I'm not going back to New York
He knows no one's going to say "Poor Dan" over it. He was a groomsman in the wedding, after all, which is becoming a worrying habit – is he always going to be the groomsman in Blair's weddings?
He was the one who sat Blair down and told her to stop with her shit and make a choice. She was suffering from a perverse need to punish herself, and for what? She wanted Chuck, Chuck wanted her, acting as though any of it was impossible was stupid and it wasn't Blair. Blair made things happen and damn the consequences if she really wanted it.
He was the one who told Chuck to propose in Tuscany. Blair once told Dan about how Chuck stood her up the summer between junior and senior year (she was drunk during the telling of it), and he told Chuck that it would righting one of the very first wrongs he'd done against her. Dan would like to think Chuck righted all of his wrongs against her, but that was wishful thinking.
He was the one who sat with Blair as she panicked on the wedding day, wearing yet another Vera Wang, and told her that he wouldn't take her to the Dominican Republic again for a hasty divorce; she had to decide what she wanted to do now.
He was the one who saw Chuck and Blair off on their honeymoon waving them goodbye as they boarded the Bass company jet and joking about keeping an eye on Nate while they were gone. Dan hid his grimace of pain behind a smile and hugged Blair so tightly she gasped for air, and she had tears in her eyes when they parted. He knew they were tears of happiness.
So who's going to say "Poor Dan" about it all?
Dan finishes packing up the boxes and gives the bare loft a final, nostalgic look.
Time to move on.
He takes to Los Angeles a lot better than he'd imagined. CeCe loves having him there; Dan has this sneaking suspicion that she wants him by her side all the time, like a favorite grandson. She wanted him in her family one way or another, be it with Serena or through their parents' marriage.
"How are you settling in?" she asks one morning over breakfast.
"I love the view," he confesses. "You have such a beautiful home; I didn't know houses could be this big."
She smiles a little condescendingly, but if he's honest, that superiority complex why he likes her so much. "Yes, everything in New York is awfully cramped. California is much more about the sprawl than the floor number."
Dan decides he likes the sprawl. For the first time since Blair decided she wanted Chuck, only Chuck, no more second guesses or resisting the "inevitable," he can breathe.
Alessandra gets him in contact with a friend of hers, Meghan Muirs. Meghan is direct and to-the-point and Dan's more than thrilled to have her as his new agent. He still talks to Alessandra, of course, because she was a fantastic first agent to have and he genuinely likes her as a person and a friend.
Meghan pushes Dan to write something Inside-related, but not a sequel.
Dan comes up with a spin-off about Clair and Sabrina, and then (he's really becoming Hollywood) decides that he wants to make this a script instead of a book.
So he rewrites Inside, sort of molds it a little and makes it much more about the two girls than his pathetic love-life. It's about best friends and sisters and the control issues Blair and Serena have, but how much they love each other despite all that, and Nate's a huge part of the story this time.
His little apology to Nate after conflating him with Eric the first time.
It's weird how, even though he's writing all about Blair in this script, he doesn't think about her so much anymore.
He doesn't watch The Philadelphia Story and think, gee, isn't that just like us? He doesn't walk past theaters and wonder if Blair's seen any of the films and what her opinions are on them and if she'd recommend anything. He doesn't go to art exhibits and try to figure out what Blair's observations about this piece or that would be.
Okay, yeah, he does, but he doesn't do it quite so often as he used to in New York.
Eric comes out to visit during his spring break.
"I can't handle mom right now," he says, rolling his eyes.
Sarah Lawrence is good to this guy. Eric looks relaxed for the first time in years instead of run ragged being the only sane person in the Upper East Side. Yeah, Dan counts himself in the Upper East Side.
"That's understandable," Dan allows, "But is CeCe really better?"
"She's drunk a lot more," answers Eric. "She's more fun."
Later, when they're walking along the pier, Eric finally says it.
This time, there's no need for a paternity test. The baby is very obviously Chuck's. Who else would it belong to?
