The night was at its darkest, and all around the Waldorf home there was silence like you could not compare with any other silence. Hard to compare, that silence, because it was hardly ever the same silence behind every other door in that building. Silence, Harold Waldorf heard, even though white noise from the television screen drowned out every other noise in his ear.
It was silence, of course, because the only sound he wanted to listen to in the dead of the night was the voice of his little princess begging for a fairy tale.
Harold Waldorf huffed, because he had read Blair hundreds and thousands but even then it did not seem that she learned enough to pick a side. The cable was cut, and all he could see on the screen was the white spots that accompanied the dead signal. Harold pulled himself up, puffing at the exhaustion that settled in his body as he trudged towards the telephone to call the cable operator.
Huffed and puffed when he found the phone line dead.
Now Harold was a cheery man—had to have been to raise a daughter so perfect and well-mannered, so pristine that the Vanderbilts moved heaven and earth to set their heir with her. Harold Waldorf was a cheery man yet he growled at finding himself disconnected to the rest of the world.
"Eleanor," he called out.
But there was dead silence, this time real silence with the television off. There was not a stir in the house until he heard a shuffling noise from up the stairs. He glanced up and listened well.
"Eleanor," he called once more, but there was no response.
He climbed the stairs and walked to the master's bedroom, peered inside to find his wife gone. Harold walked in and spied the small note left on the pillow.
"Summoned to the Palace," was written in her hasty scribble. Harold let out a quick sigh of relief in knowing she, at least, was safe. Likely working with Blair on the grandest dress ever seen, to let their daughter live out the fantasy that his daughter always dreamed of as a child.
Pity Blair was marrying the Dark Prince rather than her knight.
Again, that soft, muffled noise. From where he was he could tell immediately that it came from several yards away, from Blair's room. Harold walked towards a portrait taken of himself, of Eleanor and of Blair and pushed it aside to reveal a safe. He entered his code that fancifully made the first few notes of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. As Harold took out the gun he had not used for as long as he had a daughter, his hand trembled.
Because he knew his daughter and there was no way she would be home.
Not after he disavowed the one man she was convicted was the love of her life.
Harold made his way to his daughter's room and flipped on the light switch. But the darkness persisted and the light failed to flood. Instead there was that small night light that cast eerie shadows in the room. It was the only light he had, that light he promised his daughter would always be lit to guide her home.
A large shadow cast over him as a figure stood from Blair's bed. Harold unsteadily raised the gun.
"There is no need for war, Mr Waldorf," he heard a deep voice say.
"Dark Prince," Harold mumbled.
"I truly wish you would call me by my name. Your daughter has no problem with it. You were such a brilliant employee, Mr Waldorf. I would think you have the capacity to understand."
Harold frightfully turned to his side where another figure loomed. He choked out relief when the night light threw enough glow to show the glimmer of golden hair and reveal the features of Nathaniel Archibald's face. "Thank goodness!"
And instead of the expectations he had of Nate saving him, Harold found himself gently and firmly disarmed. "Take a seat, Mr Waldorf," Nate requested. And in awe—and truly very practically given that he was an old man versus two strong young men—he did.
At Chuck's motion, Nate nodded and stepped out of the room. "The funny thing about security," Chuck said to Harold, "is that it works only up to the last point where your trust is misplaced. Unfortunately for you, you banked on Nate Archibald being your son that you failed to acknowledge that he would form friends along the way."
"Friends who would lead him to betray me."
Chuck shrugged. "Friends who would love your daughter so much they would leverage everything that they can, do all that they can, even break into your home."
"What do you want?" Harold demanded from the Chuck shadow. His fear—he would admit there was fear—rose to his throat. There were many things the Basses were capable of, and now he was the clutches of the hidden one.
And everyone knew the hidden Bass was a monster.
Yet Harold faced him bravely. If this monster had his daughter, he would try his very best not to be defeated. Perhaps there was a chance he would still have Blair back.
