"Well? What do you think?"
Blair pulled the pen cap out of her mouth and gestured at the three dumbstruck faces sitting across from her. After much careful consideration, she had called an emergency pow wow with her closest confidantes to help her assess the Dan situation. Initially she worried that sharing his story would be a major violation of his privacy, and there were still lingering doubts in that regard, but her need for advice outweighed them. Since receiving Rose's letter she'd been a verifiable mess in every since of the word. All she could think about day and night was Dan's story and it's implications. With the letter came clarification in abundance but it also brought with it an enormous amount of stress for Blair. The idea that she was Dan's "savior" was absolutely absurd and she couldn't seem to wrap her mind around it.
"I think...I...this is..." Serena stammered, holding scores of rumpled papers in each hand.
Blair scowled at her. "You're no help at all!"
"I think what Serena's trying to say is that this is just, well, it's really intense. I mean, I know he's taken liberties, it being a fictional story and all, but it's obvious how he feels about you." Eric sat on the end of the bed, legs in front of him criss cross style with his elbows on his knees and his cheeks in his hands, his boyish pose contradicting the sage advice coming from his mouth.
"No, it is not obvious." Blair rubbed her fingertips over her temples, clearly frustrated. "It's a work of fiction. How am supposed to interpret this? I wish I could talk to Rose."
"Okay, hear me out. Let's just look at the facts. According to the story, your character is far from perfect. There are even instances when he's written her as detached and calculating, but he always seems to counter with a justification. She never acts without thought or care. Your character is the only one Emily will even consider listening to. She clings to the woman's words like it's her life blood."
"But, what does that have to do with how he feels about me?"
"Honestly, I don't know. But in the story, The woman is Emily's guide and without her Emily would have given up long before now. Do you have the ending yet?" Eric inquired.
"No. I haven't gotten a new chapter in a couple of weeks."
"I think it's all really romantic, Blair." Serena nudged the papers back in Blair's direction.
"It is romantic if I were to take it literally, but it's just a story. It's fiction. I guess I don't need to read too much into this. Dan and I are over. For good." Always the one to take the sensible approach, Blair had been trying to talk herself down for the last few days and Serena was not helping matters.
"Can I say something?" Cyrus had remained uncharacteristically quiet during the entire discussion so his interjection startled the trio on the bed a bit. "I think that you're right, Blair. You can't read too many specifics into the story because it isn't real, so forget the literary analysis. But there is one general truth you can't ignore. In the story Emily draws her strength from the silver haired woman. Maybe you do the same for Dan. That's what you take away from this. Nothing more, nothing less."
The trio sat still briefly to let Cyrus's words settle in. It was a simple but powerful truth. Serena turned her gaze to Blair and leaned in to gently grab her wrist.
"You have to talk to him." Serena pleaded.
With a sigh, Blair quietly uttered, "I know."
That evening, Blair reverted back to an old habit that she hadn't employed in many years. As she lay sprawled on her duvet, her phone in hand, she had the keypad open and dialed nine digits, before clearing them all and setting the torture device down. A few minutes later, she would repeat the process, each time unable to complete the number by entering in the tenth digit of Dan's phone number. It was saved in her phone, of course, and all she would have to do would be to simply touch his name, but there was a weird kind of exquisite torture in watching each digit appear on the screen, bringing her closer and closer to hearing his voice. She shouldn't want it like she did, shouldn't wish to hear it so desperately. Their last encounter had been less than pleasant and she was sure that any phone conversation would just lead to more awkwardness. She decided to text him instead. It was less personal and he was more likely to respond. After much debate, she chose a classic for her opener.
Expecting to have to wait for his reply, she headed to the kitchen to make some tea and was pleasantly surprised to see a response on her screen when she returned.
D: Hey :)
D: How are you doing?
Me: I'm okay.
Me: Actually I'm doing great. I've got a lot fill you in on.
Me: lol, it was unintentional.
Me: Can we get together soon? Have coffee?
D: Of course.
D: I'm really glad you asked. I've been wanting to call since I got back but I've been a chicken.
D: Because I'm pretty sure I'm the last person you want to hear from.
Me: That will never be true.
Blair jumped at the immediate buzz of her phone. She glanced down at the screen and her insides lurched when she spotted Dan's name. There was no way out of this because he knew she was on her phone. She had no choice but to answer. Damnit.
"Hey. Haven't we already covered this?"
She heard his deep baritone chuckle over the line. "Yeah, I guess so. I just wanted to talk to you."
Pausing briefly to catch her breath, "Me too."
"Are you really okay?"
"Yes, Dan, I'm great. I've done something crazy though."
"Ah, we're back to the crypticness. What's going on?" He sounded genuinely intrigued.
"I left my mother's company. I'm going back to school, I mean, I'm in school right now, at Columbia."
