As soon as everyone announced they would help with the plan, Blair had brought out a stack of files with everyone's name in the room on it. Eric had distributed it to everyone.
"So, you're Blair's minion now?" Dan asked as Eric passed him his folder, which looked surprisingly thinner than others'.
Eric scoffed. "So what if I am? At least I'm not running away from her."
Before Dan could retort he had moved on. The folder contained notes on all 'suspicious' Constance and St. Judes students in their class who could be Gossip Girl. Dan was surprised the amount of research they had done. He had washed his hands off the scheme when he had come back from Aspen, but as usual nothing stopped Blair. He even felt a little guilty that he hadn't been there to help them.
"Okay" Blair said clapping her hands. "I have divided the suspects into High, Medium and Low category based on suspicion and I have grouped you into teams of two so you can keep an eye on those suspects in your file. It's pretty simple, you shadow them during the reunion and do not, no matter what, let them out of your sight."
Everyone looked at their files except Eric and Jenny. He was right, they had obviously planned this ahead in time. One look inside his file and he already had an objection with this plan.
"I'm not partnering up with Georgina!" he said.
Blair didn't even look up from what she was checking on Eric's computer.
"Partners are non-negotiable please." she said in matter-of-fact tone.
"What's your problem with me?" Georgina asked casually flipping through her file and sipping her wine.
"I don't strictly like you, you make me uncomfortable. And you can go rogue." he turned to Blair "You do realize she's not exactly a team player right?"
"None of us are, except in deep crisis mode and this is deep crisis." Blair sighed. "Humphrey you need a babysitter and she's the best we have."
"I don't need a babysitter!" he protested
All eyes were on him and he realised that he was the only one asking questions and demanding changes while everyone were reading their files, exactly as though he needed a babysitter. He gritted his teeth.
"I don't see a file in your hands. Who are you partnering with? I could be your partner." he said to Blair before he could think otherwise.
Blair stared at him in surprise, lips parted and eyes huge.
"I will be running the show." she said shaking her head. "I'm the ring master. Don't mess up the plan Humphrey!"
She went back to work again and he looked at Georgina to see her patting the seat next to her on the sofa. He made a face and turned back to his files. His file was definitely thinner than Georgina's. Why was that?
"So, we just keep an eye for these people and what hope for their Gossip Girl personality to show up?" Serena asked
Blair rolled her eyes. "The plan is more intricate than all of you knuckleheads can collectively grasp. What's in your file is on a strictly need to know basis. And no peeking! and no sharing!"
That piqued up Dan's interest. Of course nothing was simple when it came to Blair Waldorf.
The projector changes slides and Blair continued.
"We'll have the reunion in two weeks. You have two weeks to memorize the people you need to tail and do some pro bono research on them if you're in the mood. Whatever instructions are given in your file, follow that to the T. And we convene on the D-day and catch our tormentor! Simple." she smiled.
"No." Nate pointed at Blair. "You need to tell me everything what you're planning to do."
"Most definitely not! The plan can be only successful if the individual parts succeed. Listen Nate, I've got this. I'm master of scheme remember. It's something I can do in my sleep and there's barely anything illegal in it." Blair said making a cross over her heart.
"The plan is foolproof Nate." Eric chimed in. "We'll find Gossip Girl before the end of the night."
Suddenly Dan felt like an outside. Hadn't this plan started with him? Then how did he find himself at the periphery now? He saw Blair and Eric share smug looks and he wanted to... what did he want really?
"This is madness." Nate muttered
"Oh come on. Don't be a cautious cindy!" Blair said patting him on his arm. "I know we're a little rusty, but we've handled worse schemes."
"I.. I think I agree with Blair. This does sound doable." Serena said.
"See! Serena gets it! And I've broken it down to small chunks. You do your part and like a well oiled machine the plan will manifest itself." Blair said throwing her arms out like she was explaining a grand vision.
Over the next hour Blair explained the plan and clarified any doubts. It felt weirdly like some kind of a planning meeting for architects or chefs. As though they were designing something. Dan's file was pretty wane. It hardly had any extraordinary feat to achieve. All the tasks assigned to him were fair and simple and he got the sense that Blair was deliberately keeping him out of the loop and he didn't like it one bit. It got on his nerves. And when the logical part of his brain tried to argue that he too wanted to maintain distance from Blair, he felt like punching himself.
When he thought the meeting was over and all would leave, Blair flagged Jenny, Eric and Georgina and announced that she needed them to discuss some additional measures. Nate rolled his eyes and walked out, followed by Serena. Dan was about to leave too when Jenny turned pleading eyes at him.
