The Twelfth Time
She slept right at the edge of the bed.
It had taken him a while to discover that particular fact concerning her sleeping habits.
The first time they'd slept in the same bed (whilst their parents spent the night together, unbeknownst to them, at Rufus's gallery), she'd just confessed that she was scared and that no one had ever really looked at her when they were in bed, and he'd made extra sure to keep his arms wrapped tightly around her all night, so that she woke up in a position where he could look at her.
Whilst they'd intended their relationship to turn physical, he'd actually found that (alongside being strangely relieved that he wasn't the only one who was scared) he was happy the first time they slept together wasn't about sex.
They'd alternated between a surprisingly comfortable silence (surprising mainly in that he was a man of many words, a point that she had picked up on) and quietly exchanging little facts and stories, that as boyfriend and girlfriend, they felt they really should know.
He'd learnt that her favourite colour was blue (but the precise shade depended upon her mood at any particular time), that her favourite comfort food was not ice cream, chocolate or in any way alcoholic, but actually a plate of spaghetti (for reasons she couldn't explain, but made him thankful that it was one dish he was practised in cooking), that she still held herself partially responsible for Eric's attempt at suicide because she was the big sister and she should've noticed something was wrong (but that she held her mother more responsible for the fact that his recovery still wasn't really complete) and that while Blair was slowly learning to accept their relationship, her mother had told her he'd always seemed like the kind of boy who wouldn't break her heart (intentionally at least, Lily had added, and he made it his sole goal from that point to make sure that statement was true).
He'd told her in return that his favourite colour was also blue (but that his favourite shade was always the colour of her eyes), that the only time he could stand his coffee sweet was when he hadn't had enough sleep (and she'd laughed as she confessed it was a fact that had made her visits to Starbucks particularly tricky because she hadn't been able to figure out the pattern to his coffee choices), that he thought (despite Jenny and his dad's insistence to the contrary) that his mom might really want to stay in Hudson and that he thought it quite selfish that she wouldn't own up to the fact, and finally that there really was nowhere he'd rather be, right at that moment in time, than right where they were (and he suspected that that was the fact that caused a faint sheen of moisture to appear across her eyes).
The smile on her face when she awoke in his arms the next morning had been more than enough to convince him of the fact that the first time they slept in the same bed was (whilst not what they'd planned), in reality absolutely perfect.
The second time they'd slept in the same bed, there hadn't actually been any sleeping (and this time, it had turned physical).
It was true that good girls and boys were meant to find themselves fast asleep long before Father Christmas was due to visit, but they'd already exchanged gifts (which may have been somewhat unconventional, but were actually the only ones he found himself really caring about) and he'd had little concern whether they were classed as good or bad, especially not when it felt so good.
And he knew for a fact that she'd felt exactly the same. As their fingers and lips had extracted moans and gasps as a result of every caress (and this was one time where there was definitely not a hint of four-year-old in her voice), it had been one situation where their vastly different lives had ceased to matter. It hadn't mattered that he was from Brooklyn and she from the Upper East Side - their lovemaking (which had been a first for both of them, albeit in different respects) had managed to transcend class and financial situation with remarkable ease.
There was a freedom in their relationship that he'd never really experienced before, and as he caught her eyes just before they truly gave into the pleasure of the moment, he'd realised that this was the moment at which their relationship really changed.
This was the point where it got serious.
Once their bodies had been sated, her attention had returned to the story lying beside their makeshift mattress, and she had pressed it into his hands and gently coaxed him into reading it aloud as she rested her head against his shoulder.
And once 10.08.05 had sated their minds as well as their bodies (and left him feeling unnaturally vulnerable which she'd seemed to pick up on as she edged a little closer to him), they'd settled for watching the snow she insisted was all part of her plan fall through the skylight as she told him quietly that it was the best Christmas ever (ever in the history of Christmas, actually).
