Charlie in Real Life
Previously on CIRL:
*For a refresher on the whole fic see the top of the previous chapter*
Luke brought Charlie back to the city after she had run away with Gabe. Nate talked to Chuck and got him to admit that he didn't sleep with the woman in the limo that Blair saw him with, but Chuck told Nate he didn't want to tell Blair the truth. He wants to let Blair go. He doesn't want to keep hurting her. Gabe returned to the inn where he and Charlie were staying in the Hamptons to find it deserted. He grilled the front desk clerk and the man told him that someone had taken her and that his father had been there. Gabe quickly searched the suite and noticed his camera gone with all the intimate picture he'd taken of and with Charlie. He knew Carter Baizen now had them and he grew livid and left. Blair went to over to Serena's distraught with her youngest son Matty. Serena said she'd help her, but Blair brushed her off and asked for Luke because he had left the Palace where they had been staying. Serena didn't know where Luke was and they called Sophie, but Sophie hadn't heard from him since they'd argued. She did tell Blair that Luke wanted to know what was going on between Blair and Chuck and Blair had a horrible feeling and left to find him, leaving Matty with Serena. Luke and Charlie got home. Charlie saw the study where her parents had argued and it was a wreck. She found her mother's wedding ring and kept it. She rushed over to the phone to call Gabe at the inn, but he was already gone so she went to shower and change. Luke received a call from Sophie asking him to stay put and let his mother find him, but Luke brushed her off and was harsh, saying that if Sophie was his best friend like she claimed she'd stay out of it. Sophie knew she had to find Luke no matter what he said so she snuck out of her house. Luke and Charlie left the penthouse and Luke told Charlie they'd split up so they could cover more ground and meet in Central Park after. He told her to go over to Georgina Sparks's place to try to find Carter. He left to find Gabe, but he didn't tell Charlie. Luke found Gabe and showed him the pictures and Gabe was angry and confused. He didn't know why Blair and Carter were half naked in the pictures but Luke didn't believe him. Luke told him to stay away from Charlie and their family and left. Gabe got angry and punched the window in of the car that was driving him into the city. Charlie went to Georgina's but only found her daughter Allie. Allie wouldn't answer any of her questions so Charlie left before the police could be called. Blair got to her penthouse, thinking Charlie and Luke would be there because Vanya had called, but she had missed them. While she was in the penthouse Gabe appeared and he told her he had nothing to do with what Carter did. Chuck suddenly appeared and punched and slammed Gabe. Gabe still refused to cower and continued to say he was innocent and confessed that he loves Charlie. Blair finally convinced Chuck to let Gabe go before the police could be called, but after she ran out, leaving Chuck alone. Sophie found Luke heading into Central Park then they walked into the park to meet Charlie. Chuck went to a bar and it was the same bar he'd compared Blair to the Arabian horses all those years ago, there he met a woman named Olivia Donovan. The chapter ended with Carter Baizen smug, coming out of a building after having sold Charlie's photos.
Blair didn't know where to go. She didn't know what to do. She just kept moving.
She had ignored Chuck when she'd heard him call out to her. She had ignored his voice and ignored his pleading as she had rushed out.
Now in her limo, she had no answers. She didn't know her next move. She didn't know what route to take. She just knew she had keep it together, remain upright, keep moving, but that was easier said than done.
Easier said than done.
That was such a cliché, she thought to herself, something she would have scoffed at any other time. She made no excuses, she got things done, she dealt with whatever she had to, but she had somehow lost that, she realized.
Somewhere along the way she'd forgotten and she was so afraid it was far too late to start remembering that now.
She shook her head and told the driver to pull over. She needed air; she needed answers so she went where she always did when she needed answers.
Central Park, the pond, the ducks…her face crumpled. She had to call Dorota. She'd been ignoring her calls, not wanting to talk, but now—she had to call her. She was done evading, done avoiding, she had to do something.
Everything was slipping right through her fingers and she couldn't get a grasp fast enough. Dorota would know what to do, she had to. She reached into her purse as she paced in front of the pond, not caring if she got curious looks.
The call hadn't even rung out its first ring before it was answered.
"Ms. Blair?" Dorota said, anxiously.
She took in a shuddering breath, trying to reply.
"Dorota," she finally was able to get out, "I need you," her voice broke in a mangled whisper.
Chuck paused before bringing the glass up to meet his lips, "Yes, Blair," he replied to the blonde woman sitting next to him at the bar then he gulped down another mouthful.
"Care to elaborate?"
"Care to vacate that seat?"
"Not particularly," she told him and his eyes narrowed, "I will admit—Olivia, is it?"
"I go by Reese, my middle name," she supplied and he tilted his head in acknowledgment, "I will admit, Reese," he lifted his glass, "That in my inebriation I've humored you," he said, turning slightly to her, "But I've found I'm no where near drunk enough to engage in idle chatter, so," he said, pointing his glass towards her, "I'm going to give you this sole opportunity to get up and walk away."
"Or what?" she challenged him, "Do you own the place? Are you going to have me thrown out?"
He smirked, "You know, nine times out of ten you ask me that very question and it's true, but no, not in this instance. I don't own this particular establishment," he told her, but his patience was shot, frayed by the day and everything he'd done to find himself where he now was, "Let me be clear," he told her frankly, "Since you don't seem to understand when something's been spelled out for you," he put his glass down, "I don't want to talk with you, I don't want to sit with you, nor will I drown my sorrows opening my checkbook to indulge in your form of entertainment."
