Summary: Future fic. The past and the future intertwine to reveal the different aspects of love threading through family secrets.
AN: This story is mildly inspired by another story I did called "Heritage," which is a Chloe/Lex story for Smallville. The storyline is different but the theme is the same.
Pairing: Chuck/Blair, Nate/Serena
Spoilers: Season 1 is fair game.
Even with his face marred by the years, Chuck Bass looked as devilishly playful as ever on the photograph shown on the screen. Serena gasped at the news as it spilled from the lips of the anchorwoman. She turned quickly to her husband, who set down his glass of brandy on the table and pulled himself up to his feet.
"Nate, I'm sorry," she said to him while her own heart broke at the news. Chuck Bass had once been her stepbrother too, and his death shook her to her very core.
"This isn't going to make any difference," Nate told him firmly, closing his hand over his best friend's shoulder.
Chuck violently tore himself away from Nate's hold. "The decision is final," he rasped. He strode out the door and slammed it closed.
When Nate exited the room and emerged into the crowd, his eyes immediately searched for his best friend. Chuck Bass stood with a glass, staring down at the hypnotizing amber liquid inside. Nate closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then walked over to him.
was out of line for being angry with you," Chuck whispered in a
harsh voice. "But I haven't changed my mind. You have control
over my estates. This isn't going to be a problem."
Nate's gaze flew to Serena, who stood tall and beautiful amidst the crowd. She nodded sadly at him. "Roses grow here all year round," Nate whispered. He looked at Chuck's dark hooded eyes. He shook his head. Then he pulled Chuck into a tight hug, then rubbed the back of his head with his hand. "I love you, man."
Chuck closed his eyes tightly, choking on his breath. "Just say you'll do it," he growled.
Nate Archibald walked unsteadily out into the sprawling gardens of their Los Angeles garden. Serena watched him from afar as he sat on the edge of the large fountain, ran his hands through his blonde hair speckled with silver, and then stared up at the marble cherubim angel pouring in that frozen immortal pose pouring water from a jug.
"Grandma, is he gonna be okay?"
Serena looked down at the heart-shaped face of the teenager in front of her, who red lips formed a perfect pout of concern at Nate's sudden exit from the family room. "Why don't you go and check on him, sweetheart?" she suggested. "I'm going to go call your father in the New York office just to make sure he knows."
The teenager nodded. She watched her grandmother climb up the staircase and then turned to her grandfather. Christina walked across the grassy lawn to where Nate Archibald sat silently pondering the still angel. "Grandpa," she said softly, "I know he was your best friend. I'm so sorry."
Nate's lips curved, then he turned his gaze from the angel to the lovely girl that stood in front of him. When she looked like that, so sad and so concerned, he remembered another young girl from long ago, whose name had all but dropped off the face of the world. "I need you to go New York," he told her, surprising Christina with the request. "I want you in Chuck's home and inventory his files."
Her brows furrowed. "Grandpa, why can't the other lawyers do it?" she asked, well aware that interns such as she would never be allowed near an estate as vast as Chuck Bass'.
"Because I want you there," Nate said firmly. "This man was my best friend. I want someone special there."
"What about dad?" she asked. "He's in the New York office."
Nate shook his head. "Your dad… his head won't be in the right place. He's probably a mess." At the look on her face, Nate explained, "He'd been working closely with Chuck for a long time, Christina."
Christina sighed, then nodded. "Alright, grandpa. For you, I'll go." She leaned towards Nate and placed a kiss on his cheek. "I'll go right now."
He gave her a grateful smile. Nate cupped her face in his hands. His eyes glimmered with tears and he smiled at her. "I'm so proud of you. You're as beautiful as your grandmother was the first day of college."
Christina rolled her eyes. She could not look as far from her grandmother if she tried. "I wish!" She looked back at her grandfather, who was now staring at the water, drowning himself in memories.
Nate met them at the benches in front of the library. He waved at his three best friends and Serena waved back at him. At the sight of Nate and the mountain of bags at the back of his car, Chuck grinned. He wrapped an arm around Blair's waist and they walked towards him together.
"Did you bring the entire townhouse with you?" Blair asked.
"Oh you guys," Serena defended, "it's not that much." She patted the bags. "This is half of what I brought with me."
Nate grinned. "I can't bring the entire townhouse even if I wanted to. I'm living in a dorm room," he pointed out, "not a privately leased condo off campus."
Chuck shrugged his shoulders. "Nothing but the best for the girl who deserves to have the best," he answered smoothly.
"Oh honey," Blair responded, meeting Chuck's lips with a kiss.
