They'd Always Have Each Other

Twenty two year old Lily van der Woodsen sat at her kitchen table, absently drumming her fingertips against the dark cherry wood as her husband packed his belongings for yet another business trip.

"How long is it this time?" She asked him quietly, staring daggers at his turned back.

William Van Der Woodsen looked up at her and took in her scowl.

"Just a week or two, darling," He promised, giving her a curt smile as he zipped his name brand luggage.

"I'm sure…" She said under her breath, crossing her arms and fighting the urge to pick up a cigarette. She'd kicked the habit over a year ago, but every now and then when she felt stressed she considered going back to it.

"Want to repeat that, or should I just pretend I didn't hear you say something snide under your breath?" Her husband bit back, morphing almost predictably from his sweet caring husband act into the usual sarcastic asshole.

"You go ahead and do whatever you like," Lily hissed, stepping up from the table and heading out to the balcony with her purse; now seemed like as good a time as any to start polluting her lungs again.

"That's it? That's my goodbye?" William barked at her from the door.

"Have a nice trip, honey. Don't let the door hit you on the way out," She drawled, placing a Marlboro between her lips and fishing for a lighter in her purse.

Just as Lily lit the cigarette, the door slammed, jarring her back into reality.

"Fuck," She whispered, ripping the cigarette from her lips and tossing it – along with the entire pack – over the balcony's edge.

Placing a hand over mouth she swallowed hard, remembering now why she had quit in the first place.

As if on cue, a loud cry sprang out from the other room.

Collecting herself, Lily made her way into the bedroom and took in the perpetrator.

"Now, now…" Lily said softly as she reached down to pick up her sobbing daughter.

"What is it? What's wrong baby? Did daddy make you angry? Cause he has a special talent for doing that," She cooed, bouncing the little girl on her hip and using her signature baby voice.

Serena had stopped crying and was simply staring at her mother with her big navy eyes; tears still stained her pink cheeks and her soft blonde hair was matted to one side of her head as a result of her nap.

Lily smiled and wiped away her daughter's tears.

"Just us again, kid," She said with a hitch of sadness in her voice.

"Mama," Serena repeated for emphasis, sticking her tiny fingertips into Lily's mouth.

Lily chuckled, removing Serena's hand but holding it tightly in her own.

"You know how much mommy loves you, don't you?" She whispered, kissing the top of her daughters golden head and breathing in her unique baby scent.

Serena nestled into Lily's chest and yawned contentedly.

XXX

"Hey! Stop right there young lady!" A twenty eight year old Lily demanded as a blonde ball of energy whizzed past her.

Stopping in her tracks – her shiny black party shoes sliding across the hardwood floors – a six year old Serena turned to face her mother.

"Come here," Lily beckoned, hands on her hips.

Serena seemed to consider this for a moment before placing her own hands on her hips, challenging her mother. She looked like a Christmas angel in her red satin dress, with her silky blonde hair clipped back and framing her face; her mother knew better.

Lily could hear Eleanor Waldorf chuckling behind her at the display, but she refused to break eye contact. She had to struggle to keep the smile off her face though, as she played this little game with her daughter. After all, Serena's eyes were playful and glittering with laughter.

Serena was a lot of things, many of which gave Lily gray hairs, but she was not bratty. No, Serena lived life as if it were a game with something new and exciting around every turn. She left the whining to Blair and Chuck.

Suddenly Lily felt something tug at her pant leg. Reluctantly she admitted defeat and looked down to find her four year old son staring back at her.

Erik van der Woodsen smiled at his mother with his red stained mouth; the offending candy cane still clasped tightly in his sticky hand. He looked positively adorable in his crisp khakis and his green Christmas sweater - complete with Rudolph pin.

Erik pointed to his untied shoe expectantly – as only a four year old can – and sucked on his half eaten candy cane.

Rolling her eyes Lily picked him up and placed him on the granite countertop to tie his shoe. She bit her lip to keep from laughing as she heard Blair Waldorf whining to her mother about putting on her Rudolph Christmas CD instead of the "boring, old, stupid music" her parents had chosen for their annual Christmas party.

