Title: Fall Forever
Part 4 of ?
Fandom: Gossip Girl, H.P. Lovecraft
Pairing: Lily Bass/Chuck Bass
Disclaimer: I do not own Gossip Girl nor any of H.P. Lovecraft's work and I do not make any money from these writings.
Warnings: AU, Angst, Romance, Horror, Angst
Background and Summary: This story was inspired by the "You've Got Yale!" episode wherein Jack Bass attempts to rape Lily in the powder room at the opera and Chuck saves her. Chuck moves back in with Lily, Serena and Erik. The closeness between Chuck and Lily grows, blossoming into something else.
This whole story incorporates, with great respect, the universe that H.P. Lovecraft created, including the Cthulhu Mythos and, especially the stories, The Call of Cthulhu and The Shadow Over Innsmouth. I have adapted them very liberally for my own purposes, but I highly recommend people read Lovecraft's original works. IMHO, Lovecraft is a great read. And, of course, I love Gossip Girl. Somehow combining them together felt natural even though it doesn't sound like it would work at first glance.
I hope you give it a try.
This Chapter: After learning some disturbing things about Chuck's maternal heritage, due to bad weather, Chuck and Lily are forced to spend the night at a hotel in shadow-haunted Arkham. Will spending time alone reveal more pleasant secrets? No smut in this chapter really, but there is a lot of verbal sparring. Expect smut to come up soon though.
Please let me know what you think. Reviews are my life's blood.
CHAPTER FOUR: THROWBACK
Chuck's fingers traced the portrait of Alexander Marsh on the page. His hand trembled, but his voice sounded calm, even somewhat dismissive, as he said, "So I look like one of my ancestors. What's the excitement in that?"
Dr. Wilkinson's bushy eyebrows rose and his eyes became even rounder. "Well …" He blinked. "Well … the resemblance is striking."
"That's not exactly earth-shattering, Professor," Lily said just as evenly as Chuck, but her hands were at her throat twisting that invisible strand of pearls, which she always did when uneasy. "Being a throwback to an earlier generation happens all the time in families."
"Surely you know … I mean you must know … about the Marshes and their peculiar heredity?" Dr. Wilkinson's moon-eyes went from Chuck to Lily, but when neither said anything, he shook his head. "Hmmm, from your expressions I can see that you don't. I wonder if that's … fortunate."
"I know nothing about my mother's family," Chuck said. "She … died … just after I was born. My father refused to discuss her, let alone her family. He acted as if she and they had nothing to do with us and were of no importance in our lives. Yet now I find out that he's been investigating them all along. He even went so far as to hire you. So that's why we're here, Professor. I want to know what interested my father so much about the Marshes and why he was … afraid of them."
Fear wasn't something that Chuck ever thought he'd say in relation to Bart Bass. His father had never been afraid of anyone. 'Except for her. He was afraid of my mother. A slight, wisp of a woman and he was terrified of her. And that was after she had died. What did he think? That she was going to walk back out of the water years later and drag him and me down with her into the cold depths?' Chuck wondered.
Professor Wilkinson took off his glasses and polished them with a handkerchief. "Your father was afraid that what was inside of your mother might not have died with her."
Lily's voice was tight and angry, a protective edge to it, when she asked, "What on earth do you mean, Dr. Wilkinson? What was inside of her? And where did he think this thing would go after her death?"
"In me," Chuck said softly and took one of Lily's balled up hands into his. "He was afraid that what was inside her is inside me. Isn't that right, Professor?"
"As I said your … resemblance … to that particular ancestor is striking. And every Marsh descendant who has those same … features … has other similarities as well," Dr. Wilkinson said carefully.
"Is it some kind of disease? A hereditary disease?" Lily asked, her hand unclenching and threading her fingers through Chuck's.
"Not exactly," Dr. Wilkinson said. And then he asked sharply, "Your father … he didn't die in the water did he?"
"No, he didn't, but my mother did," Chuck said
"Yes, I know. She walked into the ocean, didn't she? And people assumed she drowned, because she was never heard from again. Although her body was never found …" Dr. Wilkinson said. "I did read that your father died in a car accident, but … sometimes the papers cannot be counted on for the truth. So I'm sorry to have asked you, but I had to know."
"Its fine," Chuck said almost absently. He was still reeling from the information that his mother's body had not been found. He hadn't known that. He'd discovered pictures of her funeral in a locked drawer in his father's home office. The pictures showed a white coffin covered in a fan of orchids. The casket must have been empty under its blanket of flowers. For some reason, the image made him sick and his gut churned again. "My mother's body … it was never found?"
