ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

Summary: A funny thing happened to Jenny on the way to the train station at the end of "Easy J"… instead of heading straight to Grand Central, she stops for a burger and fries and runs into someone unexpected… Nate, confused by Juliet's web of lies, worried about his parents, and wrestling with unresolved feelings for Serena. Another road to N/J. Goes AU after 4x06.

Disclaimer: I own nothing in the Gossip Girl universe, not even (sadly) Chuck or Nate. Major props to Cecily von Ziegesar, the CW, the producers, actors, and crew, and everyone involved with bringing these amazing characters to life.

Chapter 4 – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Jenny

It was still raining the next morning as the van made its way from Hudson to Albany. At first, Jenny thought the soggy conditions would mean the orchard outing was off, but Lily assured her over the phone that provisions would be made, for the forecast for the rest of the day was clear.

"Of course, we'll have a proper brunch here at the hotel before we set off," her stepmother had assured. "I don't believe your father plans to pick apples on an empty stomach."

"Mmm," Jenny had mumbled in reply, rubbing her forehead and squinting at the time on her phone. 7:45 am. On a Saturday.

Oh, the joys of being the youngest daughter of an extended family!

Feeling groggy as hell, Jenny threw on an old off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, skinny jeans, and a pair of retro leg warmers she'd knitted herself. She was so tired that it was all she could do to finish brushing her teeth, then splash a little water on her face and put on a tiny bit of makeup before Dan was yelling they were going to be late, and the van was pulling off in ten minutes with or without everybody who was spinning their wheels upstairs.

A resigned Jenny stumbled downstairs sleepily. At least she could sleep comfortably in her mom's car. At the end of the hourlong ride, there would be breakfast. And most importantly of all, coffee.

When she arrived in the living room, everyone was already there waiting. There stood Dan, leaning against a crutch as he checked his phone messages. Eric was off to the side, deep in conversation with his sister.

…and then there was Nate.

Who was looking straight at her.

"No luck at the train station, Nate?" It was her mother, coming up behind her to place her hands on Jenny's shoulders. "Did you miss it?"

"Apparently they've suspended Saturday service from Hudson station," he said slowly. "Dan suggested I hitch a ride with you guys up to Albany, then take it from there."

Alison frowned, and Jenny could tell she wasn't aware of it even before she looked at her. Eric and Serena stopped their conversation and looked up too.

"Are you sure there won't be another train here in Hudson, Nate?" Serena asked, inexplicably looking from Nate to Jenny… and back again.

"Not until tonight. And I've got to get back in time for practice later today." He turned to face Alison. "I hate to inconvenience you, Ms. Humphrey."

"Not an inconvenience at all. If it wasn't for your willingness to drive, my kids wouldn't have made it up here… and I always love seeing them. I'm sure Rufus and Lily will agree."

That was how Jenny's day began. She managed to ignore Nate for the entire ride to Albany, and after Alison returned to Hudson, she managed to sit through a brunch where everyone laughed and talked except her. (Jenny may or may not have noticed that Nate was quiet, too.)

She chewed on a slice of bacon, savoring the taste, trying to ignore the memories from the night before. That dance was the first time she'd ever gone to a school event totally relaxed. And that was all because of Brent.

Brent Orsini was very easy to talk to, and she didn't feel as if she needed to measure up to anyone else when she was with his friends. Her position in Hudson High's in-crowd was assured even before Brent. When they showed up together at the gym, everyone assumed they were dating. She accepted the sly hints from the A-list girls, and watched a couple of Brent's teammates slap palms as if to say, you got the girl.

It wasn't the exciting Upper East Side life that she'd been dreaming about since seventh grade. But it was a comfortable, worthwhile one.

All that had changed when Nate showed up. She'd seen that look on his face before…

Because.

It was as if the former boy of her dreams - a guy Jenny was rapidly getting over, she assured herself - had decided to recast himself as one of the vampires in her fantasies. Last night on the dance floor, and then again sitting there at breakfast, she couldn't help but remember…

No, no, no! I'll just pee at work.

Yet it wasn't the urge to find a ladies' room that seized Jenny just then. Would that it were just that!

Not like you're available.

And he wasn't, not in the way that Jenny had once dreamed about. Being with Brent showed her what being the center of a great guy's attention felt like. That wasn't the case with Nate. Nate, who wanted to sleep with her all of a sudden… only because she'd slept with Chuck of all people.

Well, I don't want to sleep with Nate!

I don't!

Defiantly, Jenny reached for the carafe of syrup. Ignoring the lively conversation, her gaze nonetheless slanted over to the end of the table. All the better to take in Nate as he drank down a glass of orange juice.

The more she tried not to notice about his movement, the more she noticed. The way his lips curled around the edge of it… the way his Adam's apple moved as the liquid disappeared.

Unbidden, she recalled their makeout session by the gym's water fountain the night before. Her mouth tingled remembering the hot and insistent press of his lips, the feel of his Adam's apple as she kissed his neck, and the strangled, rough sounds he made in her ear.

Then her sideways glance caught his tongue, darting out to capture a stray drop before he set the glass down.

I remember exactly what the tip of his tongue felt like in my mouth.

A tiny frisson of lust fluttered at her core as her body recalled other things about the night before. The strength of his arms. The rain-soaked scent of his jacket, his shirt, his skin… rain, and aftershave that had nearly melted off, and Nate. The way his eyes had burned into hers, twin blue flames flickering before they began to darken with desire.

As she recalled what his arousal had felt like even through all the layers of clothing that separated them, everything and everyone else seemed to disappear from the room. She couldn't stop herself. Her panties grew moist as she began to fantasize a different outcome from the night before…

I can imagine what his tongue would feel like other places. Yep.

"I have no idea what's going on with her," Eric was saying. "Jenny, I know how much you like syrup, but I don't know… maybe you might want to save some for everyone else?"

Snapping out of her erotic daydream, Jenny looked down at her plate.

She'd emptied half the carafe of syrup on top of her Belgian waffle, drowning it, the fruit-and-powdered sugar garnish, and the bacon on the side. Only the depth of the specialty platter had saved her from total disaster.

She felt herself redden as she stammered, "Sorry, I wasn't paying attention. Still waking up. It was a late night." Looking at no one in particular, she set the syrup down quickly, then reached for her coffee...

Which she sloshed on her sweatshirt as she took a sip.

"Same old Jenny," said Dan affectionately as Serena giggled and Lily shook her head.

Rufus grinned. "Yeah, that's my girl. Always making a mess at breakfast since she could hold a spoon."

Jenny wanted to sink through the floor. Why did Dan have to be so effing annoying? Why did Lily have to be so effing elegant? Why did her father refuse to see that she wasn't four effing years old anymore?

And why did Serena have to be such a clueless bitch?

"It's not a mess," said Jenny, defending herself. "I like sweet things, Dan, you know that. Maybe the batter they used was bitter or something."

"Yeah, I noticed my French toast needed something extra. It's not just you."

