It takes six weeks to figure out something is wrong.
It would have, should have, been sooner. But there are contributing factors like summer in the Hamptons, phone signals, and the endless scathing cinematic commentary between them, for his distraction. It's only during a viewing of Sabrina that, during a particularly sad scene, she sighs a little too longingly.
“Are you okay?” comes out automatically. As does her denial.
“I'm perfectly alright,” she replies smoothly. “In case you didn't hear, I'm going to be a princess.”
He and Eric get way too drunk at some charity event to stop clubbing orphans, or help adopt baby seals, the details are fuzzy when he wakes up face down on the couch, head feeling a couple sizes larger than normal.
Eric is still passed out on the floor, as is the bus boy he'd spent all night chatting up, sprawled out next to him. His phone is flashing atop the coffee table and he slowly, painfully reaches for it. Blair's voice comes across tired and disappointed.
He missed a movie date.
A hand rubs slowly across his eyes as he groans and rolls over. He didn't realize what day it is, let alone what time, thanks to copious amounts of alcohol. Calling her back instantly, mind too blurred to figure out how many hours ahead she may be.
She picks up and before he can even start to say sorry, cuts him off.
“You're supposed to be the one who doesn't let me down,” she says, and promptly hangs up.
He spends the next few days filling her inbox with endless texts.
Apologies, anecdotes, and any random observations that come to mind. Efforts made to keep the lines of communication open.
Her lack of response doesn't deter him in the slightest, keeping it up for the keen suspicion that she needs to laugh more often, and partially because he can't stand the idea of her being mad at him.
Poised and ready the following Monday, the play button just waiting to be pushed, she calls and he almost drops the phone he's so eager to answer.
“How are you?” Comes out rushed, and he can practically hear how she rolls her eyes.
“In need of you to entertain me,” she replies in a stately manner. “So make it happen.”
When the movie is over, and they've nearly broken it down scene by scene, he once again asks how she is.
He fully expects the brush off, the long pause she gives indicative of this, but eventually she answers.
“There's more to it than I thought,” she says quietly before it all comes spilling out.
She never has a minute to herself anymore. There's always a guard, or a servant, or a stable boy catering to her every need. And while she had always imagined such luxury to be heaven, the reality of it leaves her feeling slightly useless.
She has no power, she can't attend any of the important conferences with Louis, and all the social events are filled with people twice her age. Hell, she's barely left the palace save for the one or two trips to a museum or Monte Carlo, since summer started. And she has to smile, all the time, because a royal isn't allowed to have a bad day. It's so much that she fears wrinkles are going to start creasing at her eyes. And don't get her started on all the curtseying and waving involved.
Dan whistles slowly when the rant comes winding down.
“Fairytales sound like a lot of work,” he comments.
“This is why the stories end where they do,” she replies.
“Sounds like you could use a rescue princess.”
“Like you could afford the ticket, Humphrey. It's just been an odd collection of days. I'm fine, really.”
He waits three days before booking a flight.
Sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night, just to avoid Eric's all knowing looks on the subject of Blair, coupled with a reassurance that he's probably out of his mind for doing it.
He doesn't have a plan, or a place to stay. Things he's only starting to realize halfway across the pond.
Ass backwards crushing on Blair Waldorf, he thinks.
If only it were as simple as that.
He's in the airport, standing in front of baggage claim, and realizing the only French he knows is all food related.
When his bag finally comes around, he lifts it swiftly from the conveyor and wanders toward the exit stopping once he hits the taxi lane.
He only has so much cash on him, and taxi drivers usually count on things like that and destination once you acquire their services.
Sighing, he looks around for any sort of cosmic clue as to what he should do from this point.
This was an appallingly bad idea.
He manages to catch a shuttle into Paris city proper, and walks around endlessly before finding a hotel that doesn't look like it'll cost him a full semester's tuition to stay there, or one that rents by the hour.
Falling back on the freshly made bed, he pulls out his phone to find a message from Eric that is neither frantic nor worried. His steady and amused voice informs him that he had a pretty good idea where Dan might have taken off to, and says to call him if he needs any help navigating a foreign land.
Dan makes a point not to call back despite needing the offered help.
He doesn't want to hear the satisfaction in his friend's voice.
He sends Blair a picture of himself standing on front of the Louvre, arms raised triumphant after running through it a la Band of Outsiders, and somehow managing not to get caught.
Her text comes nearly fifteen minutes later when he's sitting at a table in a little cafe still catching his breath and waiting for coffee.
Is this a joke?
The phone rings just as the waiter sets down his cup, and Dan says merci without a trace of an accent.
“Tell me you're kidding,” she says with a nervous laugh instead of hello.
“When have you ever laughed at one of my jokes?”
She mutters something he can't hear under her breath.
