A/N: Inspired by the amazing Dalal's (atastefortragedy /youfadesofast LJ) "The Way I Loved You" and innumerable convos. with my girl, wee birdy. A remix, so to speak, of the original story; this takes place post-S3 and J starts the torture so Natie gets to suffer. Check out the fantastic original story here: .net/s/5268777/1/The_Way_I_Loved_You

As always, much love to my readers/reviewers!

She dances with anyone, everyone who asks. And there are many.

(don't, won't let him just take the place of me)

Paris leaves her fresh-faced, glowing; bubbly Little J is nowhere to be found.

(does he really know you like I know you, all the little things?)

Queen J is mature, reserved, hard.

(cause I've already bled so much for you)

She takes what she wants and makes sure Gossip Girl knows it.

Her first week back she is spotted at Butter, at Tyler Rockefeller's loft party, at a Tisch underground art show, at a frat house on Columbia's glorious campus

(and her skirts skim her thighs and the leggings are long gone and the necklines make him want to punch everyone with eyes.)

She arrives home ten minutes before curfew each time and her father believes she has truly changed.

(And she has.)

She is in control this time. He will see what she wants him to see.

And each time Gossip Girl blasts the evidence city-wide.

(Her smile does not crack. Her voice does not falter.)

The game has changed.

She shows up with five different guys in just as many days. Jenny stares straight into the flash as wannabes snap photos.

(Her eyes are cold, her simper stale.)

They don't speak but it's a battle of a thousand words.

(this is turning into way more than a game)

The initial shock wears off a week in, and every night thereafter, there is a matching blast

(and his eyes are glazed and his blazer is missing and his hand on that blonde makes her want to cut everyone she sees.)

The details change but the message is the same.

(we're soldiers in a war and none of us are backing down)

She is seen with Jesse on Tuesday at Touch, her leg anchored over his hip on the dance floor.

He is spotted with Laila on Wednesday at Sweet Cherry, his tongue rallying for her tonsils, tucked into a booth.

(What's the point of fighting?)

And it escalates.

(We'll all end up with scars.)

By Christmas she can't remember their names and he is in danger of failing Intro to Art History

(and cirrhosis)

And still no one is talking and still Dan is afraid to bring it up and Chuck knows precisely where this will end and keeps his mouth shut.

(At night, in the dark, Blair laughs that perhaps she passed too much down to Jenny Humphrey. And Chuck will smile, though he can taste the bitterness in her words, but pull her imperceptibly closer, because he is not stupid and he remembers.)

And the war does not stop.

By New Year's Eve Justin has lasted two weeks

(and Nate sulks, and drowns his sorrows in a brunette, but it helps when Blair breezes to Chuck one morning over breakfast, "What kind of name is Justin? Justin and Jenny? Please, that just sounds stupid. It'll never last," even if she does sneak a look at Nate while she says it.)

and he makes a silly, sweet toast at a silly, stuffy party and he puts a ring on Jenny's finger

(right in front of Nate)

and he calls it a promise but Nate calls it bullshit and he burns.

(it's already going too far)

She has won this battle but he will win the next.

And the war does not stop.

For Valentine's Day, Chuck (Blair) throws a black-tie gala at the Empire and everyone is invited.

(And Blair raises an eyebrow when Chuck writes out Jenny's with a 'plus one' because she knows where this is going, but she knows precisely where this will end and keeps her mouth shut.)

And Chuck is not sure how either of them became soldiers of the Archibald-Humphrey cause but he knows what is better for them even if they don't so he works without thinking on it too hard.

Nate brings a plus one that has lasted exactly 45 days

(and sorely tempts Chuck Bass' self-control, but Scotch and Blair ease the urge to wrap his fingers around Nathaniel's neck)

and slides a ring on her finger

(right in front of Jenny)

and he calls it an engagement but Blair calls him an asshole and Jenny slips out to the balcony and he forgets all about Sheila and follows.

(I'm not prepared to lose.)

They've always been just as good at tearing each other down as picking each other up and he doesn't know when it became better to be enemies than strangers but he likes knowing she feels something when his name crosses her mind, even if it is something awful.

He finds her in the night air, ring-less hands wrapped around the railing like a life preserver, and he expects tears and curses and fists but he gets, "Congratulations" and it stings worse than he dreamed it could.

(I don't want to fight this kind of war)

She leaves, and the war does not stop.

Nate gets reality-bendingly high one night soon after.

He tells Sheila he has a paper to write and tells Chuck he'll be back later, finds a club, and drinks everything he can reach.

He knows he did because there are pictures, and one (excellent, in Chuck's words) amateur video.

He is sure that he danced with a blonde last night, he remembers hanging onto her hips like a lifeline; sure that he kissed her, desperately, like a starving man. He remembers her hands in his hair, fingers fisted in his shirt; can feel the wall behind him, her teeth on his neck, his mouth.

He is sure it happened because he woke up on the couch this morning with bruises on his shoulder blades and a tender spot below his bottom lip and hickeys that don't belong to Sheila and he smells like Jenny.

