Longing For Hope
Longing For Hope
Blair had trouble rebuilding the walls around her heart that Chuck had knocked down the night he had visited her. Her slip up while she was ill was evidence of that. When she woke up the next morning, she was drawn to the scarf. Her mind put up no fight when she tied it around her neck after dressing. It was a lovely spring day and Blair felt strong and confident as the wind tugged at the scarf.
At lunch, Emilie noticed the scarf, recognizing it was not something from the shops in Paris. "Blair, that scarf is so beautiful... is that from Bendel's?"
"Maybe." Blair smiled and adjusted the scarf, "A friend sent it to me."
"You know..." Emilie smiled back at her, "If you wear a scarf a boy gives you, it means you are his."
Keeping a cool face, Blair gave a noncommittal reply. She dismissed the butterflies that were fluttering and held her feelings at arms length. The scarf was only a gift- it was sweet of Chuck, but... she accepted that all they had together was now history.
After classes, she was in no hurry to return home and wanted to enjoy the weather. She made the short walk to the Panthéon and sat on the steps, watching the intermingling of students from the lycée and universities with tourists trying to take it all in. She lifted her head up to the sky and felt the sun on her face. She suddenly missed her best friend, and though the Panthéon was beautiful, it certainly was not the Met steps. She pulled a sheet of paper from her bag and began to write to Serena.
Right now, I am sitting on the steps of the Panthéon. Though beautiful, I cannot help but think how they pale in comparison to the Met steps, and sitting with my best friend. I do not mean to sound morose; I am doing well here in Paris. But there are times when I miss New York, and times when I especially miss you.
Chuck sent me a beautiful scarf from Bendel's yesterday, in lieu of the usual peonies. I could not help but wear it today. He wrote how now I would embody the best of New York and Paris. After that night at the opera- after what I did when I was ill, I cannot seem to get back the numbness I used to feel towards him. I am not as angry or as hurt as I used to be, and when I think of how we had once been, I smile at the warmth of the memories. My feelings for him have never been a lie, and I think I may be at peace with that now.
I cannot wait for classes to end so we can be together once more. I can just be Blair Waldorf from Manhattan, and not the Queen of Henri IV or that girl on Prince Louis's arm.
Serena knocked on the door of suite 1812 Saturday evening. The door opened and she smiled, "Happy birthday, Chuck!"
She breezed into the suite, and plopped down at the bar, carelessly dropping her handbag on the ground. The gift in her hands she set on the countertop.
"Hey, Serena. What are you doing here? Aren't you coming to my party later?" Chuck asked.
"Aren't you going to offer a girl a drink?" Serena beamed at him and he moved to the bar to mix a drink for her, and pour a scotch for himself.
"You still didn't answer my question." He pushed a dirty martini towards the blonde.
"I just…" Serena thought on Blair's letter, juxtaposing it with the last time their families had dinner- what Chuck had said, and the sad state between Chuck and her best friend "I don't think I'm really up to partying tonight." She paused, knowing she could not watch him play at being that other person, but then smiled again, "However, I still want to toast to your 16th birthday!"
They clinked their glasses together and drank for a few moments before Serena pushed the gift towards him, "For the birthday boy!"
Chuck gave her a questioning look and Serena replied, "I promise, it's something you'll like."
He pulled open the box, noting it was from J Press, and pulling back the tissue paper, he discovered a blue, red, and white patchwork silk scarf. It was a bit bold, but very sharp, and he smiled as he draped it over his shoulders, "Thank you, Serena."
"Don't thank me yet…" Serena hopped down from her seat, haphazardly picking her bag up from the floor. "Last year, Blair dragged me to J Press with her so we could find something for Harold's birthday. Meticulously combing through the store- you know the way she does, this scarf caught her eye. I commented on it, and," she paused for dramatic effect, "Blair said she always imagined dating the kind of guy that would wear a scarf like this."
She hugged him before exiting, tugging on the scarf with a smile before she turned towards the door. Chuck watched her go, at a complete loss for words. Had Serena, Blair's best friend, who was always fervently protective, given him a sign of approval?
It was too much and Chuck poured himself a second helping of scotch before walking toward the sofa. His eyes caught on an envelope on the floor. Picking it up, he saw that it was addressed to Serena. He assumed that it must have fallen out of her bag, and then… he recognized the handwriting. Turning it over, he felt his chest tighten as he read the return address. It was indeed a letter from Blair. He held it in his hands for a few minutes as he sat on the sofa, just staring at it. It was not meant for him, yet…
He pulled the envelope open, unfolding the letter, and hungrily read it over. Its contents made him giddy and he had to reread it several times. She had written it while wearing the scarf he had sent her? His heart swelled with happiness at that alone. But then she wrote of her feelings for him, the thought that Blair had softened towards him so much… and then how she closed the letter. The letter was for Serena, he knew that, but the way she wrote the ending- could she mean her and Serena could be together again or… maybe, him and her? It was unclear- she had just been writing about her feelings for him. He felt lightheaded at the prospect of finally having her back.
