A/N: This is my idea of how Chuck and Blair could get back together. Thanks for reading! Enjoy :)
Should I give up,
Or should I just keep chasing pavements,
Even if it leads nowhere?
- Chasing Pavements by ADELE
The flowers are blooming when Blair realizes she might have made a mistake.
It's early May, and the future she thought she could avoid looms above her. Graduation is fast approaching – senior exams are only next week – and college is suddenly no longer a distant thing. She's going soon. So soon that she suddenly realizes that there's so much she needs to do, so much she needs to see, before she becomes Blair Waldorf the college girl.
And, consequently, she already knows exactly what she's doing this summer. Nate will be at the internship she encouraged him to take, and she has decided that in his absence she'll travel the world.
She has to.
Serena volunteers to come with her, and Blair loves her for it. But she realizes that this is a journey she has to take alone. There are things she has to figure out. About her relationship with Nate, about her enrollment at NYU, about…Chuck.
She hasn't really allowed herself to think about him since she and Nate got together (again). There's really no point in even comparing them. Nate is much healthier for her, she decides; he cares about her and he protects her and he brings her bouquets of roses just because he feels like it. So what if the sex – the little they have – is stale and the roses he brings are always yellow or white, never red? She doesn't want to think about what it all means – for them, for Chuck, for her – so she tries not to.
But Blair is and has always been the type of girl to overthink things, and being with Nate again hasn't changed that. (She thinks that maybe it should have). She's anxious to find out if the life she plans to build with him is really the life she wants. She needs to know if she can settle, if he's enough for her.
He's excited for her, excited that she's going to go to Valbonne and Budapest and the Volkan Mountains. He's excited enough that she almost decides not to go.
But she doesn't.
Prom is a joyous affair. (At least she convinces herself it is).
She wears a dark blue, floor-sweeping Nina Ricci gown with a sweetheart neckline, and, although she can't quite figure out why, the Eriksson Beamson necklace Chuck gave her more than a year ago. It nestles comfortably in the hollow beneath her throat, but Nate doesn't notice it as they dance to the strains of a stupid slow song. She wonders if he even knows it was a present from his [current] sworn enemy.
She guesses not, and she eyes it fondly as she assesses herself in the bathroom mirror at the Palace. She doesn't think she looks fat.
But that's wrong. She's not sure why, but she knows it's wrong. That necklace shouldn't be the reason she feels pretty.
So she takes the necklace off – achingly, reluctantly – and slips it neatly into the bosom of the fairytale dress she picked for a fairytale night. And she steps into the bathroom stall, because she realizes that maybe she hasn't changed as much as she thinks she has.
She has her finger halfway down her throat when the door swings open. (Because, of course, she forgot to lock it).
Chuck stares at her for a long moment, his dark eyes smoldering. Blair wonders what he's going to say, wonders if she even wants him to speak. She thinks she wants him to kiss her one last time, to make her feel alive before she becomes as porcelain as the bowl before her. But she can't – and won't – ask him for that. And she knows he won't give it to her.
So she pulls that beautiful necklace she'll never wear again out of her dress – she thinks she sees fire dance in his eyes as his gaze falls to her chest – and hands it to him with sorrow lining her face. Without a word, she pushes past him.
Because this fairytale ends happily, right? The princess and her prince. Nate and Blair.
Nate looks especially dapper tonight, and Blair smiles brightly when she approaches her white knight. She kisses him enthusiastically – perhaps too enthusiastically – and he good-naturedly steadies his hands on her shoulders and pushes her away. It's meant to be a meaningless gesture, but she won't take that. All she can see is that hint of disdain – so familiar – lurking in his eyes.
And so she musters a fake smile, sneaks off to a hidden corner, and waits for her dark prince to come find her.
She thinks that's how this story really ends.
He comes for her after a few minutes. She doesn't know why he's here or how he found her, but then again, he's always been able to find her. (It's both a curse and a blessing).
She can't see him, especially in the darkness she's created behind her eyelids, and she frets briefly that perhaps he's not who she thinks he is. But she can hear the sound of his footsteps, and that's more than enough for her.
He approaches her hesitantly – she can hear him sigh heavily – and then he puts his hands on her waist. He doesn't ask her if he can do it, and she wants to cry out. She didn't realize until now how much she needs to be grabbed. She shudders delicately, because it's been a year since she last slept with him and she's missed that touch and those eyes…
He moves closer to her after a moment, and her breath hitches in anticipation.
She wonders why this part of the story is never included in the fairytales. The temptation, the fire, the succumbing.
Maybe because this isn't a fairytale.
