Nate Archibald knocked on the door of Blair's hotel suite promptly at seven. Even though she had expected his arrival, the sound filled Blair with dread. She was not looking forward to this evening's dinner. Ever since she had gotten back from shopping with Chuck she had thought about how best to deal with Nate. She would have been blind not to notice Chuck's jealousy towards Nate where she was concerned. Surely there must have been something between her and Nate once, she just couldn't remember. To her dismay, all she could seem to remember was Chuck and his kisses, the way he touched her and the bliss she found in his arms.
Opening the door she was surprised to see that Nate carried a large bouquet of hydrangeas.
"Your favorite," he said with a smile, handing her the flowers.
Feeling suddenly very uncomfortable, Blair let him into her suite. "Blair's favorite," she corrected him.
Nate looked at her in puzzlement.
"My favorite flowers are peonies." Walking over to the bar Blair opened first one cupboard and than another before finding vase. Unwrapping the flowers she arranged them artfully, setting them on the table. Catching sight of Nate's disappointed face she felt compelled to add, "But thank you. These are very beautiful."
"But you're, Blair" he insisted stubbornly.
"I am, but I'm not," she answered in frustration. "When you see me you see Blair, but when I look in the mirror I see Audrey. Now, thanks to Chuck's very crude intervention, I know that my true identity is Blair Waldorf, but inside I feel very much like Audrey Hawthorne."
"Do you remember much of your life before…" Nate stumbled, as he tried to think of the right words to use, "the accident," he finally finished lamely.
Blair swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. How could she explain to him that the few memories she had involved Chuck and the way they had made love? "A little about my life with Chuck," she said cautiously.
"Do you remember me?" he asked eagerly.
"Not really," she replied bluntly, not wanting him to get his hopes up.
Nate looked at the floor. "We used to be a couple, long before you got together with Chuck."
Blair sighed, she suddenly felt very tired. "I really don't remember."
"What do you remember? Perhaps I can fill in the blanks? Help you to remember?" he asked hopefully.
"Maybe, but lets eat first," she replied, startling herself. Generally, the last thing she wanted to do was eat, but she needed a distraction.
"Of course," Nate said. "I was told you're not supposed to leave the hotel so I ordered in sushi for us. It should be arriving at any moment."
Blair lifted her chin stubbornly. "Who said I wasn't supposed to leave the hotel?"
"Why, Chuck did." Nate shifted from one foot to the next nervously, watching her like she was a dangerous animal he wasn't quite sure how to handle.
"How dare he!" she exclaimed. "It's almost like he wants to keep me a prisoner here."
Nate shook his head. "I am sure that is not it at all. He just wants to keep you safe. Jack is still out there," he answered soothingly.
"I can take care of myself," Blair said in a deadly tone.
"I'm not sure—"
Blair interrupted him," Sooner or later I am going to need to see Jack. Chuck can't protect me forever."
Nate didn't know what to say. How could he tell her that after everything that had happened they, he, was terrified of losing her again? He understood completely Chuck's motivation for keeping her at The Palace. Luckily he was saved from answering by the deliveryman arriving with their dinner.
Pulling out a chair for Blair he seated her at the table. "I hope you don't mind that I ordered Blair's favorites."
"That's fine. For the most part we seem to have similar tastes," she replied. "Except where a certain Chuck Bass is concerned," Blair added, with a dark look.
Nate ignored her comment. Unpacking the bento boxes of sushi he had ordered, he placed one in front of Blair and one at his own seat."
"You always loved the spicy tuna rolls."
Using her chopsticks Blair took a small bite. "It seems I still do," she said with a smile.
"I bet you have more in common with Blair than you even realize," Nate said in-between bites of sashimi.
"Maybe," she conceded. "But I am not ready to admit that quite yet, especially to Chuck."
With a blink Nate's eyes shadowed. "When we were young it was just the two of us. I swear by the time we were six, you had our entire life planned out," he said with a laugh. "We were going to get married right after college, and I was going to be some high powered executive and you were going to be the perfect society wife. You made it seem so real and golden. Something to strive for."
Blair took his hand in hers. "Nate, I am sorry to disappoint you, but that future is never going to happen."
"I know that now," he said sadly. "It still is really all about Chuck."
Dropping her chopsticks on the table with a crash, Blair glared at Nate. "Chuck has nothing to do with this."
"It's always about Chuck," Nate said ruefully. "The night before your accident I came to see you to tell you not to marry him, that we belonged together."
Blair leaned in. "What happened?" she asked breathlessly.
