A/N: Here it is, the last part of this alternate universe I've created for my babies Blair and Tripp. Thanks for all of you guys' support! I really just wanted to get these piece out of my head (with all their issues, etc), before they put Tripp back on the show and, undoubtedly, ruin him (the writers loooove ruining my good time). I hope you guys enjoy them. If/when you see them next from me, they'll probably exist in yet another universe. Until then, xoxo.

Beyond the Stars

He felt the exact moment her dainty bare feet touched the floor, could see her pedicured toes shrink away from the cold wooden floorboards before dipping in again. Blair could never sleep through the night and, as a result, he couldn't seem to do it anymore either. "Go back to sleep," she whispered before landing a kiss on his cheek.

"Where you goin'?" He mumbled and grasped her hand before she could slip away.

"Just on a walk. I'll be back soon." She kissed him again to appease him, but laughed nervously when he pulled her closer by the waist until she was on the bed with him again, her hair tickling his nose. "Come on, Tripp. I won't be able to get back to sleep this way."

"You need your strength. Mom's gonna grill you tomorrow."

"I'm a big girl, Tripp. Now go back to sleep. I'll be back before you know it."

But she wasn't. The second hand ticked louder as the time leaned closer to four and before long, he threw on a white t-shirt and a pair of grey sweats and headed out. His slippered footsteps echoed down the marble halls as he wandered aimlessly, eyes fighting to stay open.

It was one of those moments where Tripp wished he had stayed in bed rather than face the day. As he pressed his hand against the glass of the window, his eyes bore down to the courtyard below, lit by moonlight. He watched in a sort of morbid fascination as they lounged on a chaise by the pool - the pool where everything started, and Nate reached out his hand to touch her face before grazing her lips with a soft kiss. Even he had to admit, the two were aesthetically stunning together.

So where did that leave him? Standing in a lonely hallway staring at a brief kiss that seemed to last forever.

He watched her push away at his cousin's shoulders, his robe billowing behind her. He watched Nate stare after her before hanging his head and walking in the opposite direction. He decided to follow his cousin's example and head back to the room, ignoring the scream ripping at his throat, pushing for release.

No, he swallowed that back and when she crept back in bed behind him, he turned to his side and held her to him.

"What are you doing up?" she whispered in the dark, her eyes two glittering jewels.

"Couldn't sleep without you." He kissed her soft, padded lips and reached for the knot on the robe.

"Sorry I took so long."

"It's ok. You're here now." He felt her dimple on his forehead as he kissed her neck and for now, that was enough.

* * *

The ladies took a trip to the local spa, leaving the gentlemen to their own devices of cigars and booze. While Tripp was used to this part of politics, he could never quite bring himself to enjoy it. He sipped steadily at a scotch and inhaled slow, but shallow breaths. Although now that he wasn't actually involved with the politics, conversation seemed much lighter. There wasn't anything at stake, at least not on the surface.

He stepped onto the attached balcony and his shoulders tensed when his grandfather walked alongside him. It was impossible not to notice someone as imposing and austere as William Vanderbilt.

"Grandfather, I-" He wasn't sure where he was going with it and was relieved when he was spared the words with a wave of the patriarch's hand.

"Don't be sorry, Tripp. It was about time you grew a backbone. Washington would have eaten you alive, the way you were going. But no. You, you pushed back. That's good." William kept his eyes on the horizon and from all his work with the old man, Tripp knew, right from his gut, that there was something going on. "Blair's a nice girl, Tripp."

The sudden change of topic threw him. "Um, yea. She's a great girl."

"Yes, you always did have a thing for her. Back then it was a bit, shall we say, inappropriate. But now that both of you are at a more mature age, I don't see a problem." William glanced back at his grandson, who had been shocked into silence. "There's nothing that goes on in this house that I don't know about." It was impossible for Tripp to stop wondering exactly how much his grandfather knew from that summer. "Oh, don't be embarrassed, boy. I already said I approve. I can see why both of you would be so bewitched by her. She's quite a lovely young lady. Our family can always use a cunning recruit, however we get her." Because my grandsons are sheep.

