A/N: So this fic had been sitting around on my computer, half-done for months and I never thought I'd finish it much less publish it. But I think the fact that Season 6 has been the stuff of nightmares so far coupled with the fact that Dair are still the best thing about it even in miniscule doses sort of pushed me to finish this. I honestly always thought that no two characters were more destined for marriage than Dair, so this is my headcanon for how they get there.

It's "canon" for the first five seasons in the sense that everything that happened on the show from S1 to S5 (meaning including S5) has happened in the universe of this fic . It's firmly AU for S6, though as I started writing before S6 aired. For my personal satisfaction, I imagine it as being set in the same universe as my previous Dair fic, but you don't have to have read that for this to make sense.

Note: All flashbacks are in italics, so hopefully that's not confusing. I've tried to make the chronology as clear as possible. Also, while there's nothing too extreme or scandalous in here, just as a general warning for readers who may be too young and come across this story, I'd say this fic definitely falls into the "mature" category, ok?


"You do know I'm marrying you and not the dress, right?" asks Dan into the phone as he wanders the decadent hallways of Vera Wang, trying to ignore the overwhelming sense of déjà vu.

There's an exasperated huff at the other end of the line.

"I should have known better than to trust Dorota with this," Blair snaps impatiently.

"Yeah, well, don't be too hard on her. She was worried about you."

"Right and her crush on you had nothing to do with it."

"Blair –"

" No, it's getting ridiculous," she continues before he can stop her. "If you batted those doe eyes at her long enough she'd drown her own grandmother."

"Blair, go home," he offers patiently, feeling like a stuffy parent placating a toddler.

"But –"

"It's just a dress."

He grins to himself at the predictably scandalised gasp that greets this pronouncement.

"Humphreeey!" she whines. "You're making me reconsider my decision to grant you the unparalleled honor of having my hand. This dress and I have a relationship. We're involved. If you want me, you're going to have to accept that special bond and respect it. The dress and I are a package deal."

"Fine, but it's not coming on our honeymoon, is it? Because I was hoping I'd have a lot less fabric to contend with."

"And he morphs back into a primate."

"And a week from now you'll be Mrs Primate," he says, clicking his tongue in mock disapproval. "Think of the scandal."

"I hate you," she huffs, but he can hear the smile in her voice.

"No, you don't," he replies, unable to control a smile of his own. "Now what's wrong with the dress?"

He turns yet another corner and finally spots her at the end of yet another heavily draped hallway. She has her back turned towards him as she continues her fashion induced diatribe into the phone, but Dan finds himself only vaguely aware of the words as he takes her in.

...

Dan's not sure how long he's been wandering the halls at Vera Wang or how many brides he's looked in on. Seemingly every bride in the state except the one he came here to find. He's about to give up when he finally spots her. He takes his time approaching. She has her back turned to him, but there's a defeat evident in her posture that slows him. In that moment, he can't help but feel she deserves more. More out of her... fairytale. It seems unfair to him that someone so full of life should be so thoroughly beaten by it. Unfair that she has herself masterfully convinced that marrying a prince at 21 is an appropriate outlet for her confusion.

"There you are," he finally says, deciding to make his presence known. "Do you know how many brides I had to peek in on to find you? And yes, it is possible to lose too much weight before the wedding."

She turns to face him. Her eyes are shining with unshed tears.

"Not you, though. You look perfect."

...

"This dress is too... something and... not enough something else," Blair finally declares dejectedly into the phone, snapping Dan out of his reverie.

"You sure about that?" he asks. "Because the view's not terrible from where I'm standing."

There's a pause as she processes what he said and turns slowly to see him. He lets his eyes linger on her bewildered features for a beat before allowing them to wander lower to take in the ivory toned creation of that seems to effortlessly cling in all the right places and fall in all the right places. Unlike the dramatic parade of tulle and lace he had watched her try on almost three years ago, this gown possesses a sleek sort of simplicity. For a strange moment, neither of them moves and she continues to stare at him in bewilderment, but this bizarre standoff is broken soon enough as Blair lets out a sound halfway between a shriek and a squeal and bolts into the changing room in a flash of flowing silk.

A harassed looking attendant offers Dan a weak smile as he approaches.

"I can take it from here," he suggests gently. "She just needs a few minutes alone. I'm her, uh... friend."

He stifles a laugh at the relief that floods the young woman's eyes before she turns to leave without further persuasion. He takes a deep breath to brace himself and knocks lightly on the changing room door.

"Remind me to fire Dorota when I get home," is the response he receives.

"You're going to have to let me in at some point, you know," he states.

"And why would I do that?"

"Because I'm not leaving until I see you and I know you won't leave until the dress is perfect. We're at an impasse, don't you think?"

He deduces from the momentary silence that he already has the debate won, but the door remains shut.

"It's times like these I wish I'd married Nate while I had the chance," she says.

"You and me both," he adds, leaning his head against the door, wondering vaguely whether she might be doing the same. "He'd look great in that dress."

He's rewarded with a giggle.

"Ah, finally she laughs."

"Don't sound so smug. I'm still not letting you in here."

"I'm still not leaving."

"But... it's bad luck," she persists.

"Blair, I think I've seen you in enough wedding dresses that the novelty's worn off for the gods of matrimony."

"I hate you," she says again.

"No, you don't. But I admire your dedication to that concept."

"Fine," she huffs, defeated.

He grins as he waits for the door to swing open. It doesn't.

"Blair, let me in."

"Let yourself in, Humphrey. You can handle that, can't you?"

He turns the knob and is surprised to find that it offers no resistance. Blair observes him with a raised eyebrow as he enters and shuts the door behind him.

"It was open the entire time?" he asks.

She nods, a smile playing at the corners of her lips as she approaches him agonizingly slowly, seeming to draw out each step. She finally closes the distance between them, comes to a stop in front of him and rests her hands on his chest.

