A/N: I've never really attempted to write Blair, but I love her character and find her so intriguing. I got this idea and got to writing and it became far longer than I intended. I'm nervous, because she's not an easy girl to write. I hope you enjoy.

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Mommy&Daddy

She's only four when she realizes that her mommy and daddy must really, really love her. It's not like she ever doubted it; Eleanor dresses her to the nines and Harold calls her Bear and holds her hand and tucks her in at night, reading fairy tales to her until she falls asleep. But they take her to the preparatory school they've enrolled her in for the upcoming fall, and she peeks a glance at a paper in her daddy's hand. There are a lot of zero's after that dollar sign, and there's a lot of fancy pictures and stuff on the walls here. Outside, there's a courtyard and pretty green leaves climbing up the walls. There's a big swimming pool (she holds daddy's hand a little tighter, because she hasn't quite gotten over her fear of the water). The headmistress is an old lady wearing a black pantsuit, and Blair, upon introduction, stands up straight, juts her chin forward, and smiles like the perfect little lady she's being brought up to be.

As they walk home (Harold always did enjoy walking through New York in the summer), Blair stands between her two parents, holding only daddy's hand until she reaches up for her mommy's. Eleanor looks down at Blair and smiles, and when Harold asks Blair what she thought of Constance Billard, she gazes up at him, big brown eyes and pink cheeks, and tells him she likes it very much.

"Good," he laughs, sending her a wink. "It's the best school in the city."

"Really?" Blair asks. "The best?"

"The very best," he assures her. "And my little Bear deserves the best."

Eleanor chuckles, breaking into a full giggle when Harold leans over, pressing Blair between her parents, and kisses his wife on the cheek. "You spoil her, Harold," Eleanor says, though her smile is still in place.

"I'm not spoiled!" Blair insists hotly, furrowing her brow at her mother. The last play date she was sent on, the mean boy who wouldn't play her game called her that name and stuck his tongue out, and she doesn't like it at all.

"No, Blair," Harold assures her, knowing she can't yet detect the teasing lilt in his tone. He reaches down and hooks his hands under her arms, hoisting her onto his hip and ignoring Eleanor's rolled eyes ("You'll wrinkle her dress!" she'd normally say). "You're just cared for."

And Blair rests her head on daddy's shoulder, because that just sounds so sweet, and wouldn't if be nice if she was always so cared for?

Serena

She meets Serena on their first day of school, and they sit next to one another because the class seating arrangement is alphabetical. But they're in the back of the room, and Blair pouts because the teacher won't be able to see her neatly stacked books and perfectly arranged pencil case from way up front.

She loves the way her burgundy pleated skirt looks with her black flat mary janes. Her pressed shirt is short sleeved, and the little tacked tie that sits at her neck makes her feel older. Her hair is brushed and held in place by a headband that's wrapped in satin to match her skirt. As she looks around the room, she sees girls all looking just as put together as she does, and she loves that her parents have sent her to a school where she'll be among people of her own ilk.

The girl next to her has a name that sounds exotic, yellow hair that would be too long if she wasn't so tall, and a scrape on her elbow that Blair is trying not to look at (gross!).

They're told to take out their notebooks and a pencil, and Blair notices the way Serena bites her lip and looks down at her desk. She has a notebook, but no pencil, and so when the teacher turns to the black board, Blair pulls a pencil from her own case (but not one of the special blue ones with the gold B.C.W. etched on them that her father gave her).

She taps Serena on the arm gently, and whispers, "here," and the smile she gets back from the other girl makes her feel really nice.

They spend their recess eating organic animal crackers, and Serena decides she doesn't like the bears ("That's what my daddy calls me!" Blair says happily), and so they trade, Blair's giraffes for Serena's bears, and when they don't have an even amount, Serena giggles and surrenders a penguin to make it fair.

They become inseparable after that. They're paired up in french class, and Blair painstakingly makes flashcards to help them learn, and Serena thanks her new friend with a hug and a squeal of Blair's name. She throws her skinny arms around Blair, and the brunette has to laugh, because Serena is crazy, and probably the only girl on the Upper East Side who can get away with acting that way. (She'll later learn that's because Lily is too wrapped up in her own affairs to care much about her daughter's). Their houses are mere blocks from one another's, and when Blair asks her daddy if her friend can come over, he just chuckles and says, "of course, Bear," because she always gets her way with him (and she knows it).

Midway through their first year of school, Serena misses a day, and no one will tell Blair the reason. Her teachers don't understand, as far as she's concerned ("But Serena is my best friend!"). She ends up crying as soon as she's home from school, and when her mother asks her what's wrong, the mere mention of the van der Woodsen name is enough to make Eleanor take a deep breath and purse her lips.

For she's already heard that Keith has left his wife and children, run off to some Caribbean island with little more than a note left behind for his wife. Eleanor and Harold sit together, their little girl perched between them, still in her school uniform, and explain the situation, but Blair doesn't understand.

"But...why would her daddy just leave?" Blair wonders aloud. She turns to daddy and bats her lashes (she doesn't realizes she's doing it, but it's to keep herself from crying). "Daddies don't leave."

"No, they aren't supposed to," he tells her solemnly. She climbs up onto his lap and he wraps her all up in her arms like she tries to pretend she's too old to do sometimes. He rocks her gently, and Eleanor looks on, just barely smiling because she loves the sight but hates the reason it's happening.

Blair thinks it's really not fair that Serena has to be sad (even sadder than this, which she can't quite wrap her head around) and decides that she can help. After all, Serena is the only girl at school who doesn't make fun of Blair for being 'eager' (as the teachers say) or colour coding her crayons or using tissue to wipe dirt off her shoes if need be. Serena is her best friend, and she's not going to let her be alone.

"Can she come here?" Blair asks, big doe eyes looking up at daddy. His lips tighten in that way that they do when he wants to say no (she's already learned that trait). "She can come here and use you."

"Sweetheart," he says, shaking his head.

"You're not her daddy, but...she could use you," Blair says, and the tear that falls down her cheek breaks her father's heart. He nods and she wraps her wiry arms around his neck, so she misses the look he and Eleanor share.

She stands and looks up at her mother, ignoring the woman's request that Blair go change, as Eleanor dials the phone and speaks with someone. From the conversation, Blair can tell that permission has been given, so she rushes towards the stairs and into her room, and since it's dark out, she slips into her pajamas and makes sure there are enough pillows on her bed for two.

