A/N: I was trying to fall asleep while listening to my iPod and a line from a song just sparked this idea in my head. I spent the majority of the next twenty-four hours, which I'd planned to spend at the beach, sitting in front of my laptop and drinking a lot of iced coffee while I wrote this. It evolved into something much different and much longer than I'd originally intended it to be, and the song that fits it best isn't actually the one that inspired it. I'm a little nervous about this because I honestly don't know what on earth I was thinking when I got the idea, so if you read, I'd love it if you also reviewed to let me know what you thought. This is also my 80th story, which seems a little crazy! I hope you enjoy it. :)

Just Love Me When You Can

so the story goes on down the less-travelled road

it's a variation of the one I was told

and although it's not the same, it's awful close, yeah

in an ordinary fairytale land

there's a promise of a perfect happy end

and I imagine having just sorta that is better than nothing

so you'll be mine, forever and almost always

and I'll be fine, just love me when you can, yeah

and I'll wait patiently; I'll wake every day

just hoping that you still care

-- Kate Voegele, "Forever and Almost Always"

The day after Blair Waldorf and Nate Archibald share their first kiss, Serena van der Woodsen decides that there really isn't any reason for her to get out of bed. She stays huddled up in blankets all day, watching Nickelodeon, staring blankly at the TV screen. Her mother barges in around eleven forty-five in the morning with a speech about understanding an adolescent's need for sleep, but this has just gone too far, and what on earth is Serena watching – she's too old for cartoons. She gives her daughter a lecture about responsibility of taking care of herself and says that she never wants to see Serena in bed past noon; that's unacceptable behaviour. Serena watches little cartoon characters move about the screen, listlessly ignoring Lily. She doesn't even know what show she's watching or what's going on, but she doesn't want to hear anything her mother has to say. She pulls the blankets up over her head and tells herself that she doesn't have to cry.

The maid brings her an extensive, yummy-looking breakfast, but Serena can only bring herself to eat a couple strawberries. Everyone on the show she's watching solves their problems in under half an hour, hitting high-fives and hugging one another, and she's jealous and nauseous; a little bit miserable and a lot lonely.

Erik tiptoes in later in the afternoon wearing a sympathetic smile and shakes his head when Serena asks if their mother sent him. He crawls into bed next to her and asks what they're watching, his voice purposefully upbeat. Serena shrugs sullenly and tells him he can change the channel if he wants. Erik shakes his head slowly and looks at her worriedly. Did something happen last night? His sister shrugs again and buries her cheek in her pillow, which smells a little bit like Nate's Right Guard deodorant and says, Nothing happened, not to me.

Lily tries to parent one last time later in the evening. She brings Serena her favourite kind of sandwich and a whole bag of marshmallows. She rubs her daughter's back and smoothes out her hair. She sighs and kisses Serena's forehead when she doesn't get a response. Serena waits for her mother to tell her that she loves her, but instead Lily says, At least get up and shower, darling. She goes, taking the sandwich but leaving the marshmallows, which might be the non-verbal equivalent of those three words.

Charles Bass calls at 9:59 p.m. He's got his party voice. He says he got them all invited to the year's very best, wildest party, thrown by one of the slutty girls from L'École. Serena knows what them all means. Herself and Chuck and Nate and Blair…like always. She finds her voice from wherever it's been hiding all day to tell him that Nate and Blair are probably busy. There's a pause, a long one, before Chuck finally says that's fine. We'll just go; you and me, S. It'll be a blast. Nate and Blair will hate that they missed it.

The thought of going somewhere alone with Chuck while Nate and Blair are alone somewhere else is so completely incomprehensible, so very unbearable, that Serena hangs up the phone without a word and lets it fall to the floor.

It's almost midnight and Serena's almost asleep when she hears a small clatter coming from her bathroom. Alarmed, she throws the blankets off her legs and sits up, but then an all-too-familiar face, breathless and proud, appears in the doorway that separates her room and her en suite bathroom. Chuck Bass stands there, grinning, and announces: I came in through the bathroom window.

It makes her smile for the first time all day, because he's crazy, and because she remembers how they, all four of them, used to dance around Nate's living room listening to Beatles songs, belting out the lyrics. Serena smiles back at him. Protected by a silver spoon, she sings.

They lie on top of her sheets and they open the bag of marshmallows and watch all the late night talk shows. Somewhere between a hilarious interview and a commercial for some kind of innovative spatula, Chuck asks if Nate and Blair are. Just are. Neither of them need to expand on that thought to understand it. Serena nods slowly without looking at him. Chuck sighs and there's a moment of acknowledgment that feels strangely like mourning, and then he loops his trademark scarf around her neck and challenges her to see how many marshmallows she can fit into her mouth, and she giggles and she doesn't feel quite so left behind.


Serena helps Blair get ready for her first official date with Nate. Blair looks particularly beautiful, not because of the makeup she carefully picked out and applied with Serena's help or because of her gorgeously high heels or because of the just-sexy-enough black dress she wears. She looks beautiful because she's exuding happiness. This is how it's supposed to be! she squeals when she hugs Serena and thanks her just before Nate's supposed to arrive. I can't wait. I'm so in love with him already, S.

The blonde plasters on a smile and hugs her back and says she's happy, because she should be. She loves Blair and she loves Nate, so if they're in love with each other, that's just perfect, isn't it?

When she's leaving the building she runs straight into Nate, who's right on time. He looks great, he looks so good, and he smells the way he always has. She teases him: Dude, are you crazy? The guy is supposed to be late. And then, because she can't help herself, she kisses his cheek. It's just friendly, that's all. She takes a deep breath when she pulls away from him and tells him to have fun. He kisses her cheek back just before he runs upstairs and her knees feel like jelly.

It's not until Nate disappears that she realizes Chuck is also there, scarf around his neck, a joint in one hand. What're you doing? she blurts, and he shrugs, all casual-cool.

I walked Nathaniel over.

Serena nods. I helped Blair get ready.

Sitting across the street on the steps of some other apartment building, Chuck give Serena a cigarette, and she smokes it, her first one ever, as they watch Nate and Blair leave. Nate says something that makes Blair giggle, and she fixes his tie as if there was something wrong with it, and kisses him full on the lips before they get into the car that whisks them away.

Chuck says that they look happy together, his voice low, and Serena just nods because she doesn't trust herself to speak.

They sit there in silence until it gets really dark, and he offers to give her a ride home. When they pull up in front of her apartment building, which is basically a block away, he gets out as well, which is strangely gentlemanly behaviour for Chuck Bass, and it doesn't seem all that crazy when she reaches out, wrapping her arms around his neck, and hugs him.


Are you dating Chuck Bass?

Serena almost chokes on her ice cream. She and Blair and Nate are all at the ice cream place they used to go as little kids, revisiting their childhood for an afternoon. She's sitting on one side of the table, feeling stupid and broken, while Nate and Blair are all cuddled up together on the other side. It's not the same at all, because when they were younger Nate was at least half hers.

Well, are you? Blair's eyes are sparkling with curiosity and enthusiasm. Nate's got his arm looped comfortably around her thin shoulders, but he looks wary of Serena's answer.

No, Blair, I'm not dating Chuck Bass! What the hell gave you that idea?

Blair shrugs impishly. I was hanging out with him the other day and he mentioned you, she confides. And also, there was totally a picture of you two all wrapped up in each other on Gossip Girl.

Nate looks like he's torn between asking about twenty different questions. You and Chuck what? he blurts to Serena before he turns to Blair and demands, You two were hanging out together?

Serena decides to answer first because she's not telling that ridiculous rumour taint his mind for another second. We were not all wrapped up in each other, she says disdainfully. He gave me a drive home and I hugged him. The end. She meets Nate's eyes on these last words, electricity crackling as their blue eyes connect.

Blair somehow manages to move a little closer to Nate, eyeing her best friend uncertainly across the table. If you were to get together, I think it would be great. Both Nate and Serena shoot her dubious looks, but she forges on. We could double date, wouldn't that be wonderful? She takes a tiny little bite from the sundae she's sharing with her boyfriend.

Chuck Bass? Double date? Wonderful? Nate and Serena's words overlap as they speak sceptically and exchange mystified looks, as if trying to decide whether or not Blair needs to be committed.

Somehow, things feel a little bit more serious, and Blair's frown is earnestly displeased. Don't be like that. Chuck's only slime-y on the surface. He's a good person. He's almost…sweet, deep down. You just have to get to know him.

Nate stares at Blair like she's just spoken Yiddish or like he doesn't know her like he thought he did, and Serena stares at Nate like she misses him with all her heart, and Blair blushes like she's got a secret, ignoring them both as she continues to eat, taking substantially bigger bites.


Blair thinks we're dating. She thinks we should. She thinks we should double-date with her and Nate.

Those are the announcements she makes to him when she yanks the earbuds out of his ears in his suite at the Palace hotel. He's lying on the couch and his eyes fly open as he gives her a Cheshire-cat smile. She stands above him, hands on her hips, and glares at him when he chuckles.

All respectable ideas, he smarms. Blair's a smart girl.

Serena sits down at his side, giving him a long, hard look. After a few moments of silence, she finally says, Are you… Blair…

Don't. His voice is low and dangerous, filled with warning. He meets her eyes and she's surprised at the seriousness of the threat she sees there. Don't, not unless you want to talk about you and Nate.

She's so taken aback that she physically moves away from him, blinking at him in shock.

There is no me and Nate.

That's right. And there's no me and Blair.

It's Blair and Nate.

His hand drifts across the space between them until it lands on her leg, his fingers gently cupping her kneecap and sneaking a little bit higher. So should it be Chuck and Serena then? he muses aloud.

She shrugs, leaning back against the couch's cushions and keeping an eye on his hand. The last thing I want to do in the world is go on a double date with them.

He laughs. Oh, sweetheart, he says. I wholeheartedly concur.


As time passes, they all grow separately, but also together, in two very distinct pairs. Nate and Blair become increasingly perfect and sweet. Chuck and Serena just get more fucked-up.

Chuck tells Nate to tap that ass. Serena tells Blair to let loose a little. In turn, Nate rolls his eyes and smokes more than he used to, and Blair tries to pretend she doesn't care that the girls at school seem to like her best friend a little more.

Blair and Nate attend every society event arm-in-arm or hand-in-hand, pretty, charming smiles in place. They spend all weekend with each other, shopping together at Bergdorf's, getting tall cups of coffee, disappearing to each other's houses to watch Audrey Hepburn movies and cuddle and kiss.