"And you still put me through the ringer."

"As is my purpose in life," she replies primly, smoothing down the lapels of his coat.

Just as his arms snake their way around her hips, she tugs him forward and their lips meet languidly.

"I missed you," she murmurs against his mouth.

"Keep saying things like that and I might just get the idea that you like me," he mutters in reply, brushing his nose lightly against hers.

"Agreeing to marry you wasn't a tip off?" she asks, innocently.

He pulls back slightly and looks down at her feeling infinitely amused and fights the urge to laugh.

...

"Dan?"

"Hmm?"

"Do you love me?"

He chuckles, turning his head to look at her. They're in his bed, a tangle of naked limbs and sheets, her head resting on his chest.

"That depends," he replies, absently playing with her hair.

"On what?"

"On why you're asking."

"Can't a girl fish for reassurance to feed her fragile ego?"

"A girl could, but I happen to know that this girl has a perfectly healthy ego. Some might even call it substantial."

"Dan."

"I also know that she never questions my love for her unless she wants something."

"Dan –"

"I'm not making you waffles at 2 am, Blair."

"Who said anything about –"

"Besides, I'm pretty sure we're out of strawberries and the weird almond ice cream you love that by all accounts tastes like cough syrup."

" I should've known better than to expect your mind not to be on breakfast food for once in your..." she pauses for a moment and takes a deep breath before making a show of untangling herself from him and turning over on her other side. "Forget I said anything. Goodnight."

He watches her silhouette caught by the faint rays of waning light beaming through the window and senses the tension in her posture. He slides closer to her, running his fingers along her bare shoulder before placing a soft kiss there.

"Blair?"

"What?" she mumbles, keeping her back turned to him.

"I love you."

He feels her shoulders relax as she turns again to face him.

"I know," she sighs.

"And I'm sorry I questioned your motives," he adds.

"Don't be. Your instincts are annoyingly accurate. I do want something."

"I know."

There's a pause as she gazes at him and her hand trails lightly along his jawline.

"I want you to marry me," she offers, slowly.

Dan blinks. He blinks several beats more rapidly than most humans are recommended to. The more he becomes aware of this fact, the less his eyes seem to cooperate as he stares at the heart-faced brunette next to him. She looks entirely unfazed as though what just transpired is a perfectly ordinary exchange. It's several seconds before Dan finds his voice.

"You... want me to marry you," he repeats, attempting to get accustomed to the concept.

"Mhmm."

"You want to marry me."

"Your skills of deduction are impeccable."

"You want us to get married."

"I do."

"To each other."

"Had any other offers?"

"You're serious."

She nods lightly.

"Why?"

The question sounds harsher leaving his mouth than he intends, but she only smiles lazily at him, her hand still tracing patterns on his jaw.

"Because I love you, Dan Humphrey. I can't say I always have, but I know I always will."

"You just... know."

She nods again.

"How do you know?"

"The same way you do," she counters.

"Who says I do?" he says, but the impact of this is neutralized by the fact that he's failing to mask a grin.

She smirks. Propping herself up slightly on one elbow she peers at him sardonically, her eyebrows arching.

"Are we really going to do this, sweetheart?"

His heart reflexively skips a beat. She has never called him 'sweetheart' before. It's saccharine and domestic and woefully pedestrian and decidedly not them. It's the best thing he's ever heard.

"Do what?" he asks weakly, trying desperately to appear unaffected.

"Pretend that you don't struggle to stop smiling when you're within a five mile radius of me. Pretend that you don't set me up to insult you when I'm down because you think it cheers me up," she lowers herself back down next to him and moves close enough that her lips are within inches of his as she continues in a whisper. "Pretend that your heart didn't race just because I called you sweetheart. Pretend that it's not racing now because all you want to do, all you ever want to do, is kiss me."

"Blair..." he's having trouble breathing steadily now.

"You're stupidly in love with me, Humphrey."

"Stupidly?"

"And I gave up pretending I'm not in love with you a long time ago, in case you hadn't noticed."

"In love with me, huh?" he teases.

"To a frightening degree," she replies, nuzzling her nose into the crook of his neck.

They lie still for a beat. His hand stroking her shoulder lightly.

"Blair, you've been in love before."

This time he knows he's said the wrong thing as she pushes him away abruptly and sits up. She's not smiling.

"Why are you fighting this?" she asks.

He's not quick enough to respond and her face turns to stone in a second.

"Oh," she says coldly. "I guess I have my answer."

She's out of bed in a flash, reaching for one of his shirts on the floor and pulling it on haphazardly.

"Blair, don't –"

"No, it's fine," she says, her voice several octaves higher than normal. "I just thought that we were on the same page. Clearly I was wrong."

Before he can respond, she strides out of his room and Dan scrambles out of bed. He barely manages to pull on his jeans before rushing after her. He spots her by the front door. She has her coat on over nothing but his shirt and holds her high heels in one hand as she grabs her purse from where it lies on the couch. She reaches for the door.

"Blair, please, just come back inside," he pleads. "You can't leave like this."

"You have ten seconds to give me one good reason why I shouldn't," she challenges.

"Well, for one thing, you're not wearing any pants."

"Eight."

"And it's almost three in the morning."

"Six"

"And some crazy girl just asked me to marry her, so you might want to stick around to see how I take it."

This seems to have the desired effect as she slowly turns away from the door and towards him. The shoes and purse are dumped unceremoniously on the floor and she crosses her arms.

"Talk," she barks.

"You caught me off guard," he says. "And I didn't know how to –"

"If you don't want to marry me, Dan, then what are we even doing here?" she interrupts.

"You think I don't want to marry you?" he asks, incredulous. "Blair, I think I'd have married you back when we were at W and you ran off with the stapler."