Reese laughed, "Boy, did Blair put you through the ringer, or did you put her? Which is it? Did she screw you over or…no," she nodded, "You definitely did the screwing, how bad?" she asked.
"I'm not going to fuck you," he bit out and a few people around them quieted in bewilderment with wide-eyed stares.
"Good," Reese pressed on impassively, "And since we're on the subject, the date that stood me up is a woman," she said matter-of-factly, then smiled, "Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's get back to you."
He looked her up and down, from her expertly styled hair to her Manolo pumps, "You're gay?" he said and her smile widened, "What, disappointed? Or hard to believe?" she said dryly.
"Neither," he replied, "I'm just usually attuned to these things."
"Well don't beat yourself up over it, you're not yourself today."
"You don't even know me," he scoffed back.
"I thought we were rectifying that?" she said, ordering him a black coffee, "Now where were we? Oh, right, Blair…"
"Wait, wait, so the pictures aren't real, it's all this Carter guy's fault and he's Gabe's real dad?"
"Simply put, yes," Luke told Sophie as they walked deeper into Central Park to meet Charlie at their rendezvous point.
"And Uncle Chuck believed it all?" Sophie said, stopping and pulling away, turning with an incredulous look on her face.
"The evidence was damning," Luke shrugged, but there was an angry stiffness to it, "The pictures weren't faked, but what was shown in them was," he said looking away.
"Don't," he told her, "There's Charlie," he said, motioning ahead and putting an end to the conversation.
"What are you doing here?" Charlie asked the young girl once they'd approached, but Luke cut in, wanting to get straight down to it, "It's Sophie, that doesn't merit an inquiry," Luke said dryly, "What does, is your results. Please tell me you were more productive than I was."
Charlie gave a defeated huff, "I thought for sure you'd find something. Allie was a dead-end. I know she knows where Carter is, but I couldn't get it out of her."
"Charlotte, you aren't an amateur," Luke chided, "Blackmail should come naturally. Don't you have anything on her?"
Charlie's gaze narrowed, "How about you?" she said, defensively folding her arms, "Where did you run off to and how did the great Luke Bass manage to come up empty?"
He looked down, "The specifics aren't important, the bottom line is," he brushed off, not wanting to be confronted with his failings, "Neither one of us did what we were supposed to and now we're back to square one, but worse off. We've lost time that we don't have."
"Stop fighting, we'll figure this out," Sophie interjected and Luke glanced between her and his sister through hooded eyes. He hated not having an answer, a solution. It was so unlike him and the fact grated.
"Well we better figure it out fast," Charlie said, "We can't just stand here. We have to do something."
"No," a voice from behind them said, making them all whip around, "The only thing you have to do is come home."
Charlie faltered on her heels. She knew they would get caught, but she didn't think it would be this fast.
"Mom," she said, which was all that she could manage as she brought a hand reflexively up, resting it against the wedding ring she had concealed under her dress hanging from a necklace.
"Mom, we—" Luke attempted, but Blair waved him off, slowly walking up to them.
"I don't want any explanations right now," her mother said then looked at her, "Charlie, are—are you alright?"
Charlie was silent for a moment then nodded hesitantly as she let her hand fall away from her mother's ring, her gaze burning and stinging at the sight in front her. Her mother had dark circles under her eyes which the makeup she'd applied couldn't quite conceal and there was this flatness, this dullness—this vacancy in her gaze that she'd never seen before and it shocked her, it scared her, it chilled her so much that she trembled.
"That's a relief," Blair said and Charlie saw her gain some color on her pale cheeks, but it wasn't enough, not nearly enough and a horrible guilt assailed her, "We have a lot to discuss, but for now I want you three to get into the limo so we can go home."
"Mother, we apologize, but we're trying to hel—"
"No," Charlie cut in, but it came out like a croak so she had to clear her throat, not an easy task when there was a huge lump restricting her speech, "Stop, we're going home," she told Luke.
"We're going home!" she said sharply and for once, Luke didn't have a comeback. He didn't even attempt an argument. He seemed to finally grasp what she'd seen as his lips parted then shut looking at Blair.
"Let's go," Sophie prompted in a small, lost whisper as she pulled on Luke's arm.
Blair turned around, not saying anything else as she started walking away and they all were left to follow behind, their steps less than assured.
"I'm so glad you came," Serena said when Nate walked past her threshold and crossed her living room.
"Of course, we have to help," he said, brushing a quick kiss on her cheek, "Dan," he nodded in greeting to the man who rose from the couch as he pulled away, "Have you been able to get Blair? I've been trying to call her for the past hour."
Serena shook her head, "We haven't spoken to her since she left Matty with us. On top of everything, Luke's missing too."
Nate swore and dragged a hand through his hair, "I'm sure Luke is fine. He's a smart kid. He's probably out doing what we're trying to do now."
"And what are we doing?" Serena shrugged, "We're just standing here."
"We'll think of something," Dan said, curling a hand around Serena's waist and she leaned into him, "You're really going to help?"
"Do you even have to ask?" he told her, "I know I may give a lot of flak, but they're family," he said and she smiled, resting her hand on his chest, "So where do we start?" she said, turning to look at Nate.
"First off, are we all on the same page? Carter Baizen, the pictures, the lies?"
"Yup," Serena sighed, "More than up to speed."
"Good," Nate said, "Off the bat, I can tell you trying to talk to Chuck won't help. I tried to earlier, but he's locked it into his head that he's going to let Blair go. He refuses to tell her the truth and I think that should be our starting point."
Serena frowned, pulling away from Dan, "Wait, what truth?"
