A/N - I'm SOOOOOOO sorry for the lack of updates. I took a job at a publishing company, under the theory that I'd be able to do so much writing while I was at work. I was VERY wrong! I must say thank you to Blood Red Kiss of Death, Lornaa, CB Always, ChuckArchibaldforver, Nairforthewin, LOVElee, JYLlian, Broken-Paige, SweetSas, laurienlaurie, lovegossip, quibbler 149, flipped, notoutforawalk, ReNut, AnnaBlake, finnlover, LittleRed22, and QueenBee10 for being such lovely reviewers last chapter (all that time ago!)
I'm not going to ramble, here it is. P.S. There's a spoiler at the end. If you don't want to know what happens next chapter, don't read it - I left a big gap :)
Five Doors Down
Chapter 45: Childish Behaviour
"How long before summer vacation's over?" Blair groaned into her cell at Cassie who chuckled at the other end of the line.
"It can't be that bad."
"Don't you Upper East Siders have galas and fetes and all the rest of that stuff that rich people do to attend?"
"Exactly! There's this big benefit tomorrow night that my mother has spent weeks making dresses for-"
"-That sounds awful." Cassie laughed sarcastically.
"I don't fit into mine."
"Can't you wear something else? Can't Eleanor alter it?"
"My mother doesn't want to speak to me." Blair sighed, smoothing the soft material of the dress she was wearing over her stomach. There was no way she could hide the bulge, especially if, by some miracle, she could manage to do up the zip.
"Shirt and skirt combo?" The blonde suggested.
Blair shook her head to nobody in particular. "These things are dresses only."
"As a rule?"
"An unwritten one."
The girls ended their phone call with Blair just as desperate as she was in the first place. It was only the first week of summer vacation, and already she was clambering to get back to school in a city that wasn't a hundred degrees. Eleanor had, as predicted, ignored the whole notion of Blair being pregnant, instead, shifting her focus to the numerous dresses she had been commissioned to make ('haute couture' as the French called it) for the society ladies. Nate was unavailable, and by unavailable, it was near impossible to track him down. He'd text twice: once to say that his mom had 'given him lots of stuff to do for her', the second time reminding her that he would see her at the gala to 'catch up'.
Chuck was in Europe 'on business', though Blair suspected it was mixed with (unequal parts of course) pleasure. Serena was still in California with no definite return date, though she'd promised during one of her fleeting phone calls that it would be soon. Even Dan and Vanessa seemed to stay on the wrong side of the bridge.
Dorota was her only confident, offering traditional Polish advice in her charming broken English. She'd suggested 'Miss Blair find hobby' to keep busy until Nate returned from being MIA. Shopping was simply too depressing: she didn't fit in anything that wasn't from the maternity section, and neither Bendels nor Saks had a 'pregnant but not willing to look or admit it to anyone' section. Instead, between scouring her closet for any dress that might have previously been slightly loose on her, Blair surfed the internet guiltily for diet tips that wouldn't harm the baby.
The city air was thick and stifling, and she could hear Eleanor downstairs complaining to one of her ateliers that a certain fabric would be too heavy if the air conditioning in the hotel ballroom wasn't turned up full blast. The weather seemed to be making everyone impatient; the noise from her open window was loud and echoed long after the offending traffic had passed. The only person who didn't seem impatient was Nate. He appeared in no rush to visit her: Gossip Girl had posted a picture of him topless at the basketball court in Carl Schurz Park shooting casually with some of the old lacrosse team from St Jude's.
Blair would have called to make sure he wasn't broadcasting the fact that she was pregnant to his old classmates but was confident that Nate himself was in no hurry to announce his upcoming role as a father.
Every so often, when pictures like this popped up on Gossip Girl, and when she looked at herself in the mirror, she questioned her motives, questioned her sanity, and whether she really knew what she was doing. But Bart's cheque from the previous year, along with Chuck's continued presence at Yale was there to serve as a reminder of what she had to lose. So she continued to measure her water intake (at least four pints per day) and instruct Dorota to tell the cook that all meals must be served with at least three portions of freshly steamed vegetables.
