A/N: So, here's the final chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter Eleven: Transformed – Love of the Fallen

I know beginnings,
their sweetnesses,
and endings,
their bitternesses--
but I do not know
I do not know
the sweet demi-boredom…
of the hand-in-hand dreams
of those who have slept
a half-century together
in a bed so used and familiar
it is rutted
with love.

I would know that
before this life closes…

Muse, I surrender
to thee.
Thy will be done,
not mine.

—Erica Jong, "Love Spell: Against Endings"

Shit shit shit. Had those words really just come out of his mouth?

Nathaniel was gaping at him, limp in his restrainers' arms, the fight completely out him, the dumbstruck look on his face matching almost the entire crowd.

The mob pressed in around them, silent, waiting for the next words out his mouth, trying to tell itself that no, it didn't mishear; Chuck Bass—womanizer extraordinaire—had in fact just said what it thought he'd said.

His ears were ringing with the silence, his heart pounding at the words that had burst from his mouth. He was a little unnerved under the gaze of so many onlookers.

Chuck hadn't meant to blurt it like that. It had just…come out.

And it was true. God, he didn't know how or when or what the fuck had happened to him, but it was true.

It felt so natural saying it; he knew he had to keep going. Especially since Nate was staring at him, waiting for clarification, and finally ready to listen and not shout. He'd already gotten this far, hadn't he?

"Blair isn't just another girl," Chuck said hoarsely. "I'm in love with her."

The crowd buzzed at the confession but Chuck's eyes were focused on his best friend. Nate looked frozen, completely thunderstruck. Chuck knew that this wasn't what his friend had been anticipating: Nate had expected to find Blair a victim of Chuck's charming, if sleazy, womanizing ways—or hoped that yeah, they'd slept together, but they'd both been incredibly drunk and it had been a one time thing and was a mistake and never to be repeated, and they had decided to put it behind them and beg for Nate's forgiveness and go back to being Chuck and Nate: BestFriends and Nair: TheGoldenCouple.

Chuck knew his best friend; Nate had never imagined that Chuck would claim to be Blair's boyfriend—claim that he loved her.

But he did. He loved her. It was both horrible and wonderful to say it, admit it. Horrible because the entire UES was watching; horrible because Nate was staring at him in disbelief; horrible because Blair wasn't there to hear him and he didn't know anything about love and he was scared shitless about what she made him feel; it was horrible because everything was happening so fast and he hardly recognized himself and the one thing he'd ever feared was looking like a powerless fool. And love certainly zapped the power, the control of the situation, out of him. But it was wonderful, too. It was wonderful because he'd never said those words before; they were finally true and it felt so incredibly good to say them.

He was flying in the face of all he'd done before, proving everyone's expectations wrong: Chuck Bass did, in fact, have a heart. One that burned.

His fight with Blair on Friday came back to him: her narrowed eyes and flushed cheeks and that golden love pin glinting in her hand. In the heat of the moment she'd questioned whether he could understand something as intimate and real as love. Chuck Bass had a harem of whores at his beck and call; Chuck Bass lived for himself and himself alone; Chuck Bass was a playboy and a womanizer and a scheming scumbag. What did someone like him know about love? Absolutely nothing.

When she'd shouted those words at him, his stomach had dropped. Was that really what she thought of him? Did she still really see him that way? Even after her birthday party and Thanksgiving and all that had followed?

It was true that the ChuckBass of a month ago didn't know much about love, but the Chuck of today was learning so fast it made his head spin. Even though it was early to be talking about love, to be thinking about love—God, they'd been together a month—he did in fact know what it felt like. Chuck hadn't been sure he ever would know, would ever want to know, but he did. The sensation was foreign, but impossible to miss; whenever Blair entered a room, or smiled, or met his eyes…he knew.

He wanted her and only her. He wanted the best for her. He wanted to make her smile and exceed her expectations and be there when she needed him. He wanted her to trust him and for them to be able to talk about anything and everything. He would protect her and dry her tears and make love to her until she was sick of him. He wanted to be better than he was, just for her. He loved her.

