I'm not going back to New York

.

Within two days the entire mansion is baby-proofed. Dan watches in awe as Blair expertly sets up a play area she purchased in the middle of the entertainment room, although CeCe does not approve.

"I can't watch my Real Housewives in a room with a baby," she says with annoyance.

But Blair using her hands, not delegating or demanding he help her in any way, that's pure magic. Dan knows she can do absolutely anything she sets her mind to, and here's the proof. She's always doing something these first few days; changing diapers, washing Maggie down, putting soft cushions on corners and safety plugs in outlets, feeding or burping her daughter…

It's impressive. Sometimes when he watches her, Dan wonders if he would've been this accomplished at taking care of Milo after a year.

A part of him still misses the small child that was once his, no matter what Georgina says about it. Milo is three now, probably starting preschool in the fall. He probably doesn't remember Dan at all, doesn't know him as the one who held him when he couldn't sleep, who fed him, bathed him, watched after him constantly…

He doesn't want to dwell on it. He'd rather just watch Blair be a mother, one of the most amazing things Dan's ever seen.

.

"Chuck isn't allowing for an amicable divorce," she told him after putting her things in Jenny's guest room that first day (Dan said nothing about its former inhabitant). Maggie slept in a stroller, still out from the drive from LAX to Montecito. "He's fighting very hard under 'no precedent' and making things… difficult."

"But there is precedent," Dan said, surprised that Chuck could even take that option.

Blair nodded grimly. "I have records of his extended trips from New York, as well as the family therapist's recommendation that we should continue our sessions as per my wishes from six months ago. His lawyers are good, but it won't hold up against common sense. So, they're trying for negligent parenting."

"Well, he is negligent," he agreed, but she looked steely-eyed.

"I meant, he's claiming that I'm a negligent parent based on my depression."

Dan felt as if a bowling ball had just been thrown into his stomach. He was winded, sick at the thought, angered beyond belief.

"I'm going to kill him," he announced. "There's no way… he can't love you if he's willing to hurt you like this. What does he hope to gain from it anyway? Is he trying to get custody of Maggie or…"

Blair's face was as cold as he's ever seen it. "He's not taking my child. I won't let him raise Maggie the way Bart raised him; I'll kill him first." He took her hand in his, running his thumb back and forth along her palm. There was sweat there and a small trembling undetectable by sight.

"Why are you here?" Dan asked at last, the question on his mind since he opened the door. "If the divorce is as messy as you say, shouldn't you be there to represent yourself?"

"My representation is fine, Humphrey," she told him with a ghost of a smile. "I just couldn't stay at the Empire for another second with him there, drinking and shouting and scaring Maggie… I want her to feel safe."

"And your mother's penthouse wasn't available?" he wondered skeptically.

"The safest place I know is with you," said Blair, and her hand closed around his thumb like a lifeline.

.

CeCe vehemently decries the presence of a baby in her house. Feces, bawling at all hours, constant attention on someone other than herself – she never stops talking about how horrific the entire thing is.

But Dan knows better.

He catches her once, while Blair is taking a well-needed nap, hovering over Maggie's crib and playing peek-a-boo with such uninhibited delight that Dan doesn't have the heart to even tease her about it. It hasn't escaped his notice how little CeCe's smiled since Ernest died.

Unlike Dan, Blair doesn't quite know how CeCe works. She is appalled at the thought of anyone hating Maggie and looks ready to pull a knife on CeCe whenever the subject comes up. Dan sincerely hopes he doesn't have to keep Blair from murdering his grandmother before she realizes that CeCe's cruelty is just her sense of humor.

.

Serena calls not long after Blair's arrival, sounding frantic, asking is she alright, how's Maggie, what's going on?

"I can't believe this is happening," she says at one point. "I never thought Chuck and Blair would separate. And the way he's acting – it's awful! It's like he's a complete different person, Dan. "

Privately, he thinks this is how Chuck has spent most of his life.

Aloud he says, "We know better than anyone that great love stories don't always last."

.

Dan's plugging some dialogue he got from James and the guys into his novel. He's in the entertainment room on the couch, his headphones on and laughing silently at some of the funnier quotes he's managed to capture (the sound in the bowling alley obscured much of their conversation), laptop balanced on his knees.

It isn't until he feels a soft pressure on his shoulder that he realizes Blair has sat down beside him, resting her head on his shoulder wearily.

He pulls off the headphones and pauses the recording. "Hey."

