"Blair!" Serena said, finally catching up with her and grabbing her arm.
Blair turned to look at Serena with tears in her eyes that she was struggling very hard to hold back. She needed to maintain her composure now more than ever. She was about to officially debut as a lady. She just had to get away from Serena and go up those stairs.
"That's why you hate him so much," Blair said softly. She had walked in just in time to hear Serena mention something that happened the last time Chuck tried to come on to her.
Serena sighed, "B! Snap out of it!" she exclaimed. "You know how Chuck is…or was…or whatever. That didn't stop you from starting something up with him. Just talk to him."
Blair blinked. "You're here to…help him?" She could hardly believe it. Serena had just done a complete turnaround.
"I think you're right. He does care," Serena said before rushing through the rest. "I think he saw you with Nate again when he got here and in his sick Chuck Bass way he decided to get back at you for rejecting him. I think he really was hurt."
Her eyes pleaded with Blair to go back and talk to Chuck. Serena just wanted Blair to be happy. Blair had been betrayed one too many times by the people she loved. Blair deserved something good to happen to her…even if it was with Chuck Bass.
Blair took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She knew what Serena said was true but all she kept seeing was Chuck with Serena. Why did it have to be S? It had been hard enough after Nate, but Chuck too? In some small part of her mind she knew that Serena was right. Chuck knew that Serena would hurt her the most.
She didn't want to deal with this or these feelings right now. She was too overwhelmed. Her courage was completely gone. There was no way she was going to walk up those stairs in front of all her friends and debut with Chuck Bass at her side. She couldn't trust him after what he'd done.
"And the next time? And the time after that? Who's to say what he'll do the next time we have a little spat or misunderstanding? He trusts me about as much as I trust him," she said.
"B…just talk to him," Serena pleaded. "Don't you want to try to work this out? After everything you've been through?"
Blair sucked in a breath and let it out. "If you think he's changed so much, you be his date. Carter's mine." With that, she turned and walked towards the stairs again.
"B…" Serena said, but she didn't follow Blair.
Chuck was watching by the hall entrance. He couldn't hear what was being said, but he knew that Serena had failed when Blair turned away and raced to the stairs again.
"Shit," he hissed, before going after her himself. He didn't know if anything he said would help this situation, but he had to try.
Meanwhile, Nate was in his spot on the stairs. He had gone straight there after his talk with Blair. He felt better knowing that she wasn't completely wiping him out of her life. He even sheltered a small hope that she would one day turn to him again, but for now he'd take what he could get.
He looked over at the girl he was escorting. He found it ironic that he had come to the ball with Chuck's date. He hadn't really wanted to go after the mess with Blair, but Jessica needed a date and he was free. He did feel bad that she was forced to find a new date because he'd beaten the crap out of hers.
A motion out of the corner of his eye had him looking to see Blair start up the stairs and walk right past him. She wasn't looking at anything and she seemed to be holding onto her composure by a thread. No one else would be able to tell how upset she was but years of being with her told him that she was close to losing it. What was going on?
He looked down the stairs again and saw Chuck hurrying through the crowd of people for the stairs. He realized that Chuck must have done something to hurt Blair. Things were starting to look up for Nate. But first, he had to protect Blair. If she wanted to be away from Chuck, who was he to not grant her wish?
As Chuck drew close, Nate reached out and grabbed his arm. Chuck was startled and tried to pull his arm away. Nate held on hard. "Leave her alone."
Chuck sucked in a breath when he realized who was holding onto him. He drew back his free arm and punched Nate across the cheekbone. Nate had to let go to grab onto the banister or he would have fallen.
People around them gasped and realized that the bruises they'd noticed on both of Nate's and Chuck's faces were inflicted by each other instead of the result of them fighting together against some unknown assailant—like the gossip mill had originally assumed.
Chuck didn't spare Nate or the spectators a second glance, he just kept going up.
"Blair!" he shouted.
Conversations around him dimmed as the single name he said reached the people on the stairs. Their friends were staring in shock at him as they slowly connected the dots. Nate and Chuck had fought, and it looked like they were fighting over…Blair? But that would mean…B? She had some explaining to do.
