Disclaimer: Don't own show or books.
Jenny x Nate.
Something About Jenny
It's always a phone call.
She doesn't know why she expects it to be anything else when he flips open his phone and his face immediately loses whatever emotion she's managed to pull from it.
Happiness, sadness, laughter, it all disappears and is replaced by his Jenny expression.
Nate Archibald can't seem to help himself every time Jenny Humphrey calls him for help.
And every time she calls, Vanessa Abrams finds herself sitting alone on a park bench trying to figure out why he always, always goes to help the younger girl.
She asked him once, she remembers, as she stares at the ducks in the park. They'd been having a serious discussion in a café that he frequents when his phone had rung and he'd answered and that expression had slipped into place.
She could remember sitting there and watching as he hung up, his decision already made. She'd been mad because she'd recognized the expression and knew she was going to be left alone once again.
"What's so special about Jenny?" She remembers how she spat out the question and how stunned he was by it.
She remembers being stunned because he's stunned and then she remembers forcing a smile because she doesn't want to fight with him. The new tentative relationship of theirs was too important to her at the time.
"Never mind," she remembers telling him. "Let me know how she is, okay?"
She remembers how he hesitated even though he was obviously desperate to leave and she remembers taking a sip of her cappuccino and expecting him to walk away when he speaks slowly, as if he can't quite believe what he's saying to her.
"I don't know. There's just something about Jenny."
He leaves before she can try and decipher what he meant and why his tone was so gentle and confused.
She hears her name and quickly jerks herself back to the present and her boyfriend's apologetic face. He's tucking his phone into his pocket and standing up as he apologizes. She's not sure what words he's saying but she smiles and nods anyway.
"…she sounded really upset and I'm sorry, Ness, but I don't like the sound of where she is."
He's apologetic and empathetic and she feels anger suddenly surge even though she knows that whatever she says won't stop him from playing Jenny's hero or keep him from staying with the younger girl until he's sure she's alright.
"It's fine. Fine." She smiles up at him, wishing that her smile brought out the smile she sometimes sees on his face when Jenny grins over at him and she stands up too.
"Are you sure? 'Cause I can call Dan or Serena or someone and they can come -"
She interrupts him before he can finish his sentence.
"No. No. It's fine. I have some editing I want to do anyway." She lies through her teeth and wishes that the breath he exhales didn't seem so relieved.
He's relieved, she knows, not because he was really worried about her but because he won't have to worry about her when he rescues Jenny from whatever situation she's currently in. He can focus fully on the blonde who captures his attention with a phone call.
Still, she continues to smile when he leans over and kisses her goodbye quickly. She continues to smile when he breaks into a jog, his phone pressed to his ear as he reassures Jenny that he'll be there soon.
She's still smiling when she turns away and hurt is written plainly on her face.
"There's something about Jenny."
The words aren't what hurt, she discovers as she says them aloud, what hurts is the fact that there's something beneath those words that she knows Nate will never have with her.
She knows that she and Nate have a connection. She likes to thinks it's a solid one, based on the understanding that they can tell each other nearly anything and it will be accepted no matter what.
The connection she believes in is one that's always there. He talks to her, she likes to think, he tells her things that he doesn't tell anyone else because he knows that she'll accept what he's saying and maybe have a little advice on the side.
So when he moves in with the Humphrey's she figures maybe they'll be able to enter into a newer, better relationship than before. She likes to think that maybe they'll be stronger and he won't answer his phone while they're on a date because there's something about a girl that drags him away from her.
She thinks she's wrong when she sees them together.
They're not holding hands or kissing or even giving any indication that there's maybe something there but she can see something in the lingering look he gives her when she turns her head away.
She can see something in the way he places his hand on the small of her back to guide her around a bike rider. She can see something in the way Jenny leans into Nate, her eyes locked on his face and full of something she refuses to identify.
There are no obvious signs in the way they're walking and laughing. There's nothing but a lingering look on his part and a shy smile on hers that could hint at anything more than friendship between them.
