Promise of Forever

Pairing: Chuck/Blair, Dan/Serena, Nate/Vanessa

Summary: The plan was set. Nate and Blair were headed for life together, until an accident changes the course of their lives, and Chuck sets out to correct the problem and falls off the path himself.

AN: This is AU, but I'm trying to maintain the basic characterizations of GG that we are all familiar with. Of course, given that this is historical romance, expect some general plots of the genre to also appear here.

My lord Nathaniel,

It has been three long years since your father, Lord Archibald, has taken you to France for a visit. I understand that you have much business to attend to, and so it is difficult for you to come to me. I write to you now because of this news I've heard from my maman. I dare not write of your family scandal lest my letter fall into the hands of those who wish you harm. My fervent hope if that you are well, and this news hasn't cast a permanent cloud over your days. Remember, I am here for you.

I too am struggling with this news. Isn't it odd that events from your life can still affect me so, with all the years that we have not met and the large distance between us? My maman wishes to break off our engagement for fear of repercussions. I do not wish it so, and I am fearful of the day she marries me off to one of the men who express their suit only for the money that my father has left as my dowry.

I await the day you save me from this inevitable punishment.

Truly,

B

The carriage shook unsteadily as they rode through the cobbled streets, making the read difficult and long. After receiving the letter, Nathaniel Archibald had been concerned. His fiancé, a lovely little girl with dark hair and full lips, had written to him over the decade that they had been engaged. However, since he had gone to boarding school, he had not received a note from her.

"A love letter?" came the voice of his best friend, Charles Bass—or Chuck as he was fondly known, with whom he had struck a fast friendship with in the university. The other man had only just arrived from America, on what his father called a Sabbatical and what Chuck had termed his exile after having been found in bed with the wife of his father's solicitor. It could have been easily shoved aside had they not been found by the solicitor himself, as well as the older man's entire dinner party.

Nathaniel looked up and noticed the wry curve of the other man's lips, indicating that Chuck found humor at the prospect. "A note from my fiancé."

Chuck snatched the letter from Nate's hand. When Nate protested, Chuck held up a hand. After reading, Chuck folded up the paper and handed it back to Nate. "A damsel in distress. I would be sorely disappointed if she were not pretty. Only pretty ladies have the right to sound so helpless."

Nate shook his head, smiling at the memory of the young girl, at age eight, who gave him a flower the moment he and his father got off their carriage at her French estate. "Nathaniel," his father had pronounced happily when Blair gave them a sweet smile, "meet your future wife. Lady Blair, comment ca va?"

And the little girl had blushed prettily, obviously already enamored with the boy they were signing her life to. "Wonderful, Lord Archibald," she had replied in her clipped English. "I've been practicing my Anglais."

"As well you should," Lady Anne had said, as Nate's mother stepped off the carriage with the help of her husband. "You will be living in England with Nathaniel very soon."

Nate smiled at the memory of the little girl who looked at him with adoring eyes. As a child himself, at ten years old, he was merely irritated by the utter devotion in her eyes then. He glanced at his best friend who was lounging in the cushioned seat in front of him, who had, since he had known him, moved from woman to woman in the upper to middle rings of London Society. Had Charles Bass not been the only son and heir of Lord Bartholomew Bass, ninth Earl of Estershire, his reputation would have been ruined long before. And so Nate understood the mild cynicism in his best friend's response. To which, he replied, "Little Blair Waldorf was a pretty child."

Chuck arched an eyebrow. "A pretty little child?"

"We were engaged when I was ten and she was eight. The last time I saw her, at fifteen, she was a stick figure with hair that seemed too big for her frame," he related. "I should come for her before her mother sells her off to the highest bidder."

"A lot can change from fifteen to eighteen, Nathaniel," Chuck drawled. "Aren't you curious to see if she had filled up in the right womanly places?" With a playful smirk, he followed, "Or if she has turned into a horrid figure of a woman, so you might start finding a new bride of your own choosing, someone warm and soft and a perfect companion for your bed."

