the Upper East Side after an extended European trip. One
of our top eligible bachelors, we can't help but wonder
what sort of adventures he found on his travels -- and who
he'll find now that he's home again! We're glad to have
you back, Mister Baizen...
Jenny can hear Serena laughing in the front room. She shakes out the half-finished skirt, a pin in her mouth.
"-- and I said, I'm sorry, Blair, but he's still in Kansas and can't come. She's been trying for ages and he still hasn't come."
"That must be really disappointing for her," Dan says. "I mean, he created her hero and all."
"Oh, she'll get him to come some day, if through sheer force of will alone. She's like that."
"So why are you having this party again?" he asks.
Serena's voice drops, just enough to make Jenny's ears perk up. "Well, it's because Blair needs it."
"Why does she need it?"
And now Jenny is standing just behind the doorway, the skirt still in her hands.
"Blair's... Blair's made some mistakes, let's just say. Her head and her heart are in bad shape right now, and this will help her out."
"Head and heart mistakes? Isn't she pretty much engaged to that Archibald guy that Jenny works for?"
"I don't know where they stand, to be honest," Serena says, "but it's not good. Anyway, it's at the Palace--"
"The Palace, not the Empire?"
"Let's just say Blair's mistakes involve the Empire, and we'll just leave it there," Serena says.
"What, do they involve Bass?"
"You didn't hear anything from me," Serena says quickly.
"Interesting, interesting," Dan says.
"Anyway, I've invited an old friend of ours -- he just got back from Europe -- and I'm hoping he can get Blair's mind off of her troubles."
"You're a good friend," Dan says, leaning in to kiss her.
"Oh, I hope so," Serena says. "I've been a pretty poor friend in the past, so I have to do my best to make up for it now."
"You're doing a swell job," he says. "Honestly."
Jenny ducks back into her bedroom.
Nate looks up as Jenny knocks on the door jamb to his office. "Yes, Jenny?"
"I have the letter you wanted me to type for you," she says, holding it in front of her.
"Great, hand it here," he says, holding out his hand for it. She brings it to him, lingering in front of his desk.
"You look really nice today," he says. "New skirt or something?"
"Yes," she says, and she does a little twirl for him, showing it off. "I made it myself," she says.
"You're pretty talented," he says as he looks back at his desk, as if to dismiss her.
"Are you going to Miss Waldorf's party at the Palace, Mister Archibald?" Jenny asks, her voice innocent.
Nate looks up at her again, his face confused and concerned at the same time. "I haven't really decided yet," he says.
"I just think it's interesting it's at the Palace and not the Empire," she says breezily. "But it's understandable, I suppose."
"Understandable how?" he asks.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm out of place, aren't I," she says, bringing her hand up to her mouth. "I just. I heard that Miss Waldorf and Mister Bass had a falling out recently..."
"That's the first I've heard of it," Nate says. "It wasn't in the Column or anything?"
Jenny shrugs. "But I did read in the Column that Mister Carter Baizen is back from Europe? Do you think he'll be attending?"
"I hate that guy," Nate mutters. Jenny purses her lips.
"But I've said too much," she says, looking down as if she's embarrassed. "I'm sorry for being such a gossip, Mister Archibald. I just think it's all so fascinating and amazing on the Upper East Side, you know?"
"No, no, it's fine, Jenny." Nate leans back in his chair, turning to look out the window, then back at her. "Are you even going to the party?"
Jenny looks up through her tinted lashes. "Oh, no, I wasn't invited; Dan is going with Miss van der Woodsen, but no, I won't be going."
"You can go with me," he says. "Make yourself a pretty dress, something like that skirt, and you can go with me."
Jenny's blush is genuine this time. "Thank you, Mister Archibald."
"Don't worry about it," he mumbles, looking out the window again.
"I really wish you would give Dan a chance," Serena says as they stand by the front door of the Palace's ballroom. "He's just like Paul from Breakfast at Tiffany's, you know, an underappreciated writer--"
"Does that make you his 2E, then?" Blair teases.
"Oh, stop it," Serena says, embarrassed. "Besides, if we're doing comparisons, I think your Jose is just about to walk in."
