A/N: You know the drill. Buffy quotes are key. This is a Nate POV which I'm not really that fond of, but I think I made him redeemable enough.
Summary: Do you know what the saddest thing is? To love someone who used to love you.
Disclaimer: Most belongs to GG. The quote belongs to Buffy.
Do you know what the saddest thing is? To love someone who used to love you.
Contrary to popular belief, Nathaniel Archibald wasn't stupid. He was completely oblivious and fearful of confrontations, but he wasn't stupid. And the only problem was that Charles Batholomew Bass was smarter. More than smart. He was a genius when it came to manipulation.
But Nate saw it to begin with. It made sense. And if Chuck hadn't been there, maybe he would have eventually done something about it.
It made sense that his best friend and is girlfriend would have a connection. Their connection was him. At least, that's what he thought it was at first. Especially when Serena left. The reason he was so angry when he first found out about the sordid affair wasn't because of them. He was more angry at himself that he didn't see it. He didn't he how similar they were. And that's how he knew they would last. And it hurt.
When Serena had disappeared, he did that oblivious thing. He was so enamored with the blond that he didn't notice things that were so obvious that while looking back at it, it literally made him sick.
"Where were you?"
Nate wasn't exactly sure why he asked. It wasn't like he cared, but once in a while he would wonder where she had gotten to.
Blair turned her innocent eyes up to his. And thinking back, it made it hard for him to trust her because he couldn't help but think how everything was such an easy manipulation of his impressionable mind.
"Nowhere," she said sweetly.
And he believed her.
Later, it was made apparent that Blair in fact hadn't cheated on him. Chuck was adimant when it came to that. He refused that he would ever betray his best friend like that. Chuck Bass may be many things, but he would never intentionally betray his best friend.
Nevermind that he had taken his best friend's girl only a couple hours after they initially broke up.
Even so, they just understood each other.
"Nathaniel," Chuck smirked, coming up from behind her. "Where have you been?"
And there it was. Chuck had turned the situation right on him. Blair sent him a sly smile that Nate didn't quite understand and he didn't try to.
"So," Chuck had mentioned. "When are you breaking up with Blair?"
That question should have been strange, but that was just Chuck. They talked about things like that all the time. They especially talked about Blair. It made sense now as to why.
"What?" Nate asked, looking around to make sure that Blair wasn't around. "I'm not breaking up with her."
"Why?" Chuck asked.
"Why would I?"
"Because you don't love her," Chuck said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Yes I do."
That was Nate's view. He had been saying it so much he was actually starting to believe it himself.
"You're ignoring her," Chuck pointed out, "not to mention me in your brooding state. Don't worry, you'll make it up to me. She notices. Blair's smart. She's not like your lacrosse bitches. She knows you're losing interest."
"She's my girlfriend," Nate said slowly, rolling the sound around in his mouth.
"Yeah..." Chuck eyed him. "I keep hearing that."
It never made sense why Chuck grilled him about Blair. It made sense now. He actually cared about her.
He cared more than her actual boyfriend did. He noticed when things were hard for her. Nate couldn't even recall when her father left. He was in such a haze of Chuck's good weed that Chuck himself actually had to tell him multiple times how Harold had left her mother for a 31 year old male model.
When he would exhibit these traits, Chuck would actually seem angry sometimes.
"Don't you care?" he asked at the nightclub. It didn't matter. Nate was trying out hash that night anyway.
Chuck just rolled his eyes and went off in another direction. Nate had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. He didn't know that Blair was on a Tequila shot phase tonight. Her minions had disappeared. Chuck hadn't.
Nate didn't see how he wound his arm around Blair's waist as she teetered dangerously. He half carried her to his limo.
Nate definitely didn't see her collapse on his seat, him hovering over her.
He didn't see their first kiss.
The first kiss that was merely dismissed as never happening until one fateful night aftet the opening pof Victrola and the deflowering of one Virgin Queen by the skilled hands of one womanizer who fell hard for something he never should have.
He didn't see Blair boldly pull Chuck's face to hers in a sudden act of need and affection. He was glad he didn't see Chuck reciprocate before he knew what he was doing. And he didn't see Blair pull away in embarassment, never to speak of it again.
If he had, maybe things would have been different. Maybe. Or maybe things would be exactly the same.
Sentences like "you don't miss her" and "she does have a certain glow about her, doesn't she?" soon became prominant in conversation topics. Chuck had always been interested by her, but he had never become... obsessive. And during those few weeks, that's what he was. He would point out everything that would make Nate want to back off. If only he saw.