There was a pounding on his door, shaking him back to reality. Opening it, Nate mauled him in a man hug. "Happy birthday, man! Ready to head out? Oh, and nice scarf."
Chuck was officially sixteen. Surrounded by people in his den of iniquity, he did not care. It all meant nothing; Blair was not here. All he wanted, needed, was to see her. The drugs and alcohol could wipe her away, but only for a short time. Then he was back to thinking about that letter, about her… He was desperate and determined, he would find her, and then he could feel alive once more. Leaving his own party, he sought out Serena.
He met her at the Oak Bar, "I'm going to Paris. Tell me where to find her."
Serena looked up at him from her drink. He looked awful, but she recalled that visiting Paris never turned out well, "Chuck, she won't see you. I don't know why you think you can just show up the way you…"
Chuck interrupted; the drugs he had taken causing him to act out as he slammed his fist on the counter of the bar, "Fuck Serena! I just…"
Serena watched his fury wane, Chuck Bass crumbling into Chuck, a boy who needed her best friend. "Her school has a concert tomorrow, you can see her there, she's singing. Do not screw it up, or I swear, Chuck. You will never pleasure anyone again, and… yeah, you can imagine the rest."
Chuck shuddered from the image of what Serena was implying. She may approve of him now, but Blair came first. After all, he still had not won her back yet. He nodded in agreement before departing. He would have to pack quickly.
Louis escorted Blair to the stage entrance; he smiled at her, "You will do wonderfully, Blair."
"I just…" she smoothed her gown, inhaling, "I think that little things, like this, help me move forward and away from what I feel for Chuck. And maybe… maybe someday, I will lose him altogether?" Blair bit her lower lip, hoping the strange logic made sense. She wanted it to, though deep down, she knew better.
He reached out and squeezed her hand, "Until then, you have your family, no? And me, and all your friends."
She gave him a weak little smile and turned to enter the staging area. Blair focused on warming up and on the music. She tried to not think of Chuck… and the day she left New York.
Chuck found a dark corner to stand in; he dared not risk her seeing him at all. Right now it was enough to watch her. He knew a little how it would feel to be seeing her again. The rush of feelings… it would be good to have a few minutes to collect himself first.
When Louis entered the auditorium, he saw Chuck standing out of the way, observing the room. He knew it was Chuck, he recognized him from the photo Blair had of them together. Thinking back on Blair's sadness after Chuck had left, Louis became instantly protective. There was only one reason Chuck would be here and Louis did not want to pick up his mess again. Taking his seat with Harold and Roman, he focused his mind on how he could keep Blair away from Chuck.
Chuck's breath caught in his lungs when he finally saw her again. His memories never did her beauty justice. It was like coming into the sun after so much darkness and the little butterflies in him rejoiced.
The waves of music began, and when she began to sing, it was like a shot through his heart. Puccini… When we fall in love, we hear Puccini in our heads. Why? Why was she singing Puccini? His heart instantly shattered at the thought that she might be in love with someone else- with her Prince. He recalled her letter again: that girl on Prince Louis's arm and how her feelings for him had changed- I think I may be at peace with that now. He watched her then, completely heartbroken and reverently loving the image of her with unbearable regret.
Blair's face was sweet and sad; she was imagining she was in the opera, that she could be Lauretta, feeling her love, her hope, and her torment as she sang.
O mio babbino caro/ Oh my dear papa,
mi piace, è bello, bello./ I love him, he is handsome, handsome.
I love him… she thought of Chuck smiling at her and her heart skipped a little, before dropping in acknowledgement that she still loved him… so much. Her voice climbed the aria with so much emotion. She could see herself standing before him again that night of the ball, his words, the image of him, tore through her anew mixing with the pain and confusion she felt from that night after the opera.
Mi struggo e mi tormento!/ I am anguished and tormented!
O Dio, vorrei morir!/ Oh God, I'd like to die!
After several more bars, the aria ended, and Blair held herself together long enough to make it off the stage. Practicing the song had never bothered her so much, but performing it today had taken a toll on her. She missed him, she missed him so much, and it was weighing on her. In her mind, she knew no reason to feel so weak- she knew she was amazing- incredible even, but her heart… her heart lay on the other side of the ocean.
