“This isn’t working!” Julien calls from the audience, his feet kicked up on the seat in front of him.
“I’m really trying here,” Blair calls back, that saccharine voice reserved for authority figures. “But I’m caught between a Humphrey and a hard place.”
Dan scoffs, jaw tense as he blinks up at the searing stage lights, his vision burnt red behind his eyelids.
“I’m biting my tongue so I don’t say something I’ll regret.”
Blair purses her lips. “If you want to say bitch, say bitch.”
“You’re not a bitch,” he says, as calmly as he can. “You’re just a brat.”
The corners of Blair’s mouth turn up, not a smile, but a sneer. “While I commend your period-accurate repression, if you don’t grow a pair I won’t have anything to work with.”
The air around him has been poisoned with her perfume all afternoon, sitting in it so long he thinks it might actually be altering his brain chemistry. He keeps flexing when they touch, his hands barely on her waist, her hands too steady on his knee, involuntary twitches all over. It’s been too long since he’s gotten anything.
It’s the sneer that does it, though, wanting to wipe it off her face, wanting just once to best her. He leans forward, closing the small gap between them — if only to prove a point — and kisses her like she’s a girl he cares about kissing. It’s all gloss, thick like cake batter and twice as sweet. She makes the smallest noise against him, an almost-gasp, and then she’s gone.
The theatre is stilled around them, the distant beat of a drum set rooms or worlds away reverberates through the walls. Blair’s eyes flit from his eyes to his lips and back again. He can feel himself blushing, the sting in his cheeks a phantom pain, a little surprised she hasn’t slapped him already. Instead, she just looks confused.
Dan clears his throat, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.
“Oh,” Julien says, looking up from his phone. “Yeah, fine. Next.”
He can hear the echo of her heels in the empty hall, watching the door to the bathroom swing shut. She’s leaning over the sink when he opens it again, reapplying her lip gloss, and he stops short, swallowing when he realizes that he’s why it needed reapplying, that he knows what it tastes like.
She smacks her lips, narrowing her eyes at him in the mirror. “What are you doing in here?”
“I’m not the reason this isn’t working,” he says, forcing himself to meet her eyes in the reflection. “I know you, you don’t do things halfway. You want to be good at this, same as me. Do you really hate me so much you can’t put it aside so we can both do well?”
She turns, batting her lashes at him, like some porcelain doll from Hell. She brings her leg up on the ledge of the window to adjust her stocking, pinching the fabric and pulling it up, then switches legs and does the same to the other side, nails tapping on her knee in consideration. “I don’t hate you, Humphrey. I just can’t stand you.”
“I can’t stand you either,” he says, harsher than he meant to, but he’s so frustrated with her his skin is starting to burn, his shirt sticking to him uncomfortably, his tie too tight, and what the fuck is she doing?
She laughs, that movie mean girl laugh, and his brain and his dick must have their wires crossed, because instead of getting more annoyed, he’s just getting kind of turned on.
“Subtlety is not your strong suit,” she says, his eyes shooting up from the spot on the wall just above her ass. “You can look, Humphrey, but you can’t touch.”
Dan likes to think himself above her childish games, but he’s red in the face and stupidly lightheaded and so he screws his face up, spitting out, “Like I would want to.”
“Wouldn’t you, though?” she says. “That was quite the kiss.”
“I told you,” he says, clearing his throat to keep his voice from doing something like, god forbid, cracking. “I want to be good at this.”
She hums, the kind of noise you make when you really pity someone. “Is that all it is?” she pouts. “That’s probably a good thing. You wouldn’t know what to do with a girl like me.”
“I would,” he snaps. “I did.”
Blair’s face drops, eyes so dark it feels like the lights have gone out of the room, like the sun has already set over the city. “Fuck you.”
For a beat he thinks she’s going to storm off, but she doesn’t, staying rooted to her spot. His mouth opens on an apology, but before he can form it, she’s grabbed a fistful of his shirt, pulling him into a hard kiss.