But she sees it and suddenly their connection she thinks is so important pales into insignificance as she watches him lower his head to whisper in Jenny's ear.
Their connection is nothing like the simple touches they're exchanging nor the free laughter or the playful nudge as they continue to walk along the street.
Even as she stares, she realizes they're getting closer and she forces a smile when Nate suddenly looks away from the vibrant blonde that's held his attention and meets her dark gaze.
For a moment, she thinks he looks guilty and then Jenny sees who he's staring at and then Jenny's hugging her in greeting.
"Hi, V! I didn't think you were going to be around today."
She turns her gaze away from Nate and to the blonde. She knows her smile becomes more genuine as she looks at her old friend and Jenny's eyes shine back at her.
"Neither did I. But Ruby's doing something so I thought I'd come and see what you were up too." She lies and Jenny shrugs, her eyes moving to Nate who simply raises an eyebrow.
"We were going to have an old movie marathon, actually. Nate's never actually seen a full Abbott and Costello, so can't help but be curious if she and Nate would ever be able to communicate through a look. She wonders if a look like that is something that's practiced or if it's a natural occurrence between two people who are in tune with each I figure we'd start with that. Do you want to join us?"
She sees the look and knows that Nate has agreed to Jenny's invite without saying a word and she nods slowly, wondering if she's going to have to watch him watch her all day.
She falls into step behind them and other no matter what.
She wonders because there's something about that look.
She knows that Dan knows that she's still in love with Nate. She's not sure she's ever really fallen out of love with him truthfully but she knows that it's easier to pretend she has because if she doesn't she might never get him back.
It's not easy to pretend, however, in the middle of a room full of New York high society with flashing lights and models on tables.
She sees the look Nate sends Jenny first, the proud, loving look that she wonders why she's never seen before and then she sees Jenny's face light up at the look. It's almost like his approval is the world to her and she wants to think nothing of it as Jenny squeals and runs to him.
She knows her smile fades as she watches Jenny throw herself into his arms, hugging him tightly and she knows tears are inevitable as she watches, almost in slow motion, as Jenny pulls away and kisses him.
She's hurt and angry and confused because she watches him kiss her back with an abandon she doesn't think she's ever seen from him before. She's hurt because she's still in love with him and Jenny's her friend and they should know better. She's angry because of the way Jenny's body fits into his, the way they mould in a way she doesn't think she's ever seen before and it makes her so mad because for some reason it's all so perfect. She's confused because she's mad and upset because she should have seen this coming.
So she does what can save her from humiliating herself in public. She runs out of the room, ignoring Jenny's call and trying not to sob at Nate's attempt to keep Jenny in his arms.
Because there's something about the way Jenny and Nate were together in that room that was just too perfect.
She's not proud of what she does next. She compares herself to Blair lying awake in bed one night and she hates herself for it. She knows she can only really claim jealousy and hurt and irrationality because there's something about Jenny and Nate that doesn't make her feel secure in her and Nate's resumed relationship.
It was the letter. The letter, she thinks bitterly lying next to him, which started it all.
What would have happened if she had just left the letter where it was that Thanksgiving? Would Jenny and Nate be any closer to being in a relationship? Would her boyfriend stop letting hope flicker every time someone calls him because he's hoping its Jenny looking for her rescuer?
There are too many questions about the events that followed that night in the ballroom. She knows that her friendship with Jenny won't ever be what it used to be because she has hurt her friend and she has inadvertently helped hurt her boyfriend, too.
She remembers scoffing once at the thought of two close friends fighting over a boy but she thinks she understands why when Nate comes between her and Jenny and chooses her when she knows that he should have picked Jenny.
She won't say what Jenny did to her wasn't bad. It was. It had been, perhaps, the most humiliating moment in her life when she found the dress transparent but she doesn't think that Nate should have been so harsh with the younger girl.
