Disclaimer: I own nothing except a great love for CB and the many inhabitants of the UES

A/N: Unbelievable how much time has passed. So much has changed since this story began years ago. One thing that never changed was how much I adore this couple. Good times and bad. Thank you to all those who reached out to me in the past and quite recently to let me know just what this story has meant to you. I took a break from it to devote my complete attention to my graduate work and then came the season from hell (aka Season 5). The characters did keep pulling me back though every now and again and I told myself that I'd finish it maybe just for me…thinking that perhaps it'd been far too long since my last update and that people no longer cared or remembered. But again I've had some encouragement recently letting me know that you have not forgotten Chuck and Blair or their Kat and Evie. This one is for all of you and most specifically for ireallyamsorry (thnx bb)

Okay, now it's been a while so please be gentle and more importantly…ENJOY!


Chapter 35

One minute Blair was watching the twins dance with their grandfathers, the little girls trying to teach Cyrus and Harold some complicated dance step that they'd learned. She was doing her best not to burst out laughing, they looked so earnest in their attempts to impress the two little girls. Eric and his boyfriend shared a look, while Lily and Roman cheered them on.

Blair looked around, realizing for the first time that their group was down by four. Of course, she'd watched, surprised by her sense of satisfaction when Dan had left with Serena. Now she couldn't seem to find Chuck. Or Jenny for that matter.

For the first time that night, she saw her former maid actually sitting down and talking to her date. Blair couldn't help smiling, as she listened with half an ear to the back and forth between the two servants. There was a superior look on the older woman's face as she motioned to her charges. There was an air of playful competition about them that felt all too familiar to Blair.

Where in the world was Bass? Blair stood slowly, moving from the comfortable spot she'd found for herself earlier. "Excuse me. Have you seen, Mr. Bass?" She pulled one of the waiters aside.

"Kitchen." He told her.

"Thank you." Blair said, only realizing after he'd moved away that she hadn't a clue where the kitchen might be. Unlike the apartment downstairs, Blair hadn't taken a step beyond the main room of Chuck's apartment. Not that she wasn't dying to see every inch of the place that was now home, but there was no time. First the girls and then her father.

"That way, miss." Her waiter was back, pointing the way. As if he somehow knew that she wouldn't know the way. She'd somehow given herself away that she didn't belong.

Blair thanked him with a dismissive smile, not wanting to take the time to delve into her sudden bout of insecurities. She hurried in the direction he'd pointed out and almost ran right into her quarry as he came striding from the kitchen. "Chuck, there you are…what's wrong?"

"Can't talk now, Waldorf. I'll be right back."

"Oh, no you don't." Blair hurried after him, vaguely aware of Jenny following them both.

"Not now, Blair."

She latched onto his arm and dug her heels in.

"Dammit, Blair."

She held on, matching him glare for glare. "Don't take that tone with me, Charles Bass. Something's wrong and I want to know what it is. No more secrets. Remember?"

"Come on then. I can't give you any details right now because I'm not sure what the fuck is going on, but Serena called me. Nate's downstairs with Carter Baizen."

"What?" Blair faltered. That wasn't good. Definitely not good. "Jenny, could you tell Lily and my father that something came up. We'll be back, as soon as, possible."

Jenny nodded, "I will. Just keep me posted."

Neither Chuck, nor Blair spoke during the ride downstairs. Chuck didn't seem inclined to tell her anything more than he'd said already. She tried reading his expression but he'd shut down on her. His features was set in an impassive mask, but there was tension in the slant of his shoulders as if he prepared himself for whatever they were stepping into.

The elevator opened and almost immediately they saw Serena. The blonde paced back and forth with Alex in her arms. The little boy sniffling against his mother's neck.

"S…" Blair was on the move almost immediately, making a beeline for her best friend.

Meanwhile, Chuck hung back, drinking in the scene. His eyes lingered only briefly on his sister and nephew, taking inventory. Neither seemed the worse for whatever had gone down but they were okay. Where in the hell was his best friend? Long strides carried him across the lobby, "Where's Nate?"

