenny. Vanessa again, apparently. It's like you can't have platonic female friends without eventually making out with them." He furrowed his brow. When she put it that way...

"Well, I never wanted-"

"You don't know what you want. You just know what you don't want after you've tried it on. But this isn't a sample gelato tasting, Nate. Every time you leave someone, there are consequences, even if you don't feel it." She inspected her nails and in her sadness, he pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "Your many girlfriends will get jealous."

"I only ever had one girlfriend." And damn, that realization hit him like a bucket of scotch on ice and the stink filled his senses. He liked girls, he dated them, kissed them, but...

She took his hand in hers. "Look, I took me a long time to put aside my frustration at what you're doing and calmly approach you. I did love you once and I do want you to be happy." A small smile graced her lips. "But maybe you should tone down the Casanova act. Figure out what you're doing, where you're going. Stop saying that you love someone because right now you don't even know what that means. Spend some time alone in the romance department." She dropped his hand back into his lap so he could stare at the patterns on his palm. "And no, not in the dirty way."

He chuckled. She had been spending too much time with Chuck, obviously. "So, how would you feel being my first platonic female friend."

She shrugged. "I can work with that. Serena stole your other first." He could hear a slight string of bitterness laced in her voice, but nothing like that of a fresh wound. He felt a weight lifted off his shoulders. "Whatever, you weren't that great of a kisser anyway."

The giddiness he felt at finally clearing the air made it impossible for him to look offended. "I bet you others would disagree. Vanessa, J-"

"Ugh, stop talking." He offered her a sip of his beer, which she pushed away with her palm. "Let's get things straight. I'm your friend, not your beer buddy."

"Well, I won't be your shopping buddy."

"Oh please, that would imply that I appreciate your sense of non-style."

"Says the girl who opened the conversation with words like 'dumbass' and 'bastard.' Where did you learn to talk like that anyway? And how did you find out about Yale h- Jordan?" Blair always found a way to infiltrate his subconscious and make him say things that he would later regret. But there was no one, asides from maybe Chuck, that he trusted more with his secrets.

"Let's just say that due to recent, unforeseen events, I was slumming it in, and with, Brooklyn for a while."

"Dan? Oh yea, I remember seeing you at Aaron's show. I was going to go over and say hi but there was this thing with Jenny and things got out of hand... why didn't you say anything?"

"I was... preoccupied. I was meeting Chuck and I was going to tell him that I- Anyway, it's not important. The two of us have reached a temporary seize-fire and I have no need for Humphrey anymore." Nate wanted so badly to ask what was going on between the two of them, but their friendship was still new and the issue seemed maybe too private for him to pry into just yet. She stood, brushing non-existent dust off her skirt. She looked over her shoulder at me as she walked toward her town car that had just pulled up. "See you around, Archibald."

It was one of the moments before his world was once again turned upside down, before they found out about Bart Bass. The earlier feeling of euphoria was gone, leaving the air a bit chillier. But it felt good, the sharp clarity that Blair Waldorf left behind. He felt the frigidness of the air sting his lungs and finished his beer, the alcohol pumping his blood a millisecond faster. He'd have to remember to call her tomorrow about the details. Blair was always good at details.