"Chuck didn't cheat on Blair," Nate replied and Serena was incredulous, "Wait, wait, go back, rewind—Chuck cheated on Blair?" Her voice elevated a degree.
"I just said he didn't," Nate told her, "I thought you were up to speed. Didn't you talk to Lily?"
"No, I—just start at the beginning," she insisted and Nate let out a heavy breath, "We're not going to waste time on recaps. All you have to know is Blair thought Chuck cheated, but he didn't, but he also won't tell her the truth. After everything he said to her about the pictures, he's gotten this crazy idea in his head that she'd be better off without him."
"She just might be," Dan said, and Serena smacked his chest, "I know, I know, not helping," he acceded.
Serena looked down, her eyes darting back and forth as she tried to let it all sink in. No wonder Blair seemed so at the end of her tether earlier, she thought painfully, "So we find Blair and tell her the truth," she nodded looking back up, "You're right, that's where we start."
"I'll get the kids," Dan said, turning and walking up the stairs.
"Where do you think she went?" Nate asked and Serena shook her head, "I don't know. She went looking for Luke and he could be anywhere."
"We'll start at their penthouse then go through every property they own in Manhattan if we have to."
Serena nodded, but it was weak. She couldn't quite believe it all. She didn't even want to think of what would happen if Chuck and Blair really separated. It would devastate the kids, it would devastate Blair, it would devastate Chuck and the whole entire family in the process, "Nate, we, we can't—," Serena said, then pressed her lips as her voice shook then tried again, "We can't let them fall apart."
Nate pulled her into a hug, "We won't," he murmured the promise.
"Serena!" Dan shouted, startling Nate and Serena both as he hurried down the stairs, "What now?" she asked.
"Sophie, please go upstairs and let your parents know you're here," Blair told the girl as they walked past the foyer in her penthouse.
Sophie looked around warily then nodded, "Okay, Aunt Blair," she said quietly then gave Luke one last look before turning left and running up the stairs.
"What happened here?" Charlie asked walking up to the side table and nearly stepping on the broken glass of the various picture frames that were scattered on the floor.
Blair parted her lips to reply, really not knowing how. How could she casually say that Chuck had slammed Gabriel against the wall multiple times?
"You back!" Dorota bustled in, saving Blair from having to reply. The maid unceremoniously dropped the broom and dustpan in her hands to wrap her arms around Charlie.
Blair watched the display and her throat throbbed, but she made sure not to let a sound escape. It was not the time.
Dorota swatted Charlie on her behind with a mock stern look on her face after she pulled away, "You not do this again, okay?"
Charlie sniffled then nodded, "I won't, I swear," she said then Dorota turned and Blair immediately stiffened, putting out a hand.
During the phone call with her she'd told Dorota to wait there at home. She couldn't risk breaking down in public and she couldn't risk it now, "Later," she told her and Dorota seemed to understand because she nodded then bent and collected the broom and dustpan and started sweeping the glass without any argument.
"Come on," she motioned her children and they filed into the living room. Charlie and Luke settled on one sofa and Blair took the one opposite them so she could have them both in her sight.
She rubbed her hands together, then looked down. The time for stalling and avoiding had passed. That was what had gotten her into this mess to begin with, she knew that, and that gave her the strength she needed to speak up, "I—I know you both know about the pictures—"
"We know you didn't do it," Luke rushed in, "Before, when you told me about them, without actually telling me about them," he said dryly, "You said you didn't do it, but Dad thought you did."
"Luke, let her talk," Charlie said, but Luke was adamant, "We know she didn't do it," he said then turned to her, "I know you didn't do it, Mom, even if you hadn't denied it."
She was more relieved than she thought she could be. She didn't think they would believe it, but there was this nagging, dark thought that had plagued her. Would they react as Chuck had? Would they hate her? She was infinitely glad she could put at least that to rest, "Thank you, sweetheart," Blair breathed out unsteadily as she swiped a hand over her brow, "But I won't discuss what should be between your father and I."
"I won't," she stopped her son, "I know you both want to help, but there's honestly nothing you can do right now."
"Then tell us how you know Carter Baizen," Charlie frowned, the confusion written all over her face, "Did he approach you once he met me? Or—"
"No," Blair's hands clenched at the mere mention of the man's mention, but she wouldn't lie, "We've—your father and I, and your Aunt Serena and Uncle Nate have known him since before high school," she explained, "He was older, and Nate and Chuck idolized him," she said, "And in turn Carter soaked up the attention, paving the way into clubs that Chuck and Nate were too young to be in and so much more," she continued, recalling it all with aversion, "Once Carter graduated high school he fell off the map and didn't reappear on our radar until our junior year."
Luke's features twisted, "You've known him for that long? Then all this—" he waved a hand, "He's retaliating, isn't he? What happened? The man was released from prison with this grudge against you. Did you have anything to do with why he was incarcerated?"
Blair laughed, but there was no amusement. Her son was quick, too quick for his own good, "Yes, but I didn't know. It was your father…" she trailed off, "As I was saying," she said, needing to go back to go forward, "Carter didn't return until our junior year. He'd renounced the lifestyle, his family, and the money, or so that was what he led us to believe. During one of your father's lost weekends an expensive and irreplaceable baseball disappeared, along with one of his Piaget watches."
"It was Carter, right?" Charlie asked and Blair nodded.
"But he was in jail for years. His list of offenses is a mile long," Luke said and Blair shook her head, "I'm not finished. Chuck wasn't buying into Carter's stories and tried to warn Nate off, but Nate wouldn't listen and he ended up being played at a poker game with Carter and some other men that wouldn't have taken no for an answer. Luckily your father got there in time, got Nate out and told Carter to keep the ball and the watch as payment."
