Author's Note: Sorry this chapter has taken such a long time to write but here it is! I've really enjoyed writing this story. Thanks so much to everyone who has reviewed! Enjoy :)
Two months ago, there was nothing Jenny wanted less than to be back in New York. She started the countdown to her return trip to Chicago pretty much the minute she stepped off the train. But now, here she was sitting in a café with Eric, spending her last day in the city with her best friend. Strangely, this day had come much faster than Jenny could have imagined. Even stranger was how sad she was to see it arrive.
Of course, these sad feelings were fleeting. At least, that's what she kept telling herself each time her eyes began welling up when Eric mentioned her dad, or Lily, or Dan, or the loft, or Cedric, or late night pizza, or…well you get the picture. But she was making the right choice, the mature choice, she was sure of it. Afterall, Nate's words were still imprinted in her mind, like a stamp on her brain that says "It's time to grow up."
"Sometimes, you have to go with your head, even if you heart is somewhere else."
And he was right. Jenny loved New York, but maybe it was like an old pair of shoes that you love the look of but can't really fit into anymore. Isn't that what life is like anyway? A continual cycle of trends, the shedding of one style or phase for another. Clearly, she had been spending too much time thinking about design school.
Jenny's inner monologue was interrupted by Eric gently touching her hand from across the table.
"Jenny?" he said, searching her eyes for signs of life. "Did you hear what I said?"
"Oh sorry," Jenny apologized. "I got lost in a thought."
"I see you are really savoring our last moments together," Eric said. It was meant to be a joke but it came out with more of an air of sadness than either of them had been expecting.
Eric didn't remove his hand but rather tightened his fingers around hers.
"I'm really gonna miss you," he said softly.
Jenny felt her eyes begin to well up. "Really?" she asked. "So you're not going to spend the next six months hating me and ignoring my calls.
Eric smiled slightly. "I could never hate you," he said. "And if I ignored your calls, who would I talk to when our family is being crazy."
Now Jenny smiled. She didn't realize how much she had missed Eric while she had been away until she was reunited with him, things falling right back into the way they used to be. They had had their share of problems last year, but when push came to shove, Eric had been there for Jenny in a way no one else was.
"What are you going to do for the rest of the day?" Eric asked, finally breaking their connection to check his watch.
Jenny exhaled, puffing out her cheeks. She wiped at her eyes to erase any tears which may have escaped.
"Well," she began. "I said goodbye to Lily last night and I was with Vanessa right before this, so I'm going to go home and finish packing then I was planning on going over to Nate's to say goodbye to him and Serena. Dad and Dan are going to take me to the train station after."
"Why is Serena at Nate's?" Eric asked.
Jenny shrugged. "Why are they ever together?"
She felt like it went without saying: Nate and Serena, Serena and Nate. The golden couple. It was the natural flow of things for them to get back together. Eric could be so clueless sometimes.
"Are you sure you don't want me to come to the station with you?" Eric asked as they stood up from the table.
"Considering it took twenty minutes to get you off of me when I got back from Chicago, I would rather not make a public scene and watch you get removed by security at the station for holding a passenger hostage."
Eric laughed, slinging an arm around her shoulder as they stepped out onto the street.
"Well, those security guards can be pretty cute." He said, as they continued on their way.
Jenny was about halfway done packing when she had a visitor.
"Nate," Jenny said, surprised. "What are you doing here? I thought I was meeting you later."
"Well, I was in the neighborhood," Nate said, walking past her into the loft. "Thought I'd stop by, see if you wanted to grab a coffee or something."
"Oh," Jenny replied. She glanced around the loft and all of her belongings intermixed chaotically with half-packed bags and a few boxes.
"I'm just sort of in the middle of packing," she said. "I really can't take a break right now."
"C'mon Jenny," Nate said, flashing her a smile that faltered when she didn't return it. "What's an hour or two, right?"
Jenny wasn't sure why Nate was acting so nonchalant about her schedule. He knew her train was leaving that night and it was obvious she was nowhere near ready to go.
"I can't Nate," Jenny said. She felt bad but she really needed to finish packing. She was also afraid that one last coffee date with Nate would break her resolve.
"I have an idea," she said. "Why don't you stay and help me. It could be fun, there are lots of embarrassing memories in here waiting to be uncovered." She smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
Nate just stood there for a moment. "So you're really going?"
Jenny was taken aback. "What do you mean? You know I am."
Nate looked straight into her eyes, the way he always seemed to, but this time it was unnerving…like she didn't want to know what was coming next.
"I need to tell you something," he said. His voice was clear and determined.