Serena comes over, her eyes red and puffy, and Blair stands quietly while Serena's nanny talks to Harold and Eleanor. They eat dinner, all politely sitting and sidestepping the topic that hangs over them in the room. Harold makes a big show of fetching extra ice cream for dessert, and the girls giggle at his antics. Eleanor retreats to her office, resting her hand on Serena's shoulder and kissing Blair's forehead, telling them each goodnight, and Harold tucks the girls into Blair's big bed.

Blair can tell, when there's just the glow from her tiffany night light left in the room, that Serena is still sad, and so they curl all up together in the middle of the bed (this is the first time, but it won't be the last).

"It's okay," she whispers, and Serena nods. "It'll be okay."

"Thanks."

It's one word, very simple, and the girls fall asleep holding hands. They walk that way to school together, Blair's nanny trailing behind them, and for the first time, really, Blair is mean to one of the girls at school when she says something off-colour about Serena's family.

Nate&Chuck

Blair and Serena are wearing pretty dresses, all satin, lace and crinoline, bows in their hair and little stacked heels on their feet. They're sitting, prim and proper (though Serena keeps squirming because she hates this) at a banquet table in the big room where this event is being held. Blair is almost giddy, because she never gets to come to any of these parties, and seeing the flowers, the women in their gowns and the jewels, it's all just so glamourous. But she's stopped pointing out necklaces to Serena, because the blonde isn't interested. They were told to sit and behave, to not wander, and so that's what they're doing.

Harold approaches with another man, both clad in tuxedos, with two boys in Brooks Brothers suits next to them.

"Blair, dear, these boys go to St. Jude's," Harold explains. "This is Nate Archibald and Charles Bass."

"I know," she says quietly, glancing to the blonder of the two as he sticks his hands into his pockets.

She's seen both boys before, the dark haired one at a party in the Hamptons last year (he stuck his finger in her cake when he realized hers was the last piece; he wanted it, and he got it with that trick). The other boy, she's seen only at school, when the girls are walking through the courtyard to the dining hall as the boys are walking from the dining hall back to their classes.

Blair listens as her father tells her that the man next to him is Nate's father, that the boys are going to sit with them, and he drops a kiss to her hair and winks at Serena before he walks away again, talking about stocks and bonds or something. She doesn't know what either of those things are, so she focuses on Charles sitting across from her, and Nate sitting across from Serena.

"This is stupid," Charles proclaims. "We can't even do anything."

"We aren't supposed to do anything," Serena says, equal amounts of disdain in her voice.

"We're supposed to sit," Blair reminds them, straightening her posture. She glances at Nate and sees that he's tipping back, sitting on only the two back legs of his chair. He shouldn't be doing it. "Don't fall."

"I won't," he says, shrugging his shoulder. She stares at him, blinks a few times, and he sets his chair back on the floor properly. She'd smile over getting her way if she wasn't already smiling anyway.

"Your name is really Charles?" Serena asks, and he nods. "I have an uncle Charles in London. Everyone calls him Chuck."

Nate laughs. Chuck narrows his eyes. "Chuck is better than Charles," Nate insists.

Serena giggles and bends her head towards Blair's, cupping her hand around her mouth and whispering, "where did they come from?" like Blair has the answer or it matters at all.

"No secrets!" Nate cries, smiling across the table at the girls. "You have to tell."

"Do not," Blair says, and she remembers why she's never liked playing with boys. They're so bossy sometimes.

"I know!" Serena says, grinning as she leans forward, and just like always, everyone else leans forward too, because most of the time, people want to hear everything she has to say. "We should go play in the coat room!"

Blair laughs, claps her hand over her mouth right away, because no, they should not go play in the coat room. But it's too late, because Serena's standing, and Chuck and Nate are looking at one another and smiling, like that sounds like way too much fun, and Blair can feel her best friend tugging on her hand as they all slip quietly though the crowd.

They get into so, so much trouble, because they mess up the whole coat check system ("They're kids. They didn't know," Harold says), but Serena dons a mink stole like she's a supermodel or something, and Chuck and Nate make a fort out of the racks. Blair giggles when they make a bed of fur coats and all lay upon it, looking up at their 'roof' of the coloured liners of expensive jackets. She's in the middle, with the boys on either side of her and Serena laying next to Chuck.

She's never, ever liked playing with boys, but these ones aren't so bad at all.

Dorota

Blair learns very early on that having her very own maid is very handy. She also hates the word 'maid' and refuses to use it. Dorota is only 19 when she starts working for the Waldorf's, and Blair, at nine, takes it upon herself to make her new helper feel at home. Harold chuckles when he asks Blair just who she needs him to buy 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets for, and he kisses her forehead when she says, "Dorota!" like he should know the answer already.

The first time Dorota makes a special breakfast for Blair (a yoghurt parfait with blackberries and raspberries, which is just so lovely, and she knows the berries are out of season) she tells her mother in no uncertain terms that she's not allowed to fire Dorota, no matter what.

She gives Dorota a silver bracelet from Tiffany the first Christmas she works for them, and Dorota tucks it away in a little jewelry box, wears it only on special occasions, and she'll smile when she sees that Blair has noticed.

It's an odd relationship, probably one that no one else understands (Dorota will witness it all; pick up the pieces quietly and always be available when she's called) but Blair is forever grateful for that constant in her life, another person who won't just leave at the drop of a hat.

Over the years, though her tone will get more stern and her requests more absurd, she'll always love the way "Yes, Miss Blair," sounds when Dorota says it.

Nate

She's 10 when she decides there's something special about all those fairy tales that her father used to read her. A girl can be a princess, and she can wear beautiful dresses and be looked up to by everyone around her. You don't have to have blonde hair (Sleeping Beauty) to be beautiful (Snow White).

And there are such things as princes.

Hers has messy dark blonde hair, a tie that matches the burgundy of her uniform skirt (she loves that it does), and blueblueblue eyes that sparkle a little bit when he laughs.

