Author's Note: I don't know, but this may be my favorite thing I've ever written. Possibly. I mean, you might not feel the same way, but I just really felt what I was writing as I was writing it. It felt really close to home for me in a way I can't really describe. But yes, I stayed up all night (well, almost all night) writing this, so hopefully it's not too full of typos and factual errors.
I've never had a brain tumor so I probably got a lot of stuff wrong, but bear with me for the sake of fiction.
Also, I'm going to say this takes place a little while after A Thin Line Between Nate and Chuck. Nothing else after that episode mattered or happened. So this is kind of AU, I guess. Oh, and if you're a BC fan or an NB fan, there's a little something in here for everyone.
Warning: Yeah, this gets dark.
Enjoy and please, please, please review!
The Life Pursuit
If you're lost and feeling low,
Circumnavigate the globe,
All you have is hope.
And the way you seem to flow
Circumnavigate the globe,
I never seem to lose control,
Everyone of us is high,
Everyone of us is low,
Everyone of us is here,
How about you?
Your eyes are closed,
Your head held low,
Your eyes are closed.
Everyone of us is high,
Everyone of us is low,
Everyone of us has hope,
- Coldplay, For You
It all starts with a seizure.
She goes so, so quickly from being Queen B, telling off some little freshman who stepped on her Christian Louboutins, to an embarrassing, foaming-at-the-mouth mess on the floor, eyes rolling back into her head.
When she wakes in the nurse's office, she is disoriented and groggy, and then suddenly outraged by the fact that the nurse is looming over her like they're related or something, while the student assistant tries to look up her skirt from the end of the table.
"Do you regularly suffer from seizures?" The nurse asks, clicking a flashlight into her eyes.
"Um," she snaps, throwing a kick into the assistant's chest as she swings into a sitting position. "Do I look like I regularly suffer from seizures?"
"Maybe you should see a doctor."
"Maybe you should just write me a note to go home. It's Spring, sweetheart. I most likely am suffering from the heat."
Nonetheless, her mother drags her to the doctor's office, moaning dramatically about how Blair's probably epileptic, and how she knew she shouldn't have stood in front of that microwave for so long that one time, and oh, did she know that sometimes seizures could paralyze your face?
The doctor nods a lot as her mother tells the story of what happened-- or at least, what happened according to the idiotic school nurse-- and eventually says, "She's never suffered from a seizure before?"
Eleanor shakes her head. "Never. To tell you the truth, I think it might be stress-related. She just broke up with her boyfriend of her entire life, and her father left us for a gay model--"
"Mom!" She frowns. "He doesn't need to know our life story, okay? Just shut up."
Of course the doctor furrows his brow and suggests they do some fancy test on her head, called an MRI.
The experience itself is some mild form of torture, and she decides on the cab ride home it'll be a good topic of discussion for her college essay.
Serena runs a hand through her thick locks and won't look her in the eye.
Blair winces. "Come on, tell me. How bad was it?"
The blond sighs. "Honestly, I'm having a hard time remembering. It wasn't that bad."
"Did Nate see?" Referencing her ex-boyfriend rarely happens, but she can't help but wonder. Suddenly an even scarier thought occurs to her. "Oh my God. Did Chuck see?"
Serena bites her lip.
She might as well be dying.
In a cruel twist of fate, her doctor tells her that she is, in fact, dying.
It's not just like that, though.
It starts when he calls her and her mother into his office and tells her that they've found that the MRI discovered a mass in her brain. Don't panic, he says. We want to go in and remove it.
But a week later when they try, the truth comes out.
She is sitting in her hospital bed with Serena--who begged and pleaded with her mother to allow her to miss school the entire time Blair is hospitalized. After all, this is a big deal-- eating Chinese takeout and reading magazines when the doctor comes in along with her mother, who is crying.
Eleanor Waldorf does not cry. Blair can't even remember seeing her mother cry when her father left, and she knows for a fact that that was the hardest thing they've ever had to go through.
"Mom?" She says, unsurely.
She doesn't hear much of what the doctor says next. Mostly, the things that stick out are: couldn't remove, aggressive malignant brain tumor, four months, so, so sorry.
She wants to scream that it isn't fair, but it's not like she's always been the best person, so she just cries instead.
She is Blair Waldorf. Fierce and smart and beautiful. She is not the girl that gets an "aggressive malignant brain tumor". Until she is.
The thing about being sick is that, even though you're aware of what's happening, everything changes. Literally every aspect of your life is different.
Blair Waldorf learns this the hard way.