"No. The only reason we know that she went into the water is because your father said he saw her do so, but he was too far away to do anything about it," the professor said mildly, but Dr. Wilkinson's tone reminded Chuck of an iceberg; very little appeared above the water, but miles of danger lay below.
"He didn't tell me that. He never said he was anywhere near her when …," Chuck's voice tapered off. "Why does water matter?"
"The Marshes have an affinity for water," Dr. Wilkinson explained. "Almost an obsession with it. Your father thought that the Marsh fixation was purely psychological. A sort of madness that could be traced through the genes and would come out most strongly in those who had certain physical Marsh attributes. And those that did have those attributes, who did have that affinity … well, they have all died … by drowning in the ocean."
The image of those crashing waves that he and Lily had seen on their way to Arkham rose up before Chuck's mind's eye; the waves that had fascinated him, had called to him on a primal level. The desire to just open the limo's door and throw himself out to get into the ocean … 'It was a little crazy. More like a lot crazy to think of doing that,' Chuck thought. His stomach roiled with that unnamed fear, but he forced himself back into the present.
"What exactly is this water affinity?" Lily asked, her hand tightening around Chuck's to an almost painful degree.
"It's hard to describe—"
"Hard to describe?" Lily's voice was sharp, rising on the end. "Really, Professor? Because it sounds relatively simple. It seems to me that you are suggesting that Charles is going to walk into the ocean like his mother. That he's going to … to … to drown himself. Isn't that what you believe this affinity for water is?"
"No, he doesn't think that," Chuck interrupted, rubbing his thumb over the back of Lily's cold hand to calm her protective instincts. "If he thought that then he wouldn't have asked if Bart died in water. My father's not a Marsh so there's no reason he would drown himself."
"You're a very smart young man," Dr. Wilkinson said with a smile.
"So I've been told," Chuck answered coolly.
"I think you need to speak much more plainly, Dr. Wilkinson. I won't expose my son to much more of this," Lily said.
Chuck felt a flash of pride to be called her son and just as strong a flash of desire that she not think of him in that way at all.
"Lily's right. It feels like we're dancing around the real issues here. Are you going to explain clearly or keep us guessing with hints?" Chuck asked.
"Explanations will be forthcoming. More than you'll ever want, I'm afraid. But I think my office is a more comfortable setting to discuss this. And some of the artifacts are there. I think you'll find both most elucidating," Dr. Wilkinson said and gestured for them to accompany him out of the Archive.
With a heart full of foreboding, Chuck, still holding Lily's hand, followed after the professor.
Several hours later at the Excelsior Inn's Bar in Arkham …
Chuck stared out the bow window of the Excelsior Inn's bar. He was watching the thick flakes of falling snow. The snow was coming down so hard that his view of the picturesque storefronts across the way was only intermittent. While they had been meeting with Dr. Wilkinson, snow had been falling almost constantly. When he and Lily had emerged from the University, it had been shocking to see the sharp gray/black lines of Arkham softened by a blanket of white.
Considering the ongoing snow storm, it wasn't a surprise when their driver had been leery about attempting to drive back into Manhattan that day. They decided it was safer if they stayed the night in Arkham and then returned home in the morning.
Chuck rolled his shoulders back to relieve some of the tension from the day's meeting with Dr. Wilkinson. He was already far more relaxed than he had a right to be considering the topics they had discussed. But the Excelsior seemed to slow Chuck's anxiety to a molasses-like crawl. Perhaps it was the Excelsior's old-world atmosphere.
Like the whole of Arkham, the Excelsior made Chuck think of an earlier, simpler time. The furniture was dark mahogany, the ceilings tin and the walls covered in flocked wallpaper. The beds were big and comfortable, heaped with pillows and thick blankets. There were working wood fireplaces in each room, which were stacked with logs and tinder, ready to be lit when guests retired for the night. The Excelsior appeared to cater to the maxim of quality over quantity. Chuck had been unwillingly impressed. He'd feared they would be stuck in a Motel 6 or some other rattrap, but instead they would spend the night in sumptuous comfort.
