Blair's sleep in first class was fitful and she wondered if she would ever sleep peacefully again. Serena's presence the past few nights had been a bulwark against reliving those last moments with Chuck over and over again. But the stifling air on the plane choked in her lungs, she felt hot and dry, and saw his cold eyes burning through her as he called her just another whore.
She felt shaky stepping onto the ground hours later, her head ached, and she felt disconnected from her body as she moved through the terminal. Her mind was unfocused, spinning in memories of coming here with Chuck, the sweet kiss he had given her when they had landed in Paris, holding his hand… It had all been pretend, she thought, her stomach rolling; she had been a toy for his amusement. Roman found her before her eyes could focus long enough to spot him in the crowd.
"Blair." He pulled her into a hug, "Your father is in a meeting, come, let's get you to the house."
She pressed her forehead against the cool glass of the car window, listening to Roman make idle small talk as they entered Paris; he talked of the wonderful surprise of her coming to live with them, the fabulous holiday parties she could go to now that she would be here past Christmas, and the school she would attend in January. Blair knew and appreciated that he was trying to be warm and welcoming, but her body ached and all she wanted to do was sleep and never wake.
Once home, Blair pulled herself up the stairs to her room, managing only a small smile of thanks to Roman. Stepping into her room, her heart splintered and cracked, oozing fresh pain. How could she have forgotten… they had made such sweet, intimate… her mind groaned, it was not love, right? Yet she thought of that last night in this room- that had not purely been sex, either. She let out a small cry of frustration, too exhausted to fight it all; she fell into bed and passed out.
Harold brought up a small dinner tray to his daughter, peaking into her room. Roman said she had been asleep for hours, "Blair-Bear?"
Blair moaned, and the scent of food made her suddenly realize she was starving, "Papa?"
"I brought you some dinner." Setting the tray down, he turned on the light at her bedside, and sat on her bed, looking down at her.
"Thank you, Papa." She sat upright and pulled the tray into her lap, focusing on eating so she would not have to look at her father and his inevitable questions.
"Blair… you know I am more than delighted to have you stay here in Paris with Roman and I. But I love you, and I need to know you are okay."
"I'm better now that I'm here," she offered. How could she ever tell her father all that had happened?
"Blair…" Harold knew she was avoiding him.
"I always planned on studying here for awhile, Papa. Things… just happened to line up that made right now the best time to do it." It was a sound enough argument.
He chuckled a bit at his daughter's eloquent statement, "I forgot you are a lawyer's daughter for a minute," he leaned over and kissed the top of her head, "But don't think you've completely escaped me."
Her eyes were large, as she looked up at him, she whispered, "Thank you, Papa."
The next morning she had begun to breathe easier as she stretched out in her bed. Blair was free from his shadow; the entire Atlantic Ocean was between her and Chuck. Pulling herself from bed, she took a long hot shower, scrubbing New York from her body and reenergizing her spirit. Stepping back into her room to dress, she froze as her eyes fell on her bed. Chuck. She had shared that bed with Chuck. Suddenly the fact that an entire ocean was between them did not matter- he still existed in this room. As she walked down to breakfast, she contemplated a way to remove him and to begin again. She kissed Harold and Roman on the cheek before sitting down to eat.
"Papa?" Blair had come up with a means to her new start, "May I redecorate my room? I thought it would be something fun Roman and I could do? Serena won't be here until the weekend and I would not dare to shop the boutiques before she arrives…"
"I suppose that's not a bad idea," Harold paused as he refilled his cup of coffee, pondering her proposal, "it is properly your room now. What do you think Roman?"
"That sounds wonderful Blair! When shall we start?" Roman perked up in his chair. He always loved a good project.
After breakfast, Blair went back to her room. Standing in the doorway, she surveyed the space. She went to the bed, and picked up a pillow. Her mind wondered if it smelled like Chuck's hair? She was instantly angry with herself and her emotions bubbled over. Blair threw the pillows from the bed, and tore the sheets away; soon she was pulling everything apart. She moved her luggage- still packed, to the guest room, while she pitched every last little accent piece and item of furniture. The bed, all of it- it had to go; she had not truly realized how imbedded Chuck had become in her life. Blair wanted a fresh beginning- she needed it. She spent most of the day stripping the room bare before she would let anyone near her.
