AN: Much love to everyone who reviewed and loved Mistletoe Confessions. Yes, this is the sequel. It will be slightly darker, more angsty than MC, but I think with humor and romance mixed in. Again, this is my interpretation of late S2/S3/S4, continuing where MC left off.
To recap (a la GG style): At the end of the Snowflake Ball (Episode 2x12), Chuck finally realizes that Blair is what he wants, and he invites her to go away to Upper New York, to his family's new vacation lodge, for Christmas. Serena, Dan, Eric, Jenny, Nate and Vanessa accompany them, and are plagued by logistical disasters. Serena and Dan renew their relationship, Blair anoints Jenny her royal successor, and Vanessa and Little J do battle over Nate's affections. But most importantly, Blair and Chuck are finally, despite a few missteps, to say those three words, eight letters.
Especial thanks go to comewhatmay, for pre-reading and betaing this monster, and also The Very Last Valkryie for being such a vocal supporter and cheerleader of this story and its predecessor. If you want to see an absolutely gorgeous trailer for Mistletoe Confessions that she made me for Christmas, check out the link on my profile.
Chapter 1: Love is Chuck Bass' Other Drug
It's a new year, Upper East Siders, and the dawn of a new regime. This morning, the Queen B finally emerged from the shadows of her relationship with Nate Archibald on the arm of her new King. Rumor has it that both B and C are plotting to be the Constance-Billard and St. Jude's students selected for early admission to Yale. We know that Yale has always been the Queen B's longed-for diamond in her crown, but what about our bad boy Chuck Bass? Love must be the drug helping our Bass forgo his usual morning constitutional. After all, who needs to get high when they can get higher education?
Blair looked up from her phone, and swallowed uneasily as the St. Jude's students swarmed into the shared courtyard like locusts. She spotted the tall blonde head of her ex-boyfriend, but not her shorter, darker, but much hotter new boyfriend.
It was foolish to even hope that Chuck hadn't seen the blast. He'd have read it the second it arrived, just as she did, and he was probably hanging back in the hallway outside the courtyard, deciding how best to navigate the Gossip Girl bomb that had just fallen into their midst. She'd meant to tell him herself, right after she'd dropped the not very subtle hint to Serena that she and Dan would have to watch themselves when it came to Yale, but she hadn't had time. Despite their relationship being new, Blair had very definite plans with regards to her, Chuck and Yale—namely an early admission acceptance for both of them.
"Blair." She glanced up to see Chuck sauntering towards her, his leather satchel dangling disinterestedly from one hand. That was how it always was with Chuck—even though he'd long been her intellectual equal, he'd shown a marked apathy towards anything having to do with school. Blair had often considered that it was his own way of getting Bart's attention, though he'd gone the opposite direction of herself. Instead of positive attention, he seemed bound and determined to only reap the negative. In fact, Victrola and finally deciding to date her seemed to be the only two of Chuck's decisions that Bart had ever approved of.
Blair moved closer, as Chuck smoothed back her hair from her headband and leaned in for a kiss that lasted just a few seconds than was probably proper, considering where they were standing. But as soon as he touched her, the good Blair, the polite Blair, the socially-conscious Blair, seemed to fade and in her place, the wild Blair, the carefree Blair, the horny Blair, emerged.
As he pulled back, Blair smoothed his collar, fussily straightening his tie. And the whole time, he stood still as a statue, watching her closely, but saying nothing. She began to feel a bit light-headed from panic, because as good as she was at manipulation and social destruction, Chuck was undoubtedly her equal in both.
"How was your morning?" she asked, forcing her voice to stay absolutely calm. If he even suspected how nervous she was about the Gossip Girl blast, he'd never let it go. As it was, he probably already knew and this silence was simply the calm before the storm.
"Oh, it was lovely. I learned all sorts of interesting things," Chuck said smoothly, wrapping an arm around her waist.
Blair couldn't help the sharp intake of her breath.
"We're studying War and Peace in English, which nearly gave Humphrey a hard-on in class, and then in history, I was forced to read the Gettysburg Address. All in all, a worthy morning of educational study." He paused, his eyes zeroing in on hers. "But the crowning achievement of the morning was discovering that I'm apparently headed to Yale."
