AN: I don't know how you will feel about this, but I wanted to write. This one is heavily influenced by Neruda again (poem snippets by him). It's been a long time, but – jelly fanfic legs. Anyway, the Inside story reminds me a lot about my Charlie and Gracie story, which is a Dan-centric CB love story. I decided to do a similar spin for this oneshot.

Tonight I Write

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,'The night is shattered

and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The solitude he needed he could only find when he was far away from the rest of his world. He needed to be away—far from Serena that looked at him often with pity but most times with a regard that he could not—did not want to—recognize.

Safer that he did not give that look a name. Giving it a name—that name he suspected—would upend his already distorted world.

His phone screen lit, and he glanced briefly at the name then let the call roll to voicemail.

"If I'm ever going to figure this sequel out, I've got to get some peace of mind. Silence, dad, that's all I need," he left on his father's voicemail before he vanished. He had learned his lesson some time ago about handling his need for solitude when his family walked in on his lie about being on tour while staying in his own room.

When the phone screen light turned off Dan rested his chin on his steepled fingers then stared at the screen.

He remembered a time when it was gloriously blank.

What a simple time that was. Sometimes he missed those times when there was nothing to write. Instead he stared at the end of the chapter, mulling over the words he had written, wondering if that was all there was.

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Dylan held out his hand to her, and stark clear in her full eyes was the one answer he dreaded. Claire, in her pristine white gown, her hair loose around her flushed face, looked back at him in regret. Behind her, several yards away he should have been small but not the tiny speck he appeared to be was her fiancé.

"You don't love him," Dylan said, although he did not need to say it. She knew she had fallen out of love with her fiancé long before he ever kissed her. "Come on."

And then he watched as the dark hair whipped to cover what he could see of her face when she turned and looked back at the man waiting on the wings. When she turned back to Dylan, she confessed, "You're right. I don't love him."

And Dylan stepped forward, swallowed the lump in his throat and offered to her, "Let me take you away. I can take you anywhere you want to go."

She hesitated before she took his hand. Even as his heart leapt, Dylan could see how hers broke, shattered into even more pieces than before.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms

I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

No matter how many times he wrote the end of the chapter, always he wrote it like so. It was no lingering sense of loss for what could have been. No. He knew himself well, thought he knew the characters well, but always they breathed life at his fingertips. Much as he willed the plot to take the two away to the remote security of anywhere in the world other than the Upper East Side, the characters drove his plans by the wayside and took a hold of his plotline.

"What do you want, Claire?" Dan asked, stupidly, he thought self-effacingly, as if he were not the creator of this world, as if the drama was not a spawn of his own brain.

Dylan would give up his entire world, if only she was willing to give up hers in return.

He had read enough—enclosed himself enough in the world of make-believe, had consumed enough literature to last Nate Archibald's lifetime by the time Dan was nine—that he was certain all of Dylan's effort in Inside and what had already been written in Outside had already set up enough credibility and foreshadowing to eradicate any possible slur of deus ex should Claire take Dylan's hand and run away with him.

But try as he might, no matter how many times he rewrote the chapter, Claire always ended up with that sad look of regret before taking his hand.

He sighed, letting his frustration simmer as he shut the laptop and slid it in his messenger bag. Dan slung the bag over his shoulder, then slid his hands into his coat pockets. He took one last gulp of his coffee, relished the burning acidic sensation as it made its way down his throat to the pit of his empty stomach.

Artist's hunger; writer's pangs.

He could live like this. Sometimes he quite enjoyed the pain that went along with the lifestyle.

Dan walked out of the coffeehouse and walked across the street. A walk in the park would do well to clear his head. His mind drifted, and he allowed himself to delve deeply through the events of the last chapter. He could let it stand, broil in the uncertainty of Dylan and Claire running away when her eyes were so starkly clear in relaying what she felt.

Or he could write it again. Write it just so Dylan could take another look at Sabrina—maybe realize she was not as bad as he saw with lenses tainted by the numerous times she broke his heart. Everything, after all, began with Sabrina. Claire merely grew in the background, so wonderfully and so large she slowly became the most essential accident of the story.

He stopped when he realized where his legs had inadvertently taken him. Dan stood a few feet behind the bench facing the duck pond. Slowly he made his way towards the lone figure sitting at the bench, staring out at the scene before him. Dan walked around to stand just beside her.

She was pale. So unlike the way she appeared at the end of her summer with the prince. Pale, staring out into space, a loaf of bread sitting beside her on the bench where a person would normally sit. The cut that had once been deep and bloody on her forehead now but a faint, barely perceptible scar.

"Blair," he greeted, his voice soft. It would have been a crime to make it louder. Or stronger. Not when that was how she appeared.

She was slow to turn towards him. Almost like the world around her was a dream. When she fully faced him it was hard not to notice the abrasions on her chin that she had thought was well concealed.

He wondered if hiding the wounds helped her forget. He remembered each and every inch of her face that was scarred. New York knew all her injuries. It was senseless to hide them and pretend it did not happen.

There were tabloids that had published stolen photographs of the accident scene before Lily squashed them with a billion dollar worth of power, and pitiful pictures of the owner of Bass Industries were yanked from the stands.

Her expression was blank when she turned to him.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.

How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Dan wondered if he needed to be proud that to the rest of the world she was stoic and gone, but as moments passed and she registered who it was her face crumpled and her tears welled.