"Wait, a ball," Charlie said, "You mean the ball Dad has upstairs in his study?"
"Babe Ruth's called shot?" Luke added and Blair nodded, "I didn't know, but your father kept tabs on Carter until he caught him with enough to put him away for a long time."
Charlie shook her head, "I—I…"
"Don't say anything," Blair said, leaning forward, "Just tell me that Carter didn't hurt you, that his son—"
"No, I'm fine, but…Gabe—he didn't know. He doesn't know," Charlie said, and she sounded so lost that Blair reached out a hand across the coffee table and took hers, "It's going to be alright," she said, and she sounded so convinced that she almost made herself believe it, "We'll find them both and they'll have a lot to answer for—"
Charlie pulled her hand back, "Mom, Gabe doesn't know. He doesn't," Charlie insisted.
"Don't be so naïve," Luke told her, but Charlie shook her head, "I told you he doesn't."
Blair sighed. As much as Gabriel Knight had insisted that he hadn't known while Chuck had been manhandling him, she couldn't believe it, but she didn't have the heart or mind to make her daughter listen to reason.
"Just hear me out," she told her children, "There's still so much left to talk about, but your father needs to be here for that so in the meantime will you both go upstairs and stay there this time?"
Luke and Charlie didn't automatically reply, a moment passed, but eventually they nodded, getting up.
"Wait," Blair said standing up, then pulling her two kids into a hug, not able to let them just walk away. Luke encircled her waist and Blair didn't realize she was holding her breath until Charlie wrapped an arm around her neck, pulling her close.
Her shoulders shook slightly. She hadn't lost her. She feared that she had, that she would never be able to reach Charlie again, but she hadn't. "Please, promise me," she whispered. If she disappeared again, if any of them did, she wouldn't be able to hold herself together anymore.
"I promise," Charlie said then Luke promised her right after.
"I can't believe Blair stayed with you for this long," Reese said after he'd given her the condensed version of events, "Do you have a plan to get her back?" she asked and Chuck smiled grimly, reaching for the scotch to pour in his coffee.
"Stop it," she said, grabbing the bottle and telling the bartender to get rid of it, "You can get her back. She still cares about you. Only a woman madly in love would stick it out through everything you've been through together. You just have to make it up to her."
He gulped down the entire cup of coffee, not even flinching when the hot liquid burned his tongue and throat, "I don't want her back," he rasped, putting down his empty cup, "There's nothing that I could ever do to make up for—everything I said, what I did, and what I put her through, and even if there was," he said, flexing his cut up left hand, "I wouldn't do it. I'm not worth another chance."
Reese uncrossed her legs, leaning forward, "You know what I think? I think you're guilt ridden. You love your wife, but you're afraid to hope that there's a way to fix this."
"And why is that?" he sneered back, but she replied unaffected, "Because if you hope and you try and you grovel, and she doesn't forgive you, you wouldn't be able to come back from that."
His eye twitched and his gaze glazed over in anger, "You think you've figured me out in a single hour? Think again, and while you're doing that you might want to consider a career change."
"You—you know I'm a life coach?" she asked, for the first time appearing frazzled.
"Of course I do," he countered wryly, "And I also know your credit score, your social security number, even your late grandmother's dog's name. How is Randy, by the way?" he asked with a hard smirk, "Still adjusting to living in the city?"
He stopped her mumblings, "I've been steadily getting updates on you since we've been here. You didn't think I'd spill my guts to a total stranger without insuring that what was said wouldn't leave this bar, did you?"
"I—I would never tell anyone what we discussed," she flustered and he nearly rolled his eyes, "Your assurances mean nothing, but knowing I can make your joke of a career obsolete, well, now that's a full fledged guarantee, wouldn't you say?"
She shook her head disbelievingly and he smiled, "Still think I'm worth forgiving?" he asked as his pocket vibrated, "Hold that thought," he said, reaching into his pants for his phone, "This might be your bank account number," he teased harshly, but his face went blank when he saw who was calling.
The phone vibrated again in his hand and his fingers hovered over the screen.
"Apologize to your wife," Reese said, tapping his screen for him and getting up. He slowly brought the phone up to his ear as the woman grabbed her purse and walked away, leaving him alone.
"I'm, uh, I'm going to go to my room to, um, change," Charlie said and Luke nodded, letting her go because he knew she didn't know what to say and right then neither did he.
He was still trying to make sense of everything he'd just been told, but he wasn't succeeding. He had more answers and yet he still felt just as clueless, just as helpless. He pulled at his tie in frustration then turned and walked into his room, finding Sophie on his bed clutching his pillow, "So how did it go?" she asked in a tone so light Luke knew she felt like she was walking on eggshells.
"Carter Baizen and my parents and your mom and Uncle Nate have history together," he said, striding over and taking a seat at his desk.
"What?" she said, scooting to the edge of the bed, "What do you mean?"
"They've all known him since before high school," he said, mussing his hair, "But I won't get into it. At this point it's irrelevant since we don't know where he is nor will we get another opportunity to track him."
"Luke," she said, standing up, but he didn't want to hear it, "Spare me your reassurances," he told her and she huffed, "Fine," she said, walking up to him and he pulled back with a frown when she invaded his space.
"Let me," she said, leaning forward and he curled his fists tight when a bout of adrenaline suddenly kicked in, making his heart pound.
"What—what are you doing?" his mouth went dry when the ends of her hair brushed over his cheek.