"Okay…" Jenny replied.
"I don't think you should go back to Chicago," he said.
Jenny took a deep breath. "Nate, we've talked about this. Chicago is where I live now, I go to school there. I have to go back." She paused and then added, "It's time to grow up."
"What about New York?" Nate asked, now a slight edge to his voice. "What about everything you said before, about missing your family? Your friends?"
Jenny's face softened. "Nate," she said softly. "Look, no matter where I am, we're still going to be friends." She reached out a touched his arm. "Okay?"
"I don't want to be your friend," Nate said.
Jenny pulled back as if she'd been slapped. Her face hardened. Now she was annoyed. Leaving was hard enough and Nate was the last person she had expected to make it harder—purposefully at least.
"Then I don't even know why we're having this conversation," Jenny said, moving to walk past him and open the door. Before she could pass him, Nate grabbed her arm, stopping her and forcing her to face him.
"Jenny, that's not what I meant." She wouldn't meet his eyes but he dropped his hand so that it trailed down her arm and eventually encircled her hand.
Nate took a deep breath. "I meant that I don't want to just be your friend."
"Nate…" Jenny said, a look of confusion on her face.
"We've never been 'just friends' Jen," Nate continued, his grip on her hand tightening. She didn't pull away and he took this as a reason to keep going. "There has always been something there. You're the one person who, no matter how hard I try, I've never been able to walk away from."
"But Serena—" Jenny interjected.
"I don't have feelings for Serena," Nate said softly.
Jenny just looked at him. So he hadn't been talking about Serena that night.
Nate stepped closer to her. He touched his hand to her cheek. "Jenny…" he whispered before leaning in towards her.
Suddenly Jenny stepped back, breaking their connection.
"What are you doing?" she demanded.
Nate was confused. "I told you," he said. "I don't want you to leave. I want to be with you—"
"You're ruining everything." Jenny said. "You can't just show up the night I leave for Chicago and tell me all of this."
"So I should have just let you go without telling you how I feel?" Nate asked incredulously.
"Yes…I mean no…ugh!" Jenny sighed. She rubbed her hand over her face, trying to collect her thoughts. "I'm with Matt now Nate. I care about him."
Nate stepped towards her and grabbed her hand again. "You can't tell me what you have with him is like what we have." He said.
"What we have is a friendship," Jenny said.
Nate rolled his eyes in frustration. "Come on Jenny, it's more than that. Think about everything we've been through."
Jenny looked down at her feet.
"I am thinking about it," she said softly before lifting her eyes to meet his. "I remember what it felt like to be in love with you Nate. Years of wanting you, years of unrequited feelings. And I can't be that person again." She swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat. "It would kill me."
Nate searched her eyes, desperately wanting to find the right words to reassure her. All he could think to say was, "I won't let that happen to you again Jenny. I promise." He swallowed before adding, "I love you Jenny. Always have, always will."
Jenny just looked into Nate's eyes, wishing with everything in her that she could believe him. That she could believe that this was the moment that everything over the last three years had led to.
"I'm sorry Nate," Jenny said. "I can't."
"Jenny…" Nate began, but he could see in her eyes that she couldn't be convinced.
Jenny knew it too. That broken part of her, the part that she had tried so hard to heal, was still big enough to be a reminder of the darkest part of her life. A part of her life that she never wanted to relive. In so many ways, Nate represented everything that was good in her life, all the best parts of who she had hoped to one day be. But at the same time, it was her desire to be that person, and to be with Nate, that had ultimately driven her into the darkness. And because of that, she just couldn't chance falling into that world again.
"I think you should go," Jenny said quietly.
Nate let out a breath. He felt like he had been punched in the stomach. Slowly he turned towards the door. He took a few steps before he paused. Without turning back to face her he said softly, "What you said before…it was never unrequited Jenny. Never." And with that, he was gone.
The sob that Jenny had been suppressing escaped her lips as she sunk in a heap onto the floor.
It took a good 40 minutes for Jenny to process, meaning cry hysterically, what had just happened with Nate. By the time she pulled herself together she had trails of mascara running down her face and a massive headache. She called her dad to let him know that she was running behind schedule and would just meet him at the train station. Then she washed her face, pulled her hair back into a ponytail, tried not to think anymore about Nate Archibald, and finished packing.
She had just zipped up her last bag when there was another knock on the door.
"Nope," she mumbled to herself. "Not doing it. Nothing good can come from this." She was fed up with visitors. But the knocking only grew faster and louder, sufficiently convincing her that this couldn't be Nate on a return trip. She finally gave in, approaching the metal door and, taking a deep breath, opened it. She tried to slam it shut again when she saw who was on the other side.
