All About Serena
Summary: The last thing that Chuck expected when he walked into the club that night was the sight of the one woman he ever loved dropping her clothes onto the dirty floor.
AN: I needed to have a contemporary fic going on because I was staring to think and speak in the same way they do in Promise of Forever. This particular story will follow the same spirit of my short affair with Veronica Mars—that is, multichapter romantic mystery future fic. Don't let the title fool you. This is Chair, with a smattering of Dan.
The service was simple.
Serena was dressed in a classic Valentino beaded satin gown, with her hair like loose spun gold around her face. Blair knew exactly what she would look like, because she was the one who made the arrangements.
Even the blue motif, she had decided—and worked forty eight hours to get all the white and blue flowers delivered, so the entire venue was littered and doused in the color of the clouds and the sky.
Blair had stood silently for an interminable moment at the steps of the church. She could see Chuck standing there at the front with Eric. He looked resplendent there, like always—grim, somber, with his hands clasped behind him.
Lilly was crying, and Bart was right beside her holding her hand. Eleanor, even in her busiest calendar month, made it back to Manhattan to sit in the front row.
For all intents and purposes, and for all the logical reasons, this event was going to be on the front page of news magazines all around the country. Elite Manhattan was in attendance, with the floundering old money, and the nouveau rich. Everyone who mattered was there—from socialites to billionaires, from matinee idols to novelists.
For Blair, it was like walking on air in a foggy afternoon. Maybe it was the drugs to calm her down, the ones she pushed away so aimlessly the liquid still burned in her veins. She managed to put one foot in front of the other, and even then, she stumbled. Of course, her father was there beside her to walk her down the long narrow aisle. Fathers should always be there. The murmur of voices reached Chuck, and he turned towards the doorway in his smart suit. His gaze, when it fell on her, was sad. He seemed to want to go to her, and she wished she would.
Her father's hand was steady as he grasped her elbow. "Easy, Blair." And she gave him a tight smile before managing another step in her white heels.
Four steps. It took her four steps before her knees buckled and she collapsed onto the marble floor. All around her she heard the flurry of activity, and then saw the lightning bursts of cameras flashing as she stayed there, palms against the cold floor. She wanted to raise her head to tell them she was fine—she really did. Instead, she was blinded by the unwelcome attention of the photographers.
And then she heard the quiet, angry voice commanding the men to leave her. She was lifted into familiar arms, and rushed to a small private room at the back of the church.
"I told you, Blair," came Chuck's voice, "you didn't need to come."
She lifted tired, dull eyes to his. "She would have come if it were me."
His nostrils flared at the response, and he grasped her upper arms then pulled her against him. His kiss burned into her hair. "It would've never been you," was his harsh response.
This was going to end up in a gossip tv show. She was willing to wager her entire college tuition that someone had a video of her spill by now, complete with Serena's stepbrother—the billion dollar baby Charles Bass—take her up into his arms and take her into sanctuary, away from prying lenses. What better way to flesh out an already tawdry story.
"Blair, I have news about Serena." She remembered taking that phone call from Dan Humphrey five days before. She had not even known that Dan and Serena were still in such close contact that Dan would learn anything about her best friend before Blair even did.
"She's in Paris," she told him. "She has a shoot today and runway tomorrow. You would know that. You're a journalist," she finished with a hint of a tease.
There was an audible breath, and Blair noticed for the first time that it trembled. "Turn on your tv."
As if possessed, she reached for the remote control from Chuck's side of the bed. He stirred in his sleep, and Blair murmured an assurance so that he would fall back. "Where?"
Her hand fell heavily on Chuck's arm, and she started shaking him awake the moment she saw the headlines. The main screen itself was not appalling. It seemed like a video tribute to a model-cum-socialite. "Chuck," she gasped.
"I had to tell you before you heard it from anyone else," she heard from the other end of the line. Wordlessly, she pushed the button to hang up, then sat up as she watched the news.
"Oh God," she sobbed. Beside her, Chuck rose on his elbow and looked up at her. "They found Serena dead in her hotel room in Paris," Blair choked out. At her words, Chuck's brows furrowed in confusion. He sat up and drew her tightly against him, then turned his gaze at the tv. He groped around for his phone, then called his father.
"Come in, Mr Bass."
Chuck nodded, and stepped inside the darkened club. The first thing he noticed was that the music surrounding him was digital, and immediately approved. His eyes scanned the booths against the walls of the large room, and noted the luxurious red velvet and black leather fittings of the cushions. His accountant had not been kidding when he mentioned that this particular burlesque club was far above the level of sophistication that even Manhattan could offer.
Then again, this was Hollywood glamour. He wondered if he touched the leather he would discover that it was only special effects that made it seem so smooth and pliable.
"Would you like a booth, Mr Bass, so you can enjoy the show in private?" came the smooth question from the woman who had ushered him in. The enunciation was perfect, he thought. It was almost as if she was a speech student before she found her calling in the club. She was wearing a black lace and bone corset that flattened and pushed up her breasts. He almost winced. That had to be uncomfortable.
He answered confidently, "I'd like to be up and center, so I can see clearly what it is I'm investing my money in."