Blair immediately launched into the offensive. She knew, after a lifetime of knowing Chuck Bass, that you couldn't let him have the upper hand for long, because if you did, you'd end up staring helplessly as he dismantled you piece by piece until there was nothing left to salvage.
It was good, then, that she knew him better than anybody else, and also that she could handle him better than anybody else.
"You've always talked about Yale," Blair objected. "You escorted the Yale usher our junior year, at the Ivy League Mixer, and then during college visitations this fall, you came with me to Yale."
The corner of Chuck's lips turned up into his trademark smirk. "True, and also true. But I never said I was going to Yale."
"You never said you weren't," Blair said waspishly, annoyed that Gossip Girl had spilled the beans before she was able to strategically convince Chuck of the merits of her plan. "Is that what you're saying now?"
She glanced up, and wasn't much surprised to see the entire courtyard pretending to ignore them, all the while hanging on their every word. There were many benefits to being Upper East Side royalty, but a few downsides as well, and one of them was that it was impossible to have a private conversation. Chuck noticed and took her arm, his grip deceptively strong. He leaned down, his lips brushing her ear. "Let's go to the limo. I suppose you'll want some yogurt and then to the Met steps, so you can survey your court."
"It is the first day of the new term," Blair said self-righteously, as Chuck guided her to the limo. "But neither of those events have anything to do with the limo. I can do them perfectly fine without any conveyance whatsoever."
"Blair," Chuck said warningly, his voice tight and insistent.
"Fine," she sighed, allowing herself to be guided into the backseat of Chuck's limo.
The door clicked decisively behind Chuck and she turned to him, but she couldn't speak because suddenly his hand was on her mouth, effectively rendering her mute.
"Blair," Chuck repeated, his tone suddenly much less angry, and more amused than anything else. "I've barely said I love you. Our relationship is just beginning. What the hell are you doing, scheming without me—about me?"
He released his hand just enough so she could speak again. "I'm not," Blair insisted. "I've never been secretive about Yale being my dream."
"Key word in that phrase is your dream."
"I wasn't aware that it wasn't yours too," Blair snapped. "Again, the evidence of the Ivy League Mixer and the college visitation weekend pointed to your partiality for Yale. Nevermind that I believed that after spending over a year aligning the stars so we could finally be together, you'd want to be separated for four years."
Chuck leaned back on the leather seat, his expression a careful blank.
"I was going to tell you," Blair added softly. "It was never my intention not to involve you. Gossip Girl just beat me to it."
"And how is that even possible?" Chuck asked.
"I told Serena. Well," Blair corrected, "that's not exactly true. It's just that she was babbling on this morning about how she and Dan had decided to both aim for Yale, and for early admission, and I told her that it wasn't nearly settled yet, and she shouldn't count her chickens before they hatched."
"So you basically announced that it's going to be Serena and Dan versus you and me."
Blair shrugged a little. It wasn't the first time that her actions had gotten ahead of her. Usually she planned social machination better than this, but it had all been an impulsive act, born out of a sudden vision of her and Chuck, in love and gloriously, deliriously happy in New Haven. In the end, it had been too seductive a fantasy to resist and she'd let slip that ill-advised warning to Serena.
"I'm surprised at you," Chuck continued, "you're usually much better at flying under the radar."
"I know," Blair said ruefully. "I was thinking more about being with you for the next four years and not about taking Serena and Dan down."
"I think we need to make a pact," Chuck said thoughtfully.
"A pact? About Yale?"
"Not just Yale," Chuck said, "though Yale is peripherally involved. We're both powerful and adept at manipulation."
"I'm well aware of that fact," Blair snapped testily.
"I propose we make a pact to limit our manipulations to others. If we plot against each other, what we have will never survive it."
Blair opened her mouth to protest Chuck's assumption that she'd been plotting against him—she much preferred to see him as a beneficiary than a victim—but she hesitated. After all, they'd been so strong over the Christmas holiday, a nearly impenetrable, infinitely powerful team together. If they turned on each other, they wouldn't have the Chuck-and-Blair, Blair-and-Chuck fortress to fall back on.
