AN: It feels like everything that could possibly have happened to delay this chapter happened. As most of you know I've been suffering from Strep for the past few weeks, and I'm currently dealing with a head cold on top of that. Cold weather does not agree with me apparently. So, after all that and a ton of other crazy real life delays I've finally managed to get this chapter finished. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait.

Fake Empire

Chapter Twenty-Five.

You were the first, you'll be the last
Wherever you go, I'll be with you
Whatever you want, I'll give it to you

Blair stood across her living room from Chuck and tried to pretend that she was listening to what Poppy Lifton was going on and on about. It was a futile attempt, though. She couldn't stop glancing in his direction. He was off to the side sipping his usual drink and holding court with Carter, Nate and Gabriel. Blair wished more than anything he would look at her, smile, come over and save her from this inane conversation she could barely keep up with. He wasn't doing any of those things, though. He hadn't spoken one word to her since he announced she was his girlfriend, and she didn't know what to make of that.

The world 'girlfriend' was just so… weird. She never really thought it would come out of his mouth, and she'd been okay with that. She knew being with Chuck wouldn't amount to any of the conventional dreams she had. He'd never be one of those doting boyfriends who said all the right things and did everything she wanted him to do. Truth be told, if he were one of those guys, she probably wouldn't have fallen in love with him. Half the attraction with Chuck was how unpredictable he was. Sometimes he infuriated her, sometimes he broke her heart, but he always made her feel alive. He got to her in a way no one else ever had, and Blair had already bargained with herself that that would be enough. She could settle for being Chuck's whatever, instead of his girlfriend. The fact that she didn't have to settle set her spinning.

It wasn't even the usual insecurities where Chuck was involved. She didn't doubt that he meant it. Chuck would never have made such a public proclamation if he didn't mean it. She still wasn't sure what girlfriend entailed to him, though. How was she supposed to act? She doubted he knew either since, as far as she knew, she was his first. That made her smile, and unfortunately, Poppy Lifton chose that moment to pay attention.

"I really can't believe you snagged Chuck Bass. You'll have to tell me your secret." Poppy leaned in with a conspiratorial smile, like she and Blair were the best of friends, and Blair did her best not to cringe. She wasn't confiding anything to that viper.

"You'll have to ask him," Blair responded coolly and sipped on her drink. Poppy nodded, taking the setback for what it was worth. Blair understood the older girl's attitude. Before Chuck's announcement, Blair had just been Blair Waldorf. Sure, she was cool enough to hang out with, but nothing so special as to really earn Poppy's attention. Now, Blair was Blair Waldorf, Chuck Bass's girlfriend, and that made her a hot commodity. Poppy wanted to be the first to spread the gossip, which meant she was leeching herself to Blair for all she was worth.

"I just might," Poppy smirked.

Nate appeared like a beacon of hope at her side, and Blair turned a genuine smile in his direction. Any distraction from Poppy's grilling was welcome.

"Enjoying your party?" Nate was still high, and his eyes had that dewy, clouded over look that usually annoyed Blair. "Turned out pretty good." He motioned to the rest of the room that was occupied by her nearest and dearest, most of whom she didn't particularly like.

"Serena shouldn't have." Blair's smile became tighter, but she kept up the façade. More than ever, she wanted everyone to disappear so she could be alone with Chuck before her father arrived.

Nate laughed softly, and Blair got the feeling that he understood. He turned to Poppy then, and she immediately preened at his attention. "Poppy, I think Gabriel was looking for you." He motioned in the other direction.

"Oh?" Poppy's entire face lit up. "I'll go see." She leaned in close to whisper in Blair's ear before she left. "We'll have to chat more later." She winked, and then sashayed away like she owned the place.

Blair finally relaxed, letting her face fall into a glare. They would not be chatting later.

"She's harmless." Nate broke into her thoughts and handed her a refreshed glass of champagne. Blair was barely touching the stuff that night, but thankfully no one had noticed yet. She just kept getting new glasses and swishing them around until they were warm.

"She's annoying," Blair bit back, and didn't even try to hide her unease.

"Everyone's curious about Chuck Bass's girlfriend." He smirked at Blair as her mouth dropped open in surprise. "It's already made the rounds. I'm sure even Dan Humphrey knows. Can't wait to read the next column."

Blair groaned, taking a large swallow of her drink. "I'll kill himl" she grumbled, but it lacked all heart. "I wish everyone could just… leave us alone." It came out a bit whiney and petulant, but Blair couldn't be bothered to care. She was on overload.