"You never get this right," she said, fixing his pocket square then trailing her hands over to right his bowtie, "There," she smiled, pulling back, "Did that help any?"
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine," he bit back. What the hell had just happened? Whatever it was he didn't like it. "Everything is fine," he grated, spinning in his chair, not wanting to make eye contact, "We have an ex-con on the loose with a vendetta against my family and my parents aren't speaking, but yes, Sophia, thank you. Fixing my tie helped plenty," he mocked.
"You're welcome," she retorted then smacked him on the back of his head.
"Ow!" he said then cursed, "Why do you keep doing that?" he grumbled, that was the third time that day his head was smacked, twice by Sophie and once my Charlie, "I'm liable to need medical attention."
"You're liable to be a jerk," she said, but he found himself grinning, "Do you even know what liable means?" he asked, seeing the way her lips curled in annoyance.
"No," she pouted, "But you're a jerk anyway," she said, pulling a few blonde wisps behind her ear and he laughed, "Very true, but you were in context so does that help any?" he teased and she smiled tightly, "Actually it does, thank you," she said, then turned and sat back on his bed and folded her arms.
He tilted his head, but she refused to look at him and his smile died down, "Phee, thank you," he sobered and she looked down, "What for? I haven't helped. I'm here for nothing."
"You're here for me," he said without reserve, "Thank you."
"Yeah, well you should be grateful," she said, shooting daggers, "My parents are on their way and you probably won't see me again until who knows when."
He shook his head, "I told you I got you. You can take that to the bank."
"Uh, huh and how much would that be worth?" she said wryly.
"For you? A blank check."
Her pout turned into a grin, "Signed or unsigned?"
He smirked, "You do love your details."
"And you? You love to dodge," she said, throwing his pillow at him, but he caught it easily smiling.
"Ms. Sophie! Ms. Serena here!"
They turned to the door when they heard Dorota shout from the hallway.
"Well," she shrugged, standing up as he did too, "Time to cash in."
Blair had been the one to call, to initiate contact, something she would have done anything not to do, but she did for her children. She'd reconciled herself in those few moments after Luke and Charlie had left her, but now that she'd actually done it, she was all but mute.
"Blair?" she heard him say again when she didn't immediately respond. She knew she had to, but she was grossly unprepared. All this time she thought herself numb, but hearing Chuck's gravelly response made something twinge and ache and spread, and—it took her a moment to formulate words after that, though she eventually did.
"I need you to come ho—back to the penthouse," she faltered, saying 'home' would squeeze the last bit of restraint out of her, "The kids are back and we need to talk."
She heard his sharp intake before his insistent voice replied, "Charlie? How is she? Did that bastard—"
"She's fine," Blair cut him off, "Well as fine as she can be," she amended, sucking in a breath so that her voice didn't betray her.
Blair squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, willing tears not to form and they didn't, thanks to the commotion coming from the living room.
"Look, I have to go. Come or not, it's your choice, but I will be speaking with the kids today with or without you," she said, then ended the call and slid a hand up to her chest, settling herself enough to be able to walk out of the den, down the hall and back to the living room, passing Dorota as she went hauling a trash bag.
"I see you brought the whole cavalry," she said, nodding towards Nate, Serena and Dan when she got to the living room.
Blair smiled, surprising herself that she could and caught her son up in her arms, "Did you behave for Aunt Serena?" she asked, dropping a kiss on his cheek and Matty nodded, cuddling her closer until Blair groaned teasingly, "You're getting too heavy," she said, lowering him back onto the floor.
Matty looked around hesitantly then looked up at her, "Where's Daddy?"
Blair swallowed and Nate interjected, "Uh, buddy—"
"He'll be here soon," Blair kept her smile, stopping Nate from deflecting the question and Nate frowned, "He will?"
Serena smacked his arm and Blair glared at them both, "Yes, he will," she repeated. She had to believe he would be there, that there was at least one shred left of the man she married.
"When's soon?" Matty asked excitedly, all trace of sadness gone.
"Soon is soon," Blair told him wryly, tapping his chin up.
Everyone turned towards the staircase where Luke and Sophie were descending.
"Yes he is," she told her son while Sophie grimaced, "I'm really sorry," she told her parents.
"Sophia," Dan spoke up, his voice chiding, but Serena stopped him and he reluctantly nodded, "We'll discuss this later," he told his daughter, "For now go with Luke and take Matt and your brother back upstairs with you."
Sophie's looked back with confusion, "But—"
"Your trial's been adjourned," Luke murmured, "Don't question the court," he said and Blair watched as he spun her around and waved to Will and Matty as they started back up the stairs.
"So," Blair said, after the kids had gone, "What do you want?" she asked with her hands on her hips.
"Blair—" Serena started, but Blair interrupted her, "If this is some lame attempt to get me to rethink or reconsider things with Chuck, don't bother."
Serena pressed her lips together then looked at Nate and Nate rubbed his neck then shrugged, "Chuck didn't cheat on you."
"Nate!" Serena admonished him for his lack of tact, but Blair was too busy to really notice or care. Her mind raced and the air completely whooshed out of her as she took an involuntary step back.
"What—what do you mean he didn't cheat?"
"I—I spoke to him earlier," Nate replied, "I called him out for lying to you and he admitted it."
Blair shook her head, her heart was thudding in her chest, but she continued to refuse what was being said to her, "He could have easily lied to you," she said, turning around, not wanting to hear anymore, but Nate grasped her arm, turning her back to face him.