They've become a foursome, she, Serena, Nate and Chuck (who was never again Charles after that day in the coat room). They walk home from school together, since they all live within the same ten or so blocks. Their parents all summer in the Hamptons, and sometimes they'll go out to Serena's grandmother's Connecticut estate, pretending to hate it, but really loving the fact that they can all be together. Their parents are close now, closer, anyway. Lily is away a lot of the time, her messy love life keeping her busy enough (too busy for her kids) so sometimes their foursome is a five-some. And that's okay, because Erik is kind of like everyone's adopted little brother anyway.

It's winter break, and Serena and Erik are in Switzerland, skiing with Klaus (or is it Clauss?). Chuck is in Mumbai, and has grumbled about it for weeks, because he's bored of Mumbai and wants to go somewhere else for a change. So it's just Blair and Nate, and she gets a funny feeling in her stomach when she thinks about it, because she's never really been with him alone before.

She learns that she doesn't really know how to be alone with him. His mother invites her parents to a Christmas party, and so Blair finds her prettiest dress, red with a white sash and white lace in the back, and puts on a matching headband, and Harold dotes on her like he always does, wondering aloud how he's got such a beautiful daughter. She giggles and plays coy, because that's what she's supposed to do, and when they walk into the Archibald's home (one she's been to countless times before) she realizes very quickly that this is a very grown up party. There's food on platters that she can't reach (servers ignore her because she's a child, and she hates it when they do that). There are lavish decorations and a tree with no presents underneath it, and there's only one person in the room under the age of like, 100.

And it's Nate, standing there in a black blazer and khakis, smiling at her across the room. She smiles back and he points towards the stairs, so they meet there and he leads her to his room, her not caring to tell her parents and him too free-spirited to even think to tell his.

"I'm so glad you're here," he says, pulling off his jacket and throwing it on the floor. He lays down on his bed and she sits next to him, perfect posture and hands clasped in her lap.

"You are?"

"Yeah," he says. He doesn't elaborate, and she doesn't ask any further questions, because she's nervous, and should her stomach feel like this? He sits up, resting his weight on one arm, and smiles that perfect smile at her. "You look pretty."

"I do?" she asks. He laughs because she's always asking questions. He nods and she giggles, leaning over and kissing his cheek. She's never done it before, and as soon as she pulls away, she sees that he's blushing, and she knows she can't take it back. "Thank you."

He tries to convince her to lay back on his bed with him, and she compromises, propping pillows up behind her, and they watch A Muppet Christmas Carol on television, laughing about silly things during the commercial breaks. Maybe her dress is a little too fancy for this, but she likes it anyway, and why shouldn't she want to look her best?

Nate falls asleep and she doesn't have the heart to wake him when she has to go, so she takes him a hot chocolate the next morning and they walk together and sit in the park. He pulls the snowflakes from her hair and tucks his chin into his scarf when he tells her that it's nice just sitting with her.

He and Serena are always doing crazy things, like building three-legged snowmen (Blair couldn't condone it and she ordered Chuck to help her with her own snowman, a proper one) or blowing bubbles in their milk with their straws until their glasses overflow. Blair thinks it must mean something that he likes just sitting with her.

And from then on, sometimes when she dreams, she's Snow White and Nate is the Prince.

Serena

Serena and Erik start showing up at the Waldorf's with overnight bags, and despite the blonde's attempts to make it sound like she just really loves impromptu sleepovers, they all know what's really going on.

And now that they're nearly 13, and because Serena looks like she does, she can get into any bar and order drinks, and when she does it, she ends up drunk and falling over and needing help. So she comes to Blair on those nights too.

"Serena!" Blair hisses. She's really tired of this; this is the second night this week. She's trying to undress her best friend and get her into the shower, or at least make her drink a bottle of water or something. "Hold still."

Serena either doesn't want to hold still, or she doesn't have the ability. "You're no fun anymore, B. You used to be fun."

"I'm plenty of fun," Blair says, finally pulling Serena's sequined top over her head. "It's two in the morning and we have school tomorrow."

"School's no fun either." She flops back onto the bed and pulls the covers over her, though she's wearing jeans and her bra, and a face full of makeup. "Tired."

"Serena, get up," Blair insists, pulling back the covers again. She grabs the blonde's arm harshly and tugs, and Serena begrudgingly gets up. "Why do you do this to yourself?"

"S'fun."

Blair rolls her eyes, because you'd think that hundreds of thousands of dollars put towards private education would have bought Serena a little bit more extensive a vocabulary.

"No, it's not. And you're...this isn't how you should act." Serena kicks off her jeans and Blair dabs at her face with a wet washcloth. She hands over a bottle of Evian, and Serena drinks it, popping the two Advil Blair gives her. "You're scaring me."

Serena starts laughing, far too loudly, and when Blair puts her hand over her best friend's mouth, Serena quiets down. "You're Blair. You don't get scared." Blair's just about to say that's not the case, but Serena says something heartbreaking instead. "Not like me. I'm always scared."

"Serena, just..." Blair sighs and clenches her teeth when Serena lays down again. Blair lays down next to her best friend and brushes Serena's hair away from her forehead gently. "Just slow down, okay? Just...there's nothing to be scared of. We've all got you."

"Thanks," Serena whispers just before she falls asleep.

Blair doesn't really know who she means when she says 'we've all got you'. If she's being honest, the only thing she knows for sure is that nothing could tear the two of them apart at this point.

Eleanor

As Eleanor's fashion line grows, so too do her criticisms and expectations of her daughter. It seems Blair can never do anything right, though she's second in her class (she's been working since the fourth grade to overtake Nelly Yuki) and just about anyone who's ever met her has told her how close to perfect she is.

Maybe if the one person she needs to say something to that effect, actually did, Blair wouldn't feel so...so...empty.

Serena's got the world (and the boys) wrapped around her little finger, and not only does she not care about it, but she doesn't even notice. Blair has started to realize that as much as she loves Serena, she's always going to be 1a to Serena's 1.

The first time she makes herself throw up, it's innocent enough. She ate too much at dinner (she and Eleanor alone, Harold had to work late) and she spends an hour feeling disgusting before she ends up in her bathroom on her knees, and before she can stop herself, she's got her fingers in her throat. Maybe it's crazy, but she feels so much better after, physically and otherwise. She doesn't even think twice about it for that very reason.

The tenth time it happens, she cries afterward, because maybe this is a really bad idea. And she tries to stop, she really does. But when she dons one of her mother's designs to an event and Eleanor doesn't say anything, just raises her brow and sighs like Blair's some kind of disappointment, Blair can't help herself. She gets out of the evening by telling her mother she's sick, and when she's crying on her bedroom floor again, she thinks she might be telling the truth.