That was Nate. While everyone was concentrating on Jenny's pond of maple goo, he'd been busily drizzling honey all over his pancakes.

Jenny looked up just in time to get caught in his gaze.

"What can I say? I like sweet things too."

He had announced this to the table in a tone so nonchalant that it took all the fun out of teasing Jenny, and redirected the general conversation to other matters. As Serena began to regale everyone with tales of her favorite desserts (because really, everything always had to be About Serena), Jenny exhaled… and before she could stop herself, she looked over at Nate with gratitude.

She'd expected him to be staring at Serena. Because that was what he did… that was what everyone did when Serena was in the vicinity. It was a fact of life.

What she didn't expect was for him to be staring at her with the same look in his eyes from the night before.

I only have eyes for you.

Jenny looked back down at her drowned waffle, helplessly.

She was in for the fight of her life.

But fight him, she would.

For both of their sakes, Jenny had to.

Nate

Nate still wasn't over kissing Jenny Humphrey.

The only reason he stayed long enough for brunch was because he thought he'd have a moment with her, alone. But that didn't happen, and after what had happened a couple of years before, he wasn't ready to reveal his feelings about Jenny in front of her brother or her father. Chuck always said he was clueless, but he wasn't stupid.

Or suicidal.

He wanted to hang out with them at the orchard, but couldn't think of a good enough excuse to stay. Especially when Lily kept thanking him during brunch for driving "the children" upstate and saying that they'd already taken up too much of his weekend.

Lily's message was very clear. Nate wasn't part of the Humphrey-van der Woodsen family. And the orchard event was supposed to be a family outing. An outing for a family that he wasn't part of...

Whatever. Why do you care? Why should you care? Why stay?

And then his senses exploded with memories of the night before.

The way she tasted… the way she felt in my arms… the way she touched me…

Part of him was trying to shut that train of thought off before it got wildly out of hand. After all, he was sitting at a table with Jenny's dad and her brother, who happened to be one of his best friends. Dan was really observant and super nosy. The last thing he needed was to inadvertently start a breakfast brawl.

So his next strategy was to try to project his horniness to a safe, familiar object of desire… Serena. How many days and nights had he spent over the years remembering that night on the bar in the Campbell apartment in pornographic detail? The past winter and spring proved the night she took his virginity wasn't a fluke. He'd seen Serena naked, had sexed her, made love to her, fucked her in every conceivable position…

He tried to dredge up his most explicit memories of being with his ex. But even with Serena sitting right across from him, with her décolletage exposed in her tight sweater, Nate didn't even see her. All he could think about was one thing:

I wonder what Jenny looks like with no clothes on.

Reaching for the jar of honey, Nate experienced a rare moment of self-loathing. Normally, he wouldn't beat himself up for lusting after a pretty girl. He was a healthy, fit and normal college guy… Jenny was a beautiful girl a few months away from being a woman. What could be more natural?

But this was somehow different. Nate couldn't pretend otherwise. He wasn't just speculating about a naked girl or the novelty of having sex with someone new. No.

He was fascinated with how different making out with Jenny had been. She tasted sweet and naughty and sexy and… innocent. When they'd made out, Nate could tell that Jenny wasn't as practiced as some of the girls he knew. She wasn't strategic in her moves, just instinctive. The way she'd moved to kiss his chin and his neck was nice, but her hands… her hands didn't do what he was used to girls' hands doing. He had to stop himself from moving them where he wanted them most.

Nate couldn't remember the last time a girl hadn't groped him at first kiss. In fact, the last time was probably Blair. By the time they were in the later teens, most girls on the Upper East Side in their circles were very experienced when it came to kissing, sex, and everything in between. A lack of parental supervision and a lot of money meant that kids were pretty much free to pursue their bliss. And what most naturally pursued were their hormones. By freshman year of high school, most kids he knew weren't virgins, and had been messing around since sixth or seventh grade.

It was something that had set him and Blair apart: the fact that she inexplicably wanted to wait. And while her waiting drove Nate crazy, it also made her special. He was proud that his girlfriend was just his. It was only because he was the most popular guy at St. Jude's that he could defend guys' jabs about his girl not putting out. Instead of leaping to assumptions about his manhood, Blair's purity actually enhanced his status.

Until that moment at the Shepherd wedding, Nate assumed that he'd wait for Blair. But Serena had haunted his wet dreams ever since he could remember. They were both drunk and he went for it.

And the sex - well, any redblooded guy would want to have sex with Serena. She was damned good, in and out of bed, a pinup girl for the whole "practice makes perfect" thing.

It's not just about the sex. That was what being with Serena made Nate realize. Sure, he understood that Serena thought she was giving him her best in their relationship. But she wasn't. She hadn't. She confided in Blair, Carter, and Dan – everyone else except him about what was going on with her father.

Maybe Serena felt that Nate wouldn't understand. Between his two parents, Nate had always gotten along better with his father until the Captain's addiction and the fallout from the embezzlement scandal came between them. Sure, he and his dad were close. But other than a couple of half-hearted occasions (both when she knew he was pulling away), Serena never really tried to make him understand.

That was what had hurt the most.

Looking down, he realized that he'd pooled too much honey on his French toast. Not that he cared. Nate had a sweet tooth that he rarely indulged because he valued staying in shape. He couldn't play as well if he was weighted down by carbs. But after the frustrating way last night ended, he'd indulged in some comfort food. He could always work it off later.

Feeling distracted and out of sorts, he took a swig of his orange juice. All of a sudden, he got the sense that someone was staring at him. A quick glance up again revealed that it wasn't Serena. Was it - no, it couldn't be!

It was.

Jenny, so determined to leave him hanging last night with one of the worst cases of blue balls he'd experienced in years couldn't take her eyes off him. He knew this because he'd long ago mastered the habit of looking at girls without them having the slightest clue that he was looking. It was an art that served him well, because he'd always attracted a ton of female attention… and until he was eighteen, he had the world's most jealous girlfriend.

Are you cheating on me, Nate? Just say it!

No, Blair, I would never cheat on you!

Yes, learning to deflect female attention without being a total ass was a skill Nate Archibald had to develop long ago, lest Blair kill him. But perhaps he'd deflected Jenny Humphrey's attention one too many times...

She was by far one of the prettiest girls Nate had ever seen. Given the company he'd kept all his life, that was saying something. He liked all kinds of girls, and borrowing Chuck's "little black book" provided the perfect post-Serena antidote of female company from all over the world. But if pressed, he had to admit he had a type: tall, blonde, and slender.

(In his head, he could almost hear Chuck drawling, "Typical. Barbie is every man's type," although his best friend's real weakness was petite, doe-eyed brunettes. Not that Chuck would ever admit it…)

But not all tall blondes were created equal. The kind Nate liked best had gorgeous eyes, just enough T&A to fit nicely into a guy's hands, and legs that went on for days and days. God, how he loved a pair of long legs. There were few things better than spreading a pair of amazing legs, wrapping them around him… or better yet, throwing them over his shoulders as he…

Okay. Her father and her brother were sitting right at the same table. He needed to stop this!

