A/N- Chuck is a pain in the ass, let it be known to all. He held me up in writing this, wouldn't cooperate at all. I hope the wait was worth it. Blame Mr. Bass, if it isn't. Thank you for reading and dropping me your thoughts, feedback is always greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading and dropping me your thoughts, feedback is always greatly appreciated.
"Unfortunately for your overly emotional involvement with the antidote and its supposed source, I do," Arthur replied evenly.
"There wasn't time," Chuck bit off, barely controlling his rage.
Arthur arched a skeptical eyebrow at Chuck through the rear view mirror.
"Turn the car around, Arthur."
"I am unable to do so, Mr. Bass."
Chuck hissed out a breath, "You know as well as I do that there is a chance that she could still be immune."
"Yes," Arthur nodded, his eyes never leaving the highway, "that is a possibility. However, even if your damsel were to share the boy's immunity I would not be able to synthesize the antidote from her blood in time to be of any use. Jeffries' earlier than postulated demise indicates that Mr. Malkov's alterations were far more potent that anyone had previously hypothesized." Light blue eyes met amber eyes alight with fire, "And though the excessive perspiration, narrowed eyelids, and increased pulse that you currently display indicate a severe aversion to even considering the possibility, the fact remains that the chance of Blair Waldorf being the immunity' source is unfavourably low. She is more than likely already infected; if she survived the initial blasts to begin with." Arthur angled his body until the two men were face to face for the first time since he injected Chuck with the paralytic nearly five hours ago, "We remain Toronto bound, Sir."
And that was Vanessa's last thought before she slipped into unconsciousness, missing the final croak of the radio before it too fell into silent oblivion.
"If you can still here me out there this is Pat Rogers with CKGB News Talk Radio. The CDC has cut and run; New York has been abandoned. The quarantine zone has been extended to include: … everything; all of the U.S, Mexico, and half of Canada.
Oh, Fuck this! Nobody is fucking listening to me anyway! You're all dead! The entire goddamn United States of America is dead!
I don't give a damn Jimmy! NO! I'm not staying here to die! I'm getting the fuck out of here! ... Did you hear that folks? Jimmy wants me to tell you not to touch the money! BURN YOUR MONEY! It's the fucking money that's…Oh. My. God. It's all over!… Jesus Christ. It really is the end of the-"
Nate's heart beat in time to the quick thumping that echoed in the now otherwise silent room. It were as though he were dreaming; the steady patter resounding in his ears could not be reality. At least, he knew, he didn't deserve for it to be a reality.
But the trembling hand he held in his and the wet tears he felt rolling down his cheeks told him that he was awake; the nightmare was over, he could finally breathe – whether he deserved to feel the air's cool kiss deep in his lungs or not.
Leaning forward to catch Vanessa's grateful tears with his thumb, Nate whispered softly in her ear, "I love you." The fat droplets that glistened on the apples of her cheeks in the muted, yellow lightening told him that he didn't have to clarify that he meant both of them. She knew. It had only taken him longer than it should ever take a man to be able to come to terms with loving his own child, but she knew. He'd finally been able to tell her, to show her. And she wasn't going to hold the time it had taken for him to be able to express it, to be able to believe it himself, against him.
It was what he loved most about her; her forgiving nature, her loving spirit. Her ability to let go of the past, of any pain he'd unintentionally or unknowingly caused her. It was what made them work as... well, as them. She loved him no matter how long it took him to come around to reality. He though she looked cute with flour on her nose and in her hair – even when she had the lens of her camera shadowing his every move.
She loved him because of his faults and not despite them. His name hadn't mattered to her. In fact, it had mattered so very little to her that she'd scrapped it entirely. He could count the amount of times he had heard her call him by his proper name, by the name his father and the Archibald legacy had given him, on one hand.
And half those had come over the past twenty-four hours.
But that was all over now. The tightness in his chest that hadn't let him breathe had been chased away, the first audible beats of his unborn baby's heart had drawn the air from his lungs in endless sighs of relief.
"It's ok." His lips couldn't cover enough of her face in soft, gentle kisses. "You're safe. You're alright." And they would stay that way. He would see to it if it took every piece of himself, every last shred of his sanity, and every ounce of his blood to do so. "You'll both be fine, I promise."
Jonathan cleared his throat awkwardly and Blair nearly swallowed her own tongue. He didn't push Nate aside to see to Vanessa, didn't haul her over his shoulder and cart her away. Sharp words didn't throw themselves from his lips. No. He just stood their off to her left and a few paces behind the little family, patiently waiting, crushed glass and dark liquid oozing around them in the room's frigid temperature while a madman...