The little boutiques with their pastel awnings and wooden shutters seemed to haunt him at every turn. Until two days ago, Chuck had had no idea that there were this many children's clothing boutiques in the world, let alone in central Paris. He tried not to notice the tiny white sleepsuits, the dainty scratch mits and softest leather booties. He pretended not to take in every detail of the pink couture dresses; smocked and ribboned to perfection. It didn't seem fair that they were on route to the building that might be his newest gentleman's club. He fought desperately not to picture what the baby that wasn't his might look like. If it resembled Blair, if it had big doe eyes, brown and shining with lily white skin and raven hair he might be okay. If it had dimples though, bright eyes, blue eyes, sandy hair, darker skin…if it looked like Nate, well, he wasn't sure he'd be able to stand it.
So far, his European city tour hadn't quite gone to plan, not that Chuck had expected it to. Prague hadn't lived up to his expectations, and Krakow was simply too seedy, even for what his business would bring. A gentleman's club in a city already notorious for sex would render it simply a brothel. He wouldn't stand for that. The currently empty venue on the river end of the Rue des Bernardines was his penultimate option; his last in Paris at least. From then there would only be London to consider, and he wasn't sure enough about the tastes of the English to really form a thorough plan. On his return to America, he figured he may as well spend a week or so at Lily's Hamptons house. The city air would be too stifling to think properly.
The note simply said 'this should fit'. It wasn't even Eleanor's writing, though Blair knew her mother had made the dress from looking at the exquisite needlework. Her mother might be a bitch, but she was still the most wonderful seamstress.
The fabric was so slight that it was almost weightless, and the colour was of the palest grey-blue that it complimented her skin perfectly. Pregnancy might have been ruining the majority of her body, yet it had done wonders for her skin. Slipping the dress on, Blair noted how effortlessly the zip slid up the side of her body. She wondered whether her mother had really cared enough about her feelings to make her such a dress, or whether she was so intent on not having anyone find out about the situation that she'd go to any lengths to cover it up. Whichever the reason, at least the material skimmed her frame in a way that just by glancing, nobody would tell she was pregnant.
Nate still wasn't answering his cell. She'd stopped leaving messages; if he wanted to call her back, he would have. Perhaps, she figured, he was making the most of his time alone. With each day that went by Blair wondered whether it might have been best had he not burst into the clinic that stifling hot day in New Haven. And though she tried her hardest not too, and silently cursed herself every time she did, she wondered had Chuck burst into the clinic in her current city on the worst day of her life, whether it might have been alright in the end. At least she wouldn't have been worrying about a permanent residence in the Hamptons.
And then it came. It was completely inevitable, and yet Blair was still caught so horribly off-guard that she couldn't breathe. The air became thick and burning, and her legs felt as though they would give way beneath her any minute.
Swell news everyone. One of our Upper East Siders has something to share. Don't worry B, we're sure that Eleanor Waldorf Designs won't mind expanding to include a maternity range.
It seemed ridiculous to be checking the leather seats of the cab for hidden cameras, though Blair wasn't sure how many people would be on her trail after the Gossip Girl blast. Nate couldn't have seen anything yet; he'd have called, she reasoned. But when she pulled up outside of his house and saw the group of girls waiting, she had no choice.
Her call went straight to voicemail, and after thrusting a bundle of creased notes at the driver, she pushed through the girls asking whether Nate was the father, covering up the key pad as she entered the code that had only altered once in all the time she had known the Archibald family.
She hadn't even reached the bottom of the staircase before Ann, on her way from the living room to the kitchen, spotted her.
Her voice was laced with so much excitement that Blair found it hard to swallow. Trying her best to reciprocate the hug that came her way, Blair looked up toward the second floor, half-expecting Nate to open his door to see what the fuss was about. She was less surprised that he didn't.
"Do you want something to drink? It's so hot outside! Perhaps some iced tea or-"
"I'm fine." She cut in with what she hoped was a grateful smile.
"Then something to eat? I found the most delicious raspberry sorbet the other day."
She shook her head. "I'm fine. Really."
"You know, you have to eat for more than just you now."