The room empty, she sat on the floor with Roman, talking about colors as he sketched her ideas. By dinnertime, she was feeling exhausted from her exertions. That night, she fell asleep thinking of a bigger closet, light fixtures, and a soft new bed. But her subconscious twisted her attempt to escape him, and she dreamt of him pressing her into the bed as he slid between her legs. She woke up feeling hot, and a tear slipped down her cheek: whore… just another whore.
The closet was expanded and redone on Wednesday, while Blair and Roman were out buying a new bed and furniture. No expense or detail was spared; her new bed was sumptuous, and she chose dark woods to vibrate against the deep red wallpaper etched with silver and black she had selected. The next day the wallpaper went up, and they shopped for smaller touches; ornate antique picture frames and door handles, luxurious bedding, and cut crystal sconces and a chandelier.
Friday the room at last came together; the furniture delivered and put in place, new bedding, freshly laundered, the bed made. Seeing the space come together at last, Blair felt stronger and revitalized. This was not the room of a girl, an innocent, all white and soft. It had become a mature place, a woman's room, rich and luxurious. She busied herself the rest of the day making things just so as she moved them from the guest room to her new room. Books and mementos found their new homes, and she rigorously went through her wardrobe. Only so many pieces would be given a place in her new closet. Everything that had been tainted with Chuck she could not bear to look at it. Yet, her heart would not let her discard it completely; instead she packed them away and shipped them back to New York.
She finished her work just before dinner, standing in the large closet; it seemed too large given her newly diminished collection. The space was hollow, shelves were bare and lonely, and Blair could not help but wonder, not unlike my life? After dinner, she unveiled her new room to her fathers. Harold commended the work she and Roman had done, hugging her and kissing her on the top of her head. Blair showed him all they had done, as he admired the many tiny details; an antique lamp, the embroidery on her duvet, the fine elaborate handles on her desk. Harold hugged her tight, kissing the top of her head once more before he departed to prepare the nightcap they would take in the library.
Roman stayed with Blair, smiling, as he looked over the room, happy with the result of their hard work. He spoke as they sat on her new bed, "I am so glad you let me help you with your room. You trusted me to help you, and I appreciate that. I hope you can see that you can trust me with other things? If you need anything, I'm here for you."
Blair smiled softly, "Thank you, Roman. In time maybe…" She thought of the single picture she had kept of her and Chuck, tucked in the drawer of her nightstand. It was the one of them smiling as they made the pie for Thanksgiving together. The memory of so much happiness welled up inside her chest and she fought to hold herself together. She leaned over and hugged Roman, seeking some comfort, "Thank you," she said again, thankful for the safety of this house, and the support of both Harold and Roman. Blair took a deep breath and pulled away, feeling steadier.
"We should probably join Papa now? It's cruel to keep his two favorite people from him so long." Blair managed to smile a little as Roman chuckled.
"Too true!" He replied as they went to join Harold in the library for the evening nightcap.
Returning to his suite, Chuck was on his phone in mid-conversation as he pulled out his favorite carafe of scotch, "I need to know where she is, what she's doing."
It is what Bass men did: sending private investigators after the people in their lives. Blair could run, but that did not mean he would let her go. He took the carafe into his room with him, drinking until he passed out. Thoughts of her pressed on him, to the point that his body ached and in his drunken stupor he had to jerk off to the memory of her lips, the curve of her body, the heat of her wrapped around him. It hurt inside, and her name was a low growl in the back of his throat when he came. Pain enveloped him and he passed out once more.
Chuck's existence for the first several days comprised of nothing but drugs and alcohol. Sometimes Nate came and smoked with him, but time passed in a drunken, drug induced haze. At the end of the week, Nate had come to visit once more. Chuck was too far-gone to notice his companion was not smoking as much as he normally would.
Nate was worried, drugs and boozing in such a depressed state was something he had never seen Chuck do before; he was not being wild, or out of control, it did not have Chuck's usual 'fuck you' sentiment. Chuck was morose and bitter, and Nate was pretty certain he had not been out of the room since… well, since the day Blair had left.
"What do you say we go out? It's Saturday night." Nate hoped getting Chuck out might help his mood.
"Why would I leave when I have everything I need right here?" Chuck waved his arm through the cloud of smoke; gesturing to the mess of drugs on the table, empty glasses and bottles strewn around the room.
Nate was now even more convinced Chuck needed to get out this room, "Come on, you could use some fresh air. Clear your head?"
Chuck grumbled; he had been trying to clear his head all week. Yet, how was he supposed to get away from thoughts of Blair, when he had been lying in a bed that still smelled like her?
