Rating: R (for themes)
Summary: Leave all your love and longing behind, you can’t carry them with you if you want to survive.
Serena's trying to buy back the woman they stole.
Disclaimer: 'Gossip Girl' belongs to Cecily von Ziegesar, Josh Schwartz, and the CW. No copyright infringement intended.
Warning(s): themes of sex and drugs.
Author/Artist Note(s): Won reader's choice in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs challenge at gossipink. Thank you so much everyone!
I was formatting my bigbang which will be going up in a couple of days and realized I never archived this here, whoops!
The title is from Florence and the Machine's "Dog Days are Over" as is the summary, and that song and Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Y Control" inspired this fic.
Serena’s pretty sure that this is going down in her personal history as the worst night of her life.
She’s coked out and drunk off champagne (and pot, and whatever was in that pill that Georgie slipped her when she stumbled out of the cab crying, only wearing Nate’s white button down—who knew he liked to rip clothes off?) and there’s a dead body and Georgie’s dragging her out of there as Serena’s trying to dial 911 and she slept with her best friend’s boyfriend.
She’s not entirely sure which is the bigger crime.
Waverly is sweet. Quiet. Exactly what she thinks she needs. The grounds are pretty, covered in snow and there’s a horse stable. Serena’s always liked riding, even if there wasn’t always much time for it in between traveling the world with her mom’s never ending stable of boyfriends. The Captain liked it though; whenever she and Eric would end up on Nate’s doorstep, he’d take them all out to the stables in Central Park. She and Nate would race all day, then collapse in a sweaty heap on his bed afterwards.
But this isn’t then, and there’s no Nate to call for a riding partner.
She pushes ignore on her phone and lets the fifteenth call from Nate go to voicemail.
On the limo ride up to Waverly, she thinks about concocting a new identity for herself. A sweet, pretty country (…okay, well, suburban. Suburban NYC.) girl, with two loving stable still-married parents. Of course she’d still have Eric, but maybe he’d be her older brother, someone to watch out for her and warn off guys that hit on her. He’d play soccer maybe, or lacrosse, if they even had that at suburban schools. Or maybe she could be from California, she’s got the hair for it. Then Eric would play water polo, and she’d be a competitive swimmer who surfs on the side.
And she thinks she’s just described Aunt Carol’s kids, her cousins she barely knows.
She could’ve gone there. She probably should’ve gone there. But seeing a functional family with cousins and dogs and an actual house, not just a string of penthouse apartments in hotels while their actual loft apartments are being remodeled, is something Serena is not sure she’s ready for. Because she’ll get there and want the normalcy so bad it hurts, and once again she’ll find herself wishing that Carol is her mother and Shep is her dad who never left.
There’s no Eric in her fantasies, or sometimes there’s a million Erics, so many younger siblings, and there’s always an adorable surfer boy best friend that reminds her of Nate.
There’s no Blair though, she could never picture Blair in California, never see her relaxed. Blair’s not even relaxed in a spa with ten people dedicated solely to making Blair relax. Blair’s not even relaxed on a bottle of wine and two Vicodin, or eating croissants and watching Audrey Hepburn movies (although, Serena thinks, this comes close.)
Chuck… she could see a Chuck type. Probably an older brother, or a friend of one. But instead of bowties he’d wear neon surf shorts and RayBans.
It makes her feel disloyal, wishing. Wishing she had something else other than what she has.
But she doesn’t have any of it anymore, she’s given it all up.
So maybe, just this once, the wishing is okay.
She thinks about it the entire drive, and in the end, just decides not to talk about her past at all. Everything catches up with her eventually.
So Serena just shakes her roommate’s hand, says simply, “I’m Serena,” and then is glad she didn’t say anything fictional when her roommate says, “I know who you are. I read Gossip Girl.”
Serena feels her heart sink into her stomach, and the gnawing anxiety that’s been there since she decided to leave Manhattan is replaced with full-blown nausea.
She smiles her way through their first interaction, unpacks her bags, and tries very hard to think about anything other than throwing up.
There’s a guy in her Spanish class. He’s kind of cute, short though. Bad hair, but Nate’s always had that too. She can look past it. His dad is some movie director or emissary? She’s not sure.