Dan lays awake thinking about it in his too-big bed in this too-big house and goddamn it, he knew Blair and Chuck would be having a million babies and lots of sex and growing old together but…
Why does this still hurt like a punch to the gut?
Dan does some rewriting on his script before showing it to Meghan. When he does, she's ecstatic.
"We are putting this out tomorrow," she proclaims. "I know at least ten studios that would kill to get this. Maybe you could get Harvey Weinstein's attention after that whole debacle last year. New story, new directions, same characters…"
"Almost the same characters," he's quick to point out.
Meghan waves her hand impatiently. "Imagine if we got someone big for Clair's part. Emma Stone's getting too old for high school roles, but wouldn't that be a kick anyway?"
He doesn't question her enthusiasm about possible interest in this script.
Everyone in Hollywood's jaded; it's why Dan fits in so well. Meghan's the one person he's met besides waiters with scripts or acting lessons that still has some hope left in her.
When Eric leaves a few days later, he asks Dan to come back with him.
"Blair really wants to see you," he says in that annoying, wiser-than-thou matchmaking voice of his.
"No she doesn't," Dan replies. "You want me to see her."
"Okay, yeah, but still. You guys are best friends."
"I'm not going back to New York," he tells his stepbrother, and that's the end of that conversation.
Besides, what does he have in New York anymore? A stepsister who wants to have sex with him? A dad and stepmom so absorbed in each other they don't notice their children's pain? A best friend more interested in his magazine than his family and friends? Chuck and Blair?
No, Los Angeles is better for him.
Within two days (only two!), a studio has picked up the Rumors script. That's what he settled on for a name. Dan almost wanted to call it Gossip Girl but figured the online blogger would not be too happy about it.
That or too happy.
During the first negotiations meeting, the proposed director (a woman named Allison Thompson) is gushing about the connection between the two girls.
"I can't believe you're a man," she says, oblivious to the stomp on Dan's ego. "The friendship between Clair and Sabrina is so layered and genuine. I love how that's the most important part of the story, not the romance."
"I thought most women liked romance," he mutters.
"Oh, only when there's nothing more important," Allison tells him. "Sex and the City was popular because of the friendship between the four women, after all. Romance is great when it's a bonus, though."
That's probably the most heartening thing Dan's ever heard.
The studio producers, though, they have some complaints. They say the ending is too melancholy, that Clair and Sabrina should end up with Nick and Dylan because audiences love a happy ending.
"It is a happy ending," Meghan argues on his behalf. "It's just not romantic."
Dan knows he and Meghan will fight until every single producer yields. She's a great agent to have.
CeCe has Dan take her out dancing one night with all her rich friends.
"This is my grandson," she says proudly, over and over. "He's a best-selling author and only twenty-one years old!"
"Have I heard of this book?" her friends ask.
He smiles politely and says, "It's called Inside."
If they've heard of it, gushing and admiration. If they haven't, CeCe tells them they "must buy a copy immediately; it's a wonderful read!"
As his biggest supporter, CeCe drops little hints that Inside is being adapted for film.
She was the first person Dan showed his script to, after all. Her enjoyment of Sabrina's mother Darla is too gleeful, considering the character isn't so much a character as she is a caricature.
The negotiations finish within the month and casting notices start going out.
Sabrina: a bubbly, beautiful blonde. Seventeen years old with lots of money and a carefree, caring spirit. Has an aura that draws everyone to her side. Must be 18 or older to audition.
Clair: scheming brunette, terrifying and vulnerable at the same time. Seventeen years old with lots of money and a need to prove herself. Must be 18 or older to audition.
Nick: devastatingly handsome blonde, heartthrob of girls and boys alike. Lots of money and responsibility, but more interested in smoking weed or sailing. Must be 18 or older to audition.
Dylan: reasonably attractive brunette. Middle-class with a love of writing poetry, fondness for cigarettes and black coffee. Judgmental but secretly romantic. Must be 18 or older to audition.
Charlie: funny, charming, attractive – any hair color acceptable. Perverse sense of humor, more money than imaginable, confident and smooth. Has a dark side to him. Must be 18 or older to audition.