Serena introduces him as he enters the ballroom, with perfect timing. "Blair Waldorf, you remember Carter Baizen? Carter, Blair Waldorf."
"Ah, yes, hello. Charmed," he says, taking Blair's hand and bowing to kiss the back of it. His hair is dark, his voice softly European accented. His suit is expensive and well-tailored, and his eyes are mirthful. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Waldorf, and, of course, to see you again, Miss van der Woodsen."
"It's nice to see you too, Carter," Serena says, a little warily.
"Why, I don't think I've seen you since Luxembourg in the fall -- has it really been that long?"
"Probably," she says, and Blair gives her a furtive glance.
"You know, I don't think I'll ever be able to forget those evenings in Paris--"
"Carter, why don't you and Blair go have something to drink? She's been so busy being a proper hostess, she hasn't even had a glass of champagne yet," Serena interrupts.
"Of course," Carter says, offering Blair his arm. She takes it, her eyes still on Serena, who gives her a nervous smile and a quick "off you go" hand movement.
Jenny ducks her head as Nate helps her with her coat at the Palace coat check; she can't bear to meet Vanessa's eyes. Of course, she thinks to herself, of course, the party is at the Palace, where Vanessa works, of course she'd run into her...
Vanessa doesn't frown, doesn't shake her head, doesn't show any sign of disapproval as she takes the coat from Nate and holds out the claim ticket. "Thank you, sir. Here's your claim ticket, miss."
Jenny does look up then, with grateful eyes at not being recognized. Vanessa's smile is a little colder than normal, her lips pulled back from her teeth as she says, "Have a nice night."
"Here's your ticket," Nate says, holding it out to her.
"Oh, do you mind holding onto it? I don't have anywhere to put it, I don't think, unless I put it in my bag? Do you mind?"
"That's fine, I'll hold it," he says. The elevator clerk holds the elevator for them as they step in. They soar up to the penthouse in silence, Jenny quiet and nervous, Nate unreadable.
"Thank you," she finally says before they reach the top floor.
"For what?" he asks.
"For everything," she says. "For bringing me here, for all of the opportunities, everything. Thank you," she says, and the doors open.
Blair has her long cigarette holder out while Carter is off getting her a drink, and she blows smoke right into Chuck's face as he approaches her.
"What do you think you're doing?" he says.
"I'm not doing anything," she drawls, grey wisps spooling out of her red mouth. "I'm enjoying myself at my own party is what I'm doing, Bass."
"With Baizen? Please. If you think I have a bad reputation, he's even worse. Nate hates him and with plenty of reason. If Nate sees you with Baizen--"
"Carter does have the advantage of not being you," she says, her eyes directly on his.
"That's very nice of you, Waldorf," Chuck says through his teeth. "Really very nice."
She gives him a weary smile and a shrug of her pretty bare shoulders. "I've come to the conclusion that I just don't care any more about anyone. Not Nate, not you, no one. All it does is get me hurt, so why even bother any more?"
"This isn't who you are, Blair."
He can see the lights of the city reflected in the rhinestones of her hair clips, in the darkness of her eyes. "This is New York City, Bass. I can be whoever I want to be."
He catches her bangled wrist as she turns to go, and she turns back to him, her eyes narrowed. She blows a last petulant puff of smoke in his direction.
"You can't be whoever you want to be, because you're always going to be Blair Waldorf. Holly is always Lula Mae. You're always Blair Waldorf, no matter where you are."
"And you're always Chuck Bass," she says. She pulls her wrist away. "Try and change that," she says.
"Why would I?" he says to her disappearing back.
Serena is still scanning the room, her eyes flickering over the guests, watching for Blair, for Nate, for Chuck. All of the moving pieces and all in one room.
A glimpse of dark brown hair -- not Blair's, but soft and loose and long, like they haven't worn it since high school -- turns her head, but she shakes it away.
It can't be.
She raises her champagne glass to her lips, and before it's empty, Carter Baizen is at her side.
"Can I get you another glass of champagne?" he asks.
"No, thank you, Carter," she says.
"If there's anything you need--"
"Are you having a nice time with Blair?" Serena asks.
