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the milk and honey route

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He watches the slender brush, black bristles showing through the sheer pink polish, swipe over her big toe, over and over, making her bare nail blush. It’s a little like hypnosis, the kind that unlocks a childhood memory, that takes you out of a bathroom in New Haven at nineteen and plants you back on the itchy rug of your sister's bedroom. Dan, always the third wheel at sleepovers, knows how to paint nails. Her wet hair sits on her shoulder in a braid, and he can do that, too. He still has trouble grasping the boy-talk. She let him try both on her – delighted by the story – but he’s a lot worse than he remembers being then, in the rug burn days. His hands shake too much now. 

Blair’s nails are black, but she’s painting her toes a pearly pink, hidden away behind boots as the air is still cold enough to be deemed uncomfortable. He thinks this is an apt metaphor for her. On and under the surface, and all that. Mostly, he doesn’t really think about it, just watches.

She’s wrapped in light pink silk, her face bare and wet with rosewater after the shower. She looks like the little ballerina in her old music box, the one that’s spring is rusted through, that doesn’t twirl anymore. The bottle of polish balances precariously on the sink. If it spills, Dan thinks, the stain will be hard to get out. He knows from experience, the itchy rug and all that. Mostly, he just watches.

In his hand, his new razor – some German brand he can’t pronounce, chrome-plated and complete with a brush and sandalwood cream, which is still half smeared on his cheek. He hates the fuss, but it elicits her high and mighty mumbling about how smooth his skin feels when she kisses it, and he loves her, so.

He shuts off the tap, leaning back against the closed door and says, “I told Jen about us last night.”

Blair peers up at him from where she’s perched on the closed toilet.

“What’d she say?”

“Well, when she was done laughing, she said you’d enchanted me with your siren song and you’re waiting to kill me in my sleep.”

He doesn’t tell her about the venom in her voice when she’d repeated his words from over a year ago back at him, said in some belligerently frustrated state. This isn’t who you are. You’re not Blair Waldorf. He doesn’t tell her that it made him wince and hang up the phone.

There was a few week period – in the rug burn days – when Jenny had wanted to be a ballerina. His mother had harped on about the toxic environment, a breeding ground for eating disorders and social anxiety. He thinks his mother should have paid more attention to their surroundings. He thinks, maybe he should have. But mostly.

Blair’s brows raise, the brush pausing mid-air like a wand. His fairy godmother granting him his wishes.

“And you told her?”

He ducks to kiss her forehead, overcome with the urge, almost knocking over the small pink bottle. You spilled it so you have to clean it up! He thinks, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. But mostly.

“That’s exactly what you’re doing and I’m loving every second of it.”

“You’re lucky you’re the one holding a blade.”

After this, Blair would scrunch his hair with curling product, dab cold yellow-tinted cream under his eyes. He’d tell her not to fuss over him and she'd look up with big, glassy eyes like crystal balls and say something nearing too-sentimental, something that damn near brings tears to his eyes, something like: it’s not fussing, it’s caring. I’m taking care of you. He’d pat his face down with aftershave ( Blair, this is a hundred and fifty doll-ars ), and he’d make some stupid joke, something like: New shave, wanna take it for a test drive? with his hands creeping onto the insides of her thighs. She’d make a face and say Cute, deadpan like she doesn’t mean it. It’s a routine. A ritual. 

Today, though, is different, some late onset of sickness hours after the line went dead. Instead, he slides down the door until he hits the steam-warmed tile of the floor, too small to splay his legs out. She looks at him curiously, a stripe of pink catching the skin around her toe. He’s not sure how to exist in this liminal space of boyfriend and brother, of past and present. 

“What are you doing?” Blair says softly. Learning , he thinks.

He holds up the razor. “Too heavy. Need a break.”

Her eyebrow arches, reaching for the bottle of polish to twist the cap back on. 

“Here,” she says, taking the razor with one hand and flexing her fingers at him with the other. “Let me.”