"I had a toasted bagel just before I came out." She hoped the tremble in her voice didn't give her away. "I actually came to see whether Nate was here."
"He's upstairs." Ann replied with a smile. "I'm so pleased for you both. I keep telling Nate he was supposed to propose first, but these little accidents happen sometimes." She laughed lightly, and Blair was almost positive she was about to cry. "I suppose once you've had the baby, your fingers will be back to normal."
"For the ring. You're probably carrying extra water right now, but once that baby's out I bet you'll pop right back."
She nodded, unable to say anything that wasn't filled with expletives.
"Go ahead Blair dear. You know where everything is. I'm in the middle of tending to the hydrangea bush, hence the gloves." She smiled even wider, indicated her white cotton-gloved hands. "We must have lunch soon. The Archibald family is so excited. Nate was adamant that I shouldn't send a newsletter but the response has been so happy."
Blair tried to force the lump in her throat down. It wouldn't go.
"There's fresh lemonade in the refrigerator. I'm only out back if you need anything."
She was sure Ann squealed with delight on her way out. Suddenly, climbing the stairs to Nate's room seemed like walking to her fate. And when she finally got to his door, closed, no sign of him even being there, she realised how Gossip Girl had found out. The newsletter. And Nate hadn't even called.
It was only when she placed a shaky hand on the handle that she heard his voice; low and mumbling, standard, from their early years of dating. She knocked lightly but entered anyway, because it seemed that if Nate had his choice, he wouldn't even acknowledge her presence.
He looked genuinely shocked to see her, and as Blair looked him up and down, white polo shirt, jeans, flip flops, dishevelled hair, she knew he wasn't dealing. He offered the smallest of smiles, though she knew he had tried enormously hard to muster up the one he gave. She curled her lips; a reciprocation and perched on the edge of his bed, smoothing her sundress out before pulling the edges of her cardigan across her middle. It was an unconscious action; the air was anything but cool.
It was only then that she realised who was on the other end of the line: Serena.
When he ended the call, a good five minutes after she'd been there, Nate stood up. "Blair-"
"Tell me that she called you."
Nate dipped his head ever-so-slightly. It was enough for Blair to notice.
"Do you hate me?"
"Your mom sent a newsletter announcing that we, not I, but we are pregnant. She said you tried to stop her. You didn't even tell me. And now Gossip Girl has announced it to the world." She took a breath, knowing that if she didn't, her voice would crack. "So I was wondering, do you hate me?"
Nate watched as she sat there, her stomach covered by a thin waterfall cardigan even though it was ninety degrees outside. The hug that came from his arms was off, they both knew that. Blair took it all the same. "I don't know what I feel." He admitted quietly. "But I know I don't hate you."
"Then do you think you could return my calls? Just so I know whether I have a date or not for the benefit tomorrow night."
"Right." He nodded. "The benefit."
"Eleanor made me a dress." She said quietly. "It fits."
He tried to smile through his guilt – Nate knew what she meant. She meant he wouldn't be able to see her stomach. He took her into another hug.
"I'm sorry Blair."
She pulled back. "I'm not asking that we have to do this together. I just…I just needed to know that you're okay with me doing it."
He swallowed, nervously. "You know, I've never held a baby before. My cousin brought her baby to visit last year, and I was too scared to even sit next to him on the couch."
"I'm so scared that it's going to hate us as much as we hated our parents."
"Well if that happens, we can always send it to boarding school."
It was supposed to be a joke. Neither of them could find the strength to laugh.
"What time does the benefit start?" Nate asked after a few moments of unmanageable silence.
"Then I'll pick you up at quarter past."
"You know you don't have to go with me."
"I know." Nate nodded.
She would have whispered her thanks, but the words wouldn't leave her mouth, instead: "What did Serena say?"
It was a lie, both knew, yet neither acknowledged it. "Did she say when she was coming home?"
"Soon I think. Earlier than she'd planned."
"Did you ask her to?"
