A/N: This chapter is coming to you earlier than I had planned because I needed to dedicate it to a bunch of people who have been a family to me the last eight years. The Ed Westwick board over at FanForum will close on Sunday due to lack of activity and we're all pretty devastated. That's the place where I made some fantastic friends, whiled away many days and nights as moderator, and the place where I made my internet home for the better part of the last decade. I will never forget the times we laughed and cried together, the schemes hatched and survivors battled out, the spoiler speculation for Gossip Girl and the incredibly popular FanFiction thread that was my own special baby. The friendships I made there are cherished and I will sorely miss having that place to go back to.
To Isa (my second other half), Chris, CT, Sharon, Lynne, Jackie, Dawn, Kay (my first other half), Cher, Belle, V, and so very many others, I want to thank you for making me feel less alone in my Gossip Girl obsession. Thank you for being yourselves.
SPECIAL THANKS to my beta, Anjumstar and everyone else who reviewed the previous chapter.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Gossip Girl, Chuck Bass, or Blair Waldorf. I just want to prove that two people, who are meant to be together, will find their way back to each other when the timing is right.
Where Did It Start?
It wasn't possible for the flight to get any worse.
This definitely wasn't the first time that Blair had been on a plane. And even though she normally traveled private, this wasn't the first time she'd flown commercial. It also wasn't her maiden foray into international waters. There had been times where the ride had been bumpy. An occasional storm had caused a delay. She'd previously been frustrated with the service or the amount of time it would take to reach her destination. These were all issues that she had encountered before on a flight. There was nothing new about them.
Then again, she'd never flown with morning sickness before.
She was nauseated. She was tired. She was upset over her situation. She was irritable. It was almost enough for her to try the emergency exit to put herself out of her misery. However, she was too busy running for the lavatory when her stomach recoiled at a slight bit of turbulence or the cologne of the hairy man seated behind her in First Class. She'd been lucky to reach it every time, though, and for that she was grateful.
Having to use the airsick bag would have been even more mortifying than repeatedly throwing up on a plane.
When the plane finally reached France, she found Roman waiting for her with a large Tiffany-blue sign that read "Blair Bear." It brought a small smile to her lips, even though she had hoped that daddy would be the one to meet her. He must have been working and sent Roman in his place.
It was easier than she thought it would have been to make small talk with Roman in the car during the ninety minute drive from the airport. Considering the way that they'd parted last time, and her attempts at sabotaging her father's relationship, it could have been a singularly awkward experience. There were sights for him to point out along the way and songs to sing along with on the radio. He was excited to show her a surprise that they had waiting for her and all of her guesses were incorrect. They laughed more as her ideas got more ridiculous, which was a great relief. It felt like forever since she'd truly laughed.
When the car pulled off of the main road the turn took them down a grassy lane lined with lush vineyard greenery. As they drove through the gate and past the gatehouse, Blair found herself in awe of the view as they entered the forecourt. Pictures really didn't do this place justice.
The château that her father and Roman shared was situated on a hill overlooking a lake that was surrounded on three sides by trees, with a breathtaking view of the French Alps in the distance. The main house itself was imposing yet beautiful, with three stories and a dozen windows that glinted in the midday sun. The surrounding lands were dotted with several smaller outbuildings that were obviously as old as the main house and most likely were used as stables or servants' quarters in the earlier days of the property.
Their car was met by a few men, who turned out to be part of her father's staff, when they came to a stop under the porte-cochère. Her bags were removed from the car and whisked away to be transported to her room.
Roman entered the building first and held the door open for her, his face lighting up as she gushed about how beautiful their home was. She ran her hands over the expensive furnishings and was introduced to Cat the cat, who loved her instantly and proceeded to follow her footsteps as they toured the rest of the house. At one point they passed a housekeeper and Roman requested that a pot of decaf hot tea be brewed and sent to Blair's room.
The tour ended at a room with her name on the door and when she entered, she recognized most of the room from the slideshow her father had showed her. The only difference was that a white bassinet had been added, which was trimmed in yellow ribbon. She instantly teared up and fought to keep herself from breaking down at the sight of the small baby bed. The one meant for hers and Chuck's baby.