The first few weeks are okay. It's possible to pretend that she'd never been to the doctor, that she'd dreamed up the entire situation, because she feels so normal. She shops, she goes to school, she hangs out with Serena, she bosses around her friends. It's easy to pretend. But when she's in bed at night, staring up at the ceiling and feeling her head for some sort of physical sign of this tumor, that is when it gets scary. That is when she can begin to believe that she's going to die.
It gets dark in her room, so dark she can't tell if her eyes are open or closed. She thinks this must be what death is like.
"I don't want to die," she whispers to no one in particular, hoping that there is some God out there that can hear her.
Serena promises Blair she won't tell anyone, but it's hard.
She sees her friend acting normal; smiling, frowning, bitching, laughing, and all she can think about is the doctor's words: "You have four months, probably. Five at the most."
They don't talk about it, but it hangs in the air between them. She wonders if she is doing the right thing by not telling anyone.
There is no point in thinking about it, though. Because Blair's the one that's dying. So therefore, it's not up to Serena to decide what is right and what is wrong.
It is after exactly one month has passed that Blair decides to start living her life before it ends.
She tells her mother to pull her out of school, and her mother obliges, telling her in a voice she hasn't spoken to her in years with, "I'll take you around the world. We'll see everything."
And they do.
For one whole month, they travel to different parts of the world; she goes to France to visit her dad, but his devastation is too overwhelming. She wants to live. She doesn't want to worry about death; they go to Japan, to Egypt, to Africa, to Russia.
They go everywhere. She sees everything one would probably need to see before they die.
It is at the end of the month that she begins to feel it, the tumor. Her left side, the side of the tumor, will randomly not function as she wants it to. She'll try to lift an arm to grab something and instead will kick a leg out. She'll be lifting a phone to her ear to update Serena, and her arm will shake so badly she'll have to hang up.
They decide to return home after just one month, and Blair begins her descent into death.
It does not get around school why Blair Waldorf dropped out. Not immediately, at least.
Rumors run rampant.
Chuck Bass scoffs when he hears Hazel Wilmore say, "I heard she has a serious heroin addiction, and her mom kicked her out. I heard she's homeless living in Brooklyn."
Penelope Barnes disagrees. "You know she's like, really bulimic right? Well, I heard she went really self-destructive after Nate dumped her, and now weighs like, seventy pounds. She's in an institution!" When Nate Archibald hears this, he looks down in guilt, and then feels stupid for feeling guilty, and then feels guilty for feeling stupid for feeling guilty, and so forth.
Serena keeps her mouth closed and Dan Humphrey squeezes her hand and kisses it and she smiles sadly.
Eleanor Waldorf does not understand.
She does not understand how she used to have the smartest daughter in the world, so clever and conniving most people feared her in a way that would make a mother proud, and now she has a daughter who is dying.
She does not understand death. Her own father died when she was a teenager, and it left her feeling so unsure and empty.
She does not want to live without Blair. She does not want to outlive her daughter.
One night as she is laying in bed looking over some designs, Blair comes in, eyes wide and tears falling. "Mommy," she says desperately, "can you help me?"
That night, Eleanor Waldorf helps her seventeen year old daughter into the bathtub, still so beautiful even though she is so, so fragile. She rolls up her expensive pants and sits behind Blair, pulling her chocolate tresses away from her hunched shoulders. Her daughter sits with her knees curled up to her chest and her chin resting on her knees and her gaze going straight forward. She sponges hot water over her naked body, delicate and warm, still.
Eleanor Waldorf kisses her little girl's head and says, "Please don't leave me. I love you more than you'll ever know."
Serena locks her hand in Blair's and they walk slowly down the street. For the most part, Blair is the same. She is smart, she is beautiful, she is funny. But her character is so strong that even the slightest difference is obvious, and therefore her much larger differences are painfully obvious.
Blair pushes her sunglasses closer to her eyes. "I feel like everyone knows."
"Ignore them. They're probably jealous. Did you get your hair done?" Serena has the ability to be so bright and shiny. She glows as she leans in to kiss her friend's cheek.
Blair says, "I think I'm going to have to go to a place soon."
"What kind of place?" Serena frowns.
Blair struggles for words. "The um… you know… that place. Where you go."
"I don't under--"
"When you're too sick to be in the real world."
Serena shakes her head, disbelieving. "You're no where near there, Blair."
Blair smiles faintly. "I can't even remember what it's called, and it's where I'm going to die."
"You're just a little disoriented. It's understandable." She refuses to believe that Blair is going to die, still. She refuses to believe that she'll have to spend the rest of her adult life without Blair Waldorf in it. It's unfathomable.
Blair does not seem to hear her. "I can't even remember what it's called," she whispers.
It finally gets around school when Blair is admitted into a hospice.
