So, this is an AU that I randomly wrote because I just re-read Anna Karenina and remembered why I hated it the first time around, but also inevitably compared it to The Age of Innocence and, in a tangent only Gossip Girl could inspire, found myself thinking of Dan and Blair. It's kind of …ugh, I don't know. You tell me. Disclaimer: not my sandbox.

A story you've heard before

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Here's how it begins:

Dan marries Serena on a warm summer day, their bare feet digging into sand as they stand before their friends and family (and others) in the Hamptons. CeCe's house looks down at them in either reproach or approval. Dan can't decide which it is, because he's still unsure which he feels about this marriage himself.

She's wearing a wreath of white flowers and her hair is shining in the sunlight. Serena is a goddess and he can't look directly at her or else he'll be blinded.

Their world thinks it's strange, stepsiblings tying the knot, but everyone also remembers that it was Dan and Serena that brought Rufus and Lily together in the first place, that it was Dan and Serena's love story that started everything, so they accept and they keep their skepticism to a minimum.

Dan keeps his skepticism to a minimum as well.

Jenny stands in as Serena's maid of honor, because Chuck and Blair are on a wild honeymoon all across Europe and Blair couldn't make it back in time.

Not that he wants Blair there. His eyes drifting from bride to bridesmaid, blond to brunette, wife to muse – it would make his ambivalence visible. He's marrying Serena because he loves her and because she loves him, and because they are "meant to be," but meaning is such an elusive concept and what if they're only meant to have been?

He puts away these things as they seal their commitment with a kiss.

Sixteen months pass.

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Blair and Chuck are living in Europe now. Bass Industries is going international, and Blair is the proud woman by the side of her man.

She won't say what she's thinking aloud – she doesn't want to just be the woman to the left in the photos of Charles Bass. She wants her own identity. Blair is proud, she truly is, but she is selfish and bitter and isn't sure if either of those things are wrong. Somewhere along the line she realizes that love does not make everything simple, and it hurts.

They fight more than they make love these days. When they make love, it's more like fighting than love.

It's not Chuck's fault, Blair can see that. At least, it's not all his fault. They were both to blame for getting back into a relationship they shouldn't have allowed to continue long ago.

Blair stands at the terminal, waiting for the plane to New York to start boarding. She has a carry-on and three tagged bags, and a note left on Chuck's desk. It says a lot of things, many apologies and explanations, and also her heart because she does love him and always will. It's not enough anymore.

He won't follow her, and she is strangely at peace with that.

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Dan hears Blair has returned from Europe, and he doesn't go to see her although he desperately wishes to speak with her. Serena and he are living in marital boredom or bliss (he can't decide) in an apartment building not far from the Waldorf's penthouse, but he won't walk the short distance.

A week passes, and he has yet to see her.

Serena meets Blair for lunch almost every day, and Dan soaks in the small snippets of description he gets from his wife about her best friend. Is she alright? Is she eating well? How does she seem?

Fine, Serena says. Blair is fine.

Dan doesn't know if Serena knows his feelings for Blair, the ones he's tried to strangle and drown and bury alive, the feelings that danced out of his fingers and onto the pages he's written. He doesn't know if Serena realizes he's in love with two different women, but he suspects it.

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She catches sight of him at an exhibition of post-Impressionist paintings. He's studying Cezanne's The Bathers with a thoughtful intensity, and her breath catches in her throat at the thought of discussing art with him again. Until this moment she hasn't fully comprehended what all the beautiful European museums were missing.

Blair steps up beside him and begins to talk composition and texture, and catches the delight on his face.

Their words spill out in a rush of thought and emotion, and they speak of art all day long. The ushers have to usher them out when they are still conversing over Camille Pissarro's Conversation, and Blair laughs with joy as they spill into the street and catch sight of a theater showing The Apartment only one block away.

Dan sits with a seat between them and holds the popcorn out silently when the film begins. There are so few people in the seats, and Blair feels as if she's experiencing something rare and beautiful. The people who aren't here in this theater at this moment are missing something amazing, and she pities them. Blair shares a smile with Dan, and a laugh, and whispers some of the lines to him in rapturous delight.

She doesn't consider Serena until her hand bumps against Dan's as they both reach for more popcorn, and the cool metal of his ring touches her skin.

Is she wrong to do this? Is he?

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They continue to meet for exhibits and movies. Sometimes Dan tells Serena he's meeting up with Blair and invites her. Sometimes he lies and says he's going to something she wouldn't enjoy.

Serena only came along with them once, to a gallery display of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions and sketches. While he and Blair gush over the genius of a man who invented a bicycle centuries before it was actually invented, Dan feels Serena's mutinous eyes on his back and Blair's face.

He shouldn't be seeing Blair like this, and a part of him knows it. A part of him screams his love for Serena loud and painfully as he laughs and talks with Blair.

But Serena has been drifting, he reasons. Serena has been off to California so many times in the last few months. She comes back with unfamiliar scents on her body, and he doesn't put to thought what he feels so painfully in his gut.

Dan knew marrying a wild woman would be a difficult journey. Serena is willful and unpredictable, but once upon a time he thought he might keep up.

Now he'd rather discuss art and cinema and literature than kiss his wife.

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It's a rainy, cold day when Blair kisses him.

They're rushing into a used bookstore, Dan holding his coat over her head and getting soaked. The sight of him wet and shivering as he extends this chivalry touches something within her. When they slip inside and laugh about the unpredictable weather, Blair wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him so, so deeply she might as well be falling.

Dan doesn't pull away for ten seconds, and during that time Blair's arms and front get soaked from his dripping, cold shirt.

When he does pull away, Blair's cheeks go red and she dashes into the depths of the store, hiding from him.

