AN:I am sorry it took this long, I kind of forgot this story was there, started writing part 3 and then got writer's block and then life happened… but here it is, the final chapter, as promised. Thank you for enjoying it.
She sits on one of the barstools watching him put on an apron ("flowery apron huh? Manly, Humphrey!") and he holds up another equally flowery apron. "Help me?" She shakes her head. "I am no good in the kitchen. Dorota won't even let me come into the kitchen when she is cooking." He laughs and shrugs, then switches on the radio and begins to chop tomatoes to the rhythm of the soft pop music. She remembers her father in the kitchen, how he knew exactly what he was doing, how it looked like he was dancing some choreographed kitchen dance, confident and happy. And she recalls the way he would pick her up and hold her tight in front of him so she could stir the sauce. His little sous chef, he called her and she never felt more proud of herself, or more safe, or more loved. She bites her lip and before she says anything she thinks if she wants to share, those moments feel so personal, so hers and so private. Sharing might be spoiling them, might taint them. Dan, lost in his chopping and the music, does a little awkward step-step-ball change and then looks up at her and blushes a little when he sees her watching him from a couple of feet away. A giggle rises in her throat and on a whim she tells him. She can't quite get herself to look at him as she explains how it felt, to feel so perfectly complete and protected. Something she hasn't felt since. He listens intently in silence and then brings the apron over and tightens it around her "well, "sous chef" let's see if you are still any good". He hands her a knife and some basil. "Chop!" She rolls her eyes and starts chopping. "You are bossy. My daddy was never bossy." He grins, puts his knife and tomato down, then grabs her by the waist and kisses her neck until a little groan escapes her involuntarily. "I am not your dad. I am me." He whispers. Then let's go of her and adds "Bossy me! Chop woman!"
The food is good, the bruschetta is crispy, the tomatoes ripe and juicy and they share a glass of white wine ("can we not each get a glass, Humphrey?" "No, this is way more romantic!" "Romantic? Sharing germs?" Ok, I'll get you another…" "Never mind Humphrey, it is too late now!"), then they move over to the couch. He quietly points out that they are all alone and as excited as she is for this rare occurrence, they have waited so long now, they might as well wait until she doesn't feel this full. He nods and spreads himself out, his head in her lap and mumbles "naptime, then" as his eyes fall shut. She trails his eyebrows with her finger, the curve of his chin, already slightly stubbly, only hours after his shave, takes his earlobe between her thumb and pointer and softly strokes the soft skin. Every part of him is warm and inviting and… hers right now. His breathing is rhythmical and she thinks how he makes her feel; how she did not expect this from this particular boy at all, this boy who was such a nuisance in high school, so much the opposite of what she ever wanted, of what she expected from life. But she had everything she wanted and expected from life and it wasn't right. It felt like a dress that looks beautiful on the shelf but doesn't fit quite right. Too big in some places and too tight around the waist. Hard to breathe in. But he is like these jeans. Comfy, low key, nothing special to the observing eye. And she fears secretly, maybe like these jeans, he is just something she borrows for a little while and cannot be herself in. Today has been so nice, but is this her? Can this be her? She has always seen herself as… well, more. More than just a plain girl going out with some plain boy, living a plain life. She looks at him, plays with his hair carefully not to wake him. He makes her feel the opposite of plain though. He makes her feel special. How absurd is that? That a prince would make her feel inadequate, her, Queen freaking B, and this… well pauper doesn't really work as a word, because paupers don't have multi-millionaire stepmothers, but this regular boy makes her feel like the luckiest girl in the world. So darn absurd!
Her legs are starting to fall asleep under the weight of his head and she knows what she would say if he was awake ("how can such an empty head weigh this much?") but he is asleep and she doesn't dare to move him off of her. Must be love, huh? she thinks to herself and then gasps a little, surprised by her own thought. The L word, the one she didn't say to Chuck for nearly a year of sexual games and heartbreak. The one she knows can break her. She has been running from it ever since he hurt her worse than she thought was possible, she wouldn't allow for someone to get to her core, because if you do… well, "L" someone, then you will get hurt. Invariably. And you lose a piece of you. And there can only be so many pieces, until you are broken beyond repair. After Chuck, she is determined not to let anyone take any more pieces, she doesn't have enough of them. And suddenly all that warmth she has been feeling all day has left her, she doesn't feel special and safe anymore, she feels anxious and scared. The sun has sunk and disappeared and the room is starting to become immersed in the grey light of the approaching evening. Is it too late to run?
Suddenly he moves in her lap, turns his head towards her. "Hey" he grins, then sees her cloudy eyes. "Penny for your thoughts?" he murmurs looking a little worried. She shakes her head, fighting the urge to push him off her and leave. He sits up, his look questioning, his eyes full of sympathy, takes her into his arms and pressed into his chest it all suddenly blubbers to the surface and she starts to talk. Between sobs she tells him everything. Things she never told anybody, things she thought would make everyone realize that she was less of a person, things she was ashamed to even think about. How she never felt good enough, how Serena was always better and how she felt guilty for feeling jealous. How putting her fingers down her throat made her feel like she was able to control life just that little bit, when it was all coming apart at the seams. How she felt after Chuck sold her for his hotel and how no amount of searing hot showers would make her feel clean again. How scared she felt when he punched that window and glass rained down on her. How the little cut on her cheek could never compare with the giant gash inside of her. How she knew nobody would ever love her for herself so she became the person Louis would love, afraid at all times that someone would see through her and see the broken, damaged girl inside the princess. How love has never brought anything but heartache. When she is done, the light is even dimmer, the front of Dan's t-shirt is soaked in tears and she feels empty. Cathartically empty. He looks her in the eye and when she averts his gaze, he takes her chin and lifts her face to meet his eyes again. "I am sorry." He whispers. "But I knew most of that. Not how it felt for you, but I knew it happened. And I have known you at your worst. I have seen you be awful, hell I was who you were awful to most of the time. And I have seen you sad. And I know you. And I still love you. Because you may not be able to see it right now, but I see it. How beautiful you really are. Inside. If you could only see yourself through my eyes…" he smiles and caresses her cheek and the warmth is starting to come back, a little spark lights in her belly. "you'd be amazed, Blair." He whispers the last words and kisses her ear lobe. "You would be so amazed." He sits up a little straighter and kisses her forehead. "If you don't allow yourself to be happy, to be loved and to love, well, then you won't. Love, I mean. But you also won't be happy." His kisses trail down her neck and the warmth spreads through her chest. She closes her eyes and when he grabs the seam of her t-shirt, she lifts her arms above her head, inviting him to take it off. She unbuttons his shirt and then lies back, lets him cover her in kisses, while the warmth keeps its slow advance through her arms, her legs and into her head. He is gentle at removing her jeans, at freeing her from her panties, at undoing the tiny clips of her bra. Once she is fully naked, he leans back for a second and looks at her and his eyes are full of wonder. And of love. And he leans back down to find her lips with his.
It was different. The opposite of a quickie full of hatred and passion on a grand piano. It was sweet and loving and she feels like every one of her cells is singing now. She lies on top of him, her head tucked under his chin, her arms on her sides, her entire self fitting comfortably onto his. He holds her with his eyes closed; his breathing still a little rushed, his heart-beat just a little too fast, his skin smelling of soap and sweat. Her island, she thinks. He is her island. Happiness seeps through her and for once, she isn't afraid of it. Maybe she needed to get all those ugly feelings out, so that this new feeling could fill her, she thinks. He holds her tight and she can feel him smile.
"You, too." She whispers. "You would be amazed, too."