A/N: Written for a Fic Exchange over on livejournal. It had to somehow relate to Valentine's Day, and this is what I chose to write. Title comes from 1234 by Feist.
Blair Waldorf established a daily routine not long after she arrived at Princeton nearly three years ago now, and not even Valentine's Day changes it as she sits at her usual table facing the street in the corner café not far from the campus. Life has made her a cynic, she realizes as the sight of the heart shaped sugar cookies in the display case across the room cause her to only roll her eyes in response. She used to be the girl who would fall for the boy who stuck a note in her locker unsigned on February 14, or dream of the day when she would be married on the romantic holiday, her bridesmaids all wearing a scarlet shade of red. But that was before Nate Archibald broke her heart not long after he finally forgave her, sleeping with her best friend that still held just the right amount of mystery to him, and she stopped having hopes or dreams for the holiday. In fact, after three years, not even the fact that she is still single bothers her this year as Valentine's Day rolls around.
As she takes another sip of her latte, she feels the hair on the back of her neck stand straight up, the way only another person's gaze can make it do. She tries to not make it obvious as she tries to figure out who it is that's aiming their line of vision straight at the back of her head, but from what she can see of the room, there's only a few scattered couples all sharing their morning together before they go their separate way for their first class of the day. And they all seem to only have eyes for the other. It makes her absolutely sick.
But the person who's been watching her is still bothering her as she tries to submerse herself in the current book she's reading, I The Pact /I by Jodi Picoult. The irony of the book is not lost on her, seeing as it's main storyline is one depicting a suicide pact between two young lovers gone horribly awry, but she's stopped caring by now. Valentine's Day isn't even a real holiday. Had it been, she wouldn't have to be listening to a lecture by her least favorite professor in another hour. She lets twenty minutes pass, getting lost in the tangled, tragic romance that once occurred between Michael and Emily, but she finally realizes that she's only been reading the same page over and over again, too busy trying to figure out who might be watching her. The cute guy from the back of her International Relations class? The blue eyed California boy who is always spending the night across the hall? The barista who she sometimes came to see an extra time that day because she found him to be so good looking? Nothing prepares her from what she finally sees when she steals a casual glance behind her.
His signature scarf is wrapped around his neck, still in his coat despite the fact that he's been here nearly as long as she has, and she has to remind herself for a minute that this is the guy who came between herself and Nate. That alone should be reason enough to hate him. And yet, it's not, as she recalls his hands ravishing her body in the back of a limo and the feel of his hands tangled in her brunette curls within the confines of his hotel suite. She has missed Chuck Bass since she left the Upper East Side behind to become the Ivy League student she was destined from birth to become, but of course, she's not going to admit that aloud to anyone. Not even herself.
What bothers her most is the fact that he doesn't look away. His face doesn't turn a bright crimson color like hers would have, had she been the one caught staring. In fact, he smirks in the way only he can, the way that makes her still find him to be absolutely adorable, and motions to the seat across from the table. It's as if they've seen each other only the day before even though she hasn't even spoken to him in nearly two years, and she doubts that Nate has either. And yet, somehow, she finds herself rising from her own table, picking up her Coach shoulder bag and placing her book back inside of it simultaneously before making her way over to where he's seated.
"Long time, no see, Waldorf," he drawls as she slides into the seat across from him. His voice hasn't changed at all, she quickly notes, and she wonders for what must be the millionth time why she decided to cut all ties with him nearly two years prior. Focusing on her studies seems so trivial now, when she lets herself imagine where she might be now had she kept accepting Chuck's offers to meet him in a hotel near campus and spend the night with him once more. She had told him he was a distraction the last time she talked to him, and now she realizes that she may have been more serious about her schoolwork had she had him to act as an incentive. But she only lets herself dwell on it for a moment.
"You haven't changed at all, Bass. Still working for Daddy?" Blair leans across the table, resting her chin in her hands as she smiles softly back at him. She remembers the conversation she had shared with him back at the end of senior year, laying beside him in her bed happy, naked, completely satiated. I I don't see the point in college when we're all just going to come back here and become our parents. /I That had been his response when she had questioned him about his school of choice. And so, he had surprised her once again, like so many times before and opted not to finish school. Instead, he would follow in his father's footsteps as an entrepreneur, and it's exactly what he did. The last time she had spoken to him, he was working on some resort on the west coast. He had asked her to accompany him to California to a week, and she had turned him down.
His eyes darken for a minute before he responds, and she realizes too late that she's asked the wrong question entirely. "I took over for Bart, actually," Chuck finally says as he leans back in his chair. "He decided to try out the role of concerned, caring father this time around. So he handed everything over to me." Blair knows about the baby already, almost two now. Gracie, a little girl with Serena's golden curls. It was her best friend who had informed her of Chuck's little sister, only because the two were still legally siblings. Amazingly, Bart Bass's marriage to Lily Van der Woodsen has someone beaten all the odds and lasted longer than a year, a first for both of them as of late.