"She's lovely," he says, looking back over his shoulder before turning back to Serena. "But I just can't keep thinking about Luxembourg... Paris... Majorca..."
"Stop it," she mutters around the lip of her glass.
"I'm just reminiscing," he says. "We had some good times together, the two of us."
"You're going to make a scene," she says.
"As I recall, we lived to make a scene," he says. "It wasn't even a year ago -- has so much really changed?"
"It really has," she says. "And I've changed too."
He puts his hand on the small of her back. "I'll believe it when I see it."
"Is there a problem here?" And of course Dan Humphrey is right there to see it.
"Not at all," Carter replies. "Just talking with a friend over some old shared history. We go back, Serena and I."
"You don't get to call her Serena, all right, you call her Miss van der Woodsen," Dan says. "Now back off, pal, because I don't like where your hand is."
"Is this your beau, Serena?" Carter asks.
"Just go, Carter," she says.
"I'm warning you," Dan says.
"Or what?" Carter says, and then hits the floor as Dan's fist connects with his jaw, and Serena shrieks, piercing the hubbub of the party before turning it into an uproar.
Somehow in the midst of the commotion, Blair is in the thick of it, hissing, "Get him out, get them out, get them both out of here, Serena," and someone -- the bartender, maybe -- is grabbing Carter and throwing Serena's little jacket at her as they push her out the door, Dan not far behind.
They stand there alone in the now-quiet hallway.
After removing herself from the negotiations with the bartender, Blair is trying to flick her lighter open and having trouble with it until Nate does it for her.
"You've always had trouble with this lighter, Blair; maybe you should get a new one."
She sighs and looks up at him as he lights her cigarette for her. "I like this one," she says mournfully.
"I know, I know."
"Are you really here with that dreadful Jenny Humphrey?" she asks, sitting on the arm of a plush chair.
"She's not awful, Blair. Just because she's not from the East Side doesn't mean she's a bad person."
"Nate," Blair says, looking off in the distance at the glowing tip of her cigarette instead of at him, "how long have you known me?"
"A long time," he says.
"Since we were kids," she says.
"Since we were kids," he agrees.
"You've been my boyfriend for ten years, officially. We were fourteen when we first started going steady."
"Where are you going with this, Blair?" he asks quietly.
She exhales. "So then you know, after all of this time, that I'm a great judge of character."
"Well, you do spend a lot of time with Chuck Bass, so I wouldn't say you're that great," he says, teasingly, and her smile is only a little pained at that.
But then she turns up and looks at him with her brown eyes, no tricks, no games, just honesty.
"So when I tell you that Jenny Humphrey is not a nice girl, Nate Archibald, I want you to know that she's not a nice girl."
Dan and Serena ride down the elevator with the attendant in silence, Serena quietly putting on her jacket and gloves.
"How do you know that guy?" Dan asks without looking at her.
Serena sighs, almost imperceptibly, out of her nose. "We grew up together. He's a few years older. We all went to school together here."
"Is that all." It's not really a question.
"Is that all. Just schoolmates. Neighbors. Because he was awfully friendly for a former schoolmate."
"Dan, there's nothing--"
"Serena, come on, I'm not a fool," he says. "So don't treat me like one."
"It's ancient history, Dan."
"It didn't look like ancient history to me when he had his hands on you."
"It was one hand, it wasn't any reason for you to make a scene."
The elevator doors are open and they're in the lobby, but they haven't even bothered to step out of it yet.
"I think I had plenty reason to make a scene. I'll make one right here if I want to. How do you think it made me feel, seeing some sleazeball phony put his hands all over my girl like he'd done it a thousand times before already-- and he probably did, didn't he."
"Didn't he?" He pulls her out of the elevator by the arm and into the lobby, her stumbling on her heels.
She says nothing, but her eyes are close to brimming over with tears.
At the coat check, Vanessa stands up but doesn't call out.
"I can't even bear to look at you, Serena," Dan says. "Call yourself a damn cab, or get your friend Mr. Baizen to give you a lift home. Or who knows, maybe you can spend the night at his place instead. You'd like that, wouldn't you? Yeah, I bet you would."
He pushes out of the lobby doors and is gone, and Serena spills over.