It was certainly a Christmas neither of them would ever forget, and much as he'd hated to break the spell and suggest they returned to their families (which had been delayed somewhat by the desire that had flared at the thought of parting), he knew he had to, to ensure their memory of the night stayed that perfect. She had held his hand tightly until they reached the point where they had to part, and had extracted a whispered promise from him that the previous night would definitely become a more regular occurrence (not that it had taken much extracting... although he had been unable to resist pointing out that it was probably wise that they chose a different location, in future), before performing a very un-Serena like action of walking backwards along the sidewalk, just to keep her eyes on his (which had, in turn, kept a smile on his face the entire way home, in conjunction with the text messages that arrived mere minutes later).
His smile had given him away to his entire family within minutes of entering the loft, and even though his sister would always remember it as the Christmas his mom went back to Hudson for good, he knew that he would still remember it as the best Christmas ever.
And as such, the second time was probably even more perfect than the first.
The third time they slept in the same bed was the first time he actually tried to discover her sleeping habits. It happened after she'd casually dropped into conversation (whilst shuddering at the thought that she was expected to call themher parents, in the plural) that her mother and Bart had gone to Athens for the weekend, effectively (she emphasised) leaving their three offspring to fend for themselves (as much as you could when surrounded by a penthouse full of staff, he thought).
It had been one of those maids that had let him in that night, her name escaping him (as much as he always tried to remember, realising that many of them probably lived near the Humphrey abode) as he made his way quietly through to the sleeping quarters, only to have his plan foiled at the last minute by a late night encounter with none other than Chuck Bass himself (unexpected, despite the fact that he really was trying to adjust to the fact that by living together, Chuck was one step closer to being related to his girlfriend and would probably therefore have a far greater presence in his life than anyone should ever have to endure).
Chuck's loud, geographically disparaging and entirely expected (once said unexpected meeting took place) greetings quickly drew his slumbering-no-more girlfriend to her door, a mess of tangled blonde locks and silky pyjamas looking less-than-impressed at her late night awakening. Their eyes met for a long moment, giving him plenty of time to digest for the third time (or the second, if you considered the fact that there hadn't been a lot of sleeping the second time they'd shared a bed) the fact that she was actually more beautiful, if that was even possible, when she was half asleep than at any other time.
Such a moment could only last so long, however, when accompanied by the persistent demands to know why someone from Brooklyn had dared to invade Chuck Bass' not-so-humble abode after midnight (not that he had even considered that Chuck might be home at midnight, even on a school night... which meant really, he didn't have an answer).
In a moment of wit even he was vaguely proud of, he calmly pointed out that he'd been trying to surprise his no longer sleeping girlfriend, caught her extended hand and allowed her to draw him into her room. Walking backward (remarkably proficiently), she praised him all the while for not rising to Chuck's bait, even as Chuck himself continued to 'entertain' them (for want of a better word, which he was sure he could have conjured up had his girlfriend not been showering him with a series of sleepily affectionate kisses) with a series of gagging noises outside her closed door.
They'd shared silent laughter when he bored quickly (and retreated to the Brooklyn-free zone that was his room), before their lips fused once again and she dragged him towards the bed, making whispered promises that he was sure she fully intended to keep before sleep claimed her again.
Looking back, he hadn't really minded that the third night they'd slept in the same bed hadn't gone quite according to his plan, if he was honest.
The fourth time he'd tried (when Lily and Bart were spending the weekend upstate at one of Bart's many properties), he'd encountered Eric van der Woodsen (not quite the van der Woodsen he had been planning on spending his evening with, but on reflection befriending the younger brother had gained him significant brownie points) who had informed him calmly that unless he wanted to face the wrath of Blair, his girlfriend's room probably wasn't the ideal place to head for the foreseeable future.
They had spent a couple of quite enjoyable hours playing video games on the suite's incredibly large plasma screen television, and he'd realised that befriending the younger brother had its perks for him too (mainly along the lines of a sibling-like rivalry that quickly established itself, which he'd often wished for when Jenny had shown little to no interest in games of the animated variety).
