Five times Chuck Bass asked Blair Waldorf to marry him...

Chuck Bass tried to convince himself that he wasn't nervous. He assured himself that there was absolutely nothing fluttering in his stomach. But as he stared down at the shimmering flawlessness of the diamond engagement ring before him, somehow he suddenly felt anything but confident.

Oh, he had been merrily self-assured these past few days, certain that Blair Cornelia Waldorf would be eager to agree to become his wife once he made his proposal. She loved him, after all. He knew that, because once the two of them started saying those three little words to each other they discovered that neither of them were able to stop, so both enjoyed daily assurances of the other's affections.

Plus they had been living together for almost two years now, therefore marriage would seem the logical and expected next step. Blair wouldn't be shocked by the abruptness of his proposal the way Serena had been when Dan Humphrey asked her to marry him only a few weeks after they had reunited for the fourth (or had it been the fifth?) time. According to Blair his stepsister had been stunned into silence for several seconds before stuttering something about having forgotten to pick up her dry cleaning and making a hasty exit. The humiliating episode had spelt the end of yet reconciliation between the pair.

Blair Waldorf loved weddings, was obsessed with catching the bouquet at every single one she dragged Chuck along to, ooh-ing and ah-ing over centrepieces, flower girls' dresses and multi-tiered cakes. And she had always wanted to get married relatively young. She wouldn't reject his proposal the way Vanessa had rebuffed Nate's by arguing that they needed to experience more of life first, informing him that she hated the idea of wasting thousands of dollars on a chance to look like a meringue and a concept that was a trifle outdated anyway.

Moreover, he was Chuck Bass. Any girl would be crazy not to want to marry him. Between the billion dollar bank balance, searing good looks and sexual magnetism, he was quite the catch.

At least these were the arguments with which he had assured himself of success over the past few days, never faltering in his belief Blair would happily accept him.

Until now, when the moment had finally arrived to ask her. But having pulled the ring from his pocket and held it out to Blair, who was gaping at it in shock, he suddenly found himself full of dread of rejection and unable to think of a single thing to say that might induce the vision of perfection before him to permanently tie her fate to his.

He hadn't prepared anything to say, trusting that his natural ability with words, which had always served him well with her in the past, would enable him to wing it.

And of course he'd had plenty of practice proposing to Blair Waldorf. He had done it four times in the past, and every time she had said yes.

The first time Chuck Bass asked Blair Waldorf to marry him he was six years old.

Six year old Chuck had liked six year old Blair because she wasn't silly like some of the other girls in their class. She didn't giggle annoyingly like Serena or chase him around the room like crazy-eyed Georgina. And, unlike Nate, she understood why he didn't want to get his suit dirty by playing in the sand pit.

But Chuck had only decided to marry her after they had successfully deployed their first plot of social destruction together. The two of them had decided to seek revenge against a pig-faced boy named Sean Davis who constantly teased Chuck about his scarf and annoyed Blair by stealing her headbands. They had drawn a very naughty picture, incorporating some choice swear words thanks to Chuck's increasingly colourful vocabulary, and signed Sean's name to it. When the teacher had found it Sean had been severely lectured before his parents were called, prompting the bully to burst into tears, leaving him exposed to the ridicule and laughter of the rest of the first grade.

Seeing Blair smile innocently as Sean Davis sobbed and begged the teacher not to call his parents, Chuck had known instinctively that she would make a good wife for him.

Besides, Chuck had long been fascinated by the impish brunette's pouty cupid's bow mouth, which her strawberry-tinted lip gloss made very shiny. He wanted to know if her lips tasted as good as they looked, and if they were married she would have to let him kiss her.

So he had walked up to the doll-like little girl, prepared to formally ask for her hand.

He took a deep breath and then treated her to his biggest smirk before blurting out, "You're going to marry me Waldorf."

Blair had scrunched up her tiny, cute as a button nose. "Oh yeah?" she questioned challengingly.

"Yup," Chuck had grinned with a confident leer.

"Shows what you know Bass," she retorted. "Cos I'm going to marry Nate."