She’s pretty sure she shouldn’t be hanging out with him outside of class though, when he offers her handfuls of pills just to see her smile.
Serena barely smiles at Waverly, she’s supposed to be a different girl here. She wears baggy sweatshirts over her uniform and pretends not to notice when she starts a fad. She doesn’t flirt with her teachers to get better grades. She definitely doesn’t take pills from strangers.
Too bad the señor in the corner didn’t get that memo. He slips them into her backpack when she’s not looking, with a note that says simply “I thought you could use these, xo Damien.”
And what kind of guy writes xo?
She slips soon after she gets there, takes two valium to sleep, then washes them down with a shot of vodka. Her roommate snots, “I thought you didn’t do that anymore,” and Serena shrugs.
“Sometimes I do things I’m not supposed to,” she replies, and doesn’t mention that sometimes used to be every day.
She waits for her period to start, tapping her pen against her notebook, ignoring the rest of the pills Damien got her.
Chuck calls three weeks in. He’s drunk (she’d expect no less) and hangs up after she says hello. He’ll get over it.
Nate calls her pretty much every week, and it’s like a hungry lifeline that she listens to his voicemails pleading with her to call him back. She doesn’t though, not even after her period comes. She can’t.
Blair never calls.
Nate stops calling two months after she gets there, and she realizes that something is wrong.
She calls. She calls him, she calls Chuck, and no one will call her back, no one will let her know.
She doesn’t let her roommate see her cry when she’s taking two valium every night.
Chuck calls after a week of endless voicemails from her, finally.
“What do you want Serena?” he asks, colder than he’s ever been to her before.
“I just… what’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing’s wrong with me. What’s so wrong with you that you have to run away? Oh wait, that’s right, you slept with your best friend’s boyfriend.”
“Chuck, that’s not…”
“Oh, but that is what happened. I saw you. Leave them alone,” he says, and she’s not sure if he’s fierce protector of his best friends, or scared of the mirror image she reflects of him.
“Are they okay? Is Blair...” she trails off, unable to betray her best friend’s biggest secret.
“Blair’s fine. Talking about Paris in the springtime, as usual. Nate’s high. Are we done here? I have some upperclassmen to seduce.”
“Scholarship girls, no doubt.” Serena sighs, brushes a strand of hair off her face. “Don’t tell them I called,” she says, and hangs up. No sense letting him get the last word.
He’s sweet, and dopey, and he’s burned on her retinas. Everywhere she looks, everything she does, Nate’s there. Guilt eats apart her insides and she doesn’t want to sleep.
She parties instead, wins trophies for her absinthe drinking skills, tries not to think about what she’s doing to the baby that may or may not exist.
She screams. She’s all alone in the woods outside of Waverly, hands shoved into mittens into pockets of her thick overcoat, and she screams into the stillness. The trees are covered in snow, and her footprints are the only things that even show that humans even exist.
Serena lets it all out, the loss of Blair, the loss of Nate, her non-existent father, her absentee mother. She misses Eric with a fierce ache, but she doesn’t deserve to be around him. She’ll just teach him her bad habits, and he’s better than that. He needs to be better than her.
Birds flap into the air as she screams—funny, she’d thought they’d all be sunning themselves in Florida like her mother’s probably doing now-- and she watches them fly. She thought she was doing the right thing, leaving everything behind, but now, here, she’s still the same person she was before.
Without Blair as a reassuring moral compass, she’s not sure she likes that person very much.
But Blair can never know the extent to which Serena’s betrayed her. It’s better to stay away, be the fuck-up here, and not cause Blair to have a relapse. Serena wants to save Blair from everything, and this is the only way she knows how.
Hours later, she trudges back to Waverly, flushed from the cold and the sips she’s been taking off the flask of whiskey she brought.
Damien’s there, sitting by the fire. He’s not her type, he’s not even that cute, but he’s into her and that gives her power. Serena’s no stranger to using the effect of her looks to get what she wants, she’s never gone through that awkward stage where she feels ugly or strange. It gives her confidence, lets her get whatever she wants, no matter how self-destructive it ends up being in the end.
Blair is the only one who ever said no in the end.
