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When I'm with you I'll make every second count
'cause I miss you
Whenever you're not around
When I kiss you
I'll still get butterflies years from now
I'll make every second count when I'm with you

-Faber Drive "When I'm With You"

Blair Waldorf has successfully completed one and a half semesters at NYU when she discovers the cream and black invitation that has come to her home for the past few years. It's another annual Vanderbilt gathering. She's so embarrassed about her actions last year that she thinks about tossing the paper away like she tossed her old life away, but it'd be rude to refuse Grandfather her presence.

The Connecticut manor still looks the same as always and the butler greets her at the door as if she's lived here all of her life. She remembers spending summers here with Nate when they were young and sort of in love and her mind drifts back to these trouble-free days where she didn't worry about everything.

Tripp's wearing a thick, navy cable-knit sweater. He's recently married, as indicated by the white gold band adorning his left ring finger. He's sipping an ice-less scotch as his new wife drinks Belvedere martinis. Blair crinkles her nose at putting vodka in her signature drink and tries to find something to entertain herself with.

She doesn't have to wait long because Tripp's noticed her and comes up to greet her. They're catching up — he asks about living in Greenwich Village and she asks about marriage and Maureen — when a blond comes up behind him to tap him on the shoulder.

"Touch football's starting up soon, man," is all the blond says, until he looks past Tripp at Blair and gives her a small wink.

It's equal parts Chuck Bass and Carter Baizen and Blair gets a tingle inside that she hasn't felt in a very long time.

"Blair," Tripp says, "This is Tristan DuGrey, an old buddy of mine from Yale. Tristan, this is Blair Waldorf."

Tristan's hand lingers on her own and all Blair can do is stare at his cobalt eyes.

There's a feast later that night, but it's no surprise, because the Vanderbilts eat just like any other family. The boys load up on the American staple of steak, potatoes, and greens, although here that means filet mignon, baked rosemary potatoes, and only the very tips of white asparagus.

Blair sits between Nate and Maureen and gushes over the latter's five carat De Beers ring.

She's placing the tiniest bite of filet into her mouth when she feels eyes upon her. When she gazes upward, she eyes Tripp's friend Tristan. He's not winking at her this time, but he's staring nonetheless. Blair looks around to make sure no one is watching. They aren't.

She turns back to Maureen and asks, "Is there something on my face?"

Maureen shakes her head no.

"Thanks," Blair mentions, then adds, "Then why is Tristan DuGrey staring at me?"

He's too far to hear and she's turned so he can't see her mouth the words so it's okay (kind of) when Maureen only smiles when she acknowledges, "You're a pretty girl. And, I know for a fact that he likes brunettes."

Blair lifts an eyebrow quizzically before turning and flashing him a brilliant smile that's sure to leave him dazed. He doesn't give it a second thought when he turns and talks to Grandfather.

She feels defeated and she doesn't even know why because she doesn't know this boy, nor should she care what he thinks of her.

The scene's not that much different from last year so Blair grabs her drink and heads upstairs to the balcony that's certain to be deserted. She settles into one of the giant armchairs and wishes she'd brought a jacket. Connecticut springs aren't too vastly different from their winters and she feels the shiver on her arms.

"You'll get sick," says a low voice.

When he steps out of the shadows, Blair can barely make out the blond hair of one Tristan DuGrey. He makes like Nate from one year previous and slips off his navy sport coat for her to don.

She skips the sarcasm and says, "Thank you."

She breathes in the scent of Gucci Pour Homme as she slips on the tailored Prada. He pulls an armchair closer to her and sits down. She takes the liberty of slipping off her heels and placing her dainty feet atop his legs.

They spend the next hour just talking, about anything and everything. They talk about school, where they're from (he's from Hartford), what they hope to do in life (he's not sure about taking over the family business, she thinks she wants to make like father and stepfather in becoming a lawyer), and a host of other subjects in between. All the while, he grips his aged scotch like he's Jack on Titanic and Blair wonders if her taste will ever change.

Blair's awoken by Nate three hours later when the sun starts to rise and hit her eyelids. She's wearing Dazzling by Chanel as she covers her eyes with her perfectly manicured hand.

Sometime during the night she'd hopped off her chair and onto Tristan and this is how Nate finds them. She's curled into a ball with her head in the crook of his neck and if he didn't know any better, he'd say they were the picture of a perfect couple in love. He mentions this and then she slaps him lightly.

Blair gives one glance back at Tristan before she lets Nate lead her into one of the many guest rooms on the second floor. As she scrubs her face in the sink, she acknowledges that she hasn't just talked to a boy in God knows how long and it feels pleasantly nice, to say the least.

When she shrugs off her dress and the air around her smells rather strongly of Gucci, she breathes it in before slipping on an old St. Jude's lacrosse t-shirt. The t-shirt has a distinctly different smell that instantly makes her feel at home so she climbs into bed with Nate and quietly places her head on his left shoulder. He throws his left arm around her, kisses the top of her head, and lets her fall asleep. It's a familiar routine they haven't practiced in a while, but it's nice to relive the past sometimes.

It's the morning after the party and everyone's downstairs eating when Blair frantically scrambles around her overnight bag for a decent ensemble. It's second nature to her to impress people and she's not even sure why she's trying to impress this boy, but he's new and fresh and something slightly out of the ordinary so she takes it in stride as she slips a floral Diane von Furstenberg tea-length dress over her head and makes her way downstairs.

