A/N: It's here! You might want to read the prequel, I Know Better, first. This story takes place right after the other one ends. Also, keep in mind I have a plan, and this will be a Nate/Jenny story. Just have faith (us NJ shippers have plenty of that!).
Nate had a feeling of déjà vu when he walked into the empty room. It was the exact same place where they had been when they hammered out the details of the truce between Chuck and Blair. Now, the four friends were together again, and the tension was even higher than it had been the first time around. The night before had been the Saints and Sinners party at the Empire, and it was apparent that Juliet and Jenny's plan had worked: Nate's three friends were barely looking at each other.
"Thank you all for coming," Nate started. He could barely believe how formal he sounded. "I've called you all here because I hope that we can find a way to allow Jenny to come back to Manhattan."
Serena and Blair's mouths dropped, and he could see the disbelief on their faces. Chuck, however, chuckled as if he had known it was coming. Nate continued.
"I know she's done things to all of us, but I'm hoping we can put all that in the past, and move on."
"No way!" said Blair. She was the first one to speak, and Nate knew she would be the hardest to convince. "I banished her for a reason, and every time she has come back she's turned the Upper East Side upside down. I will not let that happen again."
Serena nodded, but didn't add anything. Nate looked at Chuck but couldn't determine whether he agreed with Blair or not.
Nate had hoped to reason with his friends, but it was clear his expectations had been unrealistic. He was never one for schemes and blackmail, but no one denied Nate Archibald: what he wanted he always got.
So he reminded his friends of things he knew about each of them, things he knew they would rather keep secret: a certain party Serena wanted to forget ever happened, the fact that Chuck had applied to Columbia for Blair, and Chuck, well, he knew all kinds of things Chuck wanted to keep on the down low. He had Chuck's little black book in his possession for an entire summer, after all.
Chuck and Serena gave in easily, but Blair took a little longer. She knew that letting the girl come back compromised her authority, so before giving in she issued all kinds of rules, threats and ultimatums: don't let Jenny on the Columbia campus, or at her mother's penthouse, for example. And Blair had dibs on all the designer collections: Jenny could only go shopping after Blair, and she could never buy the same things as the older girl. In the end, though, Nate got what he wanted: Jenny would come back to live with her family and she would be left alone.
His next step was contacting Lily to tell her the good news and ask her to get Jenny back into Constance. He didn't know if Rufus would be happy to have Jenny back as the man had fully supported Jenny when she had decided to leave for Hudson. Lily, however, believed that a family was stronger when they were together, and she knew Jenny would have opportunities in New York that she wouldn't have anywhere else, so she wasn't difficult to convince. "Don't worry about Rufus," she said, "I'll take care of him."So he moved on to the next phase of his plan.
When he called Jenny, he had to take the phone away from his ear as she screamed her joy. She thanked him over and over again, to the point where he felt bad for abandoning her in the first place. She must have been very lonely in Hudson, and he hadn't been a very good friend to her. He never thought he would be one of those people who applied the saying 'out of sight, out of mind,' but in the end that was what he had done. As soon as Jenny had left Manhattan he had made himself forget about her completely. He hadn't cared that she wasn't around her friends and family anymore, or the damage that had come with sleeping with Chuck and getting exiled. In other words, he felt like a crappy friend.
After hanging up with Jenny, and making promises to see each other as soon as she got back, he started thinking back to the last few months, and everything that had happened since she left. He had spent that crazy summer going through Chuck's little black book. Then, he had let Serena get between him and Dan. After Serena, he was so desperate to move on that he jumped head first into a relationship with Juliet, who had wrecked havoc in all of their lives. On top of all that, he had seriously neglected his studies and his training.
When he finished taking a long, hard look at himself, Nate realized things had to change, and it had to be soon. He was on his way to becoming a man he did not want to become, one who was defined by his relationship with women. He'd tried being a playboy, and that didn't work. He'd tried being Serena's boyfriend, and that hadn't worked either. Now, it was clear to him that he had to figure out who he was and who he wanted to be before he entered in another relationship. He was grateful that Jenny would be back. He knew that she would be able to help him figure it all out; he always felt the most like himself when he was around her.