The woman's smile was relieved. He led him to a private table right in front of the stage. "You picked a good night to visit. We have our most popular attraction tonight."
"Really?" he replied, intrigued.
The woman gestured to the stage, and stepped back behind Chuck so he could appreciate a full view. "It's the Virgin Queen."
What followed seemed like a theater production and not a striptease. The curtains to the stage closed, and Chuck observed quick shadows running around setting up what seemed to be a grand Renaissance throne. The stage was filled with fog. He could see the smoke seeping from under the heavy curtains. There was cathedral music, and Chuck smirked. Zealots were going to shut down this show the moment they heard about the organ music. And then the curtains flew open with a resounding zip.
The organ music died down, and Chuck observed the redhead sitting in the throne at the center of the stage, with her head bowed down. She was robed heavily in royal garments, and there was a lot of them. All the better to tease you with, he thought. The choreographer was genius. Now if the woman's face was virginal too, and they managed to swing an innocent looking hard up chick into playing a stripping queen, then that meant this club's management was stellar and he was not going to change a single thing.
A saucy Scottish folk song started playing, and the queen rose while moving her hips to the beat. He could not see the face, and he was a little disappointed at the possibility that the tease was set up so well but they could not find a woman with a face that fit the character.
Slowly, her head rose. There was a smattering of applause from the corner. His usherette whispered into his ear, "She's a star. She's already got fans, and she only came onboard a week ago."
Chuck nodded slowly. The queen revealed that she was wearing a mask, and he heard the groans around him, from men he suspected had already memorized the act. She gave a playful smirk, then a wave. There was something in those lips that curved and shone, and Chuck frowned. The queen lifted her hand and pulled one pin out of her red hair, sending locks tumbling onto her shoulders. She turned to show them her back, then placed a hand over her lips. Slowly, she walked to the steps and interacted with the audience by leaning over one table and reaching for the man's hand, then placing it in her hair.
Practiced likely by several visits the past week, the man knew to take one pin out of her hair, sending the opposite side of the pile of hair tumbling down as well, much to the audience's delight. She gave her participating audience a peck on the cheek.
"She's fabulous, isn't she, Mr Bass?"
He grew cold, because he would not mistake her for anyone else in the world. Fifteen months of searching for her, and this was what he would find. The queen hopped up on the table of her volunteer, then presented her foot to the man. She jutted up her chin, as if she was commanding a lowly servant. The man took off the shoe and handed it to her, and she promptly tossed it up on the stage.
"She is," he agreed, gritting his teeth. "I might just buy this place. You should introduce me to your star."
The queen made her way back up on the stage, and proceeded to shuck the other shoe. She placed one stockinged foot on the throne, then the other, and pulled herself up to dance on top of it. She presented her back to them, then reached behind her to unhook the fastening one by one.
"Where are my ladies?" Chuck jerked up at the sound of her voice, for the first time she spoke during the performance.
"None!" called a few people from the audience.
"Regular customers," offered the woman behind him, as if Chuck still did not get the idea that she had been repeating over and over. This was a popular club, a good investment, with class, and a rising star to boot. "Now this is the surprise for you. I got you the best seat in the house. I'll leave you to enjoy it."
Chuck watched in fascination as the queen on stage, with the spotlights on her, made a show of scanning the crowd. With the lights trained on her, he was positive that the entire club was nothing but pitch black space to her. "I should look for someone else to help me. This gown is so tight."
The saucy entrance from the curtain opening played again, and she blew a kiss towards the sound booth. She made her way down the stage once again and Chuck sank back into the shadowed area of his seat. She presented her exposed back to him. "Please sir, can you help me?"
He stood up, then reached to brush her fingers down her back. She stiffened at the sensation, and his heart skipped a beat to know that at least she had that semblance of modesty to react to a stranger's touch. Slowly, he unfastened the back. He leaned close and whispered into her ear, "What the hell kind of game are you playing, Waldorf?"
She sucked in her breath, then whirled around, grasping her gown up over her chest. Blair turned around and faced him, and even with the mask still on, he could see her eyes wide and blazing. "Chuck!" she gasped. "Get out of here."
The queen, with a lot of her regal composure taken out of her, climbed back up the steps. She presented the audience with a tantalizing smile, and pronounced, "I'm exhausted. Maybe I should go to bed. Anyone care to join me?" And Chuck gripped his glass so tightly he thought it might shatter in his hands. Blair Waldorf let go of the dress, and it pooled at her feet, leaving her in nothing but a pair of nude strapless bras and panties. He did not question the historical inaccuracy of having La Perlas under the virgin queen trappings, but was slack with relief that spectators didn't see the goods.
He narrowed his eyes as he saw her shadow hurry to the back of the stage. Chuck stood up and followed backstage, only to be stopped by a large bouncer, who looked eerily like a washed up WWE champion. "Blair!" he called out.
The redhead figure pulled off the wig and shook her long brown hair free, then turned to look back at Chuck sadly. She stopped in front of a dressing room door, then knocked. The door opened, and Chuck squinted at the face of the man it revealed. The man pulled Blair inside.
"Humphrey," Chuck recognized.