No one notices, and if they do, they don't say anything. Serena suspects, but (sadly) Blair has gotten a lot better at hiding things from her best friend. Her skirts start to ride just a little lower on her hips and her jeans get just a touch baggy at her thighs. But that just means that the boys can see her skin (she doesn't hate the attention, either, Nate's blue eyes fixed on the small of her back) and that her dad takes her shopping for new jeans, and no one asks questions because she's 13 and all that's normal.

So she eats just enough to appease everyone she knows is watching her, and then she purges over and over again, because she thinks that if she's skinny and beautiful and fits into her mother's dresses, then maybe Eleanor will see her as something other than just not enough.

Nate

It's easy, the way it happens, the way she gets the boy she's always wanted.

Serena is generally off with Chuck and Georgina, wearing things that show off her long legs and her boobs and the fact that she could pass for 21 without even a second glance. She lost her virginity to Carter Baizen in a hotel room at the Waldorf Astoria ("Oh my God, it's so weird, B.") and freefalls without paying any mind to whether or not she has the ability to land gracefully. She's still Blair's best friend, but being best friends doesn't mean that Blair has to condone those activities, she just has to stand by to help with any disasters that may (do) happen.

So Blair throws herself into school and into Nate, and for the first time in maybe ever, he's there to catch her, wants to even.

One night they're dragged to a dinner party with their parents, and when he sees her there, her dark green dress looking somehow gorgeous next to his black tailored suit, he leans over and whispers, "I'm so glad you're here."

Blair doesn't even think he remembers saying it years ago, but when she looks over at him, he winks and she falls so far in love with him that it's hard to breathe.

They sit together at dinner and they each say all the right things, and Blair tries not the giggle when he nudges her knee with his after she has to explain difference in the three uniforms (elementary, middle, and upper class) for Constance Billard girls. She elbows him back and they both laugh, and she's thankful their dessert is finished, because they ask to be excused and no one thinks it's strange.

They're still laughing, her arm around his waist and clutching his jacket, when they step into the foyer of the lavish townhouse they're in. Nate glances at the door (it's so tempting) then back at Blair.

"Let's just go," he says.

She pulls away from him, brushes the hair back from her face and tries to regain her composure. "We can't."

"Yes, we can," he insists.

He smiles again and when he takes her hand, she can't argue at all. He laughs when she starts freaking out a little bit, but, "What about our parents?"

"Whatever," he says, weaving their fingers together as they walk down 5th towards...she's not really sure what (nor does she care). "We're 14, not 2."

So they stroll along 5th and he buys her a frozen yoghurt from her favourite place. He ignores his phone ringing in his pocket, and she didn't get a chance to grab her purse from the party, so they don't have any distractions. He looks beautiful in this light (in any light, really). His eyes shine under street lights and his hair keeps falling into his eyes. About the fifteenth time it happens, she works up the nerve to brush it back for him. He catches her hand before she lowers it, and he holds it again as they continue walking.

They have one of those perfect New York evenings, the kind that tourists always hope for and directors always capture in movies. They sit on a bench, thighs touching and hands clasped, just outside the park and talk about school and their families and everything else, and when she yawns, he tells her she can rest her head on his shoulder if she wants to. She doesn't need convincing.

"Tonight has been so...amazing," she says, because she figures that this is close enough to a date (she's pretending it is one) that she can say that without sounding strange.

"Yeah," he almost whispers.

When she looks up, he's gazing at her in a way she's never seen him look at anyone. Her breathing gets shallow before his lips even press against hers, and she's got a million butterflies in her stomach. (This is also the first time she's kept a meal down in days, and that both scares and thrills her.) His hand is on her cheek, and hers rests on the back of his neck, and as far as first kisses go (she's wanted to save that milestone, and she's glad she did) this one is pretty amazing.

They kiss and kiss and kiss, sitting on that bench, and she feels dizzy, so when he asks what she's giggling about, she tells him the truth. He smiles, perfect teeth and perfect lips and perfect, and says simply, "Me too."

He walks her home, kisses her as he deposits her inside her doorway, and calls her the next day, just like he said he would. And it's just as easy as that.

Two weeks into their new relationship, she literally bites her lip to keep from saying that she loves him, because she knows it's too early for that. But if she thinks about it (and she does) she's probably been in love with him for a few years now.

She holds it in a while longer, lets him catch up, and she's terrified when she says the words. She can tell he's just as scared to say them back, but he does.

She decides very quickly that they're meant to be (they have to be; they're so perfect together) and when she says, "I love you. Always have, always will," for the first time, he smiles and kisses her and whispers that he knows.

Serena&Nate&Chuck

She knows exactly what Serena is up to when she starts organizing dinner for the four of them at all Blair's favourite restaurants.

And she should have known better than to think Serena didn't know about her 'stress-induced regurgitation' (bulimia is such an ugly word).

Serena settles down, just barely, one or two nights a week, just long enough for them to go to Butter, 21 Club, Artisanal, or Brasserie, and the four of them sit together, acting like the adults they wish they already were. Any time Blair goes to the washroom, whether it be before their meal or after, Serena follows, and she doesn't make enough of a show of it that Nate or Chuck will ask questions. Who knew Serena was even aware of the definition of 'discretion'?

"I'm fine, Serena," Blair barks as she dries her hands. That's the closest they've come to mentioning her problem.

"I know, B, but..." Serena sighs, tosses her long hair over her shoulder like it's driving her crazy (she has to know that half the women in the city are envious). "This is the only way I know how to help you."

Blair stiffens (they don't talk about it like this), sets her shoulders and swipes on a fresh coat of lip gloss. Her eyes meet Serena's in the mirror, and she nods, just gently. "Okay."

They join hands, not caring that they're 15 and probably making themselves look their age as they walk back into the restaurant, and they're giggling at the way Nate and Chuck watch them approach.

"Finally," Chuck mutters, swirling the scotch in his glass as he rolls his eyes.

"You know you love us," Serena says through her laughter, and Blair smiles all wide because of course they do.

And it's always the same thing: Blair and Nate on one side of the table, Chuck and Serena on the other. Chuck and Blair will argue over wine or champagne selection (the '98 Dom Rosé has always been her favourite, and she's sure he insists against it just to anger her) while Serena and Nate are always in charge of dessert.

