welcome, they said, welcome to the floor

heart skipped a beat
and when i caught it you were out of reach
but i'm sure, i'm sure you've heard it before
heart skipped a beat, the xx

Paris, 2013.

The only light coming in is through the window, the curtains slightly drawn, but that doesn't count, not really.

When the door of my deluxe suite creaks open without so much as a knock, I open my mouth instinctively to retort, but all I hear from the other end of the room is a sharp intake of breath and I decode in an instant who the intruder is.

"Nice room," he says pointlessly, not even pretending to observe the room. It's all pointless – his attitude, the room, the honeymoon, the country. None of it matters, except it does, because apparently it was done for epic love.

I don't waver from my emotionless state, abandoning the table where my make-up and headbands lay astray to make my way over to him. "I'd say thanks, but I know you didn't really mean it."

"I'd say you're welcome, but I know you didn't really mean it when you almost said thanks," he shoots back, simply because of old habits that refuse to die.

I stare at him, hands on my hips, looking unimpressed. The walls around us eagerly await a response, but I grace him with nothing other than an uncomfortable moment of silence. His anger seems faded now, I evade myself into believing. It's a welcome thought.

"Is there something you're here to inform me of that I was not previously aware?" I ask finally, condescending tone complimented nicely with one raised brow, "Make it quick, Humphrey. I'm running a clock here."

But I'd really like to scream: "I don't care about the way you cut your hair. I don't care, I just don't care –" and then I'd be cut off mid-sentence because he knows it's true. Teach me how to get over this. I definitely need to be a better bitch. Is there any way I can get him to stay without admitting that I feel this way?

He senses my fake hostility and doesn't question it. I want to slap him right there and then.

"Other than the fact that you're married now?" he begins slowly, allowing the words to sink in before he turns towards the door without any more hesitation, "No, not a thing."

I don't hear much of anything following that until my husband arrives. The night remains pointless.

Rome, 2014.

Every city has different people but the same story. Rinse, recycle, and repeat. Keep making old trash into new trash. And secretly, I laugh. Crashing my pretend best friend's honeymoon wasn't originally the plan, but I do it anyways because I can.

I slip beside him dangerously easily – "dangerously" because it's done almost as easily as when I first slipped away from him. I've caught him at a time when he's alone but a bit more lonely, like he caught me several months ago, and it's frightening to think that we're fighting for nothing, the catches mean nothing, because falling is the only thing we truly know how to do.

"Rome for post-marriage celebrations. How original." My voice doesn't crack. A part of me wishes it would.

I can see him roll his eyes into his book. He's pulling that half-smile, the one that I immediately recognize to mean that he has something to say but he's thinking about holding it back.

"Almost as original as Paris, but not quite," he deadpans, and yes, there it is – that's the Dan Humphrey that I've known for far too long but also not long enough at all.

My chair creaks as I lean back in it, crossing my legs and letting my sunglasses rest at the top of my head. "I do think you can do better than that, Humphrey," I snap in a manner that suggests I'm overly bored, but we both know that I could carry on with this for the entire afternoon or the rest of our lives or some very hopeful combination of both, "You sound like you're at your own funeral."

He fights back a laugh. I pull my sunglasses back down over my eyelids, and sigh.

"I'm here with Serena," he informs me matter-of-factly, as if it's of utmost relevance to my presence and couldn't wait for any later time to be said, "Have you ever thought of that?" Why are you here, Blair? I can safely guess that he wants to add, but of course that wouldn't be appropriate.

"I don't even like you. Have you ever thought of that?" I point out duly, and for a second, I can nearly convince myself that I'm sixteen again, and so is he. There's no mention of a tetanus shot, and yet he knows we're on the same playing ground, except not really at the same time. It's half-way across the world and there's some memories that I just can't shake.

"I've thought about it, yes," he deadpans, "Sort of lived through it, too. Not that you would remember."

I nearly smile, even though a normal person wouldn't react with a smile to such a situation. I can tell that he's long abandoned his book in favor of observing me, so I pull out my own from the Louis Vuitton handbag I'd meticulously picked out when getting dressed earlier in order to distract myself.