"Will you wait?" she asked.
Though he had urged her to take up a hotel room she was still staying at their old loft with him. Dan must have looked unsure cause she reassured.
"It'll be 10 mins max"
"You can wait here, we'll be upstairs." Blair said with a quick smile.
He gave her a blank look and then sat down on the couch as they moved upstairs as though heading towards a super secret meeting for a crucial mission. He waited.
Blair turned off the light to Henry's bedroom and stood reluctantly at the door for a moment. The meeting had went just according to the plan without any glitch and she was glad for it. Ever since her marriage had blown up in her face, she'd occupied herself with anything and everything that came her way. She kept herself busy so that she wouldn't dwell on how the family she'd always wanted, she'd fought to have was falling apart.
Worrying about Henry was another thing she wanted to avoid. He'd spent two months away from her because of that Basstard and she would never forgive him for that. She sighed. She'd brought up school to Henry at breakfast and he'd been calm and agreed to go from next week. That wasn't the attitude of someone getting bullied. Her son was confusing her and she was at wits end as to what you do with it. Only option she hadn't resorted to was professional help. If it came to that, she made a resolve that she would get him the best care in New York.
Everyone had left the house a few minutes ago. The plan was set in motion, she'd send the invites to all tomorrow and set the ball rolling officially. In two weeks they'd catch Gossip Girl and all this ordeal will be over. She descended to the living room and found the space in shambles. Dorota hadn't cleaned it up yet.
Blair felt a sudden need to get some fresh air and clear her mind. She poured herself a glass of wine and went to the back of the house. It opened into a small balcony looking out into the garden, enough space to relax for the evening.
As she reached the balcony, she saw a shadow of someone through the fluttering curtains and she froze. Her heart beat faster as she saw them lean into the railing. Her first thought was Chuck. She thought of all possibilities and reasons why Chuck would sneak up into the house.
But when she moved closer, she recognised the frame of shoulders, the drab clothing, the sideburns and exhaled.
"What are you still doing here?" She asked stepping into the balcony.
Dan spun around in response and looked at her with confused eyes.
"Uh I got bored in the living room."
"Nothing. Are you done? Where's Jenny?"
Blair shook her head. "What are you talking about? She left."
"What?" He froze and an irritated frown appeared on his forehead. "Unbelievable."
He took his phone out and cursed when he saw Jenny's missed calls. He looked up at her with a sheepish expression.
"It was on silent." He explained.
Blair rolled her eyes.
"It's almost eight. Will you have dinner?"
They both looked startled by that suggestion. Dan looked like he wanted to say something but shook his head.
"No. I'm good." He said and Blair couldn't deny the tinge of disappointment she felt.
"Although" Dan continued pointing towards her wine glass "I wouldn't mind a glass of what you're having"
"Oh! Just a minute."
Blair came back with a second glass of wine and they settled to sipping the wine and staring out into the night sky. There was so many things unsaid between them, but it pleased Blair that they were capable of enjoying this moment without letting anything interfere.
"How's Henry doing?" Dan asked.
Blair shot him an amused glance "I think you'd know that better than me. Eleanor said that he's been talking to his new friend 'Mr. Humpty' regularly in the past few weeks"
Dan laughed "Yeah he does call me that." Once his chuckle died down he looked at her with somber eyes "I wanted to make sure he was okay. I didn't mean to intrude."
Blair couldn't quite find the words to respond. She had been disgruntled when she'd found out that Dan had called his son up first through Dorota and then through Eleanor. Why didn't he come to her? Over the weeks when she'd seen Henry actually enjoy talking to 'Mr. Humpty' she was unsure how to react. Dan had promised her he would help and despite their differences, he'd apparently stuck to that promise.
"You're not intruding, but I wish you'd called me." She said and immediately regretted the emotion in that statement. "I mean I'm sick worried about him and here you are being his Dear Abby. You could have helped me understand what he's going through."
She hated the tremor in her voice, and took a sip of the wine to calm herself down. Dan set the glass on the railing and turned towards her.
"I'm sorry." He said softly. "I didn't think. Actually I didn't plan. Dorota called me saying he wants to talk to me and it somehow became a daily routine."
"He reached out to you?" Blair asked shocked.
"Wow okay. I.. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually happy that he's talking to you." She sighed. "Thank you Humphrey."
"I really haven't done much."
"Trust me you have. At least you didn't treat him like some task you could procrastinate."
