A/N: I am so sorry it took me so long to complete this. I got every encouraging review and each one helped me move the story along. I was stuck trying to give this story the ending it deserved and while I'm not sure I achieved it I am proud of making it this far. It has been a long six and a half years and I've grown so much since I started writing it and I can't thank those who stayed with me through it enough. I hope I've done this ending justice. ~Gabz
Without further ado…
Waldorf Penthouse, New York
28th June 2008
Blair sighed as Dan's alarm blared from his side of the bed. Pulling her covers back up, a groan left her lips as she tried to figure out if it had been worth having Dan stay over given he had to be up at 4 AM.
Grabbing the pillow from under his head, she smacked him once in the face before laying it over her own head, blocking out the noise and inevitable light Dan required to get ready.
When the clock was still blaring a minute later, Blair poked one eye out from her new found cave of sensory deprivation and noticed he was still sleeping, his mouth open as soft snores left him. Nudging him with her toes, Blair groaned trying to remember how talking worked.
"Dan. Wake up." Kicking him a bit harder, Blair was not ashamed to admit her patience was wearing thin, "I swear if you're not up in five seconds…"
Trailing off she just barely resisted the urge to cackle maniacally as her threat did what she intended and had him bolting upright in seconds.
Pulling on the jeans he'd thrown on the chair that had become his over the last eight months, Dan smiled softly as he noticed Blair had fallen back asleep. Pulling a sweater over his shirt, Dan glared at his phone as it informed him it was now 4:15. While he was proud to be his father's best man, he couldn't help but wish that his duties started at a more reasonable time. As it was, he was running a bit behind schedule. He still had to pick up the pastries from the bakery around the corner and then get back to the loft to wake his dad up for the start of the guys' road trip to The Hamptons in time for the wedding.
Lily's base of operations had set up shop at CeCe's place yesterday, with Lily, Serena and Jenny having driven out there the night before. Leaning over Blair, he placed a kiss on her forehead, breathing a sigh of relief at the peaceful look on her face that had been missing since New Year's. There was a light that had brightened, a sense of happiness that he hadn't realised had been so completely drained from her and he was unable to express his gratitude at the fact that Lily had kept Blair from her preparations, only expecting her to attend as a guest. Not due to any disrespect but because Lily understood them all better than they liked to admit and Lily knew, if given the chance, Blair would put herself last. That, instead of taking the time to heal after the whole Georgina incident, Blair would spend the whole weekend mediating between the bride and her daughter. He may have had tea with Lily where they had discussed just that. As it stands, Lily was doing better in the mum department than his own mother at the moment.
Slipping out of Blair's room, Dan winced as he caught sight of the time and realised he's been lost in his thoughts for far longer than he'd intended. Rushing out, he said a brief hello to Jackson, the doorman on duty, and smiled as he exited out into the city he loved. Letting the sounds wash over him, Dan moved briskly down the street, breathing in the crisp early morning summer air. Shaking his head as he spotted some joggers already well into their run, he simultaneously wondered how they could be so crazy while wishing he could borrow some of their energy.
Passing a guy in pyjamas who looked disgruntled at the fact that he had to take his dog out so early, Dan shared a nod of solemnity regarding being awake at this disdainful hour. Finally reaching the shop he was searching for, Dan sighed in bliss as the scent of freshly baked pastries hit him.
As the bell over the door announced his presence with a quick chime, Dan pulled out his wallet smiling at the unusual greeting from the main baker. "You awake Dan?"
Rubbing the last bit of sleep from his eyes, Dan smiled softly. "Yeah, thanks Nick. $50, right?"
Handing over the money, Dan breathed in the smell of fresh baked croissants. His stomach rumbling in happy agreement of the food it was soon to receive. Spying a few extra pastries in the box, Dan slipped a few extra dollars into the tip jar while Nick wasn't watching. Securing the box in his left arm, Dan refastened his jacket and turned towards the door.
"Give my best to your dad and Lily. I hope everything goes smoothly." Laughing at the slight tone of doubt that had crept in at the end of Nick's farewell, Dan knew Lily and Rufus' reputation preceded them. Nick had politely turned down the catering gig for the wedding, letting them know the level of stress involved in weddings was enough to have him booking in to see his psychologist again and that just being asked, though an honour, reminded him exactly why he got out of the wedding business in the first place.
"Will do." Waving once more. Dan finally exited the shop hoping he wouldn't have to wait too long for the subway. He begrudgingly admitted the fact that Blair was right and he should have set his alarm for 15 minutes earlier like she had suggested. Balancing the pastry box in his hand as he made his way through the turnstile, Dan nearly whooped with joy as the train pulled up right as he came to a stop on the platform. Maybe he'd survive this day after all.
The Humphrey Loft, New York
28th June 2008
"What the hell?" Dan tightened his grip on the pastries as he was pulled through the now open door, his keys hovering for a second next to where the keyhole had been before slipping from his grip and falling to the floor.
"Thank God you're here." The relief in Eric's voice made Dan's eyebrows pull together.
Focusing past the Bambi eyes in front of him, Dan felt his eyes widen at the state of the loft. "I'm not even that late, what happened?" It was as if every single piece of clothing Rufus owned had been tried on and discarded. Spotting a powder blue suit that had not seen the light of day since the late 80s, Dan took a moment to appreciate the fact that his dad seemed to be a secret hoarder of bad fashion choices from past decades.
The man himself was pacing in front of the bookshelf looking like he had gotten maybe an hour of sleep. If Dan didn't know better he'd say he had the beginnings of a bald patch from where he'd tugged on his hair too hard.
Coming to a stop at the end of one of his dad's pacing cycles, Dan waited until his dad had turned back to face him before talking. "Dad?"
"Hmmm. Dan? Oh Dan! You're here. You're here! That means I'm supposed to have been ready. I'm not ready. I can't find my suit."
Placing a hand on his dad's shoulder, Dan kept the older man in place when he jumped at the unexpected contact. "Chuck picked your suit up from the tailor's yesterday afternoon remember?" Seeing Rufus' frantic eyes flick to the one untouched section in the loft where a garment bag was indeed hanging from the light stand, Dan turned Rufus in the direction of the door knowing the last thing they needed was for Rufus to delay this any longer by trying the suit on.
Besides his dad kind of smelt of sweat and they did not want that scent transferring to the suit. "Let's go dad, I'm sure the suit fits perfectly so lets get this show on the road, you can shower when we get there."
Letting Chuck and Eric lead his dad to the limo, Dan took a moment to appreciate that even though he'd gotten used to the idea of a limo being considered an acceptable form of transport by his friends, the childish excitement at getting to go inside one, especially for such a long trip, still remained. Scooping his keys up from the entry way, Dan swiped the pile of garment bags from the corner and hoped the survived the trip without becoming re-wrinkled. He wasn't sure what exactly caused suits to wrinkle but with his dad acting more like a pre-teen going to their first dance instead of a grown up he figured not wrinkling the suits was in his best interest.
Smiling as the driver took that option out if his hands as he collected the garment bags and hung them in the passenger side window, Dan breathed out a sigh of relief. Passing the box of pastries through to Eric, Dan finally manoeuvred his way into the limo. Settling down into the plush interior, Dan cast a weary eye at Chuck when he noticed his father had calmed right down.
"Relax Humphrey. I didn't give him anything, he just seemed to crash once he registered that we had his suit and he was on his way to his wedding." Chuck rolled his eyes as he watched Dan make eye contact with Eric to corroborate his story.
