Catching Up With Manhattan
Disclaimer: I don't own the regular GG characters… but anyone else is a product of my over-active imagination which I know you are all grateful for. Enjoy!! And be sure to review!! (A/U - you were warned so don't complain if they are slightly out of character.)
Summary: An old friend comes for a visit, bringing her problems with her. Will anything be the same again?
Rated M: For future chapters, language, and content.
Good morning, Upper East Siders. Guess who I saw taking a stroll through Central Park early this morning with Manhattan's resident Bad Boy? None other than Nikki Fletcher, Manhattan's Other Runaway. I wonder what brought her back to town, besides the Summer Ball, of course. I'm sure juicy details will be brought to light soon enough. I'll keep you posted.
You know you love me.
XOXO Gossip Girl
It was 3 a.m. on a Sunday; Chuck sat in the leather chair with a calculating look on his face as he watched the sleeping girl in his bed from across the room.
While it wasn't unusual for him to have a girl in his bed in the middle of the night, it was unusual that she was fully clothed and he was not in bed with her.
He thought back to this morning… make that yesterday morning. Only this girl could have dragged him out of bed at 8:00 on a Saturday morning to pick her up from the airport.
However, if he had known before rolling out of bed this morning, that the day would be the catalyst of such an array of truly fucked up event in the near futures, he would have stayed in bed…
8:30 a.m. Saturday morning:
He had been sitting inside his limo until he saw the faint outline of the personal jet that he had been waiting for. Now he was leaning casually against the open door, watching as the plane touched down.
As the door opened to unfold the carpeted stairs, a smirk crossed his face. He knew all hell would break loose in less than a minute. He was looking forward to it.
It had been a while since he had seen her last, over a year actually. He couldn't help giving her an appreciative once over as she descended the stairs, a baby pink Nike athletic bag slung across her right shoulder. He saw her glance gratefully at the car she had known would be there before she saw him, her soft smile turned into a grimace as she walked purposefully toward him.
She finally stopped a few feet away from him. She set the bag down before she straightened, and her arms folded across her chest indignantly. He raised an eyebrow at her in amusement, almost waiting for her to stamp her foot.
Her eyes narrowed at him, "Chuck."She nearly growled at him in annoyance.
He couldn't stop the laughter from lacing his voice, "Nice to see you too, Nik."
Her face visibly softened as she dropped her arms, only to hook her thumbs in the back pocket of her somewhat faded jeans, giving him a better view of her dark blue tank top.
She was Manhattan's Other Runaway. She definitely didn't look the part of the rich girl getting off a private jet. She didn't want to. But this summer she would fulfill her obligations, and maybe if she was lucky, she wouldn't have to speak to her mother more than propriety demanded.
Her mother. The thought itself gave her shivers. But she forced the unpleasant thoughts from her head, coming back to the present.
"Chuck", she said, her tone was still annoyed, but softer somehow, "God, I just asked your father to send a car for me. What the hell are you doing here? Shouldn't you be sleeping right now?" She ran a hand through her long reddish brown hair, the gold flecks catching in the rising sun as her side-swept bangs fell back into place, just settling over her blue eyes. She looked at him inquisitively, knowing he was watching her.
The look he gave her in return was only slightly patronizing before he answered her question. "Now why would I want to stay in bed when I could be in your cheery presence?"
She snorted, "Oh, yeah", she stated sarcastically, "I'm the original Miss Mary Sunshine." She looked back to the attendant who was carefully sliding her luggage into the trunk of the limo.
His expression changed to amused understanding. "I see our first stop is going to be coffee… and maybe a croissant."
Finally, she flashed him a smile. "Coffee", she stated. "And maybe some form of pastry. I didn't get much sleep last night, and I did get up at five-thirty this morning." She held up a hand when she saw the suggestive look on his face before stating, "I may have waited until the last minute to pack."
He gave her a look of mock pity and shook his head. "Get in already", he said, motioning to the open door before he picked up her bag. She stepped carefully inside the car and let herself be enveloped in the plush seats with a contented sigh.