Throwing my sunglasses on the table this time, I proceed to watch him out of the corner of my eye, pretending to read when there's a thousand other things on my mind, like Dan why did you stop writing entirely after getting Inside published why tell me why. I aimlessly flip through the pages of the novel in my hands, more preoccupied with the way he holds his novel in his hands, and attempt to escape the bitter feeling that this is a snapshot of what could have been.

"You're re-reading The Age of Innocence," he states finally, gesturing to the only worn out and tattered product I own that I'm currently holding.

"Yeah, so?" My voice implies that I'd like him to sound sorry that he spoke up about it in the first place.

But when I hear his level, one-word response of "Nothing," I know he doesn't. I see him fumble around in his belongings to pick up a pen, then. Later, since I'm not sure how much time has passed or how much time eventually will pass, I notice that he begins to write, and I want to reprimand him for still using scrap pieces of paper when he has such a talent and deserves so much better –

– and that conversation would only get me places where I've vowed internally never to go. I'd travel to the ends of the earth for the man sitting beside me without admitting to it once, but that trek doesn't include the depths of my mind because a confirmation of my endless excuses is not something I need.

Unbeknownst to me, although I believed I'd been paying attention very carefully, he discreetly deposits those scrap pieces of paper I'd treated with such disdain into my bag and returns to his reading.

When I get up to leave without any hint of a goodbye, his face betrays nothing. "I'll tell Serena that you stopped by to say hi," he lies.

I bite back the witty response on the tip of my tongue, and it's a wonder that I don't drop dead with the holes I feel his gaze boring into my retreating back.

The hotel bar I find myself stopping at on my way to my room only accepts cash, and I mutter ungratefully under my breath, shoving my credit card back into my skirt pocket. I unzip my handbag, throwing my phone aside at first glance and ignoring the last six unread texts from Chuck, and it's only then that I realize there's something at the bottom of the designer accessory that just doesn't belong.

I don't even try to hide my eagerness as I unfold the scraps, taking in his handwriting as a gift and a punishment all at once, expecting everything and nothing and not knowing, afterwards when the words are scanned multiple times from beginning to end and end to beginning and over again, which of the two it is that was fulfilled.

Every day the coffee's bitter no matter how much sugar goes in. The shower is clammy and even the cheeriest music is a dirge. Every coat's itchy and too small, like they took part of your body with them. And then one night you find laughter in the offhand remark; you find yourself healing like a good little scar; and you're ready once more to hover over the cliff like a breath of fresh air before gravity remembers you. –Daniel Handler on How to Stop Loving Someone

I'm just trying to find the truth in this. –Daniel Humphrey on Inspiration for a New Novel

Manhattan, 2017.

Little by little the pieces fall apart, leaving no doubt that I loved him from the start.

"Blair," he begins quietly, taking a seat on the sofa across from me, uninvited as ever but begrudgingly appreciated nonetheless.

"I'm sorry, is there any particularly valid reason for you to be here?" I throw him an incredulous look, setting my tea down on the table-side.

He stares at me, though he knows I won't break. But he does it anyway.

"Dorota!" I yell out next, but of course she doesn't come because I gave her the day off in favor of being on my own.

"Don't," he says, shaking his head as he cuts to the chase, "Serena told me. She told me everything."

I fidget to smooth out the wrinkles recently formed in my dress, seeing it fit to detach myself from the conversation at hand. "I still don't see what this has to do with you," I decide on eventually, recognizing that resisting the news that Humphrey has heard about would be futile at best.

"You're right. It doesn't have much to do with me. But it has a lot to do with you."

"I fail to see how any of it is your problem."

"Chuck left you, Blair." I hate the way he says my name more than anything, as if there's a universe of meaning behind that one syllable, a breath of air exhaled in a way that no one other than the two of us will ever have the ability to perceive as the pure and simple truth.

