A/N: After the mess that was season two, (in my opinion) I thought Gossip Girl would sink into oblivion. I'm probably the biggest DS hater there is and I didn't like VNJ either and whilst CB are great, I don't think I could watch a show solely for them. But then season three comes. And CB are going strong, NS are acknowledging their beautiful history and paving what seems an even brighter future. And my favourite artistic weirdo couple – DV are doing the same. 3x10 is easily the best epsidoe for me for a long, long time. All I can say is that it's great to watch. GG is finally getting it right. And I'm feeling so inspired for the three couples. So read, review, enjoy and thanks for reading.

Summary: An exploration of the N-JBC and the Brooklynites pre-pilot to post 3x10. Nate/Serena, Chuck/Blair and my favourite two artistic weirdo peas in a pod, Dan/Vanessa.

Trifecta

[xoxo]

When the girl with black curly hair starts talking to him about some random French independent film maker, he thinks it's nothing special at all.

Her name is Vanessa, and she's really gorgeous he thinks, but nonetheless – she's not the girl he really wanted here. There was only one girl he ever really wanted here, and he knew her name – everyone did, but she didn't know his. She had said hello to him tonight and he couldn't greet her back, he was that stunned. He just felt his cheeks heat up and he stumbled outside for some air, confounded by all the reactions he got by just looking at her, and apparently, even though it was his fifteenth birthday party, he wouldn't be entering again.

And so he's left on the outside, the theme of his whole life he thinks bitterly. Until Vanessa asks, "This is your party, right? Why did you invite Chuck Bass? The creep."

"I didn't." Dan says solemnly, "I invited everyone in my class but Chuck Bass," he chuckles softly to himself, "but I guess he has some party radar or something. Then I saw Serena come in with him."

"So you decided to stick around." She fills in the blank. That's what she'll be doing for the rest of her life.

They don't know it or even sense it, looking back, they weren't supposed to. But when they proceed to mock their more favoured Upper East Side antithetical classmates, who glitter just a little bit more, are better dressed and more conventionally beautiful, suddenly Dan thinks being on outside really isn't as bad as it once felt. Not when someone is right there on the borderline with you.

And he never conceived that this would happen, but from the point when he and Vanessa become each other's scrabble-playing, Upper-East Side-mocking, coffee-addicted best friends, Serena starts to fade.

[xoxo]

Initially, he's just Nate's best friend.

Blair Waldorf had been blinded by Nate Archibald's blue eyes from that day in tenth grade. No explanation, no reason, just that she was the star of her own movie and every leading lady needs her Prince Charming.

They're both fourteen when they prepare for their first date, and all she can think about is how she wants to prepare for their wedding. It's not the lace dress by Chloé, the red YSL lipstick, or the Christian Laboutin heels that are making her beautiful tonight. It's the fact, for the first time, she's enough for someone who isn't Serena. She can't help it, she's foolishly happy and blind, and it's the foolish happiness and blindness that will provide her first grievous heartbreak.

Someone knocks on her room and she curses them for interrupting her trance, and she swiftly opens up.

"Hello." She's taken aback. She likes Chuck, she does. She just wasn't expecting him right here.

"Serena insisted I come over." He can't help but let his eyes flutter across her body – God, she's stunning – but she's Nate's. And if there's one person he cares about, it's Nate. He thinks Nate and Serena are the only people he cares about. He'd never dream of admitting the same for his father. "She's helping Nate get ready and she suggested I come over to help you. Look's like you won't be needing my services." He raises an eyebrow, more flirtatiously than Nate would allow, but frankly, he doesn't care. The boy wouldn't be restrained by anything.

He thinks that's why he's taken to Blair so much. He didn't like the thought of Nate having a girlfriend, truth be told, because it meant less time for him, really. But he wasn't exactly alone, with Serena joining him in admiring and strangely, simultaneously uncomfortable with Nate and Blair, the golden couple.

"I don't anyone's services but my own, Bass. I have to go now."

"Let me walk you out."

She doesn't protest. Rather, they banter about how dumb Nate is when he's high and later in life, they'll have more to banter about concerning Nate, but for now, this is enough.

She doesn't consider Chuck Bass a friend until he opens the door for her instead of the limo driver doing so. How chivalrous.

"You look amazing, Waldorf." It would be something normally outrageous of him to say, but you can't evade the truth when it's staring you in the eyes. You just can't.

Blair rolls her eyes to prevent any shred of embarrassment, "I know, Chuck. Now go keep S company for tonight for me, will you?" She tilts her head slightly. And he knows from this point, he's getting into trouble, somehow.

"Of course." The limo speeds off and he whips his monogrammed scarf around his neck. He does keep Serena's company; they spend their night smoking cigars and practically drawing up the list of reasons why Nate and Blair won't last, although to their parents, they appear nothing short of perfection.

"How was Blair tonight?" Serena asks through the smoke, loitering on the expensive Italian leather couch, feigning casual but knowing better than anybody ever gives her credit for.