Blair rolled her eyes, meaning to be nonchalant. It didn't work. "Right. I should go, I've got-"
"I asked her to come because I was worried about you. I thought…I wondered whether it was best you talk to Serena. I mean, I know your mom hasn't-"
"If I need to talk to anyone, I'd pick Cassie. At least she didn't avoid calling me."
"Serena didn't know what we were going to do. She didn't know what to say to you, to us."
Blair scoffed. "She's in California and you're still defending her."
Nate sighed. "I wasn't defending her Blair, I-"
"I should go. And just so you know, when my mother finds out Ann announced this baby in a newsletter, she's going to be so angry." Blair turned to leave. "I'll see you at the benefit."
"I thought I was picking you up."
"I'll meet you there."
It was the usual kind of event that she hadn't missed in the slightest. In junior year such things were fun, sometimes, especially when she'd been first dating Dan, and she could relish the look on Lily's face. Now though, especially after spending two years away from such frivolity and excess, Serena was even more fed up than she'd been by the end of senior year, when the only thing to break up the monotony of speeches and smoked salmon canapés was Chuck and Blair's scheming.
Now, here she was, having dragged a miserable and jet-lagged Chuck, fresh from his landing from Europe. She'd been able to tell from the way that he hadn't brought home any air stewardesses that the business trip had been unsuccessful, but Lily had insisted on their presence at the benefit she'd helped organise. Bart had had a hand in the preparations too. Serena wasn't even sure what it was in aid of, but Blair would be there, and Nate too, and he'd said how the brunette needed someone to talk to, even if she wouldn't admit it.
She wasn't sure what good she would be, especially with the way they left things after Blair's phone call a couple weeks ago. Chuck wasn't helping: the way he was mauling the food told her that she probably should have just left him to get some sleep. Bart had been somewhat insistent on him learning to manage his tiredness though, saying that fundraisers and other such events were the perfect opportunities to get the Bass Industries name out there. She had wondered whether the steely line of his jaw meant something else, but the Gossip Girl blast that had come through that afternoon meant she hadn't had much time to think. She wasn't even sure Blair would be there for her surprise appearance.
Just then though, she caught the brunette making her way across at the other side of the room, only to be cut off by a decidedly fuming-looking Eleanor.
"I spent all night working on that dress for you – you could have at least told me about Ann's newsletter." Eleanor spat at her daughter. "I could have spent my time making a dress to make someone else look thinner."
"I had no idea-"
"Rubbish. I don't know why you think playing house in New Haven is just another one of your games but you need to get real. There have been tens of ladies giving me their sympathies tonight, and I've been here three hours. Getting pregnant in college is bad enough but you haven't even got a ring on your finger."
Blair turned to leave but Eleanor grabbed her arm. "There are some leaflets on the sideboard in the living room. Take a look at them when we get home."
Blair felt her face flush, her legs start to tremble as she clocked Serena at the other side of the room. "No."
"What did you say?"
"I said no, I won't look at the leaflets."
"Blair, people are starting to look. We'll talk about this at home."
"No mother, we won't." Her voice was steadier than she'd imagined it ever could be. "I won't let you do this again."
She watched as her mother's eyes narrowed, almost to a point. "I would have thought it so ridiculous that you're trying to punish me if you weren't my daughter. This just proves how much of a child you still are."
They were interrupted by a couple who Blair recognised but couldn't put a name to. "We just wanted to say congratulations Blair." The woman said, smiling. "And to you too Eleanor."
"Thank you." Blair replied with what everyone could tell was a fake smile. "We're very excited."
She let the corners of her mouth drop immediately, turning away to walk towards Serena.
"B!" The blonde squealed, a little too excitedly to appear truthful.
"I didn't know you were coming back so soon." Blair replied, giving her friend a hug.
"Yeah, I wanted to see you. And you look so radiant!"
"So do you. I guess a California tan is different to the kind you get in the Hamptons huh?"
Serena laughed lightly and fingered her almost white-blonde waves. "I guess I spend a lot of time on the beach."
Blair took a seat and accepted a glass of champagne from one of the waiters, for cosmetic purposes only.
"So where's Nate?" Serena asked.
Blair shrugged solemnly. "I said I'd meet him here."