“Okay,” he says seriously. “I admit this is was somewhat impulsive. Stupidly so. But I'm here, and you're here, and if somehow you can manage a few hours away from your adoring fiance we can make the best of it.”
“And how do you propose I do that?” She replies flippantly.
“I don't know. Fake an illness, a family emergency.”
“And somehow get all the way to Paris?”
“Isn't the palace just outside the city?”
“That's Versailles moron,” she sighs. “Monaco is on the south coast.”
The taxi pulls away before Dan has a chance to ask him to wait so he can make sure it's the right place, leaving him to stand in front of the wrought iron gate, hoping it is. After Blair had calmed somewhat at his impromptu visit, due in large to a lot of recanting on his part, she gave him the address of her father's chateau and informed him if he insisted on seeing her, it could be the only place.
He rings the buzzer, the gate opens, and he stands there a minute taking in the sight of the large house at the end of the winding road before picking his bag up and making his way toward the door.
Dan thinks he met Harold Waldorf once at that Yale alumni thing when he and Blair were both vying so hard for acceptance into her father's Alma mater. Other than that, he's never had a conversation with the man.
“Did Blair, uh, happen to mention when she would be getting here?”
“A few hours yet,” Harold replies. “The principality isn't exactly around the corner from here.”
Dan nods, once again thinking he probably should have looked at a map once or twice when reading all that French literature. The older man offers a glass of wine, to which Dan politely declines, and they get stuck in another awkward pause.
“Blair tends to tell me such stories involving her friends,” Harold says, breaking the silence. “Can't say I recall many involving you Mr. Humphrey. None that paint you in a particularly good light anyway, if you don't mind my saying.”
“Not at all,” Dan replies, trying to so hard not to launch into a ramble. “It's still fairly new, I guess. Us being friends I mean.”
“Seems like an awfully big trip to make for a new friend.”
Dan chews on the inside of his cheek, knowing full well where Blair's poison tongue comes from now having spoken to both her parents.
“Well she,” he starts, tripping over the words. “Lately our lives have been...”
He sighs, regretting saying no to the wine, if only for a way to shut himself up.
“She's important to me,” he says, starting over. It not feeling like so much of an exaggeration when they've spent the last few months cementing the fact. Despite the kiss, despite Chuck and the prince, and his own romantic inclinations they share something. Something real. “And I came all the way here, because despite her impending nuptials and dreams coming true. I don't think she's as happy as she wants to be.”
Harold doesn't say anything, but clasps a firm hand on his shoulder and offers a warm smile.
He falls asleep in the library with a hundred year old copy of The Count of Monte Cristo in his lap, the train and taxi ride really taking a toll, only to be woken by a shooting pain in his shin where Blair has chosen to kick him.
“You're demented you know that?” She says in greeting.
“It's good to see you too,” he replies, leaning down and rubbing the spot where she kicked him.
“While I congratulate you on finally expanding your horizons beyond a Williamsburg bagel shop, it's a little hard to believe you came all this way on a whim.”
She takes the chair opposite him.
“Seriously,” she asks. “What are you doing here?”
He mumbles something into his chest that she can't hear.
“What was that? Speak up if you're going to speak.”
“You sounded unhappy,” he says lifting his head. “And I came here because I thought I could cheer you up.”
She blinks at him, shaking her head and folding her arms.
“I don't know what I'm supposed to do with that.”
“It's what friends do, right?”
“Fly a few thousand miles and show up unannounced?” She replies with a tilt of her head. “No Humphrey, that's what stalkers do.”
His brow furrows for half a second, before he bursts out laughing, and a second later so does she.
“Admit it Waldorf,” he says brushing a hand through his hair. “You might have missed me just a little.”
They end up watching Band of Outsiders on his laptop, after regaling her with the tale of his own mimicked exploits. She admits to being mildly impressed, though she would have loved to have seen security tackling him in front of Fragonard, rather than his miraculous escape.
Her arm brushes his as she moves to curl her legs underneath her, and Dan tries not to let his breath catch at the contact.
“So how did you manage to escape the watchful eye of the royal guard?” he wonders, just as the running scene begins.
“Told them Daddy was sick, and that Louis needn't worry himself with it while I came to visit.”
A pang of guilt pokes at his heart.
“Sorry for making you lie to him,” he says.
She smiles sadly.
“It's not the first time.”
He waits for her to elaborate, but isn't surprised when she doesn't.
“You were right,” she admits.
“My needing to get away. If only for a little while.”
“It's a hard knock life isn't it?”
She punches his shoulder, but laughs just the same.
“What am I going to do with you?”
“Not hitting me would be nice.”
She makes a face, before turning her attention back to the movie and resting her head on his shoulder.
Appallingly bad idea, Dan muses.
Might be the best one he ever had.