And Blair will eat every bite, because in the presence of these three people, her three people, she feels like maybe she's enough.

Maybe she doesn't have to change.

Serena

Serena leaves without telling anyone, and Blair cries for 8 minutes (8 minutes exactly, and she times it) before the anger sets in.

She doesn't get a call from Serena, and after two attempts to get in touch with her best friend, she decides she's not going to waste any more time trying to talk to someone who doesn't want to talk to her.

She misses her best friend every day, though, and if she wasn't so wrapped up in her own emotions for that first week or so, she would have noticed that there was something going on with Nate, too.

Daddy

She comes home from a date with Nate (which turned into a date with Nate and Chuck, and she's not happy about that at all) and she sees bags packed and hears raised voices coming from the master bedroom. Her heart sinks, because she doesn't know what's going on, but she can assume it isn't good; she knows his schedule, and her father's monogrammed luggage should not be packed and waiting.

She steps into the master bedroom like it's her own, hand on hip and jaw set. "What is going on?" she asks bluntly.

She looks between her mother and her father, and Blair honestly doesn't know if she's ever seen her mother cry. The redness in Eleanor's eyes and the teardrops on the front of her satin dressing gown make Blair's breath stop.

"Bear."

"Daddy, what is this?" she asks seriously. Pet names aren't going to get him out of this. She looks around the room and sees that some more of his things are sitting out, a carry on bag sits on the bed and he drops his Movado collection into it before walking towards her. "Just tell me what's going on!" she shouts.

She's never been patient.

She stands with her tiny hands in her father's palms as he explains everything to her, but she only hears the words, Roman, France, moving, and divorce. She doesn't cry, but she throws her arms around him and begs him not to go, and she doesn't notice when her mother raises her hand to her mouth and slips away into the ensuite.

"Daddy, don't go. Please don't go," she whispers.

She knows it's futile.

She stands at the top of the stairs as he walks out of the apartment, and she pretends she doesn't hear her mother crying. She can't take this. She needs her best friend. She needs someone. Anyone. She runs to her bathroom, throws up, brushes her teeth and calls Nate. She tells him that she needs to see him, and he must be able to hear the hurt in her voice, because he tells her to come over.

She spends two days at his house, crying into his shoulder or his pillows, and she knows he's doing his best to comfort her, but he's surprisingly bad at it. She goes on and on about friends (she doesn't say Serena's name once) and her dad and how everything in her life is terrible, all except for him.

"I miss him already," she says, her voice hoarse as Nate tries to get her to eat something. It's probably the most honest thing she's said in days.

He doesn't know what to do, so he leaves the yoghurt next to the bed and folds her up in his arms. She cries and cries until she falls asleep, and before she leaves his house in the morning, she composes herself, straightens out her clothes and insists she'll be fine.

And she will be.

After all, when Serena's dad left, Harold never promised not to leave, merely told her that daddies weren't supposed to leave.

She holds her head up, ignores it when she hears classmates whispering about her dad and his new boyfriend (whom they know nothing about; Blair herself doesn't) and grows just a little bit closer to her mother. Eleanor has some work done and holes herself up in the apartment, and Blair takes care of her, without really making it seem like her mother needs to be taken care of (people would talk if they knew).

Blair loses another inch off her waist, and Nate comments one night when they're watching a movie and he wraps his arm around her.

"Just stress," she says dismissively.

The truth is, her heart breaks a little more every night she doesn't get a phone call from France.

Serena

She hates how easy it is to forgive and forget. She really wants to hold a grudge and tell Serena that it's too late to salvage what she destroyed. The truth is, it's harder and it takes more energy to be mean to Serena (no matter how convincing she makes it seem) than it is to just let her back in. Because at the end of the day, Serena is still her best friend, and she's trying. She's getting things sorted out, and it seems she's on the straight and narrow, and Blair is so happy about that.

They spend an entire day after they make up eating croissants and lounging in their satin slips in Blair's bedroom, catching up on everything. Serena finally makes mention of Blair's 'issue', and Blair isn't lying at all when she says that she's fine, that she hasn't had a problem in months and months. (Nate asked her straight up one time, was waiting for her in her bedroom after she excused herself from a dinner he was invited to at her house, and she promised she'd stop; she never breaks her promises to Nate.)

The real surprise is that she feels amazing. Her curves are fuller, and she has hips and cleavage (or at least she can, if she so chooses), but her skin looks better and she likes the way Nate's hands feel on her. She can appreciate it more now, without having to worry about what he thinks of her.

Serena tears up a little bit, and Blair is surprised, but she doesn't hesitate to wrap her arms around her friend. "S," she says quietly.

"No, it's nothing," Serena insists, plastering on a smile. "I was just...I was so worried," she admits. "I'm so glad you're okay."

"Me too," Blair whispers.

They start giggling for no reason (some things never change) and put on Breakfast at Tiffany's. Blair does her best Holly Golightly impression, and Serena golf-claps, just like she always used to do when they were younger.

They lay back against the pillows with their arms linked and heads resting against one another's, and Serena says, "I missed this so much. Love you, B."

Blair is smiling when she replies, "love you too, S."

Nate

She has all these plans laid out for them (their first time, graduation, Yale, him giving her his mother's ring, happily ever after). He ruins everything.

There's a voice in the back of her head, one that she voices quickly ("I always knew...!") that tells her that she really should have seen it coming. She hits him and yells and cries and kicks him out of her room, and she gets the impression that he doesn't really want to go. It's almost funny, she thinks, because he obviously didn't really want to be there in the first place.

She spends her whole night wondering why in the world she loves him, how she can't just stop, but she's never been able to do that. For her, it seems that once she's in love, she's in it and can't get out, and she hates him for making it so easy.

That doesn't mean she's not really, really hurting and angry. It doesn't mean he doesn't owe her huge apologies (and she's not sure he's even smart enough to properly give them). It doesn't mean that everything will magically be fine if he does have enough brains to come crawling back to her.

And don't even get her started on Serena.

He calls her the next day asking to meet for dinner, and she's shocked (doesn't show it, though, can't let him know it's exactly what she wants) when he tells her that he'll stay away from Serena, that he'll stop talking to her.