The words weren't there, but Tripp could hear them lingering just at the end of that sentence and it was then that Tripp realized exactly how interchangeable William's grandsons were to him. Nate hadn't been far off with his best man speech, after all.

Casually, observing the view before him, he mumbled with his lips on the rim of his glass. "It's a waste though, she would make a great wife for a politician. She's the kind of girl who gets things done."

Tripp recalled the brief debacle before she graduated - when she had been vulnerable and unsure and, unknowingly, made a deal with the devil. "She's changed a lot, Grandfather. College has really been good for her."

"She hasn't changed that much."

"Oh?"

"Well, she got you here, didn't she?"

Still, William kept his eyes on the sky. Both he and Tripp knew, in that instant, that the seed was sown.

* * *

She was drunk. Sedated, but it was in her eyes and the way she swayed slightly when she got out of the town car, stumbling into his arms. He'd been watching for them to return, afraid that his mother may have scared her away already, but he only found the two of the giggling over nothing one minute, and nearly asleep the next. It was sweet, the way she smiled sleepily at him and landed a sloppy kiss on his cheek. Moments like that, he was certain she was a different girl and that surely, William was up to something all on his own.

Aunt Anne was glaring at him like he had drugged her. Or, at the very least, stole and ruined her for her baby boy. If only she knew how much he'd ruined her even before his engagement fell apart...

By the time they reached the main house from the car, he had picked her up in his arms and cradled her to him by the crooks of his elbows. Her shoes dangled from one hand and the other fumbled for the doorknob to their room. He felt the brass handle give and bent his knee to open it. Nightfall had passed and the clock struck seven.

He placed her on the bed, still drowsy and mumbling nonsense, and stripped her down to her slip. She was beautiful - fair skin covering womanly curves. She was the stuff that Greek sculptures were made of and she was warm and perfect in his arms. He kissed one soft cheek, then the other, before finally tucking her in to make an appearance at dinner.

"Mmm, don't go." She stirred from beneath the silken cocoon.

"Hey, you awake?" She nodded slowly. "Do you want anything to eat? Dinner's just about ready to start."

She draped an arm across her eyes and groaned. "I'm gonna throw up if I move," she whined. "On the up side, you mom loved me."

He chuckled. "Of course. Who wouldn't?" He dragged the trash can from across the room to her bedside. "Here's the bin in case the alcohol decides to make a reappearance. There's aspirin and a glass of water on the nightstand, okay?" He stroked back the baby hairs from her forehead and kissed the soft skin there. "You gonna be all right? Sure you don't want me to bring you back something from the kitchen?"

She leaned her face into his touch, a serene smile on her face that trumped that of Mona Lisa, and it was all for him. "You're an angel," she mumbled. Her eyelids fell close and her soft, rhythmic breathing infiltrated his senses once more.

* * *

"Do you have a minute, Nate? There's something I need to talk to you about." The talk was unavoidable and now, while Blair was safely asleep in their room, was as good a time as any. The dining room was emptying out, as were the drinks, and he managed to catch his cousin just before he slipped away. It was no secret that the two of them, who had once been close as brothers, had avoided each other since the day the town cars began arriving.

"Well, Tripp. Not all of us have a girlfriend to go back to so sure, what the hell."

They walked in silence through the halls they used to play in. There was a time when Tripp would carry Nate on his shoulders and the little boy would laugh as he ran, his grin extending from ear to ear. There was none of that old mirth in this walk and even before the tough conversation started, Tripp wished that it was over already.

He turned to him when they reached the ballroom, empty except for the grand piano that stood in the corner. "Look, Nate. I know you're upset-"

"Upset? Upset? You stole my girlfriend!"

