Love You Some Day

Phantom Needs

Chapter Nineteen:

Phantom Needs

Harold walked into Blair's room as she was sitting at the vanity, fidgeting and perfecting her hair. "Oh, my little girl is so grown up… You look so beautiful!" He gushed.

"Papa…" She gave him a sweet smile as she stood and smoothed out her gown, "I am hardly grown up. Are you sure there will be anyone for me to talk to, aside from all of your colleagues? I am only sixteen."

"And smarter than most of the stuffed shirts there. I promise there will still be young people!" He offered his arm to his daughter, "Anyway, no one would guess you are only sixteen tonight."

Blair's smile faltered for only a moment as she took her fathers arm. Chuck, in this room… you certainly do not look sixteen tonight. "Let's not keep Roman waiting."

Downstairs, Roman was all smiles, "Oh, Blair, the dress is more stunning than even I could have imagined. You look as though you walked right out of Funny Face!"

This made Blair smile, "I'm not sure how Dior would feel at being compared to the House of Givenchy, Roman!"

Blair fixed a fuzzy white fur pillbox hat atop her coiffure, as Roman placed a matching wrap over her shoulders. She then tucked her hands inside a white fur muff and the three stepped out to meet the waiting town car.

Though in the past weeks the beauty of Paris had become more and more familiar to Blair, on this night the city was particularly bright and stunning. Beautiful soft white lights shone from every tree and building, and the Eiffel Tower was golden and twinkling. The sidewalks were filled with friends hugging, people shouting, and everyone was full of happiness. For the briefest moment, she thought of Chuck, but the overwhelming beauty of the night helped to push him into the corner of her mind.

Chuck had decided to stay in Paris for New Year's. Or, perhaps, not so much decided, but rather he was too inebriated to do otherwise. The sounds of revelers outside led him to leave the dark comfort of his hotel room. He found the lights almost blinding through the haze of alcohol. He stalked through the streets, annoyed with all the happy people, and consumed with memories of walking these streets with Blair. Maybe she was home? He wanted to feel happy again… seeing her would make him feel happy…

As though a magnet pulled him, he was walking down her street. A town car sat, waiting in front of her house. But before he could cross the street, before he could get close enough, the front door opened. Chuck froze, unable to move once his eyes fell on her. Blair's face was radiant as she laughed at something Roman had said. He saw the puff of white fur resting atop her upswept hair. He smiled at how she could be stunning, yet cute at the same time. He imagined running his hand over the soft fur and then through silkiness of her hair slipping between his fingers…

During his reverie, Blair slipped into the town car. Chuck snapped back to attention when she left his sight. The town car pulled away and moved past him; he was alone. He had no way of knowing where she had gone and he became even more morose. Wandering some more, the cold began to bite through his wool coat, and he sought warmth and comfort in a crowded club. The noise crowded out his thoughts and he distracted himself with booze and women, finally forcing Blair from his mind.

In what felt like the blink of an eye, Blair found herself in a noisy congested mansion, being introduced to a myriad of faces, all very happy to meet her. Time slipped by quickly in such a crowded place, but it began to feel hot and claustrophobic. Blair eventually maneuvered an escape to the ladies room, where she was able to close her eyes and breathe for a moment. Returning to the main room was less than appealing, and Blair wandered down the hallway, away from the party.

She opened the small black-feathered fan that had been hanging from her wrist, slowly fanning herself as she investigated the opulent hallway. Peaking her head into an open doorway, Blair smiled and stepped inside. The room was a large greenhouse with lush plants, and through the glass you could see the tower nearby, shining. It felt so open compared to the party, and she breathed deeply as she walked towards a small alcove containing a bench.

Sitting down, she sat back, simply taking in all the beauty the view afforded. Paris looked stunning, but whether she was in the crowded ballroom or here in this space, she longed to have a friend to share it all with.