Isabel Coates is the one to break the news. "My sister volunteers at the Golding hospice, and she says Blair Waldorf was admitted three days ago," she announces at school a few days later.
"For what?" someone, anyone asks.
"I don't know. But it's crazy. Who would have thought? I mean, it's Blair."
The school lets it sink in, but for most, it never really does.
Things like this don't happen to people like Blair Waldorf. And if it can happen to Blair Waldorf, it can happen to anyone.
Out of control parties begin to slow until they eventually stop, and everyone begins to focus on getting the grades for college.
So in a way, she becomes a martyr. Her downfall allows everyone to realize that they are not invincible.
Nate Archibald takes the steps two at a time, and stumbles on the last one. He barely manages to catch himself, and when he does, he pauses for a moment to realize what he'd doing.
After a deep breath, he continues in through the hospice door. It's a nice place, really. He guesses if he were to die, he wouldn't mind doing it here. There are several large gardens, and the people all seem friendly enough. But he can't wrap his head around Blair being here. It just doesn't seem fair.
Her mother is sitting outside Blair's room talking to a nurse when she sees Nate. A look of surprise crosses her face, and she stands to greet him.
"Why didn't you tell me?" He is surprised at the sudden animosity he feels, but he can't help himself. He's known Blair his entire life, had dated her for most of it, and both her and her mother had politely declined to inform him of her impending permanent departure. It doesn't seem right.
She shrugs. "I'm sorry. Blair didn't want anyone to know. You know how she is."
He bites his lip. "Well, can I see her?"
"Nate, I don't know if you--"
"I want to see her." He's never been a bold person. Has never really stood up to anyone for anything, has never really had any ambition. He can tell his ex-girlfriend's mother is surprised to hear the strength in his voice.
"Okay, you can see her," she nods. "But do you know what's happened to her?"
"Serena told me."
"Things are different, Nathaniel. She's… she's not how you'll remember her being. Sometimes," she hesitates. "Sometimes she'll say one word meaning another, and if her sentences don't make sense, you just need to go with it. If she feels like she's losing it, she won't be able to last."
He shuffles his feet. "How long does she have?"
"A couple months at the most. If she's lucky."
"Lucky isn't what I'd call it." He mumbles, but steps aside her to go into the room.
When Blair sees him, he can't even believe that she's sick. She looks just as she's always looked. She is beautiful to him still. He can remember meeting her as a child, watching her grow to become who she became. He can remember kissing her, how familiar it became, how they fit-- they always fit! Their hands, their lips, their bodies. That night after the debutante ball, he had realized how they had always been meant to be. How their first time together had been the most intense thing that he'd ever experienced. How, afterwards, he'd wanted to tell her this, but he'd felt embarrassed, so he had kept it to himself.
She smiles. "I've missed you."
He sits at the edge of her bed.
"I'm sorry." His voice cracks. He suddenly feels so terrible. How could he have broken up with her after he found out about Chuck? It didn't matter, why should it have mattered? It was before they were back together. She wanted him, he knew she wanted him. And finally he had understood how to want her back. How can he apologize for all this now, he thinks. How can he change things?
She sighs a warm, friendly sigh. It almost sounds as if she's humming. "This is so weird. I can't believe this."
"Blair, I don't want this to happen." He knows he's supposed to appear calm. He's supposed to make her feel like everything's been okay. He's supposed to be a knight in shining armor. But he doesn't know how; he's never in his life been a strong person. "I can't imagine you not being around."
She grins, dimples flashing. "Kiss me!"
He does as he is told. Her lips are still sweet, and she still kisses like Blair. But it is different. He pulls away with shining eyes.
"You still have my pencil," she says.
"What?" He shakes his head, confused.
"My pencil," her voice raises an octave. He realizes she is frustrated with him. "My pencil!"
"Blair, I don't…"
"You know." She holds his wrist and plays with the cuff of his sweater, but he still doesn't understand. He doesn't know.
"I was supposed to marry you." He tells her, knowing it doesn't really matter anymore.
After he leaves, he sits outside the hospice crying, knowing he must look stupid but not really caring. When he lifts a hand to wipe away his tears, he sees the flash of gold as his wrist drops to his lap.
He sniffles and folds up the sleeve of his sweater a little more, revealing the heart-shaped pin Blair had sewn into his sweater.
Suddenly it makes sense.
What Blair had been trying to say to him was: you still have my heart.
"She hates it in there." Serena says to Chuck one day over breakfast. It is just the two of them. Their parents, having been married for almost a month, are off at some brunch event that both would have probably been required to attend had this been five months earlier. "I mean, she doesn't say it, but I know that's how she feels."
