Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
And we are so fragile
And our cracking bones make noise
And we are just
Breakable girls and boys
-Ingrid Michaelson "Breakable"
Chuck Bass deludes himself into thinking that what he has with Blair Waldorf will last. But nothing in life lasts, and like a dying man's breath, the words on her lips make him want to crawl back into his mother's womb.
His mother left his first day of eighth grade. He remembers her in tears, sunglasses on her eyes and a scarf around her dark brown hair, trying to leave with a semblance of dignity. He remembers the shouts at his father, at his infidelities, at his shortcomings.
Sometimes he sees a lot of his mother in Blair, and that scares him. They are both strong-willed women who hide behind expensive accessories. They are both so fragile, sticking by their unfaithful men.
He sees the way his father looks at Nathaniel, and back at him, in hopes that he will become just a little more like his best friend, and a little less like himself. He is never allowed to be himself.
He sees Nate and Blair the way he sees other couples through time: Romeo and Juliet, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, Ryan and Marissa. They are perfect pairs until you look underneath the glimmering surface. These pairs are flawed in more ways than one can think, yet appear with glistening varnish for the entire world to see.
Romeo and Juliet died. Their love was so apparently great that they died rather than face the consequences of life. Chuck doesn't think that Blair would die for that love, but he remembers her odd love of old romance films and begins to doubt.
The comparison to medieval Camelot is a given. Chuck calls himself Lancelot and smirks to himself, no one in sight.
Ryan and Marissa are a shout out to Blair's favorite The O.C.couple. She found Seth too quirky for her tastes and deemed the blond bad boy her favorite. He'd known this after she overloaded his TIVO with the entirety of season one. He still wasn't sure what was wrong with Ryan, because Marissa was ten times hotter than Theresa. He blamed it on Chino. He figured Chino was kind of like Brooklyn.
There are many constants in life. The sun will rise. It will fall. The sky is blue, the water clear. The last constant is the inevitable name change that Blair makes from Waldorf to Archibald. He pretends to be shocked to see their wedding announcement in the society section of the New York Times, but Chuck doesn't fancy himself a liar. He is many things, but he does not lie, especially to himself, especially not about Blair.
He remembers all the girls he fucked his senior year at St. Jude's to forget her. They were all like her, but not really, just cheap brunette knockoffs. He wasn't used to settling for second best.
He was, however, used to seeing Nathaniel get anything and everything handed to him on a silver platter. It had always been that way, something he had learned in kindergarten with Carter Baizen, the most popular fourth grader, who had picked him out of the playground and chosen to make him his protégée.
He hasn't spoken to his best friend (could he really still call him that?) since that fateful day one morning in November. It was their sophomore year in college and he remembers Nathaniel telling him that he and Blair are getting back together, again. This time Chuck has to pinch himself to remind himself that he isn't more surprised than last time because last night Blair warmed his bed for the first time in nearly three years. He reminds himself to shield his heart because Blair Waldorf is his kryptonite.
He spends that Christmas in Monaco (again) and returns to Boston for his spring semester. He spends spring break in St. Barts sunning with Tristan DuGrey and a slew of other fraternity brothers and sleeps with more petite brunettes with names that all sound like Claire or Sarah or something that sounds a little too much like Blair.
Over multiple bottles of whiskey after the other brothers have fallen asleep, Chuck lets it slip that he might've loved Blair Waldorf. Tristan is silent next to him, pouring himself another shot before he tells this younger dark-haired version of himself that he too was once in love with a pretty brunette. Chuck scoffs. His frat leader was a self-made manwhore, only rivaled by Yale's Carter Baizen.
"No, no. It's true," Tristan insists. He recalls her name, and tells Chuck all about his sophomore year at Chilton Preparatory, and Lorelai Leigh Gilmore III. He tells him about her stupid bagboy boyfriend, Dean. He tells him about her love for books and her dream to go to Harvard. "Is she here? Why haven't I met her?" Chuck asks, but Tristan shakes his head, instead continuing his story about this girl's love for her mother, and her desire to stay close to home, choosing Yale over Harvard.
"Blair goes to Yale," Chuck starts, and stops, because he has nothing else to say. Tristan nods, and the two simultaneously drink.
When he sees her two years after the wedding announcement it is the first time he has been in New York since he graduated from college. He isn't sure it is her at all until she easily breezes through the doors of Henri Bendel, winter white coat billowing behind her. The Vanderbilt diamond glitters brightly against her perfectly manicured hand. At the door, Serena greets her, not seeing him, and they stroll arm in arm through the dress department. He turns to leave before he can see her face.