"Not now Blair," Jenny said, edging the door shut. "I'm not in the mood."
"Get over yourself little J," Blair said annoyed, as if Jenny was the one bothering her. "I'm not here to do battle."
Jenny finally gave up getting the door shut as Blair had wedged her Italian loafer there, preventing it from closing fully. She let go with a huff and walked back over to her bags, intent on ignoring the brunette if she couldn't get her out of the loft.
"These are Gucci you know," Blair said checking her foot. When she was convinced they were scuff-free she walked further in, trying to keep the disgust at being in a Brooklyn apartment off her face. Instead she turned her attention to Jenny's appearance.
"Rough night?" she asked. When Jenny turned to glare at her, she was able to take in more of how disheveled the younger girl looked. "Make that rough week." She added.
Jenny was not amused. She was late, exhausted and now totally annoyed. "What do you want Blair? Dan isn't here…and besides, I'm pretty sure he hates you." Jenny knew that last part wasn't true but it didn't stop her from saying it.
Jenny was pretty sure she saw Blair wince but she recovered quickly.
"I'm not here to see Hum— your brother," she said. "I'm here to see you. There are a few things we need to get straight." She finally took a moment to glance around the room, noting the boxes and Jenny's bags. "So you're actually going through with it, huh?
Jenny sighed. "Yes! I'm 'going through with it.' Why is that so hard for everyone to believe?"
Blair raised an eyebrow at Jenny's outburst. "I'm not surprised at all," she said.
"You're not?" Jenny asked.
"No," Blair said matter-of-factly. "It makes perfect sense. It's exactly what I would do."
"Really…" Jenny said. Now she was suspicious. If there was one person she could confidently say she didn't share the same thought process with it was Blair Waldorf. "How so?" she asked.
Blair smirked. "You know, running away from something real because you're scared."
Jenny blanched. "What are you talking about?" she asked. "I'm not running away from anything. Besides," she added, "you're the one who threatened my life if I ever came back to New York in the first place."
"And that didn't stop you did it?" Blair said snidely.
"Blair." Jenny said tiredly. "What do you want?"
Blair was quiet for a moment. It was clear that she had something to say but didn't want to say it.
Jenny wasn't exactly feeling patient. "Fine," she said. "Then if you'll excuse me, I have a cab on the way to take me to the train station." She opened the door and waited for Blair to leave.
"Alright," Blair said begrudgingly. "You don't have to be so dramatic." She took another pause, mulling over what she wanted to say. Jenny tapped her foot impatiently.
"I may have been wrong…slightly…in the way I handled things with you. And Chuck." She looked down at her feet before adding, "And Nate for that matter."
Jenny just looked at her. What did she mean Nate?
"Not that you weren't completely tactless for sleeping with Chuck, but I realize that it was my own problem with him and our relationship that really destroyed me. You were just the straw that broke the camel's back."
Jenny was silent, deciding it was better to let Blair get it all out before chiming in.
"Playing games, hurting people who hurt me first, it's the only thing I know. I couldn't believe that you made a mistake. It was easier for me to see it as you trying to humiliate me. That's why I wanted to humiliate you right back."
Now Jenny was starting to get it.
Blair continued, "When I realized what was going on between you and Nate, I had to ruin it, just like I felt you ruined things between me and Chuck. Only, things were already ruined between us, before you two even happened. I just couldn't see it."
"So what changed your perspective?" Jenny asked.
Blair smiled, but only slightly, and in a sort of ironic way. "Your brother."
Jenny smiled too, "Yeah," she said. "He has a way of doing that."
"Anyway," Blair said, shaking her head. "I didn't really need to ruin things between you and Nate because you're doing that all on your own."
"You have no idea what you're talking about Blair," Jenny said.
"Oh, of course I do little J." Blair said. "I'm older, wiser, not to mention more fashionable than you are. But that's beside the point. The fact of the matter is, I've been watching you and Nate dance around each other since he was my boyfriend." She paused. "Come to think of it, you do have a nasty little habit of going after my leftovers." Blair shot Jenny a menacing smirk.
"Nate and I don't work," Jenny said, ignoring Blair's last comment. "Him not wanting me is why things ended up the way they did last year."
"No." Blair argued. "You're why you ended up like you did last year Jenny." Jenny was about to interrupt but Blair kept going. "I know what it's like, you know. How intoxicating it can be, this world we live in. If you aren't raised in it, it can ruin you. That's why Chuck and I always fit so well together, we were both cut from the same dark, power-hungry cloth. But not Nate, never Nate. Sure, he's privileged, but there's something more in him. Something good. He's the kind of person who makes you want to be better."