A rather elegant gentleman suddenly stepped into the green house. Blair tilted her head, watching as a look of relief washed over his face. He turned towards the alcove and was startled to discover her sitting there.

"Forgive me for intruding." He spoke in English with a French accent, as he made a slight bow of apology to her.

Blair offered him a friendly smile, "No, please, do not leave on my account."

He stepped towards her, and attempted to return her friendly gesture, "I see I am not alone in finding the main room of the party too crowded."

"It is absolutely dizzying the amount of people in that room. I do not think I shall remember a single person I meet tonight." Blair replied, watching as he smiled at her. She subconsciously reached for Chuck's necklace, startled to find it was not there and then horrified to realize what she had been grasping for.

He stepped closer and made a slight bow towards her, "I am Louis. I hope you will not forget my name… Ms…?"

As he moved closer to her, Blair panicked at the realization she was alone with a man; that even after Chuck, she did not know the first thing about flirting- or what it even looked like. Would this Louis try and flirt with her? How would she know? Her stomach rolled a little in trepidation, but she fought her anxiety, channeling her best Audrey Hepburn.

She offered her hand to him, and the small chain of loose diamonds twinkled, slipping down her wrist, "Blair."

He lightly took her hand, his lips sweeping over her skin, the whisper of a kiss. Blair wondered… she waited, to feel the jump and excitement she would have felt at such attention from Chuck. It did not come.

Pulling her hand back, she gestured towards the bench, "Would you like to sit?"

Louis sat at the opposite end away from her, inquiring, "What brings you to Paris for New Year's?"

"I live here now, with my father. I will begin at lycée next week." Blair fidgeted a little with her fan, realizing how close school was.

"Where did you move from? Do you miss it?" Louis continued, intrigued that such a lady would still be only in high school.

"New York City." For a moment she pictured Serena having a wild party in her penthouse, "And yes, I miss it."

"New York?" Louis was slightly taken back, "But you are so refined, and elegant! New Yorkers are famed to be rough and loud, are they not?"

"Though an island, it has a great variety of people. Clearly, I am not from that part of New York." Blair was surprised he was not aware of the great diversity to be found in New York, "Do you not travel much, sir?""

"Louis. Very little I'm afraid, and I have never been to America. Perhaps I will find a reason to visit soon?"

"Is a desire to travel not enough?" Blair flushed from his interest in her, before changing the topic, "Do you always hide at parties?"

"Usually I cannot manage to escape, but this time I am quite glad to have found such a lovely reprieve." He smiled at her, "Am I a suitable distraction from the other party-goers?"

"Tolerable, I suppose…" she laughed a little, "At least you are not so superficial? Every time I was discovered to be Harold Waldorf's daughter, suddenly it was as though I had not earned my invitation to such a lavish party." Blair smoothed her dress to distract from recalling her annoyance.

"Yes…" Louis sighed a little in sympathy, "People can be quite false, and especially at these events." He paused, studying her a moment, "But what a sad subject this is! Tell me Blair Waldorf, what will you be when you are all grown up, attending these fancy parties?"

"Me?" Blair tilted her head as she pondered his question.

Louis smiled as he watched her, leaning in with anticipation, "Will you be one of those terribly educated housewives? Or…?"

Blair's pulled face at that proposition, disliking the idea immensely. "Oh, please no! Let me do something more useful than babies and keeping house. Maybe I will be a lawyer like Papa? Or take over my mother's company? What about the next Madeline Albright? Only without the bird pins please… more like, Madeline Albright and Princess Diana. That would be quite wonderful!"

Louis watched the expression on her face grow from distaste to blissful excitement. Such an experiment in possibilities had never been an option for him.

"Though…" Blair continued her thought, growing quieter, "I could just become a sour old intellect, teaching at university and writing research papers. Alone, lost in a pile of books…" She was whispering now, "Alone…"

"Or alone in a room full of people…" Louis was pulled into her feeling of loneliness, his own sadness resonating with hers. It was like watching a beautiful flower be crushed, he thought.