He thinks fate must be pretty fucking pissed at him when he sees her later that week having dinner with Serena, Kati, and Isabel at the Russian Tea Room. As Kati and Isabel toss back the Stoli to no avail, he watches her sit with her hands folded, animatedly chatting with Serena and laughing serenely. He pays his tab at the bar and turns to leave before an arm grabs him. Wishful thinking will surely be his undoing, for it is Serena that grabs his arm, and not her best friend. He pretends he doesn't care.
"What are you doing here?" she asks, and she stops frowning to calmly look at him. He shrugs, as he has no answer. He never has an answer anymore, and he used to have all the answers in the world, back when they didn't matter. He wishes Blair didn't matter.
"Chuck?" she asks again, to which he replies, "I have no idea."
She looks up at him questioningly and says, "You haven't been home in years," of course referring to the extended suite that Bart and Lily now shared, with three bedrooms, each for Chuck, Serena, and Erik.
He responds, "I had no reason to come home."
Serena sighs, before she speaks once more, "Don't. Not this time."
He raises an eyebrow at his stepsister and asks, "Don't what?"
Serena sighs, placing an index fingernail into her mouth, gnawing slightly more than necessary. It was an unladylike habit for the blonde, one that she'd had since middle school, ever since Lily's second marriage.
"She's pregnant, Chuck."
When he leaves, his whole world falls apart, and it's not because this child is not his. It is because he has always known that this would happen. The whole world has always known that this would happen. Their parents were right. Their lives were planned out for them and they only had to live accordingly. Of course Nathaniel got his wife (Blair) and his 2.4 kids and backyard (well, not a backyard if they lived in New York) and white-collar job etc.
It wasn't as if Chuck was living badly. He was a prominent lawyer in Boston living in Beacon Hill, still the same playboy he was in high school and college.
The next time he sees her he is in New York because his father is in the hospital. The doctors have told him that he needs to quit smoking in order to slow the spread of the emphysema, but Bart is stubborn and so is Chuck. Seeing his father in the stages of lung cancer does nothing to deter his two-pack-a-day habit and Lily looks at him sadly when he leaves the hospital for the New York air outside.
This time she is walking through the door of Catherine Malandrino (she is always shopping), and two big bags are swinging in her arms. He wants to turn away, but finds he can't, and he is nearly startled to see a miniature version of Nathaniel with blond tufts of hair all over the place walking beside her. He walks beside his mother with her poise and decency and Chuck has a strange longing to know the color of the boy's eyes.
He doesn't wait to find out because he has an even bigger longing to have a giant glass of scotch and for this moment, he wishes he could supersize the drinks at Smith and Wollensky the way lesser people supersized their cokes at McDonalds.
When five years pass and his father breathes his last breath, Chuck returns once more to the city, looking around the cold archway leading into Park Avenue Presbyterian. The mourners are business partners and old Harvard buddies, but the only person he really notices is Blair. He wants to laugh in his head, because even at his father's funeral she is the only one he thinks of.
He remembers the girl he married three years ago. She bossed him around incessantly and for a while he liked it. For a while she reminded him of Blair. He had never thought himself pathetic. The marriage had ended five months later.
Blair looks haughty in her sleeveless black dress and dark sunglasses over her eyes. She takes off the enormous hat shielding her face and he sees her hair is neatly pulled into a bun. It is practically the same outfit she tried on for him one morning junior year in the confines of her bedroom, the morning Nathaniel came over after he finally discovered the fucking pin she sewed into his sleeve. He would have noticed a pin. Granted, anyone else would have noticed, but that was just Nathaniel for you.
The Archibalds pay their condolences at the reception afterwards and Nathaniel looks especially sorry, apologizing for not keeping in contact.
"Forget it," Chuck says, and it's practically like the boys never stopped being friends at all.
This time there is a little girl accompanying the little boy, but she looks nothing like his best friend (he guesses he can say this again) and all Blair. But while she is a tiny version of the girl he used to love, she does have pale blue-green eyes, a reminder that she is part-Nathaniel. He remembers to look at the boy, and notes his eyes are Blair's, all big and doe-like and chocolate. They look sad like hers, too, but he can't place a finger on why.
Their names are Preston and Brooke and they offer their condolences to the man they do not know and he has to smile at their politeness. They both carry Blair's grace and dignity and when the girl frowns at him, he remembers when Blair used to frown at him.
"I see you watching you know," Brooke starts, hands on the hem of her tiny Burberry dress. Oh yes, she is definitely Blair's daughter, through and through.
"Excuse me?" Chuck asks, careful to be polite. She is, after all, a child. He also knows better than to piss off a Waldorf woman. He wishes he had known then. Or maybe he had, and just didn't care. He was, after all, a Bass.
"I see you watching mommy," she responds, seemingly omniscient.
Her hands are still on her hips when he retorts, "I'm a friend of your parents'." He can't think of anything else to say.