Eric chuckled slightly as Dan looked to him to for confirmation. There was something vaguely refreshing about being the one who's opinion was considered to be the reliable one. Especially as if he was being honest, Eric would have been the one most likely to have slipped Rufus something given how erratic the older man was being, he'd seen what half a Xanax could do to his mother when she got like this, he had no reason to believe Rufus wouldn't benefit from it. There was only so much Humphrey nuttiness one could take before 7 in the morning. "Chuck didn't give him anything."
Casting an eye over at Rufus who was now snoozing, Chuck briefly wondered if the older Humphrey had been drugged into complacency. Looking at Eric, Chuck tried to figure out when the teen could have slipped Rufus something, he was sure the Ostroff Centre had taught Eric a few new tricks even if he hadn't been in there for drugs like his cover story had claimed. Reminding himself Eric was one of the good ones, Chuck took a quick photo of Rufus, before texting it to Jenny alongside a brief recap of this emotionally tolling morning. That was officially the last time he was going to be early to anything ever again.
Celia 'CeCe' Rhodes Estate, The Hamptons, New York
28th June 2008
Jenny frowned as she woke up. She'd kept the curtains open overnight and had expected to be gradually awoken with the rising sun but as she glanced out at the still dark sky she knew there was only one other thing that could have woken her.
Groaning as her phone chimed with a secondary reminder bling, Jenny blindly reached for the infernal contraption that had taken her from a very pleasant dream world. Pulling up Gossip Girl, she couldn't help but curse the fact that it was likely the male half of the bridal part that were responsible for her rude awakening, by her calculations they were probably 30 minutes into their trip and consequently had likely been spotted by one of Gossip Girl's sources. Probably that infuriating Melanie_91. Didn't she have anything better to do with her time than stalk a bunch of high schoolers, it was like she never slept.
Knowing she was now too wired to fall back asleep, Jenny focused her eyes on the blast itself. It would have been too much of a blessing to ask for a Gossip Girl free event, even if it was technically outside of her regular haunt.
With all of my ducklings headed up to The Hamptons for the exclusive wedding of someone's season, I can't help feeling a little alone in the city with no one to report on. With S and Lonely Boy's parents tying the knot, I for one am glad their union ended before it reached pseudo-incestual. Even though my invitation was lost in the mail, my eyes are always out there. Come tomorrow I'll herald your return to the city with pictures of all the moments you wish I wasn't privy too. I'll be waiting.
XOXO Gossip Girl.
It was business as usual then.
Noticing she also had a message from Chuck, Jenny couldn't help her chuckle as she took in the image of her dad clearly out cold, his mouth dropped open in what Jenny knew to be some pretty loud snores.
Reading Chuck's recap of the morning's events that covered the fact that he'd had no idea what to do when even yelling at Rufus that his suit was in the corner had not worked, Jenny wondered if it was only now that Chuck realised what he was getting into with the Humphries.
Flinging her phone to the other side of the bed, Jenny stretched, feeling each muscle pull nicely.
Eyeing her sketch pad in the creeping morning light, Jenny bit her lip as she looked around the room. She knew Serena would probably kill her for getting up before she had the ten hours of sleep that the insane blonde had kindly informed her she needed but Lily had told her to treat CeCe's place as if it were her home. Grabbing the afghan that had been thrown over the plush chair in the corner, Jenny slowly moved through the house, breathing quietly as she got used to the day.
Stepping down off the porch, Jenny let her feet sink into the sand, inhaling deeply and letting the tangy scent of salt water fill her nostrils. Nodding at a passing runner, Jenny continued down the beach until she was at the shoreline. Sitting down, she extended her feet giggling as the waves rushed up to tickle her toes. From the vague memories she had regarding that one scout like camp she'd attended, Jenny was fairly certain the tide would only recede from this point so she wouldn't really be at risk of getting wet.
Pulling the charcoal pencil from her hair, Jenny closed her eyes briefly, anchoring the picture she wanted in her mind. Opening her eyes, she took in the peaceful scene in front of her without really seeing anything. Luckily only a few people were out this early in the day and she didn't have to really worry about disturbing anyone.
Lost in her drawing, Jenny failed to hear her phone chiming and only noticed she had a new message when she'd finally finished sketching and paused to check the time. Feeling her eyebrows widen and her pulse quicken as she saw Eleanor Waldorf's name attached to the email, Jenny felt sweat bead on her forehead as she tried to decide whether she wanted to open it. Given Eleanor was coming along to the wedding later today, Jenny reasoned that she wouldn't have sent her a rejection email on such an important day.
Chewing her lip, Jenny amended her thought process recognising that it would definitely fit in with the Waldorf world view to send someone bad news on an important day with the hope that the important and happy event later would cheer them up. Realising her internal debate would not change the contents of the email, Jenny took a deep breath and opened the email.
Squealing in joy, she quickly apologised to the startled mum and young child who had been passing her, renewed energy coursing through her as she tried to decide whether telling her dad that she'd secured an internship for the summer on his wedding day would be considered stealing his thunder. Calling Eric first as he'd clearly know the answer to her question, Jenny found herself excitedly blurting out the news to his voicemail before hanging up and calling Cameron.
As his sleepy voice filled her ears, Jenny felt a wave of calm spread through her. She could actually picture him, head sandwiched between his two pillows, his phone barely cradled next to his ear, definitely more asleep than awake at this point.
"I got the internship!"
Jenny waited her smile growing as she heard Cameron's slight snore as he slipped back asleep for a moment before he startled awake.
"The internship with Blair's mum?" Cameron's voice carried through the phone, the sleepiness chased away by the joy of his friend getting what she wanted.
"The internship with Eleanor Waldorf. We're not going to call her Blair's mum, it undermines the hugeness of this moment if there's a feeling of nepotism involved."
"This is huge! I'm so proud of you Jen."
Lying back against the sand, Jenny huffed as the curlers Serena had jammed in her hair dug into her skull. "I just can't believe this is happening. I owe Blair so much, like I know that they're my designs and that I did get in off my own talent but without Blair forcing me to stay at her place that day I was sick, Eleanor may have never gotten a chance to see my designs."
"If it was meant to be it would have happened whether or not Eleanor had seen your designs that day."
Snorting slightly in amusement, Jenny dug her toes into the wet sand using the feeling to ground her. "That's very zen of you."
"Yeah, I read it on the subway the other day and it just stuck." Hearing Cameron start moving from his room, she sighed as she heard the shower turn on knowing there conversation was going to wrap up soon despite the fact that she still felt too wired to even move. "Like you and me reconnecting - clearly meant to be. You introducing me to Eric and me being charmed silly by him despite the bad hair choices - meant to be. Your dad and Lily finally getting their act together after a gajillion years and their own kids and marriages - meant to be. You getting this internship - beyond meant to be."
Taking one last deep breath, Jenny let Cameron's reassuring words rush over her. "It was meant to be and I'm going to rock this internship."
"That you are."
Nodding once more Jenny shifted the phone as she spoke, "I'm going to see you in a few hours right?"
"Right. I definitely should have taken the lift that Dan and Eric offered. Instead it's going to be me and my mum and the open road and neither one of us has driven in 2 years. Wish me luck!"
"Good luck!" Listening to the dial tone for a bit, Jenny finally closed her phone before she pressed herself even deeper into the sand. Another squeal of excitement left her as she realised that had really just happened. Letting her eyes slip shut, Jenny rode the wave of happiness as she let the sun warm her skin to a nice tingle. Today was going to be great.
