Her baby's arm was fractured, and Blair kept herself from sobbing out loud at the sight of her poor princess slumped in Nate's arm after she had exhausted herself crying. If she started whimpering the way she had when she was out of her mind with worry the entire way back to Manhattan, Hampton was going to start bawling loud enough to wake Yale. Right now, with the pain she was sure was oscillating in Yale's nerves, dozing off was a lot kinder.
"She'll be fine," Nate said in reassurance.
Blair nodded curtly. Yale's arm was set in a canary yellow cast, with Disney characters littered all across the sling. Belle held up her heavy skirt with one hand while her other rested on the Beast's shoulder while they danced. Aurora was captured with her mouth open as she sang to the bird perched upon her finger. Snow White smiled dreamily at the thought of a prince as she drew water from the well. It had been a fascinating topic of conversation to keep Yale's attention away from the pain while the doctor finished the cast.
Dan had been completely right. The hospital had been in chaos. When she arrived, not even the name Bass mattered with the few residents and interns running around, attending to life and death instances. She would have bitched about the fact that they had let a toddler suffer if she were not so grateful that at least Yale was not in the same dire straits. And when no one was going to attend to Yale, it was Nate who called in a favor and the retired family doctor of the Vanderbilts made his way from his penthouse to the hospital, ordered an orderly to bring him supplies and effectively set the arm.
Blair sighed in relief, feeling her heart slow and calm when Yale tearfully pointed to the pictures on her sling and showed it off to her brother like a new toy that Hampton was unfortunately not getting. Hampton hopped up onto the seat next to Yale and closed his hand over his sister's uninjured one.
"Okay, Yale?" Her daughter nodded, but sniffled the remainder of her hysterics. "Don't be upset, Yale," Hampton advised. "Mommy's gonna be upset."
When finally, she knew they be alright, she turned to Nate and mouthed her thanks.
Nate handed Dorota his cell and instructed, "Copy off Dr Steinberg's home phone number, so that you can call him if there's ever an emergency next time and Blair's away at school."
Dorota said, "When Miss Blair's away, first call is Mr Chuck." But still, the maid surreptitiously copied the number into her own cellphone.
"I'm not going back to college," Blair told him. "Not after this."
"It's an accident, Blair."
"The entire deal was that I go off for my two days a week because Chuck told me he can stay with the kids, work from home for those two days." She shook her head. "I can't trust that he's keeping his end of the bargain."
She stepped forward and rubbed a hand on Yale's back. Nate advised, "Talk it through with Chuck."
"When I find him I will," she promised. "Can you help load the kids up into the car? I want to take them home."
"I can stay," he offered. When Blair was about to refuse, he injected, "They're my godchildren. I'll stay with them until you sort things through."
After thanking the Vanderbilt's family doctor, and watching Nate slip an undisclosed check to the old man, she returned to the home she shared with Chuck. She tucked Hampton into the race car bed that he insisted on the week before. Blair waited for Nate to put Yale down into her princess bed. When Nate took the blankets to tuck her in, she met him halfway and gently took the blanket from his hands so she could tuck her daughter in herself.
"Tell me he had a good reason for not being here," she requested.
Nate cleared his throat. "Maybe we should talk about us."
Blair shook her head. "You've been so amazing today. Do you really want to ruin that?"
Nate paused, then with a soft chuckle agreed. At the sound of a message alert, he took his phone from his pocket. He scrolled down the screen, then looked back up at Blair. "It's my contact at the mayor's office. They just confirmed for me that it was Bass Industries that took over the hospital. He was in part of the closed door meeting that started this morning. He says Chuck's been there the entire time."
For a small second she was relieved to know at least that he was safe.
"He hasn't listened to any reason that the board's given him. Blair, Chuck seems to be on a rampage. He's insisted on scheduling interviews for all the top positions in the hospital, including the attending jobs. It would take weeks—months—before that hospital is up and running again."
Chuck was about to bleed the hospital dry, throw away millions and not care. And she thought he had let it go. She should have known. In the back of her mind she had that niggling suspicion that even though he insisted she move on, he still had not. This was proof positive.
"I'm going in," she declared.
Because Chuck Bass was not going to run his reputation, his dignity, his integrity, in a battle they were bound to lose anyway.
"I need your help," she told Nate.
Gina painted a devastating picture, and it was exactly the Chuck Bass she saw when she arrived at Chuck's office late into the night. The office was dark, lit only by the Manhattan skyline outside the window. The door swung open silently, and she walked across the posh carpet so she could stand in the center of the room.
The bottle of scotch glowed dully on the table. Chuck held up a glass to his lips, then swallowed.
He saw her. She could tell. His tired, hooded eyes focused on her presence like so much of an oasis in a desert.
"Exhausting day?" she began.
"It's a day just like any other," was his quiet answer.
Her lips curved into a thin smile. Chuck reached for the bottle and filled his glass. She walked forward and stopped before him. When he reached for the glass, she beat him to it. She brought it up to her lips and downed the liquid. In the dark shadows of the room she noted the tick in his jaw.
