A/N: Poem is T.S. Eliot's "Preludes." Betaed by afrocurl on LJ.


The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.

Six o' clock.

Winter on the Upper East Side means shopping. New fashions, Rockefeller Center, galas, parties and Christmas gifts - it all collides into one enormous supernova of a season. They walk together one day, he, Nate and Blair, dipping through lesser-walked paths of Central Park like a Frost poem, steam from hot dog carts venting their way. The sun has set - it's almost night.

Blair dons a striped scarf and trudges through the snow energetically, her painted lips pressed into a thin line of determination. But he can see the frustration that lingers beneath the surface. Six months and things haven't changed that much. He still wants her. She still hates him. He still hates himself. And Nate, as usual, has no idea what the fuck is going on. All in all, it's been a repeat of last year.

They pause in their trek, Blair's cheeks pink from the activity - he offers Nate a cigarette. They light up and breathe in the comforting smoke as Blair clicks her tongue and lets her cloud of disdain tumble over them like radioactive particles. She places a hand on her hip, arches her brow, sighs.

The burnt-out ends of smoky days.

"You have a problem, your Highness?" he scowls, and here it goes, he can feel it lingering in his bones like a dull ache. Act II of their dance, like a choreographed affair (because nothing she does is ever truly spontaneous - everything's been dictated and analyzed and plotted since kindergarten), and he feels a little tired. He flicks the ash off the end of his cigarette. She rolls her eyes. This is the build-up.

"Hurry up, Chuck," she grumbles, and he notices that Nate's already flicked his cigarette to the ground, stubbed it out with his shoe.

"I like to take my time," he says, and he can see her eyes dart to the ground and back. "Enjoy things." He curls his lips around his cigarette almost caressingly. When he pulls away to exhale the smoke, he smirks at her. She just stomps off into the distance, Archibald following her like a puppy. He snarls then, flicks what's left into the snow, watches the paper burn down amidst the cold snow - what a fucking metaphor. He grimaces as he thinks about what the fuck he's trying to accomplish here. Blair Waldorf is hardly the innocent lamb. He shakes his head - Chuck Bass needs to get laid before he grows even more crazy.

And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

Eleanor's holding a small gala in celebration of the release of her new line. He spends a little more time getting ready, noticing Bart's subtle sexual advances on a waif of a maid (probably new) as he ties his bow tie. Serena peers around the corner. "Well, don't you look sharp?"

"Don't you have someplace to be?"

Serena smirks. "She's not going to take you back, you know." When he turns to speak to her, she's already slipping out of his room like a naiad. He has a small bouquet of flowers for her though, because, try as he might, Chuck Bass can't function completely without sex, and he's fucking not letting himself get any. Fantastic. So he clears his throat, double-checks his bow tie, and downs half a tumbler of scotch in preparation of the evening (his heart doesn't beat just a little faster for her, it's the scotch).

She's got a whole new boytoy, broken in and everything for the gala. He can't stop himself from hating the fact of that man's existence, especially when Blair's looking particularly delicious in a short Stella McCartney creation, chestnut curls tumbling delightfully over pale patches of skin. He clenches his jaw.

After dinner, he takes her hand and leads her to dance. Eleanor's looking right at her, and he can see the almost imperceptible twitches of her jaw. But her hands are where they're supposed to be and she's ladylike and beautiful and seemingly fragile and innocent. She even smiles at him. It's weird.

He leans down, lips brushing the shell of her ear. "You miss me?" She laughs, a soft sound like the tinkling of bells.

"Why would I miss you?"

He presses his lips together. "Come on." The song is still playing, but he pulls her towards the hallway, despite her protests. But eventually her four inch heels go with him rather than against him. The hallway is dimly lit, shadows cutting across her face artistically in a way that makes his breath catch in his throat. He leers at her, his eyes washing over her until she feels tingly in her skin. "You have missed me."

"Oh, please."

He smirks then, completely sure of himself. "Yes, you have." His hands float down the softness of her curves to rest on her hips. "Is it because J. Crew over there doesn't satisfy you?"

"You--You are not--" She doesn't even know what's happening (she never does with Chuck Bass, nothing except he's plotting ways for them to end up naked and delightfully sated), but he's pulling her closer, gravity or something, but at the last second, she tips her head up to look at him (she'll never admit it, she's not that kind of girl), and she licks her lips, watches as his part a little. "Are you--Are you drunk?" she whispers, but the words are dying just a little on her lips.

"I missed you," he murmurs.

She closes the distance (she always initiates, always, but he's always responsible) and the moment of contact is almost saccharine sweet from the amount of suspense involved (not that she's been waiting, she hasn't).

He wraps his arms around her then, slanting his mouth over hers to claim possession as her hands pull him upstairs. She pulls away, lipstick smudged and hair mussed into a rare show of imperfection and she whispers, "No one'll miss us," and he knows this is weakness (on her part, on his part), but they're not people prone to regret and there's no looking back - they've done it all before.

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer

She wakes up in tangled sheets, tangled with someone she swore to herself she'd never speak to again (another rule broken, but in all honesty, she has to say she didn't expect herself to follow it, not really). Her mouth feels dry and she feels deliciously sore and Dorota's left a cart of breakfast foods and and she's so confused but not. She sighs, having made up her mind.