Jenny is standing by the piano player, watching him play, when Nate comes to stand beside her. "You doing all right there, Jenny?"
"Oh, yes, Mister Archibald," she says, and her cheeks are pink with champagne. "I'm really having a lovely time, thank you."
"Glad to hear it," he says.
He watches her face, her pretty blue eyes smiling and then tracking over his shoulder, seeing something he doesn't see until he turns to look.
Chuck and Blair, alone out on the balcony, both leaning and looking out at the city, Blair still wielding her damn Golightly holder and blowing smoke rings around the stars while Chuck sips a highball of bourbon.
"Those two make a handsome couple, don't you think?" Jenny asks quietly.
"Chuck and Blair?" he says. "They're just friends."
"Mmm," Jenny says noncommittally, her eyes still watching them. "Do you really think so, Mister Archibald?"
Nate puts his hand on her elbow, leading her away from the piano and closer to the balcony. "Jenny, is there something you know that I need to know?"
She looks away, then looks up at him again, almost coquetteish. "I think that might be something you need to ask Mister Bass and Miss Waldorf, Mister Archibald. It seems to me that whatever it is, it's between the two of them."
He pulls away from her and walks briskly to the balcony, where Blair straightens up at his approach.
"Nathaniel," Chuck says, turning to lean against the railing. "Lovely night. Shame about the Baizen riff-raff."
"There's already been one ugly scene here tonight," Nate says, "and I don't want to make another, so now's the time to come clean."
"What are you talking about, Nate," Blair says, but her face is losing color fast.
"You two," he says, jabbing a finger at Blair and then Chuck. "What is going on here, and I want you to be honest and clear, because I'm not an idiot, all right. So tell me now."
Blair turns away, about to head back into the party, but Nate holds out his arm to stop her from leaving the balcony. "Don't run away from this, Blair. You know I need to know this."
"I guess it was a matter of time before you found out," Chuck says, pulling out his cigarette case.
"Before I found out what?" Nate says, his fists clenching.
Chuck sighs as he lights up. "The last night Blair was at the Empire--"
Nate grasps his lapels. "I don't even want to hear the end of this, do I."
"I think you can draw your own conclusions about that night, Nathaniel, and they wouldn't be wrong," Chuck says through his cigarette-clenched teeth.
"Nate--" Blair cries.
"Tell me why I shouldn't just drop you off this balcony," Nate says, leaning over Chuck, pressing him back against the railing, his voice hoarse. "Tell me why I shouldn't just let you go and watch you fall for betraying me like this."
Chuck exhales, slowly, thinly. "I'm sorry," he says, and it's genuine. "I'm sorry."
Nate backs away, releasing his lapels, shrinking away and back into the party.
Blair catches the cuff of his sleeve, and he pulls away from her.
"I'm done, Blair," he says, quietly enough that no one else can hear him through the din of the party. "I'm done with everything. I'm done with Chuck, and I'm done with you."
"You know I didn't give up on you after the Shepherd wedding," she says to his shoulder, and he stops to look back at her.
She's shaking, her hair askew, her eye make-up starting to bleed slightly onto her cheekbones. "I know what you did. I know what you and Serena did, and I pretended that it would be okay, that I could keep that secret, that I could keep waiting for you, because I knew that you loved me, that you were going to marry me and be my husband, and that we could move past everything that you did because everything would be okay."
"Blair, how did you--"
"Does it really matter how I found out, Nate? The important thing is that you did it, and you hid it from me, and I was willing to keep it hidden too, but you just kept pretending like nothing happened, like nothing mattered."
"Blair, I shouldn't have--"
"No, you shouldn't have. And to be fair, I shouldn't have, either. But now we're even," she raises her head to look him straight in the eye, "and we can either put our faces on and go to how we were, or this is it, and we go forward."
Nate breathes deep, looks around at the party still going around them, looks back at the trembling girl in front of him. "I can't go back," he says finally, "and neither can you."
Blair doesn't watch him leave, but turns away to crumple slowly into an armchair, as if her legs had completely given out from under her once he had walked away.