For just a moment Nate was conflicted. Should he tell her the truth and lose her forever to Chuck. He knew without a doubt what Chuck would do. Chuck would lie, scheme and cheat, anything necessary to win Blair, but Nate didn't operate that way.
"You turned me down," he said with a bitter smile. "You kindly reminded me why we worked so much better as friends."
"Were we friends?" Blair asked tentatively.
"Maybe not always, but when it was important we were," Nate replied with a far away look in his eye.
"Maybe we can be friends again. Start over?"
"I would like that," Nate said softly, meeting her eyes. "There is something else you should know, the night of our conversation you had a huge fight with Chuck. You told him about our conversation and the last words he spoke to you were in anger. I don't know if it makes a difference, but you should know Chuck blamed himself for the accident."
Blair looked at him in shock. "That's ridiculous. It wasn't his fault. Jack had to have been planning my kidnapping for months."
"He didn't know that until later. When he thought you were dead he was a mess. Serena and I seriously thought about committing him. He saw you everywhere, talked to you as if you were still alive. We didn't know what to do."
Fiddling with her chopsticks, Blair debated how much she should share with Nate. Looking into his sincere eyes, she suddenly knew she could trust him. "I think I used to dream of him. When things were at their worst I used to see a dark haired man with eyes that I swore could see my soul. I used to tell Jack about my dreams and he would scoff and call them hallucinations of a fragile mind, and then the next day I would have a medication change," she said in a small voice.
"You need to know, that if I had known…" he paused and corrected himself, "If we had known that you were still alive there is nothing that would have stopped us from trying to find you."
Blair felt tears prick the corners of her eyes at his words. "I know," she answered. "I don't blame you."
Nate exhaled slowly feeling as if a great weight had been lifted from his heart.
"Tell me about, Blair?" She laughed harshly. "I mean me."
"Do you want the edited or unedited version?"
"Either," Blair replied with a shrug of her shoulders.
"You had the perfect life. You were the princess of the UES and you knew it. From the time you were five you had your life and mine completely mapped out. You were controlling, managing and exhausting, but I managed not to let it bother me most of the time."
Blair wrinkled her nose in distaste. "You make me sound awful."
"You could be," Nate replied with a chuckle. "But when the chips were down you were the one person I most wanted to have in my corner. You were the most fiercely loyal person I have ever known and when it came to your friends there was nothing you wouldn't do for them."
"It seems the feeling is sickeningly mutual. Without you, Serena and Chuck I would still be Jack's little scientific experiment," Blair replied with a cynical twist to her lips.
"What exactly did he do to you?" Nate asked with a delicacy he didn't feel.
Blair picked at her sushi, avoiding Nate's eyes. "I don't really know. I remember being told I was in an accident and I had suffered a brain injury. After that there were treatments, pills and endless doctor visits. Mostly, I remember Jack."
"He treated you well? Didn't hurt you?"
"If you discount the kidnapping and mind rape he treated me as if I was a beloved fiancé. Of course he was a bit controlling, but that seems to be a Bass family trait," Blair said with a hint of sarcasm.
Nate let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding. "Chuck loves you, you know."
"He loves Blair," she said with a rueful smile.
Pushing aside his bento box, Nate paused before answering, "I don't think he sees a difference. Blair or Audrey it is all the same to him. He just loves you."
"But who am I?" Blair asked with large fearful eyes.
"Whoever you want to be," Nate replied with a gentle smile.
Giving Nate her first genuine smile of the evening Blair took another bite of her food.
"Tell me about Audrey?" he asked.
Blair sighed heavily. "There isn't much to tell since most of it is lies. I am not sure anymore what is me and what is the Audrey, Jack manufactured."
"Maybe I can help figure out the truth from the lies?" Nate couldn't help the pleading tone in his voice. He wanted to get to know this new creature that looked like Blair, talked like her, and yet still wasn't her.
"I was raised in Connecticut and my parents died when I was in my teens—." Blair started, her eyes suddenly lighting up like stars. "I think I remember them… My mother used to sketch and draw and my dad he used to take me ice skating." She rose from the table and began pacing the room excitedly. "I can't remember their names, but I can see their faces."
Nate watched her with a disturbed expression on his face. His stomach churned and he could feel the sashimi he had just eaten rise up and hit him in the back of the throat.
Throwing her arms around Nate with happiness, Blair continued to babble about her parents and he realized with a sinking feeling she was about to have her world shattered once more. In that moment he wished for Chuck. He didn't know what to say, what to do.