"You're not taking this seriously"
Five minutes had passed since Jenny had left the beach and she wished she'd let herself get carried away with the waves. Looking into Serena's furious eyes Jenny was caught between wanting to scoff at the sheer madness the blonde was exhibiting and wanting to curl up in a ball in the corner of the room and hide until it was all over.
"Serena calm down." Lily's soothing voice floated through the room as she made her way over from the vanity, half her hair in curlers while the other half hung limply waiting to be wrangled.
"Calm down. How do you expect me to calm down? This is your wedding day. To Rufus! Why are you not more anxious. Did you take a Xanax?"
Pulling her daughter into a hug as she ignored her squawking about crinkling their dresses, Lily brushed her hand over Serena's hair. "If you calmed down you would see that a little bit of sand never hurt anyone, especially at a beach wedding, and it's not going to hinder anything Jenny has to do today as a bridesmaid. And in the five minutes you've been yelling at her Jenny's skin has already lightened up again. She was only flushed from the sun not sunburnt."
Stepping back so she could meet Serena's eyes, Lily did not completely release the younger blonde as she had to make sure she got her point across. "I know that if I walked down the aisle in a garbage bag after letting a two year old go to town with scissors on my hair, Rufus would still look at me as if I were draped in a gown made by the Gods. So no honey I'm not on any medication, I'm just happy."
Nodding in response to her mother's words, Serena looked down in shame before realising she owed Jenny an apology. "Jenny, I'm so sorry. I don't know what's gotten into me, I shouldn't have spoken to you that way at all."
"Well it was more shouting than speaking but it's ok. I'll try to be more respectful to your feelings too."
"Now that were all calm, and your first step-sibling argument has been resolved, we can get back to getting this old bird looking like she's 20 again, because even if Rufus would love me in a garbage bag I have every intention of looking like a gift from the gods."
"You look beautiful mum."
Admiring the grace that adorned Lily's whole being, Jenny couldn't help but agree with Serena. Lily looked radiant. "You really do Lily."
"Thank you girls but we've got plenty of work to do and a limited amount of time to get it done."
Watching as Serena gave her mum's hand a squeeze, Jenny couldn't help but glance at the clock which showed it was barely half past eight and wondered how they could be stressing for time when the ceremony was still seven and a half hours away. It seemed that those two years with just her dad and Dan may have left more of a mark than she thought. She was sure the boys were dealing with the whole getting ready thing in a much more timely manner.
The Hamptons, New York
28th June 2008
Dan's tried to make sure his eyes weren't bulging out of his head as the limo headed down the mansion lined streets. He figured that after his exposure to the wealth his friends possessed he'd be prepared for the extreme wealth in this section of The Hamptons but he was clearly wrong. Fidgeting in his seat he was a little relieved to see that even Rufus seemed a little overwhelmed.
"I forgot what this was like."
Seeing Eric raise an eyebrow at him, Rufus chuckled slightly. "When your mum and I first met, we ended up stopping past a few of CeCe's places around the country. They were all very large, very well staffed and very cold, emotionally not physically. The sheer size of them though, it turns out that is surprisingly easy to forget. The sense of feeling incredibly small by comparison, not so much."
"Huh," Chuck's unintentional response had everyone turning his way, "I never thought of it like that. I just thought that it was Bart's disapproval that made the houses feel that way."
"Well CeCe's never been my biggest fan, so it's possibly a combination of the two. Not that I think Bart has ever been disappointed in you Chuck, maybe just a little disappointed in the decisions you were making."
Watching his dad and Chuck nod in some weird show of solidarity, Dan couldn't figure out when his life had become this weird mix of a lack of boundaries.
Turning his gaze back out the window, Dan an awed sound slipped out before he could stop it at the beautiful building they were pulling up to. He tried to imagine what it would have been like in another life, where Lily and Rufus had married earlier and he'd ended up living in this kind of place. He couldn't actually imagine ever not feeling overwhelmed at the sheer grandeur of Cece's estate.
Shaking his head as someone stepped out to help them collect their things, Dan laughed softly at the slight look of disgust they received at their disgruntled appearances. A look which only increased as the man caught sight of the pastry box sitting on the floor of the limo.
"Hello, my name is-
"Ignio Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die." Eric interrupted.
Dan held in his snicker as Timothy glared at Eric, his lips pursing at the sight of the sixteen year old. "Ah, Mr Van der Woodsen, how lovely to see you again."
"Timothy." With that said Eric pushed past the other man and continued into the house.
Taking their cue from Eric, they all briefly introduced themselves to Timothy before collecting their bags and heading off to locate the wayward teen.
Luckily they didn't have to go to far as Eric appeared to have come to a stop just inside the front door. Once they'd reconvened they heard Timothy clear his throat, the action making it clear that he was displeased at their presence in his place of employment. "The room at the end of the hall to your left has been set up for you, the tailor is already inside for any last minute alterations. Do try to control yourselves and don't make a bigger mess than you already have."
With one last purse of his lips, Timothy turned on his heel and walked away. Dan was sure he had the floors wax simply for his dramatic exits.
"What was CeCe thinking when she hired that man?" The disbelief in Chuck's voice echoed what all the newcomers were thinking. He'd never seen a member of staff so blatantly disgusted by a relative of their employer before.
Eric shook his head in amazement before answering Chuck's question, "I'm half convinced Timothy is an unrecognised relative." Running a fingertip across the top of the nearby hall table, Eric sighed in frustration. "It could also be that he's actually ridiculously good at his job and that though I may hate him, his personality is beyond compatible with grandma's."
An hour after they'd entered the room all of their suits had been rechecked for loose threads and ensured they were the correct fit. Having changed back into their regular clothes not wanting to have to deal with Louis, their tailor, following them around glaring at them all day in an attempt to scare them off accidentally, or not so accidentally, staining their outfit the male half of the bridal party made a hasty retreat.
"Now what are we supposed to do?"
The question drifted around in all their heads until Eric finally remembered the soccer ball he'd stashed in his bag at Nate's request that there be something fun, but illicit drug free, available should the reception become boring. Fishing the ball out of his bag, Eric headed towards the exit that would let them out at the beach. "Soccer?"
Dan moved in time as the ball came flying at his head. "Dude?!"
"'Dude'? Really Dan?" Nate laughed as Dan scowled at him. "You shouldn't have decided to play goalie if you wanted the ball to remain far away from your face."
"You're not the one who has to stand next to the bride and groom at the alter and in photos. Photos! Lily might forgive a lot of things but do you really think she'd forgive me for having a black eye in her wedding photos."
Nate nudged the sand with his foot, a sheepish smile crossing his face as he realised that Rufus had probably figured that out well before Dan did, which explained his decision to simply watch the game from the sidelines under a giant beach umbrella designed to assist the sunscreen he'd applied in preventing him from burning. "Sorry?"
Shaking his head while laughing, Dan pulled Nate into a shoulder hug, acknowledging that Nate had nothing to apologise for. That being said he had to get out of this game while he was ahead. "It's all good, it's more my fault than yours." Casting a side glance at his dad who was watching their interaction with unconcealed amusement, Dan amended his statement. "Actually it's more my dad's fault for obviously figuring out impact sports were not the best thing to do today but still letting me do it."
Chuck sighed as he approached the pair, "are you two done yammering like old ladies over tea?"
The unintentional hair flick did nothing to help Nate's case as he glared at Chuck "One, that's an unfair stereotype, anyone can like tea and gossip - they don't have to be old or female. And two, yes we're done."
"Well on that note, I have to go talk to Serena, maybe someone else can get Nate a tea this time."