She smiles across the table at him, because pretending nothing is wrong just got a lot easier (Serena is wrong, and she's no longer in the picture) and she has never loved it more that she always gets her way. She gets Nate, she gets to be queen, she gets the approval of all the adults for always being so perfect.

She gets up to leave, knowing she's got her boy back, and she can forgive him as long as he really wants to be forgiven.

But there's no way in hell she's going to let Serena off the hook so easily.

Serena

Forgive, forget, repeat.

That's the way it always it goes.

Chuck

Nate's family life crashes and burns, and their relationship follows suit. She thinks he's trying, at least, but it still breaks her heart because she's fairly certain that he's only trying to hang onto her so he doesn't have to face the reality of what's going on with his father. He stands there, looking sad and confused and like he might start begging her or something. But if this last year has taught her anything, it's that she's stronger than she's always given herself credit for. She's been through so much, and another breakup isn't going to kill her.

She doesn't even think she's lying when she tells him she doesn't need him, and she doesn't cry as the limo pulls away and leaves him standing at the curb in front of her building.

She finds herself at Victrola, and she says it's just because there's an event happening that she wants to attend. The reality of it is, she might have, on some level, been seeking Chuck out. As vile as he is, 90 per cent of the time, he's still her friend.

He gets her drunk, which is exactly what she needs, and she convinces herself she's thinking clearly when she tells him she's got moves. He raises his brow like he doesn't believe her, and she gets that determined look on her face, the one she knows she uses when she won't let herself fail. She thrusts her champagne glass into his hand and stands, and she can feel his eyes on her (hates that she likes that so much) as she makes her way to the stage.

She's not uncomfortable at all as she sways her hips and runs her hands through her hair and over her skin, and she's never felt more alive. She moves more seductively than she knows he thinks she will, and Chuck is practically drooling, standing in the middle of the crowd. She gives him a look, one she can't even name, since she's never used it before, and she assumes it's sexy, because he raises his (her) glass and shakes his head ever-so-slightly. She giggles, tips her head back and lets herself really, really laugh, when he downs the champagne without ever taking his eyes off her somehow.

He meets her at the edge of the stage when her 'number' is over, and she's suddenly just a little nervous, because everyone is watching her. This isn't like her at all; no one but Nate has ever seen her in this kind of ensemble, and pearls are a statement, not a seduction. Her hair is a mess, her brow is beaded with sweat, and she's completely breathless with the way Chuck looks (rather than leers) at her.

"Told you," she whispers in his ear, and his hand finds her hip.

His eyes bore into hers like he's trying to figure out 'who the fuck is this girl?' and they're in his limo without his hand ever leaving her body.

She doesn't know where her dress is, and she doesn't care as she rests her head back against the seat and gazes out the window. She doesn't want to admit it, because it feels wrong (her heart should be breaking) but this might be the best night of her life. She looks over at Chuck, and for once, she sees something other than a wall of smarm and charm on his face.

He's looking at her like he adores her.

She kisses him (not the other way around) and his fingers delicately pull down the strap of her slip. Her body feels like it's on fire, and even when she moves closer, she's not getting enough of him and oh my God, Nate never did that with his tongue. His hand kneads her thigh, his other tangled in her messy hair, and when he pulls away, she tries to kiss him again, but he surprises her by asking if she's sure.

She hadn't even (really) considered having sex with him until he said those words.

Her answer comes fast and easy, "yes," on a sigh, and she sees him grin just before his lips hit hers again.

It surprises her in the best of ways, how he is with her. He treats her delicately, but not too much so. She's not made of glass (though that's the image she fronts, she's shattered it with her performance this evening) and he doesn't act like she is. His hands roam and his lips kiss her everywhere (everywhere) and she smiles lazily up at him when she's naked and coming down from her high (that boy is good with his hands). He insists he isn't finished, laughs when she bites her lip and nods, and when he brushes the hair back from her face and kisses her gently, her heart races for a reason she isn't really sure of.

As for what comes next, she knows it's not, but it still feels like making love.

Serena&Erik&Lily

Thanksgiving is a complete disaster that results in her doing something she knows is stupid, and when she breaks down, she needs her best friend. Serena is understanding and sweet and worried and everything Blair has always needed most when this kind of thing happens.

They sneak out of Blair's building using the service elevator, and they end up at a diner eating big plates of french fries and drinking full-fat Cokes, and she knows from Lily's glances every time Blair takes a bite, that Serena has told her mother. But that doesn't bother her, because Lily just smiles politely, keeps her mouth closed, and seems to understand and oversee without being annoyingly preachy.

Erik makes jokes that make Serena let out that ridiculous laugh, and Lily smiles and shakes her head.

Blair dips another fry in some ketchup, takes a bite, and thinks that these three people are as much her family as anyone else is.

But she still rolls her eyes in disgust when Serena talks with her mouth full or Erik mixes his gravy and ketchup together on his plate.

Nate

They get together again because Nate says all the right words again and she needs a proper date to cotillion to keep her image intact.

She's still got Chuck in her bed when she decides all this. It makes her feel deliciously ill-at-ease. She likes the rush of knowing they both want her. She won't even lie and say she doesn't. For once in her life, she's the girl the boys flock to, and is it really so bad that she's taking a moment (a day, a week or two) to enjoy that?

Nate's tux matches her dress, and Chuck's necklace sits delicately on her skin, and they each look at her throughout the evening, and she smiles at them both.

But her game doesn't have a clear winner, because at the end of the evening, she's making love to Nate and she's thinking of Chuck, and for the first time in years, she's not entirely sure why she replies in kind to Nate's I love you, muttered against her skin.

Serena

Nate grabs Chuck by the collar one day after school, and he blows past Blair, and everyone's saying terrible things behind her back.

Serena takes time out from the blissful state of her relationship with Dan to help her best friend through the shame of being called a whore.

It's almost funny (in a sad, pathetic kind of way) how the roles are reversed. Serena's the one with the storybook relationship, her feet planted firmly on the ground, and Blair's the one being whispered about and trying to catch her breath in the wake of the scandal.

"I really messed up, S," she admits on the first night of their spring break. They're sitting on the floor of Serena's bedroom, and it hits her, just how bad the bad things she's done really are.

Serena sighs, and Blair knows she's not going to get a whole lot of sympathy, and she's actually thankful, because of anyone she knows, she can always count on Serena to tell her the truth.