Chuck and Serena attend most of those same events together because they can't be bothered to find other dates, and they look just as well-raised and well-groomed, but they're the ones throwing the after-party at someone's penthouse. They spend their weekends together, too, because those are the days when they're robbed of their best friends. They get high and wasted, they go out to breakfast together with messy hair, wearing dark sunglasses, and leave twenty-dollar tips entirely in quarters just because they can. They stay up until the sun rises and they dance on Chuck's bed in their underwear and watch movies on his big-screen TV and splash around in his hottub. Sometimes she lets him kiss her, and one day she wakes up to find a present sitting by the bed and discovers that he's bought her a scarf of her own; so you can stop stealing mine, bitch.

It's really no surprise that Gossip Girl thinks they're doing it.

What is a surprise is the way Nate and Blair look at them in school the next day after posts like that have been published and everyone's whispering ChuckandSerena like their names belong together or something.


The summer after sophomore year, Blair goes to visit her father and Roman at their French vineyard, and Chuck's father drags him to Paris so that he can sit in on summer meetings at Bass Industries.

Serena cries and Nate looks sad in a stoned sort of way when they bid goodbye to their friends for the summer, standing on the runway. Blair's going with the Basses in their private jet so it's just one farewell, but it's still sad because even when she feels like things aren't the way they should be, Serena's really going to miss her very best friend.

Blair sobs into Nate's shirt and kisses him sweetly on the lips and tells him to write her love letters, because she's always wanted to get love letters. She sneaks a peek over at Chuck and Serena when they hug as if she's trying to figure out how close they really are. Chuck, who's noticed her gaze, whispers something in Serena's ear that makes her giggle and nod, and then he dips her down dramatically and kisses her, her fingers touching his cheeks. When he pulls her back up they're both laughing like it's the funniest thing they've ever done, and Nate's frowning just like Blair is.

After she hugs Blair one last time, Serena kisses Chuck's cheek and tells him to learn something. As their brown-haired friends board their plane, Nate reaches down and takes Serena's hand. She glances down at their intertwined fingers and shoots him a surprised look, and then he gives her that heart-stopping grin that she feels like she's been missing forever.

She throws her arms around him and he laughs that special laugh of his, and picks her up and swings her around for no real reason, and she thinks her heart is taking off at the same time the plane is.


Serena and Nate and summertime. It seems like things were never supposed to be any other way.

Chuck calls once from his car when he's leaving the airport, and Serena can honestly say that she misses him, and Nate jokes with him about some stupid guy thing, and none of them feel like they've lost something when he hangs up and tells them to have a good summer.

Blair calls every single day during the first week. She tells them about the scenery, giggles with Serena about hot French boys, and promises Nate that he's the only guy who's ever going to be in her heart. Nate and Serena drink iced coffee and sit in Central Park, their ears bent toward the phone, forehead's pressed against one another's, listening patiently and responding in all the right ways. Six days into the trip, she informs them during their phone call that she'll be going to Paris for the next two weeks. She calls the next day, as per usual, just before she leaves, and then the calls abruptly stop. Serena hasn't heard a single word from Chuck, but she can't help but wonder if Blair found something…distracting…in the city of love.

From them on it's just them, Nate and Serena, no interruptions, and all the wonderful summer things that they love. They spend some time in the city, and then when that gets too hot, they go to the Hamptons. When they get bored of the Hamptons, they head back home. They go bowling and mini-golfing and swimming with Erik. They shop together and make a deal that they have to let the other pick their outfit and then wear them out to dinner that night. When they arrive at the upper-class restaurant, they look ridiculous but also insanely gorgeous and everyone skirts around them like they're movie stars or something, and they play it up because they can. In the city they drink lots of coffee and spend a lot of time in Central Park or flopped on each other's bed watching documentaries on TV. In the Hamptons they read and sunbathe on the beach and they swim late at night and early in the morning, and they eat ice cream lying on Serena's kitchen floor, as close to the air conditioner as they can get.

They go to as many movies as they possibly can and they get really, really drunk. They go to the parties their parents make them attend and pretend not to stare at each other when they're all dressed up and impossibly beautiful. They set up a sprinkler in Nate's backyard in the Hamptons and chase each other around in their bathing suits and he picks her some flowers from his neighbour's garden, which she loves him for because it takes more thought than just asking a florist to throw something together. They listen to Gym Class Heroes and go biking and have picnics in the grass.

After they've spent all day together and after they drink daiquiris all night, Serena wakes up in the morning with a killer headache, but she smiles because their hands have linked together sometime during the night, and she thinks this might be love.


She has to go visit her grandmother for five days in the Hamptons at the end of August, and Nate can't come with her because his mother, who's in Romania for some reason, insists that she needs Nate to attend a very important opera as the family's ambassador. It makes both Nate and Serena roll their eyes: they're not little kids anymore, an important title means shit. It's the first time they'll really be separated all summer long and they're both frustrated. Nate wants her to be his date to this opera, and Serena wants him to attend her grandmother's annual party with her. Unfortunately, both events are on the same night.

The night before her grandmother's party, Serena can't sleep. She tosses and turns and she might even cry a little. All she knows is that she's restless and she misses him and she loves him so much that she aches for him in every possible way.

Impulsively, she gets up early in the morning and gets ready without even bothering to pack a bag. She sneaks out of her grandmother's home, leaving a brief apologetic note, and hops on the Jitney at seven o'clock. She send a text message to Nate and hopes he wakes up early enough to read it.

When she arrives in Manhattan he's there waiting for her with sleepy eyes and a big smile. She rushes into his arms, flip-flops thwacking against the city sidewalk, and buries her face against his neck. She laughs happily when she pulls away. I didn't think you'd be up early enough to get my text!

He shrugs like he's got the same secrets that she does. I couldn't sleep.

She holds out her arms and twirls around, putting herself on display, and then curtseys to him. I'm here at your service. I came back to go to the opera with you.

But your party…

Serena giggles giddily, tells him that it doesn't matter, and drags him into the nearest bar, and they sit close together as they drink, and their eyes meet in a moment when they realize that just sitting all pressed up against one another is not going to be enough.

Nate and Serena lose their virginity to one another on the hottest summer day of the year. They drink beer in his backyard and kiss in his fountain before he carries her upstairs and they peel the rest of their clothes off. He feels like it doesn't get any better and she feels dizzy and safe. Afterward she can barely breathe as he kisses her fiercely and asks her quietly if she's okay. She is. She's better than okay.

They eat a ton of Chinese food and wear nothing but sheets for the rest of the day. They watch documentaries like they have all summer, and one comes on about Moses and she can't stop laughing as she jokes, You parted my Red Sea! And he laughs along with her and looks at her like she's the best thing in his whole world and kisses her until it's not funny anymore and all she wants is to do it again.

So they do (again, again, again) and they never make it to the opera.

When they wake up the next morning they smile at each other and stretch their limbs carefully and run their hands through their messy blonde hair. They eat chocolate pudding and cherries for breakfast and they don't talk much. She says she should probably go, but they fall back into bed one more time before she can even think about getting dressed. He kisses her sweetly and says that he loves her and she gives him the saddest look he's ever seen with those navy blue eyes of her.

Natie, you can't.

She showers and walks home in her shorts and his shirt that Blair bought him last year, her wet hair pulled into a bun atop her head. She kisses the corner of his mouth and tries to smile at him before she slips out the door, and he knows he won't be seeing her for the next two days.


They meet again waiting on the runway for the Bass jet to land. He apologizes to her with his stormy blue eyes before he kisses her, a long, lingering kiss; a hello and a goodbye. They stand a couple feet apart and they don't look at each other.

Blair and Chuck walk off the plane together, their footsteps in sync when they hit the tarmac, laughing together. They look beautiful and worldly and refreshed. Serena finds her strength and shrieks happily, rushing toward her best friend for a warm hug. I missed you so much! the girls cry at the same time, giggling happily and kissing each other's cheek.

I have so much to tell you, S. Blair beams. Was your summer totally boring?

Without waiting for an answer, Blair lets out a shriek of her own and barrels toward Nate, who'd been saying hi to Chuck. She wraps her arms tightly around him and plants a kiss on his mouth and talks a mile-a-minute in between subsequent kisses, grinning brightly at her man.

Serena watches them with her lips set in a straight line, peeking at them from through her eyelashes as she stares at the ground. Chuck gives her a once-over and his eyebrows spring up in realization, glancing briefly at Nate and then back at Serena to confirm his hypothesis. He chuckles good-naturedly.

You do me proud, van der Woodsen, he says with a knowing smirk.

She lets out a genuine laugh and covers her face with her hands and he steps forward so that she can fall against his chest, shoulders shaking. He wraps his arms around her, rubbing her back until her tears stop and she can pull away from him smiling, like she'd been laughing the entire time.


Over the summer, Blair and Chuck's friendship grew into something irreversible and necessary, and now they're glued to each other in a way that has Blair spending every waking moment of her time that's not dedicated to Nate or Serena or party-planning with him. They consult each other on everything from high school schemes to real-life business to wardrobe choices. Serena finds it mildly odd but she doesn't mind it. There's something more relaxed about Blair when she's around Chuck, and there's something sweeter about Chuck when he's spending time with Blair. Serena likes both of these versions of her friends.

It's Nate that's the problem. Nate, who still calls her periodically even though she never picks up the phone when she sees that it's him. Nate, who's family is falling apart. Nate, who doesn't understand why his best friend and his girlfriend are always together. Nate, who is beautiful and who does not belong to her. Serena wants to wrap her arms around him and never let him go. She also wants to slap him and tell him to let her go right now.

Chuck understands this, and because he is once again the main person in Serena's life, he somehow manages to schedule their time so that she's spending enough time with Nate so that she doesn't have to feel that constant ache she always gets when she misses him, but too little time with him to have any serious sort of conversation. It works out well, and she's thankful for it. She realizes he's also doing the same thing for himself regarding time spent with Blair. It is so utterly strange, she and Chuck empathizing with each other so perfectly.

Junior year is, by definition and social convention, more serious than sophomore year. There are college applications: Blair and Nate apply to Yale so that they can live out the fairytale that's been in Blair's head forever, Chuck throws his money at a couple schools so that he can pick when the time comes, and Serena dedicates some serious attention to her applications so that she can ignore everything else in her life. School is one thing, their lives are another.

Nate and Blair get more serious. They've been dating for a year and they're the perfect couple. Their parents want them to get married. They've got Blair trying on Nate's family heirloom ring and whispering about wedding locations; Blair is thrilled and Nate's indifferent, but he smiles at her and that's enough. Blair looks happy and beautiful and healthy and the last thing any of them – Serena, Nate, or Chuck – want to do it rob her of that. When she divulges to Serena in a whisper one night at a party where Lady Gaga is playing and they're sipping dirty martinis that she thinks that she and Nate are ready to do it. Serena grits her teeth and tries to smile, but the conversation makes her want to rip out her own hair. She and Chuck meet each other's eyes across the room and ten minutes later they're stumbling into Chuck's limo.