"We're too different." Jenny said softly.
"Sometimes different is exactly what a person needs," Blair said. "And if you run from it, you'll never really know will you?"
Jenny was pretty sure Blair wasn't just talking about her and Nate but she didn't chance asking her about it. The buzzer by the door rang, alerting her that the cab was here.
"I should go," Jenny said.
"Right," Blair said walking towards the door. "I need to be getting to the spa anyway. It'll take hours to get all of this Brooklyn smog out of my hair."
"Yeah," Jenny said, rolling her eyes. Just as Blair stepped into the hall she added, "He doesn't hate you, you know? I don't think he ever could."
Blair paused at this, then pushed her oversized sunglasses onto her face. "Tell anyone about this and I'll deny it," she said, turning on her heel without so much as a goodbye.
Jenny smirked and stepped back into the loft. She took one last look around before scooping up her bags and closing the door behind her.
"Just remember you can call me anytime, okay?" Rufus said into Jenny's hair, as he hugged her for the fourth time. They were standing on the platform saying their goodbyes, most of Jenny's bags already on board.
"I know dad, I will." Jenny looked at her father. "You're okay with this right? With me going?"
Rufus smiled. "All I've ever wanted is for you to follow your heart sweetie. And if your heart is telling you Chicago is where you're supposed to be, then yes, I'm more than okay with it."
Jenny smiled, although she was slightly unnerved by what her father said.
"Alright, okay. Don't hog all the goodbyes dad." Dan said, playfully shoving between Jenny and Rufus and giving his sister a hug.
"Love you Jen," he said, squeezing her tightly.
"I love you too Dan," Jenny said. She stayed close to him as they broke apart and whispered, "I hope you can work things out with Blair. She might be the kind of different that you need."
Dan smiled slightly but gave his sister a quizzical look. Jenny just gave him a wink and motioned like she was rocking a baby, which made him laugh. There had been too many serious moments that day to end on such a dramatic note.
"Last call for Brooklyn to Chicago," was announced over the intercom.
"Guess that's my cue," Jenny said hugging her dad and brother each one more time. "Love you," she said, waving as she boarded the train.
Once she was in her seat, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. While she was already missing New York she started making a mental list of all the things she couldn't wait to get back to in Chicago. This was the right thing, she was sure of it.
Nate had been walking around the city for three hours. He had all of this emotion penned up inside of him and all he could think to do was…walk. Although at first he had seriously considered drinking himself into oblivion. However, he was pretty sure that would leave him feeling even more useless than he already did so he opted for wandering around aimlessly.
He had been passing the Clock Tower Building on Broadway when he noticed it was 5:30…Jenny's departure time. Realizing she was on her way out of the city took all of the fight he had left out of him and he decided to head home for the night.
When he got back to the hotel, the lobby was empty. Most of the patrons were either already out or getting ready in their suites. Nate decided to just keep his head down and precede straight to the elevator but he was stopped by the concierge.
"Good evening Mr. Archibald." he said. Nate nodded a greeting. "Russell Thorpe's assistant arrived a few moments ago needing to see you. I told her she could wait for you by the fireplace and I would direct you to her when you arrived."
Nate sighed. He was not in the mood to deal with his father's associates right now.
"Look, Peter, I've had a rough day. Could you just tell her to contact my father at his office tomorrow?"
"That isn't the way I would expect the youngest member to ever sit on the Archibald Executive Board to handle a visitor."
Nate froze, recognizing the voice. He turned around slowly and saw Jenny standing behind him. Her cheeks were flushed from the cold, her hair was a mess and she had her carry-on bag in her hand.
Nate just stared at her, almost not believing she was really there.
Jenny knew she wasn't much for finding the perfect words so she just shrugged her shoulders and said the first thing that came to her mind.
"I can't stand deep-dish pizza."
At first, she didn't think Nate was going to react but a second later he moved towards her, quick and fluid, catching her face in his hands and kissing her with everything in him. She smiled against his lips and clutched his shirt in her hands, deepening the kiss.
When Nate finally pulled back, they were both out of breath. He brushed a piece of hair out of Jenny's eyes and smiled down at her.
"This is that moment," Jenny said. "The one that the last three years have all been leading up to."
"Yeah?" Nate asked. Jenny nodded. "Then I guess we better make it count." He lifted her off her feet in another kiss and swirled her around before setting her feet back on the floor. "I love you Jenny," he said softly.
"I know." Jenny replied. "Always have, always will."