Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Gossip Girl. I'm just showing my appreciation for it in a non-profit way. No infringement intended.
Thirteen year-old Ruby Bass was blessed with a perceptiveness that was highly unusual for a girl of her age. She was not sure whether it was because she had lost her mother when she was only six and had to become self-sufficient very early, or whether living a nomadic lifestyle with her father because of his various business ventures forced her to become more adaptable to whatever new challenges life threw at her.
She was attempting to read Pride and Prejudice for her English class but found she could not concentrate. Three months ago, her father decided to permanently stay in the Upper East Side of New York after six years of jumping between Boston, New York, London and Paris and she was now going to her mother's old school, Constance.
It was seven pm, and her father had not yet come back from his office at Bass Industries to pick her up from Aunt Serena and Uncle Nate's house. She knew that they weren't her blood relations but they were practically family as she spent half her free time at their house and was close friends with their children, the twins Rose and Deacon, who were the same age as her.
She loved the bustling, lively nature of the Archibald household and the openness of their family. Of course Ruby did not dislike the quiet of her home with her father, but sometimes, just sometimes, she wished that she lived in a loud family like the Archibalds.
"Ruby, I'm sure he'll be here soon," Serena told Ruby, kissing the top of her head. "You know that the best part of his day is being with you."
Ruby managed to smile. "Thanks, Aunt Serena. Do you need any help at all with anything?"
"No, darling, don't you worry at all. How's your schoolwork going?"
Ruby wrinkled her nose. "I'm trying to read Pride and Prejudice but I just can't get into it."
"That was your mother's favourite novel. She used to re-read it at least once a year. Wuthering Heights was her other great favourite."
"Blair, can you put down that damn book so I can ravish you properly?" Chuck murmured against her neck.
Blair smirked. "You're hardly a Mr. Darcy, Bass. I think I'd prefer to keep on reading, thank-you very much."
"You'd really want a man who is extremely sexually repressed, eh?"
Blair's eyes gleamed. "Certainly a man who has more refined manners than you."
Chuck gave a mock long-suffering sigh. He forced himself up into a kneeling position and clasped her free hand to his bare chest. "Blair Waldorf Bass, may I, Charles Bartholomew Bass, have the honour of having mind-blowing sex with you?"
Blair chucked down Pride and Prejudice and pressed her scantily clad body against Chuck, whose avid hands immediately enfolded her. "You certainly may, Bass," she purred, 'Besides, I prefer a man who wears Armani suits, smokes cigars and drinks Scotch, not a twat in a codpiece."
"Thank God for that," said Chuck huskily before giving her a long, sensuous kiss.
"Really? Dad never said anything about that. In fact, he never tells me much about her at all," said Ruby, bitterness unconsciously lacing her tone.
Serena put her arm around Ruby, her curtain of silken blond hair falling around the girl. "Don't be too hard on your dad, Rubes. He just finds it too difficult to talk about her."
"But most of the information I know about her comes from you or Uncle Nate. Dad clams up and claims that he's busy, which is complete rubbish."
"How about if I talk about it to your dad? Would that help?"
Ruby smiled gratefully. "That would be good but I don't know if dad will listen to you because he's so stubborn. It took me a week to convince dad to let me wear my school skirt short."
Serena snorted with laughter, her eyes suspiciously bright. "You reminded me of your mother so much just then. She had that exact same expression of exasperated affection that you have in your eyes now."
"You are a bastard," Blair managed to gasp in between fervent kisses from Chuck.
Blair softly moaned as his hands slipped down and traced languorous circles on her hips and thighs. "You are a selfish pig."
"Of course," Chuck responded in a muffled voice, kissing her neck.
"And you are an arrogant arse," breathed Blair as she pushed Chuck against the wall in his office, kissing him feverishly.
"Anything else?" Chuck managed to raggedly utter as he gulped on air.
Blair, her hair mussed, her eyes heavy lidded and her lips swollen from his kisses, cupped his face in her hands. "And you're mine. No one else's."
Their eyes bore into each other's.
"I've never been anyone else's but yours."
"Do I?" Ruby asked quietly, loving the thought that some part of the mother she could dimly remember existed in her.
Serena pressed her lips to the crown of her head, hiding her own watery eyes. "Your mother would be most proud of you, Rubes."