Beautiful is all he can think, but he's not going there. Rarely does he make rules for himself, but Blair seems to be his only exception for that.

"She's the happiest I've ever seen her." And he feels his lips curve into a smile, just at the notion of Waldorf smiling.

[xoxo]

Chuck's just bickering with Serena's brown-haired best friend, so Nate's left standing opposite the blond by the swing set. They're all six when their parents decide it's time for a play date. Serena tells Nate that she's inseparable from B anyway, "We're like sisters." She says, but Nate doesn't care about that. He doesn't really care about anything. It's summer, the sun is illuminating Serena's blond stands and he can't stop smiling at her. That's what he cares about.

"You have really pretty hair." Is all he says and Serena thanks him, and they're too young to be embarrassed by these sort of things, so she takes his hand and tells him to touch it.

Then they walk off together to demand their parents get them ice-cream, in their six-year-old-cute-blond glory. Eleanor just laughs, admiring her daughter's blond best friends and Lily can't help but comment on how they make quite the pair.

[xoxo]

A decade under her intoxicating influence later, and their simple friendship had become something bided with romance. He can't tell where he ends and Serena begins.

Rarely, does he try fully with Blair. That's what guilt trips him. The fact that when he greets them, it's always his stare that locks with Serena's first, when he knows his girlfriend is gorgeous and deserves better than this. But Blair thinks that for him, it's her. He doesn't have the heart to end it, especially when Serena leaves. After Serena leaves, he barely has any heart left at all.

So he thinks it's completely fitting that Serena was his first and totally, unforgettable. Her scent still lingers all over him. He can't shake the thought of how amazing it was, and how devastating it would be on their friends. He met Serena for the first time during summer and now, he'd seen her for the last time, naked (and not just in the physical sense) and heartbreakingly fragile during summer too. He had no expectations, because Serena's perplexingly unpredictable, he just knew from the sultriness of her eyes, blue melding with blue, as she slid on top of him that this would be the best experience of his life.

But God, does he pay.

He spends the next year of his life without her, constantly hazed in a cloud of smoke, Blair tugging at his hand constantly, Chuck commanding him to "Seal the deal, Nathaniel – by the time you're ready I'll have arranged it myself." And he has no direction. He's void, and it's not even painless because he can feel the space where Serena's missing.

[xoxo]

"I love you, Vanessa."

The words tumble from his mouth with all the conviction, certainty and clarity that a sixteen year old really shouldn't have.

But Dan, ever since she's known him, is intelligent beyond his years. She's aware that they're a contradiction in almost every sense; they tell their parents they're best friends and that's the way it will always remain, they refuse to be confined by convention but when he asks her to come to his place she does her make-up with more precision and she's beginning to think that if they're not careful, it's all going to become very Dawson and Joey for them.

And now, just as she thought that wouldn't happen, it does.

She didn't know this was coming. The words so softly spoken go straight through her.

"I love you too, Dan," and he grins, "But not in that way."

The smile slides from his adorable face and she can feel the tears forming. How could she love him back? There was no way - the previous night she had been snooping through his room, he permitted that and she had found the letter he wrote about Serena, the night Dan had met Vanessa. She was living in the shadow of girl they had never even spoken to before. He could never make the same space in his heart for V as he already had for his muse.

What Vanessa didn't know was that she was already consuming him; completely.

She edges out of his bedroom and he knows he should chase after her, but he's so astounded. He was so assured that he wasn't alone in what he's feeling.

Dusk drifts into night, and he knows what went wrong when he glances over to that letter, lying on his desk.

It details the night he met Serena, or rather, the night she said hello to him. It's kind of cute in a puppy-love way, but he didn't know he even still possesses it.

But he does, and it's destroyed the best thing he has in his life.

[xoxo]

Chuck isn't just a minor star in the movie that is Blair's life; he's her fully-fledged scheming partner.

Chuck consults Blair in the fashion department mainly, he consistently reminds her of how impeccable her taste is, and she consistently reminds him that she knows.

Still, she's grateful that he insists on doing so anyway.

Blair consults Chuck when she's plotting revenge, which of course, her being a Waldorf thoroughly, means those instances are frequent, practically weekly. Her blond counterpart reigns through love, Blair reigns through terror.

When her best friend departs without remorse, acknowledgement or even a flippant goodbye, she decides there's no point in getting out of bed. Her life wasn't a life without Serena. In every sense of the phrase, they complete each other.

She's desperate to know what triggered her friend to do this, because it's triggered the rawest sadness Blair's ever felt in her life. And what enhances that pain is that recently, she had wanted Serena around less because she was always sharing Nate, and Nate would be shared willingly. But that wasn't what she wanted. This wasn't what she wanted at all.

Her pillow is virtually dripping with tears, the Chanel shoebox crammed with photographs and keepsakes from their infancy to the charm bracelet Serena had bought Blair for no real reason last week.

To think she was so plagued with jealousy. She was so busy fighting for Nate she forgot about the girl who had been fiercely loyal to her from their first steps.