"Oh, are you guys not-"
"We're going to be parents." She answered quickly. "There's no bigger commitment between two people than that, right?"
"Right." Serena dipped her head. "I still can't believe someone is going to call you 'mom'."
"Please don't ever say that again."
The blonde giggled, and for a couple of minutes while they caught up on each others' lives; the stress of finals, the party blowouts, the fact that Serena went on vacation to Sausalito, everything was like it was two years ago. But then the girls saw Nate enter through the double doors, tux on, yet a haphazard tie letting the whole ensemble down. They watched as he scoured the crowd who hadn't yet seated themselves at their respective tables until Serena stuck her hand in the air to wave him over.
"Hey!" He brushed his lips against Blair's cheek, but it wasn't a patch on the last kiss they'd shared in his room at the Alpha Delta Phi house. His hug for Serena was a little more sincere, though not much, and the tired expression on his face told both girls that he'd have rather been anywhere than that room.
They'd been there for just under an hour, and the speeches had commenced only twenty minutes ago, but Nate, Serena and Blair were already doing their best to stifle yawns of boredom. Chuck was sat across the table from Nate and Blair, next to Serena on one side, Eric on the other. He'd seemed intent on looking anywhere other than in Blair's eyes.
Suddenly, Serena pulled a pen from her clutch, and grabbing the napkin to the left of her, rested it on her knee to scrawl a few words in looping handwriting.
'Want to get out of here?'
Nate couldn't hide the smile of relief tugging at the corners of his mouth and as Blair caught his eye, she knew she'd have to go too. Chuck declined, muttering about 'childish behaviour' and 'responsibility', and Eric chose to remain with his step-brother.
The three of them waited until the current speech was over, and took their chance when the waiters began their third round of drink offering.
Watching Blair's expression as Nate failed to hold the door for her to go through first, Chuck downed the last of his scotch, jumping as Bart's voice vibrated lowly through his ear.
"Doesn't it make you glad that it's not you over there."
He wasn't sure how to respond, just simply nodded once and placed his glass down on the table. "Your business trip was successful I trust?"
Chucks expression was blank as he watched Nate, Blair and Serena disappear from view. "Of course."
"Good. I'll take a look at your proposals on Monday morning."
The rest of the night passed by slowly, fragmented only by trips to the bar for more scotch. Eric wasn't much fun as far as conversation went, not that he wanted to have one with anyone anyway. He wasn't sure whether Eleanor had noticed her daughter's departure, but from the way their earlier conversation had looked to him, he guessed she wouldn't be too bothered.
It was the most either of them had laughed in a long time. The empty food cartons were dotted across the floor of Nate's bedroom, all three of them sitting cross-legged in their formal outfits, shoes kicked off haphazardly in the entrance hall downstairs.
Serena was beguiling Nate and Blair with tales of pranks she'd helped her housemates pull under the Californian sun, continuing with details of her driving friends to the beach, then being tied to the passenger seat in order not to put them through the same trial on the return journey.
"I can't believe you drive." Blair laughed.
"I can't believe they passed you." Nate added, running a hand through his hair to rest it behind him.
"I wore a short skirt that day."
They all laughed until Blair stopped, her expression stony as she clasped a hand to her stomach.
"B, what is it?" Serena asked, her voice suddenly panicked. "Is something wrong?"
"I think it just kicked."
"No, my appendix." She shot back, rolling her eyes.
"Does it hurt?"
She shook her head. "It kind of…tickled."
Nate said nothing, just stayed rooted to his spot on the floor.
The blonde watched as her best friend's lips curved into a small smile, her hand staying against the fabric of her dress. She looked to Nate. "Do you want to feel?"
He'd have said no, had he been telling the truth, but the sparkle in her eyes told him he should make the gesture, even if it did gross him out somewhat.
He wasn't prepared though, for the pounding of his heart as he felt something shift under his hand, his breath hitching in his throat as Blair smiled at him. "I can't believe that's our baby."
Serena bit her lip as a lump formed in her throat.
A/N - I don't normally do this, but the spoiler for next chapter is below.
Chuck finds out about Blair's secret.