Hard is an understatement, really. So hard it hurts, almost, his nose knocking on hers, his bag dropping off his shoulder with a harsh thud, mouth sticky with so much gloss it feels kind of gross. But he gets swept up in it, the taste of it and the smell of her and that same little noise he can feel everywhere. He doesn't even fully register that it’s happening, his brain catching up when her hands slide into his hair, nails on his scalp.
The thing is, though, that once they settle into it, it’s a good kiss. It’s a really good kiss. So good that Dan thinks he moans, or he hears himself moan, and he must’ve, because then her tongue is sliding along his and, yeah — that was a moan.
Normally, he would try and go slow, set his hands on her hips and draw circles with his thumbs, wind her up, but there’s literally nothing normal about this, and there’s something about Blair that makes him want to regain an upper hand he never had in the first place, so he goes straight for her ass, rucking her skirt up and pulling her closer. His blazer feels suddenly too restricting, and he wants more of her, fingers digging into the bare skin at the tops of her stockings. She’s the first to break away, her lips red and swollen as she pants for air.
“What the fuck are we doing?” he whispers, bringing a hand up to push her hair aside so he can kiss just under her ear, the spot where her perfume is the most concentrated.
“Character work,” she says, not a beat missed, and before he can laugh she pushes him back roughly, and he thinks this is probably it for him, that this is the part where she maims him and leaves him for dead in the middle of the school bathroom, but he gets a good look at her: hair mussed, gloss kissed off, stockings edging down under her skirt. He did that, all of it. By all accounts, it’s not a bad way to go.
It isn’t the end of him, though, he realizes as he braces a hand on the inside of the stall she pushed him into, watching her kick his bag in by his feet and lock the stall door behind her. He works quick, pinning her up against it, and she returns by biting down hard on his bottom lip, pushing his blazer off his shoulders to meet his bag on the ground.
The buttons on her sweater are stupidly tiny, and he mutters some remark about wanting to just rip it off, earning him a chastising scoff in return. He gets most of it open, stopping where it meets her skirt, still tucked in, but it’s enough for now, getting his hands on the hot skin of her ribcage. The skin of her neck is soft under his lips, on his tongue, tender between his teeth. He’s stringing her out, hooked on the sound of each almost-whine, and he gets an urge he’s never had before, the need to leave a mark, some sort of proof that this really happened once it’s over. And he wants it in plain sight, somewhere hard to cover.
But he also values his life, and so he settles for the base of her throat, just above her collarbone. His tongue traces the top of her bra, mouthing over the swells of her breasts. He wishes he could get a better look at her like this, commit the image to memory, because she really is beautiful, the fading afternoon light leaking in from the windows falling soft over her pale skin.
He’s not sure if it’s just because he’s feeling weak in the knees, but she’s surprisingly strong for her size, shoving him down onto the closed lid of the toilet suddenly and straddling his lap.
His first thought is: the girls bathrooms are much nicer than the boys.
His second is: he is so fucking turned on.
It takes him a second to fully grasp the rocking of her hips, firm against the bulge in his slacks, because there’s so much of her and so much going on, her hair curtained around him, his tie missing and the buttons of his shirt coming apart under her fingers. But once he does grasp it, he grips tight to her hips, guiding her along, the pressure pulling a groan out of both of them.
He’d never thought of Blair as small before, but he feels it now, her feet barely able to touch the floor in this position, his hands spanning almost the entirety of her waist. Right now, she doesn’t feel like the Queen of Constance, she just feels like a girl he really likes kissing.
But when she breaks away, biting her lip with a brow raised, her hand snaking down to flick open the button on his slacks, he realizes that she’s both — that the wires have been fatally crossed.
“Hey,” he says, as she tugs his zipper down, and he’s about to ask, Are you sure? before her eyes lock with his, and he realizes that he’s the one pinned underneath her, that she’s touching him deliberately, self-assured and smiling.
“Condom,” he manages. “I have one. In my bag.”