But Chuck folds her into his arms, and she lets out a sigh of relief she didn't even know she was holding in.
She doesn't know what he's doing, but she won't ask. She's afraid he'll stop.
"Just one dance, Waldorf," he breathes in her ear at last, smiling wryly. She grants him a quick grin, but there's a high keening sound in her ears and her eyes are dilating. Because he speaks her name almost as an afterthought, lingering and broken. It sounds so very unimportant, and she wonders if that's because she's become…less to him. Maybe he doesn't need to think about her anymore.
Regardless of his intentions, though, she won't refuse him this "dance." She can't stop herself from leaning into him; she thinks he means too much to her. She loves Nate, she does, but this boy is something different altogether.
And she just wishes she were happy without him.
But she's not, and he holds her because he knows that. He has always known that.
They don't dance. They sway back and forth, and suddenly, she can't breathe.
Because this feels like home, even though he's not her boyfriend and he's never said he loves her. This feels safe, even though she knows he's dangerous and she's held him when he's self-destructed. This feels like comfort, even though with him it's always fire and she's been burned too many times before.
She knows it's wrong and she knows it's betrayal and she knows it doesn't even matter because he's not – and probably never will be – ready to give her what she needs. But he is Chuck and she is Blair and she's not even sure Nate matters.
When Chuck finally releases her, she starts to cry, and he kisses her forehead gently. She realizes that he's letting her go for real this time. She realizes he's resigned himself to the reality of her and Nate living together, making a home with each other. She realizes that maybe he loves her.
She wants to save him from this pain, but she's with Nate now. That won't change. (She doesn't know if she wants it to).
But when he clasps the necklace around her neck again and strokes her cheek, as if he's memorizing her features, she realizes she's sobbing.
And then he's gone.
She thinks she'll remember this day forever. It's graduation. Everything is ending. High school. Her reign as Queen B. Her…bond with Chuck. Her late-night sleepovers and all-day shopping sprees with Serena.
She's wearing a white Dior sheath under her itchy black robe, and a blue cap and tassel balance haphazardly on her perfectly conditioned curls. And she's smiling wider than she ever thought possible.
Because she's finally getting away from all this toxic energy. She loves New York, she does – she's almost afraid to leave the comforts of her home– but this school holds so many bad memories. There are good memories, too, but those she will always carry with her. She doesn't need these brick walls to remind her.
Her valedictorian speech goes smoother than she expected. She's not the nervous type, of course, but she thought that this particular speech would feel…different.
But it doesn't.
She doesn't stutter, doesn't stumble on her way to the podium, doesn't suddenly forget what she's supposed to be saying. It could be any other speech, really. Except this time, there are unshed tears in her eyes and her gaze falls involuntarily on Chuck. (She can't help it any longer).
He looks handsomer than she remembers (and she thinks she remembers everything). His hair is mussed, exactly as it was at his father's funeral – as morbid as that is, she loves him best like that, because he looks so very unkempt. His eyes are sparkling, she thinks, and he's smiling. He looks happy, and suddenly, there's an uncomfortable ache in the pit of her stomach. Maybe it's selfish, but she doesn't want him to be happy without her.
Okay, so it is selfish. Oh well.
She starts crying – literally, tears streaming down her cheeks, making her mascara run – halfway through her speech. She doesn't wipe the tears away, because she feels guilty about them. She deserves them.
Only her closest friends (the sad part is, she's not sure she can include Nate in that) know that she's not crying for the ending of high school. She's crying for a different ending. She's crying for the ending of the Blair she once was.
She misses that Blair, the Blair one boy almost loved and another one scorned because she threw away her problems in a porcelain bowl. She still loves the boy she thought could love her – she knows she'll never stop – and the boy who rejected her now loves her.
She's crying at the irony of such a situation.
Nate hugs her happily when she steps off the stage, and he envelops her so completely that she doesn't think she can breathe. She convinces herself that maybe she's just imagining it. She doesn't usually feel like he's suffocating her.
The couple – oh, how she wishes it weren't so! – breaks apart after a long moment, and she sees consent in his eyes. He wants to give her everything she's wanted, and he'll wait for her.
But she's not sure she wants him to.
As soon as she has officially graduated, she buys herself a ticket to France and bids Nate an affectionate – if half-hearted – adieu. She hugs Serena tearfully and wishes her luck with Dan (try as they might, the two couldn't seem to stay away from each other). She calls Chuck and leaves him a curt message, because despite everything they've been through, he's still her friend and she still cares about him.
And then she leaves.