Midnight struck and the city was shouting, as fireworks filled the night sky. Blair and Louis looked up at the display, both wondering what this New Year might bring.

Suddenly, there was a gentleman standing in the doorway and he nodded towards them. Louis stood and took her hand, kissing it once more before departing. There was a little smile on his face, and his brown eyes twinkled a little. "Bonne année, Blair Waldorf."

She watched him leave, and then stared up as the fireworks continued over Paris. What would this year bring?

Chuck adjusted his bowtie in the mirror. He had only been home from Paris for a few days, but he still felt the sting of Blair's slap across his face. His massive failure hung on him, and now he was going to have to have dinner with-

"Hurry up, Chuck. I don't want to be late to Lily's." Bart stood in the doorway of Chuck's room.

Bart was on the phone for the entire limo ride to Sutton Place. Chuck spent the time thinking of how he could speak as little as possible during dinner. In the elevator, Bart's only comment to him was that he should try and behave himself.

"Bart!" Lily greeted them, walking towards them with open arms. She was her ever-radiant self as she hugged Bart and kissed him on both cheeks.

"Lily, you look as stunning as always." Bart was charming, and it was always a bit disturbing for Chuck to see his father in action.

Lily then turned to Chuck and proceeded to give him a small hug, "Charles, so good to see you."

Serena politely greeted Bart, and only gave Chuck a curt nod of her head, saying his name in acknowledgement of his presence. He suddenly wondered how much Serena knew…

They all took their places at the dinner table, and at first the adults dominated the conversation. However, Lily was a well-trained hostess and would not allow Chuck to be neglected. "Charles, did you have a pleasant holiday? Serena spent most of hers visiting Blair Waldorf in Paris. Did you not also travel?"

Chuck watched Serena as Lily spoke. Serena smiled a little, a small twinkle in her eyes as she watched him for any sign… any flinch at the mention of her best friend in Paris.

"Yes, I traveled through Europe a little this winter." He replied vaguely.

"Actually," Serena perked up, "I ran into Chuck one night in Barcelona."

Chuck's stomach rolled.

Serena was a perfect actress as she continued speaking, "I'm… not sure where he went after that…" she tilted her blonde head, pursing her lips as she mocked having deep thoughts, "Was it Paris?"

Chuck was staring daggers at Serena, but his nonchalant façade was in place when attention was returned to him, "Yes, it was. I had a desire to see the city of lights before I returned home."

Serena took his reply in stride, "Did you see all you had hoped on your visit?"

Her disingenuous line of inquiry was starting to press on Chuck, and his heart was beating furiously as he stared her down, "I don't think you can ever get enough… of Paris."

Serena sighed a little, fingering her glass of water with a sense of longing, "That is true, I already miss it… so much. Don't you?"

Chuck's eyes dropped as he thought on how much he missed Blair. His eyes fell to the elegant arrangement on the table… peonies. He remembered the first time he had hurt Blair. The look on her face as she pulled from her locker the peonies he had left for her. Such sadness… It was too much, and he excused himself. Quickly walking to the bathroom he closed the door, leaning his head back; he closed his eyes, and inhaled deeply. In his mind, he heard Blair's giggle, and his lips tingled at the memory of her kisses. He let out a ragged breath and splashed cool water on his face. He hoped the conversation would have moved on when he returned to the table.

Lily looked curiously at her daughter after Chuck abruptly excused himself, "Serena, whatever did you do to upset poor Charles?"

Bart cut in, "He went to Paris?"

"Yes, I believe he was there around New Year's. I had suggested it, actually. I thought Paris might be a good place for him to visit. Perhaps I was wrong?" Serena shrugged, dismissing her statement to make it look like less than it was.

Bart however, saw through this, and understood all that had just passed. Chuck had tried to see Blair and it clearly had not gone well, given Serena's dig and Chuck's reaction. He was rather grateful for Serena's teasing, for it was more than he imagined he would have gotten out of Chuck. But now a change in topic was overdue.

