A/N: Alright. So, this is going to be 15 chapters long, which will cover all seven deadly sins, all seven heavenly virtues, and an epilogue. Some chapters will be longer, some will be shorter; some will take place over the course of about an hour like this one does, some will stretch out over years. All pairings between these four are going to be explored (N/B, C/B, N/S, C/S, C/N, S/B). I've been toying with the idea of an NSCB fic for quite a while, and I'm pretty thrilled with this idea. Enjoy and please review.
The curse of the romantic is a greed for dreams, an intensity of expectation that, in the end, diminishes the reality.
-- Marya Mannes
"Who's that?" He doesn't mean to growl out the question, territorial and menacing, but it's how it leaves his lip. His girlfriend is shocked, he can tell by the way her shoulders jump up momentarily and her eyebrows arch.
In an instant, her facial expression is neutral and calm, and she's laying a hand lightly on his knee. "Who, sweetie?"
"The guy she's…hanging off of," he mutters, disgusted as he watches on.
She rolls her eyes and shrugs blithely. "He's on the lacrosse team," she supplies vaguely, desperately trying to pretend she wasn't noticed mixture of concern and jealously in her boyfriend's eyes. He is hers. They've been together, or approaching togetherness, since childhood. They'll get married one day, live on Park Avenue, have beautiful children. He doesn't need to look at any other girl.
But then, of course, she supposes this is the one girl she should allow him to feel protective over. This is the one girl who's never supposed to be a threat, and yet is always a threat. She drums her perfectly manicured nails against the tabletop in a steady, calming pattern, a predictable succession of sounds.
"Shouldn't we go get her?" her boyfriend asks, his voice dangerously low.
"I suppose we should," she mutters. She pulls her hand back, putting an abrupt end to the rhythm, and stands, dropping her napkin demurely on her chair. "Come on, darling," she adds, slipping her hand into his and pulling him after her.
He frowns at the way she moves across the room, tugging him along, as if this whole rescue mission was her generous idea in the first place. He watches her shoot smiles at all the right people at all the right moments, and he hates her and loves her so much in that moment.
"Hey," she says authoritatively, but with infinite politesse and sweetness. "I think you're kind of wearing my best friend right now. Mind if I take her back?" Without waiting for a reply, she gently takes both of Serena's arms and pulls her away.
"Blair!" she intoxicated blonde says brightly, wrapping her arms around her friend's neck in an enthusiastic hug. She touches Blair's cheek tenderly and grins. "Hi."
"Hi," Blair replies with a long-suffering sigh that makes her boyfriend chuckle.
Serena squints at her worriedly. "Did you eat?"
"S.," the brunette warns her quietly with a small shake of her head. She is so lovable yet so irritating all at once, entirely concerned but too drunk to realize that this is not the place or time. She grimaces and turns to Nate. "I have to stay here, my committee is throwing this luncheon." She bites her lip as she steadies Serena, shooting him a pleading look. "Will you look after her? Take her to bathroom, try and get her to drink some coffee? It shouldn't be more than an hour."
"Natie!" Serena cries joyously as if she's just noticed him.
"Hey, you," he says gently as Blair transfers her into his arms and shoots him a grateful glance. She kisses his cheek and gives him a promising look before she bolts off to play hostess.
"Blair looks pretty," Serena says contemplatively as she tucks her head against his shoulder. "You look pretty," she adds as an afterthought.
Nate laughs as he guides her from the room. "I'm not entirely sure that's a compliment. But thank you, nonetheless." He sighs as he directs her into the restaurant's spacious, single washroom, helping her to sit on the counter by the sink. He plants a hand on either side of her body, leaning toward her. "How much did you have to drink? Do you remember what you drank?"
"Does it matter?" she asks as she shrugs.
"Kinda, yeah," he laughs.
She suddenly becomes very involved with studying her fingernails. "It's what I've done. It's what I do. It doesn't matter."
"Serena, of course it does."
She shakes her head, blonde hair flying. "You have Blair and Blair has you. You want each other. And I just want you both. It doesn't matter."
"Serena…" he says mournfully, tucking blonde wisps behind her perfect ears. "You matter so much to both of us." He wishes Blair was here because she'd know what the right thing to say would be. He's also very glad she's not. "We want you, too."
And when she kisses him he doesn't pull away.
She tastes like champagne and cigarettes, watermelon and grief, like something very familiar. This happens sometimes. It just happens, him and her; they fall into each other and they don't let go.