It was no use. His mind was totally in the gutter. And really, it was all his fault, he thought, imagining a few different and better outcomes from the night before. Why had he stopped at that damned water fountain? That had been a mistake. He should have taken her back to the van to "talk," peeled off that pink sweater, flipped up that silly poodle skirt, and…

I wonder if that part of her tastes as sweet as her lips?

"I have no idea what's going on with her…. Jenny, I know how much you like syrup, but I don't know… maybe you might want to save some for everyone else?"

Nate looked over at Eric, feeling a millisecond's worth of embarrassment. Had Serena's brother spilled the beans about what happened between him and Jenny the night before?

The moment passed. Everyone else at the table was looking at Jenny's plate, which had just as much syrup as his had honey. Setting down the syrup container, she blushed.

Nate felt his body react and harden to the sight.

I wonder if she blushes all over.

"Sorry, I wasn't paying attention. Still waking up." Looking at no one in particular, she took a sip of her coffee, but spilled some of it down her chin and on to her shirt.

It was almost too much for him. Remembering exactly what her skin tasted like, he imagined chasing her morning joe down her chin with his lips and tongue. Down the side of her neck, lower still…

So now Nate was really having a bad time of it. Here her family was, chuckling at Jenny's faux pas. Dan was affectionately chuckling and saying that was his sister. Serena was laughing, and Lily was shaking her head in her indulgent Lily way.

And all he wanted to do was make them disappear, find a private corner, a bathroom stall, or hell, even the damned rug underneath the table…

…and make love to Jenny until she couldn't walk. Which was inconvenient for him, because now her father was saying something to everyone, and he was pretty sure his eyes were glazed over, and his mouth was hanging open...

"Yeah, that's my girl," Rufus announced. "Making a mess at breakfast since she could hold a spoon."

"It's not a mess!" he heard Jenny exclaim. "I like sweet things, Dan, you know that. Maybe the batter they used was bitter."

"Yeah, I noticed my French toast needed something extra. It's not just you."

Nate spoke up before he thought about it. Anything so that they'd stop the teasing, because he could tell it was bothering her. (Besides, she was right. Everyone knew that the right syrup made waffles and pancakes and French toast, anyway.)

Jenny looked at him, gratitude in her eyes. All of a sudden, everyone else sitting around that table disappeared for him. So his next words were for her, and he didn't even care

"What can I say? I like sweet things."

There was a strange pause around the table. Serena, who had always been uncomfortable with silence (and who had spent a lifetime being the peacebroker of the Non-Judging Breakfast Club), filled it.

"Well, if you think this brunch is great, we have to do crêpes at this little place in Southampton when we're out there next. They have the best Mexican chocolate drizzle, and then they flambé…"

As Serena went on and on about these supposedly wonderful crêpes, Nate stared openly at Jenny. He couldn't help it. If there was any chance that whatever switch had been flipped last night could be turned off, he totally missed it.

Jenny, for her part, was staring right back. He could tell that she was still pissed about the way he'd ruined her date the night before. But she was totally cute when she was mad, so it's not as if her glares were helping matters.

Now that she was finally seventeen going on eighteen, Nate didn't see any reason why he shouldn't pursue Jenny until she gave in to him. Next year, she'd be going to art school God knew where, and would no longer be underneath her family's overprotective thumb. And Jenny had a wild, risk-taking side that he'd glimpsed at her guerilla fashion show years before, and when she went after him in the spring. She'd been flirtatiously playful during his birthday game of Assassin... it had surprised him, then frightened him back then because he was scared of messing things up with Serena...

Remembering it, he was now intrigued. Would she be just as playful in bed? Nate just had to know. He would be damned if some artsy weirdo, or a sleazy instructor with a taste for young blondes, or some random guy like the totally lame Brent whatshisname got to have his girl before he…

Wait. His girl? Except for a few short weeks year ago, he'd only ever thought about Jenny as a good friend. Wasn't he just gunning for friends with benefits here? A few rounds of amazing sex (okay, maybe more than just a few) with someone who until earlier that year, he'd always found easy to talk to?

No. He wanted more. Much more.

It was time to see how far he could convince her to take this.

"I'm going to the ladies' room," she said, throwing her napkin down on her uneaten, syrupy pancakes. "I'll be back."

Finally. It was all Nate could do to wait a couple of minutes after she left so that he didn't seem too obvious.

It was also probably the longest 100 seconds he'd experienced all year.

"Well, I probably should head out. Looks like the train station's a fifteen minute walk from here."

He dodged Rufus and Lily's offer for a ride, but had to concede them paying for his brunch in the interest of time. He said good-bye to Dan, Serena and Eric. Even politely told them to bid Jenny goodbye on his behalf.

Dodging out of the seating area, he asked a server where the restrooms were located. By the time he'd found her, there was little time left to spare… but a lifetime of being best friends with Chuck Bass and sometimes an accomplice in his schemes paid off.

She was just coming out of the ladies' room when he opened the door to the back hallway.

Perfect timing.

"Hey, Jenny, got a minute?"

Blair

Never since kindergarten had Blair Waldorf been so confused about her relationship status.

She was single. Happily so, she told herself daily, inscribing that very phrase into her diary so that she would remember. In a few days, she would be twenty years old. This was the time in her life when she should be playing the field and enjoying herself. Why, this summer, hadn't an actual Prince taken her Roger Vivier custom pump as his very own keepsake? Wasn't she a coed at one of the premier Ivy League colleges, on track to earn a perfect GPA despite her unfortunate downtown detour freshman year?

Yale Law was still in reach. Or she could blaze her own trail at Wharton or Harvard Business.

Really, the world was Blair Waldorf's oyster. (Even if she didn't particularly care for the salty, slimy things.)

So why did she feel so confused and uncertain about where things stood with Chuck?

I shouldn't have let him spend the night. Yet she had. And it was one of those rare times since junior year when they'd shared a bed and not much else…

Well, perhaps that was not accurate. For what happened that night had been very intimate. It wasn't technically sex, but still...

They'd both been soaking wet after the rainshower. Once they were back upstairs, Blair had given Chuck some of her dad's underwear – an undershirt and boxers – while she dried off and changed from her pajamas into a nightgown. Then she'd climbed under her covers, staring at the ceiling.

After a while, Chuck came in and sat on top of the duvet, near the foot of the bed.

"I've called Arthur. He's bringing me a change of clothes," he said slowly. "Might be a while."

"That's okay," Blair replied. Then, "What song were you playing downstairs earlier?"

"Something from an old movie score…"

"I don't recognize it," she frowned.

"That's because it's from the Eighties, not the silver screen era. Have you ever seen Somewhere in Time?"

Blair shook her head. "Never even heard of it."

"Of course. It was before our time, but after Hollywood's Golden Age. It was on late one night a few years ago when I couldn't sleep. I watched it."

He paused. Blair was shocked that he didn't seem willing to give it any sort of assessment.

"Would you recommend it?"