A little amused by the predictable turn of conversation, Nate shook his head. "I don't think of Lady Blair like that. She is a respectable young woman. Her letters have taken me through the deadest days in school." Nate leaned back in his seat. "Besides, there are taverns for those kinds of wenches."

Chuck grinned at his best friend, then nodded towards the folded up letter. "Then off we go tonight to celebrate your departure. Get the girl and install her in your country home, then come back to the city and live your life."

"Chuck, it wouldn't be like that," Nate protested.

"That's what you think,' Chuck told him with a wry voice. "Come on, Nathaniel. You've seen your father and mine."

"My father was a weak man," Nate offered. "It's too easy to fall prey to temptation with his nature." Nate looked out the window as they traveled along the docks. "I leave for France tonight."

"A tad hasty, don't you think, to come running to the girl hours after reading her letter? You would trade her for me—your best friend who had only just come back from exile?" asked Chuck.

Nate glanced quickly at his friend and noted the humor in his eyes, then grinned. "I'm sure you can think of something to occupy your time."

Chuck broke into a grin, then reached over and patted his best friend on the back. "Go and fetch the ball and chain and I will be waiting here waiting for your return, with a ball and two—no, three willing women at your disposal."

"I may love you more than my bride, Chuck," Nate teased.

The dark haired man made a face of disgust and pulled away. "Let's not get carried away," he said, chuckling.

The knock was rapid, and unexpected at that time of the night. With a glass of fine brandy in his hand, Chuck opened the door of his bedroom in only his silk pants. He frowned when he saw his stepsister, still in her bedrobe, appearing frantic and concerned. There were very few moments when Serena van der Woodsen appeared less than enchanting.

"Serena," he greeted, his voice smooth, unhurried in the hopes of affecting calmness in her.

"There's someone here to see you, Chuck."

"Have you started answering the door as a pastime, sister?" he drawled.

Her beautiful face crumpled. "It's Lord Nathaniel."

He frowned. "Jasper knows to let Nate in anytime. Is he waiting at the foyer?"

She shook her head. Her voice dropped. "There's a—a woman downstairs. They won't let her in because she—she's not—They won't let her in. But she's distraught, Chuck. And I heard her briefly when I checked the commotion. Nate—she says he's been stabbed at the docks." Serena burst into tears for the family friend.

Chuck set his jaw and stalked out of the room, pushing Serena aside and broke into a half run down the stairs. He arrived at the door just as the butler was closing it. The old man appeared surprised at Chuck's appearance, and Chuck could understand the shock. He must have appeared half mad with a drink in his hand and only in his pajama pants.

"Where is she?" he demanded.

Jasper bowed and told him, "I've sent the young woman away, milord."

"Why did no one call for me?" He did not wait for an answer, accepting that it would be unfair to expect another response to an event that usually happened anyway. Women had come knocking before, searching for Chuck, and the servants had been trained to send them away. From Serena's incoherent speech, he had assumed that his guest had not been a lady, and so the response was only fitting. Chuck threw open the door and ran out onto the street. The woman had not walked far, and Chuck started after her.

"Lady!" he called.

The woman stopped in her tracks and turned around. Chuck jogged to her, cold and bare in the night air. She was darker than many of the ladies that he knew from his circle, with black hair in small curls that appeared natural and did not undergo hours pressed by hot iron. "Lord Charles?" she asked.

"You have news of Nathaniel?" he gasped, out of breath.

She nodded. "He's in my home. He's near dying." She bit her bottom lip. "I only knew to come to you because he called for you."

"Impossible," Chuck muttered. "Nathaniel left for France."

"He was attacked by brigands at the dock," she told him.

The simple statement confirmed to Chuck his suspicion regarding the woman. "Take me to him."

The woman glanced at his bare chest, and for the first time, her lips curved. "You may need to put on clothes, milord. I have no provision for a heated carriage."