Smiling through her pain, she tried to thank Roman for the surprise they had for her. He drew her in for a hug and she lost control of herself, letting the tears flow.
While she was in Roman's embrace she heard the door to the room open and then the soothing sound of her father's voice. "What's wrong?" he asked.
Roman's reply came in French. "Coeur malade."
Oh, if only heartbroken was her problem. Heartbroken she could handle. This feeling was so much worse than the mere pain of a broken heart.
It had to be.
She pulled away from Roman and came face to face with her father, who smiled and took her into his arms. Her tears were still flowing, but the comfort of having her father to run to was helping her feel minutely better. He kissed her once on each cheek, then pulled back to take her in.
"Let me look at you, my beautiful girl." He paused for a second as she spread her arms out and posed half-heartedly. "Well, I think we got you out of New York just in time."
She felt fresh tears stain her cheeks. "I agree."
He looked puzzled. "If you agree, then why the tears?"
Ill-mannered it might have been, but Blair used the sleeve of her sweater to dry the corners of her eyes. "I couldn't have stayed there and kept it from him any longer, Daddy."
"I was referring to this." He brushed her barely rounded tummy with his fingertips and Blair's cheeks turned pink as she blushed.
"Oh, yes. That." She chuckled mirthlessly. "At least I'm not showing in clothing yet."
There was a short knock on the door that interrupted them and the tea was delivered by the house keeper, accompanied by a variety of croissants. Her father handed her the warm cup, which was oddly comforting. She sipped it, enjoying the way the liquid warmed her from the inside out then took a small bite of one of the pastries. A look passed quickly between her father and his partner, which prompted Roman to excuse himself under the guise that the housekeeper needed him.
Once the door closed and they were alone, her father led her over to the bed and sat down. She joined him.
He cleared his throat. "Can I ask, have you decided what you're going to do? You know that I will support you in whatever way you decide, but I've learned through some discreet inquiry that it's generally easier on the mother to give up a child when she gives herself time to detach before adoption. The longer, the better, I'm told."
She took another sip from her teacup and sighed. "I just don't know yet."
"Are you holding on because you love him, or because want to be a mother to his child?"
"That's what I'm here to figure out, Daddy." She reached over to set her cup and saucer down on the nightstand, the remainder of the croissant resting on the edge of the plate. "I couldn't get enough space to think, having to look him in the eye… you know that he decided to win me back? It's very difficult to avoid him when he's that determined." She shook her head. "I was in danger of ruining everything the night before I left and now that I'm so far away, it hurts so much that I wish I had told him." Wrapping her arms around her body she admitted with a sigh, "I miss him so much."
Harold was obviously taken aback, but tried to hide his surprise. "He doesn't know yet?"
"No. Only Serena and Dorota know. And I didn't tell Serena until I was leaving for the airport. I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do before I tell him."
"Then it's good that you're here, Blair Bear." He reached over to put his arm around her in a sideways hug. "You'll be free to make your choice."
Blair started as she remembered her request, jumping slightly. "Am I? Did you check?"
"Yes." He nodded. "Even if Eleanor discovers why you came to France, you are old enough to make your own choice here. Your mother cannot force you into anything if she follows."
She leaned her head down on his shoulder. "Thank you, Daddy."
He patted her head with the arm that was across her shoulders. "Now, why don't you get some rest? I can't imagine that you slept well on the plane."
Blair lifted her heavy head to look him in the eye. "You're right, I didn't. I think a nap sounds wonderful."
Kissing her on the forehead, he rose from the bed and walked out of the room, the door swinging closed behind him.
She had just set her head down on the pillow when her phone started to ring. After only a brief second she realized that it was playing a song that she hadn't previously had set as a ringtone. As she listened to the lyrics of the song that her saboteur had chosen, she knew who it would be on the other end of the line before she turned the phone over to see Chuck's name flash across the screen.
And all the miles that separate, they disappear now when I'm dreaming of your face; I'm here without you baby, but you're still on my lonely mind…
This was obviously one of his attempts to win her back and Blair had no doubt as to who his accomplice had been.
In the brief second it took to pick up the call she realized her hand was shaking. Putting the phone to her ear she breathed deeply in and out, then greeted him in French. "Allo Charles."