"Wow, Blair. That is huge. What are you studying?"
"Don't laugh. You can't laugh."
"I would never."
"Journalism. And English because I already have so many hours. I'm a double major."
He didn't respond at first, just sat there, slowly torturing her with his silence.
"Sorry I just...that's amazing. I'm really proud of you, Blair."
She smiled into the phone. "Me too."
They only spoke for a few minutes longer, both inquiring after Rose's and Cyrus's health, and decided they would meet for coffee the following Saturday morning. Dan had suggested an earlier day, but Blair was swamped until the weekend and if she were being honest, she needed a little time to emotionally prepare. She was determined that she was nearly over Dan, or over the idea of Dan. He had hurt her, she had hurt him. They would never work and she was resigned to the fact. But there was something else as well. An idea had seated itself at the forefront of her mind and no matter how she tried to rid herself of it, it wouldn't dislodge. It had much to do with Dan himself and she no idea how he would react. This being the case, she had much to do before their meetup.
She tried phoning Rose several times before Saturday but could not get her to answer the phone. Exasperated, she wrote her again with her inquiries, with little hope she would get a response in time. During the day, school became a welcome distraction for her and seeing as she had a test approaching, she allowed it to occupy her evenings as well. Usually preferring to study alone, it was a true testament to her desperate state that she allowed a handful of slobbering college students into her home for a study group. However, as the night wore on, her attention was drawn away from Dan and onto the pizza sauce stains and red wine spills. For that she was grateful, even if it did cost her the reupholstering of an armchair.
When the last guest left, she threw her hair up into a loose knot and began to clean up. Sighing, she bent over the coffee table and wiped up the mess made by the much younger crowd.
"What a filthy bunch of hooligans."
Startled by the unfamiliar voice, Blair whipped around and flung her kitchen towel at the intruder. He caught it before it smacked him in the face and flashed her a toothy grin. After the initial shock wore off, she took in the perfectly disheveled sandy blonde curls and twinkling blue eyes and couldn't help herself. She smiled and looked down at her fingers that played with the edge of her blouse, coy and unassuming. His name was Keegan or Ethan or some other priveleged name and he had been the quiet one in the bunch, rarely speaking out but always paying rapt attention to what was being said, particularly when she herself had been talking. He'd flirted with her on occasion before class, but never enough to give her pause.
"Can I help you clean up?" He gestured to the mess, never taking his eyes off of her.
She cleared her throat, finally finding her voice. "Sure, but be careful with the stemware."
As they cleared the dishes, she noted that he glanced in her direction nearly every ten seconds and couldn't help but be flattered by the attention. He was a very attractive guy after all, and though she would never admit it out loud, she had a younger man fantasy that she let herself indulge in every now and then. She pretended not to notice him and scurried between the kitchen and the great room, feeling his eyes follow her every time she crossed his path. It didn't take long with the two of them cleaning, and somehow they both ended up in front of the sink at the same time, elbows brushing together as they placed the last of the glasses into the basin.
"I'll wash, you dry?"
"Sure thing, Blair."
Hearing her name on his lips was a rush. She blushed a bit as she washed, and attempted to hide it from him by turning her face, but she was sure that he caught it. She bit her lip, trying to stifle her grin.
"Is something wrong...Blair?" He oozed charm and sweetness and it was all just a little too much. She spun around.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm helping you clean up the mess we made. No, the mess our immature classmates made. I didn't want to leave it all to you." He raised his hand to the back of his neck in a shy gesture. "And...it doesn't hurt that I get to spend a little more time with a beautiful woman either."
Blair made a disbelieving sound and gawked at him. Was this really happening? A very handsome, very younger college student was hitting on her in her own kitchen? It was almost unbelievable and it wasn't at all appropriate. What would Serena think? No, that was the wrong question as Serena would probably encourage her to sleep with him. What would her mother think? She would never expect it of her and would disapprove of her encouraging him, without a doubt. But her mother wasn't there anymore and it felt wonderful to be on the receiving end of this young man's gaze.
She hadn't paid attention to the fact that she had been staring at him as these thoughts ran through her head but as her eyes focused, she realized the distance between them had reduced significantly. He took another tentative step in her direction, close enough to touch.
"You've got bubbles on your cheek." He raised his hand to her face and ran his thumb softly over her cheekbone, his eyes never leaving hers.
Her heart began to beat out of her chest. What was going on? She didn't even know this guy, and he couldn't have been older than 21. Something felt off about it all, but he was so tempting. She suddenly felt desirable, wanted. It was addicting. She leaned her face into his hand and let her eyelids flutter closed. Seeing her response, he took one more step into her and leaned down toward her mouth. It all happened very quickly. She felt his breath against her lips, lingering, waiting, and parted them in greeting. He placed his mouth on hers and tenderly kissed as a groan escaped her. She imagined the angular planes of his face, the olive skin, the dark hair and warm chestnut eyes. She felt his nimble fingers gingerly gripping her neck and face, felt herself pressing into his lean frame. He nibbled her ear and she quietly gasped out his name.
