couples: Dan/Blair , Chuck/Serena

summary: It was raining that night; the night everything changed and Dan became the knight in Serena's twisted game of chess.

author's note: This idea was floating around for so long, but I couldn't bring myself to write it. I suddenly have a major urge to write this that has almost nothing to do with FA's not-so-subtle demands.

Make my heart beat, seven, eight, nine.
Make my heart beat double-time.
Now I'm the only sour cherry on your fruit-stand, right?
Am I the only sour cherry on your fruit stand?

sour cherry
the kills

It was raining the night everything changed.

The taxi driver eyed Dan in the rear-view mirror. The car slowly came to a stop as the windshield-wipers continued their monotonous beating against the window. Dan glanced up at the over-sized hotel, still unable to remain unimpressed by the towering shape, seemingly lost in the storm clouds above. He shook himself out of his reverie at the sound of the driver clearing his throat pointedly.

"That'll be $16.50." The driver watched critically as Dan unfolded his wallet, cleanly placing the exact amount in his outstretched hands. "All right," he affirmed, slamming the bills into the dashboard, "have a good one."

"I'll try." Dan grimaced wryly as he stepped out of the cab, rain pelting down to greet him before he shielded himself with an umbrella. With a last queasy glance at the skyscraper still lost in the clouds, he entered through the revolving doors, thankful for the heat that rushed at him.

Serena was waiting for him in the lobby, sifting through a high-class magazine with little interest; Dan knew she was simply feigning to skim through the words. He pocketed his umbrella into his coat and waited until she turned her head to notice him. He didn't have to wait long; in just a few seconds more Serena imperceptibly glanced his way.

The casual, habitual way she regarded him made his heart wrench with regret. After Serena's renewed wild ways of 2009, the two had parted on bad terms, and they had barely spoken much since. He'd received word of her more important deeds; she married Nate Archibald, who'd gone on to become a senator, not too long after he graduated college. He ended up cheating on her with Jenny, which ended in a divorce scandal that the country followed for months.

Other than small snippets of information he received from his little sister, Dan knew nothing of Serena or the life she lived, and was attempting to move away from the past and start over. He got accepted into Dartmouth when he reapplied after NYU and ran with a different circle of friends. As was expected of him, he married a nice girl named Naomi, a physics major. Starting over was the best decision he'd ever made.

It was only this night, when Serena somehow got a hold of him on his landline, that he was summoned to her presence again. Dan had never been able to say no to Serena. He knew it'd get him in trouble someday, but for now he was cautiously awaiting the surprise.

Serena's lips twisted into a pleasant smile and she tossed the magazine carelessly on the table beside her. As she stood up, Dan was once more entranced by the effortless way she moved; after so long of not seeing her, he realized he still wasn't unaffected by her beauty. Shaking himself firmly, he braced himself as she sauntered towards him.

"Dan," Serena greeted in a cool, collected tone; ice seemingly froze her vocal cords. "I'm glad you came." Her voice was too monotone to truly mean what she said, but Dan nodded anyway, not trusting his voice. Serena smiled at him again. "Shall we go?" She gestured vaguely to the rooms above.

Dan tilted his head a bit, narrowing his eyes. "I'm married, Serena." He felt obligated to tell her this. "Whatever you have in mind, I'm not doing it." Might as well get the truth out of the way before she decided to take it into her own hands.

Serena's eyes flashed. "That doesn't matter much to me, does it?" She breezed past him, obviously meaning it as a rhetorical question. "Are you coming, or not?" she threw over her shoulder in a voice that meant he had no choice in the matter.

Dan stuffed his hands in his pockets. "I'm coming," he sighed resignedly. As he started towards her, he added under his breath, "I don't like it, though."

"You don't have to like it," Serena retorted as the elevator chimed, heralding its arrival.

The ride up to Serena's suite was tensely silent. Dan waited in the corner of the small space, wary of what Serena may try in the enclosed area. He couldn't help think that he was doing something horribly wrong; even if she was being rather patient and platonic with him, the glint in her eyes warned him that she had a brooding plan. It amazed him how much she reminded him of the old Blair, the calculating queen of the Upper East Side. Those times were so far behind them that he'd barely even thought her name in years. He didn't know Serena anymore; perhaps Blair had changed, as well.