They both stood in a silence of accomplice. Knowing it was Henry who had reached out to Dan caused her pain. Her son was reaching out to a stranger rather than his own parents. Chuck was busy fighting divorce battle and seducing his partner's wives and she'd been busy catching Gossip Girl? She suddenly felt like the worst parent.
She felt a cool draft of air before a warmth enveloped her left hand. Dan squeezed ger hand and waiting until she turned towards his reassuring gaze.
"He's better than you think he is."
"How do you know?"
Dan shook his head "Trust me."
Blair wretched her hands out of his grasp.
"How can I help him when he tells nothing to me!"
"You're already doing it Blair. He knows you're there for him. He's a bright boy, he's your boy. Trust him, if not me. I... I don't want to say anything and breach his trust, but maybe I can convince him to confide in you."
"You'll do that?" she asked hopefully.
"Of course." he said and smiled.
Blair didn't know what she would have done if he hadn't smiled. It was that smile that broke something in her.
It was the smile of reassurance. The one you give to neighbors, colleagues, uninvited guests and unwanted acquaintances. She hated the sight of it.
"Don't do that." She snapped.
"Don't do what?" Dan asked perplexed.
"I don't know. Smile like you want to end the conversation!"
"What.. I didn't.. What are you saying?"
"It's your smile, you should know what about it irritated me Humphrey."
He stared at her incredulously like he didn't know what she was saying and for the life of her she couldn't understand it either.
She placed her wine glass next to his and clenched her fists.
"Every time you're doing these things... ugh!"
She was frustrated, she really was. He had ignored her for weeks, months, spoken to her son without telling her and now he was giving her that wane thoughtless smile?! How dare he!
"Blair I have no clue what you're talking about... "
"Don't you?" She snapped.
Something flashed in his eyes and his expressed transitioned from confusion to anger.
"If it's a punching bag you're looking at I'm out of practice. And frankly, I should be leaving home." He said with calm dismissal.
"What does that mean?" She demanded.
"Blair... " He clutched his hair and looked away.
Her throat closed and she felt like all the words at her disposal turned to sounds of hurt. Blair didn't know what was affecting her, but it seemed like everything that had happened in her in the past few months were flashing in front of her eyes and somehow, without her willing it, without her wanting it, Dan was at the center of it all.
"You know what you're doing." She said in an accusatory tone.
Dan looked like he wanted to shake her and that caused her anger to sore.
"Don't stand there looking like you're the innocent one!" She yelled.
"What the fuck are you talking about Blair?" He yelled in return.
She swallowed and she was suddenly terrified that a tear might escape from her eyes. How do she put this in words? How should she tell him that his ignorance had hurt her, his nonchalance attitude towards her had burnt her. What right did she have?
She started at him in utter lack of words and suddenly a fear clutched at her heart that she'll never be able to make him understand what was in her heart. He'd go home today and away from her life in two weeks, and he'd never know how she felt, what she thought, nothing. That fear grew hot and urgent in her heart and she couldn't contain it anymore.
"You're removing me from your life, bit by bit and moment by moment." She said and she didn't even care that her voice croaked towards the end.
Dan, who'd looked like thunder a second ago, froze. His eyes searched hers to attest the reality of what she'd just said. He looked transfixed, staring at her in shock, letting those words sit between them.
"You don't want anything to do with me." She continued boldly but the pain in that one sentence drained her.
Dan took a step back and looked away. Somehow the small gesture gave Blair enormous pain. She clutched her stomach and felt a sudden chill around her.
"What.. " He cleared his throat. "What do you want me to say Blair?"
Blair wanted to punch him. She really did.
"Contrary to what people think, I don't know hypnotism. I can't make you say anything. And don't act the martyr it's disgusting." she said angrily
"Fine!" Dan turned angry eyes to her. "Yes it's true, I don't want you in my life. I am trying and failing to eradicate all sense, memory and mention of you from my life. Are you happy now?" he yelled.
"Ecstatic!" she yelled and walked out of the balcony.
She focused on walking because what she really wanted to do was either push him off the balcony or crumble and cry till tomorrow.
"Don't walk away from me!" he exclaimed as he followed.
She turned on him.
"Then why the hell did you even come tonight?"
"Because this is my mess and I'm helping you clean it!"
"If I'm so despicable that you can't stand me, the least you can do is not be a hypocrite!"
"You're not despicable! I never said that."
They were both breathing hard and looked ready to bite each other's head off.
"If you don't hate me what possible reason could you have to throw me out of life like discarded last season wardrobe?" she asked exasperated
Dan looked like he wanted to punch something. He took a step back and yelled.