"I hate to concede, but you do have a rather good point."
Chuck reached over and extricated Blair's hand of her lap, and curled it into his much bigger one. "Shall we shake on it, then?" he asked huskily, stroking the sensitive inner skin of her wrist. "Or shall we do something else?"
Blair looked up into his hooded dark eyes, so like her own, and was unbearably tempted, if only for a second. Instead of giving him what he wanted, she leaned in and brushed a soft kiss across his lips. "Later," she murmured. "I have to go to the Steps. Can't let Serena have too much influence on all those impressionable minds."
"After school?" Blair asked, as he kissed her again. "I almost forgot to mention . . ." She trailed off, hesitating, feeling the sharpening of his gaze on her face.
She cleared her throat. Chuck Bass, though he was a boy just growing into a man, was powerful and absolute. For the first time, Blair truly understood that it wasn't going to be easy to be his. There couldn't be a single moment of weakness or of hesitation, because he'd just pounce, like a wild animal.
"Tonight," she said with conviction. "Serena mentioned a party with some of Yale's alumni board tonight. She and Dan are attending, and I thought you could pull a few strings yourself. . .? Perhaps Bart could accompany us?"
Blair couldn't help but smirk a little as her words dropped like the softest, silkiest bombs. Chuck's jaw worked, and she was sure she could see the pulse in his throat throb as he swallowed hard. Perhaps, in retrospect, bringing up Bart hadn't been the subtlest of touches, but it was certainly proving to be effective.
"Bart likes you," Chuck said casually, as if this conversation wasn't littered with grenades, terrifyingly close to exploding in their faces.
"He always has," Blair remarked blithely.
"I suppose I could mention the party," Chuck pondered. "I'll go to Bass Industries after school. I'm sure Bart would love the idea of me actually going to Yale."
Blair nestled her head against his shoulder, knowing she had to leave, had to go to the Steps before Constance girls forgot all about her, but not wanting to let go of him quite yet. They'd barely been separated since leaving for the lodge all those weeks ago, and this entire morning without one glimpse of him had been almost torturous. "I missed you," she breathed so quietly into his ear, she wasn't sure he heard it, and even though they'd declared their love, she wasn't entirely sure that was a bad thing.
"You can say it," Chuck said with a trace of amusement in his voice. "We're allowed to say it now, Blair." He paused. "And I missed you too."
A smile spread over Blair's face—so big that it seemed to nearly split her face in two. She kissed him again, her lips insistent, one of Chuck's hands tracing up the seam of her stockings until his fingers brushed the bare skin just above the lace circling her thigh. But just before she could totally lose her train of thought and fall headfirst into the man she loved, Chuck slid his hand back down and raised his head. "Don't you have to get to the Steps?" he asked with his signature smirk. "If Serena and the minions realize that you've left them for me, I'll have to watch my back."
"As if they could ever successfully scheme against you, " Blair scoffed, leaning back, feeling the cool leather take down her internal temperature a notch. "They're amateurs. But you're right, I should make an appearance."
"And I promised Nate that I'd take a walk with him."
Blair glanced over at Chuck as she tried to fix the hair that he'd mussed. "A walk?" She remembered all too clearly how often Nate had gone for "walks" when they'd been dating.
Chuck merely nodded and Blair decided that this clearly wasn't the time to address Chuck and Nate's favorite pastime. While she'd felt pretty secure in saying exactly as she felt to Nate, whether he'd like it or not, she felt hesitant with Chuck. After all, this was Chuck Bass—he wasn't the kind of boy who could be harassed or controlled.
Of course that didn't mean she could evoke the kind of change she wanted In him; she just had to be more creative about the way she accomplished it.
"Have a nice afternoon," Blair said, brushing a last kiss across his cheek. "Let me know what Bart says about tonight."
She slid out of the limo, and shut the door after her, her heels clicking on the sidewalk as she made her way to the Steps and to her court of followers.
Serena was standing at the Steps, her long blond hair waving in the breeze, her arms crossed, a disgruntled expression on her face.
