They argue over names.
Ranging from the elegance of European aristocracy, to the ridiculousness of hipster bohemian themed monikers. Mostly, it's good natured ribbing, neither completely sold nor dismissive of each others suggestions, but always a defense of their own opinion being the correct one.
She refused to acknowledge the book he combs through, the flat statement that her child's name will not be plucked from something with a cartoon duck on its cover. They run the mill of worthy characters from favorite books and movies. Audrey, the name itself and collection of her rolls, a bit too obvious.
His attempts to appease her with nineteenth century British literature are met with immediate dismissal. Catherine, Ann, and Jane all too dull.
The baby kicks, and Blair guides Dan's hand so he can feel, smiling softly as his eyes widen with wonder. The discussion once again postponed for another day.
Dorothy Isobel Humphrey is born on a Wednesday, at three-thirty in the morning, and is easily the most beautiful thing that they have ever seen. Her sister, born at three forty-two, is the biggest surprise either of the proud parents have experienced.
All the preparation and planning, almost rendered void at the other child's sudden appearance. Dan can't help but laugh. The numerous doctor's appointments, hours accumulated with an ultrasound, and not once did someone indicated that a second life was growing inside of her.
Dorothy rests quietly in her mother's arms, while the doctor places the newest addition in Dan's. He calls her Alice because it is the first name that pops into his head, and Blair doesn't reject because she is too exhausted.
It amazes him, how she can appear so radiant and full of love, despite the fact that her mouth is grumbling about quack doctors and threatening legal action. He leans closer so that the girls can get their first glimpse of each other in the real world, and kisses his wife's damp forehead.
The girls celebrate their third birthday at grandfather Harold's chateau.
Both wear matching blue dresses, at Eleanor's insistence, wanting just one set of adorably pedestrian pictures of her granddaughters. Blair's denial of the request is noted, logged, and completely ignored due to the fact that Eleanor designed them.
There are pictures, lots of them, but two in particular the most notable. One that resides in Blair's office at Vogue, is the girls beaming up at the camera, their smiles as radiant as the sun shining overhead. The other, both girls holding hands and staring dead into the lens, come play with us Danny silently conveyed to the viewer, sits on Dan's desk at the New Yorker.
The tiara's are a touch Dan is weary of, not yet wanting to give them royalty complexes, but Blair is surprisingly defensive of the accessories.
"I wore one just like it at that age," she says with an arch of her brow. "Besides, all little girls should be princesses in their father's eyes."
Alice beams at the copy of the book bearing her namesake, thumbing through the pages though she can't understand the words, marveling at the pictures instead. Dorothy half glances at hers, before leaning over her sister's shoulder and trying to share the enthusiasm.
Blair sits in a wrought iron garden chair on the other side of the yard, taking a minute to herself with a glass of wine in one hand, and Dorothy's copy of the Wizard of Oz in the other.
"You look tired," Serena says as she approaches, taking the seat opposite.
Blair holds back from the biting reply, knowing her friend doesn't mean anything by it, but the old reflexes are always there.
"Twins," she says with a small shrug instead.
Serena nods though they both know having children is still a far off idea for the buxom blonde. Husband number two is wandering around somewhere, and for the life of her Blair still can't seem to recall his name.
"Happy too," Serena continues in a murmur.
Blair eyes immediately look to where Dan has both girls perched on opposite knees, bouncing one then the other, sending them into fits of giggles. Her smile is automatic, though she does note the hint of longing in Serena's eyes, there and gone in just a second.
Blair knows she and Dan's unfinished business will always remain as such, but is no longer envious or intimidated of it. They had all the time in the world to make it work while she was off building a life for herself in Europe. But to no one's surprise, Serena ended up married to someone else.
Funny, she thinks, how she fought so hard for the idea of happily ever after. Only to have it collapse in front of her eyes time and again, and how the minute she stopped trying, along it came.
(Left Hand, Right Hand)
No matter how hard she tries, her leg won't stop shaking. Hands balled into fists in her lap, the solid wood of the chair underneath making her shift every couple of seconds, as she chews the inside of her cheek.
