A/N: Talk about a fast update! Ok, so this chapter turned out completely different than I expected it to, but now that it's done, I'm very much in love with it. Also, thank you soo much to the people who reviewed the last chapter! (...in the last 24 hours, too!) Read on!!


Chapter 4


"I can see it all tonight,

Underneath a perfect sky.

Where the universe revolves around

The pupil of an eye.

And infinities stretch out

From infinities within.

I'm a part of everything,

I'm a part of everything."

-Dragonfly by M. Craft


-December 17th, 2008-

It was much too bright.

Even with the dismal state of the weather, somehow Eric's window was determined to absorb as much sunlight as possible. Things just weren't going the way they should.

If the universe would only listen.

Eric turned on his side away from the offending light, glancing at his nightstand towards the clock that declared that it was 12:43 in the afternoon. So much for enjoying his vacation. Falling onto his back, Eric stared up at the ceiling, quietly cursing a God he didn't believe in for ruining everything. He should be out right now. If everything had gone how it should have he would be enjoying New York's priceless holiday atmosphere, but was instead waiting for a dreaded phone call from the Thai police informing him that they'd found his brother's body washed up in some dingy stream.

As if answering his plea for answers, Eric's phone buzzed once, signaling an incoming text. Reaching over quickly he flipped open his phone to reveal a message from someone else he'd thought had vanished into thin air.

Lily got Chuck. In 1812 w/him.

Hurry.

-B

But for a few seconds he didn't hurry. Part of him was morbidly surprised that Chuck had even made it back in one piece, and then his mind jumped to anger at the fact that his mother hadn't woken him up the moment she'd returned. Chuck was his brother. Maybe not by blood, but certainly in every way that mattered. Ever since Lily and Bart's courtship began, Chuck had taken the time to get to know him. Unlike Serena and his mother, Chuck didn't treat him like he was going to lunge for a kitchen knife at any moment. Instead he treated him like someone worthy of his time, and considering the preciousness of Chuck Bass's time, that was a major compliment. Eric had learned to trust him, much easier than he'd ever expected.

Due to that trust, Chuck had been the first person he came out too.

He'd never been so nervous in his life. That all ended when Chuck replied with a simple "I know," and then proceeded to pull out a couple of Cuban cigars and interrogate him about his sex life.

Somehow in the past year, Chuck had become his brother as well as his best friend, and surprisingly the sentiment was reciprocated. In the beginning, their friendship was superficial at best, with only a few rare moments where Chuck let him see past the walls. Though over the months it had evolved into a deeper camaraderie, it was only after Eric found Chuck after the White Party, drowning his sorrows in an entire bottle of rum, did he really see who Chuck Bass was.

To the world, Chuck was every parent's nightmare; the kind of teenager that inspired campaigns promoting GPS tracking for all people under the age of 18. And if Eric was honest, even after months of being friends with Chuck, he really didn't see any deviations from this label. Sure there were moments when Chuck would be unexpectedly compassionate, but those were few and far between.

But then he discovered that he didn't know Chuck nearly as well as he thought he did. In fact, it was safe to say that he didn't know him at all.

Eric had arrived at his grandmother's house after the White Party to find Chuck standing next to the pool, staring into the water as if all of his answers lay at the bottom. If there was ever a moment that Eric wished his eyes could take pictures, this was it. Then the whole world would finally understand, would finally be able to see. But eyes, unfortunately, do not possess this ability. Even so the image was burned into him mind, for the look on Chuck's face was one that Eric hoped would never grace his own.

It was pain; in it's purest form.

Nothing in the world could have prepared him for the explanation as to why his brother was so broken. Surveying the scene in front of him, Eric had expected to convince Chuck to not stand so close to the edge of the pool, after which Chuck would laugh off his inebriated state and assure Eric that he had imagined the facial expression in the first place. Then Chuck would try to convince him to chug the remaining contents of the bottle, and they would pass out in the lawn chairs.

Instead, as Eric grew closer, he became painfully aware that he had not imagined anything. Chuck turned to face him as he came upon the edge of the pool, and after failing to pretend to be happy, Chuck's face contorted even more. Though Eric had dealt with grief before, he quickly learned that Serena-grief and Chuck-grief were two very different things. Reaching forward to retrieve the bottle from Chuck's clenching fist, Eric set the rum down on the concrete, then turned back to help Chuck sit down by the edge of the pool.