The doorbell rang and Nate's pleased voice could be heard along with a familiar rumble of laughter that made Ruby's heart surge.
Her dad was home.
Serena quickly wiped her teary eyes and Ruby gave her a hug before she sprinted to the grand Archibald foyer.
Chuck Bass, multi-millionaire and king of the New York skyline, stood in the foyer dressed in his expensive suit. His sharp features which had become even harsher with the years, melted into a warm expression when he saw his daughter appear.
"Ruby, I hope you've been good," asked Chuck, his lips twitching.
"I've been a perfect guest, dad," retorted Ruby, her eyes twinkling.
"Do you want to stay for dinner, Chuck?" Nate asked.
"Thanks, but I think it's best we get home."
Serena frowned. "Chuck, you know it's no bother for us to set out an extra place for you both. The twins would love to see you."
"How about a raincheck for this weekend?" asked Chuck, rubbing his temples tiredly.
Ruby did not miss the concerned look that Nate and Serena shared.
"No problem, mate. We'll see you Saturday night for dinner then. Besides, I think the twins need to knuckle down and do their coursework," soothed Nate, shooting Serena a look not to press their friend any further.
Chuck clapped his friend on the back. "That would be fine. I appreciated you looking after Ruby for me."
"We love having her here," Serena said, showing them out the door. She kissed Ruby on the forehead and then she embraced Chuck and murmured in his ear, "Don't shut yourself off completely, Chuck. There are still people who love and care for you."
Ruby noticed that her father held onto Serena tightly for a moment and then let go, his mouth taut with suppressed emotion. Nate gave him a brotherly clap on the back after his wife. Ruby then slid her arm through her father's as they slowly made their way down to the Bass limo, the crest of Bass Industries gleaming in the dark. Ruby felt as if she was propping her father up.
The limo driver, Jack Clement, who was a composed man in his late sixties and had been the Bass chauffeur since Chuck was a teenager, silently opened the door for the pair. Ruby quite liked Jack, who often gave her little sweets and watched over her like a benevolent great uncle. His blue eyes were so deep and inscrutable and Ruby always wondered what secrets lay behind them. She always observed that there was a great foundation of trust between her father and Jack, who provided such a soothing presence.
A dishevelled seventeen year-old Chuck stumbled back into the limo after ensuring that Blair returned safely to her bed. Jack leaned against the limo smoking.
"Don't mention this to my father," Chuck said, tucking his shirt into his pants.
Jack stumped out his cigarette on the pavement, his gaze unwavering on Chuck's. "Master Bass, understand this: I see nothing, I hear nothing and I say nothing."
Ruby was lost for words as her father stared unseeingly out of the window. She knew that in the days leading up to September 11 each year since her mother's death, that her father became emotionally unreachable. And like every year since 2001, her father would place her in the care of the Archibalds for a day and disappear somewhere. And like every year, he would reappear the following morning haggard and smelling like Scotch. September 11 was the only time she ever saw her father less than his usual composed self.
And it scared her.
Ruby laid her head on her dad's shoulder. "Dad?"
"I love you."
Ruby heard a strangled sound come from her father's throat. He wrapped his arm around her tightly and buried his nose in her hair. "You are my life, Ruby. Don't you ever forget that."
"I won't," she promised. "I won't, dad."
"Good," he hoarsely replied.
Two days later on September 9th, Ruby awoke in the middle of the night to raised voices. She blindly clambered out of bed, rubbing her bleary eyes and quietly opened her door. She tiptoed to the staircase and hid behind the banisters, wondering who on earth was arguing with her dad in the middle of the night.
"…just get the hell out of my house, Eleanor! I am sick of you trying to tell me how to raise my daughter. She is hardly the debauched, anti-social teenager you're trying to make her out to be."
"This lifestyle is not healthy, Charles. I know you loved my Blair, and that her death hit you hard, but I will not allow you to bring up my granddaughter this way."
"And how in Jesus Christ am I raising my daughter, Eleanor? I'm not bringing her up in a whorehouse, I'm not doing rounds of coke or lying in a drunken stupor all the time. I give her the best of everything and I take her everywhere my business takes me. She has lots of friends and good grades. What the fuck is she lacking?"