Louis found Blair slumped against a wall in the hallway, despondent. He was relieved he had found her before Chuck had, as Louis had lost sight of him. "Blair…" She tumbled into his arms and he held her. He stroked her hair as she trembled against him. He saw Chuck out of the corner of his eye, and it occurred to him; a way to send Chuck packing.
Chuck turned from a long hallway and suddenly, he found her- in another man's arms. If the thought of her with someone else had shattered his heart, he knew not how to describe this new feeling. His eyes were hot as he watched them, and then, time slowed. He recognized the Prince as he tipped Blair's face up to his and kissed her so tenderly. Chuck turned on his heels instantly and fled, hurt and anger pulsing through him. Why had he thought she would cling to her love for him? He was such a fool.
Blair felt Louis's lips on hers and the tears and pain she had been trying to keep inside burst. She sobbed, "Chuck…" and turned her head away from him, tears streaming freely down her cheeks.
"Blair, I'm sorry, I just…"
She pulled away from him, and left to get some air, to try and gather her composure, as she brushed the tears away. Turning down the long hallway, she caught sight of a beautifully dressed gentleman exiting. He wore a scarf she recalled admiring at J Press, and then took in his dark brown hair, and that confident gait… she felt something flutter in her chest, Chuck? Her father and Roman exited the auditorium just then, pulling her into hugs and congratulating her. Had she simply imagined seeing him?
Later on, Louis apologized to Blair. His actions made her face that even after all this time; Chuck still beat in her heart, as strongly as the day she had realized she loved him. Chuck… she thought back on what she had perhaps seen, and wondered, "Louis, why did you do it?"
"Well…" Louis was a little flustered, "Your singing was so beautiful, and you were so upset, I wanted to comfort you…"
But something about his body language, and the way he spoke told her it was only a half-truth, "And you wanted to protect me from Chuck?"
Louis dropped his head in acknowledgement of the whole truth, "I know how sad you still are. I see you struggle with how you feel and I didn't want him to hurt you anymore than he already has, Blair."
She ached at his admission; she thought perhaps she had imagined him. But it was Chuck. She felt a mix of anger, sadness, and a little bit of hope knowing he had come to see her. Yet, her rational mind also understood why Louis had kissed her; he was protective and fiercely loyal. Blair sighed, "I understand, Louis… but you don't know why he came. What if something happened? What if he needed me?"
"What if he loves you?" Louis gave her a small half smile. After she had last seen Chuck, he saw how hard she was trying to move on. But, looking at her now, and how she cared, and worried for him? He knew someone had to say what she would not.
Chuck was enraged. He started drinking the moment he stepped onto the jet. The image he saw tore at his heart, the sound of her beautiful voice…he could not drink fast enough to blur the memory, so he drank until he passed out. His debauchery made him late to school the next day; he had slept in, and it took him several hours to pull himself together again. At lunch, he had nothing but coffee and he groaned as Serena approached him.
"So, how'd it go, Romeo?" she twittered.
"Well, you won't be castrating me," he offered.
"What do you mean?" Serena furrowed her brow in confusion.
"She destroyed me without even a word… or a look in my direction." Chuck took a long drink, letting the scalding acrid liquid burn down his throat.
"How… is that possible?" she asked, still quite baffled.
"I saw her…" Chuck nodded his head, a bitter expression on his face, "In the arms of Prince Louis… they were…" But his throat seized and closed up as the image burned hot in his mind.
Serena saw the tension in his face, his jaw muscles flexing, and his labored breathing. She was confused. Blair had never mentioned feeling anything more than friendship for the Prince? Had that changed? If it had… maybe Blair would never come home?
So she focused on Chuck, "Stop it."
Chuck lifted his dark eyes to stare into Serena's blue ones. She was adamant and he held on to that.
"I can't tell you what you saw, but why does it matter? School will be out soon, and a few weeks later Blair will be here to visit me. You can't give up now, Chuck. If you weren't serious about her after all this time, then you would not have gone after her, and you wouldn't be this hurt and upset right now. You told me you weren't done with her- not until she was home, and in your arms. You sure as hell better prove to be right about that." Serena finished, and walked back to sitting with Kati, Iz, and Penelope.
He took a deep breath and opened his notebook. There she was, smiling up at him. Raking a hand through his hair, he thought of Serena's words and contemplated, what in the world was wrong with him?