He responded in kind, the buttery tone of his voice causing goosebumps to break out over her skin. "Bonsoir, mon petit pois."
The way he used the French term of endearment lifted the corners of her lips into a small smile. "Someone changed my ringtone," she wondered aloud, a teasing lilt to her tone. "I wonder who that could have been."
She could hear the Cheshire Cat-sized grin in his voice when he replied, "You had to be getting tired of All Through the Night by now." He was obviously very proud of himself and his little trick.
Blair blushed scarlet, her face burning as she thought of words of that song – knowing we feel the same without saying – and her mortification as he now knew that she'd chosen that ringtone specifically for him. She took a breath and pushed past it, trying to infuse her tone with an uncaring air. "I'm going to have to have a talk with Dorota."
"Don't blame her, Blair," he teased. "She was just doing me a favor."
His voice quieted a bit, like he was afraid to broach the subject. "Besides, I think she's secretly rooting for us."
Knowing what her maid knew about them, she wouldn't be surprised. Dorota had already expressed her displeasure about Blair's refusal to tell Chuck about the pregnancy. And she had been privy to the happiest times that Blair and Chuck had shared together in that penthouse apartment. She had also most likely heard Blair crying through her bedroom door and noted the increase in the amount of tissues to be restocked. Dorota knew better than anyone else how much Blair loved the boy on the other end of the phone.
Blair matched her tone to his, serious and soft. "I think you're right about that."
Now that she'd gotten over the shock of the change in her ringtone and they'd addressed the 'Chuck and Dorota colluding against Blair' topic, the line went quiet for a moment and the silence stretched out uncomfortably. It had been some time since they'd carried on a phone conversation for more than two minutes and this would be the test of how the next few months would progress.
"So…" Chuck started, sounding a little unsure, "I was calling to ask how your flight was."
She was overwhelmingly relieved that he broke the silence first. "It was awful," she groaned. "Absolutely awful. I couldn't be happier to be on solid ground."
"Maybe it means you shouldn't have left."
"Chuck…" she drew out his name, her tone filled with warning.
"Sorry, Blair. Can't I wish that you hadn't left?"
"You know I have my reasons, Charles. This is where I need to be for now."
He sighed and her heart constricted. "If that's your story," he replied, sounding a little dejected.
Blair did her best to change the subject and turn the conversation to safer territory. "You should see my room. Dad and Roman had it decorated just for me."
He let out a relieved laugh. "Did they remember the framed portrait of Audrey?"
She feigned surprise at his astute guess. "Oh, yes. How did you know?"
"Because I know you, Blair." His reply was tinged with sadness and it was getting more tempting to pick up that subject and run with it. She was already overly emotional, adding his sorrow at her departure to her own was only making it worse. Closing her eyes and bathing in the knowledge that he missed her, she just barely managed to fight off the instinct to break down.
She managed to yawn instead, deciding that no matter how much she wanted to hear his voice, it may be safer to end this conversation. "You know, Chuck, I was just lying down to take a nap…"
"I had another reason for calling," he cut in, a nervous note causing his words to quiver slightly.
He cleared his throat. "Serena just left."
Blair's heart started pounding against her rib cage, like it was trying to escape this dangerous place and save itself. Did that mean that Serena had given him her gift? She fought to keep her tone casual as she remarked, "I asked her to check on you," but the way her words wavered meant she hadn't succeeded.
His tone lightened a little, like he could sense her nerves. "She told me," he responded gently. "She also gave me your present."
Blair had anticipated this moment, where she'd be across an ocean when he mentioned the heart-shaped charm that she'd left for him with Serena. And while she'd expected to feel nervous, she hadn't expected to feel so forlorn. The thought of missing that moment, the one where she gave him her heart, was tearing through her in an unexpected way. Her voice reflected the storm her emotions were riding, her words quiet and insecure. "And did you like it?" She needed to get herself under control or this conversation was going to go into a death-spiral that they wouldn't be able to escape without a spectacular crash.