She tipped her head towards the front entrance. "Out there. The doorman and Dan tried to get them separated and they all ended up outside."

"Separated? Nate went after Carter?"

"Yea." Serena nodded, jerkily

"What the hell was Baizen doing here, anyway?" Chuck demanded.

"I asked him to drop Alex off but that was earlier and he said no…god this is my fault. I wasn't thinking. Chuck, you need to get out there. Like now."

"I'm on it. You guys stay inside."

"But…"

"Blair, I mean it. For me."

"Chuck, the police are out there, too." Serena called out as he neared the entranceway.

"Fuck." He cursed, seeing the patrol car almost immediately. His best friend was stowed in the backseat, while Dan Humphrey was talking quietly with one of the officers. Brooklyn was motioning to Nate and then to Carter who was slumped against another patrol car, his face bloody and arm cradling his ribs.

Chuck took some satisfaction in that his best friend had gotten a piece of the bastard but at what cost. Dammit, Nathaniel.

The doorman was close-mouthed as he walked pass, but the man tipped his head in Chuck direction, their eyes catching briefly. That was one thing at least he wouldn't have to worry about. The staff at the apartment building were loyal employees and wouldn't say anything against Nate. Even if his best friend was at fault in this.

The same might not be said about, Dan Humphrey keeping his mouth shut about what the hell ever had gone down. He moved closer, listening in to see how much damage control he'd need to do.

"Mr. Baizen says your friend threw the first punch."

Dan rolled his eyes, "Mr. Baizen isn't exactly known for being a man of his word."

"So you're saying he's lying."

"Um…well."

"Were you present or not Mr. Humphrey?"

"Why the hell are you asking him anything? He's going to lie to cover for his friend." Carter yelled out, "Why the fuck hasn't an ambulance been called already? I told you what happened. Officer Archibald attacked me and threatened my life. Arrest him, already or are you people already planning on covering this up…"

"Mr. Baizen, no one's covering anything up. We're just trying to sort out exactly what happened here."

"I told you what happened. Do you people have any idea who my family is…" Carter was saying, then he caught sight of Chuck. "Bass, I should've known you'd show your face."

"I live here. You don't. This is personal property and Nathaniel is an invited guest." Chuck murmured. He approached the officers, "Charles Bass. This is my building."

"Don't even try it, Bass. You can't talk your boy out of this one." Carter said, "I was minding my own business…waiting for Serena. Your good friend assaulted me in front of my kid and I want his fucking badge."

"Look." Chuck turned his back dismissively on the other man, before he said something that would dig Nate's current hole, even deeper. "Officers. I certain that if we can just all sit down and speak reasonably about this that we can get things settled here and now. Talk to the doorman. Talk to Serena van der Woodsen. I'm sure they'll be able to tell you the truth of the entire situation."

"You mean they'll lie."

Chuck resisted the urge to tell Baizen to "shut the fuck up." He'd deal with that asshole soon enough. God knew he'd been tempering himself over the years for Serena and Alex's sake. Now the gloves were off. Nate wouldn't have gone after Baizen without provocation. Especially not in front Alex. Carter must've pushed and pushed, hiding behind Alex's presence like a shield but looked like he might've pushed just a little to hard.

"Actually, Mr. Bass. We'll be taking Mr. Baizen and Officer Archibald to the station…"

"Are you certain that's really necessary? It's New Year's Eve. I sure that it'd be easier for everyone all around if we settled this here and now." Chuck said.

The younger man shook his head in regret. "Sorry, Mr. Bass, but we already called it in. Besides, Officer Archibald's lieutenant just talked to my partner and he wants him brought in."

Fuck. From bad to worse. "I understand your predicament, Officer. Do you think it would be okay if I spoke with Nathaniel for a moment."

The officer thought about it for a moment but couldn't seem to find fault with the request.