"Hi," she sighs, and scoots her entire body to lean against his. "Did I interrupt something?"

"No, just getting some writing done," Dan reassures her. He wants to kiss the top of her head but holds back, sensing now is not the time. "What's up?"

She buries her face in his chest. When she comes back up, there are tearstains on his shirt.

"I'm just so tired," Blair murmurs. "These last few weeks all I've done is fight. And I just got a phone call; Chuck's team is going to take the custody case to trial. If I don't show up he'll immediately be awarded sole custody but I only just got here and I don't want to take Maggie back on the plane. She hated the entire flight."

Dan puts his arm around her shoulders and pulls her closer. "When's the trial?"

"In three weeks, if nothing my father or Mr. Kindler do manages to stop them," she says, looking deeply upset.

"I'm sorry, Blair," he tells her, and means it more than anything. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Just… hold me, okay? Just like this."

They sit together. Dan's computer turns dark and stops humming, powering down to save energy. He closes it and puts it to aside. Without the soft whirring to provide constant sound, all he can hear is their breathing. Their chests rise and fall in perfect synchronicity. He tries to pretend that his heart isn't beating faster from the contact.

"Do you want to leave Maggie here? If you have to go back to New York, I mean," suggests Dan after a while.

"If I don't bring her it will look bad to the judge," Blair tells him. "I can't take that risk."

"Maybe Lily could loan you the company jet," he says before remembering –

"Chuck would never allow it."

Dan sighs, frustrated. "This isn't fair."

"I know," says Blair.

"I just – I don't get it. He's let you go before, why can't he now?"

Blair turns her face up to his. "Because we have a contract between us, and a daughter," she says. "It's not as easy as it used to be, when we could walk in and out of our relationship whenever we needed to. That was always just about us. Now it affects other people, no matter how we feel about it."

"So even though he knows you don't love him anymore –" Dan begins.

"I never said I don't love Chuck," she interrupts, pulling back from him.

He's confused and hurt. "Then what are you doing here?"

"I didn't mean…" Blair makes a sound in between a groan and a sigh, she rubs her face, she looks hesitant. "Dan, I didn't mean it like that. I love you, I want to be here with you. Even if you just want to be friends right now, it doesn't matter. But, for better or for worse –"

"For richer or for poorer?" finishes Dan bitterly.

"For better or worse, he's a huge part of my life and I can't just stop caring about him," she continues smoothly, as if she didn't flinch at his words. "I'm not in love with him anymore, I don't think I have been for a long time, but he's always going to be in my heart. The way Serena is always going to be in yours."

Dan hates himself for a second. "Sorry," he offers quietly, and holds out his arm.

Blair tucks herself back into his side and places her hand on his chest gently. "Sometimes, when we're talking, I don't think we understand each other," she says. "I don't want to talk right now, okay?"

"Okay," he agrees. He'd rather just sit and soak in her presence.

.

James gets Dan, Wes, and he tickets for a Dodgers game against the Oakland A's, something James tells him is very important. At first he's hesitant to leave Blair and Maggie, but Blair reminds him that she took care of her daughter by herself for weeks on end, an afternoon is nothing to sneeze at.

Dan confesses he's never been to a baseball game before as they're settling into their seats, something both men take as a serious offense.

"You're from New York!" exclaims Wes. "Home of the Yankees, only the greatest team to ever exist on this earth!"

"I'm from a Red Sox family," he says.

Wes looks like someone just shot his favorite pet. "I can't talk to you right now."

The game is fun; Dan finds himself getting into the cheering and excitement of the crowd, something he always found distasteful when watching games on the TV with his dad. It helps that James is there, talking animatedly about the best players and the averages, and pointing out his favorites.

When it's over there's still light out and the Dodgers have won, although only by one point. Wes is over his aggravation enough to invite Dan to the bar for celebratory drinks, something he happily accepts because weirdly, it feels like these two are his friends even though he's paying James for this.

Since his only real male friend is in New York, Dan probably needs guys like these in his life.

.

When Dan picks up his innocently-ringing phone, the last person he expects to see on the caller ID is Chuck Bass. But there's his name, looking up at him without reprieve.

He almost lets it go to voicemail, and then decides, well, he'd rather get in one good dig.

"Chuck," he says guardedly.

"Humphrey, would you mind telling me why my wife is living with you?" there's an edge of danger in Chuck's voice, like he's seconds away from ordering a kill shot.

"She's staying away from you," says Dan. "And I don't blame her."

