Feel the Fog in My Throat, the Mist in My Face
Summary: Third part of trilogy in this order – Against the Dying of the Light, I Kiss Happiness Into Your Lips and finally, this one. Once they have everything, Blair marvels and Chuck rebels at the thin parallels they slowly discover about their life and that of his parents'.
AN: This time, the title comes from a Robert Browning poem called Prospice. If you read the poem, don't be scared at any implication you think it will have in this story. Also, please read the other two stories first.
"She was a picture of quiet strength. I retreated to her photograph at night while we huddled under leaves we stapled together to form roofs over our heads. The rain never stopped, and when the leaves leaked I covered the photo with my hand so it wouldn't get wet."
Blair frowned at the hastily scribbled words written in ink that ran. The leather notebook was worse for well, the leather scarred from abuse and age. Her fingers danced on the edges of the yellowing pages. She glanced up at Chuck, who sat in his father's chair, running his hand over the mahogany desk.
Three months had passed since he stood in front of their friends and announced his proud achievement. He was twenty-six years old, and after four years of trying, he was going to have a baby with his wife. It took that long until he found a building that she liked and once she said it was beautiful, he had bought it for her.
They were moving, and the very act of picking the items they would bring was exhausting to them both. She sat down quietly in her seat, with her treasure trove on her lap. A long time ago, on that month when he was missing and she was waiting for Jack to tell her where he was, she found it. In that small box she held more of Bart Bass than anything in his will. She had discovered it herself, while Chuck was away in God knew where, and Jack and Lily battled with the lawyers to determine just what would happen to Bart's empire.
To everyone else, she was exploring knick knacks while she waited for Chuck to snap out of his self-indulgent trance and return to the life he deserved. The rest of the world sorted out Bart's affairs while his orphaned son sought refuge in his solitude.
And Blair—Blair discovered everything that Chuck never knew.
It had been a long time. Blair had kept the memorabilia in her box, took it to the penthouse when they moved. Blair had waited through the years to figure out when he should see the box. But life had happened and almost tore her marriage apart, and somehow, the box of memories slid unnoticed to the back of her head.
When you're moving, many forgotten things resurfaced. And so did the box. She leafed through the pages of the journal. The photograph fell, in sepia, to the top of the stack on the box. She picked up the print. It badly needed restoration. It occurred to her that this was the photograph Bart wrote about, the one he looked at every night while his troop hid from the communists.
"The end of war is coming. That's what the commander said. At home, people protested in the streets to send us back. I hope to God they listen before we get killed in the forest. I'd much rather die in the rice fields. You get spotted faster there."
She had heard of these journals, the ones that the soldiers wrote when they were deployed. Some troops wrote dozens and dozens of letters, and others wrote in notebooks. Either way, they were made to write their thoughts, their fears, their messages to the loved ones they had waiting back home. It chilled her to know she was reading Bart Bass' thoughts, and felt like an intruder.
"I don't know if I'm more scared of dying here or finding out that we're being sent home, then having to face her."
"What is that?" Blair jumped in her seat, then looked up to see Chuck with his eyes set on the photograph on the pile.
"Do you know who it is?" she asked, her voice small, unassuming.
"This is my mom," he answered. "She's younger here." Blair's eyes followed his hand as he slid the photo into his back pocket.
She shrugged away her disappointment when he did not expound. She could not recognize her, simply because she had only ever seen one picture of the Bass matriarch. It was the one in the picture frame that he used to keep in his bedroom. She returned to the notebook in her hand. She cocked her head to the side and asked, "Did you find what you were looking for?"
"No." He licked his lips. "I'm tired. I'm going to bed," Chuck told her. "Aren't you?" He slid his hand to cover her still belly and whispered in her ear. "Lie down so the baby can sleep."
"I'm not tired yet," she returned. Blair wanted to read, explore her box of trinkets and determine if Chuck should see them now. He probably should, but sometimes she wondered how much her husband had healed. With all the strength he had shown her, and his stubbornness to hold their marriage together, his father always seemed to be the topic that made his will waver.
Chuck pressed a kiss on her cheek. "Don't take too long."
Faced with only his retreating back, she called out, "Your dad fought in Vietnam."
He turned his head to the side, as if listening. "Everyone knew he was old," he parried, as if her revelation did not carry any meaning to him.
"It was right before the American exit. He was just as old as you."
At eighteen, Bart Bass had crawled through the mud under a hot tropical son, carried men on his back to escape an assault, and had killed an American soldier that he suspected was a double agent. No wonder nothing Chuck could ever do seemed good enough, accomplished enough.
"That's interesting," he answered.
Blair gave him a shy smile when he walked back to her, and she prepared herself to tell her about the first heroic anecdote she found in the journal. But instead of asking her to tell him more, he caught her up in his arms and said, "You're going to bed. We have a sonogram tomorrow."