Frankie: fourteen-year-old blonde girl, middle-class and social climber. Interested in fashion and the in-crowd, very naïve to the world she wants to inhabit. Must be 14 or older to audition.
The main parts are just like he imagined. It's a little funny to Dan that Dylan is supposed to be "reasonably attractive" instead of "devastatingly handsome" like Nick.
Funny, because those weren't the words he used for Dylan. "Pale and introverted." "Could be attractive with the proper care, but doesn't care much about his appearance." "Shaggy."
When Eric comes to visit for a few weeks during his summer break, Serena tags along.
"I heard about the movie," she says, and she sounds mad.
"It's not like the book," promises Dan. "It's what the book would have been if I had time to edit it. Sabrina's a lot more well-rounded."
"Can I read the script?" Serena wants to know.
He shakes his head. "I want you to be surprised."
Meghan has him look over some of the bigger-named stars the studio is trying to get, and Dan sees with some surprise that Olivia Burke is listed for Sabrina.
"Let me make a call," he tells her, and dials Olivia's number.
She's delighted to hear from him, something Dan didn't expect. He thought she'd hate him after what happened with Vanessa.
So he explains the movie, and the role he wants her to play, and does she remember Serena because it's kind of based off her and he can't think of anyone more warm or affectionate to bring dimensions to Sabrina.
Olivia says yes, yes, send me the script and I'll make an official decision, but unofficially yes, because I'm so proud of you Dan, I'm so proud that you got to this place in your career. You deserve this, Dan.
He thinks it might be nice to get in a relationship with her again. If she's available, anyway. God knows he is.
After CeCe's been put to bed drunk one night, Dan goes to his room to get some much needed sleep.
He finds Serena in there. She's wearing nothing but lingerie and a kittenish smile, and she's splayed out on his bed, like, what do you say, Dan, don't you want this?
Oh, he does. He really does.
But what he ends up doing is kissing her on the forehead and saying, no, now's not our time anymore. I love you and you're gorgeous and I want you, but we can't do this.
When she asks why, he gets painfully honest.
He tells her that he'd imagine her breasts smaller and her hair brown and her eyes brown and her body shorter, he'd imagine her as Blair and how is that fair to anyone?
Serena doesn't cry or pout like a child.
She cries and pouts like a grown woman with a broken heart.
Sometimes he'll wake up in the middle of the night and wonder where the hell he is, even after nearly six months of living here. He'll feel around blindly in a panic, and for a second he thinks "oh, this is Blair's bed" as though he's fallen asleep while watching a movie with her.
Then it hits him. He's here, Blair is in New York and she's married to the man she loves more than anything. More than anyone.
Dan wishes he were over her. He should be over her by now, he should have healed from this unrequited love. It's not as though he's painted a picture of flawless Blair in his mind to worship; hardly.
He loves her horrible lack of respect for her peers and anyone less privileged than she, he loves her ability to deny anything to herself, he loves her rigid determination to make a plan and stick to it, he loves her neurotic desire for control, he loves her desire for dominance even when it kicks the people she cares about in the teeth, including him. God, he even loves the way she loves Chuck Bass.
It's stupid. Blair's the girl for him, maybe, but he's definitely not the guy for her.
Hopefully it will fade over time, that this isn't the lot of his life.
Dan wishes he'd slept with Serena.
Olivia's dating someone, as it turns out. Some musician or something.
Word's out about Rumors, about the pre-production and how it's based on Inside and how Dan Humphrey wrote both the book and the screenplay.
Meghan's thrilled by the exposure, she wants him to play it up as much as possible. He's not really sure how to do that on his own. CeCe is convinced the best way is to continue taking her out to parties and such, as if that will make him popular.
Serena and Eric tag along. Serena does him a favor by using her it-girl status to attract attention to him.
She won't go there with him again, though. No more fake-dating, no more attempts to get back together with him.
It's a mercy, and he thanks her from the bottom of his heart.
No matter what he feels about Blair now, or about anyone else in the future, Serena was his first love and she's still one of the best things in his life. To pretend he doesn't care for her deeply… that would be foolish. And pointless.