He must have heard her struggles because he couldn't jump to her rescue fast enough. "Of course!" he exclaimed, trying to soothe her fears. "Of course I like it. I had to call immediately and… and thank you." Instead of feeling relieved, her heart felt heavier as he continued. "Look, I know what that pin means to you, Blair. You gave it to Nate the first time you said you loved him. I can't help but…" He stopped abruptly, like he was struggling to find the words he needed to say without saying the words, the ones she had longed to hear from him for months now. "I had to tell you how much it means to me that you'd leave it with me for safe-keeping."
Dangerous ground, dangerous ground, dangerous ground. The warning bells were blaring in Blair's head, accompanied by flashing red lights as she chanted the words internally, trying to think of something that she could say to keep the tears from escaping. "It's yours, Chuck," she managed to choke out. "I mean that."
"I wish you were here, Blair."
And then the dam sprang a leak.
Her words were watery, matching the drops falling slowly down her cheeks. "Me too. I mean," she paused to sniffle as quietly as she could manage, "I wish I had had the chance to give it to you myself, but things happened so fast." Her tone was more miserable as she spoke, ending in a soft sob.
"Blair, please don't cry." His tone was pleading and just as bereft as she felt without him there. Which caused her to cry harder.
"I'm sorry," she cried out. "I just can't stop thinking what if, you know?" What if we'd been honest with our world, what if we'd never started, what if she'd told him the truth, what if she'd never danced for him… the scenarios that could have saved her from this pain were numerous, but there was one that would haunt her more than any other.
"Blair," he commanded, "you can't cry if I can't be there!" Then he groaned a little, in frustration. "I hate that you're alone. That I'm not there with you."
She continued to speak past the tears, pausing every so often to sniffle. "If only I'd… given the pin to you before Cotillion… after I took it from Nate… maybe I wouldn't be in… France right now." She was shattering, torn apart and frayed at the edges. The thought of that one small detail and its possibility to change her entire life as she knew it was too much for her hormone-overloaded body to take.
Blair was all-out bawling at this point. Tears were streaming down her face and hiccups of sobs were wrenching from her throat, but she was powerless to stop the waves of depression she was currently crushed under. She was curled up in a ball on the mattress in her father's house and crying on the phone with Chuck Bass. Her heart was splintering apart and threatening to crack right open.
"Blair," he spoke, his voice so soft and gentle that she had to quiet down just to hear him. "Mon amour, please listen to me." She allowed his words to wash over her, thankful that he'd slipped into French and it had made him the slightest bit bolder. Strong enough to call her my love without thinking about the ramifications or what it meant in the bigger picture of them. She needed him to be strong for her right now. "Listen, Blair. It's my fault that you're in France right now, not yours."
Hearing him shoulder the blame, the tender way his words were caressing her roiling mind, it was enough to help calm her. The panic she had been feeling at knowing she had the power to keep them both from this pain was starting to die down. She couldn't help but interject weakly, "It feels like it's mine."
He sounded a little relieved that the tears seemed to have subsided. "We both made mistakes, okay?"
She sniffed softly. "Yeah, we did."
Chuck took a deep breath, like he was trying to summon the courage to share something he wouldn't normally have divulged. "If the pin is your what-if… then I have one too."
Blair wiped the tears from her eyes and gave him her rapt attention. "What's yours?"
"When Serena was over her earlier, she mentioned that you'd slept in my suite the night I left for Monaco."
"Then the truth is that things would be different if I hadn't left that night. If I'd waited an hour, or two, or three…" He paused, sounding a little uncertain. "Would we be together? Would you have still needed to spend time in France if I'd just told you how I felt? How I really feel? Would it have kept us from imploding the way we did?"
Blair was choked up for a different reason now, as the meaning behind his words reached down to the very deepest part of her heart and plucked the strings that played only for him. "I wish I knew, Chuck."
He continued, speaking faster as he ramped up to what he was really trying to say. "And as much as I mean the words I miss you, because I do miss you, they aren't the whole truth." He stopped with an exasperated grumble. "And I wish like hell that you weren't in France right now."
She was trying not to hold out hope for where this was leading, but it was very difficult. "And why is that?" A day that hadn't been easy to survive was about to become one that she'd be willing to live a thousand times over.
"Because I never imagined that I'd be saying those words for the first time over a phone."
And her elated heart soared.
A/N: As I haven't written the next chapter yet, it might be a little while before I update. Don't hate me for leaving it there! (HIDES)