Oh, God! She'd forgotten about Benson!
"Jonathan," Blair snapped. An urgency she couldn't damper had feet that were bare nearly wounding themselves on shattered glass as she moved to capture the 'doctor's' attention, but a sudden tension in her right arm halted her progression. She glared down at her hand, and finding her fingers intertwined with Chuck's, tugged them free of his furiously. Chuck started, having not marked the moment the void between his digits had been filled be hers, either, and Blair snapped her attention back to Jonathan before the gamut of emotions could flash in his dark eyes.
"Yes, Princess?" Jonathan cooed.
He'd caught her silent interchange with Chuck, Blair knew, and his tone was laced with frost. Again, she reminded herself that she did not owe dear Johnny anything but a politely worded 'Thank You For Saving My Life' note and fixed him with an impatient glare.
"If you are quite finished with that impersonation of a statue, I think Nate would like to have his fiancée examined, Doctor. Then maybe we could get back to getting the hell out of here?"
Chuck bristled. The way her tongue wrapped around the other man's title with such a familiar contempt had something he couldn't name crawling in the pit of his stomach.
"I swear to God, Johnny-"
Chuck hadn't been able to pin down her relationship with the doctor. Her quick temper where the other man was concerned unnerved him, but the distance she kept between them whenever she could hadn't had Chuck figuring him for...well, for anything more than he himself had been to her over the years.
He would have mentally added up until three months ago, but they'd silently agreed that Paris did not exist. He was not Rick and she would never be his Ilsa. Bogart and Bergman could keep the city of lights and love.
Actually, since Rick had watched Victor and Ilsa as a cloud of fog swallowed them whole, Chuck figured that it was a pretty apt comparison.
The only question being, Chuck mused as Blair kept her eyes on the doctor, spine stiff in a dead give away that she felt his eyes burning a hole at the base of her neck, who exactly was Victor in this scenario?
"Please, Joan – you're direct line to the big guy up-"
"Enough!" Though Eric knew it to be pointless, he stepped between the squabbling adults. And was reminded then, watching as Blair glared at the doctor and Chuck glared at her, the magnitude of what he'd done.
He'd taken another man's life, slit his throat and tasted the last trickle of his blood as it filled his mouth. The love of his sister's life, to top it off. And if they didn't get a move on, didn't stop their bitching and redraw everyone's blood, it would all be for naught.
"Blair's right. We're getting out of here." At Blair's self-satisfied snort, Eric pinned her with an authoritative glare and would have tasked her with finding a mop, but Grant's worried voice claimed his attention.
"He's convulsing! I need help!"
A shiver of panic tripped down Blair's spine.
A parade of masked doctor's elbowed their way into the spacious room. "He's convulsing!" one of them yelled. The white swatches of material that covered their faces kept Blair from pin pointing which scrub it was.
"Page Doctor Reid!" another called, and again Blair couldn't tell which medical professional had issued the order. To her ears, it sounded as though the room itself had begun to speak; orders and frantic calls bombarded her from every direction, each carrying more urgency on its back than the last.
"Get the mother out of here!" the room ordered, and not soon after she felt its cold embrace ushering her out the door and away from her son.
"No!" The scream was shrill and desperate and Blair realized belatedly that it had torn free from her throat. "Charlie! I'm not leaving him! I'm not leaving my son!"
Memory melded with reality. "I'm not leaving him!"
"Joanie-" Jonathan began.
Chuck stepped forward, his broad shoulders filling Blair's vision and cut Jonathan off. "Waldorf."He'd seen that look in her eye too many times to not have it wrap itself around his throat and choke the air from his lungs. "Hey," he implored, his fingers gripping her upper arms. The material there was crisp with water and cold air and before she could protest, Chuck had it up and over her head and his tattered and bloody dress shirt in its place.
Blair shivered silently, her eyes taking on a glassy quality as, on the floor behind Chuck, Jonathan bent begrudgingly to help Grant.
"She's half frozen," Chuck told Eric, a concern the blonde man hadn't heard in his voice in years weighing down his words as he gathered the petite brunette close to his chest. When Blair didn't protest or attempt to maim his brother, Eric felt the same trickle of concern that was evident in Chuck's actions bloom in his breast, growing larger and stronger until it bordered on outright fear.