This was no joke. Nate knew it. And Chuck could see that he knew it.

He swallowed. "Nathaniel," he said quietly, "it happened really fast. I didn't plan on… I didn't know that it would be like this…" He tried to find the words. "We tried to tell you—We wanted you to be the first to know, but…" He shook his head. Nate just continued to stare at him. "I never meant to hurt you," Chuck said. He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry."

The crowd's murmuring increased. This was almost more astonishing than his previous claim about Blair Waldorf. Chuck Bass was apologizing? Was such a thing even possible? Chuck Bass had never apologized about anything before in his life—why should he have? He didn't give a damn about anything except money, the pleasures money brought him, and…his friendship with Nate. Everyone knew that. He'd never had a reason to apologize before: The Devil may care but Chuck Bass never had.

But now, apparently a fourth thing had been added to that list of Things Chuck Bass Cared About: Blair Waldorf. It was a hard concept for the crowd to digest.

Chuck didn't know what else to say. Nate hadn't moved, wasn't drawing breath to speak. Nate just stared at him, his torn sleeve dangling from his jacket by a few threads. The situation would have been comical if they hadn't just been shouting at each other, and if Chuck's eye didn't hurt so much from Nate's fist. And if he hadn't just admitted his love for Blair in front of almost the entire UES.

The crowd had quieted in anticipation for more, and the hush of the ballroom was eerie. Chuck knew it was over. He straightened his jacket and nodded to the Mistress of Ceremonies.

"I'm sorry we disrupted the ball," he said calmly. "I'll see myself out."

Turning toward the stairs, the crowd parted for him. His couture-clad classmates, their Botox-injected mothers and Wall Street fathers, the Dispensary Cotillion and Debutante Ball committee members, kids from other UES private prep schools…they murmured as he passed by.

He knew his reputation was in tatters, worse than even when he'd claimed to be Blair's boyfriend. Some, no doubt, had at first thought him committing another scandalous Chuck Bass crime: banging his best friend's girlfriend. Their scathing sneers or awestruck wonder had faltered when he'd burst out with the 'L' word—no one, high schoolers in particular, bandied that word around lightly, especially on the Upper East Side. Chuck Bass was soft, or a fool, or had been duped. He was diabolical, or still scheming; just an asshole, or flying too close to the sun. He was inebriated, or this was an elaborate bet, or he was insane. No way was he a lovesick puppy, surrendering his control and admitting his heart in front of all who could hear. He was either incredibly stupid, or actually, against all odds, in love

Chuck didn't care what they thought. But he knew the night was unsalvageable and he just wanted to leave. He couldn't continue to stare at Nate's frozen face. He couldn't stand there, the object of everyone's curiosity. He knew Gossip Girl and rumors and retellings of this would be bandied about for weeks to come. He didn't even want to think about what Blair would do when she heard what had happened… He just had to get away.

"Chuck," Nate rasped.

He paused, looking back over his shoulder.

His best friend still stood there, a strange look on his face. "I—I've never heard you say that," Nate said. "About anyone."

Chuck didn't know what to say. It was true. He knew it, and Nate knew it. He simply shrugged, then turned, and walked away.

Blair huffed. This was taking too long and she was too tired. What was the point of even having Jenny working on her dress like this? Cotillion was already ruined. It wasn't like she was about to go back upstairs to the ballroom and carry on with a smile as if nothing had happened. All she wanted was to just go home, but Blair knew that she should probably hunt down Chuck wherever he'd ended up disappearing to and stick to him like a glue—like a real girlfriend.

Actually, all she really wanted was to just forget this night ever happened. But chances of that looked dim, if all those pictures the crowd had been taking of the fight when Serena and Blair had pushed through were anything to go by. God, Gossip Girl probably wouldn't shut up about this for weeks. And Iz and Kati would continue to simper and smirk and text away on their phones. And she'd probably receive vulgar comments in the hallways and pass by giggling sophomores who pointed at her when they thought she wasn't looking, her status as Queen be damned.