Seeing that Chuck's shoes and socks had disappeared sometime earlier in the evening, Eric removed his as well. There they sat, silent, staring at the beautiful landscape with their feet hanging in the pool, the light of the moon dancing across the water's surface. He had spent much of that silent fifteen minutes arguing with himself about how to approach the inevitable conversation. He didn't know how to handle Chuck in this condition. What should he ask him? How do you comfort someone like Chuck Bass?

"What happened?" Eric asked, breaking the silence. That seemed like a good place to start. Then he could assess the situation, and fix it. Then Chuck would be better. Somehow, before he heard the next word out of Chuck's mouth, he'd really believed that his plan would work.

"Blair," Chuck said, so quietly that if it hadn't been so strange to hear from Chuck's mouth, he wouldn't have heard it at all.

"Did you guys have a fight again, or…" Eric trailed off, truly at a loss to how Blair Waldorf could have caused Chuck so much pain.

Chuck shook his head in dissent and continued staring off into the abyss. Guessing that the conversation had ended for the time being, Eric's thoughts whirled in confusion. Of all the people that could break Chuck Bass, he would have bet his entire fortune that Blair would be the last person capable of that task. And vise versa. That was their "thing". They were the strong ones of the group; the ones that you would have to crush with a mountain to get them to lose. In some ways it kind of made sense…well…no, it really didn't. There was no denying that Eric was completely lost. Turning slightly towards Chuck and opening his mouth again, preparing to ask how in the hell Blair had managed to make him feel so bad, Eric was cut off. His mouth stayed open, due to shock, and a loss of mobile abilities when he heard Chuck's statement.

"Blair and I have been sleeping together," Chuck breathed out, and with those words allowing Eric to be the second person to see him.

The walls, and barricades, and missiles protecting Chuck from the world fell away, and with it Eric's judgment. His immediate reaction, thankfully only expressed in his head, had been What?!. Chuck could have told him that every country in the world was launching their nuclear missiles and the world was going to end, and he would have been less surprised. But at seeing the relief and left over heartache on Chuck's face, he knew that flipping out was not the right answer. Instead he pushed aside his shock, and reverted back to his original question.

"What happened?" Eric repeated acceptingly. Chuck looked unsurprised at Eric's response, and after taking a deep breathe, began to speak again.

"It happened the first time the night before her seventeenth birthday; the night of Victrola's opening. We were both drunk out of our minds, and agreed in the morning that it was just one night, an accident – but then the next night it happened again. And, it just…got out of hand after that." Chuck said with a shaky voice, wringing his hands together as he got lost in memory.

"At some point it became more than a bunch of accidents," Chuck continued, lifting his feet from the water in order to turn more towards Eric.

"And when did it get this bad?" Eric asked, now flipping through all of the interactions between them he had seen in the past year, looking for some kind of warning. Chuck cracked a miniscule smile at Eric's words, though that was quickly replaced by a grimace.

"We…were confused for a long time. I didn't know what I was feeling, and she could identify her feelings, but was hell bent on suppressing them. So we fought and said horrid things to each other and then barely spoke for three months. But at the wedding, I just…wanted to stop pretending that it didn't matter; that it was all just a mistake. I wanted her, and I didn't want anyone else to have her," Chuck said, clearly forcing himself not to completely fall apart.

"You mean Nate?" Eric asked, finally putting the pieces together of a puzzle he didn't know even existed an hour ago.

"She broke up with him after the wedding, and a week later we were going to go to Europe, but…I fucked everything up," Chuck said, hanging his head. "I psyched myself out, thinking that if she spent the summer with me she'd regret it. That once we came back everything between us would be over, and on top of that we'd no longer have any friends. So I let her go."

Eric's mind was trying desperately to comprehend all of this new information, but he was having trouble. It's not everyday that you find out your whole world is literally hanging by a thread. Because if there was one thing that Eric was sure of, it was that if anyone but him found out about this, everything would fall apart. Turning towards Chuck, he now had a fairly good hypothesis as to why Chuck was now falling apart. Serena had told him of Blair and Nate's reconciliation on Bastille Day in Paris, and at the time he held nothing but elation for the pair. Now however, he wished he could go back and hit himself on the head.