Nate sat up from his reclined position on the sofa, "Well, if you want to rot in this room, that's up to you. But I'm going out to have a good time."
Rotting… like the tattered, undeveloped heart in his chest. Fuck, he was not going to let a girl do this to him, "All right Nathaniel, just let me go freshen up."
He changed his clothes, fixed his hair, but gazing in the mirror- seeing his gaunt face staring back at him made him disgusted. Pathetic. Chuck inhaled several lines of coke before reappearing before Nate and at last, after nearly a week, departing his room.
A few shots in, Nate attempted to try and find out where Chuck's head was concerning Blair, "So… it's been a week, what are you going to do about Blair?"
However, Chuck dismissed his friends concern, having spotted a pretty little prostitute at the bar, "Why concern myself with the past, Nathaniel, when there are much more interesting prospects in my future?"
Sliding from his seat, he sauntered off to approach the scantily clad girl. It had clearly been too long since he had properly enjoyed the female form and this was exactly what he needed to feel like himself again.
Nate turned and watched his friend go, shaking his head, not quite sure what to do next- after all, this was Chuck Bass. He watched as the girl turned toward Chuck, and furrowed his brow, disconcerted by how much she resembled Blair.
Chuck had locked eyes with her, playboy smile in place as he slid into the seat next to her, "Hello."
"Hi," the tiny brunette fluttered her lashes as she sipped from her martini glass.
"You are quite lovely…" Chuck watched her blush behind her glass, "How much an hour for enjoying your company?"
The girl titled her head, "Excuse me?"
"I'm wondering what it would cost to have you in my bed all night?"
It was at this very moment that an overly developed alpha male appeared behind the girl, "What did you just say to my girlfriend?"
Chuck tried not to laugh, "Girlfriend? You let your girl leave the house looking like a whore?"
The next several moments were a blur; as the brute's fist smashed into Chuck's face, there was only one thing echoing through his mind: Whore… you're just another virgin I've turned into a whore. He was unconscious by the time Nate had rushed into the fray.
The next thing Chuck was cognizant of was the cold cement floor beneath him and Nate's hard gaze when he painfully opened his eyes. He slowly sat up, his head spinning; he leaned back against the wall, groaning, "What happened?" he asked.
"Um, you got into a bar fight after mistaking a girl for a prostitute, insulting her to her very muscular boyfriend's face, who then got a few good hits in before we could pull him off you." Nate spoke without inflection or a glimmer of sympathy on his face, "And yes, we're in jail now, thank you."
"Shit, I'm sorry," Chuck pressed his fingers against the puffy tissue around his eyes, feeling it bite and sting.
"Yeah, well at least now you can't hide from me, or run off. I'm in jail because I was just trying to help you. All of this is about Blair, isn't it?" Nate huffed as he stared at his friend.
Chuck grumbled, "I don't want to talk about it… or her." Just the sound of her name in his ears caused images of Blair to invade his mind.
"Too bad, you're stuck in here with me, and I can tell something is going on with you. Damnit Chuck, the girl at the bar even looked like her…" Nate was clear and insistent.
"She wouldn't talk to me." Chuck mumbled, his eyes shifted from Nate's face to stare at the adjacent wall, recalling how he pounded on Blair's door.
"On Sunday? What happened?" Nate had wondered about the details, but Chuck would not say.
"I looked for her all day, and when I caught her at home that night," Chuck paused, reliving the desperation he felt.
Nate gently urged him on, "Then…?"
"She wouldn't see me... she sent Serena to throw me out; I just wanted to talk to her…"
"You honestly thought she would sit down and talk to you after what you did?" Nate was disappointed that Chuck hadn't tried any apologetic gestures, or just… anything to soften what he had done so she might talk to him.
"What I did? What about you? You kept mocking me! You can't deny you wanted me to break it off with her.'" Chuck sneered.
"You acted so casually whenever we talked about Blair, how was I supposed to know, man? And no matter what I did or said, what happened at the ball was you. You rejected her, you tore her down, you called her a whore." Nate tried not to flinch at the memory of watching Chuck rip her apart.
There was a bitter taste in Chuck's mouth as he listened to Nate. But their conversation was cut short by the bailiff, "Bass, Archibald, your bail has been paid."
And from the shadow of the bailiff appeared none other than Bart Bass himself, "If you don't mind Nathaniel, I'd like a word with my son?"