"Lily, is that a new piece of art above the staircase?"

"You always have such an eye for detail, Bart! It is indeed…" Lily continued on about the new piece and Chuck quietly slipped back to the table.

Serena quirked an eyebrow at him, and Chuck gave her a blank stare. He had given her too much as it was. He only hoped no one else understood what they had really been discussing.

Across the table, Serena had enjoyed torturing Chuck, and in front of his father! But he had reacted more than she had expected. It occurred to her that she now had something in common with Chuck Bass - they both missed Blair Waldorf.

She left him alone the rest of the evening and when the visit came to a close, Serena reached out, and touched his arm. With this gesture, Chuck met her gaze, his face was pale and his eyes were empty. Suddenly, she could not help but hug him, and whispered, "I'm sorry…"

Somehow, Serena's pity only made him feel worse. When she hugged him, his mind jumped to the idea that, in a way, it was like receiving a hug from Blair by proxy. Yet none of this soothed him.

Bart kept quiet in the elevator down from the van der Woodsen penthouse, watching his son from the corner of his eye. Chuck had changed so much in these past months; Bart could no longer quite tell what to make of him. He had never seen Chuck pursue anything remotely serious. But Blair Waldorf had clearly affected his son in a significant way.

When the chauffeur closed the limo door, Bart turned to his son, "Is there anything I need to know about Paris? Serena went rather out of her way to ask you about it."

Chuck laid his head back against the seat and sighed, "No. Just an exceptional end to my holiday."

Bart, however, did not buy it, "What is Blair doing in Paris? I thought she went to school with you?"

"She lives there now." Chuck's voice was monotone, though it burned in his chest to say it aloud.

"She moved in the middle of the school year? I would imagine there would have to be a substantial reason to motivate such a sudden and drastic change like that." Bart persisted.

Would shame, humiliation, and a broken heart suffice? Part of Chuck's mind replied bitterly. "Yes, I suppose there must have been."

"Did you see her in Paris?" Bart was growing annoyed with his son's prevaricating, and they would be at the hotel soon, where Chuck could hide or run off.

"Yes." It was curt, and acrid.

"Charles." Bart growled.

Chuck's resolve broke in a wave of frustration, "She left because of me. And I can't clear her from my mind."

Bart furrowed his brow in concern, "What did you do that made her run away to Paris?"

"I…" Chuck's lips were dry, and he licked them as he recalled Blair's face the night of the ball, watching bliss turn to agony. "I… hurt her. She made me happy, and I hurt her."

He raked a hand through his hair, his chest tightening. He hated the memory, and had denied what he had done- when Serena threw it at him, when Nate pushed the topic, but when he had seen it on Blair's face on the bridge in Paris, and remembered how it felt to be near her… saying it now to his father, he saw and felt the depth of what he had done.

"Chuck." Bart's voice had lost a bit of its usual brusqueness, "You're my son, and Bass men don't give up. If you care about her, don't let her go, and be the man she needs." Bart's phone suddenly went off and he looked down at the screen, "Fuck."

He gave Chuck a brief glance as he answered, "This had better be important."

Chuck stared out the window as he listened to his father growl at the poor person on the other end of the line. Bart had to go straight back to the office. When he dropped Chuck off at the hotel, he grabbed the boy's shoulder and looked into the brown eyes his wife had blessed him with, "If she's important to you, don't give up."

Chuck did not want to go up to the suite and sit in silence. He stepped into Gilt Bar, enjoying the buzz of people around him; he took a seat and ordered scotch. The best part of getting wasted here was that the suite was just upstairs and all of the staff knew him.

It took several drinks before his mind began to relax and the bitterness of the memories was washed from his mouth. Now he found himself staring into the murky brown liquid, his father's words tumbling around in his head: if you care about her… be the man she needs. Since that night all he had thought about was how he needed her, how his happiness was gone. He winced a little, recalling her slap, his cheek tingling once more from the memory.