Chuck held her gaze. "I'm not certain that I would. In order to buy the premise, you have to believe that Superman and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman could actually have an affair that transcends time and space."

"Ugh, sounds like something Serena or Nate would watch. But I'm oddly intrigued. Is it available on Netflix?"

"Probably."

She patted the pillow next to her. "Then let's watch it, Bass."

Ever afterward, Blair believed that Chuck blindsided her with his description. The moment the strange old woman walked up to Christopher Reeve's character and whispered "Come back to me," Blair was intrigued. A half hour into the movie, the tears began to flow.

Within an hour, her eyes were streaming like a faucet. She reached for the remote and paused the playback.

"Chuck. Please say this has a happy ending, because this is depressing…"

"You know I'm not going to tell you, Blair. When do I ever tell?" It was actually something she liked about watching movies with Chuck. He was always quiet, never responding much at all, piercing dark gaze intent on the screen whether small or large. He also never talked through movies. Blair knew that he held the cinema with the same reverence that she did.

The only difference was that Blair was a responder. She cried, she laughed, she shouted, she'd rewind her favorite parts over and over again. But this… something about this one…

"They have to be together, Chuck," she almost whispered. "It's the way things are supposed to be."

He held her eyes.

"Do you want to see what happens? Or would you rather read the plot summary on Wikipedia?"

That earned him a punch in the shoulder. "Shut up. I always finish what I start."

"Always?"

His smirk made her feel suddenly warm. Her gaze flickered from his eyes to his lips… lips that she knew every dimension of, speaking, sleeping, breathing… loving.

Blair lifted her eyes back to his. Defiantly.

"You know me. Always."

Before he could reply, she resumed the playback.

But this time, she settled into his arms. All the better to spend the rest of the movie trying to conceal her tears against his undershirt.

It's all right if he holds me if it's just a movie. This doesn't mean anything.

Neither do my tears.

I just need to make sure that I stop crying before the movie is over.

Which she did. Blair, if nothing else, had long ago mastered her emotions. By the time the credits began rolling, her eyes were completely dry and her face was like a mask.

She was also back on the other side of the bed.

"Did Arthur make it here with your change of clothes?" Blair made sure her tone was impersonal. Flat. Revealing nothing of the fact that she was trying to get the heady scent of his cologne out of her senses.

"He arrived some time ago and is waiting with the limo downstairs. I should go change."

"Yes."

There was a pregnant pause then, a moment of hesitation laden with vulnerability… and perhaps possibilities.

The moment passed when Chuck stood up and walked out of her bedroom without looking back, closing the door behind him. Blair emptied her mind and her heart, and switched off the lights, settling in to sleep.

Which she couldn't. It wasn't just his cologne, which had always intoxicated her beyond reason. Blair was stronger now, and she knew that her body's response would pass as his scent dissipated.

But she couldn't get the movie out of her mind. Here was a man who had been willing to move heaven and earth by reordering time simply with the force of his will in order to be with the woman he loved. He had been willing to risk everything for her. Even his very life was forfeit because he couldn't live without her.

Once, Blair had dreamed of finding a love like that. First, she thought that maybe if she were enough for Nate, he would become her prince in deed, not just name. But that didn't happen. Instead, Chuck captured her heart before she even realized what was happening

Chuck was no one's fairytale prince. He wasn't the hero, but the dark and dangerous villain who offered worlds of temptation for any hapless princess. He didn't know much about love, Blair knew, but once, she believed that Chuck loved her the best he knew how.

That spring, his best hadn't been good enough.

Blair knew she deserved more. Much more. She deserved the prince.

She deserved the fairy tale.

Why did he make me watch that stupid movie?

And while I'm at it, why did he play that stupid song earlier? Making me feel as if he actually…

Blair shut her eyes quickly, willing, commanding the tears to evaporate like the queen she was. Crying over a man who had shown her all year how little he cared for her was beneath her dignity. It was…

...beyond her to stop.

Silent tears flowed on her pillow. She'd cried so much since the Empire affair that she believed repeatedly that she had no tears left to cry. She wanted to stop. But nothing she had done so far worked.

Mother will be home tomorrow from Paris. I have to look my best. Red, puffy eyes are something she'll notice. I have to be perfect for her. For my public. For my birthday...

But just then, perfection eluded Blair Waldorf. The tears came hot and fast. She pressed her eyes shut. Here, in the dark, no one would be able to judge her.

As for the rest... that's what they made face masks and cold compresses for, right?

She neither heard her bedroom door open, nor did she perceive the footsteps approaching her bed. It was only when she was wrapped in Chuck's arms that she realized that she wasn't alone.

Neither of them spoke. There was nothing to say. He held her much as she had held him so many nights during the preceding winter of uncertainty, held her as if she were all that anchored him to this world.

Somewhere in that maelstrom, Blair fell asleep. Peacefully. Dreamlessly.

The next morning, she knew he would be gone before she awoke. Perhaps there would be a monogrammed note on her pillow, or a sarcastic text message that would make her smile.

But when she opened her eyes, he was still there. Only his suit's jacket and shoes were off. He had slept on top of the duvet while she was underneath.

And she was still in his arms.

"Good morning," he drawled.

"This has to end, Chuck." Her voice sounded uncharacteristically gravelly, even to her own ears. "I don't love you anymore."

He didn't break his stare. "I know."

"We aren't lovers, we aren't enemies. We aren't even friends… Chuck, what are we?"

Before he could answer, his phone lit up. He opened his mouth to answer her, but the phone rang. Chuck frowned.

"It's Nate." Turning his back to her, he sat up and answered the call. "Nathaniel! What time did you make it back from the hinterlands? You're still in the hinterlands? Je suis désolé…"

Blair was too caught up in her question to eavesdrop. What were they, indeed?

It wasn't until later that afternoon that Blair got a response to her question. She was going over the final RSVP list for her twentieth birthday gala when a courier arrived with a note and a package.

You asked what we are. Lovers, enemies, friends – those labels are for everyday mortals.

We're Chuck and Blair, Blair and Chuck. And that's all we need to be.

We make our own rules.

C.

Setting the note aside, Blair opened the package.

Inside was a CD. Rhapsody on a Theme of Pagnanini in A Minor, Opus 43. Variation 18.

And written on the inside cover were four syllables and four words:

Come back to me.

Serena

It wasn't Ibiza or Bali or even Aruba, but Serena found that she'd greatly enjoyed the orchard outing with her mother, brother, and stepfamily on this wonderful fall day. After brunch, they'd said goodbye to Nate and headed to the orchard for a glorious afternoon of apple picking. The rain from the night before and the overcast morning turned into bright sunshine. With the gentle wind and an unseasonably warm day, it was great to be outdoors.

At first, everyone was together, but soon they ambled off into pairs. Rufus and her mother were clearly reliving their decades-long romance, and it only took about ten minutes of teasing from Jenny and Eric before they wandered off on their own, hand in hand. That left the four teens together.