The cell door rolled open and Nate gave Chuck a nervous glance as he left, thanking Bart for getting him out. Bart's blue eyes were glacial as he looked at his bruised and bloodied son, "I return from Frankfurt tonight, to this," he paused watching Chuck drop his head, "What the hell happened, Charles? You were doing so well for once."
It stung; it all stung so much. Doing well? He meant Blair's attempt to mold him had been going well. But she was not making him better- she was making him weaker, and now… his constant ability to fail his father, the look of disappointment in those cold blue eyes inflamed him and he shouted it out loud, "I fucked up- again! Big surprise, right?"
"Charles…" Bart growled.
"I was given one more thing I didn't deserve and I broke it! After all, I'm Chuck Bass." His laugh was hoarse as hot air clogged his lungs and the words burned in his mouth.
Bart could see the way his son was slumped over and the sound in his voice that something deeper was tearing at his son this time. He furrowed his brow, wondering what Chuck was referring to, "What are you going on about? What did you break that you didn't deserve?"
"Her…" Chuck's voice was strained with the pain of thinking of Blair.
"A girl?" Bart was taken back that a girl could upset his son this much, until he remembered the girl from last weekend, "Oh… the Waldorf girl?"
"Don't… just…" The cell had begun to feel suffocating, and Chuck tried to get up. The room spun, and he sat back down on the hard floor.
Bart sighed and knelt down, pulling his son up from the ground, "Let's get you back to the hotel."
Bart felt for his son deep inside. Looking at Chuck reminded him of the wife he had lost, and he hoped that what Chuck was feeling now was nothing more than growing pains.
Chuck awoke the next morning, more sober than he had been in a week. The reflection in the mirror was gruesome, his lip was split, his left eye a puffy mess of black, purple, and yellow. The sight melded with the weight of last night; the girl at the bar, Nate, his father. He had to run, this city was too crowded.
Blair sat on her bed the Saturday morning, brushing her long hair, trying to soothe her disquiet. She stared out through the balcony doors, the Paris skyline still so alien. She sighed heavily as her thoughts inevitably turned to Chuck. Almost instantly a sob wracked in her chest, she dropped the brush and fell into her pillows to cry for the second time that day.
She did not hear the soft knock on her door, "Blair?"
Roman's heart ached when he saw Blair, and went to her, sitting down on the bed. He began stroking her hair, "Blair, please, tell me what is going on?"
Turning her head, she sniffed as she willed herself to stop crying, "It's too awful to say."
"Well, I could always venture a guess? The French can be very insightful when it comes to matters of the heart," He paused, hoping to make her laugh, or rebuke him, but her brown eyes were hollow as she looked up at him from her pillow, "Does it have to do with Chuck?"
Suddenly, Blair sat up and hugged him. He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her back. He heard her whisper, "I fell in love."
"But Blair… that's wonderful."
Blair pulled away and stared up at him, "No, it's not. Not with… him." She turned away as the tears began to threaten to break free once more. How could she have been so silly? To fall in love with a playboy like Chuck Bass? But she did. She said it to him, wrapped up in the beauty of the moment, but it had not been a mistake or a lie. Her hand was balled up in a fist, the tips of her fingers digging into her palm; letting the pain distract her from reliving her memories.
Roman picked up her discarded brush, and began pulling it through her long hair, "It is still wonderful. Love is what makes life worth living. But sometimes… a lot of times, you love someone before they are able to love themselves. Give it time, Blair. After all, now you are here, in Paris! A world of possibilities await, and then maybe- just maybe, Chuck will discover that he misses how fabulous you are?"
Would he miss her? Did she really care if he did? Blair thought back to when she had looked into his eyes while she had been singing. Chuck had looked sad and hurt. Yet in the skip of a heartbeat, she went from wishing he were not suffering to thinking it only served him right. What he had done at the ball… he did not have to do it that way, so publicly, or so cruelly. But then her memory slipped back, to that last kiss, his arms holding her so tight, his lips so warm and gentle as they pressed against hers. Even if… if he magically appeared at her door and said he loved her, how could she go back to him after… that?
Blair sighed as Roman continued to brush her hair. The future, she thought, the future is what I have. I will be strong and amazing, and if our paths should cross again, he will suffer knowing what he lost.
"Roman," Blair broke the silence, "Tell me about my new school again?"
Not an hour later, Blair was whirling down the stairs, and into the arms of her bubbly blonde best friend. The best Christmas present!
"B! We're in Paris! Where do we go shopping first?"
"That didn't take you long!" Blair managed to grab her coat, shaking her head, as Serena pulled her back out the door.
