A/N: Why do I always feel the need to write Dair angst when I'm in a good mood?

He stays with her until her eyelids flutter closed and she falls away, slipping into the peaceful bliss of her dream-world. He doesn't know what fills her dreams. He wonders if he could find out if he stayed long enough, watched her long enough as her hands uncurl themselves from his shirt and drop onto the pillow; he could understand everything there was to understand.

But he knows he's seen far too much, and if he's still there when she awakes, there will be consequences. And he's always been good at dealing with what he's due, come what may, but he doesn't want to fight this battle.

She's asleep by the time he slips out of the door, quiet as a mouse. She won't have known he had gone.

He begins to understand his purpose for her gradually. He's not an idiot, but he's also been trying to see the best in her; the two parts of him struggle in a constant war, raging in the confines of his mind. And so it is: he understands.

"Maybe we'll head to that... brunch, at Serena's." It's an offhanded, flippant statement, and she pretends to shrug it carelessly off her shoulders. She doesn't look directly at him - she's a good liar, but not that good.

And he opens his mouth to say something, anything, to help her with the charade. He's good at playing along.

But she's not looking at him still, and even when she does, he know she's seeing someone else in his eyes. The words he doesn't say sit bitter on his tongue and burn down his throat as he swallows them.

They are better left sealed in his body.

She never gets too close to him, if she can help it. They stand at least an arm-length apart when possible, keeping their respective distances. She claims it's because she thinks she's coming down with the flu, but he sees right through that lie, too.

And this time the words claw up his throat and he spills them: "I'd like to be able to be closer to you."

She starts at that, and he doesn't know why, but she steps closer and their shoulders brush, just a little, as they walk. It's another well-concealed lie, a skit they're putting on before the world.

No one knows but them that it's only a show.

Advance, retreat. Step forward, pull back.

It's a dance they do, and they do it so well.

She comments to him in the morning, just before noon, that there's a signing of her favorite book down at the library. And for once, he thinks she's making plans just for them, and not out of hopes they'd run into...

Well, Dan doesn't speak of that. It stays in his mind.

They go, doing their dance the entire way, with their shoulders brushing only a little, their steps uneven with each other. That's how it will always be; uncoordinated and unfitting, like ballroom dancers without rhythm. They'll never get their sync quite right.

She makes a point to lace her fingers through his as they wait in line.

And for a moment, he thinks he could've won. For a moment, he thinks she has given up on her chase, and could finally...


But Dan is never the optimist, and he's proven wrong when he sees a face peering just above the crowd. And it makes his mouth sour and his throat sting, but what can he do? He can do nothing. He steps closer (just a little) and she falters in their dance, allows him to press against her.

There is a challenge in Chuck's eyes. Dan has lost the battle before it had begun.

She fidgets uncomfortably next to him and it's that tiny movement that makes him snap, that brief shift in her posture. That's when he decides he can't lie (not to himself, not with her) anymore and he stands up with his hands in his pockets and -

"I think I'm gonna go." He looks at the floor, the ceiling, the wall (anywhere but at her).

She blinks up at him. Her eyes are blank and curious; there is no pain, there is no regret, there is no nothing. He raves that she might not even be human, to not understand what she's put him through. She must not even have a heart.

But he's felt it beating before, he's heard it beating in cacophonous silence - he knows it exists.

His own heart skips a beat, and another, and another, until he thinks his heart had stopped altogether.

"Why?" she asks him. She is so calm and stoic as she speaks; not even a tremor is present in her voice. He feels it's a justification, of sorts; he feels it must be an explanation for everything. How could she possibly care? There is a brief pause. Then: "You could... stay."

A part of him appreciates the effort, the attempt at maintaining normalcy. But he can't pretend - he's pretended for so long, and now he's just so exhausted. She continues to bat her eyelashes innocently, and she continues to tell the world there's nothing wrong. She's wears such a beautiful mask.

He doesn't meet her gaze (he refuses to). "Don't lie." And he's too wretched to even raise his voice a bit more.

She says nothing more, makes not a sound (because perhaps she's tired of lying, too).