"I've messed up too, remember?" Serena reminds her. "You can fix it, B."

"Boarding school?" Blair suggests, smiling just a little bit.

Serena shakes her head, blonde hair swirling around. "We have a week until school starts again." She pulls a tray of chilled champagne and chocolate covered strawberries out from under her bed (only Serena...) and extends a glass to Blair. "Empty calories, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and sleeping until noon every day."

They giggle as they clink their glasses together, and Blair wonders if maybe it'll all blow over anyway. After all, people have already forgotten Serena's years of craziness. Surely they can forget Blair's indiscretion.

They don't.

But it's not so bad, because Serena holds her chin up, links her arm through Blair's, and they walk together that way everywhere they go so that Blair doesn't have to walk alone.

Serena&Nate&Chuck

She recruits the boys without a second thought because Serena needs them all, and she needs them all together, and she needs them all together right now. She quickly shuts them up, keeps them from fighting for long enough for them to practically carry the blonde up the stairs. Blair shares looks with each of them, an air of 'deja vu' hanging over the three of them as Serena squirms and mumbles things that none of them can comprehend.

They fall into their roles easily. Blair takes care of showering and changing Serena, since there are no secrets, none at all, between them. Nate makes calls (tells her mother she's fine, she's just lost track of time, and Lily believes him or is too preoccupied to question anything) and paces and worries; wipes his hands on his jeans and looks at Serena in that way he always has, that tells her she can tell him anything without actually saying the words. Chuck is in charge of hangover remedies and food and pharmaceuticals (not exactly legal, but not the same as whatever she took the night before; he merely brings her something to calm her nerves and she chases it with Gatorade). Chuck is also the one who cuts straight to the point, tired of the runaround and her crying and insisting that they won't understand.

Blair is thankful for the part each of the boys play, Chuck's especially.

Serena tells them the whole tale, Blair sitting at her side and rubbing her back. Chuck stands, hands in his pockets and a look on his face that none of them have really seen before (this one is worry for the girl he considers a sister). Nate mumbles, "fuck it," and slides his chair closer, not caring about the tension, and takes Serena's hands as they all assure her that they'll help her through anything.

Blair schemes easily, and she doesn't ask for Chuck's help, it's just implied that he'll assist. She doesn't even bother ignoring the fact that she loves spending time with him anymore.

They can all fight and lie and betray one another, but no matter who hurts whom or how bad things get, they'll always come back together if one of them needs the others.

That's just the way it works.

Chuck

He confesses and they dance and they kiss and they plan to go away and they do everything but say those three words (because they're implied anyway and he scares easy).

He doesn't show and she boards the plane anyway, because she doesn't need him, and she spends her entire summer listening to her daddy tell her she's too good for Charles Bass anyway.

On good days, she almost believes it.

Chuck

James is sinfully boring, but he's attractive and older and good enough to make Chuck jealous (he does). She only tells Serena as much.

Chuck suspects something is going on and sets Blair up for an uncomfortable dinner, but she can't (won't) let him win, so she goes on and on about her time spent with James.

Chuck excuses himself, his eyes meeting hers before he walks away, and she follows him, because as much as she hates to even think it, she's worried about him and how her latest 'game' is affecting him. They finally talk about why she's upset and why she's with James, and Chuck all but tells her he's done trying, because he saw that pin on that other guy's shirt. She's surprised he even cares about something so romantic. And that's why she's crying when he walks away.

She grabs her pin from the sleeve of James' sweater because she very suddenly doesn't want him to have it, and it doesn't look very good on his arm anyway.

Chuck

Three words, eight letters, and he can't say them.

So she leaves.

Marcus

She supposes it's some kind of life lesson, that Marcus is so much more interesting when he's being himself and not pretending to be someone else. It doesn't hurt that the real him is royalty. And that accent? Forget it. She feels like she's living in a dream, and she wants to hang onto him for dear life.

She doesn't think there's anything wrong with wanting to impress him, and maybe her party isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but it's classy and elegant, and not bad at all for something she and Dorota threw together on a day's notice.

He's wonderfully sweet to her, and he doesn't treat her like she's some child. But he doesn't exactly think he's treating her much like a woman, either, if she's being honest. Maybe it's the heat or the fact that that Basstard gets her all hot and bothered (it's just physical, she tells herself, and what girl wouldn't close her eyes and swoon a little when a guy pressed himself all up against her and spoke like that?)

She's just starting to think that she'll fall in love with him, the Lord (Lady Blair does have such a nice ring to it, doesn't it?), when her perfect movie ending is ruined by Vanessa. Well, it's easy to blame Vanessa, since she's the messenger.

She breaks up with him, but not before a little blackmail, because if he's going to treat her like that, then she'll at least use it to her advantage. And if she cries, it's over the glamourous life she won't get to live, and not over him.

Chuck

Her entire senior year is spent in an endless, exhausting game of cat and mouse with Chuck, and she'd give up completely if her heart would let her.

They say goodbye, then come together, then they say goodbye, then come together, then they say goodbye.

She finally says the words, "Because I love you," and he's cruel and malicious with the response he gives her.

Any heartbreak she's ever thought to have felt pales in comparison with the way she feels, dressed in black and left standing on a curb in Manhattan as he slumps into a limo and drives away. It takes two seconds for her to start to cry, and only five more for her to realize that she's never loved anyone like she loves him, and she never will love anyone like she loves him, and if she can't have him, if she never has him, then where does that leave her?

He comes to her and she comforts him. He leaves again with nothing more than a note, and she knows, no matter how much she hates it, that she'll be there when he gets back.

He hurts her over and over again, and it'd be even worse if she thought he intended to. If there was one thing she had to say defines her, it's this relationship, no matter how toxic and destructive it is.

Because after all, he's the one who gave her the hope...

("Maybe in the future...")

Cyrus

He's nothing she wanted for her mother. Short and loud and obnoxious, and frankly, fat.

She's hated to admit it (and doesn't, really) when she actually realizes that he's a nice man. She'll never tell anyone that she loves him, in her own way. He makes Eleanor laugh, happier and more carefree than she's been in years, and despite the fact that his style is questionable at best, Blair thinks their home feels like more of one with his things laying around.

And when Blair decides she needs him, he's there for her, offering one of those hugs she hated for months, and she falls against him with tears in her eyes.