After tying Erik's brown suede shoe, Lily licked her thumb and rubbed some sticky red goo from his cheek. He squirmed in protest, begging to be let down to return to the living room and resume playing with the Bass's youngest son.

"Now where was I…?" Lily drawled, tapping her chin and pretending to think as she turned to look at the spot where her daughter had been. She was rewarded with Serena's retreating figure as the little girl tried to tip toe away unnoticed.

In one fluid motion Lily scooped Serena up and plopped her down on the countertop. Serena looked back at her with wide surprised eyes, as if to say, "How'd you see me?"

Lily smirked, placing her hands on the little girl's small legs.

"Now, why is it that I overheard little Chuck Bass telling his mother that you fed your dinner to their new dog?" Lily quizzed.

Serena glared past Lily's shoulder, "Bass." She hissed accusingly.

"Because honestly Serena "Lily continued, "Misty didn't seem too thrilled, and frankly neither am I. You're never going to grow if you don't eat."

Serena muttered something under her breathe about how disgusting fish was. Lily nodded knowingly; she knew how picky her daughter could be. Reaching on the counter behind Serena, Lily grabbed a paper plate with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on it. Serena's eyes lit up.

"This is top secret business, miss." Lily whispered, looking both ways for effect. "None of the other kids get PB&J for dinner, I had to sneak this. So you better eat every bite!" She warned.

Serena nodded dutifully, her eyes big.

Serena was small and skinny for her age, partly due to her insane metabolism and partly due to the fact that she was the pickiest eater alive. Lily had learned quickly that she could get her daughter to do almost anything if she made it a game, and she'd found that she enjoyed playing just as much as her little girl.

As Serena munched happily on her sandwich, Lily felt her cell phone vibrate in her purse. She fished around for it and sighed when she saw her husband's name flash across the screen.

"Hello." She answered dryly.

"Hey Hun, how's the party?" William asked cheerfully.

"Oh, it's great, wonderful turn out this year. Eleanor's really outdone herself." Lily answered, going through the motions of conversation. "How's Seattle? Did the meeting go well?" She asked, feigning interest.

"It's a slow game but I think we're swinging them our way, should be a great Christmas. I just wanted to call and wish you and the kids a Happy Christmas Eve." He explained, playing the part of the dutiful husband and father that he wasn't.

"Well, Erik's busy playing in the other room right now and I don't want to disturb him…" she could hear him sigh on the other line and begrudgingly gave in. "But Serena's right here if you want to say hi."

Handing the phone to her daughter, Lily stared daggers at a chip in her bright red nail polish. Stupid nail, she thought, silently blaming it for her all of her husband's shortcomings.

"Hi, daddy!" Serena chirped; her mouth filled with peanut butter and jelly.

Lily could hear her husband tell Serena how much he loved her and that he couldn't wait to see her tomorrow on Christmas. Serena had smiled and said, "Okay daddy," before hanging up the phone.

It both puzzled and worried Lily that her daughter hadn't returned her father's 'I love you' sentiment, and she wondered if her bright six year old was wondering just as she was, if he'd even be home tomorrow for Christmas day.

"All done!" Serena cried, spreading her hands wide as if to say, "Look at me, I'm awesome!"

Lily picked her up and kissed her temple, breathing in the scent of peanut butter and Loreal Kids shampoo.

She ran her hand over Serena's back in a slow circular motion – as only mothers can - causing Serena to sigh contentedly and twirl a piece of her mother's hair around her fingers.

"I love you so much sweetie, you know that don't you?" Lily whispered, afraid of the answer or lack of one.

Serena nodded. "Love you too, mommy."

XXX

"Well, like this for instance, 'the children will spend two months of every year with their father, wherever he is currently living.' What the hell is that supposed to mean?!" Lily fumed, screaming at her ex-husband over the phone.

"What, am I just supposed to ship them off to Timbuktu for two months if that's where you're 'currently living?' I refuse to sign this. Take it to your lawyer and draw up a new one." Lily continued, tearing up the legal documents he'd faxed her that morning.

"Oh, I'm sorry, now I'm irrational? Are you LISTENING to yourself?! This has nothing to do with my new fiancé, and everything to do with our children-," she paused, listening to him speak. She was sure that steam was pouring out of her ears at this point.