"You're the one who told us to be together," Chuck points out softly. "You told me to propose, you encouraged her to say yes."

Dan sighs. "I thought it would make her happy. Obviously I was wrong." He wants to yell at Chuck, curse him out, threaten to hurt him – nothing he thinks of saying stands out.

"Of course you weren't wrong; we're meant to be together, anyone can see that," insists Chuck. "I love her more than anything in this world, Humphrey. You know that. What I can't understand is why she's trying to fight it, and why you're letting her keep us apart."

For a brief moment, Dan almost fits inside Chuck's head, and he feels terribly sorry for the man. To exist in a world like that, with little to no empathy, in a world of delusions and grand proclamations instead of genuine compassion for another being, a world no one wants to stay with him in… well, that's the worst thing Dan can imagine.

But as ever, his loyalties lie with Blair. "Chuck, she's not fighting anything except you," he says. "She doesn't want to be with you anymore, and you're trying to take away her daughter."

"She's my daughter, too."

"Yeah? Could've fooled me." Dan hangs up and looks around for the hit man in the trees.

.

The week is a series of stormy days, lightning and thunder out at sea. It's so bad that Josh has cancelled all his surfing lessons until the weather clears up.

Without his near daily excursion to the beach, or Blair's twice daily walk with Maggie in the stroller, all three of them are cooped up in the house and Dan begins to realize that Blair is not someone he wants to be with in a nuclear shelter should Armageddon occur.

To her credit, half of her bad mood comes from the continuing divorce proceedings. Blair spends hours on the phone alternately yelling, spitting out legal jargon he can barely wrap his head around, crying to her father, or listing off Maggie's personal information. And if she's not doing that, she's looking after the daughter in question.

Dan's discovered that Maggie is an exceptionally active baby. Just over one year old and already she's standing up. Her crawl is faster than a speeding bullet as it is.

But he also discovers he likes it.

He spends hours on these rainy days, chasing Maggie from room to room, playing with her, tickling her and listening to her peals of laughter, and, when she's finally settling down, reading to her until her small eyelids fall shut and her belly rises and falls in a sleeping rhythm.

One time as Dan holds Maggie in his lap and reads to her, he falls asleep himself, woken a few hours later by a soft kiss on his forehead.

Blair looks down at him and Maggie with warm, tender eyes – and then her gaze falls to his left. Dan looks over and grimaces.

"CeCe," he mutters as Blair removes the bowl of warm water.

.

One night, while Dan finds himself staying awake to the beating of the raindrops on his window, his door opens and Blair slips through. He closes his eyes and pretends to be asleep, confused and nervous and waiting to see what she'll do.

The covers lift from the bed for a scant moment before the weight of another body joins his on the mattress. He can feel Blair scooting against him, pressing her whole backside against his frame (Blair Waldorf is spooning him, he's honestly never imagined that happening) and she breathes out gently.

After two minutes her body falls into a natural sleeping rhythm but Dan is awake for a long, long time.

.

"Simon & Schuster are waiting on the revised draft," Meghan tells him. She's seated comfortably at the end of the kitchen counter, hair still damp from the rain.

"Almost done," promises Dan. "Things have been a little …hectic around here."

Meghan nods. "Marcia told me about Ernest. How is CeCe holding up?"

"Oh, you know, she's CeCe," he says, slightly grateful that he can take the easy way out with his agent. "But, uh, I'm working on it. The book, I mean. I think some of the main things I have to deal with are character consistencies so I've sort of drawn up this… process? I don't know, it's helping me –"

He falters as Blair steps into the kitchen.

"Don't worry, Humphrey, I'll be gone before you know it," she says, rolling her eyes at his (presumably) panicked expression.

"Hi," Meghan says stiltedly.

Blair smiles with what appears to be perfect friendliness, but Dan can tell she's gone to that cold, cutting Queen B place. "Hi, I'm Blair," she introduces herself as she opens the fridge. "I'm a friend of Dan's from New York."

"I'm Meghan Muirs, Dan's agent," is the equally pseudo-friendly reply, and he definitely catches Meghan's recognition of the name Blair. Dan's sure the name has come up several times between the sisters in the aftermath of his and Marcia's breakup.

"Oh, Meghan! I've heard lots about you," Blair replies. Her voice is a high, clear-ringing bell and he almost winces.

"I've heard quite a bit about you, too."

"Well, I have to get back to my daughter," she says, extracting the bottle of formula from the fridge, "But I hope to see you again."