As Blair made a sweeping, graceful (if he was feeling generous, which he was surprised to find he was after her disruption, albeit unintentional, of his evening) and slightly aloof exit, his girlfriend deposited herself excitedly in his lap, showering him with kisses which led Eric to beat a hasty retreat (and he was left in no doubt they were designed to do just that), before curling up on the sofa with him, reaching for a throw as she told him quite candidly of Blair's latest crisis, safe in the knowledge that anything she told him really did stay with him (post pregnancy drama, of course).
And much as Blair's personal life (or that of Chuck, who was heavily involved in said drama) wasn't really of any interest to him, he found himself offering helpful suggestions and advice wherever he could. Because that was what boyfriends did (even when they were the Brooklyn to their girlfriend's Upper East Side).
It was a combination of that and the brownie points he'd earnt earlier, he was sure, that meant the fourth time they slept in a bed together, once again there wasn't actually much sleeping involved.
Although again, he didn't find himself complaining.
The fifth time they slept in the same bed, it wasn't even a part of his plan.
It had been the night of Jenny's ill-fated birthday (and really, the brotherly side of him did feel guilty that he hadn't been a little more persistent in his attempts to find out what had been troubling her) and as his father had tried repeatedly to get in contact with his runaway sister, he had retreated to the privacy of his room and called his girlfriend, needing a friendly voice more than anything. With a few cleverly worded questions she managed to draw the basics of the story out of him, and he could hear her picking up her purse and putting her coat on even as she promised him she was on her way over right that second.
He was beginning to learn (even without such a soundtrack), now that they'd said I love you, that when she gave him her word on something, she was more than likely to keep it.
Lying on his bed, he listened quietly to her exchanging greetings and trading light-hearted insults about the princess-themed state of the loft with his father (and allowed himself a slight smile when his girlfriend came out victorious on that one).
Her victory only lasted so long, however, as his dad went on to point out that her best friend had played a more than significant part in the evening's events, and he found himself close to jumping to his girlfriend's defence. Her completely unnecessary apology for her best friend's behaviour stopped him in his tracks, however, and as he listened to her extracting a promise from his dad that the next time he needed advice on anything relating to his daughter, he'd go to her rather than Blair (which, if he was completely honest, he was surprised his dad hadn't done anyway), he realised that she was more that capable of holding her own in the Humphrey world (and had somehow managed to slip into that position without him even noticing).
She had closed his bedroom door behind her quietly and crawled straight onto the bed, smiling as she questioned how much of that exchange he'd heard (all of it, he'd replied, silencing any further questions with a kiss).
A moment could only last so long, however, and before he knew it thoughts of his sister were invading his mind once again (battling for a prime position with guilt), erasing the smile from his face as quickly as she had painted it there. She tucked herself quietly under his arm, seemingly realising that a position that had provided comfort for her on many occasions might just do the same for him (and did).
They'd lain there in silence for a period of time he'd lost count of, her fingers settling into a gentle, reassuring caress (that he wanted to ask her never to stop) against the arm that rested around her, continuing even as his father broke the silence, knocking on the door and informing them that he was going out to look for Jenny. He barely missed a beat as he took in their intimate position (although he suspected he might be in for another of his father's famous 'talks' once the dust settled), and assured them that there was no point in them all going out because someone ought to be there should Jenny return (which he took as an implicit acceptance that Serena would remain exactly where she was).
For her part, Serena had made no attempt to move, offering only the quiet suggestion that if they needed her to, she would be more than happy to talk to Jenny and see if she could figure out what was going on, two actions which meant a lot more to him than he had expected.
It had been then that he really realised that, unlike Blair, her life wasn't really all about a popularity contest (and that when she'd tried to tell him that she thought the world she lived in was crazy, she had actually been telling the truth).