Blair had frozen on the step at his shout. She turned around to face him, completely composed with all traces of tears gone. She waited, along with everyone else, to see what he would say.
"I'm sorry," he confessed loudly.
Everyone around him gasped. Chuck Bass did not apologize for anything. He never showed remorse. Serena, from the bottom of the stairs, and Nate, clenching his hand on the staircase, stared at his back in shock. They couldn't believe that Chuck had just revealed before God and society that Blair had him whipped.
Everyone turned to look at Blair.
She looked around at her friends and saw the look of amazed disgust on their faces. Whether she got out of this situation with her reputation intact depended on her response. She looked back at him and closed down completely. She couldn't do it.
Emotionlessly she responded, "So am I." With those words she dismissed Chuck and turned around to finish the walk to her spot.
Chuck stared at her back, feeling his stomach drop and pain race through him harsher than his fight with Nate. He'd lost. She really wasn't going to forgive him. He sucked in a deep breath and finally noticed everyone standing around him.
The guys were trying hard not to look at him but he could tell he'd just lost all respect they had for him as the prime player on the scene. The girls were either trying to hide their giggles behind their hands, sending texts with cell phones that he couldn't figure out where they hid them on their gowns, grinning because he'd gotten what he deserved, or snapping pictures to send to Gossip Girl to depict Chuck Bass' ultimate fall and humiliation.
He dropped his head and turned to start walking back down the stairs as the whispers around him grew louder.
Carter had watched everything with a slight smile, finally understanding why she'd asked him all those questions earlier.
She settled into her spot across from him on the stairs standing stiff, straight, and emotionless. He didn't know what prompted him to say what he did next—maybe it was to make up for cheating Nate at gambling and stealing from Chuck. He had been meaning to make amends. He didn't need his past mistakes coming back to bite him in the ass.
"Blair?" he asked softly. She snapped her head up to glare at him. She wasn't in the mood for friendly talk.
"No regrets," he said. It wasn't a question. It was a statement. It was the only thing he could think to say. He didn't have any regrets over leaving. He wanted to make sure she knew that if she did this, she should make sure she would never regret it. There was no turning back.
For a moment he thought she was just going to ignore what he'd said. Then slowly her eyes filled with tears and she gasped like she had been holding her breath for a long time. She sniffed and walked out into the middle of the stairs again, facing down them.
She saw him walking down the stairs slowly. She saw the looks on the faces of everyone smirking at him. She couldn't stand it. In the next heartbeat she forgave him.
"Chuck!" she shouted this time.
He froze and everyone was looking at her now. He slowly turned around.
She took a deep breath and hesitantly reached out her arm—unsure if he would accept it.
He looked startled before he realized that she was actually giving his worthless hide another chance. He didn't think twice before going up the stairs and taking the hand she offered to him.
"Are you sure?" he whispered for her ears only.
Her eyes twinkled as she remembered the first time he'd ever asked her that question. She nodded and leaned forward and kissed him in front of God, society, the world, and all her friends. She wanted him and she was done hiding it.
He kissed her back hungrily, holding her close, never wanting to let her go.
All around them flashes flickered on the oblivious couple as picture after picture joined the crush on their way to Gossip Girl's webpage.
"Blair Cornelia Waldorf, daughter of Harold and Eleanor Waldorf, escorted by Charles Bass." Blair and Chuck smiled at each other.
"Plans to be a member of Yale's class of 2013. She will continue to summer in South Hampton and volunteer her time to children's charities," the spokeswoman announced.
There was a tittering of applause as Blair put her arm through Chuck's and they ascended the second flight of stairs.
CeCe looked on, gleeful about the entire thing. Not only did Serena have a suitable escort, but her forever perfect best friend shined just a little bit less today, which allowed Serena to shine as the lady CeCe wanted everyone to see her as.
She gave a sly smirk to Blair and Chuck as they walked by her to the second landing before she turned back to watch her granddaughter being presented.