"And now she's back with Nate," Eric finished for him, and seeing Chuck nod, he continued, "Chuck…I don't really know how to ask you this so that you'll actually answer, but why don't you want her with Nate?" he questioned.

Seeing the incredulous look on Chuck's face, Eric expanded, "I mean, I get that you wanted her, but I'd think that you'd also want her to be happy. And I think Blair is most happy when she's with someone who loves her."

"I talked to her today, at the White Party," Chuck said, seeming to ignore everything Eric had just said. "All I had to do was tell her how I felt, and she'd forgive me."

Eric's eyes widened, and suddenly he understood why they would risk everything in the first place. That it may have started out with a drunken night, but now was to the point of having heartbreaking conversations at social events. The fact that the participants were Chuck and Blair was still a bit mind boggling, but none the less. Chuck didn't seem to be talking for his benefit anymore, instead seemed to be voicing his thoughts in order to make sure they were true.

"That was all I had to do. Three words, eight letters. That's all that stood between me and her, and I couldn't say it."

"Do you? You know…love her?" Eric asked curiously, expecting Chuck to immediately deny the question. Instead Chuck stayed silent, and a surprised Eric understood that this was Chuck's way of saying "yes".

Eric leaned back a bit, whispering a quiet "Wow," into the night. They didn't speak anymore. The wind picked up and carried the early leaves of autumn across the setting, some landing on the surface of the water, floating along like lifeboats in the sea.

Looking back, Eric finds it easy to identify all the looks that passed between Chuck and Blair, all the times that should have alarmed everyone around them to the fact that they loved each other. He still finds it amazing that everyone could be so blind. Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Eric is pulled into the present by the sound of Serena's voice yelling outside of his door. At first he jumps out of bed, ready to go on the offensive against whatever she was mad about, but then hears the equally loud voice of his mother and rightly concludes that this is yet another episode of Serena vs. Lily: Round 527.

Grabbing his phone, Eric quickly pulled on a t-shirt, not bothering to change from his pajama pants, and ran quickly through the war zone stationed outside his door.

Practically flying down the stairs, and vaguely hearing his mothers voice asking him where he was going, Eric dialed the number of the Van der Woodsen's car service, and in a sharper than normal tone told the driver he had to be at the Palace Hotel as soon as possible. Running through the building's lobby, he was garnering quite a few curious looks due to his pajama pants and flip-flops, but thankfully he didn't run into anyone from school, instead arriving outside right as the family's car was pulling up.

Jumping in the back seat, Eric allowed himself to relax for a moment as the driver weaved through the mass of cars clogging Park Ave. Leaning his head back and letting out a deep sigh, his mind was buzzing with the possibilities of Chuck's condition. Obviously it couldn't be too bad, as he assumed that he had been the only one Blair contacted, but surely it wasn't all good news or she probably wouldn't have asked for his help at all. Over the past month or so, Blair and him had grown much closer, mostly due to that fact that he was the only one that knew.

In some ways he hated Chuck for telling him. If he had stayed with Jenny the night of the White Party, then he would be just as happily oblivious as everyone else. He wouldn't have to worry that he would slip up in front of the wrong person. He wouldn't have to be burdened by the weight of their secret every second of every day. Truthfully though, this hate only flared up once in a blue moon, reaching peak in moments when he saw everyone walking blindly, and he was unable to tell them to simply open their eyes. In those moments he wished his eyes were closed as well, but in times like these he couldn't help but be eternally grateful that Chuck had been drunk enough to tell him about Blair. He had since seen a side of Blair he had never experienced before, and much like Chuck was by the pool, she was inconceivably deeper than he'd ever imagined.

Though Chuck had informed him that he and Blair had decided to "wait" (whatever that meant), Eric knew that no matter what they called it, they were each other's in a way that he didn't quite understand, but was happy to know existed. He was glad that if either Blair or Chuck needed someone to talk to, they had him.