As they listened to the front door close behind his dad, she turned to him, pressed a kiss to her lips and told him that she wasn't going anywhere until he was ready to tell her what had happened.
He'd found himself opening up to her, telling her everything he knew about the events of that evening (and remembered every guilt-ridden worry he'd ignored over the past few weeks, all of which she gently dismissed), and listening as she filled in some of the gaps with what little knowledge she had (which, she confessed, she felt a little guilty about herself, despite being no blood relation to the younger Humphrey, and had meant more to him than anything else that evening).
Between them, they'd worked out a vague plan of action (broken up by long, slow kisses and hugs that he hadn't quite realised how much he'd needed), and there wasn't even a question hanging over whether she was intending to go home that evening as she kicked off her shoes, shed her top layers of clothing and crawled into bed with him.
As such, the fifth time they'd slept in the same bed had been entirely down to her.
The sixth and seventh times they slept in the same bed were facilitated by two key allegiances - a burgeoning friendship in its own right with Eric van der Woodsen (who became chief lookout, spy and provider of notifications that the coast was clear in an attempt, he suspected, to show his sister he approved of her latest boyfriend), and a few nice words and a smile on every meeting with the maid from the third time, whose name he now knew (and remembered) as being Annalese (and whose silence on the matter had probably been vital).
Allegiances aside, however, he still failed to achieve his goal as he hadn't counted on his girlfriend being (fortunately, if you were going to look at the bigger picture and the future) every bit as nocturnal as he was and never asleep when he arrived (unless, he suspected, he began to make his treks across town at 4am, which was a little too dedicated even for Dan Humphrey and this particular mission).
The sixth time, he found her sprawled on her bed clothed in various layers of very expensive silk, perusing an array of the latest gossip and fashion magazines (instead, he suspected, of finishing her lit review) to a soundtrack that he knew had been inspired by him alone. And in his defence, he'd made every attempt to take an interest in whether stripes or prints were more in fashion (and almost gained himself a slap in the process), but when she passed him a magazine Eric had left earlier in the evening with a silent, knowing smile, he'd been more than happy to stretch out beside her in companionable silence (at least until she'd had her fashion fix for the evening, because he did love her for making no apologies for who she was).
Her nocturnal habits did have their advantages though (particularly on nights such as that where Blair hadn't called first dibs on his girlfriend), and even once she'd successfully made an impressive dent in her copy of Vogue, he still found himself the (more than willing) recipient of her undivided attention.
He did start to notice (and was torn between whether it was a good or bad thing) that there was more sleeping going on (alongside their other bedtime activities), but he reasoned that that was simply because they were sleeping in the same bed more and therefore could be put down to simple mathematics (and really, he had nothing to complain about in regard to what they could have been getting up to, because they were most definitely still in their honeymoon period and as such, the maths was definitely in their favour). His thoughts were confirmed the seventh time they slept in the same bed, when he caught her watching a lengthy Grey's Anatomy marathon (and talked her out, thankfully, of the Sex and the City reruns which were competing for her attention) and she fell asleep mid-episode, curled comfortably in his arms.
He liked both the actual sleeping and the alternative to sleeping almost equally, if he was honest.
The eighth time they slept in the same bed resulted in an enormously embarrassing late night (or early morning, depending on how you liked to look at the situation) run-in with Lily van der Woodsen (soon-to-be-Bass, as he reminded himself every time in preparation) in the hallway, and left him cursing the fact that he'd accepted Chuck of all people's assurances that Lily wouldn't be returning all night.
And from what he could hear, world war three was indeed breaking out in the van der Bass siblings' corridor (with his girlfriend choosing some very choice words to make her argument which almost made him blush).
What he was more concerned with, however, was the fact that he was the one stranded in a different part of the van der Bass apartment, with his girlfriend's somewhat imposing (even if he pretended otherwise) mother proving to be a total impasse between him and said girlfriend even if he had had the courage to step in and attempt to calm the feuding pseudo-siblings.
