"park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me"
She washes, he dries.
It works because it's simple. Scrub one dish and hand it over, repeat.
And the banter isn't completely one sided, the verbal back and forth meeting somewhere in the middle. She insults, he retorts. He judges, she dismisses. Little by little, the job gets done. When it's over, the smiles on both their faces are neither forced nor strained.
He offers to walk her out.
She says yes.
Silence in the elevator, hands clinging to her bag because suddenly she doesn't know what to say without a dish in her hand.
His father's poor excuse for a car waits halfway down the block, she walks toward it without him offering. (She leads, he follows.)
He takes corners entirely too fast for the tiny wheels on this bucket of bolts, and she supposes it's his revenge for her making fun of it all the way to Connecticut. He taps the brake harshly, spins the wheel quickly, and accelerates in a way that has her muttering Hail Mary's through grit teeth.
Somehow he manages to keep them from sliding across the asphalt, and avoids sideswiping other cars, leaving her strangely thrilled and scared to death all at once. The only reason she doesn't yell or hit him with her bag is that she figures any distraction on his part will end up with them wrapped around a streetlight.
"I swear to god Humphrey," she threatens with her eyes focused forward. "If you kill me I will haunt your Brooklyn hipster ass for the rest of your life."
When he pulls up to her building, he dashes out his door and over to hers before she can even unfasten her seatbelt. Offering a hand, he pulls her lithely across the flooded gutter, and it's so enticingly chivalrous she doesn't let go right way.
His brow arches curiously at that, so she immediately drops it and takes a step back.
"Thank you," she manages to say without too much sarcasm. To which he gives a little bow before walking back to the car.
She doesn't go inside until the taillights disappear from view.
True to his word, he doesn't call.
She can imagine him padding around the loft, keeping odd hours, and trying to F. Scott his way back into Serena's heart. Doing his best not to think about road trips that could have been, or ones that were.
He doesn't call, and she knows he's not going to, but for whatever reason she checks her phone with the expectation he might anyway.
Of course they do happen to run into each other at Film Forum, but he yields to her feigned threat of not sitting next to her, choosing a seat on the opposite side of the theatre. With the place half empty the sight is almost comical, each knowing the other is there but playing avoidance simply because it's all they know how to do.
She pretends not to notice how he sits with his feet perched on the seat ahead, or the pedestrian bucket of popcorn resting in his lap. He does notice her looking, and she's not so rude as to ignore the small wave he shoots her way, but stays right where she is and checks her phone rather than concede to some social expectation.
He doesn't move either, contently nibbling away, and she can't help but glance over every so often, wondering why he isn't trying to interact with her.
Her phone proves useless as a distraction. No texts, no emails, no updates. She huffs before tossing it into her bag, and groans inwardly at the smooth jazz mix that starts to flow from the speakers.
Watching Humphrey again, rolling her eyes at how he nods along.
This is ridiculous, she thinks, rising from her seat and moving down the aisle.
The only reaction he gives is a casual smile as she situates herself next to him, and she almost wants to smack the back of his head for not recognizing what a momentous occasion this is.
He tilts the bucket of popcorn toward her, and despite better judgment she takes some.
When the movie starts she shushes him, even though he hasn't said a word.
It's because of the holidays, she tells herself. Goodwill toward men and all that sanctimonious cheer. Humphrey just happens to fall into a category.
He sits at the foot of her bed, and the sight isn't as odd as it should be. It could be because of the three martinis she's consumed over the course of his visit, or it could be that it's happened once before.
Miracle on 34th Street plays on the TV but neither pays it much attention. He focused on the notebook perched in his lap, she focused on him. She doesn't ask what he's trying to write, and he doesn't offer to tell, but she wonders.
Eyes catch the way his neck muscles tense as he takes a pull of the Scotch she'd put in his hand but never actually thought he'd drink. He exhales slowly, letting his head fall back against the mattress, and she almost reaches out to run her fingers through his hair.
It's kind of driving her insane that she still can't figure this, him, out. Why she still doesn't like him very much, but here he is, just like she knew he'd be halfway through that stupid movie and the realization that they actually do have more in common than a buxom blonde. Or why she's pretty damn sure she wants him to like her, regardless.
(Yes, she is aware of how crazy that sounds.)
It would be easy to just kick him out with no explanation and fall back into old patterns of insulting or ignoring him. But that would be regressing and, maybe for once, she wants to grow.
Kris Kringle is on the witness stand, Dan chuckles at some line she missed, and she closes her eyes against the sound.
Later, when's she's beyond three sheets, and he's glassy-eyed enough for her to tell him to stay, it's not as awkward a concept as she would have assumed. It's late, he's drunk, and even she would feel bad about sending him packing back to Brooklyn in the freezing dark.
The question of where he'll sleep doesn't even need to be broached when she looks over to see him sprawled out on the floor, sound asleep. She tosses a blanket over him, and watches a while with a disappointed jut of her lip.
She would have made him tell her a bedtime story.
It's after midnight when they step out into the frigid winter air, her mother's annual Christmas fashion gala slowly winding down behind them. The look in her mother's eyes when she brought Humphrey along, as if she was half tempted to put a vest on him right there and send him to work, priceless.
Her phone pokes against her hip from the corner of her purse, as they head down the sidewalk trying to catch a cab. A countdown slowly starts to tick away in her mind for the blast that seems inevitable. They'd been dodging Gossip Girl inadvertently easy the past two weeks, well timed trips to each other's place and other low key activities, she knows it's only a matter of time before their expanded social interaction hits the internet.
The street is devoid of anything, let alone a cab, and of course it starts to snow when she's got a pair of five-hundred dollar shoes on. Dan grabs her hand and pulls her into the entryway of a building she's pretty sure Nelly Yuki's family owns.
He's got snow all over the mess he calls hair, and without thinking, she reaches up to wipe it away. Chuckling softly, it takes a second to realize it isn't her he's laughing at. And it makes her scowl because really, stuck in the cold with no hope of a taxi, what the hell could be so damn funny?
She follows his eyes upward and oh, you have got to be kidding.
Mistletoe. Hanging a few feet above their heads.
Their eyes meet.
He wouldn't, she thinks. He won't.
"You know," he starts, breath visible with the chill. "It can be poisonous if you eat it."
It's such a Humphrey thing to say, she almost laughs. Instead she swats at his chest before folding her folding her arms.
"Only you would know something as inane as that," she says.
He laughs again, reaching out to rub her heat into her arms, a gesture she doesn't mind so much.
"You didn't," he starts, stops, looks up at the mistletoe then back to her. "You didn't think I-"
"Of course not!"
His brow knits together.
"You didn't want me to-"
"Don't be an idiot."
Hands drop to his sides; they stand awkwardly huddled, gazing out to the street for any sign of salvation.
The way he says her name has been softening as of late, she's noticed. No longer the tone of annoyance or resistance, but comfortable. Familiar.
It would never work, she thinks, looking at him again. They're both still in love with other people and it's just so sickeningly obvious. Besides, Serena was there first, will always come first, and it's the same way for her.
She almost says: she'll never love us like we want her to. But it's too out of context and she does not want to explain how her mind would come to such a statement.
Starting to shiver, he doesn't hesitate to pull her into his arms, and she lets him because it's cold. That's all.
It won't last, she thinks, when everyone comes back.
Dan dares a kiss at her temple. Her eyes fall closed.
She dreams of a world where they could try.