AN: Disclaimer in chapter 1. This is part 2 of 2.
I want to thank everyone who has given this a shot, readers and reviewers alike.
And to those who have reviewed, you guys are awesome; it's amazing to know other people have enjoyed something that I put so much effort into. As a side note, to those who don't really like sad stories, I don't like them either. I hope in the end you see that my intentions were to show the process of moving on after something horrible. I'm incapable of writing something that leaves me miserable or depressed at the end.
By now, she knows (and she's learned the hardest way she can) that the universe takes, and takes, and takes. Maybe it gives, too, but she doesn't know how to accept that yet.
"Why do you keep coming here?" Blair asks him, six weeks after the funeral.
It's become their ritual now; she'll come downstairs when he visits, but neither of them will talk about anything important. Like her mother. Tonight she's made an exception, and it takes him a few minutes to decide how to respond.
"I want to see how you're doing," he says, truthfully. What he wants to say is that he's waiting for the real Blair to re-emerge.
She smiles, and it's thisclose to genuine, so he smiles in return.
"The fact is, Blair, I know that you're hiding from everyone."
"What does that mean?" She asks blithely. "I'm right here, it's not hard for anyone to find me."
"Yes," he agrees, "they can find you if they want. But is anyone truly looking?"
She hesitates, but not for long. "You're trying to be clever," she sneers, longing for stable ground, which has somehow completely eluded her (for 7 weeks and 2 days, now). "It doesn't suit you."
He has to physically restrain himself from the urge to grab hold of her, this Blair he knows, the one he's been missing. Realistically, he knows that even if he could hold onto her, there's nothing to keep her from slipping away again.
"No, it's not the cleverness that bothers you, is it?" He counters thoughtfully. "It's that I'm hitting too close to home."
"I'm fine," she insists. "If you don't believe me, ask Serena. Aren't you two best friends?"
He almost laughs at that. "Yeah, Serena. She believes you're alright because she wants to, and right now she couldn't handle otherwise."
"You have no right," she argues, backing up from him, as if that will erase his words, their whole conversation – maybe his entire existence.
"Is it me who has no right?" He asks, "Or is it you who has no right? Where is everyone, Blair?"
She looks around, almost expecting their other friends to jump out of the woodwork. "I'm…they're not here. Because I don't need them here and they finally realized that."
"So they're not here because they're convinced you're fine. They believe the lies you tell."
"You're not convinced," she tries desperately, hoping she'll change his train of thought. She won't be able to handle it if he keeps on the current track.
"Well, we're not friends," he says, and it's meant to be a joke. The old Blair would have appreciated it, but he remembers too late she's not that person anymore, despite the surface similarities.
"No," she admits, her shoulders falling. "I guess we're not, are we?"
She sounds completely heartbroken, and he doesn't quite know what to make of it; he's not self-centered enough to think it's because of him.
"Blair," he tries, wondering how he can convince her he's doing this for her, and not for himself, "you don't have to be afraid of this."
"Stop pushing me," she cries. "What is this? Do you want me to suffer?"
"No," he insists, sad that she doesn't understand, by now, that if it were up to him, she'd never suffer. "I'm not pushing you. I'm just…waiting."
"Leave me alone," she tells him, for the umpteenth time, before retreating to her bedroom. She has to put as much space between them as she can.
He tells Dorota that he's going to spend another night on the couch, because he can't leave her. Not now.
It takes four more days for her to collapse. And though he's been waiting for it, expecting it, (praying for it), he's still not prepared. He guesses this is something you never can be prepared for.
It starts with a meltdown of epic proportions, even by Blair Waldorf standards.
"I hate you!" She yells at him, as he dodges a vase full of carnations that she throws in his direction. It lands with a crash, flowers and shards of pottery scattering across the floor, joining the others she'd already destroyed. She's gotten dozens of arrangements since her mother's death. They keep coming, an unending tide to remind her of what she'd give anything to forget. They fill up the space, they take all the air; why else would it feel like she can't breathe anymore?
