"You don't belong in our world, little J."

She wants nothing more but to belong. She wants to be part of it, to understand every crevice of it, to love the fashion and the gossip. She wants to be queen. Her blood thrums urgently with this want, this need, and she knows she must have it. It's precious to her. Every article of clothing she meticulously sews will never rise up to the quality of Prada. It's all she cares about.

She thrusts her lip forward and sets her jaw. Her eyes are hard and defiant. "I'll prove you wrong," she declares stubbornly, imagining nothing better but to do so. "I'll become queen one day."

Fast forward.

"Stay with me," says Nate, his eyes pleading. They're such a magnificent blue, wide with worry and begging; he doesn't want her to leave. He holds her hands in his own. They're warm and firm and lovely.

She wants nothing more but to stay. She wishes she could smile at him, stretch a genuine grin across her features and kiss him again, but her conscience tugs hurriedly at her. It tells her to care. It tells her to feel remorse. She has to follow Vanessa.

It's the worst mistake she's ever made in her life.

Keep going. Zoom through the boring stuff.

"You're not who I thought you were."

She closes her eyes and prays to a deity she doesn't believe in. Give me strength, give me his forgiveness, give me something. She wants to grab his hand, force him to stay; don't let him make the mistake she made such a short time ago.

But she stares after him. She keeps looking, searching for something in his eyes that she once saw. It's not there anymore. Or if it is, it's for Vanessa; every part of it, every speck of adoration and kindness, belongs to her.

She keeps looking.

There's nothing to be found.

Rufus marries Lily. She has her wish. She's one of Them, part of the Upper East Side like she's always dreamed. She wears designer clothes that she doesn't need to steal; she has money. She has perfection. She has the crown.

She doesn't have Nate.

But that's another story.

"Do you want to?"

Does she want to fuck Damian?

It's a question she doesn't know the answer to. No, that's not exactly it - a part of her wants to, for she knows it'll make him stay. She doesn't love him - her heart is a guarded place since that one night so long ago - but she thinks it'd be such a wonderful thing if he loved her. What a thought, someone loving her without needing to. She wants to have his affection. So she wants to seal the deal. To make him stay.

But her heart says it isn't right. She says no. It's important. She doesn't want to do it right now. It's not right.

"Goodbye, Jenny Humphrey."

She cries because he never loved her. She cries because she's still lonely little J. Everyone was right about her all along.

She starts to wish she was back in Brooklyn.

Chapter skip.

Eric's judging eyes. He's looking at her like she's something he's never seen before, and he doesn't like it, like the way Blair stares at a Brooklynite. His jaw clicks and his steps are precise, each movement a harsh, loud clap of thunder.

Rufus's face is hateful. "How could you?" Disappointment, anger, everything she's never wanted to see in his eyes - it's all there.

Lily says nothing. Does Lily understand?

No one understands.

"No one's forcing you to stay."

And so she runs. Her heels hit the pavement with sharp thuds. Her breathing slows as she glances up at the penthouse. She doesn't want to be there - she's still wary around Chuck - but she has to. She's burned every bridge with her adopted family.

"I didn't know you'd be here."

Her lip trembles and her eyes water. The way he looks at her, the critical way he stares, his eyes burning cold fire into her skin - it's all wrong. It shouldn't be like this. She should still be running her fingertips through his hair, kissing him, loving him. He should be loving her.

He takes deliberate footsteps towards her. She wants to cry. Please, she begs; please don't make him turn me away. The way his jaw sets makes her believe he will. She holds her head high.

He lets her stay.

She wants to hug him, but he's far away from her, too far to follow, staring off into the distance at a lost Serena van der Woodsen.

He'll never truly look at her the same way.

"Everybody hates me."

"I have no one."

"What's wrong with me?"

(Nate once told her, there's nothing wrong with you. She believed him. She's such a fucking idiot.)

She wonders if anyone would miss her if she's gone. She wonders if she just disappeared, never to be seen again, no Gossip Girl alerts, nothing - she wonders if anyone would even notice. Rufus has Lily. Nate has Serena.

Eric has... a family.

She's lost it all. Of course, it's her fucking fault; everthing's always her fault.

What a cowardly thing to do, to run.

(She does it anyway. Coward. Coward. Coward.)

Rewind. Rewind. Keep going back, back, back.

"Who wants waffles?" Alison grins from behind the stove, mixing the batter while humming a short, blissful tune. The air is singed with the smell of cinnamon and warmth. She's only thirteen this time. She's only a child.

Dan blinks up from the book he's immersed in. "You know I do," he laughs, eyes kindling with such happiness. Rufus drops a plate onto the table in front of his son with flourish, passing the syrup.

She watches as Dan fills each tiny square. "Weirdo."

"Brat," he mumbles between bites. His eyes are smiling.

"Happy birthday, Jenny," giggles Alison, sliding a plate of waffles across. Spelled in disarray chocolate chips is her name, and a maraschino cherry is dropped haphazardly on the side of her plate. Dan passes the syrup.

They sing her a happy birthday. Everything is off-key, and she blushes uncomfortable under all the attention, but she basks in the contentment of the morning.

Fast forward.

"Happy birthday to me."

There's no one in the bus seat beside her.