Matthew Golde: Hi, how are you today?
Dan Humphrey: I'm doing great, thanks. How are you?
MG: Just fine, thank you. I'm really excited to hear about this new project of yours.
DH: [laughs nervously] Yeah, it's been kind of …surreal, I guess. The last thing I expected was an interview like this, you know, on such a broad scale. It's Vanity Fair, that's huge! I'm really honored and flattered by all the attention.
MG: So, from what I gather, you've written a script that is an adaptation of your best-selling book of last year, Inside. Is that correct?
DH: Yeah! Yeah, the film is in pre-production right now. It's not exactly an adaptation of Inside, though. Rumors – that's the title of the movie – is what Inside would have been, I think, if I'd had time to edit it before it was published. The manuscript was submitted to Simon & Schuster without my consent; I don't know if everybody knows that, so it was really unpolished and Rumors is like a fresh start, a little bit.
MG: I had no idea.
DH: Yeah, you know, I'm not going to say I wasn't thrilled when Inside was published, because I was – who wouldn't be, right? But I wish I'd had time to change some things because my friends, they were a basis for a lot of the characters and they were really unhappy with how they came across in the book. I mean, it's fiction and they weren't direct copies, but it's like, I love these people and I don't want them to think this is how I see them.
MG: So, is Rumors a little closer to how your friends are in real life? A bit more autobiographic?
DH: Umm… yes and no. The characters are a little more well-rounded than in Inside, that was a satire after all and the characters were intentionally exaggerated. But no, because these are more individual characters, like, they're distinct from the people they were initially inspired by.
MG: I read a few pages of the script; there's a new character named Nick?
DH: [laughs] Nick is the biggest thing missing from the book. Oh man, Nick. He's based off a friend of mine, my best friend, and this guy is like, he's pretty much the nicest person in the world. He's this really uncomplicated guy who's… okay, he's not stupid, like, far from it, but he comes off like he doesn't know all that much and then surprises you by being really wise and thoughtful. I'm hoping he likes how Nick is portrayed. I'm crossing my fingers.
MG: You've made a definite distinction between the book and the film.
DH: Well, they're not the same, not really. There's some of the basic story, and a lot of the same character names and you know, it's New York's Upper East Side but… I want to be really clear that Rumors is not Inside. Rumors is a mix between Inside and A Midsummer's Night's Dream, but not really either. It's got it's own unique flavor. I don't know; it's no Citizen Kane but I'm pretty happy with it in a way I wasn't happy with Inside.
MG: What would you say are the biggest similarities between Inside and Rumors, and what are the biggest distinctions?
DH: Oh, well, the thing they have in common is this surveillance culture climate. I mean, when I was going to high school and even after, there was – is still, I guess – this blog called Gossip Girl, and it was, you know, basically TMZ for the Upper East Side elite. So there's that focus on image, and how you define yourself in private and in public, and how one affects the other, and it's a pretty bizarre kind of relationship with yourself, you know, managing who you are in different parts of your life.
MG: That must have been interesting to grow up with.
DH: Oh, man, it really was. And I wasn't even apart of it until I started dating Serena van der Woodsen – she's my stepsister now, long story – but [laughs] no one even knew who I was so I was called LonelyBoy on the blog. Now that I look back on it, it's really very funny.
But, uh, yeah, biggest difference… in the book it's a lot more focused on Dylan Hunter, the narrative is mostly his, and what I really wanted to examine in the script was this friendship between Clair and Sabrina. You know, you've got these two leading ladies and trying to reconcile the competition and the extreme love they have for each other is… it's such a fascinating dynamic.
MG: Sabrina is based on Serena, your ex-girlfriend and now your… stepsister?
DH: Yeah, yeah she is. Sabrina in the film is a lot closer to Serena in the way that, well, Serena is warm and caring, and she's really sweet. I think with anyone else, transitioning between this incredibly romantic relationship to becoming siblings would have been awful, but with her, I mean, we're so comfortable with each other, we can talk to each other about anything because we've been there. It's not as awkward as you'd think.