She shouldn't have ever been in the position where she had to fight to for S, she thinks, because they were both necessary to each other.

The ridiculous aspect is everyone thinks its Nate and fear of losing him that makes Blair insecure. And for a while, that's what she thought too. It's not until the summer of '06 that Blair learns that it's Serena. Detrimental or beneficial, it's her that moulds Blair's emotions more than anyone else.

"Mister Chuck here to see you Miss Blair!" Dorota calls shrilly. Blair contemplates rebuking her, but she doesn't have the spite anymore - at least not for today.

And it doesn't help that her boyfriend isn't calling her, probably brooding in a cloud of smoke of Serena's dismantling exit. Everything is disintegrating. She feels it already and she hasn't even stepped out of her bedroom today.

"I thought I'd take Nate and you out for dinner...or something." Chuck greets her. "But clearly..." His words trail off as he observes her, still in her red silk pyjama bottoms.

"I'm clearly a mess without her." Blair replies bitterly, razing and all mascara tears.

His eyes take that serious manner; it rarely happens, he's always smirking like the devil, laughing at Nate's antics or they're devious when he's planning with Blair but it's an expression so serious it almost scares Blair.

"You don't need Serena, Blair. In a way – yes, you want her here right now. It's not Serena that makes you beautiful. You need to know that." He confirms.

She smiles through her tears and it's her and Chuck's first embrace. It's so strange and so very not. They'd slowly become a large part of each others lives, ivy entwining around the same tree. And as they both knew, from this point there would be no severing. It's the consistency their friendship is based on, and the same consistency would bring them together sooner than either had anticipated.

His arms clasp around her and in this moment, that's all she needs.

[xoxo]

There are no wild boarding school shenanigans. It's all much civilised, actually. The boys are still drawn to her – a blessing and a curse, but there's only one that clouds her head. She drinks. She even studies when she's feeling focused. She talks and the girls don't appreciate her taking the post of Queen when she's barely stepped off the train to Connecticut, but it was the allurement of the Van der Woodsen. It wasn't acquired; it was hereditary.

Conspicuously, it's Chuck that sustains contact with her. Late-night phone calls are the norm, texts full of their signature witty banter and even sometimes, the odd I miss you.

She does miss Chuck, enormously. It's Blair who's her best friend, it's Nate who understands her naturally without having to utter a word but it's Chuck that reflects herself more than her other friends. It's comforting.

Of course, she wouldn't admit that to him.

She watches fall and winter drag on and she begins to think it'll never end. She doesn't (can't) come home for the holidays because she has nowhere to go that wouldn't result in more bitter disappointment, and the girl who was her best friend has been reduced to a ghost.

But then spring fades into summer, and before she has time to register it's early July, she's sipping Carter Baizen's beer by a pool in Santorini. It's a classic summer love between the pair, characterized by fast, here and now, too much too soon but she can't stay. Either way, I would break his heart someday she thinks as she takes a car from the hotel to the nearest airport.

It's been a year of reflection and learning for her and she's about to learn you can't just come home again.

[xoxo]

It's hard, doing this without his equally debauched blond buddy and it keeps getting more difficult.

He doesn't know why and doesn't question for fear of finding the true answer, but there's something off about him, Nate and Blair being in a room together. She has them both divided for specific roles, Nate is the romantic hero and Chuck is on her level intellectually.

There are times when Blair kisses his cheek or something typical of a couple right in front of him when he wants to drag Nate into a corner and tell him "I know." But it would ruin them, he's sure of that, and he doesn't want to have to choose. Technically, he knows he'd choose Nate, but truthfully, Blair is the person he's been spending more time with.

Their summer is a montage of Rapper's concerts Nate insists they attend, Blair dragging them into boutiques (her boys carrying her bags) and Chuck being the mediator in their pretentious 'perfection.'

Instead he opts to bide his time, knowing Serena's return will set everything into motion. And if she doesn't come home soon, he simply doesn't know what he's going to do, because he's hearing words like ring and dress and wedding. He wants to remind everyone that they're only sixteen and there's still time for everything to alter.

[xoxo]

Chuck takes a drag on his cigar, a sip from his scotch and she hits him like a ray of sun.

He remains in the shadows, just to observe. And the look between Nate and Serena speaks volumes. And Blair's complete disdain reinforces how all of this is going to go.

He can't help but marvel in what he views, along with his best friend, as her glorious return.

[xoxo]

She tells him that "I didn't come back for you." And he thinks that might just break him completely. She says it like it's all so apparent. She then goes on to explain how it's him and Blair, their fate is sealed. Hearing Serena say it makes it more real.

He doesn't know what he was expecting, really. She was hard to capture anyway, any boy would have to be something special to seize her attention, let alone was she going to be with her best friend's boyfriend.

Soon to be ex-boyfriend, he thinks bitterly as the girl of dreams walks away.

[xoxo]

It's the first plan of Chuck Bass' that goes totally awry.