Her brow raises. She has the audacity to laugh at him, which only makes him strain harder against his pants, her face flushed and amused.
“It’s old,” he says. “Not expired old, just –“ he shakes his head, leans forward, covering her mouth with his. “Shut up,” he whispers, both to himself and to her. “Just get it.”
There’s a tense moment of horror in which he remembers that he’s wearing boxers with four leaf clovers on them and he wonders if he bangs his head back against the wall hard enough if it’ll kill him, but Blair’s tugging his slacks down in one go, not paying attention to anything but wrapping her hand around the length of him. She settles onto him slowly, wet enough that he goes in easy, and he’s captivated watching her adjust to him, a crease between her brows, her bottom lip pulled between her teeth.
“Fuck,” she hisses, and he breathes it back out to her, wanting her to move but waiting for her to be ready.
“You’re so tight,” he says, a voice that doesn’t even sound like his, one that is absolutely on the verge of cracking. “God, you’re so –“
Her hand clamps down over his mouth as the door to the bathroom swings open, the click of heels rebounding across the floor. He’s caught between wanting to shut his eyes and wish for death and watching the pair of glossy black heels as they stop at the sink, the tap squeaking, the rush of water thrumming loud over the pulse pounding in his ears. Blair waits a moment, then, with one hand still silencing him, the other holding on tight to his shoulder, she rolls her hips. She rests her forehead on his, bracing herself, riding him slow while keeping him quiet, and it feels so fucking good that he completely forgets where he is until the door swings open and shut, leaving them alone again.
The hand at his mouth doesn’t let up, and he tugs it away, holding her wrist.
“I know,” Blair says. “I was afraid if I took my hand away you’d start talking.”
He tries to formulate a coherent response, but he’s cut off again by her yanking her hand back and splaying it out on his chest, picking up the pace. It feels dreamlike, slow motion even though it’s going by so quickly, each stroke like the rapid moving of eyes behind closed lids. He snaps back to reality when he feels her hand slide between them, and he pushes it aside, replacing it with his own, pressing his thumb to her clit, light but steady, his other arm hooking around her waist to give himself more leverage, trying to match her rhythm. She’s coming apart right against him, her chest pressed on his, a slurry of high pitched moans as she seizes up around him.
His strokes over her clit get messier, more uneven as his own climax reaches its peak, until her lips press next to his ear, biting hard on his earlobe, whispering soft enough he almost doesn’t hear it amongst all his heavy breath, “Dan.”
He buries his face into her neck as he comes, inhaling the sweet smoke of her perfume and the buzzing of her chest, her light laughter like the fizz and pop of champagne, a kind of giggle he’d never heard from her before, would never have even imagined she could muster.
It’s gone as quick as it came over her, though, and then she’s slipping him out and pushing herself off, turning away from him as she adjusts her skirt and stockings, buttons her sweater back up. She looks over her shoulder at him, one hand raking through her curls and the other on the lock of the stall. She’s inexpressive, cold despite being pink all over.
“No one can know about this,” she says, and he’s about to ask who the hell he’d tell, who the hell would even believe him, but she turns around before he can, the stall door swinging shut behind her.
Backstage, he spits a piece of eraser out onto the floor. From her spot on the ground, Jenny groans. Gross, she says through the pins between her teeth.
Sorry, he mumbles, but goes back to gnawing at the pencil, needs something in his mouth to stop thinking about her tongue.
Jenny’s gone when his phone vibrates in his pocket. Prop room.
The lock clicks behind him. She’s perched on the fainting couch, his tie wrapped around her fists, pulled taut between them. He’d seen her earlier, before fourth period, and smiled to himself as she fidgeted with the high collar of her blouse, a black bow at the base of her throat.
“I heard Queller gave you a strike for breaking dress code,” she says, standing, her heels clicking as she steps towards him. “Do you really only have one tie?”
“The other one got ruined in the wash after I spilled coffee on – right, you don’t actually care.”