Chuck frowned. He never liked it when Blair decided to play games with the other boy rather than him. To get revenge, when he and Nate built fortresses together he always made a point of telling Blair that 'girls weren't allowed'.

"Why?" he asked crossly.

Blair looked at him like he was very stupid indeed. "Because when I went to his house he showed me the big diamond ring that he'll give me when I do. It's been in his family for practically forever."

A crease appeared in Chuck's forehead as he considered how to overcome this problem.

"But everyone knows my daddy has more money than Nate's daddy. If you marry me, I'll buy you an even bigger ring," Chuck argued.

Blair paused, considering. "Okay then," she replied, before skipping off merrily to find Serena.

Chuck had smiled victoriously.

(A few days later though Blair had come to him to announce the wedding was off. Nate had sweetened the deal by promising to bring a box of pop rocks to school for her every day. Chuck tried in vain to get Blair to change her mind by offering two boxes of pop rocks and a roll-up. But Nathaniel had made Blair pinky swear this time, and she couldn't break the oath.)

The second time Chuck had told Blair that he would marry her it was her fourteenth birthday and she was very, very drunk.

Secret supplies of alcohol had been a regular feature of Blair Waldorf soirees for the past couple of years, helping to confirm her status within Constance as the epitome of coolness and sophistication, but Blair never indulged in more than a few sips of a martini herself.

But a game of spin the bottle and a particularly passionate kiss between her bemused boyfriend and busty best friend had triggered an intense binge session with a bottle of vodka. The amount of liquor Blair had consumed had put even Chuck, who with complete disregard for damage to his liver lived in almost a permanent state of intoxication, to shame.

At first the liquor had made Blair noisy and rambunctious, eager to impress her fellow party-goers with her dance moves as she swayed her hips to Garbage's hit 'Cherry Lips'. She had grown so enthusiastic as she flung herself about that Chuck had had to catch her around the waist to stop her from falling over.

He had then discreetly steered her towards her bedroom, knowing that Blair would be embarrassed in the morning if she lost control before her minions tonight, and would feel even worse if Nate and Serena saw and guessed that they were the reason she had become drunk and foolish. To the outside world, Blair never liked to appear anything less than completely confident and in control. Only Chuck knew she was anything but. Certain that he at least could be trusted never to use them against her, occasionally she would confide in him her secret vulnerabilities. Chuck sensed tonight would be one of those times.

Blair giggled as he half carried her to her room. "Chuck Bass, where are you taking me?"

He grinned at her mischievously. "I'm going to get you into bed Waldorf."

"In your dreams Bass," Blair snorted, something she'd never do sober, little knowing that since puberty Chuck had in fact had several dreams featuring just that scenario, usually requiring that he change the sheets upon waking.

"Don't mistake me for one of your whores," she said sweetly, pinching his cheek.

Chuck rolled his eyes. "Not likely," he said. "Although the cut of that top certainly doesn't leave much to the imagination."

He leered at her cleavage. In truth Blair's outfit was way classier than any of the other girls present, most of whose sole object in dressing was to bare as much flesh as possible, but her almost impossibly translucent and unblemished skin made the parts of her that were on display that much more appealing.

Blair gasped and kicked his shin.

He grimaced in pain. "Relax Waldorf," Chuck growled. "You know I'd never touch you."

He watched in surprise as Blair's face suddenly fell. Tears pooled in her eyes as drunken vivaciousness descended into inebriated moroseness. Chuck mentally cursed himself.

"Why not?" Blair asked in a small, broken voice. "It's because I'm not pretty enough, isn't it?"

"Come on Waldorf, that's just the alcohol talking," Chuck told her. "You know perfectly well how beautiful you are."

Blair just shrugged, avoiding his gaze and continuing to look miserable. Chuck groaned. She was really going to make him say it.

"You also know that if it wasn't for Nathaniel I'd be all over you every chance I got," he admitted.

Blair looked up at him, the light in her eyes indicating that she was half hopeful, but was still not fully convinced she should believe what he was saying. "Really?" she asked quietly.