Although the fairytale is over, Blair insists Nate is still hers, even when she's unsure if she even wants him anymore. She and Serena call truce and surprisingly, their friendship reaches a new level of strength, not even Nate prompts awkwardness between the pair.

Serena's been dabbling in Brooklyn and although Chuck knows it'll never last, he can't criticise her for wanting escape, because that's exactly what he's been trying to do with Victrola. She's always been that uncanny reflection of him anyway.

Blair helps him arrange the whole affair, he requires her approval for many things so it's no surprise. It's heart-warming to have her around now more than ever, she's been preoccupied with Nate and now that her original best friend is back, he's been pushed out slightly.

The same night they crash right back into each other. What happens at Victrola does not stay at Victrola.

The minute she says "I think I just broke up with Nate." Is when reality sets in, because instead of staying with Blair to comfort her, when he should have been checking up on Nate. But then she tells him he wants to escape. There were no questions, no answers, she wanted him there right with her and he abided. And they literally drink their problems away, Chuck with his relentless daddy issues and Blair finally facing the facts concerning Nate.

The air between them is sticky; he can't tear his gaze away from hers. Then their banter somehow leads to Blair, the supposedly traditional and moral Queen of the Upper East Side is dancing dirty. And it's the first time Chuck thinks he's loved someone. He can feel himself falling.

Blair often imagined losing her virginity. When she did, it was always with Nate. It was always in the same place – silk sheets, red rose petals strewn all over the room. His eyes would finally look into hers with the same awe she'd observe him with when they were with her best friend.

And leather upholstery, no matter how expensive, is as far away from silk sheets as it gets.

Just as her friend's brown eyes, cheeky smirk and intelligence was as far away from Nate as it gets.

Their lips collide slowly and after he asks, "Are you sure?" There are no more words required.

It's messy, it's urgent but then it slows down. He's being very gentle with her. It surprises her pleasantly, because she doesn't expect that. He's always surprising her.

And she's glad that for once, she hasn't followed the script. She's just letting things be, and right now, that's indefectible.

[xoxo]

Vanessa leaves a gaping hole in his life. And when his first crush, in a flurry of blond, gleaming hair and designer clothes strides through Grand Central station, Dan Humphrey decides that it's time to fill it up, somehow.

He can't believe his luck, at first. It's all low-budget dating at bars, the lustful first kisses and the thrill of opposites attracting. She's embracing his world (even though he can't bring himself to embrace Blair Waldorf fully) and before they're even officially together, he learns to forgive her for her scandalous past.

He's just as captivated by her as everyone else is. For years he watched her from afar and whilst they're still trying to gauge exactly what they mean to each other, but the haze of infatuation sugar-coats everything.

It's only when V crawls through his window that the novelty begins to slowly wear off. The only thing racing through his head is she' back, she's back, she's back but he can't just switch now that he has Serena.

And it doesn't take long for Serena to literally fly off Dan's bed in his best friend's presence.

If she was the great best friend she wants to be, she'd let Dan and Serena be. After all, he pined for her for years and was under the impression he'd never get a chance. But she can't maintain the masquerade and when she sees them kiss, the regret she feels over not seizing their moment becomes all too real.

"You said that you loved me." She declares desperately.

"Yeah, Vanessa, loved." He rectifies. But it sounds too harsh, even when he replays it in his head.

[xoxo]

The year runs its course. Nate and Blair share their first time before they inevitably self-destruct, Chuck reveals his romantic traits and plotting with Blair leads to cuteness and he declares his love for her without even saying the three words that hold him accountable. But that's okay, she thinks. They're on sync on every level and there's no rush; senior year will be her triumph and she relishes the prospect of sharing it all with him.

But it ends before it even truly began.

[xoxo]

Nate and Serena can't ignore the tension bubbling underneath their friendship. Both try to fight it in the form of discovering both Dan and Vanessa. Incidentally, it all ends with the blonds being thrown back together in the end. Destiny seems to demand it. There's no other excuse Nate can find for him and Serena heading to the Hamptons; together.

"If you want to reflect alone together, I'll be around."

He'd like to think that this was a chance for him and Serena to finally just be, but it's evident she's still recovering from the loss of Dan. She invested herself in their relationship fully – what better method to escape her past with her two best friends than throw herself into someone new and the epitome of everything not in her world?

They're lounging on the beach together and she's managed to steal him away from his cougar, not that she had to beg much. They tease each other about their respective Brooklyn counterparts and stress over Blair, although she maintains that she's perfectly fine, "I'll have you know I'm better off than ever, S – without Nate or Chuck. I needed out of that love triangle of tragedy anyway."

"I know they'll find their way back to each other." Serena says with conviction. If you looked at how she was resting in Nate's arms, you'd believe they were totally a couple, but she's so comfortable with Nate status doesn't really matter. She loved him, she loves him and she always will love him, and that's all she knows. "I mean, look at us. I wouldn't have predicted it, Nate Archibald." She beams up at him and he can't help but return the smile.