They stay like that, him on the floor and her leaning over him from the toilet seat, a crease in her brow from concentration. She holds his face in her hand, thumb brushing soft over his chin. His fortune teller, showing him his future. 

 

There are others, too. Routines, rituals. The route of her classes is marked in his mind like a treasure map, and she’s always the gold at the end of the trail. They work together – not together, just in the same room – until their eyes dry out and he jokes that the espresso machine is begging them to stop . Then they'll trade. She does a better job at marking his Italian than he does her French. Anything with numbers gets piled in a stack with a grin. Sorry, honey, but I left that in high school. 

Honey , he says, and of course it’s a joke. But there is an echo to it that sounds like his dad, and a shadow reflecting off it that looks like his mom. Somewhere during the point before you find out your parents are people too, when he’d thought they were the epitome of a happy relationship, he’d secretly – the kind of secret you’d only tell your best friend (he tells her) – had been waiting for the day he’d get to call a girl honey

But Blair is not honey. Never has been and probably never will be. And looking at it now, Dan’s glad for that. 

And his favourite routine of them all, because it’s private and domestic and wholly theirs; taking place before even the birds have started to sing, is her waking up in the middle of the night to find him at the coffee table bent over his laptop and trying to coax him back to bed. But sometimes, when she can afford it, she indulges him; four in the morning and basked in the low golden light of the kitchen, his palm reader, kissing along his love line between sips of a hot toddy. 

She’s his ruthless editor, reading back whatever he’s just written, end of term paper or attempt at a short story, so many red lines he’s getting Shapiro flashbacks. The stack of books on her bedside table gains traction as he adds his own, leaning towers overflowing onto the floor – making her room look more and more like his back in Brooklyn. 

 

Dan likes being a student, has treated his mind like a file cabinet ever since the gap-tooth class photo days, in between growth spurts and centering his identity around the gifted kid label, stuck on him like a name tag, a Hello, my name is…

“How do you do it?” she says, hair up and pajamas on, the smell of roses lingering, shuffling through World History flashcards like they’re a playing deck, testing him. She’s asking for the sake of challenging him, he thinks, because she doesn’t need advice. She’s just as good as him – better, really, doesn’t crack under pressure, doesn’t freeze or flee. 

He shrugs. “It’s just paying attention,” his head cocks to the side, grinning. “Like sex.”

“Mind meet gutter,” she says, then, skeptic eyebrows arching up, pretty pink mouth curling slyly. The look alone is enough to make him shift in place, the spark in her eyes lighting fire to his abdomen. “ Studying is like sex? You are…” he leans forward unconsciously, hanging on her every word. “The biggest nerd I have ever met.”

He scoffs, scooting up the bed until he’s pressed next to her, trailing a hand down her sternum. His fingers catch on the first button of her top, and it slips out easy, pale skin like moonlight cutting harsh through the night sky. 

“It’s all…” she lets him unbutton the rest of the shirt, falling open around her, a small constellation of purple-pink bruises scattered on her chest, her ribs. He’d been indulgent last night. “A lesson.” His hand keeps trailing, trailing, trailing, sliding between her legs, feeling her heat through slippery silk, hardly anything, just a hello , really, a my name is… “You just have to pay attention,” back up, up, up, a finger hooking in the thin scrap of lace on her breast and tugging it down. “Concentrate and catalogue…” he lowers his head, stops short with a smile when her chest lifts to meet his mouth. “The key points.” His teeth scrape rough over the stiff peak of her nipple, tongue coming out to soothe the spot, her chest vibrating with a kitten-like purr. 

He rolls onto his back, grabbing at the flashcards. “Or something like that.”

The cards meet the stacks of books on the floor, not a full collision but more of a flutter, a hello , a my name is… 

 

 

Their slightly impromptu trip back to the city coincides with a stuffy cocktail party that Dan secretly – the kind of secret you tell no one, that you hardly tell yourself – is excited to go to, wondering if being with Blair will turn him into the missing puzzle piece, the one you cheer for when you find and stick in its rightful place. 