Chuck followed her in a few moments later and set her bag next to her feet on the floor as he settled into the seat across from her. "I told the driver to stop at the kiosk on the corner before we head to The Palace. And I have strict instructions from Bart and Lily that you join us for brunch at eleven-thirty. I'm sure you'll want to change before gracing the rest of the family with your presence…Unless you'd rather wear that", he stated, gesturing to her outfit. "I certainly don't have any complaints."
She rolled her eyes, "I can't wear this to your house, thank you very much. Their invitation is very generous."
It was his turn to roll his eyes at her. "You know just as well as I do, that my father always has an ulterior motive."
Nikki tried not to let her thoughts cross her face. She knew exactly why she was here. Not that she wanted to talk about it at this point in time. She had graduated from Yale University last summer with a major in Business Management, and now her step-father wanted to involve her in his business.
Kevin Fletcher had married her mother Lynnette, when she was fourteen. She was thankful for this, seeing as her own father was… well, last she heard, he had been in England with the women he had cheated on her mother with before they had divorced when she was seven. She hadn't spoken to him in over six years.
Needless to say, her mother was quite flighty. Once the divorce had been finalized, she hadn't taken much time to take care of her daughter. She spent weeks at a time traveling around the country to distract herself from her life that she assumed had been flushed down the toilet.
Nikki spent most of her time in a large apartment in the care of the housekeeper/nanny until she was thirteen, then she was left alone save for a maid that came every morning.
The only thing she was truly grateful to her mother for, was making sure she went to Constance Prep. If she hadn't left to stay in Los Angeles when she was sixteen, she would have graduated with her friends. That was something she had always regretted, but like most things in her life, it didn't end up like she planned.
The car stopped several minutes later, and jolted her out of her thoughts. She looked up to find Chuck watching her.
"Sorry", she said, with a wry smile, "I'm a little distracted."
He raised a suspicious eyebrow at her but said nothing except, "Let's get some coffee before you fall over."
They got out of the limo, collected their cappuccinos and Nikki also got a pastry, seeing as her stomach had rumbled quite loudly as they walked up to the kiosk, and eventually ended up walking lazily through Central Park.
"So", Chuck started, as they walked towards the center of the park, "you were relatively calm when you realized I was your escort. I thought for sure there would be more yelling."
She bit back a grin. "I could yell at you now if you'd like", she stated amiably.
He rolled his eyes, "No thanks." He glanced at her again before asking, "Did you inhale that thing?"
She let out a surprised laugh before tossing the cardboard dish, which had held her pastry, into the trash bin as they passed. "I skipped breakfast. Flying makes me nervous."
He looked at her incredulously, "Since when?"
Nikki grimaced, but stared forward as she said, "Flying here makes me nervous", she corrected quietly. Then before he had a chance to reply, she took the large coffee that he had been holding for her, and all but pranced down the narrow path as she drank the hot liquid.
Chuck followed her to a bench facing the walkway and sat next to her. She held the Styrofoam cup in her left hand while her right arm crossed her chest and her hand lay in the crook of her arm. They had sat there for a few moments in silence before she crossed her right leg over her left and began bouncing her right foot.
"If I had known that you would have processed the caffeine so quickly", Chuck began, "I would have insisted on a smaller cup."
She raised an eyebrow, "Huh?" He pointed at her foot. "Oh", she said sheepishly, "nervous habit."
He was about to comment her on her embarrassment when she glanced to their right in time to see two very familiar figures jogging in their direction.
"Shit", Chuck muttered.
Nikki's eyes widened, "Is that…"
"Nate", he finished, "and his father."
Her eyes darkened before she obviously changed her mind about something… or else had a very fast lobotomy.
She stood up, her back to the approaching duo, and gave him a sincerely fake smile as he joined her before she asked, "So, do I look perky now?"
He looked pointedly at her chest.
She snapped her fingers in annoyance. "Not what I meant, you ass."
Chuck glared at her, "Damn cheerleader."
She opened her mouth to retort when she heard the voice behind her, "Hey Chuck. What are you doing here so early? And who's a cheerleader?"
Chuck watched as the girl beside him whirled around, concealing the panic in her eyes, before managing a confident, if not somewhat soft greeting, "Hi, Nate."
Nate, in all his dopey obliviousness, looked completely floored, "Nikki", he stated incredulously.