"So, then, why did you just –"

"Because there's still a part of me that can't believe I have you."

She blinks and then nods slightly.

"Is that why you look at me the way you do sometimes?"

"What way?"

"Like I might evaporate into thin air any minute."

"Ah," he says, feeling slightly embarrassed. "That look. I was kind of hoping you didn't catch that."

"You're not subtle," she replies, smiling wistfully.

"There are moments," he continues. "When I look at you and can't even begin to comprehend the fact that you chose me. That you want me. That you love me. And then you go and do something like this - ask me to marry you - and all I can hear is my brain screaming at me that it's all some sort of elaborate cosmic joke. "

"But –"

He holds a hand up to stop her.

"But then I realized that there's only one thing that is truly incomprehensible to me right now."

"Oh?" she asks, glumly, staring at the floor. "What's that?"

"The rest of my life... without you in it."

Her head whips up so fast that he almost thinks he heard her neck snap. He grins widely and this seems to immediately sober her. She gathers her features back into prim indifference as though he hasn't affected her in the slightest before approaching him. He stifles a laugh and takes both her hands, entwining their fingers. She leans her forehead against his.

"You... you always did have the words."

"One would hope," he says quietly. "Given my line of work it might get awkward if I didn't."

"And you never did know when to stop."

"Ask me again," he persists.

She breathes in deeply as though bracing herself before looking at him.

"Marry me... Dan Humphrey."

He takes a moment to revel in the words. To let them sink in just once more.

"Try and stop me," he finally replies.

He lifts both her hands and places a kiss on each knuckle. He then leans in to capture her lips, but she only allows the kiss for a few seconds before pushing him away gently and peering at him in mock suspicion.

"How do I know you're not just in it for my money?" she asks with a badly disguised smile.

"Waldorf, I would marry you for your money in a minute."

"You would?"

He smiles at the childlike delight that lights up her features as she recognizes the reference.

"I would. Would you marry me for my money?"

"In a minute," she replies, playing along.

"Well, then I guess it's pretty lucky we're both loaded."

He leans in to kiss her again, but she pushes him away again.

"If you think that every time we fight, you can just sweep me off my feet with a Tiffany's reference, you're wrong," she declares, but there's no commitment behind the statement.

"Am I?" he asks sceptically.

She laughs.

"If only."

...

"Okay, so technically, you agreed to marry me," she concedes, waving a hand dismissively. "Semantics."

He smiles to himself. She now has him undoing the delicate buttons on the back of her dress as she continues her monologue. What is the point of making these things so tiny and complicated?, he remembers asking her three years ago when he had fumbled clumsily with similarly intricate buttons on her similarly intricate wedding dress. It occurs to him in that moment, as he listens to her berate him for his incompetence and berate the dress-makers for their incompetence, that nothing will ever be as tiny and complicated as the woman in front of him.

"Point is Humphrey," she declares as she finally steps out of the dress, leaving her in a rather distracting slip. "It's common knowledge that you're the lucky one here. Be grateful."

"I don't know about that," he says, struggling to keep his eyes in check. "I'm kind of a catch."

A sudden hint of mischief flickers through her gaze as she catches him staring.

"You want to prove that to me?" she asks, placing a hand on his chest and backing him into the wall.

"Blair, what are you –"

"What does it look like?"

She rids him of his coat, sliding it off his shoulders before he can stop her and tugs at the top buttons of his shirt. She then casually takes to kissing her way up his neck.

"Blair, stop. We shouldn't," he manages, trying to ignore the feel of her tongue on his skin.

"But you want to," she mumbles, pressing herself against him in a way that makes his eyes roll into the back of his head.

"I always want to," he says, breathlessly, but he's cut off by her lips.

"So," she says between kisses. "What's the problem?"

And he kisses her back. Of course he does. He's always been helpless in that regard. As evidenced by a rather embarrassing poem, written in a state of drunkenness, in which he labelled her kisses a narcotic. While not some of his best work, he's reminded, as her lips angle over his artfully and her tongue brushes across his lower lip teasing him, that he's addicted. The kisses grow longer and needier on both sides. The part of Dan's brain that is aware of where they are begins to get drowned out when her tongue slides fully into his mouth. He tangles a hand in her hair, pulling her as close as humanly possible. She reaches for the zipper on his pants and pulls it down slowly and deliberately so that her hand brushes against him through the fabric. He groans and grabs her wrist to stall her.

"Wait. We can't. Not here."

"Why not?" she whines, biting her lip, staring at his.

"Believe me there's nothing I'd rather do more right now, but I think we should avoid getting arrested for public indecency."

"Need I remind you that this isn't half as public as an elevator," she retorts.

She rubs her hand against him again and all thoughts of resisting fly out of his head. Reacting on instinct, he flips their positions so that he now has Blair trapped against the wall. He grabs both her wrists in one hand and pins them above her head. She lets out a delightful shriek of surprise. He can see the victorious smirk tugging at her lips before he kisses it away hungrily, still holding her wrists above her head. He uses his free hand to pull up the hem of her slip and brushes his fingers lightly against the front of her panties. She moans and arches into him desperately.

"Miss Waldorf, is everything okay in there?"

They freeze at the sound of the voice outside the door, their lips ripped away from each other, both of them breathing heavily.

"Y-yes," Blair manages to stutter. "Everything's fine."

"Do you need any help?"

"No!" she almost shouts. "No, I'll... I'll be out in a minute. Thank you."

The attendant seems to take the hint and they listen as her footsteps fade. Blair looks up at Dan sulkily. He lets her hands drop, places a light kiss on her cheek and steps away, zipping and buckling up his pants and picking his coat up off the floor. He stands still for a moment, trying to gather himself again and slow his breathing.

"I'll wait for you outside," he tells Blair, who still looks less than pleased by the turn of events.