"Blair, he's not lying, Blair," Nate repeated, making her look at him, "He's not, but he knows what he did do and how much he hurt you so he doesn't want to admit what really happened."
She blinked rapidly and her teeth nearly chattered as she went hot and cold.
Somehow she knew he was telling truth, but she found she didn't feel any better. Every second still hurt more than the last.
"I'm fine," she said, pulling out of Nate's hold, "You said what you came to so now you can go."
"B, I can stay—"
"No," she told Serena, she needed to be alone. She needed to deal with her life and what was left of her marriage without interference, "Thank you both for coming and, Humphrey," she nodded and for once Dan didn't comment, knowing not to.
"Will! Sophie! Let's go!" Serena shouted. Blair was silent until Luke, Sophie and Will ran down the stairs.
"S, there is one thing you can do for me," she spoke up, immediately garnering Serena's attention, "Anything, what is it?"
"Let Sophie spend the night. I'll make sure she's home by lunchtime tomorrow."
"Serena," Dan protested so Blair shifted her gaze to him, "Dan, it's for Luke," she said and the man gaped at his given name being uttered by her.
"I—I, fine," he said as the kids came to a stop next to them.
"Are we leaving? Are you really angry?" Sophie asked and Luke jumped in, "I take full responsibility. I roped her into it as usual."
"It's okay," Dan said then put out a hand to his son who walked up and took it, "Sophie, come here," he said then with his free hand, wrapped it around his daughter, "I'll see you tomorrow," he told her, dropping a kiss on her head.
"What?" Sophie looked up.
"She's staying?" Luke said and Blair affirmed, "Yes, she is, so can you both go find Dorota in the kitchen and tell her to ready one of the guestrooms?"
"Please, go now," she said and Luke grudgingly gave in, tilting his head and motioning towards the hall so Sophie could follow him.
"Call if you need anything," Serena said, wrapping Blair in a hug, but Blair kept it light, "I won't, I'll be fine," she lied, because if she was honest with herself she didn't think she'd ever be fine again.
"Just think about what I said," Nate told her and she nodded, anything to get them out the door. She needed space to breathe before Chuck got there, but that was something she didn't end up getting because Chuck walked in through the door nearly right after Nate, Serena and Dan had walked out of it.
Chuck had rushed over, not giving himself time to think or second guess because there was nothing to second guess. He'd let Blair and the kids down more than his shame could allow him to admit, but no more. He did what he did and said what he had, and all he could do now was live with it, though he wasn't sure how he would be able to.
And he was even more unconvinced when he walked through his front door to find Blair standing there in the living room, pale, drawn, but still so beautiful that he wanted to take his injured left hand and slam it into a hard concrete wall again and again until his bones cracked for what he had done to her.
"I'm glad you came," she was the first to break the silence.
"Are you?" he couldn't help but ask and he wanted to curse himself for the countless time that day when she looked away, unable to meet his gaze.
"Let's go upstairs, before the kids see you—like that," she said and he became aware of what he must look like, rumpled clothes fit for disposal, bloodshot eyes and a five o'clock shadow.
"I—," he started to apologize and he wanted to laugh at how utterly ridiculous he would sound when there was so much else he had to atone for so he stopped himself and nodded, following her quickly up to their bedroom.
But it was a terrible idea. As soon as he entered the room he was confronted with one his many offenses. The broken glass was still there, the broken family portrait where he had accidentally thrown Blair against when they had been struggling with each other for the phone, a stupid phone.
He turned sharply to her and she seemed to know what he was thinking. Her hand immediately went up to the gauze covering her cut, "I'm fine," she said, but his stomach still roiled acidly, "Just hurry up and shower," she told him, "I'll gather up the kids when you're ready."
She turned to leave, but he couldn't let her, "Blair," he grabbed her arm and she flinched, making him release her instantly, "Wait," he pleaded, hands raised in a yielding gesture, "I—," fuck, where would he begin?
"I know you didn't sleep with that woman," she said, starting for him yet again, but he froze. He hadn't expected it. How had she known? Then he remembered and he cursed aloud.
"Nate?" he questioned and she nodded and he felt even more like a heel, like filth. He should have been the one to tell her, like he should have told her so much else.
"I'm sorry, Blair," he said, lowering his hands, but she wouldn't listen, "Don't—" she shook her head, but he had to, "I'm so damn sorry. I know that doesn't mean much after—"
"After what?" she lashed back, eyes blazing in bitter misery, "After I begged you repeatedly to tell our daughter the truth about our past and you refused? After I had to meet Carter Baizen in order to keep our secret and our daughter from hating us for the rest of her life?" she demanded, her voice choking out every single word, "After I was drugged, and stripped, and touched, and photographed, and blackmailed?!" she yelled, tears slipping down her cheek, each one scalded him. He felt the sting and the burn with a vice like grip that squeezed and crushed him, "After you went out and—," her voice wavered as his vision blurred, "I didn't, I couldn't," he told her, putting his hands on her cheek, needing to touch her, "I could never do that. I could never be with anyone but you."
She pulled away, pushing him away as she looked down, swiping at her flushed face, "The intention was still there—"
"Did you or did you not," she snapped, "Take that woman into our limo to sleep with her?"
He slowly closed his eyes, not noticing the moisture that seeped out the corners, "I did," he admitted, because all he could do was own up to the truth, "I wanted to hurt you for sleeping with—with—" he blinked tightly.
"But I didn't," she whispered with a heartbroken smile, "And you wouldn't listen. You wouldn't hear me out. You believed Carter Baizen over me—and then…that woman," she shook her head again, "Your apology is not enough. It's, it's not enough."