Honestly, with the amount of late night phone calls he received from each of them, he really didn't know how they coped before he knew.

Feeling the car pull to a stop in front of the stone courtyard of The Palace, Eric shot a quick "Thanks" to the driver before hurrying towards the warmth of the lobby. Somehow attaining an elevator to himself, Eric leaned back against the mirrored walls, urging the lift to go faster. He was getting really nervous now.

Finally the elevator reached it's destination floor and Eric exited, swiftly walking towards Chuck's suite. Lightly knocking on the door, Eric waited for a moment before trying again, the wood echoing a bit louder this time. Nothing. Trying to calm himself from the horrible scenarios floating around in his mind by this point, he yet again reached up, only to be deterred by the swinging motion of the door.

He had never seen Blair look so frail.

Standing in front of him was the shadow of the Queen of Constance. Tear tracks lined her cheeks and her hair limply framed her face, dull and knotted. She looked so tiny standing beneath the wide frame of the door.

"You're here," Blair stated, giving him a tired smile while stepping aside for him to enter the dark room.

Eric looked around at the stale furniture before turning to face Blair who was currently going through her coat pockets, and after a moment pulling out her phone. Turning towards him, her voice seemed to gain back some bite, for the moment, as she said, "I need you to call Dr. Weber and have him put in an emergency prescription for anti-nausea and cysteine pills. Have the pharmacy deliver the prescription within the hour, no matter the cost. Then I need you to call Nate and find some way to stop him from coming here, go buy a few bottles of that enriched water and some Ibuprofen from the gift shop, and order some toast in case Chuck feels like eating something, okay?" thrusting her open phone towards him, the number of the Bass's discreet doctor already dialed. Eric reached out for the phone before looking back at Blair.

"Is he going to be alright?" Eric choked out, trying to stop himself from shaking. Blair's eyes filled readily with bright tears at his question, and she reach out to grab his trembling hands; whether for his comfort or hers, he didn't know.

"He has to be," Blair said, her lips turning up into a weak smile. Rolling her eyes quickly, and wiping a stray tear from her face, she joked, "He'll fell a whole lot better once he doesn't smell like an alleyway."

Smiling slightly at her remark, he gave her hand a squeeze before watching her walk through the bedroom and into the attached bathroom. Hearing the sound of the shower turning on, Eric blinked away his tears and took a seat on the stiff couch. Pressing the 'Call' button on Blair's phone, he brought the phone to his ear, preparing to speak to this mysterious Dr. Weber. Thankfully, Dr. Weber was paid well enough by the Bass family that Eric only had to recite the medications Blair had requested, and the doctor replied helpfully, "Anything for Chuck Bass. I'll let the pharmacy know to deliver the prescriptions to the Palace right away."

"Thank you," Eric said, hanging up the phone and placing it on the small coffee table in front of him. Reaching into his pocket, Eric set out to complete Blair's second task, coming up with a simple solution to the Nate problem. Typing in a quick text message, Eric had no doubt that the contents would be convincing enough to keep Nate away for the time being.

Serena and lily had another blowout.

Me and blair have chuck taken care

of. Can you stay with serena tonight?

-E

Pressing send, Eric headed out of the suite, grabbing the key card that lay forgotten near the door. Exiting into the hallway and heading for the Palace kitchen, Eric breathed a sigh of relief at the thought of Chuck's confirmed safety.

The past few weeks had been hell.

Constantly worrying about where Chuck was, who he was with, how much he was drinking, what drugs he was taking, everyday, every minute. It was exhausting, and yet he couldn't even imagine the distress that Blair had felt. Eric had never been in love.

Looking at Chuck and Blair, he had a feeling that even if he had been in love he still wouldn't even begin to understand how they feel. Because though his mother has apparently been in love with Rufus Humphrey for twenty years, he really didn't believe that whatever she felt for Rufus was anything close to what Chuck and Blair felt for each other. Lily and Rufus were apart for fifteen years. Blair and Chuck can barely stand being apart for fifteen days. And look what fifteen days has done to them. Feeling a buzz in his pocket, Eric pulled out his phone to read Nate's reply as he waited for the Palace staff to return with the Ibuprofen and toast.

Sounds good. Btw,

say 'hi' 2 chuck 4 me.

