A/N: This feels like it's the infinite story I've written, but my muse does what it does. I'm a CB and NS fan, but sometimes things just write themselves...that's definitely what this did. It will be a few chapters, but not incredibly lengthy. I'm not going to say much about the plot now because I feel that everything will be made clear to you when it needs to be. This chapter is really an intro more than an actual part of the story. It begins in the later part of season one...around 1x16, I suppose, though I've played around with some of the details.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays.

Mermaid Tears

1. Breakdown

"Hey, sis," he greets her with a cocky smile as he enters her bedroom - without knocking, of course.

"So not in the mood, Chuck," she tells him crankily. She has way too much going on right now to deal with him. "Can you please go?" It's a longshot, but she hopes that politeness might help her case.

"No," he says simply, stretching out and lounging on her bed with so much comfort that it may as well have been his own.

"Fine," she growls. "Then I'll go." She throws a robe on over her short, silky slip and ties it tightly. She's still not used to him in her home, her safest environment, and she feels very self-conscious of her body in his presence, aware of both what he does and what he may think of her.

"Not so fast, van der Woodsen," he says. Looping his scarf from around his neck and over his head, he throws it outward and around her body like a lasso, ensnaring her and pulling her back to the bed so that she topples down, partially on top of him.

"Let me go!" she whines. She knows she's acting childishly, but she feels young in her fear- things are falling apart and they are completely and totally out of her control.

He loosens his hold on his scarf, and, consequently, on her, but his eyes are searching. "What is it, Serena?"

"Nothing," she says, instantly averting her eyes.


"Why do you even care?"

"You're worrying people," he states.

She challenges him, "Such as?"

"Blair. Nate." He admits both names reluctantly, as though it might get him into trouble.

"If they are so concerned, then they can be the ones to ambush me," she tells him hotly. "You don't give a damn, so why don't you spare us both the drama of this conversation and go." She yanks herself out of his grip, sitting on the edge of her bed and trying to tame the curly mess her hair has become.

He moves to sit directly behind her, sweeping her hair aside so that his warm breath tickles her skin. She shivers involuntarily. Blair told her, after the infamous limo sex, that Chuck's weakness was the nape of the neck. The thought lingers in Serena's mind now and it makes her heart pound.

Chuck trails the back of his index fingers down her neck slowly. "You're so tense," he says, almost thoughtfully.

"Chuck..." Her heart skips a nervous beat.

"Tell me," he says. It's an order, but also somehow a request. "I know you better than you think."

A lump forms in her throat out of nowhere. "I'm scared," she admits quietly, swallowing hard.

"Of me?" His lips graze the tender spot right below the lobe of her ear.

She turns her head just enough to that they are eye-to-eye and shakes her head slightly to the negative. "No." In the strangest way, she trusts him, at least in this moment. "I'm scared of…" Tears gather in her eyes and it's all happening again, replaying in her mind like a sick snuff film. The contrast between Nate's tender - if not slightly sloppy - touch and the way that Pete had groped her. The innocence with which she'd suggested they do a line, trying not to feel quite as violated as she was. The guilt and panic choking her, the 911 operator's voice in her ear (too loud, too steady), looking for help and finding only a pair of cool, calm eyes and a knowing, guiltless smile…

"Hey." Chuck has noticed her tears and he's looking at her with genuine concern. "Tell me. It's okay."

She licks her dry lips. "Georgina," she gasps out. "Georgina's back."

His eyes are wide, stunned yet calculating. He places his hand over hers and she finds a comfort in that gesture that she relishes. "Let me make you a drink."

She nods, trying to convey her gratitude with her eyes.

It's only when he gets up and starts walking away that reality sets in. "Chuck, wait...it's eight-thirty in the morning!"

"Noon somewhere," he retorts with a shrug.

"We have school."

The look he gives her tells her exactly how weak he finds this excuse. "When has that ever mattered?"

"I'm already hungover," she protests, one last try.

"Hair of the dog," he tells her with a smirk. His facial expression evens out and he looks at her seriously. "Whatever it is, it'll be okay."

When he says it like that, just for as econd, she takes it as truth.


"Do you remember?" she giggles, on her third - or maybe fourth - glass of champagne.

"Remember what?" he asks, indulging her. His voice is lazy and calm.

She speaks as though it's obvious: "When we were kids."

"I'm going to need something a little more specific," he says, mostly patient and only a little bit sarcastic.

"Summertime," she says with a wistful sigh. "The Captain would take us sailing, do you remember?"

He confirms that he does and refills her glass.

"Nate and Blair always stayed on the boat. Nate wanted to learn how to sail and Blair didn't want to get her summer dresses dirty."

He nods, understanding, now, where she's going with this. "You and I would run on the beaches. We were always the wild ones."

"And make sand castles," she adds, "and chase waves. Blair was afraid of that water, but I loved it. Standing there, in the waves or on the beach, it was so invigorating...freeing." She remembers it vividly, stealing Chuck's scarf and running off with it held high above her head. Going home with the hem of her skirts soaked and her shoes ruined. Her mother would lecture her, but she'd just take it in stride, cheeks flushed rosy red and eyes sparkling blue. Nothing could bring her down from that high, fresh air in her lungs and salt on her tongue. She hated the moment when it finally faded away.