His best friend looked utterly miserable, Chuck thought as he got a closer look at the other man. His head was buried in his hands.

Chuck raised his fist to knock on the glass, but his friend didn't look up immediately. He tried again, calling Nate's name.

His best friend looked up, his face twisted and worried. He looked as if he bore the weight of the world on his shoulders, leaving Chuck to wonder if he was thinking about his ruined marriage or the career that could very well be crumbling before his very eyes. Despite the danger and less than cordial atmosphere at work, Nate seemed to really love being a cop. Chuck hated the idea that Carter might be responsible for taking this away from Nate on top of everything else.

"Are you okay?" He demanded softly, the window cracked enough that Nate shouldn't have any problems hearing his words.

"I've been better. Is Alex all right?" Nate asked, glancing towards the apartment building.

Sudden understanding flooded and Nate's tortured expression made even more sense. He wasn't worried about himself or his job that hung by a fraying thread. He was worried about the little boy inside, being consoled by his mother.

"Serena's got him. He'll be okay." Chuck assured. "Kids are more resilient than you'd think.

Nate shook his head, "I can't believe I just did that. Is Serena pissed?"

"Not at you."

"God, man. I wasn't thinking." Nate told him.

"So I gathered. It's going to be fine, Nathaniel. I'll take care of it." He assured his best friend.

The blonde man reacted almost immediately, vehement in his insistence that Chuck stay out of it. "No. No way, man."

"I'm helping you with this…"

"No, you're not. Look, I catch enough hell at work as it is with everyone thinking that I'm getting special treatment because of you and my grandfather calling in favors."

"They're full of shit, Nate. You've made it this far, this fast because you're good at your job. Never forget that." Chuck ground out, "Besides, you made me promise a long time ago that I wouldn't interfere and I've kept my word…"

"Thank you."

"Until now." He added quickly.

"Chuck, no."

"Nathaniel, yes. I'm not just going to stand by and let that piece of trash Baizen bring you down like this." Chuck leaned in close, his voice low and harsh. He'd been looking out for Nate since their first day of kindergarten. When the other boy had found himself being bossed around by a certain brunette. Poor Nathaniel hadn't known any better, so of course it'd been up to Chuck to put the saucy minx in her place. Of course both boys had gotten into trouble when those chocolate curls somehow ended up sticky with paste.

It hadn't be the most stellar of plans and yes they'd gotten caught but they'd been friends ever since. Yes, they'd had their personal battles and rifts in between but when it came down to it, Chuck couldn't leave his friend hanging. Not when he was in a position to help.

Nate groaned, recognizing the look on Chuck's face. The clenched jaw and the smile without humor. "Stay out of it, man. Please."

"No phone calls to city hall or special favors. I promise." Wicked intent in his tone, amber eyes focused on Carter, who was still playing up the injured party routine. "I simply plan on having an extremely long overdue…civilized conversation with our old buddy Carter."

Chuck expression became particularly brutal even as he utter the word "civilized."

"Chuck. I appreciate the sentiment behind it, but talking to Carter won't do very much good. The damage is done. My lieutenant already knows something went down…"

"But not all the details. We can spin this, Nate. Just work with me." Chuck insisted, "What's the worse you could be looking at?"

"Besides actual jail time for assaulting that son-of-a-bitch. At best suspension. At worse…I'm out completely. It could cost me my badge."

Having suspected as much, Chuck let those words sink in between them. Glancing away from Carter, he looked at his best friend again. "So you've got more to lose by not letting me help you here."

"Yeah. I guess so. First, though. I want you to tell me exactly what you've got in mind for this civilized conversation."

And there went that smile again, "Well to start…Santorini."