He lets her copy off his notes for Spanish, even though she’s pretty sure he’s Spanish illiterate. Still, crap notes are better than no notes when explaining to the teacher that you “just don’t get it and could he please look over your notes to make sure you’re doing it right?” A baby sweet breathy voice also does wonders. So does meeting your teacher for study sessions at the bed and breakfast, where he thinks he’s being illicit and engaging in a forbidden flirtation with a student.
She never even kisses him, never kisses any of them, and he’ll get fired if anyone finds out. But men like to pretend she’s a Lolita, such is the allure of her uniform and good looks.
Serena doesn’t know how she learned all this, other than the various girlfriends and mistresses of husbands of Lily past. They were all practically like call girls anyway, and Serena’s learned all about getting her way.
It’s funny, she’s the oldest, she shouldn’t be so used to getting her way, but she is. And she’s never had to work a day in her life for it.
Work is something best left to Blair and her machinations, but Blair isn’t here anymore.
But she tries work for the first month, she tries so hard to be new Serena, to be good Serena, but it isn’t… She can’t, not without Nate.
When he stops calling, it’s like a knife to her heart. It stills every moment of wanting to be better.
Because if she cheated for nothing, if she betrayed Blair for nothing, then why should she be better? Why shouldn’t she destroy her life and everyone else’s in the process?
So she starts drinking again, smokes weed again, pops E in late night courtyard parties, feels like Françoise Hardy with her long hair and fringe.
Serena always thought she was born in the wrong decade.
She watches The Hills in the common room with her roommate. Despite all the rich kids, they’re not allowed to have TVs in their rooms—it disrupts the “learning process.” They stand firm on the rule, even for the famous Hollywood kids (most of the filmmaker’s kids end up in school on the West Coast anyway, they rightfully assume.)
She wishes she were Lauren, but she’s probably Audrina. Or (shudder) Heidi, about to be led astray by some sketchy guy with too-blond hair and too-white teeth.
Not that a sketchy guy would approach the girl who hasn’t had her period in over two months but won’t go to the drugstore and buy the pregnancy test.
Even Heidi had enough sense to do that.
Serena just wants to ostrich with her head in the sand for awhile.
Serena sits on her bed some mornings, her hair tousled and her knees tucked up to her chin. Her roommate’s still asleep or off with some boy (they’re all nameless to Serena, she never wants to get emotionally involved again, it just makes for terrible sex) and Serena’s got her earbuds in, listening to soft tinny indie rock— sensitive boys with guitars and pretty girls with bangs and voices out to there.
She thinks about Nate and how it was the worst sex she’s ever had, but somehow, in the pit of her heart, she knows it was the guilt and his virginity, not a lack of chemistry. Is it selfish of her to want him to have more experience before she even thinks about…
But she’s not, she tells herself fiercely. She’s not thinking about it.
Only she is, and running from her problems isn’t stopping them, not this time.
She spirals further and further out of control with no Blair holding her back, holding her hair when she pukes. She’s on pace to be kicked out here, just repeating her mother’s mistakes— only this time it’s not to go live with her father, it’s because her father isn’t there. Serena’s come to the conclusion since being at Waverly that she never would be this person with William van der Woodsen still in the picture.
She and Chuck are the most broken people she knows, and is it any surprise they’re both missing a parent? She sometimes wishes she could meld their families together, make them whole and undamaged, but she knows it doesn’t work like that. Life isn’t the fairytale that the outside world imagines for her.
Her period comes, blood clotting and heavy and she never knows for sure. She cries in the bathroom after, lets the cramps rack her body until there’s nothing left.
She thinks about it as the seasons change.
Maybe she just hasn’t run far enough. Maybe she needs to run further, put all thoughts of Nate and Georgina and that night even farther from her mind.
A plan starts to hatch in her mind, a crazy cocked up plan that only a fifteen year old could concoct, and only a teenager with more wealth than God could enact—and God knows she’s both of those things. She can do this, she can find him. Ask her dad why he left and what it would’ve been like if he stayed, and then she can reemerge like a phoenix from the ashes, the Serena she was always supposed to be (because she knows she wasn’t supposed to be like this.)
She takes a breath and dials Chuck. “I need your P.I.’s number,” she says quietly, “and I need you to never ask why I need it.”
She buys her plane ticket the next day.