Nate and Blair. Having sex. Ugh. Ugh!

Chuck laughs at her while she chugs the rest of her drink and flops backward onto the bed in his Palace suite. She stretches her arms out on either side of her body and sighs. I mean, just, ugh.

Are you feeling guilty?

She sits up, propping her weight back on her elbows, and gives him a drunkenly aghast look. Of course I am. She's my best friend; I wasn't supposed to sleep with her boyfriend! It's…betrayal. It's awful. I am awful.

Chuck understands her better than that. But…? He prods.

Serena pouts and flops back again. But I…I loved him, too. I don't understand why… Her sentence trails off hopelessly and somewhere in her chest really hurts. Acid reflux or heartbreak; either way it sucks.

Look at it this way, Serena, he says as he flops down next to her, his hand skimming up her leg. You had him first.

Ugh! she shrieks again. You're not helping, and you're disgusting. She bats his hand off of her leg and then grabs a fistful of his shirt and pulls him into a kiss.

Making out with Chuck is never a bad feeling. He's experienced and knowledgably, he definitely knows how to make her want more. He's surprisingly gentle with her, but not too gentle. She knows that on some level he cares about her, and she knows that he finds her attractive, both of these secrets were fairly obvious in the first place, but he's also informed her of these facts on other drunken occasions. In the same way, she cares about him, and he's easy on her eyes. They've got chemistry.

She lets him pull her shirt over her head and she slips her hands under his to rest against the bare skin of his back, and they kiss and kiss and it feels good, but eventually they give up on one another, lying on their backs side-by-side and just breathing as they stare at the ceiling. It never goes past making out. Their connection never evolves into an authentic relationship. It would be unfair and relatively stupid. They already belong to each other in such a strange way, bonded by love for those they can't have.

Serena. He says her name after a long pause that they've spent with their eyes focused on the ceiling. You know you're beautiful, right?

Yes, she says. That makes them both laugh because it sounds so conceited.

Chuck sighs and glances over at her, lying next to him in her dark-wash skinny jeans and her pale purple bra. Beautiful, yeah, he says softly, and then smirks. But I kind of like that you're awful, too.

She grins and giggles that same laugh she's had since she was about three years old, and then he moves his body so that it covers hers and they kiss again.

Wouldn't it just be so convenient if we could fall in love?


They all go to the debutante ball. Blair's the only one who really wants to, but they all have to go. Blair and Nate go with one another, of course. Blair goes to all of Nate's tuxedo fittings and obsesses over her dress and they take extra dance classes so they'll be absolutely perfect. When Lily asks Serena who her escort will be she shrugs and says Chuck. They do everything together anyway. Her mother nods slowly and smiles. She's always liked 'Charles'.

Chuck and Serena get ready together at his suite, laughing as they fight over the bathroom mirror. She's wearing a gold dress and she looks pretty spectacular, he thinks, even though she's just thrown her hair up into a lazy ponytail because she can't be bothered to care. He looks classic and classy in his suite, and she winks at him as they get into his limo.

When they arrive Blair rushes toward them in her gorgeous silver gown, throwing her arms around them in one big hug that Blair laughingly joins. It doesn't go unnoticed by Serena the way Chuck's eyes linger on Blair or the way Nate's gaze skims down her body, but she decides to ignore it. Right now as they all hug one another, a tangle of limbs, it feels like they all love each other equally again.

Blair's presentation statement is perfect and predictable, and everyone admires her as she and Nate walk off together. Serena's presentation statement, which she wrote the night before with Chuck while they drank scotch, is naughty and embarrassing, and they laugh together as they follow their best friends, both of whom look shocked but can't help their smiles.

They, and all their friends whom they've been raised with, dance their perfectly choreographed dance without missing a step. Blair's poised and elegant and Serena moves effortlessly like she always does. She gives Chuck a look, wordlessly teasing him for the way he's watching Blair, and he whispers something entirely untrue about Serena always being his best girl into her ear that she actually laughs out loud. She loves him, in whatever way she does.

They all switch partners in one fluid movement, and it's then that Serena realizes that she's dancing with Nate.

Haven't really seen you in a while, he murmurs, giving her puppy-dog eyes that make her wants to cry as he pulls her body a bit closer to his.

I've been busy.

With Chuck? he asks bitterly, and her eyes automatically dart away to find her date in the crowd. He's dancing with Blair. They're talking, seriously, lips close together, eyes searching one another's – some would even call it flirting.

I just want everyone to be happy, Nate. She's tired, so tired of all of this. She looks into his eyes, the ones that match hers perfectly, and moves away from him as everyone switches partners once more.

She slips her hand into Chuck's and his hand lands on her hip, but they don't look at each other, and this night isn't really any fun anymore.


Do you think they're doing it right now? she asks him miserably.

Chuck shrugs. I think it's a very real possibility, S.

She feels sad and nauseous. She bolts up off of his couch, which practically feels like her own since she spends so much time in his suite, and into the bathroom. She throws up and reaches blindly for the flush, crumbling onto the tiled floor by the toilet, doubled over, her head in her hands. His footsteps come up from behind her and she feels his hands in her hair, pulling it gently out of her face as he kneels next to her.

You okay? he murmurs.

How do you do it? she demands desperately, tears swimming in her bright blue eyes. How do you hide it like you do?

Her question feels useless the second she looks directly into his eyes, really seeing how he feels. He's every bit as dejected as she is, and it only makes her want to cry more when she sees that he's hurting the same way.

Shh, stop, he says. He brushes the moisture of her tears off of her cheeks and kisses her lightly on the mouth, which she thinks is fairly magnanimous of him considering she's just vomited. He picks her up off the floor and leads her outside to the balcony. She sits down on the floor of it, leaning back against the building, and accepts the cigarette he offers her. She pats her lap invitingly and he sprawls out with his head resting on the scrunched up skirt of her beautiful dress.

You should tell her, Serena whispers. Tell her that you love her. Nate and I are…but it might not be late for you two.

She's happy, he replies as Serena's fingers slip into his hair, her fingernails grazing his scalp gently, tenderly and intimately. I don't want to take that away from her.


You two should just get it together already! Blair cries one day at brunch, giving Chuck and Serena a pleading look. I'm still waiting for that double date.

Serena rolls her eyes even as Chuck's hand rests on her thigh. Never gonna happen, B.

Later in the meal, when Nate and Blair are busy flirtatiously arguing about something, their heads bent close together, Serena leans over and whispers in Chuck's ear: She was relieved. Did you see that? When I told her you and I would never be together, she was relieved.

He laughs and leans in even closer to whisper to her. Did you even see Nathaniel's face, sweetheart?

Serena giggles delightedly, blushing a little bit. She's incredibly happy about this news, and she's glad that she and Chuck are working together, keeping an eye out for one another. She glances across the table and both she and Chuck stifle another burst of laughter when they see Nate and Blair glaring at them across the table.

Never gonna happen, huh? Nate asks. He almost sounds bitter.

She winks briefly at Chuck, realizing that until now they've been too focused on their own jealousy to realize the power of that particular emotion. Well… she purrs sweetly, leaning close to Chuck. Maybe, she concedes playfully, coyly, and kisses him full on the lips in front of the boy and girl they're hopelessly in love with.


The summer after junior year is considerably more stressful than the previous year's, what with college still on everyone's mind and another slew of society parties to attend. It sees their dynamic reverse: Carter Baizen appears out of nowhere, as he always does, with a proposition Serena can't turn down, and Nate's going off to learn some knew sailing tricks with some crazy Scottish captain. They're off to have their adventures while Chuck and Blair remain in the city. They could leave, if they really wanted to, but for some reason, neither does.

They bid farewell to Serena first, standing there while she dashes around her room packing frantically. Blair tries to help, but her organizational tendencies are only getting in the way of Serena's non-existent system. They ask her about one hundred questions but she evades them easily. When she's got her things together, she smiles lovingly at them all as she takes a breath. She walks through her mess of a room to throw her arms around Blair's neck and promise that she loves her.

Have a good summer. She squeezes her best friend tightly and kisses Blair's cheek.

You realize you still haven't told us where you're going…

Serena ignores her as she gives Nate an equally fierce hug. I'll miss you, she whispers into his ear. Have some iced coffee for me, 'kay?

She turns to hug Chuck but he's giving her a look that stops her in her tracks.

Will you excuse us?

Blair and Nate file out uncertainly, calling their last goodbyes to the blonde and clearly confused as to what's going on between Chuck and Serena.

Are you going to tell me where you're going?

Serena shakes her head apologetically. I can't. But don't worry about me, I'll be fine.

I know what Carter's like. I want you to be careful.

I will, I will, she says dismissively.

I'm serious. Call me, if you need anything, if you get into any trouble.

She smirks at him, eyes bright. Okay, boyfriend. She walks forward and wraps her arms around his neck, kissing him softly. I promise that I will.

Have a good summer, S. I better see you back here.

She laughs and gently pushes him out the door. You have a good summer, too. With Blair. She winks, swings the door closed, and that's the last they see of her for eighty-nine days.

Two days later they say goodbye to Nate, standing on a wharf. He and Blair kiss for too long, he promises to bring her something back, and she says she'll write him love e-mails, because he won't be staying in one place long enough for letters.

I love you, Nathaniel Archibald. Always have, always will.

I love you, too.

She waves as his boat trips away, gazing sadly after it as it gets smaller and smaller. Chuck reaches for her hand as Nate disappears into the horizon, and she sends him a pleasantly surprised look as he leads her to his limo. Come with me; I want to show you something.


Blair is a total joy to be around in the summer when she's not worried about Nate or Yale or the silly schemes of high school. She helps him with his business plan for his burlesque club; it's Blair who persuades Bart Bass that it's a good idea. After a hard day at work together he invites her to dinner and she doesn't hesitate for a moment before she agrees. They sip wine in a candlelit room and she gives him these looks that he's never before seen Nate receive. They finish the whole bottle but she doesn't eat much, and he sits back in his chair as if he's got the rest of his life to be there and tells her they're not leaving until she finishes her meal.

She shoots him an alarmed look, like her eating disorder is an incredibly well-kept secret, and stares at him over the rim of her wine glass. Did Serena tell you? Her voice is small, sad; she's been caught by him in something she's ashamed of.

Slowly, he shakes his head. She stares at him for a long moment until she's sure he means what she thinks he means; that he knows for himself and he knows because he cares.

You must think I'm pathetic.

He sits forward, reaching across the table to touch her hand. On the contrary, he says.

Her cheeks turn deep pink in the candlelight and her eyes don't leave his for a moment. Finally, she picks up her fork and knife and begins to eat.