Returning home that afternoon, he pulled open the drawer where he kept the PI reports on Blair. He reviewed the photos of Blair and the Prince together, unable to find anything beyond them walking arm in arm and the pleasant smiles on their faces. No hugs, no kisses, no chemistry… this soothed his fury, as he looked at other photos of her. He lost himself looking at her and sighed. Serena was right. He was not done with her- he was not ready to give up.
So he hefted his textbooks from his bag and went back to work. Just three more weeks, then, he could focus all of his attention on Blair. He would do it right this time.
The week finals began at Constance-St. Jude's, Bart and Chuck had dinner with the van der Woodsen's once more. Chuck noticed his father was acting… odd. Cool, yet, there was something else, too. He could not decipher it before they reached the van der Woodsen's penthouse. Lily was especially radiant and she gave him the sweetest hug. It made him smile a moment before he said hello to Serena.
Sitting at the table, it was all polite conversation and Lily asked if Chuck was ready for finals. He simply shrugged, acting indifferent, "As ready as I'll ever be."
Serena, in her mischievous ways, just smiled at him, "I just think he's ready for summer to start."
Chuck narrowed his eyes at her, and Lily went along with it, "Oh, do you have special plans this summer, Charles?"
Serena was grinning like a cat from across the table, and he coolly replied, "Just hoping to see an old friend that moved away."
It twisted in his stomach to call her what he had so long ago, and he saw Serena's eyes grow sad at having to remember Blair had left her. It all hung heavily on him in that moment, and he and Serena were solemn at the table. Unbeknownst to the children, Bart had filled Lily in on Chuck and Blair, and they looked at one another then, thinking on how sweet Chuck and Serena were in their sadness.
"Come now, it's a family dinner you two, no moping over your plates," Lily tittered.
Chuck and Serena eyed each other at that comment for a moment, family dinner? then looked at their respective parent. That's when Bart cleared his throat. "Both Lily and I hope we might have your permission to wed."
Serena and Chuck were staring at each other with wide eyes. When had that happened? They were going to be… a family?
"We spoke with Eric earlier on the phone and he has already said yes," Lily chimed in after the silence began to grow uncomfortable, "Charles, what do you say?"
Lily gave him a sweet smile, her eyes asking him to give her a chance- a chance at being a mother to him. He would have a family. His body tingled with excitement. He knew it would never be Thanksgiving in Paris… but this- this would be his. The hint of a smile tugged at his mouth, and he tilted his head a little, "I'm game if you are."
Bart turned to Serena, "Serena?"
She fidgeted a moment in her chair. She had to admit Bart Bass was certainly different from the other men her mother had married over the years. But she had never inherited any siblings from those unions. Chuck Bass would be her stepbrother. She glanced up at Chuck, and thought of how he was changing- how he felt about Blair. Recalling that weekend Chuck had stayed last fall; she remembered it had not been awful… even a little nice. So she turned to Bart, her smile beaming, "It would be nice to have some men in the house."
Chuck grinned, "Aw, you don't really mean that, do you, sis?"
Serena gave him a cool look, "Did I say men? I meant a man… and a boy." At that, she quirked her eyebrow and smirked a little.
Suddenly, Lily was laughing, followed by a deep chuckle from Bart. The children looked at their parents, and after a moment, just smiled. There was an overwhelming sense of completion as they all sat around the table, as a family.
After finals passed, Chuck was preparing for a celebratory smoke with Nathaniel that Friday night. Part of him wondered how he had done it, yet then, he thought of Blair, and all he had accomplished did not seem so hard. His phone began to ring and he pulled it from his pocket. It was his father. He answered it, and within a few moments he was running out the door.
Back in Paris, the friendship between Blair and Louis had been strained for a several weeks after the concert, but he continued to visit or pick Blair up so they could go out together. It took time, and control, but Blair had managed to keep herself together, focusing on school work and activities, and promising herself she could think about her feelings more after finals. Perhaps when she saw him this summer, no one would remember what had passed before, and she would feel nothing for Chuck?
It was summer at last now, the middle of June. Classes were winding down at Henri IV and she was ready to take on her final exams. She arrived home late Friday evening after going out with Louis and his friends. She was laughing with Louis when she noticed that her father was waiting for her in the foyer. He looked distressed and a little pale, "Papa, what is it?"
"I just had a call from New York… from Serena's mother."
Blair felt the blood drain from her face, and she grasped Louis's arm in anticipation.
"There's been an accident."
AN: Title taken from Longing for Hope, by Nyuh-Cullen
As always, all my love to Georgia for putting up with my madness on this chapter, lol, and Noirreigne for helping patch up the last few edits! Thank you!