She wants to tell him he makes girls do stupid things but, as she shifts so she can look at his profile, she knows it's not something he wants to hear. Because there's something about what happened that has made him hurt and although she's gotten what she wanted – Nate is laying in her bed tonight – she can't help but wish he would stop thinking about what happened.
"I'm sorry about what happened with Jenny." She whispers and she watches as the words jerk him out of his thoughts.
He looks down at her, confused for a moment before he shrugs and attempts to play it off as something that wasn't going to happen anyway.
"I don't want to be with someone like that." He states sourly and, she thinks, a little sadly. "Besides, I have you, don't I?" He grins at her charmingly and Vanessa can't help but feel as though he's settled for something instead of fighting for what he really wanted.
Still, she settles back against his chest and tries not to think about the fact that there's still something about Jenny that has Nate brooding.
It's their two month anniversary when she really thinks that it might work. She thinks it because she knows that Nate hasn't spoken to Jenny in a long time, in fact, she knows that he's been avoiding the younger girl and she revels in the fact that she has his full attention for once in their relationship.
Somehow, they've fallen into a relationship where his insecurities (she won't ever tell him she finds it amusing that he thought he wasn't smart enough for her) and hers can be worked through. She'll admit that it was bad judgment to listen to Chuck about Blair but she can only smile as she remembers the way they'd worked through that.
For once, it seemed, they were going somewhere and they were going somewhere steadily.
That is, until he gets a phone call.
She watches in something akin to horror as his Jenny face slips into place and she knows that their steady relationship going somewhere has just come to a screeching halt as Nate hangs up and looks across their steaming espressos apologetically.
"Seriously?" She asks before he can speak and they're in tune enough now for him to know that its contempt, not sadness, in her voice and that if he doesn't want to fight with her, he'll call the blonde back and apologize.
But she knows he won't. She knows because there's something about Nate that needs that something about Jenny and she hates the fact that even though Nate hasn't spoken to her in months, he's still going to go and save her.
"I'm sorry, V, but she's not – " she cuts him off with a toss of her head and something similar to a glare.
"Forget it, Nate. Call me when you've found her."
She knows it sounds like a dare. She knows it's almost like she's daring him to not call her when he finds the blonde who always seems to pull her boyfriend away from her just when she thinks they're getting somewhere.
She feels hope when he hesitates and his Jenny face flickers for a moment and she thinks, for a second, that she's won. That he's going to sit down and they're going to resume the conversation interrupted by her phone call and then his Jenny face snaps back into place and she knows, though its probably going to take him longer to figure it out, that she's lost.
She's lost Nate to a girl who he hasn't spoken to in months because there's something about her that draws him to her.
"Yeah, I'll call you. I am sorry." He speaks even though he can see that her face has paled and that contempt is now not the only emotion in her eyes. She just nods as he turns and heads down the street, calling for a cab without a second glance.
She watches him walk away and then looks away. It hurts that he doesn't look back even though he knows she's upset.
It hurts more, later when he shows up on her doorstep and they have their first real fight because he went to save Jenny even though he hasn't spoken to her in months.
It hurts so much more when she watches him walk away and knows, just knows, that this is the beginning of the end.
It's the beginning of the end because there's something about Nate when Jenny's concerned and its something that she knows she can't fight.
They break up on the day Lily and Rufus get married.
She thinks it's sort of symbolic that their relationship ends just as one that has suffered is cemented in holy matrimony. It's symbolic because she wants to believe that there is hope for them because if Lily and Rufus can love each other all those years then she and Nate can too, despite their current status at that very moment.
Despite this hope, she sits amongst the guests, seated far away from him even though they're meant to be each others date, and watches him watch Jenny.
Jenny's glowing up next to Serena and Vanessa's not surprised that he can't seem to take his eyes of her even though Chuck is continuously whispering in Nate's ear while Blair elbows her boyfriend in the ribs because he's talking.