He murmurs wonderfully soothing things, and it doesn't annoy her anymore that she has to lean down to rest her head on his shoulder.

Carter

Okay, so this one isn't love, not by a long shot, but he asks her one question that she can't ignore.

"Why are you doing this?"

She didn't think he even cared at all.

And she doesn't have an answer.

Nate

Chuck brushes her off, tells her she's changing (and she thinks "Of course I am, you idiot, and it's your fault!") and that she's not acting like herself. She finds herself on a cold enclosed porch after yet another attempt at something (anything) with Chuck. Nate walks in, drapes his jacket around her shoulders without her having to ask, and when she opens up to him, she feels like for the first time in years and years, he actually understands her.

So they get together again for the fourth or whatever time, and it's perfect. It's the fairytale. He's sweeter now. Sentimental and doting and attentive, and he acts just the way she always wished he'd act.

When he says that he loves her, she realizes that she does love him. She loves him in the same way she always has.

Only now she realizes that it's not the right way.

Eleanor

She's standing in a beautiful dress, glancing at herself in front of the mirror, and when her mother comes in, she mentally prepares herself for whatever hidden insults or criticisms are about to come. She hates that she even thinks it because she and her mother have actually grown a little closer this past year.

Eleanor rests her hands on her daughter's shoulders and smiles, lets out a little breath that sounds something like approval or love.

"Don't let him get away with it," she says knowingly.

Blair smiles and her throat gets tight, because maybe her mother has always understood her a little better than she gave her credit for.

Chuck

It's not so important that he leaves. It's important that he comes back.

He's waiting for her, looking gorgeous and nervous with gifts in his hands, and she doesn't know whether to cry or to smile, because gifts? He knows her so well. He makes a perfect little speech about each of the items he's brought back for her, and she wishes she could appreciate it more, but without the words he's been completely unable to say, she's not sure how much it means.

She tells him she can't believe him, he's hurt her too many times, and yet the grin he's wearing tells her that she's going to be smiling herself, any second.

"I love you too," he says.

She kisses him and kisses him and kisses him, and she makes him say it again, once for every time he wouldn't say it before.

Erik

She's strangely proud of Erik when he calls her about a little (mostly) harmless sabotage. And she is so up for that.

He's planned it all well, she must admit, and she just comes in to tidy up the details and facilitate on the day of. He laughs at her seriousness, and it makes her smile when he says, "You enjoy this way too much."

Their plan goes off almost without a hitch, and they still stand together, heads held high as though they've completed the mission.

"You love it. Admit it," she says, raising her brow like it's the truth and he can't deny it. He says nothing, but he can't help but smile, and she wraps her arm around his shoulder.

She never had a baby brother. Serena always said she'd share. Blair's glad that worked out the way it did.

Serena

She doesn't have enough fingers and toes to count the amount of huge I'm-not-talking-to-her fights she and Serena have had over the years.

It's not like she's got her life perfectly in order or anything (not that she has many complaints, either) but Serena is just making mistake after mistake, and Blair's attempts to help have fallen on deaf ears. They've already made up twice after fights since the school year began alone. So it surprises her, too, when she gives her blessing for Serena to go off with Tripp. (Blair knows what it's like to wait and wait and wait for the perfect speech from the man you want.)

Dan Humphrey knocks on her door one night and she doesn't even have time to bark at him, because he's telling her that Serena's been in a car accident, and he lets her cry (even wraps his arm around her) as they drive to Nassau County General.

She's still crying when she walks into the room and straight towards the bed, and she both loves and hates that Serena can joke about Blair's choice of wardrobe (though she'll admit that her pajamas, slippers, dressing gown and houndstooth wool jacket is probably not her best look).

"I love you, Serena," she says, because looking back, she honestly can't remember the last time she said it.

Serena smiles a sleepy smile, bruises on her skin and scrapes on her forehead, and squeezes Blair's hand. "I love you too, Blair."

She doesn't leave the room until Serena promises that once she's back in the city, she's not going anywhere. They both know she'll have to answer to Blair if she even tries.

Chuck

She finds him sitting on the floor, and she doesn't hesitate to sit down next to him. She doesn't say anything, waits for him to talk, and when he does, he's honest with her and she's honest with him.

She wants to smile (her body just won't do it right now) because they've come so far and grown so much, and there's no worry anymore that they'll mess this up.

He kisses her hair and she clutches his jacket, and when they're in his limo, he tells her he loves her. She says it back, though she knows he knows.

Something about making up for lost time.

Chuck&Serena&Nate

Blair and Chuck watch for the better part of three weeks, as Serena practically moves in (not that Blair is really one to talk about that...) and Nate spends most of his time with Serena or smiling about things Serena has done or talking about Serena.

Chuck is getting sick of it and insists that something needs to be done before he loses it.

"Give them time," Blair says, like she knows something he doesn't. He looks at her as if he's wondering who the hell is posing as his girlfriend. "They didn't push us."

He can't argue that fact. He really wants to, but he can't.

She knows she's growing up, maturing, because there are no schemes. She rarely plots anymore to get her way (okay, unless it's really, really necessary, and she tries not to leave any casualties in her wake). She can (usually) get her way without being mean and she can focus on the things she has instead of the things she doesn't have.

Then again, maybe that's because so many of the things she has are already the things she wants. She has Chuck. She has school and her family (they're all in France, and that's something to be thankful for in itself, since the vacations she gets to take now are fabulous). She has her best friends all around her.

It's not that she doesn't believe in fairy tales and straight-from-the-silver-screen moments anymore, she's just learned the difference between the stories and her real life.

She doesn't know where her patience has come from, but she just knows (and maybe has known for a long, long time) that Serena and Nate will work it out, and they're both so clueless sometimes that they just have to stumble into it on their own. Kind of like stumbling into an empty bar (not that she's bitter about that anymore). And besides, it's not like she and Chuck just got together effortlessly either.

She rolls her eyes at them when she finds them in the middle of an in-depth discussion on why Pop-Tarts are so much better than Toaster Strudels, but she smiles when her back is turned.

Those two are practically made for one another. (Where has she heard that before?)

She just wants them all to be happy. No games, no secrets, no cheating or miscommunications.

And for once, for maybe the first time, that doesn't seem like too much to ask.

-Fin-