"I didn't steal her!" Tripp was emphatic about that. Blair was never that sort of girl and he was certainly not any sort of a cad. "You broke her, Nate. You and your friend, Chuck did a number on her and I was there to put her back together. There's nothing wrong with that."

"Really? You could honestly look me in the eye and tell me that you never wronged me when it comes to Blair. Nothing sick about your so-called relationship?" He did just that. There was nothing more right and amazing in the world than the way Blair made him feel. "So you actually want me to believe that you weren't a fucking pedophile? Or, for that matter, an obsessive stalker?"

"Watch your tone, Nathaniel."

"She told me about that summer here. We take a break for the season and you screw around with my girlfriend? Even after I told you I wanted to get back together, you still - She was just a kid, you sick fuck!"

"I would never hurt-"

"And then you just show up at NYU. Right when she and Chuck broke up and I had my shot, you stole her from right under my nose. You couldn't just stayed at Providence and out of the way."

Finally, Tripp couldn't take it anymore. If not for himself, then it was for her. "The two of you lived in the same city for months, Nate, and you had no idea how miserable she was! You were too busy traipsing around with Vanessa or Bree Buckley to notice the way people were walking all over her. Or hell, even worse: you knew and you didn't do anything for her!" There was a silence in the blue light of the stars and for a moment, Nate looked ashamed of himself. "Look, I'll admit it. Blair and I... after you guys split up that summer, we were together. We were... at least I was, in love, Nate. It wasn't just a fling or anything like that. She's special to me."

"Special. You mean a vulnerable teenager you could take advantage of."

Tripp let out a long, exasperated sigh. This wasn't going to go the way he had hoped. "Look, Nate. I can tell that I'm not going to change your mind about this, but just know that I was never with her when you were. I wanted to - I was jealous, but... I really thought that she was going to Yale instead of NYU and when we found each other on campus, things just... happened. I mean, I guess they didn't justhappen - I never fell out of love with her and I don't think I ever will so I'm sorry you feel that way, but this isn't something I can control." .

Nate went to take a seat on the piano bench and Tripp just watched his cousin, elbows on his knees and an utter look of loss on his face. "She was mine, you know. She was mine for a long time. I never thought..."

"I know. She was yours even when I was hers."

"I really fucked things up for myself, didn't I?" And he covered his face like he used to as a child and Tripp would go comfort him. Things have shifted though, and people changed and all Tripp could do now was stand there, head down. "I never should have introduced her to you when we were like, eight," he finally said with a slight chuckle.

"Yea. That game of house did me in." The two cousins shared a bitter laugh, the aftertaste sour in their mouths.

"What I said, at your uh, rehearsal dinner. I still mean it. You know, about Grandfather. You need to be careful." Tripp perked up his ears, even if it was something he had known for a while now. It wasn't often when Nate was as serious as he was being. "He was the one who told me to come here to uh, to fight for Blair. I know that I still love her and I probably always- the point is, he's still upset about everything. He didn't say it in so many words, but you know Grandfather."

It stung to hear the words out loud, even if he had known them to be true all along. Despite the pats on the back, the fatherly talks, the thorn was still stuck in the lion's paw and he was out for blood.

All Tripp could do was shield Blair from it all.

* * *

He woke to her hair tickling his neck, sliding beneath his shoulder as she shifted into consciousness. The sun had already risen and the white of the curtains brightened up the entire room. "Hey, how you feelin'?" he asked as he brushed her hair out of her face.

"Ugh, my eyelashes hurt. That last martini was probably a bad idea."

He gave a slight chuckle. "Yea, probably." He wrapped his arm around her stomach and pulled her back against his chest. "Let's sleep in today," he murmured against her neck. He just needed to feel her there, with him. Her hair tickling his nose and her scent all around in the sheets and her clothes.

"Mm, that sounds wonderful," she sighed. She turned in his arms. "But I promised your mother that I would go shoe-shopping with her today. I want to make a good impression." His heart fluttered when she kissed him just so on the tip of his nose and he leaned in to capture her lips.