This is kind of weird, she says one day when they're sitting on the couch at his suite, watching Breakfast at Tiffany's. She had dessert with her lunch, chocolate cheesecake, and he's a little reluctant to let her out of his sight – she couldn't resist the invite to watch her favourite movie.

What is?

You and me. She tucks her legs up onto the couch. Here at your suite.

Why is it weird?

Because…you and Serena practically live here together. She pauses, eyes growing wide. Oh my god. Oh my god. Have you two had sex here? she shrieks, leaping up.

He laughs at her antics. No. Sit back down.

Oh, come on, she huffs as she sits once again. Chuck Bass is not the kind of guy who sticks to candles and champagne and the bedroom.

Chuck laughs again; he can't help it. The really strange thing about this situation is that he's discussing his sex life with the object of his affection. And you said it was weird earlier… he mutters.

Blair rolls her pretty eyes. Okay, if not the couch, then where? Floor? Kitchen counter? Balcony? Shower? The back of your limo?

Alright, he sighs. There are a couple things we need to get straight here, Waldorf. The first being that Serena and I have never had sex.

What?! she blurts. You and Serena haven't

He shakes his head.

Her eyes are wide as she absorbs this new piece of information. Serena's a virgin? she asks doubtfully.

Chuck winces. I can't say I'm…entirely aware of Serena's sexual status, Blair, but I know that she's never been with me. Haven't you two talked this over? Don't girls talk about this stuff?

Blair shrugs; suddenly her eyes look sad. It's kinda been weird for us lately. I don't really know why. We used to be like sisters.

He aches for both of them; Blair, thinking that her boyfriend's been nothing but faithful to her, Serena, longing for another girl's guys\, and BlairandSerena, whose friendship is suffering. They've all gotten themselves mixed up in something they can't seem to undo.

I'm sorry, Blair.

She smiles at the sincerity of his tone. What was the other thing you wanted to clarify, Bass?

He smirks. Ah, yes. Well, it's true that I have been…involved with people…in all of locations you mentioned in this suite. But there's something you have to understand: there are few things in this world that I consider sacred…but the back of my limo is one of them.

Her eyes meet his and they hold each other's gazes for a long, long time as the movie music swells in a steady crescendo.

I'll remember that, she says mutedly.


Blair is proud of him when Victrola's done. She compliments him on it extensively and when he says that they make excellent partners, she picks up on what goes unsaid, and still smiles. He asks her to be his date to the opening and she beams and kisses his cheek, just an innocent press of her lips to his skin.

I'd be honoured. Pick me up at seven?

It's the very warmest day of the whole summer and even the evening is sweltering; the humidity lingers as the sun sets. He pulls up to Blair's building at quarter to seven, but she's already ready to go, standing outside and fanning herself with an actual lace fan – of course she, of all people, owns one – and waiting for him.

She looks stunning. She's wearing a headband and someone her perfectly curled hair looks good even in this weather. Her dress is demure but short enough to show lots of leg and there are some parts of it that he thinks might be composed of lace and nothing more. The thought makes his mind go completely blank for an instant before he gets it back together and jogs up the steps so that he can escort her down to the car.

You're early, she murmurs by way of greeting, snapping her fan closed. He can see the tiny beads of sweat on her brow, just below her hairline, the smallest point of imperfection in her being. He wants to kiss them or lick them away.

He doesn't respond to her comment; instead he says, Brilliantly beautiful as always, Waldorf.

She smirks, a surprised blush making her pink cheeks turn red. You clean up pretty good yourself, Bass, she says smoothly, and accepts the hand he offers her.

He lets her slip into the limo first, and when he joins her seconds later, she's giggling.

What's so funny?

Blair shrugs, and she looks so sweet in that moment, untouched and innocent, genuinely happy. I just realized I'm sitting in sacred space, she says with that smile of hers tugging her lips upward.


The club is completely filled. Their friends and acquaintances circulate the space in wide-eyed wonderment, and Blair plays hostess so well that it takes a great deal of pressure off of Chuck, and he absolutely loves her for it. She's all smiles and she's got the answers to every question, and every time someone compliments her she directs their praise to Chuck, shrugging one of her shoulders coyly when he mouths thank you.

When they get a moment alone he wraps an arm around her waist and whispers in her ear how perfectly they work together once again, and she gives him this private little grin he doesn't quite understand and nods.

Much later in the night, when nearly everyone has cleared out, he and Blair sit back together, laughing over nothing and enjoying the entertainment, and he hates himself for being such a love-struck fool. At least she's too drunk to notice.

You know, she says and then repeats the same two words when she starts again. You know, I got moves.

He watches her watch the women on stage and his jaw drops. You got moves?

Don't say it like that. She frowns at him. Of course I've got moves. I just thought I should say it.

Blair Waldorf has moves? he asks incredulously.

She shoots him an unimpressed scowl. That's what I said. What is it going to take for you to believe that, Bass?

Proof, he shoots back without missing a beat. I'm going to need to see some evidence.

Blair looks at him for a long, long moment. They don't break eye contact and it's…it's electric, there's no other word. Sparks should be shooting into the air.

Alright, fine. I'll show you I've got moves. She shoves her empty glass into his hand. Hold my drink.

He gapes at her as she approaches the stage. Blair, I didn't mean – you don't have to – he splutters.

She shrugs at him as she climbs on stage. You said you wanted proof, she whispers. He can read her lips.

Proof was, indeed, what he asked for. And damn, does she ever give it to him.


They gets back into the limo so that he can drive her home, and she's still just wearing her slip and her hair is a haphazardly gorgeous mess, and he has never ever been so captivated by a girl.

I've never seen you…

Blair shrugs at him. She's still got that sweet smile, but there's something intoxicating and enticing about it, almost something inviting. You asked for proof, she reminds him. I have moves, don't I? Admit it.

Chuck nods, swallowing hard. You have moves. You definitely have moves. You were…amazing up there.

He's not sure how if happens, exactly, but he wouldn't turn it down for anything. It's like one smooth movement that brings them closer together, and her lips are soft and red and her eyes are hazy when they meet his. And then they kiss, the very best kiss Chuck has ever experienced in his whole promiscuous life. They sort of melt into each other and it feels fucking fantastic.

It heats up, hotter and hotter, and this is Blair Waldorf, long-time committed good girl, kissing him like this. And her hands are all over him and she meets his eyes and there's this long moment of understanding when he asks if this is really what she wants and she promises him that it definitely is.

And so Blair Waldorf loses her virginity to Chuck Bass on the hottest summer day of the year, in the back of his limo.


It takes him a while to find her the next day, and when he does it's outside of a church, where she's just gone for confession. His limo pulls up next to her as she walks down the sidewalk, and she purposefully ignores him until he says her name.


Go away, Chuck, she bites out.


She stops short and turns to him, her frown deepening when she sees the vehicle he's in. I'm sorry to have tainted your sacred space, she sneers.

I could say the same to you.

Motherchucker, she curses under her breath, crossing her arms over her chest.

Do you want a ride home?

She glares at him, correctly reading the double entendre, and shakes her head. I'll walk, thanks.

Blair, come on…

I have a boyfriend! she finally yells, her resolve cracking. Her arms fall to her sides and she shakes her head once again, overwhelmed by her own behaviour. I have a boyfriend and I cheated.

Blair. He wants to make this better for her but he doesn't have the right words.

She starts to cry on the sidewalk and he wants to get out and hug her, but he knows she'll bolt if he opens the door. I have a boyfriend and I asked him two summers in a row to write me love letters, but he never once did. We're going to get married one day, and we'll have kids and grow old and die together, and then our grandchildren will wonder about our courtship and romance and they'll have absolutely nothing to remember us by because he couldn't be bothered to write me one single goddamn love letter. And…and last night you looked at me like you would write me a love letter, and I was drunk and it's been good, this summer with you. But I cheated on Nate and I would really, really like you to leave me the hell alone. She pauses, sniffles, and stares fixedly at the ground. Please.

He nods slowly, reluctantly. He knows he has to go; it is a piece of knowledge he's perfectly secure in, just like he knows she'll go back to Nathaniel, because in Blair's mind he's her prince charming, her fairytale ending, her destiny.

Okay, he says softly, and then he hands her a bundle of envelopes out the limo's window. I guess this is goodbye. Last night was fun. It didn't mean anything.

Something like hurt flashes through her eyes as she stares down at all the envelopes she holds in confusion. They've all got her name and address written on them in calligraphy and wax seals on the back, just like in the perfect cinematic romance. What are these?! she gasps out.

Last year, Chuck mutters as his window glides upward, embarrassed by the extent of his affection for her. I wrote to you.

Then his limo is gone, sailing down the street, and Blair is left standing on the sidewalk with love letters in her hands and tears in her eyes.


Four days after Chuck gets and loses Blair, Nate and Serena are both set to return. It turns out she managed to grab a ride from Nate back up from Mexico, where they somehow both ended up, so they're arriving home at the same place, at the same time.

Blair and Chuck arrive there within minutes of each other to wait for their best friends to return. She gives him this breathless look that makes something flutter in some stomach and assures him that she read every one of his letters, and then she faces forward, waiting for the boat to pull in.

When Nate and Serena finally stumble onto the shore, they look sun-kissed and more blonde, tan, blue-eyed and beautiful than they were before they left. Nate looks proud but a little weary, and Serena looks a little tired and maybe a little sad, but smiles bring to their faces when they see Chuck and Blair.

Blair squeals happily as Serena rushes toward her for a great big hug, their cheeks smushed against one another's. They release each other and yell out things they have to tell each other later, and then Blair bolts past Serena, flinging her arms around her boyfriend, crying, I missed you so much, Nate! I'm so, so glad you're home.

Serena walks over to Chuck slowly, carefully studying his face. She glances back at Blair, who's still gushing over Nate, and then turns back to Chuck to make sure that what she thinks is true. She plants her hands on her hips and tilts her head to the side, smiling softly at him.

You do me proud, Bass, she whispers.

He chuckles as she rushes toward him and engulfs him in a protective hug, and he buries his face in her neck and tries to pretend that the whole summer never happened.


Senior year is hard for them all, and most of their anxiety is due to their relationships, all too deep and intertwined for them to let go of. None of them are willing to admit that, and luckily they've gone a ton of other things to hide behind.

They've got interviews and tours and information sessions at colleges. Nate and Blair spend three blissful days at Yale. Chuck and Serena plan on checking out Columbia on Saturday, but in the end they get lazy about it and spend the whole day in Chuck's hottub instead. Blair calls late in the evening to squeal that she and Nate finally lost their virginity to each other, and Serena feels like she's drowning as she makes her voice as happy as possible and says, That is so great, B.