She fixes her hair, mussed from his fingers tangling in it, until each strand is combed into its proper place. As her lipstick glides across her lips, she's already back to hating him. She dresses silently and thinks of the proper things to say.

With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.

She opens the blinds - light streams in on angles, shards jutting out awkwardly here and there across the carpet. She nudges him with the heel of her shoe until he wakes, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with a look of immense confusion. "Get out."

He stands, knows his mark, his line. "Fuck you."

She taps her foot on the marble tile. "Never again." He walks out as she turns and faces the window, light glinting off of various skyscrapers. The first thing she does is change the sheets.

He tries to blot the memory of her taste and her skin from his mind with scotch and vodka and blondes (it doesn't work - they don't taste right and they don't feel right). Afterwards, he lies in his bed, lolling in the stench of sex and his alcohol-induced stupor like a pig in mud. His sleep is restless.

You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;

He still feels the warmth emanating from her skin, the look of the slight flush in her cheeks, the feel of her around him. He remembers the gasps, catalogued them, recalls the way her delicate fingers fisted the sheets as she groaned his name. The way her brown curls splayed out against the whiteness of the pillow, the smell of her hair.

Manhattan wakes up outside his window; the skyline glistens.

You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.

Serena comes in around noon, blonde waves tumbling across her shoulders that, in his haze, remind him too much of Blair. She opens the blinds, airs out the room. "God, you smell like a bar."

"Thank you for your concern, sis, but I'm fine."

"Bart's worried. You've missed some kind of luncheon. So obviously you're not fine."

"Shouldn't you be worrying about Humphrey?"

"See, he can take care of himself. You, however, smell like you've been swimming in beer." She lifts his sheet, to be carried off to the laundry. "Ugh, in fact, you may have." She wears disgust well.

He hears the outside door click as she's busy trying to wrest him into the shower. Hears the familiar call of a girl he's too familiar with. "S!" His face contorts into a sneer then, waves Serena out of his room, reaching for her hip with a lecherous look. She narrows her eyes at him.

And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,

He hears the click of heels, a slight whine in her voice as she calls, "You promised we'd go to brunch!" She heads into his room then, looks him up and down and crinkles her nose. "You look like shit."

He growls. "Well, good morning to you too, princess."

She smirks. "Long night last night?"

He grins. "You wouldn't believe. There was this very flexible blonde. You--"

She raises a hand. "I don't want to hear about it. I'm just here to collect Serena. S!" She traipses out of his room as easily as she breezed in and he feels a little dazed. Lost, even. He starts the day with a strong cup of coffee and a walk through Midtown. The streets are dusty from the street sweepers that morning; garbage circles around his feet like an eddy and he feels a reluctant twinge to take his limo back to Central Park or the Met.

You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;...
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

It's pouring in April when it happens again - she shows up at his door, hair drenched and dripping, and it's the first time in a long time he's seen her less than immaculate. He lets her in and offers her a martini.

"I missed you," she says.

"Why would you miss me?"

She presses her lips together, sniffles, walks into his arms. Her hair is fragrant, tickles his nose, and he wraps his arms around her because he's recently found it impossible to say no to Blair Waldorf. She's wearing his necklace.

He leans down, kisses her. She groans; he pulls her closer. When she pulls away, her eyes are wild. She blinks a few times, and he can feel his heart thump rapidly, unevenly in his chest. "Chuck, I--"

"Say you missed me." His fingertips linger along the rough skin on her elbow.

"I already did," she replies with a typical Waldorf eye roll and head toss.

He kisses her neck, lets his lips linger. "Say...you missed me," he whispers along her skin. He hears her breathing quicken; short, shallow breaths that make her pulse beat faster beneath his touch.

"I missed you," she says, with a hard swallow.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling;

She looks up at him with that doe-eyed look of innocence that she's perfected. He is Ozymandias, king of kings, but here she is, ready to destroy him and leave him with a mere statue in the desert. "You look so--"

"What?" She leans into his space, and god, she smells good and this feels right (and would god ever do this shit? give him a girl who felt right in his arms and whose lips were just soft enough and was just as fucked up as he was without intending...something?).

The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Afterwards, they lay in the endorphin-drenched atmosphere following sex. There's no pillow talk. Her legs are wrapped around his, her breasts pressed up against his chest. He places soft kisses to the crown of her head sometimes. "Admit it," he says, with a smirk and that tone of self-righteousness. "That was the best you've had in a while."

She rolls her eyes, purses her lips in frustration. He makes her skin tingle, always worshipping her with his eyes and his touch, but never his thoughts. Never his words. "Fuck you."

He arches a brow, amused. "You did."

She huffs as she gets dressed, slams the door so hard on her way out it makes his furniture shake. He stifles a laugh, buries his head in the pillow and inhales the comforting scent she left behind with her regrets, her unspoken intentions, her apology.

The play loops, it's started again.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

Eleanor throws another gala five months later. He drinks too much and they meet behind the crowds, surreptitiously kissing and touching and moving silently to her bedroom. As he pulls her dress up over her head, he wonders if they'll ever stop.

He licks at her neck and she twines her fingers in her hair with a soft purr of approval.

Probably not.