"Hey," he greeted, his voice firm because he respected that, gentle, because it was her. He glanced around and asked, "Where's Dorota?"

She did not respond, save to move the loaf of bread from the seat beside her to her lap. He took it as an invitation and sat beside her. At the edge of the duck pond there was a little girl that walked unsteadily on the grass.

"That knitted cap came from an outlet mall," she grumbled, her voice raspy. Dan heard everything she did not say, so he closed his hand over hers. She gripped his fingers, belying the tone of her voice and the sting of her words. "I would have dressed up my daughter in couture."

"Prada at two," he commented wryly.

Blair sniffed, then snapped, "Don't insult me. Her christening gown would have been a Waldorf Original."

Dan watched the little girl with that gummy smile as she toddled her way near the duck pond. Despite the calm, despite the peace, Blair held onto his hand like this was some wild ride that she feared would throw her off and kill her. So Dan held back, held on so she would not ever doubt that he was there for her.

"I don't know what to feel," she whispered.

She already felt so much, he was sure. He felt it in the stiffness of her shoulders and the tightness of her grip.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.

And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

"I'm sorry, Blair," he said.

She laid her head on his shoulder. Dan knew when the breathing calmed, became regular, hoped it was his presence that gave her some peace. "I was going to ruin its entire life. I was going to leave Louis," she confessed, as if he did not know, as if he was not the one that set much of that night into motion. "Maybe I deserved to lose it."

Part of him rejected the thought. Part of him though, wondered if that was true.

But he was young, inexperienced. And despite the unselfishness he was capable of, he was also jealous.

Maybe he was just stupid.

"How does it feel?"

Empty. It probably felt empty. He would assume there would be some difference between being pregnant and then suddenly not.

He was pretty sure the answer would be empty.

"Dead," she said.

And it was his turn to grip her hand, fearing that she would just flit away.

"I feel like something's died."

Someone did. She decided to follow her heart and her baby died.

And softer, she added, "I feel like I died."

Dan sighed. "You can't just sit here watching the ducks."

"You're right. I thought it would help. I didn't realize nothing would."

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.

My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

When she stood, so did Dan.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

She blinked at him. "I'll go see him." And then she was fretful, her eyes fearful. "Will you come with me, Dan?"

And he nodded, because once he told her he would come with her anywhere, take her anywhere she wanted to go. When they walked they came like moths to the flame. She walked with her head held high and he tried as best he could to block their view. Briskly they made their way to the end of the park where it was easy enough to hail a cab.

When they arrived, there were photographers waiting for her. She made her way inside and he mentally drew horns on a picture of Louis for his part in this, for contributing to this and being absent when it mattered.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.

Another's. She will be another's. Like my kisses before.

Her voice. Her bright body. Her inifinite eyes.

The hall was bright and so white. She walked through those corridors like she owned the place, so frequently had they come, so recently had she left. Dan tried as much as he could to fall in step beside her but she was so certain and intent in her walk that he fell wayside, then behind her as he tried to catch up as much as he could.

She turned the hallway, and Dan prepared himself for an onslaught of the faces he had since tried to avoid.

And there was Blair, speaking quietly to Lily, nodding along as his stepmother communicated the latest updates. Lily reached forward and tucked Blair's hair behind her ear. Dan walked towards the two women. He felt the gaze on him and he turned, found Serena seated, waiting.

Blair stood, turned towards the room, with her arms wrapped around herself as she looked. Dan placed his bag on the seat, then removed his coat and placed it over her shoulders.

"Thank you," she murmured.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

"You're welcome."

When he started to turn away, she caught his arm. He turned to her, and his heart skipped a beat or two million when he saw her brown, intense eyes on him. "No. Not just that. Really." She smiled, so pained, so tiny, but a smile. "Thank you for everything you've done."

And he smiled back. For her. So pained. So tiny. But for her, he smiled. "It doesn't end with the coat, you know."

And for that she burrowed in his arms. Dan wrapped his arms tightly around her and rested his chin on the top of her head. He closed his eyes and breathed in the fragrance of coconut in her hair.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms

my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

And then he opened his eyes, rested his gaze on the figure that lay still in the hospital bed. He watched the lines on the monitors, the numbers. And they were blinding.

She extricated herself gently from his embrace. And then Blair walked towards the glass doors and pushed them open.

Dan watched from the outside as Blair leaned over the hospital bed and placed a kiss on Chuck's forehead. He watched from the outside as she sat on the seat by his bed and took his hand.

He dropped his head. Dan glanced towards the bag sitting there. He grabbed his laptop and sat on the uncomfortable plastic chair. From that distance he could see straight into that hospital room.

One by one, they left.

And still Blair remained inside Chuck's room. And Dan remained outside.

"Holding her hand, seeing the expression on her face, Dylan knew spending his entire life to make her happy would end him.

But he loved her. That time, he loved her still.

And maybe—just maybe—her smile was worth the sacrifice."

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer

and these the last verses that I write for her.

Finally he could breathe a sigh of relief. Finally it was an end to the chapter that he accepted, even liked, at that moment in time.

He hit the save button and shut down the laptop. When he looked up, it was to see Serena standing before him with a cup of coffee. He frowned.

"I thought you all left."

She shrugged, and with a smile offered him the coffee. "I couldn't leave when you were alone."

Dan took the cup and leaned back in his chair and sipped. "Thanks for this," he said. And then he felt the burning in his gut once again.

Serena took the seat beside him. "Anytime."

fin