He had just finished his self-assessment when his cell phone rang. When he saw Serena's name on the screen, he debated whether to answer or not. But curiosity got the better of him and he answered and agreed to get a drink with her at the bar of the Empire. As he hung up, he laughed at himself. He hadn't even decided to be single for five minutes before agreeing to meet with Serena. Sure, they were friends, but he knew this wasn't a friendly drink.
When he got to the bar, he saw that Serena wasn't there yet so he ordered a drink and sat down. He thought back to Jenny's words the day before. Don't you want someone who just wants to be with you, Nate? Someone who couldn't even imagine being with anyone else? Nate would be crazy to deny that he did want all those things, and he didn't know if Serena would ever be able to give them to him. But a big part of him couldn't ignore all the history they shared. They had come a long way since high school, when he and Blair were together and he lost his virginity on a bar. And while they had had some bad times, there were a lot of good ones, too. He knew that he needed to decide if the good outweighed the bad.
In the end, when she showed up, Nate hadn't made up his mind on what he wanted to happen. However, the second he saw her coming, he felt his heart beat a little faster, and then a little more when she smiled at him. He added that to his mental pro-con list, along with great sex (pro) and never talks to me about her problems (con). He watched her as she sat down and ordered, noting that she seemed nervous.
"So, I wanted to talk about last night," Serena started. When Nate didn't say anything, she continued. "I never got your text about the date. And when I kissed you at the ball, well, that wasn't me. It was Juliet."
"It wasn't Juliet," Nate said, "it was Jenny." Serena was dumbfounded and apparently speechless, because her mouth opened but no sound came out. "I knew right away that she wasn't you. She was going to leave but I stopped her, and we talked."
"Well, it all makes sense now. So that's how she convinced you to blackmail us into letting her come back?" Serena asked angrily. "I was confused when you summoned us this morning, but I get it now."
"The blackmail was my idea, and she never asked for anything."
"Come on, Nate, you know Jenny! She did it on purpose, to get you to do what she wants. I bet she pulled the old 'Oh, Nate, I'm so alone, no one understands me' card, and you played right into her hand!"
"I don't care what you think, at this point. You agreed to it, and that's all that matters to me." Serena was speechless again, and she looked at Nate as if she couldn't tell who he was anymore.
"Wait, that means you left the party, with Jenny, when you knew I would be there looking for you?" Serena asked.
"I didn't know you were there looking for me! And Jenny wasn't supposed to be there, if anyone had found out she would have been in big trouble."
"So, protecting Jenny is more important than saving our relationship?" The tone was quickly escalating.
"Jenny's my friend! And you and I haven't had a relationship since we broke up last spring!" Nate almost yelled.
The tone of the conversation had risen to the point where people at the other tables were looking at them. Nate sat back in his chair and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself down.
"Look," he said, "I don't want to fight about Jenny. If you want to talk about me and you, then we can do that."
"But you did all this for her, Nate. Does it mean you have feelings for her? You know she's in love with you."
"Yes, I know. But we're friends, just friends, and you're going to have to trust me on that."
Serena was quiet for a moment. "Fine," she said, "but you haven't said anything about me going to find you at the party. It was you I was coming to kiss, Nate. We have so much history together; I think we have to give it a try. I love you so much." She leaned forward and touched his face, but Nate pulled away. He couldn't help but feel that this was sudden. Before the party, he had been sure she would choose Dan.
"Serena... I don't know if we should be together right now. I don't know if I should be with anyone at all." Nate looked at Serena and his heart broke a little when he saw that she was devastated. "I just... I don't know. Everything was great at the beginning, but the moment things got difficult, you bailed. You didn't confide in me about your father, you went to Dan, and when I wanted to work things out you left. How do I know things are going to be different this time?"
"I won't risk losing you again, Nate, I'll do anything I can to convince you that I'm serious about this."
"Anything?" he asked.
"Anything," she answered. She looked truthful and Nate really wanted to believe her. He couldn't help but think that he might regret it if he didn't give her another chance.
"I want you to be nice to Jenny when she comes back. Not just tolerate her, but actually be nice to her. And she and I are going to hang out, so you're going to have to be okay with that. She needs friends right now."