Chuck tried not to roll his eyes in disgust as Nate shook his head slightly, like he needed to clear his vision, and giving little warning before holding his arms out and pulling her into a quick and gentle hug.
She stepped back to his side swiftly before she turned to Nate's father, "Hello, Captain", she graced the man with a real grin.
Harold Archibald had been elated when she and his son had dated for those eight months; it had been the only hope he had had at the time for Nate getting over Blair. Nikki knew this, seeing as he had confided his thoughts to her in the beginning of the relationship. However misguided she felt he had been, she was quite fond of the man who treated her as a daughter, even as he had always held Blair in such high esteem.
She sidled over to him shyly, and gave him a side armed hug. She ignored the look Chuck had given her at her self-conscious behavior. She would have to explain everything to him eventually, but she hoped he would give her a little bit of time to adjust before he confronted her like she knew he would.
"Miss Fletcher", he said warmly, "How wonderful to see you again. What brings you back to New York?"
She inwardly flinched, knowing that everyone would be asking her that. But she took a deep breath and decided on a partial truth, "I finished college last summer and have been working with my step-father. He had some business that needed to be attended to immediately, and seeing as he and my mother are on a cruise in the Bahamas for another two weeks, he asked me to take his place."
The Captain gave her an accomplished, approving smile, "Good for you", he said. "I'm sorry to be rude, but I do have to get back. I have some business calls to take this morning, but I'm sure Nate would love to stay and chat."
Nikki, at a loss for words, discreetly nudged Chuck with her elbow, startling him into the conversation, and successfully managing to knock the annoyed look off of his face. He doesn't even spare her a glance as he turns to Nate, who was trying very hard to look like he didn't really want to impose, but it just wasn't quite right. "Sure, Nathaniel, we've got some time to spare before I have to get her back to the hotel."
Nikki smacked him in the chest with the palm of her hand. Ok, she got it. He was mad at her, but she so did not need him to be an ass right now. Nikki also knew that she was the only person Chuck would tolerate any form of abuse from. She gave him a glare, "I don't need a babysitter, Chuck", she stated in an annoyed tone, "And if I did, you wouldn't be my first choice."
"Well, I didn't ask you. So can you just hush?" he said, his voice tinged with exasperation.
Her eyes narrowed, "Don't start with me", she growled at him.
They were facing each other now, his arms across his chest, hers on her hips, both glaring viciously at the other. Their staring contest was interrupted by Nate's laughter. They turned their heads to look at him in confusion, despite the anger still evident on their features.
"What?" Chuck finally bit out, after a few moments.
Nate just grinned, ignoring the anger radiating off of his best friend and his ex-girlfriend. "It's just nice to know that after all the time you spent apart, you two can still manage to fight like an old married couple."
Nikki had to force her mouth not to drop open in shock at the statement. But she did raise an eyebrow in Chuck's direction. He gave her a look as an answer to her silent question. She bit her bottom lip and looked away apologetically. She should have known that he wouldn't have told Nate that he had in fact seen her. Quiet often actually. Especially after that phone call she had made to him… She would have to make it up to him somehow.
She shook her head lightly to clear her thoughts, and gave a snort, "Old married couple? That's funny."
Chuck had moved slightly behind her, now discreetly tracing circles on her lower back, "Hilarious", he stated dryly.
She tilted her head back against Chuck's shoulder to look at him with a lazy grin, "Especially because I don't think I've ever yelled at you to pick up your dirty socks".
He raised an eyebrow at the contemplative look on her face, "Don't get any ideas", he said solemnly.
She smirked, and glanced down at her watch with a groan, "Chuck, we need to go."
"Right now?" he asked incredulously.
"Chuck", she whined, "I need to get ready."
"Ready for what?" Nate asked, perplexed.
"Brunch", they both groaned in unison.
"With Bart and Lily", Chuck expanded.
"Well", said Captain Archibald, "Maybe we should all head to our separate locations then." As he started to walk away, he turned, "Nicole, it's been so long since you've been in town, I'm sure Anne would love for you to join us for dinner soon. I'm sure she'll want to get in touch with you."
"That would be wonderful", Nikki said, meaning it. "I can be reached at the Palace, but I'll have Chuck forward my cell phone number to Nate to give to her."