"Will you stop that?" Dorothy chides, placing a hand on her knee. "You keep acting guilty they're going to treat us that way."
"We are guilty," Alice shoots back, face flushing with anger and a bit of shame.
"Yeah well," Dorothy sighs, leaning back in her chair. "As far as they're concerned the jury's still out. How did you screw this up anyway? You didn't wear your glasses did you?"
"I'm not a total moron thank you," she replies, reaching into her bag and pulling out the case to prove it.
"You must have done something," Dorothy insists.
"I didn't do anything," Alice hisses. "Not a thing different from the dozen other times I've done this for you."
A door creaks open at the end of the hall, both girls turn their heads to see, and balk immediately at the sight of their mother making her way toward them.
"Well that's unexpected," Dorothy says quietly.
It is. Dad is usually the one to handle parent teacher conferences. Alice wonders if the circumstances of this disciplinary hearing is what could pull mom away from the office. Dorothy actually smiles.
"This could work."
"According to Aunt Serena, this is the kind of thing she and mom used to get in trouble for."
Principal Queller opens the door the second their mother steps in front of them, they share a look.
"Miss Waldorf," Queller says quizzically. "Why do I feel like we've been here before?"
While scheming might have earned a hint of respect with mom, dad only looks disappointed. Sitting in his office, awaiting the reading of the riot act, Alice prepares a defense though she knows it probably won't do any good.
"This isn't the first time," Dan starts, fingers steepled in front of his face. "Is it?"
The clever retort dies on the tip of her tongue, replying with a slow shake of the head.
She doesn't want to say, doesn't the look on his face to darken.
"More than a couple," she replies neutrally. "Less than a dozen."
His mouth twitches upward, there and gone in the fraction of a second.
"Have you ever done it with me? Or your mom?"
"I don't think you want to know the answer to that."
"I wish you wouldn't let your sister talk you into these things."
Defense of Dorothy rises on instinct. No one can talk ill of her, not even him.
"I was happy to do it," she says, hoping her voice doesn't waver. "She knew she wasn't going to pass that test. She needed me."
"Is that what she said?"
She knows the look on his face. The one searching for an explanation as to why she would do such a thing despite the full and clear knowledge that it was wrong. That she's still his sweet little girl who could never be capable of such deceit.
"Dad, I'm smarter than her. I know we don't talk it, but she knows it, just like you and mom know it too. And we're not going to get into the same college unless I step in every once in awhile."
"No one says you have to go to the same college."
"I want us to."
"Well that sounds more like the truth, doesn't it?"
Alice doesn't reply to that.
"You do realize that getting caught cheating will hinder any acceptance from those Ivy League schools you dream of, don't you?"
She looks down into her lap.
"You won't be doing it again," Dan asks, leaning forward. "Right?"
She shakes her head even though it's a lie. She'll switch places with her sister anytime the situation calls for it, any time she feels it necessary.
"For curiosity's sake," he starts, receding back into his chair as she shifts uncomfortably in hers. "How did they catch you? If you're not wearing your glasses your mother and I still have trouble telling you apart."
Alice holds up a hand.
"Dorothy doesn't write with her left," she says with a shrug. "Mrs. Hartford noticed."
Dorothy sits on a stool at the breakfast nook, watching as mom takes her sweet time shuffling through the numerous boxes of tea, before finally settling on one and putting the kettle on the stove.
"I don't know why your father insists on cluttering up my cupboards with his endless supply of wannabe British imperialism." Blair says with her back still turned. "But I do agree with his opinion about its calming effects."
She turns to face her daughter, palms flat on the marble counter top, face calculating as a single brow arches upward.
"Well young lady," she says. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"Mrs. Hartford is a jealous old spinster, out to hold back the bright and beautiful because her own decisions in life left her bitter and alone."
Blair leans back, folding her arms across her chest.
"Is that the best you can do?"
Dorothy bits her lip.
"Your execution was sloppy, overconfidence in you and your sister's similarities an easily detectable trait, leaving you wide open to get caught."
Fists clench in her lap, the scathing reply of we've gotten away with this more times than you realize, only held at bay by the sensation of fingernails digging into her palm. That and the sudden suspicion that her mother's provocation appears to be a trap to get her to unwittingly divulge just how many times she and Alice have switched.