"They never could stay away from each for long." He remarks, "I just can't believe I didn't notice earlier. This time last year she was spending more time with Chuck, now that I think about it."

"Wow, Nate Archibald actually thinking?" She mocks a gasp, giggling. "Sorry, still frisky."

"Clearly." Serena's too sweet for him even to be slightly offended.

"I wish..." She trails off, staring into the sand.

"Um, complete your phrase please?" He prompts, smiling at her goofiness.

"I wish we had dealt with what we did...appropriately. Me running off like that was the worst thing I could have done." She says intently.

"You came back, S." He replies, like it solves everything. In a way, it kind of did. Sometimes, things just don't go the way you wanted them too, but Nate's trying. Everyday.

"I want you to know...that I came back for Blair and Chuck. And I came back for you too, even though I said I didn't. There's no point in lying anymore. You three are my best friends and you've been so good to me this summer, Natie." She smiles softly and self-consciously strokes a lock of blond hair behind her ear and looks into his eyes seriously. She needs him to know that she means this.

And he understands without fault.

"Well..." he grins, enveloping her in a hug, "typical. You only tell me now."

They laugh softly, but the more he thinks, the more his last statement is laced with hurt more than anything else.

"You make a fantastic faux-girlfriend." He says it because it's true, and he has to say it now because it might be the closest they ever get.

[xoxo]

Senior year provides the most colossal challenge in Blair Waldorf's increasingly fragile life.

Between fighting with Serena (World War Three's broken out and it's wearing knee-high socks), demanding a place at Yale (the only Ivy League that exists on the expansive roll of film in her pretty brunette head) and juggling her boys (Nate seems somewhat bitter and Chuck can't say those three words that would fix everything), it's all becoming too much. She thought she could excel at all three issues but she can barely take it anymore.

She never really had any doubt anyway, but several hair-yanks and sincere words later she and Serena have healed once again.

She thought that maybe, Chuck hitting rock bottom would yes, be devastating hard to watch for her because there wasn't a lot she could do except be there for him, but she also thought it would bring a certain sense of clarity.

She knows Chuck loves her. She knew it from the day when they were six, they were scrambling around central park in the snow and he gave her his scarf. For anyone else, that would have inconceivable. But she's Blair Cornelia Waldorf and she wants consistency in her life when everything else is so unpredictable.

Chuck is still her constant. Whether she's telling him again, "I will stand by you through anything, because I love you." Or he's lying right beside her (so close, yet so far away) or they have their arms around each other once again.

She likes to think she and Nate have a realistic chance, and when they kiss, with the snow cascading upon them, for a moment it feels like it does.

It is not enough. It's sweet and tentative, but he'll never be enough.

Delicious irony she knows; her last breakup with Nate was so utterly devastating and this time she knows she needs it. He'll always be her dear friend, but she knows now it's the idea of what they could have been that she loved.

When all seems lost, summer arrives swiftly, she truly thinks it over and all Chuck, her other great love is going to be reduced to a 'dear friend' too. She truly feels doomed, for the first time. She knows she'll find happiness elsewhere. But if Nate, her one-time Prince, wasn't enough to compensate, who ever could be?

But then he's there, outside that limo, looking devastatingly handsome and suave.

They finally declare themselves, Chuck actually does a total of ten times (not that she's counting) and it's pure euphoria.

They crawl into the limo – their limo, and all she can say is "Finally."

[xoxo]

It's senior year when Dan and Vanessa's friendship has fully healed.

There are no romantic undertones. They flew back into the arms of their exes, respectively Nate and Serena and they were best friends. She resigned herself to the simple fact that if they were meant to be, they would have been by now, and Dan is just as enamoured with Serena as he was all those years ago, sixteen and writing poems about her.

Except he's so very not.

They become that rinse-and-repeat couple, breaking up and making up, failing to recognise that there's a reason that they can't simply be content with one another.

It doesn't help that they share a blood sibling, either. It's all so ridiculous. For fear of hurting him, she doesn't tell him that she thinks that he and Serena just are not meant to be; for lack of logic, because it's more than apparent where Humphrey senior's heart lies.

He becomes the one person she thinks she cannot live without. Before it had been simple companionship, now it's necessary.

The night she tells him about Nate's situation and he informs her of his latest breakup with Serena, they decide they drown themselves in Rufus' beer supply and they tumble into his bed.

It's strictly platonic. She wishes what's there between them – memories and static, would disappear for a while though.

"What's on your mind right now, V?" He asks softly, breath reeking of alcohol. He reaches out to rub her arm.

"I was just thinking about how I never want to leave home again, Humphrey."

And with that, they doze off.

[xoxo]

Amidst all the distortion, Vanessa holding the post of his closest confidant is the one thing that's vivid.

"Since when did my apartment become your waterhole of choice?" He asks, concerned. He knows the answer before she says it - his apartment was her everything of choice. It certainly wasn't the first time he'd find her here and it wouldn't be the last.