Regal and glittering, back amongst her subjects, the corset of her dress tied so tight he’s a little worried she can’t breathe; every kiss in the cab and the lobby and the elevator (he can’t stop, mouth a magnet, especially when she looks this good) like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Her hands smack his away any time he reaches to run through his hair, tug at his tie. He feels spoiled, suspecting that this is less about taking care of him and more about raising him to her level of pampering.

And then, the elevator doors part like the seas. 

During the rug burn days, Jenny had a book of paper dolls, girls cut out of cardstock with folding tab clothing, made to look however you wanted. The back of Blair’s dress is cut low, exposing bare skin, and she shivers when he presses a sweaty palm to it. He looks at her and there she is, a drawn on smile turned away from him, like a cold-blooded animal camouflaging herself to fit the scene. A survival instinct. Anyone from high school is promptly avoided, anyone who looks like they went to high school two decades ago is engaged in a conversation he tunes out of after he hears the way he’s introduced: this is Dan Humphrey, yes, yes - that Humphrey.

She glows, but not the bare-faced, spring-garden glow. Something like stage lights from within, rosy from plastic compact blush and cocktail inebriation. He thinks, maybe those are things that are meant to be hidden from the looming, hypnotic enchanted forest of this gilded world. He thinks, somehow, even with his hand on the small of her back, she feels out of reach.

Halfway through the night he loses her to Serena, pulled aside into some private room for a private conversation that he already knows the beats to, because Blair had one-sided rehearsed it the whole way here. Nate claps a hand on his shoulder and it stays there, warm through his suit jacket, and he wonders, not for the first time in his life, what it would have been like to have had a brother instead. To have one less girl to be the constant to.

 

The penthouse is empty when they get back to it, all the lights off, casting it in an eternal grey, all cold stone and ghosts of neglectful childhood. Every kiss in the car back had made his heart feel like the old mannequin in Jenny’s room, stuffed full of pins. Blair heads to the bathroom first and he follows her. The walls are pink. He closes the door behind him, although he’s not sure why – force of habit, maybe, the doors in New Haven always closed lest a roommate walk in.

“You look handsome,” Blair says, blotting away her red lipstick, a pantomime wiping her face off after the act is over. “Did I tell you that already?”

He leans back against the closed door, hands in his pockets, and shakes his head once. 

“Well, you do. I did a good job. Although I wish you wouldn’t play with your tie so much, it makes you -“

“Observant for someone who hardly looked at me all night,” he cuts in before he can stop himself. She pauses, looks at him curiously in the reflection of the mirror. 

“Is this it? You seize up every time I touch you in front of someone here? Because if it is, I don’t see the point in coming back for spring break.”

His hands take over, the tie coming undone and dropping to the floor. It strikes him too late that he doesn’t want to have this conversation – whatever it is – not right this moment at least, tired and new shoes burning blisters into his heels and wishing he’d just laid down face-first on the bed as soon as they got in. Or laid her down face-first on the bed as soon they got in. 

“I’m your boyfriend. It makes me feel pretty shitty about myself when you act like you don’t want to be seen with me.”

She blinks at him, stock-still. Then: “I love you.”

“I know.”

“Do you, though?” she says, her tone indicating the edge of a fight. Blair doesn’t flee, wouldn’t know how to if she tried. “Because what you’re saying sounds like you’re not certain.”

His fortune teller, palm reader, sees right through him. There is a Dan, somewhere wafting through the not-so-distant past, who would open the door and leave. Survival instinct. He racks his brain for the right words and comes up with a blank document, like the recurring dream he has where his typewriter is missing keys but he can’t figure out which ones. This is so fucking stupid , Dan thinks, because the only thing he’s really good at is finding the right words and fitting them together. Puzzle pieces. But now, in this bathroom with pink walls, he can’t even do that right.