MG: I understand Olivia Burke is cast as Sabrina, and I hear you and she dated at one point…
DH: [laughs] It's kind of funny how it worked out that way. Yeah, Olivia and I dated back during our freshman year at NYU for a little while, and then we parted ways when she went to film Bitches of Eastwick. It was great that this worked out, though, because I have nothing but respect and admiration for Olivia. She's a dedicated actress and just so kind and giving.
MG: Do we know who is going to portray Clair? She was a pretty popular character in the book.
DH: We do, um, it's this lovely actress Rachel Hennessey, she's incredibly talented. There was this thing, you know, [the director] Allison [Thompson] and I were watching her audition and we just knew that Rachel was our Clair, but she was blonde so none of the studio execs even considered her. So poor Rachel had to dye her hair brown just to audition again! She didn't even have the part then. I'm just so thrilled with her though. She and Olivia have a wonderful chemistry and I can't wait to see the finished product with those two.
MG: Inside is such an iconic New York story. With the pre-production happening here, is Rumors going to be more of a West Coast kind of story?
DH: No, no, Rumors is New York through and through. Part of the pre-production is securing the lots and locations in New York. No, we're definitely keeping it East Coast. It's a completely different flavor this side of the country.
MG: Speaking of which, you've recently moved to LA. How do you like it out here?
DH: I love it! Yeah, this place is great. New York is pretty uptight and… I love it, believe me, I do, but California is so relaxed. The skyline is a lot more natural, like, there are mountains and trees and beaches, and it's not all in a park, it's just there and part of everything. I can't ever see myself leaving.
MG: You're in Montecito, right? I've got some family there.
DH: Do you? That's great! It's a really beautiful area. Man, it's scenery porn! [laughs] I'm, um, I'm living with my grandmother, my stepmom's mother. She's probably my favorite person in the world, she's a really strong woman, really funny. It's great.
MG: Does your grandmother show up in the film?
DH: You know, if I thought I could do her justice I would have written her in the story. But, I mean, there are time constraints and only so many characters you can have without overwhelming the story and, I mean, it's hard to write this woman without making her sound like a villain. You can't really capture what makes her so special on page. Just picture her like an older, jaded Sabrina with Clair's intense control issues. But funnier.
MG: I have to meet this woman.
DH: She's wonderful.
MG: Well, thank you so much for your time, Dan! I'm looking forward to hearing more about Rumors as the movie comes along.
DH: Yeah, thank you so much.
Serena gets off the phone after breakfast one morning. "Blair wants to talk to you," she says quietly, and Dan can see that she just knows what that means to him and why it sucks so much.
"She's almost eight months along."
"She and Chuck want us to be godparents."
Dan is more than a little shocked. "Why me? Why not Nate?"
She gives him a look.
"Blair says they're going to have a ceremony for the baby," Serena continues. "And she really wants us to be there. They've got it set for August 27th, and I know it would mean a lot to both Chuck and Blair to have you come."
He shakes his head. "I'm not going back to New York," he tells her quietly.
"Serena, I'm really happy here. I can't go back. I'm sorry."
He knows, just like he knew Eric would never bring it up again, that Serena is going to ask him this repeatedly, and he doesn't like to think about it. Dan's said goodbye to New York and he can't put himself through all that pain, at least until he's sure that his feelings for Blair are gone.
Meghan introduces Dan to her sister, Marcia Muirs.
Marcia is a redhead, with freckles. She's Meghan's half-sister, apparently, though they look so little alike Dan secretly suspects one of them is adopted. Marcia is a third-grade teacher, just out of college.
She's funny. She's ridiculously funny, and Dan finds himself bending over, tears coming out of his eyes, stomach hurting with laughter so many times when Marcia is telling a story about what one of her kids did in class that day, or what crazy adventures she got up to as a kid. God, she just says the funniest things and her facial expressions just sell it.
She's smart. Dan can have an intelligent conversation with her about books and films and art. It's not like talking to Blair, Marcia isn't at that level (where she challenges his thoughts and forces him to look at things in a new way), but it's still fun and stimulating.