"And now I'd like to present Serena Celia Van Der Woodsen, daughter of Committee Member Lillian Van Der Woodsen and granddaughter of Committee Member Ameritus Celia Rose. Serena plans to bed as many billionaires as possible before settling down to…"
Everyone around the hall tried to control their laughter, a few snickers could be heard. Serena and Carter grinned and tried to hold back their giggles, barely. CeCe's mouth dropped open in shock, completely scandalized, and she frowned when she heard especially loud snickers and laughs behind her.
She looked up and saw Chuck and Blair giving her matching smirks.
Dear Lord, she thought, they really were meant for each other.
Everyone had been dancing for hours, the shock and excitement of the evening almost gone.
After Serena's less than stellar debut, she had a confrontation with her mother about the changes to her statement. She had gone back to the dance floor to join Carter after that and Lily had gone to secretly get Dan. Serena and Carter ended up talking about old times while dancing and he eventually mentioned her grandmother calling him the week before.
Serena confronted her grandmother; Dan showed up; S & D made up and were now dancing to a slow song near Blair and Chuck.
Blair caught Serena's eye and they both smiled at each other.
Blair glanced around again and saw that Carter was now dancing with Jessica. She wondered briefly where Nate had gone, but then she put him out of her mind.
She looked up at the guy holding her and running his fingers up and down her back. All thoughts of Nate disappeared.
She stopped trying to do one of the fancy dances she had trained for and just snuggled up against his shoulder, sighing contently and listening to the song swelling around them.
You want one true lover with a thousand kisses
You want soft and gentle and never vicious
And then one you're saving for a rainy day
If your lover ever takes her love away
She didn't know if this was love. She'd been so wrong with Nate. She thought it was too soon to feel anything like that with Chuck…and she was scared to be so wrapped up in another person the way she had been with Nate. It was unhealthy really and made her jealous and possessive. She knew that it was okay that she didn't know her feelings though. Chuck was discovering these new feelings too. Maybe they could learn together. She didn't know if this was love, but she knew she cared about him…and she knew he made her happy.
The lyrics made her smile and think of the priest she'd spoken to the day before. She gave a little laugh.
"What's the joke?" Chuck asked.
"Nothing…" she smiled, "Just thinking that I'll save my third wish for later." She knew where to find her genie if she needed him again.
Chuck raised an eyebrow and gave her a perplexed look. She just laughed and snuggled up to his shoulder again.
"Want to get out of here?" he whispered, reveling in the feel of her. He still couldn't quite grasp how perfectly everything worked out. He'd mentioned something to Blair about it earlier but she'd just given him some drivel about doing something good in a past life—whatever that meant.
"How about a limo ride?" she teased him.
He gave her his best devilish grin and they walked out of the hall with all the grace they could muster.
E . P . I . L . O . G . U . E .
The newspaper smacked down on the table in front of him.
"Have you seen this?" his mother asked.
He looked at the paper. The New York Times, Fashion & Style, section F1, the story title read Night Out with Blair Waldorf.
The caption beneath the picture read Blair Waldorf and Charles Bass.
Nate was amazed at how clear Chuck's face looked. He must have put more cover up on before taking the picture.
Nate looked up at his mother and nodded.
"Some friend he turned out to be," she said. She still held out hope of him getting back together with Blair. She really liked her and had always thought she would one day be her daughter-in-law.
Nate thought back to the night before and why he'd left so early. Now he understood why Blair glowed—she was happy. She was far happier than she'd ever been with him. Chuck had done that.
Chuck had humiliated himself for her, completely destroying his reputation in the process. Nate knew deep down that Chuck would be better for being with her too. It was just so hard to admit it.
Nate had made some colossal mistakes in the past year. He'd lost so much. It was too late—he was always so late!—to go back…or was it? He thought about everything and finally responded to his mother.
"Yes. He is a good friend," he said.
His mom just gave him an odd look before leaving the room.
Nate tossed the paper down and rested his elbows on the table. He sighed.
Maybe he'd call Chuck to get a drink later.