She reads Wuthering Heights on the plane. She doesn't want to be presumptuous, but she thinks her and him – she can't think his name yet – are like Catherine and Heathcliff.
She dreams of fire.
She awakes with a jolt. The sky outside the plane window is blatantly blue, as is the blanket covering her suddenly shivering body. She assumes the flight attendant – a very attractive blond man (but blonde's not her type) – put the blanket on her, and she smiles, because Nate would have done that exact same thing.
But her smile fades when she remembers the last time Chuck left her.
He put a blanket on her then, too.
She rents a black Jaguar when she lands and speeds off into the foothills of southern France. She called her father just before she boarded the plane, and he confirmed that he is in France and in his chateau (she's not sure what she would have done if he were traveling or something).
She's excited to see him – and Roman, she concedes grudgingly – and she can't wait to walk through the vineyards and slip on a beret when she goes shopping in the market. This village is beautiful, and she fully intends to enjoy herself while she's here.
At least, she'll try.
Besides, this place is new. She won't have to confront any painful memories.
Her father is delighted to see her, and she him. He takes her on a long tour of the sprawling house (more like a mansion, she thinks ruefully) and tells her she can stay as long as she likes. She declines the invitation, of course – she does have to go to college in the fall (unfortunately) – but she promises she'll stay for at least a couple weeks.
She does a lot of sightseeing the first few days she's there. She takes her Jaguar and visits the Louvre and Versailles and the Eiffel Tower. It's pleasant to drive through a country like this, she decides. She turns up the radio as loud as she can during her long, solo road trips (one time she spends twenty-five hours driving) and sings along to all the French songs she recognizes. It's so unlike her, but she's enjoying this version of Blair.
She's in awe of everything she sees. Her problems, her life…it all pales in comparison to the grandeur of such places as the Sun Palace and the Ardennes Woods.
Oh, how she loves this place!
When she tires of seeing ancient buildings, she falls into a routine (she always did love tradition). In the mornings, she goes for a run through the switchback streets surrounding the chateau (she's never been one for exercise, but this feels different). After working up a sufficient sweat, she dons her new Trina Turk bikini before lounging by the infinity-edge pool. She reads sometimes, but mostly she just stares up at the yellow sun and thinks about how far she's strayed from who she wants to be.
She makes lunch with her father most days, slicing fresh mozzarella and the ripest tomatoes she can find, because she's never cooked anything before and she suddenly can't wait to learn. After those lazy lunches, she takes long walks through the expansive vineyards with Roman – she thinks she might be beginning to like him – and occasionally plucks grapes from the twining trees.
She doesn't throw up any of the food she eats.
While her father and Roman take their nap – they're so senile, she thinks lovingly – she heads into the small town of Nice to shop for white sundresses and thong sandals. She sees a lot of cute, shirtless boy with sexy accents, and she even talks to some of them. (To hell with Nate!) But mostly she just wanders the cobbled allies and engages the shopkeepers in conversation about the problems they've had selling their fish (she feels like Serena).
The evenings are quiet – most things are around here. She sits out on the terrace and sips chilled white wine while her father and Roman exchange playful banter about the merits of this wine and that grape. Dessert is usually some exotic fruit or peaches from the garden, and she makes a wish on a shooting star – there's always at least one – as soon as she eats the last crumb.
She still wishes for that fairytale ending.
She calls Nate after dinner most nights – some nights she doesn't have the energy to be the bossy, bitchy Blair he knows and loves (loves?). She tells him she loves him and that she'll be home soon. It's mostly true.
She texts Serena every night, because she won't lose her, too. Nate is slipping away, and she thinks she can handle that. But Serena is her best friend. And so she sends her that responsible "I'm fine and I love you" text that is even more warranted after this particular jaunt to a different country.
She even texts Chuck, more than she should. Basic, noncommittal texts. She thinks she owes him that much.
She knows she owes him more.
She leaves France – and her father's castle (oops, she meant to say chateau) – on July 4th. She's not sure why she picks that day. She thinks that's maybe because that has always felt liked the middle of the summer, even though there's almost two months left before the NYU orientation. (She thinks she might be transferring to a liberal arts school as far away from New York as possible, but that's a different story).
Oh well. August always felt shorter anyway.
She carts the one Louis Vuitton suitcase she decided to take with her – she only decides to bring the new clothing she bought and leave the rest at her father's house - to her suave car and nods to Harold and Roman before heading towards Belgium. She shoves her Marc Jacobs sunglasses down over her shining eyes – for once, they're not sad – and lets her hair blow in the wind as she speeds east.