The next year was filled of drama that Nate had turned a blind eye too. Until he became the center of it. It was easier to be pleasantly detached when Chuck would plot to get rid of Marcus because that would mean that it wasn't real. And that he wasn't madly in love with her like everyone already knew that he most definitely was.
Obvious proclomations of love like "its stupid for you to want her to be anything other than what she is" were easily ignored when it seemed that Blair wasn't interested. But she was.
Nate knew this immediately when she came back. She came back from her night with him. He let her leave with him.
Nate must have still been smoking up. Chuck promised that he was done with Blair. But then again, Nate wasn't stupid. He saw the stolen glances that Chuck would send her. He saw him lurking behind her as she hugged Nate. He could never read his expressions. That was Blair's forte. But he knew it couldn't be good. And he knew that he just encouraged him with his "I don't want you to come near her again."
Naturally, Blair called him and Chuck ignored him completely. He mocked the move to Murray Hill and kidnapped his girlfriend and went to Connecticut. And he let him. He was never strong willed. That was where Chuck and Blair were the same.
He was fooling himself when she returned. For once, he was sure of his own feelings. He was never sure of Blair before. She came back in the same clothing that she left in. She smelled like him too. He suppposed that was a given. They had spent the night together and he knew that. He just didn't know where or how.
They could have rented a hotel room. Worse, they could have rented a motel room with only one bed. They could have gotten into a terrible wreck where there were no hospitals and had to check into some flea bag motel where there was only one shower and limited hot water where they would have to shower together.
But when she returned, there were no cuts and scrapes. No bruises. She still had that signature scent of her coupled with her hair product. But she smelled like him too. Coating it, was his heady scent that was cologne or something else (Nate never asked.) But when he kissed her, at least she didn't taste like scotch. That was a relief.
He had lost her anyway. He knew that as soon as he told her that he loved her. That was when he realized he was in love with a woman that used to love him. But didn't anymore. She just stared at his proclomation, getting a lucky call so she had to go see Serena.
She so easily proclaimed love to a notorious womanizer (who happened to be his ex/current best friend, he wasn't really sure.) But when it came to him, she was speechless. He wanted to believe that was a good thing. He rendered her speechless. But he knew that wasn't it at all. They weren't right. And he just fooled himself into believing that it was.
He even went as far as to threaten Chuck and make him feel bad about his feelings that would obviously never go away. He still said that Blair was his, even when Nate still assumed he had sabotaged the prom. He hadn't denied it.
Nate wasn't a fool. Not much of one, anyway. He knew that he was her last resort (or second, but it was all the same really.) He had told Chuck to back off. He didn't know that he had. There was always that person in a relationship that loved you less than you loved them. The year before, it was Nate. Now it seemed that the roles had reversed.
Suddenly he wished that they were back in their sophomore year where everything was so simple and mundane. She wasn't pining for his unattainable best friend who would never really be over her.
Last year, Nate thought he would never get over Serena. It seemed like their bond was unbreakable, something that couldn't be breached. He thought she was pining for him the way he was pining for her. But she returned and completely rejected him, turning to someone with even lower status than she had.
And practically two months later, he didn't even care. He thought that's what it was. Something was exotic and new and you wanted it until you had it. But Chuck and Blair couldn't seem to get enough of each other.
They never talked about it, but Nate knew that Blair couldn't have been a virgin the one time he was with her. The time line was all off. There was the pregnancy scare and they had only been with each other once. Chuck and Blair however... it was made apparent much later that they had not only... comsumated "several times" but also in the back if his limo. The thing that they used to get high in. Now he knew Chuck held it as the sacred ground where he had breached the one thing no one had.
He never thought that Blair would go there. It was tacky. She was all about class. But Chuck did things to her. Nate wasn't blind. She would scheme and manipulate. For him. The only thing Blair even came close to was destroying Serena. But that wasn't for him. That was for Blair herself.
And then when it came time for scheming again, instead she just slept with his best friend. And that was that. It was still awkward for him to ride around in Chuck's limo with him. He would always take the side seat because Chuck took the back and Nate knew that was his favorite. It was where he would have taken Blair and he would never be able to get those images out of his head.
Chuck taught her things that Nate should have spotted right away. But he had never slept with a virgin before so he didn't know what it was like. Chuck, however, did. He was probably gentle with her and sweet. All the things he overheard her tell Serena but could never invision himself. He never saw Chuck place that necklace lovingly around her neck, kissing her shoulder sentimentally. But that was because that was Blair's Chuck. Only when they were alone would he show his true side. The side that she fell in love with that no one else could understand.
