Summary: The summer after senior year is different. She tries to find herself amongst the changes. Dan and Blair. Oneshot.
A/N: Nothing to say, really. I would love some feedback though.
The week of graduation is a whirlwind of gowns and hair appointments and break-ups and goodbyes. Blair spends an entire day on the floor of Serena's bedroom, questioning her decisions and advising her on what to pack for her impromptu tour of Europe and repeating, "You're seriously staying in hostels?"
Serena is a blur, flying around the room and throwing clothes on her bed and gushing about adventure and acting and defining her identity. Blair fiddles with a black teddy bear she bought the blonde for her sixteenth birthday and wonders what it means that her only identity is Queen B.
Dan and Rachel have an awkward, sexual thing that barely lasts a month. After he gives his graduation speech – in which he quotes both Shakespeare and Allen Ginsberg – he hugs his family and books it to the Constance ceremony.
Blair spots him after her own speech and for some reason the thought of going to Yale with him isn't so terrible anymore. She offers him a truce and he pulls her into a hug and she wonders how different college will really be.
"You have your pepper spray?" Blair asks. Serena laughs and nods, squeezing her shoulders tightly. "Do not hesitate to use it on whatever creepy foreign guy tries to molest you. Got it?"
The words are muffled against Serena's sweater, but she laughs again and Blair assumes she was heard. When her best friend pulls away, she blinks several times and sighs. "Promise you'll write?"
"I promise. Oh, Blair." Serena smiles sadly.
"No tears! Go find your artistic expression or whatever it is you're searching for." She smiles and glances over her shoulder. Dan offers her a nod and she rolls her eyes, turning back to her friend. "Have a good flight, S."
They hug once more and then Serena gets in line to board. The flight attendant glares as he scans her boarding pass. The clock on the wall reads five minutes past Serena's departure time.
Blair doesn't care in the least.
The invitation to dinner arrives in the form of a text message, one month after graduation and three weeks after the first time she and Dan hang out as friends and not forced-acquaintances-because-of-a-mutual-love. Blair stares at it for a long time and finally decides there isn't much risk anymore. High school is over. She finally gets to move beyond Queen B.
With a sigh, she flips open her keyboard and types out, I'll see you at six.
He sends her a smilie that warms her very bones. She instinctually wants to kick herself for sinking so low. Instead, she breezes upstairs to find the perfect outfit for a night in a Brooklyn loft.
Rufus eyes her warily the entire night. Blair feels uncomfortable in her own skin unless Dan is next to her, which is weird, but what's weirder is the fact that she is having fun anyway.
After the plates have been cleared and piled into the sink, Jenny challenges Dan to a game of catch and the two of them run outside. Blair rolls her eyes and takes another sip of her drink, waiting for Rufus to notice her presence.
When it appears that he doesn't intend to speak first, she sets her glass down and takes a deep breath. "Thank you for dinner," she offers.
Rufus glances over his shoulder and smiles, just a little. "You're welcome, Blair. I'm glad you could come."
"Me too," she says. She means it. "Look, Mr. Humphrey—"
"Call me Rufus," he replies immediately. It catches her off guard. The hatred she expected seems to have melted with the summer sunset.
"Rufus," she corrects herself. "I just wanted to apologize, for everything I did to your kids in high school. I realize it wasn't right of me and I hope you can forgive me for causing so much damage to your family."
The speech is impromptu and she wants to choke back the words, ignore the unavoidable feeling of humanity that blooms in her chest every time Dan says her name. Her efforts fail. She apologizes and she means it and her world is turning upside down.
When she stops talking and breathes, Rufus is staring at her openly. He looks almost proud.
"Dan wasn't lying," he murmurs.
"Oh, nothing." He smiles. "Thank you, Blair. I appreciate the apology."
Before she can ask him what he meant about Dan, the boy himself bursts into the loft and chastises her for being too girly to handle a game of catch. She glares at him and jumps off her stool.
"Fine then. But if this skirt gets ruined, it's on your head."
He laughs and she can't help but smile.
If she includes Rachel, then she can list the girls he's made out with on two hands. The additional fingers make her want to vomit, but there isn't much she can do. She settles for teasing him mercilessly and pretends not to notice the drop of Brooklyn summer sweat that trickles down the seam of his elbow.
"And the best part is, you can't even accuse me of being a hypocrite because I've only made out with two!" she proclaims. Dan rolls his eyes and she feels a thrill up her spine. There have been more. She just chooses not to broadcast them.
"I think Chuck has hooked up with enough people for the both of you," he says dryly.
For a moment, her optimism fades. The leather strap of her purse feels sticky-soft against her shoulder and her hair is damp with sweat. If Dan notices her expression, he doesn't comment, and she's back on track before it can become a conversation anyway. "What my ex has done outside of my jurisdiction is of no concern to me."
He smirks. "Of course not."
She smacks him solidly in the chest and he grunts, grabbing for her hand before she can retreat to safety. "Don't touch me!" she shouts. The command is more playful than she would like.