"Absolutely," Chuck replied as he opened the door and led her into her bedroom. He then leant down to whisper more provocatively in her ear, "You're every man's walking wet dream Blair."

"Eeeww," Blair responded, slapping Chuck across the shoulder. "That's disgusting." But she couldn't fight the grin spreading across her face.

Chuck just smirked, happy to have restored her good humour.

"You're not wrong though," she declared, full of confidence once more. "Did you see me on the dance floor back there? I've got moves." She punctuated the point by poking him in the chest, swaying ever so slightly on her feet.

"I saw," Chuck affirmed, remembering how the sight of her skirt clinging to her rounded bottom as she moved rhythmically to the beat had caused his own pants to tighten.

"So did every other red-blooded male out there," he murmured in annoyance. For some reason that left Chuck with a feeling of discomfort.

Blair's face lost some of its glow. "Nate didn't," she said bitterly. "He disappeared somewhere."

"His loss, my gain," Chuck stated, hoping to buoy her up once more. He reached for where he knew Blair kept her dressing gown, passing it to her so she could change out of her party frock.

Blair shook her head sadly. "He doesn't like me."

She entered the bathroom but only half closed the door so she and Chuck could keep talking while she changed.

"Don't be ridiculous Waldorf, you're his girlfriend," Chuck disputed, crossing his arms as he leant against her bedroom wall.

"He's going to break up with me," Blair called back. "I'm going to end up all alone."

"Even if he was stupid enough to break up with you, you'd never be alone. Thousands of guys would be lining up to take his place. I'd probably make a fortune in bribes from St Judes' boys alone who'd be begging for an introduction to you," Chuck mused playfully.

"But I want him," Blair sighed. "I want to go to prom with him. I want to be presented at my Cotillion with him. I want to marry him," she wailed, trying to work out how to undo her zipper, which it seemed required extra dexterity in her intoxicated and emotional state.

"You will," Chuck replied. He honestly believed this. Princesses like Blair Waldorf married white knights like Nate Archibald. It was just the way the world worked.

"But what if we don't?" she whined.

"What if he leaves? Then all the other guys who want me now will realise how imperfect I am. No one will want me anymore. I'll never get married. I'll end up some pathetic spinster with a dozen cats babysitting Serena's sickeningly perfect brood of golden-haired children."

The liquor had started to make Blair slur her words slightly, but it was the way her voice cracked towards the end of the speech that made Chuck raise his head to the door, only to see the inconceivably lovely naked form of Blair Waldorf reflected in the bathroom mirror. He drank in the deliciousness of it, knowing he'd probably never have another opportunity.

He was so intoxicated by the sight he failed to respond for the next few minutes, until Blair re-emerged into the bedroom, dressed in her robe and frowning. "Well?" she asked.

Chuck snapped back out of his daydreams into the reality of the present. "Never happen Waldorf," he bit out.

"How do you know?" she challenged.

"Because if you're still single by the time you're thirty, I'll marry you myself," Chuck declared.

"You think I'll still be single when I'm thirty?" Blair accused in outraged tones.

"No," Chuck rolled his eyes again. "But you can think of me as a back-up if your countless of other swains fall through."

Blair pursed her lips, as though considering his proposal. "What if you get married before then?"

Chuck laughed. "Yeah right. Like Chuck Bass would settle down to be a happily married man in his twenties," he scoffed. "The girl doesn't exist who could wrangle a proposal out of me during the period when a man should be enjoying his youth. I would never consider getting married at all under normal circumstances, but as a friend I would be willing to make an exception for you."

Blair smirked back at him. "Aw, you'd really do that for me?" she asked sarcastically.

Chuck's gaze swept Blair's figure appraisingly up and down in a way that always made Blair's breath catch. He remembered what he had witnessed only moments earlier in the bathroom mirror. He highly doubted that she'd reach the age of thirty unmarried. But if she did...

Well, he could imagine worse fates in life than being married to Blair Waldorf.

"Sure Waldorf," he grinned cheekily. "Consider us engaged." He reached out and grabbed her around the waist once more, pulling her on the bed. She shrieked, then relaxed as he lay back and reached for the remote to her TV and pressed play, knowing that he would soon hear the familiar strains of 'Moon River'. Blair relaxed against his other arm.