"What's going on with you, Jen?" she heard Dan ask his sister as she climbed down from a nearly bare McIntosh tree. "You've barely said two words since Dad and Lily went to do… ugh, I'd rather not think about what they may have gone off to do."

"Isn't that enough?" Jenny asked, picking up her pail and swinging it. "Don't tell me you don't still get a little weirded out by the thought of our parents…"

Eric shrugged. "Well, they do have a kid who's older than any of us. So I mean, there's only so squicked we can get."

Serena didn't say anything. It was just like her selfish mother to ruin the one thing she'd ever been sure of in her entire life: how much she wanted Dan Humphrey. What kind of mother turned her daughter's boyfriend into her stepbrother? And then casually dropped the whole "oh, yeah – you two share a sibling" anvil right on top of her head?

She knew she had to get over Dan. But how?

Because deep down, she knew that nothing else in the world compared to being with him. This weekend, he had amazed her. At first, she'd felt nervous when Nate and Eric left the night before to take Jenny's phone to the school, but soon her fears were relieved. Dan joked the entire time she rewrapped his ankle, making her giggle…

"If I'd known I could get that little laugh of yours out of you," he'd told her, "I would have sprained my ankle sooner."

Serena beamed at him. "It's been a long time since we've hung out together."

His dark gaze held hers… held her as she stood facing him in the bathroom, holding the roll of gauze.

"Too long." He didn't blink. "It makes me sorry that I never made it to Paris this summer."

She closed her eyes and looked away, laughing again to diffuse the sudden tension. "Hey, it's totally fine. Things happen for a reason. Besides, Blair needed me."

"Yeah. Blair. You're a good best friend, you know."

"She doesn't always think so." Unbidden, pangs of guilt from the past fluttered around her heart. Maybe that's why things didn't work out for Nate and me. He was always Blair's, ever since I can remember. Never mine.

But Dan always knew the right thing to say to Serena. The necessary thing.

"It doesn't matter what Blair thinks," he assured her. "What matters is the truth. And the truth is this: you and Blair Waldorf are each other's sisters. As much as I would have loved walking the Champs-Élysées with you, all those walks you had with Blair probably helped her through a pretty bad time."

Serena nodded. "I just wish it never happened, any of it. You know, Chuck, he's my brother and I love him, but sometimes, he just…"

She trailed off. She couldn't finish her statement without being honest with Dan.

"I think that maybe… Chuck and I can be really good at hurting the people we love. Because we don't think we deserve love." She sat down on the ledge of the tub. "And maybe we don't, at least, not in this world. Because I mean, I've done some things, and he has too. But maybe in a different world…"

"No," interrupted Dan. "You deserve to be loved, Serena. In this world, and in every other world there is."

This world is all there is, Dan, she thought to herself. I've made a lifetime of mistakes, and there are no do-overs.

Serena looked down at her hands, folded in her lap. "This world is all we have."

And in this world, Dan, we're supposed to be stepsiblings. We can't be, you and me.

"It doesn't matter. You know, I read something online about why writers like to play around with alternate universes in fan fiction…"

"Fan fiction?" Serena wrinkled her nose. "What's that?"

"It's where people take characters from popular books or movies, or maybe even TV shows, and they write stories about them in different situations, or maybe set in different times. Like taking the characters in Breaking Bad and putting them in the Middle Ages, or making the characters from Endless Knights or Twilight all human."

"Oh." Serena didn't get his point… or the point of people writing fan fiction. Why would anyone waste time doing that?

"I have no idea," Dan chuckled. "I enjoy writing original stories myself. Anyway, I think the quote went something like, 'No matter what setting or circumstance, these two people who are meant to be together will always find each other. I will find you...'"

She couldn't blink or breathe. And the thing was, they were in the most mundane, nonromantic setting possible: a little grungy from being rained on, Dan's ankle propped over the opposite knee as he sat on the closed toilet lid, and her at the edge of Alison Humphrey's standard tub.

All the same, Serena felt as if the linoleum tile wobble beneath her feet when Dan finished the quote.

"Every me loves every you."

Every me loves every you.

A day later, hours after she'd wandered around the orchard with Dan in a golf cart because of his ankle, she caught up with Blair right after dinner. Her best friend told her that they needed to talk and it couldn't wait until Serena arrived back in the city the next day… typical Blair.

It turned out that what was so urgent was that Blair had watched some old movie the night before and couldn't get over it. Somewhere in Time.

"…and in the end, they're reunited, but only in death. I mean, isn't that ridiculous? The woman was born in the Victorian Age, the guy's a Baby Boomer, and yet they're supposedly soulmates. You have to watch it with me when you come home so you can make fun of it. That's why I always say the Golden Age of Hollywood ended with Audrey's Wait Until Dark… what on earth are you mumbling, Serena?"

"Nothing." Every me loves every you. "Blair, do you think that there's one person for everyone?"

There was silence. Serena thought Blair had hung up on her or the connection had been lost out here in the wilderness. But she hadn't.

"I used to, when we were younger," replied Blair. "Now? I'm not so sure. What if your one person dies before you ever meet them? What if they have morons for parents and they're never born? That hardly seems fair."

I will always find you. "But you used to say that true love conquers all."

"I never said that, Serena, that was Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and she was being ironic… what's going on? Have you and Nate talked about everything that happened this spring?"

Serena blinked. "Nate's not here. He went back to the city on the noon train…"

"Of course he did, because you're the world's biggest idiot! Serena, why else do you think he spent half of a perfectly good weekend chauffeuring the charity cases you call a stepfamily? He's still not over you… he wants you back!"

"Blair, Nate and I are finished. We tried. Things didn't work." She was surprised by the certainty in her own voice.

"No, Serena! He tried and you didn't. What are you doing up there if you're not talking to Nate? Bonding with your little brother? Because I know you're not up there rekindling your incestuous flame with…"

"Bye, Blair." She hung up. Serena loved Blair better than almost anyone in the entire world, but sometimes, she was just too much.

Walking out of the orchard's general store lobby, Serena joined her family at the bonfire. Jenny and Eric were off to one side of it, talking in low tones as Jenny roasted s'mores. Rufus and Dan were discussing something intently, so Serena decided to join her mother.

"Hi Mom," she said breezily, kissing Lily's cheek. "Have you had a good day?"

Lily was glowing as she tied her Hermes scarf more securely under her chin. "One of the best days of my life. I am lucky to have such wonderful children." She glanced over at Rufus. "And the best husband."

Serena managed a smile. "I'm glad." She hesitated. "Do you think…"

"Do I think about what, dear?"

"Do you think if things were different, you and Rufus would've found each other?"

"Different how?"

"Like, say you weren't Celia Rhodes' daughter. If you'd grown up in Montana or… I don't know, Newfoundland instead, do you think you and Rufus would have fallen in love?"

"Why, I don't think I've ever considered that," Lily replied slowly. "I don't know, but I'd like to think that we would have met eventually and… actually, yes."

Serena's eyes closed. She had her answer.