When she hangs up she scrambles out of the hottub and marches to the edge of the roof, where she flings her cell phone down to the ground as hard as she possibly can. She can barely see it make an impact and she definitely can't hear the plastic cracking, but it feels good nonetheless. She stands there in her bikini staring down at it with angry, watery eyes until Chuck comes up behind her, loops an arm around her waist, and pulls her back a few steps so that she's not in danger of teetering over the edge.

Inside, he lays her down on the bed and kisses her cheeks and her neck, and when she feels like she can breathe again she cups the back of his neck with her hand and starts kissing him back. Their bodies are still wet and the sheets get soaked but it doesn't matter. The next morning they wake up on the couch, incredibly hungover and still wearing their bathing suits. They eat extra-buttery popcorn and drink mimosas for breakfast and then they go shopping and buy matching scarves because they want to and they can, and they hold hands as they walk back toward her suite, because they know that some ninth-grader will snap a picture with their phone, and by Monday everyone will know that they're together, and that's the way they want it.

Serena sleeps in her own bed that night and watches some stupid horror movie on TV when she wakes up at four o'clock and can't get back to sleep. Even though she's getting dressed at home, she pulls on one Chuck's white button-downs on with her blue-and-white seersucker skirt, further declaring their status as a couple. She puts half of her hair up and leaves the rest done, knotted and curly, and puts on her favourite brown boots. She perches on the chair in front of her desk and flips open her laptop so that she can check Gossip Girl, and sure enough, there it is.

Spotted: C and S leaving Barney's on Sunday, bags swinging from C's hands. But here's the juicy stuff – C's other hand was occupied holding on to S's! Have our resident bad kids finally decided that they're even naughtier together? If so, I'm all for it! It just doesn't get better than the wildest kids getting wild WITH one another. Hmm, I wonder what N and B, fresh from their New Haven romantic getaway, will think of this?! I'll be watching…

She sighs and slams her laptop closed just as her mother opens her door, smiling when she sees her daughter sitting there. Serena! You're home, for once! Darling, it is so good to see you.

Serena sighs once more. You too, Mom. Look, I have to go to school –

Wait, Serena. Talk to me. You really should be home more, I feel like I have no idea what you've been up to! What's new in your life?

As her mother speaks, she checks out her reflection in the mirror. Her navy blue bra, printed with sky blue flowers, is kind of visible, but that fact is kind of working in her favour, so she thinks it's fine that way. She looks good. She looks like the kind of girl whose boyfriendeveryone would be jealous of, which is exactly the way she wants to look.

Grabbing her purse, she flashes her mother a quick smile. Chuck and I are together. '

At school, Blair rushes over to her, glowing with love and intelligence from her academic-but-sexy weekend away. Serena. You and Chuck, finally. She pauses and swallows hard. I mean, it's real…right?

An arm snakes around her waist from behind and she feels lips press against a spot just below her ear.

It's definitely real, Chuck says without taking his eyes off Serena, and she slips her arm around him as well and beams at Blair.

Definitely real! she chirps in agreement.

Nate steps up next to Blair, smiling, and takes his girlfriend's hand. Well, that's…great!

Serena meets his eyes, smiling as well, even though her jaw is clenched. Really great, she agrees softly.


Blair doesn't get into Yale. She royally messed up her interview and she knows her essay wasn't that great, so it doesn't entirely surprise her, but she feels the devastation of it all the same. She's in tears by the time she calls Nate, embarrassed but in need of some comfort. She gets his voicemail and she wants to scream. Serena's away with her grandmother and her brother for the weekend.

So she calls Chuck.

I hate that I'm calling you, she says right away in her strangled, teary voice, and he doesn't say anything more in reply than,

I'll be right there.

He brings her the kind of chocolate cheesecake she ate that time they had lunch way back in the summer, and she wants to cry even more just because he remembers. She blurts out her whole sad, embarrassing story about not getting into the school of her dreams, the school where she's a legacy, and he listens patiently and kindly as she cries and eats her half of her cheesecake.

Chuck says those stereotypical, uncreative, comforting things like it'll be okay and we'll figure this out, I promise you and while she'd lash out at anyone else who said those things to her in this situation, probably in any situation, the words some real and believable coming from his mouth. They lie side by side on her bed and he holds her hand and she believes him. He tells her to get some sleep and she doesn't protest.

Are you and Serena happy? she asks when she's halfway to dreamland, a striking vulnerability in her normally authoritative tone.

There's a long silence, and then he says, Sure. It's not a lie; they are.

Even as she sniffles, she tilts her chin upward a bit and loses all her vulnerability, defensive once more. Me and Nate, too, she whispers, and they both pretend that's the truth.

When she wakes up the next morning, there are a bunch of papers emblazoned with the Yale crest sitting on the pillow his head was resting on when they fell asleep. She stares at them in amazement. She's in. She's in, he got her in, he made sure she got her dream. She doesn't know who he called. Probably her father and his father and his own banker and the dean at Yale, but however he did it, he did it. There's a note atop the package of things that informs her that Yale will be receiving a very sizable donation next year, the presence of one beautiful, brilliant Blair Waldorf, whom they should have let in in the first place.

For the first time ever she thinks that she loves him, as she jumps up and down and dances around her room and cries.


Nate's father turns out to be a drug-addicted criminal. His mother is a controlling mess, as is her entire side of the family. They lose all their money and their home and Nate is humiliated by his family and his classmates and every newspaper in the city. They rally around him; Blair is perfectly supportive and strong, Chuck defends his best friend fiercely, and Serena promises that she is always there for him, no matter what he needs. With all of them there for him he somehow manages to get through it, somehow survives it all.

And then his father attempts suicide.

Sitting in the hospital next to his mother, who is bitchy and frightened and entirely in denial, Nate feels like he needs to cry. He walks down the hall, away from her, and dials the first number the pops into his head. He expects it to be Blair, but it really shouldn't be a surprise when he hears Serena's voice on the other end of the line.

My dad tried to kill himself, he says, and he hears a scramble on her end of the line.

Where are you, Natie? she asks quietly, lovingly but urgently.

He tells her the name of the hospital and starts to blurt out the rest of the story. Once he starts talking, revealing to her all of his problems and all the pain they've been causing him and overwhelmed and scared and worried he is, how much he doesn't want his dad to die, how very unaware he is of what to do, he just can't stop. She listens attentively and says all the right things in all the right places, and that doesn't make the tears in his eyes go away. He apologizes for calling so late and says he just needs to talk, and she dismisses his apology quickly and easily and tells him that she'll listen for as long as she needs him to.

He's still babbling tearfully when the dial tone suddenly rings in his ear, harsh and unforgiving, telling him on no uncertain terms that his conversation with her has ended. He gapes at his cell phone for one sad, confused moment, and then he glances upward to see her rushing down the hall toward him. Her blonde hair is loose and tangled, and she's wearing a lacy white tank top and a pair of sky blue pyjama pants with seashells printed all over them and no shoes, and he remembers that it's almost two o'clock in the morning and she must have gotten right out of bed and grabbed the first cab.

She stops only when her body collides with his, her arms wrapped securely around his torso, her face buried in his neck. He nuzzles his own face into her hair and breathes in her special Serena scent as she wraps his arms around her in return. She pulls back a little and kisses his wet cheeks over and over like she's trying to heal him, breathing heavily, tears her own eyes, whispering, it's okay, Natie, it's going to be okay, I'm here, it's going to be…

It's two a.m. in a hospital and they're both falling apart when he realizes that he's in love with her.


Lily van der Woodsen gets married (again). Her potential husband is nice enough, if not a little moody and a little poor. His name is Rufus Humphrey, and he used to be, of all things, a rock star that Lily fell in love with. He's this friendly musician who owns an art gallery in Brooklyn and he's got two kids. Jenny, his daughter, is Erik's age and is sweet, if not a little star-struck by the Upper East Side. His son, Dan, is Serena's age, and he seems strangely infatuated by her.

Serena isn't really opposed to any of them. They all seem nice enough, if not a little quirky, and Rufus is clearly madly in love with her mother.

But wedding number five kind of breaks her heart. She knows that Erik doesn't like it much, either, but he's more tolerant than she is. Serena misses her father, whom she can't seem to find no matter how hard she tries. She wishes her mother could settle on someone – she doesn't want to strike up a friendship with Dan and get attached to Jenny just when Lily decides to call it quits again. She feels herself approaching a meltdown but she has no idea what to do about it. Her mother expects her help with wedding planning, and Serena's got tests and parties to attend, and Chuck to spend time with, and just doesn't have enough time or emotional stability to deal with it all.

She falls apart during a fitting for her bridesmaid's dress, which is yellow, simple and short, with a ribbon at the empire waist that ties in a big, luxurious bow at the back. Serena likes the dress, which kind of makes her look like one big ray of sunshine or something, but she doesn't like the way her life is going at the moment.

What do you think, darling? Lily asks cheerfully, three dressmakers, her mother, and Jenny all stare at Serena, happily awaiting her answer.

Her unintentional reply is to break down. Tears gather in her eyes, blurring her vision, and her whole body seems to tremble. I'm sorry, she murmurs, I can't do this. And then she bolts from the boutique with her hair in its fancy updo, wearing her unpaid for, unfinished bridesmaid dress and her black heels. She's not entirely sure of what her destination is; she'll know it when she arrives.

It turns out to be the door of the Archibald home. She knocks hesitantly. She knows that this is a stressful time for the family, and that Anne and Nate are only still living there because of Nate's grandfather's help, but she really needs him right now. This was always the door she came to when she was without the mother she needed.

Nate, thankfully, is the one to answer.

Hey, she whispers to him, sniffing back tears and wringing her hands.

He smiles at her, almost in awe, as though she still looks beautiful even though she's crying and her makeup's probably running down her cheeks. Hey, he says simply.

Serena smiles back at him and realizes why she's there. Will you come somewhere with me?

They go to the nearest restaurant and buy some ridiculously expensive ice cream cones. They walk for a while and finally find a picnic table in Central Park, where they sit together, on top of the part that's meant to set your foot on, their feet on the bench part, as they finish their cones.

They don't talk for a long time, not until he says, You look kind of spectacular.

Serena makes a face. It's my bridesmaid dress. For the wedding.

Right; the wedding. He scrutinizes her tear-stained face. This is about the wedding?

She nods. She's not hungry anymore, so she hands Nate her ice cream cone to finish while she wipes her eyes. He accepts it and gently lets it fall to the ground, scooting closer to her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders, allowing her to lean into him and cry on his shoulder for a while.

I hate this wedding, she sniffles.

I know you do. But I…I'll be there, you know? Whatever you need. If you want to cry and scream in the middle of the ceremony, I'll do it with you. If you want to get really drunk afterward, he can get shots. If you need to get away form it, I'll take you somewhere. I'll be there.