To add to Chuck's pleasure, he and Lily had adjoining rooms with a connecting door. He couldn't help the grin that flashed across his features as he remembered how Lily had opened that shared door and left it open between their rooms after they'd checked in and headed down to the bar for a before-dinner drink. But the thrill at being alone with Lily for the night was muted by what they had learnt from Dr. Wilkinson. Chuck told himself he didn't believe what the old man had said. He couldn't believe, because it would require him to rework his entire thinking about the world and he just … couldn't. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
"Imagine the reality you know is like the topmost layer of an onion," Dr. Wilkinson had said to them when they'd reached his musty office. "There are many layers underneath, each as real and as vital as the top. What I'm going to tell you, what you're going to see, will require you to peel back those layers and look at the hidden core."
His memory was interrupted when Lily pressed a glass of scotch into his hand.
"Thank you," he said.
"I think we both needed a drink after today's meeting and I didn't want you to use your fake ID to get it for us," she answered, her voice tinted with a smile. "Although I think this means I'm aiding in the corruption of a minor."
"Don't worry, Lily. I'm already fully corrupted. You're not adding even a speck of black to my soul," Chuck said and took a mouthful of scotch. Its smooth peaty taste flooded his taste buds.
"You paint yourself way too dark, Charles. If you were as black a character as you claim to be you wouldn't care about others as much as you do," Lily paused, seeing Chuck open his mouth to protest. "I'll give you examples if you don't believe me, which you clearly don't. You've been a good influence on Jonathan when he really needed it. And you chose not to let out my secret when … you had more than enough reason to hurt me at the time."
"I'm sorry for all the other times that I did hurt you," Chuck said softly. "I didn't exactly pull many of my punches. I remember being quite a bastard … what little I can recall of that time. The vast amounts of alcohol and drugs I took have blotted out most of the rest. I'm rather glad about that."
Lily tucked a loose strand of her blonde hair behind a delicate ear, as she answered, "You were upset about Bart's death and I … didn't handle myself like I should have. No matter what was going on between Bart and me at the time, I should have recognized that my actions would harm you as well and done things much differently."
Her tone was so pensive that Chuck couldn't help but look at her. She was facing towards the windows, her dark eyes staring at the snow, cradling a glass of red wine against her chest. The winter light made her look ghostly pale. Like a fragile, porcelain doll.
"Don't … don't keep thinking these things, Lily. The past is done. I … I forgive you for anything you might have done wrong. Can you forgive me?" Chuck had never asked for forgiveness before, because he rarely, if ever, admitted doing wrong. He hadn't intended to ask for it this time, but the question had popped out without conscious thought.
She turned towards him. One of those brilliant smiles lit up her entire face. She looked nothing like a doll now. She was alive and vibrant and … he wanted her to be his.
"I forgive you, Charles. Thank you for forgiving me," she said and ran her hand down the side of his face. Then she was wrapping her arms around herself as if to restrain them from reaching for him.
He ached for her touch. He wanted to burst through the constraints that were around both of them. So what if he was her son on paper; he wasn't by blood. And they could keep things secret until he was older and then come out with their relationship like it was new. Bass Industries stock might take a hit, but it would recover. There would be talk, but it would eventually fade away with the newest scandal du jour.
Besides all of these problems would be worth it. She was the perfect mate for him.
When he had wanted to get out of Jack's control, it was Lily who had reined him in from his worst excesses and yet had still managed to extricate him from the mess he had created. And she'd done it legally. Then she'd done something he didn't think anyone would ever do: she'd believed in him, in the goodness in him, so much that she was going to give him Bass Industries.
She was meant for him. But she didn't know that yet. She thought he needed a mother. A protector. But he needed far more than that. The question was how to convince her of it.
His eyes flickered over to her as she brought her wine glass to her lips and took a long sip. A hint of her lipstick adhered to the glass and Chuck had the wild desire to lick it off. He tightened his hand on his own drink until the feeling went away.
"I know what you're thinking, Charles," Lily said suddenly, turning to face him.
"Somehow I doubt that," he answered, keeping the slightly hysterical laugh from sneaking out as he took another swallow of scotch, relishing the burn as it went down.
"You're thinking that even if what Dr. Wilkinson told us is a bunch of … superstitious garbage, which it is … that he's right in one aspect," Lily said, one manicured nail tapping lightly on her glass.
"And what aspect is that?" Chuck asked, even as his throat felt suddenly tight.
"That there's something intrinsically … wrong … with you," she answered. She reached and touched his shoulder. He moved into her hand, relishing the feeling of her warmth against him. She continued, "It isn't true. Nothing is wrong with you, Charles. Quite the opposite. You're one of the most … intelligent, complex and interesting people I've ever met."