"What's wrong, S?" Blair asked as she carefully set her Chanel bag on the concrete steps.
"I saw the blast," Serena snapped. "Already pushing your agenda, Blair?"
"Oh," Blair said airily, "that's all? You know Yale's always been my dream. And now it's Chuck's too. You do remember, he escorted the Yale usher our junior year, during the mixer. This shouldn't be exactly coming out of left field, though I do distinctly remember that you wanted to go to Brown and Humphrey was more interested in Dartmouth."
"Dan's interested in being with me," Serena snapped back, a hint of heat in her voice. "Besides, have you still not figured out why Chuck was so interested in the Yale usher?"
"Because she was hot?" Blair asked in a bored voice.
"Don't you remember that the Yale rep was male?" Serena sneered. "He switched to the Princeton rep when he discovered that you could care less who he was escorting."
"I don't understand," Blair said uneasily. Was Serena really saying what she thought she was?
"I think," Jenny said less hesitantly than usual—Blair thought perhaps she was finally beginning to grow into her new position as heir apparent—"Chuck did it because he thought he could get close to you. Maybe even impress you."
"That's insane," Blair snapped. "As well as being absolutely not true."
"If you say so," Serena said.
"Jennifer, have you confirmed that Vanessa has returned to Vermont for good?" Blair asked, her tone downright frosty.
Jenny nodded, and Blair continued planning out loud. "You'll accompany Chuck and I to the party tonight. We'll go straight home after school, and I'll find something appropriate for you to wear." She slipped her phone out of her bag, sending a quick text to Chuck, who responded almost instantly with a confirmation. "And, you'll be Nathaniel's date."
Serena glanced over at her best friend. "I told you not to do this, Blair. It's none of your business who Nate dates."
"Vanessa's left the playing field for good," Blair shrugged. "It would be incredibly foolish to not take advantage of her inability to compete."
"Besides," Jenny added, "she's not doing it, I am."
Serena simply rolled her eyes and said something about a book from the library. Blair didn't even have to point out that Dan was likely in the library. After all, it was practically his native habitat.
Spotted: A confrontation at the Met Steps between the Queen B and S. Is Yale the point of contention? Or is it the heir apparent to Constance, Little J and her take-no-prisoners approach to Nate Archibald? Stay tuned, Upper East Siders, the truth always comes out sooner or later, and this time, it's going to hit the fan when it does. Who's ready for another Serena-Blair catfight?
Nate snapped his phone shut and took a whiff of the joint before passing it to Chuck. "Sounds like Blair and Serena are going at it again," he observed casually.
Chuck made a big show of crimping the end of the joint, and flicking some ash out of the end so that Nate wouldn't notice that he hadn't actually inhaled any of it himself. He told himself that he wasn't abstaining because of Blair, that he didn't care if she hated the sweet smell that stuck to his hair and his clothes. He was still Chuck Bass and if Chuck Bass felt like getting high, then not even Blair Waldorf could stop him.
But Nate was off in his own universe, not even paying the slightest bit of attention to Chuck, as he rambled on about Serena and Blair.
"I saw the other blast, too," he complained. "Can't you just tell Blair to lay off the plotting and the social destruction, at least for a couple of months? She basically single-handedly shipped Vanessa back to Vermont and set Jenny on me."
"I think that was more of your fault," Chuck replied sarcastically. "I mean, didn't you make out with Little J right in front of Brooklyn hobo? Not your finest hour."
"She set me up," Nate complained, taking another long drag off the joint. "What was I supposed to do, push her away when she was practically throwing herself at me?"
"You've done it before," Chuck said drily. "We both know why you didn't do it to Baby Humphrey. You've always had a thing for blondes. And let's face it, she's a lot more issue-free than Serena."
"So you're telling me Blair wasn't involved at all?" Nate sounded dubious and Chuck paused for a second before replying. It wasn't that he disagreed with Blair's actions—but he wasn't entirely convinced that her motives were all that selfless.
"I didn't say that; I'm sure Blair was a factor," Chuck said carefully. "This is Blair Waldorf we're talking about."