"Blair –" He can barely get out her name before she's yelling at him again.
"Why are you here? What do you want from me? Leave me alone!"
"I can't –"
"What, do you want to see me completely lose it? Then here's your wish!" She screams, clearing another side table of flower arrangements with one sweep of her arm. At least those weren't directed at his head.
He allows himself a moment to take her in, recognizing that he's never seen her so completely unhinged. No, he's never seen her so completely lost.
"You need someone," he tells her.
"I don't need anybody," she cries furiously, lashing out at the only person available. "You aren't my mother. She's the only person I need. And she's not here, is she?"
His eyes widen when she advances forward angrily. "Blair, I wish that –"
"Shut up!" She screams, shoving him backwards. "You don't know! You can't imagine what it's like."
"You're wrong," he says, feeling anger to match hers for the first time. The difference is that his anger isn't directed at her, but at the unfairness of the situation, and at himself for being unable to fix it. "I know some things. I might not know what it's like. I might not even know you, but I want to. And I know myself, and I know that it's…excruciating to see you in so much pain."
She doesn't respond to that, not with words. She only shakes her head. Maybe she's in denial of what he's said, but it doesn't stop her from starting to cry. It doesn't stop her from taking a step toward him that isn't propelled by anger.
He expects her to stop, but she keeps coming, until she's walked right into him. She drops her head against his chest, and wraps her arms protectively around herself, almost as if she's afraid that a hug wouldn't be returned.
He's too surprised to do anything but freeze for five seconds, ten, twenty. Then it hits him that she's asking him for something he can actually give.
He carefully puts his arms around her, then tightens them when she doesn't jerk away or start screaming in anger again; for a moment, they're taking up almost the same space.
They stand there for long minutes, surrounded by remains of shattered vases and carnations. "I'm sorry, Blair."
"She'll never be here again," she says brokenly, voice muffled against him, and she's no longer angry. Now her words hold only grief and misery. He can't take that away. He can't do anything for her, except hold onto her as tightly as he can in an effort to remind her that she's not alone, and she'll get through this.
"I wish I could change things for you," he tells her, and he's never meant anything as much.
She holds onto him for dear life, and when she looks up into his face, the only thing that keeps him in control of himself is his sheer desire to be strong for her, because she needs it. "My mother's never coming back."
"No," he says, because he knows she needs to hear the truth. "She isn't, Blair."
"How could she leave me?" Blair asks again, and he remembers what she said at her mother's funeral. He's more prepared this time.
"She didn't want to," he says, his words getting stronger when she meets his eyes. "I'm sure of it. She would never willingly leave you, Blair. You know that, in your heart, as much as I do."
"I miss her," Blair tells him. "I've tried, and tried, but I don't know how to make it go away."
"It won't go away," he says carefully. "And it shouldn't go away. She was a part of you, Blair. You'll miss her forever."
"Gee, thanks," she says wryly, shaking her head. "You sure know how to make me feel better."
His smile, in response, is as tinged with emotion as her words were. "You'll never stop missing her, but the pain will get better, Blair. I swear it will."
"How do you know?" She challenges, the accusation he was dreading. "You've never lost anyone close to you. You don't know what it's like. She left…a hole in my heart. No one will ever fill that space."
"You're right," he readily admits. "I have no idea what it's like firsthand. But I can imagine how much it would hurt to lose someone I loved. How devastated I'd be to lose one of my parents, or my sister, or –" you. He clears his throat. "Well, let's just say I don't know how I'd survive it. But you have to, Blair."
"Why?" She asks. "It'd be much easier, wouldn't it, if we were dead? Think about it. No more worrying about the future, about anything. No more grief at losing our loved ones. No more anything. It'd be easy –"
He pushes her out to arm's length, a bit violently, but he can't help it. "What are you talking about, Blair?" He asks angrily.
"All I'm saying is that not knowing would be easier," she sighs.