"You don't need to worry, Dan," Serena broke through the silence, a hint of amusement behind her words. "I haven't asked you here to jump you." Her eyes traveled his body critically and she shook her head briskly. "Frankly, you aren't my type anymore."

Even though it had been a long while since he was Serena's type, her statement still stung. Dan pursed his lips. "Your vocabulary's improved," he bit out scathingly. "You finally pick up a book?"

Serena flinched and Dan regretted being so harsh. Before he could force out an apology, the elevator sang again and the doors slid open soundlessly. Serena tersely straightened herself and walked forward with a toss of her blonde locks, not waiting to see if he would follow. Dan was half-tempted to stay in the elevator, but he managed to follow her without a word.

Serena's suite was not at all like her new-found, frigid manner; it reminded Dan even of the Serena he knew back when they were mere teenagers. The walls were painted a vibrant orange, complete with furniture that matched the soft yellow carpet. He glanced approvingly around the expanse.

"Like what you've done with your life," Dan commented a bit sarcastically. "I'm going to guess you're an interior designer?"

Serena placed her coat on the marble counter, releasing a sigh as she gazed at Dan. "Can you not treat me like a piece of gum on your shoes?" Away from the outside world, her cold appearance was slipping drastically, and he was reminded of the girl he loved in high school.

Dan cracked a sincere smile. "I'm sorry," he sighed honestly. "It's just been so long. I-I don't know how to treat you anymore." That was true enough, he decided.

Serena disappeared underneath the counter for a moment, reappearing with a bottle of champagne and two crystal flutes that looked relatively unused. She grinned at Dan. "How about we skip the pleasantries for a moment and have a drink?" That was the Serena-way-of-life, Dan remembered with a flash of warmth towards the semi-stranger in front of him. Memories of their times together flooded him again and he had to shake himself visibly to jar them away.

"Sure, why not?" Dan laughed and settled himself on a black leather chair in front of a fireplace. He hadn't been joking when he'd commented on her decorating skills; the entire place reflected everything about Serena: her warmth and her mystery, the two key parts of her personality. Even after spending so many years with her, he would never know her deepest, darkest secrets, and sometimes he believed it was better that way.

Serena handed him a flute of champagne and sat directly across from him, one leg daintily crossed over the other. The malevolent glimmer was back in her eyes and Dan paused uneasily, swallowing down the alcohol and allowing himself to feel a slight buzz.

Dan leaned forward. "Now, what do you want?" Suddenly, the joking was over, and they were back to the cold strangers they'd been in the lobby.

Serena gently placed her glass on the coffee table, folding her hands slowly in front of her. She hesitated visibly before taking a deep breath and plunging right into her purpose for bringing him here. "I have a proposition for you," she began quickly, her blue eyes steely as they bore into his. "You were the only man who still wants to talk to me."

Dan realized she must have been talking about Nate and Chuck. He knew that after the divorce, Nate wanted nothing to do with her; it was quoted in some newspaper somewhere, and to boot, Jenny boasted about it herself. But Chuck, he didn't know about. He assumed that when Serena leaked Nate's unfaithfulness, Chuck was obligated to hate her. For a brief second he regretted not being in this life anymore; he would never know the inner workings.

"I'm listening," Dan answered wearily. He knew she was waiting for his reply.

Serena smiled widely. "You must know that Blair and I don't talk anymore," she told him with an offhand flick of her wrist. She seemed so indifferent about it, like she was merely mentioning the weather, or asking if he had a pen she could borrow. "We haven't, not since Nate left me, anyway. We got into a fight about it, you know. I was supposed to keep it a secret." She sighed heavily. "I didn't."

Dan absorbed the information greedily. He hadn't known about Blair disowning Serena, or vice verse, but he didn't question the news. Serena could've told him that she'd married a cow; for all he knew about the Upper East Sider's lives, it was true.

"But Chuck and I... we talk." The vague way Serena mentioned it made Dan narrow his eyes. Serena seemed to notice his skepticism, and she smirked at him; a smirk far too familiar to belong to her. "I suppose I'll get on with it. Chuck and I are having an affair."

"I wasn't expecting that," Dan blurted instantly. His head reeled with the information; he'd perhaps noticed a hint of attraction between the two, but that was back when they were just teenagers. They were immature then. By now, surely the cheating for no reason would end? Dan shook his head, dazed. "I really, really wasn't expecting that. Not since..." Well, not since they were kids.