"Of course, you're going to defend her. And don't think I haven't noticed you avoiding this." Nate gestured with the dwindling joint. "You're whipped. She's finally neutered the great Chuck Bass."
"I'm not neutered," Chuck ground out, annoyed that he'd somehow missed Nate paying attention after all. "I'm still exactly the same person I used to be. Still Chuck Bass."
"Okay. Sure. Whatever." But Nate sounded so unconvinced that as Chuck climbed into the limo to ride to the Bass Industries offices, he shifted uneasily in his seat. Only Blair would have been able to get him to so effortlessly ask his father for a favor. Only Blair would have been able to convince him to go to Yale. Only Blair could give him one smile, and he was merely putty in her small hands.
The good news was that he didn't think she'd discovered yet how easy he was to manipulate when it came to her. And if he was lucky, she never would.
After all, he was Chuck Bass, and he had a reputation to maintain.
A few hours later, the elevator reached the floor of Blair's penthouse with a cheery beep, and he stepped out into the marble foyer.
Dorota appeared promptly. "Mr. Chuck," she acknowledged with a knowing smile, as if she wasn't aware that he'd spent every night at the penthouse for a week. Eleanor and Cyrus were in Paris, planning for their wedding and their new life together, and even if they'd been in New York, Chuck wasn't sure that it even mattered.
"Good evening, Dorota. Where's Blair?"
"I'm right here, Bass." Blair's voice echoed through the raised ceiling of the foyer. She appeared at the top of the stairs, wearing a midnight blue pleated satin dress. She reached the bottom of the staircase and he greeted her with a lingering kiss on her cheek. "I'm impressed by your promptness."
His fingers tightened around her tiny waist, wishing that they could stay in and spend the evening in bed, making love and eating Chinese food. But Blair had that unforgiving look about her tonight—the one she wore every single time she went after something she really wanted. And Yale had always been very near the top of that particular list.
"You look beautiful," he murmured into her ear. "Exquisite, in fact."
"Thank you," Blair said, sweeping aside his compliment with perfunctory agreement.
"Bart and Lily are meeting us there. And Jennifer?" he asked, afraid that Jenny had finally confided in Blair that she didn't even want to be in the same vehicle as him. He'd come a long way from what had happened over a year ago, but he was afraid that with Blair and Jenny closer than ever, he was never going to stop paying for that mistake.
"She'll be joining us there as well." Dorota appeared with Blair's evening coat, a divine winter white cashmere with tiny crystal beads scattered over the surface. "Nate will be there too, I trust?"
Chuck gave a quick nod, not at all surprised by how business-like Blair was behaving. This was Yale, and Yale was always to be approached with military precision.
In the limo, Blair settled herself on the far seat, refusing Chuck's suggestion that she sit a little closer. At another event, she might have indulged his desires, but this was too important to let herself lose focus.
"Let's discuss the plan of action," Blair said, accepting a glass of champagne from Chuck.
"Of course," Chuck said smoothly, pouring himself a Scotch.
"Joanna Anderson is the head of the Yale alumni committee in New York. I've heard she has the Head of Admissions ear, and she'll know who is being seriously considered for early admission. We need to keep Serena and Dan as far from her as possible, all while optimizing our own time with her."
"Considering who we're dealing with, I can't imagine that will be an obstacle," Chuck said. "And what do I get if we're successful, Waldorf?"
"Early admission to Yale?" Blair answered with a little smirk in his direction. "Was there something else you wanted?"
"There's something else I always want," Chuck said, sliding over the leather seat and pressing a hot kiss to her temple. "I'm not used to behaving myself with you."
Blair tucked her hand into his and gazed up at him, her dark eyes hot and determined. "You never behave yourself," she giggled, her happiness blossoming out of her, seeping through every pore of her skin. "But . . ." Blair stalled, not sure how to ask him what she needed to ask him. She loved her bad boy—loved that he was as bad she could be—but this was different. She was different when it came to Yale.