She shrugs dejectedly and turns back to the mirror. He reaches for the door, but turns to her again.

"And, Blair?"

"Hmm?" she asks, distractedly.

"Look at me," he says.

"What is it?"

She peers at him expectantly now.

"The dress, it's... you're breathtaking."

He catches a glimpse of her smiling as he turns and walks out the door.

It's almost an hour later that Blair is finally satisfied with the dress and they walk together down the street.

"Well that was fun," he says.

"Maybe for you," says Blair darkly.

"I don't know what you mean," he replies with as much innocence as he can muster.

"That girl in there thought you were my sassy gay friend."

"So?"

"So, you did nothing to contradict that notion."

"Only to keep her from thinking we had sex in the changing room."

"We didn't have sex in the changing room," she declares, pouting slightly.

"Not for a lack of your trying."

"Keep talking and there will be a severe lack of my trying starting today and including, but not limited to our wedding night and honeymoon."

"Aw, come on, admit it" says Dan in just the cocky tone he knows will needle her. "You want me bad."

"Bad-ly," she corrects haughtily before swinging her glossy designer bag to hit him in the stomach.

Dan doubles over, grimacing at the surprising weight of whatever is in the bag and watches her march away down the sidewalk in a huff. A couple of tall, leggy young women stop in their tracks and stare in shock, apparently taking it upon themselves to pity him and send unfriendly glares at Blair's retreating form.

"No, it's fine," Dan manages to wheeze, sounding far less masculine than he would like as he straightens up. "She loves me. We're in love. It's a thing."

The leggy ones don't look altogether reassured as Dan turns away from them and hurries after Blair, his abdomen not nearly as bruised as his dignity.

...

Dan keeps glancing over at Blair across the room. The Waldorf apartment is bustling with the chatter of every person gathered there for the rehearsal dinner, but something about Blair's demeanor worries him as she navigates the crowd. She's smiling, but her eyes are glassy. Her posture is perfect. Too perfect. Too rigid. She keeps glancing back at him when she thinks he's not looking and he makes sure to look away to keep up the pretense.

When he chances a glance again, he sees her approach Jenny and his mother. All three women are all smiles. The same taut, emotionless smile that Blair has been wearing all night. He watches cautiously as they converse briefly, but Blair appears to abandon the conversation abruptly. Jenny and Dan's mother spot him staring and have the decency to look mildly apologetic as Blair strides away, making a beeline for the elevator.

"Would you excuse me for a minute?" Dan offers perfunctorily to the relatives from somewhere or other whom he wasn't listening to anyway.

He doesn't wait for their response before heading towards Blair. She stands waiting for the elevator, bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet, her fists clenched and Dan recognizes the signs. She's trying not to cry. He catches the elevator door just as she enters and they're about to close on him, but he manages to slip inside. The elevator plunges downwards, but it's not long before Blair pushes the emergency stop button and they come to a halt between floors. She leans back against the wall of the elevator, eyes closed, taking shuddering breaths.

"Blair..."

She opens her eyes to look at him and after a brief pause, the dam breaks. She collapses into his arms, burying her face in his chest and huge sobs rack her body. He holds her tightly, one hand stroking her hair soothingly as he tries to console her.

"Hey, shhh... it's okay... whatever it is, tell me and we'll fix it."

He stays like that for almost a minute before she stills and starts to breathe normally. He moves to pull back, but she clutches at him desperately, keeping him in place.

"Blair, you have to talk to me," he says. "Is it Jenny? Did she say something?"

It's another full minute before she responds.

"She hates me," she offers mournfully, her voice muffled by his shirt.

"Jenny doesn't –"

"I'm not talking about Jenny," she argues.

She lifts her head to look at him, but doesn't release her hold on him, so he keeps his arms firmly wrapped around her in return. It dawns on him that Blair is referring to his mother.

"What did she say?" he asks, quietly.

"Nothing," she says. "At least, not in so many words, but she doesn't have to. It's written all over her face every time I talk to her. And it's not like I can blame her. After what I did to Jenny –"

"Blair, that's in the past. I've already talked to her about this. She even agreed that leaving the Upper-East Side wasn't exactly the worst thing for Jenny. She's over it, I promise."

"But, she's not," Blair insists.

He considers this for a moment.

"I'll talk to her," he finally says. "Tell her that she's going to have to come around sooner rather than later."

"Why would she do that? I told you, she hates me."

"Ah, but see, here's the thing with that," Dan continues, bringing a hand to cradle her cheek, wiping away the remaining tear stains. "She loves me and I love you, so she'll come around. She'll have to if she wants to be a part of my life. Because you're a part of my life now... the most important part."

Blair smiles a watery smile at him and leans into his hand, turning her head slightly to press a kiss to his palm.

"And don't think I haven't noticed that you're not sleeping well," Dan adds. "And don't tell me sleep is for the weak."

"But it is," she counters seriously. "This wedding didn't plan itself, you know."

"Blair, I don't care if we have to get married in a Vegas drive through ceremony with Elvis as the minister, you're exhausted."

She wrinkles her nose at the mention of Vegas, but nods dejectedly. She sighs dramatically and leans her head back onto his chest.

"You're right," she mumbles into his shirt, sulkily. "It's annoying."

He laughs.

"Want to go back up now?" he asks.

He feels her shake her head against his chest and smiles, holding her tighter.

"Not yet," she says, seeming to burrow into him more. "Five more minutes."

"As you wish."

...

"When was the last time you slept?" asks Dan as he watches Blair attempt to drink from a pen holder.

"Sleep," she declares. "Is for the weak."

She adds something about his only being there at W because he's trying to avoid Ben and Serena. He chooses to ignore any truth that may lie in that accusation and deviates.

"No, I'm waiting for you to crack," he states flatly.