"Violence is not the answer, Waldorf," he says solemnly, folding her hand into his. A gasp catches in her throat and she feels a flush fill her cheeks. Without a word, she traces his lifeline and looks straight ahead, swinging their joined hands.
"You're right. It's much more fun to manipulate and deceive." Her sigh is reverent.
Out of the corner of her eye, she catches his tongue as it zips out to wet his bottom lip. The heat suddenly seems five times as oppressive.
Jenny convinces her to wear one of her designs to a party Nate is throwing in the city. Blair stares at her as though she's lost her mind, but when she sees the dress she falls in love.
Black material frames her collarbone and pink lace outlines the tan on her legs. She feels rebellious, a little dark, different from the girl she was in high school. It's a new feeling, one that she sort of loves.
"Hey Jenny, have you seen—" Dan stops in the doorway of his little sister's room and Blair offers him a happy smile. "Blair." He pauses to scratch the back of his head and then laughs. "Wow. Promoting my sister's designs?"
"Jenny offered me a custom-made dress for Nate's party," Blair replies calmly. "You never pass on couture."
"Right," he agrees. "Um—you look—great. I mean, it's a nice—color—on you."
She tortures him with silence until she can no longer take the awkwardness. After his third attempt, she laughs and shakes her head, gathering her shoes from the floor. "I know," she says seriously. Grabbing his hand as she leaves, she winks and adjusts the strap of the dress. "I'm beautiful."
He doesn't argue.
"Blair, you look fantastic!" Nate greets her enthusiastically and she smiles sweetly. "Is that a new dress?"
"Of course, Nate. I would never repeat an outfit," she tells him. "You know that." He laughs and she plays with the skirt, pushing the balls of her feet into her heels. "Little Humphrey made it for me."
His face pales and then he nods, appraising the dress once more. Blair feels sorry for him. "It's nice. Jenny does good work."
"That she does," she agrees. Someone settles a hand on the small of her back and she turns, grinning at her pseudo-date. Dan greets Nate over her shoulder and she slips out from between the two of them to mingle.
Hardly anyone in attendance is worth her time, especially now that she and Chuck have stopped their games. She spots him by the bar and nods in recognition. He holds up his cocktail and then turns his attention back to the bartender, no doubt asking him if he is available for work at the next Bass Blowout.
The usual tug beneath her lungs doesn't make an appearance. She smiles to herself; she really has gotten over him.
"Would you like a drink?" Dan murmurs, somewhere near her left ear. She turns to face him and nods. "Preference?"
"Something sweet and non-alcoholic, please," she replies. He smiles and brushes her shoulder with his fingers as he passes. The strap of her dress catches and falls; she shudders pleasantly. Apparently her self-destructive tendencies won't be so easy to let go.
She isn't sure that she minds.
The night before she leaves for her orientation at Yale, he wraps his hand around the back of her neck and tugs until her lips meet his. She feels violated for a split second before her heart tumbles into her throat and her lungs freeze past the point of functioning. Her soy chai falls out of her hand and the cup bounces, shooting hot tea all over everything, including her sandal-encased feet.
Blair groans against his mouth and twines her fingers through his hair, pressing against him with a finality that cannot exist if she plans on starting college without any serious attachments. Dan pulls her closer, wrapping her arms around his waist, and she thinks that they might be on the same page.
Kissing on a street corner in Brooklyn defies so much more than her promise to truly explore college as a single woman.
She pulls away from him on a gasp, her eyes shut tightly against the barrage of emotions assaulting her internal organs. He tucks her hair behind her ear and she lets her head fall forward until her forehead is resting somewhere between his neck and shoulder, not quite comfortably.
"Was that supposed to be a goodbye?" she whispers. Dan shrugs, forcing her to lift her head again. Blair opens her eyes and swallows around the lump in her throat, stroking her fingers across the back of his neck.
"More like a 'see you in a week,'" he replies. She shakes her head in frustration.
"You are ridiculous! Why must you constantly do things that make me change my opinion of you?"
He laughs at that, tilting his head back. She watches his throat clench beneath the sound and swallows convulsively, letting her fingers stroke down his clavicle to rest just over his heart. Tea runs slowly down the ridge of her big toe and she wrinkles her nose in distaste.
"We can't be together," she tells him seriously. "The very idea is just crawling with badness, I don't know why—"
Dan cuts her off with another kiss. Her eyes fall shut and she takes fistfuls of his button-up, shuddering involuntarily when he strokes his tongue across the roof of her mouth. The sensation is delicious. Blair is positive that she would be on the ground by now if it wasn't for his arms, holding her up and securing her, and she is grateful.
When he pulls away again, she takes a deep breath to steady herself. Her hands stay tangled in his shirt and she unconsciously strokes her pinky against his breastbone. "I hate you," she says seriously.
"That's fine." His tone is amiable. Blair kisses him soundly and thinks about all of the things that are being thrown out the window. The change is brilliant anyway.
She can feel it in her bones.