But it's the way Jenny's eyes find his as she follows her father and new step-mother down the aisle that makes the philosophical approach and hope fade as he grins at her and she smiles shyly back.
Because someone who has just ended a relationship isn't meant to smile at someone who never meant to, but somehow still did, interfere in his previous relationship.
Later, she's sitting at a table, watching as Lily and Rufus share another dance and Serena and Dan try and dance while laughing good-naturedly about their new status as siblings and she suddenly finds herself watching Nate spin Jenny around before pulling her into a close embrace.
Hurt wells as, once again, she's struck by the fact that there's something too perfect about Nate and Jenny as they dance and converse quietly.
"The more you stare, the more obvious it is that you're jealous."
Blair's voice shocks her and her head whips around even as she scrambles for something to say that will refute the brunettes mocking words.
"What? I'm not jealous." While she wants to mentally slap herself for saying something that's obviously true, she catches a glimmer of sympathy in the Blair's eyes that has her falling silent instead of trying to recover from her horrible denial.
"Look, Vanessa, I don't like you and I know you don't like me. But I know what its like to be the one who wants Nate when he really only wants someone else." Blair isn't being sympathetic; she's being matter-of-fact coated in Upper East Side veneer.
"And?" She prompts, glancing at Jenny and Nate who are still dancing closely together except now, she realizes with a jolt, their foreheads are resting against each other and their eyes are closed as they move in sync with each other.
"And there's no point fighting it. Nate's oblivious most of the time but the boy knows what he wants and you can hold on as tightly as you want, but you're only going to push him away when he realizes that she wants him too."
Vanessa turns in her chair to glare at Blair's prediction, her mind working on a blistering reply that involves her not holding on to him tightly when she sees Blair's sympathy hidden in the bluntness of her words. It's sympathy because Blair's been in her position but not the way Vanessa is and it's bluntness because Blair never had someone tell her to stop before she lost him completely.
"Blair, I do believe you promised me a dance." Chuck's voice cuts smoothly through the air between the two before she can offer her reply and Blair smirks at Vanessa before it softens into a smile as she looks up at her boyfriend.
"Did I Bass? I imagine it was around the same time you promised me champagne and do I see a flute full of champagne?" She asks her boyfriend primly and he simply rolls his eyes before offering her his hand.
She turns around as Blair accepts Chuck's hand and for the first time since she and Nate agreed to call it quits that morning, she feels tears burn as Jenny giggles at something that Nate has said and looks at him adoringly, while he smiles and gazes at her with admiration.
She doesn't stop the tear that slides down her cheek as she watches them because it would be silly to cry over it when she's known from their first fight over a month ago that it was the beginning of the end.
It's silly because there's something about Jenny and Nate that made what's happening before her eyes inevitable and she's known it for a long time.
She sees Nate a few weeks after the wedding when she runs into him in the Humphrey's old apartment.
She's helping Dan move out and hoping to strengthen the tentative friendship she and Jenny have just started renewing. She doesn't really see him when she walks out of Dan's room but stops when she meets his surprised blue eyes.
"Hi." He says with a surprised smile.
"Hi." She replies and he shoves his hands into his pockets as silence descends over them.
She thinks that he looks good. Really good. Better than when she last saw him, she thinks. He looks less tired and there's something lighter in his eyes, like a heavy weight has been lifted off him.
But then, maybe it's just her because the picture she has of him is fading slightly or maybe he'll always look better in person than in her mind and she'll always be surprised by how good he looks.
He breaks the silence first and she has a feeling it's because he's beginning to feel awkward and she's not helping it by staring at him so blatantly.
"So, how've you been?"
She shrugs, not wanting to give away the fact that she misses him. "Good. I've started a new film."
"Ah. What's it about?"
She opens her mouth to answer him when Jenny's voice suddenly rings out in surprise and pleasure.
"Nate! What are you doing here? I thought you were having lunch with your mom."
She watches his face suddenly light up and knows as Jenny slips comfortably into his embrace that whatever it is that has begun on the day of Lily and Rufus' wedding has grown into something more.