He's not there.

She's trying not to look obvious as she scans the expanse of the room for him, but embarrassingly enough, Tripp notices enough to tap her on the shoulder.

"Tris wanted me to give you this," he says, with a light smile on his face, before handing her a post-it with a number scrawled, along with a short note.

She's not blushing furiously, but she's Blair Waldorf, so she feels it on the inside when she takes the note from his hands and pretends to ignore it for now. She'll make a dash to the bathroom in minutes and not to explore her long habit of post-eating stress.

"He had business to attend to," Tripp offers, before Blair looks up questioningly at him before he continues, "Last minute deal for the merger his dad's working on."

His easy smile puts Blair at ease (she wasn't even sure why her heart was racing, anyway) and she wonders what it is about these Vanderbilt boys that makes her feel so comfortable.

Blair holds onto the post-it for exactly two weeks before she decides to man up — as Serena not so subtly puts it — and call Tristan. It's late April and he sounds tired and she feels bad for calling so late, which she mentions, but he hushes her.

"I wasn't sure you'd ever call," Tristan admits, "It was a low blow to my ego."

Blair laughs, "That's something you would admit aloud?"

He shrugs, "Just did, there's no taking it back now."

There's a pause before he adds, "Why the call, Waldorf?" and he sounds just like Chuck even though he looks more like Nate and with all these comparisons running unchecked in her brain, she can't even pause to breathe.

She keenly replies, "I vaguely recall you being the one to so hurriedly give out your number."

"This is true," he mentions, "But Tripp said you probably just got back together with Nate or something."

She laughs again, "Nate and I haven't dated in almost a year."

He replies, "That's not a long time period given your history."

Her eyebrow is raised (although he can't see) when she thoughtfully mentions, "And how do you know our history?"

"Touché," he playfully responds, "Let's get back to the matter at hand. You called."

She's smiling, "I did."

"I suppose it would be appropriate to ask you to dinner," he says, all the while running a hand through his tousled blond hair.

Blair cheekily replies, "I suppose it would be appropriate for me to say yes."

This time he's the one laughing, "I suppose it would be appropriate for you to be ready Friday at eight."

It turns out they have a lot of things in common, though she's really not surprised. He acts like the grownup version of Chuck she's always wanted, looks like the prince she's always wanted Nate to be, and has traveled the world more times than she can count not unlike one Carter Baizen. She supposes she should feel a little unsettled that he embodies all the traits of her former lovers (can she really call the first and last boyfriends?), but she's given up trying to look for something different.

She knows what she likes and when she likes it and right now she thinks she likes Tristan DuGrey and his blond hair with those blue eyes that look like replicas of the Atlantic Ocean on a clear, sunny day. He's respectful when he walks her back to her apartment, before she asks where he's staying.

"The Plaza," he mentions sheepishly, "I admit my upbringing chases me no matter how hard I try to disown it. Why?"

"No reason," she says, "You just came all this way for—"

"Don't say nothing," he tells her, a frown marring his perfect features.

She can't even reply with a simple, 'Okay,' so he takes this time to pull her closer to him and sink his lips on hers. She's tiny so she has to stand on her toes to kiss him properly, but he holds her up so it's slightly more comfortable. She tastes like cherries and champagne and a little like the dessert they just shared and it leaves him wanting more.

It's too much for now, however, so he wraps his arms around her and kisses the top of her head before he leaves.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he says before he goes.

Blair thinks it's nice to finally date a boy who wasn't first interested in Serena and she finds herself nearly skipping (but she refrains) on the way to business calculus. It's a Friday in May and it's her turn to go see Tristan and she's slightly nervous because she wonders what his parents will think of her.

They're kind of official when he calls and tells her about the parents deal before she freaks out after the conversation and calls Serena for advice.

"B, you play the parent card better than all of us," Serena tells her, laughing lightly, "I don't see what you're so worried about."

"But I don't know them," Blair whines, "I know your parents, and Nate's, and—" she pauses, "—God rest Bart's soul."

Serena insists, "You'll be fine."

"I've never even been to Hartford!" Blair yells, "What do I wear?"

"Um, clothes?" Serena suggests.

Blair doesn't laugh.

They're together together for several months before Blair runs into Carter in the city.

He's returned for God knows what reason and they're staring at each other expectantly until he starts speaking, "It's good to see you. Beautiful as always, I see."

"You see," she replies, because she has to.

"What are you doing tonight?" he queries.

She responds, "I'm not free."

"Then tomorrow?" he tries again.

"Let me rephrase that," Blair mutters, "I'm not free ever."

"You wound me," Carter says, with a hand to his heart like she's hurt him forever.

He sounds like Tristan and this makes her anxious, so she casually mentions, "I'm dating someone," before turning around to leave.

"Just tell me, is it Bass or Archibald this time around?"

"Neither," she whispers, without turning around.

He hears her all the same.

It's another two years until she's Mrs. Tristan DuGrey and it's not the life she expected for herself, but she loves him all the same. He's beautiful and blond and he loves her and she's gorgeous and brunette and she loves him so they can live their happily ever after as well.

They don't get married in New York, but at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph welcomes them in Hartford. The church is gorgeous with its stained glass windows and wooden pews and Blair wonders how she got to be at this place. She loves this boy she would've never met without Nate and she thinks it's nice Nate's in the pews with Vanessa (again) as she walks down the aisle in a mass of Monique Lhuillier.