"Likewise," Meghan agrees with a fake smile. As soon as Blair is out of the kitchen she turns to Dan with raised eyebrows.

He sighs. "It's not what you think," he tells her. "We're not… she's staying here while her divorce goes through, that's all. Just as a friend. She was having a really rough time of it in New York with her husband, and… I mean, nothing's going on."

Meghan gives him a condescending look to rival CeCe's usual countenance. "That's an awful lot of excuses for nothing." Dan opens his mouth to explain further, but she cuts him off. "Look, it's your life, Dan, and maybe I'm just biased but you ended a perfectly good relationship in exchange for whatever amount of nothing this is. And if this is the 'hectic' you were talking about then it's not just hurting you, it's hurting your career, and that directly affects our working relationship."

"It's not," he insists. "Blair is… she's the whole point of writing. There's been an adjustment period, that's all."

She purses her lips but says nothing more on the subject, instead returning to safe things like word counts and monthly fees.

.

Nate calls Dan, a call he wasn't expecting.

"Are you going to yell at me about letting Blair stay here?" he asks bluntly after the pleasantries and family news have been exchanged. "Because Chuck already beat you to it."

Surprisingly, Nate laughs. "I don't think you're letting Blair do anything. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about something else."

"Okay… what?" Dan says, thrown off balance.

"Serena and I have been sort of seeing each other – I mean, you know we hooked up when we were visiting you, and we've just kept… doing that. But uh, lately she's been avoiding me and saying stuff like how she doesn't want to lead me on, or something, and I…"

Dan's stomach drops. "Oh. She, uh, she said that?" his advice to her before she and Nate left is apparently going the wrong way.

"Yeah," groans Nate. "And I mean, I went into this thing with no expectations of her, and I told her that, but I don't know how to get her to see that."

"Do you want more?" this feels extremely awkward on fifteen different levels.

"I dunno, man," he sighs. "I guess, well, I've always loved Serena in one way or another, but… most of the time I spent in love with her she spent in love with you."

Make that twenty different levels.

.

The rain stops, finally, and on the first warm sunny day Blair spends the entire day by the pool. She's dressed Maggie in an adorable little bathing suit, and adorned herself in a one-piece that recalls the 1960s. Dan honestly can't look away for too long, it's the barest he's ever seen her.

"No calls today," she says as their lunch is brought to them at the poolside. "I want to enjoy the sunshine."

Dan should be inside, writing, but this seems more important. Especially if Blair and Maggie have to leave in two weeks' time. He takes her hand and holds it for as long as she lets him.

.

Wes stops by a few days later, insisting they watch the Dodgers game on television since nobody bothered to get tickets. At first Dan is hesitant about this, since he's technically only paying James, but Wes reassures him that this is strictly for the love of the game.

They have beer, and potato chips, and other delightfully middle-class snacks (Dan can't believe how long it's been since he's had a pretzel) and Wes can't say enough times how much he enjoys the large HD screen in the entertainment room – and thankfully doesn't comment on the baby play area in front of them.

About halfway through the second inning, CeCe comes in. Dan's fully expecting her to make some snotty comment about the entire set up but it seems she will always continue to surprise him. She sits down heavily next to Dan, digs her delicate fingers into the bowl of greasy chips, and starts making observations about statistics and winning streaks and it's really, really bizarre. Wes and CeCe get into a heated argument at one point about the likelihood of the San Francisco Giants defeating the Dodgers, a conversation Dan stays wisely silent about.

Blair doesn't come to visit at all, and Dan finds that he's not at all upset by it. Especially since that night she crawls into bed with him again.

.

"I don't find you entertaining," said Henry, snatching his book away. He hugged it to his chest like a childhood toy.

She only smirked at this and made to shut the door.

Something about the conversation was unfinished, though, causing Henry to push the door back so hard that it swung wide and bounced off the wall. Jessica's eyes were wide and full of surprise – and possibly even a little fearful. He tried to pretend he did not regret this.

"Why this book?" he asked, and shook the tattered thing emphatically. "Why Notre-Dame de Paris? It's stupid –it's not a first edition, and it's not even a favorite of mine."

"First of all, you sound like an ass when you speak French," she told him, "And secondly, if it's not a favorite of yours why do you get so pissed off whenever I steal it?"

