AN: Long overdue, but that's how it is sometimes. I'm sorry that it often takes me months between updates on my stories nowadays but that's the sad thing with being a free-time writer; life and work always gets in the way… Anyways, a big thank you to all of you who are still reading this.

How We Breathe


Chapter 5 – A Beautiful Mess

January 27th, 2008


Blair paces back and forth in her bedroom, deep thought etched into deep crevices over her brow as if she's silently contemplating her next move. And he watches her completely enthralled. Minutes pass and in that time he can gradually see the tension begin to ease away. She's still clearly upset but the venom in her voice has lessened and her eyes aren't as cold. Instead she appears... void. It's the same emptiness she's been displaying for weeks.

He wants to say 'Don't worry about this. You know I can handle Georgina', but he doesn't. He holds back, because saying that will probably launch her into another long and angry rant and he's tired of listening to her hissing and yowling. Plus, his mind is far too busy with trying not to picture her naked.

Though her skin is more pale than it usually is, and the curves he remembers are more angled and thin, she still looks gorgeous. Dangerously gorgeous. Good enough to make the irritating fluttering in his chest fall second to the tightening sensation in his groin.

"I still can't believe that not one of you idiots told me about this," she mutters, "I can't believe that I had to find out from Gossip Girl!"

He groans tiredly and lets his gaze fall from the curve of her ass to the floor. They've been over and over this the latest half hour. Gone over why she had been left out of the loop of things, and frankly, they haven't gotten anywhere.

"Let it go, Waldorf. This 'broken record'-thing is very unbecoming." He stands up and crosses the room over to her vanity. "I've already taken some precautions and Georgie knows that she'll be in deep shit if she comes anywhere near either you or S."

He picks up one of her headbands and as he turns it in his hand, he can feel her watching him.

"What do you mean me or S? This has nothing to do with me." She sounds annoyed and he turns towards her and meets her eyes.

"No?" he asks with a sarcastic undertone to his voice. "Are you forgetting that little old Georgina used to give Gossip Girl a run for her money? You two weren't exactly best friends when she left and I bet she'd love to get back at you."

He puts the headband back without mentioning that he remembers when she last wore it. Instead of telling her that she looked beautiful in it on her birthday, he simply smirks and she hisses like a cornered wildcat.

"Stay on the subject, Bass! We're supposed to be plotting against the returning bitch, not talking about gossip."

"Don't be stupid, Waldorf," he counter-attacks just as fiercely. "Georgie has a nose for scandals. She'll spot your new eating-habits from miles away."

The second the words leave his mouth, he curses inwardly. He had promised himself not to bring that up tonight. It's been so tense between them the last couple of days and tonight is the first time she's actually uttered whole sentences in his company.

One wrong word and suddenly he can feel her withdrawing.

"Georgina is a loser," Blair mumbles and turns away from him. "If you would just concentrate on the matter at hand, we'd have her gone before the week is over."

He hates how empty her voice is. The spark is gone and so is the manipulating evilness that usually lights fires in his groin. She paces and then stops. Paces again. And when she passes him the third time, he reaches out and grabs her wrist.

He holds on to her arm and pulls her in front of him before reaching up and grasping her thin shoulders. With soft motions he rubs them and she stays stiff as a rod.

"You're so tense," he mutters, a little surprised that she's not pushing him away. "Try and relax, Waldorf."

Her head tilts to the left and she breathes out a strained, "I am relaxed."

Like hell she is.

He holds her gaze until she is the one that looks away and he hates that she does. She never used to back down. She used to push and push and pout and whine until he wanted to strangle her, but she always won, at least with him.

Letting out a silent disappointed breath, he lets his hands drop and walks towards her door. "Then let's plot, my dear. I'm just going to go raid Elenore's bar-cabinet first." He puts the hand on the door handle. "Care for a drink, B?"

Surprisingly she nods.


She sits cross-legged on the bedspread and waits when Chuck returns with two tumblers half-filled with amber liquid. Disgusted, she makes a face because she already knows its whiskey. The ice cubes floating around in the glasses tell her that he's once again wrapped Dorota around his finger and she can't for the life of her figure out how.

Usually, Dorota is a great judge of character, but when it comes to the boys in her life she figures that Dorota must be confused. As long as she can remember, their housekeeper has been short and almost impolite towards Nate, but she's always had a certain love for Chuck. In all honesty, Nate was the 'nice' boy and it should really be the other way around.