The girls left holding only their handbags, walking arm in arm, but returned a few hours later in a taxi, unable to carry all of their latest finds. Blair was happy to have Serena's company, for the obvious reasons, but especially in purchasing new lingerie. Chuck had given much of what she owned; she was surprised she had even a single pair to wear after she purged her wardrobe. Yet the few pieces she was left with were dissatisfying remnants of the girl she was before Chuck; dull, plain, utilitarian looking garments that she could not wait to discard. Now she bought bras, corsets, panties, garter belts, and stockings of her own choosing; some were demur and sweet, while others were bold and brazen, however all were clearly items befitting a confident woman.
They spent their week together shopping, visiting the museums, ice skating, and simply enjoying Paris together. Serena and Blair were making new, happy memories where before Blair had the painful, sweet memories of her time with Chuck. She knew sometimes the sadness slipped and showed on her face. But she fought to be happy and she genuinely was having a wonderful time with her best friend.
Serena watched Blair closely, always concerned how her best friend was recovering. There were never any tears, but there was a sadness she saw in those brown eyes. Yet their time was immensely full of happiness and laughter. It surprised Serena a little to see Blair so strong. She suspected her outward appearance belied what Blair was thinking or feeling at times, however she dare not risk mentioning Chuck.
All the fun and activity made the days pass quickly, and before they knew it, it was Christmas! The morning passed in a sea of gifts, the afternoon in a snowball fight, and the evening in a long dinner. Hot chocolate was taken in the library where everyone relaxed, their tummies full. Serena and Blair lay on the rug before the fireplace, staring into the flames as they reminisced.
"Do you remember that Christmas when you refused to wear boots outside, and you ruined your new Mary Jane's in eight inches of snow? The pout on your face was priceless!" Serena giggled.
"It's not half as bad as the year you rudely reached across the tables for the mashed potatoes at dinner! When you singed your hair in the candles it was simply karma. Was it three inches or four that Lily made you have cut off?" Blair chuckled as she watched Serena pout and stroke her long blonde hair.
Blair then sighed as she looked down into her large mug of hot chocolate, "I really thought…" But she halted, realizing what she was about to admit aloud.
Serena saw the look on her face, and reached out to touch Blair's arm, "You thought what?" she asked quietly.
"I thought he would be here…" Blair bit her lower lip hard in retribution for saying it- for even thinking it. She had imagined in the weeks before, that it could be like Thanksgiving. They would be together and it would be so wonderful. She would have stressed over finding the perfect Christmas gift for him and be terribly nervous about what he might give her. They could kiss atop the Eiffel Tower again and secretly meet at night in her room. Make me yours, Chuck…
She felt the sudden urge to throw the mug of hot chocolate into the fireplace in rage. But she did not. She seethed a moment, and tried to push past it.
Serena stroked Blair's long chocolate curls, "It's okay, B. You can talk to me about Chuck…"
"I don't want to talk about him!" Blair bit out, "I just want to move forward. I want the pain to end."
"Oh, B…" Serena quietly continued to stroke her hair, "I was out with mom before my visit, and we ran into Nate Archibald."
Blair finally looked up from her hot chocolate, brows furrowed at what Serena was going to say next.
"I was polite, but in his undoubtedly pot smoke addled state, he did let is slip that Chuck had not left his suite since the day you left."
"Why would he?" Blair scoffed, "I'm sure he had anything he needed sent up to him."
"But…" Serena forgot to bite her tongue, as her thoughts wandered, imagining how she might feel if someone she cared about professed their love, "Do you think if he really truly meant what he said… what happened, this is what he would be doing? Holing up in his room for a week?"
"Well, he's not here, he hasn't written, or called or… anything. So I don't care if he's hiding in his suite at the Palace!" Blair abruptly stood up, "If that is all, I'm going to bed now."
"B…" Serena pleaded, but Blair tromped off to her room without glancing back even once.
Blair could not decide if she was mad at Serena for talking about Chuck or how she was feeling from hearing news of him. She did not want to be happy that he had trapped himself in his room, away from the world. That he was not out flaunting that he is a playboy; that what he said was true, she was just a game, and now he could return to chasing girls. She did not want to care about him at all! Yet, if she allowed herself to feel it… there was something small fluttering in her heart.
It was the day after Christmas that Serena was to leave, and they sat on the bed together when Blair went to her vanity, "S, I need to give you something."