But all the talk would really mean nothing if only Chuck stayed by her side. He'd never been a boyfriend before, as he'd jokingly told her earlier in his suite. And while that admission had been cute at the time, it also meant that he'd never been a boyfriend before. He didn't know what to do.

Sure he'd wanted them to be public—so had she—but this public?

She didn't know what she'd do if he turned his back on her. She knew he wouldn't—but if he did… Blair couldn't keep doing this will-they-won't-they/stop-go/yes-no/love-hate routine. It made her dizzy: dancing around each other, sneaking around for weeks, making out and then fighting on Friday, almost-apologies and jumped conclusions on Saturday, and resolutions about their relationship and Nate finding out—and severely testing said relationship—today. The ups and downs were too much. She almost wouldn't blame Chuck if he did walk away. This was hard, harder than any other relationship Blair had ever observed (in real life—Roman Holiday didn't count). And it being Chuck's first…

Blair didn't want to let him go. But if he broke up with her, she couldn't chase him. She didn't think she had the strength to.

But God, she didn't want him to break up with her! Blair tried to blink back the tears that burned in her eyes. They had so much—so much potential. She'd felt it the first time they'd kissed in his limo. She'd felt it during her birthday party, and during Thanksgiving, and all the time spent sneaking around since then. What she had with Chuck was deeper and harder and sharper and more wonderful than anything she'd ever had with Nate—her stomach flew, their bodies fit together perfectly, and the sparks were blinding. And they'd barely been seeing each other a month!

Maybe it was the fact that she and Chuck had known each other for so long. Or maybe it was because they were so different, and yet so similar. He was from the underworld; she was at the pinnacle of the high school social structure. He whored and smoked and drank and partied and knew everything there was to know about those shadowy secrets of pleasure; she was refined, poised, and virginal (until recently). And yet they both schemed to get their way; they ruled over others and had minions to do their dirty work. They were both selfish and passionate. They both had disappointing parents. They both wanted…love. (She couldn't think about that word in connection to Chuck without her heart fluttering—and she couldn't let herself think about what that meant, not now. Not so soon. Not when she didn't know what was happening upstairs.)

As Jenny worked on fixing her train, Blair tried not to think about how much she'd miss Chuck if he left her. God, she didn't even care about her stupid dress anymore. All she wanted to do was rip it from Jenny's hands and sprint back up those stairs, give Nate a good slap, grab Chuck's face and kiss him in front of everyone. Claiming him and proud of it.

It was daring. It was rather undignified. It was romantic. It gave Blair the shivers just imagining it.

"Blair!" a voiced called, snapping Blair out of her thoughts. Serena was speeding down the stairs, gripping her long skirt above her knees.

"Thanks for abandoning me, S," Blair said crossly, as Serena reached the bottom of the steps. She crossed her arms. "You pull me out of that crowd and then you disappear? The only moral support I've gotten is Jenny's, which is sadly lacking, I can tell you. I suppose Kati and Iz were only too delighted to—"

"Blair, shut up!" Serena exclaimed, reaching her friend.

Blair's jaw dropped at Serena's words. "Excuse me—"

"Where's your phone?" Serena asked, cutting her off. She was out of breath, her ponytail swinging as her eyes flickered around, searching for a sign of Blair's cell. "Haven't you—"

"In my purse," Blair replied snottily, smoothing her skirt. Of course it was in her purse, and that purse was safely tucked away in the coat check room. "I don't carry it around with me. I'm supposed to be dancing, you know—"

"What?!" Serena cried. She grabbed Blair's arm, crushing the detached bow on Blair's shoulder between them. "You haven't—!? Oh my God, Jenny! Has she—!?"

"She hasn't," Jenny replied in a grave voice, putting down her needle.

"Haven't what?" Blair asked, looking between the two other girls. What had Serena in such a state? Did they know something she didn't? She frowned. "Serena, what are you talking about?"

"Oh my God!" Serena moaned again. "Do you have a phone? Why haven't you checked Gossip Girl?"

"I told you. I don't have my ph—"

"I have mine!" Jenny piped up from her spot on the floor. "I tried to tell her before but she just threw it across the room." She started to stand.