They froze simultaneously. Without a word, he removed his hands from her and stepped away. For a few awkward seconds they stared at the floor, shuffling their feet and shifting their weight. She was praying that he would speak first as she was far too embarrassed.
"Well, thanks for hosting our group. I should get going."
"Keegan, wait." She couldn't stand the idea of him leaving without an explanation.
He stopped and released a slow breath, and said "My name is Lucas," before heading quickly into the elevator. After face palming multiple times that evening, Blair finally laid down to get some sleep. However, Dan was on her mind and she simply couldn't shake him.
Saturday arrived far too quickly for Blair's comfort. Her heart raced as she applied a light blush to her cheeks and her palms sweated, forcing her to wipe them on her pristine pencil skirt. A quick glance at her new timepiece told her she was right on schedule and had just enough time to get there if she left in the next five minutes. She ran her fingers through her hair before grabbing the letter that had arrived just that morning and placing it between the other papers in her briefcase. In no time at all, she was stepping out into the crisp autumn air and into a cab on her way to meet Dan.
It didn't take long for her to spot the lonely boy's signature slouch in the corner of the familiar Brooklyn cafe. She stood there a moment, hair whipping around her face as a shiver ran down her spine. He was wearing a form fitting blazer that she had picked out for him years ago. Shaking her head, she pulled a strand a hair from her lipgloss and opened the door.
He looked up with a smirk. "I thought you might like it."
"Yes, well, I liked it five years ago. Now...it's a bit outdated. But I don't know what I was expecting. You are notoriously challenged when it comes to style."
"How am I supposed to look good when I don't have the great Blair Waldorf dictating what I wear? I can't be expected to impress. Really, it's just not possible without her." He feigned innocence, but she knew better. She knocked him in the shoulder.
"Don't mock me, Humphrey. Nothing good ever comes of it."
"Alright Waldorf, you got me. But to be fair, I would look a hell of a lot better with you at the helm."
"I suppose you're right. I see you've let your hair grow." She did nothing to hide the disdain in her voice.
"Ah well, I can't be a brooding writer without a few curls to brush out of my eyes now, can I?" He cooed, all twinkles and charm.
"Oh? I didn't realize that was the look you were going for? Your work suggests more Dan Brown than Hemingway." She teased. His face fell and she immediately regretted her words. "I didn't mean anything by that, Dan. I was only kidding. I promise."
"Yeah, I know. It's just there's a bit of truth in it, isn't there?" He fiddled with his fork and refused to meet her eye. He stayed silent as the waiter approached, taking her order and waved him away when prompted to place his own. She chided him for making her eat alone and threatened to order decaf for him if he didn't cheer up, but it didn't do any good. He had slipped into a gloom and there was no going back. Blair had hoped to have a little more time to ease into things before unloading her news on him, but it seemed now was as good a time as any. She opened her briefcase and pulled out the crisp stack of papers that had been neatly bradded together by her own hands and plopped them in front of him.
"What's this?" He mumbled in her general direction.
"Why don't you open it and take a look?" Keeping a careful eye on his expression, she waited for the realization to dawn on him. She didn't have to wait long. His brow furrowed first, then his jaw hung agape and finally, his eyes grew large, as if they might bulge out of the sockets.
"This is my-how did y-where did you get this?" He insisted, completely confused. "I don't understand. These are my stories, but they're bound in a manuscript? What is going on, Blair?"
"Okay, first of all, calm down. I'm not pulling a Vanessa on you, if that's what you're worried about. I would never do that to you. Secondly, you can't get upset with her when you find out who gave them to me. Do you promise?"
He pinched his lips together and uttered a single syllable. "Rose."
"Yes, Rose sent them to me. But she had a reason for doing it." Blair nodded, hoping to soothe the anger that seemed to be building inside of him. "She was trying to get us-" She paused rethinking her words. "She wanted to help you. That's all. That's why she sent them to me."
"What did she tell you about them?" He demanded, panic rising.
Had she not picked up on his anxiety, she might have told him the truth. It would have made things infinitely less confusing for her as they could discuss the meaning behind all of it, but as it was he looked dangerously close to stroking out. In that instant she decided against revealing what she knew, in the hopes that he would calm down more quickly. And perhaps he might tell her on his own once he'd had a chance to get used to the idea, though it didn't seem likely.