"Are you all right?" Chuck asks from behind her chair, and she covers her eyes with her hands, as if not being able to see him hides her from his vision as well.
"Please, Chuck, please, please leave me alone," she whispers.
Nate heads down to the lobby without Jenny, but he still has her coat claim ticket in his pocket. He sighs, placing it down on the counter.
"I'd like to claim this coat, please," he says, and Vanessa comes to take the claim ticket.
"Where's the young lady, sir?" she asks quietly, carefully.
"Upstairs still, probably, but I just wanted to make sure I gave this back so she could get her coat."
The elevator opens and Jenny dashes out, heels clacking on the lobby floor. "Mister Archibald!"
"There she is," Nate says.
She catches her breath, her hand on her chest. "I'm so sorry, Mister Archibald, I didn't mean--"
"It's fine, Jenny," he says. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"But I feel just awful," she says, looking up at him with her big blue eyes wide.
"No, really, it's fine. It's good to get things cleared up, I suppose."
"Here's your coat, miss," Vanessa says, holding out the coat to Jenny.
"Well, good, glad you got that taken care of. Miss, you can call her a cab, right?"
"Of course, sir," Vanessa says, and her face and voice tell Jenny to stay behind.
"I'll see you Monday, Jenny," Nate says as he turns to the door.
"Have a good night, Mister Archibald," she says as she watches him go.
"What do you think you're doing?" Vanessa says as soon as the doorman shuts the door after Nate.
"He's my boss," Jenny says, her tone defensive.
"Most girls' bosses don't take them to fancy parties on the Upper East Side, Jenny. I warned Dan about getting mixed up in this; you should have seen him down here with that girlfriend of his." She shakes her head.
"He punched someone," Jenny says.
"It was ugly," Vanessa says with a sigh. "But seriously, Jenny, this isn't the place for you or Dan; it just isn't. You're good people, and you don't belong here with people like them."
Jenny picks up her coat off of the counter. "But that's the thing I've learned, Vanessa -- I'm not going to let anyone tell me where my place is any more. Not even you."
for Miss Blair Waldorf's party at the Palace? If you weren't,
did you ever miss out! And considering how little we've
seen or heard from Miss Waldorf or Miss van der Woodsen
since that evening, I wouldn't be surprised if it was the last one
they'll ever hold...! And with Bass and Archibald on the splits too,
it looks like the Old Guard is falling apart right before our eyes!
What will we do without our shining stars? It was bad
enough when we had to go without Miss van der Woodsen,
but losing all four of them is just too much to bear!
Blair has returned to her Upper East Side apartment, but she won't leave it. Not to eat, not to shop, not even to go to the movies, and so Serena visits her every day.
"You really don't have to be here, Serena," Blair says, sitting on the edge of her bed in her chemise. "You were here yesterday, and the day before."
"I want to be here," Serena says. "I brought you some flowers, aren't they nice? Dorothea, could you get me a vase, please?"
Blair makes a noncommital noise, turning to look out the window.
"Are you going to climb out on the fire escape again?"
"Maybe," Blair says.
"You might want to put some pants on, then," Serena says, but she's smiling. "Come on, don't you want to go walk around Central Park?"
"No, not at all," Blair says.
"You don't want to go see what's at the Paramount?"
"No," Blair says.
"Not even a drink at Bemelmans?"
"Stop trying to get me out of the apartment, Serena. I don't want to go anywhere. I don't want to see anyone. I just don't want to do anything. Besides, why don't you go do something with your Humphrey?"
Serena sighs and sits next to Blair. "We're not really talking right now after the Palace."
Blair huffs. "You know how I feel about him, Serena. I don't think I need to tell you that again."
"Blair, I don't really want to go into this," Serena says, putting her hand on Blair's bare ankle. "I know you're trying to be comforting--"
"Well, it's true, you really are too good for him. You know it, I know it, he knew it." Blair shrugs. "Besides, it's not like you were going to marry him."
"No," Serena says, "but I really did like him a lot. I do want us to patch it up..."
"It's better just to walk away from that, Serena," Blair says.
"I should be saying the same to you," Serena replies. "Just walk away from it, Blair, instead of hiding from it."
Blair shrugs again. "We'll see."