"I'm here because I was hoping you'd come with me. Mom wants to meet the girl that's got me dressing better than I was before." He laughs as she pulls away and Jenny grins up at him.
She knows she's been forgotten when she sees their hands intertwine and watches as Jenny and Nate continue to look at each other, almost as if they're speaking without words.
Quietly, because she knew a long time ago that she was going to lose him to Jenny, she bows her head and steps out of the apartment, heading down the stairs with the intent of never going up there again.
As she stands on the street, she looks up at the windows of the apartment and then shoves her hands deep into the pockets of her and walks away.
She walks away because there was something about the way Jenny and Nate had been looking at each other.
She sees Nate years later. She thinks it's eight but knows that it's closer to ten when she sees him getting coffee in the coffee shop she vaguely remembers he likes.
From where she's standing in the line, she can see that the boy she has once known is now a man. He holds himself taller, his body is leaner and more refined and his face void of the smoothness that had once defined him as a pretty boy.
She's still watching him when he turns around, travel mug in hand. She waits for his eyes to fall on her and offers him a smile when his eyes land on her. They are blank for a moment before they light up and he quickly makes his way over to her.
For a moment, as he makes his way towards her, she remembers the hope she had a long time ago at Lily and Rufus' wedding and feels it flare before she catches the glint of gold on the fourth finger of his left hand.
Still, she keeps the smile on her face as he reaches her and smiles happily.
"Vanessa! It's so good to see you. How have you been? Where have you been? What have you been doing?" He blurts out the questions and she finds herself laughing at his curiosity and enthusiasm as he ushers her over to a table and sits down, giving the impression that he doesn't have to be anywhere urgently and she sits opposite him, forgetting that she wants coffee.
"I've been really good. Really good. I've been everywhere, too. And I've been making films." She answers his questions in order good-naturedly and waits for more.
He doesn't disappoint her and she answers his rapid questions about who she's seen, what she's seen and what her films are about. If there's one thing she'll always love about Nate Archibald, it's the fact that even if the last time he saw someone was horrible or awkward or bittersweet, he'll still want to know everything about you because underneath the Upper East Side surface is a warmth that few ever get close to.
However, when the questions slow down and he takes a sip of the coffee that has been cooling between them as he interrogates her, she knows that it's her turn to ask questions about his life and she can only think to ask one.
"Who is she?" She asks quietly, nodding towards the glint of gold and she sees the smile spread and knows who it is without him even having to say the words.
"It's Jenny. We were married around five years ago," he pulls out his wallet and flips it open to show her the picture he has of Jenny, a little older but with the same smile, holding a baby with wispy dirty blonde hair dressed in a pink dress, reaching for the camera. "Her names Aimee. She's turning two in a couple of weeks." He says by way of explanation and she nods, swallowing hard.
"She's beautiful." Vanessa forces out with a smile and Nate nods. "They both are." She adds and his whole face lights up, letting her know without words that they are his entire world and more.
"I know. Jenny's working from home. She's running her own company and when she got pregnant she made the choice to stay at home in order to look after Aimee. She's amazing." He says and she smiles at him as he looks down at the photo before closing the wallet and sliding it back into his pocket.
She's not too sure what to say next. Her world isn't his world anymore and it hasn't been since she walked out of the Humphrey's old Brooklyn apartment and made the conscious decision to leave behind that part of her life. Though she knows she's moved on from the angst of her teenage life and the feelings she once had for the man sitting in front of her, there has always been one question that has held her back from completely letting go of that part of her life.
She studies Nate quietly for a moment longer, knowing that now would be a good time to ask because he's not a boy anymore enamored with something about Jenny Humphrey but a man who knows what that something was and is hopefully willing to tell her.
"Nate? Can I ask you a question?" She speaks as he takes another sip and has a feeling that he knows what she's going to ask as his eyes survey her thoughtfully over the rim of his cup.