"I understand, Blair. I'll try tonight. I know this is important to you." Chuck heard himself answering her without even thinking and he couldn't help but wonder if maybe Nate had been right after all. Maybe love neutered you whether you wanted to be neutered or not. And when it came down to it, he'd been the bad boy and he'd been Blair Waldorf's boyfriend and if he had to choose one or the other, he'd pick the latter.
"But tonight," Blair said, her voice morphing into the seductive rasp that never failed to make him love her even more, "I don't want you to be good at all. Promise?"
"Always." Chuck took a deep breath and his hand tightened around her much-smaller one. "I love you, and," he paused, to raise her hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to her palm, "I love it even more when you're my bad Blair."
Jenny was nervous. She hadn't told Blair that she was, that she wasn't entirely sure that Nate wouldn't take one look at her and walk away. She and Nate hadn't seen each other since they'd left the vacation house after Christmas.
During New Years, despite the secret hope she'd had that Nate would call her and ask her to the same charity gala she knew Blair and Chuck were going to, she'd gone to see her mother in Hudson instead. Blair had questioned her decision to leave town, but Jenny was sure she'd made the right decision. This way, if he didn't call, it would look like it had been her choice all along. And after all, she'd told Blair, she didn't want to be too available.
Gossip Girl reported Nate had spent the evening with another blond—Serena. That had been the most reassuring news of all because Jenny knew for certain that Serena was deliriously happy with her brother.
And now Vanessa had moved out of town, back to Vermont, and as Jenny shifted nervously, waiting for Nate to arrive at the party, she thought that this finally might be her real chance with him.
There was a slight commotion at the entrance, and Jenny wasn't surprised at all to see Blair and Chuck, hand in hand, emerge into the party. Every appearance they'd made since their spectacular New Years Eve coming out party—she'd nearly gasped when she'd seen the pictures of them, poised at the top of the staircase—had been accompanied by a flurry of admiring gazes and whispered gossip.
It was undeniable that they were potentially the most intriguing, charismatic couple in Manhattan, and everyone had noticed.
Blair left Chuck at the bar to fetch them drinks and she made her way over to Jenny, who forced her head up and her hands to stop trembling. If Blair sensed her weakness, her fear that Nate would reject her, then it would all be over before it could even begin.
"Jennifer," Blair said sweetly, "how are you this evening? You look lovely."
Blair had decided that as heir apparent to her crown, Little J was a nickname that had to be left behind, but every time Blair called her Jennifer, she always wondered if the Queen B was talking about someone else—someone smarter, more sophisticated, definitely older. A girl who wouldn't even flinch if Nate Archibald showed up, saw her, and walked away.
Blair was complimenting herself, because, of course, she had picked out the dress. But, Jenny reminded herself, she'd done the rest.
"Have you seen Dan or Serena?" Blair enquired as Chuck joined them, a glass of Scotch in his hand and a waiter trailing behind him with two glasses of champagne on a tray. Jenny took one as the tray was extended to her, and she took a cautious sip. She was trying to be more comfortable around Chuck. After all, the heir apparent to Constance Billard couldn't flinch every time she was faced with Chuck Bass, who was not only poised to own most of Manhattan but the Queen B's heart.
"Not yet," Jenny said.
"And Joanna Nelson?" Blair demanded.
Jenny made a gesture with her champagne flute. "She's over there."
"Excellent," Blair said determinedly, glancing Chuck's way. "Are you ready, Bass?"
"To charm a woman? Always," he replied with a smirk.
"As long as charming is all you're doing," Blair retorted.
"Darling, you know I only have eyes for you," Chuck said.
Blair rolled her eyes, gave Jenny a quick reassuring smile, which she knew was for Nate and his imminent arrival, and then swooped off arm-in-arm with Chuck to win over Joanna Nelson and her influence on the Yale admission committee.
Jenny looked around for Nate, knowing that she'd feel his presence probably before she'd even see him. She'd never really had a big crush on anyone before (she'd conveniently forgotten that at one time, she'd had an ill-advised partiality for Chuck Bass), but this first time was more gargantuan than big. Every night for weeks, she'd been replaying their kisses in her dreams.
She took another large swallow of champagne and hoped that it would calm her jumping nerves and the butterflies in her stomach, Blair's advice echoing through her head.