Chuck found that he couldn't look at her, not when she had that earnest look in her eyes, so he stared unseeingly out the window again as he answered her, "Thank you for the compliments, Lily. Coming from you they mean something. You're always trying to be … what my parents never were for me."
"Your father was proud of you. He just had difficulty expressing that. And I'm sure that your mother—"
Chuck snorted, interrupting her. "I don't think I care what a woman who worshipped some mythical sea monster would think of me."
"Charles, I know that what Professor Wilkinson said was upsetting to say the least, but—"
"She worshipped a sea monster, Lily. Not just a sea monster, but a sea monster that comes from outer space!" Chuck lowered his voice as he noticed he was getting a lot of looks from people in the bar. He ran a hand through his hair. "The Marshes were crazy cultists. My mother was a crazy cultist. Worshipping some strange, ancient, tentacled thing named Cthulhu, which is supposed to rise out of the ocean when the stars are aligned to destroy the world."
Chuck grimaced as he heard the tone of his voice. He didn't mean to be rude with Lily. She was trying to help. Like she always did. And he was snapping at her. Like he always did. But somehow she always looked past his bristly exterior to see what he really felt.
"I know. I was there, Charles. And I am as incredulous as you are about it, even though Dr. Wilkinson seemed to believe that Cthulhu is … real," Lily said.
"Which just shows that he's crazy, too. Perhaps it's something in the water out here," Chuck said. "Or maybe that's just my water affinity talking."
"Maybe he is a little … eccentric … okay, a lot eccentric," Lily said. "But his conviction also shows that intelligent people can believe in things that are … unbelievable."
"That just because your mother believed in this Cthulhu doesn't mean she was foolish or stupid or … even insane. She believed in something … something that we might not, because our upbringing was not like hers," Lily said, her hand on his shoulder gently rubbing. "For her … and this is a bad example, but maybe for her Cthulhu was like Santa Claus or … well, something that was just accepted, because she was taught it existed."
"We grow out of believing in Santa Claus, Lily. But most people believe in him in the first place, because he brings them presents. Cthulhu brings death. What kind of person believes in that and wants that to happen?" Chuck asked.
He then went silent, staring out at the blinding snow and remembering what Dr. Wilkinson had told them that afternoon about his mother's beliefs. It was easier than thinking about how logical and sane the professor had seemed when he'd told them these impossible things. And Chuck didn't want to investigate why something inside of him had vibrated at his stories of Cthulhu as if he were hearing something he'd known already, something that rang horribly true to him.
"I'm going to ask you to put aside what you think you know and listen to what I have to say with as open a mind as possible," Dr. Wilkinson had begun, "Before I actually experienced what I'm going to tell you about, I would have thought it science fiction at best, but, unfortunately, its all too true."
And then Dr. Wilkinson had explained what he believed to be the truth: Before humanity arose from the primordial ooze, there were other highly intelligent, highly evolved beingsthat ruled the Earth known only as the "Old Ones" and Cthulhu was one of the greatest of them. Although these beings had vanished eons before humanity's march of evolution began, remnants of their cities, huge, sprawling, cyclopean complexes, could still be found on uninhabited islands, deep in jungles, at the inaccessible Poles or beneath the ocean waves. Something of their magic or technology stopped their civilization from being totally erased by countless ages. And even though Cthulhu had died millennium before humans ever walked this world, there were those in the human race who worshipped it to the current day.
"If Cthulhu is gone … why worship it?" Chuck had asked the professor.
"Through my studies, I came across a phrase that the cultists would use in their rituals: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn. This phrase, spoken in a forgotten tongue, means: In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu lies dreaming." Dr. Wilkinson had explained. "The cultists believe that Cthulhu can be revived with certain rituals when the stars come around again to the right positions. And the cult your mother and her ancestors belonged to knew those rituals and was working to make that revival happen."
"But why? What did they think Cthulhu would do for them?" Chuck had asked.
The professor had pushed his glasses up on his nose, magnifying the fear in his eyes, and he had answered simply, "Cthulhu will destroy humanity and bring back the other Old Ones, creating a new age, undreamt of in modern man's mythology. That is what the cultists seek."
Chuck shivered even now in the Excelsior's bar at that simple, inescapable statement. The cultists sought the death of all humanity. His mother had sought that. Lily began to gently massage the newly tense muscles of his neck. He gave out a sigh, his eyes sliding half shut, and the professor's voice fading out from his mind. He felt like purring; suddenly happy to be in this moment with Lily no matter how the rest of the day had been.
