A/N: A little fluffy NS, just 'cause I love 'em. Their relationship remembered in colours. Reviews make writers smile.
Grandfather's estate is crawling with people who send Nate disapproving looks when he runs through the crowd, weaving through groups of people and accidentally brushing up against peoples' legs. But he's only four, and the women, most of them anyway, can smile and tilt their heads, laughingly say, "He's so spirited, William!" when Nate runs past. His mom catches him, kneels down and runs her hands over his shoulders a couple times as she looks at him adoringly. He tries to catch his breath, and doesn't she know she's ruining the game?
"Nate, dear, try not to get underfoot," she requests, kissing his cheek.
He nods, but runs away and continues doing the same thing, because he hates that word, underfoot, and he thinks it's a stupid thing to ask.
Besides, Chuck is chasing him, and he doesn't want to lose, because he lost last time (Chuck hid behind a tree until Nate thought he was safe, then Chuck jumped out and tagged him). He keeps running, finally catches up to Chuck, and cries "I win!" as Chuck mumbles something about Nate having 'soccer legs' that makes them both laugh.
William calls him over and Nate obliges, because he knows even by now that he has to listen to Grandfather. He's standing there with a pretty blonde lady, who has a baby in her arms, and a tall man, and there's a girl standing between the two adults.
"Hi," Nate says to the girl before they're introduced.
"Nathaniel, this is Serena van der Woodsen," Grandfather says, and Nate tilts his head up to look at him. "Perhaps you three can find a quiet game to play?"
"C'mon!" Nate says, reaching for the girl's hand and pulling her along with him. She giggles as they weave through the crowd, the two boys running at full tilt and her keeping up. They find an open spot on the grassy lawn, no adults to reprimand them, and they stop. "We're playing tag."
She nods and her hair spills over her shoulders. She brushes it away from her forehead and smiles at the other boy. "What's your name?"
"Hi," she says sweetly. She looks at Nate, who blinks at her, and then she reaches out and pokes at Chuck's chest, shouting, "You're it!" before she giggles and runs away with Nate in tow.
They fall on the grass, all three of them side by each, when they're tired and they've each won a game. Serena lays between the two boys, and Nate toys with the skirt of her dress, just because it's right there next to his hand. There are grass stains on the knees of his khakis, and her dress is wrinkled. Chuck's hair is a mess, though he tries to fix it by running his hand through it. He's called away, so he gets up and makes his way back to the crowd, then it's just Serena and Nate laying on the grass.
He looks over at her, and she's still looking at the sky, and he rolls onto his side, reaches over and toys with a lock of her hair. She flinches, thinking he might pull it, but he's treating it delicately, and she smiles at him.
"What?" she asks.
"Your hair's the same colour as your dress," he states, and it's the truth, so she smiles and nods. "S'pretty."
He lays on his back again and she scoots closer to him (she later gets in trouble for the grass stains smeared across the back of her dress). They clasp their hands together, palm to palm, and point out the shapes in the clouds.
Nate is her best friend until her best friend comes along.
Blair is practically everything that Serena isn't. Prim and proper, ribbons in her hair that match her dresses, tights on her legs, even in the summer. Serena doesn't really get that, but she gets Blair. They have fun, a different kind than Serena has with Nate. They talk and giggle, where Serena and Nate run and play and have big dreams and silliness. Sometimes Blair will do that, but she likes to sit and watch too, to look at everyone else, and when Serena asks why, Blair just says she likes to know about people. Serena supposes that makes sense, that it's a good enough answer, and then tries it for herself.
She lasts all of ten minutes before she's bored, and she spots Nate on the other side of the pool. He waves at her, and she gets up, calling goodbye to Blair over her shoulder. This is their last weekend before school starts, and Serena is very aware that her days of running in the sun, being chased by one boy and sometimes two, are over. She's sad, but even when she's sad, she's still happier than everybody else.
And she loves Blair, but she's glad that she had a year of being friends with Nate before they met Blair. There's something solid, familiar and comfortable about her friendship with Nate, like nothing can really shake it now.
They're only five, and she doesn't realize how silly it is to be thinking of things like forever.
She runs around the edge of the pool, nannies gasping and telling her to be careful. If she hears them, she doesn't let on.
They run around together, her giggling and him chasing her (they don't know it yet, but this is going to be a common theme). Eventually, when the cocktails are just verging on over served, and the adults have had enough of the noise, their children have been seen, the nannies are ordered to take the children away.
This time, the four of them are taken to the Waldorf estate. Blair goes inside to pick out a bathing suit, and so Serena, Nate and Chuck all run to the back of the house, still playing their game. Serena's knees are covered in grass stains, and Nate's button down shirt is untucked. Chuck somehow looks the exact same as he did when he arrived at the party, and Serena doesn't know how that's possible, but he always manages to keep himself tidy like that. She doesn't get it.
Nate is standing by the pool, his hair looking even lighter in the late-day sun. She glances at him once, twice, and then on the third time, and he notices and smiles at her. She sees that his eyes are the same colour as the sky, and she thinks that maybe they're the same colour as hers.
"What?" he asks when he notices her staring.
She looks to her left, then to her right, and she bites her lip, because this is going to be so much fun. She reaches out with one arm and pushes him straight backwards into the pool, but at the last second, he grabs her hand and they both go squealing into the water.
They resurface and there are three nannies and a slack-jawed Blair staring at them, because they're still in their clothes, and Serena should know better, and Nate's laughing like this is the most fun he's had all summer (and it might be).
They're forced out of the water to change into their swimsuits (which Nate thinks is just stupid, since they're already wet anyway) and the four of them play in the shallow end only, because their nannies are strict and think they can't swim or something, though they've all been taking lessons for two summers.
They're forced out of the water at dinner time, and Blair insists they sit outside on the patio and eat their dinner, and Serena's hair drips onto the bench she and Blair share, but they're all too high on sun and chlorine and playing to care about things like being wet.
They all settle into their pajamas and Blair's living bedroom after dinner, and they watch Aladdin, because Serena thinks Jasmine is beautiful, and the boys think that Aladdin is at least kind of a cool cartoon. Blair and Chuck fall asleep before A Whole New World even comes on, and Serena leans her head on Nate's shoulder and wishes for a world where things like magic lamps and magic carpet rides actually exist.
Nate sighs at one point, and when she looks up at him, he's got this cute little smile on his lips. But that's not really what she notices.
The Genie on the screen is casting a blue hue in the room, and it makes her notice something again.
"Your eyes are too blue," she says as she shifts and wiggles to get comfortable laying down, flat on her back.
She doesn't know what it means, really (how can someone's eyes be too blue?) but it's a thought she'll have often in her life. Not even just about his eyes or his looks.
He's too much. Too much of a lot of things.
She's walking up the steps at school one day when an older kid rushes past her and knocks her down. She scrapes her knee on the concrete, and she bites her lip to keep the tears from falling down her cheeks.
She didn't even see him coming, but Nate is at her side almost immediately, sitting next to her on the steps and looking at her knee.
"You okay?" he asks worriedly. She just nods, but he can tell she's lying. He hates to see her upset though, and he can't handle the blood that's pouring from her knee. He loosens his tie (he hates it anyway) and pulls it off. "Here."
He wraps the fabric around her let in a makeshift bandage, and it makes her laugh, because she could have just gone to the nurse for a band-aid, but it's nice to have Nate taking care of her instead. He smiles and she wipes her eyes with her fists.
"Thanks, Natie," she says quietly.
Her teacher makes her go to the nurse, who throws Nate's tie in the garbage, and he gets a letter sent home to his parents for breaking uniform (they disregard it, because he meant well), but neither of them cares, because he looks out for her, keeps his eye on her, and maybe they all know that Serena needs that sometimes.
They're all of nine years old when the girls start 'experimenting' with fashion. It's something their mothers actually encourage and condone, and so they start wearing headbands (Blair) and shoes that don't quite match their skirts, but still look amazing (Serena). Chuck has always been a little 'out of uniform' (that's what the teachers say, but they don't reprimand him, since he's a Bass). Nate doesn't really care. He wears his uniform, usually not even bothering to tuck his shirt in, because it's a uniform, and it's not supposed to look different. And he just can't be bothered to do anything different.
Serena comes over one day after school, a 'play date', though they both already know that just means that their parents are going to some party and they aren't allowed to go. Serena likes when she doesn't have to go. She likes it even more when she gets to go to the Archibalds'. They do silly things, like play Monopoly, but hand out all the money first, so they can buy whatever they want and then laugh and pay rent and all the money changes hands until they inevitably end up 'stealing' from one another. Or they just watch movies in his room, cuddled up in a nest of blankets on the floor at the foot of his bed.
This time, she gets bored of playing after about 10 minutes, and she grabs his hand and pulls him towards his parents' bedroom. He has no idea what she's doing, and he looks at her like she's crazy when she locks the door behind them.
She laughs and tugs him towards the closet, and he shakes his head when she steps inside and starts looking through all his mother's clothes. She runs her fingers over the hems of dresses and she plays with silk shirts. Her eyes light up when she sees the wall of shoes, and he laughs at her when she skips over to get a closer look. She names off the labels she knows (some of the words are hard to spell, but she knows them anyway because her mom has the same ones).
"Wanna see something?" he asks. She smiles bright, because she loves that he's finally having fun.
He walks over to where there are a few drawers at chest level, and he pulls the top one open. She gets up on her tip toes and peers inside, and she actually gasps when she sees the all the jewels carefully sitting on the black velvet lining.
She picks up a ring, a small one by comparison, just a little round emerald with two diamonds on either side, set in a white gold band. It's so unlike the rest that it makes her wonder where Mrs. Archibald got it, if it's special or if someone gave it to her or how long she's had it. She's holding the ring between her thumb and index finger when Nate takes it from her.
He slides the ring onto the fourth finger of her right hand and smiles at her. "Now we're married," he says quietly, his smile so sweet that it makes her feel funny.
She giggles and shakes her head. "Natie, that's the wrong hand."
She throws her arms around him, for some reason, because he's Nate, and he's her friend, and he's so cute sometimes. She has to keep her fist closed, since the ring is too big and she doesn't want it to fall off. When she pulls away, she takes one last glance at the ring on her hand, and she decides she really loves that ring. She slips it off her finger and, more carefully than she ever really does anything, she sets the ring back into the drawer and pushes it shut.
They go back to his room and eat Twizzlers and watch stupid television shows until she falls asleep with her head in his lap. He pulls a blanket over her, and once he's comfortable, she blindly reaches for his hand, but he can tell she's still asleep. And he lets her take it, because he likes the way it fits with his.
The grossest, rainiest day of the summer, Serena, Blair, and Chuck are stuck at Nate's Hamptons house with him, and they're getting on one anothers' nerves, because they're used to being outside all the time, or at least being able to go to the other half of the house, or to use the whole property to play games. But of course this is the week that one half of the house is being painted, so they're kind of stuck to the kitchen, the living room (and it's all antique chairs and stuff that they're not even allowed to sit on), or Nate's bedroom.
That lasts all of about an hour before Blair's pouting, Chuck's bored, Nate's annoyed, and Serena is trying so hard to make everyone get along again. She's sitting between Blair and Nate at the kitchen table, and they all have glasses of orange juice in front of them. Chuck pushes his away and practically sticks his nose in the air, and Blair rolls her eyes at him, which makes him glare like she's just said the worst thing in the world. Nate scoffs and shakes his head. It's summer. They're supposed to be having fun.
"That's it!" Serena cries, pushing her chair back with such force that it nearly tips over. "I'm going outside."
"Serena, it's pouring," Blair reminds her.
"It's just rain, B. It's better than this."
"You'll get sick," Chuck says, trying not to sound concerned, making it seem like he's just as annoyed with her as she is with the situation.
"Yeah, Serena. Just stay in here," Nate says delicately.
"Nope," she says over her shoulder as she walks away from the table.
She steps outside through the back kitchen door, and she leaves it open behind her, because she just assumes they'll all follow her. They usually do; they travel in a pack most of the time. As soon as she's outside, she's colder, and she's soaked, but she actually laughs, because as much as she loves the sun and the beach and all those amazing things that make summer, summer, she loves the smell of the rain and the way the cut grass sticks to her skin.
Nate sits at the table, looking at the open door, then back to Blair and Chuck. Blair has her mouth open, like she can't believe Serena (but she can, because it's totally like her best friend to do this). Chuck has his lips pursed and sighs.
"She didn't even put shoes on," Blair says in disgust. She just blinks at Nate when she sees him smile.
"C'mon," he says excitedly as he stands from his place. He's met with two blank, unimpressed stares. "It'll be fun!"
"Staying dry is fun," Chuck argues.
Blair, though she hates to do it, agrees. "I don't want to go out there in the rain."
"Fine," Nate says. "Stay in here, then!"
He's out the door with it closed behind him before he can be reminded to put shoes on, and as soon as he's in the yard, he looks around for Serena. When he spots her, she's sitting at the edge of the pool, her feet in the water as the raindrops make a kind of mist over the top of the water. Her hair is all stringy and sticking to her skin, ditto for her navy blue tank top, and her shorts are riding up on her thighs. She's got her hands tucked beneath her legs, and she smiles when she sees him.
He walks over to where she's sitting, and when he sits down next to her, he makes sure to kick water around to splash them, because they're wet already so it doesn't matter, and it's fun. She squeals a little bit anyway, and leans away from him as she laughs and yells his name.
"They're staying inside?" she asks.
"Yeah. Losers," he says teasingly, and she laughs again.
She stands without warning, and he's 11 and noticing girls now (noticing Serena now) so when he looks up, he sees her legs and her stomach where her shirt doesn't meet her shorts. She gathers her hair and tosses it over her shoulder, and she looks down at him and smiles all wide before taking one step backward, and he watches her lean forward, raise her arms over her head, and dive straight into the pool with her clothes on.
And because they're wet already, and it doesn't matter, and it's fun, he jumps in after her.
They play around a bit, chasing and dunking one another, splashing for no reason and taking advantage of the fact that they have the whole pool to themselves. He's just told her that she can't get away from him when she hoists herself out of the water and takes off running across the lawn. He follows her, because sometimes he thinks that's what he does best, and chases her all the way to the garden.
She's covered in mud up to her shins, and every step either of them takes, the mud sloshes around and makes noise. She laughs at the disgusted look on his face, and when he tries to walk closer to her, he falls onto his knees, braced by his hands, and he's absolutely covered in mud. Serena is laughing at him (laughing) and he tries to look offended when he glances up at her. In one swift motion, he's grabbed ahold of her ankles and trying to either make her lose her balance or use her to help him up.
She loses her balance.
"Nate!" she cries, right before she lands on her behind. "You suck!"
"You're a mess," he says laughingly as she tries to brush her hair away from her face with her hand. A streak of mud smears across her brow, and she kicks at him, but he moves away, which actually only serves to get him even muddier.
"You're disgusting," she says.
He watches her like she's moving in slow motion as she takes a handful of mud, and he knows it's going to come flying at him any second, and there's nothing he can do to stop it. It lands with a splat on his side, and he shakes his head and glares at her, but it's really hard to do, because she's laughing and smiling, looking accomplished. That doesn't stop him from throwing mud at her, too, and then they end up rolling around, practically covered in dirt. Somehow, they've managed to keep it off their faces, for the most part, and she's got her arms around his legs and her head on his stomach when they finally get tired.
She sighs and relishes in the warmth of his stomach, because she's cold, but she's been having too much fun to care until now. Nate's warm and sweet and she can hear his heart beating, and he's got his hand in her hair, lightly scratching her scalp. She knows they should go inside, but it's nice here, with Nate. She likes when it's just the two of them, always has, and sometimes when they're quiet like this, she feels as good or better than she's ever felt. Her finger slips through his belt loop at his hip, and he sighs like it's the best thing he's ever felt.
"We should go in," she says after another minute.
"I like it here."
She laughs and pulls away. He misses her. "We're in the mud," she says.
There are splotches of mud on her cheeks and her forehead, but her nose is clear, just freckles on her skin and nothing else. So he reaches up with his index finger and wipes some mud onto her nose. She scrunches her face, and then she stands and gives him her hands to help him up.
Their clothes are caked with dirt, and they literally have to hose themselves off. There are two towels by the door when they enter the house again, Serena assumes that's Blair's doing, and they change quickly and join Chuck and Blair in the living room and play a massive game or WAR with four decks of cards.
Nate's finding clumps of mud on himself for two days after, and his mother gets mad at him (something about flower bulbs in the garden? he wasn't really listening) but he doesn't care. It was so worth it it to lay there with her in the rain for even just a few minutes.
When they're 12, she goes through a phase, where everything is purple. Everything.
Purple walls in her bedroom and purple shoes every single day (which Blair insists is just wrong). Purple bedding, purple bras (he sees them beneath her shirt sometimes, the straps fall down her arms or she wears white and doesn't care that people can see). Purple notebooks, purple pens, purple, purple, purple.
When he kisses her for the first time, she's wearing purple eye shadow, and they're in her purple bedroom, and the purple ring she has on is cold on his cheek when she places her hand there.
She pulls away, biting her bottom lip, and she rests her forehead against his. They're supposed to be studying, but that's clearly an afterthought.
She lays against his chest and he wraps his arms around her, and as he's looking around, he says the first coherent thing that comes to mind.
"This room is really purple, S."
She laughs and buries her face in his chest. He kisses the top of her hair, and then she kisses his lips, and they spend the rest of their evening doing that, kissing, kissing, kissing in her purple, purple, purple room.
Serena's mother gets engaged to some German guy or something, and Nate's family is invited to the wedding, and the only reason he even cares is because he knows how hard it's been for Serena. She's watched her mother do this for years, fall in and out of love, or something like that, and Nate can't really comprehend how much that must suck. His own parents are fairly stable, and he has a hard enough time dealing with that.
He comes over one day and she's got a piece of paper in her hands as she stands in the living room, and he immediately asks what it is. It's from her mother, telling her to go to the bridal boutique for her bridesmaid dress fitting. The first time he sees her smile is when he shrugs his shoulder and says he'll go with her if she wants.
She can tell he's just a little uncomfortable in the boutique, with all its white dresses and women flitting around with gowns in their hands. He stuffs his hands in his pockets, and Serena loops her arm through his. She laughs loudly after she jokingly tells the clerk that he's her fiancé, then says "you should have seen your face!" once she's given the woman her actual reason for being there and they're lead to a little room in the back.
He sits there casually, smiling at the women who are so blatantly staring at him, as he waits for Serena to step out of the fitting room.
She's got tears in her eyes when she does. He just watches her for a moment, then he stands when she walks closer.
"I hate it," she says, and he knows she's not just talking about the dress.
"It's not so bad." (And neither is he.) He pulls her into a hug and she buries her face in her hands and falls against his chest, so happy that he's here to do this.
"It's pink," she says, and she feels him laugh a little bit. "It's...too pink."
He pulls away from her and turns her around so she can see herself in the mirror. The dress is actually really pretty, fuchsia with a sweetheart neckline and a fluted skirt with delicate beading on the bodice. She runs her hands over it, smoothing out some wrinkles, and she turns a little to see it from another angle. It fits nearly perfectly off the rack, and he's not surprised; she's got such a perfect body (he's been looking at it for years).
He comes up behind her and wraps his arms around her waist, and she giggles just a little bit, because he's pretty touchy-feely today (she likes it). But she relaxes against him a little, and she can feel his breath on her neck. She's sure he notices the way her breathing speeds up just a little bit.
"I think you look really pretty," he almost whispers.
Their eyes meet in the mirror as he kisses her cheek.
Sometimes when he's with Serena, he forgets that he's with Blair. And that's probably a way worse thing than he makes it out to be.
He likes Blair. A lot actually. She's high maintenance and kind of a pain in the ass sometimes, but she treats him well and does silly things that she thinks are romantic, and he smiles, because she's trying to be sweet and it's actually kind of cute. They hold hands and talk to society people at events, and he ignores that pang of guilt in his chest when people say things like meant to be, or you've been destined, or something about them bringing two of the most prominent UES families even closer together. He thinks all that's bullshit, but Blair doesn't, so he pretends it's true because it makes her happy.
And sometimes it's easy to make her happy. When she's not doing insane (seriously, insane) things, or talking about things that aren't even going to happen for years, she's pretty fun. When he can get her laughing, she's adorable, and when she gets playful, it's really easy to remember why he's with her in the first place. Oh, and they kiss like crazy in her bedroom.
But then there's this, too. There's laying on his back on Serena's bed as she reads from the math book he's supposed to be paying attention to. There's her hip pressed against his shoulder as she sits next to him, the bare skin of her legs brushing against his arm. There's her in cotton shorts, a Knicks tee shirt he didn't even know she had, and bright pink knee socks. There's her laughing and tugging on his ear gently when she notices he's not paying attention.
"Na-aate," she sings, trying to get his attention. He smiles up at her and she raises her brow. "Hello."
"We have to learn this," she reminds him needlessly.
He nods because he knows, but he's totally distracted by her, by this, the way they are with one another all the time. There's no hot and cold with her. If she's pissed at him (it very rarely happens) she just tells him, blurts it out in a normal tone, and he apologizes (always genuinely with her) and they hug and she calls him a jerk as she laughs, and that's the end of it. She doesn't play games, there's no silent treatment or if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you. He gets the feeling she just wants things to be normal with him as much as he wants them to be normal with her. And their normal is always so good. She doesn't ask much of him, just that he be there and be himself, and he does the same for her. He's seen it all at this point, every break down or tear or fear she has, and he knows he's one of the select few.
He glances up at her as she tucks her hair behind her ear, and he pulls the book from her hand and tosses it onto the floor next to the bed. She laughs out his name, but he just wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her so she's laying down next to him. They're both on their sides, facing one another, and as he's looking at her, her eyes all dark and gorgeous, he thinks that of all the things she is (and there are a lot) the one he likes best is that she's his, in whatever ways she is. It's selfish and not really fair to any of them, but he thinks he loves her, maybe, and it's nice to know that maybe she thinks she loves him too or something. They might never say the words, but it doesn't really matter.
When she blinks at him, blue eyes and dark lashes, he's pretty sure he knows it anyway.
Even though they don't really pay much mind to their books for the rest of the night, they both score fairly well on their test.
They're in the courtyard, the four of them talking about their marks, and Serena rests her elbow on his shoulder and flashes a smile.
"Must've been that study session," she says, knowing very well that she's joking but no one'll know that but Nate.
He smiles at her, then bows his head, not bothering to even make note of Blair's reaction when he says, "must have been."
The minute they start drinking together at the wedding, she can feel it, the underlying pulse of something's going to happen and I don't know if I can stop it. They joke and say silly things and ignore the way Blair tries to ignore them. Chuck looks like he might be in on some kind of secret (Nate loves Serena, Serena loves Nate, neither are allowed).
The band starts playing Motown, the one cool thing, aside from the open bar, that happens at this wedding, and Serena grabs everyone's hands (yes, everyone's, three peoples' hands in her own) and pulls them to the dance floor as she shouts out the words to I Heard It Through the Grapevine. She twirls and spins and dances, and eventually, she's got a hundred people on the dance floor after starting the movement. She and Blair hold hands and spin one another around, both laughing and only Blair caring whether or not the skirt of her dress flares too much. Even Chuck looks like he's almost having fun.
A slow song comes on, and the four of them leave the dance floor. Blair is called over by her mother, and Chuck goes off in search of a top shelf scotch. Serena and Nate somehow gravitate towards the door, and she grabs a bottle of champagne, leans in close, and says, "c'mere," in such a sexy voice that he can't even think of not following her.
His hands are digging into her hips in a deliciously sexy way even as they stumble into the big, empty room, and she thinks that, if she were thinking clearly, she'd turn right around and walk away from this. They're not supposed to do this, act like he's single, and she's not supposed to let him pull her back against him (she can feel all of him pressed up against all of her, and she almost moans, and it's crazy). They don't let themselves do this, because they're not supposed to, not because they don't want to.
She pulls herself away from him because if she doesn't, there'll be absolutely no self control in this room (it's clear he has none), and when she gets up on top of the bar, they both make a similar joke about it not being her first time dancing on a bar top. It sends them both into a fit of laughter.
The champagne gets all shaken and ends up spilled on them, and she's in his lap, and his hands are beneath her dress, and they're kissing because they can't not kiss, and it's been really hard, for the past couple years, to not be able to. Their last little shred of we can't do this has completely disappeared, and she nearly cries when he's inside her for the first time, because oh my god, this is what she's been missing.
It feels so good, too good, to be there with him, to have him holding her like that, like it's her who he's wanted all along, but it's so, so wrong, and she knows it as soon as it's over.
So she gathers her gold dress in her hand and holds his shirt closed instead of buttoning it, because if she stays any longer and sees the hurt in his eyes, it'll change everything, and she doesn't know if she can handle that.
The first two times he sees her after she comes back, she's wearing the brown jacket she bought at that little boutique in Soho when he was with her last fall. He wonders if she remembers that.
She tells him he's not the reason she's home, and for the first time in his life, he actually hates her for a second.
But it's only a second, and her eyes are saying please, please just let it go, so he falls for her all over again, because he knows her so well, and he knows she knows him too. But he stands there and lets her walk away, because he thinks that's what she wants.
He's high, and she's wearing yellow, and her hair is down, and all he can think of is the first time they met and all the time that's passed since then and all they've been through.
When he grabs her, tells her he's not over her and kisses her, maybe he knows something isn't right, but all he sees is their past and doesn't realize that it's not even the right girl.
If he wasn't so fucking depressed about it, he'd think a little more about how that's always the way it is.
Whatever girl he has isn't the right girl.
She doesn't even realize the coincidence until she's dancing with him, and his hand is on her waist, just a little lower than where it should be, and she bites the inside of her lip because they haven't really been talking a whole lot, but she misses him. She's with Dan (or something; today has been insanely stressful, especially since she didn't even want to come to this thing) and Nate is with Blair (and actually, looking like he's about ready to kill Carter), but she misses him. They're still friends, but they haven't really acted like it in ages.
And she hates it.
She doesn't even think he realizes the colour of her dress (it's stupid, and she doesn't want to care if he notices), but he looks at her, just once, and there's something in his eyes that makes her feel a little breathless. It's recognition, and when he runs his hand over the material on her back, they smile at one another a little bit.
She doesn't really know why, but she's glad that memory isn't a terrible one for either of them.
Neither of them has had a particularly great year, and summer comes at the perfect time. They're both smiling when they bump into one another, and it takes all of a minute and a half for them to fall back into their friendship, same as it always was. He 'splurges' on two iced coffees (she laughs and tells him not to spend his entire trust fund on her) and they laugh and wander the Upper East Side together, just reminding one another how much fun they have together.
They're sitting in the park, his favourite part of Sheep Meadow. She's sprawled out on the grass, and he's got his elbows resting on his bent knees. They're just talking, and it's good. She talks about Dan, and he talks about Vanessa, and it's not weird, really, at all. Maybe it should be, with the history and everything, but she gets the feeling he's just as happy that they're hanging out again as she is.
He's telling her some silly story or another, and she's laughing so hard that she gasps for breath, and she rolls onto her side and reaches out for him, then sits up next to him and rests her forehead against his shoulder. He can only smile, because this is what he's missed so much, her and this laughter and her hair falling around her face like this.
She pulls away abruptly and tugs on his arm. "Hey," she says. He looks over just in time to see the way her eyes are shining; this is how she always used to be able to get him to hang on her every word. "We match."
He laughs softly and nods his head as he wraps his arm around her shoulders and pulls her close to him. "Yeah, S. We match."
Every Colour Imaginable
The Hamptons and summer and Serena and Nate seem to all go together so well by now, that he can't even comprehend how he survived last summer while she was away. It's always been like this, they met here, even, and laying in his backyard with her or eating lunch at all their favourite little spots. Her grandmother has a summer book club, which is basically just a bunch of middle-aged women who gossip more than they talk about literature, but he and Serena are there one day as it takes place, and Serena decides they could use a little culture. If he's being honest, spending any of his summer reading is just about the last thing he wants to do. But there are two gorgeous women in this group (one is Serena, another he doesn't know yet) and so he agrees.
She laughs at him as they read through The Fountainhead, but it's a topic that he likes and can understand. He's pretty into it, actually, and she tries not to make fun of him when she sees him making notes in the margins or folding down pages.
"You're so cute," she says out of nowhere one day. He looks up at her, and she leans over and kisses him straight on the lips, just quickly, and it doesn't mean anything.
"What?" he laughs.
(It doesn't mean anything, but he still feels something.)
"You're taking this so seriously," she points out. He has to remind himself that she's talking about the book club.
"I really like this book," he says with a shrug of his shoulders.
They both go back to reading. He doesn't miss it when she raises her fingertips to her lips and rubs them gently.
Her bathing suits never, ever match. Ever. If he didn't know her any better, he'd think she was doing it on purpose. She'll wear a red top with purple bottoms, or a yellow top with blue bottoms, or black with green and beige plaid. It's almost a game, waiting to see what she'll be wearing.
And by the middle of the summer, every woman between the ages of 12 and 30 is wearing mismatched bikinis, so Serena starts matching again, and she just laughs when Nate asks her about it. She's not a follower, never has been, and she's not going to start now.
When he asks her to be his 'cover', she thinks he's insane. She thinks she's insane for agreeing. But they've practically been 'dating' all summer anyway, now they just make sure people see them holding hands. They wait for the click of the camera phones and laugh at the posts on Gossip Girl together. He starts seeing someone, and she pretends that it doesn't hurt her just a little bit. She wants him to herself, and she knows that's probably really wrong and stupid, because she's felt that way before, and it didn't turn out so well. She can't go through that again. She had to run to get through it last time.
She helps him because he asks her to, not because she wants to. The truth is, now that they're 'dating', they spend less time together, because he's with this other woman, and she can't begrudge him that if he's happy, which she thinks he might be. But at the same time, without him as a distraction, she spends more time thinking about (pining over) Dan, and she doesn't want to do that either. They broke up for a reason, but without Nate to remind her that it was for the best, all she can think is that she loved (loves? something like that anyway) Dan, and maybe they were crazy to just end it the way they did.
She's feeling sorry for herself, laying on a lounge in her backyard in a blue bikini when he steps through the door and sees her. She raises her sunglasses and smiles, and that's their hello.
He's wearing khaki shorts and a navy blue polo. "We match," he says as he sits down next to her, and he bumps her hip a little. They both laugh softly, and he stares at her for a second (can't help but). "What's up?"
"Nothing. What're you doing here?"
He shrugs and smiles at her. "Just missed you, I guess."
They spend the rest of their day and most of the evening together, just like they spent most of the beginning of the summer, and she wonders if maybe there'll ever come a time when he's not with someone else, and she's not hung up on someone else. Maybe, she thinks, someday they'll have it together enough to really be something.
Well, something more.
White (It's not a colour, but they have a memory for it anyway)
He really doesn't know what she's up to when she grabs him and kisses him, but it feels so damn good that all he can do is kiss her back. And he is kissing her back, properly kissing her. He's not just kissing her to make someone jealous or to prove a point. He's kissing her because he physically can't not kiss her. And because he figures that all that time he spent wanting to kiss her as they were growing up, he should take any chance he can to kiss her this way.
All he can say afterward is "wow" and it's stupid, because it doesn't mean anything (but maybe it does), and she's laughing and holding her hand to her mouth.
She walks away with Dan, and he goes to find Catherine, but it takes a good two and a half minutes for his hands to stop shaking.
All sorts of colours, no specific one
Senior year goes by, and he watches her go from Dan, to Aaron, to Dan, then to some weird Gabriel guy. She watches him go from girl, to girl, to girl, and she doesn't say anything to him about it.
Actually, she doesn't say anything to him about anything.
They spend a little time together, sure, and they each kind of keep up-to-date on what the other is going through, but it's not like their friendship, it's not like their summer. He doesn't call her, and she doesn't call him. They kind of just end up in the same places at the same times, and they're both too busy, too wrapped up in their own lives to become too invested in one another.
But he still cares about her, and she still cares about him. They don't even need to talk to know that.
A few days after prom, she's laying on her stomach in her room reading the latest issue of a trashy magazine that someone left at her place. She doesn't know who left it there or when, but after breakfast, she was looking for something to do, and the bright colours on the front of Cosmo were kind of intriguing.
So she's reading about the best destinations for finding summer love, and 42 new ways to excite him, and Nate walks into her bedroom like he used to. He doesn't look nervous or out of place; he looks like he used to as a kid, just coming over unannounced because he was always welcome. He's still welcome.
"Hey," she says with a smile, rolling onto her side.
He sits down on the bed and glances to the page she has open, noting the photo of a guy wearing a blindfold and a girl leaning in close, about to do...something. He raises his brow and Serena quickly closes the magazine, then they both start to laugh.
"I was...It was just here, and..."
"Hey," he says, holding up his hands, "no judgment." She rolls her eyes and flops onto her back. "And like you really need the tips?"
There's a moment of silence, where she's just blinking up at him and he's just looking down at her. They breeze past it pretty quickly (they've had years of practice).
"So what's up? How are you?" she asks, and he actually glares at her (it's mostly playful) because he knows she's referring to 'the break up', and it's not like he's really broken-hearted or anything.
"I'm fine. I'm...really good actually."
"Good," she says softly, smiling at him. She sits up and crosses her legs, and she just looks at him because she knows he's here for a reason, and she really wants to know what it is. "So...why are you...here?"
He laughs. "What? Am I not allowed to just stop by anymore?" he teases.
"No, of course you are," she says seriously, completely not picking up on the fact that he's joking. "You just don't anymore."
It hurts him a little bit, the way it sounds like she's disappointed or something. "Well...I'm here now." She smiles and nods, looking like a little kid or something, and he just stares at her for a second before remembering what he came for. "I actually...I brought you something."
"Really? A present?" she asks, her face all lit up. "You brought me something? What is it?"
He laughs again, because she's just adorable, even as an almost-adult who's just a week or so away from being a high school graduate. "It's...I don't know if you even want it, but mom and I were going through some stuff, and...I saw it and we were talking, and...I dunno. We were...she thought, or we both thought, I guess, that you should have it. If you want it, I mean."
"Nate, you're rambling," she giggles. He sighs and rolls his eyes and reaches into his pocket, and she gasps, actually gasps, when he pulls at that little emerald ring from years and years ago. "Nate."
"She was cleaning out some stuff, and I told her that story," he says bashfully as he toys with the ring. "She thought...she said it was cute, and I...If you want it..."
"I want it," she says, maybe just a little too eagerly. She shouldn't give herself away like this, but she figures if he remembers that day and is willing to bring it up again, then it's okay for her to want to hang onto it too. "Where'd she get it?"
He smiles as he reaches for her right hand. "It was the first piece of jewelry she ever bought herself," he tells her, recalling the story as his mother told it to him earlier.
"That's so sweet," she says softly. He's kind of just holding her hand now, but she doesn't say anything, because she doesn't hate it. "So why was she gonna get rid of it?"
"She wasn't," he says, averting her gaze.
She watches him for a moment, because he's just told her in not so many words that Anne was going to keep it until he told her the story, or that he asked her if he could give it to Serena. Either of those options make her feel pretty good.
He slides the ring onto the fourth finger of her right hand, and he doesn't say the words he said as a kid, because it's too real now, too much, and too close to something that could potentially, maybe someday, actually be true. Or whatever.
She leans forward and wraps her arms around him, and he closes his eyes for a second. "Thank you," she whispers.
He kisses her cheek as he pulls away, just because.
She looks so good that he finds himself almost forgetting the task at hand and checking her out instead. Her dress is tight and short, and her hair is down and really blonde from the summer sun, and have her legs always been that long? How's a guy supposed to pay attention to a poker game when he's sitting next to this girl? He honestly doesn't know how she loses, how she's not a distraction to all the other guys at the table.
He knows she's with Carter or whatever, and that he really shouldn't be using her like this. And he knows that whatever feelings he has for her aren't just because of how she looks in that dress.
When she goes to see him, it's because she needs his help. Not just help, his help. He'll listen and not judge (she thinks) and he'll probably give her a little of that special kind of advice he has. It's interesting, really, the way he speaks to her. He's firm, no nonsense, but he's not too blunt or too mean (meaning, he's not Chuck or Blair). She needs him. He's probably one of two or three people she'll ever admit to needing.
She walks in without knocking, and he's standing there, looking out the window and talking on his phone, and she finds herself biting her lip just a little, because no matter what, if they're speaking or not, or if she needs his help or they're just hanging out, he always looks good. She's not even going to pretend that's not the case. She looks him up and down just as he's turning to look at her, and she wonders if he's noticed. She's never cared before; she's not going to start now.
Then they've had enough to drink that they start getting nostalgic and they start reminiscing, and he's saying words that she's literally hanging off of. She can't stop looking at him, blinking dazedly, because has he always been this gorgeous? He toys nervously with an empty shot glass as he confesses how he felt (though there's something about the way he says the words that makes her think that he still feels it). She leans forward a little, repeats it as a question, and when he answers, he's making her heart feel the way she's always wanted him to make it feel.
He leans forward, and she swears she might scream or something, because there's no way this is happening, and all she thinks she wants is to reach out and grab that sweater of his and pull him closer.
She doesn't know why she leaves, but she thinks it might be something about too much (again). And maybe something about being totally scared that they could really have a chance, and not trusting herself not to fuck it up.
He walks into the suite one day and she's standing in the kitchen, a Starbucks cup in hand as she leafs through an L.L. Bean catalogue, for some reason or another. She's wearing a silver satin slip that hits her mid-thigh, with skinny straps and lace trim at the top and bottom. One leg is bent, the tips of her toes touching the floor. As his eyes make their way up her body (he's stopped hiding it, really, since she basically moved in after the accident), he notices the curve at the small of her back, how smooth her skin looks. Her hair is down, and it hits the middle of her back, and he wonders how in the world any one girl can be so much.