"Okay then Bass," Blair giggled. "We're engaged."

The third time he had suggested to Blair that they get married they were seventeen and she had recently broken his heart.

Having Blair in his bed had been everything he imagined it would be, and more. But he had been completely flabbergasted at how quickly he'd become addicted to spending time with Blair out of bed following that night at Victrola. He discovered he liked to touch her even in non-sexual ways. He liked watching her face when he gave her presents. He liked listening to her bitch about the girls at school. He liked the way she asked him for his opinion on her outfits. He liked her, however she chose to define the word.

And no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't stop liking her even after she had rejected him and gone running back into the arms of his best friend. It was very inconvenient, because he really, really wanted to hate her. But he didn't.

So when Serena had come to his place to tell him that Blair was potentially pregnant with his child, he couldn't find it in him to ignore the possibility that Blair might need his help. For all his pretended indifference while Serena was in his suite, the second she left he picked up his phone and pressed number one on his speed dial.

"Hello Chuck," a familiar if sullen voice answered. Chuck froze at the sound of it, impossibly pained by the contrast between the way his name had sounded purred on her tongue a few weeks ago and the loathing with which it was now injected.

"Blair," he responded in clipped tones. He knew he should say something, but he had absolutely no idea where to begin. Part of him was tempted to just spew forth all the hurt she'd caused him, berate her for the way she'd acted, call her every vile name he knew. But that wasn't why he called. He had to raise the issue of their probable impending parenthood in such a way that she didn't immediately slam the phone down. Yet he had absolutely no clue how to bring up that sensitive, fraught with drama subject.

As the silence dragged on, he could practically hear her glaring at him through the phone.

"Was there a point to your call Bass, other than to annoy me as usual?" she inquired with a cool unconcern Chuck knew she didn't really feel. "And if it's to make more hollow threats about telling Nathaniel the details of our insignificant and unmemorable time together, please, spare me."

Hearing Blair describe what had been the best few weeks of his life as insignificant and unmemorable triggered in Chuck an unpleasant combination of anger and nauseousness. He blurted out the first thing that came to mind to drown out her words.

"We could get married," he rashly proclaimed.

Silence on the other end.

"What?" Blair eventually asked warily, wondering how much Chuck had had to drink, or if the precarious balance of his sanity had finally taken a tip in the wrong direction.

"If you want to keep the baby I mean. We could get married," Chuck expelled in a rush. Okay, so maybe he had had a few before Serena came over. Maybe fatherhood had never been part of his plans, especially given his own highly dysfunctional relationship with Bart. Maybe he'd really regret this in the morning. But it suddenly seemed urgent that Blair should know he was willing to do the right thing here. That life with him was a definite option if she wanted to take it.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Blair said in a deadly whisper. "You must be drunk."

"Serena told me."

"Serena heard wrong," Blair exclaimed hysterically, on the verge of tears. No one was supposed to know she might be pregnant. It would kill her if people found out.

Chuck sighed. It was typical of Blair to simply deny anything that didn't fit in with her plans or her perfect public image. She was a master of pretending things she didn't like, didn't exist. She had done it for years by turning a blind eye to the attraction between her boyfriend and best friend. She was trying to do it now by pretending her relationship with Chuck had never happened. But Chuck wasn't one to put up with being ignored or forgotten, constantly reminding her of the passion they had shared in an attempt to crack her glacial facade.

Right now he needed to smash into it with the force and bluntness only Chuck Bass could bring.

"Whatever her other faults, my soon to be stepsister has excellent hearing. Seems the queen is about to present the kingdom with an heir without knowing who the royal sire is," he drawled. "But don't worry Waldorf, there are plenty of famous royal bastards throughout history. At least your unexpected arrival will be in good company. We should send out the heralds immediately with the joyful news."

Chuck could hear Blair breathing heavily over the phone. He waited for her feisty and angry response. Instead he heard a low sob, the most horrifying sound he'd ever experienced.

Regretting his harshness, he bit his tongue in frustration.