"In fact, I'm sure everything would have been easier if I hadn't been a Rhodes of New York, raised among the California coastal elite. I might have made more of myself. And all five of you would have been our children."

Her blood ran cold at the thought of Dan as her biological, full brother. "This world is all there is, Mom." And thank God for it.

"That's true." She kissed her daughter's forehead. "I'm going to ask Rufus to play a little for us. I think people would like that, don't you?"

It took a while for Rufus to get settled with his guitar. His family weren't the only ones with requests, for there were a few of the orchard's visitors who remembered Lincoln Hawk. But the lady of the hour was his longtime love, and Lily wanted to hear something from the Beatles. Apparently the bonfire reminded her of spending her 70s childhood on the beaches of Montecito and the Hamptons… "I'm feeling nostalgic."

"Dad, play 'Strawberry Fields Forever,'" Jenny requested immediately.

Dan shook his head. "Right on cue… Jen, you do realize that Lennon wasn't the only Beatle, right?"

"He was the only Beatle who mattered," she snapped. "Anyway, I wasn't talking to you, Dan, I was talking to Dad… Dad, don't be cliché!"

Jenny had been in a strange mood all day. Serena had her own troubles, but she'd noticed that much. Maybe she'd check in with her later.

"Actually," said Serena slowly, "my favorite was George Harrison."

Rufus looked at his stepdaughter with interest. "Really?"

Serena nodded and would have left it at that, but Dan just had to explain. "It's the Pattie Boyd thing, Dad."

Pattie Boyd was one of the most famous blonde beauties of the Sixties, and had inspired several of George Harrison's world-famous songs… right before divorcing him and marrying Eric Clapton, whose most famous songs she also inspired.

Serena definitely identified with Pattie. But Dan didn't have to announce it. (Really. It made her seem so vain. Not to mention vapid.)

"Well, I'll do this one first, and Jen, I'll do 'Strawberry Fields' next time," he said, and before his daughter could protest: "I always let you choose first, so let's have Serena have a turn."

When he played the first few chords, even Jenny had to smile.

"At least you picked the good George Harrison song," she told him approvingly.

Above the guitar, his eyes twinkled at her, then went to his wife.

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
Still my guitar gently weeps
.

Although they weren't singers like their father, both Dan and Jenny had great voices. As they joined Rufus on the second verse, Serena thought it was really unfair that the Humphreys were so artistically talented.

I don't know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don't know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you…

Serena was so busy laughing quietly at Jenny's antics as she sang and Eric lip-synched that she didn't look over at Dan until the next verse.

I look at the world and I notice it's turning
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my guitar gently weeps.

Her heart beat fast when he picked up her hand. I can't help it.

"What's wrong?" Dan asked.

"Nothing," Serena whispered back. "Just wishing the world were different."

"Well, as they say, 'if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.'" He lowered his voice, and moved his lips against her ear so they couldn't be overheard. "But for what it's worth, Serena, you're my Pattie… and you'll always be."

What was that Blair said about the dangers of being the muse? Serena couldn't remember. For that moment, in the real world, she just wanted to kiss Dan. And she might have if his phone hadn't beeped insistently.

"Hold on a sec, it's Mom… maybe she needs something before we get home. Wonder why she didn't call… anyway, I'll be back."

Standing up, he answered the phone with a terse "hey" and walked away from the bonfire. Serena knew what he almost said. Wonder why she didn't call Jenny. Dan's relationship with his mother had been strained almost as long as Serena had known him. She knew Dan blamed his mother for his parents' divorce. In truth, Rufus had been very fond of Allison, and loved her very much, but he had never been in love with her. Lily Rhodes had been the love of his life. That had broken Alison's heart, and after a while, they drifted apart.

Why can't life and love be as easy as a song? Serena thought. Why couldn't it just be easy, like the song Rufus was finishing up just then?

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps
Look at you all
Still my guitar gently weeps…

Rufus stopped playing abruptly, staring at Dan, who was standing between him and the bonfire.

"What is it?"

"It's Mom," said Dan. "She wants us to come home. There's some news she's got to share. It's important."

Lily was not happy to hear this. "Of course it is. Just like her… I thought we were done with…"

But Serena was looking at Dan's face. "Mom, stop. I think something's wrong."

On the other side of Rufus and Eric, Jenny had gone white as a ghost. "What's wrong with Mom?"

"Nothing. It's great news. It's just… you know that huge painting fellowship she applied for about five years ago?"

Rufus nodded. "I remember. Over in Paris… we were figuring out how we'd deal with everything, who'd be home if she got it... Jenny was still in grade school…"

"Well, she reapplied last year and got the letter today. Two year stint in France. She's told me and going to take it." He looked at Jenny. "Mom's moving to Paris, and she's too nervous to tell you. Or Dad."

Serena wondered how that could be good news when only her mother seemed happy about it. Jenny jumped up and stormed off, with Eric running after her. Rufus seemed really angry.

And Dan's face was indescribable.

Nate

During the week after returning from Hudson, Nate Archibald had thought about little else besides Jenny Humphrey.

He kinda wondered if he was losing his mind. He thought about Jenny at lacrosse practice the afternoon and evening after he saw her last. He thought about her at the Sunday brunch he attended at his mother's side for one of her many charities. He thought about her during the lunch summit he and Serena called with Chuck and Blair, who really needed to decide what they were. He thought about her through all his classes and practices, as he hung out with Chuck, and during each of his morning runs through Central Park.

He thought of her in the shower. He thought of her while he was eating. He thought of her before he closed his eyes at night.

She'd even invaded his dreams.

Nate was like a man obsessed... or possessed, he couldn't even figure out which. He wanted to call. He wanted to text. He even contemplated renting a car and driving back to Hudson High, perhaps surprising her with an afterschool visit. He knew he could overcome any of her objections or protests. When had Jenny ever been able to resist him? (And when he was most honest with himself, when had he ever been able to resist her?)

But he just couldn't get her last words to him out of his head. He turned them over and over again in his mind.

Whenever he was at a loss, being physically active was how he figured things out. Nothing set him to rights quicker than a couple of hours at the gym, a great soccer or lacrosse match…

Or running.

It was during Nate's morning runs that he missed his father most. Nate looked most like his mother and Vanderbilt cousins, but his athletic build and ability was all from the Captain. He was the youngest among his cousins but by early in his teens, he could more than hold his own during all their family sporting events. A year or two later, he'd usually come out on top.

The difference was that his father was both brawn and brains in equal measure. One thing in life that Nate was most insecure about was school. School had never come as easily to him as it did to his cousins, and unlike Chuck, he wasn't naturally brilliant enough to BS his way through. He had to study but hated every minute of it. Nate always felt best when he was on the lacrosse field, on the basketball court…

…or running as he was doing now.

Running was awesome. When he ran, everything that was wrong in his life was suddenly made right.

But even a week's worth of running, lifting weights, and winning hadn't helped him get over what Jenny had said to him. As he ran early Friday morning, he replayed the conversation he had with Jenny right before he left Hudson the week before for the thousandth time.