“I’m just being careful,” she sighs, turning to face him head on. “I’m -“ she cracks her knuckles, the sound making him wince in the otherwise silent room. “I was afraid that being back here would make all of this completely fall apart. I’ve paraded my relationships around at every event on this side of the city and it has never, ever ended well. What we have is so different, and I was scared that -“

“Blair,” he says, because she’s running out of breath fast with the corset still knotted around her ribs. It hits him then: he had been so wrapped up in Blair trying to be everything but herself, he hadn’t left enough space to realize he was doing the same thing. 

“I had this feeling all night,” she says, slow.  “Like, I want to go home .”

He closes the space between them, setting his hands on her hips, and then, belated: “I love you too.”

 

Breakfast the next morning is something of a tightrope walk, high-strung silent grievances passed across the table like a cup of salt, a bottle of syrup. It’s a cut and paste copy of Thanksgiving, although there’s more than just one set of eyes on them now. This patchwork blanket of a family working to break each other in. But there is one brief moment where he forgets where he is: Blair’s thumb coming up to wipe powdered sugar off his top lip, then kissing him, quick and unthinking. The kind of kiss that takes him out of a too crowded table in Manhattan and plants him back in bed with her, where he’ll be tonight. A routine kiss. 

 

 

It’s late on a Thursday when he comes home from his Poetry and Protest lecture (predictable) to find the bedroom rearranged, his designated dresser drawer emptied out and organized by colour in the closet, a small wooden table with a stool in the corner of the room opposite the vanity, just big enough for one person.

“Spring cleaning,” Blair announces, leaning against the doorframe, but he only half hears her. 

The photo of her and Serena – fresh faced freshman in plaid skirts and kneesocks and blinding light smiles – which had been turned over on the nightstand, placed face-down months ago, has a new home on her dresser next to her music box. In its old place, in an identical white frame, a photo from one of the only parties they’ve gone to, taken on some shitty disposable, the orange tint of a lit cigarette smudging a flare of light on the shadowy person next to them. Him, in a faded Velvet Underground t-shirt, and her, in a red dress that looks pink on film. He’s kissing the corner of her mouth, beer bottle pressed up on her spine, her small hands creeping under the hem of his shirt. He still feels them, hot palms on his sweat-slicked skin, like handprints on a foggy window. 

And then they’re there again, riding up his shirt, snaking around his waist. “Do you like it?” she says, and he twists in her hold to press a kiss to her forehead.

“Where’s Dorota hiding?” he mumbles, and she works quick, pinching at his skin and making him jump a little in her arms.

“I just wanted to make it feel more like home,” she says. “For both of us.”

 


 

A veil lifts slowly from behind Blair’s eyes, pulling her out of her dream and back into the warmth surrounding her. The distant clink of cutlery, the white noise run of the tap, the smell of pancakes, anchoring her back to reality. She shifts to gently roll out of his embrace, but his arm tucks itself tighter around her, pulling her closer, the deadweight of sleep blocking her in. She’s sore, an ache deep through her core as she shifts back to her original position, pressed up against his side. The strain of the dull ache takes her back to the night before, making her flush just at the thought: his hand in hers above her head, pinning her to the bed as he drilled into her so hard she almost still feels him inside her, swallowing her whimpers and feeding them back to her in whispers.

She presses a kiss to the side of his chest, the most easily accessible place, a silent hello, good morning, I love you. There is something indulgently languid in a love without a timer, without the fear that she has to prove herself before it’s too late. A love that doesn’t hang off the side of a building, a love that makes a sweet dream pale in comparison to what she’ll wake up to. 

 

Blair remembers when her feet couldn’t reach the floor, swinging off the edge of the couch or a chair, watching her mother pace around the living room and the atelier alike. The way Eleanor spoke to her employees, to the men and women with tape measures and dress pins, to the models whose spines stuck up straight and rigid, thin skin pulled taut over ribs. Back when her feet couldn’t reach the floor, dressed in a handmade nightgown, asking for a bedtime story. She realizes, now, after telling him all this, that even in the almost empty penthouse, under just the glow of a nightlight, Eleanor still spoke to her the same way. 