"You already have my daughter. I can think of nothing else I value that you would want from me. With Blair you have everything I love."
To the question the Dark Prince seemed genuinely confused, "Whatever more would anyone want if he had Blair?"
"Then what are you doing here?" Maybe—just maybe, but he truly hoped not—Chuck Bass was there to off him, Harold thought. After all, most of those fairy tales truly moved with the death of the princesses' fathers.
"All I want is to make Blair happy. And I cannot do that by myself. For that she needs to hear your blessing."
"I can take her back," Harold offered once more.
"You will not take her," Chuck gritted out.
Harold thought long and hard. Bells, Blair said. Even he could not refute her love for this young man. If she heard bells, if she felt her heartbeat skip, if she saw her world turn upside down—if she braved the Upper West Side to bring this young man home…
"I cannot give my blessing, because you are incapable of love," Harold said finally.
Chuck took a breath. Harold held his. If the Dark Prince morphed into a grotesque monster and chopped off his head to gnaw off his ears, he would not be surprised.
Chuck leaned forward, and swallowed. His voice soft, Chuck pulled himself together with the memory of the sweet mango nectar on his tongue. "Then let me tell you a story—it's the story of a little boy who was abandoned and scorned, then imprisoned in a golden cage for the beginning of his life."
"Some things you cannot explain away through a fairy tale. Life is not a fairy tale." Harold found that out first hand as his own daughter spiraled away from hers and found love in the arms of the devil.
Chuck grimaced. "Who ever said my story was a fairy tale?" he asked.
"What is it?"
"A horror story that changed into fantasy the day I saw your daughter through the Mirror."
Harold stared at the Dark Prince, watched the light from the night light throw some shades onto what had previously just been shadows. And he listened—he listened very well. "Once upon a time," Chuck began, "in a Palace high up in the sky." And Harold listened well, watched as the shadows moved and played upon the angles of the Dark Prince's face. And Chuck spoke about his mother. "Who died but did not truly die, who lived far away—wealthy and healthy but never had a moment to cradle her son." Chuck spoke about his childhood. "A long succession of days chasing imagined friends in empty corridors all the while watched for his father's fear of another attempt on his life."
And all through the night the story continued, and Chuck's voice faltered, grew hoarse, but on he went. The darkness competed with the sun and slowly the sun's rays burned away at the fringes of the night.
More and more the shadows caved and skittered away, and as the morning came the monster was revealed to be a young man.
"And then, in that dreary world, I opened the door and she walked in," he said. "That was the day my life began." Chuck looked up to Harold, and Harold realized that the Dark Prince—Chuck Bass, he corrected himself—had quite the warm brown eyes. "I will not die again. I will not lose her."
"She doesn't want to leave you. She never will," Harold found himself assuring the young man who bared his soul through the night.
"The way I see it, there are only two choices here. The first is that you give your blessing, and you come to our wedding and walk her down the aisle. You would witness her dreams coming true, not in the way he expected, or wanted, but there are happy endings that are surprises. That was how it was for me. The other option is that you do not give your blessing, and you swear us off for the rest of your life. Your daughter will be heartbroken, but I will spend the rest of my life loving her and someday, your absence will not hurt as much. And that day would come, Mr Waldorf. If you insist on that path I will do everything in my power so that she will no longer need you, and she would be happy without you."
"A daughter and her father—that is a bond your riches will never break."
"Better her heart break now than slowly fracture the rest of her life. We will have children," Chuck said.
Harold imagined little people with Blair's and Chuck's faces.
"If you do not come around now, then they would not even know your name."
And at first it sounded like a threat.
"But I would rather they know you, and they love you," Chuck continued, "because I know how it was to be brought up not knowing the existence of family. And I would spare my children that if I can." Chuck stood, then asked. "What do you say, Mr Waldorf?"
There was more gray than black to his hair, more lines and wrinkles than he cared for. Many things changed over time. Harold Waldorf sat on the grand chair sitting at the center of the room and opened the leatherbound book sitting on the bedside table.