Ttyl

-N

Rolling his eyes at Nate's frequent use of numbers in replacement for actual words, Eric pat himself on the back for a job well done. Slipping the phone back into his pocket, Eric smiled and thanked the employee who brought his try laden with four un-buttered pieces of toast, three bottles of enriched water, and two tablets of Ibuprofen. Reminding the staff member to have Chuck Bass's prescription delivered to 1812 as soon as they received it, Eric turned away and headed back towards the elevator. Balancing the tray on one hand, he reached out to press the 'Up' button, staring at himself in the reflection of the elevator's golden doors as he waited. He didn't look nearly as bad as Blair did. And if Blair looked that bad – Blair, who didn't consume large quantities of illicit substances in the past two weeks – then what would Chuck look like?

Eric prayed to whatever God would listen (Zeus, Ra, Buddha, God God; anyone, really) that Chuck would be okay. No, better than okay. Wonderful. Though he had never seen Chuck feel 'wonderful' before, he hoped that it was possible, and wished with all his might that everything would work out one way or another. Because really, it didn't seem fair. So, no, Chuck was not the nicest nor most generous person in the world, but that certainly didn't mean he deserved to rot in the ground. Chuck was loyal, more than anyone he'd ever met, and he would do anything to protect those he cared about.

It has been a trade off. His knowledge of Chuck's softer side, his knowledge of a Blair that existed without her shield. These things disconnected him. From his sister, from Jenny, certainly from Nate. Because try as he might, he can't hate Chuck and Blair for potentially ruining everyone's perfect little world. Maybe in the few seconds after Chuck first revealed the relationship to him, before he was aware of the depth of Chuck's feelings for Blair. But now, seeing everything he's seen, hearing everything he's heard, he can't help but want to transport them into a world where no one would blink twice at their union.

Sliding the key card into it's slot, Eric once again entered the dank environment of 1812. He could no longer hear the shower running, and quietly tiptoed through the silent room to set the try down onto the coffee table. Dropping the key gently beside the silver tray, Eric stepped curiously towards the half open, double doors of the bedroom.

Hearing no movement or voices, Eric slid quietly into the near pitch-black room to find a sight that brought a new flow of tears to his eyes. Stepping a foot closer, Eric observed the gentle breathing of Chuck and Blair, who were curled around each other on top of the covers, a thin blanket thrown hastily over their forms. Even in the dark, Eric could see the sallow coloring that seemed to tint both of their complexions. He could make out an outline of their faces; turned towards each other, foreheads and noses meeting in the middle. Their hands were intertwined, as were their legs.

He wasn't quite sure why he was crying, but without his permission tears were spilling from his eyes, his throat was tightening in effort to control the unexpected bout of emotion.

In his short life, he did not witness love very often. Whether it be romantic, familial, or otherwise, love was a phantom idea in his world. Every once in a while Lily would grow particularly maternal, but for the most part her love was expressed in dollars rather than in hugs. Serena and him had grown apart in this past year, and everywhere he looked people in love were falling apart.

Serena "loved" Dan. Then they broke up. Then they got back together. Then they broke up again. And earlier today, on his way out of the house, Eric had heard her shouting at Lily that her and Dan wanted to be together, and "Why can't you respect that!" But now, walking into a room filled to the brim with memories of pain, he saw quite the opposite.

He knew Blair and Chuck loved each other. He hadn't doubted Chuck's feelings once since he found out, and quickly realized that they were reciprocated. And while he knew that, he really didn't separate them from everyone else. They were just two people, just like Serena and Dan, just like Lily and her numerous husbands. They were just two more people. But once again, he was face to face with the fact that he just didn't understand. And once again he was faced with raw emotion presented to him by Chuck and Blair. From this day on he would never doubt the existence of that phantom feeling, for he was seeing it with his own two eyes.

It was love; in it's purest form.


A/N: Just a quick note, the medicine that Blair asked Eric to get from the doctor (cysteine) helps prevent liver damage from consuming too much alcohol (thank you Google). Oh, also, I changed the summary, as well as the chapter names (from here on out they will all be dates to make it easier to figure out when the chapters take place). And as always, review!!