Title: Signs
Character/Relationships: Serena, Dan, Blair, Dair
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 2344
Disclaimer: I don't own anything Gossip Girl related.
Note
: Betad by asphodelmoon, so again, thank you a lot. Dair. Told from Serena's pov. Takes off somewhere after christmas break, no real spoilers though.
Summary: The point where she really should get suspicious is reached when they start to call each other by their first names.

::

She cannot put her finger on the exact moment, but there must have been one.

Or maybe it had been more like a slow progression, too tiny for anyone to notice, but still there, moving forward constantly.

But she does not notice anything, neither big and quick nor tiny and slow. Maybe she is not the most observant person (there is a reason scheming and plotting is Blair's domain), but Serena likes to just trust people.

Sure, there are moments when something feels off, they do seem to spend a lot of time together.

But that had started because of her, even for her, right?

Because Dan loves her, has somehow managed to become her version of always have, always will. They aren't together or anything, but somehow he is still hers.

Even when she had belonged to Nate and he had been with Vanessa, she had always come first.

She doesn't like to talk about it because she thinks it makes her sound like a spoiled little brat, but she likes it.

She knows that it isn't fair to him, that it hadn't been fair to Vanessa or Nate.

But she feels like she needs it, it makes her feel worthy, that someone like Dan can love someone like her. He is like that safe place she can go to when things get too hard.

Maybe there are tiny sighs, that she chooses to ignore.

They keep hanging out after Christmas, even though the whole Juliet fiasco is solved and everyone else is back in town.

It's not like she is complaining about it.

After all, she has been trying to get them to be friends for almost four years. (Who would've guessed that the only thing it took was her absence?)

And they do have a lot of stuff in common, because who else would want to study during break? Or watch French documentaries (without any subtitles).

So she is kind of glad that Blair has found someone to do these things with, primarily because it means she is off the hook.

The point where she really should get suspicious is reached when they start to call each other by their first names. No Waldorf any more. No Brooklyn, no Cabbage Patch, not even Humphrey. Just Dan and Blair.

But she doesn't get suspicious and so it comes as a total shock when she opens the door to the loft one day, after they hadn't answered their phones, to find them cuddled up on his living room couch. Naked.

For a moment everyone stays completely frozen. She doesn't know who looks more shocked, she or they. Then Blair shrieks and pulls the blanket tighter around her. Dan stutters her name, but she is already out the door.

::

She hides at Nate's for the next few days, tries to wrap her head around what she has just discovered (and to forget the images).

But Nate isn't much help. In fact, he is no help at all. He doesn't react as shocked as she thinks he should. He doesn't even have the decency to pretend to be surprised.

He mentions Dan asking him advice on some girl, a feisty brunette apparently, and that putting the pieces together hadn't been that hard. Somehow he seems to think the whole thing is hilarious.

::

She is honestly surprised when Dan is the one who tracks her down first, until she realizes that Nate must have told on her.

He takes her out for coffee, the most awkward coffee she has ever had, and tries to explain.

Apparently this has been going on for a month, a whole month, that she hadn't noticed.

"We're not a couple or anything." He says, but he sounds more like he is trying to convince himself than her. "We're just hanging out, seeing where it goes."

"Right." She snorts, "because you're both the type for casual relationships." She plays with her cup to have something to do.

"Are you mad?" He asks, looks at her more closely. "Because you sound mad."

She shifts under his gaze, and takes a large gulp of coffee to buy some time, because she isn't sure what she feels.

But the coffee is still too hot, it burns her throat and makes her eyes water.

"Serena? You're okay?"

"I'm not mad." She finally says, because she doesn't think she feels mad. She feels lonely, and a little bit betrayed, but she can't say that, because she knows that it's not like they betrayed her. They're both single, they're allowed to do what they want. But there is this tiny piece of her that thought that maybe Dan would wait for her forever...that they would work it out.

"I am not mad." She repeats, and forces a smile on her face. "Just surprised, okay?"

She knows that he doesn't fully believe her, so she smiles even brighter and, partly to distract him and partly because she really wants to know she asks. "So Humphrey, tell me, how exactly did this all start?"

His smile is more nervous than hers (probably more honest too), "I really don't know. We hung out a bit while all of you were gone, and actually talked. She came over at New Year's, and we were a little drunk and I guess we kind of kissed at midnight and it went from there..."

He's turning red now, and she is torn between feeling sorry for herself and teasing him.

"So, you guess you kind of kissed?" She laughs.

"Don't make fun of me, it's like she is showing me this different side of her? You know, like letting me in and it's really nice, or it was, because she hasn't answered any of my calls since, you know..."

And then the realization hits her, there's this look on his face when he talks about her best friend. She's familiar with that look, it's how he used to look at her, and she just knows.

"You like her."

"I know, I just told you that we-"

"No, I mean you really like her, you're in love with her."

And he doesn't even deny it, just asks "I'm screwed, right?"

"Maybe not. Just, you know, talk to her." She wonders how this conversation went from him checking up on her to her giving him relationship advice.

"Let's just say she was really clear about the casual thing, she'll probably dump me as soon as she finds out. Or Chuck will kill me himself when he does."

"First, how can she dump you, if you aren't even really dating? And second, Chuck won't kill you, maybe he'll hire a hit-man, but he won't do it himself."

"You're a great help Serena. So glad I told you."

"Thanks." She sticks her tongue out at him. "That's what friends are for."