Nate doesn't often bestir himself to do anything. If you show him that you're sure, he'll absorb your certainty by osmosis. Be strong, Jennifer. Be confident. Be in control.
Jenny personally thought that Blair, even though she'd dated Nate Archibald for years, was probably wrong about him—at least she was wrong about Jenny herself. She didn't want a guy who was just with her because she'd made herself impossible to ignore. She wanted someone who sincerely wanted her just as much as she wanted him.
Despite that, she was determined to make him see that that she wasn't Blair 2.0. Yes, she might be the future Queen, but that didn't make her anything like the current Queen B.
"Ms. Nelson?" Blair asked sweetly, her voice dripping with polite saccharine. "I'm Blair Waldorf." The Yale alumni turned, and Blair was struck by how similar she and the petite brunette looked. Joanna gave her a similar smile, accompanied by a brisk, cool handshake that Blair felt something strange in the base of her stomach. It was undeniably bizarre to meet the woman, who could be her in twenty years.
"Chuck Bass," he inserted smoothly, and Joanna's eyes shifted to the handsome man at her side. Blair told herself that it wasn't because she was interested in him, though Blair knew that over the years, Chuck had cut a devastating swath through the lonely, bored UES socialites. Joanna was only thinking of his last name, synonymous with New York business, not his own reputation as a womanizer.
"It's so lovely to finally meet you," Blair gushed. "I've always been such a big admirer of yours."
Joanna gave a tiny moue of surprise, but Blair knew better than to believe her. She knew exactly how important, how pursued, how elite her position in society was. And she was everything that Blair herself had molded herself to be.
"You have?" she asked melodiously. "I have to confess, I've never heard your name before. Either of you." Her voice sharpened the tiniest bit, and Blair was hit with yet another wave of déjà vu. She'd often used that exact same tone while addressing an uppity minion at Constance.
"Oh," Blair said uncertainly. "We've both applied to Yale." This was not the way she'd expected this conversation to go. After almost an entire life devoted to her acceptance at Yale, she was sure she was well-known by every single alumni in New York—especially one of the most important.
"Then I'll have to offer my well wishes for your acceptance," Joanna said politely, but with a clear thread of dismissal in her tone, " but you'll have to excuse me, I see someone I'd like to meet."
Chuck wasn't even able to get a word in as Joanna turned, her eyes focused on the entrance. Blair followed her gaze and felt her heart drop into her stomach, and then to the polished parquet of the ballroom floor.
Serena, her bright blonde hair sparkling in the candlelight, arm-in-arm with Dan Humphrey, was clearly Joanna Nelson's target.
"Blair," Chuck hissed as she found her feet following Joanna Nelson before she could even realize what she was doing. "Blair. What are you doing?"
"I need to hear this," Blair hissed back under her breath. "Come with me."
Chuck followed and from a safe distance away, Blair heard Joanna greet Serena and Humpty-Dumpty, and it was as bad as she'd feared. Joanna knew both of their names, had read some of Humphrey's mediocre stories, and had even admired them.
And as for Serena, Joanna was clearly charmed by her ex-best friend's sunny, open personality, which made no sense because Joanna was her doppelganger! Blair was Joanna Nelson!
Blair turned away in disgust. "This is horrible," she muttered to Chuck, who had a similar expression to her own on his face. Complete and total astonishment. He was Chuck Bass. She was Blair Waldorf. How could someone like Joanna Nelson not know who they were? It was unbelievable and ultimately, unacceptable.
"This is infamous," Chuck growled and gulped down the rest of his scotch.
"We need to do something," Blair said decidedly. "Brainstorm?"
"Let me get another drink," Chuck said with dark determination.
"This is useless," Blair said gesturing with her champagne.
"Please. I'll be in the back, plotting social destruction."
He was forty-eight minutes late. Of course, it was considered fairly sophisticated to be late to parties, but Jenny was certain that this hadn't been his attention at all. Nate was late because that was just him. He'd probably gotten distracted by some sporting event or by a half-smoked joint.