"You know," Chuck said with a lazy, sensual drawl in his voice. "I wasn't thinking about the professor or my mother earlier when we began our discussion."
"What were you thinking about then?" Lily asked, as she now teased the curls at the base of his neck.
Chuck leant forward, exposing more skin for Lily to pet. He didn't want her to stop touching him so his courage failed him for a moment and he did not answer her truthfully. Instead, he joked, "Whether they make a mean chateaubriand here. I'm hungry."
"Charles," Lily said, but the recrimination in her voice for his evasion was mild.
Chuck's expressive mouth curled into a smile. "I was thinking about you, Lily."
She went still as she always did when he danced towards the mutual attraction that they were supposed to be ignoring.
"I was thinking that even though this day was strange and … terrible," he swallowed, but continued on, "that I was glad you were with me for it. I wouldn't want to be with anyone else."
Lily's expression softened and she was framing his face with her hands. "Oh, Charles. I'll always be there for you. The adoption wasn't just to get you out of Jack's clutches … though that was definitely a plus. I really want you as part of my family."
"I know," Chuck said. He closed the space between them. They were so near one another that they were sharing breath. "But I can't help being a selfish bastard and wanting … more."
"Charles, we can't do this here," Lily said, pointedly, her eyes flickering over to the bar's other patrons. But so far no one seemed to notice them.
"We can't do this here? So does that mean we can do this other places?" Chuck asked, his hands framing her small waist. He could feel her breathing and heart rate jump up as soon as he touched her.
"I want to do what's best for you," she whispered.
"You are. You will. Doing what's best for me doesn't preclude this. I would argue that it includes it," Chuck argued, flexing his hands.
"It doesn't. For God's sake, it shouldn't. Can you imagine what people would say?" Lily asked.
"I don't care what people say. Nor do you or you wouldn't have chosen to start dating Rufus Humphrey before my father was cold in his grave," Chuck said and watched as she began to shut down on him. Cursing his idiocy, he tightened his hold on her. "That wasn't a criticism. It came out wrong. Surely, you know that I care for you. You must. You seem to read my mind every other time. I can't believe you don't know this."
"It's not that they would talk, Charles. It's that what they would say would be true," Lily said and then switched into a very good impression of a matronly socialite, "Oh, that Lily Bass! She couldn't keep her hands off the beautiful boy in her care. He's troubled and in need of a mother's love, but what does she do? She takes him to her bed. And to think we only thought she was a whore before, but now we know the truth. She's a predator, too."
"Anyone who knows me also knows that you couldn't manipulate me into bed," Chuck argued. "If nothing else, people will think that I seduced you and not the other way around."
"You think you're immune from needing others? That no one could ever get under your skin who shouldn't?" Lily gave him this pitying look. "Everything about you from your jaded worldview to your sharp tongue tells me that you need … that you are in desperate need … of love," Lily said softly, resting her forehead against his.
"Then love me," Chuck said.
"I do," she answered.
Chuck closed his eyes. The scent of her tickled his senses. She felt perfect in his arms. He'd never felt anything that felt so viscerally right before and he didn't know how to describe it. He knew she felt it, too. But she was trying to be noble.
"This is inevitable, you know," Chuck said.
"Us. Together. I can feel it. So can you," Chuck said.
"Then it's also going to inevitably fail," Lily said, and the pain in her voice physically hurt him. "Charles, you need a stable influence in your life. Someone who won't go away as soon as things get tough. Someone you won't worry is going to leave you. As your mother … I can be that person, but as your lover …," her voice trailed off. She shook herself and continued, "You're not ready to settle down. This couldn't be permanent for you. And yet permanency is exactly what you need from me," Lily said, her eyes pleading with him to understand. "I won't risk you over what would be an ill-advised fling. No matter how much … no matter how much we might want something else right at this moment."
"Words won't convince either of us," Chuck said, raking his hand through his hair. "I just want you to know where I stand. Where I'll always stand. And I'll be ready for this when you are."
Lily shook her head. "You're so stubborn. I knew convincing you wasn't going to be easy."
"And I knew the same about you. But understand this … Lily Bass … I aim to ensure that you keep that surname for the rest of your life," Chuck said. "That is my goal and I won't be deterred from it."
Lily's eyebrows rose, but then a bright tinkle of laughter escaped her and her eyes shone with admiration and love for him. "Well, time will see which one of us wins."