"Anything," She watched as Blair pulled a drawer open, and when she turned around, she held the box from Cartier's, "B… no."
"We haven't really talked about it, which makes me so happy. I wanted to spend my time with you, not talking about… Chuck. But I need you to keep this for me. I just can't… have it here; it hurts too much. When I was packing the last of my things, part of me would not let me leave it behind. I wanted to have a little of him near me…" Blair's heart ached at those words, "But now… I have to move forward."
Serena stood and looking into Blair's pleading eyes, she pulled the box from her hands, "I understand, B," and they hugged, "So… are you sure you won't go to Barcelona with me?"
Chuck wandered through Europe, avoiding France as though it were the plague, but sleeping and drinking his way across the rest of the continent. The incident at the bar made him realize how long he had abstained from enjoying the company of women. And he hoped, irrationally, that the more women he had, the less he would remember Blair. But the intensity of his debauchery increased after the first PI report arrived. The picture of Blair and Serena ice-skating together outside… the smile on Blair's face he thought would kill him. He never forgot that she was beautiful, but having to look at her made his chest feel tight and ache. Running his finger along the line of her face, he felt a deep desire to be the one in the photo, holding her hand, smiling with her, and making her laugh. He glanced down at the date on the report and it made him realize; it was exactly one month since he had been in Paris with Blair. Since he had that warmth and happiness. Warmth… suddenly Christmas in the Alps was less appealing and he found himself traveling towards Barcelona, and the warm Spanish sun.
Leaning back in a corner booth, he took in the landscape of the club through the haze of smoke. The Latin beat had seduced most of the crowd to their feet, bodies writhing against one another. Blair in that black dress at her birthday, hard against him, the bead of sweat slipping along the curve of her breast; the memory forced him to drink another shot. He saw a familiar looking blonde figure climb atop a table and begin dancing. He laughed and thought perhaps he had too much to drink?
No- it was Serena van der Woodsen. He leaned forward against the table. But she was in Paris… with…
Serena knelt down and helped a pretty little brunette up to dance on the table with her. From the back, he swore… his heart stopped. Blair. Wobbling slightly, he stood, pushing and bumping his way through the crowd. To see her… to touch her, the temptation was overwhelming and it was all he wanted. The world moved in slow motion as he reached out and grabbed her arm, pulling her down from the table and into his arms.
"Why, if it isn't Chuck Bass!" Georgina squealed and batted her thick lashes up at him.
Chuck dropped his arms and stepped back. He felt ill and his head spun. What had he just done?
Serena laughed as she crawled down from the table, "You saw me with a brunette and thought it must be Blair, didn't you?"
She watched as the great Chuck Bass flushed red with embarrassment before her very eyes. Serena laughed even harder at his silent admission, "You are such a fucking piece of work."
Nodding her head at Georgina, Serena threw her arm around Chuck dragging him to the bar. After a few stiff shots of tequila, she told him what she knew he would never ask for, "She's doing no better than you are inside. Though I think she's trying a bit harder to be genuinely happy again."
"So what would love guru van der Woodsen advise?" Chuck grumbled as he took another shot.
"Any run of the mill asshole knows to apologize, Chuck. It would be a place to start, at least." Serena quirked her eyebrow at him, "You broke my best friend's heart and ran her out of town. The only reason I am even talking to you is because I see it in your eyes."
At that, she gazed into his eyes and fear bit through him at what all Serena might just see there. He swallowed hard and broke away from her penetrating stare.
Shaking her head, Serena stood, "It's not like you don't know where to find her."
When Chuck returned to his hotel that night, the concierge stopped him at the front desk, "Mr. Bass. This arrived while you were out."
The gentleman proffered a box marked fragile in several languages. Chuck inhaled deeply as he reached out to receive the package. It was another sign of what he needed to do next.
After Serena left, Blair found herself restless without her friend. In spite of the cold, she ventured out into the city, alone. She sighed at the realization that inside it still hurt. Time had moved her away from the tragedy of that night; the physical and emotional purge and the time with Serena had all helped her to heal more with each day. Now she wondered what she was going to do with her life? She had left so much behind in New York for the sake of getting away from… him.
Blair's existence felt like a blank canvas as she observed the variety of women move through the streets of Paris. There was something different about French women; strength mixed with grace… a self-assuredness that Blair had never felt in her own skin. It exuded from their very being, in how they took care in their dress, how they moved, in their every look. Consideration, a strength in who they are; Blair's mind turned these observations over and over as she walked.