Chuck released a breath of relief. "Come with me. You can wait in the parlor while I change." Chuck proceeded back to the townhouse, but the woman grabbed his arm. He turned his head.

"I should meet you here instead. I have one more place to go, and I hope you can lead me there. There is one more name he called for. Can you point me to the home of a lady named Blair?"

Chuck shook his head. "Walk back with me. You will not find Lady Blair unless you're willing to go to Paris right now."

"Oh," she whispered. She walked a couple of steps behind Chuck as they made their way back to the townhouse. "Was he going to her?" she asked hesitantly. "When he was attacked, was he on his way to her?"

Chuck opened the door for her. The woman seemed to hesitate, but he gestured for her to step inside. He watched as she looked around in amazement. He led the way to the parlor. "You can wait here—" his voice trailed off.

"Vanessa," she offered.

"Vanessa," he repeated, the name rolling off his tongue. "And yes, he was on his way to her." Chuck turned to leave.

"Who—"

"She is betrothed to him. He was going to get her so they can be married," he answered, curious as to the curiosity of Nathaniel's good Samaritan. She was a lovely girl, exotic and completely different from the women he and Nate were used to. Pity that she was a commoner.

They arrived at Vanessa's humble room an hour later. Chuck walked towards the bed in concern. Nate was sleeping fitfully, with a bloody rag wrapped around his belly. He reached out to touch Nate's forehead and found him fevered. He looked up at Vanessa in accusation. "A physician hasn't seen to him?"

She shook her head. Chuck bared his teeth. "Is it money? I assure you, you would have been restituted."

For a moment, she appeared hurt. "I would have called for a doctor," she defended. "It was he who asked me not to."

Chuck turned to Nate in confusion. "Nathaniel," he said loudly, eager to break through the fever with his voice. "Nathaniel, I am taking you back to your townhouse."

"No!" Vanessa protested loudly.

Chuck looked up with a glare. "He cannot stay in this…" His lips curled. "House is not a term I can use, is it?"

She did not take insult. The resplendent home that they had left where she had gone for Chuck was proof enough that the man would have a different viewpoint on what Vanessa considered a luxury in London. "He insisted that it's not safe to go home."

Chuck's eyes narrowed. He shook Nate. "What's not safe, Nate? Why is your home not safe?" he asked.

Nate turned his head away. "Blair," he breathed. His eyes fluttered open and he looked at Chuck with liquid eyes. Chuck noticed the fever in his vision. "Chuck, I have to get Lady Blair."

"Who hurt you, Nate?"

"My father—made so many mistakes. People are after me," he choked out. "I can't go home until I find out who. But—" Nate tried to raise himself up. "Lady Blair—"

Chuck eased his best friend back down on the bed. "Is probably in better shape than you are. Rest."

"Chuck, you don't understand. I need to get her. Her brother—her stepbrother—has been after her for years. I was a child, but I made a vow to protect her, and a promise is a promise."

Nate reached up his hand, silently asking his best friend to help him up. Instead, Chuck clasped Nate's hand and shook his head. "Then I swear, Nathaniel, I will leave for France tonight in your stead. I will take her from her family and keep her safe until you're well."

Nate breathed a sigh of relief, because Chuck was as close to a brother as he could have and a promise from him was as good for Lady Blair as anything he could get. He nodded. "I trust you," Nate said, tightening his hold on his best friend's hand.

Chuck nodded, then looked towards Vanessa. "Be well. You have a good caretaker. I will be sending a trusted man to protect you, and my private doctor to look in on you each day."

"Take care, Chuck." Nate licked his lips. Noticing the small action, Vanessa brought a glass of water over and tipped it to Nate's lips. Nate sipped some. "And take care of my bride."

Chuck's lips curved. "It's a promise."

tbc

AN: I am still actively working on Charlie and Gracie, but the idea for a historical romance hit me and I had to start this. Let me know if you think this will work and if you want more, so I know whether to focus my energy to this as well. Thank you.