Ignoring the light teasing banter that rose up between Chuck and Nate after Dan's statement, Eric fell in to step with his soon to be step-brother, unsure about how to continue but needing to reassure himself that everything was going to work out. "Are you sure telling Serena the truth about everything is the right call?"
"Yeah, Eric. I'm sure. while I'm not going to tell her everything, as much like what Blair told Nate there is stuff between us that is private, but the overarching story… that she deserves to know."
"Ok, so you're the one telling her this why? Out of some sort of future step-brotherly obligation?"
Dan laughed ruefully, "nope, Blair and I drew straws. I lost."
Serena glanced up at the knock on the door, a frown forming on her face as she tried to figure out which of the boys were about to make her life more difficult.
Taking a breath to steel herself, after all it wouldn't do to keep yelling at people the way she had lost it at Jenny earlier, Serena turned the door knob."Dan?"
Seeing the uncertain look on his face as he shifted side to side, Serena couldn't help but think that she hadn't seen this version of Dan since they first met. Seeing he wasn't going to say anything anytime soon, Serena kept talking, or perhaps rambling was more accurate. "I, uh, hi. Come in I guess."
Shuffling inside, Dan noted the tension pinching the blondes' face. "Are you alright?"
"Yes. No. I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter today what I'm feeling, today's about my mum and your dad."
"Okay, well let me know if you need anything. We have about an hour until your mum's scheduled to walk down the isle." Pausing as he looked around the room, Dan's next words slipped out without his notice, "actually you seem like you're ready so…" Dan trailed off as Lily walked into the room. Her dress was absolutely stunning but it was lost compared to the glow of her smile. "Wow. Lily you look amazing."
Running her hands down the bodice of the dress, Lily's warm eyes met Dan's. "Thank you Daniel, that means a lot." A slight blush touched her cheeks as she wondered what the boy would think if he found out that the dress was one she'd designed when she was Dan's age and she was convinced she found the love of her life in Rufus. It was only now that she was able to admit how much she regretted not fighting for their relationship. She wouldn't go back and change it because she loves her kids too much but nonetheless it was probably her biggest regret.
Serena smiled as she caught sight of her mum's face. She had that dazed and deliriously happy look more suited to a thirteen year old with her first crush. Turning back to look at Dan, Serena sighed knowing there was no way she could get through the next hour with him hovering and then walking down the aisle with him without clearing the air.
Walking up to her mum, Serena pulled her into a light hug paying careful attention to avoiding messing up their hair and makeup. "I'm going to give you some more space and go scope out the beach once more. Check no birds are circling ominously."
Looking at her daughter, Lily felt a swell of pride as she finally caught a glimpse of the responsible young woman her daughter was maturing into. The whole incident with Georgina had kept Lily in a perpetual state of uncertainty. But now there was a calmness she could see in her daughter that gave her hope. Nonetheless she wouldn't put it past Serena to get distracted and loose track of the time. "Dan, would you mind escorting Serena down to the beach?"
"I've always wanted to arrive to a wedding an hour early." Turning to Serena, Dan presented his arm to her, "m'lady."
Laughing at his antics, Serena thread her arm through his and pulled the bottom of her dress up to avoid tripping on it. "Why thank you, good knight."
Dan's laugh mirrored Serena's as they left the room but a few moments later, they once again fell into a slightly tense silence, each one stuck in their own thoughts.
As they reached the start of the sand, on the opposite side of the beach to where they had been playing - they were not that insane so as to play next to where the wedding had been set up, Dan was once again struck by the beauty of the location. The afternoon sun cast a beautiful orange light across the rows of chairs, which he noticed in amusement appeared to be richly decorated deck chairs. The perfect mix of Lily and Rufus. Spotting the flowers lining the chairs and the arbor, Dan couldn't help but smile as he figured Maritza's backyard was probably looking a little sparse if her best blooms were at the wedding.
Serena dropped Dan's arm and carefully made her way to one of the seats. Her shoulders slumping slightly as she sat, she had a feeling this was a conversation she would wind up wishing she never agreed to have.
Noticing Serena gazing out at the ocean, Dan wondered what had the blonde looking so conflicted. Her blue eyes were projecting a glumness that was tinged with rage.
"Are you okay?"
Serena scoffed, her eyes narrowing as she turned to glare at the boy she once thought she'd had a shot at loving. "Don't start. You're the last person I wanted to talk to right now Dan."
Leaning back at the venom in her voice, Dan tried to figure out if he'd done anything to deserve that. He'd anticipated that reaction at the end of their conversation not at the start and certainly not when she'd appeared mostly neutral to his presence so far. Shaking his head as he sunk into a seat in front of Serena, he turned to look at the blonde already wishing Blair or Eric were here instead. "What?"
"You cheat on Blair and all you can say is 'what'. Seriously?"
Ignoring Serena's mocking tone, Dan frowned a crease occurring between his eyebrows. "I never cheated on Blair. Well not really and the rest of the time it was her idea."
"What? What about Georgina?"
"That was all part of the plan. She had to believe she'd won. Blair and I crashed in Jenny's room."
Biting her lip, Serena stared at Dan trying to decide if he was telling the truth.
Looking at the blonde, Dan sighed as he saw Serena was really looking out for her friend. There was a maturity in her eyes that he had never seen before. It was as if dealing with Pete's death opened her up to deal with the other things in her life.
Running his hand through his hair, Dan wondered if he was making the right decision. Blair and he had discussed telling Serena the truth about how they met and the whole charade for a while. Initially they had decided that if there was a natural moment to tell her they'd take it regardless of if they were both present or not. Then as the time for the nuptials had drawn closer, Dan had felt guiltier with each passing day not wanting a secret that big hovering over Lily and Rufus' attempt at a family.
Seeing what he saw in Serena, Dan knew this was the best of both plans, the time had finally come. He could also admit that even if it was possible the time would come again when they could tell Serena together, he wanted to spare Blair that pain, that's why he'd rigged the straw draw. He would protect her from the judgement and hurt that Serena would undoubtedly feel and hopefully protect the friendship between the Blair and Serena. Blair and Dan both knew that sneaking around and using Serena as a cover was not fair to the blonde, nor was it something they were particularly proud of but it was in the past now.
Besides at this point, Dan was fairly certain Serena was the last one to know the truth, with the others having been told enough bits and pieces to put it together or, as in Nate's case, simply told the truth.
"Blair and I first met the Christmas after you fled for boarding school." Dan tampered down a smile as he recalled how beautiful Blair had looked and how her air of loneliness not only added to her mystique but called to him in a way that was completely foreign. "Well technically we met the Thanksgiving before that, when the two of us also properly met - one sided sightings at various parties aside, but the time that mattered, where Blair and I truly met was that Christmas."
Seeing Serena about to interrupt, Dan held up his hand. "I know you have questions, but this will be easier if you just let me get the whole story out first."
Serena bit her lip but seeing the steely glint in Dan's eyes, she knew she was fighting a losing battle.
"We met in Paris. My mum and her dad and Roman were neighbours for the winter." Deciding on that half-truth, Dan conceded that he wasn't willing to share their meeting at the museum with Serena. It was private. Special. "Anyway, we barely spent more than a week together but in that time I fell in love with her. We didn't exchange numbers or even names really, so when we both got back home it was something special but fleeting. Then you came back."
A matching melancholy smile found its way across both of their lips at Dan's words.