"What are they doing to him? Is he ok? Blair? Blair!" Chuck gripped Blair's arm and whirled her around to face him when she only continued to stare straight ahead at the curtains blocking her view into Charlie's room. " Hey, Waldorf, can you hear me? Jesus, I think you're going into shock."
"I think...I think she's.." Chuck began, pushing damp hair from Blair's forehead with unsteady fingers.
"Going into shock," Eric finished, nodding his agreement, though he wasn't conscious of the movement.
Chuck swallowed, struggling to breathe with Blair pressing herself into his body the way she was, burrowing into his chest. "Waldorf? Come on, Wald- ...Blair?"
Sliding his fingers through her hair to calm her like he had done outside of Charlie's room when she refused to be moved from her vigil, Chuck peeked over his shoulder. On the floor, doctor Jackass and the bearded Aussie were working on the kid. If you could call their hurried, frantic, and nearly useless movements, 'working'. There was blood everywhere. Streaming from his ears, bubbling from his nose, spurting in sporadic bursts from his mouth. Chuck had seen it before – in rats mostly, and from behind the safety of three inch Plexiglas, but seen it nonetheless. Enough to recognize the signs of the end as it neared now.
"Her breathing is too shallow," he told his brother, keeping his eyes on the top of Jonathan's head. Slowly, he raised them to Eric's. "The kid's not going to make it, anyway."
Meaning Jonathan's talents would be better spent on Blair, Eric realized, swallowing hard. Had it really come to that? Eric's heart ached for the decision that faced his brother.
Holding Eric's gaze, Chuck felt his lips press themselves to Blair's temple, testing her temperature, searching for her pulse. "Blair? Come on, don't make me do this. Please, baby."
Even as he cooed the endearment into her ear, Chuck knew he was taking his life into his own hands; Blair hated lovey dovey endearments. Well, he though as he pulled back to capture her eyes and hopefully her attention, her inevitable, murderous thoughts could rest easy; there wasn't a dove in sight and he wasn't in love with her. At least not anymore – if he ever had been begin with. And he'd take her wrath over the dead look in her eyes and pallor draining the colour from her cheeks every time. This day, he hoped.
But not that he cared, no. The only reason that her face was cradled in his hands and his heart in his throat was because there was still a chance that she carried immunity to the virus in her veins. She was, after all, Charlie's mother. Genetics dictated that there was the possibility that she'd been the source of their son's immunity.
"B? Come on, I know how you feel," because the same flash of searing pain had stabbed him through his heart, too, "but if you don't snap out of this, and soon, dammit, you're not going to like the outcome."
Vanessa wept silently against Nate's shoulder. There were not enough words in the English language to describe to the relief she felt. Not enough hours in the day to express how happy she was that their baby was ok, that its father had finally come around. She felt like doing a jig, like screaming from the top of the CN tower, like...like...like...
She didn't know what, and it didn't matter; she was happy!
But even as she lay her forehead against Nate's, there was still a teeny, tiny, minuscule part of her that wasn't fully focused on their miracle, that was somewhere else entirely.
Coins? Banks? No, Vanessa mused, that wasn't it. But it was something along those lines.
If only she could just pinpoint the though, nail it to the wall... she had the distinct feeling that it meant life or death for them all.
"Blair, honey, can you hear me?" When Blair's eyes stared through Chuck, he turned back toward Eric, decision made.
Eric swallowed against the lump threatening to form in his throat. He'd been there with Chuck when the doctors had finally emerged to deliver the news of Charlie's death, stood beside him as he caught his crumpling fiancée, hovered helplessly as he rocked his son's limp form in his arms for that last time. He could only imagine the anguish he was feeling now.
"Doc," Chuck bit out, eyes on still his brother.
Jonathan unfolded his lanky body, pushed Chuck out of his way, and lifted Blair into his arms. Eric fought the urge to deck him himself as he watched the doctor give his once almost sister-in-law a thorough examination. To restrain his itching fist, he turned his attention instead on the rest of the room's occupants.
Grant kneeled helplessly beside Zach's convulsing body, fingers twisting themselves into knots as he realized the boy's fate. Arthur hovered off to the side, reluctant to get involved. Nate and Vanessa huddled together on the narrow examination table, murmuring soft assurances into the other's hair as Nate rocked his fiancée back and forth.