"Us, huh?" Nate laughed, and Blair popped him hard in the arm. He still kept smiling, though. "I think it's good." He sobered up, and she could tell he was genuine when he spoke. "You're good for each other – or, well, you're good for him. He might corrupt the hell out of you."

Blair felt herself smiling without meaning to, and she began to loosen up again. She felt like she could be herself with Nate, and he wouldn't judge her. It was nice to be able to discuss her relationship with Chuck with someone who might actually understand. Serena tried, but Serena would never truly get Chuck, and that made things hard.

"It'll probably crash and burn." Blair said flippantly, watching Nate carefully for his reaction. He said nothing, just stared back at her. "Truthfully, what do you think? Me and Chuck… it could work?" Blair hated how insecure she sounded, but she trusted that Nate wouldn't use it against her.

"Truthfully?" Nate checked, and Blair immediately nodded. "I think if anyone could make it work with him, it would be you." Blair wanted to ask what that meant, but others joined their conversation then, and she didn't have the chance.

Still, for the next half hour that was all she could think about. Nate knew Chuck better than anyone, maybe even better than Blair, and his words hadn't exactly been encouraging. They hadn't been discouraging, either. She hung onto that, and when Poppy Lifton started to make a beeline for her again, she sucked up all her courage and finally headed over to Chuck.

Chuck was talking with Carter and Gabriel still, and Blair felt gauche just butting into their conversation, but she couldn't deal with another Poppy encounter.

"Hi." She greeted all three with a winning smile and did her best to seem at ease. This was her house after all, and Chuck was supposedly her boyfriend. It should have been easier, but nothing ever felt easy to her. It was always an uphill battle, and she was starting to get worn out.

"Finally got your courage up?" Carter baited her right off the bat, and she did her best not to glare. It was fine to do in private, but Gabriel was not a close friend, and she didn't trust him to be discreet.

"I don't know what you mean." Blair tried to turn her back to Carter so she was only facing Gabriel and Chuck, both of whom were watching the former interaction intently.

"Sure you do, Blair. Don't be shy now. I have it on good authority that Bass here is finally going to make an honest woman of you – or should I say girl? I don't know if you could be qualified as a woman yet. Can she Chuck?" Carter turned his acid tongue on his friend, and Blair tried not to cringe.

Chuck said nothing. He just stood there silently glaring at Carter. Carter glared back. Blair shifted uncomfortably, knowing it was about her, but also knowing there was nothing she could do to dispel the tension. Carter's problem was with Chuck, not her. He was just using her to get to Chuck. Gabriel looked the most uncomfortable of all, and Blair could see he was glancing around for his quickest possible exit.

"Carter, don't." Blair broke her silence and practically pleaded with him.

"I told Serena I'd find her later. Excuse me." Gabriel extricated himself as quickly as possible, and Blair watched helplessly as she was left alone with Carter and Chuck. Neither one of them looked happy. In fact, she was worried an altercation could actually break out if they kept glaring the way they were.

"If you have a problem with how I'm living my life, why don't you just come out and say it, Carter?" Chuck threw down the gauntlet, and Blair watched in fascinated horror as Carter picked it up. It had been boiling to this point for a while, but Blair had always hoped their confrontation would come in private when she wasn't around. She was scared of what she might hear.

"Okay, then." Carter smiled cruelly at Chuck, and it was as if Blair wasn't even there anymore. "It's pathetic how far the mighty has fallen. I can't believe you're actually willing to throw away everything for a girl. She's beautiful, but she's not worth it. I can assure you."

Blair flinched but said nothing. She turned to glance at Chuck, who was still just standing there mutely.

"Nothing to say?" Carter taunted.

"Are you finished?" Chuck asked calmly.

"Just beginning," Carter snapped right back. "You talk about being free to do what you want, take what you want, but you're pissing it all away. You really think you can be you, and still have her? You're delusional. You'll fuck it up, or you'll be a good little boy and hate yourself for it. You weren't made to be domesticated. It's not in you." Carter finished with a flourish, and people began to gather around them, clearly sensing something was about to happen.

Serena sidled up to Blair and leaned down to whisper in her ear. "What's going on?"

Blair just shook her head in silent dread.

"Done?" Chuck was gritting his teeth and his cool demeanor was faltering. He was going to lose it, and everyone was enthralled by the sight. Blair hated it, though. She knew the only thing worse than losing it to Chuck would be losing it in public.

She couldn't watch anymore. "Don't." She moved in close to Chuck and pulled on his arm. She didn't care if she looked like a weak, clinging girlfriend. She had to stop this train wreck.