Eleanor got too busy, too tired at night to read her stories, replacing them instead with old films to make Blair fall asleep. They’d had the opposite effect, of course, Blair staying up all night to watch sweet-speaking, kind-hearted Audrey fall in love with various charming, handsome men. But her mother’s demands always rang louder than the film scores, and once Blair’s feet could reach the floor, she knew: to be in charge was to be cruel, and Blair had to be in charge, so Blair had to be cruel. 

But when her fingers catch on the cool vinyl of her headbands in the bottom of her drawer, like a rusted helmet, remnants of shed armour, of shed snakeskin, she wonders if she’d been instilled with unkindness since birth. If, like loneliness, cruelty was embedded in her tissue, passed down like her last name. 

Although maybe it wasn’t all about circumstance, about claiming a crown as your birthright. Girls who were allowed to have knobby knees and sugar-coated breakfasts, who play-fought their brothers and always got a goodnight kiss from their fathers, those girls, raised to be sweet-speaking and kind-hearted and not only when it benefited them, those girls could be cruel, too. 

His phone tossed on the bed between them, looking at her stern and strain-jawed from across the room. She knew without having to hear the other end of the call that he was trying to be the big brother, the buffer, from eighty miles away. Knew from the way he pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, knew from the first time she was at odds with his sister, that she could draw blood too. It’s not that she wanted to take Jenny’s side, but something like pride simmered in her stomach. The title needed to be defended. It wasn’t something Dan would ever understand; that sometimes being hated made you feel stronger than being loved.

This isn’t who she is. She’s not -

Dan is not unkind but he knows how to be, and that is what she loves about him. He always stops short of slamming the door. 

When he crossed the room, her fists curling in his sweater as he buried his face against her shoulder, there wasn’t a moment she thought of pushing him away. 

Her room is littered with the evidence of her father’s guilt; in porcelain music boxes and old sweaters and diamond necklaces, materials to patch up the space he left behind. Now that the remnants of Chuck’s love have been cleared away, she’s found that it materialized in the same way, objects to fill in the gaps he couldn’t fill himself. 

Up close, Dan is all tense shoulders and fidgeting hands, his innate need to be the perfect student, the perfect son, the perfect boyfriend, to make up for the fact that he was only him. He recounts his memories to her like they’re bedtime stories. About his first kiss, in the seventh grade, Jenny’s best friend who snuck into his room during a sleepover and proclaimed a crush on him. About how his mom had told Jenny all the best leading ladies came from Brooklyn, and they marathoned her favourite classics to prove her point. About how that had led to Gene Tierney being his first real crush – the first girl he’d had a dirty dream about. About the fight with his dad at thirteen that made him punch a wall – except not a wall, that garage door in the middle of his room – which made him start crying. And he tells them so earnest, eyes so intent, Blair almost feels bad for laughing so hard her stomach aches. 

It’s going to take time to make the little girl scorned inside her grow. The little girl who was always planning a wedding or a funeral, always heading for the altar, to give herself over or give herself up. She’s not there yet, but every time his weight slumps against the other side of a shut door, she marks a new height on the wall. 

 

With his hand flush on her bare hip, the smell of sex and sweat cutting through the lingering scent of her soap – almond and amber, handmade bars from the south of France that she tells him to stop wasting! but he never listens – that despite the soreness, her desire accumulates between her thighs, fixates on all the places where his skin meets hers. She doesn’t want to wake him, with his sleep schedule being as unbalanced as it is; but she can’t help herself, loving how completely relaxed he looks, reaching up to trace over his jaw, down his throat, along his collarbones. Mine, she thinks, her palm flush down his chest, his torso, trailing the hair at the bottom of his stomach. Mine. She counts his ribs, presses her fingers into each bar of the cage around his heart. Mine, she thinks, All mine.