"No, he isn't here right now, Will. He's at a meeting. Sound familiar?" Lily huffed. "I don't have time for this, I have to go." She abruptly cut him off and slammed the phone into its cradle.

Squeezing the bridge of her nose, Lily made her way towards the liquor cabinet in the hallway. She was definitely in need of a strong drink after that conversation.

Opening the chestnut doors she reached for her bottle of Kettle One, only to come out empty handed. Annoyed, Lily peered into the dark cabinet and felt around with both hands; moving bottles aside for a better look. It was gone.

Weird, Lily thought. Maybe Chris had finished it off last night after work and had thrown away the empty bottle? But no, hadn't she just bought a fresh one yesterday? It was unopened, he couldn't have finished it.

Walking down the hall, her heels clacking against the hardwood, Lily poked her head into her son's bedroom.

He was sitting on his bed hungrily reading a Goosebumps novel and she decided against asking him about it. What would her eleven year old know about her missing bottle of vodka?

Suddenly a fit of raucous laughter could be heard from Serena's bedroom on the other side of the house.

Damn it, Serena, Lily thought a feeling of suspicious dread forming in the pit of her stomach as she stormed towards her daughter's bedroom.

She opened the door to find Blair and Serena lying on their backs, staring at the ceiling and laughing uncontrollably about nothing. They didn't even notice her standing there gawking at them. Between them on the bed sat the missing bottle, with three quarters of its contents now missing.

Unable to speak, Lily roared forward and harshly grabbed the bottle before leaving her daughters room and slamming the door. The laughter immediately stopped.

Removing the phone from its cradle, she pressed it to her ear, struggling to control her breathing.

"Eleanor? It's Lily." She stated tersely. "You're going to need to come collect Blair. It seems our girls decided they would break into my liquor cabinet tonight and toss back a few!" She fumed.

A few minutes later she returned the phone to its cradle and took deep cleansing breathes before returning to Serena's room.

The girls were now both sitting up on the edge of Serena's bed, digging their fingernails into each other's hands.

"Blair," Lily began in an eerily calm voice. "Your mother will be here in a few minutes. Get your things together."

A gangly looking thirteen year old Blair stumbled to her feet and clumsily stuffed her belongings into her pink duffel bag. Serena watched the shorter girl with wide glazed over eyes, terrified about what would happen when she was alone with her mother.

After Eleanor had collected a tipsy Blair, Lily stood in her daughter's doorway, staring at her angrily.

"Was this the first time?" She asked coldly.

Serena nodded emphatically, looking down.

"What the fuck were you thinking young lady!?" Lily interrogated, her voice rising steadily.

Serena flinched visibly; her mother never swore.

"Look at me!" She hissed, grabbing her daughter's wobbly chin and staring into her glazed over eyes, that were now filled with tears. "I want an answer, because I cannot fathom why my thirteen year old would be stealing and drinking alcohol ever, let alone in this house!"

"I'm sorry, mom!" Serena screamed, tears spilling over her pale cheeks. "We just wanted to try it! I didn't think it would be a big deal, god!" she slurred, turning away from her mother. She felt like white hot fury was running through her veins and it was everyone's fault, especially her mother's.

"It's a very big deal!" Lily screamed, kicking the side of Serena's bed.

Serena flinched again and stood up unsteadily. "Well you're always doing it since the divorce, why can't I?!" She shrieked, sobbing.

"Because I said so! Because you're my daughter and I will not allow it!" She yelled, her voice cracking. "I will not allow it!"

She waited for a response but noticed Serena swaying precariously on her feet, her face as white as a sheet.

"I don't feel -" Serena started weakly.

"Okay," Lily said immediately, letting her maternal instinct take over and guiding her towards the connecting bathroom.

Serena practically launched herself at the toilet as her stomach revolted.

Lily sat on the floor behind her daughter and gathered her long blond hair into her hands, holding it tightly while Serena got sick.

After fifteen minutes of this, Serena was sobbing, leaning her head on the edge of seat and holding her stomach.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." She cried deliriously.

"I know baby." Lily whispered, pulling her little girl towards her and letting her head rest in her lap.