"Already pulling your strings." Carter sounded sickened.

"Shut up, Carter." Blair turned the full blast of her fury on him. "Just shut up." She was practically shaking with anger.

"Okay, everyone." Serena stepped in before it could become more of a scene. "I have more booze in the kitchen, follow me." Serena began to lead the way from the room but no one was following. She turned back to them quickly. "Let's go," She nearly yelled, and that was so unheard of for Serena that people actually listened.

Finally, it was just Carter, Chuck, Blair and Nate who decided to stay behind. Blair felt a little bit better, but she still wanted nothing more than to stop this from happening all together. If Chuck had a little time to cool down she knew he'd get over Carter's transgression, but if Carter kept pushing and Chuck actually lost control… that would be unforgivable in his eyes. Blair was furious at Carter, but she knew his friendship meant a lot to Chuck, and she didn't want to be the cause of an argument like this.

"You both need to cool down," Nate stepped in with a cajoling tone. "Carter, you're drunk, and you need to shut the fuck up." Nate grabbed for Carter's arm to pull him away, but Carter shook him off. "Fine." Nate threw up his hands and backed off.

Blair watched him in horror and shook her head. "No…" She whispered, hoping Nate would try again. Nate didn't, and it was back to Carter and Chuck just glaring at one another.

"You can't even defend yourself." Carter kept pushing.

Blair felt Chuck completely tense up in her arms, and she instinctively backed away from him. She knew the time for stopping them was over, and she was out of her league. She stepped over by Nate, waiting for everything to fall apart.

She didn't have to wait long.

"Defend myself?" Chuck's voice was like ice. It shattered all around the room, and Blair shivered where she stood. He was something beyond anger at that point. Carter had crossed some invisible line that Blair hadn't even realized was there.

"You can't deny I'm right. You're running after her like a little lost dog, begging her to love you. It's disgusting. I don't even recognize you."

"You sound like a jealous bitch, Carter." Chuck told him with barely restrained rage. "Pathetic? Isn't that you? Are you jealous that she didn't want you? Or, are you worried I won't have enough time for your whims anymore? Which is it?" His voice rose and cracked like a whip around them.

"You used to be the King of all of this," Carter waved his arms around the opulent world they all lived in, "and now what are you?" He sounded more desperate than angry as he spoke.

"This," Chuck motioned around him just as Carter had, "is still all mine. She's mine, too. It must kill you that I have everything, and you still have nothing. Still second best. Second place. Still," Chuck emphasized and stepped in closer to Carter, "not good enough." Chuck moved back then, resting his steely black eyes on Carter. He was waiting, maybe even anticipating his next strike. Blair could tell he was so amped up he was taking a kind of pleasure in this now, and that nauseated her. It would hurt later, of that she was sure.

Carter slunk back, and Blair could see that he was defeated. Chuck had hit him at his lowest point, and he'd lost all his verve to fight. Blair almost felt bad for him, but not quite. He'd brought this on himself, and she reminded herself that he'd been none too kind to her.

Nate stepped back in then. "Come on." He wrapped his arm around Chuck's shoulders and forcibly pulled him out of the room. Neither boy looked back at Blair or Carter.

Blair shifted uncomfortably for a moment as she tried to decide what to do next. She wanted to talk to Chuck, but she thought it best to let Nate calm him down first. She didn't feel like dealing with the others in the kitchen, and she definitely didn't want to deal with Carter. She had just decided to head up to her room when Carter called out to her.

"What?" She turned to him in surprise.

"He'll disappoint you." For the first time that night, Carter didn't sound cruel or angry. He sounded sad, and for that reason alone Blair didn't walk away. "He won't be able to keep this good guy act up."

"Maybe it's not an act." Blair shot right back. Everything inside of her was screaming at her to run. Nothing good could come of this conversation, but she was unnaturally curious to see what Carter would say. Maybe she needed to hear it, if only to brush it aside as paranoid delusions.

"You really think he's capable of loving you?" Carter was looking at her like she was an amusing child. He shook his head as if the idea was foolish.

Blair stood her ground. "He does love me. I love him." It shocked her when she said it out loud, but it also made her feel stronger. She loved Chuck. She didn't love some good guy version of him; she loved the whole screwed up package. She felt strong in that feeling.

"Then maybe you really are just a little girl. You don't understand him. You never will." Carter seemed so sure in this assumption.

Blair smiled at him, and it was an unkind expression. "I understand him in ways you can't. I love him, and whether you believe it or not, he loves me. He chose to love me. He doesn't have to be lonely and miserable with you anymore. Get over it, Carter." Blair told him harshly, and then turned on her heel and fled the room.