"You came back and you were like the sun. You eclipsed everything in my life. Immediately I remembered how much you'd drawn me in. I remembered what it was like loving you from afar. Don't get me wrong Serena, I did- I do love you. I care for you and I want nothing more than for you to be happy in life. What I can see now that I couldn't then was how much I also respect you. I learnt to see beyond the light that you exuded and saw what it was that made you you. You've come so far, overcome so much and I will always be in awe of that. But it needs to be clear I love you like a sister or a friend."
Unable to hold her tongue any longer, Serena's words left her lips without her permission. "Was any of it real?"
Dan reached out as if he were going to take her hand before thinking better of it. "Of course it was. You were the girl of my dreams, my first crush and you were not only talking to me but giving me a chance to date you. I wish I could say that I'd been loyal to you, that the allure was enough but it wasn't. It was real until I saw Blair at the 'kiss on the lips' party. The girl I thought about, even when I didn't realise I was thinking about someone, was back. She was everything to me."
Running his hand through his hair Dan knew he was getting to the uncomfortable part and poor Serena had no idea what she was getting herself into. "I used to pride myself on my morals but from that night on, I was Blair's. I don't remember why I agreed to it or how we phrased it in a way that was justified, for Blair it was probably related to you sleeping with Nate and I guess for me, you were always more invested in Nate and making him jealous than you were in us so it wasn't that hard to 'date' you even when I was seeing Blair in secret. If we're being honest Serena, you were using me as much as I was using you."
"But… but you guys fought all the time."
Rubbing the back of his neck, Dan looked sheepish for the first time the whole conversation. "Foreplay."
Serena blushed as she looked away. It hurt knowing Dan and Blair had been seeing each other behind her back for the weeks they'd been together but Serena could see how they'd justified it. She'd snuck up to Chuck's room to meet up with Nate minutes after dragging Dan to a brunch he hadn't wanted to go to. She'd proceeded to treat Dan like a second thought and compare him to Nate. She'd loved him and she always would but he was right it was a more platonic or familial love. He'd provided her with the motivation to better herself, never afraid to hold back his criticism. "Okay."
"Yeah okay. It hurts but I accept what you're saying, besides you and Blair make sense in a way we never did."
They drifted back into silence, watching the waves crash onto the beach. A calm serenity washing over them as this last secret was acknowledged.
Katherine shifted on in her seat next to Bart as the music started. Looking towards the back of the aisle, she couldn't help the soft gasp that left her lips as Alyssa moved down the aisle tossing flowers as she went. She didn't fully understand Lily's request for Alyssa to be her flower girl and Tyler to be their ring bearer but looking at her kids and the giant smiles on their faces she was grateful that Lily did not know any other children of appropriate ages. It was quite possible Lily had just made their year.
Curling into Bart's side, Katherine tried to understand how this had become her life, when she'd agreed to work for the Waldorf's she'd been in an unhappy marriage, drowning in debt from her mainly absentee husband and struggling to keep a smile on her kids' faces. Now, both she and her kids were happy and even as she touched the newly presented engagement ring on her finger she knew come next year she'd still be working in The Waldorf's kitchen. Not only did she enjoy it but all three of them loved Blair and couldn't imagine not seeing her finish growing up.
Watching Tyler mutter to himself as he stood next to Rufus with his eyes glued to the rings, Katherine felt a wave of pride rush through her. Her kids may need to give themselves pep talks from time to time but they could be counted on to get the job done.
Catching sight of her mum, Lyssa smiled to herself at how happy her mum and Bart looked. Wrapping her hand around Chuck's hand she smiled up at him, too overjoyed about how happy everyone else was to care that he messed up her hair as he ruffled it affectionately. She knew Chuck could never come close to Dan's position in her heart but she was glad she'd listened to Dan because Chuck was doing pretty well as a big brother. And she was definitely onboard with the whole making it official thing - even if both Bass' sometimes acted like assholes.
Lyssa felt her mouth drop open in awe as Lily made her grand entrance, looking around she noticed she wasn't the only one. Lily looked calm, gracious and effortlessly beautiful and based on the comments of the people behind her who had obviously been to a few of Lily's weddings she'd never looked this good before. Lyssa bet it had something to do with her eyes and smile. Her happiness and gratefulness just radiated out of her. Lyssa felt herself pout slightly. It wasn't fair - she wanted a Humphrey but they were all too old and taken. Well, there was this new boy Isaac Humphries in her class, and he had seemed quite nice so maybe he could give her hope. If he wasn't the one for her, then at least she had a goal. She knew she wanted to be in love the way Dan and Blair were and she had at least another few years before she had to be serious about that goal.
Tyler ran a hand through his hair nervously as he peered up at Lily and Rufus before his eyes cut to the ring again. He had one job, to take care of the rings, and he was going to do it to the best of his abilities. Catching Dan's eye, Ty felt his mouth pull into a strained smile. Watching as Dan mimed taking a deep breath, Tyler copied his lead, feeling his shoulders automatically lose some of their tension.
Looking back at Lily and Rufus, he was just in time to hear his cue. Handing the rings over, Tyler couldn't help but beam at the bride and groom grateful that he was given a chance to witness their love for each other. Feeling Chuck's hand on his shoulder as he fell back in line, Tyler sighed in genuine relief that his part of the wedding was over.
As Rufus and Lily said there vows, Dan felt a ball catch in his throat, fighting the urge to cry at the raw, unhidden love the two shared. While he would never, could never, regret his childhood, he knew his mum and his dad were not meant for each other, not the way Lily and Rufus were.
Letting her smile flow freely, Blair clapped excitedly along with the rest of the crowd. Blair shook her head fondly as she spotted her mother dabbing at her eyes trying to catch the tears before they fell. She was so proud of her mother, a few years ago she would have been crying tears of envy, tears she would have disguised as tears of pity while at the same time announcing to all those in attends as she started dating again. With Cyrus of all people - he was a lovely man, even if Blair wasn't s huge fan of his son she could at least acknowledge Cyrus himself was great for her mum.
Casting her eyes around the beach she noticed nearly everyone looked calmer and happier than they had in a long time and even though she knew she'd always hold some resentment for how her father handled everything with Roman, she could admit that if she hadn't met Dan that night in Paris she may never have given him the chance he deserved and her life may have been completely different at this point. Even as she caught sight of the slide shade of sadness in Serena's eyes that confirmed that Dan had had a talk with her, she couldn't help but think that as a whole they were all happier and closer than they had been before Dan came into their lives.
Feeling a calloused thumb catch a tear as it fell from her eyelashes, Lily smiled at her now husband. A familiar giddiness ran through her that had accompanied the post vow stage at all her previous weddings. The feeling was so strong that it almost hid the deep feeling of completeness that she became aware of deep within her being. It was a feeling she'd been chasing since she found herself in her mid-twenties with Rufus' face fading in her mind.
It was one of those feelings where you didn't know you were missing it until you found it.
Threading her fingers through Rufus' hands she looked around taking stock of their children and the rest of the guests. Spotting the look in her family and friends' eyes she couldn't help but compare the reactions to her previous weddings. With the near exception of her Van Der Woodsen wedding, she could finally acknowledge that this was the first time all the guests in attendance looked honestly happy for her.
Feeling a smile split her face as she and Rufus wandered back down the aisle together, Lily spotted Bart and Katherine and couldn't help but feel like they should be gearing up for another wedding very soon. Although Lily would always despise Georgina for the things she had put Serena and the others through she had to begrudgingly thank her for bringing the parents together. Even though the threat to their children was over, Lily, Rufus and the others still met up once a month and caught up about their own lives now, and while she had hope that Rufus and her would endure in their relationship the fact that she had an actual support system of friends that she could rely on outside of her husband was a new experience for her.