When she peeks up at him through her mascara-coated eyelashes she realizes that the sun is setting. It's gorgeous, the pink and yellow of the disappearing sun and the blue of the descending night sky. It's reflected onto his perfect face, those lips that her making her exactly the promises she needs to hear, and she knows at that moment that she really, truly loves him.


Only a month after Lily Humphrey (the sound of the name makes Serena and Blair shudder) starts her new life, Bart Bass' life comes to an end.

He dies in a late-night car crashes and he leaves behind an entirely broken son who never thought he was loved, who never seemed able to do enough to earn it.

Blair, Nate, and Serena are in over their heads with this. Chuck doesn't cry or really mourn at all. He sits around miserably. He gets drunk. He seems distant. None of them know what to do.

Nate drags his best friend to his father's funeral and holds him up through it before he proceeds to drag him back to the Palace. While Blair and Nate take comfort in each other and try to come up with some sort of plan to help Chuck, Serena spends all her time with him, desperate to solve this in whatever way she can. She hugs him and whispers apologies to him and holds his hand; eventually she gets to desperate that she's almost as broken as he his, and she cries when she begs him not to drink anymore, and when he kisses her that night she doesn't protest, simply tastes liquor on his lips and wishes she could make him feel more than the misery he's stuck in.

Blair feels nearly as devastated as Chuck does. She knows that Bart loved and cared for his son; he was just utterly awful at showing it. She wants to be there for him so badly that her heart aches and she cries into Nate's pillow at night while her boyfriend sleeps at her side. She wants to save Chuck the way he saved her with Yale, but this is bigger and he's not letting her in.

Early the next morning Serena shows up at Nate's door with tears on her cheeks a hickey on her collarbone, one on her shoulder. There's a better taste in Blair's mouth when she realizes that Chuck has been grieving with her, he's still touching her, he's still with someone who's not Blair. But then she realizes that Serena looks just as miserable as she feels and Blair swallows her bitterness.

He's not…hurting you, is he?

Serena looks like she's about to keel over as she stands there unsteadily in her heels. No, of course he's not. He's…Chuck. She half-smirks and waves at her red-marked skin dismissively. But…I can't just kiss this better, you know? He's miserable. He's a wreck. And I'm not enough. I can't do enough…I… She trails off and looks at Blair desperately.

Nate opens his arms to her, his first movement since she arrived at his door, and Serena falls into him gratefully, her head buried against his chest. Blair gnaws worriedly on her lower lip as she watches her boyfriend comfort her best friend.

Serena lifts her head and looks at Blair with wide blue eyes, well-aware that Blair is probably the only one who can get through to Chuck. She's done denying who likes who. They're not in middle school anymore and Chuck needs help. Will you go see him? Will you please go see him?

Me? Blair squeaks.


Nate nods seriously. If Chuck needs you then you should go. Serena can stay here while you go. He glances worriedly at the blonde's tired face. Do you want to take a nap or something?

Serena can't help but look at him like he's her saviour as she nods. She pushes Blair toward the door before the brunette can protest at all.

Nervously, Blair enters Chuck's suite at the Palace with the key Serena gave her. She calls out his name hesitantly. When she doesn't get a reply, she searches every room, and when she's done she grows more frantic. He's not there. He's devastated and he's disappeared. Her heart is pounding.

She doesn't bother calling Serena or Nate; she needs to do this on her own. She grabs cab after cab as she races all over the city in a desperate search for him. He's not at any of his usual haunts and she's starting to feel like she can't breathe. She goes to Victrola as a last result, but he's not there, either.

Trying to fend off a panic attack, she realizes that she needs to regroup. She should probably contact Nate and Serena, because it's clear that she's not going to find him on her own. She grabs one last taxi and sits in the back, shaking, all the way back to her building.

She bursts into her home and walks quickly toward her room, trying to clear her mind so that she can really think. She steps inside of her bedroom and stops short. Her heart stops beating for a second.

What're you doing here? she gasps out in relief.

I can do whatever I want, is his sullen, broken reply from where he sits on the edge of her bed. I'm Chuck Bass, remember? Chuck Bass.

I know, Blair says softly, taking a couple hesitant steps toward him. And you came…here? Looking for…me?

He doesn't seem to hear what she says. Chuck Bass, he muses sadly, and then sighs. No one cares.

Tears spring to her eyes and she stomps one of her feet like she used to when they were five and she didn't get her way. I care, she insists hotly.

And then he finally looks at her, tragedy in his eyes, and she can't hold back. She practically lunges across the room, wrapping her arms around him, pressing her face against his back, rocking him gently.

Hesitantly, he lifts a hand to touch her arm, her warm skin, Blair's perfect skin, and he thinks he's in love with her.


Prom is so simple. They put on their pretty clothes, they go, they dance, they kiss occasionally. Chuck and Serena stuff the ballot box so that Blair and Nate win prom queen and king. Nate and Blair go to a hotel afterward for champagne and sex; Serena and Chuck head to the Palace as usual, they strip down to their underwear and watch The Exorcist and eat jelly beans and spray whipped cream all over each other and lick most of it off. Graduation day is a blur of green and blue gowns and speeches and smiles and the flashes of cameras. They take pictures as couples, the girls, the guys, and one all together, grinning brightly. That's the one moment where everything feels real and happy and they can pretend that they don't realize that a lot of things are ending, and maybe they're all ignoring that clue.


Summer stretches out perfectly before them, waiting to be conquered, and they all jump at the challenge.

They spend the entirety of the two months in the Hamptons, all four of them living at Serena's family's summer home, which is otherwise vacated. They abandon the idea of bedrooms the first day they get there; Chuck and Nate drag all of the nine mattresses in the house down the stairs and into the spacious living room while Blair and Serena gather up all the blankets and pillows, and that's where they sleep every single night.

The girls spend the first couple days bonding at the spa, getting manicures and pedicures and waxes and facials and massages. Nate and Chuck just hang around the house, relatively bored without their girls, playing soccer and croquet in the back yard and drinking a lot of lemonade. When Blair and Serena return, beautified to perfection, Blair insists that they need to go out, that she's been owed a double date for way too long. They go out, laughing and talking their way through a delicious meal, and come back only to collapse into their collective bed, starting a tradition of inseparability for the summer.

They do everything as a group of four. They go to the beach together, playing around in the water, basking in the sun on the beach. They play that game where you rate the hotness of everyone who walks by and get into arguments over it that always seem to end in laughter or tickling or ice cream and inevitably with Nate pulling Serena's hair or Blair hitting Chuck upside the head. Serena insists that they need to build a really epic sandcastle, so they do, and like they're eight again, they stand around it proudly and get a lifeguard to take a picture.

They eat together, whether they eat in or go out. They drink together, staying at bars late into the night. Serena always drags Nate up to dance while Blair and Chuck stay at the bar, talking quietly together. If they drink at home they make Chuck be the bartender and they play every drinking game they can think of, craftily managing to avoid I Never. For some reason it always ends in a game of spin-the-bottle, and soon they've all kissed each other enough that none of it's weird anymore, except for when Chuck gets Nate or Nate gets Chuck. They shop together; Chuck tells Blair what to buy and Serena tells Nate. They go to movies together and the girls always sit in the middle so they can whisper each other, and Chuck always sits next to Blair so that she can make fun of the stupid conspiracy theories he always sees in the plotlines, and Nate always sits next to Serena because he kind of loves the tendency she has to kick his shin or grab his hand when the storyline is getting really good.

Everything they do is done easily as a foursome. They avoid splitting up into couples because it means facing that reality of who those couples are.

Of course, they can't spend everyday pretending. When Erik's in town Serena takes Chuck out to play mini-golf with her baby brother. Blair drags Nate to the occasional luncheon. When they attend polo matches they have to go with dates, splitting up into two distinct pairs. Once everyone gets drunk enough Blair and Chuck can linger by the bar, casting each other flirtatious glances, and Serena can wander over to Nate and giggle with him while she sits in his lap.

Sometimes they can get away with what they really want. One night, around three o'clock, Nate and Serena wake up at the same moment and grin at each other, and they go skinny-dipping in the ocean and kiss in the waves until the sun rises. When they get home Chuck and Blair are sitting outside, drinking smoothies, thinking they'd just gone for an early morning swim. Almost a week later Nate and Serena pass out early and Chuck wakes Blair up, surprising her with a beautiful new red dress and taking her dancing late at the night. They kiss in the alleyway behind the building and it feels just bad enough to make it more exciting. They don't stumble back into the van der Woodsen house until around five a.m., where Serena and Nate are sleeping side by side in the sea of white sheets and pillows.

The summer sails by before they can really catch it, and reality is slowly sneaking up on them. A week before they're supposed to leave Serena catches Blair in the kitchen staring fiercely at the photograph stuck to the front of the fridge by an obnoxious palm tree magnet. It's the four of them by their sandcastle. Nate's giving Serena a piggyback on one side, her long legs wrapped around his waist and her cheek pressed to his; their smiles match. Blair and Chuck are standing on the other side, he behind her, his arms wrapped around her. Their smiles are shier and slyer, but they match, too. She pulls the picture off of the fridge aggressively, sending the palm tree magnet toppling to the floor, and shoves it in a drawer, which she slams closed angrily.

Serena walks toward her without preamble and sits on the kitchen counter, legs dangling. She pats the marble surface next to her invitingly. Talk to me, B.

Blair sighs as she joins her, biting her nails, a habit she broke years and years ago. She wrenches her fingers away from her mouth and regards her best friend. Nate and I leave for Yale in exactly a week.

I know, Serena replies with a soft smile. I'm going to miss you both so much.

Him more than me? Blair's arches one eyebrow.

Serena frowns. Don't be stupid, Blair.

The brunette kicks out one of her legs, letting her heel bounce against the cupboards beneath them. Do you love him?

Serena looks away immediately, focusing on her sun-tanned, scraped knees. She picks at a scab idly, stopping when Blair shivers at the sight. She braces her arms against the countertop and turns back to her best friend. I'm with Chuck.


What do you want, Blair? Serena asks her, quietly and very seriously. Who do you want?

I want…I want my fairytale. And it's always been Nate. In my happy ending, every single time, it's Nate, and my last name is Archibald. She looks over at her best friend and tries to figure out what Serena's feeling. Would it make you happy if we broke up? Do you want to be with him?

Blair… Serena trails off and laughs lightly, her angel-fairy laugh. When the hell have I ever known what the fuck I want? That's why I'm asking you.

She smiles sadly, hurting for both of them. It's Nate, S. Chuck's just…I don't know. A weakness. A summer thing. A…last hurrah, or something. I care about him. Maybe I even… She sighs. But it's Nate, always, in my fairytale ending. She swallows hard and asks, needing to know: Who's in your fairytale ending?