His attention had quickly been drawn back to Lily with her demand to know what he was doing in her home at two thirty in the morning (in a tone of voice which he was sure he would have noticed, had he been paying a little more attention and panicking a little less, had a distinct hint of humour to it – in hindsight, like she'd been in a similar situation herself), but after he'd stammered a reply (which he honestly couldn't repeat if he tried) he was stunned into silence as she appeared to grow quickly around to his father's way of thinking and suggested that she might tolerate, within reason, the occasional sleepover (providing of course, that they stopped sneaking around in order to achieve such a result). Which in hindsight, actually didn't really surprise him – for his father to have fallen in love with her (much as it still made both him and Serena feel a little queasy to think about it), they must have had some similarities.
And as such, the ninth, tenth and eleventh times they slept in the same bed passed in a (relatively) un-dramatic fashion.
It was the twelfth time they slept in the same bed that was the time he managed to discover that she slept right at the edge of the bed.
It was the day after the 'scandal' (if you were an Upper East Sider at least) surrounding Eric's sexuality had broken in somewhat dramatic style, largely due to the fact that his own sister had gotten a little too big for her boots in her quest to gain dominance over Blair.
Serena had sat up until the early (or late, from the sound of things) hours of the morning in an act of sisterly solidarity, and had valiantly struggled her way through a whole day's classes and their associated gossipmongers without complaint or a single sign of weakness (aside from a brief twenty minute nap with her head resting against his shoulder as they sat in a relatively deserted corner on the steps of the Met, which he found both utterly endearing and a little cruel when he had to wake her from her surprisingly peaceful slumber), but had headed straight for her bed (and, he suspected, shelter from Gossip Girl and her contributors) the second the final bell rang.
And so, he spotted an opportunity (because he wasn't Dartmouth material for nothing).
It was a somewhat subdued Eric who let him in and confirmed (in a display of concern that was very un-younger sibling) that the last time he'd checked, his sister was out for the count.
With a remarkably genuine smile, Eric had gone on to comment that he was glad something good had come out of the situation, and that he'd been able to indirectly play a part in the completion of this particular mission (much as he actually wished in the circumstances that he'd played no part at all). His concern that his sister's untimely rise to fame (Upper East Side style) and the ensuing public outing for Eric was something he could have prevented was appeased, as Eric himself assured him that he didn't blame him (and, that really, he wasn't sure he would blame Jenny, once the dust settled).
Which left him free to continue on the path of discovery which he hoped would lead to his peacefully slumbering girlfriend.
And finally, after eleven failed attempts, that was exactly what he found. She was curled on her side, covers grasped possessively between her fingers (a trait he actually adored – she didn't steal the covers, she just appreciated being warm... and when they shared a bed, she was more than happy to hold onto him instead).
Right at the edge of the bed.
Which made it virtually impossible for him to carry out the rest of his plan. Virtually impossible to join her without waking her.
Which he soon realised (the second he lowered his weight to the bed, in fact) was exactly her goal. And before he'd even really had time to finish that thought, she was sitting bolt upright, her eyes wild as she struggled to catch her breath.
And his heart broke, just a little, at the almost unrepressed fear in her eyes.
Catching her hands quickly, he moved into her line of sight, reassuring her quietly until it finally seemed to register that he wasn't anyone to be scared of (something which he'd thought they'd conquered long ago). Before he knew it, she had launched herself into his arms, her whole body shaking as her fingers curled around his shoulders, holding on tight. She whispered an apology, the tremble in her voice barely muffled by his shoulder, and he dismissed it instantly as his fingers found their comfortable spot at the small of her back (and found himself wishing for the first time that this time he had found her awake, if only to erase the fear coursing through her body).
Several minutes passed as they clung to one another, bodies twisted into awkward shapes across the centre of her bed (the pain of which did, unfortunately, begin to take precedence in his mind, much as he tried not to let it). Eventually he managed to uncurl her fingers from his shoulders and guide her to a more comfortable position, loosening the tangled sheets from around her body as he asked if it was okay for him to stay the night (and prayed, silently, that she answered in the affirmative).