It's partly true. There's something surreal about watching Blair stubbornly plough through and navigate the impossible mountain of work piling up on her desk while attempting to micromanage her minions. He finds her almost fantastical single-mindedness and refusal to recognize the obvious strangely admirable in a perverse sort of way. Not that he'd ever admit that to her, of course. For someone of Blair's privilege to work herself to the limit like this is something he can respect, albeit grudgingly.

He watches as she promises a blog entry "within the hour" and decides it's time to step in. The entertainment value of watching her scurry around in a panic has started to give way to concern. He's not yet accustomed to the feeling of being concerned about Blair Waldorf. It's new. It's been gnawing at him for longer than he cares to admit. Weeks perhaps. And he doesn't like it. The sooner he can convince her to cut down on her workload, the sooner he can stop the concern in its unwelcome tracks. Less work for Blair, less reason for him to be concerned. Simple arithmetic, really.

"Blair, if you take on one more thing, you're going to break."

Serena breezes in as if on cue, Eric in tow, requesting Blair's help with a scheme.

"She can't," says Dan reflexively before Blair can respond.

"I can!" she huffs, shooting him a dirty look while Serena and Eric seem bewildered at Dan's mere presence.

"What are you doing here?" inquires Serena, confused.

"I'm leaving," Dan replies decisively. "This just went from Woman on the Verge to Saw 2. I don't like gore porn, really."

He walks out of the office with as much purpose as he can muster, but finds himself pausing in the hallway to listen as Blair confidently declares that "a takedown only takes two minutes" while simultaneously juggling phone conversations. He finds himself smiling and immediately shakes his head from side to side as though ridding his ears of water. He doesn't need this. None of it. Not the concern or the pausing in hallways or the smiling. He finally walks away from the office, hating the amount of willpower it's taking him to do it.

...

Dan frowns at himself in the mirror as he fiddles with his tie and pats down his criminally expensive suit nervously. It's too early. Too early to be getting himself ready. He takes a peek out the window and the world still lies in partial darkness. The wedding is hours away, but he can't help himself. He has to channel all the nervous energy somehow. There's also a part of him that entertains the idea of Blair being proud of his punctuality. He hasn't seen her in 24 hours and it's making him restless, though he realizes the schmaltz attached to that particular line of thought and quashes the feeling immediately.

He's been relegated to the preposterous luxury of a hotel suite due to Blair taking it upon herself to arrange for all the groomsmen to get ready together at the site of the reception. The idea of doing so in Brooklyn was flatly rejected out of hand, not that that surprised Dan in the slightest. But nonetheless he wishes he were back in the comfort of the loft. Perhaps then he would've been able to get some sleep.

"Dan?"

Nate's head appears around the door and he enters the room, looking around deliberately. If he's surprised that Dan's already dressed, he shows no signs of it. In fact, Dan's not entirely sure Nate has even noticed. He seems thoroughly distracted.

"Are we alone?" Nate asks cryptically.

"Yeah," replies Dan. "Why, what's up?"

Nate doesn't reply, but proceeds to pace nervously.

"Nate?"

He watches as Nate stops pacing and takes a seat on the bed.

"Uh... I just got off the phone with Dorota and... I've got some bad news," he says. "It's Blair."

Dan's heart jumps to his throat and he freezes.

"Is she okay?"

"She's fine," Nate says quickly. "I mean, I think she's fine."

"What do you mean you think –"

"She's gone."

"Gone?" Dan repeats, dumbstruck.

"Yeah, apparently she just... took off."

"And she didn't say where –"

"No, she just left Dorota a text saying that she needed some time to... think about things and to cover for her as long as she can."

Although Dan hears the words, he has trouble letting them sink in and it's several moments before he finds his voice.

"Who else knows?" he asks.

"No one yet," replies Nate. "Dorota's stalling. She told Eleanor that Blair has a migraine and wants to be left alone in her room for a while, but that won't work for long."

Dan's legs feel like they can't support his weight and he walks over to the bed in a daze, collapsing into it next to Nate.

"I'm sorry, Dan," Nate offers, patting Dan on the back.

"Maybe if I try calling her –"

"Already tried that," says Nate, dejectedly. "She's not picking up."

"This doesn't make sense," Dan finally declares, feeling stung by the condescension and pity evident in Nate's tone. "She wouldn't just run out on me. That's not her anymore. There has to be an explanation."

"I don't know what to tell you, man."

Dan looks at Nate, suddenly curious.

"You don't sound surprised."

Dan hears an accusation in his own voice, but doesn't care. Nate lets out a breath and eyes Dan tentatively before replying.

"Honestly? I never thought it'd last. Neither did anyone else, but you already knew that."

Dan nods in spite of himself. It was hardly news to him and Blair that a precious few around them took their relationship seriously and often appeared to be humoring them.

"Ever since you first got together, I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know? Always seemed... inevitable."

"No offense, man, but your pep talk skills suck," snaps Dan, irrationally annoyed by Nate's use of 'inevitable'.

"Sorry," Nate says, not sounding sorry at all. "It's just, I guess I never got rid of the image I had of the two of you back in high school, you know?"

"You had an image of me and Blair in high school?" Dan asks sceptically.

"Well, yeah. I mean, she tolerated you for Serena and you were too wrapped up in Serena to notice her."

...

Of the many ways Dan had pictured himself spending Thanksgiving, this scenario was decidedly not one of them. He stands in the middle of the street, staring at what's left of the pie he was holding as it lies destroyed on the concrete. There are more pressing matters at hand, however, like the blonde goddess he just saved from being run over at the expense of said pie. Not just any blonde goddess. The blonde goddess.

"Ohh, pie," Serena declares sadly.

"More like roadkill, now," he jokes nervously. "But, better it than you, right?"