His hair had grown, and some of it fell over his forehead. She had to remember to pull him to a salon tomorrow too, after their appointment. Blair pushed the hair off his forehead and kissed him there. He growled playfully, because he often told her a kiss on the forehead made him feel like a child. He caught her lower lip between his, and she sighed. "Five months," she said, her voice with a tinge of reverence. "I hope the baby's okay."
"He's a Bass," he said as he carried her across the floor towards their bedroom. "And you're heavy," Chuck pointed out. "He's fine and fat."
She slapped at his shoulder playfully. "Tomorrow we'll know if it's a boy or a girl. Maybe then you'll not refer to it as 'he' all the time."
He arched his eyebrow at her as he deposited her into bed. She was starting to look like a whale at five months, and despite his comments that she was heavy, he still carried her like they were newlyweds crossing a threshold. And he never showed the strain of her weight in his face.
And instead of making her feel insecure that she was gradually putting on baby weight, when he talked to her, and he looked at her, even at five months, she still felt she was the most attractive woman in the world.
"I just hope when you see that the baby's got a gender, you'd stop referring to him as 'it,'" Chuck pointed out, causing her to giggle.
"Daddy's offended," she teased.
Chuck frowned, then sat up by her feet and pulled off her shoes. "The kid's not an alien, Blair."
"Names," she whispered, watching him as he dropped her shoes onto the floor, and started massaging her feet. She sighed in audible pleasure at his ministration. She loved that he would do that, just because he saw on tv how a pregnant woman was complaining about her sore feet. "Let's think of names."
She thought the massage would feel better if she was not wearing her support stockings, that she never failed to put on now to help prevent varicose veins. And just like that, his hands had slid under her skirt and he rolled down her pantyhose. He flung the hosiery to the other side of the room. It landed on top of the tv set.
"You know that's an expensive pair."
But expensive did not mean a word to him. She remembered an entry in Bart's journal, and she had to remember to show that to him soon. Bart had returned to America with nothing but the clothes on his back and fifty dollars. Within two years, the man had made his first million. Within five, it was forty. He had lived the American dream.
"I worked harder than the bulls they used to sow their fields in those paddies. Because I swore to him I would find her. I would give him everything he would have given her, everything he never could anymore."
"Venice," he said, "if it's a girl."
"Venice," she repeated. "We could have made her in Venice." Blair flushed at memory. And then she remembered making love in the broad light of day in France. "What if we made her in Paris?"
Chuck appeared scandalized even while his hands went to her calves to stroke the flow of her blood. "You forget that a lot of her money come from hotels. Please don't make our daughter a hotel heiress named Paris."
Blair considered the suggestion, then grinned. "Paris if it's a boy," she suggested.
"I can live that. It will make us sound intellectual, like we actually read the Iliad."
Blair kicked her foot into his ribs, chuckling. "I read the Iliad!" she protested.
Chuck smirked. "Alright. At least one of us did. You can say you named the baby after a Trojan prince and I'll say we named him after where my boys finally got to your girl."
She did not know if she should think it was sexy or offensive that he could be so boyish with his description. But she supposed she should be amused. "What if we made the baby in Amsterdam?" she said later on, contemplating.
"There is no way I am calling my kid Amsterdam," Chuck said seriously.
"It's a great city. I enjoyed it," Blair pointed out. "And there's a big possibility that we made the baby there."
"In the shower?"
She flushed. "We can call her Amy or Tammy. Or if it's a boy, maybe… ummm… Tim?"
"Over my dead body," he said decisively. "No one's naming my son or daughter after a small fishing village that has legalized prostitution and literary cafes where pot is passed around like peanuts."
Blair chortled with laughter, because those were the very things that made his eyes sparkle with delight when they visited.
"Let Nate call his kid Amsterdam or Cannabis when he finally decides he wants one," Chuck grumbled.
She drew him towards off, and thanked him for the massage with a kiss. He lay down beside her and Blair pressed against him with her head pillowed on his arm. His hand found its way over to the taut skin of her belly. He bared her to his eyes, then reached for the coconut oil and dripped several drops on her skin. With one hand, he spread the warm oil on the stretched skin.
"She was a delicate flower, ethereal like her name. I was coming home and I needed to be the one to tell her. I faced gunfire in a rush of adrenaline and afterwards when I came down from that high I still wasn't scare at all. But having to face her, to tell her that he was dead because of me—"
"There's one name we haven't considered," she said softly. Because really, if it was not for that tragic accident, who knew how long they would have run in circles around each other? "Do you want to call him Bart."
"No," came the curt, simple answer.
She closed her eyes, because the warm oil on her belly, coupled by the slow, steady rhythm of his hand, made her drowsy. "Lily said I look like your mom," she whispered sleepily. "Do I?"
She felt his kiss on her temple, and his arms wrap around her. A little too firm, a little too tight. "Sometimes," he told her. "Just sometimes." Blair drifted off to sleep, because it was always so easy to sleep in Chuck's arms. "If you love me, you won't be like my mother," she heard him whisper into her hair, just before she sank into slumber.