There are tears swimming in Serena's eyes, which make her blue orbs look even more like a perfect pairs of oceans than they usually do. I'm not sure I'm the person who wants a fairytale, she admits.

So it's Chuck then? Blair presses her, unsure if she can bear hearing either possible answer. They all belong to each other in so many complex ways. They've grown up too closely, loved one another too much, gotten all mixed up.

Serena takes a deep breath and swallows hard, well-aware of the way Blair's pretty, tear-filled eyes are watching her. I guess…

Nate enters the kitchen at that moment, before she can finish, sweaty from his run and breathing heavily, searching for water. He stares at the two girls he loves, sitting there staring at him with wet eyes. What's going on? he asks breathlessly.

Do you love me? Blair asks.

Yes, Nate says without hesitating, because it's the answer he's been conditioned to give.

Chuck enters the room just in time to hear those words. Serena shrugs one shoulder at him and attempts a smile. Blair looks at him like he scares her. Nate glances over his shoulder uncertainly before he turns back to his girlfriend. They all meet each other's eyes before they all stare at the floor like it's the most enthralling thing they've ever seen.

And that's that.


Nate and Blair attend Yale together just like she always wanted, just like it was always planned, just like it's supposed to be. Chuck, who's running Bass Industries from Manhattan, asks Serena to work with him and she gladly accepts.

At first it's hard for both couples and they skirt around each other awkwardly. Blair gives Nate a funny look one day when he offers to carry her books, and then it all seems to snap back into place, and they remember that they've always been in love, that they're supposed to be in love. Chuck drives Serena insane her first week at work with his constant demands, and she yells that he's treating her like an assistant rather than his equal, and one day when they're screaming at each other he kisses her to shut her up, and they, too, remember how it used to be.

Four years seem to disappear before their eyes. Blair and Nate get glamorously collegiate and intellectual, and when they stumble out of the land of ivy towers, they don't exactly feel prepared for the real world, but they feel safe in each other. Chuck and Serena and chicly businesslike in their suits, with their plans, feeling capable of dominating anything and anyone as long as they've got assistance from one another.

Serena and Chuck drive to New Haven for Nate and Blair's graduation, and afterward they all fly into one another's arms and drink champagne directly from the bottle Chuck took it upon himself to bring, and even when Serena and Nate's hands brush or Blair and Chuck's eyes lock it doesn't feel as dramatically meaningful, it feels like they're surviving – thriving, even – in their separate twosomes, like this was really how it was all supposed to go. Everyone on the UES is, of course, thrilled with it all. Chuck and Serena, successful and stunning; Blair and Nate, graduated and gorgeous. It just didn't get better than four little kids who once ran around in Central Park together reaching adulthood and ending up like that.

It really does seem like perfection.

At least, until Nate gets down on one knee.

It's the next logical step in the fairytale, engagement after undergraduate diplomas have been earned, so Serena's not sure why she and Chuck spend the entire day knocking back tequila shots in his ultra-spacious office after they hear the news.

We had a chance, you know? she murmurs as she props her feet up on his desk and stares out onto the streets of Manhattan. That one summer after high school, we finally got our chances, and we fucking ruined them.

Chuck shakes his head, realistic even through his haze of alcohol. Sweetheart, we never had a chance. It was Nate and Blair from that day in tenth grade.

It that's true, then it was you and me, too, from that day in tenth grade.

He sighs and pours her another shot. So then maybe it's you and me.

And then they both laugh and they toast each other with their tiny little glasses, because why the hell do they sound so horrified by the thought of ending up with one another? They've known it was coming for years.


She's Blair's maid of honour and he's Nate's best man. Of course.

The first day of planning, the first day Serena shows up at Blair's apartment to see the brunette holding a clipboard, Blair says, I am in love with him and I don't want this to be weird.

Serena sighs as she flops down onto the couch. You don't have to be in love with him, you know.

Blair shoots her an icy look so momentary that Serena wonders if she'd imagined it. Well, you don't have to be with Chuck.

The blonde reaches for the bottle of wine on the table and pours herself a full glass. After she gulps half of it down, she says: Let's plan your dream wedding, B.

Serena's there for it all. The dress, the china for the reception, the guest list, the seating plan, the location, the colours, the bridesmaids dresses, the flowers, the gift registry, the guest favours. She's so exhausted at the end of each day that it begins to feel like she's planning her own wedding, and then she remembers that she's not and she also needs to organize the bachelorette party.

The bachelor party is Chuck's only real responsibility, and he's going all out, which makes Serena feel like she needs to match his efforts and ideas. They spend an entire week scouting out locations and people and spending all night yelling at people over the phones, and it's almost fun, sneaking up on each other and picking up the phone and rifling through papers trying to unearth one another's plans. Because they're the ones making sure their respective parties go over perfectly, they can't get completely wasted, so they drink is excess the night before. Serena wonders how much money she and Chuck have spent on alcohol since Nate and Blair's first kiss.

It's that night that it really hits them that their best friends, their great loves, are getting married to one another in less than forty-eight hours, and it's not so much fun anymore. The next morning while Serena's lying in bed, slurping down coffee as she feels depressed and nurses her hangover, Chuck bursts into the room in his ridiculously silky bathrobe, holding a bag of marshmallows, and she manages a smile. She cuddles up to him and they watch Nickelodeon for the first time in years while they eat marshmallows and celebrate being lonely together.


After the bachelor/bachelorette parties – both of which went flawlessly – Serena deposits a tipsy Blair in her hotel room, Chuck steers a drunken Nate into his, and they meet in the hall. They hug, she buries her face in his neck and he breathes into her hair, and then they release each other, heading to their respective hotel rooms.


At two forty-five a.m., Blair stumbles into Chuck's hotel room and flops down on the bed at his side. He opens his eyes and almost smirks, but not quite.

Looking for your husband?

He's not my husband. Not yet. She pauses. And no.

You came here…looking for me?

She turns to look at him, brown eyes shining in the darkness, her thick, lustrous hair spread out on the pillow like some kind of dark-tinted halo. I'm sorry, she says.

We wouldn't have worked anyway. We would have been…too much for each other. I couldn't have loved you the right way.

Yeah, you could've. She sounds like she might be crying. I've got sixty-two love letters to prove it.

He starts to talk again, starts to make more excuses for them both, but then she kisses him.


It's four-oh-one in the morning when Nate wanders into Serena's hotel room. She's huddled under all her blankets, looking smaller and sadder than he's ever seen her before, her hair against the pillow like the halo of some kind of broken angel.

Are you okay? he whispers.

Natie? Her eyes search the darkness and her hands reach out, grasping his shirt.

Are you okay? he repeats as he crawls onto the bed next to her. He's worried for her. He's worried for them all.

I'm just so tired… She trails off and she feels like she's about to break into a million pieces. I don't even know if I'm me anymore, she murmurs.

He kisses her then, like he's breathing life back into her body, and she remembers who she is as she kisses him back hungrily.


The wedding is beautiful. It's extravagant in all the right ways. It's a fairytale. It's perfect. Blair glows and Nate grins and they make promises. Serena cries, in a good way, as she hooks her arm through Chuck's to follow the happy couple back down the aisle.

Their crazy families are friends are all in attendance and after a while someone gets tired of the string quartet Blair was obsessed with hiring and figures out how to work the speaker system, and they find themselves dancing to all the songs of their years together, everything from the Spice Girls to Lady Gaga, from The Beatles to MGMT. Eventually they switch partners and Chuck and Blair laugh shyly as they sway next to Nate and Serena, who dance without reservation to Beyoncé's Crazy in Love. They all laugh when the song ends and somewhere in the mess of overlapping voices Chuck tells Blair that he's happy for her and Serena warns Nate to take good care of her best friend, and it's goodbye.

Serena's toast is sweet, full of memories and humour and knowing smiles. Chuck's toast is perfect, emotional and honest, and even Nate looks a little teary-eyed by the end of it. When the happy couple slip into a limo that will take them to the airport for their perfect honeymoon, Serena holds Chuck hand; he waves and she smiles because neither of them can do both. She turns to him as the limo goes off with alarmed eyes.

They're going to be happy, right?

Chuck laughs because she's cute with her eyes all wide like that and because he knows that what she means is we're putting ourselves through this for a reason, right? He nods and pulls her close to his side, kissing her forehead. Yeah, sweetheart, they're going to be happy.


The night that Nate and Blair Archibald spend on a plane to Italy, Chuck and Serena sleep together for the first time.

It's so strange that Chuck Bass and Serena van der Woodsen have held out for this long, especially with one another, considering how long they've been thrown together and how long they've claimed to be dating. Neither of them ever really knew why they did it, but it becomes clear that night. It could very well be the best sex either of them have ever had, passionate to some crazy extreme, filled with a need to get past all those built-up years of anticipation. She lies next to him afterward, breathing hard, and he looks at her in a way that indicates awe, and she looks over at him with starry eyes of her own, and they both burst out laughing, breathily, because tonight of all nights, they needed that kind of satisfaction, and then he moves back over her and they search for it again.

The next morning Serena rolls over toward him, stretching her legs out and letting out a contented sigh as the high-quality sheets brush against her bare skin. Her eyes feel heavy, like she needs to cry, as she looks over at him. He's sitting on the other side of the bed staring into space as he smokes a cigarette, looking like some cliché from one of Blair's favourite movies. He glances down at her when he senses her gaze. With his free hand, he reaches over and gently brushes her hair out of her face, trailing the back of his index finger lightly down her cheek.

Do you want to get married?

There is a pause, a moment of contemplative silence, but only a short one, because this isn't a surprise, it's just the inevitable. Serena shrugs one bare shoulder and nods, burying her face into the pillow and biting on the fabric as she blinks back her tears.


Chuck and Serena meet Nate and Blair at the airport three weeks later when they return from their honeymoon. Serena feels a surprising wave of warmth and happiness toward them when they walk toward her, tan and smiling.

Hey! she calls brightly, grinning at them, and then wraps them each up in a big hug. Have fun? she asks wickedly, winking at them.

Blair doesn't reply; she's too busy staring at Serena's left hand. What the hell!? she splutters in disbelief, snatching up her best friend's hand to examine the ring. Explain this to me!

Serena glances at her new husband and shrugs casually. We eloped. City Hall. It was stressful enough to plan your wedding, she teases.

Eloped… Nate mutters incredulously, but he manages a smile. Of course you two would do something like that.

This is beautiful… Blair murmurs.

Chuck shrugs. It was my mother's.

There is a brief moment when they look into each other's eyes and she gives him a sweet smile like he's been incredibly romantic, and then Serena pulls her hand back and slips it into Chuck's. Come on, let's get out of here and have drinks; we want to hear all about your trip!