"She wants to go to the same school," Dorothy says instead.
"Is that what you want?"
"I don't want to leave her."
Blair's face softens a little, but she still doesn't quite believe the reasoning.
"Are you leading me to believe that this entire body swapping scheme, had only the good intention of getting better grades, so you can unselfishly not abandon your sister?"
It comes out smooth and firm, Dorothy knows she has to buy it herself to sell it, and that mom will pick up on any weakness in her defense. The kettle goes off, and Blair turns to pull it from the burner, pouring the steaming hot water into preset tea cups.
"I think you could have passed the test if you wanted to," Blair says, setting a cup in front of Dorothy and taking a seat on the stool next to her. "If your effort in this little plan was focused on your schoolwork, I don't see how there would be a problem."
Then, with a mischievous grin, "but it was fun."
She watches her mother's lips as they fight not to match her own, a low chuckle coming out instead.
"There's more to life than scheming, sweetheart."
"At my age that's all you ever did," Dorothy shoots back.
Blair blows cautiously on her tea.
"I will be having a talk with your Aunt about what stories are appropriate to be sharing with you, and besides," she says, reaching out to cup Dorothy's cheek. "What kind of mother would I be if I let my daughter repeat my mistakes?"
They lay side by side, flat on their stomachs on the rug in Dorothy's room. Alice flips through the worn copy of her namesake, while her sister paints her nails dark blue.
"Books are so archaic," Dorothy says with a jut of her chin. "How many times can you read one story anyway?"
"As many times as I like," Alice replies, eyes never wavering from the text. "This is only day two of our month long technology exile, got to pass the time somehow."
One month's restriction isn't a dire punishment, all things considered. No computer, no tablet, no comm link. No social life. Plenty of free time to be spent studying. (Also plenty of time to meticulously plan for the next scheme, but that's a point neither girl felt to the need to bring up.)
Dorothy doesn't reply, tilting her nails into Alice's eye line for an opinion, who nonchalantly shrugs approval.
"I can't believe Dad is making you wear your glasses at school all day," Dorothy goes on after a few minutes.
"He wants to be sure the teachers can tell who is who."
"How is he even going to know if you do or not?"
"Because I promised him I would," Alice responds, flipping a page and smiling at the picture. She turns to her sister, mouth stretched as far as it will go mimicking the Cheshire cat, and Dorothy just rolls her eyes giving a soft nudge of the shoulder.
"As sweet as pie aren't you?" She asks, reaching over to brush stray hair from Alice's forehead. "You've got them all fooled."
"Dad thinks we're too dependent on each other," Alice says, looking back to the book.
"Mom said something similar," Dorothy offers, attention returning to her nails.
"-get it, I know."
Muffled voices carry through the door, causing both girls to look up at the same time. The sound of their parents arguing is nothing new, nor worrisome. Most times it's just a simple disagreement that escalates into raised voices and mild insults, but always ends with a laugh, a smile, and I love you.
"Wonder what it's about this time," Dorothy mutters, focusing on a ring finger.
"Movie night," Alice answers.
"So that means we're trapped in here?"
Dorothy doesn't understand how making a point to watch movies, that are nearly a hundred years old, can still hold an appeal. They always start with best intentions of enjoying whatever relic they pull from the internet, but get sidelined with endless bickering and end up making out on the couch.
She shivers. Gross.
"It cute they still do it," Alice says, looking at the door.
"Only you would think that."
Alice grins, moving to her feet and toward the door.
"Ew Ally, don't."
She opens it just a crack, and though her back is turned, Dorothy knows she's smiling at the nausea inducing visage of their parents cuddled up together. Alice waves a hand from behind her back, and Dorothy sighs heavily but gets up from the floor.
"If they're kissing, or something else as equally disgusting, I will destroy you."
"Just shut up and look."
Dorothy peeks through the crack, sees Mom's head resting comfortably on Dad's arm, the argument over as quickly as it began.
"See?" Alice chides. "Totally cute."
"Whatever," Dorothy shoots back, resting her chin on Alice's shoulder, and smiles before she can help it.