Which, in lieu of a more traditional answer, he took the fact that she simply held onto him tighter to be (something which, despite what he feared to be the severity of the situation, began to piece his heart back together again because he had a feeling that this leaning on him was a big step in their relationship), discarding his jacket and shoes as he crawled into bed with her.
Lying there in the dark, holding the trembling body of his girlfriend close as he asked a few careful questions, he slowly managed to piece the situation together.
Whether it was down to her father, one of her many stepfathers or any of her mother's other male suitors (or someone else entirely), he wasn't quite sure (and if he was honest, he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know), but the reason she slept right on the edge of the bed was just what he'd discovered, and feared.
That she would wake up, the second anyone attempted what he had.
He found himself compelled to ask the question that he couldn't suppress (no matter how much his brain was screaming that if the answer was yes, he really, really didn't want to know), and as she turned tear-filled eyes up to his and shook her head that no, it hadn't actually happened, he'd never been so grateful for a fear that wasn't founded in experience in his life.
And so he wiped her tears away gently, whispered an 'I love you' and reassured her that if he had anything to do with it, she'd never have to be scared about this (or anything else) ever again (and the smile that fought its way through the tears to cross her lips made him even more determined to keep that particular promise).
As such, the twelfth time they slept in the same bed, he finally achieved his goal, and at the same time, realised the reason why it had taken him twelve attempts to get to that point.
Not that he'd change her, for anything.
He'd stopped counting after that night (but if he had to guess, he'd say they were somewhere in the early twenties) but it didn't mean that his mission was over.
It had simply altered somewhat.
His original goal had been to discover her sleeping habits. Add them to the steadily growing list of things he knew about her, and then use them to his advantage (because really, he slept better when she was there). He hadn't been counting on fear (or reducing his girlfriend to tears), and it did break his heart that he'd had to (albeit unintentionally) put her through that to get to this point.
He'd always believed that you learned to like someone when you found out what made them laugh, but you didn't really learn to love them until you knew what made them cry.
Which, he guessed, put them in a pretty good position.
And now, he had the chance to help her move past it, because if he had anything to do with it, he was the only person who would ever sleep in the same bed as her from that moment on (with the guaranteed exception of Blair, he was sure, but the best friend didn't really count).
They'd started slowly, with a promise that he would wake her first, no matter what time it was (and as such a new goal had emerged as he delighted in discovering the best ways to wake her up and adding them to the ever-growing list of things he knew about her), and negotiated their way forwards from that.
He was slowly coaxing her towards the middle of the bed, and even if it took a lifetime to convince her that night time didn't have to be full of fear... well, maybe that would just have to be his new goal.
And really, if that meant a lifetime of waking up next to Serena van der Woodsen, well who was he to complain?
Author's Note: so this was my first foray into the Gossip Girl fandom, and any comments on how well (or otherwise) things went would be greatly appreciated. I feel a certain affinity for Dan and I think there are a lot of ways I can relate to his character (aside, obviously, from the fact that I'm a 21 year old girl and Dan is most definitely neither of those), so I hope this does him justice - I feel like his voice came quite easily to me (along with the fact that I feel like he sometimes thinks a little too fast for his own brain to keep up with), so I hope that comes across to other people.
I've done an exceptional job of erasing the whole Georgina debacle from my mind, so I used a bit of poetic licence in the assumption that Dan and Serena were very much together through a couple of late season one events (namely Jenny's birthday party and Eric's unintentional outing) - I think it would've been interesting to see the interaction between them as Jenny went off the rails somewhat, trying to be part of Serena's world. Personally, I would've liked to see Serena take a little bit more of an active role in guiding Jenny, but what can you do. There are a lot of things I hope for that I don't get!
I really hope you all enjoyed, and any comments would be much appreciated!