Henry glared. "It's mine, and you're stealing it. I really don't think I need to justify myself." He couldn't explain, to this woman of all people, that his ratty old copy was the very first thing his father had given him when he's returned from his academic sojourn in Nice, and he couldn't justify his need to always say the title in French:

"It's the language the story was written in," said Peter as he ruffled the hair on Henry's head. His hand had seemed so endlessly large at the time! "The translations are all well and good, but the heart and soul of language, that was Hugo's very own, and he was French, and you will read it in French."

"You broke into my apartment – at least I have a key to yours," said Jessica. She wore that irritatingly smug smile, the one that said she would find a way to win this argument no matter what so fighting her was merely an exercise in futility.

It enraged Henry to see her victorious like that when she had no right. A wave of unwarranted anger rose up inside him, spilling out of his ears and eyes and nose until he could only see red. His hand moved up, poised to slap her, to hit her, to wipe that expression off her face – but what happened was not that.

What happened was as his arm swung, his fingers found their way to her hair and twisted, and with his fistful of locks he tugged Jessica to him and kissed her.

.

Dan reads over that passage over and over again, wanting to remove something or change it – he's not comfortable with the idea of hitting anyone like that.

Well, maybe Chuck.

But the point is, he wants to write something more expansive and explosive than these lines can give. He wasn't satisfied with this part for the first draft, but no comment was made to help him improve it by anyone so either they liked it or were reluctant to be honest about it with him.

It was just that… well, he finds resonance in the idea of a kiss as a brutal act. Dan has never done such a thing but it feels right for the same reasons it feels wrong.

This story might just be too dark for him now, like, all the misery he felt about Blair and Chuck and himself, and everything that had ever happened to any of them, it doesn't need to heal anymore and this editing process is only bringing him down.

Dan made a promise to Meghan though, so he puts his attentions back to revising this draft.

.

Hours and hours later, into the early hours of the morning even, Dan feels himself finished. He goes to the very front of the printed manuscript and crosses out the first two words of his proposed title. No Evil Angel, it reads now.

He stumbles towards his bed and collapses on top of it, not bothering with the sheets.

.

There's a loud shriek that reverberates all throughout the house.

Dan jerks violently at the kitchen counter, spilling his coffee everywhere and nearly breaking the mug. Some of the hot liquid gets on his thin pajama pants and he leaps up from the stool, stumbling backwards as if he could move away from the scalding heat and letting out a yell of his own.

Lucinda rushes in with towels to mop up the spill, tossing one to Dan as she does so. He's mildly impressed with how calm her face is even as she moves with lightning speed.

"Blair?" he calls up the stairs. He makes his way to her room, wincing every other step. Fuck, if he got burns from this he would actually have to kill her.

Before he reaches the landing, Blair appears in front of him with a wide smile.

"They've called it off!" she exclaims delightedly.

"Called what off?" Dan is confused and honestly, he's pretty irritated at her right now.

"The trial! Dr. Truman spoke on my behalf to the judge and he had the case thrown out. I'm not going back to New York!"

His irritation left him in that one second, and Dan bounded up the last few steps to grab Blair and swing her around in a tight hug. He can hear himself saying things like "that's amazing!" and "I'm so happy for you!" but his happiness is entirely selfish, because after having Blair with him for a few short weeks Dan can't imagine being without her again.

Eventually he puts her feet back on the ground and steps back just to see her radiant smile. She's never looked so happy.

On impulse, Dan leans forward and kisses her, his hands on her hair (god, he loves her hair).

Kissing Blair Waldorf is a rush. Dan realizes he's never kissed her before – she's only ever kissed him. He's never initiated it. Which is stupid, because this is wonderful. Her mouth is warm and giving and Dan can feel her smile remain. Her arms come up to wrap around his neck and pull him even closer.

Dan comes to himself when (through the haze of all his excitement) Maggie's faint, unassuming gurgles reach his ears. He pulls back and drops his hands firmly to his sides, noticing with some amusement that Blair mirrors his stance almost exactly.

"I… I'm sorry," says Dan awkwardly.

"I'm not," Blair shoots back, crossing her arms now.

"I didn't want to, until the divorce was through –"

"Well, Dan, it's not," she snaps, looking thoroughly annoyed. "Knowing Chuck, it's going to take a long, long time for this divorce to be finalized. Unlike Louis, Chuck won't be glad to let me go. So your plan is to… what, exactly? Live with me in your house, in your bed, and do absolutely nothing?"

He opens his mouth before realizing he doesn't have anything to say.

Blair rolls her eyes. "You know what your problem is, Humphrey? You're a wimp. You say it's about morals and shit, but I'm legally separated! Nothing I do with my personal life has anything to do with Chuck, nor his with me. And even if it wasn't legal, I'm already divorced where it counts."