She was just coming out of the ladies' room when he opened the door to the back hallway. Perfect timing.

"Hey, Jenny, got a minute?"

At first, she tried to ignore him. But he called her out.

"Oh, so you're going to act as if you don't know me?"

She folded her arms. "I don't have anything to say to you, Nate. Not anymore."

"That's not what I remember from last night."

"Last night? YOU'RE THE ONE WHO—" Realizing how loud she was being, she lowered her voice. "You're the one who wasn't satisfied with ruining my life on the Upper East Side. You had to come up here and ruin my new life, too!"

He couldn't help his amusement, but he knew enough about girls to keep it off his face. She's so pretty when she's mad, he thought.

"How exactly did I ruin your life?"

Clearly exasperated, Jenny threw up her hands and tried to brush past him. Of course, he didn't let her. A slight nudge sent them both into the swinging door of a hallway that led to the restaurant's large kitchen. It was a risk, one that paid off when the busy servers ignored them.

"You told me that you didn't want me, Nate. I tried everything to change your mind and I got burned badly because of it."

His hand went to her chin, lifting it. "I'm sorry, Jenny. I was wrong."

"Sorry isn't good enough, Nate! You've been awful this entire time! You don't want me, but you don't want me to be with anyone else. You didn't want me with Damien…"

"I didn't want you with Damien Dalgaard," Nate told her, "because he's a jackass."

Her hands went to her hips. "So what? Brent Orsini is the opposite of Damien and you don't want me with him, either!"

Nate clenched his jaw. He didn't even know Brent… so what? He knew enough. He couldn't stand that kid.

"Brent doesn't deserve you, Jenny."

"And you do? After all this time? Please." She glared at him. "I should have just picked some random guy to sleep with instead of Chuck. This way, you wouldn't have even cared…"

Before he even realized what he was doing, Nate pulled her into his arms and devoured her mouth. She tasted like syrup and coffee and Jenny, Jenny, Jenny.

Suddenly, a thousand dirty fantasies of what he'd do with Jenny when (not if, when) he got her in bed flooded his mind. Her kisses were addictive enough, which is why after their disastrous run his senior year at St. Jude, he thought it best to avoid kissing her until last night. He'd only really kissed back then, and then yesterday, and then now.

And this time was like yesterday... and yesterday was like that fall forever ago when they were kissing in the street. All three times, he didn't see how he could ever fucking stop.

And this was just kissing.

If kissing her was this intense, then sex would be the end of him.

Jenny broke away after a minute.

"Stop. Please."

His hand curved around her face. "Why?"

"Because I can't go through this again."

The words had come out in a soft whisper. Her eyes closed.

"You told me after the last time you saved me that someday I'd find someone who would make me as happy as Serena van der Woodsen made you."

"Jenny, I…"

"Let me finish. If all the years we were friends meant anything to you, Nate… if they meant anything at all, let me find that someone. Let me build a life without you."

He gathered both of her hands in one of his. "Is that what you really want to do?"

"I have to, Nate… I mean, I have been in love with you since I was fourteen years old." Bitter laugh. "I don't know whether I'll ever get you out of my system. But I have to try, or else it will be the end of me."

Nate's mouth had gone dry. In love. And not past tense…

"If you still have feelings for me, Jenny, it'd be crazy to just walk away without exploring them. Maybe it took a little while for me to figure things out, but I'm here now."

He looked into her eyes.

"I really care about you, Jenny."

"But you're not in love with me." She shook her head slowly. "Don't worry, I'm no longer interested in forcing you to give me your heart. This is all my doing. This all began with me. I mean, I liked you so much even before I knew you. I remember thinking Blair Waldorf was the luckiest girl in the world for having a boyfriend like you… a boy who was as kind and thoughtful as he was handsome and easygoing. Then you made a mistake and kissed me. Not your fault at all. I mean, you thought I was Serena at the time. Honest mistake.

"If I walk away now, I know you'll get over this – this whim that you have right now, this sudden idea that you want me. You'll be just fine and you'll move on to your next girlfriend. But if I… if you and I, if we actually… if we did, and… and you walked? Nate, that would destroy me."

She sighed, then murmured something strange.

"I am definitely my mother's daughter, but I am not my mother."

"What? Your mother-"

"Never mind." She kissed the corner of his mouth. "Go back to the city, Nate. Repair things with Juliet, find a new girl… or go fight my brother over which one of you ends up with Serena. Let me live my life in peace."

She tried to pull away, but he still held her hand.

"Nate. Let me go."

He shook his head. "No."

"Nate. I know this isn't easy for you, because you're used to getting everything you want. You have to understand. I had a front row seat and watched you do anything to be with Serena, even after she chose Blair, Dan, and even your cousin Tripp over you. That's love.

"The way you feel about Serena, the way you've always felt? That's the way I feel about you. And I know that you've finally realized what I told you this spring. You're realizing Serena will never love you the way you love her. And that no matter what you do, you'll never be enough for her. That's why you need to pick up the pieces of your life and move on.

"But Nate, I've realized that about you. You're not healthy for me. It isn't healthy to love someone who just wants friendship, who chooses everyone and everything over you. You deserve better than Serena. I deserve better than you. I deserve someone who will choose me first, who will think about me all the time, who will love me-"

As Jenny's voice broke, unshed tears flooded her eyes. But she was smiling, almost as if to herself.

"I could feel that way about you, Jenny," he heard himself saying. "Give me a chance."

"That's not how it works and you know it. You just don't want to be the bad guy… Nate, you need to get over it. Yes, I think you're the bad guy sometimes… and other times, I miss you so much it physically hurts. But that's all me. It has nothing to do with you."

Jenny squeezed his hand.

"Live your life, Nate. I certainly plan to live mine… and while you're at it, you've got like five minutes to make your train."

She walked away, leaving Nate standing in the service corridor long after the Humphreys had left.

Nate had spent the week trying to figure out why her declarations bothered him so much. How could the girl claim that she loved him so much, and he didn't have any feelings for her? He'd always been there for her. Always!

Except for that one time. The one time when everything changed. A time he wished like everything he could take back.

If Chuck had gone to the hospital instead of me, everything would have worked out.

Why did Jenny send that stupid picture to Gossip Girl? She could've just texted it to me.

But then, I would have gone to the hospital anyway. And I still would've missed her coming to the Empire.

And why didn't Blair just text Chuck and say that hey, Dorota's gone into labor, I'm gonna be a little late? XOXO, love you, whatever those two do?

But Blair was still hurt because of Chuck's role in his stupid Uncle Jack's Empire scheme. She would've been too nervous to show that she cared too much. Texting where she was would have been like they were still together and nothing ever happened.

As Nate's feet hit the pavement, he realized the futility of blaming everyone else for what happened. It just happened.

Once the thought came, he felt a bit better. Of course, it would never, ever be okay that Chuck slept with Jenny. A part of Nate would never get over that.

But he also now realized one important thing.

It was the first and only time Jenny had been with anyone. He wasn't sure before, but after that weekend, he knew it.