"Cease with the wharf man's language, Charles. I know how you spend September 11 and it worries me greatly. I've had you followed: you spend all your time drinking a bottle of Scotch at her memorial stone, rambling incessantly and then you stumble into your limo and then hole yourself up in a hotel room drinking more Scotch. That is hardly right for a single father to do."
"Look who's calling the fucking kettle black. You're hardly nominated for bloody parent of the year. You neglected Blair for the majority of her life in favour of Serena, never noticing she threw up her guts to strive for perfection in highschool. You and her weren't even on speaking terms when she-she-died, so don't you dare come in with your fucking guns blazing and trumpeting parenting tips! And as for having me followed, what the f—"
"I'm going to apply for sole custody of Ruby. Cyrus is drawing up legal documents as I speak," Eleanor coolly interrupted, crossing her arms.
Chuck stared at Eleanor dumbfounded. Completely forgetting that she was supposed to be hiding, Ruby shot up in anger and ran down the stairs. "No! I don't want to be taken away!" she hotly exclaimed.
"Ruby, get back to bed," Chuck commanded, breathing heavily.
"No! I will not stand by and allow this old cow take me away from you, dad!"
"No," replied Ruby, adrenaline coursing through her.
Eleanor turned Ruby by the arms to face her. "Listen to me, Ruby. If you come with me, I'll be able to give you a stable lifestyle with both a mother and father figure. You would not have to travel so often and make new friends and—"
"Get the fuck of out of my house, Eleanor Waldorf, or so God help you," threatened Chuck in a low dangerous voice that Ruby had never heard before. His eyes were like flint and his mouth was set in a hard line.
Eleanor's eyes narrowed. "You'll be hearing from Cyrus, Charles."
And with that, she twirled on her heel and stormed out.
Ruby's chest was thudding. She found she could not speak. Her father had his back to her. His fists were clenched tightly and his head was bowed. His frame was trembling.
"Dad, she can't really take me away from you, can she?" Ruby asked in a small voice, feeling like she was six years old again.
Chuck surprised her by suddenly turning around and gathering her up so tightly in his arms that she could barely breathe.
"Hear this, Ruby. I'm going to fight tooth and nail to keep you. Anyone who tries to will have me to deal with. I'll turn their scrotum inside out and shit in their skull. Do you understand?"
Ruby nodded, tears spilling out of her eyes as she wrapped her arms tightly around him. His swearing did not phase her.
"Ruby, you are the only thing I have left in my life. You are my lifeline. If you are taken from me, I will be nothing. I am nothing."
Ruby let out a choked sob. "Dad, what if she wins?"
Chuck pulled back from her and clasped her face in his hands, his face burning. "I've never lost a fight, Ruby, and I'm not planning to start losing now. I'm a Bass, remember? And Basses never lose."
And Ruby believed him.
Because she wanted to.
The next morning at breakfast, Chuck was silent and could barely acknowledge Ruby's presence. His responses to her questions were monosyllabic and he appeared to be lost in his own thoughts for the majority of breakfast. Ruby felt as if she was in a funeral parlour.
Her eyes then drifted to the fresh set of flowers that had been placed by the large framed photo of her mother. Ruby could see her own reflection in the glass of the frame and she saw that she had inherited Blair's large doe eyes and wavy glossy brown locks but had Chuck's sharp cheekbone structure.
She sighed and turned away from the picture, suddenly wishing that the house did not seem so claustrophobic. She hated September.
"Am I going to the Archibalds again tomorrow?" she dully asked.
"What do you mean by 'right'?" he asked.
"I heard that inflection in your voice. You're obviously thinking something, Ruby."
Ruby got up. "Don't worry about it, dad. It doesn't matter."
"Sit down and finish your breakfast."
"I'm not hungry. I'm going to school."
"At seven thirty?" Chuck asked, his eyebrow raised.
"Yes. Do you have a problem?"
"No, but you obviously do. Spit it out, Ruby."
Ruby swallowed. "You're playing into Grandma Waldorf's hands by going on your drunken spree to mom's memorial. She'll take it down as more evidence against you."
"What is wrong with going to your dead mother's grave may I ask?"
"Everything!" Ruby snapped. "She's dead, dad, and she'd hate to see you drink yourself into oblivion because of her. If you go tomorrow and get drunk, I'll never forgive you."