Two pairs of brilliant brown eyes twinkled at him. Noses and mouths were hidden behind the light blue and pastel pink fleece blankets.
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," he said out loud.
The pink blanket was thrown off one little body and the girl scampered to her knees on the bed. She peered towards the book he held, then folded her arms across her chest. She huffed, then pouted. "I want my bedtime story!" she insisted.
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is nice. Remember the song you were laughing about? Heigh ho, heigh ho! That's from this story."
If possible, the pout grew poutier and teary eyes turned to the boy under the blue blanket. Now he'd done it, Harold realized. A deep sigh—like the one much much older people were wont to have—came from the little boy. The boy pushed off his blanket and hopped off his bed, then climbed up his sister's. "Don't make her cry, grampa," he said. "Just read us the story."
Harold stifled a grin, then said, "Cinderella."
The little boy's sharp eyebrows drew together. Although Eleanor talked to him about it time and again, Harold still enjoyed riling the two. The little girl's reaction when she did not get what she wanted threw him back to the days when he was younger and Blair still believed she was really the most beautiful princess in the world.
Really, not a lot had changed. Only it was Blair's husband's job now to assure her of her beauty and royalty. Harold quite enjoyed reliving the days through the little girl's pout. And he had to imagine, after twenty eight after dinner drinks with Bartholomew Bass, when Harold was no longer too scared of the man that Bart confessed to him he really did not know how a small Chuck behaved when he did not get what he wanted, that he would be a bit like his son.
The little boy shook his head, then looked up at Harold in disappointment. "You know that's not Cinderella, grampa."
"Fine, I'll read it," Harold said.
"See, Saby? Grampa was just messing with us. Stop it, grampa."
The little girl sniffled and nodded.
"All right," Harold said. "I'm not going up against the Basses."
The little boy climbed back up to his own bed. Harold nodded towards the door as Blair and Chuck walked in to tuck the children back in. Chuck sat with the girl and Blair kissed the boy's forehead.
"The Dark Prince and the Fairy Princess," Harold read, "by Daniel Humphrey."
The little girl gave a tiny little squeal.
"It's her favorite," her brother unnecessarily explained, omitting the fact that it was quite his favorite story too.
"Is that right?" Harold asked. The boy emphatically nodded.
"Once upon a time, there were two towers that stood in the city far away in distance, but closer than many other people would realize. In the tower, where there was an attractive glowing ball of light, lived a little princess who was the most beautiful in the world. And then in the other, high up in the sky, there lived a little boy who wished above all the toys and all the candies in the world, that he could come and touch that light."
There were different points of the story when he caught the glances between Chuck and Blair, times at which Blair would lean down and whisper an addendum in her son's ear, points during which Chuck would tag a joke that Harold could tell eased his own tension of remembrance. It still surprised him how Chuck had agreed to a children's book that so obviously took much from their lives, but knowing Blair's penchant for the fantastic he had no doubt she was instrumental in the sign off to make her a living fairy tale character.
At the end of the story, Harold placed the book back on top of the bedside table and greeted them goodnight. And then he walked over to the night light sitting by the window and switched it off.
"No need for this," he said. "Everyone's home."
And then he stepped out of the room.
Chuck walked towards the window and switched the light back on. He turned to Blair and said, "You never know who else in the city looks forward every night to this light."
Blair nodded, then looked out the window and scanned the darkness, as if she could possibly see anyone out there. "Sleep tight," she whispered to that stranger out there who may be watching her children's window. And she leaned against her prince and said, "Come on, Chuck. Leave the kids to their dreams."
Above all else, the princess wanted happiness and the prince wanted love. So they would lie together in bed, wake together, and live the rest of their lives together. Once upon they had nothing and tonight they had everything.
So leave the kids to the nighttime, the light that sat upon the window and all their dreams. After all, the Dark Prince and the Fairy Princess sure fulfilled theirs—
And—just looking at the products of their love sleeping peacefully under their fleece blankets—quite, quite beautifully.