Who was Blair Waldorf now? The prospect of a new school… she was tired with the thought of starting over, trying to find a place, and loathing the thought of being 'the American.' She remembered Constance; she never felt alone at Constance, even her walk to school. Oh, Chuck… Her hand tingled with the memory of his warm hand grasping hers as they walked to school together. With an annoyed sigh, she shoved the thought away, determined not to think on him.
Her eyes caught on a flowing red scarf, and her feet slowed, and then came to a stand still. A sweet couple, smiling, giggling… he was pulling apart a croissant and feeding it to her. Blair's eyes grew hot with tears, her lower lip trembled, Pathetic! Her mind screamed at her, Weak! I lost… I lost! She took a shuddering breath and tried to calm her anger and pain, cool logic sliding into her thoughts: I lost… because I wasn't strong enough.
It was late afternoon, and small white flakes drifted through the air before colliding with cruel metal or asphalt and blinking out of existence. Blair wrapped the heavy red wool coat around her as the wind pulled lightly at her hair and ruffled the fluted skirt of the coat. That first walk had developed into a regular outing; this was the quiet time she allowed herself to think about Chuck. Blair refused to let the remainder of her vacation be consumed with thoughts and feelings about him. So she made this little spot in the day to own up to her feelings and think of Chuck, and their time together. She walked past the Trocadero, on towards Pont D'Iena, the Eiffel Tower rising before her. The irony of her chosen path was not lost on her- that they had walked this way together, and she took comfort in the masochistic nature of it.
Tucking her head down against the wind, Blair watched the movement of her patent leather pumps as she walked. A pair of men's Bottega's impeded her way, and she drew her head up to gaze upon the intruder. Her eyes grew wide and her heart protested in her chest. She could not look at his face; the memory of his stare hurt enough without having to see it.
Chuck had found her.
He had watched her progression across the bridge, his heart beating harder and harder with each passing moment. It took every ounce of his control to not reach out and wrap his arms around her, to hold her close. Instead, he inhaled a shaky breath.
"Blair… please…" He reached out to lift her chin, to force her eyes to look into his.
"Don't touch me!" Her nostrils flared, her eyes vibrant as her gaze finally met his.
"You don't get to touch me anymore." She trembled, and it was not from the cold.
"Please…" His eyes were sad as he watched her reject him.
"What do you want, Chuck?"
"You." It was that simple, and he did not need to say anything more.
Blair laughed, disillusioned with his words. It stabbed at her heart and she just… she could not do this. "You don't have that option Chuck."
She moved to walk past him, and he grabbed her arm. It ached to be so near her, and he needed more, he had to keep her talking. So he pushed, taunting her in order to make her stay, "Don't you have a Christmas gift for me? I'll forgive that it's late... just for you."
Blair whirled towards him as he spoke, her eyes bright when she replied bitterly, "Nothing that you would want."
He smirked at her reply, satisfied; she had stayed and was looking at him. He had somehow pushed from his mind how intoxicating it was being around her and suddenly his head was leaning down to take a kiss from her lips. He felt her sharp intake of breath as his lips met hers, and after a delicious moment, she sobbed and pushed away from him.
"No!" Her eyes were full of fury as she stared at him.
Chuck was growing frustrated now, "You want me. You always have!"
"That doesn't matter!" She bit back, "And what about you? Did you decide just yesterday you wanted me?" Blair fumed.
"Hardly!" He shouted, "What I want is for you to come back to New York with me!"
"There is nothing for me in New York! You made sure of that at the Snowflake Ball."
He saw her eyes soften a little from the pain of the memory, "Come back with me," he whispered.
"No!" Blair cried, "Why would I go back with you? You haven't said anything to even try to entice me to come with you."
"Because you belong with me!" He growled at her and grabbed her arm.
Blair turned into him, her eyes hotly meeting his; he had pushed her too far. "Then say it," she seethed.
"You're dreaming." He said, the fire in his eyes cooled and he spoke without inflection.
"Am I? What did you think would happen showing up here like this? Maybe you're the one who should let you go of your fantasies?" Blair gave him a mean smile, speaking with sugary sweetness.
He let go of her as though she had burned him. He sneered, "Fine. Is that it, or were you going to tell me you love me again?"
Blair was consumed with all the raw emotion that she had been trying to calm over the past weeks. Her hand flew up and smacked him hard across the face with a thunderous clap. "I will never say those words to you again."