"I think we should start by checking that the little junkie doesn't have more stuff on S," Chuck mutters and hands her one of the tumblers. His fingers graze hers for a second and she frowns at the unexpected electrical sensation that the touch ignites.

"And how do you suggest we'd do that?" she replies dryly and rolls her eyes when she realizes that he has the bottle squeezed under his arm. "It's not like Georgina will come right out and give us that information." She sips the fluid and makes a face. It tastes awful but the label says Morrison Bowmore and she's been around Chuck enough to know that is expensive. "Plus," she adds, "don't you think that the fact that Serena might have killed a guy is bad enough?"

She watches him more closely when he strolls over to the window and looks out at the traffic. He seems more tensed than when he left the room and he mutters out a condescending, "Don't be ridiculous. Serena couldn't kill a bug if she wanted to."

Down deep in her belly, an old green monster stirs.

Serena couldn't do that. Not perfect little Serena...

Guiltily, she pushes it back and takes another sip of the whiskey. She wishes that she could do something about the lightheaded feeling she's experiencing but Chuck had come over faster than she had expected and strangely enough, her stash of Lexapro wasn't where she'd left it. So the alcohol it is, she just needs to take the edge off the awkwardness of having Chuck in her room and the churning in her stomach caused by another skipped over dinner.

As she sips the glass in silence, a weird thought occur in her head. How could something that tasted so bad bring memories of something that tasted so good? The taste of the -79 Scottish Whiskey is heinous, but she remembers loving it on Chuck's breath and lips.

Her thoughts are shattered by his huff from over by the window and confused, she looks back up to find him watching her with his usual burning gaze.

"Have you forgotten how to do research or what?" he mutters dryly.

Of course she hasn't. It's just that her head is filled with so many things. It's not only this thing with Serena that's plaguing her thoughts. Being around Chuck is hard. So instead of playing his mind-games she rolls her eyes.

"Okay, let's go over this from the beginning," she sighs and sinks the last remains of her drink. "Am I to assume that Serena told me the entire story or is there more that you're keeping from me?"

He smirks and his voice is silky smooth when he whispers "Wouldn't dream of it, Waldorf."

For some reason, her breath hitches in her throat.


She's rested back against her fluffy pillows and she keeps yawning like a kitten behind her manicured hand. It's well after 1am and he should leave.

But he doesn't.

Instead he keeps searching for the last of the information they need, aided by his blackberry. And even though his back is killing him, he stays seated on the floor. His head is leaned back towards the chair behind him and while killing off his third drink – thank god Dorota was easily convinced – he eyes her in silence.

The last hour, Blair's seemed anxious and a bit on edge and he almost feels guilty for handing over her prescription meds to Serena. He figures that it was those containers that Blair looked for earlier when she basically turned her Alexander McQueen purse upside down. But he had needed to find out exactly what she was putting into her body, and as soon as he got out of here he'd call the Bass family's private physician and ask him. At least Dr. Marlowe knew what the concept of privacy meant. Blair's precious Dr. Sherman wasn't exactly known for keeping quiet. Especially not when offered cash.

Blair yawns again. In the corner of his eye he watches her eyelids drop and she flinches and sits up more, but after a couple of minutes it happens again. He's tired too and the third time her head lolls back on the pillow, he puts his glass aside. He waits another couple of minutes until he's sure she's sleeping and then he gets to his feet.

Silently he turns off the computer and his phone, then he puts the glasses and the bottle just outside the door for Dorota.

Most people found the woman a little scary but he's quite fond of her. Not just because she's one of very few that has the guts to try and make him behave – he smiles at the memory of her slapping him over the head with a towel earlier in the kitchen – but also because he knows that however cold Blair acts about it, Blair loves the woman to death.

He closes the door again and backtracks quietly to the bed. Blair looks almost angelic lying on the bedspread and he frowns.

Angelic – his ass.

He knows that lying down beside her is a mistake. Just like the night when he brought her to Brooklyn-boy's house, he should leave before it gets even worse. But of course he doesn't. Instead he spreads out behind her on the bed, stubbornly keeping his act together.

It shouldn't be that hard, right?

He's Chuck Bass.

He lies awake for almost twenty minutes, listening to the even breaths while trying to decide whether or not to put his arm around her. And when he finally gives in and simply lets his arm snake around her waist before carefully pulling her a little closer to him, she sighs almost contently in her sleep. The sudden stab in the chest is unexpected and he breathes in through clenched teeth. The feel of her and the scent, the familiar sound she lets out when he holds her... all of it hits him like an elbow in the gut. The butterflies lift and scatter inside his ribcage like frightened bats.