He thought of their walks, all of their flirting and challenges, the intense rounds of sex, shopping with her in Paris, and when they sat in the library just reading and being close to one another. How was he supposed to fight for that thousands of miles away?

"Is this seat taken?"

Chuck's face was harsh, his eyes narrowed coldly as he looked up at the intruder. He softened the second he recognized the willowy blonde. He gestured to the seat next to him.

Serena ordered a cosmopolitan, and after a few sips, she fidgeted with the glass before speaking at last, "I really am sorry for going after you like that, and in front of your father. I guess… after I heard about Paris from Blair, I was angry on her behalf. But the look on your face, and how you left the table…"

"That obvious, huh?" Chuck laughed humorlessly and then tossed back his scotch. He cared. He cared and his father was right, he could not give up.

"What are you going to do? Don't get me wrong, I hate you for hurting my best friend, and I hate you because you're the reason she's not here anymore." Serena had been looking into his eyes, and now she looked down at the translucent red drink in her hands, "But I think she would come back sooner- if she ever does, for you."

Chuck stared at her, "Do you really believe that?"

Serena finally turned back to him, "You've been a womanizer for the past couple years, and on that night you were a tremendous ass. But for four months you made my best friend so happy and she grew as a person because of you."

"Then what more do you want from me?" He looked angrily down at his fresh glass of scotch. "I tried…"

"Do you forget you've been here before? Do the little things like you did last time. Nothing too intense- or painful, just… remind her you care. She will probably be angry for awhile, but don't stop- not if you're serious." Serena promptly finished her drink, thinking she was probably saying too much. She turned and gave him a serious look; pointing her finger at him, "Don't think you can get information from me. If I tell you anything it is for Blair's sake. Don't confuse my loyalty."

Chuck recalled the several times she had gone after him before. He would not make that mistake. Raising his drink to her, he downed it all in one long draw. Placing the glass back down, he simply said, "Understood."

Serena hopped down from the barstool, her peppy self once more, "Thanks for the drink! I'll see you at school."

Blair stood in her closet, changing her mind again. She knew her new school did not require uniforms, but the intense pressure of the first day made choosing an outfit difficult. She huffed a little, irritated with her indecision before she finally pulled out a modest black skirt, red knitted shirt, and her new Chanel pumps.

Her sleep was fitful from her nervousness, and her subconscious distracted her with memories of her nights with Chuck. In her mind, the feel of him was so vivid; her skin felt hot, the sound of him whispering in her ear before kissing down her neck, the sensation of him inside her, filling her, reaching so deep inside… She was so exhausted, pulling at her sheets in frustration before giving in, her hand slipping between her legs. She pushed hard, trying to reach as far as Chuck did, and the effort made her head swim and her hips buck. She shuddered as she came into her hand, whimpering, "Chuck…" before her eyes rolled back and she passed out.

The next morning Roman and Harold fawned over her like it was her first day of kindergarten. It was excessive, and sweet, and just enough to make her forget her nervousness and her anger with herself at last night's indiscretion. They walked her out to the town car, beaming as they waved her off.

Blair gazed up at the iconic Clovis bell tower for a moment after stepping out of the town car. Students were streaming into the building to get out of the cold, and in spite of her apprehension, she raised her head high and walked into her new school. Some students stared at her, others whispered as Blair walked to the administration office.

Her schedule and a pile of books awaited her in the office- along with a boy. He took her books, shuffling them in his arms nervously as he looked at her. The secretary spoke, "Charles, please show Ms. Waldorf to her first class."

Blair smiled sweetly at him, in her head thinking; of course his name is Charles! She watched him as they walked through the halls, deducing his place in the hierarchy by whom he greeted and who greeted him. He was of fair social standing it appeared.

"How have you come to study at Henri IV?" Charles asked her.