She shakes her head slowly, reaching up to hook the tie around his neck, still in her fists. “Poor, hard-knock Humphrey. Two more strikes and you’re out.”
She’s not really looking at him, her eyes on his lips. He licks them self-consciously, refrains from leaning in.
“I don’t think I’ll have my scholarship rescinded for breaking dress code.”
She adjusts the tie to fit probably under his collar, expert fingers working quick to knot it. “But you don’t really want to find out, do you?”
“Blair,” he says, clearing his throat. “That’s too tight.”
He flushes in tow, the ghost of yesterday’s voice, a hushed echo haunting the girls bathroom, coming to him. She nods, tugging at the knot, not hard enough to hurt, but enough to spread discomfort at the base of his throat. “You don’t like it?” she says, and she’s teasing, but her eyes are still serious. He doesn’t know how to answer, so he doesn’t. He just kisses her.
He’d spent over an hour in the shower at the end of the day, stood there until the water ran cold, ignoring Jenny’s banging on the door, washing away all the evidence of the unspoken rule they had broken. Now, here he is again — hand reaching out and burying itself in her hair, catching her mouth, slow and languid, like he has all day, like they have nothing else they need to be doing.
He reaches out blindly, attempting to back her up against a wall and tripping over a stray handheld fan. She laughs, her back hitting the wall, and she yanks harder at his tie, nips at his open mouth when he groans.
“See?” she says, another tug, even harder, her thumb brushing over his cheekbone, all patronizing sweetness, a mocking taunt that knots itself in his abdomen. “You do like it.”
His grip in her hair tightens, drawing her head back like a crossbow, kissing the edge straight from her mouth.
The bow at her neck unfurls for him easily, the pearled buttons of her blouse popping out with little effort. He pulls back to admire his work, deep purple painted on pale skin, spilled paint on an otherwise blank canvas. He presses his thumb against it, the colour turning light with pressure, then slides his hand to the back of her neck, his mouth closing over the sensitive skin and sucking. Her breath hitches, an imperceptibly delighted noise, wind through the cracks of her facade.
She pulls him back to her mouth, a hand on his jaw, cupped tight to feel him work at her. He can’t help himself, bringing his hand under her skirt, hot to the touch, burning under his palm. His teeth bump her lips when he smiles, and he flushes ever-deeper when he thinks about how hard she’d bit him the last time they were like this, how his lips had felt raw and swollen the rest of the day. He wants to ask her to do it again.
His thumb strokes over her throat, again and again, stopping to press down on the bruise at the bottom of her windpipe. She whines against him, setting off a moan from him that’s just short of embarrassing, and his fingers flex up through her panties.
“You’re –“ she stops, panting, relaxing the fist in his tie to splay out on his chest, holding him away so she can get some air.
“You’re better at this than I thought you’d be.”
“Careful,” he says. “Get anymore complementary and I’ll have to start checking for head wounds.”
“Shut up,” she bites, obviously too out of breath to come up with something better. He hates it, that it made him twitch. “I want –“
She pauses again, and he slides an arm firm around her waist, drops his head to kiss along her jaw, because he can’t handle the way she’s looking at him, thinks it might actually make him come in his pants, and yeah, that’s all he needs.
“What?” he says again. “What do you want?”
He feels the way her chest rises on a heavy breath.
“I want you on your knees.”
He bites his tongue to suppress a noise, hard enough to draw blood, probably, if there was blood left anywhere besides his dick. The hand at his jaw moves to his mouth, thumb prodding at his bottom lip, and he obliges, opens his mouth and flicks his tongue on her skin.
“Careful,” she taunts, the pad of her thumb pressing down on the flat of his tongue, soothing the spot he’d just bit at. “You’re going to need that.”
And then, just like the bathroom stall, her hands come over his shoulders, shoving him forcefully to his knees. At least, he thinks it was her, but they might’ve just given out.