She made it up to her room with a jump in her step and exhilaration running through her veins. She'd stood up to Carter, and she'd won. She'd survived the clinic. She'd survived her family falling apart. She'd survived this damn party. She was alive. She was strong. She was actually smiling when she closed her bedroom door behind her, and then jumped in fright when she saw someone standing at her window.

"Chuck," she squeaked in surprise. She glanced around for Nate but didn't see him anywhere. "You're alone?" She asked.

He turned to look at her finally and nodded. She nodded back, though it was unnecessary, and then they both stood there awkwardly watching one another. After a few minutes passed, she forced herself to walk over to him, and once she made it there he reached out and pulled her into his arms. She swayed back against his chest gently, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, holding her as they both looked out over their city.

"I apologize for Carter," he whispered against her ear.

She tensed for a moment in his arms, and then relaxed again. "He doesn't matter to me. I don't care what any of them think," Blair said the words and hoped that one day they would be true. "You called me your girlfriend." She giggled to herself, because it still sounded so unnatural.

"Did I?" His voice was teasing when he responded, and she tilted her head back against his chest so she could see his face. He was grinning down at her. "I guess you are… aren't you?" There was a trace of vulnerability in the question, and Blair clung to it like a lifeboat. She wasn't in this alone.

"I want to be… I'm not exactly sure what that means, though," she admitted.

He laughed softly, and it was a beautiful sound. Earlier she'd worried Carter was going to ruin them, like he was somehow going to be able to convince Chuck that he'd made a horrible mistake. The fact that Carter hadn't even been able to make a dent warmed Blair. Chuck was hers. She had him. She was planning to keep him forever, whether he knew it or not.

"You've had boyfriends. In fact," he twisted Blair around in his arms so they were face to face, "you still do, don't you?" It was a pointed reminder, and Blair looked down with a blush. Only she could find herself in this situation. "You can dump him any time now, Blair." He was teasing her, but she didn't miss the fact that he was deadly serious at the same time. He wanted her dump Marcus, and if she didn't do it soon, he was going to do it for her.

"I've been a bit busy lately, Chuck," she pointed out. "I'll call him tonight and set up a time to see him tomorrow."

Chuck frowned. "Why do you need to see him? Tell him on the phone." His voice was all authority, and Blair bristled at the command.

She pulled out of his arms completely and squared off against him. "That would be rude."

"I don't care," he shot right back. Neither was backing down.

"I'm meeting him." Blair wasn't sure why she was fighting this so hard, but it felt important. If she gave into him now, maybe she would always give into him. Eventually she'd lose who she was, and she wasn't willing to do that. Some part of her knew he wouldn't like that, either. He'd lose respect for her, and without that she wasn't sure he'd love her. She knew she wouldn't love herself.

"Fine." He sent her a deceptively appeasing smile and pulled her back into his arms. He leaned down and brushed his lips against her neck, causing her to shiver. "I'll come with you," he whispered, and before she could protest, he pulled her around and pressed his lips against hers.

Blair tried to shove him away for a moment, but his mouth was persuasive and soon she found herself kissing him back. His hands found their way into her hair, and for a brief moment she worried about him messing it up, and then it felt so good that she wanted him to mess it up. She looped her arms around his waist, and held herself as close to him as possible. Every touch felt so good, so freeing. Desire was a heady thing, and when Chuck used it against her, she was putty in his hands.

His kisses turned harder, more taking than giving, and she felt his hands come around to her blouse. He was just starting to unbutton it when the door flew open, and Serena and Nate came into the room. Blair shoved away from Chuck as quickly as possible, and he just stood there mid kiss, looking very pissed off.

"Hi," Blair greeted her friends with a too bright smile, haphazardly beginning to rebutton her shirt and smooth down her hair.

Serena was laughing where she stood. "Oops."

Chuck glared. "Don't you knock?" His words were razor sharp.

Serena was undaunted, however. "I didn't realize you'd be molesting Blair. My apologies. Just thought you'd both like to know that Harold has arrived. Maybe I should invite him up? He'd probably love to get an eyeful of this." Serena was doing her best to taunt Chuck, but she was only flustering Blair more.

"My father is here?" Blair felt a bit faint.

Serena immediately realized her blunder and began soothing. "Don't worry. Nate and I will keep him occupied until you're… presentable." Serena giggled again, because she couldn't help herself. Then she grabbed Nate's hand, and dragged him out of the room with her. He was smirking like a jackass as they went.