"You already made a good impression yesterday. You had as many drinks as she did and didn't throw up all over her." She skipped out of bed, wavering a bit at the speed with which she got up and the headache that caught up with her. She took the aspirin and water beside the bed with a grateful smile. "You know, I'm beginning to resent my mother for taking up all of my girlfriend's time."

"Well, once I completely win her over with my Waldorf charm, we have all the time in the world." She brushed her lips softly against his. "Now get up. Don't you have that luncheon to go to with Grandfather today?"

Grandfather was honestly the last thing he wanted to think about at the moment. The ominous warnings, the deceit, and his knowledge of his grandfather in general set of alarm bells in his head that probably rivaled Blair's hangover. "I don't know. I was thinking about skipping. I mean, it's not anything I'm interested in. I only went before because I actually thought I was going to be a politician." He picked at the bed sheet as he listened to her brush her teeth, go through her regular beauty routine.

She came out, her hands smoothing moisturizer over her cheeks. "Well, it can't hurt to build connections. It's just a few painful hours. You never know if they'll end up helping you in the future." She came to sit by him and ran her hand through his hair. "Hey, you okay?"

He flashed a brief smile, her words hauntingly familiar to him. It was something that Grandfather would- no. He wasn't even going to consider that. "Yea, just a little tired."

He leaned in to kiss her cheek and she held up a hand, giggling as she pushed his face away. "Moisturizer." He only grabbed her wrist and tried again, this time catching the smooth skin only to flinch at the bitter taste after. "Told you."

He shrugged, "It was worth it."

* * *

Tripp looked at the old man now and couldn't quite remember what he had so admired and feared about him all these years. "Leave her alone."

"Tripp! I'm glad you made it. I was hoping you would show up."

He had that devil's smile that had lured him so many times before. But not anymore. He couldn't afford to fall for it again. If he did, he'd lose her. "I don't care what you had in mind, stop it. Leave Blair alone. Stop putting thoughts in her head, stop throwing Nate at her face, stop using her to get to me. Just stop." He wasn't Nate, he couldn't make a big speech in front of his family just to knock his grandfather down a peg or two, but it was about time he stood up to him.

"I assure you, I have no idea what-"

"I saw you talking to her. The first day we got here when you gave her that dress. I don't know what you said and I don't care, just leave her alone."

William stood in silent contemplation over his scotch for a minute. "Was I there when she convinced you to come today? Or when she went out with the other society wives?" He glanced at his grandson to gauge his reaction. "Face it, Tripp. Blair Waldorf isn't the kind of girl who'll wait around for an academic to strike gold. She's used to luxury and things that an archaeologist's salary can't provide and if you really love her and if you really want to keep her around, you'd come back to the herd."

"She's not what you think-"

"I've said this once and I'll say it again. I want her in the family, regardless of where the connection is from." He leaned back, his tone less menacing now that he'd let his wishes be known. "You know, I can get her Yale."

That caught Tripp's attention and for the first time, his clear blue eyes met the aged ones of his grandfather's.

"It'd be a simple transfer. All I have to do is make a phone call and you'd be the hero. It's your call, Tripp, but I assure you that I can think of no better birthday present for Blair Waldorf than that acceptance letter. Now would you rather have that be from Nathaniel, her romanticized first love, or from you?"

* * *

He walked back into their room, his tie undone and the first few buttons of his white shirt left open, yet still tucked into his black trousers from the luncheon. From the ground, he picked up an empty white shoe box with bright pink tissue paper sticking out and placed it on the dresser. "Hey, you went! How was it?"

She was modeling her latest purchase from the bed, her calves extended as she pointed her toes in new, blue high heels. "It was fine." He walked over to sit by her. "You look like you had a productive day."

Her smile brightened and she rolled her ankle around for a full inspection. He ran his fingers through her curls and they slid through his hands like water. "Do you like them?" He wrapped his arms around her waist and placed his chin on her shoulder, watching the shoe and reveling in the moment. They just felt so... normal and perfect.