But he stays put. Even glides his fingertips up and down her naked arm and kisses her hair. He knows that the whole situation is out of character for him, but he doesn't care.

This, when Blair Waldorf is succumbed to sleep, might be the only time he's allowed to hold her.

And more importantly;

No one, except for some lost and battered butterflies, will know.

January 28th 2008


She wakes up before the alarm clock like always, at first not sure what it had been that woke her up. Maybe it's the countless mornings of being woken up by Dorota at exactly six thirty sharp that makes it impossible to oversleep? Or maybe it's simply to avoid the shrill sound. She does hate that alarm with a vengeance.

No, it's probably just the pain in her stomach.

The room is still dim and she groans tiredly and pushes her face deeper into the pillow without opening her eyes. It's weird how pain can feel comforting she thinks and assesses the hunger churning inside her. But it does. The pain tells her that she's in control.

Puffs of warm air hit her cheek and there's a familiar scent registering in her mind. Jean-Paul Gaultier's, Fleur du Mâle lingers with the scent of Scotch. Something is heavily draped over her waist and it's not the covers...

She opens her eyes and she blinks surprised at the sight of Chucks face, very close to her own. At first she just holds her breath and stares. The high cheekbones, the sharp angle of his jaw, the way his full lips pout a little with every breath.

For a short second she thinks that he looks almost angelic when he sleeps and she fights the urge to raise her hand and brush that boyishly unruly hair from his eyes. But then she remembers that he's never been an angel.

Chuck Bass is the devil reincarnated.

So she does the required thing that should have been spontaneous and instant. She recoils and gasps. Shoots up into sitting position and then she slaps him. She's fully aware that no one is watching them, but the masks still needs to be upheld.


He flinches, suddenly awake too, and then he frowns in that way that only Chuck can – making it seem as if she's to blame for something and not him. He's such a baby. She didn't hit him overly hard or even in the face, just a 'spontaneous' slap across the arm that seconds ago had been around her body. Then she flings herself out of the bed and while he looks around all disoriented, she blurts out an incoherent;

"What? Where the hell... Bass! Why?"

He yawns and sighs tiredly. "We were up late plotting against Georgina. We must have dozed off." He makes it sound as if this is perfectly normal. As if him sleeping in her bed happens regularly. But it doesn't. Not anymore. Not since he told her straight out that he didn't want her.

"You were on the floor!" she snaps with a lot less fury than she tried to conjure and just as she expects, he smirks.

"Yeah, well I didn't want to hurt my back."

"Why?" Her eyebrow rises with the question. "It's not like you ever do anything even close to athletic."

"Uhm... That's not entirely true, now is it?"

She almost smiles as she picks up the sexual innuendo. And for a moment she allows herself to pretend that they are fine. That they are still friends and that this is just their normal banter.

Maybe Chuck sees her sudden vulnerability because his smirk widens and she snaps again. "Fine! Nothing that requires removing your scarf."

"That was one time," he drawls and trails his eyes over her form in a way that makes her feel naked. "It was chilly."

He doesn't look away and it doesn't take long before his eyes on her body make her feel uncomfortable. She huffs annoyed and squirms under his gaze. "Enough about the past," she mutters, "Before you landed in my bed, I distinctly remember us landing on a good idea."

He nods. Purses his lips in that typical way that just screams superiority and gets up from the bed. "Yeah I trust you can take it from here," he drawls. "I have an English essay to write and no time to write it..."

"Don't worry. I can be bitch enough for both of us."

The ice that should be imbedded in her voice just isn't coming through and she raises her chin and tries to make her stare cold. But his smirk never falters. It's as if his skin is too thick to be penetrated.

"Believe me, I know..." he chuckles, "I still have the scars on my back to prove it."

Then he walks closer to her and the lesser the space between them, the more her pulse speeds up. She hates to admit it, but his presence still makes her nervous and flushed. One more step and now he's almost close enough to touch her. His eyes seem to soften and unconsciously she holds her breath.

"I don't want you to go head to head with Georgina, Blair," he mutters with a more serious tone than she's expected. "Stick to the plan we made, alright?"

She frowns and sighs. Suddenly he has that unreadable expression from last night. The one that makes her feel like a child.

"I can take care of myself, Chuck," she mumbles and looks away. She wants to move backwards but that would just tell him that he makes her uncomfortable and she doesn't want that. After all, she's a Waldorf and he's a Bass. She's Blair and he's Chuck and Blair always wins.