(He is positive it happened when Chuck appears in the kitchen to retrieve coffee and says "Good morning, Nathaniel?" but it is not a question, and there's that smarmy smirk.)

He calls Jenny

(and wonders if someone else might answer her phone this early in the morning but it is too late to hang up and it is already ringing)

and asks what in the hell they did last night.

(and thanks God there is not a man's voice on the line)

She asks him if he's high but he tells her everything he remembers and she tells him he's crazy and Chuck is still conspicuously pouring coffee in the kitchen.

"I'm not imagining things, Jenny!" Nate exclaims, and there is desperation in his voice and when he says her name like it is all he has she wants to scream but instead she tells him, "Wishing doesn't make it real, Nate."

(and she sounds perfectly flippant, perfectly unconcerned)

And hangs up.

He stares at Chuck in the kitchen who is finally sipping his perfectly concocted java and still smirking and wonders if he can get Blair to help him cover up the dark hickeys that dip under the collar of his shirt and go low enough.

Twelve hours later Rufus finds out about every boy-toy, every exploit, every short skirt, and grounds Jenny. Her father refuses to give up his source but Eric is a resourceful best-friend and all it takes is a call to big brother Chuck and he returns in under five minutes with only one word to say. "Nate."

(And she'd known it all along.)

She doesn't know what to do because she's grounded and she wants to kill him with her bare hands.

It turns out she doesn't have to do a thing.

Sheila stops by to see how the paper is coming along and Chuck lets her in while Nate is half-dressed with Blair covering the tracks of his lost night in concealer and she takes one look at the mottled skin and leaves Nate with a fresh, red welt across his cheek.

Gossip Girl captures the entire dramatic exit with Sheila running across the lobby crying and Nate trailing with his shirt half-on and flashing love bites for the world to see.

She is gone and he waits for the pain but it never comes

(and Jenny won't win this battle)

because he doesn't care.

He is numb for awhile.

But finally she is free from grounding and he sees her leaving Chuck's apartment one morning with fabric samples from Blair as he comes back from a run and he can't catch his breath and he can't figure out how to make his feet move so he can leave the elevator until Chuck prompts him with a, "Nathaniel, your breakfast is getting cold," and Blair rolls her eyes.

Jenny never says two words and Nate stops at the liquor store on his way home from class that night. Somehow he winds up at the Van der Bass-Humphrey apartment and he's screaming and he's drunk as fuck and it's two in the morning and he doesn't give a shit because he just wants her to talk to him again.

He calls her name until one of the tenants threatens to call the cops and he's just about to tell Mr. Neighborhood Watch where to get off when Jenny opens her window and peers down at him sleepily.

He's got nothing left and he tells her so. Holds his arms out, wide open and asks, "Are you happy now?" but his voice breaks and his eyes are hollow and his laugh is hoarse and he doesn't know what he's doing.

He drops the bottle and glass sprays the sidewalk.

When he leaves, Jenny shatters too.

Their war is at a stalemate.

But it is Spring and the city is blooming and the gala circuit kicks off with a ball for the New York Philanthropic Society.

Nate takes a redhead who doesn't make him want to kiss her in a crowded room and Jenny shows up with Justin who wouldn't be caught dead in a rickety old van.

He watches Justin watch Jenny as she works her way around the room, making polite, proper, Upper East Sider conversation with each socialite; recognizes the hunger in Justin's eyes and digs blunt fingernails into his palms. He excuses himself from small talk with Senator Gillibrand and moves off to lose himself in his date. He catches sight of her near the bar but comes up short

(—he won't play this game again—)

and asks her to dance instead.

Jenny and her horny little partner sweep past them a few times as the couples move to the music and Nate doesn't think he's looked at his date once since the song started. Jenny's gown is the color of her eyes and he wants to fist his hands in her hair.

(And maybe Justin's face.)

Eventually Justin moves Jenny towards their table to breathe and sip water but his hand lingers on her back as they walk away and it inches lower and he dips his head to kiss her neck and Nate has to release his date before he bruises her and excuse himself.

Jenny's chair is in full view of the floor and he sees Justin's hand make a (tasteless) playful excursion up her thigh and feels something physically snap inside him.

He doesn't know where his date is and he can't think anymore so he just acts and makes it across the room in a few strides.

He's not sure how she winds up in front of him but he's holding on.

He kisses her and it doesn't bruise but it consumes and now they both burn.

When he finally pulls away, she is smiling at him.

(and he can hear Chuck mumble something that sounds like, "Jenny look" and Blair seems to agree but Nate doesn't know what that means and lets it go)

They dance, and Gossip Girl blows up phones across the city.

And so the war ends.

A/N: Music credit goes to Jay Sean's "War". Again, all credit for this storyline goes to Dalal. Without her amazing fic, "The Way I Loved You", this one wouldn't exist. Summary quote by Dorothy Rothschild Parker.

As always, comments/reviews are welcome!