Five months go by. Five months, long enough for Serena to get accustomed to people calling her Mrs. Bass wherever she goes. Long enough for Nate to stand back and allow his wife to completely and perfectly decorate the new home they're now calling their own. Long enough for Chuck to take Bass Industries to an even more widespread international level of business. Long enough for Blair to get pregnant.

A baby? Nate says, stunned but smiling.

A baby! Blair squeals, overjoyed.

A baby… Chuck mutters, unsure of his opinion on the subject.

A baby, Serena sighs as she and her husband eat dinner together in the spacious dining room of their penthouse apartment, which Lily insisted on having decorated for them after she got over her anger at her daughter's elopement, so unlike the way she should have gotten married.

Chuck glances up from his linguine to give her a long, hard look. Do you…want that?

Serena shoots him a confused look as she sips her wine. Do I want what?

Well…a baby. A family. Do you want that?

She stares at him across their dining table, speechless. She opens her mouth a couple times but no sound escapes. The truth is that she does. She's always been maternal. Always wanted kids of her own. But that feels like some childhood dream of hers that she abandoned when Nate and Blair said I do and she did the same a week later at City Hall and became Chuck's partner in both business and in life.

He stares down at his pasta for a moment before he looks back at her, his eyes filled with regret. Look, Serena, I'm sorry that we're not…I mean, if you wanted…I wish I could give you what…

She shakes her head quickly, hoping he'll understand that she needs him to stop. She props her elbow up on the table and buries her face in her hand. Just eat, she says quietly. Please just eat.


Blair and Nate have twin boys. Thaddeus and William (but they'll call them Trey and Will, Nate adds quickly). They're beautiful baby boys with sky blue eyes and Serena absolutely melts the first time she holds one of them.

You're a mom, she says to her best friend, her voice thick with emotion, and Blair gives her a weary-but-understanding smile.

It's on that same day only about an hour after she meets Nate and Blair's brand-new children, standing in the hallway of the hospital, that Serena realizes something. She realizes it with so much certain, such complete surety, that she thinks she might have a panic attack, because it's very hard to breathe and the floor seems to tilt.

Whoa! Nate, walking out of Blair's hospital room, sees her and grabs both arms to steady her. Hey, whoa. Serena. Are you okay? Are you sick?

Serena shakes her head no to both of his questions and pulls away from him. She walks back into the room, where Chuck and Blair are talking quietly, and drags her husband out into the hallway without saying a word.

What's going on? he demands.

Serena takes a few deep breaths and finally manages to look him in the eye, clinging to the rolled-up sleeve of his button-down in order to steady herself.

I'm pregnant.

His jaw drops and his eyes widen and it would be comedic if it wasn't the moment that it is. He stares at her and she stares at him for what feels like a very long time but is probably no more than two minutes. She clings a little tighter to his sleeve and that seems to pull him out of his momentary trance.

Okay, he says.

Okay? she asks desperately, not sure what he means by that.

Okay, he repeats, and he tugs her into his arms, holding on tightly. She exhales for what feels like the first time in a long time against his shoulder as he hugs her. Wow, he says, and she thinks she can hear a smile in his voice. Wow; okay.

Yeah, okay, she says softly, and then he kisses her gently and for a split second it feels kind of perfect.

Back in Blair's hospital room almost half an hour later, they form a circle around her bed and toast to the Archibald boys and the Bass baby-to-be; the men drink real champagne and the girls drink something sparkly. It feels weird: even though they're together, like they've always been, they feel like two very separate entities, two separate families, and there is something strikingly permanent about that separation.

Blair Archibald and Serena Bass both cry, and they both blame it on hormones, not happiness.


Serena doesn't realize that she's actually in love with her husband until the day their daughter is born. She enters the world kicking and screaming, stubborn and rebellious already, which doesn't surprise anyone. Serena's exhausted and her hair is sweat-soaked and her skin is warm, and Chuck kisses her cheek repeatedly and whispers to her that she was wonderful, that she did great, and then the nurses place a little bundle of life into her waiting arms and her tears spill over onto her cheeks.

They name her Evelyn, after his mother, Evelyn Victoria Bass. They admire her perfection, her bright blue eyes, her tiny little nose and rosebud mouth, her fingers and toes, ten of each. Serena glances over at her husband, totally amazed by the fact that they created the little girl she holds, and then he cups her chin gently in his hand and kisses her. It's the best kiss they've ever shared, the realest one, and that's the moment when she realizes that she loves him, she is in love with him.

There is a lot of forgiveness in that moment, for Nate and Blair, for Chuck, for herself. Love is love, no matter the variation or degree. Blair and Nate have always loved each other, and slowly Chuck and Serena have learned to do the same. Maybe it's not the same as ChuckandBlair or NateandSerena, but it's still love. And love is love, and it's enough.

Serena smiles, tiredly and tearfully, at her husband, and says that Nate and Blair should meet their goddaughter. When he leaves her side she kisses her baby's perfect face and whispers promises in her little seashell of an ear.

We're going to be okay.


She's tucking her five-year-old daughter into bed one night when Evelyn's eyes get bright and she cries, Daddy's home!

Chuck shoots them both a smile as he takes off his shoes, drops his briefcase, and sheds his suit jacket on the way to her bed. Hey, sweetheart, he whispers to Serena just before his lips brush hers and then he kisses Evelyn's forehead and cheeks in that way that makes her giggle. I told you I was coming home today, didn't I, Evie?

She nods as her parents settle onto her bed on either side of her and she clutches the doll Aunt Blair got her for her last birthday. Serena smiles at her husband over their daughter's head. He always comes home when he promises to.

How was China?

He shrugs: Too far away. My flight was almost cancelled; it's snowing here.

Really? It's snowing? Did you get me a present from China? Can we go to the park tomorrow? With Will and Trey? I want to build a snowman.

Chuck shoots Serena another look. She got that from you.

She rolls her eyes but doesn't deny it and kisses the top of her daughter's head. Why don't you give Daddy the book so he can read your story tonight, baby? We'll talk about all that other stuff tomorrow morning.

Evelyn falls asleep before the fairytale even ends, and her parents get up carefully, not wanting to disturb her. They kiss her cheeks and flick on the nightlight, closing the door as they leave the room. Serena leans back against the door and grabs her husband's collar, pulling him close. Did you miss me?

He leans in to kiss her. Of course I did.

When he opens his suitcase he gives her a wrapped present that she opens eagerly but suspiciously as they sit on their bed, and she melts a little bit when she sees what's inside. Pulling the bag out, she hugs it to her chest. You got me Chinese marshmallows?

Laughingly, he nods and says, I don't know how good they'll be…

It's the thought that counts, she says, pushing the gift bag and wrapping paper aside and lying back on the bed, pulling him on top of her.

There is a knock on the door and they both sigh. She pouts at him and he balks.

How is this my fault?

Serena laughs. She missed you; that's how. Come in, Evie.

Their daughter steps into the room, all tangled dark hair and shining blue eyes. You left.

We thought you were asleep, Serena mimics her, patting the bed to indicate that she should come and crawl in with her parents.

Do you believe in soulmates? she asks with a contented little sigh, the same kind of sound Serena makes when she's particularly comfortable.

Serena shoots Chuck a surprised look. Who taught you that word? she asks as she smoothes out her daughter's hair, wondering what the nanny has been letting her watch on TV.

I don't know. But do you? Believe?

Um, sure. Sure I do, baby.

Did you find and Daddy find yours? she asks with a sweet little smirk-y smile, inherited directly from her father.

Serena feels her heart twist as she meets Chuck's eyes over Evelyn's head once more. His fingers are lost in her hair the same way her fingers are lost in her daughter's dark locks, but she knows from the look in his eyes that he feels the same way. She bites her lower lip as she thinks about it, still stroking their daughter's hair.

She thinks about the past, about four close friends, two hot, summery nights, one perfect romance and one that just sort of happened as a result, about the way Blair fixed Chuck when Serena couldn't and the fact that when she was falling apart, Nate was the one she ran to. She thinks about sixty-two summer love letters and the fact that she still has that shirt of Nate's that she left his room in that day. She thinks about right now, wondering if Nate and Blair are wrestling their six-year-olds into bed at this same moment, playing the same game. She thinks about the future, when Chuck and Blair will go out to lunch together from time to time and it won't be allowed to mean anything, when she and Nate will take all three kids to Coney Island and have a snapshot of what could have been. She looks out of their large windows which treat them to a view of Fifth Avenue and sees the snowflakes tumbling down from the sky, knowing that all four of them and their three kids will go out into Central Park tomorrow and build a snowman, live those perfect lives that everyone else in the city is entirely envious of.


Serena glances back down at her and smiles, catching sight of a bag of Chinese marshmallows in her peripheral vision.

Yeah, baby, we did.


Back before they can be bothered to really define love, back when happiness is easily found within one another, back before they came together and fell apart in the process, four five-year-olds run through Central Park, trailed by their nannies. One of the girls has her coat open; her cheeks and chin and nose and bright pink and her eyes are bright blue. Her best friend is wearing all white, including her boots and beret. They're being chased by two boys, one whose coat has a ridiculous pattern and the other who's got snowflakes in his tousled blond hair. They collapse together in a circle, heads at the centre, in the powdery snow.

When we grow up we're going to be perfect, the little girl all dressed in white says.


Don't say ew!

Then don't say stupid things!

The blond boy sighs. Chuck, don't tell Blair she's stupid.

Serena, you think that was stupid, right?

She'll be on my side, she's my best friend. Serena, we're going to be perfect, right?

The blonde girl hooks her bare pinkie finger through the glove-encased pinkie of the blond boy she lies next to in an effort to warm her hand a bit and reaches her other hand up toward the sky, catching a snowflake right in the middle of her palm. It's so perfect it takes her breath away.

Serena. Answer.

Blair, you can't order her around.

You can't order me around, Nate.

Perfect, right? Serena's best friend asks insistently. We'll be perfect.

She sighs as she watches the snowflake melt away against her skin.

Why can't we just…be?


Evelyn flings herself into her Uncle Nate's arms the next morning, making them all laugh and Blair tease her about feeling left out while Chuck and Serena greet their nephews.

My mommy and daddy found their soulmates, Evelyn announces the way only a little kid can, and she says it with the kind of sweet-but-self-assured authority only Chuck and Serena's daughter would have. Before she can say another word or any of the adults can react, Trey and Will drag her off to play.

The adults stand there for a moment, in a circle, meeting each other's eyes in this rare moment that forces them to confront the reality that has become their lives, the fact that fairytale they're living might not be quite as perfect as they bargained it would be.

It's undeniable, true and simple fact. Sure, they found their soulmates. All of them did.

They just didn't end up together.