His hands run up the sides of her legs; she’s wearing garters today, and he prods at one of the suspenders, drawing it back and snapping it against her. From this angle, in the low lighting of the prop room, she glows like a holy sacrament.
He kisses the bare skin above her stockings, then latches his mouth to it, pulling blood to the surface. From this angle, it’s the only kind of damage he thinks she deserves.
His fingers hook in the sides of her panties, tugging the red silk — soaked through — off and throwing it carelessly over his shoulder. She huffs in disapproval, swinging her leg up to settle over his shoulder, his hands tight on her thighs, holding her up and open. He takes it slow, small kisses at first, until his tongue is sliding inside of her, lapping her up as she drips into his mouth, savouring her drawn-out mewls.
He moans, low in his throat, vibrating through her core and making her tense up around him, her grip in his hair tightening. He has to fight to pull away, rocking back on his heels to look up at her.
“Why are you – why are you stopping.”
He runs a hand down her thigh, rests it on her knee. “You’re shaking.”
“You try getting eaten out while standing in three inch heels.”
He laughs against her, and it makes her shiver. “Next time,” he mumbles, and when she laughs back, it makes him shiver, too. He presses another kiss to the crease of her thigh, then scrapes his teeth over the tender skin experimentally, and she lets out a high-pitched gasp, so loud he jerks to look at the door.
“You’re already close,” he says, bringing his eyes back up to her, words slipping slick on her thigh, her arousal like gloss on his lips. “Have I proven my point yet?”
“What?” she says, not waiting for his answer before trying to push his head back where she wants him.
“That I know what I’m doing,” he says. “That I know what to do with a girl like you.”
“Do you ever stop fucking talking?”
“You’re very spoiled,” he says, conversational despite his position. “You never have to work for anything.”
“Will you shut up before I suffocate you?”
“You get what you want without having to ask twice,” he says, with a kiss to her swollen sex. “I don’t think that’s very fair,” he strokes a languid finger over her folds, “So go ahead. Ask nicely.” He’s going to pay for this later, and he really, really can’t wait.
“Dan,” she says, a warning, and God, he could listen to that all day.
“Spoiled and stubborn,” he observes. It’s driving him crazy how much this is doing it for her, how despite her arguing she’s growing wetter by the second. She twists her hand in his hair painfully, and his eyes might’ve rolled back into his head for a second there, retaliating with his lips closing over her sensitive clit, rapid heartbeat rolling on his tongue. She jerks against him, crying out, rutting against his face, and he holds her open, lets her work herself on his lips and tongue, lets her use him, just for the moment.
It’s hard to stand up straight after, spine pulled taut with so much tension, feeling like his knees are going to buckle under the pressure in his groin. She’s shaking, clutching onto his shoulders, and he guides her back to the prop fainting couch, laying her down and settling over her. Her lips look red and raw, her pupils blown wide.
“I would’ve never guessed,” she says. “Humphrey likes a girl who begs.”
“I just like knowing that you want it,” he says. She looks up at him like she’s going to challenge him again, then pulls him down into a kiss.
“So, was that up to your standards?” he mumbles, as she licks the taste of herself out of his mouth.
“It was adequate.”
He pulls back to give her a look, and she twists his tie in her fist, dragging him back to her mouth like an anchor. She nudges her knee up between them, the sudden pressure enough to make his heart stop beating.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” he says, swallowing, the thick fog of her bittersweetness still in the back of his throat. “We’re being called on soon.”
“Better hurry up, then, Humphrey.” She hikes her leg up around his hip, presses him flush against her, and his eyes drop closed. “Don’t make me beg.”
When he closes his eyes, it’s the afterimage of her that burns there, and he’s given up trying to fight it. It’s an unbalanced scale, the cons drooping so low the chains are bound to snap any moment. Dan doesn’t like having secrets, feels them gnaw at his stomach lining like teeth, likes lying to the people he loves even less.
On the upside, Julien thinks the chemistry workshop he put together worked.