But he takes one more step and now he's so close that she can literally feel his breath fan over her face.

"Really?" he breathes. "Yet you make it very clear that you need to be taken care of." His eyes rake her frame. "Don't you, Waldorf?"

He's wrong. She doesn't need him or anyone else. She just needs to lose a few more pounds to make it to an even number. She's going to get rid of Georgina and then she's just going to shed five more pounds.

Her eyes flick away from his and for a second she catches her own reflection in the vanity mirror. She shudders unnoticeably. Just five. Just so that her body stops disgusting her and so that she can regain control.

"I'm fine, Bass," she states firmly. "Go write your essay."

Then she turns and walks towards her bathroom, hating that the pain in her stomach is traded to a ball of burning tears.

What hurts the most in that moment is that however much she wants to; she can't hate him. She just hates that Chuck Bass makes her weaker than lack of food ever could.

February 1st 2008


A lot of times lately he's wondered when Nathaniel stopped caring about Blair to the extent where he stopped seeing her. And the only two answers he's come up with is that either his friend never really started caring. Or he was just not able to see her regardless.

Because if he had, then he should have reacted when the upper eastside princess went from being a shy and insecure round-faced girl, to a sharp edged, self-destructive and model thin queen. Any normally intelligent person should have realized that something was fishy back when Blair Waldorf dropped four sizes in just a couple of months.

But not good ol' Nathaniel Archibald.

And to be fair; Blair and Nate had been a match-made relationship from the start, arranged by Mrs. Archibald and Mrs. Waldorf when they were all still kids, and Nathaniel never realized that he could decide for himself. It was probably okay as long as being a couple meant holding hands and sitting at the same table at lunch, but with age more things came into play.

Still, he can't understand how Nathaniel Archibald managed to stay blind and naïve when things started going down the drain. And he doesn't agree with his stepsister, who's currently stalking him over the school grounds to try to convince him that getting Nathan to help out with Blair would be a good idea.

"Maybe if he knew how serious this was, he'd be able to talk to her?" Serena whines. "You and Blair can hardly be in the same room. And with me she avoids this topic like the plague." Blue eyes that are way too begging meets his. "Come on, Chuck? What Blair is doing is dangerous. Nate is the only choice if we're not going to tell Elenore."

"And why aren't we doing that again?"

His eyebrow arcs half-curiously, half-sarcastic, because they've gone over this before and they're not agreeing.

"Chuck!" Serena whines and stomps her foot like an petulant child, "Blair will kill us if we do that. She'll never talk to me again. Plus, I'm not sure that Elenore can do much. She'll call Dr. Sherman and we both know how much that's helped."

At least they agree on that.

"Forget Archibald," he mumbles and grabs his scarf. "He has his plate full."

Serena raises her brow, "With what?"

God, does he have to explain every single thing?

Sighing, he leans against the wall and lights a cigarette. He ignores her question at first. Breathes in and lets the grey wisps of smoke out in small controlled rings that widen and dissolve in the morning air. Then he brings out his most sarcastic voice.

"Well, he's in senior year of high school of course and all the homework is tough for him." He nods for emphasis. "He has a crazy dependent mother, one bitch of an ex that doesn't want to play along anymore and a sinister best friend that he can't decide if he wants to hang out with…" he chuckles in a somewhat bored manner, "Plus, he's also secretly still obsessed with a hot one wedding-night stand he had two years ago, and his father's hiding out in the Dominican Republic to evade embezzlement charges and a nasty coke habit."

She looks confused and he has to remind himself that he should talk slower. This is Serena, not Blair, and his future step-sister is not always as sharp as he would like.

"I'm sorry to say it sis, but Nathaniel is of no help for us right now," he mutters to clarify the obvious. "Even if the last remaining piece of Nate's head wasn't currently shoved up Vanessa's ass, he still wouldn't prioritize this. He doesn't care if Waldorf's sick. Remember last time?"

Serena's eyebrow finally falls. Annoyed expression traded for a sad one.

"You mean last month at the Spring-term mixer?"

He frowns.

"No, S. I mean when she got sick the last time. He had to have known, right? And still the guy did nothing."

"I'm not sure he did know, Chuck," she answers. "Blair's parents and I were the only ones that knew. Blair didn't want Nate to find out she wasn't perfect…"


The cigarette burns down slowly and he watches as the paper turns into grey ashes. "He's my best friend, but honestly –," he clenches his jaw, "Honestly he's either more naïve than I thought, or he simply doesn't care. And either way, he's of no help so just drop the thought, okay sis?"