"Get a room!" Serena exclaimed laughingly.
"As a matter of fact, we've got a three bedroom," Blair answered. Chuck pulled the red ribbon from her ponytail, and her chocolate brown curls spilled down her shoulders. "Chuck!"
"It looks better down," he murmured.
She grabbed the ribbon from his hand, then tied it around her head like a headband. "Happy?"
"Always," was his response.
Nate allowed, "It really does look lovely down, Blair."
She chuckled. "Look at you two. You've become fashion experts." Blair turned to Serena. "When are you registering at Brown?"
"I still have two days to hang out!" Serena got into Nate's passenger seat. "Show me around this place," she commanded cheerfully.
"Alright," Nate called to the two, "we're going for a spin. You two go and move in to your love nest. Meet the two of you for dinner?"
Blair threw her head back as Chuck nuzzled her ear. "Sure," she managed.
Serena rolled her eyes. "We'll keep ringing you until you arrive. Don't christen all the rooms in one day," she reminded them.
Christina looked up at the grand townhouse. She slid her key into the lock and turned, then waited as the door slowly opened. She stepped onto the carpeted floor. She looked around her and saw the elegant and priceless items littering the place. It spoke volumes about the owner, even if the owner was dead and silenced forever. Christina could tell by the shag carpeting and the leather seats that Chuck Bass lived his bachelor life to the fullest, and nothing was too expensive for him.
She made her way up the stairs, eager to find the home office, do her job and get out. Being in the dead man's house gave her chills. Chuck Bass had been a frequent visitor in the California estate, and always he had seemed like this imposing man who would pick her up and give her a gift then be on his way. As a child she had never been comfortable with the old man. He always seemed so sad when he saw her, so anguished, as if she was not worth looking at.
She tried to smile at him once. Her grandma Serena once dressed her up when Chuck Bass was going to visit them. Christina proudly twirled in her pretty white eyelet dress and her red beribboned headband. Instead of the applause she had expected, Chuck Bass had walked out of the room, her grandpa scolded her grandma and her beautiful grandmother cried.
She shook her head free of the memory. Christina turned the corridor and realized she had no idea where she was going. Reminiscing did not help her navigate through the maze of corridors. She placed her hand on the first doorknob she encountered and pushed the door open.
There was a man seated on the couch. Her heart caught in her throat. She frowned when she recognized the dark head of hair. "Dad?" she whispered. Her father's heart raised and she noticed the tears on his cheeks. "Oh daddy." Christina walked over to him. "What are you doing here?"
Gregory Archibald patted the space beside him on the couch. Dust rose as he did. Christina settled beside him. "Do you know what this room is?"
She grimaced, then looked around. Old furniture, sparse, unsuited to the cut of the room, as if the items had been moved from another location. "A really dirty one?"
He smiled. "It's a museum," he confided, as if it were confidential information. "One of Chuck Bass' obsessions," he told her, and Christina wondered why her father almost seemed happy about it. "All this stuff is from his old college room."
Her dark eyebrow arched. "Well that certainly puts another spin on the term 'pack rat.'" Something caught her eye and Christina rose from the couch and made her way to the mantel. She picked up the framed photograph. "Wow, Uncle Chuck was handsome."
She turned to her grinning father. Gregory went up to her and looked at the picture. "He was still handsome even as an older guy," he argued.
Christina chuckled. "Alright. Well he was hot when he was younger." She placed the frame back and picked up another one, this time of Chuck Bass with his arms around a lovely young woman. "Look, dad. Uncle Chuck had a college girlfriend," she announced, her voice light.
To her surprise, Gregory's lips parted, and he took the picture frame from her almost reverently. "I had been looking for a picture of her for years."
"Dad, you can find anyone's picture on the internet."
He moistened his lips. "I've been in this townhouse so many times over the years and I've never seen a picture of her. I thought he didn't keep any."
The words peaked her curiosity. "Who is it?" She stood on tiptoe to get another look at the photo.
"Beautiful, isn't she?" Gregory said.
Christina shrugged, assessing the dark hair, the pale skin, the red full lips and the prim smile. "Not really as pretty as grandma Serena," she told him, loyalty showing through.
"Guess it's a matter of taste," her father said. His fingertips traced the profile on the picture. "I happen to think she's the loveliest woman in the world."
"So who is it, dad? College girlfriend?"
"No, Christina." Gregory smiled as he placed the frame back on the mantel. He looked down at his daughter then pushed a lock of dark hair behind her ear. "That was Mr Bass' wife."