Blair doesn't know how to respond. She expects him to ask her a question about her own life here, so many miles away from home, but it doesn't and it surprises her. He's never cared about prying too much into a person's personal life before now. Why the sudden change? Well, when in Rome, she thinks to herself for a minute before she asks her question aloud. "So why are you really here, Chuck?"
He smirks again, and she knows that this reason pleases him, he's thought this through, and whatever his motive for being so close to Princeton is, it's one that he's willing to own up to. "Well, it's not like I can really go see, Nathaniel, can I?" So, maybe his answer isn't as heartfelt as she had expected it to be, but it's truthful all the same. He can't go see Nate now, just like she can't call him up to just to talk. The fact that she's talking to Serena now, after everything that has happened, is still a mystery to her.
"I guess you're not going to be his best man then, huh?" The wedding's in April, Blair knows because it's all Serena talks about anymore. She never thinks for a minute that Blair doesn't want to hear because her best friend and her ex-boyfriend are the happy couple-to-be.
"Does it really matter?" Chuck says after another minute with a small shrug of his shoulders. "I'd be surprised if their marriage lasted a year." She knows without a doubt that he says this more for her benefit than anything else, and for a second, she lets her heart swell. She lets herself think back to a time when his touch made her skin feel like it was on fire and the sound of his voice could completely turn her mood around. Her glance across a crowded room made her feel like she was the only girl in the world, and even his sarcasm always seemed to make her feel like she mattered. Nate could never do any of that for her.
"Actually, I hope it does last," she says, surprising both him and herself with the sureness her voice possesses. "They deserve it. And I've moved on." She has really moved on, she moved on years ago really, it just took her a longer time to realize that she truly had. Now, she's willing to just be Blair Waldorf if it means she's happy. "But you never answered my question, Bass. Why are you really here?"
He leans closer now, his breath warm against her cheek as he speaks, just like she's the only girl in that coffee shop. Sparks and chills. Feelings she thought she had repressed long ago. It all comes flooding back even before he speaks. "I've been at this table every day this week, Blair. I've watched you order seven half-caf non-fat lattes, and you came back twice on Tuesday," he deadpans. At least, she thinks he's trying to humor her, but thinking back on it, she realizes that he's right. He really has been here every day, or he's had someone following her just to make sure.
"That's just plain creepy, Chuck."
He merely shrugs his shoulders, that same smirk still on her face. And she can't look away. Just like a car crash, she can't look away. Maybe it's because the impact makes you feel alive. She can't remember the last time she felt alive. Really alive.
"I don't know about you, Waldorf, but I like to know what I'm getting myself into."
Confusion clouds her chocolate-colored irises as she tries to figure out what the hell he's talking about. She doesn't know what he's getting "into", and she's not entirely sure she cares to know. "You know, I was joking about the job at the CIA, right? Because you really do suck at the whole stalking thing. I found you out, didn't I?"
"Did you ever think that was the point?" Now, she's really confused. And saying that is a major understatement. He's making no sense, and she can't stop listening. Just like all those years before, he has already pulled her back into his web. "I've been planning on asking you out, trying the whole relationship thing, but I had to wait for the perfect opportunity. Because I know how you work, Waldorf, and I knew you were going to turn me down."
"You're right, " she immediately responds as she leans back in the chair she's currently residing in. She doesn't want a relationship. She always feels like she's drowning then, and she doesn't want to feel that way anymore. She just wants to be.
"Which is exactly why I picked today. Because you would never turn down someone on Valentine's Day." He's good. Why she didn't realize he could be so undermining in his plotting, she doesn't know, but he is. She can't say no because she knows that she'll be becoming her mother, destined to be alone after her own failed relationship if she starts turning down possible suitors now. Besides, the possibility of what could become now makes her hopeful in ways she can't even explain. Dating Chuck Bass? Chuck Bass dating anyone? They're both ideas that thrill her, make her want to laugh, and literally scare her all at the same time. "You're just going to agree to meet me for a drink tonight," he finishes as he stands up from the table, already moving on to whatever he has to do to mentally and physically prepare for their evening out.
She's silent for a minute as her teeth graze her bottom lip. She's out on a limb now, ready to dive into the unknown. The only thing keeping her from turning away is knowing that he'll be waiting at the bottom for her. "One drink?"
"That's all I ask."
She waits another minute before nodding in response to his question. "Fine. Meet me at eight for one drink then." She still has to control one aspect of this relationship. He can't be the only one making demands or it'll never work out. They're too similar.
She watches him walk away that day with a renewed faith in the holiday that seems to be entirely controlled by Hallmark anymore. Maybe, just maybe, she's looking forward to what Valentine's Day has to offer this year.
Little does she know, four years to this day, she'll finally be at that wedding she's dreamed of for years. And Serena will be the one wearing red.