"Fantastic", he said enthusiastically, "She'll be thrilled. And Charles, you're invited, too. It's been quite awhile since you've had dinner with us."
"Thank you, Harold, that's very generous", Chuck said, far too politely for Nikki's liking. Time to go, she thought.
"I'm glad we ran into you", Nikki said to them, "But we really do need to go."
"High maintenance", Chuck managed to cough out.
She went to smack him again, but he was ready for it this time and caught her arm mid-swing. "Play nice, Princess."
She rolled her eyes and pulled her arm away, "Only you could manage to cough out such a long word without choking."
He smirked at her. A few minutes later, as they all headed in opposite directions, they heard Nate's voice, saying, "Wait, you said she was a cheerleader?"
Nikki could barely contain her laughter, especially after seeing the grin on Chuck's face, as she yelled back, "We'll catch up later, I promise."
The two of them made their way up to the penthouse suite, a bellhop in charge of Nikki's luggage. She did have a room on the floor right underneath his, but in the end, Chuck had all her luggage sent to his suite anyhow. She knew that he had only been placating her when he had said, "Just for now", but she let it slide.
She began searching through her bags methodically, tossing discarded still folded clothes onto the giant bed, before she settled on an outfit that she deemed appropriate.
She unfolded a white designer jacket, moving to hang it over a chair carefully. When she turned back around she saw what Chuck was occupying himself with. "What the hell are you doing?" she asked incredulously.
He turned to look at her with raised eyebrows, "What does it look like I'm doing?" he asked calmly.
She barely managed to conceal her grimace, "It looks like you're putting my clothes in your closet. But I know that can't be what you're actually doing, seeing as I have my own room."
"Your point?" he asked, giving her a strange look.
"Chuck-" she started, only to let out a sigh. "You don't actually want me staying here, do you? Are you crazy? We'll make each other crazy. And I don't know how long I'll be staying. For the summer at least."
"You can decide later, go get dressed so we're not late. Besides", he finished, "Someone should keep an eye on you while you're here."
She sighed in defeat; she would never win against Chuck Bass.
She grabbed a few more articles of clothing and headed to his large bathroom.
A few minutes later Nikki emerged from the bathroom wearing a green halter top, white casual pants that were not jeans, strappy green heeled sandals that matched her shirt, and a matching purse. She looked like she had run a brush through her hair, and fixed her makeup slightly.
Chuck, of course, did not need to change out of his khaki dress pants and chocolate brown button down shirt with matching shoes. He was waiting for her on the couch when she opened the door. She grabbed the jacket from the chair and held it as she went to sit down next to him.
"I'm sorry", she said, not looking at him, "I should have told you why I was coming."
"You're doing business with my father", he said quietly. It wasn't a question.
She looked at him then, "I'm sorry", she said again. "I was the only other choice. Justin can't leave his job in L.A."
"You're coming back permanently, aren't you?" he asked. That wasn't a question either.
"Most likely", she said tiredly. "I'll be looking for an apartment over the summer."
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Chuck broke it, "If you stay, you have to tell Nate."
She looked at him in alarm, and swallowed hard, "Why?" she managed to choke out. "We agreed that it was my secret. Telling him now won't make anything better. I broke up with him for a reason."
Chuck stood up, "Come on, we need to go. I mean it though, you tell him or I will."
Nikki had been about to stand, but when she heard him say that, she was glad she hadn't made the effort. "Why?" she whispered, desperate for answers as to why he would choose now, after all these years, to force this on her.
"It's for your own good, and mine", he finished softly. He gently grabbed her upper left arm and pulled her to her feet. She put on her jacket and picked up her purse and let him lead her silently out of the suite to go have brunch with the Van der Basses.
A/N: Ta-daa! Well, this is the start to my first Gossip Girl Fanfic that I have ever posted. Things will be explained in the next chapter… well, not everything, because where's the fun in that. Reviews are greatly appreciated. Let me know what you think. But, I did say this was AU, especially because I'm adding my own characters, so don't give me grief about how they aren't in character. Constructive criticism is welcome, however. Chapter two is about halfway done, but I'd like reviews before I post it, please. (And, yes, I know it seems like these two have an odd relationship, they do, you'll see why soon.)