"Some would say that I left Chuck," I reply frighteningly casually, giving my nails a quick glance before looking back up at him, "Gossip Girl did, at least. The only noteworthy thing she's done in years, I suppose." Would he believe it if I was really back, or is it just hopeless for me to expect everyone to cut me so much slack? It's been a while since I've shown any signs of recovery but I promise I've been trying, I truly have.

I brace myself for the snarky comment that's sure to come, and strangely, it never does. He gets up, choosing to sit next to me, and I can't move away. His hand is on my shoulder, a simple enough gesture that reads streets and sounds and lights and towns that we were planning to see but never did. It means You'll still have me in a hundred different languages spoken concurrently, one true constant in a world that will never give up on changing and destroying in its wake.

"I've had quite enough of your nonsense," I feign annoyance, gently shoving his hand away, "You don't owe me anything."

He laughs coldly, and I die a little.

"Our relationship was never about owing each other anything... but maybe that's the kind of conclusion you're going to be jumping to after what you've been through," he manages slowly, "And I don't blame you."

"Our relationship is a thing of the past. There was no need for you to mention it," I tell him, and I don't mean it even one-tenth of a percent.

He ignores me. "I'll be here," he says firmly, here translating to Brooklyn, obviously, like we're twenty all over again and there's solvable problems to be dealt with, "I always will. Call me if you want to do a movie night sometime."

"Well, you're out of luck, because I won't be here," I respond blankly, exasperated at his inability to admit defeat, and, following an exaggerated pause come the deliberate words, "I'm leaving."

"I don't believe you," he says, and I believe him when he says that. His eyes don't flicker from mine. "Where are you going?"


He assumes from my tone that firstly, I'm serious, and that secondly, I'm going somewhere that hasn't been decided on concretely for good, both of which I inwardly haven't been able to force upon myself just yet. "But the Upper East Side wouldn't be the same without you," he declares determinedly, "That is, if you are going to this so-called place called Nowhere."

"I am going, and you won't be there. Chuck Bass won't be there. Serena won't be there. Nate won't be there. The city won't be there. And I'll finally be free," I utter icily, insinuating that the aforementioned are items on a list that I'm desperate to rid myself of. "Don't bother trying to find me."

He doesn't respond, verbally or physically. Mentally might be a different story, as I can all but hear the countless frustrations in his head even when he stands up steadily to go, an action that mimics what I've been pretending to make clear for the past couple of minutes is all that I want him to do when all that I really want him to do is say something to prove me wrong. As it goes, I'm insane, because even a fool could understand where my genuine happiness and freedom and wholeness reside, and that place is certainly not in the villages of Nowhere and beyond.

"Dan." I falter, taking a step behind him as he backtracks the way he came in, and that along with my disgustingly obvious use of his first name makes the entire encounter an accident that's transcended into a mess.

"Can't you just stay?" I want to say, but I don't, and if I did, I might have gone on to add, "You know I'm only bluffing. I promise I won't take long to make up my mind and then let everyone else but you go for the last time, but please don't leave without hearing that yet," but it'd be best if he didn't leave me at all. If we'd ever been he would have known what I meant but now the only thing he can realistically write about us in those sub-par novels of his is our fall. Obliviousness can only last a set amount of time and it's not as if I'm committed some sort of crime. I've led him on for years but now I know that he is the one who was always there, and suddenly a settling calm resounds in the air, drowning out the noise of the elevator door slamming shut.

Brooklyn, Timeless.

I call him, reluctantly at first, and there's no answer. The Audrey Hepburn quote from my first wedding's vows that I recite after the voicemail beep is almost incoherent through all my tears, evidence of the wear and tear of the years. But of course he'll understand.

A/N: Gossip Girl A.K.A. The Shittiest Show in Existence Made Up Solely of Six Seasons of Abusive Relationships and Zero Character Development Which Resulted in Forcing Strong HBIC Female Characters that Were Supposed to Achieve Everything they Ever Wanted to Kneel Down To Men Who Don't Respect Them One Bit Because Apparently "Epic Love" Conquers All Regardless of Whether or Not it is an Unhealthy and Immature Relationship To Be In. Thank you and goodnight.