"I'm not fond of her." Chuck told Blair semi-seriously, and she did her best to smile in return. Her mind was all over the place. She was scared of seeing her father, scared of her father seeing Chuck, and mentally trying to decide what dress would look best for the evening.

"You can hide up here until he leaves," Blair told Chuck as she hurried into her closet and began sorting through her clothes. Nothing looked just right, and she was about to call down for Serena when Chuck came in behind her.

"This one." He pulled a simple black dress down and handed it to her. Blair looked at it for a moment, before deciding it actually would be perfect, and smiling at Chuck in thanks. She walked out of the room and into the bathroom to change. "And I'll be coming with you," he called to her.

Blair stopped mid-change and burst out of her bathroom. She didn't much care that her shirt was half-undone, and her skirt was unzipped at the moment. Chuck definitely noticed, but she tried not to acknowledge that, either. He could not go with her.

"No." She shook her head emphatically. "My father doesn't know about us. Not really. I don't think he'd be… receptive." Blair tried to put it as nicely as possible. "He has, after all, bailed you out a time or two." She reminded him.

Chuck shrugged. "I'm your boyfriend. Boyfriends meet disapproving fathers. It'll be fine." He seemed so unruffled about the entire thing that all Blair wanted to do was shake him. "As much as I enjoy the state of your undress, he might come up here looking for you. You should finish up." Chuck took one last leisurely look up her body, and then nodded toward the bathroom.

Blair numbly headed back in. She couldn't fight him on this, and if she was perfectly honest with herself, it might be nice to have a support system there with her. Things were so strained with her father still.

"Or you could change out here. I could help." He added, sounding absolutely lecherous.

Blair smiled to herself. "You wish," she called back breezily, and pulled her dress up. She inspected herself in the mirror and decided her hair would have to do. She reapplied her lip-gloss and put on her favorite pair of earrings before returning to Chuck.

She walked over to him, and turned her back to be zipped. Truthfully, she probably could have managed herself, but then she wouldn't have seen Chuck looking at her like that, and she really liked how he looked at her. It made her nervous and jumpy, but it also made her feel wanted. It was a perfect combination.

She did her best to appear cool and unaffected as he slowly slipped the zipper up her back. He was purposefully running the back of his hand against her bare skin, and it took everything in her not to shiver. He knew that too, if the smirk on his face was any indication. It sometimes worried her when she thought about the disparity in their experiences. He'd slept with so many she would never want to know an actual number, and she'd only slept with him.

He finished zipping her, and then pulled her around to face him. "What?"

"What?" She smiled back at him, and leaned up to peck his lips for good measure.

He just looked at her. She was growing to hate that look. It was like she could never be alone with her own thoughts. He just sensed something was wrong, and then for some reason he couldn't leave it alone until she spilled her guts. It bothered her because she knew she'd never be able to do the same with him. He hid his emotions too well, and even when she knew something was wrong, he rarely shared.

"We have to go meet my dad." She started toward the door, but he snagged her hand and reeled her back in. He still had that damn look. "It's nothing," she sighed from sheer frustration. That was a conversation she never wanted to have with him. He might get too honest, and then she'd really be miserable. Knowing he'd slept with Georgina was bad enough.

He stared hard at her for another minute, but when she didn't relent, he finally let it go. "Alright." She wasn't sure what he was agreeing to, but he placed his hands on her waist and guided her the rest of the way out.

Blair pushed all thoughts of Chuck's sexual exploits out of her mind and focused on the task in front of her. She had to tell her father that Chuck Bass was her boyfriend. She had a feeling he wasn't going to like it. Chuck relinquished his hold on her as they descended the stairs, and she took a deep breath before facing her father.

Harold was standing in the foyer with Nate and Serena, and turned the minute he heard Blair coming. The smile on his face froze the second he spotted Chuck with her. "Blair bear?"

Blair smiled at him weakly. "Hi, Daddy."

Harold looked between Chuck and Blair, having nearly convinced himself they were just friends, when Chuck reached out and laced his fingers through Blair's. It was unmistakable.

"Mr. Waldorf." Chuck greeted her father politely, but Harold just stared at their entwined hands.

"We're gonna go…" Serena cut in, and once again reached for Nate to drag him out.

"See you later," he said to them all, and mouthed 'call me' to Chuck. He was smirking again, and Blair got the distinct impression that he was enjoying her and Chuck's torment.

"Well…" Harold tried to recover himself. "Three for dinner?"

Blair nodded a little over eagerly. Chuck remained silent.

Harold's head bobbed up and down in affirmation. "Well," he repeated.

And they were off.