He searches her eyes as best he can, and though he's mostly convinced she's only speculating, and not actually suicidal, her words spark a fear in him unlike anything he's ever felt before. "Blair, don't say things like that. Don't do that to me."
"We're back to you again?" She scoffs. "Sorry, but I thought you realized by now this wasn't about you."
"No, this is about me," he argues, gripping her shoulders enough to make sure he has her full attention. "When you say things like that, it is about me."
She blinks in surprise and he can practically see the wheels turning in her head, as if she's only just realized what she might have done to him. She steps away, looking anywhere but at him. "I didn't mean…all I meant was…oh never mind. Just go, okay?"
"Blair," he says firmly, "you're crazy if you think I'm leaving after you said –"
"It was nothing, alright? I'm fine! Forget about it. I'm going to bed," she insists, heading up the stairs to seek the refuge of her bedroom.
He watches her go, but the only thing he can feel is dread at imagining the space in his life that her loss would create in him. It's that thought which causes him to follow her.
He's sick of waiting, and he's tired of being afraid to say or do the wrong thing. He doesn't care anymore. She has to deal with him whether she likes it or not.
He comes to an abrupt stop in her bedroom doorway when he realizes that he honestly doesn't care if she hates him, as long as he knows she'll be alright someday.
"What are you doing?" She asks, irritated, when he simply stands at the entrance to her room without moving.
"What does it look like?" He asks.
"I really don't know anymore," she sighs, and the only thing he hears is tiredness. She doesn't want to fight him anymore; it's incredibly exhausting.
Despite her obvious unhappiness, she doesn't try to get him to leave in any way. Which she could – he wouldn't have been surprised if she called the police on him. Instead, all she does is take her pajamas into the bathroom to change.
When she reemerges in plaid flannel, she demonstrates her uncanny ability to read his mind. "Cyrus gave these to me for my birthday," she shrugs and smiles slightly. He nods in return, and half expects another lecture on harassment, but she simply turns off the lights and climbs into bed, facing away from him. A minute passes, then another. "Feel free to leave at any time," she finally says when it's apparent he isn't going anywhere.
She must guess that he would never abide with a request like that.
And from the way she stiffens with apprehension, she must never guess he'd get into bed with her either.
"What are you doing?" She whispers, as he lays down on the other side of her bed.
"I'm not going anywhere," he says. "I won't leave you."
"My mother did," she says, her voice hitching on the final word, and Dan puts his arm around her, because he thinks they both need for him to hold onto her in that moment.
Several minutes pass and he almost jumps when she speaks again. "I've encountered hundreds of problems in my life," she whispers. "And I've never found one I couldn't solve."
From her stuttered breathing, he can tell she's close to crying. He swallows heavily, already knowing what's coming next.
"Dan, I can't fix this one," she manages to get out. "There's nothing I can do. If there's a way, I can't find it. I don't…I don't know how."
"It's not you fault," he whispers, recognizing how much it's taken her to admit such a thing. He holds onto her more tightly when he feels her shaking from silent sobs.
It takes her a minute to contain herself enough to speak again. "That doesn't make me feel better," she says shakily.
"I know," he sighs, both of them knowing there are no words that would make her feel better. The only thing he can do is stay with her. After a short silence, he asks the question that's been weighing on him since they were downstairs. "Blair, do you understand that if you died, you'd be causing everyone who loved you the same grief you feel now?"
"Why are you doing this?" She whispers, ignoring his question.
He doesn't know how to explain to her why he's there; he can't even explain it to himself. "You can't leave us," he says, which isn't the answer she's looking for, but he thinks it's the only thing he can say that will matter. "You can't leave me."
She's silent for quite some time, to the point that he begins to wonder if she's fallen asleep. The room is pitch black, which is why he feels her turn over under his arm, but can't see it. He knows it's not his imagination when she moves closer to him, and it's also not his imagination when she carefully puts her own arm around him.