"It counts in a court of law…" mutters Dan.

"Ugh, shut up! You're just scared that I'm going to leave you, or something, and it's stupid because you already left me and I'm still standing here." Blair's tone is absolutely frustrated, but her eyes are terribly vulnerable, the kind of vulnerable that hurts to look at and leaves you feeling raw.

Dan can't think straight when she looks at him like that.

Blair takes one small step forward. "Just kiss me already," she orders. "We were doing fine before your little freak out."

"I just…" he falters, and carries on. "I have this irrational fear that Chuck has private investigators watching us through the windows, and the second I kiss you or do anything with you he'll know about it and then kill me and you and me again just to make sure –"

"Humphrey," Blair interrupts. "There aren't any windows on this landing."

He glances around and sees that she's right.

"Oh." Dan clears his throat. "Well, then… I believe someone called me a wimp, and I'll have you know that Humphreys are anything but."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Prove it."

He smirks and moves forward to kiss her again, but Maggie begins to cry before their lips have a chance to touch.

Blair sighs and heads up the second flight of stairs, and Dan calls after her, "I'll prove it later."

.

No Evil Angel goes out the next day, with Meghan's eternal thanks and promises to never rush him again (a promise Dan completely doubts).

It's like saying goodbye to an old friendship, one that you aren't sad about ending. Which isn't to say the experience wasn't valuable, or meaningful; writing this novel was cathartic and necessary and to say otherwise would give the entire process less than it deserves.

But Dan finds he no longer needs this book in his immediate life anymore. His work with the characters is done, the story is finished, there's nothing much left to do but let it go.

.

It feels… a little immoral to kiss a married woman. Blair insists little immorality is good for the soul which sounds an awful lot like bullshit but he'll take it.

That's all they've done, just kisses here and there, whenever they can manage it.

Dan feels like he's sixteen again. Both he and Blair are too busy with Maggie to find any real quality time alone for sex, let alone the new novel he's working on and her nonstop calls to New York. And truthfully, he doesn't mind in the slightest.

The relationship he's had with Blair has been… fluctuating and inconsistent, to say the least, but it's always stood firmly in friendship no matter what he felt or they admitted to. Adding this physicality and open romance is new and different. Dan doesn't quite know how to relate to Blair on this level.

This isn't to say he doesn't like the experience, he does, but he's discovering her all over again and the last time he "met" Blair Waldorf it involved a public wrestling match and plausible deniability and way too much information about Blair and Chuck's sex life. Caution is key.

Still, he can't quite bring himself to complain when Blair makes her occasional stay in his bed a nightly ritual.

.

The weirdest thing happens when Dan gets back from a day with James, Wes, and Kyle.

Serena and Blair are sitting at the kitchen counter, eating salad and talking about the latest Hollywood flicks.

"Um… hi," says Dan, announcing his presence awkwardly.

Blair looks up and smiles. "Dan! Serena's here!" she stretches out her hand (the one not holding the fork) and gestures for him to come closer.

"Yeah, I caught that." He's unsure of what to do in this situation and reluctantly takes Blair's hand. She is anything but reluctant, however, and pulls Dan to her side for a brief kiss. Dan doesn't know if he should feel bad for kissing Blair in front of Serena, if there's anything to feel bad about anymore, or if he's just walked into some alternate reality.

"I had to come see Blair Waldorf in California," admits Serena (Dan catches her use of "Waldorf"), a twinkle in her eye. "It just seems like a comedy waiting to happen."

Blair pretends to look insulted. Dan tries to relax into her side, wrapping an arm around her waist for lack of anything better to hold onto.

"It's good to have you back," says Dan. "I know CeCe will be glad to have some more family around. Or… I think she will."

"Oh, she'll be fine," Serena waves this away.

Dan turns to look at Blair when Serena returns to her salad. There's a tense look in her eye that Dan is sure matches his own.

.

TBC

.

A/N: To be clear, I actually don't think of Chuck as a villain in this story. Not even a little bit. The difficultly of writing from a singular POV is that, well, other characters aren't fully realized. I like Chuck as a character and find him completely fascinating. What I don't like is his relationship with Blair. Separating the two can be difficult since the writers have somehow molded Chuck and Chuck's love for Blair into one person, so here's my flimsy fanfic attempt at separating them. Also: you guys are awesome, as per usual ^_^