She turns to face him, her smile wide, but vacant. She has no clue who he is.

"Um... I'm Dan... Humphrey, hi, uh, I don't know, we met last year?" he offers feeling increasingly pathetic. "You might not remember, yeah, I... you probably don't, but, look you should be more careful."

It's a complete shock to the system when a doll-like brunette blows in on his moment with his golden-haired dream girl like a particularly malevolent hurricane in a headband. She's all impeccably arched eyebrows and poisonous tones, as she cuts him to shreds in two vicious sentences.

"You need to keep your hands off of her! Trying to take advantage of her on the holidays."

He barely has time to get accustomed to the unfriendly new arrival in his Serena-induced haze, but he deduces easily enough that she thinks him uncouth with dishonorable intentions. She clutches her effortlessly inebriated friend protectively, herding her into the waiting cab like a disapproving parent.

"Bye, Dave," chirps Serena cheerfully before disappearing into the vehicle and he lamely returns the farewell.

"Bye," he then adds to the glaring brunette, for reasons unknown to himself.

And just like that it's the calm after the storm. The headband- clad hurricane blows away as quickly as she arrived, taking his dream girl with her.

...

"You're wrong, you know," he tells Nate, slowly. "I always... I mean, I noticed her. She was, uh... kind of hard to ignore."

Nate laughs.

"She really tortured you back then, huh?"

"No... well, yeah, she did sometimes, but... that's not really what I meant," Dan replies absently, staring at the pattern on the carpet.

He moves to stand up, unable to simply sit around doing nothing, but startles slightly as he feels his phone buzzing in his pocket. His eyes widen and he instinctively exhales, releasing the breath he didn't realize he was holding as he takes in the message. The loft. Now. – B

"What's wrong?" asks Nate.

"It's uh... it's Blair," Dan says, unable to keep the relief out of his voice.

"And?"

"And," Dan stands hastily. "I have to go."

"Wait, what... you can't just go."

"Watch me."

"But, what about the wedding?" asks Nate looking bewildered.

"It's not supposed to start for another few hours."

"And what happens when people start to notice you're missing?"

"Stall," Dan offers hurriedly, reaching for the door. "Please?" he adds.

"Stall? But how am I supposed to –"

Dan is already out the door.

...

He bursts through the door of the loft, slamming it behind him, only to find the apartment in an eerie state of serenity. He's about to call out for Blair, when he catches movement out of the corner of his eye. She's curled up on one corner of the couch, peering at him in silence. He walks around the coffee table so that he's facing her directly. She's in her wedding dress, the flowing material tumbling over the edge of the couch. Her hair and make-up are impeccable. She looks... painfully perfect. He feels his breath catch in his throat when he tries to speak.

"You're dressed," he states lamely.

She shrugs.

"So are you," she replies.

"I had to do something to channel all the –"

"Nervous energy?" she finishes for him. "Apparently great minds think alike."

She's looking up at him. Her eyes narrow minutely and then drag themselves all the way down his form and back up before she's looking directly at him again. Her gaze is deliberate as it drops to his mouth and suddenly the airy room feels stiflingly warm to Dan. He takes his jacket off and tosses it unceremoniously onto the armchair. Blair bites down on her lower lip as she continues to stare unabashedly, her eyes raking over him again. The look on her face is almost transparently familiar and not remotely the one Dan was anticipating. It's a look she had always been seemingly incapable of hiding, though he had always been too polite to tell her so. But this time it is so pointed that he knows she is making no attempt to hide it. She wants him to see it. To see that she wants to -

"You know," she begins, interrupting his problematic train of thought, her voice seeming to catch slightly. "It's rude to look prettier than the bride on her wedding day."

"Don't worry, Nate already agreed to wear a paper bag over his head for the ceremony."

Blair doesn't respond. She merely continues to eye him with an intensity that renders his throat suddenly dry. Dan's not entirely sure what's happening or why it's happening at such an inopportune moment, but it's as though there's a magnetic force holding their gazes together and every nerve in his body feels heightened. Blair is still chewing on her lip. He wishes she wouldn't. His train of thought begins to wander yet again to places it has no business being given the circumstances.

The impending wedding tops the list of a host of immediate concerns that probably should be flying through Dan's head at that moment. All he can think about, however, is the sudden urge, the sudden overwhelming need to kiss Blair. To touch her. To have her in his arms. The space between them suddenly feels like an excruciating form of torture as does the past day spent apart. It's not long before it becomes apparent that Blair is facing the same dilemma. Just as Dan steps forward, she practically leaps off the couch, grabs him by the collar and pulls him roughly into a kiss.

Her mouth moves forcefully against his, insistent and relentless. Dan, following on instinct, buries his hand in her hair, tugging at it hard so that some of the pinned up curls fall as Blair pulls his shirt untucked and his pants unbuckled and unzipped. He kisses a trail along the underside of her jaw and stops to suck at the spot just beneath her ear eliciting a moan. He continues to kiss his way down past her neck to the tops of her breasts where her dress taunts him, a fortress of silk. She lets out a huff of frustration and yanks his head back up, devouring his lips greedily while pulling his tie free and tugging at the buttons on his dress shirt.

Dan drops his shirt on the floor and backs blindly towards the couch, pulling Blair along with him, their lips never relinquishing contact, her hands moving freely over his body. The back of his knees hit the edge of the couch and he collapses into it. Blair settles herself on his lap, straddling him causing her dress to bunch up around her hips in a mountain of fabric. Dan slides his hands up the sides of her thighs, pushing the troublesome material further up and out of the way as Blair kisses her way from his collar bone to his shoulder, her nails digging into his back. He hooks his fingers around the waistband of her panties to pull them down and she lifts a little to help manoeuvre them off. He brings a hand to her breast and brushes his thumb across it through the fabric of her dress.