The alcohol is out, and so are the confessions. "I never slept with Chuck Bass." And several gulps later, he's both confused and he can't help but be tinged with anger. She was worth so much more than a Bass booty-call.

But she's his only exception, always. He wouldn't judge her for this because he was hardly in the position.

"It is completely repulsive," he agrees – when do they ever disagree? "But you've been going through a lot lately with the Blair/Nate reunion and all. Plus the hooking up and looking down thing really has a certain appeal to it, so you get no judgement from me. Everyone makes a mistake at least once."

She made that mistake twice, she informs him and they end the night on the floor, facing the reality that Dan's Ivy League dreams have disintegrated just as the brunette girl's that he loathed.

Vanessa is the only one who fully comprehends.

And out of all those who could understand; Serena; Nate; his sister; he's just glad that it's Vanessa.

[xoxo]

"You know you can't lose me for long."

It's true, it's fact. She can't argue with it and she can't argue with Carter Baizen in general – he's an irresistible mystery. So when she insists he joins her for the summer, he just does. She's actually more than glad to have the company of someone who isn't in her non-judging breakfast club group. She's Serena and no one runs as fast or as far as the best friend of Blair Waldorf.

And so eventually, knowingly, she runs from Carter, too. He's no exception to this rule.

And Chuck and Blair, certified power couple? They don't give Baizen their seal of approval.

At this stage, she knows how it goes. It was the same two years back when Dan and Vanessa didn't work out, so when Carter and Bree don't turn out to be their happy endings, Nate and Serena are left to help each other heal once again.

It's not easy this time, normally with them it's so comfortable, so simple, but Carter's complicated everything so much that by this point, nothing can really be simple.

She settles his debt, not worrying about anything else.

He leaves anyway.

It only reinforces the niggling inside her head, the one insecurity she does have, the one that's always been there, if she'd ever be enough for people outside of Blair, Chuck and Nate.

Not for Dan, not for Carter and not even for her own father.

Tripp van der Bilt is similar to Carter Baizen; in that he's another one of the gorgeous boys Serena' lucky enough to have drift in and out of her life. And at present, he's very much in.

She's enchanted by that flawless DNA. She'd like to preserve some dignity and try to resist, but there was no chance of that. Even when she consults Nate, it actually begins to work. They're not as forceful as Chuck and Blair, but maybe Tripp is one of the guys she needs to let drift away again. Because frankly, she can feel that whatever they could have, it would be doomed anyway.

After all; she's fallen for that before.

She's totally infatuated with a married man.

But nevertheless, when he stumbles into that bar, interrupting whatever it was she and Nate were doing, again at a bar (it's becoming somewhat of a theme, she thinks) all heartbroken and dishevelled, she wants to be there for him.

And she is; temporarily.

It is, as very much as she feels, doomed. Because the words floating around in her head when she shares her first real kiss with Tripp are Nate's words.

Serena, you're the most beautiful, amazing, alive person I've ever known.

After she leaves Tripp's place for the night, adamantly refusing to stay over, a singular tears trails down her face as the cab deposits her home.

She's caught in another triangle, this time at the centre.

But there's one person who features that always remains the same; Nathaniel Archibald.

[xoxo]

He collapses on his bed, runs a hand through his hair and sighs.

How things change, how everything remains the same. He might as well still be sixteen and in love with Serena van der Woodsen.

[xoxo]

Let's just say it's a far cry from Dan Humphrey's dorky, Seth Cohen-esque past.

He knows fine right and well that the cause of the threesome with his girlfriend and Vanessa was pure lust on his part. He's only a guy and what guy would have said no? It all sends him into such a calamity that Nate Archibald is the one actually providing him with advice on the matter.

He really should have done this with a stranger.

But they didn't and it's too late now.

"You were looking at Vanessa the way you've never looked at me. And then you kissed her like...like you've never kissed me. If you just let yourself...you'll see you feelings for her are real. And you should stop kidding yourself."

It's all the things he knew was coming, and all the things he so desperately does not want to hear.

There's no reverting to being just friends, it's become so much more than that. With the wonderful gift of hindsight, he looks back two years ago and muses on how things really are not all that different right now, in this moment, when everybody is telling him to kiss her, like it makes the most sense.

And when Blair Waldorf tells you to do it, you do it.

He removes his hat, heart beating wilder than it really should be and it's a beautiful realization. Inspiration for the climax in his novel, breathtaking, life altering material.

Years in the making, his lips finally reach hers.

"What are you doing?" She demands, unfazed.

I have no fucking idea, V.

[xoxo]

On Thanksgiving, Serena chooses Tripp over everyone else.

She's not fully aware of the consequence until she slips next to Tripp on the leather upholstery. Until Tripp kisses her with all the pent-up passion they'd began to erode in the elevator, she isn't aware of the consequence.

She'd spent her life breaking hearts, including her own when necessary for Blair. And it's not until Tripp starts elaborating on his feelings for her that she thinks she may have inflicted the same on Nate, again.

She can't run. Not this time.