"Yes, but I don't think they'll fit me, dear." He turned his head to kiss her neck, delighting in the way her throat jumped at her laughter. She fell back to the bed and he maneuvered his way on top of her.

"I would hope not. Unless you have something you'd like to tell me, Tripp Vanderbilt!" And there was his way in. That was the time to ask what she wanted. William had said it was his call, but he knew better. "What's wrong?" He found her dark eyes staring up at him, her expression turned from lighthearted to worried. She reached a small, smooth hand up to his face and as if by instinct, he turned and kissed it softly.

"Nothing." And he kissed and made love to her the best he could in the late afternoon light.

He couldn't burden her with this.

* * *

They laid in silence, Tripp having insisted that they take dinner in bed while watching old episodes of a sitcom. After the meal, they just fell back on the bed, their breathing synchronized, her hand hot on his chest. He asked into the dark, "will you still love me if I'm not a Vanderbilt?"

She lifted her head slightly, her hair tickling his chest. "What are you talking about?" He could feel her eyes search his face and kept his gaze to the ceiling.

"I mean... if I can't... I can't get you the things you want. I remember what it was like being one of Grandfather's puppets and I just can't, I can't go back to that-" He began to ramble everything she couldn't understand until she held his face in her hands. He couldn't hold it in and exhaled. "I'm sorry."

"Are you- are you breaking up with me?" Her bottom lip shook and he ran his thumb across it.

"I don't want to," he whispered. "But Nate is going to be a very rich man. He can get you Yale."

She clutched at his shirt and he held her hand.

There wasn't much left to say.

* * *

She was gone in the morning and he felt her leave. The door clicked close and he opened his eyes to find the perfumed note on her pillow.

I'm a Waldorf. I don't need a Vanderbilt.

81.8

* * *

The C train skipped the 23rd St. stop and he practically ran from 14th over, cursing under his breath the entire way. He was going to be late and that was never allowed, especially today. There was so much and yet nothing to say, but still he just wanted to see her.

At the intersection of 23rd and 8th, he took a right toward 7th Ave and found their favorite brunch place, East on 8th. 11:28. This was good, he was early. The host greeted him as usual and just as he was about to ask for a table for two, he heard his name. "Over here, Tripp!"

Carl and Sandy were there with their usual smiles at a little table for four by the piano. Sandy was allergic to oranges so she shot for a glass of champagne and Carl took to his bloody mary. His usual, a coffee with a splash of brandy sat next to a tall glass of mimosa. He would recognize her gorgeous head of brunette curls anywhere. "Sorry, we started without you," Sandy said. "Booze waits for no one."

"Uh, no that's fine." He sat, his hands nearly shaking. It had been a week since he'd seen her and she was so beautiful that it was difficult to breathe. It would have been so much easier if she had just disappeared to Yale.

"You know, when Blair came back from Connecticut by herself I was worried that something had happened."

He felt her hand on his knee, right by his own hand. "No, I just came back early to get ready for school and Tripp needed to spend more time with his family before they all hate me for taking him away. That reminds me, what can you guys tell me about Professor Lockner?"

"You need to calm down, there's still a month before school..."

Tripp tuned them out, because all he could feel was her hand creeping over his, fingers curling around each other. Her palm was warm and soft, her grip firm in his. He brought her hand to his mouth for a kiss. A thank you I love you marry me be with me forever kiss. He held her eyes, black glittering above a hopeful smile, and he felt his face nearly split with the grin.

"Ok, are you two even listening? Get a room!"

A waiter stopped by with four plates and placed them down. He felt her lean in close and whisper, "I ordered your favorite. I hope you don't mind."

And he knew then, that in her own, old fashioned way, that was Blair Waldorf's answer to his question from months ago. Yes, yes, a million times yes.

That was the deal. And he sealed it with a kiss.