Naturally, he gave a half-hearted attempt at looking for Blair and Chuck, and not seeing them, defaulted to lazily walking over to the bar.
Jenny took a deep breath, finished her second glass of champagne, feeling the bubbles deep in her stomach, and followed him to the bar.
"Hi Nate." She was surprised at how calm her voice sounded—confident and just the tiniest bit husky.
He turned, and Jenny was inordinately pleased to see that he didn't look angry to see her here. Just a little surprised. But then she also saw the moment he realized that his "date" that Chuck had apparently promised him wasn't a stranger at all, but her.
"Jenny," he said flatly, turning back towards the bar, and taking a big gulp of scotch from the glass in his hand. "Let me guess, you're Chuck's mystery date."
"Guilty as charged," she said, moving to the open spot next to him.
"Jen," he sighed, "I get it. I really do. I like you. . .but . . ."
"But what?" she couldn't help but demand. "What's changed between then and now? Not Vanessa. We both know revisiting that was a mistake."
He looked surprised that she was so determined. Maybe she was even surprising herself. But when it came down to it, Jenny was shocking herself at how much she wanted him to be hers. At how long she'd secretly wanted him, but not let herself even hope that it could happen. And now that it was so painfully close to reality, she wasn't going to let it go without a fight. Maybe she was more like Blair than she'd thought.
"It was," he admitted, "and I feel bad about that. But you and I, Jenny. . ." He trailed off, and Jenny wasn't sure if he didn't know what he thought about the idea or if he just didn't want to tell her what he'd decided.
"Here's the thing," she said bluntly, feeling the courage to tell him exactly how she felt coming from somewhere deep inside her that she hadn't known existed before tonight, "I like you. I want to be with you."
Jenny wasn't entirely sure, but she thought she could see a spark of interest, of desire, of affection deep in his eyes. And it pushed her to keep going. "I know you have your concerns that I'm too much like Blair. I won't say that I'm not, but I'm not her clone. She does things that I wouldn't do and vice versa. Blair and I are different. You and I are different."
"Maybe," he pondered, taking another sip of scotch.
"Maybe?" Jenny said with frustration. "Don't you think I deserve more than just 'maybe'?"
Nate was silent for a moment, his blue eyes glued to the polished wood of the bar top.
"Yes," he said softly, glancing up at her, "you do, Jenny. Which is why I've got to walk away now. I can't give you the kind of certainty I need." And just as he'd told her, he set down his glass with a decisive click, and turned and walked away.
Jenny was frozen in place for a moment, for another, and by the time she realized, processed, what he had just said—and as soon as she did, she took off like a shot, her heels slipping slightly on the polished floor as she rushed towards the door. She impatiently collected her wrap and her tiny beaded handbag and opened the door, the cold air blasting her sober.
Nate was standing at the curb, trying to hail a cab. Not even hesitating, she marched right back up to him. "Nate," she half-growled, beyond frustrated that this night that she had been so optimistic over, had turned out so completely horrible. She had read the whole situation wrong—Nate wasn't interested after all. But maybe that wasn't true. Maybe she still had one more shot with him. She remembered what Blair had said and how she had mentally revised her Queen's advice.
He turned, and his face was astonished. Astonished that she'd chased him? Or astonished that she cared enough to do that? It remained to be seen.
"You're not my father. You're not my brother. So why do I care so much?" she asked him heatedly, just the same as she'd once asked him. She paused, and instead of waiting for him to fill in the missing blank as he'd done before, she answered her own question.
"Because," she said softly, holding her gaze steady with his. But before he could reply or make a single movement, she was gone, her gait steady and confident, knowing that she'd left him questioning not only her own motives, but his as well.
No. She wasn't Blair 2.0, but Jenny thought she might be someone even better.
Spotted: Little J and N facing off over a cab in front of the Yale alumni fundraiser. Has she finally managed to win him back after her little Project Runway stunt at the Snowflake Ball? As for Chuck and Blair vs. Dan and Serena, it looks like the Queen B and her new King might not be the shoe-in for Yale that she's always imagined them to be. It's merely the beginning, though. I don't have any hesitation they'll have some new trick up their sleeve.