Nate never knew what a daredevil Chuck was, but after the fourth girl in his little black book, Nate was sure he would catch something at the rate he was going. He was spoiled, he supposed, after years of Blair's soft milky skin and Serena's high gloss hair treatment every other week. He had come to expect a certain level of... quality from the girls he dated.
Was girl-snob even a thing?
After the fuckery that was last semester, he really thought that all he wanted was to get away from his friends for a while. It wasn't difficult, half of them weren't talking to each other, two of them he dated, and the rest are all related. It was supposed to be a summer of weed, girls, and basketball. Nothing complicated. Just all Nate, all the time.
Like most of his family though, Nate realized that he blossomed under the glowing affection of others. Look up 'extrovert' and he wouldn't be surprised to find the Vanderbilt family crest. Before he knew what he was doing, he had a plane ticket in one hand and a small carry-on in the other. He smiled at the pretty girl behind the tickets counter and checked out his own reflection in the metal bar behind her. The blurred silver figure looking back at him was dressed for Paris, all right, with his neatly combed hair a khaki colored blazer. One did not date Blair Waldorf for years without learning how to dress appropriately for all occasions.
"Merci." The flight attendant blushed as she handed him his drink. It was nice to know he still had it.
Mr. Waldorf always loved Nate. Nate the Great, even after the two of them broke up. Certainly out of all their parents, he was the nicest, warmest of them all. Of course, he had to be the one who left.
After being welcomed into their home with open arms and setting down his things in the guest bedroom beside Blair and Serena's, Roman sent him on a walk down a charming cobblestone street to 'take in the culture.' All Nate took in was his ex-girlfriend, golden hair shining in the sun, French boys flocked to her side as she enjoyed a cappuccino. The corners of his mouth curved up woefully at the sight. It wasn't her fault - it was quintessentially Serena. Any other time, he would be one of those boys as well.
He walked by without her noticing. Things seem to have returned to normal. Some things - people - were only supposed to last a season and the legend of Nate and Serena was undoubtedly one of them.
A light breeze picked up and he shoved his hands in his pockets, feeling more like Holden Caulfield forever (of course, in Paris, of all places, even though he lived in New York). Despite what Blair thought, Nate did some reading in high school. Everyone read Catcher in the Rye. He could relate, even if Blair always turned her nose up from that book. He remembered she was all about The Great Gatsby sophomore year.
He wandered into a park, beautiful in its wilderness. Nothing was quite as trimmed as Central Park and Nate skimmed his fingers across the dark green leaves that poked out onto the pedestrian walkway from the trunks behind the knee-high rails.
She was wearing pristine white knee highs with a navy colored mini-skirt. Head down, hands fidgeting. This wasn't the girl he knew, but he did recognize her. That night at the reunion last year, in the back room of the Vanderbilt estate.
He sat down beside her wordlessly, hands still in his pockets, and looked out at the white walkways that lined the park. She shuffled her one inch heels into the sand beneath the feet and after fifteen minutes of silence, finally spoke. "Didn't know you were coming."
"Yea, it was a last minute thing." He leaned back and watched her spine, curved slightly forward in a defeated slouch. "Your dad's really cool about it though." After years of dating her with hardly anything in common, he had become used to their comfortable silence. "What'd you got there?"
Her hands fumbled, fingers criss crossed around each other and the tiny object in her hand fell into the sand. "It's nothing." He dusted it off. Her small, golden, tarnished heart.
"I said it's nothing." The pin nicked the pad of his thumb when she snatched it back. Her fingers once again preoccupied with the trinket. "How's Columbia?"
"It's great, you'll love it." And just like that, they fell back into their routine. He talked, she listened. Vanessa, Serena, Grandfather, Tripp, he unloaded it all on her and it rolled off her back like water. She was used to bigger problems and schemes than these. Her head, like the sun, grew weary and leaned against his shoulder. The weight was familiar and warm, the kind of burden that he didn't mind out of habit.
"Does your thumb still hurt?" She asked out of the blue.
He tried to tip his chin to look into her face, but their positioning made it impossible. "I'll live."
"Forget about it." The wind picked up again, rustling his hair and tickling his face with hers. "So you took it back from Chuck?"
"He never had it."
"I thought when you asked for it in the Hamptons-"
"-It was for Marcus. I was trying to make Chuck jealous." Nate nodded. That did sound like something Blair Waldorf would do. "I thought I was - that we were - too grown up for it, you know? Chuck and I - I thought we were more than just playing house. That he knew, or I knew, that we were..." She trailed off right when it was getting good.
"I don't know how to explain it. I guess I was over fairy tales, you know? I wanted the real thing but now. Now, I guess I realize that I do want the happy endings and the princes, as stupid as it seems."
"It's not stupid."
She nodded again, her voice thick with tears. "It is when I'm not that girl. I just..." He offered her a tissue. "I wanted to be the kind of girl worth waiting for. Not just fifteen minutes or twenty four hours just... as long as it takes because I was just that girl. But I-I'm just not."
There were no words he could offer her. After all, he couldn't wait either when they first started dating. The topic meandered to a more civil and neutral subject until he thought enough time had passed for the tear stains to dry. "It's getting late. We should head back. Roman was really excited about trying this one recipe."
She nodded, her hair tickling his neck before she raised herself up (as she always would). With the sun behind her, shining in his eyes, she was gorgeous. Angelic, even. With her big, soulful eyes always on the verge of tears, he could hardly help himself when he pulled her into his chest, held her little hands gripping onto his shirt. He felt her delicate spine as he soothed her back and when she pulled away, there was a moment. Just a single moment...
"I can't." She walked two steps away from him. "It's too soon. I'm sorry. I still-"
He nodded. It was a passing dream anyhow. "I get it. No worries." He offered her his arm and covered her small hands with his free palm when she accepted. "You're worth the wait."
Chuck, he could do whatever he wanted but Nate - well, he knew what he was always meant to do. Eventually, regardless of the steps he took, the road always led back to Blair Waldorf, her hand in his. It was only a matter of time.
A/N: Thoughts? Concerns? Cookies?