He takes one last drag off of his cigarette stump before flicking it down the stairs. The schoolyard is empty and he pushes himself off the wall and straightens his scarf. He's late for his Chemistry class but school is the last thing on his mind.

"And you weren't the only ones that knew…" he mutters as he leaves the blonde standing there.

He had noticed it too. But back then he thought more of Nathaniel. Thought that Nate would handle it, while he stood aside and kept telling himself that it was none of his business. Blair had Nate and Serena, and back then, butterflies had just been beautiful winged insects, not vicious creatures residing inside his chest.

But that was before the Sheppard's wedding. Before the lies started and before Blair's dad skipped off to France with another man.

He subconsciously clenches his fist before straightening his fingers so that his knuckles make cracking sounds, then he rolls his head and makes the same noise with vertebras in his neck. He has hardly talked to Blair since he left her apartment three days ago. They've simply traded a couple of words in passing and some information about Georgina through cell phone texts. And today most of her part of their plan is supposed to have been carried out.

Mr. and Mrs. Sparks will be at his hotel-suite in two hours and all he has to do is get Georgie to turn up as well.

Which won't be a problem of course. A simple call had sufficed, one that held a promise of the thing Georgina lives for – money.

In two hours, the 'package' will be wrapped and sent off to a hardcore rehabilitation-facility for the troubled youth, handpicked by queen Blair herself. Come tomorrow they'll all have at least one problem less.

But as he walks in through the school entrance and makes a right to turn into the halls of St. Jude's, he sees Nathaniel standing over by the stairs to Constance Billiards, chatting away with that little tramp Jenny Humphrey. And the irritation that still lingers after his conversation with Serena flares up again.

"Archibald," he calls coldly and watches as the golden boy turns around at the sound of his voice. "A word, please."

It's not a question and Nate knows it. Yet his best friend hesitates and looks back and forth between him and the trashy little Brooklyn-tramp as if he has options. Then finally, Nathaniel nods in acceptation and trots over to where he's waiting.

"What's up, Chuck?"

His friend says it as if everything is normal and the world is just steadily turning on its axel. In a way it makes him envy the guy and he clenches his jaw as he scans Nathaniel's features while trying to decide if Serena is right. If they should enlist Archibald to their efforts.

"My father is hosting a fundraiser tonight at the hotel," he drawls in a manufactured bored tone and waves his hand down the hall as a signal for Nate to walk with him towards class. "Meet me for a few drinks there. I have something that I need to discuss with you."

Again, it's not a question, and Nate nods, although still with some hesitance.

"Sure, man. Mom says I have to go anyway. What do we need to talk about? Is everything okay?"

Is everything okay?

When in hell had things last been even close to that?

He squints at Nathaniel's response and purses his lips for a second. He still feels that Serena is wrong and that just mentioning the brunette will make Nathaniel ice up like a popsicle. But he's running out of options.

"We'll handle it over scotch," he mutters. " I'll make arrangements for a private table."

Then he walks into their classroom, groaning inwardly when realizing that he just dug a new hole for himself.

How the hell is he going to avoid his father when he just made drink-plans with Nathaniel at the Bart Bass fundraiser?


The text finally comes at a quarter past two and she breathes out silently.

Picking G up in thirty - C

Her hand trembles as she replies, so badly that she almost drops the phone, but she manages to get the simple "I'll b there" sent. Then she texts Serena–who's currently in French class across the hall–and tells the blonde that she won't have to worry about Miss Sparks further, before she puts the phone back in her purse. She's been unable to concentrate all morning and her neck is stiff due to tensing her shoulders for hours on end.

Not that she didn't think that Chuck could pull this off. If Georgina listens to anyone's command, it's probably to Chuck Bass'. She's just skittish in general and so tired. Honestly, she's been more worried that she would be the one to screw this up.

Lately she forgets things. She gets lightheaded, distracted and disoriented and then paranoid that she has let important things slip through her fingers. The worry leads to irritation and anxiety but as of last night, she has ways to deal with it. She now has replacement for the Lexapro that had mysteriously disappeared from her bag last week.

"Mrs. Green?" she says calmly, her manicured hand raised in the air, "May I be excused?"

"Any particular reason for this interruption, Miss Waldorf?"

"I have a dentist appointment." She smiles sweetly, forcing herself to ignore the dizzy-spell and the bead of sweat that slowly slides down the back of her neck. "I have a note."

She does. One forged by Dorota this very morning.