"Look, I'm sorry I said that Blair," Chuck offered. "It wouldn't be like that. I wouldn't let anyone say a word against you."

Blair said nothing.

"It will be okay, Blair, really," Chuck pleaded. "And I meant what I said earlier." He paused. "I'd marry you...even if you weren't sure it was mine. It wouldn't be like it is with other teenage pregnancies. Our families have plenty of money. I have a trust fund from my mother that means even if my father and your parents completely cut us off, I'd always be able to provide for you and the kid. And given the fireworks that happen every time your naked body is next to mine I'm sure we'd be compatible enough to make it work."

"!" Blair stuttered somewhat incoherently on the other end.

Chuck smiled wryly. He had finally managed to fluster the ice queen. He tried to lighten the mood. "You've always wanted to live in a brownstone, right?"

"Sure, Chuck," Blair finally replied sarcastically. "Let's get married and live in a brownstone with this baby you for some reason have deluded yourself I'm carrying. Sounds great." Then she hung up on him.

He smirked slightly. Well, she hadn't actually said no. But the point was, his words had riled her up. And he knew they'd keep working their way around in her brain overnight. If nothing else, he expected that they would finally motivate her into taking the test to find out if she really was pregnant.

He would wait for her outside school the next day to confront her again. He would make her listen to him.

That resolution had led to a whole series of nasty consequences, beginning with Blair informing him that not only was she not pregnant but that she never wanted him to touch her again. It had been a whole year and a half before they had eventually managed to sort out their differences, admit they were consumed by love for each other and come together for good.

The last time Chuck had asked Blair to marry him had been about a year ago, not long after his twenty-first birthday. On that occasion, he was the one who was drunk.

It had happened at a business dinner, a celebration of yet another triumph since the ruthless and calculating Chuck Bass had assumed leadership of the company in his eighteenth year.

Chuck had been so proud as he watched Blair circulate amongst the room, charming his colleagues and looking stunning in a silver concoction he couldn't wait to rip off of her once they reached the home they now shared. If he could wait that long. The limo still saw its fair share of action due to Chuck's seemingly insatiable desire for the little pocket Venus.

Blair's devotion to him over the past three years had helped substantially to raise the board's opinion of him. Being in such an obviously committed relationship with the beguiling brunette had put paid to his reputation as an undependable playboy. Over time the men and women he worked with also came to realise that Blair's beauty was only outdone by her brains, and that it was often her calculating acumen behind Chuck's schemes to take the company forward.

Together they had worked hard to become the most respected power couple on the UES.

So he really should have known better than to get drunk and humiliate her at an important business function.

To be fair, it hadn't been entirely his fault. He had been entertaining the wealthy representative of an important overseas firm Bass Industries was hoping to take on as a client. Sean Doherty was Irish, had evidently been born with hollow legs and was good at two things: making money and downing drinks. Sean had made it clear that his respect for Chuck was built on thereputation Chuck enjoyed in both these spheres. So Chuck had proceeded to match him drink for drink throughout the night.

The process had put Chuck into a rare good humour, as he quickly developed a feeling of fraternal camaraderie with Sean as they boisterously toasted each other's numerous good qualities. Chuck had been so distracted by the bonhomie he was enjoying with the Irishman that he didn't notice the worried smiles and eventually warning glances Blair kept shooting him from across the room as he became more and more obviously intoxicated.

By the time Sean had suggested that Chuck and the rest of the horrified, disbelieving members of the board join him in a sculling contest, Blair's face had become a forbidding mask of contemptuous disapproval. When Chuck and Sean had started singing a rousing drinking song about a man named Mike who swapped his wife for a pint of ale, Blair had stalked out of the luxurious dining hall.

Seeing Blair leave Chuck quickly got the inebriated Sean to sign the contracts he had prepared for him that would net the company another thirty million at least in immediate profits, and probably allow himself and Blair to purchase yet another villa in an exotic location. They currently had homes in Paris, Rome and Barbados, but maybe Blair would like somewhere to stay when he took her for sushi in Tokyo, he thought distractedly as he hurriedly prepared to chase after her.