"Dan..." she gasps, her breathing audibly shallow.

There's a pause as they look at each other, foreheads pressed together, breathing almost in sync.

"Blair," he breathes. "We should... talk... we need –"

"The only thing..." she says breathlessly with kiss to the side of his mouth. "I need..." another kiss. "Is you..." she tugs on his lower lip with her teeth. "Inside me."

Hearing the words flip a switch in Dan's head and he loses all coherent thought. He pulls her towards him and kisses her roughly. He keeps this up for several moments and smiles into the kiss when she lets out a tut of impatience. He takes the hint and she gasps again when he enters her. They begin to move together, with a mutual urgency. Her breath hitches sharply and she arches into him further and further. The kisses become sloppier, lips sliding across lips messily, hindered by the constant jerk of their movements. It's frantic and inelegant. It's fantastic.

"Wow..." is all Dan can muster when they finish, tangled together in a panting heap on the couch. "Did we just –"

"Oh, we definitely did just," Blair says, her head slumped on his shoulder, still trying to catch her breath.

"Wow."

"You're repeating yourself, Humphrey."

"It's worth repeating," he says, nudging her lightly, his arms feeling like jelly. "You should abandon weddings more often."

"It always does seem to work to your advantage," she says, lifting her head to smile at him.

She pecks gently at the corner of his mouth one more time before clambering off his lap. Dan rises off the couch slowly. He picks up Blair's panties where they lie discarded on the floor and tosses them to her before picking up his own trail of clothing littering the ground. There is a comfortable silence as they both busy themselves with looking presentable again.

Blair collapses back onto the couch, her dress looking more than a little rumpled, but otherwise undamaged, her hair somewhat appealingly dishevelled. Once dressed, Dan walks over to her and sits on the coffee table so that they're facing each other. There's a smudge of lipstick on her chin and he reaches out, wiping it away with the pad of his thumb. She finally looks up at him, but says nothing.

"Look, Blair, if you don't want to marry me then –"

"Humphrey, sometimes I wonder why God wasted such a giant IQ on a moron. To put it in terms on par with what is evidently your level of discourse, was me jumping your bones just then too subtle?"

"Uh... I'm not exactly following, here," he offers, confused.

"Of course I want to marry you. That's the problem," she replies as though this explains everything.

"Still not following."

"I want to marry you, Dan. You. Not our incestuous group of exes and friends and family and I-don't-even-know-whats, but for the past week that's what it feels like we've been doing. And half of them can't stop judging us for long enough to be happy that we're happy and as long as they can't do that, I don't want them tainting what should be the best day of our lives."

"Blair –"

"Let's just go somewhere. Get away. We don't need anyone else to do this."

"But –"

"No, I'm serious," she persists. "I swear to God, there was not a single person at our rehearsal dinner that I didn't want to injure."

"Well, they're lucky you didn't have your purse on you," Dan says, smiling slightly.

She giggles, seemingly in spite of herself and he marvels for a moment at the fact that he can elicit that reaction from her. Serena used to laugh at his jokes with an enthusiasm and wide-eyed abandon that seemed more for his benefit than hers, but she'd throw her head back and her golden locks would tumble and her eyes would sparkle and he would lose his train of thought. Vanessa never laughed at his jokes so much as with him, the laughter often laced with a self-satisfied condescension as was expected of inherently superior beings such as themselves.

Blair... her laughter appears to sneak up on her. As though she's never quite accustomed to allowing Dan Humphrey the privilege of being able to amuse her and momentarily wants to catch herself. But she never does catch herself and watching her laugh unreservedly is strangely liberating. He makes Blair Waldorf laugh and every time it happens Dan thinks that if he never achieves anything of significance for the rest of his life, he'd feel suitably accomplished.

"Blair, listen to me," he urges. "Judgemental and incestuous as they may be, they're still a part of our lives. Important parts and we can't run from that and exist in a bubble, tempting as that sounds. If we do that we'd just be letting them believe they're right about us. The only way that they're ever going to accept us is if we stop acting like we need their approval."

"If they don't like us, too bad? That's your solution to all of this?"

Dan laughs lightly at this.

"Well, I was thinking more if they don't like us that's their problem to deal with and we're done making it ours. Because that's what this is about, isn't it? We've been acting like their issues with us being together was our burden, but it's not. It shouldn't be. And we shouldn't have to run away."

"I hate it when you make sense," she pouts.

"When don't I?"

She slaps his arm sharply at this, but he grabs her wrist and drops a kiss on her pulse point, holding her hand against his cheek for a moment. Her palm feels cool on his skin.

"So? What's the verdict?" he asks. "I left Nate to stall the wedding, so chances are it's going up in flames as we speak."

"Did you honestly think I'd let anything stop me from marrying the man I love?"

"That depends," he says, unable to hide his smirk as he attempts to look dramatically curious. "Do you love me?"

...

"So, do you love him?" Dan asks, making sure to rest his chin in his hand as obnoxiously as possible.

"No! No, of course not," Blair snaps, her nose wrinkling in disgust.

"Then why don't you say it to get what you want? Frat guys have been doing that since forever."

"I can't," she insists. "If I say it then Chuck wins."

"Right," Dan says, confused. "But, if you say it then you get him and you win."

"No, I lose," she turns to Serena, exasperated. "See? This is totally pointless."

Dan frowns slightly to himself as he watches her. He's not entirely sure how his life has arrived at the low point of giving Blair Waldorf advice on how to seduce Chuck Bass. Listening to the complicated web of games and tactics the two of them apparently immerse themselves in, he begins to get a sense of how exhausting it must be to exist in Blair's universe. More concerning, however, is that he begins to wonder why a girl like Blair has to jump through hoops at all. The reptilian personality aside, she's not so terrible to look at. There's something... nice... about her mouth when she talks.