She takes a deep, shaky breath. "I'm not going anywhere," she tells him.
It's as much of a promise as he's going to get, so he'll take it. And he's sure as hell going to intend she keeps it.
It's slow going, and takes months, but she eventually talks to him. It takes kicking and screaming (sometimes literally), but she gets there.
He's true to his word, and he never leaves her. She tries to drive him away as best she can, but he never leaves. Not after unjustified rages where she says she hates him, or sobs that nothing will ever fix her, or even when she blames him for her mother's death.
She hasn't handled things prettily, she sees that now. Recalling those memories, she might have hated herself for her undignified displays of grief, but then she thinks, who wrote the book on that subject? Who said there was a right or wrong way to go about it? Yes, she'd gone through some awful things, and she'd said and done terrible things in the aftermath of hurt, but she'll excuse herself for that. Dan did, anyways, so who was she to hate herself for things he's already forgiven?
She doesn't realize, until her mother has been dead exactly six months, how much she truly needs him.
She sits at her mother's grave and traces the letters of her name with her fingers. Her mother's name. She'll name her daughter Eleanor, now – if she ever has one. Because her mother deserves to be remembered, in something more alive than an etching in marble.
"I miss you so much," she tells her, setting down the bouquet of flowers she brought with her. "If you only saw how things have turned out…you'd be laughing along with me. Or maybe at me."
She glances over when he kneels next to her. She's not surprised or upset. In fact, by now, she'd be upset if he weren't there, and isn't that quite the turnaround from only a few months before?
He doesn't say anything as she rests her head against his shoulder. He's simply there. After her mother's death, in the shadow of all that she's experienced in a few short months, she can admit that she loves him for that. It would be unfair to deny it, especially now, when she knows how short life is, and how little time anyone truly has to express their feelings to those they love.
"Do you think she misses me?" She asks, not looking for reassurance, but merely his true opinion. "Do you think she exists, somewhere, and that she can see me from wherever she is?"
He sits back on the grass without hesitation and pulls her into his lap. It crosses her mind for a moment that Nate or Chuck would have thought twice about getting their clothes dirty, and how refreshing it is that the thought doesn't even occur to him.
"I do think she exists somewhere else," he says, resting his head on top of hers. "And because of that, I don't think she misses you – because she can see you, and know how you're doing. I think she's proud of you, Blair Waldorf. I know she was when she was alive, and still is now, wherever she may be."
She blinks the tears out of her eyes. "You're trying to make me feel better."
He turns her head to face him. "You know me better than that."
She looks away from him, slightly ashamed, because he's right. "I don't know why you love me," she says, which is risky because he's never actually told her he loves her (although she's sure he does, and she still doesn't know why).
He smiles slightly, letting her know the significance of the moment is not lost on him. "I don't know either," he says slowly, teasing her, "but I could probably come up with a list of reasons, if I were forced, that is."
She turns to kiss him briefly, shutting her eyes to defend against the enormity of the emotions within her. "I feel the same way."
He's genuinely surprised. "I didn't expect that," he says softly, pulling her closer.
"Neither did I," she admits.
It's true though, and she's surprised that she's fine not only telling him, but that she's fine accepting it herself. It must have happened when she wasn't looking.
Somehow, he's become the person she's most comfortable with – not only in talking about her mother's death, but about everything in her life. As for how that happened, and why…it's more complicated, but much of it has to do with his unwavering support. He'd always been there for her. Of course, the rest of her friends had been there for her, too. But Dan had been there when she didn't want him to be, even when she actively tried to drive him away, and if she's looking for reasons, that might very well make all the difference.
She thinks that if she were still the past version of herself, the fact that she loves him might have terrified her. Or that she might hate her mother for dying, and inadvertently bringing these circumstances about.
Only…she's different now. Did her mother's death cause her to love Dan Humphrey? There's no way she'll ever know; maybe she doesn't want to know.
It truly shocks her when she thinks, for the first time, that something good might have arisen from that which had threatened to break her.