She takes a sip from her mug, and sobers up a little, because he does have a point. "So Blair hasn't told Chuck?" That one could turn out ugly, Chuck had never been good at losing.

"No. No one knows beside you. And Nate, I suspect, because he has been acting abnormally smug these last couple weeks. We decided-, well, actually Blair decided we're not telling anyone yet."

"Of course she did."

"So could you, you know, not tell her?"

She tries really hard not to laugh at how desperate he looks, can't help to make fun of him a little. "Don't worry, I won't tell her that the two of you are hanging out," she quotes his earlier words, "but I think that maybe, you know, she figured it out by now."

"Funny." He answers, doesn't look as amused as she suddenly feels. But she thinks it's nice that, for once, she isn't the one with all the relationship drama. Not that it's that much drama, they're just making things complicated. It makes her wonder if that is the way the others feel about her relationships. Probably.

He interrupts her thoughts, tries again. "But seriously, don't tell her that I- you know, feel that way."

Dan looks really distressed, so she gives in. "Fine, I won't. But I still think that you should."

"I'll think about it."

"Okay." It is better than no, so she'll take it. "I should go now," she decides, stands up to put her coat on.

She is going to find Blair, feels guilty about hiding suddenly, about ignoring her calls (twenty-three) and texts (forty-nine), she hadn't even listened to the voice mails.

"Sure, just, we're fine, right?"

"Yeah." She's already halfway out the door, when she turns around and calls him. "Humphrey?"

"Yeah?"

"Just so you know, if you hurt her, I'll hurt you." she warns him.

"Noted."

Looking for Blair doesn't take long, because the brunette is waiting for her when she gets home. Sitting in Serena's bedroom, on her bed.

The blonde stops at the doorway, watches her best friend for a while.

Blair's head is resting against the headboard, her eyes closed and her knees pulled up to her chest.

"Hi." Serena says softly, feels even more guilty.

"Hi." Blair replies. "Where have you been?" She makes room so Serena can sit next to her.

"At Nate's." She says while she makes herself comfortable.

Blair doesn't look at her, she plays with the hem of the comforter, whispers, "I am sorry, S."

"What for?"

Blair raises a perfectly shaped eyebrow at her, looks like she is trying to figure out if Serena is joking with her, but the blonde looks serious.

"I am not mad." She finally says.

It sounds more honest this time, less forced, because Blair looks so worried and that's not right.

She can't be mad at Blair, because what kind of friend would that make her?

"But you could have told me, you know?"

"I should have, it's just, I know Dan is special to you, I didn't want to hurt your feelings, and it's not like it meant anything. We were just lonely when all of you were gone and after you were all back we just forgot to stop."

"You sure? Because Dan and I, we're not like that any more. Haven't been in a long time." (It just took her a little longer to realize it.) "And when Dan talked to me, it sounded like it did mean something."

"Well, it's not like he gets to decide that, and I am not the relationship type any more, okay?"

Serena can't help but lift a critical eyebrow at Blair. "Since when exactly?"

"Since recently, I'm taking a page out of your book. Nothing serious, just harmless fun."

"I am not sure if I should feel insulted right now, because you always frowned upon that. Plus, it's not even true." And it's not her fault that her relationships never work, or at least, she doesn't ruin them on purpose.

Blair seems angry suddenly. "Maybe I came to my senses. Relationships don't work, they just make you miserable."

Serena isn't sure what to say. "Look, I know that Chuck hurt you, but-."

Apparently that's the wrong thing, because when Blair interrupts her she looks like she's about to cry. "Just don't, S. Let's not talk about him, okay?"

Right then she wants nothing more than to make Chuck Bass suffer for doing this to Blair. It's been months, almost a year, and her best friend is still a mess.

But Chuck is in New Zealand, so all she can do is wrap her arms around a crying Blair and hug the smaller girl. They stay like that for a while, until Blair has calmed down and rests her head in Serena's lap.

"You know," she starts, tries to address the topic carefully, "that Dan is not Chuck." It hasn't occurred to her before, but maybe someone like Dan is exactly what Blair needs. "Maybe you could just try it?"

Blair's reply comes instantly. "Right, because I don't already know how it is to be in love with someone who is in love with my best friend. I think I'll sit this one out."

Serena winces, she had almost, almost forgotten about that. So she repeats what she has already said. "We're not in love any more, okay? We've moved on." She divides Blair's curls in strands, starts to braid them.

Blair shifts a little, to give her better access. "Just because you've moved on, doesn't mean he has too. That boy has been in love with you since probably forever."

She thinks about it for a moment, because she did promise Dan, but Blair is her best friend, who's sad and it's a stupid secret to keep anyway, so she leans down, presses a kiss to Blair's cheek and whispers in her ear. "Wanna know a secret?"

"Mhm."

"Dan, he's in love with you."

"What?" Blair sits up, gives her a serious look. "Are you making that up to make me feel better? Because I'll know if you do and-"

"I am not." She interrupts. "He told me. Made me promise not tell."

"Well, you're awful at keeping secrets then." Blair decides, but she's looking happier than before, no more tears, maybe even the hint of a smile.

::

She's at Nate's when the blast hits. (Not hiding this time, just hanging.)

There's a photo attached to the message, it shows them kissing, Dan's arms are wrapped around Blair, and she's cupping his face with her hands.

"You're okay?" Nate asks when he puts away his phone, he sounds concerned, but at the same time tries to hide his smile. (Maybe she does too.)

"Yeah." She says, and she is.

::

-fin.