Another memory springs to her mind and she grins. "Our sandcastle got washed away once. Do you remember? And you...you built another one for me, just like the old one." She is mildly surprised by her own recollections. "That was sweet. I didn't think that you did sweet things."

He makes an unpleasant face. "You cried. You had tear tracks practically glittering on your cheeks and the sun made your hair shine like a fucking halo. What the hell else was I supposed to do?" he grumbles.

She stares at him in dizzy amazement, trying to focus as the room spins slightly before righting itself.

He doesn't respond; instead, he leans toward her. For the briefest moment she thinks he's going to kiss her, and then she realizes that he's all business. "Tell me about Georgina."

Her moods changes abruptly - she's remarkably sober in about three seconds, shaking her head no.


"I can't tell you." She's desperate to make her confession, but the fear overpowers the need to let it go.

"There's nothing you've done that I haven't," he assures her soothingly, his eyes boring deep into her own orbs.

She manages a weak smile for all of a millisecond. "For your sake I hope that's not true."

Before he can respond, Lily arrives home and walks in, having heard them talking, and takes in the two teenagers sitting on the bed, still in their pyjamas, sipping champagne. "Serena! Charles!" she exclaims, shocked to see her reformed daughter and her well-groomed stepson, skipping school and drinking. "What has gotten in to you two?"

She can't look her mother in the eyes: she's embarrassed and intoxicated and it's obvious that she's on the verge of tears. She snatches the bottle of champagne from her step-brother and rushes past her mother, back to her own room, and hides away there for the rest of the day, drowning her grief and self-pity in liquor.

It's her old escape. It's the only one she knows.


The next day, she gets up, makes herself pretty, eats a croissant, and lets Chuck and Erik drag her to school. Chuck knows something is wrong, and Erik does, too - in his wonderful, intuitive way. She knows that they haven't talked about it behind her back, though. Neither of them would do that to her. Not now.

School is as boring as ever: she gets through her Chemistry and Calculas classes without any major problems, but it hits her when the bell goes that both Blair and Dan are in her next class, Shakespeare.

She doesn't want to go. She really, really doesn't want to go. She considers skipping off, just running away from it all, like she did before, but Chuck's hand appears on her right and holds tightly to her elbow, brining her close to his body. "Lily will kill you," he says simply, close to her ear. "Erik needs you. Blair can't take it if you disappear again, and I'm sure your boy toy will be disappointed as well." The last bit is sarcastic, but he's made his point: she's going to Shakespeare class.

She hangs on to the smallest thread of hope that maybe, just maybe, they'll both leave her alone. But it's a ridiculous thought, and she knows it. Blair swoops in and takes the seat next to her, gives her the third degree all throughout the lecture on Much Ado About Nothing which Serena can't help but find the slightest bit ironic.

But she can't smile about it, not even a little, because Blair's commanding tone slowly fades away and her words are left with nothing but desperation. Serena can see the fear in Blair's eyes, begging her to tell her what's going on or that she's alright and that this is not going to be like last time.

She can't say anything to either effect, so when the bell rings all she can do is stand and engulf her best friends in a hug. Blair stares at her worriedly but all she says, earnestly, is "Love ya" before she flees the classroom as fast as her long legs will carry her.

"Serena, wait!"

It's Dan, of course it is, and she winces to herself, squeezing her eyes shut, before she turns around. "Hi," she murmurs.

His hands are all over her the moment he's standing in front of her. "Are you okay?" he asks desperately. "I haven't heard from you in so long, and I..."

"I know," she whispers. "I'm know and I'm sorry." She can't look him in the eye.

He notices this and cups her face gently in his hands, giving her that look, the one that tells her just how important she is to him. "I'm not mad, I'm just...confused. And worried. Whatever it is, it's okay, you just have to tell me."

She plans on brushing it off and assuring him that she's fine, but the words that slip from her lips are different. "You can't understand," she says mournfully.

"I...what?" he asks incredulously. "Serena, you have to – "

Chuck appears all of a sudden yet again, and she realizes that he's been watching out for her all day - the mere thought of that calms her down instantly. He takes her virtually lifeless hand in his. "Get to class. That's what you were going to say, right…Humphrey?"

Dan looks back and forth between them, lonely and suspicious. The bell rings at the moment, and he can't deny the fact that they do have to get to class.

"I'm sorry," Serena mouths to him, her eyes wide and sad, as she lets Chuck drag her off.

"Yeah, me too..." she hears him mutter and it makes her heart ache.


At lunchtime she sees Chuck and Dan involved in an intense argument near the staircase and rushes over to break up whatever it is, groaning internally. She distracts Dan instantly and easily with a passionate but brief kiss. "Hey. Let's get lunch, okay?"

She shoots Chuck a glare as they turn away and she hooks her arm through Dan's, plastering on her brightest smile.

She caught the words that were spoken just before she arrived: She's been off latey, more like she was before we met, and I've been trying to think about what's changed in her life lately...and oh yeah, the Bass family moved in.