Nate blinked in confusion, not sure what his best friend was getting at. By his expression there was a wealth of meaning behind them. Something that could be used to get him out of this mess. Would he be better served better laying the truth bare before his superior and taking whatever punishment came down or by trusting his best friend to take care of Carter Baizen once and for all. Thinking of all they'd been through during the years. Chuck always had his back. He knew that and he couldn't stop trusting in that now. Fuck anyone who had a problem with it. They already called him Richie Rich to his face and behind his back, maligned him for having his family and best friend pull strings on his behalf. Why the hell not let Chuck do his thing if it meant holding on to his job.

"Do it."

Chuck didn't wait. He didn't ask if Nate was certain. "I need to grab a few things from upstairs. I'll meet you down at the station."

"You're not going to make it back here before midnight. Blair's going to be pissed."

"No, she won't. She's coming with you." The woman in question, clipped out in a tone that was not meant to be argued with.

Both men looked around, their expressions varying in degrees. Both wondering how long she'd been standing there.

"Hey, Blair."

"Nate." She didn't smile. Instead she looked between them, jumping into the fray with her next words. "Now what's this about Santorini and how can we use it to make Carter back off?"

"I don't suppose it would do much good for me to ask you to stay here." Chuck muttered.

"Complete waste of time and breath."

"You're going to miss your first New Year's with the girls." He countered.

She shook her head, "No, we've still got a few hours. You promised me that we'd all be together tonight."

Nate looked between them, taking in their stiff forms and polite facades, all the while war brewed in the matching glares they were sporting. "Um, maybe you guys should both just stay here after all."

"Don't be an idiot, Nate. We're coming to help get this all straightened out…Chuck's going to have his little chat with Carter and we'll come back here."

"Waldorf, your father is upstairs. As is Cyrus and Lily and Jenny. The twins. They're all here for you tonight. I swear. That I'll do everything within my power to make it back to you before midnight…"

"It's not about that anymore, Chuck. Not really." Blair huffed out, the air fogging out in the chilly night arm. She wrapped her arms about herself and Chuck immediately shrugged off his suit jacket, throwing it across her shoulders before she could think to protest. "I don't want to be left on the sidelines again. Nate's my friend, too. He's in trouble and I want to help."

"Blair, I appreciate that more than you could understand, but having you there is just going to add to the confusion." Nate said. "Listen to Chuck. Don't miss tonight with Kat and Evie. They've been looking forward to it, more than you could know. On second though, maybe you know exactly how much. Besides, Serena might need help with Alex. I'm afraid that Carter and I may have done a number on the kid."

"He'll be okay, Nate." She turned to Chuck. "Details. The minute you get back."

"Of course."

Minutes later, both patrol cars were pulling off with Nate and Carter in the backseat. Blair returned to the lobby with Dan and Serena to find out what they knew, getting only details of the fight that had been in full progress when they arrived downstairs. They spoke quietly, not wanting to disturb the little boy, resting against his mother's shoulder. Meanwhile, Chuck made it upstairs and back before they even knew he'd gone, a brown envelope tucked under one arm.

He left her with a quick kiss, telling her to head back upstairs. "Before midnight. I'll be back."

"You'd better. You still owe me a dance."

"You'll get it. I promise." He left them there in the lobby, motioning for Dan to take them all back upstairs.

On the elevator ride up, Blair suddenly asked. "S. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't you spend some time with Carter in Santorini a few years back."

The blonde paled, eyes going wide as she suddenly found reason to look everywhere except at Blair or Dan.

"S?"

"B…it was a long time ago and why in the world are you even asking?"

"Because, Chuck is on the verge of using it as a trump card to get Nate out of trouble. Is it enough to make Carter back off?"

"Oooh. I'd say that was a definite yes." Serena nodded, "But don't ask me for details. Like I said. It was a long time ago and I'd really like to forget that it ever happened. Lucky for Nate that Carter feels exactly the same."

Blair frowned thoughtfully.

"How in the hell did Chuck find out anyway?" Her friend demanded.