Pushing Blair away, he held her at arms length. "Your parent's names were Eleanor and Harold Waldorf. "
"Eleanor and Harold Waldorf," she repeated joyfully. "I remember them. They were very happy…" she paused her face loosing some of its animation, "Or they were once. Something happened," she said with a frown.
"They got a divorce when you were sixteen, but they both ended up happily with other people. Your mother remarried when you were eighteen to a lawyer name Cyrus—"
Blair interrupted him, her face glowing, "Rose. I remember, he looks like a funny gnome, but he is the sweetest man and he makes my mother very happy. So I manage to overlook his unfortunate looks," she laughed merrily.
Nate dreaded the question because he knew that was coming next. Of all the times for her to remember her parents why did it have to happen when he was with her. He needed Chuck and Serena. Without them he didn't know what to do.
"Do they know I am alive? Can I see them," Blair begged him.
Taking a deep breath Nate steadied himself for the scene that he was sure was to erupt. "I'm so sorry, Blair."
Blair lifted her head at the use of the foreign sounding name, yet she didn't correct him. "What are you sorry for? Did we have a huge fight and they cut me out?" she asked laughingly. "I am sure all will be forgiven once they know I am alive."
Nate felt his heart break at what he was about to tell her. "If they were here I know they would be overjoyed to see you," he offered lamely, dancing around the subject.
Looking at him shrewdly, Blair asked, "What do you mean if they were here now?"
Staring down at his hands, Nate racked his brains for the right words and came up with nothing. "You need to ask Chuck."
Blair's body buzzed with irritation, "I am asking you, Nate, as my friend, to tell me exactly what is going on with my parents."
Nate stared at his feet. "They're dead," he mumbled.
Falling to the velvet couch in a heap, Blair sat as still as a statue. "How did it happen?"
Uncomfortable and feeling completely out of his league Nate fell back on the one person he knew who could help. "Let me call Chuck."
"No, you're supposed to be my friend, and because friend don't keep secrets, you will tell me everything," she threatened, her voice taunt.
"It was a car accident. The limo at the funeral that carried your parents was struck head on and they were all killed."
Blair felt as if her heart had been ripped from her chest. First one tear trickled down her cheek and than another and before she even registered what she was doing she was sobbing in Nate's arms.
Nate held her awkwardly his hand smoothing circles through the thin silk of her blue dress. She let him hold her as she cried out her grief and loss at not only losing her parents, but the loss of the future they might have had.
Unfortunately, Chuck chose that moment to come barging in. Already walking a thin tightrope when it came to Blair, seeing her in Nate's arms was the straw that broke the camels back. His vision blurred with red streaks as he pounced on the couple.
"What are you doing to her?" He shouted angrily, thrusting Blair out of Nate's arms he shoved her into one of the wingback chairs that decorated the suite.
"I trusted you," Chuck said accusingly to Nate, his eyes wild like a ferocious beast.
"Chuck, it isn't what you think," Nate said pleadingly.
"I think it is exactly what I think. After everything that has happened how dare you put your arms around her? If it weren't for you we would never have fought before she got on that plane. Now that she is back you just couldn't wait to insinuate yourself back into her life, steal her away," Chuck choked out.
"No, it isn't like that, I swear," Nate said, even as he flushed guiltily. Because hadn't he come over that night to find out if there was still something between them?
Blair rose from her chair. "How dare you?"
"How dare I what?" Chuck asked angrily.
"Misconstrue a comforting hug for one of your slimy lecherous moves," she stated with hate filled words.
You didn't seem to mind my lecherous moves when I kissed you today, in fact I remember you distinctly enjoying them," he said the very devil in his eyes.
"That's because in my weakened condition I could hardly refuse," Blair replied.
"Chuck, it really isn't what you think," Nate said warningly.
Blair turned to Nate. "I think you need to leave."
"No, Blair. I won't leave you with him when he's like this," Nate replied firmly.
"That's rich," Chuck laughed. You're going to protect her from the one person that would never harm a hair on her head."
Blair reached out to grab Nate's wrist. "You need to go now. I need to talk to Chuck alone. He owes me some answers," Blair said with an angry look in Chuck's direction.
Nate looked as if he would hesitate so she pulled him into an embrace. "I will be fine," she whispered in his ear. "But if you are my friend you will leave now."
Nodding, Nate made his way to the door. "I truly am sorry, Blair."
"I know," she murmured, letting him get away with calling her Blair again. "Thank you for dinner."
"It was my pleasure," Nate said with a sad little smile before leaving the room. "I will call you tomorrow to make sure you're okay."
Blair nodded, closing the door behind him gently. Whirling around she faced Chuck. "How dare you interrupt my date with Nate?"