Chuck gripped his fork. "Never is a strong word, Ruby."
"Mom's dead and I'm alive. If you get drunk tomorrow, you will lose me. That tight-lipped cow will take me away from you and win. Do you want that to happen?"
"I will not be dictated to by my own daughter on how I should run my life. If I want to mourn your mom then I shall."
"Dad, I miss her too, but I know she'd want you to be happy."
Chuck stood up abruptly, throwing down his napkin. "That is enough."
Ruby's eyes became watery. "You're right, dad. This is enough. If you go and get drunk tomorrow, you will let that old bitch win and you will have lost both mom and me."
"Mom's body is not even there next to Grandpa and Grandma Bass. You only talk to air! Her body was never found in the rubble, remember?"
"Get out of here," Chuck said in a low voice trembling with anger. "Get to school."
"Fine!" Ruby shouted and slammed the dining room door in her father's face.
She ignored Jack's concerned look and managed to last four blocks before bursting into tears.
After school, she found a grave Jack waiting for her outside the limousine. "There's been a change in plans, Miss Bass. I've been instructed to take you to the Archibalds tonight."
"Mr. Bass had an urgent meeting and he would not be able to make it home."
"Sure he did," muttered Ruby sarcastically.
Ruby was about to get into the bed of the guest room at the Archibalds when she heard a light rap on her door.
"Come in," she called.
It was Aunt Serena.
"Can we talk?" Serena asked.
Ruby shrugged. "Sure."
"I'm going to be blunt here, Ruby. It's about your dad."
Ruby shrugged again.
"There's a few things I think you should understand about him."
"Like what? He's a mental case?"
Serena sighed and pushed a strand of hair off Ruby's face. "What you have to get is that Bass men love so deeply and so completely that if their love is taken away from them, they become like hollow husks, mere wraiths of what they used to be."
Ruby snorted. "Get real."
Serena ignored Ruby and continued with her explanation. "Your grandfather Bart Bass lost his wife, your grandmother, after the birth of your dad. He never got over her death and became distant from your dad as a result because he was unable to look upon him without remembering his dead wife. He then went through women like they were disposable toys and became even more ruthless and unfeeling as a businessman to drown his grief. He even married my own mom at one point but his love for her was infused with calculation, nothing like the pure, unselfish love he held for your grandmom who was mom's close friend at one point."
"So, your dad is similar. He strove for his dad's approval and it was only in the last few years of Bart's life that they became close before his sudden death. Your dad had no one but your mom, Nate and I. Your dad loved your mom greatly. That love made your dad evolve from a devious, manipulative man into someone who could think of someone's happiness other than his own."
Serena took in Ruby's disbelieving look. "I'm not saying that your dad became a saint or anything, but for once we began to get on and I began to see some of the positive attributes that your mom could see and love."
"What were my mom and dad like together?" interrupted Ruby. "Misha Humphrey told me that my dad was known to say deliberately provocative and sleazy things while mom would sneer and tell him he was a pervert. That doesn't sound like love to me."
Serena smiled wistfully. "They could fight like cats and dogs, that's for sure. Their sparring was all part of the attraction. They fought and loved with such passion that it was sometimes tiring being in the same room with them. Your dad was the first man who your mom could be herself with. She did not have to pretend." Serena suddenly snorted amusedly. "God, your parents could be so devious, Ruby. When you get older, I'll be able to tell you more stories about them. They used to cook up such schemes together…"
"Really. They were soul mates, Rubes. One part of his soul is with your mom and—" she tipped Ruby's face up from the duvet to face her, "—and the other part of his soul is with you, Rubes."
Ruby felt her throat tighten with emotion.
"Even if he doesn't show it at times, never think that your dad doesn't love you, because you are the centre of his world. He will fight for you, Rubes."
"I appreciate everything you're saying, Aunt Serena, but you did not see the way he looked at me when I told him that mom's body was not even found. He seemed as if I had said that I hated his guts…"
"He doesn't hate you, sweetie—not one iota. Far from it."