His chest heaved and he panted, he was losing it. He was losing her, "Will it ever be?"
She stared blankly and he brought his hand up to his roughened cheek when his chin quivered.
This time he shook his head, forcing words he'd rather cut his tongue out than say, "When do we tell the kids?"
"Charlie! Finally! Why the hell haven't you called? I've been worried sick."
"I'm sorry, E," she told her best friend over the phone, "I had to get away."
"And I get that," Evie said, "But you could have at least let me know you were alright. After the Gossip Girl blast—"
"I don't even want to think about that now, Eve—," she said, stumbling over her words as she shifted on her bed, "I made a huge mistake."
"What are you talking about?" Evie said, hearing the strain in Charlie's voice, "Just spit it out, you're starting to scare me."
"I shouldn't have gone looking for answers," she sniffled, her face flushing red as she tried to keep her tears from falling, "I ruined everything."
"Charlie, I'm coming over. Are you home?"
Charlie turned towards her door to see her little brother standing there, looking scared and lost.
"Evie, I have to go," she said, ending the call, cutting off Evie's protests, "Matty, when did you get here?" she said rushing over and scooping him up into a hug.
"Luke left me in his room and I heard lots of yelling again."
Charlie pulled back and looked into her brother's troubled blue eyes, "It's okay," Charlie soothed him, rubbing his back as she adjusted him on her hip to walk out of her room, but the hallway was silent and deserted.
"Where was the yelling coming from?"
Matty laid his head on his sister's shoulder then whispered, "Mommy and Daddy's room."
Charlie's nerves spiked as she walked up to her parents' room, her stomach bottoming out as if she were on a rollercoaster ready to take a plunge, "You sure?" she asked her brother and Matty nodded.
Why would there be yelling, if—
"Matty, is Daddy here?"
Matty shrugged, "Mommy said he was coming, but I still don't see him yet."
"Okay," Charlie said, trying to appear unaffected, but she could already feel her blood pressure rising with that bit of information, "Let's see," she said, securing her hold on him with one hand and using the other to knock on her parents' door.
She thought she would have to wait or knock again, but the door opened immediately and there stood their mother.
Blair put on a bright smile, but her face was streaked with tears.
"Mommy?" Matty said, his bottom lip protruding.
"Hey, sweetheart, none of that," Blair said, wiping her face then reaching for Matty, "Let's go downstairs."
"Mom," Charlie tried again, but Blair started walking, "Come on Charlie, your father will be joining us in ten minutes."
She was completely at a loss, but she was left no other choice but to follow. What was going on? She was so confused, but she didn't want her questions answers. It was so ironic that now she'd give anything not to know.
"Sit," Blair said and Charlie took the couch she'd sat in earlier and her mother did too so she was once again sitting opposite her.
"Mommy, I don't like it when you yell," Matty said, sitting on Blair's lap and Blair pulled him closer, "It's okay, Matty," she hushed, kissing his head, "I won't yell."
"Which room you like, Ms. Sophie? The one next to Mr. Luke?" Dorota asked as she walked down the hall with the young kids.
"Yeah," Sophie said, then they all came to an abrupt halt, seeing her and her mom and Matty sitting there.
"Did we miss the memo?" Luke asked.
Charlie was about to respond, but Blair spoke up, "Sophie, would you mind helping Dorota with your room upstairs?"
Sophie looked at Luke then back at Blair and nodded, "I'd love to help," Sophie said and Blair smiled, "Good, and Luke would you mind coming over and sitting next to Charlie again?"
"I don't like the looks of this," Luke remarked, and Blair arched a brow, "Lucas?"
"Yeah," he said dryly as he walked over, "Message delivered, received and processed," he said, sitting next to Charlie as Sophie disappeared up the stairs with the maid.
"What's going on?" Luke asked, "We're waiting," Charlie told him.
"What for?" he said.
"For me," was answered at the top of the stairs as Chuck walked down, hair wet, still tying his tie.
"Daddy!" Matty smiled, scrambling off Blair's lap and running towards Chuck, who lifted him up and squeezed him tight.
"I missed you," Chuck said, his voice thick as he kissed Matty's cheek and Matty squirmed with a laugh, "That tickles."
"I'm sorry," Chuck smiled, "I didn't have time to shave," he said then lowered Matty back onto the floor a few feet in front of her.
"Charlie," said Chuck, his tone so soft and graveled that nothing else mattered, not anything else. She rose from the couch and launched herself into her father's arms.
"You're okay?" he said, his hands tightening around her and she nodded, because she couldn't say a word, "Are you sure?"
Again, another nod because she was afraid if she did anything else she'd break in front of her brothers.
Chuck kissed her temple then pulled back.
"Later," she was quieted and made to take her seat again.
"Matty, could you go sit next to Luke for a few minutes while we talk?" Blair asked and Matty obeyed as her father sat down next to her mother facing them.
She already had a horrible feeling about the two feet separating her parents.
"I know," Blair started, but Chuck interrupted her, "Let me," he said, and her lips thinned tightly, but she nodded.
"I know things have been crazy around here lately and you might be confused or scared, but you shouldn't be. Your mother and I are here for each of you, and no matter what occurs, what happenstance or what outside influence tries to threaten us, that won't change."
She heard it all in a blur, their reassurances, how much they loved her and her brothers and how they didn't want to keep hurting each other and hurting her and her sibling in the process.
Her shoulders quaked. She'd done this. All this was happening because of her.