If her mother hadn't died, maybe she would have never fallen in love with him.
It scares her, too, because it turns the wish of asking for her mother's return into the simultaneous wish of erasing the past six months of him from her life completely. Oh, he'd still have been there, but in the background, both of them probably hating each other and maybe entirely missing what might have been.
Dan senses the change in her and asks what's wrong.
"Nothing," she tells him. Because nothing is really wrong, per se. Except…is it blasphemous that she'd thought something wonderful might have come from her mother's death? Does it make her evil to be grateful for Dan?
If her mother heard those thoughts, how could she ever forgive her?
"Blair," Dan says, not buying her suddenly unnatural silence, "talk to me."
"What if…" she swallows, almost too guilty to speak her thoughts aloud. "I was just thinking that my mother dying…kind of led us to each other. If she hadn't died, it might not have happened, and so maybe…"
"Maybe something good came out of her death?" He finishes, as she bites her lip and avoids his eyes. She really hates herself now.
Her words fall to an almost indecipherable whisper. "What if it's only the death of my mother that made space for you?"
It's a question that truly terrifies her. Does it mean that part of her is happy her mother died? Does it mean that she would have missed knowing him, if her mother had lived? Because there, at her mother's grave, she realizes that if someone offered her mother back, and the consequence was that she had to give him up in return, she wouldn't know how do it. She still misses her mother with a sometimes unbearable ache, but giving him up would leave her with equal grief.
"Oh Blair," he whispers, and though she isn't looking at him, she can hear the slight smile in his voice. It reassures her for some reason. "It's not wrong to recognize the good things that have come out of tragedy. In fact, I bet your mother would be happy about it. Besides, I would have found my way to you, eventually. You can be sure of that. Though I admit, it might have taken a much, much longer time to convince you to give me a shot if your mother were still alive. I don't know if I'd have been able to get her on my side." He's joking now, and it causes her to hug him in a sudden surge of affection.
"I think you would have won her over without any problem," she says. "As long as you had my best interests at heart. She was never as much of a snob as I was."
He nods. "You were hard to beat, no doubt."
"Hey!" She argues, playfully hitting him, and he doesn't argue with her – not with words. He leans down to kiss her again and she gives herself over to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. In any other situation she would have felt bad about kissing her boyfriend while at her mother's grave, but she thinks that in this case, her mother would approve.
Because she's happy, and her mother, wherever she is, certainly could not disapprove of that. No mother could, if it were her child.
"I love you," she says, as she disengages herself from him to stand in front of her mother's gravestone. It's a surreal sight, which makes her think of what her own will look like someday.
Nevertheless, she kisses her hand and places it on top of the stone. Then she glances at Dan. "Both of you."
"She loves you back," Dan says firmly, as if no other answer is possible. "And so do I."
Blair nods, taking his hand. She thinks it's time to go home, and finds that in itself remarkable – that she's able to consider any place home, after her mother has gone.
It's only one of the many things he's given her.
No, good things didn't always come from the bad – in fact, some might argue they rarely came from the bad. But in this case, she couldn't deny that she'd been willing to let him in solely because of the gaping hole in her life left by her mother's death. She honestly doesn't know how she'd have gotten through it without him; she doesn't want to imagine it.
She'd lost one of the people she loved most in the world. And in return, she'd gained someone she loved most in the world. It wasn't exactly an even trade, because her mother had occupied a space in her heart that could never be filled. But neither could she deny that Dan had created his own space. It was a different space, for sure, but equally as important.
She'll consider it her mother's final gift – the grief having allowed her to accept someone into her life that she would have otherwise rejected, without question, based upon her pre-conceived judgments about the world. She wouldn't have been fair to him. She wouldn't have given him a chance.
Because of her mother, though, she had given him a chance.
"Let's go home," Dan says, and she graces him with a smile.
Their home is a space filled with love, and by now, she knows how grateful to be for something as simple as that.