She was drained from the ordeal and her heart hurt for her daughter who was so obviously tormented by her parents divorce.

"I'm sorry, mom. " Serena whimpered, shaking all over.

"No," Lily whispered, her voice cracking. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. Mommy's so sorry daddy left."

Her throat felt tight and her eyes threatened to spill over.

"I should've talked to you about it. The divorce, Chris, everything… I should've," she stopped, tears spilling down her cheeks.

Serena cried too, hugging her mother harder.

"You have to know that daddy leaving wasn't your fault, Serena," Lily demanded. "And no matter where he is, he loves you. He loves you so much."

Lily took a deep breath and ran her fingers through her daughter's hair.

"And it doesn't matter who I'm with, or what I'm doing, Serena, because I will always love you and Erik more than anything. Always," She promised, emotionally.

"I love you, too." Serena hiccupped, turning and burying her face deep into her mother's embrace.

XXX

"Well, she hasn't come out of there in two days." Lily pointed out, peering at Erik over her cup of coffee. "Doesn't she need to shower? Eat? Breathe?" She questioned nervously.

Erik rolled his eyes and took another bite of his Captain Crunch cereal.

"She's come out for food a couple of times, and I'm gonna venture to say that means she's breathing, but it's your call." Erik teased, tipping his bowl to swallow some milk.

"It's just very unlike her. She likes the fresh air, she loves to see people. She never just… hides in her room." Lily argued.

"True, but last night doesn't really count. I mean, the Bass' were over. I'd hide too if I could!" Erik confessed.

Lily swatted the back of her son's faux blond head.

"Ow! Sorry, I only speak the truth. But really mom, she's wallowing in self pity over her break up. She'll bounce back." Erik shrugged, putting his bowl in the sink. "I'm going to change. I'm meeting Jenny in a little while."

He paused on his way back to his room. "Look mom, if you're so worried why don't you go and talk to her? It can't hurt."

She nodded, smiling at her son and waving him off.

Fifteen minutes after Erik had left she stood outside Serena's door, staring at the wood.

Letting out a sigh she pushed open the door. It creaked as it opened but Serena didn't move.

The room was dark, due to all of the shades being drawn and Serena sat in the middle of her big bed surrounded by pillows, blankets, tissues and candy bar wrappers.

She was currently watching some old movie – Lily could tell by the over-the-top music – and crying.

Lily sat beside her and grabbed an M&M from a bag by Serena's knee.

"'It's a Wonderful Life' in May? You rebel." Lily observed, popping the candy in her mouth.

Serena ignored her.

"We never realize the importance of our relationships with the people we love until it's too late. But it's funny, because if we all knew what would happen before we did something, we'd never do it. Guess that's how life goes." Lily commented, talking about more than just the movie.

Serena turned off the TV and rolled onto her side, preferring to continue pretending Lily wasn't there.

Lily sighed.

"You fell in love for your first time, Serena, and it was life changing; I know. But you're going to survive this and down the road, you'll probably fall in love again. Doesn't seem like it now, but give it time." She promised, patting Serena's leg.

Getting no response, Lily turned to get up and leave, but she a small voice stopped her in her tracks.

"It wasn't the first time."

Lily waited for her daughter to continue.

"I mean, I've been in love with a boy before Dan, but…" she whispered, her voice cracking.

"But he was different than Nate. H-he promised mom." She was crying now. "He promised and I believed him."

"Promised what, baby?" Lily pleaded, desperate to understand.

"That he loved me and that he would stay and I can't – I can't…" she choked on a sob, burying her face into her pillow.

Lily didn't know what to say; there was no right answer. How could she protect her daughter from something that had been plaguing both of their lives since the time Serena was born? People who love you leave; especially men. That's what Serena knew.

Pressing her body to Serena's back, she wrapped her arms around her and rested her chin against her shoulder.

"I can't promise you that everything's going to be okay, but I can promise you that I'll be here to pick you up every single time you fall. I love you so much, and even if some days you don't trust anything else in the world, promise me you'll trust that." Lily stated.

Serena turned in her mother's arms, pressing her face into the older woman's collar bone and let herself relax in the familiar embrace. Her mother didn't need to tell her; Serena knew they'd always have each other.

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