Eric was happy for the couple, relieved that they hadn't had to suffer the same fate as Chuck and Blair had a decade ago, but he couldn't help the tiny though niggling in the dark corner of his mind as he watched them. They'd heard the baby's heartbeat, yes, but Vanessa had been bleeding when Eric had found her. Was he the only one still worried as to why? Surely with Zach hemorrhaging crimson all over the floor like that, and with thousands of bodies littering the streets outside, everyone couldn't have possibly just forgotten exactly what it was they were all dealing with?
Was nobody else worried? he wondered incredulously as Chuck watched with barely restrained disdain as Jonathan checked Blair's vitals, was nobody else the least bit concerned that Vanessa could be infected? She'd been lying unconscious on the kitchen floor of her burning apartment when Eric had found her, and had had more opportunities than he could count on the hands of ten men to come in contact with the virus. She may have even handled a contagion herself, since Eric still hadn't the foggiest idea what the damn thing could be. They could all have walked right through a cloud of virus laden air or have the contagion stuck to everyone of their shoes, for all they knew.
"She needs to be warmer," Jonathan stated, eyes hard despite his concern. Turning to Eric, he ordered, "Get me blankets. Sheets. Anything, something."
Through the haze of pain that blurred her vision, clouded her thoughts, Blair managed to hear Jonathan's rapid fire orders. She'd never heard him so undone before. Angry, jealous, spiteful, annoying, yes. But never as worried as he sounded now. To her, it could only mean one thing.
"Charlie..." she mumbled, reaching out, blinded by her tears. When her trembling fingers found fingers warm with heat, something inside her clicked and her breathing began to come more evenly.
Ignoring the death glares that the doc was hurling his way, Chuck stroked his thumb over the backs of Blair's knuckles.
This wasn't like them; the tenderness, the leaning on each other. He found it oddly comforting, uncharacteristically easy. And it scared him. But not more than the realization that hit him then, watching as Jonathan wrapped the blankets Eric handed him around Blair snuggly, feeling her fingers tighten around his, unwilling to relinquish their hold.
The warmth in his chest had nothing to do with the hope that she would be their salvation. Arthur had told him hours ago that even if she were to be the source of Charlie's immunity, it was far too late for her to be their savior; there would not be enough time for him to synthesize an antidote.
No, it wasn't the virus, the cure – none of it.
It was her. He was in love with her.
Stillin love with her, to be exact.
Breathless, he stepped backward, stumbling over his own feet. But her fingers held firm. Panic and nerves tyeing his tongue in knots, he could only turn pleading eyes on Eric.
Eric had to laugh. The insanity of it all, the terrified look in his brother's eyes. "Chuck-" The sentence ended abruptly as Blair's stomach suddenly emptied itself down the front of Jonathan's scrubs. Chuck felt like throwing up himself, Eric could tell, but managed a self satisfied smirk when Blair, fingers still intertwined with his, heaved again, bright green stomach bile splattering on the doc's shoes.
Smiling to himself, Chuck took in the doctor's appearance. Serves the asshole right, he thought, though he had no way of knowing if it actually did.
Chuck had kept one ear on New York over all the years he'd spent running Bass Industries from Tokyo, but, telling himself he didn't to know, that it didn't matter, he'd shut out anything that hit too close to home, anything pertaining to Blair Waldorf. So for all he knew, the doctor could be her husband. It wasn't bloody likely, but the thought that it could even be a possibility, that she was free to marry another man, had his fingers dislodging themselves from hers again, and his feet carrying him quickly out of the room.
Stupefied, Eric watched Chuck flee the room for the second time in the span of thirty minutes. "Chuck!" he yelled, jumping over Zach's lifeless body, dodging Arthur when the man's gnarled fingers attempted to clamp themselves around Eric's wrist, demanding another sample of his blood. "Chuck!" he screamed again, nearly losing his footing as he chased his brother down the hallway. "Chu-"
"Charles Bass, what the fuck do you think you're doing?!"
Shocked, Eric turned to see Blair, guns blazing, eyes wide with furry, storming out of the treatment room after them. She held one hand to her stomach, the other to the crook of her arm where it was obvious that she hadn't waited long at all for Arthur to redraw her blood before she'd torn free of his grasp. Even as she barreled down the hallway, blood trickled down her arm in heavy streams.
Chuck stopped, stuttered. "I..uh..What am I doing?!" he yelled back when he found his voice. "What the hell are you doing?" It was clear by his tone, at least to Eric, that he meant the wound leaving a crimson trail in her wake.
Blair shrugged off his question. The heat from the blankets and adrenaline had cleared her mind enough to register the loss of contact when Chuck had yanked his fingers from hers. "Where do you think you're going?" She wasn't sure why anger had her chasing after him, again, but her feet had pushed her through the door way before she could stop them.