"She told me that you wrote them in grad school and that they were some of her favorite pieces of yours. Is there something wrong with that? I know it's surprising that I have them, but really Dan, there's no need to get upset." She clicked at him. "I liked them, which is why I wanted to talk. I think you've really got something here, something great. I took the liberty of piecing the stories together, connecting them. They were a little disjointed I think, but with some minor revisions, it wouldn't be difficult for you to maintain a thread throughout. Now, your spelling is terrible so I made a few changes here and there. I hope you don't mind."
The terror was all but gone from his face only to be replaced with a hard, blank stare. "What are you saying, Blair?"
"I'm saying you should publish this as a novel." Clearing her throat, she picked up the manuscript. "And I'm saying that you should let me be your editor."
Blair watched as a multitude of emotions passed over Dan's sharp features, and though she couldn't name them all, she was sure that he finally settled on something akin to amusement. It wasn't ideal but at least it was positive. Amusement she could work with.
"I realize that this book would be quite a departure from what your readers expect of you, but it's too good to just pass up. Wouldn't it be fun to announce that Daniel Humphrey would be releasing a children's fantasy? Imagine their faces when they hear it. It'd be unexpected and maybe even fun for you...and for me too. I'm more excited about this than I have been about anything in years." Her lower lip jutted out playfully. "Are you really going to deny me my one chance to get my foot in the door and work with a best selling author? Hmm?"
"My publisher will never go for it."
"You never know until you try."
Though she appeared vulnerable and unassuming, Dan knew better. This was a classic Waldorf showdown, a battle of wills. He'd seen it enough and had been a participant more times than he cared to admit, and she knew it. But the question was not if he recognized what was happening. The question was in his response. He sat silently for several minutes thumbing through the pages, scowling every now and then, cursing under his breath at a supposed unsatisfactory line or paragraph. But he also appeared interested, invested even. There was something about the way his eyes raked over the pages at a rapid pace, as if he were seeing it for the first time. She sipped her coffee, not wanting to tip him over. She knew him too well to push. After some time, he set the offending papers down and sighed.
"I don't have an ending."
Scrutinizing her words he implored, "How do you know?"
"Because this isn't my first rodeo, Humphrey. I asked Rose to send me the remaining chapters before I approached you, and she told me in this letter." Blair pulled the stationary from her briefcase and set it in front of him. "She wanted you to read it."
His skeptical glare did nothing to dissuade Blair from her task. She pushed it into his hands. With another great sigh, he picked it up and began to read.
I've included the rest of the chapters, just like you asked. They're going to need some looking after as that boy can't edit to save his life, but they're good. Really good, in fact. I'm only sorry to say he never finished this little adventure. I think it took it's toll on him. However, I like your idea and if he's smart, then he'll take you up on it and finish it in the near future. In fact, you tell him I said so. Let him read it for himself. I'll tell you what, it's got more heart and depth than any of that other bullshit he's published lately. And if he does this, it just might pull him out of that funk he's been so fond of telling me about. Wallowing in his own self-pity...horse shit I tell you. Slap that kid around a couple of times for me, okay? Hugs and kisses dear.
P.S. This part is for Dan. Don't be an idiot, you idiot. I love ya.
There wasn't much more to their meeting after Dan read Rose's letter. His amusement had all but vanished and he seemed a bit perturbed. He was definitely unsettled, but as he stood up to give Blair a hug, she noted the brightness behind his eyes, as if something were lighting them up, forcing them open. He roughly grabbed at the manuscript and the letter, taking no care to keep them unwrinkled or unblemished, as she had, and muttered a few perfunctory goodbyes before heading out the door of the cafe into the wind.
That night as Blair settled into bed, she wasn't sure if she had approached him properly. She had anticipated some resistance but had not expected him to react in such a gruff manner. His pride had inevitably taken a blow after reading Rose's true assessment of his body of work, but surely it had recovered somewhat when he found out how she felt about this piece. She had spent the evening second guessing herself and was exhausted from all of it. Her head hit the pillow with a thunk and she heard the ding of her phone just as her lids drifted close. Fumbling for the light, she knocked several things off of her nightstand before finally laying her hand on the little brick. It was a text message from Dan.
D: How do you like it? I spent an hour and a half trying to find the perfect shade of grey. It's very close to the silver haired woman's hair color, no? I think it is, or at least it's how I see it in my head. I didn't say it earlier, but thank you for believing in me.
Beneath the text was a photo of what she assumed were Dan's fingers holding a small, round pebble. It sort of sparkled in the sunlight and it was just the right shade of light grey.
A/N: Fun little fact, I didn't do it intentionally but when I wrote the bit about about Lucas, I kept picturing an actor from the MTV series Teen Wolf called Daniel Sharman. So Lucas does in fact look exactly like him in my head. Look him up, he's quite an attractive fellow. ;) Drop me a note please, let me know what you think! I feel back on track now and I hope that reads in the story.