Ruby rubbed her forehead. "How come mom went to the Twin Towers that day? She wasn't even working in the building…"
Serena made a steeple with her fingers under her chin, visibly trying to hold back her emotions. "It was meant to be your dad that was supposed to meet with a group of top investors at the Twin Towers in order to attract them into investing in Bass Industries. However, he was called the night before by one of the lawyers from the Boston base, who said one of Bass Industries' employees was charged with gross sexual misconduct and that your dad was needed immediately to smooth things over before the press crawled all over it. Your mom, being co-CEO, volunteered to go in your dad's place. That was why she was in the Twin Towers at the time the planes hit them."
Ruby breathed in deeply. "And her body was never found?"
"Never. You're dad has never forgiven himself—he wishes that it had been him…" Serena's voice dropped off. "You should talk to him about it. I don't think it's my place to say anything more. I think I've said more than I'm supposed to."
"Considering dad never says anything to me, I have to learn it from someone!"
"Your dad just wants to protect you, Rubes."
"You always think the best of everything and everyone, Aunt Serena."
Serena smiled softly. "When you get older, I think you will understand why he acts the way he does."
Ruby pulled the sheets over herself and turned on her side away from Serena, not wanting to talk anymore.
Serena shook her head and stood up. "I get the hint. Goodnight, Rubes."
Ruby did not answer. Her mind was already churning with a plan. As soon as she heard Aunt Serena's footsteps trail away, she pulled open her mobile and dialled a taxi. She needed to see her father.
At approximately midnight, the taxi pulled into the cemetery. Ruby clutched the can of pepper spray that her dad had given her as protection and paid the driver the fare. She had managed to sneak out once everyone had gone to bed at eleven and into the taxi that was waiting for her.
The taxi driver leaned his concerned face out the window. "Are you sure you're going to be alright here, love? It's not right for a young, nice girl like you to be in a place like this after dark unaccompanied."
Ruby waved him off. "I'll be fine, thanks."
"Oh well. It's your funeral, girlie. Good luck."
Ruby did not answer the taxi driver and stealthily entered the cemetery with only a slim torch to guide her way. She switched off her torch once she came to the grand and forbidding masonite angel with great wings, pointing divinely to the sky.
It was chilly and Ruby had never been more creeped out than she was now. But it was her sense of purpose that stilled her courage and strengthened her resolve.
Ahead of her she saw a familiar figure hunched over by the Bass family plot. Not wanting to give herself away, she quietly approached him. All her anger and resentment melted when she saw his defeated form and was replaced with love.
"I'm so sorry, Waldorf," her father said to the small stone memorial, unaware of Ruby's presence. "I've completely fucked things up. You're bitch of a mother is filing for custody of our Ruby and I have no idea whether I'm going to win…"
Ruby's heart ached as she saw her dad lean forward and bury his face in his hands.
"Christ, I miss you, Waldorf. It is a very lonely world without you. You know, I wish that it was me that died that day and not you. There's not a day that goes by in which I long to string up that bastard who was charged with that bloody sexual harassment suit and thus called me away that day…it should have been me who died—me, not you!"
His voice broke. "The greatest irony," he said hoarsely, "Is that I've ended up exactly like dad. He lost the love of his life young, and so have I. I've lost you—you, the gorgeous, sexy and most intelligent woman I've ever known. I've tried fucking other women but I always think of you…your mind, your scent, your body, your laugh, your fucking beautiful eyes…Babe, you've left me completely in tatters."
Chuck paused and wiped his eyes, pulling his jacket closer around him. "Seeing Nathaniel and Serena play Happy Family is sickening yet strangely comforting. They've been so good to Ruby and I. Sometimes I wonder whether it would be better if I hand over Ruby to Nathaniel and Serena so that she can grow up in a normal house without me to fuck her up like I did with you, mom and dad. Everyone I love always is cursed and suffers because of me—"
"That's not true, dad. Mom, Grandpa and Grandma Bass haven't suffered because of you. I haven't suffered because of you—I'm still here, I'm still here," interceded a wet-eyed Ruby, unable to stand by and watch him torture himself.
Chuck turned around in shock and asked in a voice gravelly with sleeplessness and grief. "Ruby, what are you doing here at this time of night?"
Ruby was close to tears. "I could ask the same thing of you, dad."
Chuck could not rise to his feet. "Oh Christ," he gasped.