"You're not supposed to be drinking," he said, referring to the illness that had almost taken her away through the pregnancy.
"Neither are you," she returned firmly when she placed the glass back down. "If you insist on destroying yourself I'll meet you every step of the way." Blair grasped the neck of the bottle and poured a hefty portion into the glass. When she brought the glass up again, he caught her wrist and stopped her. "You think you're the only one who can spiral?"
Chuck took the glass from her and put it down, then capped the bottle. "You don't understand. You don't know what I had to do today."
"Of course I do," she answered. Blair tasted the disgusting, delicious taste of scotch in her throat. "Dan started it. Nate confirmed it. Gina—Gina told me all about it. You've been drinking for days when I'm not here. When you're with me, you act like this cool, unflappable man."
"You didn't need to know—"
"The hell I didn't!" she exclaimed.
"You have classes, and a new place to get used to. You're still recovering—"
"Stop!" she cried. "Do you realize that you're blaming me for letting yourself get out of control?"
He scowled. "I'm not blaming you. I blame them—that incompetent hospital staff. They deserve whatever's coming."
She shook her head. "You lied to me today."
"Someone had to make them pay."
"Yale fell down the stairs today," she stated. She heard the audible gasp. He shot up from his chair. "There wasn't anyone to attend to her in all that chaos—not even any of the incompetent staff you managed to get laid off." He pushed the intercom button and uttered his request for the limo. Blair took some pity on him and said, "Thankfully it was just broken bone, and she'll be fine." When he sighed in relief, she continued, "Nate took care of it."
He took a tremulous breath. "She's fine?"
"Her arm is in a cast. Children are resilient. By tomorrow she would have forgotten the nightmare she was in today."
"You left her?"
"Dorota 's there. Nate's there," she said. "I came to get you."
He sank into his seat. Now that he knew his daughter was alright… "I don't know if I could go now."
She blinked back tears.
"I wasn't there. Great job not being anything like Bart Bass. I'm turning out exactly like him." He turned pained eyes to her. "The twins don't need a dad like that. They need a father who'll be there for them."
"Someone who's not consumed with getting revenge?" Blair asked. Chuck nodded. "Who will be there for them when they sick. Someone who loves them." Blair chuckled bitterly. "You're talking about Nate."
Chuck frowned. He glared at Blair. "Is that what you think?"
"That's what you're telling me," she said sharply, her voice cold. "You're sitting here in the dark, mulling over a decision you made yourself, a decision, mind you, that didn't involve me. Because you think I have too much to think about. You decided not to include me."
"Doesn't it occur to you that it's because I love you?"
She forged on like there wasn't an outburst from him. "Chuck, I told you that your daughter is hurt, and you're too insecure about your issues with your father that you would rather drink yourself to oblivion than stay with her."
"This is who I am—scars and all. I thought you understood that."
"I married the entire package, but we never promised we weren't going to heal the wounds." She leaned down and cupped his cheek. "You healed me. I was throwing up, and I always thought you would abandon me the moment the board accepted you."
"Ridiculous," he muttered.
"And you never let go until I was sure you were going to stay with me."
"Maybe," he rasped, "you're better than I am. Maybe you're capable of healing and I'm not."
"You really think so?" she whispered. His face was so broken, and stubborn. "I love you," she tried. Blair took a deep breath, then kissed his temple. Scotch and Chuck, so familiar and hurtful.
"I love you too," he said. "But I can't let this go. They made a mistake, and that mistake caused us a baby."
"Move on," she said. "You told me to. So should you."
He shook his head. Blair's hands grasped his. His wedding band was cool against the palm of her hand. "I love you," she repeated.
"It's not always enough," he confessed.
He had pushed her enough, been stubborn enough. It was her only choice. "Then give me a divorce," she stated.
His gaze slammed to hers, his eyes shone with disbelief. "What did you say?"
"I want a divorce, Chuck. I want custody of the twins."
"What are you talking about?"
"You can't move past this, and I don't want to have to watch you destroy yourself. I would stay beside you but you don't want to involve me in your decisions."
"I don't want you to get hurt."
"That's what you're doing when you keep me in the dark."
"You're taking the kids away."
"You're convinced you're becoming Bart, and I'm not going to let my babies be raised by a Bart Bass knock off." She shrugged. "Your company's safe. We made sure of that. I won't take half your money. I need an allowance for the twins—child support. That's it."
His eyes glittered in veiled angry. "Are you serious, Mrs Bass?" he demanded.
"Are you going to give me a divorce?" she pressed.
"Over my dead, alcohol-sodden body," he gritted out.
She nodded, satisfied. "Then shape up. Let the anger go. Get the hospital back on track, and come back to us like you were before. I need my Chuck back. I can only be the stronger one for a short time. You're the strong one. You're the dad."
And as utterly anti-feminist as that was, she knew it was the bravest she had ever been. Sometimes she still had nightmares that he would be gone from her, and she had half-expected him to take her dare and her life would implode.
Once he realized it was a fucking stupid challenge, a mind game, he released his breath. "Dammit, Blair." He let out a humorless laugh. "My bones melted. I wanted to vomit." He ran his fingers through his hair. "I thought that was it."