"Is that what it was, a date?" Chuck said with a mocking laugh.
"It wasn't like that," Blair said, her eyes filled with fury. "He is my friend."
"That is what you said last time and look how that turned out," Chuck retorted.
"You can hardly blame him for Jack's misdeeds," Blair said with a frustrated shrug.
"Oh, I don't, but I do blame him for encroaching on my territory. You are mine, Blair and the sooner you accept it the better. "
Blair inhaled sharply, and when she spoke her voice was barely controlled. "I am not yours and the more you say that the less I ever want to be yours."
"Why was he touching you," Chuck asked not able to keep the jealousy from his voice.
"I started to remember my parents," Blair said watching Chuck carefully. She wanted to know if he would have the guts to tell her the truth or if he would hide it from her like she was some child.
Chuck felt the blood drain slowly from his face. Of all the things he expected her to remember this was the one he dreaded the most.
"That's wonderful," he offered faintly.
"I want to see them, Chuck," she demanded.
With a world-weary sigh, Chuck sat down on the small couch in the room. Patting the place next to him he spoke, "Sit with me," he pleaded. He wanted her close, within his reach when he told her the truth. When she stood aloof from him he realized that she already knew the truth.
Blair felt tears fill her eyes as she realized that by his actions he was confirming what Nate had said. They were truly gone, another casualty of Jack and his obsession.
"How could you not tell me?" she pleaded.
"I didn't want to upset you," Chuck replied defensively.
"So you thought you would wait until I blundered unto the subject and poor Nate had to deliver the news?"
"I didn't think you were strong enough. It was only yesterday you found out your fiancé had been brainwashing you for years," Chuck replied, his voice begging for understanding.
"I won't be treated with kid gloves like I am something that could break at any second," she paused in the middle of her tirade to look at Chuck with tragic eyes. "I remember them…Eleanor and Harold Waldorf and I even remember Cyrus and his funny ways."
Even though Chuck's heart was breaking for Blair he couldn't help the excitement he felt at her remembering. It was a huge step in the right direction. If she could remember her parents, who was to say he wouldn't be next. The thought exhilarated him, his anger at Nate instantly dissipating. He wanted to fold her into his arms and press kisses over her face, her eyelids, and her throat and comfort her the only way he knew how.
"I can't believe they're gone," she said brokenly before bursting once more into tears.
"I know," he said softly. Rising from the couch, he gathered her in his arms and to his happiness she didn't resist. She buried her face in the front of his dress shirt, her fingers clenching at the fine fabric.
Whispering nonsensical words of endearments, Chuck felt wave after wave of pleasure and happiness at being close to her. For the first time in three years he was home and while he cursed the tragedy that brought them together he was glad it was bringing him closer to her. Nestling his nose in her silken curls he inhaled her sweet and familiar scent and he was comforted, all of the doubts he had falling away. They were two halves of the same whole and he knew without a doubt that soon she would recognize that.
As she continued to cry, he lifted her in his arms, ignoring her murmurs of protest. Carrying her into the bedroom he pulled back the down filled coverlet and laid her gently in the bed as if she was truly breakable. When he climbed in next to her and she sighed, he thanked whatever God there was for this unexpected gift.
Her head curled into his wet shirt, his strong arms wrapped around her she finally fell asleep. He watched her sleep for hours, afraid that if he also succumbed he would wake to find it all a dream. Finally, eyes dry and aching he could take it no longer and his lids slowly lowered. Limbs curled together, hear to heart, they slept as one for the first time in three years.
This chapter has been sitting in my hard drive forever. I have been meaning to work on this, but I got so caught up in High Society, My Love, My Enemy and Violets At Her Feet that this story got horribly neglected. I wrote this a long time ago, but I thought I would share it in hopes it would inspire me to finish working on this story.
This chapter has not been beta'd. I apologize for any issues. All mistakes are mine.
Thanks to my wonderful reviewers: Rhea, V, Wewakewewonder, smartin555, Jen, Stella296, batgirl2992, dreamgurl, Syrianora, JYLlian, annablake, xoxo - Amber, SnowedUnderNJ, pam211, TriGemini, Hngauthier, Poinsettia, ple, Lil Miss Chuckles, sweetshorti868, chairobsesser, uncorazonquebrado, David, BrittyKay247, BassBillionaire, Krism, Krazy4Spike, BassKingdom, ronan03, past-the-pacific, PattyWoods, READER120, abelard, Guardian Izz, LittleRed22, xoxogg4lifexoxo, RustyJimmy, chairlovforever and ggff-fan.