Catching sight of the besotted look Rufus was sending her way, Lily felt a blush creep up her face even as her own feelings bubbled up inside her, threatening to burst out. Getting lost in his eyes, Lily couldn't even bring herself to feel embarrassed at the fact that she probably had a matching look on her face right now, she was happy and she wanted everyone to know it.
Though her wedding dress was comfortable by wedding dress standard it still wasn't as comfy by any stretch of the imagination. Reminding herself to throw some sweatpants into the suitcase she'd packed for her honeymoon, Lily could hardly believe this was her life. Going with Lincoln Hawk on their reunion tour was not only a way of giving her the perfect break from being judged by the Upper East Side but it felt like going full circle and reconnecting with the Lily Rhodes aspect of her personality she ultimately identified with the most.
Dan's smile slowly stretched across his face as he took in the soft pink silk dress Blair was wearing. Running his fingers down the smooth material, his breath caught in his throat as he was once again reminded how lucky he was to have found her.
While he longed to run his fingers through her hair, he knew she'd kill him if he messed up her up-do. His eyes locked on her as he settled for cupping the back of her neck and pulling her in for a kiss. Happiness flooded his body along with arousal as he got lost in her. His hands moved down to her waist, grabbing on hard enough to ground himself but not hard enough to wrinkle the fabric.
Wrapping her arms around Dan's neck, Blair couldn't help but laugh as giddiness bubbled through her. Moving one of her hands away, Blair gently ran her finger against his cheek.
Swaying gently to the music that was making it's way outside from the hall where the reception was taking place, they quickly lost themselves to the magical air of the garden.
Eric sighed in fond exasperation as his trip for fresh air ended in him witnessing another one of Blair and Dan's moments. There was something in their emotions for each other even after all this time was so raw and honest. It was entrancing yet also made you want to look away.
Feeling a shoulder bump against his before a head rested against his, Eric looked over to see Jenny at his side, peering down at her brother with a soft smile on her face. He couldn't help but think about how much Jenny had grown since September. When he first met her, she was sweet but the ambitious side of her would not have been able to look at her brother, who was quite possibly doing better than her socially, without envy colouring every word.
"They're disgustingly sweet."
Laughing softly at Jenny's words, Eric rested his hands against the balcony rail wondering how long he could let Blair and Dan have their moment of peace for.
Noticing Chuck, Nate, Serena and Vanessa had also joined them, Eric shook his head in amusement trying to determine how his breath of air had turned into a mini party and the gang was all there.
Hazel, Penelope, Kati and Is had subtly requested to fade back to the second tier of the group as things with Georgina were wrapping up and Blair had been more than willing to let them. Things having gotten a little too crowded for her liking,
Still Eric was quite glad to see them huddled around a table inside, looking like they were rating the boys in the room. They'd finally managed to work their way back to their norm. He couldn't help but smile fondly as he noticed Cameron had found a place right in the middle of the three girls, a wide smile on his mouth as he chimed in with his own opinions on both genders.
Eric's smile grew even wider as he thought about how his boyfriend seemed to fill the room with warmth. Turning what could have been a group of girls scathingly tearing apart their peers into a bunch of seventeen year old girls engaging in a mostly harmless game. A bittersweet feeling rushed through him as he looked away from Cameron and thought about their most recent argument.
He loved Cameron of that he was sure but his boyfriend currently wanted nothing more than to following in his dad's footsteps. It was a childhood dream that had only grown stronger in the months that his dad had been home following Cameron's trip to the emergency room. Eric and Cameron had managed to compromise on spending the summer at the naval base in Rota, Spain while Cameron's dad was on rotation there. It was supposed to give Cameron to get a better feel for what he'd actually be doing if he enlisted and it gave Eric the chance to practice his newfound love of photography while still getting to spend the summer with Cameron. If their relationship didn't survive, Eric wanted all the memories he could get.
Turning back to the others as he heard Serena gasp, Eric looked over and saw Blair and Dan had come to a stop and seemed to be holding two flower stem rings in their hands. Rolling his eyes at how adorable they were, Eric couldn't help but frown as he realised how intrusive they were all being. Nevertheless he couldn't make himself look away.
Dan laughed as he watched Blair quickly braid a bunch of stems into small circles. He really thought he'd grown out of this playground marriage thing when he was six but when Blair looked at him, happiness and love shining in her big brown eyes, Dan knew he'd agree to anything she wanted just to keep that look there.
Taking the ring she held out to him, Dan kept a hold of her hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it.
Blair smiled, feeling pain in her cheeks at the enormity of it. Knowing she probably looked like an idiot but Dan loved her anyway, Blair didn't attempt to hide how she was feeling. "I'm going to marry you one day Daniel Humphrey." Laughing as she slid the ring onto his finger, Blair gripped his hand tightly, not willing to let go just yet. "This is just to remind you of that."
Running his spare hand down her arm until he had her hand trapped between both of his, he tugged her just a tiny bit closer. Fitting the ring on her finger, Dan stepped closer still, his lips brushing hers as he spoke. "You'll always be my Holly. And I'll always be your Cabbage Patch."
Pressing her lips to his, Blair sighed softly happiness filling her being.
Serena looked around at the others taking in their slightly shiny eyes. They were too far away to hear what Dan and Blair had to each other but their emotions were as clear as day. Giant beacons advertising their love for each other to anyone who was watching. "They really love each other."
The words slipped out of her mouth unintentionally and Serena couldn't help but blush when everyone turned to look at her their gazes echoing their amazement at how long it took her to that conclusion. How long it took her to realise what the others had known for months.
"Ok. Fine. I should have realised that ages ago." Huffing in frustration, Serena let the niggling thought in the back of her brain finally take hold as she wondered what made this setting so familiar. Finally remembering the poster she'd seen for Maritza's that started it all, Serena shook her head stuck somewhere between fondness and frustration. "What is it with them and gardens. Like honestly, they both hate nature on a good day."
Dan looked up as he heard someone loudly exclaiming. Feeling his cheeks grow hot as he realised most of their friends had seen their little ring exchange, Dan tugged on Blair's hand hoping she hadn't noticed his hesitation.
Bristling as she noticed Dan had grown embarrassed at the fact that their private ceremony had been intruded on, Blair glared at Serena who at least had the sense to look apologetic. Linking Dan's hand through hers, Blair lead him up the stairs towards the balcony everyone had congregated on. "Do you people have no understanding of privacy?"
As everyone scrambled for their excuses, Chuck looked Blair in the eye and simply said "no".
Unable to help himself, Dan burst out laughing at Chuck's response. It was a jarring reminder that these were the same people who had formed the non-judging breakfast club. The lot of them had more secrets under their belts than than anyone else he'd ever met.
Cameron poked his head outside, smiling at the sound of laughter. "Sorry to interrupt whatever is going on out here but Lily wanted me to let you guys know it is time for speeches."
"That's my cue." Scoffing at the bewildered looks thrown his way, Chuck rolled his eyes but continued anyway. "We're you guys not paying attention during my speech at the rehearsal dinner."
Eric stepped forward as he linked hands with Cameron, giving him a quick kiss before he answered Chuck. "Yeah, but we thought you were just joking around and Lily was letting you."
"Nah, Lily believed in me when even my dad didn't. I asked if it was ok if I gave a speech to express my gratitude to her. She said she check with Dan and Rufus, they agreed and here we are."