Her head is pounding and her palms feel clammy and cold. And when Mrs. Green nods sourly, she stands up and grabs her purse. On the way down the hall she even allows to steady herself with her hand against the wall. It's probably filthy but it's better than making a nosedive to the dirty floor and her legs have been a little wobbly all morning.

It's nerves – once she has Georgina sent off to that camp, she'll feel better – but she still stops and retrieves the container of pills, quickly popping two in her mouth before continuing down the hall and out the entrance.

She can't afford to be a nervous wreck right now.


"As promised, you'll get ten thousand dollars in cash," he drawls and waits while Georgina Sparks steps out of his limousine. "That should suffice you for a while."

Probably not longer than a week, since Blair's research had showed that little miss sunshine is on the run from her parents and is still nursing a nasty coke habit, but it won't matter. There won't be any drugs to buy where she's going.

"Who would've thought that you'd be the savior, huh?" Georgina chuckles up at him and steps gingerly over the puddles on the sidewalk as if she hasn't got a single worry in the world. "Is Serena letting you fuck her in return for this pay-off?" The quirk of her eyebrow that follows is about as innocent as he's a virgin.

"Disgusting…" he mutters back and offers a calculated nod to the doorman. But the little witch, following close behind him, giggles.

"Really, Chuck? Since when does the Upper East Side's biggest man-whore say no to nailing Serena van der Woodsen? You've been chasing that since I popped your cherry."

"Since we are about to be siblings, you inane fool. Now lower your voice. We're at my father's hotel!"

With a straight back he walks through the lobby but Georgina snickers. He can't wait to wipe that smug look off her face. Just a little while longer…

"You could've just wired the money to my account, you know?" she smirks as they step into the elevator. "Buying me off to protect your new stepsister seems awfully out of character for you, Bass. Are you sure that this isn't about you wanting to get laid? Running low on willing pussy, are we?"

The elderly lady coming out through the doors looks at them with a shocked and disapproving expression and against his better judgment, the corners of his lips lift slightly at that. But it soon falters. Georgina is as crude as Blair seems pristine.

Once, he liked that about the girl standing next to him. Now he finds her lack of class appalling.

"You're different, Chuck," Georgina suddenly says and tilts her head to the side in curiosity, "I can't put a finger on what it is…" Her fingertip rests against her bottom lip, tapping it lightly as if underlying her statement. "Something is just…off?"

The elevator doors slide shut around them and he purses his lips and squints at her, trying to figure out how he should be feeling about that comment. But then he quickly forces his features into a well-used, condescending leer.

"Come now, Georgie…" he says in a low velvety voice, "You know me. I'll never change."

The elevator pings and stops at the floor of his suite and once the doors open, he waves his hand and does his best gentleman impersonation, "After you, mademoiselle."

She frowns but walks out into the corridor, with its expensive carpets and chandelier lights. And he keeps his steps paced with hers as the walk towards the door marked 1812.

"You're not entirely unintelligent," he drawls out in his most velvety voice just to placate her, because he can't have her turn suspicious now and Georgina Sparks has always been very observant. "Of course you can understand that this little circus that you were about to unleash on Serena, comes at the worst time with my father's pending wedding." He chuckles darkly. "He is marrying Lily van der Woodsen after all."

"Aww the poor Bass-family. Always so concerned with the gossip…" Georgina singsongs and plays with her hair. "Well, as soon as I get the money, you'll get this." She waves the brown envelope she's carrying, in his face. "All the picture proof."

He almost laughs out loud. She must really think he's stupid. It's the 21st century and pictures are digital for fucks sake. Who gives a crap about some paper copies? If he was the least bit serious about this he would never offer her money without getting more than that envelope, but Georgina's whole scheme is a hoaks.

When Serena first clued him in on the whole thing he had honestly been worried. His dearest step-sister has a history of getting herself into quite the bit of a mess. But even before he met up with Blair to plot the demise of Miss Sparks, he knew that this was minor. None of the crap that Georgie had tried to blackmail Serena with would have held. The guy's death was unfortunate but not at all Serena's fault. Therefore, even the pictures in Georgina's hand are useless.

All this is just so that they can get rid of the annoying little bitch and concentrate on more important matters.

The card-key slides easily into the slot and he prays silently that Blair is in position. Had it been up to him, the brunette wouldn't have been involved in this at all – and it has nothing to do with caring about her – she's just not fit for these schemes right now.

But a second later he's closing the door behind himself and Georgina, watching Blair saunter around the corner from his bedroom, and he stays firmly placed in front of the suite's only exit. Just to make sure that Georgina doesn't bolt.