Serena took a tiny sip of her champagne, placing it down again with a sigh. "No, I guess you wouldn't, would you?" There was a biting tone behind her words; she was yet again referring to the way he'd detached himselves from their lives. Before Dan could retort, Serena went on, "But it's true. And it's just so unfortunate, now, that he has Blair, isn't it?" The cold way she spoke made Dan shiver. Somehow, this was going to involve him.

"I suppose it is," Dan replied evasively, leaning back on the chair. "But what does this have to do with me?"

Serena's glazed eyes were suddenly back in focus again, and she blinked attentively at him, as if just remembering that he was there. "Oh, yes, that's right." She laughed innocently, back to the carefree girl she'd been. Her blue eyes were warm as she gazed at him, shining with hope. "I love Chuck," she told him honestly, provoking his gag reflex. "But he doesn't want to hurt Blair..."

Dan's blood turned to ice.

" this is where you come in." Serena steepled her hands. "Dan, I need you to break them up."

Dan's initial reaction was disgust. "Blair? Blair Wa... Bass?" His eyes grew wide and he couldn't help a disbelieving laugh to escape his lips. "The girl hates me." Without waiting for Serena to answer, Dan continued, "And why would I? How would I? I have a wife and a job and a life, Serena. I can't go around destroying marriages, especially when Blair really loves Chuck. You said it yourself!"

"I said it when we were teenagers," Serena argued with a flash of anger in her eyes. "I didn't know any better. Blair and Chuck won't ever work out; see for yourself. He's already cheating on her. And he has before," she added when Dan opened his mouth to speak. "He told me so."

"And I'm sure he also told those other call-girls that he loved them, too," Dan retorted, rolling his eyes skeptically. "You're going after a guy who has a wife who he loves very, very much." His tone was more high-pitched now with desperation; he knew Serena would have something up her sleeve to force him to do this for her. "He's not going to leave Blair for you. He loves her. I'm sure they're very happy."

Serena's mouth gaped open with shock, but the sliver of surprise faded before Dan could register it. She sniffed haughtily. "You're wrong," she declared stubbornly. "He doesn't love her anymore. And they aren't happy."

Dan shrugged his shoulders despondently. "Sure, whatever you say," he humored her. "But even if that's true, which I doubt it is, you won't have my assistance in the matter. Find some other gullible guy to help screw over your former best friend."

"I don't need to find another one." The anger and distress was out of Serena's voice in an instant, replaced with a quiet calmness. Dan tensed. She was about to play a card he didn't know about yet. "You see, Dan, there's this thing called money," Serena sighed, feigning casualty, "and I happen to know you and your wife - what was it, Naomi? - don't have enough."

Dan sucked in a breath, apprehensive.

"I checked it all," Serena went on carelessly, the manipulative gleam back to her blue gaze. "You're late on your mortgage, your electric bill... you're nearly bankrupted." Serena listed the facts as if she could care less about what happened to him. Dan felt a twist in his gut.

"I'm still writing my book, Serena," Dan mumbled weakly, attempting to defend himself, "and Naomi and I work a cleaning business..." The words sounded hollow to his own ears. Despite his misgivings about Serena's plan, and his own happiness in his life, he and his wife were having issues with money. They had been relatively broke for years now, though Dan managed to keep it a secret from his family. How Serena came by with the information surprised him, but she must've hired someone to do it for her.

Serena downed the rest of her drink. "I could help with that, you know. But that would require a favor from you, and I think you know what I want." She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward to gauge his reaction. "I have money, Dan. You don't. And all I need is one little favor..."

Dan swallowed uneasily, weighing the options carefully. What harm would it do to go along? After all, he knew for an almost certain fact that he would fail, and Serena would surely pay him for his quality efforts. It was a win-win situation for him. There was no love lost between him and Chuck, either, and from the way Serena had secretively planned this, he knew that Chuck didn't know what was in store. Perhaps this could be the turn-around he was waiting for; the gates to a better life.

Serena waited patiently for an answer, a smile quirking the corners of her lips. She obviously knew what his reply was going to be before he'd even decided.

Dan cursed himself inwardly as he took a breath and sighed, "All right."

The malicious smile stretched taut across Serena's lips and Dan couldn't help believing that he'd just made a deal with the devil.