No, that wasn't entirely true. The first time she'd chased him down because she'd wanted to give him a piece of her mind, wanted to tear him limb from limb for hurting her, for deserting her all those years ago after Charlie had died. And the second was no different. Zach had gone into convulsions, was lying dead on the floor back there, she knew, and Chuck couldn't get away from her quick enough. He was fleeing. Again.
"God dammit, Bass! Will you quit running?!" Out of breath, she slowed her pace, but not her tirade. "What your father would think of you if he-"
Slowly, Chuck drew in a reluctant breath. "My father?"
"My father is dead," he continued evenly, and Eric gulped. Chuck Bass was anything but even tempered. "If he were to take issue with something, I'm sure he would start with the fact that I killed him, rather than my choosing to save your life over the kid's."
Speechless, Blair could only stare at the brown-eyed man. She felt the anger drain from her limbs, the nauseous feeling take hold again, as the knowledge hit her full force.
"He's got it in his head that he killed Dad," Eric whispered when she passed him, her mouth gaping, eyes wide. "Thinks he's responsible for Charlie, too."
He knew that Chuck's fists would most likely split his lip later, but Eric was tired of the two of them dancing around each other. Chuck was his brother, he loved him, he was the only family that he had left, and if there was something he'd learned over the past twenty four hours, it was that family was everything, love was everything, and it shouldn't be taken lightly. He'd learned that lesson himself all too well. Damned if he'd watch his brother fuck up his last chance, and the last chance that any of them just might get, at a second chance.
Slowly, painfully, Blair stalked away from Eric towards Chuck.
He thought he killed Bart? He'd saved her? Over Zach?
Hands on her hips, she glared at Chuck, their noses nearly touching. "Why?" she demanded, but the ache Eric's revelation had sparked in her chest stole most of her venom.
She was asking for more than just an explanation of what had happened back in the room, Chuck knew. "You're shaking."
"Why?" Blair repeated.
He knew what she wanted, could see the need to hear it swimming in her eyes, but couldn't quite bring himself to rip the organ, the one he hated to admit she'd broken more than once, from his chest and hand it over. "You should have your precious doctor sew that shut." He nodded toward her right arm, frowned as he caught sight of the red blotch that was eating more and more of the pink material of dress shirt.
She took a step closer. Her breath toyed with the curls on his bare chest. "Why?"
Her hot breath burnt him. "You should be sitting down."
She probably should, she mused. She'd thrown up the pills that Jonathan had found for her, that much she knew, and she'd just managed to regurgitate her own stomach bile. But she wasn't moving an inch. She'd had enough – wasted years convincing herself it didn't matter why, convincing herself she didn't care either way, and if she were dying, which was becoming more and more of a possibility, she knew, then she was damn well going to get an explanation. She deserved to hear it from his lips; why he'd left, why he hadn't loved their son enough to stay. And he couldn't even be bothered to give her one.
"Chuck, dammit!" The crack in his armor that realizing he was in love with the mother of his child had created sprung a leak as Blair's voiced hitched despite her best efforts. "Why?" Tarnished. "Please." Crumbled.
"Because, fuck!" he roared, shoving a hand through his hair, nerves and self directed anger sharpening his tongue. Still unable to face all that had come to pass between them, their past, the present, and everything that lay between, he continued, "Because the boy was gone already, anyway, and you needed the asshole to check you out. Survival of the fittest, hon- Waldorf."
"No." She shook her head, stepped closer still. "Why?" And his refusal to acknowledge the real question, the one she was finally able to ask, fueled her frustrations, fed the flames of her anger. "Why me? Why now? Why does it matter now?"
"Now or never, isn't that what they say?"
His try for flippant irked her for reasons she wouldn't admit. "I would have been fine, he was the one who needed help. He needed you and you left him lying there!" Her voice broke slightly as deeper meanings crept into her words. "He needed you and you let them take him from me!" Her balled fist struck his bare chest. "He needed you, needed his father, and you left him!" And again. "You left us!" Again. "You left me!"
He was torn in a thousand different directions. He could yell back, it was, after all, their way, he could give her the answers she was looking for, or he could take what he wanted. Which at that moment, with her eyes alight with anger and her lips pressed into a thin, trembling line, was her.
More than he'd ever let himself, more than he ever should have, more than he'd realized.
Catching her off guard, but not by surprise, he chose the latter.