Belgium is small but charming. She stays in Brussels in a bed-and-breakfast that is cozy and pretty. She feels like a college student living abroad, and she enjoys it more than she thought it would. She doesn't feel lonely, despite the loss of the company of her father and Roman. She doesn't miss Nate either.
And she doesn't let herself think about Chuck.
She goes to the beach a lot (there's not much else to do around here), wearing bright blue sarongs and lime green string bikinis. She goes topless once or twice, just because she's in Europe and she enjoys being ogled by ripped men in Speedos. The hot summer sun does wonders for her creamy, unblemished skin, and she reads trashy romance novels she finds in this tiny little bookstore a block down from her hotel. (Somehow, she manages to find messy English translations for her favorite classics).
She doesn't sightsee much while she's in Belgium, mostly because she's tired of museums. She thinks she wants to live instead of just looking at musty paintings (no offense to art, of course).
So she goes on a couple of dates with hot foreigners – she doesn't think twice about Nate – and she parties until dawn. She sings crazy karaoke songs in seedy bars while fat, sketchy old men cheer on. She strolls down the rocky streets and smiles at everyone she passes.
In a week, she heads to Germany.
She drives through a few flyover countries – and cities – she can't pronounce the name of before she reaches Berlin. It's a beautiful city, despite its decadent history. (But no, she won't think that; she can't blame Germany's people for the mistakes the country made over sixty years ago).
She loves it here.
It's humid and it's polluted and its people speak a language she knows she'll never be able to understand. And it's wonderful.
She walks along the Berlin Wall – what's left of it – one morning. She learned all about it in AP US History, of course, but it feels more real now that she's seen it in person. She feels all the pain and anguish associated with those charred and broken remains, and her problems seem to pale in comparison. It's awfully humbling.
She takes a tour of the Chancellor's building the night before she plans to leave (a week and a half after she arrives). The streets are lit up, but somehow, the scarce stars are twinkling. It must be about nine' o'clock, and she's still allowed into the building. (She marvels at that). She soon discovers that the last tour doesn't even start until eleven. She's so glad she's in Germany.
The tour lasts about an hour, and in that brief period of time Blair decides what she wants to do when she grew up. She always thought she'd just be a statesmen's wife or a litigations lawyer, but this tour of a legislator's office has completely changed her outlook.
She wants to be a politician. She wants to help people.
She leaves for Poland the next morning. It's a long drive, and she's not safely tucked into a warm bed until four in the morning – the next morning. But the city is lit by torches and the view from her window is of the sprawling skyline.
She spends a couple weeks in Warsaw, visiting the Auschwitz Concentration camp, gazing at the snow-capped Carpathian Mountains, and taking a road trip so she can skinny-dip in Lake Sniardwy. The water is clear and pure, and she allows herself to fantasize about Chuck as she floats naked through the rippling currents. (She decides it no longer matters if it's betrayal or not).
She goes to the Czech Republic, which is south of Poland, after that. Prague is breathtaking - and, thankfully, a fashion capital of the world. She shops more than is probably necessary, visiting high-end boutiques in the mornings and watching marionette shows while sipping Pilsener beer in the afternoon (so what if it's too early to drink?) It's eerily reminiscent of all the times she's seen Chuck drink scotch right after breakfast - Nate barely sips champagne.
Next is Austria, where she makes a special trip to the deathplace (if that's a word) of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. She also visits the Pannonian Plain (too dark and arid for her taste) and the Belvedere Palace (regal and sophisticated, a beautiful place to raise her children with...who?)
And then she's off to Italy.
She stays in Rome, of course, and she visits Vatican City – she's not very religious, but she figures there's a first time for everything – and the Colosseum. She eats all the pasta she can and goes to Milan for a few impromptu fashion shows.
And then…then she boards a plane to Spain. It's the middle of August now, and she needs to head home. She has people to make amends with, people to apologize to, people to love and people to accuse. It's time to face everything she's ever run away from.
And that's a lot of things.
She visits Seville first, where she walks through the cathedral and goes jogging every morning, then the Italian Riviera (she stays in the Portofino del Amor – the port of love), then Madrid. And then, she drives her car through yet another bustling city and boards yet another plane.
Because she's going to get that fairytale ending.
She feels calm now. (Somehow).
The private jet – this time, her father simply wouldn't allow her to fly coach – descends towards the JFK airport, and she closes her eyes. She's been preparing for this moment all summer, and her only worry is that she thinks it'll feel anticlimactic.