“G’morning,” he mumbles against her forehead, and when he shifts she feels him, half-hard against her hip. She giggles, a small, girlish noise that surprises her. She moves up to plant a kiss square on his mouth, his hand sliding up to the back of her head and keeping her in place. His face scrunches up when she pulls away, his eyes still closed.

“Morning breath,” he says. “Gross.”

“So vain,” she teases, slipping up on top of him, his breath hitching as the heat of her sits flush against his growing erection. 

“You’re the one feeling me up in my sleep,” he says, arms wrapping around her waist, eyes opening lazily before shutting again as she leans down to nip at his bottom lip with her teeth. His hands slip down her waist, gripping her ass and pressing her onto him more firmly, nipping back at her when she gasps. 

“Nice way to wake up,” he mumbles against her mouth, hands kneading harder, warranting a more adamant bite in return.

She draws over his flushed lips, earning a kiss to her fingertips before coaxing his mouth open, his warm tongue sliding slick on her fingers. Mine. His hands press firm into her hips, urging her forward, and she goes easily, that feeling of hot wax in her joints, melting between her bones, never leaving as long as she’s waking up next to him, as long as he’s looking at her like the flame that lit the candle. 

Mine, she thinks, as she lowers herself onto his mouth, his fingers burying themselves in her still-sore thighs, her back arching at the first indulgently slow lick of his tongue. All mine. 

 

 

The frost is melting off the windows and Blair sits on the cramped cashiers desk of the bookstore, one leg crossed over the other, doing her Psych reading; a precarious set up, each chime of the bell over the door forcing her to hop off the desk and scramble behind the nearest shelf. 

Or, she was reading, now she’s watching Dan’s teeth worry at his bottom lip, like if she stares at him long enough he’ll unravel before her and she’ll finally know what to get him for his birthday. She doesn’t think anything could compare to what he gave her; the warm touch and tipsy laughter and reading her mind, making her wish come true. She hopes a typewriter and dressing up as Gene Tierney comes close.

He tips his head up to look at the clock, big and shaped like an owl and so fucking ugly Blair would rather just watch the sun. 

“Hungry,” he mumbles, then taps a finger on her shin, curls a hand around her calf. “There’s no one else here. You wanna tie me over?”

“Don’t be crude,” she shoots back, but lets him slide his palm over her knee, up her thigh, picking at her stockings, tugging them away from her skin, tender and staticky from the compression. 

“I like it when you wear these,” he says, smoothing over the fabric he’d just picked at, fingertips brushing the hem of her skirt. “I like taking them off.”

Taking is generous, he’s ripped holes through at least three pairs, seeming to think she has a never-ending supply of them, which she does, but that doesn’t stop her from feigning irritation. 

He sidles up to the edge of his chair, leaning over to rest his cheek on her knee, looking up through dark lashes, the barest crescent of shadow lingering under his eyes. She stops his hand as it starts to venture further, and he turns his palm up, locking their fingers. His sincerity makes her feel big and small all at once. Ever-expanding and shrinking back with a blush.

“I’m busy,” she says, flexing her leg out to kick off his cheek. “I’m reading.”

“You’re not reading,” he tells her. “You’ve been staring at me for ten minutes.”

“I was not staring.”

“Admiring,” he supplies, tugging her hand up to brush his lips over her knuckles. 

“Right here?” she says, skeptically, like she doesn’t believe he’d do it. He wouldn’t, probably. But he likes a challenge. He chose her, after all. “That would get you fired. And possibly arrested.”

“Store room. I’ll flip the sign.”

“You could still lose the job.”

Dan shrugs, a half-hearted lift of the shoulder. “Don’t need it. I plan to marry money.”

“Cute,” Blair says. She’s given in, had given in the moment he touched her, the first tap-tap that she felt all the way to her bones, but put up the semblance of a fight because she loves his persistence. 

Dan perks up, swiveling in his chair to fiddle with the stereo behind him. It’s gravelly, not the best reception, but she recognizes the stream of tinny-sounding instruments faintly. He stands suddenly, wrapping an arm around her waist to sweep her off the desk, setting her down on her feet in front of him.