"I…"

"Nevermind. I don't want to talk about it. Forget I asked. I'm going to lay down with Alex for a while. "

The three adults were all quiet. Blair and Dan watching Serena with speculation, wondering what could have happened to Serena and Carter in Santorini. What had put that strained expression in her friends eyes and wound her so tight that Blair was tempted to take Alex from her arms. Afraid her friends would tighten like a vise about the sleeping child's body, but just as she was about to react out, Alex snored softly, drawing his mother's attention.

Serena brushed a kiss across her baby's forehead, her arms loosening around him as she shifted her burden.

They made it back upstairs, Serena heading straight for the stairs.

Blair let her friend go. Remember her friend's words that she wanted to lay down with Alex. More like re-group. Instead the brunette looked to the party that she'd left in full bloom and saw that things had fizzled considerably.

Lily spotted them first and was hurrying after her retreating daughter, following the younger woman upstairs. Blair's "three dads" cornered her a while almost immediately, wanting to know what was going on, where she and Chuck had disappeared to with Serena and Dan. Why Chuck had returned, barely uttering a word and leaving as quickly as he'd come.

She didn't answer them immediately, brown eyes straying about the room. Neither Dorota, nor her beau were anywhere in sight. This time it was Eric's boyfriend who was left to drift on his own, while it seemed that Kat and Evie had commandeered their Uncle's attentions. The twins were settled on either side of their Uncle Eric, flickering between one New Year's party after another, watching the newsfeed from Australia and London where the New Year had already arrived and celebrations were in full swing.

Harold called her attention back, peppering her with questions until she offered what distracted answers she could. She remained close-mouthed about Chuck's ace in the hole. Truthfully, she wouldn't have known what to tell them about Serena, Carter, and Santorini, anyway.

Soon enough her father and Cyrus seemed to forget that she was even there as they began discussing the possible legalities and what backlash Nate might be facing. Blair might've found some humor in listening to the two corporate attorneys talking as if they'd come straight from the set of Law & Order or some other legal drama. But this was one of her oldest friends. Chuck's best friend in the world.

Blair drifted away from them and the two men didn't even seem to notice. She saw that Roman had gone to sit with Eric's boyfriend, and Dan was off in one corner with his sister. The two Humphreys seemed to be immersed in conversation. Whatever was being said, little J didn't look the least bit happy about it and made no bones about letting her big brother know about it.

She shook her head, not even bothering to speculate. She had more than enough to worry about without delving into Humphrey family drama. Instead, Blair joined her daughters and their uncle on the couch. She bothered making no sound of protest when Eric vacated his spot between Kat and Evie, leaving room for their mother. Her mouth stretched into a grateful smile as sank down beside them.

Blair gazed at the celebrations shown from abroad and marveled at the fact that Chuck had kept his promise and made it all the way back from Prague and yet it looked as though there were to miss another New Year together after all. She sighed, "Happy New Year, Bass."

"Not yet, Mommy." One of the twins piped up, making a face as if Blair was being silly.

"Soon though, Evie."

"Are you going to kiss Daddy at midnight like on TV?" Kat wanted to know.

I hope so, Blair grimaced before she could catch herself, bringing twin frowns of confusion to her daughters' little faces. "I don't know. Daddy had to go help Uncle Nate with something, but I'd rather kiss you guys, anyway."

"Me too. But don't worry. He'll be back and then you can kiss Daddy, too." Evie told her. "You'll see. Just like on TV."

She couldn't exactly tell them that life didn't exactly follow the dictates of a script, leaving them with a happily ever after or all being right with the world at that perfect moment. They'd learn that for themselves in years to come. No matter how hard she or Chuck worked to shield them from it—their little girls would learn that harsh lesson.

It wouldn't be today though, she assured herself. So she nodded, allowed herself to be convinced by their confidence.

He'd come through. Not just for her, but for Evie and Kat, too. He would.


A/N: For purposes of this story which started long before we actually found out what really happened on the show…Santorini has nothing to do with Serena's search for Daddy Dearest. Will update as soon as I can. Most definitely before 2 more years pass.