When they pull apart for oxygen they don't meet each other's eyes. He stands there in the same position breathing heavily, trying to think of something smart to say, and she's crying.
Nate spins around to see his best friend watching them knowingly, his ever-present smirk in place. Chuck walks over to them and throws his joint into the sink.
"What do we have here?"
Serena fidgets uncomfortably, her pointy-toed heels hitting Nate's knees. "I want to go home," she declares, evading Chuck's question even in her inebriated state.
Chuck just continues to smirk. Serena and Nate in a compromising situation, a situation that indicates much more than friendship…it ceases to surprise him any more. It never really surprised him.
It irks him, however. He gets everything he wants, no questions asked, he always has. He could have any girl, and he's had most of them. He's the daring one, the wild one, the dangerous one. And yet, Nate's the one both of these girls have fallen for. Serena, his equal in rebelliousness and spirit, has never been willing to give him what he wants for her.
He stands at her side and brushes her hair back, off of her neck, and presses his lips to the spot just under her ear. "Darling," he murmurs only because he knows how much it bothers her when he uses affection terms with her. She squirms away from him, casting a frown in his direction, and their eyes meet, a bolt of electric understanding passing between them. They are so similar. "I could take you home," he adds.
Nate pushes Chuck away, his jaw clenching with jealousy. "Would you just go and make sure that Blair's not having a meltdown out there?"
Chuck laughs casually. "Whatever you say, Nathaniel," he placates his friend, turning to go. Before he steps away Serena grasps his hand and gives it a second-long squeeze before letting go as if nothing ever happened. He winks at her and ambles away.
"You shouldn't drink so much," Nate says when he's gone, stupidly lashing out at her for things that he feels.
"You shouldn't be with Blair," she rebukes, utter honestly, and they sit there in silence again, just breathing and crying.
Inside the room, Chuck leans against a wall, watching Blair move about. She's seen him; she knows he's there if she needs any assistance of any kind. She has everything under control. If there's anything Blair's knowledgeable in, it's control. She's perfection, the Upper East Side's princess, the only other girl he hasn't had. She's too pure, too demure, too fixated on movie script, fairytale endings. He could give her that, but he could also give her so much more, if she'd let him.
The thing is, she probably never will. The other thing is, that only increases his want for her.
She sidles up to him wearing a tired but satisfied smile. "Can I help you, Bass?"
"Your best friend is in the bathroom with your boyfriend, and I think it would be in her best interest and yours to get them out of there in the near future."
She throws him a startled glance. "What's that supposed to mean?" she inquires edgily.
His hand slides easily down in the space between them, his finger hooking just under the hem of her skirt. "You know what it means, Waldorf."
"He's my boyfriend. She's my best friend." Separate entities, separate people, separate realms of her life. But most importantly, she's saying mine. They both belong to her, not to one another.
Chuck leans a bit closer to her. His fingers are touching her thigh. "And I? What am I?"
She pulls away, grasping his hand and yanking it away from her body. "You…are our ride home," she says dismissively, turning to go find the wayward blondes.
"Waldorf!" he calls after her, and she turns to look at him, arching her eyebrows impatiently. He smirks. "Every time you turn me down I only want you more."
"Please," she scoffs, but her voice is soft, and her ankles are weak when she struts away.
Blair sits in the middle in the back of Chuck's limo and she thinks it's ironic. Serena is asleep, sprawled out across their laps, her head resting on Nate's thighs. Blair rests her head against Chuck's shoulder just because. She's tired. It's not revenge or anything.
Chuck knows that he's greedy. It's how he's always been, more take than give, and shamelessly so. And he wants to take: Blair's virginity. Serena's turbulent beauty. Nate's girls.
Nate can't choose. He wants the best of both worlds. He's got connections to them both, Blair and Serena, on every level. He can't remember when he fell in love with them. It doesn't matter who he loved first. All that matters is that he loves them both and he can't comprehend his world without either of them.
Blair, for her part, is greedy for the past, when it was easier and when it was all defined. She wants to shop, to buy uber-expensive shoes and bags, and eat sushi and drink martinis, love Nate, giggle with Serena, plot with Chuck. She's hungry for the simplicity of it all, the easiness of knowing exactly how much she needed to love everyone (Nate, forever; Serena, a lot at most times; Chuck, not at all).
And Serena, for her part, eyelashes fluttering over her blue orbs, dreams restlessly of everything she wants and everything she doesn't have.
Nathaniel. Serena. Charles. Blair.
They want each other more than they should; it's only a matter of time until they crash and burn.