"Daddy gets mad when people look at mommy the way you do," she insists, and Chuck can't help but laugh. "What's so funny?" she adds, and he shakes his head at her and says, "Nothing, sweetheart. Go sit with your mother."
There are invitations and dinner parties and cocktail galas and museum openings and nights at the MET before Chuck finds himself alone with Blair once more. He is angrily yelling into his phone at some incompetent fool at work and she coming back from the bathroom. He wonders if she still makes herself throw up.
She walks up regally in a floor-length silver Valentino, an adventurous choice for her. If he didn't know better he would have guessed it was Serena's choosing. She'd become more daring over the years. It had started about two weeks before her seventeenth birthday.
"Bass," she begins.
He wants to say Waldorf, but pauses instead to utter, "Archibald," with only a hiss of anger, and more of regret.
"So that's how we're going to be?"
He looks at her long and hard before agreeing, "That's how we're going to be."
He waits a full five minutes to rejoin the party after she walks in. It has been years since they'd been together, but he knew some still gossiped. He saw Kati and her husband Andrew as he glided in and noted Isabel and her latest billionaire standing next to them. They were whispering animatedly. Oh yes, some definitely still gossiped.
The noises around him become all-consuming and he found himself downing one, two, five more glasses of scotch before the night ended.
This time when little Brooke Archibald approaches him he is ready. Almost.
She looks more like Blair than ever, and it startles him to wish that this were his child. He'd never wanted children.
"Hi, Mr. Bass," she starts, pausing to curtsy, and it takes all of his willpower not to laugh.
"Hello, Brooke," he responds, and the little girl smiles at him.
"Are you married?" she asks, and he shakes his head no.
"Why?" she adds, before she continues, "Don't you love a girl? Daddy loves Mommy and Uncle Dan loves Aunt Serena."
He isn't sure why he responds at all, but she is small, and perhaps won't repeat anything.
"I loved a girl once."
Brooke's blue-green eyes are bright with interest as she asks, "What happened to her?"
"She grew up and fell in love with someone different."
"Well that's stupid," Brooke mutters, hands on her hips once more.
Blair walks up behind her daughter and says, "Brooke, what did I tell you about saying that word?"
She looks past her daughter at him and says, "I'm sorry if she's bothering you. She's rather nosy when she wants to be. She must take after her Aunts Kati and Isabel."
He looks Blair directly in the eyes and responds, "She's all you, Blair."
Blair's cheeks flush slightly before she looks down at her daughter and says, "She is, isn't she?" She kisses her daughter on the forehead before adding, "Well, she's got Nate's eyes."
When Nathaniel is found fucking his secretary on Blair's thirty-second birthday, she doesn't even pause to cry before she files for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. It is too much like an E! True Hollywood story and not enough like the life she wants for herself, so she cries in private, in the confines of Dan and Serena's West Village apartment.
Chuck is a little more than surprised to see Blair at his office in Boston two weeks later. He tells his secretary to buzz her in (no he has not fucked her) and he wonders if she is sad at all, because her face betrays no feelings.
"I hate to be rude—"
"No you don't," she retorts, and they fall into an easy banter, one reminiscent of their high school selves.
"What are you doing here, Blair?"
"I hear Boston's the capital of New England. I thought I'd go shopping?"
"You live in Manhattan."
She sighs before replying, "I just wanted someone to talk to, and I think Cabbage Patch was getting sick of me always at their apartment."
Chuck whispers, "Don't worry. I won't let Serena know that you like me more than her."
Blair retorts, "As if," before laughing and adding, "okay, maybe a little. But only because I'm over blonds."
"Noted. Do you want to get dinner or something?"
"Or something? You're disgusting."
"Or something meant drinks. Get your head out of the gutter, Waldorf."
This time he reminds himself to say Waldorf. It's sad because he was almost used to calling her Archibald. He prefers Waldorf.
"You are the gutter," she spits back, and he smiles.
"Then I change my mind. Get your head back in."
Over dinner she tells him the secretary his best friend fucked was a tall leggy blonde and to be honest he wasn't really surprised. He still wonders why so many men are still so infatuated with his stepsister because he lost all interest in her junior year. She wasn't even that beautiful after one looked at her best friend.
Over drinks (because they both silently wanted to spend just a little extra time with the other) she tells him she is escaping to France to live with her father and Roman. The children are staying with Eleanor during the school year, but they'll come visit during the summer. She plans to return the next fall, but nothing is set in stone because she wants New York to forget. She wants everyone to forget. She wants herself to forget.
It is a year later and Blair is still in France and it is Serena that calls him.
"Hello?" he asks, even though he knows exactly who it is because his secretary paged her through.
"It's me, Serena," she begins, adding, "Blair is still in France. I need you to go get her."
"What makes you think she wants to come home? Much less for me to bring her back?"