Nate knew that Chuck was lying to himself. Even the day that he told Chuck that himself, he knew it was true. It had hit a nerve for Chuck. He saw the way Chuck approached her at the bar. Not that he was supposed to. She retreated with tears in her eyes. And she asked him to go to prom. In a way, he was lying to himself as well. He could pretend all he wanted that she and Chuck were over. In his own words "with the two of you, it's always something." Meeting each other on the street "spontaneously" while plotting against Serena's southern lover was just too much of a coincidence. Even if it was.
Chuck had done what he asked him. He let her go. But that didn't mean that he was finished with her. He wanted her to be happy and that was the most selfless thing he did. And Serena glared at Nate for it.
The fire between Chuck and Blair was just too great. Even when she was accusing him of sabotaging her prom, Nate could see it. She knew him too much. That was the problem. Nate couldn't figure out that she knew more about his so called best friend than he ever did. Come to think of it, the only bonding activity they did was get high together. With Chuck's stash. She wanted him to defend himself. She wanted him to lie to her so that she wouldn't have to face the truth that he was cruel and bloodthirsty. But then again, that was just something that she responded to.
They would dance, and she would look over his shoulder longingly. She accepted her crown as prom queen, and she gazed into the audience for something that Nate couldn't see. But he knew what it was, anyway.
When they got off stage, he was gone. And he and Blair were done. He couldn't believe that it was happening at first. She callously swept him aside for something he thought was gone for good. Or he at least hoped.
Chuck may have left, but his imprint was still left on Blair. It was something that she could never cure herself of and Nate just had to accept that. He couldn't just pretend that he didn't see them sneaking off together into an empty room at his graduation party. A week broken up and things were as they were. Or as they should be.
But Nate couldn't look at it that way. He began speaking to Vanessa again, but there was still that lingering presence. And he couldn't pretend that he didn't see Blair pulling her dress back on after exiting that same room after Chuck.
He was legitimately trying to move on and Chuck was leering at her from across the party. Chuck tried talking to the others but he could tell Blair was always present for him. They were both addictions that the other couldn't kick. And it didn't make any sense.
Chuck and him were trying out this friend thing. It was rocky, to say the least. The week before he was blaming Chuck for ruining Blair's prom. But Serena and Dan would just shake their heads in his direction when it came to that. He still hadn't figured that part out.
"Hey, man," Nate said nonchalantly, pretending that he didn't know Blair was dancing with Serena in the crowd across the room. Pretending that he wasn't aware that Chuck just couldn't take his eyes off of her. Chuck had just found out that they weren't together anymore and he already had his sights set on for the kill.
"I must say I'm impressed," Chuck said, looking at the surroundings.
"Are you saying I don't throw a good party?" Nate said with mock outrage.
"I'm saying the Vanderbilts know how to throw a good party," he smirked. But he wasn't looking at him anymore. Nate looked to the dance floor but Serena was just dancing with a crowd of admirers.
Nate scouted the room and there she was. She was across the room. Nate was vaguely aware of Jenny crossing towards her (what was she doing here again, wasn't she a sophomore?)
They couldn't look away from each other. There was that smug smirk that Blair averted her eyes from. Nate was glad that he didn't know how goosebumps rose on her arm, her skin flushed, and adrenlaine spiked. He was glad that he didn't know how she had difficulty breathing whenever she was given that specific stare.
He was also glad that he wasn't aware of Chuck's predatory thoughts. The ones that planned on reeling her in. The ones that made him bid Nate farewell as he went to speak to someone else that happened to be in front of the door to a deserted room with a particularly comfortable couch.
Nate was especially glad that he wasn't aware of how Blair's touch to Chuck's arm made him want to slam her against the wall in front of everyone in a fit of passion because he hadn't touched her in so long. He was glad he didn't hear the polite "I want to talk" and of course the lecherous response "I prefer to talk after." He didn't feel the need radiate between them and he was glad.
Traveling to Europe with Vanessa was a moving on point. He was glad for that. That is, until he saw Chuck and Blair making out against his limo in the middle of the street. He was sure that the whole Jack/Vanessa thing was the last straw. It didn't seem that way anymore.
He wanted to get over her but she didn't seem to need to get over him. Chuck needed her because she believed in him. He had no idea why she needed Chuck. It became apparent later. He wasn't aware of those types of conversations that Chuck had with Blair. She would say "Nate is a perfect gentleman, he would never cause a scene" to Chuck's "he never gets your blood going either, he bores you."
And that's really what it came down to. Blair needed someone who could match her blow for blow and Nate was never really up to par. He should have seen it in the stolen glances filled with a fire he couldn't even comprehend.