"You just did," he smiles and she can't quite make her lips move in return. "Sure. But if it's about why you weren't invited to the wedding, it's because we couldn't find you." He says jokingly and she forces a laugh, knowing she'll never tell him that they couldn't find her because she hadn't wanted to be found by the people who had once dominated her teenage life.
She takes a deep breath, trying to decide how to phrase the questions correctly and then deciding that it would probably be better to ask it bluntly and quickly.
"What was the something about Jenny that had you running to her whenever she called you for help?"
He's obviously not expecting the question to be as blunt and he doesn't answer right away. Instead, he carefully sets his coffee down on the table, aligning it so it seems just right to him and thinking about his answer.
She waits for his answer impatiently, wanting the answer so she could close that chapter of her life and only pull it out one day when her teenage daughter was having trouble with boys.
"I think it was, in part, because she needed me in a way that neither you nor Blair ever needed me. Blair liked using me as a prop more than anything else and you didn't need me the way she does." He shrugs and frowns and she bites her lip. "She also never expected me to be anything but me. Blair always liked to dress me up or dress me down in a way that made me feel like I was a Ken Doll and the only personality I had was what she projected. You - " she interrupts him with raised eyebrows.
"Step carefully, Nathanial. I don't think I expected you to be anything." She warns playfully and he shakes his head.
"No, you did. You always seemed to expect me to act the way some rich kid from the Upper East Side acted. Even when I proved I wasn't just some rich kid from the Upper East Side. It's okay; I just always got the impression you were surprised when I did something that didn't ring true to the stereotype." He adds hastily when he sees her face fall.
She brushes off his words with a wave of his hand and smiles encouragingly at him.
"And? What else?" She asks curiously, because she can see that there's more to his answer and she's now genuinely interested in what he has to say.
He shrugs. "And she needed me. She didn't need Nate Archibald or Blair's Nate. She just needed me and she always needed me when her life seemed to be falling down around her. I think though, it was because, on some level, I loved her."
He says it thoughtfully, as if he's only started to think about it now and before she can think of something his phone starts to ring. She watches as he glances at the caller ID and his smile spreads when he sees whose calling.
"Hi babe," he answers the phone and she doesn't want to eavesdrop but can't help herself. "Getting coffee." He answers Jenny's question with an apologetic look in her direction.
"It's fine." She whispers as he nods and listens to his wife.
"I know they're coming over. She's already there? Oh. Take a deep breath, Jen." He tells Jenny and Vanessa pretends to be interested in the wall behind him. "Alright, I'm coming home right now. I love you; you'll be fine until I get home okay?" He hangs up and smiles at her apologetically, his Jenny expression firmly in place.
"I'm sorry, V, but I have to get home. We're hosting a party and Blair's at home, eight months pregnant, and trying to help set-up this party and only managing to terrorize everyone including Jenny. And Aimee's got a cold and Jenny hasn't been sleeping because of Aimee's cold and this party, and she's now having a meltdown because Blair is not making looking after our daughter while planning a party easy on my wife, at all."
She's a bit stunned by the length of his explanation because it's the first time he's ever explained the situation to her as he hurries to leave and rescue Jenny but manages to nod.
"It's fine. Say hi to Jenny for me." She adds as he begins to walk away. He stops suddenly and turns back to her.
"I will. It was great seeing you. You should come over for dinner sometime." She nods at his words knowing that she won't take him up on that offer.
He raises his hand in goodbye as the other holds his phone to his ear and she waves goodbye.
He smiles as the person he's calling answers. "Chuck? Control that damn wife of yours before she sends mine to the psychiatric ward! I don't care if she's scary; she's sending Jenny into a nervous break down."
She laughs at his words to Chuck and watches as he hurries out of the coffee shop onto the street.
As she watches him slide into a cab, she rests her chin on her propped fist and knows that she probably won't ever see Nate again but is okay with that.
She's okay with that because she's finally found out what the something about Jenny was.