"Blair Waldorf!"

The name falls of Georgina's lips sounding like a curse. Serena's old partner in crime glares at Blair and then her eyes flicker over to him and the closed door. "What the fuck is this, Chuck?" she snaps, "Where's my money?"

"Tsk, tsk… watch that language, Georgie."

Blair smirks and her voice is calm and condescending, but he doesn't like the dark circles under her eyes. Or how pale she looks. "It's been a long time. Bored with Europe already?"

"What the hell are you doing here, Waldorf?" Georgina spits back like a cornered wildcat. "Chuck is already paying me off. You don't have to come cover up your precious little Serena's mistakes." She twists back to him again. "Just give me my fucking money!"

"There, there, Georgina," Blair's condescending tone almost sounds up to par with her usual bitchiness, "hasn't anyone told you? You're not supposed to blackmail people. Especially not when you don't have the upper hand."

He almost feels sorry for Georgina right then – that is if it was a feeling he was capable of – because right at that moment, Mr. and Mrs. Spark step out of the bedroom and Georgina's face turns ash-white. Even paler than Blair's.

"Mom? Dad? But wha–"

"There you are, sweetie," Mrs. Sparks says in a cold voice. "We've been looking for you."

He can feel his shoulders losing the tension as Mr. Sparks grabs Georgina's arm and yanks her with him out the door, followed by his wife. He nods apologetically towards the couple, not missing the glares from Georgina and the silent promise of revenge in that look.

The whole thing takes less than ten minutes and as he closes the door behind the Sparks family he mutters, "At least one problem is fixed." They should call Serena and tell her. As a matter of fact he's sure that if he'd turn around, he'd see Blair with her cell phone in her hand, already dialing his future step-sister's number. He bets that this is all giving her a thrill.

He loosens his scarf and hangs up his Burberry coat. It's not even four o'clock in the afternoon but he's exhausted. Plus, he needs a drink. Bad.

But when he does turn around, there's no phone in Blair's hand. She seems to be almost slumped against the wall, hands shaking so bad that he can see it from over where he's standing.

She also looks really pale.

"Waldorf," he says and takes a step towards her, "Are you alright?"

Her trembling hand unconsciously flattens out non-existent wrinkles in her plaid Constance Billiard's skirt, monotonously, as if the repeated gesture brings her comfort. The tiny spark that had been there in her eyes while confronting Georgie is gone again and she looks a little lost.

"I don't feel so good…" she mumbles and sways a little.

He groans.

Stupid girl.

"Have you eaten anything at all today, Blair? Coffee doesn't fucking count!"

He spits out the last part in an angry voice because he feels angry. Furious, even. It's clear as day that she's starving herself now – instead of eating and vomiting like the little bulimic that she is. And he's pissed off at her for it. She's not supposed to do this!

She sways again and her hand comes up to rest on the wall for support.

"What? Are you going to faint on me now?" he adds venomously when she doesn't answer. "Do I have to take you to the fucking hospital?" He's not even sure why he sounds so harsh, but it might have something to do with the fact that now–just as when he followed Serena and Brooklyn-boy into that bar and found Blair semi-unconscious on the floor–the stupid butterflies in his chest turn into chips of ice, making his insides feel heavy and cold.

He doesn't want to care but she scares him. This scares him.

"I just need to sit down," she claims stubbornly and slowly walks towards the couch in his suite. Then she sits down, still with a straight back so that she won't lose her perfect appearance, and he glares at her. Wonders what he can do in this situation. If there's anything that she'd willingly eat, or if she's acting like this because she doesn't have her 'drugs'?

He wishes that he knew more about her fucked up habits because it scares him that he really has no clue what shape she's in. Evidently she's been sick for a long time but not even Serena seems to know for how long exactly. His soon to be step-sister had been under the impression that Dr. Sherman–the damn quack–had cured Blair the first time around and that she had been healthy ever since then.

And maybe she had been better, for a while at least, because he's fairly certain that she hadn't been puking or starving herself during the weeks when he occasionally 'spent time in bed' with her... but Blair is a brilliant schemer, a master of deception, and now–in retrospect–he really can't be sure if she was ever really well.

All he knows is that Blair Waldorf is too thin, too pale and doesn't seem to care one bit about what she's doing to herself.

He's also scared that he won't be able to avoid the fucking fluttering much longer. All this damn 'babysitting' is ruining his plans of staying away from her and even when Blair is pale and shaky and probably has her whole head filled with plans on how to destroy herself further, he still wants to kiss her.