He never understood the sparring verbal barbs in the middle of dinner parties where Eleanor would just shake her head but not interfere, because she had encouraged Blair to finally go after him, after all.
Blair had always listend to Harold but now it seemed like there was Team Chuck and Team Nate where Harold was always a fan of Nate while Cyrus knew the couple were so well matched that they were soul mates. And he couldn't look when they were texting each other what Nate could only assume were steamy messages under the dinner table that Eleanor couldn't have been unaware of because Blair really was her mother's daughter.
Chuck would feign some call from "the office" and leave the table where Blair would smirk at some text she got which Nate could only assume that read "bathroom, 2mintes –C" or something. He was only aware of this because of the one time he should have knocked and was stupid enough not to.
Chuck and Blair had been missing from the dinner table for quite awhile and Nate hadn't even thought of checking the bathroom that seemed like he should have knocked beause the light was on under the door but he didn't because he was, yes, oblivious.
Soap bottles and toiletries that had been on Lily's bathroom sink were sprawled everywhere on the floor while Chuck and Blair were horizonal on the sink, wrestling hastily with each other's clothes. Really, Nate would have thought these types of obvious displays would have stopped after the first few months that they were together. But they had been a couple more than a year and there was no sign that it would ever let up. And Nate was convinced that it wouldn't.
No, the Upper East Side's future was filled with with poorly disguised excuses for leaving the table and vigorous sanitation after Chuck and Blair had left empty bathrooms, hallways, and, yes, even closests. (Nate wasn't even going to pretend to know when to knock on a shoe closet in Blair's bedroom where Serena had sent him to look for something she had borrowed months ago where she was once again in a heated embrace with Chuck on the plush closet carpet of Blair's wide closet space.)
Blair was in the middle with trying to rip Chuck's bowtie of his throat while he was fumbling with her thigh-highs when Blair saw him first. Her sound was muffled in Chuck's mouth and he didn't notice. Firmly, she pushed on his chest, staring at Nate while he reluctantly broke the kiss. He looked at Nate, seemingly unsurprised with his eyebrows raised. The Chuck Bass Indifferent Expression.
"Nathaniel," Chuck smirked, breathing heavily, not ashamed at all to be seen in this procarious possition. Blair however, was flushing heavily and pushed up again against Chuck's chest to remove him from in between her legs. He sat back and Blair swung her legs over the sink, straightening out her skirt primly.
That was when Nate knew he would always knock on doors when he knew that Chuck and Blair when even in the same building. Even closet spaces (because he had learned that lesson once and he wasn't planning on learning it a second time. Or ever.)
Blair elbowed Chuck sharply in the ribs which he caught, always predicting her move. She left but Chuck was still there, looking curiously at Nate.
"Look," he said, his shirt uncharacteristically unbuttoned and untucked from his pants. "It appears to me that we might have to have a conversation."
"We don't have to..." Nate shook his head, wanting desperately to avoid this very awkward situation.
"I don't want you to hate me for the rest of your life," Chuck said, his feet dangling from the sink in his devil may care way.
"I won't," Nate assured him.
"You will," Chuck assured him. "Because I will most definitely go before you do with the habits I have now."
"You know I wouldn't have done it if it were anyone else."
They were really having this conversation.
"You know if you were dating Serena or something I wouldn't have. Its not because she was yours. And if she was dating someone else, I would have moved in faster than I did because... you're my friend, even if it didn't seem like it at the time."
"Its okay, really," Nate stuttered.
"It wouldn't have been anyone else because she's it," Chuck shrugged, ending the conversation. "She's it for me and that's that."
He eased himself of the counter, probably to go pursue... whatever "it" was.
"I know you didn't, Chuck," Nate finally said. "I see that now even if I didn't then."
"And I know..." Chuck said. "I know you still love her."
And he smirked. It was the strangest thing.
"Don't be," he said. "You may love her, but you can't be in love with her. Not in the way I am."
"You're really condescending, you know that?" Nate laughed.
Chuck smirked. "I know. Its one of my charms."
"I know that's how it is now," Nate assured him. "And even if I wanted her back, I would have no idea how to go about doing it. I'm not you, Chuck."
"That's a relief," he replied. "Because then she would have to go and fall in love with you."
"There's a difference, you know," Nate said. "Loving someone and being in love with them. I don't think I was ever really the latter."
"I know that too," Chuck nodded.
"Always have, always will. But I know that there's something between the two of you that... There's just something."
"Believe me," Chuck grinned, sliding off the sink, "if you hadn't just walked in, there would definitely be more than something in between me and Blair."
"What does she see in you?" Nate laughed.
Chuck shrugged with a smile.