"I came from America to live with my father." Blair replied, her French flawless.

"You are American?" He sputtered, "Why are you not at an International School?"

Blair tried to not sound haughty, "Because this is Paris. We are in the academic heart of the city. The Sorbonne, the Panthéon… why would I not study here?"

He looked back at her sheepishly just before they arrived at her to her first class, "Welcome to Henri IV, Blair Waldorf." before departing.

The first day of classes was as exhausting as Blair had predicted it would be. The teachers pushed to see where she was compared to the other students, but she had prepared for that. Introducing herself to her new classmates was tedious and their reactions were mixed. Some were clearly not impressed with her, while others twittered about 'the American.'

Yet the most exhausting part of the day was lunch. It was a tactical maneuver she made; Blair sat alone at a table rather than choosing to sit with anyone else. For the first few minutes, she desperately missed Serena. But slowly, the curiosity of her classmates began to win out, and they broke from the coteries to learn about her- well, mostly they wanted to hear about America. Had she met any celebrities? Was New York really what it looked like in the movies?

She humored them, the little ones that came to her. But she was more interested in the ones that did not come; the ones that looked at her with distaste and disapproval. Who were the powerful ones here? One name kept coming up in conversation: Marie Girard.

Too many things had to happen on this first day of school. And though the end of afternoon classes had completely worn her down, she had to make a move to be clearly in play within this hierarchy. Gathering her things at the end of the day, with several of her new minions flanking her, she saw Marie walking down the hallway, surrounded by her own minions. Blair moved to stand directly in her path, forcing a confrontation.

"My, my, if it isn't the new little American." Marie chided in English, "I cannot imagine what you think you are doing in such a sacred school as Henri IV."

"Sacred it is- an inspiration to a life of the mind. But it is hardly the Maisons d'éducation de la Légion d'honneur." The name rolled smoothly off Blair's tongue, and it clearly irked Marie to mention a school whose admission was only by hereditary right.

"There need to be some places that are safe from filthy Americans. Go home, Blair Waldorf." Marie ended the skirmish, by pushing past Blair.

Inwardly, Blair sighed with relief that it had been so short. She was feeling more and more tired by the minute. On her worst days, Constance had never felt so draining. She had never had to prove that Waldorf meant anything substantial, but starting out here, she was nothing but an American. A smart American, who spoke French well, but it was going to be a fight to teach them what it meant to be from the Upper East Side, and to be Blair Waldorf.

Sliding into the safety of the town car, she tried to relax, to rest a little, and be strong. She thought of how much Serena believed in her, but it only made her miss her best friend more.

Serena stepped out of the town car, staring up at her school. She sighed; none of this would be the same without Blair. Standing in the courtyard she looked around, feeling oddly lost. She could sit with Penelope and the girls, but they had never been to her liking. She could sit anywhere she liked, honestly, but she only wanted to sit with Blair. Glancing into a dark corner near the entrance to the building, she saw Chuck in the shadows.

Walking over to him, Serena noticed he was looking at something in his notebook. Peaking her head over to sneak a look, she asked, "What are you looking at, Chuck?"

He promptly snapped it shut, and looked at her with a blank expression, "Nothing."

Serena knew better, "I'd bet all the peonies in New York it's a photo of Blair." She raised her eyebrow, half question, half challenge.

"Just my notes from English class." Chuck glared at her.

Staring back at him, Serena pulled the notebook from his hands and flipped it open without breaking stare. Glancing down now, she saw his English notes were there- since when did Chuck take notes in class? But there was a picture of Blair, too. She was wearing the green dress Serena knew she had worn in Paris over… Thanksgiving.

Chuck furiously grabbed his notebook back. He shoved it into his bag and hastily turned to leave, nearly running headlong into Penelope.

"Chuck Bass." His name was sharp on her tongue, "Looking forward to the new term? Without Blair Waldorf here, I rather expect we'll see your return to… proper form?" Penelope's grin was wicked, and she enjoyed watching him flinch when she said Blair's name.