"Don't get up!" Blair cried, grabbing Jenny's shoulder and forcing her back to the floor. "You're supposed to fixing my dress!"

"Blair! Let her go!" Serena cried.

"But Blair," Jenny said. "You really should—"

"Probation!" Blair shrieked. "My dress!"

"Blair! You won't care about your dress once you see Gossip Girl," Serena said, dashing toward the phone on the floor.

This was not what she needed right now. Blair was pretty sure what would be on Gossip Girl—Fall of the Queen, Secrets Revealed, blah blah blah. She had more important things to worry about than what Gossip Girl was blogging about—like whether Chuck was rethinking their plan to go public.

"Why would I care about anything that Gossip Bitch is writing about me right now?" Blair asked stonily. She gritted her teeth. "I really don't need this, Serena—"

"Yes, you do," Serena insisted, shoving the phone into Blair's hands.

"No, I don't," Blair said, trying to push the phone back at Serena.

"Blair! Just look at it!" Serena cried.

Blair glared at her and snapped Jenny's phone open with an aggravated sigh.

So many have sent this in, it must be directly from the Basstard's mouth. First they're boyfriend and girlfriendand now this! You won't believe it till you see it; I certainly didn't. There's really only one question: However did B manage to hook this Bass? It must have been one hell of a hook-up to keep C coming back for more—and inspired this much devotion to his Queen. I definitely plan on finding out what went down, but I need your help. Send me the deets and I'll share the love, and not just with B and C. XOXO. You know you love me, Gossip Girl.

Frowning, Blair scrolled down to the video window in the Gossip Girl post and pushed play.

The camera, obviously from a cell phone, shakily focused on Chuck, dressed in his Cotillion tux. From what Blair could see, the background was the ballroom, and the crowd surrounding the fight, upstairs. Chuck was looking at something off screen. Blair realized it must have been Nate. The crowd behind him and around the camera holder was quiet in expectation.

There was a determined set to Chuck's jaw. He opened his mouth. "Blair isn't just another girl," he said hoarsely. There was a slight pause. His eyes flashed. "I'm in love with her."

Blair's brain buzzed along with the crowd, barely hearing Jenny gasp beside her. The holder had obviously moved in disbelief or wonder, too, since the camera got shakier. But Blair hardly noticed. She blinked.

Love? He was…

She looked up at Serena, who was staring at her, a watery smile on her face.

"Blair," she breathed, shaking her head in wonder.

"Serena," Blair croaked. "He…" She seemed to have lost her voice.

"I know."

Blair's fingers must have slackened, because she vaguely heard the phone fall to the floor. She swayed. The grip Serena had on her arm tightened.

Blair stared at her friend's face, but barely saw her. His words were repeating in her brain. Was it even possible? Was it real? It must be, she realized. Serena had been upstairs. She'd probably been there… Had heard it for herself…

Blair was halfway up the staircase before she realized she'd even moved. There were people coming down toward her and all she wanted was to bypass them so she could reach Chuck upstairs. It was only when she heard Serena's voice telling her that Chuck had left the ballroom, had headed down another set of stairs, probably to the doors, that Blair came to her senses. She turned around quickly and ran back down the steps, heading across the level to the next flight of stairs leading down, the extra long staircase with the landing in the middle, which they had all climbed during their Debutante presentation.

"Blair!" she heard Jenny call. "Your dress!"

But Blair didn't care. She felt the pins come undone and her train flopping behind her on the ground. Stumbling a bit, she grabbed her skirt and lifted it to her knees as she started down the steps, her stride barely faltering. She didn't care if her train even completely detached, as she'd dreaded before. She didn't care if her dress fell apart, or if her hair fell down, or if her feet got blisters from running in these heels. She didn't care about anything except finding Chuck.

Chuck. He loved her. He was in love with her. He'd said so; he'd told Nate. Everyone had heard.

She didn't know how they'd gone so fast: from hook up, to like, to boyfriend and girlfriend—to love. She didn't care. Because as soon as she'd heard the words part from his mouth, her answer had been waiting to burst from her own lips. She had to find him. She had to…

She scanned the floor below as she ran down the steps, searching for a sign of him.