When he got downstairs he found Blair haughtily trying to hail a cab.

"Have you forgotten we have a limo?" Chuck asked as he swayed towards her. "It offers several benefits over public transportation, including allowing us to return home in comfort and...privacy," he whispered suggestively in her ear, his breath redolent of scotch.

"I don't know who you are and I'm not going anywhere with you," Blair replied calmly, twisting her body away from him in a clear gesture of dismissal.

Chuck gazed at her in drunken befuddlement for a second. He was used to her screaming at him when she was angry, not simply ignoring him.

Chuck smirked at her. "In that case princess, let me refresh your memory. I'm Chuck Bass. The man whose been making you moan with pleasure every night over the past year that we've been living together."

Blair regarded him stonily, her mouth set in a thin line of disapproval. "You must be mistaken. I would never date anyone who got himself so disgustingly drunk in public. Who not only completely humiliated himself but his girlfriend by challenging elite eighty-year-old businessmen to drinking games. Who basically in the course of one night reverted to the immature ass he was at sixteen."

Struggling to regain control of her emotions, Blair's voice lost its wrathful quality and she became coolly indifferent once more. "You've obviously got me confused with someone else. Or you're just some boozehound trying to pick up who should know better than to pester upstanding young women on the street. Please leave me alone."

She turned and moved away from him once more, proceeding down the sidewalk in her quest to find a cab.

Chuck gawked at her for a second then yelled, "Drunk am I? If I was drunk could I do this?"

With two strides he was by her side once more, both arms catching hold of her as he pulled her up to hold her to his chest princess style.

Blair squealed. "Chuck Bass, you put me down this instant or I'll sue you for assault."

"I'll claim it was a crime of passion," he drawled as he stared into her shocked and infinitely lovable brown eyes. "If I am drunk I could probably claim diminished responsibility as well."

"I hate you," she growled.

"I don't believe you," he countered.

"People are staring, Chuck," she complained. "If you don't put me down I'm going to start yelling."

"Luckily I have ways to keep you quiet," Chuck grinned devilishly, as he bent his head to capture her lips with his own.

They were interrupted by the dulcet tones of Sean Doherty's lilting Irish accent.

"Well Charles, I was going to ask you if you wanted to move on to a more congenial location, but obviously you've already found better company for the evening," Sean beamed benignly.

"Ah yes, I believe you met my girlfriend Blair Waldorf earlier this evening," Chuck introduced her again without putting her down. Blair glared at both men.

"It would be impossible to forget meeting such a lovely lass," Sean said charmingly. "I'm much tempted to smuggle her back to Ireland when I leave." He smiled widely at Blair as he took in the delectable shape of her legs where they spilled over Chuck's arm. She gave him a small answering smile.

Chuck frowned, as always immediately jealous of any man paying attention to Blair, no matter how innocently.

"Well, as I thought I made clear in my introductions, you're a little too late this time Sean. Blair's spoken for," Chuck drawled possessively, clutching her to him a little more tightly.

Blair rolled her eyes and Sean winked at her.

"Aye, well back home a girl's still fair game until she's got a ring on her finger. And I see her gorgeous little hands are bare."

Blair decided to play along with Sean's teasing, knowing it would annoy Chuck.

"I have always wanted to see Ireland," she responded primly. "Maybe you could show me around while I'm waiting for someone to make an honest woman of me," Blair suggested with innocent coyness.

"I'd be delighted, my dear," Sean laughed.

"Not a chance, Doherty," Chuck barked. "I can soon remedy the lack of a ring on Blair's finger."

"But the woman in question has to be somewhat willing," Blair retorted derisively.

"Are you saying you won't marry me?" Chuck asked in drunken anger.

"I've already told you I wouldn't date, let alone marry, a man who makes a fool of me by displays of public intoxication. Now put me down so I can get a cab."

Chuck's eyes narrowed. "Say that you'll marry me or I'll keep you in my arms as I run you all the way back to Seventh Avenue. That should really cause a scene."

"You wouldn't dare."