Serena hesitated a bit, but she nodded. "Okay, I'll be nice to Jenny."
"Then we can date," Nate replied. "I don't want to just jump back into a relationship. It's going to take time to repair the damage that's been done. But I really want to try."
She gave him a big smile, and his heart started beating fast again. He couldn't help but doubt himself, but he had made a decision, and he was going to stick to it.
As Nate took the elevator back to his and Chuck's penthouse he couldn't help but wonder what Jenny would think of his decision. She said she wanted him to be happy, and he had been happy at the beginning of his relationship with Serena; if there was a chance of getting that back, he wanted to try.
As soon as he was back in the penthouse he went to the closet and took out his suitcase. However, he only had time to put it on the bed when he heard someone walk into the suite.
"Nate?" Dan called.
Nate walked out to the living room and, sure enough, Dan was there. He couldn't remember ever seeing him in the suite, and his friend looked out of place.
"Is it true?" Dan asked. His voice was tense, and Nate noticed the rest of him was too. "Is it true you arranged for Jenny to come back?"
Nate sighed. "Yes, it's true. I thought you'd be happy."
"Do you remember what she did before she left? And the hell she's caused every time she's come back? That's not my little sister, Nate!"
"I know that," Nate said. He was trying to stay calm, but Dan was angry and he couldn't understand why.
"So when did you become a masochist? She's one of the reasons you and Serena broke up!"
"Look, Jenny said she didn't like it out in Hudson, and that she was sorry for everything she did. Can't you just give her a second chance?"
"She's had a second chance! And a third, and a fourth!" Dan's voice kept getting louder, and he had started pacing.
"She really wants things to be different this time. She's your sister, Dan, I know you love her."
"Take it back. Whatever you did to get her to come back, take it back."
Nate was getting more and more upset: Dan wasn't listening to him. He couldn't believe that Jenny's own brother didn't want her to come back, didn't want to believe that she could change. "I won't take it back, forget it. She wants to be here, and she deserves to be. No one should be exiled from their own family!"
"Fine, then. When it all goes to hell, it will be on you. But I won't be around to watch."
Dan walked back over to the elevator and pressed the down button. "Wait," Nate said, "are you saying you won't be there to help her?"
The elevator doors opened and Dan got in. "I tried, Nate. I can't do it anymore. She's proven over and over again that she can't be trusted. Frankly, I think you're a fool for believing her."
Nate was too dumbfounded to reply, and stared at the elevator long after Dan was gone. He realised he hadn't even told him about dating Serena. He was taken out of his trance when the doors opened again and Chuck walked in.
"I just ran into Humphrey," Chuck said, "and he didn't look very happy. I thought you two were bosom buddies again."
"He's pissed Jenny's coming back," Nate answered. He walked back over to his room, opened the luggage he had put on the bed, and started emptying the drawers one by one, dumping their content in the suitcases.
He heard Chuck approaching, two glasses of scotch in his hands. He put one on the bedside table for Nate and took a sip of the other one. "Going on a trip?" Chuck asked.
"I'm moving out, and back into my apartment." Nate finished emptying the drawers and moved on to the closet.
"I didn't know you had an apartment," Chuck said.
"I got it when Blair and I got together, and I kept it after I moved in here, in case it didn't work out."
"It's nice to know you have so much faith in us," Chuck said, smiling.
"I just need to be on my own, for a while," Nate answered.
"And it doesn't have anything to do with little Jennifer Humphrey coming back to town?"
Nate paused. Hearing Chuck say Jenny's name unnerved him a little. "I doubt she's going to want to hang out here after what happened," he replied. He kept to his task, not looking at Chuck. After a while, the man he called his best friend left the room and Nate heard him sit down on the couch.
He quickly finished packing his things, and was amazed at how little time it took him. He had moved so many times in the last few years that he only carried the bare essentials with him. He realized he missed his things, his trophies, his books, and made a mental note to call his mom to ask where those things were so he could find a place for them in his apartment.
As he walked to the elevator with his luggage he couldn't think of anything to say. And it seemed like Chuck couldn't either, because the only sound that could be heard was the clinking of the ice cubes in Chuck's drink as the elevator doors closed.