His words echoed with each step she took.

She reached the landing between the two long staircases and finally spied his figure almost at the doors downstairs.

"Chuck!" she cried, in a desperate attempt to keep him from going anywhere.

He heard her, she could tell. He looked back up at her as she hurried down, and it was as if the movie of her life that she'd always been striving for—the perfect, classic, romantic setting and situation and climax—was suddenly, incredibly, vividly true. All those times before when she'd pretended and yearned and planned everything out to follow the script in her head, it had always been hard. It had never gone to plan; something had always not quite fit. But this was effortless; this was easy. His right eye was a little swollen, his bow tie crooked, her dress was in tatters, but it didn't matter—it only added to the charm and magic of the scene. Honestly, she wasn't even aware of how she looked, or who was watching; she wasn't vaguely thinking about how she'd tell this story later, embellishing the anecdote to make it shinier or funnier or more romantic. There was no need for exaggeration of any kind. It would have been impossible to improve in any case; it glowed.

She artlessly floated down the stairs, barely aware of her feet, just seeing his face, his dark eyes burning into hers. Time seemed to have slowed, but all she wanted was for it to speed up, so she could finally be in his arms. Blair's heart was pounding and she knew she was crying, she could feel the tears on her cheeks, but she was smiling. She was happy. It was perfect and he was staring at her as she approached, and she could barely keep the words in.

She reached him and threw her arms around his neck, completely oblivious of the onlookers peering down at them from the balconies and the top of the stairs she'd run down.

Their chests pressed together, she knew he could feel her heart fluttering, just as she felt his. She trembled in his arms as they encircled her.

"Blair," he said softly, pulling back. "Don't cry." He lifted his hand and gently wiped her cheek. "We can fix your dress."

Blair tightened her grip around his neck, wanting to laugh. But she couldn't. She was out of breath. She looked at him, a fierce, bright expression on her face.

She wasn't apologetic. She was burning with feeling. She knew his words meant so much more than they ever had when Nate had said them to her. And she knew the words she was about to say meant everything to him.

"I love you, too," she said.

He stilled in her arms, frozen, their eyes locked together. But Blair was smiling and pressed against him and no one had ever said those words to him before and he knew she meant them and he hadn't even realized she'd heard what he'd said—if she'd been in the room, or heard from someone else. But he didn't care how she had heard. It didn't matter because she'd repeated those words back to him and she was smiling and he was smiling and he felt so good and he loved her and she loved him back. He could feel her heart pounding in her chest, matching his own. The butterflies were dancing in his stomach and he wanted to laugh and spin her around in a very un-Chuck-Bass-like spurt of giddiness, but Blair's hands were burying themselves in his hair and she was already leaning toward him and he knew what she wanted.

Their lips met in a kiss.

In that kiss was all the darkness and deepness of the royal couple: their passion and yearning. Their blossoming love and relationship were clear for all to see. Just in case anyone had missed Chuck's declaration upstairs in the ballroom, this would set them straight. The crowd gaped down at the couple entwined in each other's arms.

The video of that kiss, recorded on multiple cell phones at the time, was posted a few minutes later on Gossip Girl's website, and was to receive, in the next few days, the highest number of hits of anything Gossip Girl had ever posted.

From the top of the stairs, Serena smiled at their happiness, pleased that they had found each other (and also that she didn't have to keep their secret any longer, now that they were public). Jenny blushed at the display, still a little astonished that the two were together (and so serious about each other). Nate resigned himself, knowing that what his ex-girlfriend and best friend had was stronger and realer than anything he had ever had with Blair (the look on Chuck's face when he'd voiced his feelings for all to hear had been enough, but that kiss really cinched it).

Physically, formally, and publically, that kiss loudly declared the love and unwavering devotion of Blair and Chuck. Many had thought such characteristics to be inconceivable in either of the pair. But Chuck and Blair knew how to prove friends, teachers, underlings, parents, society, and Gossip Girl, wrong. They weren't King and Queen for nothing, after all.