He's arranged for them to travel to Rome, a classic city of romance and getting away sounds good, but for the first time she decides it's time to finally fix home. She just can't run forever, because she likes Tripp, she liked Carter but for Serena van der Woodsen, it's Nate Archibald.

And how fitting, that she realises it all a little bit too late.

They reach his private plane and she wants to cry. For the first time since she arrived home two years ago, she wants to race home all over again.

"You ready?" He smiles gently, squeezing her hand ever so slightly.

"Huh?" Her voice cracks and lets her guard down. Her hand slips from his involuntarily.

He tilts his head, at first confused. But then, it all becomes all too clear.

"It's Nate, isn't it?" His tone is not harsh or condescending. If anything, it's sympathetic.

It is, it races through her head, but she's not about to say it yet, and he smiles weakly.

"I've known it's Nate since the summer after you finished tenth grade," he begins, as if it's the most epic beginning he's ever spoken of, "the year Nate and Blair became a couple."

They embrace each other for the final time and he tells her to go, and she runs again.

This time, she's running home.

[xoxo]

The very same night, she knocks on Nate's door, once, twice, thrice and he eventually answers.

He never could turn that girl down.

"What do you want, Serena?" He demands, tired being an understatement.

She edges closer to him, imploring forgiveness, "To apologise, Nate...what I did tonight with Tripp was totally out of order –

"I didn't know what I was expecting Serena," he begins, barely able to look into her eyes, "For you to stay? You never do. You're always putting everyone else before yourself. Tripp's a grown man. He never needed you, S. Not the way I do." He confesses. He's been making a habit of it, of late. He still doesn't know what coerced him to tell her about the disaster that was the masquerade ball.

That's what all of this was. A beautiful masquerade. He has clarity – he's had it since the Shepherd wedding. But he'd resigned himself to the notion that Serena never would.

"You'll choose anyone over me, S. As your friend, that's hard for me. I can't lie anymore."

She nods, subdued. "I know. I know it's taken me years to reach this point, Nate. But I'm here now. I'm sorry, Nate." She says, face looking like heartbreak.

She starts crying, not manically sobbing or anything, but a gentle release of tears. He can't stop himself from hugging her. And she is here now, and that's all that matters.

He steps back, hands still rubbing her arms, pushing back her hair, "You need to tell me what you want, Serena."

"Nate," she says hurtfully, "When have I ever, ever known that?" She emits a bitter laugh and it hurts him to hear that. She deserves everything and he wants to be the one to give it all to her, but she doesn't. That's what he has to cope with.

He insists she stay at his and they sleep in the same bed.

Nothing happens. He just cares about being there for her, just as he always has.

They eat chocolate ice-cream, fix themselves some drinks and don't doze off until about five in the morning, and it's somewhat of a blurry night to Nate – one he wouldn't want to remember until they're just laying his bed, and no one can destroy what they have for once. They're allowed peace.

Their breath is hot on one another. Their eyes remained locked.

"You know that I love you, Nate." She smiles lazily. "I love you."

"I love you too, S." He mumbles.

"Natie?" She prompts, he responds with a moan and a command to go to sleep – she persists, "Do you forgive me?"

"Always, Serena. Now go to sleep."

"I forgive you too then." She smiles wickedly.

Nate opens his eyes and props himself up on his back. "What?"

"When I ran away two years ago you should have ran after me."

"I wanted too. But there was Blair –

"I know. And my girl...crazy," she slurs, the effect not completely worn off yet, "but we would have gotten through it together somehow, Natie. You know that."

"Well...no one's running now." He replies, smiling up at the smiling.

[xoxo]

He's treading on eggshells around the girl who knows everything about him.

Or as of now, almost everything.

It's a switch that's flicked in his head. The type of love when randomly, on some night you start seeing that person in a brighter light, differently. And suddenly, you just can't imagine ever being with anyone else, without reason, without logic. Sounds ridiculous for a guy that fulfilled the most desired male sexual fantasy, but Dan had fallen in love with his best friend.

Of course, for weeks they avoid, they blush inappropriately, until she can't stay away anymore.

She turns up with beer and pizza and an "I miss you."

Half-way through some shitty French indie film without subtitles she lays her head on his shoulder.

"I don't... V, I don't think I could live without you. You're my best friend. You know that?"

"Breaking news." She smirks.

His voice is lined with fear. "And it's scary...because I think...no, I know. I know I'm falling in love with you. Again."

She removes her head from his shoulder, her eyebrows knit together and she pauses the movie.

"Dan..." She can't muster a reply. This could ruin them.

"I can ignore it," he defies, "Because having you in my life...that's a requirement, for me." He smiles tenderly.

"No. No you can't. Because I can't either."

She loops her arms around him and when their lips collide, their hearts do too.

[xoxo]

Blair and Chuck; committed couple.

Unrivalled in most aspects, in appearance, intelligence and pure evil, separate, they're damaged. Together, they're utterly unforgettable.

Their happiness is born from the fact that they were just honest, however long it took them to reach that point, because it had started in deception. And Chuck thinks it's about time Nathaniel did the same.