In her apartment, Serena crossed and uncrossed and crossed her legs again, sighing.
She says, "You do know you're the only one she talks to other than me, right? I mean, her mother calls, but I don't really count Eleanor as a friend."
He sighs, feeling himself caving in yet again, and just like junior year, he will fall. He hopes it doesn't hurt as much this time, because the longer he goes without her, the more he seems to want Blair Waldorf. He doesn't think it will hurt any less, but he will go. He always was a masochist.
When he shows up at the doorstep of Harold and Roman's French chateau, Roman is rather startled to find a strange attractive American man at the door. He says these words and Harold's ears perk up. He walks out to find Chuck and invites him in. He hasn't seen the boy since he left New York, but he's heard enough from Blair to know they are still friends.
After introductions are made and Roman seems content, Chuck greets Blair's father, "Hello, Mr. Waldorf."
"Hi, Chuck. You're Nate's best friend, correct?"
Chuck shrugs, as he isn't really sure anymore. He bluntly says, "I don't think we've been best friends ever since I fell in love with his wife."
"Ah," her father lets out, seemingly not surprised in the slightest, "I always figured something would happen between you two."
Chuck raises his eyebrows and questions, "You did?"
"Sure, these things happen all the time. Don't you watch soap operas?"
"Um, not really?"
"Surely Blair used to TIVO Dawson's Creek in your suite."
Chuck is now confused, and says, "Yes, but what are you doing watching Dawson's Creek?"
Harold looks stunned when he says, "You don't like Pacey?"
"I'm more of a Joey fan."
Blair finally walks out, her hair wet from the shower. She asks, "What on earth are you talking about, Daddy?"
Her father looks at her and grins, saying, "Blair Bear, look who fell on our doorstep."
She looks and gasps, "Chuck?"
He looks around rather awkwardly before replying, "Yes?"
She continues, "What are you doing here?"
"Taking you home."
"I don't want to go home."
Harold and Roman leave and Chuck walks toward Blair. She is still as beautiful as she was at seventeen and he has to wonder (still) how Nathaniel could so easily let her go. He would have never let her go.
"You have to, if not for me or Serena, then for your kids. Preston and Brooke miss their mother."
Tears begin to form in her eyes as she nods and says, "Yeah, I know. I just don't want to face it, you know? They're animals, all of them, always talking about me not being good enough etc etc and I just can't take it!"
"You are good enough and you'll be fine. Come on."
He reached out his hand and she took hold of it, inching closer to him. When their faces are close to touching, she asks him, "What are we doing?"
He responds, "We're leaving," before he kisses her for the first time in thirteen years. She still kisses the same, her lips soft and supple against his and he feels like he is seventeen again, happy in her arms. This time it will last and this time they will be happy.
He returns her to New York the way Mr. Big returned Carrie to New York and they take a carriage ride around Central Park with Blair in pink Christian Louboutin sandals just to toast her favorite Sex and the City episode, "I Love NY."
When they are married and Blair is pregnant and they sit together in the media room watching Breakfast at Tiffany's, Brooke's eyelids start to close and Chuck picks her up and brings her to her bedroom on the second floor of their penthouse. When they reach her room, he turns on the pink lampshade and tucks her in, careful not to harm her.
Her eyes pop open before he leaves.
Her lips are trembling and she is quivering when she asks, "You won't love me any less when the baby comes will you?"
He smiles because she needs love the way her mother needs love and he reassures her, "Of course not, you're my princess."
"Okay," and she rolled over to fall asleep as he turned off her lamp.
When his old frat brother calls him when he has a meeting in the city, he and Blair go see Tristan and his wife for dinner. Chuck introduces Blair and Tristan's eyebrows raise faintly before he lifts her hand up and kisses it. She doesn't even blush as she turns to his wife and introduces herself.
"Blair Bass," she says to the taller brunette, and the other woman replies, "Rory DuGrey."
Chuck returns Tristan's look and the men smile. They finally have their women.
On their fifth wedding anniversary, Sophie is two and Audrey is seven months (Chuck doesn't think he wants a boy anyway, if all the girls look just like Blair) and Blair is waiting impatiently for him to get home from work. She hmphs when he gets through the door and he laughs at her edginess.
When she undoes the white ribbon on the aqua-colored box, she is delighted to find a giant emerald stone set on a thick white-gold chain. She oohs and aahs and gasps with delight until she turns to him and questions, "Why an emerald? My birthday's not in May. I mean, I love it, I'm just asking."
He kisses her lightly on the lips before sinking his tongue into her mouth before Preston walks in and utters, "Sick. Why don't you two get a room?"
Blair utters, "Oh, get out, you," playfully, before turning to her husband.
He brushes his fingers through her long, silky curls before answering, "You're my kryptonite."