"I was thinking I would just disappear for a while and give him a taste of life without me."

This pronouncement brings Dan's decidedly disturbing reverie to a crashing halt.

"No, no, no, that's a terrible idea," he interjects. "Don't disappear, become unavoidable."

She perks up slightly at this. Finally interested.

"Chuck may be a deviant, but he's still a man," Dan continues. "So, you know, drive him crazy and wear him down. You should be good at that."

She surveys him in thinly veiled surprise. If Dan didn't know any better, he'd even say she looks impressed. He's not sure why that should please him, but it does. There's a beat as they look at each other. For an insignificant moment, Dan can't help but sense something shift. There is something strangely charged about the air between them. For an insignificant moment, he's not entirely sure he can look away.

"Well," she starts, slowly. "Look who finally got a little interesting."

"I'm sure it's a fluke," he replies smugly.

For an insignificant moment.

...

The familiar scent of Blair's perfumes clouds his senses. Her head rests on his shoulder as they dance amid a sea of couples. To Dan's surprise, as he glances around the reception, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, or at the very least making an effort to. Even Jenny is laughing about something as she dances with Eric. Dan's still not clear on what exactly Nate did or said, but no one makes any mention of the fact that for a period of time, this wedding was missing a bride and groom. He spots Nate seemingly deep in conversation with Serena and catches his eye. Nate raises his glass briefly at Dan with a smile and Dan grins, nodding in acknowledgement and silent thanks. Blair lifts her head from his shoulder to peer up at Dan intently.

"Is there something on my face?" he asks.

"No," she laughs. "Just your face."

He raises an eyebrow at her curiously at this and she relents.

"Have I told you how ridiculously, distractingly good you look today?" she inquires, her voice several octaves lower than normal. "I almost felt like a sideshow walking down the aisle."

"Well, coming as it does from a Humphrey, that means very little to me," says Dan in the haughtiest tone he can manage. "But thanks."

"I always knew I'd marry a snob," she says, laughing.

"Takes one to know one."

She says nothing, merely looking at him intently again as they continue to sway together.

"Now what?" he asks, laughing at her keen expression.

She shakes her head lightly.

"Nothing, just... you were right."

"Mmm, I'm sorry, what did you say? Didn't catch that."

She smacks his arm playfully.

"You were right," she repeats, rolling her eyes. "I'm glad we didn't run away. I'm glad everyone's here."

He bends down slightly to brush his nose against hers.

"I'm glad you're glad."

"I hate you," she murmurs.

"No you don't."

"So," she starts, casting a furtive glance around the room. "Want to get out of here?"

He grins at her before leaning forward so that his lips are inches from her ear.

"Like you wouldn't believe," he whispers, feeling her shiver slightly.

Before either of them can move, however, Dan feels someone tap him on the shoulder and turns to see Eleanor watching them expectantly.

"Mind if I cut in?" she asks Blair. "I think my son in law owes me a dance.

He and Blair exchange a glance of surprise.

"Of course," Dan replies, suddenly nervous. "I'd be... honored."

Blair, seeming to sense his anxiety, squeezes his hand and pecks him on the cheek before shooting Eleanor a warning look and disappearing into the crowd.

There's a silence as they dance. Eleanor seems to be gazing at something over Dan's shoulder and Dan tries not to look as uncomfortable as he feels. Eleanor, to her credit, never made herself an issue in his relationship with Blair. But he realizes in that moment that he still hasn't the slightest clue how the woman actually feels about him marrying her only daughter and the uncertainty unnerves him.

"Uh... I feel like I should apologize," he tries to joke.

"Oh?" she says, eyebrows raised in a way that makes her resemblance to Blair striking. "What on earth for?"

"I mean, I know you probably didn't envision your daughter marrying your former cater waiter... not that there's anything wrong with being a wait – well, not that I'm still a... I mean, I write books... now."

Eleanor looks caught between amusement and pity at Dan's wildly successful attempt to embarrass himself and he longs dearly for the ground to open up and swallow him. Stuttering like a teenager who got caught making out with his girlfriend by a parent was not a part of his plan. Mercifully, Eleanor maintains the silence as they continue to dance.

"I feel like I should thank you, Daniel," she finally says.

"Thank me?" he repeats, feeling bewildered.

"For that," she says, nodding her head towards something behind him.

He turns his head to see what she means and spots Blair dancing with Cyrus. She's laughing uncontrollably as Cyrus attempts to dip her, the sound of her laughter carrying over the music. Dan can't help but smile at the scene.

"It's not me, you know," he says, still watching Blair. "She's always been like that. You just have to get her to let you see it."

"And now she lets everyone see it," Eleanor offers, pensively. "Because of you."

Dan lets the statement stand, not sure how to respond.

"And thank you for talking her out of eloping," she adds.

His eyes widen instinctively at this statement. He's about to ask Eleanor how she knows, but she seems to read the question on his face and waves a hand dismissively.

"You didn't think I would notice that my daughter was missing the morning of her own wedding?"

"I had hoped you wouldn't," Dan shrugs sheepishly.

Eleanor merely smiles at this and they slow as the song winds down. Blair's laughter fills the air yet again. Dan stands beside Eleanor watching as Cyrus bows and Blair curtseys, still giggling.

"I could get used to that," Eleanor says, wistfully.

She stays where she is for a beat longer, next to Dan, before kissing him on the cheek and walking away from him towards Blair and Cyrus.

"Yeah," Dan says, largely to himself as he watches Blair hug her mother, beaming. "Me too."


A/N: The dialogue about marrying each other for money is a reference to the similar interaction in Breakfast at Tiffany's, just in case anyone is not familiar with that movie.

So there you have it. Reviews are always welcome and much appreciated. As always, a big thank you in advance to anyone who takes the time to write one. :)