With a nod of farewell to Sean, Chuck cheerfully if somewhat unsteadily started to walk down the street with Blair hanging about his neck.

"Chuck, you're going to fall and hurt us both," Blair screamed.

"I told you the alternative," he said disinterestedly.

"Ugh," Blair huffed. "Fine, I won't leave in a cab. Put me down and we can go home in the limo together."

Chuck stopped, waiting for the limo that had been trailing behind them to stop.

"We only get in the limo when you've promised to marry me Blair. Otherwise, we're walking all the way," Chuck's eyes were determined as he told her this sternly. Blair knew he would carry out the threat.

Still she glowered at him. "Promises made under duress aren't binding in a court of law."

Chuck's eyes gentled, he became earnest. "Please, Blair, do it. Say you'll marry me." He gave her brow a soft kiss.

Blair looked at the limo, then back up at him.

"All right, Bass," she sighed. "If it gets me off this freezing sidewalk and out of your arms, I'll freaking marry you."

Chuck pulled her into a very enthusiastic, highly charged kiss as he dragged her inside the limo.

The next day Chuck had woken up with a massive hangover, but a nevertheless perfect recollection of Blair's promise the night before.

He smirked, remembering the way she had fussed over him as she helped him to drunkenly stumble into bed. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to hold Blair to her promise. He reached out beside him, expecting to find her warm body but encountering only empty space.

Racing around in panic after discovering that Blair was missing from the apartment and several of her suitcases had disappeared too, Chuck chastised himself for his earlier smugness. Of course Blair couldn't be won over or tricked into marriage by silly game-playing and his continual attempts at one-upmanship. Hadn't high school taught him anything?

He became almost frantic when he learned that she had used her credit card to book a first class ticket to Dublin. Luckily for his sanity and Sean Doherty's life he quickly ascertained that her travelling companion had been one Serena Van Der Woodsen, not the self-satisfied Irish Casanova with his leering looks and complete lack of morals.

When Blair returned a week later, satisfied that she had made him suffer adequately for embarrassing her in public, he had thought it best not to bring up any of the events of that night for discussion.

Back in the present, Blair continued to stare at him in bemusement as the silence stretched out between them, the weight of the diamond in his hand suddenly seemingly enormous. Chuck struggled, searching for words as his mind slid over his previous proposals.

Blair raised her eyebrows challengingly and Chuck was stunned into speech.

"You're going to marry me Waldorf."

Blair once again scrunched up her nose. "Oh yes?" she inquired politely.

"Yes," Chuck smirked confidently, daring her to contradict him with his eyes as he closed the distance between them.

"And I don't care if it takes a bigger ring and fifty boxes of pop rocks a day. You're going to do it," he muttered huskily.

Blair smiled, amused he remembered the way she had skilfully attempted to barter her love as a child. "I see," she answered brightly, with the affected graciousness of one humouring a madman. "I thought the girl didn't exist who could tie down Chuck Bass, especially before he was even thirty."

Chuck grazed his fingers along the edge of her face with a grin. "I always told you I was willing to make exceptions where you were concerned," he drawled lovingly. "Besides, you know I've been waiting for any excuse to marry you since we were seventeen."

"Humpf," Blair responded, sounding unimpressed but fighting a smile. "You certainly took your time. Technically we've been engaged for a whole year now. Even if you were too drunk to remember that particular proposal."

"I didn't exactly take it as a good sign when my bride-to-be boarded a plane to another continent the very next day," Chuck justified.

"Oh right," Blair said, cheekily biting her lip. "I promise not to do that this time."

"Is that a yes?" Chuck challenged.

Leaning in to graze his lips with a kiss, Blair nodded.

"How could I turn down a lifetime supply of pop rocks?" she teased, wrapping her legs around his waist and twining her arms about his neck as his mouth came crashing down on hers.

When they broke apart, he slid the stunning ring onto her finger. "Now everyone will know you're mine," he said with satisfaction.

"Rather than having to wait for you to tell them, loudly and intimidatingly," Blair agreed.

"You sure?" he confirmed, worried as always that she might feel pressured.

And, as always, she responded with another kiss.