His taste in music is atrocious.
Some hipster bohemian songstress belts her angst ridden tune out of his iPod, about a lost dog or boyfriend, it's kind of hard to tell with the gargled yelp of a singing voice. She would tell him what she thinks, but there's this far away look in his eye that holds her silence.
It's not supposed to be him.
He's not the one to seek out, purposely, when her life feels like it's spinning out of control. He's not the one she runs away with. From Louis, from his mother, from everything. But here she is, doing exactly that because he's the only one she knew would say yes solely because she asked.
They're halfway through Nassau when she finally speaks.
"Thanks for the rescue Humphrey."
His tone carries a sincerity she's not entirely sure what to do with, but the inflection is simple in the way that he actually means what he says.
The car is still ridiculous.
Still doesn't move fast enough for her liking, as she stares out the window while Dan drives along the expressway.
But it serves its purpose, this misbegotten carriage, whisking her away.
There are fond memories echoing the walls of Cece's house. Countless summers spent here with Serena and Nate, the games they used to play, hide and seek as kids eventually morphing into seven minutes in heaven as teens.
"Are you hungry?" Dan asks, appearing at her side, hand on the small of her back.
Food is the furthest thing from her mind even though her stomach rumbles quietly. The anticipation of a certain phone call to be made makes the idea of eating almost impossible. She shakes her head.
Dan stands there awkwardly, but for once it isn't expressed with his mouth.
She asked to come to the Hamptons, he obliged. There wasn't much of a plan beyond that.
"I need to get out of this dress," she says, noticing how his eyes widen a split second.
"Right," he replies, hand moving away from her to absently scratch the back of his head. "I think Serena has a closet full of clothes in one of the rooms."
"I know which one."
She stays a moment longer than necessary, just to look at him, to wonder why he does what she asks for no apparent reason other than she does.
When she makes her way up the stairs, she can feel his eyes.
Dan makes breakfast an extravagant affair of crepes, fresh fruit, and waffles.
She can't possibly eat it all, a fact of which he's undoubtedly aware, but that doesn't stop him from piling her plate high. The food causes her to stare a few seconds longer than she means to, his tongue armed and ready with a retort.
"One bite won't kill you," he says, knife and fork already stabbing and slicing away at his own plate. "Considering the effort put forth, three or four would be a kindness."
She grabs her utensils instead of firing back, figuring at least one bite will shut him up, and goes for the waffle because apparently they're a thing when it comes to Humphreys. It's warm, crisp, and disturbingly good. He even heated the syrup.
When she looks up, a smug and satisfied smile graces his lips.
"Don't let it go to your head," she says, pointing her fork menacingly.
His hands lift in surrender, but it comes back quickly when she goes for bite number two.
Louis has called thirty times in two days.
His messages ranges from angry, to worried, to disappointed.
She doesn't, can't, call him back. Not yet ready to have the conversation that will put an end to everything she's dreamed of since she started dreaming.
Eventually she'll have to. Eventually she must.
Right now she can't seem to find the words.
She's a runaway princess to be.
Venturing into town for all the summer socialite activities is a non option.
They do what they always do. Watch movies and argue about them.
Instead of scrolling through the queue that was ignored most of the summer, he takes her on a tour of the double crossed and downtrodden. Dames with names like Stanwyck, Lupino, and Lake. Thugs like Lancaster, Mitchum, and Ladd. Simple plots full of lies, guns, and blackmail. She writes them off as masculine dreck, but most are visually appealing enough to hold her attention.
Dan's arguments are about the creation of a style, the alienation of men returning from war, and Hollywood finally being brave enough not to put a pink bow on every ending. Her counters are the wooden acting, laughable dialog, and complete subordination of women.
The verbal tit for tat seems endless and unyielding.
She hasn't smiled this much in weeks.
She dreams of Louis.
A ballroom as grand as her subconscious will allow.
They're fighting over her, fists and all, words exchanged back and forth as to who is worthy.
Who deserves her most.
Dan stands at her side, watching as she does, awaiting the victor. He's not fighting for affection, or peppering her other suitors with words of why she should choose him. He simply holds her wrist and keeps her steady in the chaos that surrounds.
She picks a fight with him for no reason.
"How could you let me ruin my life like this?" She demands hotly with arms crossed. "I thought you were supposed to be my friend!"
He doesn't give in to it, just stands there like some martyr, taking her abuse while those puppy dog eyes wait patiently for the fire to die in hers. He's frustrating and ridiculous, and some days she doesn't understand how they can possibly be friends.
They don't talk for the rest of the day, she sitting on the couch flipping through old magazines, he holed up in his room.
She hovers outside his door sometime around dusk, ear pressed against the wood, listening to the tick tick ticking of computer keys and wondering what creation she may have inspired.
The sun is barely cresting above the horizon when she wakes with her face buried in the down comforter. It's entirely too early to be up, but now matter how long she lay trying to fall back to sleep, it doesn't come.
She wanders barefoot through the house, judging Cece's tacky art collection, and running her fingers across anything she pleases. It makes her feel like a kid again, up long before her parents on Saturdays, doing all the things she was never allowed.
One of Dan's sweatshirts is draped across the back of the couch, she reaches for it without a second thought, pulling it over her head and making her way outside. The air still smells damp and is cold against her bare feet, but she continues across the deck and toward the water.
She's never quite cared for the beach. The sun too bright for her complexion, the water too cold for her liking, course and gritty sand that got everywhere it was never meant to be. Clouds streak the sky, so many colors broadcast from the still rising sun.
Wind whips hair into her face, hooking it behind her ears with chilled fingers, she finally reaches the ocean.
The water is positively freezing against her toes, but she doesn't step back, almost enjoying the feel of it nipping at her nerves.
She thinks of Louis. Of Chuck. Wonders what time Dan will wake.
The sea is deep and endless.
It feels like a metaphor and leaves her to worry she's becoming a cliché.
She convinces him to break into Cece's wine cellar.
Most of the evening is spent in the kitchen, she with a never empty glass in hand, he attempting to make Italian cuisine from scratch. The meal is a disaster, though she's far too tipsy to really mind,
especially with the way Dan's face burns with disappointment.
They watch Nights of Cabiria.
She sits entirely too close to him on the couch, arms and legs pressed easily against his, but of course he doesn't complain about such things.
Oscar starts to break down on the walk in the woods, Cabiria realizing he's no better than any other man in her life when he'd done such a good job of convincing her otherwise. It tugs at her heart the way it always does, tears slipping down her cheeks, as Dan's hand wraps softly around hers.
Much like the first time, he isn't looking at her, eyes focused on the movie. Unlike the first time, she doesn't pull away, thumb rubbing gently against his skin. The smallest hint of a smile appears on the corner of his mouth, and she's glad to be the cause, her own slowly growing.
She wants to kiss him again.
The thought is sudden, and terrifying, as the truth always seems to be.
She's going to kiss him again.
Not to prove a point, or to throw someone off a trail, but for no reason other than her own.
First things first.
A call must be made.