It's Saturday night and they're out with Nate and Serena at a bar for no real reason, they're about to go to a club, whatever, they know it'll be fun because it's the four of them, together, as it always should be.

He hands Blair her drink and she's eyeing their blond counterparts suspiciously.

"I understand the sheer absurdity and irony of what I'm about to say," she begins, "but they'd be good for each other."

"Waldorf...you know I've concurred with that since the age of ten, right?" He replies, glad that she's actually saying what she saw all along.

She just rolls her eyes and proceeds, "S cares for Nate. And with a family like his that's what needs."

"Again I'm in agreement. Now how about we stop talking and start doing?" He urges coolly.

"What do you suggest?"

"Old-school on this one. Stuff our beloved bimbos in a hotel room and get one of our own." He smirks.

"Simple and effective." She looks at him with so much pride she doesn't need to remind him that she adores him.

And when he kisses her cheek, he lets her know he she still has impeccable taste. He insists.

It's all about consistency.

[xoxo]

In a wonderful, roundabout way, she muses how it's all come full circle.

Blair told her the plan upfront. How classic that two years ago, it had been Nate wanting to meet her in a room of the palace hotel room when everything was beginning to fall apart. Then she had protested against it but eventually gave in. Now she didn't protest at all.

I know it's taken me years to reach this point, Nate. But I'm here now.

She is here, and she's ready. Ready for all of him. And she can't wait for their true beginning.

When he enters through the door, an expression of surprise on his face, she faces him, flustered although she really shouldn't be.

She smiles, welcoming as usual, "Hey."

"Hey." He begins, just letting himself absorb her for a moment, "You know how it is. When Chuck tells you to do something –

"You do it."

"And when Blair tells you

"I do it."

They stand there frozen.

"I think Blair; most of the time just knows what's best for me – better than I do." Serena states quietly.

"He's Chuck Bass...he knows everything."

"Let's take a walk Nate." She tugs his hand into the elevator and she wants to make out with him right then and there because he's looking dapper in a grey metallic suit, his hair swept back and she's in a silver dress.

Always complementing one another.

But she wants this to be perfect. She reasons that they deserve it, they've waited long enough.

She can't hold herself inside for too long, though.

And exactly three weeks after she arrived unannounced on his doorstep after rectifying the latest mess she made for herself, they're walking to nowhere, but they're together.

They share a comfortable silence until she stops in the same courtyard they were standing two years ago.

"I thought we were just never meant to be, Nate." She admits, mocking the very notion.

He's taken aback, but he nods slowly, because that's what he had been thinking too.

But then there's the knowing that she's the one – it's that simple.

"It's now, Serena." Nate says simply.

"It's now." She agrees, whispering, bewitching him, captivating him the way she'd never stopped doing.

His cups her face and they kiss, slowly. Tongue swirling, butterfly causing, it's a kiss that evokes hundreds of sensation.

"I thought you would've wanted to wait." He says when they part, foreheads still lingering on each others.

"No Natie. No more waiting."

And the rain starts pounding down as fast as her heart is.

[xoxo]

Three mistakes, three denials, the kisses and three confessions later, they're so ridiculously happy it's almost sickening.

The four friends are of course, welcoming the New Year together, in Times Square. Serena and Chuck are the partiers anyway, it doesn't matter that it's on the street – there was alcohol, those silly noise-makers and their friends. That's all that's needed.

Its 11:59, Nate's arms are around Serena's waist and they start having a conversation – as if it won't result in another make out session.

"How was your year, Serena Celia van der Woodsen?" He asks playfully.

She hugs him and whispers; "Best. Year. Ever."

She spots Dan holding Vanessa's hand and it's actually not surprising to her when she feels happy for them. "Hey you two!" She summons and they greet them, Blair and Chuck respond by rolling their eyes, simultaneously.

"Some year, huh?" Dan comments, sliding his arm around Vanessa's waist.

"I think we all found our way home...eventually." Serena remarks, not really meaning for her words to be poignant. They are anyway.

The countdown begins and Serena overhears Chuck and Blair exchanging "I love you" for each second. Ten, nine,

Dan and Vanessa smile into their kiss early, they couldn't wait.

Eight, seven, six, five,

"I've have so much to be thankful for, this year." Nate says earnestly, blue eyes so certain.

"I love you...Fitzwilliam!" She jests; teasing him about his middle name constantly cracks her up. "So much." She says into his shoulder.

"I love you too." He replies simply. At this stage, they don't need to say it to know it.

Four, three, two, one!

Then they kiss, very deeply – she doesn't like PDA, but for Nate, she lets it slide.

They separate and laugh, and she's instantly reminded of when she kissed him that summer, as he removes pieces of confetti from her hair. She remembers all of it.

"Let's hope this night sets the tone for...forever." She murmurs.


End.


A/N: I know; I went all fluffy in the end! I couldn't stop myself, the possibility of these three pairings makes me super happy. (: