"Hey Natie," she whispers into his ear one hazy summer night in Central Park as the sun sets, "let's go."
Serena smiles at the eagerness in his voice, bites her lower lip and stares up at him through her long lashes.
"Okay," he says with a nod because he'd follow her anywhere.
The next morning, at exactly 10 am, Serena comes storming into his room in denim cut-offs and a filmy peach tank top, aviators resting on the top of her head and her suitcase in one hand.
"Wake up sleepyhead! There are places to go, and people to see, drinks to be drank. Drunk? Dranken?"
"'S too early for grammer."
Serena plops down on the bed next to him, and suddenly he's staring directly into her large navy eyes and he takes a deep breath so he can focus. He sits up and rubs his eyes, and Serena admits to herself that he's adorable.
"Ok," another deep breath here on Nate's part, "what exactly is going on?"
"Remember? We're going. Last night?"
"Yeah, I thought you meant go home. Which, you know, we did."
"No silly, I rented a car. We're taking a road trip!"
"Well of course. Why didn't I think we were going on a cross country road trip?" He smiles really big as he rubs his hand over the back of his head.
This is the part he equally loves and hates about her. He loves the way her face lights up when she talks about away; it makes her cheek flush with excitement and her lashes flutter in a certain way. He hates how easily the words leave and away roll off her tongue, how she's able to pick up and go while he's by himself watching her do so. He figures this is his one chance to finally go with her.
"Help me pack?"
His heart flutters when her smile grows even wider.
Serena's feet are up on the dash of the rented candy-red Toyota Camry, toes painted turquoise and chipped on her left big toe.
"So explain to me, if this big road trip was your idea, why I'm the one driving?"
"Because one of us needs to deejay, and you, my dear, have terrible taste in music," she pauses and takes a gulp of water, "also, you have your license."
Nate scoffs in mock offense, lightly punches Serena on her bare, sun-tanned arm but keeps his eyes fixed on the road.
"So you're using me huh? I've gotta admit it hurts."
Out of the side of his eye he can see her stick her tongue out at him so he rolls his eyes at her.
"Well o wise one, where am I driving to?"
Before she answers, she opens a bag of Skittles and roots through the bag to find all the orange ones.
"Okay, crazy," he mutters teasingly and this time she hits him, "but seriously S, where are we going?"
She's started on the yellows when she says, "I don't know. The OC? I love that show."
And Nate laughs because of course Serena would decide to take a cross-country road trip on a whim to visit a place she loves from a TV show.
"Ok. Do we have a plan?"
She cocks her head towards him, finishing the last of the purples, eyes squinted and lips pursed.
"Of course not Natie. Duhhh. That's more than half the fun. Now, on to my superior music taste. This is going to be legen-, wait for it,"
Nate cuts her off before she can finish, imitating their favorite New York playboy (don't tell Chuck) Barney Stinson.
She pouts a little but plays the song. 'Semi-Charmed Life' by Third Eye Blind and when she sings along Nate pretends her voice is hurting his ears.
"I want a philly cheesesteak."
So they go to Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia, Nate eats a philly cheesesteak and Serena tries to ring the Liberty Bell.
Security is not pleased. She talks her way out of it with a breathy explanation and a flip of her hair.
The pull over into a 24 hour diner sometime around three in the morning, and by this time Serena has put off on one of his sweatshirts and pulled her hair up into a messy bun, and Nate's rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
"Wake up sleepy."
"Easy for you to say," he says somewhat grudgingly, "you just took a three hour nap."
"Well I'll write you an 'I O U' for three hours of sleep, don't worry. C'mon look at how cute this place is."
Her enthusiasm is endless, even at three in the morning at a kind of gross diner, so Nate allows himself to be dragged along into a red vinyl booth and he listens absentmindedly to the 'Happy Days' rerun playing on the TV in the corner.
"Mmmm, Nate I want pancakes. Or waffles. Or French toast. Or maybe eggs and toast. And bacon! Oh man, I want lots of bacon."
She peeks at him over the top of her menu, watches the way he's still rubbing sleep out of his eyes and rubbing at his shoulders. He has nice arms. Just an offhand statement about someone she cares very deeply about. But not in a romantic sense or anything. Just friends.
Nate catches her staring and he sticks his tongue out at her.
"You know what I just realized? Chuck and Blair are gonna be pissed."
"Oh please, this gives them more time to have make-up sex all over the place. An image that I don't want in my head."
"Yeah, me too."
They are interrupted by a waitress, an older brunette named Candice.
"Honey, you-" and that's where she points the pen at Nate's perfect face, "can call me Candi," and she winks at Nate while Serena tries to stifle her laughter behind the oversized menu.
"Uh ok Candi, can we just get one coffee black and one with three creams and two sugars. And then an order of pancakes, French toast, and a side order of bacon. Thanks."
"No problem sugar."
"I think we should name her," Serena says with her right foot dangling out of the window and a can of sweating Sprite in her hand.
They decided they'd stick solely to vintage music, nothing they've heard on the radio in the last six or seven years, so 'Here Comes the Sun' is drifting through the cars speakers and Serena's humming the melody.
"The car. She deserves a name, taking a trip as epic as ours."
"Well why do you think it's a her?"
"Because she's bright, candy apple red. I like the name Katie. Katie the Camry."
"Nah, she's too special for Katie. What about Calypso?"
"Nathaniel Archibald that's the best idea you've had all trip."
He's not sure where he got the name from, just that it was settled somewhere in the back of his brain from the unit on Greek Mythology in World Literature and the sight of Serena, tanned and spread out all over the front seat of the car, made him think of it.
Calypso the Camry is christened at a rest stop by the Pennsylvania-Maryland border with a bottle of Evian.
In DC, Serena sits on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at dusk, chin in hands, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
A couple tourists take pictures of her, assuming she's famous, and Nate takes one with his phone. It might be a trick, but it even looks like President Lincoln himself has one eye on Serena.
Nate sets the picture as his screensaver.
At the hotel, Nate looks up the driving distance from New York City to Orange County on his computer and the estimated driving time is 3-4 days. So far, it's been five days and they're only in some small town in North Carolina, but he wonders how long he can stretch this out for.
Serena's on the bed, dressed in his boxers and his t-shirt, soaking wet hair getting the pillows wet and channel surfing.
"Almost Famous is on! Get your cute ass in here Archibald and watch it with me."
So Nate gets on the bed with her, and lets her snuggle into his chest even though they're just friends and his shirt will get wet.
He's never seen it before, but she has, and whenever he looks down at her she's usually mouthing the words to certain lines.
On screen, Russell Hammond pleads to Penny Lane, "I'm never as good as when you're there," and Nate thinks there were never truer words spoken because Serena's half-asleep in his arms and she smells like sandalwood even though they've been on the road for five days already and she called his ass cute.
They fall asleep with smiles on their faces and each other in their arms.
The next morning, Serena declares her desire to go see New Orleans and dance in the middle of the French Quarter to jazz music at night with the stars overhead.
"That's very…specific." Nate manages to say before bursting into laughter and Serena playfully flips him off before stating that he obviously won't be the one she dances with.
"Who says I even wanted to dance with you huh?"
If Serena's smile falters a little at his statement, then Nate doesn't notice, so Serena pretends it never happened and orders breakfast.
"Well if you want to go to New Orleans, I want to go to Memphis."
They shake hands properly before he pulls her into a hug and kisses the top of her head; Serena grasps Nate's t-shirts and smells his Eau D'Orange Verte cologne before finishing packing.
Tennessee is glorious. Nate revels in the heat, the music seemingly drifting from every inch of the city, the permeneant smell of barbeque in the air.
They eat ribs and try five different kinds of beers and use four packets of Wet Ones each to get rid of all the sauce in between fingers and on faces.
Walking down the street, hands entwined like they have been all trip, Serena ducks into a record store because Rufus still lectures her on the superiority of vinyl and she wants to grab something for him.
She doesn't end up getting him anything, instead Nate ends up leaving the store with a collection of 90's hip hop and the Clash for himself, and a Fleetwood Mac album that Serena was eyeing.
"You think Rufus can help me find all the equipment I need to pimp out my stereo system?"
"I think he'd be overjoyed. I'm going to the little girls room real quick, k?"
Nate's phone rings almost right after she leaves, and he knows it's Chuck by the 'Drop It Like It's Hot' ringtone.
"Well if it isn't the newest Upper East Side expatriate. What're you doing?"
Nate doesn't know how to answer the question, because he really isn't sure himself.
"We're seeing the world, Chuck. There's more to it than five star hotels and cities in Europe."
"Yeah okay. How's my sister?"
"She's….fine. I mean, she's good. Great, actually. You know, just the usual, normal Serena."
"Well that was incredibly inarticulate, even for you."
"Fuck off, man. You're starting to sound like Blair."
"Care to make a wager Nathaniel?"
Serena walks up soon after, steals the phone away from Nate and screams, "We're safe and having fun. Leave us alone!" before hanging up and skipping back towards the car.
Nate admires her butt in the yellow dress, and follows shortly after.
The next gas station stop, Nate fills up the tank while Serena buys snacks.
When she comes back out, her arms are filled with Doritos, Clif bars, Starburst, Gatorade and Cosmic brownies. She opens the handle of the door with her toes and dumps all the goodies into a plastic bin they bought at a Target in Virginia a week ago.
"Cosmic brownies are without a doubt the most delicious Little Debbie snack in the world."
"Whoa there van der Woodsen. That's a bold claim. How could you ignore the all-powerful oatmeal creme pies?"
The next morning, Nate wakes up to a box of oatmeal creme pies on his pillow.
New Orleans is a haze of humidity, Cajun food, and Saints fans.
The only thing Serena really remembers is the feel of her fingers in Nate's hair when they danced on the sidewalk in the French Quarter to the sound of Louis Armstrong at night underneath the stars.
When a truck driver yells out his window to get a room, Nate blushes and pulls away so Serena follows his lead and they get in the car and drive to the nearest hotel.
Somewhere in Texas (it might be Dallas or it might be Houston) Nate buys a straw cowboy hat and refuses to take it off. Serena buys a battered pair of cowboy boots at the flea market and she sets her camera to self-timer in order to get a picture of the two of them being cowboys in the empty parking lot of the motel.
After a night of tequila shots, he leans against a building on a street corner and looks off into the distance.
Serena can't tell if he's doing it on purpose but she frames him with her fingers and presses down on an imaginary button to keep the image of him like this, smiley and young and beautiful and unaware, forever in her mind.
"Come on, cowboy. I'm starving and I want ice cream."
Nate looks at her from underneath the brim of that stupid hat and she catches her breath before proclaiming the pros and cons of cookie dough versus mint chip.
There's a secondhand bookstore in Albuquerque that Serena wants to get lost in. She's never been much of a reader, preferring to skim over glossy fashion magazines while Blair does the heavy reading and Nate only ever reads ESPN or Sports Illustrated.
Still, she sits in a large wicker chair in the store reading a copy of Peter Pan that once belonged to 'Willa, the most beautiful girl I know who will never grow up'. She buys it along with a copy of The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, and several pens.
During this time, Nate strolls in and out of several hippie, New Age stores. He finds one selling crystals, buys Serena a pretty rose quartz pendant on a delicate gold chain and slips it around her neck while she's reading.
When they're back in the car, Nate picks a Bruce Springsteen CD and Serena re-reads all the books she was supposed to have read in high school, leaving notes in all the margins.
Peter leaves Wendy and Serena's eyes dart over to meet Nate's gaze.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
"No reason," she says shyly and makes a note about the empathy the reader feels for Peter in between the lines of prose.
"We're almost there, you know."
Serena sighs heavily, always the drama queen, and says, "Yes I know," with the most sadness he's heard in a while.
"I don't want it to be over," she says with a little shrug and he wants to kiss the star-shaped freckle on her left shoulder.
"Yeah me either."
Serena stares at Nate's profile, drinking in the most handsome features she's ever seen and sighs again because in the real world (this non-road trip world), Nate and her don't ever spend this much time together.
"This momentously sad occasion, the end of our road trip, needs a sad song."
Nate glances at Serena as she furtively picks a song from a playlist on his iPod, playfully scolding him when she catches him looking.
A couple seconds later, 'End of the Road' pours out of stereo system and Boyz II Men begin to strongly emote in perfect harmonies.
"This is strangely fitting."
"Yeah, I thought so."
Serena lays her head on Nate's shoulder and they listen to the rest of the song in silence.
When they get to Orange County, Serena firmly plants her toes in the sand and wiggles them, drawing hearts in the sand.
Nate stands next to her, notices her toes are neon purple now, and takes her hand.
She kisses him first and the sun sets behind them.
"Chuck owes me fifty bucks," he murmurs onto her lips and he can feel her smile against his.
"And why is that?" Her hands are moving down and settle in the belt loops of his pants and it's very distracting.
"He didn't think you'd be able to control yourself until we got here."
She pushes him away, offended, for about thirty seconds before she fists his t-shirt in her hand and brings him even closer than before to keep kissing.
"We still get to drive back."
AN: So this was mostly inspired by my first viewing of Elizabethtown. I loved that, so I churned this out and finally broke out of the crippling grasp of writer's block. I'm so excited for real life NS that I can't stand it. Anyways, I hope you liked this! PLEASE REVIEW.