As all the heads swivelled in his direction, Dan shrugged, "if it meant I had to speak less I was all for it. I love my dad and Lily but there are things even love can't force, public speaking is one of them."
Following the others back inside, Blair tucked herself against Dan, pressing her lips against his cheek and smiling slightly at the feeling of her grass ring pressing into her skin.
Finding a spot against the wall, Nate smiled as he bumped his hip against Vanessa's. "Hey stranger."
Pressing a kiss to his cheek, Vanessa smiled warmly. "Long time no see."
"How's your mum?" Nate had a soft spot for Gabriela, she was slightly crazy but her heart was in the right place. She was basically everything his mother was not and it was one of the things he missed the most since Vanessa and he had broken up. He was kind of glad their breakup was as quiet and seamless as the formation of their relationship was, it meant they were still able to be friends somehow managing it without the awkwardness they were both anticipating.
"Mum's good. She's around here somewhere and expects you to go and say hi at some point tonight. Me moving in with her was the right choice, I love my sister don't get me wrong and I love living in the city but it was changing me. I didn't like who I was becoming."
"You weren't as bad as you thought you were but I'm glad you're happy and I understand why you did what you had to do. Have you met anyone you like yet?"
Vanessa chuckled quietly, "I love your support and will be forever grateful for it but I'm not sure we're at that level of friendship yet."
Nate smiled as he slung his arm over Vanessa's shoulder pressing a smacking kiss to her cheek. "If you say so, just remember I'm always here when you need me."
Tuning back in as Chuck clinked a knife against a glass, Nate smiled in anticipation of his friends' speech he wasn't sure what the brunette had planned but it was definitely going to be a speech no one would forget.
"I'd like to propose a toast. My father is someone who goes after what he wants, and Lily van der Woodsen was no exception. In typical Bass man fashion, his pursuit was direct and at times, not exactly subtle." Ignoring the confused and exasperated looks Chuck continued.
"One thing I learned from my father's courtship of Lily is that sometimes you can love someone in a way you never imagined, you can love someone without them being your true love. Lily has become my father's close advisor and I'd even say his best friend. If you know my father that is something I think we can all agree we'd never believe would have happened."
Smiling as a few in the crowd chuckled in agreement, Chuck nodded at his dad warmly before turning back to Lily and Rufus. "That is the one thing that Rufus Humphrey and his children Dan and Jenny have taught all of us. That loving people in whatever way is not only okay but it is important. That love makes you strong through making you vulnerable. It makes you care. Rufus taught me that in the face of true love, you don't just give up, even if the object of your affection is begging you to. That even if you encounter a twenty-odd year bump in the road, you can still find happiness."
"I learned from Lily the importance of forgiveness. She gave my father and me the gift of a second chance even if it was not in the form either of us had anticipated. She forgave me for who I was pretending to be and supported me in becoming someone worthy of that gift. She has taught me that someone doesn't need to be blood for you to love them and protect them, leaving no doubt in my mind that anyone who is lucky enough to know Rufus and Lily will feel loved. To Rufus and Lily may they inspire all of us to find our own love story."
Smiling as everyone clapped, Chuck felt incredibly proud of himself. Spotting Lily wipe at her eyes with a fond smile on her lips, Chuck felt a wave of warmth run through him. While Blair had had Dorota to support her when her Eleanor had checked out after Harold ran away to France, Chuck had keenly felt the absence of a maternal figure in his life. While he was happy that both Lily and his dad had found happiness even if it wasn't with each other and while he quite liked Katherine and the advice she'd given him, he would forever be grateful to Lily.
Clearing his throat, as Dan stepped up beside him, Chuck clapped him on the shoulder smiling a truly Chuck Bass smirk. "Good luck following after that."
Shaking his head in fond annoyance, Dan grabbed the microphone from Chuck's outstretched hand. "That was some speech wasn't it." Pausing as everyone cheered again, Dan smiled as he caught sight of the pride in Chuck's eyes from his place beside Jenny.
"What can I say that hasn't been said before? I think everyone here can see how happy Rufus and Lily are and how happy they make each other. I think it's telling that despite the problems we've all given them over the last year they've spent more nights together than apart and isn't that what we all aim for - the ability to still love someone even when they're driving us nuts and perhaps more importantly love them even when they're kids are driving us nuts… or at least that's what I'd imagine."
Pausing while there were some agreeable murmurs from the crowd, Dan steeled himself to continue. "If there's one thing my dad has taught me it's to not be afraid of love and I think that's something that shines through today. Rufus and Lily are surrounded by love from each other but also from everyone here today. While both of them have made a few mistakes in the past with their loved ones, I believe that their inspiring ability to love and support those around them comes from the strength that they get from each other. Dad, Lily, I hope you're lives are always filled with love and Lily thank you for making sure Jen and I know we can always come to you. To Rufus and Lily."
Nodding in agreement as Dan finished up his speech, Eric couldn't help his belief that Dan was right. Chuck had only really interacted with Lily in a familial way after she had reconnected with Rufus, but Eric had a much more negative experience with his mother in the previous years. She'd distanced herself enough from her kids that she had been unable to see that her own son had been suicidal. Running his fingers over the scars on his wrists briefly before threading his fingers back through Cameron's, Eric couldn't help but be incredibly grateful that he hadn't succeeded in taking his life. Eric also would never be able to express to Rufus how incredibly grateful he was that Rufus had given him his mum back. Grateful that by loving Lily, Rufus had brought back Lily's own ability to love. By supporting her, he had given her the strength to support her children through their growing up and the pains and heartbreak associated with it. Raising his glass in Rufus' direction, Eric just had to hope that Rufus understood what he couldn't say.
Serena sighed as Dan finished his speech. She'd seen in the last few months how her now step-brother had made peace with their parents relationship and what it meant for his own relationship with his mother. Despite not having any contact from her dad in years, Serena just wasn't able to accept the situation with William, the way Dan seemed to have adjusted to the somewhat strained relationship he had with Alison.
Maybe the fact that Dan knew where his mother was that made the difference. Serena was flying blind. The PI she'd hired had only been able to discover that Bass Industries had been sending William checks to PO Boxes in various countries that he collected up to a month later. Meaning someone at Bass Industries knew exactly where her father was going to be.
In an, admittedly uncharacteristic, moment of selflessness Serena acknowledged that Chuck was doing really well in mending his relationship with his father so instead of dragging him into this goose chase, Serena had sent in an application to intern at Bass Industries this summer and after mentioning it to Bart himself at brunch the other week, Serena had unsurprisingly been accepted.
Realising Dan was trying to hand her the microphone and that everyone was staring at her, Serena eyes widened as her carefully constructed speech fled her mind. Cursing herself for being so checked out of her mother's wedding Serena vowed to do better… or at least try to.
"Um, thanks," Serena mumbled as she grabbed the mic. "I had this whole speech but it's disappeared so I guess I'll just wing it. Mum, I know you might not want to be reminded of this but we've been through this whole wedding thing quite a few times in the last decade but there's something different about today. A feeling that was missing in all the others. That's the feeling that I'll keep close and search for in my life and I hope everyone else in the room gets a chance to find that feeling too. Rufus, thank you for going through this journey with my mother."
Passing the microphone off to Rufus, Serena let herself be pulled into a hug by her mother and smiled as she realised despite the potentially less than graceful phrasing and shorter duration, she had made her mother proud.