Chuck shakes his head. "I don't.. I can't even bring myself to see her."
"I don't understand that. How will you feel for the rest of your life if you never see her before… before.." She trails off, because they both know what she's talking about and it's not really necessary to emphasize the point.
"Not as terrible as I'm going to feel if I do see her. I can't see her in that place. I just… I can't."
"It's not that bad," she tries to say. "I mean, they have nice architecture and stuff. And there's activities, too."
"Oh, well if there's activities.." he replies sarcastically.
"Come on, Chuck. As your step-sister, I'm not letting you not see her. It's just not right. I mean, can you even remember the last thing you said to her?"
Yes, he can. It was that he didn't want her, and he couldn't understand why anyone else would.
"Well, I don't want to see her there." He grumbles.
Both of their eyes widen simultaneously.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Sneaking her out is actually not as hard as it seems like it'll be.
Serena helps Blair out of bed, and though they are slow, they manage to convince most of the people around them that they are merely going for a walk. The second they are out the door, Serena sits Blair down and zips open her backpack.
"Since when do you carry.." Blair frowns, having forgotten the word. "One of those things?"
"Since I have something in here for you." She pulls out a dress, beautiful and multi-colored and completely in style for summer, and completely Blair. She tugs it over Blair's shoulders and helps Blair out of her pajama bottoms.
"Why are you changing me?" Her friend asks in confusion.
"Because we're running away." Serena's eyes flash.
She takes Blair by the hand and they walk slowly around the building where she and Chuck have the car waiting. Chuck is leaning against the car, and when he looks over, he looks as if he might cry.
Blair's step slows a bit, and Serena smiles at her friend's sudden nerves.
"Come on, Chuckles. We have to hurry!" She exclaims, and she watches happily as Chuck helps Blair into the car.
They speed off and she wishes they could never come back. When she looks into the back seat, it's almost as if everything is okay. As if Blair is still Blair, still healthy.
It's almost as if they're just three teenagers getting themselves into mischief.
Blair laughs gleefully as she picks flowers, all different kinds. Roses, lilies, tulips, daisies.
They sit back on the grass and Blair looks thoughtfully at all the flowers before putting one in her hair.
Chuck thinks it's the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
"I'm sorry for what I said to you, Blair. Last time we talked." Serena takes the hint, and excuses herself, saying she's going to find some more flowers for Blair.
Blair shrugs. "I don't really remember."
He nods. "I wish… I wish we'd gotten a fair shot, you and me."
She doesn't seem to hear him. She sits playing with the flowers in her lap, looking quite the part of a happy teenager during summer, dimples flashing.
She looks up at the sky. "I haven't been outside in so long."
Chuck leans in and presses a kiss to her lips, soft and slow. She giggles when he pulls away.
"I'm never going to get over you, Blair Waldorf." He says.
Blair looks at him, and for a moment her smile fades. For just a moment. When it reappears, she says, "You get butterflies around me, don't you?"
And he says, "I always have."
And she replies, "I like that about you."
After their day of fun, Blair cannot walk to her room, so Chuck carries her to her bed. He'd hoped to not have to see her here, but he knows that he'll always remember her how she'd looked that day, sitting in the park. Serene and beautiful and content.
Perhaps even at peace.
The day Blair Waldorf dies, she is surrounded by the people she loves the most.
Her mother and father hold each other as they watch her fade away, and Dan watches sadly as Serena sobs into her dead friend's hands.
Nate and Chuck have long since reconciled, and are together when they hear the news. Their different loves for the girl, both real and both meaningful, connect them in some way that no one will ever really understand.
It is hard for them all to come to terms and accept it, as it always is when someone very loveable and important dies.
They move on, all of them slowly, all of them painfully.
Every life Blair Waldorf touched is affected in a way that it didn't know it had been affected in. The boys she loved, the friends she often critiqued, the one friend she loved unconditionally, the family she'd born herself into.
"I still feel her here," Serena van der Woodsen tells Dan Humphrey as they lay on his bed the afternoon of her funeral.
He says nothing for a while but looks at Cedric, his small cabbage-patch friend sitting atop his dresser. Every time Dan looks at Cedric, he does not think of all his childhood memories with the doll, or the fact that it's kind of ridiculous that he still even has a doll when he's almost eighteen. He thinks of Blair Waldorf, picking it up and laughing, or casually mentioning it to him at a fancy brunch he was never supposed to even go to, or telling him one day mockingly that she had a perfectly good Barbie who would love to meet Cedric, if he wouldn't mind giving him up for a couple days.
He laces their hands together and smiles. "Yeah," he says. "She's still here."