His gaze was hard as he looked into her vapid black eyes, "She may be gone, but you are still unworthy of even uttering her name. And if I needed a good fuck, god knows it would never be with you."

Chuck pushed past her and walked into the building. Serena's eyes were wide, and she had to cover the smile on her face as she tried to not laugh at Penelope.

Blair smiled at Roman, who was waiting to see how her first day of school had gone.

"It was good!" She lied, "Just let me put my things away?"

In her room, she pushed the door closed behind her and let out a shuddering breath. Closing her eyes, she thought how much she missed Serena; she missed her uniform, Dean and Deluca coffee, and the Met steps.

She opened her eyes and glanced at her desk. Her breath fled from her lungs at the sight of a vase full of perfect pink peonies. Setting her bag down, she reached out, hand trembling, for the card nestled in the soft blossoms. Maybe… maybe they were from Serena? Or her father? Eleanor? Her mind wanted it to be anyone except who she knew they must be from.

Opening the envelope, she saw CB at the top of the card and she swallowed hard as her stomach pitched and rolled. It occurred to her that this card had come from New York, penned in his own hand, rather than just a dictated note to the florist. Her head spun and she pulled out her desk chair, sitting before her legs grew any weaker. Blair removed the card from the envelope.

Words fail me. Forgive that I must look to those from the past

to find the words to describe my present.

xx

"Happiness always looks so small while you hold it in your hands,

but let it go, and you learn at once

how big and precious it is."

~Maxim Gorky

It hurt. It hurt so much. And she was angry- no, furious. How arrogant… and presumptuous! Strength restored in her fury, Blair dropped the card and picked up the vase, stomping down to the kitchen. Setting it in the sink, she tore the blossoms from their stems, feathery petals crushed beneath her fingers before dropping and crashing into the cold metal sink. It was sick satisfaction for all the pain and anger in her heart. After the day she had… to come home and have him stab her in the heart.

She fought against the sob that heaved in her chest, "That Chuck Basstard!" It came out part curse, part cry.

Roman walked into the kitchen in search of a refill for his coffee mug. He heard Blair and he saw her figure hunched over the sink. She jerked against him in surprise as he hugged her, "Shh, it's just me."

Blair wrapped her arms around her other father, resting her head against him. She managed to not cry, but the weight of her emotions hung on her. She whispered, "When will I be happy again?"

Her heart pounded in her ears, pressure making her head ache. She was irrevocably torn- angry and touched at the same time. Why was he torturing her like this? Why was he not letting her go?

Chuck turned on the light as he stepped into his bedroom. Sighing, he sat down his school bag and glanced at the clock. There were several hours until dinner, after which Nate would be by for an evening smoke. Sitting at his desk, Chuck pulled open his notebook and removed the picture of Blair.

The pain was acute but he could not stop himself. Even though it hurt, underneath it there was that little warmth of happiness, because that night in Paris with her was the apogee of everything for him. It was the first time he saw the kind of man he could be, the life he could have- being a part of a family, of someone else's life. It was the first time he had ever felt so deeply about another person.

He propped the photo against the desk lamp and pulled out his textbooks. He stared at the thick algebra book for a moment before opening it. Part of him could not believe he was doing this. But the stronger part of him was louder; this was a fight, a fight that he had to win. Be the man she needs. It was a long road to redemption, but it was worth it- Blair was worth it.

A/N Chapter title from from Sky Samuelle's one-shot, which OutForAWalk wonderfully suggested for this chapter!

A lot of thank yous, hugs, and kisses for this chapter. Thank you to Glutton/Maribells for the amazing job beta-editing this! To Poinsettia, GGFan73104, OutForAWalk, Noirreigne, and TheVeryLastValkyrie for their feedback, support, cheer leading, and just being fantastic friends. I love all of you!

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