Eric smiled at Serena as she glanced over at him. While her speech could have been better it was from the heart which was something Rufus had been really good at reinforcing the merit of. Leaning against Cameron, Eric thought about how much the Humphreys had changed his life in such a short period of time. He had grown in immeasurable ways and was more comfortable with himself than he had been in years. He felt loved and accepted. Feelings which he knew would get him through the rough times ahead if Cameron and he did break up. But looking at his mum and Rufus he considered that even if he and Cameron did break up at the end of summer that didn't have to be the end of their story.
On that note, Eric pushed the more morose feelings from his mind and tugged on Cameron's hand until they reached the dance floor. Wrapping his arms around Cameron, Eric breathed him in determined to sear this memory in his mind.
"I love you, you know that right?"
At the uncertainty present in the second half of Cameron's statement, Eric pressed closer and gave Cameron a quick kiss. "I know. With every fibre of my being I know. No matter what happens, I'll always remember that as long as you remember I love you just as much."
Spotting the quick flash of heartbreak that crossed Cameron's face, Jenny sighed and wished she could do something to ease her friends' pain. Personally she believed they could have kept ignoring the elephant that was Cameron's desire to enlist until the last possible minute but they were apparently being mature about it.
Laughing softly as Chuck spun her around the dance floor, Jenny let go of her worries about her friends and instead just enjoyed being spun around.
Chuck smiled as he noticed Jenny seemed more focus on their dance after he quite literally spun her. She'd been looking too melancholy for his liking and he'd decided that both Lily and Jenny deserved to be happy tonight. He knew it would be easy to credit Jenny for his personal growth over the last year, he could say she changed him or he changed himself for her but he didn't want to. He couldn't help but feel like it wouldn't stick if he credited the work to her. Instead he had to accept that somewhere in their game of messing with the other they'd both started to see him differently. Jenny had seen a potential in Chuck that no one other than Blair had but she also managed to do the one thing Blair hadn't been able to and that was getting him to see the potential in himself. Seeing the potential he had was life-changing. He had always felt like he wasn't good enough — that that's why his mum left and why his dad couldn't stand him but with a new perspective he could see that he wasn't giving his dad anything to be proud of anyway.
"Are you excited about your internship?" Watching as Jenny's eyes sparkled with excitement, Chuck knew he made the right choice not mentioning his earlier plans on taking her to Europe for a summer of sun and sightseeing.
"I can't believe Eleanor chose me. I guess I'm going to have to start calling her Ms Waldorf now… I mean, I know I won't be working directly with her but can you believe it, me. And there's no way she chose me because I'm Blair's friend. I'm her friend right not just her minion… never mind. But I'm right, she's too much like Blair to select based on nepotism and not talent right?"
"Is this the part where you actually want an answer?" Chuck couldn't help teasing even as he gently directed Jenny off the dance floor and back to their seats. "Yes, nepotism doesn't really exist in the world of the Waldorf's. It does to a certain extent on trivial matters but when things really mean something, talent - or at least perceived talent - overrules nepotism. You saw that when Eleanor chose Serena over Blair for that photoshoot last year. So don't you let anyone convince you your there for any reason other than your talent."
Jenny breathed out a huge sigh of relief as she tucked herself against Chuck in a half hug. "I know this whole supporting people thing is new to you but you're really getting the hang of it."
Smiling slightly at the compliment, Chuck laughed in agreement. "I know, a year ago I would have walked away halfway through your word vomit and we would have never spoken again."
"Now?" Chuck paused and cocked his head to the side, "now, I find it incredibly endearing. The fact that you're driven and resourceful and creative but still amazed when someone else recognises your talent is one of the things I love about you."
Jenny felt warmth spread to her cheeks, grabbing Chuck's hand in hers she smiled brightly at him. "And the fact that you bought me tickets for Europe but haven't mentioned it because you know how much getting this internship meant to me is one of the things I love about you."
"That's an awfully specific thing to love," Chuck said in an attempt to deflect the conversation. "How did you find out?"
"There was a mix up with my passport and the booking agent called to verify some numbers."
Running a hand over his face Chuck groaned. "I wasn't going to mention it because I didn't want you to make a decision you'd regret. Besides Europe isn't going anywhere, we can always go next year."
Jenny pressed a kiss to Chuck's cheek as she handed him a glass, "to next year."
Pressing a kiss to the back of Jenny's hand that was intertwined with his, Chuck raised his glass alongside hers, "to next year."
Hearing their phones chime as they put their glasses down, Jenny rolled her eyes even while she laughed, "it wouldn't be a true Upper East Side event without Gossip Girl even if we're miles away from home."
Spotted: All my favourite little ducklings at the Hamptons for the wedding that made Little J, Lonely Boy, S and E a family.
They say a leopard can't change his spots. But some things do change. All my little ducklings have grown so much over the past year. They've shown that the path not taken can become a road trip. That being grounded can lead to something groundbreaking. But before you worry too much, I won't be changing. And whether they're sweating it out on the sultry sidewalks or cooling their heels in the Hamptons, no one does summer like New Yorkers. Grab your shades and your sunblock. This one looks like a scorcher. Until next time. You know you love me.
XOXO, Gossip Girl.
Feeling Blair's hand pressed firmly against his, Dan ignored the chiming of phones around him. Leaving his and Blair's phone in their room had never felt as freeing as it did right then. With all of the guests their age distracted by their phones, Blair and Dan slipped on their coats and disappeared out the door, they'd already said goodbye to Lily and Rufus, knowing they were about to have a truly one of a kind honeymoon. Blair was just glad Rufus had enough sense to book them into Martha's Vineyard for a week before they met up with the rest of the band in Boston for the first show of the tour.
Slipping out without anyone noticing, Blair and Dan made their way down to the beach, Blair discarding her shoes at the bottom of the stairs and she relished in the feeling of the sand between her toes. Coming across a couple who were just about to snuff out the bonfire they'd made, Dan quickly interceded thanking them for the warmth and wishing them a goodnight as Blair and he settled next to the flames.
"Are you sure you're still up for a whole summer with Roman and my dad?" Blair asked, peering up at Dan through sleep hooded eyes.
Moving into a more comfortable position, Dan coaxed Blair to lie against him as he wrapped his arms around her. "Of course, just you and me, no distractions for a whole three months. I couldn't imagine anything better and maybe with my Holly there as my muse Jeremiah Harris will finally stop calling my writing garbage."
Growling in anger at the mention of Jeremiah and his review of Dan's writing, Blair felt her ire flare to new heights. "You should have let me take him down, he wouldn't have known what hit him." Feeling Dan rub his hand up and down her back in an attempt to calm her down, Blair let him relax her not wanting to get into the same argument they'd been having since three weeks ago when Jeremiah told Dan to come back at the end of summer with something that didn't resemble a steaming pile of poop. "I'm fine. And I'll be Holly for as long as you need me to be as long as you be my Cabbage Patch."
Turning so she was tucked against, Dan's chest Blair smiled as she felt her muscles completely relax.
Hearing Blair's breathing even out, Dan was grateful it was warm enough that they could comfortably fall asleep without having to worry about catching a cold. Trusting the rising sun to wake them, Dan secured Blair against him and felt his eyes drift close too.
Sitting up in the sand, Dan breathed in the salty air as Blair and he watched the sunrise. Pressing his lips to the crown of Blair's head, Dan felt her arm wrap around him as they breathed each other in, finding a sense of home in each others arm. Blair was right, they were going to marry each other one day, even with all the crazy that surrounded Blair he had never been more certain of anything in his life. She was his 95-pound, doe-eyed, bon mot tossing, label-whoring package of girly evil and he wouldn't have her any other way.
— The End —