He thinks that this is Chuck's fault and that angers her for reasons she doesn't fully understand.


She skips off last period because she can't take it anymore. Chuck is still watching over her; she assures him that she's fine and that she and Blair are going to go get ice cream. She wanders for a little bit, buys a cup of coffee and a pair of shoes that she'll probably never wear.

She's proud of herself for waiting until the sun begins to set before she walks into a bar and orders two shots.


Georgina finds her at some point and she gulps down several more drinks before they lose each other again. There was a phone call made to a dealer at some point but she doesn't think she did drugs. Her cell phone rings and rings and rings: some calls from Dan, but mostly Blair. Eventually she turns her phone off. Or maybe it dies, she doesn't remember.

Her next clear memory is of Blair's brown eyes, dark and concerned as she gently helped her stand. It's a blur: a taxi ride, stumbling up steps, sinking to the floor in an elevator and trying to make the world settle down again. It feels hard to breathe.

Then there are worried murmurings and footsteps beside her. She hears someone sigh her name and recognizes the voice as Chuck's. His arm moves around his waist as he helps her up, and then Nate is on the other side of her, gently helping her up, and then up the stairs. She throws up and her nose burns and taking her shirt off becomes a remarkably difficult process. Blair is there with her the entire time, talking quickly but soothingly, handing her glasses of water and persuading her to take a cold bath.

The water's too cold and she whines about it; she can hear Nate and Chuck discussing her just outside the door, but none of the individual words make much sense. Her nausea won't go away and Blair finally pleads for help. In the end, she finds herself sprawled out across the bathroom floor with her head in Chuck's lap as Blair presses an icy-cold cloth to her forehead and Nate takes off her shoes. She stays there until she feels like she can move without collapsing again.


When she has her act together again and her mind is fully functioning, Blair gives her a soft, cozy nightgown and a long silky robe, ties her hair back and leads her downstairs.

Dan shows up, both determined and desperate, and makes another attempt to get her to talk to him. Their conversation moves in a steady circle. He's pleading and she hates herself.

"A bartender answered your phone and said he saw you leave with two guys. Serena, all I need is a yes or a no. Did you sleep with someone else?"

She wants to say yes, to end this, to break his heart in the kindest way she can - because this would be it. Nate and Blair wait with bated breath, just as Dan does, but Chuck steps forward and positions himself between Serena and Dan. "Of course she didn't," he says decisively, and with a few more simple words and a deathly stare, he promises Dan that she'll call him later and makes him leave.

She can't get away with lying any longer. Her friends sit her down and gather around her; Blair is still right by her side. Nate and Chuck alternate between sitting and standing.

She's afraid and they try to reassure her, talking of limos and weddings and Chuck makes what should have been a joke, but isn't. Their eyes are filled with nothing but worry and support.

"We don't judge," Blair insists. "We're the Non-Judging Breakfast Club."

She takes her words to heart and sucks in some air. "The Sheppard Wedding," she sighs. "That's when it started. Blair thought Nate and I had too much to drink…"

Blair makes a face, urges her to skip over that part, and Chuck chimes in with a lewd remark. Serena glances over Blair's head and finds his eyes. He's smiling, but his eyes aren't. He's waiting, but there's no judgment.

So she tells it all. Georgina and guilt. Pete and drugs. A video camera she didn't know about - meant to tape sex, it caught something more scandalous still.

When it gets to be too much, now and then, she stops and tries not to cry and they all chime in with supportive words. Soon enough, the whole story is out there in the room, and now it's her turn to wait, searching all of their faces anxiously.

They talk amongst themselves while Blair absently plays with Serena's hair, quickly and decisively, thinking for her. She needs it, and she's grateful. She has thought about this as much as she can, and it's tearing her apart.

"It all makes sense now," Blair says comfortingly, still stroking her hair. "Everything does."

"What do I do?" she asks helplessly, her voice hoarse, thinking of Dan and his confusion, Georgina and her determination. She's shivering and shaking and this may very well be the worst hangover she's ever had. She thinks she needs coffee but the very thought makes her feel ill.

"We have to find her. We have to fix this," Chuck says menacingly, and Blair nods her agreement while Nate frowns contemplatively.

"No, no…" She reaches out with both hands, both ways, grasping Blair's fingers and then Chuck's as Nate looks on worriedly. "You can't do that. If Dan found out, I…" she trails off miserably. There is no upside to any of this.

"Okay, okay," Chuck says calmly, squeezing her hand back. She glances over to him, down to where their hands are intertwined, and then back up to his face. He's going to make this better, she realizes, and it's a little easier to fill her lungs again. He's going to fix it with just the right amount of viciousness and a hell of a lot of class. She holds on to his hand tighter and lets one last tear slip from her eye.

She's okay. She's going to be okay. She's got someone on her side, holding her hand right back, promising to make this alright. Chuck has never been her main ally - frankly, he's usually more of an enemy - but she remembers walking out onto the beach, her skin tight with the tears she'd cried, and seeing that masterpiece of a sandcastle and Chuck's proud smirk.

He's helped her before. She knows that he'll do it again.

A/N: Thoughts? Comments? Guesses? Suggestions?