She can't believe what she's done, and what it means. Serena is an image she conjures up and fixes on, Serena crying, Serena raging, Serena heartbroken. Blair is embarrassed and horrified and wishing Dan wasn't married, that she wasn't still married to Chuck, that all this was just a one-time occurrence and they'd forget it tomorrow.

Blair knows this last wish is futile.

The pointlessness is evident when Dan finds her, and, with a look as haunted and torn as hers must surely be, places a tender kiss on her lips.

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They continue to meet for art and cinema and literature, but now they find places to be alone. When Dan kisses her, he feels whole and at peace.

What happens after the kisses (only kisses) is raging guilt, self-hatred, and misery, because he is so very much in love with Blair and it weighs on him with a heaviness he's never felt the equal to. The few moments he catches with Serena these days are stilted and cold, as if all the love between them has been left in the wintry Atlantic.

He wraps his life around Blair, writing of her and dreaming of her, and meeting with her secretly.

Dan finds himself inspired to write more and more, a novel weaving itself from his confused heart and mind. He writes a story much like Anna Karenina, or perhaps The Age of Innocence, even Persuasion, and laughs at the dark irony of their senior play years ago when he was Newland Archer and Blair the unlikely Ellen Olenska.

Today he could not think to cast another in her role.

He's addicted to her mouth, the words she says and the kisses she gives. Dan needs her like he needs water.

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On the first true day of spring, they make love in Blair's bed.

She cries out his name and digs her fingers into his back, wanting him closer than he is even now. Her heart cannot take this intensity, this pleasure, this love. It's been years since she's achieved this beauty with another person and Blair weeps a little in the ecstasy.

Dan kisses the tears off her face afterwards, and holds her in his arms. They whisper vows of love over and over, admit guilt and offer apologies to the ones they hurt with their infidelity.

Blair knows she is a truly awful person, and that he is too, but she doesn't feel that way about him. Dan is warm and kind and treats her sweetly and as if she is real, not a porcelain doll.

Their limbs tangled together for the first time, Blair recognizes that the path her life was to take wasn't the one she went down.

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Here's how it ends:

Chuck finally follows her back to New York, just after she sends out the divorce papers. Blair listens with tearful eyes as he tells her of the mistakes he's made, the hurt he feels and the pain he's caused. He apologizes and promises love, and she is weak and wants to believe him.

She meets Dan in some secluded place, they kiss and make love, and Blair feels her heart ripping in half between Dan and Chuck.

Now she knows how he's felt all along, truly knows, because seeing two different men she loves in different measure all at once is horrific.

Blair tells Dan of all this, and he concocts a plan for them to run away together, run away and never stop. They'll both divorce and find a quiet place to live out the rest of their lives together. He'll write novels and she'll critique fashion and art. Her heart breaks because she knows this is the talk of a dreamer.

He doesn't, at least not yet.

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Serena walks in on them one day. They were careless, meeting up when both Chuck and Serena were in town, but Dan couldn't stay away from her any longer and found her at her penthouse.

Their moans and murmurs of pleasure quickly turn to gasps and pleads as Serena opens the door and stares at them in horror, shock, and unmitigated fury. Dan's heart breaks at the sight of her heart breaking, and he throws on his clothes faster than he'd thought possible.

He chases her all the way back to their apartment, and she screams and beats his chest with wordless pain.

Dan takes it, because he deserves it and more, and finally the primal shrieks become chants of accusation and prolonged suspicion and vows of revenge. He begs her not to hurt Blair, and it enrages Serena all the more. She tries to claw at his face and somehow collapses into his arms, weeping.

Had he been a little more in love with her, and a little less in love with Blair, they might have found reconciliation then.

Instead, Dan sleeps on the couch that night.

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Chuck storms into the penthouse, shaking and face red and pointing at Blair as if she wore a scarlet letter upon her breast. She yells back at him, and they fight with words and eventually their naked bodies. They lay together in her bed afterwards, and Blair thinks on the day before when she was in this same bed with Dan.

She gets out of bed and packs her bags.

Two hours later they get on a plane together and fly to France. The long flight is tedious and painful and the moment they hit the ground, Blair pulls out the divorce papers.

Chuck rages. He threatens to cut her off, threatens to ruin her, to expose her affair with her best friend's husband, but she pushes the paper and pen until at last, with eyes so sad she cries in sympathy, he signs away the marriage between them.

Blair hails a cab to take her to her father's house.

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Dan hears that Blair left with Chuck from Rufus and Lily, and his world shatters. He sits in his and Serena's apartment and drinks and writes, like some twisted modern Fitzgerald. At some point he sends in the manuscript of his and Blair's love affair to his publisher, and they are ecstatic.

He can't feel anything but guilt and misery about the whole book, and when Serena reads it, he feels shame as well.

They are in a standstill, neither of them moving to end their marriage or repair it. Serena continues to fly to California every other week, and Dan falls deeper and deeper into recluse.

It's Lily who brings over the divorce papers and forces the both of them to sign. Dan can barely look his stepmother in the eye at first, but her kindness and understanding find their way into his heart at long last. He realizes that it wasn't he and Serena who replayed Lily and Rufus' love story, but rather he and Blair.

Dan understands his father more than he ever has then.

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Here's how it begins again:

Two years pass.

Dan finds himself in Paris, walking along the Seine and holding his moleskin absently in one hand while tapping his pen against his mouth in the other. He's staring at a gorgeous painting, right in front of him on the sidewalk, when a shadow steps up beside him and begins to talk about composition and texture.

He reaches over and silently takes her hand, his pen caught between their palms.

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I am a depressing weirdo. Sorry that was so… whatever it was. Hopefully, someone liked it even just a little. Don't throw stones, please ^_^