She tightened her hands over his, and his other hand covered hers until she was sure her diamond bit into his skin. "Let's go home," she asked. "I know two kids who are eager to see you."
He pulled himself up to his feet, and when he wavered, Blair walked over to his side. He placed an arm around her shoulders, for balance, but she thought of it as warmth. Together they walked out of the dark office and into the brightly lit corridor. She nodded towards Gina, who efficiently informed them that the limo was waiting outside the building.
"Thank you, Gina," Blair said to the old secretary.
"You're welcome. It's wonderful to see you again, Mrs Bass."
Blair took out her key card as they stood outside their penthouse. Chuck wrapped his arms around her waist. He dipped his head to kiss her neck. The door swung open and revealed Nate sleeping on the couch with the television on. Chuck eyed his best friend and the small box on the coffeetable. He picked it up and unsnapped the lid, then grunted at the sight of a diamond ring.
"Is this part of the divorce dare? Were you two going to fake an engagement too?"
That part they had not discussed, but Blair lauded Nate for going the extra mile. Chuck took the diamond ring from the box, then tried to read the inscription. She was grateful that the scotch was still swirling in his head, because he handed the ring over to her to read.
Always Have, Always Will.
She sighed. That was a conversation she needed to have with Nate. Now that it seemed like Chuck was going to be just fine, she needed to address what she had insisted was not vital. Instead of telling Chuck what the inscription was, and causing hell to break lose in the aftermath of Nate's wonderful assistance through the entire day, she said, "Vanderbilt-Archibald. That's what's written."
"Romantic," Chuck replied.
The two of them turned and saw the miniscule figure at the doorway, and saw Hampton standing in his pajamas. He ran towards Chuck and hugged his leg. Chuck picked him up and buried his nose in the boy's hair.
"You smell, daddy. Smell like a raccoon." Hampton giggled. "Stinky." The boy was so emphatic that one would believe he had actually ever seen an actual raccoon, or even recognized its odor.
"Daddy won't smell like this anymore ever again," he said. And Blair was certain that because it was a promise to his son, Chuck would do his best to keep it and away from scotch. "I'll take a shower."
"Don't take a shower at night, daddy. You get sick," Hampton reminded him.
"I'll use hot water and dress quickly after," Chuck shared. "Besides, mommy's here to keep me warm after." He winked at Blair, and she thought maybe they were healing faster than she feared.
"Okay," Hampton gave his permission.
"Can you take daddy to see Yale? I want to see if she's better."
Hampton pointed to the direction of the twins' bedroom. Chuck glanced back at Blair, who was placing the ring back inside the box.
"Thank him for me," Chuck threw back as he made his way to the bedroom.
Blair nodded. She walked over to the couch and shook Nate's shoulder. Nate opened his eyes. His lips curved when he saw her. Blair handed the box to him. "He's with the kids," she said.
"Good. Good," he answered. He took the box from her. "Did it work?"
"Like magic," she answered in the affirmative. Blair nodded at the box. "I didn't know you had props."
Nate sat up on the couch. "It was lying around since the twins had measles."
"You know you're never going to use it, don't you?"
"So you say," he said lightly. "But it would have been pretty useful if the first dare didn't work."
"Nate, do we need to really figure this out like some complicated problem. It's simple."
"You're in love with Chuck."
"That's not news," she stressed. "Chuck says thank you. For helping out."
"I'm always going to be here for you. Next time he's not there, you and Dorota know you can count on me."
"There's not going to be a next time," Chuck said from the doorway of the twins' bedroom. He turned to Blair. "Yale's still fast asleep and I just got Hampton to go back to bed. He was up because he needed to pee. Are we potty-training him?" She nodded. "Good. I needed to know that." Then, "Nathaniel."
"I need a favor. The chief of staff at the hospital has a pretty daughter that has a crush on you. I think it would help out matters when I hire him back if you could join dinner."
Blair's smile widened. He was going to put things right in the hospital.
"You're pimping me out."
Chuck snorted. He walked over to Blair and placed a hand on her shoulder. "I'm pimping you away from my wife," he corrected. "If I have to finance your dates to half the Manhattan population, I would see you settled with kids of your own. That way, your infatuation with my family can transition over to your own." He smirked. "Although I know that's bound to be hard because my kids are so much more beautiful than any one of yours will be."
Nate's eyebrows shot up. He looked at Blair in disbelief. "Is he trash talking my future children?"
Blair stood, then waved them away. They were going to be fine. "I'm not part of this conversation." She arched up to kiss her husband's cheek. "I'll see you in bed. Goodnight." She threw over her shoulder. "Goodnight, Nate."
As she entered the bedroom, she heard, "Blair's looks, my sex appeal, her wit, my business acumen—"
"My looks, my sex appeal," Nate muttered.
"My buildings, my billions." Chuck paused. "Hampton with my self-confidence. And I don't want to think about this, but when Yale's a teenager—Blair's ass."
"Fine!" Nate huffed. "Your twins win."