The scenery is different, but the scenario the same. Her hand in his, and she doesn't pull away.
Her living room now, escaping that disaster of a party the minute he suggested it. Her couch that they sit side by side, hands still entwined, only apart for the brief moments it took for him to open a door, hail a cab.
They sit in silence, she in her dress and he in that ridiculous suit, as the tears occasionally well and fall. The embarrassment and shame twists inside, oily and black, and the only thing that calms it even a little, is his reassuring squeeze.
She tries not to think about how this doesn't make any sense. How suddenly he of all people is the one she finds herself spending time with. How he's the one that, despite all the verbal slings and arrows, is kind enough to hold her steady when life spins uncontrollably around her.
It's easier, she thinks, when they fight. When they constantly poke and prod, the language spoken between them classic sarcasm and sardonic wit, enemies up close but friends at distance. Her thumb rubs gently over his knuckles, but she won't look at him. She'll take the comfort he offers, but can't stand to see the pity she knows will be in his eyes, hidden oh so carefully behind empathy.
"I'm going to bed," she says, standing up suddenly.
It's not an invitation.
But when he follows, she doesn't say no.
He leans against the doorframe as she makes her way to the closet. Pulling out sensible pajamas and trying her best to ignore the feeling of his eyes on her back as she does so. He doesn't move, only watches. She fights the flush that wishes so desperately to spread across her cheeks and down her neck.
Stepping in front of the vanity, her eyes catch his and they both freeze. It's too much, she thinks, too intimate. Having him in her room like this, like something could happen at any moment if either one dared to take that step.
The pajamas are bunched in her hand.
"Unzip me?" She asks.
His hesitation isn't surprising. The slight tilt of his head as if he couldn't have heard correctly. But she waits, patience something she strangely has in his presence, and eventually he moves toward her.
Bottom lip caught gently in her teeth as his fingers brush cautiously against bare skin, but she absolutely will not gasp at the contact. As if the act of this is suddenly okay, as if she doesn't mind that he's uncharacteristically quiet, as if the feel of his breath on her shoulders doesn't make her eyes close.
Ever the gentleman, he turns his back as she changes, never once trying to sneak a peek like the desperate loser she always assumed him to be.
She crawls atop the bed, snuggling up to the endless supply of pillows, and lets her tired head collapse against the goose down softness. He's still by the vanity, eyes looking all over the room, at anything and everything that isn't her.
"I should," he starts, thumb jerked behind him at the door.
Yes, she thinks, he should. He should just turn around and hop a train. Back to Brooklyn and away from whatever moments are leading them to this new level of comfort. Ones they'll both deny oh so easily, should a spotlight suddenly shine.
Don't is the last thing either of them thought she'd say. But she does, the word falling from her lips as smooth as whiskey.
She watches him take one step, pause for the courage to build before taking another, shedding his jacket as he gets close, loosening his tie as his shins brush the mattress. It sinks under his weight, but she does not fall into him, inching back just enough to see as he lays himself out.
It's amusing that they both seem not to know how to proceed from this point.
His hand reaches for hers again, and it's a concession. They're good with this, whatever it is, and slow is a pace she never thought she'd be comfortable with.
"Tell me a story," she requests sleepily, eyes growing heavy with the weight of the day.
He chuckles, mostly to himself, and shifts slightly as if sitting more upright will jar the words more easily from his mind.
"Once upon a time," he says softly. "There was a guy and a girl and they couldn't be friends."
It's a predictable tale, people who are born and bred different, living on opposite sides of the world. He's got a knack for the visual, she'll give him that, strange little details that form a vivid picture on the back of her eyelids. His would be Romeo romancing a Juliet who couldn't be less interested, playing a game of catch and release across familiar landscape.
The more he speaks the closer she shifts, fingers playing idly with yet another tie she loathes, listening astutely as the words take away the sting of the nights mistakes and miscues.
He can be endearing, she thinks, when he's not so pretentious. The fact that he helps without being asked, that he cares simply because he does. Traits she's always wanted in someone else, but the scheming little princess inside could never respect.
Part of her doesn't want to sleep, though the exhaustion keeps her eyes closed, terrified that this content little bubble she's allowing will burst upon the sunrise.
A pause in the story, so that he can shift to a more comfortable position, his free hand falling just above her, fingers brushing against her hair. Teeth catch her lip again, the hand this isn't still with his, squeezing the ugly tie.
Of course he doesn't understand what such a gesture means to her. Of course the significance doesn't resonate as those fingers of his gently pull her strands between them.
The real world fades away into his creation, the smooth endless stream of words finally lulling her to sleep.
The sun is cruel, shining brightly across her face until she peers a cautious eye open. The blanket only covers her legs, both of them atop the covers, her knee arched against his thigh, their hands an inch from contact. He's so still she doesn't think he's breathing at first, until he mumbles something sleepily incoherent, uttered only when her fingers close the gap.
The bubble hasn't burst quite yet, denial not rising up with the sun. He's not completely useless, she admits, watching as he breathes slow and steady.
And though he has nothing she wants, she's realizing that what he does offer, tilts ever so dangerously into need. There are a hundred reasons why they'll never go beyond this, and hundred more why they will and won't succeed. But none of them seem to matter when his steady hand calms her erratic one.
Her life is too busy now. For games, of bringing about means to an end, and far too tired for wishing.
Dan Humphrey is asleep in her bed.
These things happen for a reason.