She's kind. The way she cares about the kids in her classroom, really wants to see them succeed and learn, it's so heartwarming. Marcia just cares about these things. And it's not just her kids; she goes out of her way to be nice to strangers, and Dan's so entranced by her warmth and goodness, and she's nice to him too, really nice.
For the first time in a long time, Dan can see himself falling for this woman.
Serena's been back in New York for two weeks before she calls Dan.
"Blair had the baby."
"She did? I thought she was only eight months along."
He'll pretend that he didn't know that because of obsessive over-thinking. Dan Humphrey's just good with numbers, after all. Everyone knows that.
"Eight and a half. It's a girl. They named her Margaret Eleanor Bass."
"Oh. Well, tell them congratulations."
Nate calls when the Vanity Fair issue hits the stands.
"Dude, I should have gotten an exclusive interview with you!" he moans into the phone. "Why didn't you tell me, man?"
"Conflict of interest," Dan points out. "Lack of objective journalism. The possibility that you might kill me for writing about you again. Take your pick, really."
Nate scoffs. "But you wrote a whole character for me this time."
It's kind of wonderful how easy to please Nate can be. There's no one, literally no one in the world who can just relax and let things be like Nate Archibald. And things just come to him, the way things come to Serena.
"Which you wouldn't have known if you hadn't read the interview."
"Come on, man!"
Dan rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. "Okay, how about the next time I write a book or a movie, I'll give you an exclusive? And I'll make it good, really good, so everyone will be jealous."
"I'm holding you to that," Nate says.
He's pretty sure Nate will forget.
It's Marcia who drags Dan out to buy a gift for Blair and Chuck.
"You just have to after a baby's born," she tells him. "It's a thing, and I know you know how Manhattan loves those things."
"I don't know what to get them," he protests.
Marcia rolls her eyes, grabs his hand, pulls him into the store. He likes her hands.
Dan loves getting the daily reports from the set. He shares them with CeCe, and she'll make fun of them or 'oooh' and 'ahhh' over the interesting details. This being the woman who, after reading the Vanity Fair interview, framed the entire article and then enlarged the part about her for another frame.
She's his biggest supporter, and the best supporter too, because CeCe never lets his ego get too big. She's far too fond of cutting remarks for that.
Olivia and Rachel are apparently lighting up the set with their chemistry. Allison can't stop gushing about the layers of friendship and competition the girls bring out in each other.
Kenneth Porter, the actor portraying Dylan, is apparently upset that his role has been reduced from main character in the novel to supporting character in the film. He's an exceptional actor, but that's irritating especially when Dan's made the distinction between the two over and over.
There was a mild panic over a possible leak of the script, but it turned out to be some girl's fan fiction.
Josh Greer has a dispute about a line Nick is supposed to say, and Allison wants Dan to come east so that these sorts of script problems can be worked out without two days of waiting for resolution.
Sorry, he tells her. I'm not going back to New York.
The first time Marcia and he make love, it's not some huge declaration of love or a supremely intimate moment. It's fun.
And not sleazy fun, genuine fun. Dan's never laughed during sex before, but he laughed that night. They rolled around and wrestled and teased, and there was definite erotic pleasure there, but the whole thing felt like play.
Playful, that's what it was.
Dan's used to sex going hand-in-hand with strong emotions. Georgina was an anomaly, and now that he thinks about it, she was kind of a manifestation of his subconscious desire for Blair (oh God, just how long had he been in love with her, really?). Every time he's had sex there was a deep connection.
Which, yeah, Dan likes Marcia a lot, more than a lot, and he's attracted to her, but that night wasn't about grand gestures or love.
Two adults in a relationship enjoying each other. Nothing more than that.
And the fact that it was nothing more than that makes it into so much more than that.
A/N: I don't know why I have such a kick for writing future!fics with married Chuck and Blair. I really don't. Anyway, I know there's little to no Blair here, but the second part is Blair-heavy and will go up within the week. Like it so far? Hate it? I must know these things ^_^