We All Fall Down

Warning: Spoilers through 3X17, but goes AU after that.

Pairings: Chuck/Blair/Dan

Summary: Spoilers for 3.17, AU. "You need a gesture, to remind her. And you'll need to think big. Taj Mahal-big." In the aftermath of Hurricane Jack, the King fights to win back The Empire and his Queen. This is a story of redemption, and theirs, if Chuck plays his cards right.

Author's Note: Against my better judgment, I'm starting another multi-chapter. Here's hoping the story wraps up quicker than The Leaving Song did.

It starts with a bang, not a whimper.

Hurricane Jack hits the Upper East Side, and as quickly as he strikes, it's over, Blair cries to Serena, and the Queen is left with a weakened King and a crumbling kingdom. In their twisted game of chess they lose The Empire to the (c)rook, but the real casualty lay beside her on the bed, staring at the ceiling.

"We'll get through this," she whispers, blinking back tears. "And no matter what happens, you'll always have me."

Chuck looks at her wearily, his eyes bloodshot and his expression unmoved. He gets up from the bed and heads straight to the bar to pour himself a drink.

It wasn't the first time she tried to save him and failed. If she were better, stronger, thinner, she thinks, perhaps she would've been enough.

She's not surprised that Chuck skips town the next day. When Lily gets a note from him saying he won't be coming back any time soon, Blair finds comfort in front of the porcelain bowl -- over and over and over again.

The dust settles, as with all scandals in Manhattan. She returns to NYU, and everyday is a struggle to keep up appearances, in a vain attempt to stop Serena from mothering her. There is no word from Chuck, no proof of life; and she thinks he blames her for losing the hotel.

In between her classes, she sees Dan Humphrey in her periphery, watching her carefully. He keeps a safe distance but watches her in the library, in her favorite coffee shop, and in the university quad. By the third day this happens, she's had enough.

"You can at least make an effort to be discreet," she hisses. "I don't enjoy being watched."

"If you need anything, I'm here," he says uncomfortably.

It's obvious he doesn't mean it, parroting someone else's words -- Serena's, most likely. For a brief moment Blair thinks the yardstick for hitting rock bottom is when Lonely Boy starts feeling sorry for you. "I don't need help from anyone, least of all you."

She starts to walk away when he tells her everyone needs someone. The truth is, Blair Waldorf doesn't need people. But every night she wishes someone would need her enough to stay.

She spends weekends at the Waldorf Penthouse, and like clockwork Serena comes to visit every morning, freshly-baked chocolate croissants in tow. That day Serena catches Blair still in bed, so she jumps in with her and coaxes her awake.

The blonde lists trips they can take, nights out they can go on together, but Blair refuses, swats her away, as she's done for the last couple of weeks. Serena calls her out on her hypocrisy, refusing help from her best friend when Blair herself dutifully runs after Serena each time the latter falls back into her old ways. She's absolutely right, but Blair is never one to admit defeat.

"Have you been getting Dan to stalk me?" she asks, ignoring Serena's earlier observation. When Serena denies any involvement, Blair tells her about their encounters on-campus. It's the longest Blair's talked since Chuck left.

"I think you need to believe that things will get better," Serena says, her forehead creased. "With or without Chuck."

Blair tries to swallow the lump in her throat and tries for a smile.

"Have a little faith, B. We love you and we want to help you."

And because she loves Serena back, Blair promises that she would try.

The next time she sees Dan, they're at a dorm party. She's swaying, heavily intoxicated, by the time Dan sidles next to her.

"If you say it's okay, I'm going to slap you," she slurs to him warningly. How she manages to keep her defenses up even while her inhibitions are lowered astounds him.

"It's not okay. Once upon a time I lost my first love too, and it nearly killed me," he admits.

"How did you get over it?"

"I haven't," he says lightly, to which Blair raises her eyebrows. "There are other people, other relationships, maybe even other loves; but the part of me that loved Serena died when we ended."

He pauses thoughtfully, then takes a swig from his bottle. "It still hurts, but I've grown to like it. It's the only reminder I have left of what we once were."

It's the most depressing thing someone can tell her, but at that moment Blair feels infinitely better, because even through the pain she never regretted giving her heart, her soul, all of her to Chuck. She leans her head on Dan's shoulder. From the rooftop of her dorm they watch the sun break into darkness.

Onto better days, she thinks.

Author's Note: Thoughts?