With that, Blair left Chuck stunned on the Pont D'Iena as her patent leather pumps stormed back towards her home in the 16th Arrondissment.
Chuck stood there, his eyes burning as he watched the red coat move away and disappear into the distance. You will, some day, he swore to himself, his heart pounding as it ached in his chest.
Later that night, Chuck lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. That was not how he had hoped seeing Blair would have gone. Not just that she was not here in his bed with him right now, but how it had felt to be near her. To not be able to touch her, to have her not care about him; her slap had not left a mark on his face, but he had felt it down to his very core. It seemed that Nate was right; he had torn her apart and broken them. He really had hoped she would come home to New York. He had hoped to apologize! But instead she fought him. When she swore she would never say… those words to him ever again, he had wanted to hurt her, but in the end it only hurt him more. When had it happened? When had he come to desire her to feel that way for him? He groaned and rolled over in bed.
His eyes fell on the box he had hoped to give her; a belated Christmas gift. He intended it to be a peace offering, but she would not want it now, not after what had happened on the bridge. Yet, he felt compelled to give it to her, that she must have it- she needed to know that it had all meant something to him.
He pulled himself up from the bed and reached for a notecard. What would he say to her? How could he apologize for what had happened, or explain that what was the worst night of her life, he now looked back on so fondly until those last few minutes? How beautiful she had been, how perfect she felt in his arms, and when she whispered that she loved him… What had then been revolting now made his heart race. He may have ruined it, but the memories he had of her were full of happiness, and this last moment of them together was the happiest of all.
He stared at the blank page as time ticked away. He thought back on all their times together: at school, the park, her birthday, Thanksgiving, how he had felt a part of something that morning, making the pie with her, her smiling face, the sound of her laughter… and that's when it came to him, the perfect words that would bleed his feelings onto the page. Her rejection weighted heavily on him and he could not help but pull the gift from its box. His note completed, he lay down once more, staring at his gift until his eyes closed and he fell into the deep blackness of sleep.
The next morning, Chuck pled his case to Roman, knowing Blair would not see him, and that Harold would have no sympathy towards him. Roman gave him a sad smile as he opened the front door. Walking through the house felt like small razors slipping over his skin. There was so much happiness he had here once, with her. Pushing her bedroom door open, his heart stopped. She had obliterated the room they had shared; no longer was this space sweet and bright but powerful and dark. His whole being felt heavy as he forced himself to walked to her bed, setting the gift upon it. Chuck ran his hand over the peacock blue duvet, wishing to mar this new space with just a little of him. His eyes drifted to her nightstand, falling on an overturned picture. Walking to it he lifted it, curious to see what it was. Them. Thanksgiving morning. It was too much, and his breath choked in his lungs. He dropped the photo, fleeing from her room, her home, from the damage he had done.
Pushing her bedroom door open, Blair paused instantly when her eyes fell on a beautiful square package sinking into her thick blue duvet. Pain shot through her heart and the image of all the boxes he had left her flashed before her eyes, for who else ever left her gifts on her bed? Her breath shuddered as she stepped towards the bed, her legs easily giving way to sit down. The box was deep green wrapped in a pretty gold and pink bow that she gently stoked, gathering the strength to open the package.
Fingers trembling she tugged the ribbon apart and pulled the box open, slipping her hands inside, she felt the surface of smooth round glass. Lifting the globe free, her eyes appraised its contents. Two small figures, that despite their diminutive size bore a strong resemblance to her and Chuck the night of the ball; her dress, her hair, even his little pink bow tie. A purple-blue translucent sky had been painted in the back half of the orb. She was fighting hard not to cry, and she questioned her strength as she wound the key to play the music box within. The music they had danced to poured forth, and the miniature Chuck and Blair began dancing together. She clutched it to her chest as a sob racked her body. How cruel was he? To memorialize the night she gave him her heart and he shattered it without hesitation.
She cried awhile- longer than she had in weeks. When calm once more she sat the globe on her nightstand her heart still aching. Picking up the ribbon and the box she realized she had overlooked his note. Wanting the pain to end she tore the little envelope open.
Happiness is something that should be remembered, and cherished.
What she would give to forget what he had ruined.
AN: Title from a fun C/B/N triangle by thebelleoftheball!
Giant hugs and thank yous to Georgia, Elli, and Alyssa, you girls are so important to me- and this story!
I dedicate this chapter to the fantastic little coterie that has sustained me these past months. Either through PMs, forums, or Google Chat, you all saved me and helped me get back to a place where I could write again.