"I'm sorry," Charlie cried, tears splattering onto her cheeks, "This is all my fault, I'm so sorry."
"No, Charlie," Blair said quietly, desolately, "It's not your fault. It's ours. It's all so much bigger than what just happened. You're not to blame, sweetheart," and Chuck echoed her painfully, his voice low and cracking at the end, "Your mother's right. You're not at fault here, I am," but Charlie didn't listen. She knew what she'd done. She'd started the chain of events that had led them there. She'd ruined everything.
"What's going on?" Matty said frightened, looking back and forth, too young to grasp any of it.
"Mom and Dad are getting a divorce," Luke said harshly.
"What's a divorce?"
"Matty," Blair tried, but Luke beat her to it, "They're separating. They won't be living together anymore, either we'll move or Dad will, get it now?" Luke coldly laid it out and Matty's lip wobbled.
"You don't love each other anymore?"
Blair let out a strangled sound and Chuck cursed.
"You promise-promised. You promise-promised!" Matty sobbed then ran out and Charlie followed him, wanting to hold him, though she'd caused it all.
Luke stood and turned in a strange autopilot, following his brother and sister, not letting his gaze stray in his parents' direction as he went.
He took one step then two then another and another until he found himself in the den watching his sister on the sofa rocking their baby brother as he cried.
It all hit him at once. This was really happening.
Charlie turned, her gaze pooled with tears as it landed on him, "I'm really sorry, Luke," she hiccupped and he couldn't take it, the fire in his eyes became unbearable and turned, hightailing it for the nearest exit.
"Luke!" he was stopped by his father at the front entrance door, but he repelled his attempt, he hated it, he hated him. Right then he hated them both.
His reply when it came was cold and unfeeling, "Every other weekend now, that's how this is going to work, right?" he mocked sharply, "Well since it's a weekday I guess I'll address her," he said, centering his icy gaze on his mother's stiff form, "Don't say anything, don't try to stop me and don't follow me. I'll return in a few hours."
He turned, gripping the door's handle and pulling it open.
He flinched, pausing momentarily hearing Sophie's voice, but he hardened himself against it and kept going, to where? He wasn't quite sure.
He made it into the elevator, the doors closing on Sophie's face. She'd been just a step too late.
He didn't want anyone tagging along. He wanted to be alone.
He got to the ground floor and walked out, not even bothering with the limo. He walked, then ran, block after block, bumping into people as he went, but he didn't care.
Horns blazed when he ran into the streets, but he only ran faster.
He didn't know how long he'd been at it, but finally his lungs wouldn't let him go any further and he bent, nearly gagging on the sidewalk, with his hands on his knees trying to gulp in a much needed breath.
When he finally straightened he looked around to find he was only a block away from the Empire State Building.
Without thinking, he walked straight to it then entered, but there were too many people. He didn't want the crowds.
He tried to buy out the place for an hour and he was laughed at which only added to his fury so he took the elevator up, then at the first opportunity pulled the fire alarm.
Chaos erupted. Everyone was ushered out. He was sure the police and fire department would be soon to follow, but he didn't care. He hid until the place was deserted then he looked out into the city, letting the late afternoon sun beat down on him.
He took a seat as hot angry tears slipped down his cheek. He despised tears, they were a sign of weakness and they were useless, as useless as he felt, he thought with self-disgust as he wiped them away frustratingly. There had to be something he could do. His parents couldn't get divorced, they just couldn't.
"Luke?" came a tentative soft voice to interrupt his brooding thoughts.
Luke's breath hitched then he turned away defiantly, "Leave Sophia, I want to be alone."
"Please don't push me away," said Sophie as her voice cracked under the pressure.
Hearing the misery that was laced with her words made his breath shudder painfully as he scooted over in a silent invitation that she readily accepted.
"How were you let up?" he inquired.
"Your dad is writing a few checks downstairs."
He nodded as if nothing surprised him, "And how'd you find me?" he asked in a monotone as he tried to wipe away any trace of tears, any trace of weakness.
"I followed you, and even if I hadn't, it's the Empire State Building," she said as she motioned towards the skyline, "It's the ultimate rooftop, and—it's you, Luke...no one knows you like I do."
"No one knows me at all," he shrugged, "Nor would they care to."
"Leave before I say something we'll both regret," he cut in, splitting at the tension between them.
She looked down, her hand was resting so close to his, "I know about your parents."
He stiffened, "You know nothing," he retorted, "Go and run along with David, I'm sure he'd more than welcome your company."
She grew angry, "I know what you're doing and it won't work."
He turned to her, fed up with everything he couldn't control, "Let me put this into words that even you can comprehend," he told her callously, "I want to be alone. I don't want you here, I don't need you here, the only thing I need, is myself and this," he pointed out to the panoramic scenery, "Anything else, is a waste of my time."
Her eyes swam with tears, but she nodded, "Fine," she said, standing up, "Goodbye Luke, I hope you enjoy the view."
A/N: DON'T PANIC! I will fix Chuck and Blair, I swear. They just have to go through this first. This chapter was so hard for me to write which is why it took me so long. I hate writing Chuck and Blair and the whole family this broken, but it's a necessity so they could end up closer and stronger at the end of it. This fic is nearly done, I know I've been saying that, but it's the truth. There are about four chapters left. Then maybe I'll write the Luke and Sophie sequel, I'm not sure. Anyway, I know you probably want to kill me for writing Chuck and Blair this way, but can you still review with your thoughts? Next chapter will be the pictures coming out and the aftermath of that. Lots and lots of drama on the race to the end but it will be a happy ending, promise!