He still wants to take her to his bed, undress her and literally worship her body until she gets it into that thick head of hers that she's beautiful. But she's so fucking broken and vulnerable, even when she tries her hardest to be strong. And he just doesn't know how to make her believe him when she just keeps shooting him down. He's still wounded from the first time he tried and she verbally kicked him in the nuts.

He shakes that thought away and repeats his question slowly, balling his hands into fists.

"What did you eat today, Waldorf?"

"I had breakfast."

"Really?" He lifts his eyebrow sarcastically to that vague response. "Eggs? Bacon? Maybe some toast?"

She looks disgusted, almost as if she's picturing the food drenches in saturated fats and grease. "Don't be ridiculous," she mutters and clasps her shaking hands together in her lap.

"Then what, Blair?"

"I had grapes."

Frowning, he looks at her. Clenches his jaw hard to lock in the insults that are about to spill from his mouth. Oh you, stupid stubborn reckless little bitch! Are you a fucking idiot? Did you puke those up as well? And it's not until he tastes blood that he realizes that he's been biting the inside of his cheek and he releases the pierced flesh in disgust. Then he stalks over to the sofa and he squints in anger as he stops right in front of her.

"I've had enough of this," he hisses and grabs her frail wrist tightly, yanking her up on her feet. "You need medical care. I can't fucking deal with this."

It's not within his character to be caring and soft so she really shouldn't expect that from him. Usually he's calm, cold and calculating. Often condescending and sarcastic. But seeing her like this makes him turn to red hot anger instead, even though he knows that it's the wrong way to go.

Her legs are still wobbly and she stumbles into him when he practically drags her towards the door, but her jaw tightens in that typical stoic 'Queen Blair' way and she tries her hardest to pull her arm from his grip.

"What are you talking about, Chuck?" she protests loudly, "Are you insane? Why would I need medical care. There's nothing wrong with me!"

"Exactly!" he bellows back. "There is nothing wrong with you! But you don't seem to be able level with that thought! You seem to think–," his voice lowers into a cold hiss that goes much better with his usual behavior, "–that everything is wrong with you. Why else would you be doing all this shit to yourself?"

She freezes, her feet planted firmly to the floor refusing to move, and when she starts blurting out ridiculous excuses, he simply groans in frustration because she really can't think that he'll believe that crap.

"Two choices, Blair," he gets out between clenched teeth, "I'll give you two choices. Either fucking start eating willingly and I'm not talking about a few fucking grapes! Or I will personally carry you kicking and screaming to a physician that can force you to get well!"

He's breathing hard, furious that she doesn't understand that this is all he can do at this point, but she simply stares back at him in open challenge.

"You would never do that. This is your father's hotel. You would never cause a scene like that in the lobby."

"Don't tempt me, Blair. I have no scruples what so ever. You of all people should know that."

It's a battle of titans, even with her looking like a ghost and trembling like a leaf. She still challenges him with just the stubbornness in her eyes – and however sick and twisted it is, it makes him relieved. The 'emptiness' is what freaks him out the most.

"Don't be ridiculous," she chastises him in her usual superior voice. "You couldn't even carry me past the door. I'd scream."

"Do I look like I'd care?"

Her face is so close to his and when he takes another step in to diminish the space between them, she almost unnoticeably sucks in a breath. For a second he thinks he sees disappointment flicker in her eyes and then she bites out, "No, of course not. Why would you ever?"

Christ, he just wants to lean in and suck that red pouty bottom lip of hers in between his teeth. Force her to fold with his mouth and tongue. Make her gasp and beg. But the fucked up thing is that in the midst of it all, he can actually read the undertone in her question – what she is really saying with those last four words– and it makes his anger blow up in hot flames all over again.

She's actually imploring that he is the insensitive one in this.

"Are you going to eat?" he growls, his short fingernails digging into her thin wrist.

Her chin rises an inch and her face is cold. "You would never understand."

"Is that a no?"

Ten seconds of silence pass. He knows because he counts them out in his head. And when she still hasn't answered when his self-decided timeframe is up, he twists his face into a grim smirk and turns her quickly so that he can lock her body in a tight grip.

"Suit yourself," he mutters and makes sure her arms are locked at her sides so that she can't scratch him or hit him. "Fucking suit yourself."


AN: I bet you all thought i'd given up on this? LOL Well, nope. So I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, and superbig thanks to Elena as always. And to Robin, who without even knowing it, kicked my ass into gear. XOXO.