I have been in love with you since I was fourteen years old.

Over and over, Nate replayed those words in his mind. He recalled exactly how she looked when she said it, the look in her eyes, the way her lips had parted. The conversation had happened so fast, too fast, but he was sure that his heart stopped beating when those words came out of her mouth.

She loved him. She was in love with him.

He knew that Jenny had always liked him. He was the kind of guy that girls liked. And a part of him had never stopped liking her. After the past weekend, he couldn't ignore the truth of that.

But she'd said she was in love with him. Said that she had always been in love with him. Nate knew that wasn't something that girls said lightly, especially not girls like Jenny. For all Blair and Chuck's quips, Nate wasn't exactly stupid… he knew that the Jennys of the world didn't love lightly. This was a very pretty girl who hadn't really dated much during her time at Constance, who could have had boyfriends and didn't, who waited until she was seventeen years old to give up her virginity.

I'm no longer interested in forcing you to give me your heart. This is all my doing. This all began with me.

But had it really begun with her? After all, it's not as if he was exactly free to like her or love her during most of the time that he'd known her. He'd been dating girls his own age, and then the one time he did want to explore things with her, their age difference got in the way. Now, Nate could probably take Dan, but it was better not to test an older brother's rage. And on top of that, Jenny was being raised by an overprotective single father…

Really, she had been too young when they first met. A freshman with long golden curls, a bright smile, and gorgeous blue eyes… but behind the facade, formidable enough to survive her first encounters with Chuck and Blair. Unlike most girls from the outer boroughs, she'd come to Constance to play the game.

And after all was said and done, she had played it well.

And he'd liked her. Really liked her, really liked spending time with her. He remembered how awkward he felt when Blair was enraged with him after learning about how he'd kissed Jenny, thinking she was Serena. They had both been in hot water, and Jenny was just as nervous as he was about re-entering the Queen's court at Blair's seventeenth birthday party.

Their friendship began that very night.

It isn't healthy to love someone who just wants friendship, who chooses everyone and everything over you. You deserve better than Serena. I deserve better than you.

Yes, he did deserve better than Serena! Serena never really tried in their relationship. He gave her everything and Serena didn't care. How could anyone love a girl like that? It was enough to make someone fall out of love.

But how could Jenny up and decide that he didn't love her? That she deserved better than him? That she wanted to fall out of love... with him?

One mind, making all the decisions for two people… that wasn't even right! How was that fair?!

How could Jenny say that she loved him, that she was in love with him, and not give him a chance to love her back? What had he ever done to her to deserve that? He had always treated Jenny way better than Serena ever treated him. Serena had left him without saying a single word after the Campbell apartment…

And I left her on the dance floor at the Snowflake Ball. Was what I did to Blair with Serena when I was fifteen more forgivable than what Jenny did to Vanessa's dress when she was fifteen?

We were both fifteen. And stupid.

Anyway, that was a long time ago. Jenny was bringing up ancient history! After all, he'd told Serena exactly how he felt, over and over again, and she'd…

Nate frowned at his realization, panting a little as he ran faster. He heard Serena's voice in his head: "I didn't come back for you!"

And his own: "I'm with Serena now, and I'm so happy…"

Oh.

Maybe she was right after all. Maybe he had treated Jenny exactly the way Serena had treated him.

I am definitely my mother's daughter, but I am not my mother.

That was the one part Nate still couldn't figure out! What did Jenny being her mom's daughter have to do with him and her? Or his past with Serena? Or anything at all? Nate didn't get it.

He was so intent on his thoughts that he didn't see the older gentleman on the wobbly bicycle careening toward his path. They were on a collision course and he was running too fast to stop.

"Watch where you're going, kid!" the man shouted, swerving to avoid him. But Nate had already corrected his path, but had built up too much momentum.

Before he knew it, he'd gone sprawling on the paved walk. Tearing the skin off his knee...

"Shit!" he cursed. The scrape was a minor one, and the pain was more annoying than anything else, but the blood was pretty messy. And inconvenient. He likely wouldn't be able to run tomorrow.

A couple of nannies with their charges rushed over, even as one of the kids squealed at his fall. (Little snot.) Nate waved them away, though.

"It's fine," he assured the women as he tried to get his bearings. "Thanks… no, really, I play sports. Stuff like this happens all the time. I'm all right…"

"No, you're not."

For a moment, Nate thought he'd dreamed that voice up. But he hadn't.

When he looked up, there she was.

Jenny Humphrey had come back to New York City.

-to be continued-

A/N – It isn't often I give myself feels. But oh, the FEELS this chapter gave me! I love all three of my Gossip Girl "Team Endgame" couples, and I hope that came out in the writing. (It's been so long.)

Next time, we'll pick up where we left off – the Friday morning before Blair's birthday party, with Nate and Jenny in the park. We'll learn why Jenny is in the city, and for how long. We'll also flashback to the Serenate-brokered Chair truce, and see if it fares any better in this AU. And we'll also meet both Juliet and Vanessa in this AU… surely you didn't think that things were going to be easy, my darlings and my nonpareils?!

One thing that I love most about writing this story is that it's the rare romance where it's the girls and women who don't believe in love or soulmates or any of that because of their circumstances and events that happened in the recent past. Blair doesn't believe in love because Chuck has hurt her in the past. Serena doesn't believe in love because her feelings for Dan seem wrong because he's her stepbrother, and to be with him would mess with their parents' love story. And of course, Jenny doesn't believe in love because she loved Nate first and more.

George Harrison said it best back in the Sixties:

I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps…

In "All You Need Is Love," I hope it's clear after this chapter that it's the guys who are the romantics. That theme will continue throughout the story, as they convince their ladies to believe again. They've each got their work cut out for them in their own way. But as Dan said about soulmates, no matter what world they find themselves in, they will always find each other in the end. Because...

"Every me loves every you."

~Gwynnemeeks on Tumblr

Special thanks to the reviewers of Chapter 3: SusanXG, BaskingInTheSunshine, dshh, Holly, kemina0309, bassempire, Donna L. Crawford, browneyedgrl061, IvyMoore, Basileya, varietyofwords, arcticgal, Fishykrackers, nlizzette7, Dark Angel & 4 Guests. Promise it won't be so long next time!

For a great acoustic rendition of the Beatles classic, look up "While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Sungha Jung" on YouTube. That's pretty much how I imagined the campfire song sounded. :) Also, if you've never heard of Pattie Boyd, look her up, too. The Beatles' wives are just as interesting as the boys from Liverpool, if you ask me. Pattie was so Serena, and I'm sure it's something she and Dan talked about, especially since on the show Blair mentioned that Serena always wanted to live in the 1960s!

And if you want a good cry, you have got to watch the classic 80s movie Somewhere in Time. After you get over the fact that yes, you are watching a slightly older classic Superman pine over a very young Dr. Quinn in period clothes, you will be smitten. Trust me on this one. Only reason why it hasn't been remade yet is because the original is perfect.

Until next time,

XOXO, Dr. Holland