He doesn’t compare them, feels guilty when the thought even crosses his mind, like a betrayal on both sides. But sometimes, he looks back at old journal entries, at coffee stained pages from not that long ago, and those are what he compares to the present; a level of disconnect to it, comparison existing solely on paper.
Serena was the break of dawn, movements so natural they were almost lazy, every part of her safe and familiar.
Blair is midnight, vast darkness, the things that go bump in the night. Dan’s never been afraid of the dark, but Blair has him grappling for a flashlight, making fingerprints in all the spilled ink of her. It’s getting harder and harder to think in metaphors when she’s always one step ahead of him. He knows he should be worried about what will happen when the bulbs burn out, but he can’t bring himself to care. He’s having too much fun.
They are actually running lines.
Or, they were running lines, but now Blair shifts restlessly in her seat on the stool in front of her vanity, bored and already off book, knee-high socks crossed one over the other.
“You gave me my first glimpse of a real life…”
Earlier that day, in the dark corner of the dressing room, she’d sunk to her knees, the tip of him touching the back of her throat. He suppresses a smile, her crossing and uncrossing, skirt riding up her thighs, mimicking her demeanour from the carriage during rehearsal, cheeks and mouth still flushed.
“Then you asked me…”
Peripherally, he watches her fingers drift up to the top button on her blouse.
“...to go on with the false one…”
The blouse falls to the floor, revealing form-fitting satin, her breasts swelled over the cups of the corset, lace gloves up to her elbows, all Olenska. His mouth goes dry.
“No one can…endure that.”
She stands, swings a leg over him, settling into his lap, bringing her mouth onto his throat and sucking on the spot just over his pulse. His hand rests on her lower back, casual as ever, holding the book up so he can keep reading.
“I need to work on my lines,” he mumbles, nipping her lip and watching the flush spread. “You’re distracting me.”
“You’re irritating me.”
He drops the book, sliding his hand up her skirt, pushing aside the thin lace of her underwear.
“Still turn you on, though.”
She bites down on his neck, and he hums against her.
“Natural physical reaction,” she says. “Nothing to do with you.”
He shifts a little, then sinks a finger into her, waiting for her to adjust before adding another, his other hand coming up to tug her hair back just a bit, kissing the hollow of her throat. She bites her lip, blush burning red down her chest.
“Hard being a brat when you’re like this, huh?”
She gasps, grabbing for his tie and pulling back on it sharply, getting him harder underneath her. Her hips shift around, bucking up, searching for the pressure of his thumb. He catches her mouth, puts his wrist into it, tongue and fingers whittling away at her hard exterior, and she’s hardly able to kiss back between open-mouthed moans.
His thumb swipes over her clit, barely there, and his fingers stall inside her. Her hips lift, brows creased in effort, and he pulls out, hand setting sticky on her thigh. He thinks she might actually claw him to death, eyes dark and mouth turning into an almost growl, unbelievably sexy.
“You’re so pretty,” he says.
A single sculpted brow raises. Her voice rasps, wrought with lust. “You’re only now noticing?”
He shakes his head. “I meant like this.”
The hand in her hair moves out to thumb over her temple, again and again, like if he rubs the skin raw he can figure out what she’s thinking.
“Admit it,” he says. “I proved you wrong.”
“Make me come and I’ll consider it.”
“Isn’t that what I did before Calculus this morning?”
“Once doesn’t count.”
“Why’s everything have to be a fight with you?”
“You love it,” she breathes out, dropping his tie to grab his wrists, her thumbs pressing into his quickening pulse.
“I don’t,” he says, leaning up to kiss her, and she shakes her head, side to side, leaning back.
She hums, grinding down hard against him, laughing when he winces. “You do.”
“I don’t even like you,” he says, but he’s smiling.
She pushes her weight onto him, tipping him over onto his back and pinning him to her bed. He lets her regain control, giving up trying to fight it. She leans down, tongue tracing his ear.
“Prove it,” she says, and he can hear her smiling too.