Second to None
Spoilers: Season 1 is fair game.
Teaser: She didn't always walk alone.
It wasn't always like this. She didn't always walk alone. Her father used to be her constant companion until he fell in love with Roman and left her with her mom. And then it had been Nate, until he woke up one day and realized that he had fallen in love with the friend who wasn't her. Serena had tried, and they walked to school together most mornings until she too fell in love.
Blair had always been a romantic, and so when she was younger she would climb the library stairs and read lyrical poems written by some sad men and lonely women from centuries ago that told stories and stories about how love was the answer to all the questions of the universe. But Blair found out the exact opposite. When anyone in her life fell in love, she got abandoned.
Chuck must have loved her then. He never said anything about the word. Chuck Bass would probably break out in hives if he used that word. But it was the only explanation that Blair could come up with as the reason that Chuck Bass abandoned her when there had not been anything wrong. They had been the happiest they had ever been—certainly happier than they were during their secret affair last year and most definitely happier than she had been at any point in her relationship with Nate.
That could have been the problem. Blair let herself be so happy that she had forgotten that everything had to be done in moderation.
That was a laugh, she thought. Nothing that involved Chuck Bass could ever be managed to moderation.
And now she found herself in self-imposed exile just because she could not bear the thought of coming home. Her best friend asked her to come with her to the Hamptons after finding out that her summer vacation had gone awry. They stayed away from the subject of the stepbrother who had only just moved back into their family suite. As Blair talked about her stay in her father's country house and vineyard, and Serena told her all about her plans at the Hamptons, Chuck's name always hung above them despite their efforts to avoid mentioning the name. Even with Serena's prodding, Blair decided it would be best to stay as far away from him as possible for as long as possible.
She pedaled through the field in her yellow bike. Blair's skirt whipped around her legs and the wind caught in her hair and blew through it that she was just so certain that she would end up looking like she had a fluffy brown cloud around her head by the time she got home. For the first time, she didn't care. The first thing she chucked when she got her room was her headband. In place of it, she gathered her hair in a ponytail and decided that here in France, she wasn't going to be a queen or a princess or a fairy tale victim. She was just going to be young.
The entire morning as she rode her bike through the fields, she felt the cathartic effects of having the wide sky above her without concrete buildings blocking it out. It was different and unsettling. It made her feel small. And for once, it made the hovering figure of Chuck Bass even smaller by comparison.
She turned the bike and found a particularly rocky path. Blair would have turned around and used the same path, but she had been doing that her entire life and, without slowing down, she surged forward and screamed in delight as her speed picked up. Suddenly she was freely ripping through the fields. As suddenly as the velocity picked up, Blair found herself flying through the air. She hit the ground hard, fortunately just past the rocky path.
She lay facedown on the ground, gasping, her hair all over her face and her skirt probably thrown up around her thighs.
"Comment ca va?" came a low voice. Firm but gentle hands on her upper arms maneuvered her body so that she was lying on her back.
"Ouch," she managed. The side of her face burned. She squeezed her eyes shut and she felt the tears sipping out of her lids.
"Parles vous francais, mademoiselle?"
Then Blair felt herself being lifted off the ground and into strong arms. She winced at the pain and she clutched at his shirt. Blair opened her eyes and saw her savior, his face shadowed as he was silhouetted against the sun above him. "The vineyard—"
"My estate is very close," he explained calmly, so that she would not panic, switching for the vernacular that she seemed to prefer. "I will take you there. I've sent my man for a doctor."
Blair took several deep breaths. He did not sound dangerous, but one could never know. After all, she was being taken off her own property into his. "Pardon! Comment tu t'appelles?"
"Marcus." He cleared his throat, then emphasized, "Je parles anglais. I speak English."
Blair breathed a sigh of relief. Despite having had years of French tutoring, when stressed, it was still easier when you converse in your native tongue. "Marcus, please take me to the Waldorf house," she pleaded.
He stepped under the tree, and finally, Blair could see his face. Her lips parted at the sight. She would recognize those high cheekbones, noble nose, those warm eyes, anywhere. Even if it was five years since she had last seen them. Before she could speak, she saw his eyebrows furrow and he lifted her a little higher and tighter against his chest. "Blair Waldorf," he proclaimed with a smile, "all grown up, pixie."
"Marcus Beacham Rhodes." Blair ignored the pain on her face as she broke into a giant smile. "Little Lord Marcus." Her eyes scanned his face. "Not so little anymore."
Before Serena left for the Hamptons, she ran across Nate Archibald on the street. It was odd, seeing Nate again. Serena thought his beautiful eyes, which before held only discontent and loneliness, now showed that life happened, really happened—even to little boys born and reared with a silver spoon in his mouth. In many respects she was glad about what happened to the Archibald family. Nate's father's
legal woes had thrust Nate into the role of a responsible adult who appreciated his friends and what life gave him, instead of what it did not.
"So," one of them said, "Blair and Chuck."
"As long as they're happy," Nate managed graciously.
And so it was no surprise to Serena when, as she was in her stepbrother's room glaring at him for all its worth, Nate burst through the door and strode towards Chuck.
"Nathaniel," Chuck greeted curtly.
He held his phone up to Chuck's face, and although Serena doubted that Chuck could read it, it seemed like Chuck had assumed correctly. "Where the hell do you get off discarding people like this?" Nate demanded. "I thought I was clear in the wedding."
"Leave it alone, Nate," Chuck murmured.
Nate scoffed. "The only reason I've been standing in the sidelines since then was that I thought you were really in love with her," he told his best friend. "Blair isn't like any of these girls." Chuck turned away, and Nate shook his head. "Have a nice life," he ended, then walked away.
"Wait," Serena called out. "What do you mean? I thought you were going to the Hamptons with me."
Nate stopped, then turned around to address Serena. "My mother thinks it's best for our reputation if we retire to the Vanderbilt estates."
Serena walked up to Nate and gripped his hand, suddenly very afraid of what will happen to a long time friend. "For how long?"
She gasped. "Nate, the Vanderbilt estates are in France! You're just going to leave like this?"
Chuck swallowed heavily. "Nate—"
Nate held up his hand. "I don't want to hear it, Chuck."
But Chuck pushed on, "No matter what you might think, I did love Blair."
"Then you're pretty consistent," Nate said sarcastically. "You show me I'm your best friend by sleeping with my girlfriend; you show her you love her by abandoning her." He turned to Serena. "Bye, Serena. I—I'll call you, okay?"
Serena nodded, tearing up. As Nate closed the door behind him, Serena watched the expressions flit across her stepbrother's face. He winced when the door shut.