In short, she looks insanely gorgeous, and the way she smiles when she notices him makes him feel like he's about 12 years old again. "Hey," he says casually, as casually as he can when he's been holding back what he really wants from her since December. "What's up?"
"Look how cute this is. Isn't this cute?" she asks, pointing to a pink and white striped zip-up hoodie. "It's cute. I think I'm gonna buy it." She looks at him blankly when he starts laughing. "What?"
"Serena, really? A catalogue? What would Blair say?"
She rolls her eyes and flicks her wrist. "When have I ever listened to Blair?"
He laughs, because that's true. Blair may be bossy, but Serena never really fell under those rules. "So, still in your pajamas at 3:00 in the afternoon. You've had a productive day."
"I have!" she says seriously. "I...I sorted the mail, and I made the bed." He raises his brow. "Oh! And, I went to Starbucks!"
"Wearing that?" he almost yells, looking her up and down again.
"I put on a coat," she says, shrugging her shoulder. He sighs and shakes his head, because he has no clue how she does that. And he hates that he's not around sometimes to watch out for her when she does something so crazy. "How was class?"
She takes a sip of her drink, and there's a little bit of foam on her upper lip that's making him a little crazy. He could wipe her lip, or he could tell her, or he could just wait for her to figure it out, but he's tired of talking, and he's tired of waiting. It's been a month and a half of this, of pretending things weren't said and things weren't done. Actually, it's been a lifetime of it.
He just walks around the counter and places his hand on her cheek, and he kisses her before she has a chance to tell him not to. When he feels her smiling against his lips and moving closer so she's pressed up against him, he figures she doesn't really mind.
When he slips his hand into her hair, the only thing she can think is that she doesn't know why they haven't been doing this all along. She's practically been waiting for this, hoping for it, actually, and she's been scared that she messed up her chances with him when she walked away that night at the bar. Maybe she should have known that wasn't the case when she woke up in a hospital room and he was sleeping there in an uncomfortable chair, just to be near her. And he feels so good, his lips on hers and him holding her close to him.
It's not long before they're in his room and her slip is pushed up around her stomach, and neither of them stops to talk about anything, because they don't need to talk; not right now, anyway.
He kisses her neck, then works his way down to her stomach, and she's full on laughing as she runs her hands through his hair.
He looks up at her, unsure of whether he should be offended, or smile because she's happy. "What?" he asks, his breathing ragged (and he can feel the stupid smile on his face).
"Took you long enough," she giggles.
His jaw drops, which only makes her laugh harder, and when she tips her head back a little, he nuzzles her neck and pulls down the straps of her slip. "Took you long enough," he mutters.
Maybe it's a childish tactic (it reminds him of when they were younger, and they'd laughingly shout "I know you are, but what am I?" at one another). Maybe it's childish, but he thinks it makes sense anyway.
She starts wearing that little ring on her right hand only a few weeks into their relationship. She doesn't tell him, doesn't make any big deal about it at all, just pulls it out of her jewelry box and slips it on one day when he's at school. He doesn't say anything about it either, but he kisses her knuckles when he notices, and he thinks she's blushing when Blair asks her about the ring over dinner. Blair thinks the story is adorable, and Chuck sips his scotch like he's waiting for the next topic of conversation, but he's still smiling into his glass.
They're invited to a charity event, one they both actually want to go to, and she buys a green dress and very cutely tells him that she wanted it to match the ring that she doesn't want to take off.
All night long, people compliment her on her dress, and Nate runs his thumb over the ring as her hand sits on his arm.
He's so in love with her. She knows it. Though he hasn't said the words, he hasn't been incredibly subtle about it, either. She realizes for the first time, as they sit in the back of the limo at the end of the night, that she wants him to say it to her.
She wants to say it back.
A week later, they're in bed and he's looking at her laying in his arms. Her hand is on his chest, and the only thing she's got on is that ring. When he tells her he loves her, she takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, and she holds onto him a little tighter. She's climbing onto his lap and the sheet is falling off her body when she says the words, clearer than she's ever said anything.
"Nate, I love you."
This isn't like them, the colour red. They're lighter than this, softer tones, cooler ones.
But the walls are red and they make her skin look pinker, and when he pushes the skirt of her dress upward, she giggles and it sounds sexier. It sounds more passionate, heavier, somehow.
They're 25, and they're engaged, and they were supposed to all get together, but Chuck and Blair canceled at the last minute, so they found themselves sitting at the bar at the Empire alone together.
Nate and Serena in a quiet bar. Foreshadowing, if there ever was such a thing. She found herself sitting closer to him, chin in her palm and him speaking so close that his breath hit her cheek. The glass holding her fourth martini was empty, and all she could breathefeelsee was Nate, and she kissed him, lips pressing against his that way they always did, the way that let her know that Nate's kisses are what kisses should feel like.
They could have made it to their place on the Upper East Side, the one they bought last year, but Serena was pressed up against him and asking "where's the fun in that?" and he didn't really have an answer. And he wanted her so bad (always has) that they made their way to the lobby, and he fumbled with his credit card and got them a suite on the 21st floor.
Red walls and slate grey linens. Her blue dress and Nate's white shirt. None of it goes together, but that's why it does. The beauty of them has always been that they don't need, don't want, perfect. They never needed matching clothes, and if it happened, it was coincidence.
She giggles when his hand grazes the side of her stomach where she's always been ticklish. He grins, lands himself between her legs and brushes his nose against hers.
The red on the walls disappears because all he can see is her.