"When do you even want to be in my life Blair? Can hear yourself! What you're saying. I don't know what you call us, but we haven't even been friends the past few years!"
Blair felt like someone had slapped her. Everything he said was true on paper, but that couldn't be how he felt. Had she thought this all wrong? Did he just despise her? No hidden feelings and hidden motive?
"I loved you so much." He said in a raw voice with so much pain in his eyes that Blair felt punished for just watching them. "So much. But you chose him Blair. You're always choosing him."
Blair shook her head. No it wasn't right.
"You always run. You always run away from me, whichever way I'm facing, I'm always watching you go away from me!" Dan continued.
Blair had asked for the truth and Dan looked half mad with fury, pain and heartbreak. Mad enough to let the truth spill without censoring anything to protect her feelings.
"I can't... No that's not right." He shook his head almost frantically. "I won't do it. I won't spend my life thinking about what wasn't for me, what clearly doesn't want me. I refuse to live such a life Blair. I couldn't sustain a marriage for barely a year because I was so madly in love with you!"
Blair sucked in a breath. She'd known, deep within where she'd buried all her secrets, she'd known it. But she had denied it to strongly, so resolutely that hearing Dan say these words splintered her heart into shards of regret.
"No.." She whispered. "I.. You.."
"Now you have nothing to say?" he gave a bitter laugh.
Blair suddenly wanted to cover her ears and run from Dan and his words that spoke those truths which she'd falsified by sheer will of denial.
"I won't leave a life pining for you Blair." He said calmly enunciating each word. "I deserve more. I know I do."
When she dared look up to his eyes, it was hard. A cold sheen locking all emotion in and her out.
"I'll help you with this scheme, stand by you one last time and then I'll remove everything that reminds me, everything that draws me to you, everything that even references you from my life. I'll be gone." He said softly.
She barely registered the ominous threat, before he brushed past and walked out.
She heard the door slam and the sudden quiet in the house was more deafening than Dan's words. She blindly moved and settled down and after a few seconds she realised she was sitting on the floor. She was being haunted, haunted by every word he'd uttered with the most sincere emotions any man had worn in front of her.
Blair couldn't breath, couldn't think. She felt her tears dampen her cheeks and she barely felt them. She was stuck in the moment when Dan was recounting all the reasons why he wanted her out of his life and how she'd realised she couldn't bear it if he succeeded.
Dan walked into the loft feeling murderous. He wanted to kick, scream and tear. He wanted to do something violent, permanent and regrettable.
Along with the anger, there was a sense of relief.
Over the years he'd wanted to say so much to Blair, so much to shout, accuse, yell. What he'd said today wasn't even a small portion of it, but he felt satisfied. He'd been honest and that had felt good.
He stood at the entrance unable to decide what to do next. He felt full of energy and new zest for living his life to the fullest without being a lost lover for a woman so far out of his reach even space expeditions couldn't help him.
"Dan?" Someone called out.
He looked up to find Jenny standing at the end of the living room peering at him confused.
"Where did you go? I thought I told you to wait."
He moved to the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. He poured some to a nearest coffee cup be could find and downed it in one go. He came up coughing but the burn of the whiskey made him feel better.
"I was still there. You left me behind" He said pouring another refill.
"Okay... " Jenny said slowly "What happened?"
"What do you think happened? Blair Waldorf happened." He said flatly and downed the liquor.
Jenny looked between him and the bottle and sighed.
"You two need to sort your shit out." She said rubbing her forehead. "I don't get how two very intelligence and ambitious people could be so damn stupid!"
"Oh I think it's pretty much sorted out today." He said going to fill another time.
Jenny snatched the bottle away.
"Pace it, dear god. What did she do? Say she never wants to see your face again?"
He laughed bitterly. "I think I'm the one who said something along those line."
"What? Why would you do that?"
"Because I'm tired?!" He took a calming breath. "I can't repeat the same conversation again. I need to go to bed."
"You're such a fool. Why would you do this? This was the chance you'd been waiting for. You've not fooled anyone Dan! It's pretty evident you still love her. Now that you can finally do something about it, why are you hell bent on ruining it all over again?"
Dan shook his head "I feel like I'll have a splintering headache. And I can't make sense of anything you're saying, so I'm gonna go." He said exhausted and turned towards his room.
"I cannot believe this! Why are you acting this... " Jenny stooped abruptly.
Dan turned around to see what had stopped her mid track. She was staring at him with a shocked expression and was she holding her breath?
"Please tell me you know." she whispered.
"Know what?" He asked.
"Dan, Blair is getting divorced."