She has this whole speech planned out (a ten-hour flight from Madrid leaves room to think). She's going to tell Nate that she loves him – she does – and that she's sorry – she is – but that she won't be moving in with him and that she thinks they're over – she knows they are. She thinks she's tired of playing these stupid games, tired of fooling herself.
She smiles ruefully as the blue sky stretches next to her, because she didn't think Serena would ever be right about something.
Chuck is a thornier problem, of course. She has no idea what she's going to say to him – or about him.
But she decides that doesn't matter right now. Nate promised her he'd be waiting outside the gate when she stepped off the plane, and he's her main concern. She knows what it feels like to be ambushed by betrayal, and so she won't mention Chuck at all. He doesn't need to feel like she's choosing someone else over him (even though she is). Besides, this isn't about Chuck.
Not really, at least.
A flight attendant walks up to her once the plane hits the ground with a dull thud that resonates in her ears. The woman is very…generically attractive, Blair thinks; she has long, swishing blond hair and bright blue eyes and blindingly white teeth. Blair smiles a little. This woman has nothing on Serena.
"We've reached New York, Miss Waldorf," breathes the flight attendant warmly. Blair musters a smile and stands up, brushing imaginary lint off the pink Miu Miu sundress that hugs her sun-kissed curves. She sighs heavily and nods, reaching up to grab her bags from the overhead compartment.
But the flight attendant stops her, flashing a gracious smile. Blair almost resents that; she thinks she can do it herself. (It's something Nate would do).
Blair wrenches the handle of her suitcase away from the gorgeous flight attendant before the woman has a chance to register the change. She grins haughtily – she is a Waldorf after all – and the flight attendant falters.
Blair sweeps past her, rolling her sole suitcase behind her (she packed light. For once). She grants the pilot a quick thank-you and descends the stairs that lead into the heat of a New York summer.
She's missed this humidity, she thinks. Europe always has a cool ocean breeze, but New York – although not completely land-locked – feels lacking sometimes. She likes the smog, though. (It feels like home).
Nate's standing at the bottom of the stairs, as expected. He's holding a bouquet of white lilies, and a smile graces those beautifully tan features. Blair can see his blue eyes sparkling even from the top of the stairs, and she thinks she feels a pleasant flutter in the pit of her stomach.
But as her eyes trace the gold in his brown hair, she realizes she's not attracted to him. Maybe she never really was. She's just nervous about the conversation she knows she has to have with him.
She approaches him casually, mustering a fake smile, and pulls him into a brief hug. He feels strong as always, broad shoulders and taut, rippling muscles and smooth lines. But she doesn't pause to breathe in the scent lingering to the curve of his collar. She thinks she's tired of that stupid cologne he always wears. It's not strong enough; he smells like soap and lightness and summer. He smells boring.
He is boring.
Nate smiles widely at her, though, and she makes herself keep her smile in place. (It's harder than she expects).
"Welcome home, Blair," he exclaims. "I brought you flowers!"
He sounds excited – too excited, she thinks – and she cringes. She murmurs, "Actually, Nate…"
"What?" His smile fades, because no matter the difficulties of his relationship with Blair, he still knows her well (better than anyone else). At least, he thinks he does (he doesn't, but he's a prince and princes are never smart). And so he knows there's something wrong.
Blair places a soft hand on his shoulder and closes her eyes. She realizes this was a stupid idea, really; she should have known better than to try and explain this to him quickly. (Or explain this to him at all). There's no way he's ready to hear this, any of it, and she's not sure she's ready to say it either. This may be harder than she initially thought – or planned.
"I need some space," she blurts out. She's uncharacteristically nervous.
And he, justifiably, glares at her in surprise and protests, "You just went to another continent for the whole fucking summer!"
She reels back in shock; he's never cursed at her before. He doesn't curse much, really. She only remembers a few times he cursed – and never at her – and one of those times was when his father was arrested. (He lost it completely then). He's usually not baling over with passion, usually not simmering with well-concealed anger. That's Chuck's forte.
But no. She's not thinking about that.
She pushes past Nate gently, whispering in his ear, "I think it's over."
He gapes at her in shock, but the astonishment in her eyes is far greater. Because Chuck is standing behind Nate, and he's holding a bouquet of red roses and there's a single tear trembling on his dusky eyelashes and he's smiling a little and suddenly she can't breathe. He's here now and before she can think about it, she's crying and it doesn't matter what Nate says.
Because Chuck is holding red roses, and Nate is holding white, virginal lilies. And she's not a virgin. She's a temptress, and maybe she always has been. Yes, Nate is a prince, but she's not quite sure she's even a princess. She doesn't need to be saved. Not by him, at least.
And so she runs into Chuck's arms.