This time Ruby was the comforter, kneeling beside her hunched over father and wrapping her arms tightly around him, her chin just managing to rest on his head. Chuck took in large breaths of the brisk night air, his shaking body calming. Ruby began to feel the cold settle in her limbs and a violent shiver racked her frame. She realised she was hardly dressed for the cold elements in her flimsy knit dress, thin tights, boots and light cardigan.
A calmer Chuck gently shifted positions on the uncomfortable gravel. This time, Ruby sat tucked between his legs with the blanket that Chuck had earlier been sitting on wrapped tightly around her. She then leaned back against her dad's chest and his arms encircled her.
The pitch black cemetery no longer seemed scary. Ruby flicked on her torch, which sent a thin line of light upon the Bass family plot.
"Tell me about mom, dad," finally spoke Ruby. "Please."
Chuck was silent for a long period of time and Ruby was afraid that he was going to refuse her. "Okay," he said in a voice thick with emotion. "Okay. I can't really have Aunt Serena misinforming you, can I?"
Ruby smiled at her dad's familiar undercurrent of sardonic humour that was slowly returning to him. He must be healing. She squeezed his hand reassuringly.
"Well, it all started back in our last year of high school when I started up my own burlesque club called Victor Victrola…"
"…and that was how she died…" Chuck's voice trailed off, some five hours later.
Ruby wiped her eyes. "She sounds like an amazing woman. I miss her, dad."
"I sure as hell do too, Rubes." His lips brushed against her temple.
The pair fell into silence for an indeterminate length of time.
"Look, it's morning," Ruby breathed.
"So it is," replied Chuck as the sun rose and enveloped the cemetery in a bright haze. The masonite angel no longer appeared forbidding, but now seemed like the glorious guardian of the dead and the benevolent comforter of the bereaved living.
September 11 had dawned.
Ruby yawned and nestled into her dad's embrace. "I guess I have to go back to the Archibalds now?"
Chuck surprised her. "No, you're not. How about breakfast at the Plaza Hotel with the strongest coffee possible and then we head-head—" his voice momentarily wavered and then he recovered his composure again, "—head over to the memorial at the Ground Zero site."
Ruby twisted around to face her dad. "Are you serious?"
Chuck's expression was steady. "Yes, I am, and I would like your company."
"But you've never been to any of the memorials before."
"And now I think that we should start going to them."
Ruby smiled at his use of 'we'. "So you're not planning to leave me behind?"
"Not all—I promise."
"Good," responded Ruby simply. "Good."
And so father and daughter sat together and watched the sun ascend into the sky to mark a new day, united in whatever would happen in the future.
"I can't believe that I have to go to Boston because some fuckwit can't keep his cock in his pants and his hands away from some woman's anatomy," said Chuck darkly as Blair pressed her body against his sensuously.
"Well, when you get back tomorrow night, there shall be a little surprise waiting for you that will make this trip worth your while," purred Blair, sliding her arms around his neck.
Chuck's mood lightened. He smirked and slid his hands over his wife's curvy buttocks. "And what surprise would that be, Mrs Bass?"
"Does some new lingerie that I have had specially imported from Paris peek your fancy?"
"Oh yes indeed. Does it include lace, garters and killer stilletos?"
"To give too much away would spoil the surprise," breathed Blair.
Chuck's eyes gleamed with pleasure and he was about to kiss his wife when his assistant, Luke, poked his head around the door and informed Chuck that the limo was ready to take him to the airport. Chuck shot him a look that clearly indicated that Luke's prolonged presence was not welcome and Luke immediately disappeared, mumbling that he would be waiting by the limo.
Chuck sighed, turning his attention back to his wife. "I wish you and Ruby could come with me."
Blair smiled softly at the genuine disappointment on her husband's features. "Me too," she replied, righting his tie, "But someone has to sweet talk those investors for Bass Industries."
"I promise you when I get back, I shall make it up to you," promised Chuck.
"I shall be waiting," Blair said, caressing her husband's face.
Chuck gazed at his wife for a long moment as if he was silently memorising her face. He then pulled her to him for a lingering kiss. "I'll be back tomorrow around four in the afternoon."
Blair saw him to the door of the elevator. "I'll be waiting, Bass. I'll be waiting."
Chuck managed to kiss her once more. "I love you," he murmured against her lips.
Then the elevator doors closed on her.
The End. Please give me feedback—it would be most welcome!