“What are you doing?” 

The arm around her waist stays there firmly, spreading heat through her stomach, the other clasping her hand.

“Dancing,” he says. “Duh.”

“You can’t dance to this,” she says, but she’s letting him sway her off-beat. “90s alternative rock is more fitted for angsting on the bedroom floor.”

He spins her around, only once and then back again, but she’s dizzy with it.

“Do a lot of angsting, do you?” 

“I was talking about you,” she snips, and then he’s kissing her quiet, and she gets lost in it, almond and amber and Dolores O’Riordan’s croon.

His hand slips down her waist easy, fitting over her ass, nose nudging into the crook of her neck, shamelessly enjoying himself.

“Come on. Atonement? In the library?”

“Not -“ her breath hitches as his grip tightens for a moment before relaxing again, “- fair. You know I can’t say no to that.”

He wets his lips before pressing a kiss to her jaw. “You -“ he says, then another. “In that green dress,” moving down along her extended neck, and before she knows it her back is pressed up against the shelves, the same ones she was ducking behind. His forehead rests on hers, carding her hands through his hair, and there’s no way she’s going to leave here without him touching her, not when the seam of her stockings is already close to soaked through, begging to be ripped. “That’s what I want for my birthday.”

And she’s melting, melting, melting.

 

 

Steam clouds the mirror in the bathroom, bubbles in the water popping away, swirling around her knees. Chamomile fills the room from his cup, lavender from her bath, smelling the way her father’s house does in the summer. 

“I think I’m gonna to take a Women in Literature course next semester,” Dan says, flipping through a catalogue, sitting on a towel on the bathroom floor. He’d been propped on the lid of the toilet, but she’d wanted him closer. 

“We’re already sleeping together, you don’t have to impress me.”

He holds up a finger without looking at her.

“Clara’s starting a wine club, and I know I said she was a dreadful loudmouth but she’s friends with a duchess who’s bringing bottles from her family’s collection.”

He smiles around the rim of his cup. “A wine club? Like Frasier?”

“I’m not going to pretend like I know what that means.”

“Royal wine club. Sounds pretentious.”

“Did you send in that short story to the literary magazine yet?” she leans forward to poke the bruise on the side of his neck, water dripping down his shirt, and he catches her wrist to kiss her hand. “The one that describes me as… what was it? A Waterhouse? Which one, Gather Ye Rosebuds?”

He shakes his head. “ The Siren.”

She matches his finger, taking the extra step to flick his nose. 

“Speaking of next semester,” she says, wet hands running through his hair. “Dasha’s moving out.”

“Because of the couch?”

The couch being two nights ago when Dasha walked in on them in an incredibly compromising position with only the blanket to cover them while she was in the next room over. 

“No,” Blair says pointedly. “Although she did say something about seeing more of you than she ever wanted to.”

Dan grimaces, head falling back against the side of the tub. 

“While I’m going to miss having her around for a quarter of the week I am not going to miss that rug , or those curtains , and I know it’s going to be a bit tight for you money-wise but we’ll make it work, and we’ll turn the second bedroom into a study – with cream walls – and you can bring your records -“

“Blair,” he says, his mouth turning up, and she’s used to him, knows the joke before it’s even left his lips. “Is there a question coming?”

Humphrey ,” she says, tugging on the collar of his shirt. “You want a new roommate?”

His face scrunches up, like he has to actually consider his answer, like he has to think really hard about it. 

“I don’t know,” he says. “I’ve heard sleeping with your roommate leads to all kinds of trouble.”

She pulls him forward, water sloshing out of the tub and all over him.

“Wait,” he mumbles, pulling back just enough to speak, holding her face in both his hands, the pages of the catalogue soaked through and stuck together. “You think she’ll let us keep the blanket?”

Her eyebrows raise. “I think she’s going to make us keep the blanket.”