The Couple Who Weren't

Nate is the first to notice. It is an unusual position for him to be in, because usually he is the last to find these things out.

He is surprised, and unsure what he's supposed to do. Should he tell someone?

And what exactly would he say?

Because the whole thing is so bizarre, he doesn't know what to make of it.

What makes it even more complicated is that they seem completely oblivious. To the fact that, for all intents and purposes, they appear to be a couple.

It dawns on him while he is standing by himself bored at a charity gala, and observes Dan and Blair sneaking off early to get their coats.

"Uh, why is she taking so long? How hard is it to find a couple of coats? After all, they should stand out. Mine was the best one here, and yours was the worst," Blair mutters, glaring at the retreating figure of the coat check girl.

Nate sees Dan roll his eyes. "Hey, if I was getting paid minimum wage to fetch and put away coats that cost more than I'd make in a month, I wouldn't exactly be burning a hole in the floor either."

Blair snorts. "Please, spare me your speech on the rights of the working classes. You'll be just as pissed as I will be if we miss the start."

Dan shakes his head at her. "We can always make the ten o'clock showing instead." He looks at her speculatively. "Actually, did you have dinner before coming here?"

Blair sends him a baleful look. "I filled up on the crab cakes," Blair replies defensively.

"You had exactly two crab cakes," Dan contradicts readily. "I can tell when you're hungry, Waldorf, it always makes you extra grumpy and impatient. We'll get something to eat and then go to the later showing," he says as the coat check girl finally retrieves their coats and hands them over.

"It's not necessary," Blair argues as Dan helps her into her coat, but the objection sounds somewhat half-hearted to Nate.

"We'll go to that Italian place you love," Dan says cajolingly. "I won't even tell anyone if you order a dessert."

Blair bites her lip, then sends him a mischievous smile. "Okay, we'll go to the later showing," she agrees. Dan grins back at her, and his hand seems to linger on her arm for just a second after he's helped her into the coat.

As they take their leave, Nate is left feeling somewhat amazed by the exchange he just overheard.

Despite the bickering, if the pair had been strangers to him, he would have readily concluded that they were a couple. But Dan and Blair were not even supposed to be friends!

For a few minutes Nate wonders if he ought to mention the odd episode to anyone. His eyes seek out Serena, but she is gazing soulfully at a spruced-up Ben, seemingly indifferent once more to her ex's movements. Meanwhile Chuck's attention seems fully occupied with Raina, though whether for purposes of seduction or sabotage Nate isn't sure.

Over the next few days he considers the possibility of teasing Dan or Blair about the interlude, but something holds him back. Because as unfathomable as it is, there was something sweet and tender and private in that moment that the two had shared, but Nate senses that if he were to point that out to them, it might spoil it.

So Nate does not discuss the unsettling incident with anyone. But at future social gatherings he can't help but notice that Blair tends to leave much earlier than she used to, invariably with Dan at her side.